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Success with a mentor July 30, 2008

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Getting a mentor.
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p5130012.jpg  Want someone to help you be more effective? The Big Dogz know about getting help! They have a mentor.


What is a mentor?

A mentor is a person who provides you advice, suggestions and acts as a sounding board for your ideas.


Who would make a good mentor for me?

Anyone you respect and trust can be an effective mentor for you. This person does not have to be in your chain of command nor even in your company. The prospective mentor is someone you view as a role model. Your mentor would be someone who wants to help you, knows about you and is willing to spend some time with you on a regular basis. A key characteristic of effective mentors is that they are honest with you. Usually mentors are not compensated, but you might consider hiring a personal coach to serve as your mentor.


How do I get someone to be my mentor?

This one is easy. All you need to do is ask! Most people are flattered that you would consider them a role model and would seek their advice and counsel. Do not be afraid to ask someone who has greater skill than you or has a higher position. In fact, this is the very person you could ask to be an effective mentor. An approach I have used successfully is to frame my request this way:


“Joe, I have watched you and want you to know I am impressed with your style. I think I could learn a great deal from you. Would you be willing to spend about an hour a month to work with me?”


How do I handle the mentoring sessions?

Setting up and keeping the appointments with your mentor are your responsibility. Think about how you want to spend that hour with your mentor, and create an agenda. Send the agenda to your mentor ahead of time to allow them to prepare.  Most mentors are turned off by the person showing up and asking “What do I need to do to be successful?” Specific situation analysis and question preparation will yield not only excellent counseling but also a strong desire on the part of the mentor to help you.


Once you have demonstrated a willingness to be coached on a scheduled basis, the mentor may suggest you could be more flexible in your contact, and may agree to meet with you more often or to handle ad hoc questions you may have.


My company has a mentor program, should I sign up for that program?

Usually these company sponsored programs are for career mentors. That is the mentor helps you decide on what assignments or career paths you might follow. These mentors often look out for you in terms of making sure you get considered for opportunities. They often perform a vital public relations function for you.


I would certainly participate in such a program if one existed. In addition, I would also have my own personal mentor.


How many mentors do I need?

Well, start with one in an area where you could use help. Perhaps you may have a mentor who helps you handle conflict more effectively; or you may have a broader topic like a mentor who helps you become a more effective people manager. Once you have established your skill is setting up a mentor, try to expand into other areas with multiple mentors. Here are some areas you may want to consider:


  • Dealing with office politics
  • Handling financial situations
  • Understanding technical subjects
  • Developing marketing or sales skills


The Big Dogz understand the value of having a mentor to help them become more effective. If you do not have a mentor, start looking around to see who you could ask. Set yourself a target of when you will approach them. Practice your request with others or in front of the mirror. When you make your request, make it count.


In my next entry, I will discuss being a mentor.

Public Relations Marketing 101…Forgotten Art? July 26, 2008

Posted by David Dirks in Marketing Buzz, Public Relations Strategies.
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The previous blog posting I did prior to this one was about how to hire a marketing or sales consultant. I forgot to mention one thing.  It’s an insight into just how the ‘shoemakers have no shoes’ (as the old saying goes). Here’s what I mean:

I write a business column on marketing for the Times Herald-Record (www.recordonline.com) here in New York State. With a business partner of mine, we’ve been writing this weekly column since February of this year. The column, like this blog, focuses on sales, marketing, and organizational issues that confront businesses today and our suggestions for dealing with them. I focus on the sales and marketing columns and my partner focuses on the organizational development issues.

Now here’s the deal. In this part of the Hudson Valley, I could probably throw a random stone and hit a ‘marketing’ or ‘sales’ consultant. There’s plenty of them around. How many of them have contacted me since February about a column idea? Or an interview opportunity? Guess? Zero. Instead, I’ve had to chase them down. I wouldn’t hire any of them because they have missed what seems to be to be a simple and basic premise regarding public relations marketing. There so good that they failed to see the marketing opportunity in pitching a story idea in their own market!

If you’re a local marketing or sales consultant or business consultant…why not pitch a potential story idea to the folks who write the weekly marketing and sales column? Huh?

You might say, “maybe they don’t read paper”. They don’t read the local paper that serves a huge portion of the area they live and work in? They really stink then.

Columnists and business editors are always on the lookout for good story ideas. If you have to write nearly 52 columns a year, you need ideas.

So, here’s another question to ask a prospective marketing or sales consultant when you’re shopping for one:

When was the last time you pitched a story about a idea you had for your local paper on the subject of marketing or sales? What was the story idea? Did you get some publicity?

If the answer is no, run. You don’t need a shoemaker who doesn’t own a pair of shoes and goes barefoot.

How to Hire a Marketing or Sales Consultant July 18, 2008

Posted by David Dirks in Solving Business Problems.
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There are times when hiring an outside pair of ‘experienced eyes’, also known as a ‘consultant’, makes sense. The Big Dogz know when, how, and why to hire one for any particular issue. The Big Dogz don’t screw around when it comes to making sure they get their money’s worth either. It seems that anyone who’s taken a marketing 101 course in college is a qualified ‘expert’ on marketing. If it were only true. There are certainly some really good marketers and sales consultants out there…but many are just awful and have know business telling you what do to.

Here are some of my thoughts as to when it makes sense to hire an outside expert. Hire a consultant when you:

  • Haven’t been able to address or fix the marketing/sales problem yourself. Have you done all that you can? Have you consultanted with some of your network friends? Just hiring a consultant because you don’t have the time, is a waste of precious resources…mainly, your money!
  • The marketing/sales challenge is well outside your expertise. You cannot know everything. If you think you do, I don’t want to meet you.
  • Are faced with a major marketing/sales crisis and you can’t afford to ‘learn as you go’. There is a price to pay for trying to fix it yourself. If we agree that time is money, just figure your hourly rate x the amount of hours you have already spent + the cost of the time you will probably wiz away trying to fix it unsuccessfully yourself.

Here are a few questions I’d ask any prospective consultant about helping me with a business challenge, marketing or not.

  • Give me some examples of how you’ve fixed this kind of problem before. How did you determine it the root causes? What did you prescribe to deal with it? What kind of success did you have?
  • Why do you think your are the best prepared to help us deal successfully with this challenge/problem?
  • Tell me about how your work with clients from start to finish. What do you hold yourself accountable for while you’re working with us? What do you expect from me, the client?
  • Tell me about your worst consulting experience. How did you handle it? What was the outcome?
  • Tell me about your best consulting experience. Why do you consider it your best?
  • Can you give me three bonafide (not some friend or relative) clients I can call who have worked with you before?
  • What kind of follow-up do you provide after you’ve completed the assignment?
  • If you take this assignment, what would you consider a successful and complete outcome? Hold their feet to the fire. Be sure the outcomes to measure success or failure are clear and understood by both parties. No vague stuff. Get it in writing.

You can probably come up with more questions but these will get you on the right path. Hiring a consultant to do anything in your business is a serious step. Make the wrong choice and you’ll waste resources and have a bad taste in your mouth about ‘consultants’. Find the best one and you’ll understand why you spent the time and effort to get them in.

What do you think? Have any other questions you’d ask a prospective consultant? Write to this blog post and let me know!! I don’t know everything…

You are a role model July 16, 2008

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Management, Management Principle.
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p5130012.jpg Are your people behaving strangely? The Big Dogz know that this strange behavior may actually be linked to your behavior. The Big Dogz are acutely aware of this principle:


You are a role model for your people.


Now, you may be thinking “I am not in this to be a role model!” There is no getting away from this responsibility. You will be a role model — either you will be a positive role model or you will be a negative role model.


You are a person your company has trusted to take care of its most valuable resource, the people. So, obviously in order to get that trust and respect from the company, I need to act just like you. This role model responsibility has a huge impact in your organization. Here’s a real example.


I recently worked with a group of non manger service providers at a large company. They provided IT support for the business units of their company. Their view of customer service was that the customer should be grateful I am spending time to help them get their job done. Not all of them had this attitude, but a large number of them did. I was actually surprised by the widespread level of this attitude. I decided to do some investigation as to the source of this poor behavior relative to customers. What I discovered was that this behavior was epidemic in this organization beginning with the senior manager. His dealings with his peers were atrocious. He was rude, condescending and just downright insulting. He was extremely bright and was an excellent problem solver. His view of himself was that his peers should be glad he was around to help them. Of course, most of the people in his organization used him as a role model.


My wife understands how the behavior and attitude of the manager can affect customer service. She finds a store that provides good value and good service; and then she memorizes the name of the store manager. Whenever the service level changes, she checks to see if there is a new store manager. If the level of service has dropped, she changes where she shops. She told me once that the biggest factor in good customer service and value was the store manager.


On the positive side of this role model phenomenon, I have worked with many organizations where the senior manager clearly demonstrated respect and concern for customers. The managers not only spoke about treating customers with respect, buy actually did it. These organizations were much more successful, and their customers gave them kudos for service.


Your people are also under your influence. They are watching you all the time to see how you handle situations. If you display negative behavior, they will generally mirror your behavior. Conversely, when you engage in positive behavior, they will respond the same way.


Here’s what the Big Dogz do to be positive role models:

  1. They communicate effectively. They are clear in sending message and are active listeners.
  2. They always speak positively about others, especially customers.
  3. They keep commitments.
  4. They provide constructive feedback.
  5. They spend time with people.
  6. They are sincere.
  7. They “walk the talk”, that is they do what they ask the employees to do.


Be aware that you are a role model. What kind of results are you getting? If you are not happy with the way people are behaving, perhaps you could take a serious look at your own behavior.


Leadership accountability July 8, 2008

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Management.
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p5130012.jpg Great leaders take responsibility and redirect praise. The Big Dogz know that your people will appreciate you giving credit to them for a job well done; and that you will accept accountability when results are less than expected. The Big Dogz follow this principle:


In public — always give credit and always take blame while holding people accountable privately.


For example, you may be asked in a meeting with your manager who is to blame for the project being behind schedule. The correct answer is always “Me!” As the leader of the project team, you are responsible for its successes and its failures. The project would be on schedule if you had done a more effective job of managing the project. I understand that individuals may lack the ability or willingness to complete a task. This is why you have the situational coaching model to help you make adjustments. Ineffective managers are quick to blame subordinates for failures when in fact the failure is almost always something that could have been fixed by more effective management. The Big Dogz always do after action analysis to figure out how they could have been more effective.


In those situations where one of your team members was not able or willing to complete their assigned task, you will use the performance feedback to help the team member to improve.


Another more enjoyable situation is when your manager praises you for your team’s high performance on a particular project. The Big Dogz respond by saying “Thank you”, and then proceed to articulate the specific contributions of the team members. Also, the Big Dogz return to the team and inform them about how pleased your manager was with their progress and that you specifically described their contributions. In special situations where a particular person has exceeded your expectations, you will want to use the performance feedback process to take advantage of the situation. Of course, this is an opportunity to reward both individuals and the team. The Big Dogz always take advantage of opportunity to celebrate!


The Big Dogz follow this principle of giving credit and taking blame. You can be more effective as a leader when you adopt this principle. Resist the tendency to place blame or to take credit. Over the next 30 days, look for opportunities to apply this principle.


Locating Your Retail Store July 4, 2008

Posted by David Dirks in Building Foot Traffic, Retail Locations, Retailer Store Strategies.
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How many times have you passed a retail store location that seems to be a revolving door for businesses? I noticed them all the time. It’s the location that has a business for a few months…maybe even a year or two, and then, gone. The ‘for lease’ sign is up the next day and soap covers the windows so you can’t see in (what’s the deal with that?). A couple of months later, a new store selling something different steps in. And the saga continues.

Finding a good location is more than a trick, it’s a science. Many times I’ve seen locations with thousands of cars passing each day but to no good end. Of course, that’s what the landlords are selling…the traffic. “Look at all that traffic that passes by this location each day!”, they’ll say. They may even have some recent traffic studies that back their claims up. Good for them. Not necessarily good for you. If one of the pillars of retail success is ‘location, location, location’, it’s one you have to get right the first time.

Why is it that a location with lots of real traffic can’t seem to work for anyone for any length of time? After studying this for years, I’ve got a couple of reasons for you. First, the location may not have good access from the high traffic road it’s on. This is especially true if the location is on a road that has a legal speed limit that’s higher than 45 mph. Nobody stops unless they have to. Or there may be very limited parking on this high traffic site. Secondly, it may be on a what I call a ‘commuter’ road. This is a road that has high traffic volume in the morning and evening rush hours. Here’s the challenge though: lots of traffic but commuters have one thing on their mind and that’s getting to work (whether they want to or not!). I’ve seen plenty of come and go bagel & coffee shops fall for this one. It would seem logical to put such a store on a high traffic commuter route and it is logical. However, the key is where you put your bagel store along the commuter route that is critical. Now, I don’t have scientific evidence but I do have some experienced insight here. Commuters like to get their morning bagel or coffee at a location not far from their home or at a location that is just a few minutes before they arrive at work. If you open one in the middle, you’re stuck. Don’t believe me? Just study it. Observe what bagel/coffee shops seem to do well and which ones are rotating through that location like every couple of months. Enough on commuter locations.

Another reason that locations can fail is that people can get sold on ‘cheaper is better’. When given a choice of locations and not a whole lot of funding, many business owners will opt for the cheaper lease payment and take a less desirable location. It happens all the time. Just because someone decided to build retail space at a particular location doesn’t mean they knew what they were doing. Or they were ‘on to something’ about that location. There are plenty of retail spaces that have been built or being built in locations that are just plain awful. Sure, the numbers on the surface might look good, but traffic numbers are not the big picture or the only thing.

Of course, if you don’t have a good business model with a compelling reason for people to visit your store or you’re operating from a shoe string, it doesn’t matter how great the location is. I’m certain a great many of the business that go in and out of business fast are in that category.

Here are some basic questions that I’d ask any landlord right from the get go:

  • What kinds of businesses were in this location before? How long were they here? Why did they go out of business?
  • How long has this location been vacant?
  • Do you have traffic studies that I can see?
  • How many tenants have you had in this location in the last 24 months?

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Who are my customers and where do they come from? How does that relate to this location?
  • Have I asked any of the other tenants that are in the area how the location is working for them?
  • Does the traffic seem to visit this location? Is it easy for a traffic to get on and off this location? Is there enough parking available?
  • Are there any planned construction projects (check with the local municipality) near this location in the next 12-18 months? If so, what will the impact be on this location?
  • What new construction projects (if any) are already going on in this area? Are they retail? Office space? Warehousing?
  • How far are the neighborhoods (urban or suburban) from this location? What kinds of neighborhoods are they? Upscale, downscale, mix?

We could go on but this is a blog. Again, first comes a solid business plan that has a compelling business model built into it before you worry about a location.

Have a comment or question about this subject? Feel free to email me at: dirksmarketing@gmail.com and we can chat about it or you can respond to this blog!