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Fields of Failure: Build it and They Will Come January 1, 2012

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Uncategorized.
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Here’s a scenario I see played out more often than not:

Local business owner decides it’s time to make a capital investment into their business and expand it one one fashion or another.  The banker is called in and they evaluate the loan package.  The banker’s first pass: will they be able to pay us back for the loan?  Of course, this is a good question for any loan.  All the ratio’s are calculated and analyzed in depth.  Cash flow calculations are made and discussed throughly.  The numbers are crunched and the loan is deemed approved by the higher powers at the bank.  All’s good right?

In most cases the answer is no, things are not good.  Why?  I can’t tell you how many businesses have been loaned money only to see the expansion fail and the loan gone defunct.  What could go wrong when all the right ratio’s where calculated and the cash flows necessary to pay the loan back deemed appropriate?

Plenty.  First and foremost, how much of the loan was set aside for marketing and promotion for the new expansion?  In too many cases that I’ve observed, there was little or no appropriation for marketing and promotional expenses.

Build it and they will come?  Not.

You spend time, effort and money on expanding your capacity to conduct more business and no one will know about it.  So focused and intense was the effort to make sure the expansion gets built right that marketing and promotion is pretty much an afterthought.

If your banker isn’t hounding you about what your marketing and promotional plan is for your great expansion, they aren’t doing their job.  If you don’t dedicate a healthy amount of your loan proceeds for marketing, then you aren’t doing your job.

Here are two takeaways:

1.  Every project, expansion or new build, takes longer to build and usually costs more than we plan for.  We end up with a finished project but with little or no money for marketing and promoting it.

2.  As a  rule of thumb, look to allocate and reserve at least 15 to 20% of your capital investment for marketing and promotional expenses.  If you end up spending that allocation because of cost overruns, you’d better figure out how to get the promotion done on a shoe string.

3.  Develop your marketing and promotional plan before the project work for the expansion begins.

Here are the details for tomorrows webin March 12, 2011

Posted by David Dirks in Uncategorized.
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Here are the details for tomorrows webinar:

Twitter Marketing Webinar
March 12, 2011 from 10am-1045am
818-475-9359

http://ow.ly/4cWnD

Business Strategy: All Wars Are Local June 16, 2010

Posted by David Dirks in Uncategorized.
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I’m not sure who said this or if I’ve just made it up from something I heard years ago but it goes like this:  All wars are local.  Which to me, means that whether global military war or business war, the war seems pretty localized from where you happen to be in the battlefield.  It’s all-local.  Now it seems that the print media war, which is on a national scale is really a local war after all.

I have a very good example for you too.  I was on the E train in Manhattan when I noticed the ad campaign splashed above me.  It was for the New York Times and one of the captions caught my eye: “Not just Wall Street.  Every Street.”  Then I noticed the other ad posters on the subway wall.  They all had different captions but emphasized the same thing:  we cover New York LOCALLY.  Here was a major paper that not long ago focused on marketing itself as a national paper in addition to covering NY and the tri-state area.  Now the focus was convincing readers and potential readers that IT was the best for NYC coverage.

Now enter the Wall Street Journal.  It’s clearly a national paper in terms of its coverage.  However, it recently launched an entirely new section of the paper that focuses exclusively on local NYC news.  How about that.  All media wars are local.  It represents, at least here in NY, a fundamental shift in business strategy for print media.

Let me summarize what I think it means in terms of business strategy from the NYT and WSJ perspective.  What they are saying is, ‘We need to OWN our local market.  We need to completely obliterate all other competition.”  All media wars are local.  That’s it.  Somebody woke up and realized that in order to survive, print media needs to own the local space lock, stock, and barrel.

This is especially true in major metropolitan markets like NY represents but it also has implications for local and regional papers too.  While how local newsprint gets delivered will surely change (via electronic devices like the iPad or others like it), what really matters is who captures the most ‘eyes’.  Advertisers of any kind only want to invest in media devices where their customers are spending their time.  Whether that’s a printed version or electronic version matters not.  The more splintered a market is in the context of how many sources people have for local information, the worse it is for local media.  Own the space then.

The paper in which I author several columns, The Times Herald-Record, was way ahead of the ‘own the local market’ curve years ago.  I don’t recall the year but they introduced and marketed the mantra ‘Because we live here too’.  Their emphasis was squarely on localized coverage and more of it.  The feel of the paper changed as they put more investment into deeper local coverage of a broad range of events.  It was notable at the time that less print space was devoted to deeper national and global coverage and more shelf space devoted to local & regional issues.  All wars are local, including the media ones.

This all very understandable given that a reader can get national and global news from many other sources including TV or the web.  What’s really funny to me about the whole thing is that nothing has really changed here.  Marketing strategy has always depended on meeting the customer where they spend most of their time.  Advertising has always been based on subscriber counts of one kind or another.

In fact, I’d say that what’s happening from a business strategy perspective is that print media is going back to its roots.  There was a time when almost all your local newspapers were 90% or more focused on local events.  Like who’s barn burned down last month, who was the first to get plumbing or electricity in their homes or who’s cows ran away for a week.  National and global news wasn’t instantaneous like it is today.

So, we’re back to number of eyeballs again.  To survive, not only does local print media have to figure out how to revise how it delivers and sells its journalism, it first has to own the local media market.  Local media needs to own the local ‘eyeballs’ in that market.

All wars are local.

iPad for Business April 13, 2010

Posted by David Dirks in Uncategorized.
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My iPad arrived yesterday and I spent a good portion of last night working with it.  My initial observations:  easy to set up (I’m on a iMac already), easy to use and figure things out.  It’s probably the most intuitive piece of technology that Apple has made yet.  The directions, if you could call them that, are paper thin for a reason: it just works…easily.  The iPad I have is the 64gig wi-fi only model.  I don’t use the camera on the Macbook the iPad is REPLACING anyway.  Yes, I’m replacing the Macbook (only four months old) and going with the iPad.  Trust me when I say this: when you use an iPad, you’re staring at the future…right now.

From a business perspective, I’ve put the challenge to myself to swap the Macbook for the iPad (the Macbook is for sale) and do all my mobile work on that.  Word processing, online research, emails, etc.  Whatever shortcomings it is supposed to have (no camera, no multi-tasking, etc.) it clearly makes up for.  You have to experience it in order to understand the meaning of what I just said.

So, from this moment forward, any mobile computer work I do, which is a lot, will happen right from the iPad.  If you already own an iPad or are thinking of buying one AND you’re on Linkedin, you can join my newly formed iPad group, the iPad Business Forum…follow this url: http://tinyurl.com/iPadBiz.


Building a Frontline Profit Machine: Podcast November 12, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in Uncategorized.
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Note:  This is a podcast of a recent Dirks On Strategy show that aired on November 11, 2009 on WTBQ in New York.

The economy is in shambles. Competition for the same consumer buck is global and fierce. But one sales management consultant takes a unique approach to addressing the sole area that requires minimal improvement but can yield tremendous profit growth. Ziad Khoury, with nearly two decades of helping major companies reap profit windfalls, has authored a new book that centers on the frontline – entry level sales positions, call center agents, customer service staff– and shows how the most substantial new revenue opportunities involve those not traditionally associated with sales rainmakers.

“Indirect sales opportunities are ones that tend to be the most overlooked in many organizations,” says Ziad, author of FRONTLINE PROFIT MACHINE:  The Blueprint For Exploding Profits with your existing Sales and Service Team. “The positions that offer them are often viewed as entry-level, with little thought to the profit influence they have:” Executives of great companies like Nordstrom’s and Enterprise Rent a Car understand the impact of the Frontline and know what an incredible competitive edge that can be in your business.

Ziad helps turn order-takers into sales professionals and poses the question every company must ask itself, “Will we invest in creating a thriving, nearly matchless service-based sales culture that will give us a leg up on our competitors?”

Communication tools for the Global Team Leader June 3, 2009

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Communication, Global communication, Global leadership, Leading globally, Team basics, Uncategorized.
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rick-picture

The Big Dogz not only employ the most effective communication technology, they also use special techniques to facilitate the exchange of information.

Availability map

One of the most perplexing problems faced by the global leader is what time of the 24 hour day do we have meetings or just interact with each other? An answer is the availability map.

This tool is used to describe your availability situation visually. Sometimes seeing the situation visually can help give insights to how best to solve your problem. First you get a copy of the world time zone map. I have attached one for your use.

First find your location on the map and draw a straight line representing your normal work day, usually 8 hours. The line starts in your time zone and goes west for 8 time zones. Next find the locations of your global team members and draw a line for each of them. Use the start of their time zone as the start of the day. When you are finished, you will have a set of parallel lines that may or may not overlap. Using this picture, figure out how you will handle the issue of availability.  

I have attached a sample of a completed availability map for a widely dispersed global team. As you can see on this map, there are no easy solutions, but we now have a better definition of the problem.

Super communications

If I need to talk to someone, when will they be there? Of course the hours of availability provide an excellent opportunity to communicate. For a specific time in those hours, set aside time for all communications technology to be enabled. This means:

 Cell phones and pagers on

IM enabled

Voice mail check

Email check

Be around to answer the phone

Electronic huddle

Need to get everyone together for a quick announcement. Use the electronic huddle. Any of the group communication technologies work for the huddle. These impromptu meetings are short and focused on one topic.  When your team has mastered the control to keep huddle meetings short, you can add status reporting to the list of topics. Here are some effective topics for a huddle:

Kickoff a mini project

Recognition of a team member

Identify help people need

Disclose discoveries

Congratulations or greeting for a cultural event

Team website

Need a place to post announcements and to store documents? Using a free project management solution like ActiveCollab can address most of your needs to store information that is vital to the team. Or, those of you in large corporations check this out with your IT person. Most IT organizations have the capability to set up your website. Here is just some of the information that could be stored on the web:

 Check lists

Contact points meeting minutes

Project assignments

Status reports

Breaking news

Pictures and bios of team members

Links to resources

Make sure you let everyone know when the website has been updated.

Availability map

Availability map sample

Instant messaging best practices for the global team leader May 12, 2009

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Communication, Global communication, Global leadership, Grow your skills, Leading globally, Management, Networking, Uncategorized.
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When the message is urgent and simple, the Big Dogz use Instant Messaging (IM) to communicate.

 Some of the advantages of using IM are:

  1. It is quick, saving time that can be used for other tasks
  2. Using an IM option, you can save the conversation for later referral. This feature eliminates the need to call someone back and ask the same question again!
  3. It allows people to work on important tasks while waiting for an important asynchronous interrupt from colleagues or clients.
  4. If a person is busy working on that high priority project you want done NOW, others know to leave that person alone.
  5. It allows you to communicate immediately to everyone at once.
  6. Studies have shown that when IM is used, email traffic goes down; sometimes significantly.

 Here are some tips to using IM to help communicate with your global team.

 Define a policy for IM use. You as the leader can establish guidelines on how and when the global team will use IM. However, do not be so inflexible that your people think you are inhibiting their creativity. Periodically review your policy to make sure you are getting maximum advantage of IM. A good starter policy is to use IM for quick information about project status, meeting times or if a person is available.

 IM should never be used to transmit confidential or sensitive information. This type of communication is high on the interpersonal scale and the complexity scale. Face to face communication is the most effective followed by the telephone call.

 Create criteria for people to be added to “buddy” lists. Separate business contacts from personal, clients from team members, etc. to avoid the possible conflict of interest in an IM situation.

 Make you team aware that all IM conversations will be recorded to facilitate archiving of essential information.  IM is not to be used to disparage others or to complain.

 If you decide to use the file attachment feature of IM, make sure you have the appropriate security measures in place. If you do not understand this comment, check with your IT support group before you attempt to allow file attachment. Failure to follow this tip could result in serious damage to your team.

 Depending upon the IM software you use, there is some exposure to non-intended people seeing your IM’s. Include in your policy a prohibition of using IM to send phone numbers, passwords or other sensitive information.

 Keep IM communication short. IM is an effective communication technology for urgent and simple information. If an IM session becomes more complicated, move it to another communication technology up the scale. A conference call would be an effective choice. With the communication technology awareness of today’s global worker, a virtual meeting might be even more effective.

 IM can be an effective way to set up a discussion or a phone call. A global team leader (GTL) in one of my workshops gave this tip about using IM to communicate with a global team member (GTM) about a complex issue. Here is the IM conversation:

GTL: Are you there?

GTM: Yes

GTL: Do you have 10 minutes to discuss “complex issue?”

GTM: Not just now, how about at 1030?

GTL: Great, I will call you at 1030

GTM: OK

It is simple and it is really effective. Using an IM in this manner demonstrates respect for peoples’ time and still communicates the urgency of the situation.

 One of the most effective features of IM is the ability to set your status to “busy” or “not available”. When you send an IM and get one of these responses, leave a short message stating your purpose and when you need a response. When you can not be interrupted, set your presence indicators accordingly. When you do become available, reset your indicator.

 Always check to see if someone has the time to chat with you. If they don’t, respect that judgment and make an appointment.

 When you are engaged in an IM session, give the other person(s) an opportunity to respond. This conversation is just like a face to face conversation; people need time to process your requests.

 Use proper English. IM has spawned a whole new language complete with emoticons, abbreviations and jargon. This is fine when communicating with friends but is not effective in a business environment. Of course, the use of common terms within your global team is appropriate and can facilitate quicker communication.

 I ran across an excellent article on using IM. The article is written by Stowe Boyd and is useful for the novice as well as the expert IM user. It is worth a read:

 http://www.stoweboyd.com/message/files/EIM.pdf

 The Big Dogz know that with the global distribution of team members, global team leaders need to take advantage of fast and effective communication technology like Instant Messaging.

 What are some of your tips for using IM? What things do people do with IM that drive you nuts? Please respond to this post or send me and email at rbronder@gmail.com

Manage your manager for more effectiveness November 28, 2008

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Getting what you want, Management, Managing up, Relationship, Uncategorized.
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p5130012.jpg After you, the most important person to your success is your manager. The Big Dogz know that having a good relationship with your manager is a key to harmonious, stress free and highly productive days. Let’s look at one of the elements essential to your relationship with your manager.

 

Know them as a person.

  1. What are their professional goals? Your manager is managing other managers or people. What are they doing? How can you help? Be on the lookout for opportunities that can help your manager in areas other than your assigned responsibilities.
  2. What are your manager’s strengths and areas for improvement? Give your manager an opportunity to help you by utilizing a strength they have. Look for opportunities to provide services in areas where your manager needs improvement. A personal example of this was my own weakness in doing budgets. I really appreciated when one of my direct reports would volunteer to do this odious task for me.
  3. How does your manager like to communicate? Are they a visual person, do they like lists, charts, graphs or text? Are they email oriented or do they appreciate face-to-face interactions? Do they like lots of detail or prefer summary information? Find out how they like to communicate, and then communicate that way. Just being aware of your manager’s communication will make your relationship stronger.
  4. What questions does your manager ask? We have discussed the customized “need to know” profile for your people. This concept also applies to your manager. Whenever your manager asks you a question, write it down. When you do this over a short period of time, you will see a pattern with the topic your manager is interested in. now use that topic as the lead in to your communication with your manager.
  5. When does your manager perform most effectively? Some people are morning people; others are afternoon or evening people. Watch your manager for signs that give away when they are most effective. Optimize your engagements around these times. It is an excellent time to ask for coaching — they will be at peak performance. This knowledge also lets you avoid times when your manager is not as receptive.
  6. What irritates your manager? We all give off signals when we are irritated. Observe your managers reactions when you or others deliver news. When you have news that may irritate your manager, frame it around some particular goal they may have. Wait until they are at peak performance to deliver the news. Be on the look out for ways to circumvent these types of events.
  7. What pleases your manager? This is the opposite of above. Being the bearer of good news has its value.
  8. What kind of solutions do they like? Whenever you need to approach your manager with a problem, always provide a suggested solution. I always tried to come up with three possible alternatives and a recommendation. Coming to your manager with no solutions is worse than coming with wrong solutions. Your manager may prefer solving problems with money, or people, or reduction in scope or whatever. Pay attention to the solutions your manager proposes or accepts. Recommend these types of solutions to problems.
  9. What are your manager’s personal interests? People like to talk about what interests them. Your manager is no exception. Find out in daily conversations what their hobbies are, what sports teams they like, what shows they watch on TV, and any other personal information you can. The best way to get this kind of information about people is to tell them something about yourself first, and they will generally tell you something about themselves.

 

The Big Dogz know that paying attention to your manager as a person yields high dividends. Make a plan on how you will get to know more about your manager, and how you will use that information to be more effective.

Take control of your hot buttons June 29, 2008

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Handling hot buttons, Uncategorized.
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p5130012.jpg  Want to maintain control in a heated discussion? The Big Dogz know how to do that.  Most of us encounter those times in meetings, phone calls or one on one discussion where we go off on tangents defending ourselves or an issue that is vital to us. Frequently these diversions cause us to lose effectiveness or to even look unprofessional. Why does this happen? Well, probably someone has pushed one of our buttons. This phrase is commonly used to describe a situation where we are thrown off track and lose our ability to influence. People are thinking “There he goes again, on that soapbox.”

Here is a technique the Big Dogz use to keep themselves from getting on that soapbox, and to keep themselves focused on the topic at hand.

  1. Be aware of your “button pushed” behavior. For some people there are definite physical indicators. We can feel our heart beating harder and faster. Our ears get red. We begin emphatic gesturing to emphasis points that do not need emphasis.  Get a friend to help you create this awareness. This step is the single most important step in taking control of your buttons. You cannot do anything about your buttons unless you know your behaviors when they are pushed.
  2.  When you engage in “button pushed” behavior, that is, either you or a colleague have discovered you are engaged in this behavior, stop, take a breath and think about what just happened. What did this person say or do that made me go into “button pushed” behavior? You can be sure the other person knows what your buttons are. They just pushed one because you were winning the discussion and they were unwilling to change. If they can divert your thinking, they can at least walk away with a “no decision.” You have just moved from the offensive to the defensive!
  3.  As soon as possible, focus back on the original discussion. You can say something like “That is an interesting point, let’s consider it later.” It is an effective technique to take a deep breath or if possible a short break. Of course, you will want to let the other person know that you know they tried to push one of your buttons! “As you know, that issue is very important to me, but in the context of this discussion does not move us forward in getting to a solution. I would be interested in exploring that issue after we have settled this discussion.”
  4. You now have complete awareness of this issue that causes you to engage in “button pushed” behavior. This awareness means you can take control! Try to spend some time analyzing why this issue is so important to you and can you really do anything about it. If the issue is some past wrong committed, let it go so you can move on. If the issue is a moral or ethical one, think deeply about how you can make the issue right. What is your plan to address the issue? If you do not let it go or work on fixing it, the issue will continue to haunt you as a button.
  5. If you are not able to eliminate this button, at least you can be aware that it is a button and those around you will also be aware of it. Even the most well meaning of us will push a person’s button from time to time. Expect that people will use this knowledge, not because they are evil and dedicated to your demise, but because they are human. When this button is pushed, take control — remain calm, acknowledge the importance of the issue to you, separate the issue from the current discussion and move back into being effective. If you really need to vent or talk about this button, schedule another meeting or discussion around the issue.

 

The Big Dogz take control of their issues. You can not expect to uncover every button you have; but you can identify the really big ones and develop a strategy for handling situations where your buttons are pushed,

 

In the next thirty days, start observing your own behavior to identify your specific “button pushed” behavior. Then put in place the rest of this process to be on your way to being more effective.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Custom coaching June 19, 2008

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Coaching, Uncategorized.
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p5130012.jpg Tired of not getting the results you want when coaching? The Big Dogz know that you can only optimize coaching results when you customize your coaching choice. The customization point is the individual’s ability to do a particular task and their willingness to do that particular task. Let’s look at four customization points and the optimum coaching choice that will yield the results you are looking to achieve.

 

  1. Eager novice — this is an employee who is new at a specific task and is excited or motivated to perform this task. This person needs specific instructions and close control. If we do not provide the instruction and control the employee will become frustrated by having to learn everything by themselves. By providing direction and control, we insure that we build the relationship and achieve the result we expect.

 

  1. Reluctant novice — this is an employee who has some ability with this specific task, but might not be so confident in that ability. This person needs encouragement and an overview of how to accomplish the task. As a coach, we need to address any fears or concerns they may have and express our confidence in them to accomplish the task. We allow the employee greater leeway when it comes to control. Although we still set up frequent checkpoints, we are not as rigorous as with the Eager novice. By providing some direction and control along with strong encouragement we positively impact the relationship and achieve the results we are seeking.

 

  1. Reluctant master — this is an employee who has more ability with a particular task and may even have done it before under your excellent coaching. Their confidence of “going it alone” may be low, so our emphasis is on encouragement and motivation. Relative to the task instructions, we engage the employee as to how they would do it. If their approach would work, we let them use it. We ask if they would like suggestions and provide them if the response is affirmative. Using this approach, we enhance our relationship with the employee and make sure we get the result we want.

 

  1. Eager master — this is an employee who has mastered the task and is confident in their ability to perform the task. Our role as coach is to provide the time and resources to let them complete the task. They need no guidance or motivation. Their confidence is high and they understand the reason and importance of doing this task. We do not need to put elaborate controls in place since they will get the task done without support from us. We offer to provide support if they need it and may ask them to just let us know when the task is complete. Using this style of coaching with the eager master will result in a good relationship and the business result you asked for.

 

The Big Dogz know that to optimize results, we need to customize our coaching. You can achieve the same level of results by examining coaching situations and customizing according to the development level of the employee.