Sunday, October 28, 2012

What John Grisham and Baseball Teach Us about Business

Have you read the novel CALICO JOE by John Grisham? You don’t need to be an avid reader, a fan of John Grisham, a fan of legal thrillers, or even a baseball fan to enjoy this book. I promise not to give away the plot or ending, but I highly recommend the book even if you don’t fit into any of the above categories.

Grisham is known as the father of the modern legal thriller genre. His numerous novels feature memorable legal challenges, riveting plots, and engaging characters.

While CALICO JOE is first and foremost a story about baseball, it is much more. It represents the importance of trying things outside of one’s comfort zone. Grisham wrote an incredible story that will remain with all readers long after the book is finished. But why? The answer is because Grisham tried a genre outside of his comfort zone, and the result was an amazing work of fiction far different from his typical legal thrillers.

So how can you apply this lesson to your business? Don’t practice the “this is how we’ve always done things” strategy. Try new strategies. Create a corporate culture where all employees clearly understand that new ideas are encouraged. Innovation should be everyone’s objective.

You never know who will develop the next great iPod or who will revolutionize an industry.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Top 10 Branding Tips Using Public Relations

There is an often-overlooked aspect of marketing that can be considered a distant relative. Public relations, also referred to as PR, is this sometimes forgotten but very important component of promotions. At its core, PR can be defined as managing a brand’s image and reputation, but it touches all aspects of a business including employees, shareholders, customers, investors, financial markets, politics, media, and business partners.

When executed well, PR can garner free publicity in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and on CNN. When executed poorly or a crisis happens, publicity may not be welcomed.

Talented PR professionals develop long-term relationships with reporters, and over time, reporters depend on marketing and PR pros to provide them with the information they need to write their articles.

Here are my Top 10 Branding Tips Using PR:

[1] Develop competitive positioning statement and include with all printed collateral and online web pages, for example, fact sheets, brochures, annual reports, etc.

[2] Write articles about your company and how your product or service solved problems for your customers – and submit to local, regional, and national publications and websites.

[3] Videotape experts from your company as they answer questions about your product or service and submit to television stations and radio stations to pitch the experts for future interviews.

[4] Develop traditional press kits and online versions and include fact sheets, press releases, media alerts, printed or PDF versions of media coverage, etc.

[5] Develop a media list of appropriate reporters who cover your industry and update on a regular basis.

[6] Create a schedule for regular press releases and distribute to your media list.

[7] Develop testimonials and case studies by interviewing satisfied customers and use them as brand advocates – include these items in your press kits.

[8] Showcase your brand at industry trade shows and obtain keynote speaking engagements for your company experts – events are also great places to announce new products or services.

[9] Blogs have become an easy way for companies to share news and control how the information is presented, therefore, create a blog or several blogs – invite comments and monitor them quickly to further conversations.

[10] Since social media has changed the landscape for the dissemination of news, develop a social media marketing plan and integrate it with your overall marketing and PR outreach initiatives (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, and Pinterest).

What would you add to the list?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What’s the Secret of Social Media? That’s Easy: Collaboration

Everyone may talk about social media, but how many people can actually do social media – and how many do it well? Sure, there are the marketing powerhouses from Coca-Cola, Ford, Zappos, Nike, and Apple who amaze us with their Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and YouTube pages. But for most small and mid-sized businesses, how many can honestly describe their social media campaigns as successful and inspiring?

According to the book by Anthony Bradley and Mark McDonald, The Social Organization, How to Use Social Media to Tap the Collective Genius of Your Customers and Employees, the solution may be simple: “Organizational success with social media is fundamentally a leadership and management challenge, not a technology implementation. Achieving that success creates mass collaboration that gives organizations unique capabilities to create value for customers, employees, and stakeholders.”

In order to get started in social media, there are some action items that everyone can agree as essential. These include: define your strategy, assess the environment and determine which social media platforms are appropriate for your organization and industry, define your goals, assemble your team, define what your customers will gain from your efforts, create the campaigns that you will implement, educate your team, determine budgets and resources to execute your strategy, and develop your social media guidelines. Last but not least, measure and refine your engagements, programs, and initiatives – and remember, keep your social media antenna alert 24/7.

But these action items are not sufficient for social media success. The authors identified six core disciplines that can turn COLLABORATION into results:

[1] Vision: define a compelling vision of progress toward becoming a highly collaborative organization.

[2] Strategy: take community collaboration from risky and random success to measurable business value.

[3] Purpose: rally people around a clear purpose, don’t just provide social media technology.

[4] Launch: create a collaborative environment and persuade customers and employees to embrace it.

[5] Guide: participate in and influence communities as they pursue your purpose, without stifling collaboration.

[6] Adapt: respond creatively to change by modifying your organization in order to better support community collaboration.

The book concludes with a question and a challenge: “Will you be a social organization or will you be competing against social organizations? In the next 10 years, your ability to evolve into a social organization may determine if you thrive, survive, or disappear.”

Take the Social Readiness Assessment from Gartner:

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Key Management Mistakes to Avoid

Are you a new manager or are you a seasoned manager? Do you ever think you could do a better job than your boss or his or her boss? No matter how you describe the level of your managerial skills, you can always use a refresher.

Here’s a book you’ll want to check out: Ten Mistakes A Manager Should Avoid by Aditi Chopra. While Aditi’s background is in technology, her managerial insights are applicable to all industries.

So, if you aspire to be a successful manager, memorize these mistakes and avoid them at all costs:

[1] Don’t micromanage – delegate, delegate, delegate.

[2] Don’t allow distrust to fester – do whatever is necessary to gain the trust of your team.

[3] Don’t focus on your own personal achievement – if you don’t place the growth and development of your team at the top of your list, everyone will suffer.

[4] Don’t forget to reward employees – reward often and with value.

[5] Don’t flee from conflicts – deal with them with strength and composure.

[6] Don’t shy away from coaching employees – coaching is a win-win for both the manager and the employees.

[7] Don’t avoid building relationships with employees, direct reports, peers, supervisors, senior leaders, administrative assistants, vendors, customers, etc.

[8] Don’t ignore comments from your direct reports – listen to your employees and convey that you are genuinely listening.

[9] Don’t let your ego determine your behavior and how others treat you – an inflated ego may result in lack of trust, lack of respect, and lack of teamwork.

[10] Lack of being self-aware – be aware of your own feelings and emotional responses, be aware of your strengths and weaknesses, but most of all, be aware that you are not perfect.

If you avoid these managerial mistakes, you will be a better manager. You will be respected, trusted, and surrounded by team members who give 110% for you. In the words of Aditi Chopra, “Managing people is not just a career, it’s a rewarding career.”

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Image Credit: Thanks to Ted Goff for use of his cartoon with this post. Check out his work at

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Why Do Employees Seek Greener Pastures?

Often, there are subtle signs that employees are unhappy with their jobs. But, do you, as the President/CEO or member of the leadership team notice? More importantly, do you want to notice? Or, would you rather be kept in the dark until employees start resigning? As you know, the cost to replace employees is much more than keeping current employees engaged and recognized.

In Leigh Branham’s book, The Seven Hidden Reasons Employees Leave, How to Recognize the Subtle Signs and Act Before It’s Too Late, readers must face the truth: Employees don’t jump ship for greener pastures because they receive amazing offers. Instead, they are pushed out the door by the lack of trust in senior leadership, culture, salary, benefits, etc. The reality is, if leaders within companies did more to show how much they value their employees, they would keep their employees – and keep them happy.

“As the saying goes, People join companies, but they leave managers. Sometimes, they leave companies and the senior leaders who run these companies too. It is the senior leaders who set the direction, who shape the culture, who approve the pay ranges and the training budgets, whose demands bring excessive stress and overwork, and whose strategies bring either growth (and career growth opportunities) or stagnation.”

According to Branham, after much research, here are the seven reasons employees leave:

[1] The job or workplace was not as promised.

[2] There was a mismatch between job and person.

[3] There was too little coaching and feedback.

[4] There were too few growth and advancement opportunities.

[5] Workers felt devalued and unrecognized.

[6] There was stress from overwork, conflict, and work-life imbalance.

[7] Workers had lost trust and confidence in senior leaders.

Consider recent departures from your company – whether from termination or resignation – and ask yourself, which of these reasons was applicable? Some light bulbs probably came on. Perhaps, you can make some improvements.

Consider expressions of appreciation. How often do you thank your employees? From letting an employee leave early one day to a gift card for dinner for two at a local restaurant, there are many ways to thank an employee for his or her great work. However, the longer you wait to actually do something, the more likely that you will forget and the employee will lose respect for you as a leader and supervisor. And if you want to thank a large team, bring in pizza for the team. Yes, it really is that easy!

Want to know how much a new employee will cost? Use this turnover cost calculator: