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Grow your skills February 29, 2008

Posted by rickbron in Grow your skills, Uncategorized.
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p5130012.jpg  Want to become more effective or more efficient? The Big Dogz know how to do that. They use a three pronged strategy for improving their knowledge and skills.

  1. Read a book a month on management or leadership.
  2. Listen to CD’s or watch DVD’s about management topics.
  3. Associate with successful people.

 Read a book a month. I can hear your response — I do not have the time to read a book a month. Once you make it a priority, you will. If you can not find the time to read a book a month, subscribe to an executive summary service. There are plenty out there, just Google “Book summary service”. Most of them will let you try their service for free. Try them until you find the one you like. Once you get your summaries, be selective on what books you read.  Here is a tip to help you decide if a book is worth finishing. When you get the book, place a bookmark at the halfway mark. Now as you read the book, make notations on new things you are learning, especially new techniques you can use to improve your management ability. If you reach the original bookmark and you do not have at least five entries in your log, don’t finish the book. You can save a lot of time using this approach. Yes, you may miss some good suggestions, but you will be getting a high return on your time investment. Create a book club where you and others read a book then share what you thought was important from the book.  

Listen to CD’s or watch DVD’s about management topics. Use your commute time to listen to CD’s. Try to focus on motivational speakers since it is not a good practice to take notes while driving! Not all your CD’s need to be motivational. Some speakers are quite specific in what they prescribe as effective actions. With CD’s, you may need to listen to the speaker multiple times to get the message. Listening to motivational speakers can make a big difference in your effectiveness. 

Associate with successful people. Is there an AMA (American Management Association) chapter near you? If yes, join and attend networking events. If there is no AMA, then look for local business associations that sponsor networking events. One of the best ways to make sure you are associating with successful people is to create your own group. Meet once a month or once a quarter to swap best practices in management. 

The Big Dogz pay attention to these three elements of the strategy. They include others in their development and harvest ideas to improve. You can do the same thing. Start today by identifying a book you want to read. Order it. Ask around for suggestions on motivational speakers. People who have these CD’s will be happy to lend them to you if you are prompt in returning them. If you like a CD, buy it. Start looking for people to associate with. Soon, you will be running with the Big Dogz!

Outsourcing Product Innovation February 28, 2008

Posted by David Dirks in Innovation: Not Just for the Big Dogz, Solving Business Problems.
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dirksphoto.jpgProcter & Gamble is clearly in the Big Dogz league and always has been. Recently, I was reading the March issue of Fast Company (www.fastcompany.com) and found an interesting article on P&G. It seems that P&G couldn’t create new products fast enough, so it decides to jump-start its product innovation process. What it ended up doing is launching its ‘Connect + Develop’ program. This program allows outside product developers to get their product innovations and designs into their pipeline. They have created a process for externally outsourcing some of their some product innovation and development.

With P&G sharing development costs and profits with outside innovators, it has gained a huge market advantage in being able to bring more products into the market than ever before.

Hmmm. How about you? Have you thought about inviting outside vendors/innovators to be part of your outsourced product/service development pipeline? How can you apply what P&G has done to reduce product development cycle times, reducing development costs, and increasing revenues and profits?

Anything is possible.

Fundamentals of Management February 22, 2008

Posted by rickbron in Management, Management Principle, Uncategorized.
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p5130012.jpg  Management is more art than science. Just like the Big Dogz in art understand the fundamentals, so do the Big Dogz in management. Here are three major fundamentals of management:

Fundamental principle — management is about customization. The Big Dogz do not treat everyone the same; they treat people fairly, but they customize their actions to the person. The Big Dogz modify the way they communicate, give objectives and ask people how to work to name a few actions they tailor to individuals. Remember, one size does not fit all.

Fundamental question — am I satisfied with the results I am getting? If the answer is yes, the Big Dogz continue doing what they are doing. If the answer is no, then the Big Dogz set up an experiment and try something else. The big Dogz do not just randomly change their actions. They consider what has worked for them or for others. They get help from mentors and guides. But above all, they try something different.

Fundamental action — self reflection! Every successful manager uses this tool to help align them for success. The Big Dogz schedule a periodic interview with themselves. This interview is about 10 minutes at least once a month for self reflection. They go to a quiet place and ask themselves these three questions:

  1. What am I doing that I want to continue to do?
  2. What am I doing that I want to stop doing?
  3. What do I know about that I want to start doing?

In this way, the Big Dogz are constantly experimenting with action, determining effectiveness, and then adding these proven techniques to their personal tool kit. They also take the tough step of discarding actions and approaches that are not working.

The Big Dogz apply these fundamentals and demonstrate effective management. Track your self over the next 30 days to see how you are following these management basics.


Sales Flyers Stink February 21, 2008

Posted by David Dirks in Retailer Store Strategies, Sales Tactics, Small Business Advertising.
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dirksphoto.jpgDo you know what the life expectancy of a sales flyer is? About 5 seconds…before it ends up in the vertical filing system (trash can). For effectiveness, they rate about as low as you can go. Yet, they are the bane of many businesses that merrily keep designing them and printing them in seemingly endless quantities and colors on 8 ½ x 11 paper! You’ll find them stuffed into envelopes (that’s personal!), stuck on your windshield, or sitting on a counter.

How do I feel about flyers? They stink. How’s that. Ok, you say if they stink, why do so many businesses use them? Because they are the cheapest ploy around. Also because many business owners are under the spell that if they print it, somebody actually will read it and buy something.

If only that were true.

Sales teams love flyers. Gotta have them. Over the years I can recall many sales teams who told me that if they only had a certain kind of sales/marketing flyer, they would do more business. So, we’d design one, with all the elements of an effective design (that in another blog posting), including a strong call to action for the reader. Result: despite having the flyer they couldn’t live without, no one ever could claim it did anything to their sales efforts. Ever. Never. They’d go away until the next great idea for a ‘gotta have’ flyer and we’d go through it again. And again.

The fact is that flyers are a cheap, mass-market, untargeted way to sell or market your business. Sure, the local design/print shop will be happy to tell you how good they are. That’s so they can sell you more of them!

Here are some things I’ve learned about using flyers:

1. Cheapest is not always best. Actually, for the results you get from them, they are actually very expensive. Here’s the math: 0$ sales – Cost of flyers = your loss. The low price of this medium may make you feel good, but the results are enough to make you sick.

2. Quantity is not better than quality. Many businesses are under the spell that if you print a whole bunch of flyers and distribute them widely, the odds are you’re going to get some sales that will more than pay for the cost of the flyers. Call me when you do.

3. Blast distribution to the world never works. Print lots of flyers and blast them out everywhere…the numbers have to work in your favor…right? Perhaps not. Perhaps it would be better if you figured out ways to deliberately target your potential customers instead of reaching everybody. Meaning, you end up reaching people who have no interest in buying your product or service anyway.

4. Flyer life expectancy: 5 seconds or less. When was the last time you picked up a sales flyer and kept it for future reference? Or even bothered to read it?

5. Bad flyer design is…bad design. Many business owners decide that they are not only experts in their business, but they are top-flight flyer designers too! Or someone in his or her family is known to have ‘artistic flair’ and gets the job. Sure, you save money instead of having a professional design it but it generally will look awful. You and I have seen plenty of those. Hideous and not very memorable either. So, if you’re convinced that I’m full of it and want to do a flyer despite my best efforts to convince you otherwise, take it to a good graphics designer. Please.

So, how do I really feel about sales and marketing flyers?

Politics, darn politics! February 14, 2008

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Uncategorized.
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p5130012.jpg  Politics! #$%@^%$ politics!  

Are you frustrated by office politics in your organization? Are you not getting the attention, recognition and resources you need to be effective? Most people think that politics is about: 

It is not what you know, it is who you know. 

The above statement is usually accompanied by a whine and a “woe is me tone”. The Big Dogz know that politics is not about the above. They know this: 

It is not what you know, it is who knows you. 

The Big Dogz take control; they are proactive. The Big Dogz know that in any organization there are many people who are qualified to do a given task.  The people who get the opportunity to perform are those that are known by the decision makers. Just think how you would assign a task. What if you had two people who could do the task and one of them you knew better than the other? Which one would you choose? The one you knew, of course. Same thing is true of the decision makers in your organization.  How do you get known?

First you identify who are the key decision makers and then you generate a pubic relations plan that gets you in front of those people! Don’t try to get in front of those people just to get “face time”. Insincere efforts will yield negative results. Sometimes this “face time” is a drop in visit or a more formal situation like a presentation. How can you get in front of them to show that you are the best person to do what you do? There are no easy answers. Put on your creativity hat and figure out how to get in front of those decision makers. Your career may depend upon it! 

Many people in organizations think it is the responsibility of upper management to be aware of the talent in their organizations. Let me tell you, these men and women are busy enough trying to address the key issues facing the business. They do not have time to learn everyone’s capability. Look for opportunities to showcase yourself and your people. 

If you are a manager, you want to create a public relations plan for your key people so they can get the opportunities they deserve. 

Want to be a Big Dog? Over the next 30 days, create a public relations plan for yourself and your key people. Without it, you are leaving your future up to chance, or one of the Big Dogz will snatch it away from you!

Disagree with tact February 8, 2008

Posted by rickbron in Disagree, Management Principle, Uncategorized.
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p5130012.jpg  Wasting time arguing? Are you spending too much time talking and not enough time doing? The Big Dogz know how to avoid that trap. They use a proven technique to disagree with tact and gain agreement. I call it:

 The “I see it differently” principle. 

The first element of the principle is to actively listen. Most people when faced with a disagreement only listen passively. They are configuring their response or rebuttal while the other person is talking. It goes something like this: I understand what you are saying, but… 

What a condescending thing to say to someone! They have just spent 2-3 minutes explaining their complex solution and you say “I understand….” And, that infamous “but..” negates everything they have said. The result is misunderstanding and confusion. This approach is a recipe for wasting time. Here is what the Big Dogz do. 

They first listen for points of agreement. You would be surprised about how much agreement there is in a disagreement. Then they listen attentively for those areas that they disagree about. Now, the say the magic words!

 “Let me see if I understand you. Here are the points on which we agree – now articulate the points clearly. On these points, now articulate your opposing view clearly, I see it differently.” Now be quiet and wait. What do you think they will say? 

“Oh wow, how do you see it?” is the most common response. It is amazing. Within minutes, you are on your way to a successful resolution. Less time arguing, more time doing. T

he Big Dogz know it will work; I suggest you try it a few times over the next 30 days. See how it works for you. 

By the way, I believe in giving credit to those people who have helped me be more effective over the years. This tip on resolving conflict came from my associate Tom Clarke. So, when this works for you, please say a thank you to Tom!

Small Business Misses New Media Opportunities February 6, 2008

Posted by David Dirks in Blogging for Business, Buzz Marketing: Lowest Cost/Highest Payoff.
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dirksphoto.jpgStaples (www.investor.staples.com), the office supply people, conduct their annual Staples National Small-Business Survey. Of the many interesting results, one stuck out like a sore thumb to me. In their research, they found that “more than 84 percent said they have not yet incorporated ‘new media’ (blogs, podcasts, virtual meeting software or services) into their business activities.”

What? You mean they’re not taking advantage of creating marketing buzz with a business blog? They haven’t figured out just how valuable a podcast series that is down loaded from their website (if they have one) is to gaining a new customer? What?

I was a bit stunned but I shouldn’t have. Less than two years ago, no one knew what a blog or, even better, a podcast was. Even now, with all the buzz on blogs and podcasts, many people I talk to are in the dark. No lights on at all.

Let’s go small business! The Big Dogz have figured this thing called ‘new media’ out already and are running with it. You need to do the same. Don’t know where to begin? For starters, Google something like “creating a business blog” and “creating a business podcast”. You can do this. New media means that you get a chance to interact and/or give valuable, usable information to your current and future clients.

You need to get it in gear and find out what this ‘new media’ can do for you. There’s more there than you think. Like I said, the Big Dogz are already there.