Sunday, December 20, 2009

Free Seth Godin ebook

For anyone who follows Seth Godin - below is a post I cut and pasted from his blog. Enjoy.

What Matters Now: get the free ebook

Now, more than ever, we need to shake things up.

Now, more than ever, we need a different way of thinking, a useful way to focus and the energy to turn the game around. I hope a new ebook I've organized will get you started on that path. It took months, but I think you'll find it worth the effort. (Download here).

Here are more than seventy big thinkers, each sharing an idea for you to think about as we head into the new year. From bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert to brilliant tech thinker Kevin Kelly, from publisher Tim O'Reilly to radio host Dave Ramsey, there are some important people riffing about important ideas here. The ebook includes Tom Peters, Fred Wilson, Jackie Huba and Jason Fried, along with Gina Trapani, Bill Taylor and Alan Webber.

Here's the deal: it's free. Download it here. Or from any of the many sites around the web that are posting it with insightful commentary. Tweet it, email it, post it on your own site. I think it might be fun to make up your own riff and post it on your blog or online profile as well. It's a good exercise. Can we get this in the hands of 5 million people? You can find an easy to use version on Scribd as well and from wepapers. Please share.

Have fun. Here's to a year with ideas even bigger than these.
Here's a lens with all the links plus an astonishing array of books by our authors.
NEW BONUS: A different coop ebook, (click for free download) this time with contributions from authors that include JC Hutchins, Cory Doctorow, Joseph Finder and Chris Brogan.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Hear. See. Do.

"I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand" is a saying credited to Confucius. Here is a saying capable of driving everything this blog is about. From sales to marketing to personal effectiveness to lean principles - this saying hits them all.

Without doing there is no sales. No one can help others sell a service or a product unless s/he has been in the trenches and has dealt with the disappointment of making a call, having a first meeting, making a presentation and then delivering the presentation to find out the business has been lost.

Without doing there is no marketing. The most ideal marketing plan is almost bound to fail if the team building the plan has never been part of successful team. Ideas that happen in a meeting room may be spectacular, but they don't have the backing of real life experience.

Without doing there is no personal effectiveness. I remember in the past reading book after book on personal effectiveness thinking this will be easy - my troubles are solved. Then the implementation happens and all the "what if" problems arise. It's after dealing with the "what if" problems that a real system can be developed.

Without doing there are no lean principles. In the lean philosophy, there is a concept called PDCA (plan, do, check, act) which is a system of trial and error with continual feedback and improvement. This is what Confucius was talking about. It takes real life to test any belief and then to improve on that belief.

All of these examples say to just get on with it - just start doing something. And then realize that forever the parts and pieces and systems will be changing and improving.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Mind-Blowing Web Stats

The internet is such an amazing tool and to think it is only a few short years old. I know the backbone is older, but the web we use is relatively new. In his blog, Tony Tjan talks about various mind-blowing stats of the internet.

There are over 200,000,000 websites today. That is a huge number. Not all of them are active. Some are only host names waiting to be sold, so they really don't count. In 1994 there were only about 5,000 sites. So in 15 years, the number has grown from 5,000 to 200,000,000. Tony has a chart showing the growth rate.

There have now been more than 5 billion tweets. Evan Williams one of the founders of Twitter was also the guy who coined the term "blogger" when he was with blogger.com. Google performs about 2 billion searches per day. Facebook and other social networking sites are adding about 700,000 new users per day. About half of the top ten internet sites are less than five or six years old. These are sites like YouTube, Blogger and Facebook.

This is so amazing because with the growth and the power of the internet, the opportunity to use that network and that reach changes the game of business. Instead of working with local companies it is possible to work with companies across the country and across the globe. The opportunities are endless.


Friday, November 20, 2009

New and Improved


At our company, Hopkins Printing, there are multiple new and exciting things happening. We have been on a Lean Manufacturing journey for the last year and a half that has resulted in many improvements to the operation. We are doing more training than has ever been done in the past which means more people can do more tasks. During this downturn, this has really helped because with fewer people we still have all the bases covered.

This year, even though it has been a tough year, has been a year of new investment. There is new bindery equipment, new mailing equipment, new digital printing equipment and most recently a new printing press. We began yesterday with the installation of a Heidelberg XL105 which is the flagship press in the market today. See this link and click on the starburst for a pictorial story of the process of the installation.

At Hopkins, we are really looking forward to 2010 getting here and 2009 being behind us. With the improvements we have made in people, process and production, we believe the coming year will be a great one.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fallingwater

This past summer my wife and I and two friends spent the weekend in Pennsylvania. During this weekend we toured the famous Frank Lloyd Wright home Fallingwater. This video below details the process of the house design and gives an insight into the creative brilliance of Wright. I am always amazed at how some people are able to create such beauty. Enjoy.



Thursday, November 5, 2009

Ritz-Carlton Service


How many people have the authority to spend $2,000 on a customer because it will enhance their experience? How many companies do daily huddle meetings to get everyone in the company on the same page? The Ritz-Carlton does both of these things and reaps many benefits to the bottom line from this way of working with the customer.

Forbes has an article on their website listing many of the special things the Ritz-Carlton does and it is well worth the read. Any company with interaction with the customer can benefit from the Ritz way of thinking.

The C.E.O. of the hotel chain said the key to there success is living on a daily basis the core values of the company. At Hopkins, our core values are built around trust, integrity and truth. We believe our growth and the success of our company and of our customers is a direct result of a continued focus on our core values.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Are You Too Busy?


Most people I know view themselves as being too busy. They talk of working too many hours and having more to do than they can possibly get done. Between work, a social life, family, kids baseball, kids social life, a church life and many other personal commitments – it can be easy to get to the point of being overwhelmed.

What is a solution to this type of lifestyle? One way to deal with and cope with a busy life is to begin developing a perspective of minimalism. This doesn't mean sitting in a room all alone and staring at a white wall. It means reducing life to what is really important and then only focusing on those things. There is a blog that I read on occasion called mnmlist. This blog carries posts about this topic and recently had a post on being less busy in a busy world. It is worth a few minutes.

Next time you hear yourself or someone else say they are too busy – point them to this site and help them focus on what is most important while letting the other items fall by the wayside.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Run A Meeting Like Google


Meetings are often a waste of time, energy and money. It would amaze most people to measure the hourly rate of people in a meeting and then calculate the total cost of a meeting. Thousands of dollars are wasted every year on meetings that don't improve the operations of a company or the service given to a customer.

Recently I read an article in Business Week that gave some tips on running a great meeting from the Google perspective. Three of the points jumped out at me as the key ones. First, have a firm set agenda. With an agenda that participants are able to read and think about ahead of time, each member of the meeting can add value. This also keeps the meeting on point.
Secondly, use data not personal opinion or stories. It is easy to get into a meeting and then have a discussion or a decision made based on a story of something that happened in the past or someones personal opinion. The best way to get a good decision is to push for data and let the data influence the outcome.

Third, stick to the clock. If a meeting is planned for thirty minutes or an hour - stop at that point. When meetings go long, people's eyes glaze over and their attention is now on what isn't getting done. I believe it is better to stop a meeting and then set an agenda for the next meeting instead of going over. A well run productive meeting is one of the best tools a company has to serve the customer.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Improving Direct Mail ROI


There is no reason to spend money on direct mail unless there is a good ROI on the piece. If the direct mail or marketing material does not increase awareness, sell more services or sell more product then there is no reason to invest the money.

One of our duties as a communications company is to help our customers increase the effectiveness of their direct mail and other marketing material. There are many ways to increase ROI and one source for this information is the DMNews website. Recently DMNews ran an article on five ways to increase direct mail ROI.

The first of the ways was to write less copy. Most companies feel the need to try and answer every possible objection in the copy of one direct mail piece. But the reader wants a short read with a clear call to action not a novel.

There are four more great tips at the websites article that are worth the quick read. Hope you enjoy the information and are able to increase the ROI on your direct mail and your marketing materials.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Sustainability Matters

Being in the printing industry, many people would assume we are not fans of sustainability because of the amount of paper we use in our manufacturing process. Interestingly, that does not have to be the case. Recently International Paper, a large paper company, shared some facts about the paper industry that apply to what we produce.

- 20% Less CO2 is used per year by a person reading a daily printed newspaper versus a person reading web-based news for 30 minutes a day.
- On average it takes 500 kilowatt-hours of electricity to produce 440 pounds of paper, the typical amount of paper each individual uses in a year. That’s the equivalent of powering one computer continuously for five months.
- It costs an estimated $2.8 billion of energy to leave computers sitting idly overnight in the U.S. On a CO2 basis, that’s an amount equivalent to four million cars on the road.


At Hopkins Printing, we have a seven part sustainability program including recycling press sheet paper waste, recycling light bulbs, recycling metal printing plates, we have a green space behind our facility, we have an office recycling program, we use soy based inks and we recycle our pressroom chemicals. We take seriously our stewardship of the environment and how we leave what we use for future generations.

Our belief is that printing is a part of the marketing mix that can increase the impact of a brand and help drive customers to purchase products and services. We are proud to be a responsible part of that process.

Friday, July 10, 2009

In-N-Out Burger


Marketing is a tough discipline to master. There are so many approaches and opinions that the goal of becoming a marketing expert can quickly become cloudy. One company has seemed to have mastered the art of simple marketing. This is a way to develop a simple brand, with a simple concept and simple marketing in a way that works together and is successful.

Businessweek recently had an article about In-N-Out Burger and the way they are able to build a brand and do marketing in a nontraditional way. Sometimes the best strategy is to stick to what you are good at and then continue to improve over time.

What is the simple message you can send to your customer? What is the single area you can improve to best serve your customer? What one thing can you stop doing today that does not bring value to the customer? Simple questions - but not simple to implement.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Data! Data! Data!

There is no substitute for tracking data to find areas for improvement. Our company is transitioning into a Lean Manufacturing firm which has as one tenant the reduction of waste. One of the seven key wastes in the Lean philosophy is wasted time. Using that as a foundation, I have for the last month tracked all of my work time in fifteen minute increments. After tracking 160 hours I categorized and sorted the data and then began the analysis.

What I found was eye opening. Being in sales, my key goal is to sell which means I need time in front of customers, but my largest chunk of time was internal meetings at 18.49% of my time. This was not a total surprise because I do get involved in many internal projects that take time to work through, but I would have never thought it would be that high.

The next biggest chunk of my time was quoting, starting jobs, sales management, customer meetings and marketing. Those four areas account for 31.43% of my day. The remaining time is spend on low priority items such as driving, paperwork, managing jobs and other activities. Now that I have this data, I can focus on the largest wasters of time and then use that extra free time to get in front of customers.

There is no end to the amount of improvement that is possible with the right focus and the right energy. Take something that needs improvement, track the data and let the data give you ways to improve. Then keep doing that over and over and over.

Friday, June 26, 2009

No Excuses

No excuses is a mindset that will help anyone looking to improve his or her position in life. Almost any problem can be overcome when a person believes there is no excuse not to solve the problem. There are clear tools and techniques to use to overcome excuses.

In a blog by Leo Babauta, he outlines seven steps to living a no excuses lifestyle. The title of the blog entry is How To Kill Your Excuses and is well worth the couple of minutes it takes to read and think over.

In a time in our history where so many people are looking to blame others for what is going on in the economy, in the world, in Iraq - it's nice to read something that brings the focus back on what I can do right now to change my life. If enough people changed their individual lives, the greater society would also change for the better.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to all the dads. This is one of my favorite weekends of the year, not just because I am a father, but because the entire family gets together for a great Sunday. This Sunday there will be time with my daughter, my son and my wonderful wife. We will also be spending most of the day with my in laws which is a good time.

Growing up I learned many lessons from my dad. I remember when I was 13 and during the summer between school my dad got me a job on a fishing boat. I was so exciting to be making money but after the first week I realized how hard the work was. That Friday I asked my dad if I could quit and he said "no problem - when you start school in August, you can quit." My dad taught me the life changing lesson that when I start something, there is no option other than finishing what I have made a commitment to finish. Even today, this lesson pays tremendous dividends.

One of my greatest hopes is that I can be that same type of teacher for my kids. To me the greatest Father's Day will be when I can see our two kids as self sufficient contributing members to society. Until they are old enough to do that, I will enjoy every day I can with them.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Email Marketing

Email marketing isn't something generally blogged about by a commercial printer. Email marketing is seen as one of our biggest competitors because as that type of communication increases, print generally decreases. We know this and we would be crazy not to address it head on. Today we sent our first email marketing release. The plan is to share two things a month with our customers.

We will be doing press releases, employee profiles, project profiles and newsletters. What we are finding is that our customers are looking for ways to use email along with web adverting and connect that to print items. The more we can become experts at email marketing and web advertising, the more we are able to help our customers. In the end that is all that matters - helping customers grow and then growing along with our customers.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Lean Process Improvement

Today I dropped my car off at the dealership for the 60,000 mile check up. There isn't anything wrong with my car but I want to keep the maintenance up so it will last longer and run better. Normally I drop my car off early in the morning to make sure I get it back the same day and then use a loaner car during the day.

When I arrived today, it took almost 20 minutes to process getting my car in for the service. There was no line and there was no back load of cars, it was just that much paperwork and moving around. The service person had to start the car, get the mileage, check the car and then start the computer generated paperwork. The paperwork took most of the time. He stood in from of the computer and kept typing and typing and typing. There were multiple pieces of paper printed out, then he took the paper to another area to put a stamp on them. Finally I signed in the two areas and initialed the other five areas.

This dealership needs to study the Toyota way of Lean process improvement. To my thinking, this entire process should have been done standing by the car in less than five minutes. If the process was mapped out and the steps were drawn out, I am sure they would be surprised by the duplication of effort and the waste in the process.

I need to ask them if they can get the process to less than five minutes. When they says it's impossible, my next question will be "I know it's impossible, but if it were possible, what would the first step be?" The start to a more Lean process.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Spring Has Sprung

One of my favorite seasons is Spring. New growth. Sunshine. It's a great time of year. Our family has gotten the boat out of storage so the tubing and wake boarding fun is very close. Our daughter is learning to play tennis which I love. Our son is starting baseball and I am able to help with the coaching. Everything considered - life is good.

Now I have to transfer this thinking to business and make sure I improve what we are doing from a sales and marketing perspective. Spring has sprung, so it's time to start growing.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Something New To Be Afraid Of

We now have the swine flu epidemic. Before that it was the banking crisis. Before that it was the unemployment crisis. Before that it was the housing crisis. Before that it was the (insert crisis here) crisis. There is never a shortage of things to be afraid of in society. I am not making light of any of these. When someone is in the middle of any of these, then it is important to him or her. It is just that at some point we still have to live our lives, raise our families, do our jobs and be members of our communities.

At some point we have to reduce the input of bad news or it will keep us from doing what we should be doing. In the midst of all the bad, there is still good. There is still hope for a better future and there is still opportunity.

Last weekend we took our daughter to spend time with friends and she had a great time. Yesterday our son had baseball practice and it was a great evening. We should each spend some time every day thinking on the good, the pure, the hopeful and the opportunities. It will help keep us truly balanced.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Do It Now!

One of the greatest pieces of advice I have ever gotten was to get in the habit is doing something right now. I remember reading an article years ago about the concept of just doing something to get the ball rolling instead of over thinking or over analysing something. This is a concept I am working on in my work life.

Now I am planning the single most important task I have each day and deciding to get that task done before lunch. This task has to be something that moves me towards a big goal. Each quarter our management team sits down and reviews our previous quarters strategic goals and then sets goals for the coming quarter. Most days my top priority item is off of that list of goals.

It's not a huge deal to do something every day to move towards a larger goal, but it is amazing when at the end of a quarter or a year a person is able to look back and see everything that has been accomplished. A little move forward every day pays big dividends in the end.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The New Reality

Many times over the past few months, I have talked with people that are looking forward to the economy coming back - a return to the way things were. There were times when I found myself feeling this same way. Will things every "come back" to the way they were? I don't think they will.

We are now in a new time. Companies have been forced to reduce staff, look for new ways of doing things and get more results from fewer people, lower costs and less effort. Once a company is able to see there are better ways of operation, there is no need to return to anything that was done before.

The hope of the future isn't to return to some past time. The hope of the future is to improve every process, train everyone in the company to improve himself or herself and continue to do that over and over and over. The future belongs to the companies and the individuals that can do more with less and still improve performance. We plan as a company to be a part of that future.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Building A Network

For the past few months I have been intrigued by the idea of building a large network on LinkedIn. It started to make sense when a friend of mine lost his job and I put a status update that I know someone in a certain area looking for a certain type of job. Within a couple of days, there were seven people that had some input, opportunity or advice. This week I found out that my friend was able to have two potential interviews based on the leads that came from my network. The power of having a large network started to become clear.

Each of us has the opportunity to build large networks in our neighborhoods, our places of employment, our friendship circles and online. I think it is worth connecting to as many people as you can to be able to help others and find good information.

It only takes a few minutes a day to build a strong and large network. I have found it pays great dividends for the people I am trying to help and for the people others are trying to help. If you don't have a good network, now is the time to get started.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Looking For The Yes

One of my favorite blogs to read is the blog by Seth Godin. Recently he wrote a blog about looking for opportunities to say "yes." Here is the blog entry.

This really rang a bell with me. All of us that have customers - and that is all of us because if we don't interact with an external customer we all have internal customers - need to look for ways to say yes. When I am working with a customer that I click with, they almost always see me as a person who fixes problems. When something goes wrong, I find a way to fix the problem. I have heard many stories from customers that have used my competitors and the other company is not quick to fix the problem.

Looking for ways to say "yes" is a much more enjoyable life than looking for the ways to say "no." Monitor your words and determine to look for more ways to say "yes" and when you hear a "no" from your mouth, quickly perform the fix.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Adjusting to New Realities

For our company, we have been in this recession for four months. In the past because of our customer base and longevity of our sales team, we have gotten used to steady streams of business. Last November when that stream began to dry up, it took a little while to come to the realization that it was not just a blip on the screen.

When we concluded that most, if not all, of our projects would have to be aggressively gone after, our sales team stepped up to the challenge. We are now beginning to reap some of the benefits of the added intensity we have given to our sales activities.

In hindsight, which unfortunately I don't have, we should have taken up the intensity four months ago and we would be in better shape today. I guess I will have to remember that when the next 100 year downturn happens.

Happy Selling.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Still Opportunity

There is still opportunity to grow and add new business, even during a recession. One of our sales people has opened three new accounts this year and all three of these accounts should yield enough business to be top a 25 account. Obviously this has been an upbeat outcome for him.

These accounts came about in three different ways. One he has been cultivating for over two years. One he has been calling on for under six months. And one was a unique call in opportunity for a company that is moving from another state to our state.

All three of these accounts came from different avenues. This shows me, and all of our sales people, that there is still hope in the world. We just have to get out and do the fundamentals. We have to make calls.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

S.M.A.R.T. Goals


SMART goals are goals that have the following five characteristics.

S - specific
M - measurable
A - attainable
R - realistic
T - time bound

This year every person in our company has a personal development program that consists of at least four goals that relate to his/her job and one goal that is a personal education goal. These five goals have to pass the SMART test and they are then part of a quarterly review.

The goals are also related to the companies Strategic Plan, so we have about one hundred people all working towards a defined plan. We believe this is going to make a positive difference in 2009. Even with all the bad we hear and read about, there are some good things to discuss.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

How Much Longer?

How much longer will we be dealing with this downturn? One person I read stated a normal recession lasts seven to eleven months, so the average of that would be nine months. For our business, we noticed the slow down three month ago, so we may be a third through the pain. Others have stated a less optimistic outlook.

Regardless of how long this recession lasts, I have to do my job. In a local paper about a month ago there was an article about a local CEO of a large steel company. He said that his advice was to come to work, keep a positive outlook and go out and develop new business. Even though this was simple advice it sure makes sense. It's easy to spend time each day talking down the economy and complaining about how hard things are, but that doesn't cause any improvement.

Our job this year is to stay upbeat and develop new business.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Layoffs

We are hearing more and more of companies that are laying off large numbers of people. It isn't uncommon to hear of layoffs into the tens of thousands. Many times this causes a sales person to believe the worst - that the buying will stop. This isn't always the case.

When a company is going through a tough time and lays off part of the workforce, they need good suppliers even more. Many times the support staff that our customers work with are the ones that are impacted and that means they have to do more of the work. This gives us the opportunity to take some of that extra work and reduce the stress that our customers are experiencing.

Even in bad times there is opportunity. We just have to stay close to the customer and make sure we are there to reduce the pain they are experiencing.

Friday, January 23, 2009

How To Succeed

This morning I was reading an email from a consultant in California that explained the three excuses business people make for having a bad year.

1. The economy is bad.
2. Fewer people are buying.
3. I've tried everything and it's not making a difference.

He claims that 8 or 9 out of 10 business will struggle this year due to the recession. So instead of focusing on those companies, he is looking at the 1 or 2 out of 10 that are going to grow their top and bottom lines. His advice is to stay confident because customers can smell fear and to do more marketing to turn more prospects into clients.

This year we are increasing our marketing investment for that exact reason. The plan is to grow this year over last year and I see it being possible but not easy. We just have to keep monitoring ourselves so we don't repeat the three excuses, keep our heads up and go find new business.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Tough Start

It's been a tough start to the new year. That is what I am hearing all around. New unemployment numbers came out this morning and they were not going in the right direction. Being part of the business world, we are experiencing some of the same battles that most other companies are dealing with.

To combat the problem, we as a sales force spent part of our morning yesterday developing a list of 50 things that we can do ourselves to improve our outlook for this year. Most of what we brainstormed is not new or unique but it is needed for us to get through this period of recession as a strong and viable company.

The concept of brainstorming positive actions that can be taken to improve business is well within the scope of each of us that plans to have a good 2009. So take some time and create a list of positive actions.