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Posts Tagged ‘Business’

Relationships: Don’t Get Too Comfortable with Virtual Over Personal Ones

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We all live in a digital age, and there is no turning back the clock. However, it’s certainly not an excuse to rely solely on virtual relationships instead of real ones in your job and private life.

Of course it’s much easier today to email, text or use a social media outlet to communicate with others, but it shouldn’t become a crutch for personal, meaningful relationships. After all, the basic foundation for nearly all good business communication is solid personal relationships.

Because of the time we live in, people still need the “human factor” more than ever. They are inundated with technology at every turn and need to feel they are appreciated and valued by more than a congratulatory email or text. I admit, picking up the phone and calling someone does seem antiquated in this day and age. However, there is something fulfilling about actually getting a person live on the other end and having a conversation. There are benefits to an actual call that just can’t be realized via email or text. Moreover, in person, face to face meetings do more to build relationships over any other form of communication. Meeting someone allows you to bond and connect with someone beyond the reason you wanted to meet in the first place. It allows you to connect on a personal level which in turn provides better and more fruitful business dealings in the future.

This might sound duh to a lot of you, but when dinner parties turn into eight people sitting at a table staring at their iPhones, maybe it needs to be reiterated.

Trust me: I certainly appreciate the availability of mass communication and the accessibility of multiple forms of communicating in today’s digital world. We truly live in a miraculous time. However, we cannot and must not lose sight of the tremendous benefits that actual, live, relationships bring to us. Like so many other things in life, it’s about balance.

The need to develop skill in fostering personal relationships is never more evident than with younger people just graduating college. They grew up in an age where technology was the first and accepted norm for communication. However, with new college graduates, it’s even more important for them to learn the subtle art of networking, connecting and building relationships with people who can help them on a personal and professional level.

So, the next time  you are sitting at your desk after you’ve read this article and you are about to type an email or text someone, pick up the phone or better yet, invite them to lunch. Yeah, you’ll get old person jokes, but they beat a Facebook status any day.

The Danger of the Half Step

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Earlier this week, I shared a post on our Facebook page about an article called The 30 second habit with a lifelong impact. It’s a great piece, and you should read it.

This made me think about some of the best advice I’ve ever been given. The kind of advice that makes you go, “Huh, okay” when you first hear it, but years later, after it has marinated in some experience and successes and failures, dawns on you that for the first time, you actually get it. Isn’t this the nature of all real advice?

It was given to me by a mentor, and he’s probably reading this blog right now. The advice is simple. Ready?

Never take a half step.

That’s it. Don’t take a half step. Either take a full step, or don’t take the step.

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The Art of the Business Relationship

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So much gets talked about today regarding “relationships” and “relationship building” when it comes down to working with your customers and accounts and project teams. It doesn’t matter if you are in sales, customer service, or managing a large marketing project, building a relationship with individuals takes time, work and effort. You have to have a true desire for others to succeed to be considered sincere and trustworthy by others. Relationships are developed over time and not through casual dialog and or meetings or chance, they are typically built when each of you are sharing a common goal or trying to solve a problem together where the end goal is the reward and not the individual attainment.

Businesses rely on relationships (as they are the bedrock of success in just about any field) and can mean the difference between long-term partnerships where all parties benefit versus short-sighted flings where one side benefits and the other parties don’t end up that well. It’s hard work and requires an investment of time and resources and sometimes you have to be willing to give up short term gain for long term success. Open dialog and transparency when building relationships always works best as people feel free to share ideas, express challenges and not feel inhibited their ideas don’t have merit. In the end, creating an open environment can only increase the chances of successful relationship building.

Oddly, most of us have these tools built-in. We learn lessons early on. Perhaps watching parents work through their relationship or their interaction with others that help shape our views and how we treat and relate to others. There aren’t many successful projects, sales closings, or marketing events that haven’t first built a solid foundation on relationships for all parties involved. Consider it the foundation that needs to be built when building a house. We know that once the house is built, it will have to withstand storms, rain, winds in order to remain strong. Relationships are no different in business, they will need to weather the ups and downs and challenging times.

But if built correctly from the start, they are the sturdy foundations for most business activities. Relationships aren’t something you just put on your to-do list to work on. They take communication, some stumbling, and a real sense of authenticity, but their rewards include not only the obvious (success for everyone), but also long-term partner- and friendships.

They’re worth the effort, and it’s worth investing in the art of building them.

The Art of Possibility

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I was at a client recently. I was hunkered down in their conference room trying to knock out a few emails in between meetings. I noticed a sign that caught my attention.

The sign read 10 Rules for Meetings and was clearly posted as some guiding principles for those who use the room. It included a few goodies like (in no particular order):

  1. Give everyone a chance to speak before speaking again

  2. Assign action items and timeframes

  3. Finish on time

  4. Have a clear purpose and agenda for the meeting

While these are great reminders of what makes an effective and productive meeting, there was one that grabbed my attention:

THINK “OUT OF THE BOX”; BE A POSSIBILITARIAN!

I stopped to ponder the value of that statement.  How many times do we all sit in meetings that get de-railed by what “can’t” be done when trying to solve a problem?  I have been in meetings where one problem has turned into an immeasurable list of the things we can’t do. Roadblock after roadblock. We spent so much time talking about what we can’t do that we forgot what the problem was.

I completely understand how those conversations happen, but they can totally hijack a meeting, stifle creativity, demoralize the team, and leave everyone feeling defeated.  The true genius is within those folks who are not saddled by what cannot be done, but challenged by the possibilities of what can.  They are POSSIBILITARIANS, and they tend to open doors for all of us.  Remind yourself of the jobs created by folks like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and thousands like them who decided to chase what is possible rather than focus on what they can’t do.

For a few fleeting moments, this one simple rule opened a world of opportunity for me.  It reminded me that I am more valuable to my company, and my peers, and my clients when I chase what is possible and focus on “getting things done.” Sometimes I ruffle feathers. Sometimes I say the wrong thing. Or sometimes my good intentions are labelled as “we can’t do that.” And sometimes I stumble on an idea that makes a positive impact on a wide audience.

With thanks to my customer and a simple little sign in their conference room, I am reminded that the chase for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is far better than sitting alone justifying that I “can’t” find it because it doesn’t exist.

Seize the day!  Chase the moment!  Be a POSSIBILITARIAN!  You have it in you!

You Can’t Empower People By Decree

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Great mini-lesson from Jason Fried over at 37signals, which he gleaned from the book Turn the Ship Around:

David Marquet, the author and nuclear sub captain, says you can’t empower people by decree. While you might be able to ask someone to make a decision for themselves, that’s not true empowerment (or true leadership). Why? Because you’re still making the decision to ask them to make the decision. That means they can’t move, or think, or act without you. The way to empower people is by creating an environment where they naturally start making decisions for themselves. That’s true empowerment. Leaving space, creating trust, and having the full faith that someone else will rise to the challenge themselves.

Couldn’t be more true if it wanted to.

 

What Oracle’s Team USA Victory Tells Us About Teamwork

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Are the same requirements required to win in sports as they are in business? Absolutely!

I was inspired to write this after Oracle Team USA won one of the greatest comebacks in sports history. CBS news reported, “Oracle Team USA caps stunning comeback to win America’s Cup.” An all but defeated team a week ago, Oracle came back from a 7-point deficit to win 9-8.

One can’t help but get excited for a come-from-behind victory, as America has always favored and liked the underdog.

As Americans, quitters we are not — and we relish the sweet smell of victory, especially when we’ve been written off or forgotten.

This brings me to my original comparison of assessing victory and winning in sports to winning in business. I see many similarities. Many of the same things have to occur and take place in both instances.

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Sometimes, We All Need an Economics 101 Refresher

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Some days we are so deep in what we are doing that we lose sight of the basics.

I was recently engaged in a conversation with the President of a consulting company who reminded me of one of the most basic tenets of Finance.  He took time to remind me that for every dollar you increase revenue, only 20-30 cents makes it to the bottom line (depending on your margins), yet if you reduce your expenses by that same dollar, the WHOLE dollar drops straight to the bottom line.  It’s so basic, yet such a great reminder.

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Imagine all of the discussions in office meeting rooms as well as the corporate kitchen, or even the smoking court, about how to increase sales.  We all do it.  We all want to sell more, grow the business, and be the best.  Yet, the real key to becoming more profitable is likely driving all unnecessary costs out of your business.

Few of us sit around and envision what we can cut to save the company money, yet the true value is that saving just one dollar is likely 3-4 times more powerful than an equivalent dollar gained on the revenue side.

As I talk to CIOs and others about their PeopleSoft solutions, I often lose sight of the simple value.  I am a techie who too often gets hung up in “the cool,” talking about features and functionality.  “Wouldn’t it be cool if you could {fill in the blank with whatever you think it would be cool if your software did}? “ And frankly, that question can drive some pretty interesting discussions.  At the same time, it is easy to lose focus on the true value that can come from it.

Integration can be such a ubiquitous word.  It sounds good because you are told it should be good.  But can it drive costs out of your company?  Absolutely.  Mobile?  It’s a hot topic, but most of the talk is about the user experience and centers on increasing sales.  But who is embarking on a serious discussion of the potential cost savings?  What about Business Intelligence (BI)?  No doubt there.  People are clamoring for information.  Right now we spend a lot of time gathering data.  The real question is can you convert that data to information and that information into knowledge and then use that knowledge to drive costs out of your business?  Or are you just chasing more revenue?

Today, thanks to this overlooked aspect of value, I have a new perspective on how I might be able to help my customers.  And, while I am not ready to give up talking about the cool stuff, or the latest app that I downloaded, I am fully prepared to change my perspective on just one way that I can make my customers more successful.

Casual Friday: Linkology, or Stuff I Found While Looking Around

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It’s been several weeks since I’ve done a Linkology post, and my Google Reader is full of starred items. (At least you don’t have another story about me making stuff up to my son, right?) So, off we go. We’ll have fun. Right? RIGHT?

Get Privacyfix and find out how much data you’re giving to Facebook and Google. Sound boring? It’s not: Privacyfix also extrapolates your activity into how much Facebook and Google are making from your activity per year. As for me? Facebook makes a whopping 33 cents a year off my activity (based almost entirely on my ad-clicking behavior and privacy settings), whereas Google fares better, netting $162.94 per year.

If you are a Mac user running OSX 10.8 Mountain Lion, you need to get Brett Terpstra and David Sparks’ new book, 60 Mountain Lion Tips. Here I thought I knew my system inside out. Bzzt. Wrong.

The design of airline baggage tags. There’s a lot more to those tags that you automatically rip off and toss in the trash after every trip. Without them, your baggage would have almost no chance of meeting you at your destination. As always, there’s more to them than meets the eye.

The Hustler’s MBA. Down-to-earth, easily-applicable life wisdom for everyone. Literally, everyone. Makes a solid case that higher education isn’t worth its now-stratospheric price. If you read anything I’m linking to today, make it this.

Finally, a super-comprehensive online resource for the ridiculous manufactured business jargon we sometimes all find ourselves speaking and writing. There ought to be a swear jar in every conference room for this sort of thing. This website can serve as the list of offenses. Now excuse me while I table that idea and ramp up the rest of this blog post in real-time so I don’t get any red flags here on post length.

DNA’s half life: 521 years. So while Jurassic Park can never happen, DNA does last longer than originally thought.

Oh, oh, random thought: Squirtle would be a good name for a cat.

Working the room — the tangled history of presidents trying to be humorous.

MythBusters re-creates the final scene in Titanic to determine if Jack and Rose could have both lived. Answer: yes, if they got a bit creative with Rose’s life jacket. Which they didn’t Ahem James Cameron.

Finally, here’s your babies laughing at dogs video of the week. If you don’t laugh at this, yeah, you’re in a BAD MOOD.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

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More links:
MIPRO Consulting main website.
MIPRO on Twitter and LinkedIn.
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Casual Friday: Amazon’s Upcoming, Full-Bore Retail Disruption

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I do a lot of thinking about Amazon, because I feel it’s on the verge of massively disrupting Google and, on a much, much larger scale, retail as a whole.

Today, let’s talk about retail. Here I mean retail across the board, save specialty stores (Apple, Bose, etc.) and emergency sundry retailers (pharmacies, some grocery stores, etc.). If I’m right, a large swath of retail as we know it might be quite well dead in five years, with a few exceptions.

What makes Amazon tick isn’t prices – unless you’re a Prime member, in which you get free two-day shipping on everything. But if you’re not a Prime member, you pay for shipping. And once you pay for shipping on Amazon, you’re roughly at mainline retail prices.

So for many folks, price isn’t a major incentive to shop at Amazon.

So, then: Why are people choosing Amazon in increasing numbers, from quick everyday jaunts to full-on holiday shopping sprees? I have three things I always come back to when I’m on the road and kicking this topic around:

  1. Convenience
  2. Insanely quick and accurate shipping
  3. Brand image/trust

Convenience

Let’s be honest: getting in the car and burning fossil fuel to drive on construction-riddled roads to go to a store and buy something is becoming – has become? – a massive pain in the keister. As the holidays draw near, the mere idea of going out and battling legions of stressed shoppers is enough to give any determined taskmaster the howling fantods. Assuming you’re OK with Internet commerce, it’s massively, exponentially, galactically easier to log into Amazon, run a quick search, and buy something with 1-click shopping. Total elapsed time, assuming you know what you’re shopping for: maybe two minutes – if you didn’t get hijacked by one of Amazon’s scary-accurate and compelling ‘customers also bought!’ suggestions. A day or two later, your stuff shows up at your door, and boom, done. You never left the house. It’s the slightly time-lapsed reverse teleportation game. Fun!

Insanely quick and accurate shipping

To me, this is the cornerstone. This is Amazon’s iPhone, its halo, its addictive magic.

No other company on earth ships as quickly or accurately as Amazon. Despite everything I’ve bought on Amazon, never once have I had a shipping issue. Not one. And sometimes, an item will actually show up earlier than it should. Earlier. When that happens, I just shake my head and wonder how ‘regular’ retail will ever compete.

And then I think: it won’t. It can’t. The model has almost been disrupted entirely. We just haven’t seen the full picture yet.

But we will.

Brand image

There is nothing shady or scary or untrustworthy about Amazon. They sell things and get them to you more efficiently than anything on Earth. Their security is top-notch, their commenting system is a fantastic research tool, and returns are almost as easy as Zappos. They do what they say. They never miss on logistics. You can shop the way you want, with no annoying salesperson who’s vying for a spiff to harass you. If you want to buy a camera and read all 500+ reviews while drinking raspberry hot chocolate in your underwear, go for it.

(Purely hypothetical scenario, of course.)

In a nutshell, people trust Amazon. That’s the ultimate brand goal of any company: pure, gleaming, frictionless trust. Amazon has it in spades.

Amazon’s nuclear warhead

There’s some talk out there about Amazon working towards same-day delivery. That is, if you order a coffee grinder at 11 AM, you will have it by, say, 3 PM. You won’t have gotten in your car. You won’t have gone to pick anything up. Heck, you might not have even gotten dressed. Sure, you might have paid a nominal fee for such convenience, but that is offset buy the gas and time and shower water you saved.

In short, you will have just experienced the zenith of retailing: trustworthy web commerce coupled with instant gratification.

If this comes to pass, this will put the icing on the doom cake for retail. In fact, if something like this is even close to being real, the pox of empty strip malls will only get worse as the market implodes violently.

Does this cast a shadow?

Is there a downside to what seems to be this utopian scenario for consumers? Of course:

  1. The economic and social impact of a physical industry literally dying before our eyes, and the artifacts (jobs, buildings, etc.) it leaves behind, and
  2. The ascension of Amazon as The Big Retailer, a credit card-devouring Skynet, that runs everyone’s commerce everything and has millions of credit card numbers and is literally so big and powerful that nobody can compete with it. Logistics is hard and expensive. Building a merchant base isn’t done overnight. Keeping your brand squeaky-clean is studied every other month by HBR.

For consumers, it will be a revolutionary step forward, but at a macro level, I don’t think we realize the full set of consequences something like this will have.

Still, it’s coming. I would bet money on it.

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More links:
MIPRO Consulting main website.
MIPRO on Twitter and LinkedIn.
About this blog.

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