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Congratulations to Jeff Bezos. Turns out he recently surpassed Bill Gates as the world’s richest person.

Mr. Bezos became the world’s richest person as the founder of Amazon.com. Amazon, of course, started out as an “online bookstore” and has now evolved into the world’s largest retailer. That was accomplished by setting a grand vision, working to make it so, celebrating the successes, divesting of the failures and not dwelling on them, and constantly listening to what the customer wants.

And that last one is the big one. By simply listening to what the customer wants and working to provide it better than anybody else, you can’t help but win. And if your goal is to be the biggest, richest, or whatever, giving your customer more value than anybody else is the way to get there.

Focus on that and maybe I’ll be writing about you before too long!

Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice: It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” - William Jennings Bryan

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What a crazy, uncertain time we live in.

I realize that just about any generation could say that, but you’ve gotta admit, things are pretty nuts right now and without getting even the least bit political here, we’re venturing into some uncharted waters this election year. Uncertainty always plays havoc with the stock market and the economy in general, so don’t be surprised if we have some rough waters in the near future. Possibly globally, from what I’m hearing. 

My source on this is “they,” by the way. As in, “They say…” 

Seriously, though…

A downturn usually results in downsizing. That is never something any decent leadership team looks forward to doing, though,granted, it is sometimes a necessity.

If you find yourself using the term “downsize” as part of your strategic vocabulary in the next few months, just keep a couple of things in mind. 

First, though downsizing looks good on paper, downsizing often results in a workforce with very low morale which  in turn results in a workforce that delivers lousy customer service. The net result of that can be lost revenues.

Second, don’t forget that what you are after with your ideal customers is a lifelong relationship. So if lousy customer service results in the loss of a customer, you’re also potentially losing a whole lot more in terms of the lifetime value of that customer. 

Hasty downsizing can be like cutting off your arm to cure a hangnail. Its “savings,” may not always save you what you think they will. 

In the words of Tom Peters, you can’t shrink your way to greatness! 

 

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Do I think we’re headed for an economic downturn?

Yes. Absolutely. Definitely.

Why do I say that?

And for that matter, why would I say such a thing when it’s usually my goal to offer you mostly positive stuff when you visit here?

I say yes, we absolutely, definitely are headed for an economic downturn. And it could be rough.

I say that with such confidence because that’s what economies do. They go through periods of prosperity, recession, depression, and recovery. 

You can take that to the bank, friends. 

When can we expect the next downturn? How bad will it be? How long will it last? 

Beats me. Knowing how economies work and what to expect is one thing. Knowing all the particulars and specifics is something else. And I’ll also say, I’ve read the works of many authors and trend spotters over the years to it’s pretty clear that nobody knows nothin’ for sure when it comes to timing predictions in the economy. 

You may not be able to time predictions exactly, but knowing that what goes up also comes down can help you make better decisions in terms of planning ahead. Store up a little something for the winter, in other words.

That way, you don’t have to worry so much about the economy, you can focus on your economy.

Our old friend SWOT the PEST may be of use to you in that regard. 

It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it’s a depression when you lose yours.” – Harry S. Truman

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We enjoy so much abundant choice when it comes to all the affordable things that are so readily available to us in the free market. I often find myself feeling a bit guilty because all that abundant choice is indeed so affordably, readily available that I forget that it happens because at some point, an entrepreneur had the guts to take a risk and put in all the hard work into giving me the value I take for granted.

How about we all make a point of at least acknowledging, if not outright, deliberately thanking, the entrepreneurs for doing what they do?

And if you’re an entrepreneur reading this, thanks! 

The risk of losing their house, prized possessions, and life savings is a risk that many backyard inventors are ready to take in order to launch a fledgling enterprise. These people with grit and gumption, willing to wander into uncharted territory just like the pioneers of old. In starting a new business, they choose excitement over the security of a regular paycheck. It’s not enough that they invest all their money in the project. They must also work long hours and invest most of their time.” – Peter Lynch, Learn to Earn

 

 

The great investing website, Seeking Alpha, ran this article about a lawsuit Procter and Gamble  has filed against a competitor in the razor category for patent infringement, deceptive practices, and a whole bunch of other stuff. You can read the article here if you like. 

What struck me as interesting was how they phrased their rationale for the lawsuit.

P&G’s chief legal officer, Deborah Mojoras, had this to say:

We invest heavily in innovation – and our scientists work tirelessly to provide men with one of the best, most reliable shaving experiences in the world. When a competitor makes false and misleading claims against one of our products and infringes our patents, it’s unfair to consumers, and to our employees and shareholders, and we will challenge those violations.”

 

I think some of this wording may be P&G’s attempt to avoid looking like Goliath picking on David. We all like to root for the underdog, after all, and competition is the thing that makes our beloved free market system work. But all that emotion aside, their point is logical and accurate. And justified. Companies of all size invest  lots of resources working to give their customers (that’s you and me!)  value, and they are rewarded with something of value in return. If companies can’t profitably serve customers, customers can’t be served for very long. The “win-win” of “value-for-value” turns to “lose-lose” pretty quickly. As Dr. Steven Covey liked to say, “No margin, no mission.” 

So in a way, P&G is just looking out for the customer. And no, I’m not being sarcastic!

 

 

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In addition to holding records for coaching the most wins  in UCLA basketball history, John Wooden authored several superb books on leadership and how to succeed while staying focused on what is most important in life. 

Wooden often recalled the wisdom of his former college coach, Piggy Lambert. Once, when Lambert was asked by the media at the season’s end how good a job he did as coach that year, Lambert responded, “Ask me in 20 years and we’ll see how successful these boys are. Then I’ll be able to tell you if I succeeded as a coach.”

Wooden obviously went on to be a great success and would often be cited as the source of great inspiration from his former players, and it’s likely that many of them have gone on to inspire people in their lives.

Study a great leader and you’ll often find someone in their back story that powerfully influenced them. Very often, behind every great leader is a great leader.

My bet is you’re the kind of person somebody else will be crediting someday, too.  So thanks for your contributions, leader!

Leaders don’t inspire followers. They inspire other leaders.” – Tom Peters

 

There is a logical part of us that knows economic downturns are inevitable. But emotionally, they’re still hard to accept and even harder to muddle through.

But the truth is, just as a robust economy offers opportunities, so does a downturn.

A downturn may be a good time to grow. If you’ve been wanting to expand, you may be able to acquire assets for your business that were overpriced during the boom times. This is especially true for real estate.

If you’re wanting to build, those construction firms who were too busy to return your calls during the good times may now be very eager to negotiate a price you’ll really like.

Now may be the best time to advertise. Because your competitors have likely scaled back on their advertising, your messages can stand out on a less cluttered landscape. You may also find that ad rates suddenly become easier to negotiate in a downturn.

Your workforce should also be happy to have jobs, so they should be focused more on how to increase their personal productivity and offer stellar customer service than on how to find that “next, better job” that always seems to present itself in an up economy.

It’s been said that we all turn into much better managers during a downturn because the scarcity of resources forces us to make better, smarter decisions and find more innovative solutions.

A downturn certainly isn’t preferred, but it may not be the end of the world, either. If think a downturn suddenly erases all opportunity, consider that success stories like Microsoft, GE, FedEx, Revlon, and Hyatt, and plenty of others, started during a recession.Then go out and make some history of your own!

Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever.” - Napoleon

 

 

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Every time your team members open a conversation with a new customer or prospect, the very first question they should clearly, enthusiastically ask each one is this:

“How did you find out about us?”

 

This gives you true, direct, voice-of-the customer feedback about what marketing is working and how well. You can also train your people to probe a little and find out not only how they heard about you, but if it’s a particular tactic or campaign they reference, find out what the liked about it, what they remembered most, and so on.

You can experiment with the wording, of course. You may prefer something like, “Thanks for coming in today. Say, How’d you hear about us?” or “Hey, could I ask how you first learned about us?” or “We’re glad to have you here, do you mind sharing, what brought you to us?” Whatever phrasing suits you best, with the goal to make it as conversational as possible. But the bottom line is, you, and your team, need to be in the habit of opening every new customer conversation with this type of very important question.

It could be the best market research you ever get!

I know half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, but I can never find out which half.”-  John Wanamaker

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Spoiler Alert: This HUGE movie comes out Friday and everyone is speculating about who the  “Winner” will be. Well, I’ve got the answer: You!

That’s right, if you’re a fan, you’ve already won! The writers, producers, director, cast and crew of this epic undertaking (which cost close to $411 million to make) put their blood, sweat, and tears into making this movie with the ultimate goal of making YOU happy.

So congratulations, you’re the big winner!

That’s how the free market works, after all. Somebody takes a risk (sometimes an incredible risk) to create something of value for a customer, and if the customer agrees it’s valuable then the provider of that value ends up getting value in return, most likely in the form of what we call PROFITS! All that focused effort with YOUR satisfaction in mind.

Isn’t that a rather exciting story of its own?

Any time you build a new business, any time there’s an end-use customer getting a product and enjoying it better than a competitor might be able to offer them, you’ve created wealth for our society. So, the best way for you to make money is to create wealth!” – Paul Zane Pilzer, The Fountain of Wealth

 

 

 

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valentine candy boxIf there’s one resource I absolutely love, it’s the library. If there’s one place that levels the playing field, if there’s one place I don’t mind my tax dollars going, it’s the library. The OKC Metro Library system has been a resource I’ve used for over 20 years now, and I continue to marvel at what the library system has to offer.

I once heard a speaker say that information wasn’t power, that only applied information was power. If information by itself were power, then the library wouldn’t be the quietest, deadest, least-crowded place in town. The point being made was that in order to get results, just having “information” wasn’t enough, one had to do something with it. To take ACTION. I agree with that, as I’ve written before, but I think we might be tempted misinterpret that to think it’s a slam on the library, when the exact opposite ought to be the case.

Og Mandino wrote that at his lowest point emotionally, found himself at his public library. He found himself strangely compelled to start investing his time in a self-directed education that would ultimately result in helping him raise himself from a “hopeless bum” into a millionaire. He ended up writing books that would inspire millions, too. In fact, there have been several stories told of how “bums” literally went to the library to get out of the cold and ended up using that time to read. To better themselves. And they wound up finding solutions that would turn their lives around and ultimately help them not only “survive,” but prosper. The point is often made that it was the ACTION of applying what was learned to achieve the success, but isn’t it worth celebrating that the same education that enabled that success is available to all of us? Right down the street, in many cases?

I was just there with my son and I was amazed at how they now have Kindle Fires that families can check out that have all kinds of interactive learning tools and such. Heck, I was dazzled a few years ago when they started offering digital downloads of books and periodicals that you could get, from your library onto your phone or tablet, without even leaving the house. That they now make technology available to those who need it, and might not otherwise be able to afford it, is pretty doggone cool as far as I am concerned.

The resources are plentiful and they’re yours for the borrowing. You’ll find your local library is peaceful and quiet…and rarely is it crowded!

You’ve already paid for it, so are you really maximizing this amazing asset?

You want weapons? We’re in a library. Books are the best weapon in the world. This room’s the greatest arsenal we could have. Arm yourself!” – Doctor Who, Tooth and Claw

 

 

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