One of my favorite definitions of "strategy" is “Strategy is the creation of forced choices“. I thought this was a wonderful way to describe it. Properly developing a strategy does mean that we are choosing a path and it does mean we are giving up other things. And that’s the beauty of it! Too often I see organizations work without a strategy for many reasons (or excuses). Let's not be afraid to be more targeted and not try to serve everyone.
Visualizing the future. A waste of time. Can’t be done. What’s the point? Do these sound familiar? I hear them all the time. And I completely disagree. In my 20+ years of being a management consultant, a business advisor, and an entrepreneur I have found that organizations that take the time to develop a clear, concise long-term vision typically find that the benefits far outweigh the investment.
When you implement a customer feedback system it’s critical to look for these types of disincentives or areas that could lead to false, misleading, or incomplete information. Or if you have a process already in place you need to look at it critically and identify where problems might lie. Here are some ideas to make sure that your customer feedback is not being unduly influenced.
Well, we'll finally back in town. Colorado was a blast - cold weather and some snow. Just what some of us from a warm climate like Texas desperately need! And I guess we brought some of that cold weather with us too. Last weekend's high temperatures were in the 30s - cold for Houston. But in true Texas fashion, today's high is 80. Yikes! Annnywaaay.....here are some recent articles for business owners and business leaders you shouldn't miss.
You’ve seen the ads zillions of times. Wow! Awesome pricing! A great deal! A special bundle. And then waaaaaaay down in that tiny little fine print at the bottom: “New customers only”. I don’t know about you, but if I am a current customer of that company I always think “What about me?”. Why do people who aren’t even a customer get the best deals? What about people like me that have been a customer of yours for months or years? Do we ever get special treatment? I argue that companies should start to spend a little less time trolling for new business and invest a little more time taking care of those loyal customers.
Hey guys! I home you're having a great Monday so far. For many of us it's the beginning of Thanksgiving week so it's a little bit slower....or it's frantically busy with everyone trying to get things done before everyone disappears for the holiday. To get your week started off right, as I typically do, I wanted to share some of the best reads I have come across in the last week. So here ya go!
The other day I was running on a trail that passes behind the parking lot of a local library branch. At that moment a big waste truck was picking up the library’s trash bin at the back of the parking lot. As the truck’s big arms lifted the dumpster and emptied it into the truck most of the trash dropped in as it’s supposed to. But some didn’t. Some trash was strewn across the parking lot. What did the truck driver do? He backed the truck up (even driving over the top of some of the trash that had fallen to the ground) and drove away to the next stop on his route. I started thinking about what the library staff would think when they arrived and saw that trash in their parking lot. The word “thrilled” didn’t come to mind. Another idea popped into my head. What did that truck driver understand his job to be? What if he saw his job another way?
Happy Monday everyone! I hope you all had a good weekend - and are facing a productive week ahead. As always, I like to start by sharing some of the best articles (and, ok, a few things I wrote myself) that I think will be valuable to you, the small business leader. So, read on!
Ah, growing your business. For many of us that has a really nice ring to it. But over the years I’ve seen enough companies grow to know that it’s not all roses all the time. Every phase of a business has its challenges. As I recalled that conversation and my experience seeing a number of companies grow I thought you might find it helpful to think about the less-glamorous, sometimes challenging side of business growth. This post outlines a few things to look for - and how to deal with them..
Hello again. It's Monday, so it must be time to share some great articles (and, yes, some thing sI wrote as well) from the last week or so. Here are some items I think you should read as a small business leader:
Over the years I’ve conducted numerous market research projects for my clients. There are so many pieces that have to be done right to make the study a success. And you won’t be surprised to know that one important piece is the thing at the center of the research…the questionnaire. Constructing it well makes a lot of difference to how much you learn. So, here are a few tips to help get the survey’s questionnaire right.
Hey guys! Welcome to another week - and Halloween! Fun news. I just spent the morning in jury duty. I know. I know. There are surely more exciting ways to spend your morning. But I have to admit, it was nice to see so many people from all walks of life there answering the call and doing their civic duty. It may not be a part of our democracy we love, but it is one of the foundations of our unique judicial system.
Although I'm getting a later start today I still wanted to share with you a bunch of great things I read (and a few I wrote!) over the last week or so. Here goes! Enjoy!
I just think too often we get caught up in the daily “fire-fighting” and don’t stop to make conscious decisions about how our daily and weekly tasks are helping us achieve those long-term goals. In fact, for many of us there’s not much connection at all between what we do each day and where we’re going long-term. It’s important that you NOT lose that connection. It's critical to make sure that each step you take takes you toward that goal. So here are some ways to get your day business aligned with your long-term business.
Your brand is a critical part of your business. It tells the world who you are, what problems you solve, along with intangibles about your business (like the business’s style, persona, and the feeling that your brand evokes in its customers). The brand is derived from the fundamental mission and vision of your business. But all too often we let the pursuit of an interesting, creative brand take the lead. That needs to be flipped on its. head. The brand needs to be driven by your business's fundamental mission and vision.
Hey everyone! I hope you had a very nice weekend. It's Columbus Day here in the US; so some people have the day off. Not many, but some. As for me, I'm in a semi-work situation today. My wife and three of my four kids are off work/school. But, as I usually do on Mondays I like to share some of what I think are the most interesting things I came across over the last week or so. So, here's this week's roundup. Enjoy!
People still enjoy one-to-one conversations. And often it's the best way to deepen a professional relationship with a prospect or customer. Here's how to prepare for and make the most of these discussions.
I have worked with a number of leadership teams over the years to develop a growth plan that fits their company or nonprofit organization. While each organization is different, what I’ve found is that you need to have a handle on these areas to form the foundation of a solid growth strategy.
Here are the 7 Ps that can help your business build a solid foundation for growth:
Hey guys! Happy Monday! I hope you all had a great weekend - and are looking down the barrel of a positive and productive week. Here are a few items I came across (and wrote) last week that I think you'll find valuable.
Sigh. Monday. Work…again. Every now and then I think we all face this. Our passion for our work diminishes. Our excitement with our business seems to fade. What happened to that enthusiasm we used to feel? That little voice in our heads that used to say "Woo-hoo! I LOVE my business! Let's go kick some butt!" is now saying "Ugh. Again? Really? Do I have to?" We just feel kinda stuck, trapped, uncreative, run-down, uninspired. The honeymoon’s over. Why? Where does it go? And how do we get it back?
Every now and again (hopefully more often than not) you work with a customer or a client and think “This person is the EXACT reason why I went into business!”. For some reason that person or business embodies everything that just seems to “fit”. They like you. You like them. They have a need or a problem. You solve their problem. You also think to yourself “If everycustomer were just like them I’d be in heaven!”.
Well, here’s the thing. You either consciously or unconsciously created the right environment that threw the two of you together. The key is to figure out how to do it again and again, right? Here are a few thoughts to get you started.
Hello again everyone! I hope your weekend was a great one. For many it was the beginning of the long-awaited pro football season (and week 2 of the college football season). For me, it's still baseball season - watching my beloved New York Mets continue our run to the post-season (fingers crossed!). (Oh, and by the way, hockey season starts in exactly one month!)
Anyway......you're not here for all that. You're here for great reading for business leaders. So, here you go. Here's this week's roundup of great articles.
Sometimes when I work with a client things just "feel" wrong. On the surface they seem to have it all together. They are busy. They have money coming in the door. Employees seem reasonably happy. So what could it be? They are just trying to do too many things at once. They lack focus and clarity. When you dig deeper you find that revenue keeps coming in because they are able to keep picking up new customers...but they keep losing them also. Employees "seem" happy...but confused and perhaps frustrated. Typically it helps to simply scale back; get more targeted and focused.
Here are some areas where I’ve seen organizations go in too many directions at once – leading to confusion and less-than-ideal performance.
Hey guys. Now that the Labor Day holiday is behind us, the rest of the year will feel like a blur. It always does (at least for me). If you haven't reached all your strategic goals yet, there's still time. Read my post about how to get your company focused: "Finishing 2016 Strong".
And as always, here's a roundup of some of the best stuff I read (and wrote) last week. Enjoy!
One of the (many) difficult things for a small business is to develop and use an effective board of advisors or board of directors. But it can make a huge impact in a lot of ways. If you lead a small business, I’d certainly encourage you to explore putting together a group of informal advisors or even a more formal board of directors. But as with any business decision, it can come with some drawbacks. So how do you get the benefits of an advisory group while limiting the difficulties that can arise? After this personal experience and having worked with a number of other organizations (both for-profit and non-profit) over the years I have a few tips.
So, how do you arrange for a board that is the right balance between supporting your efforts and challenging you to get better?
Hey everyone! As you know, I like to start the week with a good roundup of some of the best articles I've come across in recent days. I like to look for articles on leadership, marketing, customer relationships, branding, technology, strategy, etc. that will be of interest to business owners and leaders. So, here's this week's summary of must-reads:
Does it feel like 2016 is just flying by? Very soon September 1 will be upon us and the year’s 4th quarter will be off and running. I bet you set goals for 2016. When was the last time you looked back at them? How’s it looking? Successful? Disappointing? Somewhere in between? It’s not unusual to still have unachieved goals floating around out there. So, let’s talk about how to end the year strong. Let’s get your company focused on how to make the most of Q4.
Hello again everyone! I hope you had a great weekend. ups was mostly filled with back-to-school stuff. Fun, right? Anyway, as always let’s start the week with a roundup of the best articles for business leaders I came across recently.
Sometimes it’s hard for us to ascribe human characteristics to nonhuman entities likeSun shining through a forest businesses. But, you know, often they do have these characteristics – and it makes sense to think about organizations in this way. One of these traits is “personality” – that set of characteristics that often influence the way we see people. A business also has a set of characteristics that make up it’s “personality” and help define how those outside the organization view it, react to its brand, and interact with it.
An organization’s personality is derived from its foundational core values and mission. The organization’s brand is derived from that foundation – and its personality can be thought of as the way the brand interacts with the world around it. Think about “personality” as that layer that sits between the internal and the external and which helps the outside understand the inside (if managed well). And manage it we should.
Your business’s growth may have stalled or just may not be growing as fast as you might like. It’s natural to ask why? As the business’s leader you want to know what’s getting in the way. What’s limiting (or even blocking) your business’s growth? Sometimes it’s obvious. Sometimes not. One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that one limiting factor is almost always at play - a lack of vision. It’s time to ask yourself is your mindset is holding your company back.
Happy Monday everyone. My family had nice little “stay-cation” right here in Houston. A weekend of hotel, restaurants, hotel pool, etc. I think everybody had a great time. Now back to business. And to start with, here’s my weekly summary of some great articles from the last week or so. Enjoy!
Sometimes it’s not easy to adjust when someone is asked to take on a leadership role at their organizations. The transition from being a manager or a supervisor in the organization to one of a leader is fraught with pitfalls. And sometimes those pitfalls can drag us down; preventing us from growing and making that leap into becoming a confident leader.
What does it take to be a leader? And what is it about some good managers that keeps them from being successful as an organization’s leader? And what are some of the best ways to ensure you successfully make the transition from manager to leader?
Hello everyone! I hope you had a nice weekend. It’s been crazy-hot and dry here in Houston. But I still got some good yard work done. Fun, right? LOL Anyway, it’s now Monday and time for my weekly round-up of some of the best things I read (and, ok, a few I wrote) from the last week or so.
I’ve talked with several people lately about the best ways to maximize the exposure your blog and your social media efforts get. One word that almost always comes up is “consistency”. Write, publish, and comment consistently - with a consistent "voice". So, I got to thinking…if consistency is important in the promotional side of your business, where else might it also be important?
You may have heard the phrase that “The stock market hates uncertainty.” Well, that is true for your business also. Your customers, your employees, and your business partners appreciate consistency. They like to know what they can expect from your company and from you as a leader. How?
Hello everyone! Happy birthday America! We’re 240 years strong and counting! I hope you were able to find time to enjoy the holiday and celebrate with friends and family! As always, though, I like to take time to summarize a list of some great articles you as a business leader should’t miss:
Dang! Something in your business just went wrong. Someone made a mistake. AMistake 01 customer’s ticked off. Hey, it happens. People understand that. But the real downfall is that so often we see companies that do a poor job of reacting when mistakes are made. It’s not that hard, really. It takes a dose of humility and a customer-focused outlook to get it right. But instead a lot of company responses could be characterized as the “never-happened”, the “it’s-the-customer’s-fault”, or even the “we’ll-get-to-it-sometime” schools. I know you’ve seen them.
Good morning guys! Happy Monday to all. I hope you are rested from the weekend and ready to start a brand new, productive week. Here is a weekly roundup of some great articles to get your brain started. (If you want them more in real-time, be sure to follow me on social media – Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn!)
I think I can explain why Starbucks, Macy’s, Whole Foods Market, and plenty of other so-called “premium” or “luxury” brands are struggling. It’s a combination of things when, taken together, are the mass-marketing of higher-end brands. The experience has slipped away. The product mix is not as unique as it once was. The service levels have dropped from what they once were. The atmosphere has become boring, corporate, and bland. And higher-end businesses wonder why customers seek out other alternatives? Please.
If you have a higher-end brand, I have some ideas to help you differentiate your premium products and services and really stand out!
Hey everyone! I hope you all had a good and restful weekend. And for all the dads out
there…I hope your Fathers Day was great too! As always, I like to begin the week with summary of some of the best articles I’ve come across in the last week or so that I think would be interesting to business leaders. So, here is this week’s summary:
A while back I was working with a university client. I was conducting some brand-focused market research for them. The results told us that for many average citizens (a/k/a taxpayers) and alumni their brand represented some really good things – a welcoming environment, a great place for a family’s first college student, a pleasant, small-town atmosphere, etc. It also told us that their academic reputation was mediocre. There are a few programs in which they are top-notch, but all-in-all not a very strong academic school. I delivered this message to the university’s leadership and marketing department with the assumption that this really shouldn’t be big news. They should know what their reputation is. I mean, geez whiz, the rest of the world seems to. They didn’t seem shocked, but it certainly didn’t align with their marketing and recruitment process. The problem was that they were spending tons of time and money chasing lots of very gifted students. Very few ever even gave them serious consideration. One of my recommendations was for them to face up to reality. There are TONS of good students out there who would be a perfect fit at their school. Why not shift those resources to getting a solid group of those students? And they should also conduct a very targeted search for the best students for those programs in which the school excelled. Unless there was a vision and a strategy for greatly strengthening the overall academic side of the university (which there wasn’t), in my opinion that realignment would give them a better return on their investment.
Thinking of that client reminded me how important it is to truly understand your business’s strengths and emphasize those areas. Make sure your marketing and branding efforts reflect the reality of your organization. Guide your entire company from that perspective. Let me walk you through how you can go about doing this.
Well, I’m back from vacation. We had a great week in San Diego! I tried to keep up with some of my reading (and sharing some ideas and tips). Well, ok, I mixed that in with other fun stuff like the beach and the San Diego Zoo and La Jolla and…..
Anyway, here are some of the coolest things I read (and some ideas I shared) over the last week or so. Happy reading!
Watch commercials. Do you ever wonder what so many of them get wrong or why don’t we like so many of the brands we come across on television? I do. I believe that most brands are focused way too much on trying to make you know that they exist and sort of like something about them; without thinking enough about how to make you like and trust them. Mass media is often considered a numbers game – get enough people to see my ad and enough will perhaps like it and a few of those might actually consider my product or service.
In my opinion there are several levels your brand goes though on its way to market trust and customer loyalty and advocacy: A-L-T or Awareness, Likability, and Trust. You need to build through each of these levels to create a brand that speaks to your specific target market and later becomes a trusted partner with your customer. Let’s dive a little deeper into each one.
Hey everyone! The family is on vacation in San Diego this week. We've been hanging out at the condo at Mission Beach since Saturday. Nice! But, as always, I like to share some of the great things I've read (and shared) for business leaders over the last week or so. So, here's your weekly summary. Enjoy!
In the last few weeks I’ve emailed and/or left voice mails for five local businesses with questions, appointment requests, etc. Guess how many have responded? One. My impression of the others dropped dramatically. What message does that send? Customers and prospects are unimportant. Or simply that our company just can’t seem to do some basic “blocking and tackling”; something the average person seems to be able to do in their personal and professional lives. And I’ll just that bet you’ve had similar experiences. It got me to thinking: Can simply responding to a communication actually be a competitive advantage? Believe it or not, it just might be.
Hey all! I hope everyone had a great weekend. It was a long three-day Memorial Day weekend for those of us here in the US. Here’s this week’s roundup of must-read articles and tips for small businesses.
Small business can be a tough business. It’s hard to win against bigger competitors. It’shard to win against competitors with deeper pockets and maybe economies of scale.It’s hard to separate yourself from other scrappy local competitors. It’s tough to stand out. But there are ways. You can make it happen. The goal is a closer, deeper, more caring relationship. Let me share a few ways you can begin to set your business apart:
Hey everyone! I hope you all had a great weekend. As always I like to kick off the week with a summary of some of my favorite small business and entrepreneurship article that I’ve come across the last few days. So, here’s this week’s summary:
As you well know when it comes to money, small businesses have a pretty small margin for error. It’s important to keep a close eye on your finances. But so many small business owners grew their businesses by being good at what they do…and that thing is not necessarily at accounting or finance. So what are the important things to keep an eye on? In this post I wanted to focus on just a few. So, here are some areas that a small business owner ALWAYS has to keep a sharp eye on.
Happy Monday everyone. I posted this on Sunday night – as my daughter and I are on yet another college visit Monday. It was Southern Methodist University (where I got my MBA) on Friday and Baylor University on Monday. But as always, I like to begin the week by summarizing the articles and ideas I’ve shared in recent days. I hope you enjoy them. Read on!
As leaders (whether intentionally or unintentionally) we are constantly sending signals/messages. The words we use, the communication channels we engage in, the tone of our messages, the timing of our signals, and our body language say a lot. And (whether you realize it or not) others act on those assumptions they read into our signals. The less intentional and clear we are the more room there is for misinterpretation. We should be proactive and strategic in what we want to “say” – and how we say it.
Some people claim that you don’t need to be passionate about a business to be able to run it. I guess that’s true to some extent – especially for a large business. You probably don’t have to be passionate about oil exploration to run ExxonMobil. But I DO think it’s important for a small business.
Hey guys! I hope you all had a wonderful weekend! As always, I like to begin the week by sharing some of the great things I’ve been reading and some of the ideas I’ve shared over the last few days. Enjoy!
Let me ask you a question: When was the last time you thought about your company’s Unique Value Proposition (UVP)? I know, "UVP" sounds like one of those things that some MBA pinhead or some Silicon Valley VC dreamed up somewhere along the way. (And, yeah, you’d probably be right.) Anyway, this one really is a valuable concept. Let’s pick it apart a bit and I’ll explain why.
Hey everyone! Well, I hope my friends in Houston were okay in the recent flooding. Ourhome is fine – we just have our eyes on the nearby reservoir here in west Houston. And what a horrendous week for traffic on our side of the city with major roads still closed. Yuk.
Anyway, as always I look forward to a positive, productive week. And to start I like to share some of the articles I’ve been reading and some of the info I’ve shared over recent days. So here goes
What does it mean to be an inspirational leader? How does someone become one? Is it in-born (as some people would have you believe)? I’ve observed many a leader over the years and have come to believe that, yes, some people are more natural leaders than others. If nothing else, they are more extroverted and willing to be bold and guiding. But that doesn’t mean that others can’t become leaders who inspire people. In my opinion there are some traits r characteristics that define someone as a leader. And some of that is just more natural for some people. But part of that is behavioral. Some of their leadership qualities are how they do things; not just what they are born with.
How about a look at some of those traits of inspiring leaders – and how you can more strongly build your leadership ability?
Hey guys. I hope everyone had wonderful weekend! We just wrapped up our income tax filing for this year. Yay! I decided to publish this post on Sunday night because Monday I get to take the day off and go on a college visit with my oldest daughter. We’re checking out Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Yay! The day brings back some great memories for this SMU MBA (class of ’91). Go Mustangs! Here are some of the awesome reads I’ve come across these last few days:
We all want our sales to increase. But sometimes we make it hard for someone to find out/discovery process about us and our products, actually buy, get delivery, even cancel a service, etc. Why? Are we hiding info from competitors? Are we trying to force customers to engage with us in a way that we want them to, not the way they want to? Answer? Yes.
I argue that a better way to grow your business is not through trickery and complexity but instead through clarity and simplicity.
Hey everyone! I hope you all had a great weekend. If you live in the US, this is your last week to get those taxes done. (But, you have until Monday 4/18 – so a few extra days this year.) So, let’s get this week started, shall we? Here are some of my favorite reads from the last few days:
When I say “company values”, what comes to mind? For most of us it’s those companies with a clear social mission – and how they outwardly demonstrate those values (and get stories written about them). Think Tom’s donating shoes to underprivileged communities worldwide. Think Honest Company that avoids (or tries to avoid) certain chemicals in its formulations. And those are great examples.
Having a clear set of principles your company will attract more talent and more customers that want to be aligned with those same principles. I believe there is true value in knowing your true values. With that in mind, I wanted to share some ideas about how to uncover (or rediscover) your organization's core values and put them into practice.
So, your business is looking down the barrel of a business slowdown. It’s been an issue Right turn arrow sign you’ve been thinking about for awhile. Maybe one of those back-of-your-mind things that is breaking out into the open. Something could be wrong here. You’ve asked yourself if it’s a temporary, short-term “bump in the road” or something bigger. And if it’s bigger, what do you do about it? Like any business decision, it’s not an easy call. As always, you have to decide based on less-than-perfect information. Well, I have some thoughts about how to approach this difficult situation and how to manage through it.
I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter weekend! I know we did. Now, it’s back to work,right? Well, to start the week off right I thought I’d share some of the best articles I’ve come across over the last few days – and a few of my own ideas too. Happy reading:
It goes without saying that your employees are critical to the success of your business. But Happy team (fingers)in my opinion, too often we treat them like they play for some other team. We keep them at arms-length. We don’t involve them in decisions. We neglect to share the firm’s vision and long-term goals. We don’t spend nearly enough time educating them about what makes the organization unique and what drives its success. And then we expect commitment, trust, and great service for our customers. Good luck.
If you want a committed, inspired, and motivated staff you have to do the things that will build that level of trust and teamwork. If you want a cohesive group of employees, then you have to proactively build it.
So, how can you make that happen? Here are a few ideas:
The most fuel-efficient car. The hotel with the best customer service. The clothing store Prada billboard with the unique items you can't find anywhere else. The grocer with the healthiest choices at the best prices. We've seen them all. The “brand promise” - the expectation we get when we hear about a brand. Sometimes it’s not much more than a clever tagline or ad dreamed up in the minds of marketing whizzes. Sometimes it actually has meaning and lives up to our expectations. Which do you want your company to be? I have a few thoughts on how to make sure you deliver on the promise your brand makes.
I hope you all had a nice weekend! It's Spring Break here...the kids are out of school and we bugged out to the lake for the week. :) As always, though, I wanted to share some of what I've been sharing lately. So, here goes!
So you’ve chosen a market to serve. Cool. Now, how well can you describe the value that your company brings (or will bring) to that market? How well do you actually know the market? Can you clearly describe the market's participants? Can you describe their needs and wants? Do you know how your company produces value for them? These are questions every business should be able to answer to be successful.
Once you’ve settled on the market and its parameters, what are some practical ways to approach delivering a unique solution to the marketplace? I have a few ideas to share.