Sunday, December 22, 2013

Malcolm Gladwell on the Advantages of Disadvantages

What is it that you are engaged in as an underdog? When are you the David to the others Goliath? Malcolm Gladwell has written another book, currently on my Kindle, that I am planning to read in the next month.

Below is a video from Wharton that gives an overview of the book and of the concept. Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Alan Mulally of Ford: Leaders Must Serve, with Courage

Alan Mulally is one of the greatest leaders in business today. He is credited with the success of Boeing and Ford. There is speculation that his next company may be Microsoft. How can he be so successful? What does he do that is different?

Below is a great Youtube video of Alan Mulally speaking at Stanford Business School. It's a 52 minute video but the content is incredible. His bottom line is that leadership centers on service to others. Enjoy.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

How Marissa Mayer Once Convinced This Exec To Work At Google

Have you ever wondered how major business leaders make decisions about where to work? Why would someone in high demand take one position over another position? Would a highly driven person take the path of least resistance?

Marissa Mayer, as a Google executive, had to hire some great people while competing with some other great companies in silicon valley. She would often have to convince people to come to Google even when other offers were better. How would she do this? Here is a quote from a Business Insider article.

Here's what Mayer told her: "The best advice I can give you is that when I had to make a choice between two paths, I always chose the more challenging one, and that has always been the correct decision. So you should think about that."

That's how Lee ended up at Google for four years, which led her to Polyvore in 2008. She became chief executive of Polyvore in 2012.

How can this apply to you? To do your best in life, you have to improve who and what you are and this is partly done by doing what is more challenging not taking the path of least resistance.

Next time you have to chose between two paths - which will you take?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner Explains The Difference Between Managers And Leaders

If you are a manager of people and are part of an organization then you realize how hard it can be to move people to a defined goal. Why is it so hard to get this done? Why is it people are the hardest management challenge? One reason is that people respond better to being lead than being managed.

Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, recently wrote a post about the differences between these two roles. In this post he said:

"I draw a very clear distinction between leadership and management," Weiner said. "For me, leadership is the ability to inspire others to achieve shared objectives. Managers tell people what to do. Leaders inspire them to it."

How can you and I migrate part of our skill set to the leadership vein? If you're like me, then you still have to manage - you can't just change what you are doing. But you can spend part of your time as a leader by reviewing with people what the big picture is for your company or for your department. This can even be done in short periods of time on a daily basis.

You don't need to change everything - just start with sharing the big picture a few minutes a day. Over time you'll be surprised how people are changed and how more is getting done.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days of the year. Being thankful is a state of mind that can turn what seems to be a negative into a positive. Looking around the country, there is no shortage of negative news to worry about. The news can be a downer or I can focus on what I should be thankful for so that is what I am trying to do this year.

Thanksgiving is a time to be with family and to focus on what is good. I doubt there is any family who isn't going through some negative issue but being in our country with our opportunity, this can be a day to focus on something better.

Every time I start to let the world around impact my outlook, it is nice to just do something positive and realize that there is hope for the future. Doing the same old same old isn't the answer. We have to be trying new ways of getting in front of people that want to do business with us.

Monday, November 18, 2013

How To Get Straight A's In College

Why would I write about this subject? I found this article when looking online for my daughter, a freshman in college, and my son, a sophomore in high school. My thought was to share this with them to help them improve their learning. There are some great tips to improve comprehension and that should result in better learning and better grades. As I read this article, it dawned on me that this is true for any aspect of life. Here are a few of the concepts from the article.

"Ask questions, even if you look like an idiot — It took me a while to swallow my pride and speak up, but I'd rather get the added knowledge than 'look cool'. And the joke's on those who look down on this — I get the A and they don't." — This makes total sense in a classroom but it also makes sense in a boardroom or a meeting room. Asking questions sparks ideas and conversations that lead to more informed outcomes.

"Review the material before you sleep. Every night, 1-1&1/2 hours before I sleep, I review all the material that is going to be covered on any upcoming quiz or exam. Research shows that if you study right before you sleep, you'll have a greater retention rate." — If you have something important to learn for work - take it home and review it before sleep. This is a way to get more bang for your buck.

"Avoid all-nighters. Schedule study/homework. — Unless you really really have to, all-nighters are bad news. Look closely at your schedule of classes and work, and find little gaps where you can go to the computer lab or library or quad or student center and do some work. You can spend just as much time on homework as the kids pulling all-nighters without staying up past midnight. Also, its best if you figure out what bits of your homework you can do where, and always have something quick and easy you can pull out if the opportunity presents itself." — Our company deals with creative agencies and they are famous for pulling all nighters. I am always amazed at the people who are willing to do this and then the next day and sometimes for days to come, they are still recovering.

In the business world, we are students trying to improve our products and services. We are out to get good grades. Click on the link and see what the other points in this article have for you to learn from.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Barbara Corcoran Explains The Difference Between Salespeople Making $40,000 And Those Making $8 Million

Barbara Corcoran knows what she is talking about. If you're confused as to why others in your same industry are doing better or why others in your same company are doing better - watch this video.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

3 Key Leadership Tips From Twitter CEO Dick Costolo

Twitter is about to go public so there has been a lot of press coverage about the company, the founders, and the current CEO Dick Costolo. When I read about companies like Twitter I am often amazed at the ability of a company to grow so quickly and to still have some semblance of order. This is never done without leadership. The leadership at a company like Twitter makes the difference between a long-term success and a company that is gone a couple of years after the founders cash out from a hyped IPO.

Recently I read an article called 3 Key Leadership Tips From Twitter CEO Dick Costolo. The first of his points is "don't try to make friends". He then goes on to say "As a leader, you need to care deeply, deeply about your people while not worrying or really even caring about what they think about you," Costolo said "Managing by trying to be liked is the path to ruin." He realizes that leadership isn't about being liked but it's about doing the right thing. In the long-run doing the right things leads to being liked but that isn't the initial goal.

Secondly he pointed out "there are many different ways to be a successful leader" meaning it's not possible to imitate what others are doing or what they have done. Be yourself - as long as that is working. If you try to just be like someone else it will probably lead to failure. It's amazing when a tech star is written about that you start to hear others copying him or her. How many people started wearing turtlenecks and demanding "perfection on the inside of the computer" after Steve Jobs shared that with others. That worked for him, but it may not work for others.

The last point was to "be transparent." You and I don't fool anyone. Either we are living as we are on the inside or everyone will eventually figure that out. Be true to yourself, improve yourself, and enjoy your success.

Monday, October 28, 2013

See the Waste - Eliminate the Waste

2 Second Lean Book | Lean Thinking | Lean Culture

What is lean? Does lean lead to reducing the workforce? Often when people hear about or think of lean they see it as the enemy because lean has been used as an excuse to let people go. It's no wonder lean programs have trouble working in some environments.

To get to the core of lean it is necessary to understand that there are two pillars of lean - respect for people and reduction of waste. This often leads to adding people because a company becomes more competitive and needs to do more for customers.

Here is another video from 2SecondLean that answers the question of "what is lean?".

Friday, October 25, 2013

Lean Airplane

2 Second Lean Book | Lean Thinking | Lean Culture

There is a great website I have been spending time on recently. It's the 2SecondLean website. The developer of the website owned and runs a business in the Northwestern US and from the looks of this site he has a successful business. I am going to share a video about a lean adjustment he made to his plane and this is the epitome of what I see with lean. It's simple, quick, and effective.

There are some buttons on the dash of his plane and if they are not set properly after landing the plane they can drain the power off of the battery. Take a few minutes to watch this video and then ask yourself "what is bugging me at home or at work"? Often small improvements can make a big difference over time.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The One Thing Successful People Do Every Day

Everyone is busy. Everyone seems to have more to do than can be done in a normal day. For many, people the current world of information overload and being busy has become an excuse for letting down on certain things that need to be done.

Successful people are successful because they are willing to do what normal people are not willing to do - and they will do it over and over. Often these are not huge differences but they are small differences that happen over and over and over.

In a recent Forbes article, William Arruda wrote about one thing that successful people do every day that the unsuccessful don't.

Every day successful people work on their own brand. This means that people are working to make sure what they are doing is visible to those around them. Here is a great quote from the article, "“Busy” is the most common reason people give me for not doing anything to build their brand so they can advance their career.  They make time for emails and meetings and teleconferences, but they don’t capture the true benefits of all those activities. Working in their career is getting in the way of working on their career. Sound familiar?"

This article outlines 5 things to do to build your brand. It's a good read.

Monday, September 30, 2013

HBR Principles for Developing Humilty - Point 6

This is the last part of the HBR article and it's a great point - be passionately curious. This trait reminds me of many people I know who are successful and well liked because they are humble and willing to do for others. Often when I read about nationally known entrepreneurs they are described as curious. Their brains are always in search of answers, new thoughts and new ideas.

Einstein said of himself, "I have no special talent, I am only passionately curious." This quote from HRB shows why this trait is important to both success and humility. When you and I are curious we are admitting we don't know everything and that shows when we treat others as sources of potentially good ideas instead of just gears in a machine. When others realize that we see them as important and meaningful to the organization and to the overall success, they are motivated to give more and be more curious themselves. The result is a solid team and good success.

To be humble isn't just good for you and me, it's good for everyone around us and it is good for all of our success. Besides it being the right thing to do, it's just a more enjoyable way to live.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

HBR Principles for Developing Humilty - Point 5

The fifth point in the HBR article is listen, even (no, especially) to the weird ideas. This point is a little harder for me to understand because I have never been a big fan of the weird or unusual. I have always liked the "play by the book" type of thinking. This has lead to me judging other ideas too quickly because they are "weird" or the ideas are coming from "weird" people. That seems to be what HBR was meaning - if I'm not humble enough to learn from anyone then I am limiting what I am able to do.

Many times the "weird" ideas come from highly curious people who can easily get off course. Even if some of the ideas are not worth considering, I can't let myself then assume all the ideas are not worth listening to just because of the source.

At the heart of humility is the realization that I don't have all the answers and that others are needed to find the best solution. Sometimes the "weird" ideas are the best ones to hear.

Friday, September 13, 2013

HBR Principles for Developing Humilty - Points 3 & 4

The next two points in the HBR article are never underestimate the competition and embrace and promote a spirit of service.

Never underestimate the competition. Yesterday I was reading a book that said something like "success is the enemy of success". It basically meant that when a company is doing really well or when a person is doing really well he begins to believe he can't be beaten. This is the same idea as underestimating the competition. When we believe the competition is not as fast, smart, nimble or aggressive as we are - we are in for a hurt. The competition is working as hard as we are, is developing a strategic plan to beat us, and is willing to try new ideas to gain an edge. It's better to be a little paranoid which drives us to always improve.

Embrace and promote a spirit of service. This, again, is about a mindset and a perspective that allows humility in order to be better at what you do in life. Going out of your way to do something for others when there is no gain from the action is just the right way to live. We recently helped a competitor who had gone through a fire in their facility, because we believed it was the right thing to do. It would have been easy to ignore their pain and try to use their problem against them but it's just not the right way to live. Your employees, vendors, and co-workers figure out real fast what kind person you are when others are in need.

Friday, September 6, 2013

HBR Principles for Developing Humilty - Points 1 & 2

The HBR is an excellent publication that comes monthly and is full of insightful articles. The articles are detailed and full of good information. But if you don't want to spend the money on the magazine, it is also possible to get good HBR info from the HBR blogs. Recently there was a blog on humility and its impact on business. This blog has six principles and is worth the read.

The first of the six principles is Know What You Don't Know. The author pushes the point that no one can be the master of the universe and that no matter what level of skill you have in any area there are things you don't know. Sometimes it's better to ask a question and learn than appear to know it all and miss learning. Usually the know it all limits him/herself because others don't want to share with or help a know it all.

The second of the six principles is Resist Falling for Your Own Publicity. Sometimes it is fun to believe everything that is said or written about you or your company. Unfortunately many things are written to make you or a company look better and some details are omitted. Where I work it is amazing how many people begin to believe our own press releases or what our vendors say about us. It's not that it is never true but there is always a motive behind what is said or written. Remembering that helps avoid believing your own spin.

Humility is something that great companies use to keep a level head and keep working to improve. Humility will get you incredible results.

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Seinfeld Strategy Part 4

The Seinfeld Strategy is life changing and that is shown by the level of success Jerry has been able to attain and maintain over the decades. No matter what you are doing in business the concept is applicable. Even if you are not a business person the concept is still true. Would it be good to just do ten push-ups, 10 sit-ups and 10 squats each morning? Would that lead to more during the day? Would it be good to plan your breakfast and lunch menu on Sunday and then stick to those two meal plans each day?

For the last five weeks I have been trying to pack my lunch and it’s been a real challenge but I know when I do the work, and it’s only a few minutes at night or in the morning, then I feel better and I lose weight. Not bad for a few minutes work.
For the last few weeks I have also been trying to do ten push-ups, sit-ups and squats when I get up in the morning. Even though it’s not much, it is something and that has led to some better workouts later in the day.

If you’re in sales, set a small number of business development calls per morning. Don’t let yourself each lunch until it’s done. Even three a day is over seven hundred per year. That should lead to good new business.
Try this for a month, do something small that leads to a big goal and do it daily. Start a habit that will pay dividends for years to come. Start The Seinfeld Strategy and improve your life.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Seinfeld Strategy Part 3

The Seinfeld Strategy is about eliminating procrastination. Then when you’re not procrastinating and you get into a groove, you are going to be more effective and more productive. I was watching an interview with Tim Ferriss online recently and in the interview Tim said his goal was to write two bad pages of his book a day. For a full-time writer two pages isn’t a stretch and also settling for bad writing makes it even easier. Tim did this because on the days he didn’t feel like writing, to do two bad pages was still doable. What Tim found was that when he started writing he often would find that he didn’t stop at two pages even when “he wasn’t in the mood”. This is a similar strategy that is about just doing something.
The BI article spreads the strategy to other areas like exercise. “Similarly, doing 10 pushups per day could be simple and meaningful depending on your level of fitness. It will actually make you stronger. Meanwhile, reading a fitness book each day is simple, but it won’t actually get you in better shape.” Doing 10 pushups a day seems like nothing but on the down day those 10 actions may lead to more.
The strategy works because everyone believes s/he can do the minimum. Doing the minimum of an activity over time can become a large accomplishment. What if you are in sales – is it possible to make two cold calls a day? Of course that is doable. Then why not get started today and see what happens after 30 days. What would your book of business look like if you started making two extra calls a day? I think you would be amazed at what would happen over a career with just this little action.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Seinfeld Strategy Part 2

The Seinfeld Strategy may have never been revealed if it were not for a young comic named Brad Isaac. One night he was at a club that Jerry Seinfeld was also at and Brad asked Jerry for “tips for a young comic” and Jerry changed his life. What Jerry shared was specific to comedy but it can be applied to any skill set or business.
Jerry told Brad to “write every day” and to track his progress. Jerry said to get a wall chart and put up an annual calendar with each day on the calendar. Jerry told him that when you write put an X on that day and then you are good. Then try to string days together and make a commitment to yourself to not miss a day. Jerry didn’t talk about how good the writing was or how funny the jokes were – he just said to write day after day after day. This may seem simple but it is building a pattern that over time will yield incredible benefits.
What Jerry was teaching Brad was a habit or a pattern that Brad could do over and over and then his skills would improve. Many comics, like many other professionals, procrastinate when writing. This tool keeps the juices flowing and keeps the mind active and creative. For a comic this results in better material and more material. If a comic begins to write jokes the week of a performance and the creative juices are not flowing then s/he will most likely revert to their old standard bits. The same is true in other walks of life like cold calling, exercise, diet, management and many other disciplines.

What is the one thing you can do daily that over time will yield the best results? How can that activity be measured so it can be tracked over a long period of time? Would this skill be something worth starting today?

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Seinfeld Strategy Part 1

A few weeks ago I read an article on Business Insider that had a tremendous impact on me. After reading the article a couple of times and sharing it with our sales team it dawned on me that this is worth sharing on my blog. Because of the simple elegance of the message and because I want to spend more time developing this blog post, this will cover four posts.

The article focused on “The Seinfeld Strategy” as it is called. Jerry Seinfeld has been know as one of the most successful comics in history. During his TV show he made incredible money and millions were entertained on a weekly basis. I still find myself watching old episodes. In 1998 he earned $267 million dollars in a single year. Even as late as 2008 he earned $85 million dollars. Those are incredible amounts especially when viewed over a ten year time frame. That is consistency. Consistency is “The Seinfeld Strategy” and what these blog posts are about. This consistency is also his tool to beat procrastination.
The article states “Jerry Seinfeld produces with a level of consistency that most of us wish we could bring to our daily work.” How does this impact you and me? How can we improve how we perform? Click on the link and read the “secret” of Jerry’s success or wait for the next blog post.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Lost a Big Sale? Don't Use These 2 Excuses

Tom Searcy is a sales training who focuses on selling the big deal. I heard him speak one time a few years ago and have enjoyed reading his material. He has an article in Inc magazine that has two simple points of what not to do when you lose a sale.

What is the most common reason people believe and say they lose a sales - price? How many times have you purchased something and only cared about the price? What is the easiest way to get a sales person to leave you alone - tell him or her the price is too high. Tom gives ways around having to use this excuse.

Politics is the other reason Tom discusses. It's also easy to say and believe you lost a sales because the buyer had pressure to pick the other supplier. Again, there are ways to deal with this.

Take five minutes and read the article and find ways to improve and make the second half of 2013 better than the first half.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Chet Holmes - 5 Questions Companies Should Answer

Chet Holmes was one of the best business and sales trainers I have read and or seen on video. He had an ability to get to the core of an issue and give his readers a clear path to success. This was obviously similar to the skills he used when working for Charlie Munger and succeeding during his entire career. Below are five questions he posed to business leaders and they are worth reading and thinking about.

5 Questions Companies Should Answer in Order to Compete
To stay ahead of the curve, businesses should ask the following questions:
1. What success have they had getting top-of-mind awareness?
2. How have they differentiated themselves from the rest of the pack?
3. How can they clear the clutter to get their message heard?
4. Do the old ROI measurements really work in today’s market?
5. Who and where is the true influencer today?

Click this link to read the rest of the article was is full of insights.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Power of the Next-Action Decision

One of the top 5 books I have ever read about my business and personal life is Getting Things Done by David Allen. It is a book I skim through annually and push on everyone who will listen.

One key concept from GTD is to identify the "next action item" when working on a project. Below is a blog post from GTD about this concept. I won't summarize it because it is clear and understandable.

If you want to change your life for the better - buy, read and live GTD.

Following up on clarifying the difference between outcomes and actions: I have a personal mission to make “What’s the next action?” part of the global thought process. I envision a world in which no meeting or discussion will end, and no interaction cease, without a clear determination of whether or not some action is needed—and if it is, what it will be, or at least who has responsibility for it. I envision organizations adopting a standard that anything that lands in anyone’s “ten acres” will be evaluated for action required, and the resulting decisions managed appropriately. Imagine the freedom that would allow, to focus attention on bigger issues and opportunities.

Over the years I have noticed an extraordinary shift in energy and productivity whenever individuals and groups installed “What’s the next action?” as a fundamental and consistently asked question. As simple as the query seems, it is still somewhat rare to find it fully operational where it needs to be.

One of the greatest challenges you may encounter is that once you have gotten used to “What’s the next action?” for yourself and those around you, interacting with people who aren’t asking it can be highly frustrating. It clarifies things so quickly that dealing with people and environments that don’t use it can seem nightmarish. —David Allen, in Getting Things Done

Sunday, June 30, 2013

31 Business Lessons You Usually Learn The Hard Way

31 Business Lessons You Usually Learn The Hard Way is the name of an article I saw that intrigued me. I would rather learn things through the experiences of others than by hard experience. Here are a couple of the lessons - the rest are in the article.

"The only way to get other people to care about you is to care about them first." This reminds me of so many Zig Ziglar quotes that instruct me to put others first and to help them and then it comes full circle.

"The difference between success and failure is just a decision to keep trying." Perseverance - a large subject but one worth spending some time with. I am always surprised at how quick people are to give up on trying to do something or finish something. An extra question or an extra call can make all the difference.

"Negativity isn’t reality. Not for you. Not for your critics." Being negative is easy and spreading negativity is easy. Many, if not most, of the most successful people I have ever met see the good in people and situations. Being negative just hurts me and doesn't help anyone else.

Not all 31 lessons are great but they are worth a quick read.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Steve Jobs: The Most Important Thing

What would Steve Jobs think is the most important thing to learn? Obviously Steve had a huge impact on our world because he saw products and services differently than the average person does. So when I saw him talk about this most important thing, I listened and thought it was worth sharing.


Friday, June 14, 2013

The Most Successful Leaders Do 15 Things Automatically, Every Day

Here is the opening line from a Forbes article that I read recently. "Leadership is learned behavior that becomes unconscious and automatic over time." In the last 23 years I have gone through many changes in my personal and professional life and in hindsight this statement appears to be right on. There are challenges I can face today that five or ten years ago would have been overwhelming and I expect that today's overwhelming problems will seem small in the future.

If it's true that leadership is learned and we can improve, I would like to share some things that leaders do and by extension we should be doing. The ideas come from a Forbes article entitled The Most Successful Leaders Do 15 Things Automatically, Every Day.

I will only cover three of the points so click on the link above and read the entire article.

Make decisions. "They focus on “making things happen” at all times – decision making activities that sustain progress. "

Lead by example. "Successful leaders practice what they preach and are mindful of their actions. They know everyone is watching them and therefore are incredibly intuitive about detecting those who are observing their every move, waiting to detect a performance shortfall."

Problem solve; avoid procrastination. "
Successful leaders tackle issues head-on and know how to discover the heart of the matter at hand.    They don’t procrastinate and thus become incredibly proficient at problem solving; they learn from and don’t avoid uncomfortable circumstances (they welcome them).
Getting ahead in life is about doing the things that most people don’t like doing."

Thursday, June 6, 2013

5 Ways to Become a Better Speaker Overnight

In my job I have the opportunity to speak to small and medium sized crowds. It is exciting and fun when the crowd is involved and connected - the energy is a rush. But if the connection is not there, it is painful. The pain isn't only with the speaker it is also with the audience. So how do you improve as a speaker? Below are 2 of 5 ways taken from Jeff Haden who is a writer for Inc. magazine. Click here for the other 3 ways to become a better speaker.

1. Find one thing no one knows.
I have never heard someone say, “I was at this presentation the other day... the speaker’s Gantt chart was amazing.”
I have heard someone say, “I was at this presentation the other day... did you know when you blush the lining of your stomach also turns red?”
Find a surprising fact or an unusual analogy that relates to your topic. Audiences love to cock their heads and think, “Really? I had no idea...”
2. Share a genuinely emotional story.
Many speakers tell self-deprecating stories. Many go farther, detailing their personal Tom Cruise “talk to me Goose” moment (1:45, NSFW) when all their bad decisions missteps and poorly timed flybys over an Admiral’s daughter finally came to a head... and they turned a corner and became the amazing person they are today.
Admitting a mistake is great, but not when used just to highlight how great you are now.
Instead tell a story (directly related to your topic) and let your emotions show. If you were sad, show it. If you cried, say so. If you felt remorse, show remorse.
When you share real feelings – which even the most inexperienced speaker can do – you create an immediate and lasting connection with your audience.
Genuine emotion trumps polish every time.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

On Adding A Zero

Daily I receive an email from Seth Godin about marketing and improvement in general. This week I would like to share an email that came and was simple but profound. It's a way of approaching life that results in major improvements. Hope you enjoy.

On adding a zero
What happens if, instead of one sales call a day, you make ten?
Or if instead of 3 freelancers working on scaling your work, you have thirty?
What happens if you add a zero in places where it feels impossible to handle... what then?
Scale isn't always the answer, but if it is, then scale. Build the systems necessary to dramatically change your impact. Halfway gets you nowhere.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day 2013

A few years ago our family was able to visit Omaha beach and see what our soldiers had to endure and overcome in order to fight and win WWII. The entire scene was overwhelming to consider the incredible obstacles that stood in their way and what they did.

Our country has a wonderful military and I am proud to remember them on Memorial Day.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

John Chambers - What I Look for In Leaders

John Chambers, CEO of Cisco, looks at three things when thinking about the leaders in his company. Here they are:
  • Results
  • Quality of the team
  • Communication
The results is obvious. Almost everyone in business has a set of goals or a set of outcomes that are measurable. Quality of the team and communication are a little different and maybe not on the top of all lists.

He also talked about how you learn about people during times of failure or during times of challenge. This past week has been full of challenge for the team I work with . We have added three major accounts to our company at the same time which can be challenging. Normally a great opportunity comes along in singles so this has been a stressful time. Some of the best in people has come out and has been enjoyable to see.

John talked about what keeps him up at night and he mentioned that when Cisco lets down a customer it can cause him to loose sleep. This may be why he has been so successful over time and has been able to be a tech CEO for so long.

It's a short video but it has some great insights.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

How to Hold Meetings

Steven Sinofsky

How can you have a better meeting? Many of us find ourselves in more meetings than we want. Since some of these meetings are outside of our control and we have to be there anyway, why not make the best of the situation.

Steven Sinofsky, a major player at Microsoft in the development of Office and Windows 7 has written a long blog on how to have better meetings. Here are three of the keys from that blog post.

Define success. Make sure everyone knows what the outcome or goal of the meeting should be. To come out of a meeting after an hour and not be sure if it was beneficial is a letdown. Our job is to make sure everyone in a meeting gets something worth while and that a meeting can be judged as successful.

Know the details. If your manager or your team is interested in a certain metric - make sure you have the numbers and that you understand and can defend the numbers. It is a waste of time to be in a meeting and then have someone say that s/he will get back to you later with the number. Be prepared.

Brevity. Start on time and end on time. A meeting that wanders with no end point drives energy out of a meeting. When a group of people don't know when a meeting will end they are not sure what they can get done later and that causes anxiety. Having an end point forces the meeting to stay on point and stay meaningful.

One other thing. Below is a chart from Steven's blog that shows how meetings can be successful or not successful.

Meetings are a part of business and will happen. You may as well make them meaningful and effective.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Say yes more. Connect people more. Get up early more. Expand your network. Take better care of your family. Great advice.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Become A Customer Company

The title to this blog seems obvious and even a little silly. Isn't every company becoming a customer company? Isn't every company company focused on the customer? Surprisingly, they are not. How often do you work with a company that seems to hate the customer? The service is awful and the people are unhappy.

If that describes your company - watch out! The world is changing and it's changing faster than you may think. Below is a video from that addresses some critical thoughts. If you watch this video and feel great about what you are doing - congrats! Most likely you will find areas to improve. Two of my favorite lines from the video are "this is a trust revolution" and "you need to become a customer company". Enjoy and learn.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Three Ways to Improve Your Odds of a Sale

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Who is interested in selling more? Who is interested in doing more business? How many companies are out in the market trying to sell more products or services? I think almost all people and companies want to grow and do more.

Tom Searcy has written an article for Inc magazine that gives three ways to improve sales. These are only three of hundreds of ideas but they are good for the world we live in today.

One way is to get good at doing small transactions. It is easy to just focus on the big fish and the big sales but with the right amount of smaller transactions a company can diversify business. When you care for the entire list of needs of a customer you can do a better job as a supplier. Just like Amazon has automated the small transaction and has done it well - any person or company can do the same. Our company uses storefront technology similar to Amazon to manage and process small orders. This has allowed us to take care of a full range of offerings to clients. Think about how you can do this in your world and get going.

The other two ideas from the article are worth reading. Whatever you do - do something, try new ideas and make this a year of improvement and growth.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The First Commandment: Know Thy Customer

According to David Edelman of McKinsey - the first commandment of good marketing is to know your customer. David recently wrote an article about the importance of really knowing your customer in order to get the best return on your marketing dollar. The more a company knows about a customer as an individual the better the marketing message can be tailored to fit a specific person. David talks in the article about senior managers touting the importance of spending time with and getting to know the customer, but that is not the norm.

David wrote the following, "The reason to unlock your data is so that you can be more relevant to your customers by sending them messages, offers, and products they really want. Research shows that personalization can deliver five to eight times the ROI on marketing spend and lift sales 10% or more." This was, for me, the key to the entire article. I find that when I look at our customer base as a whole, by segment, by sales person or by individual account, I see a much different picture. We are fortunate that we only have about thirty customers per rep, so we are able to get a much more personal view of the customer. When there is a personal view of the customer, then a tightly focused personal message can be sent and a much better ROI can be achieved.
Our company can, with digital printing, create direct mail that is unique to each person when we have the right data. This is something we are promoting to our customers because it is a way to cut through the clutter of the generic market. If you are looking at your customers, spend some time to get to know them on a personal basis and then reach out with your marketing in a 1to1 way to get the best impact.

Monday, March 25, 2013

3 Types of Leaders Who Never Succeed

At our company, Hopkins Printing, we have gone through many iterations with strategic planning. We have seen some systems that don't work well and some that work incredibly well. One thing we believe now is that having more focus and limiting the big goals allows us to get more done. Recently I came across an Inc magazine article 3 Types of Leaders Who Never Succeed that talks to this in one of the points.

One of the three points is to not be "The Strategy Yanker" which means changing the strategy on a whim. This would be starting the year with a strategy to grow 30% and then in month three changing the strategy to improving customer service. When we set our three main goals for the year, we go through days of debate over what goals will make the biggest difference. These are not quick or easy decisions because we know that they will last for an entire year. When a member of the management team knows s/he will be held to a goal 12 months later, the decision is much tougher. Once we go through this process we then roll the goals out to develop departmental goals and then personal goals for each person in the company. It isn't an easy or quick process but we have seen some incredible benefits from this process.

The article also gives two others points that are worth reading and then if they apply to you, stop doing those things. Being a leader is a big responsibility so take some time, learn something and improve.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

4 Ways to Avoid Becoming a Micromanager

Tom Searcy is a consultant who helps companies land large customers. I first heard him speak a few years ago when I was a member of Vistage. When I came across his Inc Magazine article I decided to spend a few minutes and find out what I could learn.

Like many perfectionist I struggle with delegation and with letting others do things on their own. I enjoy getting in the details and having my opinions heard. That is OK if I don't want to grow the business because a micromanager limits what a company can accomplish. S/he slows down progress by becoming a bottle neck.

Tom, in his article, has fours tips to overcome this type of management. The article lists four activities that tend to aggravate a micromanager and then offers tips to help in these situations. There are ideas to help with a lack of follow through or with lack of adoption.

If you work for a micromanagers or if you are a micromanager, this would be a worthwhile read.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Number One Rule of Success

Grant Cardone says the number one rule of success is to "suit up and show up". What a simple but profound statement. How may times have we heard that times are tough, the competition is cutting price, the economy is soft or any other excuse? We can either listen to the excuses and give up or we can suit up and show up! I for one want to be in the game.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Are You An Introvert?

When I was younger I always intuitively knew that I needed time alone after being around large groups. In high school and in college I always viewed this as a weakness and that I needed to change who I was. How could I do well in life if I came away from social events feeling tired when so many around me seemed to thrive on the action?

After a few years of work our management team took a Myers-Briggs test and I found out I was an introvert. At first I didn't want to believe it because it seemed like a weakness but the more I learned the more I realized it has nothing to do with good or bad only how I recharge my batteries. I just needed some down time to recharge.

After a few years in business I moved to the sales side of the business and that is when the introvert side of me hit home. After spending my entire day interacting with clients and co-workers, I would come home and be whipped. I had to ask myself if there was a better way? I couldn't ignore my family and my other responsibilities so I had to turn my drive time into my down time so when I got home I was more refreshed. There are always solutions to challenges.

The world is full of introverts: Barbara Walters, Albert Einstein, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Chevy Chase and many others. Being one way or another is no excuse to not succeed - no matter what you are like there are opportunities to improve, grow and become more tomorrow than you are today.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Will You Fail As A Leader?

Fear of failure if a major issue with men and women who are trying to improve, grow and increase in life. Many ask themselves if they can handle what is coming if they get the new promotion or the increased area of responsibility? In a recent Inc Magazine article, Les McKeown, wrote about the 4 Signs You Will Fail as a Leader.

In this article Les covers four areas we can look at in our lives and see if we are heading in the wrong direction. He begins with the person who knows everything and how that is the type of person who is destined to fail. I have never met a person who has 100% percent knowledge in any subject but I have met people who believe they possess this perfection. Often they end up babbling on and on in order to answer a questions because they are not sure what the truth is and then if they end up being wrong they can't admit to the failure. Isn't it better to just accept we don't know everything and then treat others with respect who may know more than us in a given field? Learn to ask questions and then listen to what others know. The counter to this is that a leader does need a wide range of knowledge so s/he is snowed by smooth talkers. It's a failure of leadership to be lead down the wrong path and then blaming it on others.

Les then covers the other three areas and I would highly recommend you click through to the article and read them. Ask yourself how much these four signs apply to you and work on improvement.

Being a leader is a lifelong pursuit - go ahead and get started in the right direction.

Monday, February 18, 2013

President's Day Message

President's Day is a great day to work. Some of our clients are off and there are usually a few minutes to consider the Presidents we remember on this day. Living in a country so full of opportunity and with a background designed to allow these opportunities is an incredible blessing. Thinking back on the beginning of our country and on the principles that allowed us to have what we have gives some insights into how we can improve our lives today.

When I think of our history as a country and what we have gone through politically and financially it is telling that some lessons are hard for us to learn. In the last few decades we have seen bubbles in our economy - the internet bubble, the housing bubble and possibly soon the commercial real estate bubble or the education debt bubble. How is it that we can't learn from our lessons but instead we need to repeat them over and over. These bubbles all tell me that getting something for nothing or getting something for less than it's worth will lead to problems. When I receive something without putting in the proper work, I don't respect or value it the way I should.

If I buy a house for no money down or if I have an internet company with a high valuation and no sales or profits I begin to live a lie. I have to provide value for what I receive. There are no shortcuts in the long run. In my current business I can only charge our clients for the value I bring. If I find that I am doing something that isn't bringing value to our company, meaning value to our customers, then I am setting myself up for trouble.

Always remember that without putting in the work, the value, you shouldn't take something, the reward. This type of life will end up with bad results and future heartache.

Hope you enjoy President's Day and on this day bring value to your family, your customers, your company and to your country.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Don't Sleep Until You Succeed!

There is a Youtube video I first watched a couple of years ago and today I ran across it again. In thinking of today's major sporting event, the Superbowl, it always amazes me to find out how hard athletes work and how dedicated they are to their craft.

This same dedication is seen in business when companies grow or succeed at levels greater than those around them. The message of the video, in my opinion, is to push harder than you think is possible and then enjoy the benefits of winning. Hope you enjoy the message of the video.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Be The Best In What You Do!

All people want to be good at what they do but very few hit the target. What would our lives be like if we were the very best at what we do - the best in business, the best in investing, the best in HR, the best in sports or the best in sales? There is a saying, "The harder I work the luckier I get." Hard work with the right technique can help anyone become "the best" at what they do.

To become the best - focus on a single objective and put in the time and energy to hit the goal. Robin Sharma shares his thoughts on this as well.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Gary Vaynerchuk on Social Media's Multiplier Effect

Gary Vaynerchuk has some great video presentations online. I watched one today that struck a chord with me and thought I would share it here. His main point, to me, was that with social media the good and the bad reports from our customers become multiplied. Ten years ago if a customer was happy s/he may have told a handfull of people. Now with social that same thought could spread to hundreds or thousands.

This gives us the ability to do great things for our customers and then have that shared with large groups. 2013 should be the year to do great things for customers - things that are special and personal so they know they are important to us.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Principle of Subtraction

Often times I find myself committing to more and more in all areas of my life - more at work, more with the family, more around the house and more with my friends. The weeks come and go and the weekends come and go and life becomes a blur. In a 24/7 world where information and activity can be a never ending occurrence - how can I keep my life under control?

One of the topics I enjoy reading about is personal effectiveness and how I can get more done with the same or less energy. In reading on this topic, I came across the principle of subtraction and how it is often more important to focus on what I say "no" to as well as what I say "yes" to in my life. There is no shortage of activities in our world to say "yes" to and no shortage of information overload to invite in to our lives - so at some point we have to be able to say "no".

Recently I was reading an article about this entitled The Art of Adding by Taking Away by Matthew May. Matthew also wrote a book entitled The Law of Subtraction. So he must have some knowledge on the subject. In the NYT article Matthew focuses on subtraction and how that improves our output and outcome. He begins with a personal story of how he improved his performance by using this concept and then he looks at some examples of how businesses used this principle. Below is part of what he had to say:

The principle of subtraction carries over to the corporate world. Here are some examples: W. L. Gore, recognized as one of the world’s most innovative companies, eliminated job titles in order to release employees’ creativity. When it started out, Scion, the youth-oriented unit of Toyota, decided not to advertise, and it reduced the number of standard features on its vehicles to allow buyers to customize their cars. The British bank First Direct operates successfully without branches, relying instead on Internet, telephone and mobile transactions. Steve Jobs revolutionized the world’s concept of a cellphone by removing the physical keyboard from the iPhone. Instagram, acquired last year by Facebook, grew quickly once its first version, called Burbn, was stripped of many of its features and reworked to focus on one thing: photos. 
THINK about what you could do — or rather not do — in your own life that would put these principles into play. There are two easy ways to begin subtracting things every day: 
First, create a “not to do” list to accompany your to-do list. Give careful thought to prioritizing your goals, projects and tasks, then eliminate the bottom 20 percent of the list — forever. 
Second, ask those who matter to you most — clients, colleagues, family members and friends — what they would like you to stop doing. Warning: you may be surprised at just how long the list is. 
The lesson I’ve learned from my pursuit of less is powerful in its simplicity: when you remove just the right things in just the right way, something good happens.
I have found in my job and in my life that when I remove the actions that don't bring value and I focus more closely on what brings value, I can get more done with less energy and time. It's a principle worth considering.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Are You A Writer? Ask David Ogilvy.

Last week our company had a marketing consultant in to work with us on our 2013 Marketing Plan. She and her husband had built a printing company in Georgia and she had focused on the marketing and sales side of the business. When they sold the company she began a consulting company to help other printing companies improve their marketing efforts and that is how she and I got connected. During her time with us she said that everyone had the ability to write and communicate with the written word. The more I thought about this the more I find myself agreeing with her.

Many people say they are not "writers" which is true in most cases. But this doesn't mean those same people can't become writers. Writing is like so many other skills in that it takes time, work, energy and training to become good. Other than going to school to improve, it is always possible to find good information on how to improve in any area. The other day I came across 10 Tips on Writing from David Ogilvy. David was one of the classic advertising men that Mad Men was patterned after.

Here are his 10 Tips:

The better you write, the higher you go in Ogilvy & Mather. People who think well, write well.
Woolly minded people write woolly memos, woolly letters and woolly speeches.

Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well. Here are 10 hints:

1. Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing. Read it three times.
2. Write the way you talk. Naturally.
3. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
4. Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.
5. Never write more than two pages on any subject.
6. Check your quotations.
7. Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning — and then edit it.
8. If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.
9. Before you send your letter or your memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.
10. If you want ACTION, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.


Anyone can improve and become a "good writer" by spending the time and energy needed to improve.