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Every time I attend a seminar or pick up a book on marketing I find myself fighting the urge to go down one rabbit trail after another. While it’s good to keep an open mind and check out lots of different ideas and viewpoints, I think a much wiser approach is to peek through the forest and be sure you see the trees. Focus on what is most important.

In marketing, the most important thing is the customer! Your customer!

If the latest and greatest idea, whether it be related to big data or social media or any of the other new buzzwords out there, seems like something that would enhance your relationships with your customers or help you get more of your ideal customers, then it’s probably worth pursuing. If you’re not sure whether it would enhance those relationships, ASK your customers. And if you’re still not sure, try whatever it is (if it’s not too costly or risky to your brand) and study whether or not it enhances customer relationships. Whatever it is. Focus on what matters most: Your customer!

A similar strategy could be employed in life, too. Rather than chasing after the wind (Thank you King Solomon), figure out what is MOST important to you and be sure that becomes your main focus.

It may not be easy, but it is that simple.

Go get ‘em!

“Starve your distractions, feed your focus.” – Unknown

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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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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

 

I‘m a huge fan of using guiding principles. In fact, I often suggest trying to replace formal strategic plans with a good set of memorable, actionable guiding principles wherever possible.

You can find more on that HERE if you’re interested.

The idea of forgoing formal strategic plans for a handful of guiding principles may sound a bit far fetched, and granted it may not work for everyone, but when you stop and consider what we’re really trying to accomplish with strategic plans in the first place, which is ACTION, then I think it makes sense to at least take a look.

Here’s what Nordsrom’s did:

In an effort to train its entire team in how to deliver stellar customer service on a consistent basis, they tossed out the giant, three-ring binder that contained all kinds of policies and FAQs regarding customer service. All new hires are now trained with one phrase: “Use your good judgment in all situations.” That’s it.

Of course, there are plenty of stories that are then told in their ongoing training sessions as examples of what kinds of situations might come up, how employees have handled such issues in the past, and what can be learned from both the good and bad outcomes. The guiding principles lead to action, the action can then be studied and refined, and continuous improvement occurs. As the old Shewart Cycle reads, “Plan, Do, Check, Act,” then do it all over again.

Success is a process, not an event, and guiding principles can help keep that process in motion.

I will never put my name on anything that does not have in it the best that is in me.” – John Deere

 

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I grabbed this article from BizJournals.com. It originally appeared last year, and here’s a direct link if you’d like to read the original post. Good article and a good site!

Harvey Mackay: 10 valuable business lessons from Santa

Santa brings merriment to the season, but he also teaches us many valuable business lessons.

No matter how you celebrate the holidays, or even which holidays you celebrate, chances are you know about Santa Claus.

The jolly old elf brings merriment to the season, but he also teaches us many valuable lessons.

Here are 10 worth considering:

1. The value of giving

Aside from milk and cookies, Santa doesn’t get anything in return for all the gifts he shares with others. That is the real spirit of giving: not expecting anything in return. The joy of giving is reward enough.

2. Marketing and public relations

Santa’s image is everywhere, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t pay a dime for the exposure. He attracts crowds wherever he goes. Businesses put him front and center in ads, decorations, even in big comfy chairs in prime locations in shopping malls. They practically beg him to show up!

3. He hasn’t changed his basic look

More people can identify Santa than the president. His distinctive style of dress will never get him on a best-dressed list. But he doesn’t concern himself with that. His message has remained the same: a simple “Ho, ho, ho.” He doesn’t drive the latest model car. He is who he is and is content with that. What he does is more important than fad or fashion.

4. His attitude is contagious

He is always positive, reminding young and old alike to be good for goodness’ sake. How he keeps track of who is naughty or nice doesn’t really matter — he encourages people to be their best. He rewards good behavior. And who doesn’t like to be recognized for trying?

5. Santa respects deadlines

He knows from one December 25th to the next that he has customers to satisfy. He is beholden to the calendar. It wouldn’t work to try to stretch it into January or February. Reliability is an important trait.

6. Santa understands the value of tradition

Most of us have family or cultural traditions that bind us together. Businesses have traditions that customers anticipate. But have you ever noticed what happens when someone tries to change a long-held tradition? Santa knows better.

7. Customer service is high on his priority list

He aims to please, and he rarely disappoints. I’m guessing he reads every letter written in a childish scrawl before he makes his list. If you happen to overhear a conversation between Santa and a child asking for the hottest toy of the year, you will likely hear a promise to do his best, but he has some other great ideas, too. He won’t promise what he can’t deliver.

8. Teamwork is central to his operation

The demands on him are enormous. He understands that he can’t do it alone. A workshop full of elves and a team of nine little reindeer help him accomplish an impossible task year after year. I’ve heard there is magic involved, but I have no evidence to support it.

9. He epitomizes leadership

He leads his team, but he also guides the rest of believers toward the right path. He is consistent with his values. He is patient. He works hard. He is forgiving of mistakes and loves what he does. And that brings me to my next point.

10. He lives the wisdom of “love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life”

There can be no question that this guy wouldn’t want to do anything else. Santa couldn’t do what he has done for centuries without real enthusiasm for his efforts. Santa takes his work very seriously, but he doesn’t take himself seriously. He loves to laugh, make people happy, bring surprises, and spread good cheer. Santa understands that fun is good. a world full of serious problems, bringing a little happiness is a welcome relief. We can all do something to brighten someone else’s day.

Here is a shameless plug for getting on Santa’s “nice” list: This month, I will once again be donning a Santa hat and taking a shift ringing bells for the Salvation Army. For 12 years I have had this pleasure, and I hope to continue this tradition for many more holiday seasons. I encourage you to toss a few coins or dollars into the red kettle, or help whatever charity you can. Even if Santa doesn’t see you, you can be sure you have embodied his spirit.

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Krugman was wrong?

By Dr. Burt Smith November 30th, 2015

wrongOh no, you may be thinking. Krugman was wrong? Say it ain’t so! Not Krugman!

To be honest, I had never heard of Paul Krugman until I ran across this little tidbit on a Motley Fool Podcast.

Paul Krugman is an economist who, in 1996, said that by 2005 or so the economic impact of the internet will be no greater than that of the fax machine. Well, oopsie, I guess.

You can learn more about him and the infamous quote Here if you like.

What it amounts to is that a smart guy just made a wrong prediction. And according to him, he was taken out of context anyway.

The more relevant point is that nobody has all the answers. The remedy is to boldly seek knowledge from a bunch of sources, then  make your own decisions. Do your own thinking!

 

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Gillette has always made a good razor, one capable of commanding a premium price and maintaining a loyal following, which is an excellent formula for success in any market sector. Procter & Gamble recognized this several years ago and wisely purchased the company to add to its stable of other category-dominating brands.

But sometimes even being the absolute best in your category isn’t enough. 

Marketing takes place in a dynamic environment, and what makes the environment dynamic is the constant interaction of the forces in the environment. Sometimes these environmental forces can be your toughest competition. More on that here if you’re interested.

In this case, the culprit is a socio-cultural force. Procter & Gamble says the reason the sales of razors and razor blades have declined is because more and more of their male customers are sporting beards rather than the clean-shaven look. Beards and goatees are more popular in the current culture, which means less shaving, which in turns means decreased demand for razors. I’m sporting a goatee myself as I write this and I’ve got to say, getting to skip buying so many $20 packages of blades here and there is like getting a raise!

Understanding that forces in the environment are beyond our control is a pretty straightforward concept to grasp, but in your analysis, recognize also that these forces could turn out to be the stiffest competition you face so you can plan accordingly.

In the business world, the rearview mirror is always clearer than the windshield.” – Warren Buffett

 

 

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A systems approach in the design of any organization, big, small, for profit, not-for-profit, governmental, whatever, is a good idea. When you systematize the process, you have the opportunity to powerfully replicate what works and potentially avoid what causes inefficiencies. If you want to revisit some of the reasons why a systems approach will help you, you can do that here.

We also talk a lot about how you should change a strategy only when it stops optimally performing.

Systems are the tools to help execute strategy, and the same rules apply. Change them only when they stop optimally performing. Think about changing constantly, but actually change them only when they stop consistently producing the results you’re after.

And this is pretty much true from industry to industry. Consider Murphy’s Law of Computing:

A complex system that does not work is invariably found to have evolved from a simpler system that worked just fine.

 

 

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Arguably the smartest business word ever uttered, and adopted into the business vocabulary, is “contingency.”

The dictionary defines contingency as “A future event or circumstance that is possible but cannot be predicted with certainty.”

Doesn’t that apply to just about every aspect of strategy in any sector?

Nothing can be predicted with certainty and nothing is guaranteed. For that matter, nothing is impossible, either. Leaders, then, have to plan accordingly. Hence the importance – and value – of contingency planning. Plan for contingencies, structure for contingencies, embrace contingencies.

And this includes every aspect of how the organization is structured. As Jim Collins stated in How the Mighty Fall,

There is no organizational utopia. All organizational structures have trade-offs, and every type of organization has inefficiencies. We have no evidence from our research that any one structure is ideal in all situations, and no form of reorganization can make risk and peril melt away.”

 

Contingency planning means considering what could happen, and having potential actions in place if it does.  

 

 

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