Archive for March, 2010

Are You An Undercover Boss?

CBS Network premiered a new television show in 2010 airing immediately after the Super Bowl that had corporate board rooms trembling. The name? Undercover Boss. It is based on a British series of the same name. Each episode of the show features a senior executive at a major corporation, working incognito as a new entry-level hire in his or her company for one week, to find out how the company really works (including the impact of “corporate policy”) and identify some of the unsung heroes among the employees. CEOs of Waste Management, Hooters, 7 Eleven and White Castle were some of the first to slip out of their suits and work the front lines.

What they discovered about the company culture and their own reputations shook their corporate world. Their policies weren’t being implemented. Their people didn’t respect them. “I always thought everyone liked working for me.” Several bosses said. “I never cared what they thought…until now,” one admitted. They learned that they hadn’t been communicating because they weren’t connecting with their organizations. They learned through the experience to connect with their people.

Even if you aren’t aware of it, your company has a culture with traditions, habits, taboos and unwritten policies. There are subjects people just don’t discuss openly. There are stories told about former employees, former supervisors and even you. There are vendettas, resentments and unappreciated contributions lurking around certain corners in the office. There are rules that aren’t in writing, but they are more powerful than the ones that are recorded.

Your people tell them to each other year after year and pass them along to new employees, once they have checked them out and approved them (another unwritten policy) to stay. The new crop of trainees has already been indoctrinated with them.

But much worse, these are most often revealed to customers both verbally and non-verbally. They are given away with looks, glances, rolling of the eyes and outright truth-telling. The most dangerous employee is one who is assisting your competitors by driving your business away. They are sabotaging your customers with stories that support their claims of poor service. “You think this is bad? Let me tell you what it is like working for him/her….” Get the picture? You can do what you like, but these stories persist.

Try building the “Cult of You” within your organization. Get them working for you instead of against or in spite of you. Your own people know what will make it a better, more efficient workplace. They are brilliant and intuitive. Release their creativity and you will tap an untold wealth of experience and knowledge. It will relieve them to know that their input is making a difference as well.

Find out how to build a culture of positive attitudes.

Marketing Isn’t Always a Good Idea

“Much of what passes for marketing these days is a waste of time and money that has nothing to do with building a good solid business,” veteran entrepreneur Norm Brodsky says. By “marketing” he is referring to using advertising, signage, design, packaging, brochures, stationery, business cards, and so on to manufacture (read that “manipulate”) an image of your company for the purpose of making customers and prospective customers more interested in buying whatever you sell,htan from anyone else. A slick brochure or presentation lacks soul in Brodsky’s view, and indicates to your customers that you are just like everyone else. Norm is right. He gets it.

The name of the game is differentiation. Why should I buy from you if you look just like everyone else who could afford a decent printer? At a recent financial services reality check conference, Brett Christensen said, “98% of that stuff goes in the trash!”Personally, I would prefer homemade marketing materials that reinforce that your business is like a family, and will treat you as a member of my family. Your marketing collateral should “reflect who we are, not some marketer’s idea of who we should be,” he says.  Seth Godin shares, “My fear is that the endless search for ‘wow’ further coarsens our culture at the same time it encourages marketers to get ever more shallow.”

To deepen your brand, your marketing and your culture, learn what the difference is between doing business with you and someone else. Differentiation is what sets you apart (not to be redundant, repeatedly). Top marketers are building a fan base, rather than pandering to the “drive-by culture,” according to Godin. Fans give permission, fans return tomorrow, spread the word to others that can also take action. Fans buy in movements, waves and droves. Customers come and go, but an active fan base can’t be replaced. What are you doing to attract fans to your company culture?

More information on building your fan base.

It’s Time to Change the Questions

“The more upsetting the question, the more change takes place.” -Jim Mathis, The Reinvention Strategist
Sandra Bullock just won an Academy Award for her role in the movie, “Blind Side.”  The term “blind side” comes from a football reference to watching out for another player where he can’t see he is under attack. Are you aware of your blind side?  Do you have areas that you can’t see on your own?

It isn’t about the answers you have that makes you successful; it’s the questions you ask. No one is impressed by your answers. Your answers are making you extinct. Your questions are evolving you and your organization. You have to ask great questions to make great sales. You have to ask great questions to give great service.  Like: “How are we punishing people for doing business with us, instead of why aren’t they buying from us?” You have to ask great questions to lead people through challenging times and economies. People who want to become more or better than they are already aren’t obsessed with your knowledge. They are upset by your questions. The more upsetting, the more they are willing to be open to sharing their answers. And I have found upset people to be the most open to change and reinvention.

Here are The Top Ten Questions you should be asking, or become extinct:
• How are we punishing people for doing business with us?
• How are we handling our customers Number 1 complaint?
• What are we doing that our customers like and want more of?
• Why do I feel like I have to have control in our process?
• Why aren’t we connecting better with our base?
• Where do we penalize creativity and intuition in our organization?
• Where is the new “normal” that we must confront in our industry?
• What am I the THE of to my customers?
• What are we forced to do different today that we didn’t do a year ago?
• What are we doing to build a community in our organization?
Do you know how to find the answers? Start here.

Welcome to Jurassic Park!

Have you ever heard the expression: “the elephant in the room”? It is based on the idea that an elephant in a room would be impossible to overlook; thus, people in the room who pretend the elephant is not there might be concerning themselves with relatively small and even irrelevant matters, compared to the looming big one.  Is there a” dinosaur” in your room?

Archaeologists tell us that many believe the dinosaurs died out because they weren’t equipped to adapt to a changed environment. But other species survived because they adapted and became different. They couldn’t adapt and they are now extinct.

There are obvious practices, problems, attitudes, beliefs, employees, inventory, customers and items that are holding you back from becoming what you can be. But you won’t change them because you refuse to adapt to a changed business environment, global marketplace and economy. They are holding you back from making the decision you need to make to move forward. But whatever it is, it has become extinct.

You are in the room. Are you insistent that everyone follow your leadership regardless of your wisdom? Do you feel your eccentricities are unique and that everyone appreciates your uniqueness? Do your employees think otherwise? Are you convinced that your methods are tired and true in business, but your bottom line shows otherwise? I saw an ad for a car dealer. All he talked about was how he had more inventory than anyone else in the state. People should buy from him because he had more cars in inventory (he repeated it for 25 of his 30 second commercial) than all of his competitors. He was selling Toyotas. He hasn’t realized that pushing inventory, inventory, inventory will not make anyone want to buy his cars against their fears and comfort zones. He is stubbornly clinging to a sales method that worked in another place, another economy and another time.

 Your stubbornness is in the room. Without changing, you are becoming extinct. You need to get over it and let it die.

 I want to get some actionable ideas.

Why Discounts Are a BAD Idea!

In one month, Apple will unveil the new iPad in what will easily be the year’s biggest (so far) buying frenzy. It seems everyone WANTS, NEEDS, HAS to get their hands on the latest gadget from Apple the day it comes out…before the price drops.

Yeah, the price will drop. Apple knows you want to beat the rush and are willing to pay the most, so they don’t discount their latest and hottest products. Remember the long lines for the new iPhone? The long lines for the new iTouch? The long lines for the new iPods (okay, that was a while ago). The newest, hottest products are never discounted and they sell out because the perception is put in everyone’s mind that they are valuable. Watch how cheap you will be able to get a Kindle in a couple of months.

Conversely, the more valuable the product, the less likely the discounted price. Can’t you just see the ads? “Pick up your new BMW today while the introductory prices are in force.” “Be the first to purchase a Yumi Katsura wedding gown during our special discount days program.” “Dr. Turner offers brain surgery for 50% off at his new practice!” Yeah, right. Line me up for that one.

An author friend of mine just introduced her book on the market. To promote it she offered free copies to the first 50 people who answered an online survey. Then she sold it for an “introductory price” on her web site to sell more. The price was reduced. Her problem was, by discounting the book price, she de-valued her product. They aren’t selling well so far. And the price can only go…..DOWN. She will never get full price for it after introducing it at a loss.

Do you want to know how to add MORE value to your product or service?

Is the Great Recession Over?

Is the Great Recession over? According to several business leaders I spoke with recently, they don’t use the “R Word” to describe the economic conditions of today.  A sales trainer told me that he was being hired frequently to talk about selling in a recession, until December. Another consultant said that he shies away from the word preferring not to use it in front of clients. He feels it is a passe term and wants to be current. There seems to be a consensus that a recovery is underway. Is it over or is the use of the word “Recession” over?

One thing is certain, the economy is different. Different today than six months ago when a recovery was only predicted. Different today than 18 months ago when the Dow Jones began to plummet. The economy has never been down; but different. So what do you do about the difference? What do you do about what everyone seems to be saying?

Let go of what you can’t control. It doesn’t matter what is going on outside as long as you can control what happens within your culture and sphere of influence. Let go of whatever is costing you more money than profiting you. Embrace the changes. As Marshall Goldsmith puts it, “What got you here, won’t get you there.” Let go of what got you here – if you want to be there. The very ideas, policies and practices that protected you for the past two years won’t serve you in growth mode.

You have to now think anew. Make strategic changes rather than mass changes. Be ready for growth mode and people hiring your services in a new and different way. Your customers have changed in the past two years. More shop online. More pay cash. More shop around. More know more about your competition than you do. More don’t like waiting for service or someone live to pick up a phone. More buy in seconds than did in minutes.

Customers have changed. Have you? What have you been doing that is different in the way you sell, train, manage, serve and build your people? If the Great Recession is truly over, it isn’t coming back like it did. Everything around you has changed…forever. Have you?

Read more on how to change.

What are you the THE of?

The best in any industry holds the distinction of being THE. Not being just another A. It’s called differentiation and it is THE name of THE game. What differentiates you is moving from being A at something and moving to the THE. People don’t hire you or buy from you because you were A, but because to them you were the THE of it. It takes you out of an ordinary category and places you in the industry of ONE. There is only ONE THE in any field.

Coca Cola isn’t A Real Thing it’s THE Real Thing. The best player isn’t called A Real Deal but is THE Real Deal. The best university in your state or province is called THE University of ________________. What can you be the THE of in your industry? How do people identify or differentiate you from everyone else who probably does the same thing you do? How do you create unique value they can’t get from anyone else or in any other place?

Want to become the THE in your field? Do you want to be in an industry of ONE?

(Your Company)!

Want to know what people think of you and your customer dis-service? Go on the internet and type in the name of your company followed by “” It might amaze you what is there. I was looking for a new bank last month and had concerns over the rumors I heard from friends. So I went online and checked out the name of the company and added to the end. Wow! Someone has gone to the trouble to buy that domain and put a long list of complaints for the world to see. Not only that, they are collecting stories from other dissatisfied customers and publishing them.

So I thought, “I wonder what the other banks are generating?” There it was on the World Wide Web. Other bank names with the same ending to the domain name. I also found my cable company being commented on in the same way. Then I went to Face Book and found similar fan pages for my three local banks, Comcast Cable and Delta Airlines.

I noticed on the bank pages that in one case dissatisfied customers were leaving their frustrated comments. On the second bank page someone from the bank was making angry comments back to the customers like, “If you people would organize your finances better, you wouldn’t have these issues with our bank!” But the page that impressed me most, got my attention and got my business was the page where someone from the bank answered each concern and gave their phone number to call to get the complaints straightened out.

Here is an idea: Why not put up a page that invites comments on your service under this domain name and answer customer concerns? Do you own (name of your company) If you don’t, who does?

To find out more, visit The Reinvention Strategist today.

Team Canada Generates A Buying Frenzy

Last week Team Canada (both men’s and women’s ) defeated Team USA to win the Olympic Gold Medal in hockey. It would have been a great victory for the US, but was a defining moment for the Canadians. I am writing this from Calgary where three days later they are still celebrating. It is all over the papers, the television, the radio and on everyone’s minds.

Items with the red maple leaf are flying off store counters. You can sell anything right now in Canada if it has the maple leaf on it. Have they had items in the past with this national symbol on them? Of course, but now it is a hot item because it is the trend to buy. It is the movement of the moment. It is the frenzy everyone is buying in. I remember the same thing taking place in my home town of Atlanta the first time the Braves went to the World Series and the Falcons went to the Super Bowl. New Orleans is experiencing this now with the Saints and their distinctive logo apparel and souvenirs.

The “trick” is to find what people are in a frenzy to buy and sell that to them. Whether it is the new iPad from Apple, the latest CD from Lady Gaga or the flavor of the month from Starbucks, find out what people will unquestioningly put money down for and sell that to them. People don’t buy what you sell, they buy what the buy.

Find out more of what you can do to start finding your customer’s buying styles at:

Warren Buffett is Participating in Chaos of the Recession – Are You?

In a recent shareholder letter, published by the New York Times, leading investor Warren Buffett said, “We’ve put a lot of money to work during the chaos of the last two years,” he wrote. “It’s been an ideal period for investors: A climate of fear is their best friend.” The Times reproted that Buffett is America’s most listened-to investor, and his annual letter is watched closely by investors for his assessment of his businesses and of the economy.

What are you doing to generate buzz, profits or reinvention in these times?  Are you timidly waiting it out or are you participating in the recession?

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March 2010


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