Golf & Business

We can’t deny that a lot of business gets done and many relationships are cemented on the golf course.  But as someone who doesn’t golf what can I do to achieve the same success’?  And more importantly, what is the appeal of conducting business on the golf course?

Let’s go backwards and do some research.

What is the appeal of conducting business on the golf course?

  1. Time.  You have a heck of a lot of time to get to know one another during a round of golf & work on building a relationship.

From everything I’ve thought and read, that is the key to the appeal.  It’s not so much about being sleazy and closing a deal, or going into the game with that being the goal, but rather about building a relationship that will lead to a closed deal

What can I do to achieve the same success’ as those that golf?

  1. Make time.  Conversations and relationships can be built through honest conversations and making time for your key customers or accounts.  Dinner, ball game, or a walking meeting if they’re in the fitness business.

Do you agree with the above? How important do you think golf is to business?

As a total aside:

I wish this was an actual website and not just a dummy site…golfandbusiness.com

Washington University is actually offering a course on golf and business!

Q3 – Marketing Roadmap Update

The above might not make business sense to your business but the point is, this is Q3, or 2H (second half) of the year.  What have you learned from the first half?  Let’s assume a few things and then work through those assumptions.

Assumptions…You were tasked with…
1. Creating a brand new 2015 marketing strategy at the end of last year.
2. Increasing brand awareness for your brand while also supporting some sales goals, such as improving web sales.
3. Increasing web traffic.
4. Improving the SEO & PPC outcomes.
5. Helping launch new products.

How will you track success on the above?
1. Creating a strategy is one thing, having that strategy work out is quite another. As a leader of a team, or department, you need to be monitoring the outcomes of all of your activities.

Can you track how many leads were collected at a tradeshow? Is this more or less than last year? And did more of them open a post tradeshow email you sent?

What about costs for all of your activities?  Is the effort worth the investment?

I was once told that as a manager I was spending too much time on planning and research. I would have agreed with that statement if my team wasn’t proving that what we were doing was actually working.  And if no one spent any time thinking about what the next practical thing to do would be we’d be in the same situation we were in before.  No plan and a lot of time and money wasted.

2. Brand awareness is a tricky thing.  Wouldn’t it be nice to tie a pretty bow around every “like” you get and tie it to a sale?  That would be the best success story ever and I would take that job in a heart beat.  But, reality is that brand awareness is hard to track. Your best bet is to be present in the places where your customers talk.  Find the right forums, social platforms, news outlets, sites, blogs, magazines, whatever and be present.  Answer people’s questions and be there when they need you.  It’s a huge effort, but somebody has to do it in order to get your brand out there in the right way…and the right way isn’t beating your customers over the head over your most awesome widget and its 13 different features. BORING!

Now web sales fall into that “yay factor” where you can easily track things back to your marketing efforts, most of the time.  If you have the right tracking tools in place you’ll be able to easily see that a sale came from an email you sent, or that they clicked through a digital ad in a pub, or better yet thought your Facebook posting was SO compelling that they simply had to have your latest whos-it. Congrats! You’re on easy street now.  But, if your efforts are not driving sales then you need to re-evaluate what you are doing.  Perhaps you’re in the wrong place, or perhaps you’re simply there at the wrong time…or, you’re not using the right lingo to attract your perfect customer.  Evaluate, measure, repeat!

3. I love to help increase web traffic.  In my last role, my team was able to increase web traffic by over 100% as compared to the previous year.  Now, the fact that we had an online store at that time certainly helped, but the planning that went into all other marketing activities also didn’t hurt.  We were able to roll out a new PR plan and got a ton of new eyes on our site.  We also improved the look of our emails and our paid ads.  Just those three things alone will help you bring in some changes.

4. Improving SEO & PPC outcomes is a monumental task.  Let’s break these two into two topics.

SEO – this is an effort that a lot of people need to be involved in.  Marketing needs to hold the reigns on this one as all marketing activities must tie into the same SEO plan.  You can’t have three different departments on three different pages and marketing trying to keep up with everything, that’s how you end up below the fold or worse yet on page 2 of a google search. You need to sit down with whoever the other stake holders might be…perhaps it’s your technical writers, or product folks, or applications team, and don’t forget your sales team.  You need to make sure that you set some very specific goals as to what you need to be focusing on and what specific terms you will be using to convey your story.  To be honest, this should have been done at the beginning of the year, but let’s not get the perfect get in the way of the good.

Once you have your strategy in place, make sure that those terms are the ones you are using everywhere.

Title tags, alt tags, meta descriptions, video descriptions, product descriptions, social media postings, PR, ads, the list goes on and on but at a minimum you need to have these areas covered.

PPC – this can be a tricky one.  The easy part is that once you have your SEO strategy and keyword list you should use the same keywords for your PPC efforts.  The fun part is, that you can really play with your PPC money. If you’re looking for brand awareness, then do some display ads.  Google will even help you with this.  Pick the keywords you want to focus on and they will supply you with a list of sites that talk about those related topics.  Pick where you want your ads to appear and once again Google will step in and create the ad for you.  You might not get a lot of sales out of it, but you can be optimistic, but you will sure as hell get a lot of  eyes on your ads…i.e. impressions, and that’s a good thing.

But, be careful with your budget as it can dwindle very quickly.  In one of my last roles we had to really reel in the spend and instead of trying to be all things to all people we chose to focus on branding and getting our name out there, and guess what, we finally got some conversions!

5. Ahhh, product launches.  Another place where there can be too many cooks in the kitchen.  But, this can be easily mitigated if you have a plan!  Have I said that word a few times already?  I love to plan, and I love numbers…but I digress.

In a previous role we had just gotten into phase gating. Phase gating allows for proper planning for a product launch.  There can be times when a product needs to be launched yesterday but if that’s the case then often times…someone dropped the ball, especially if no one knows about this new hullabaloo product.

In order to have a successfully marketed new product you need to get a few ducks in a row.  Get everyone aware of the product and its features, but more importantly, why its even needed in the market.  Get the appropriate content written about this new product and get some collateral pulled together.  Collateral that has been planned ahead for will not only look better but will also last you more than a month…I say this because if everything is a rush, then chances are some things haven’t been thought through and you’ll need to update your new lit the minute it comes in house, and that would be a shame.

Make sure that you have your team trained, your ads lined up, your press releases written, samples ready to show off at the next tradeshow, and your team ready to blast the hell out of this new thing.

Here is a word of caution, just because you’re the first on the market doesn’t mean you’ll succeed.  There is a time and a place and a right way to do things.

So with that, I leave you with a few thoughts.

1. Have you looked at the metrics from the first two quarters? What are they telling you?

2. Have you thought of a way to improve a current process or two that will allow you to have even more success in something?

3. Have you considered not doing something?  It’s ok to say that this thing you suggested just didn’t work.  It’s better to admit that now, rather than at the end of the year when you’ve spent twice as much on it.

Good luck, and knock Q3 out of the ball park!!!

Readin’ Up

A little while ago I decided to take a night off from walking on the treadmill and reading my book club book and instead follow some sage advice and leaf through more business books. I decided to pull out four books that cover a variety of topics.

1. Leading Out Loud, Inspiring Change Through Authentic Communication

*Another similar book you may want to check out is: Leading Out Loud: A Guide for Engaging Others in Creating the Future

2. The First 90 Days

3. The Culture Code, An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around the World Live and Buy as They Do

4. Consumed-Rethinking Business in the Era of Mindful Spending

Below are some quotes from each book. I have numbered the quotes according to the number next to each book above. But I do encourage you to leaf through your own versions and learn a few things you may not have known in the past or had not thought about.

“Mindful consumption will flourish if consumers embrace it en masse. If enough of us change the way we buy, businesses will have no choice but to adapt. As the Internet has taught us, when tens of thousands of people band together to work toward a common end, it quickly gets the attention of corporations….The shift toward mindfulness maybe gradual. For most of us-including those who aspire toward mindful consumption-there is a wide gap between how we would like to consume and how we actually do consume…but consumer habits, however and grain, can be influenced by various means-a fact of which marketers are increasingly aware. “-4

The change that is now required for success in many institutions is no longer merely incremental, it is discontinuous, radical, frightening to those who participate. And fields as diverse as economics, medicine, biological and physical research, social and political structures,and certainly business, we are not simply being asked to do better than our predecessors, we are being asked to do different. Leaders are faced with inspiring followers to take the same kind of risk; to jump this chasm with them…experiencing conviction of what changes required calls for personal reflection-not merely reading good management books. An authentic vision for progress doesn’t just appear out of the ether, nor does it [come] from what others believe to be important. Your passion about what you want to change the gross from the foundation of values that have been formed by your life experience.”-1

“Communication that moves committed action includes both passion and reason. Both are necessary general trust infection from others, so that the mind is as fully engaged as the heart. Accordingly, writing is imperative to communicating authentically. Writing reveals fuzzy thinking, exposes slurred distinctions: it clarifies. That’s why it is so difficult. And it takes time, more time to write them to make a few notes…Any leadership message you construct will be the basis for most communication you have about your plan to change things for the better. Others can help, but finally, it is your own values, your own commitment to an issue that will determine the power of the message to you, and therefore to others. Whatever response you want from others must happen to you first.”-1

Method: structured interviews with the organization. Uses: identifying shared and divergent perceptions of opportunities and problems. You can interview people at the same level in different departments or bore down through multiple levels. Whichever dimension you choose, ask everybody the same questions and look for similarities and differences... Useful for: most useful for managers leading groups of people from different functional back rooms. Can be useful at lower levels if the unit is experiencing significant problems….Your learning priorities and strategies will inevitably shift… As you start to interact with your new boss, or to figure out where to get some early wins, or to build supportive coalitions, it will be critical for you to gain additional insights…What is your learning agenda, based on what you know now compose a list of questions to guide your early inquiry. If you have begun to form hypotheses about what is going on, what are they and how will you test them? How might you increase the efficiency of your learning process? What are some ways you might extract more actionable insights for your investment of time and energy?”-2

Poke around any of these books and you are sure to learn a few new things!

The First 90 Days, Cont.

I wrote a blog post before the end of the year about the importance of the first 90 days and how to try and sustain your momentum after you pass those first critical three months.  How do you keep standing out and making changes and not take on baggage that will just weigh you down?

Luckily, I found an article on LinkedIn.  Granted, it once again mainly focuses on the first 90 days, but if you haven’t done the suggested things in your first 90 days, then they can be implemented later on, right?!

My First 90 Days: How to Crush it at Your New Job

1. Remember names: this one is a hard one for me.  But I did hear, and have to agree, that when we don’t remember someone’s name it’s because we subconsciously weren’t listening or didn’t find it important to remember that name. So listen up, even repeat it if you need to.

2. Ask Questions. But ask the right questions.

3. Learn your company’s org structure.

4. Deliver a quick win.

Leadership Lessons from Jack Welch

I can take no credit for the below tips as they came from an article by Jack and Suzy Welch that I saw on LinkedIn titled, 10 Leadership Lessons You Don’t Want to Learn the Hard Way.  I’m sure it’s too late on some of these for some of us but let’s recap and learn something together.

1. You company’s values and your values must be compatible.

2. Differentiation breads meritocracy. Sameness breeds mediocrity.

3. In a performance culture, actions have to have consequences – positive or negative.

4. Creating an environment of candor and trust is a must.

5. Attracting, developing and retaining world-class talent is your never-ending job.

6. You must distinguish between coachable development needs in your people and fatal flaws.

7. Simple, consistent, focused communications travel faster and are understood better by the organization.

8. There is nothing more developmental and illuminating than dealing with adversity.

9. Over time, you have to develop a real generosity gene – and love to see each person on your team earn raises, get promotions and grow personally.

10. Continuous learning is critical for success – make it a priority.

The First 90 Days

Not only is there a book written about it, titled The First 90 Days, but it’s also an interesting time in anyone’s transition into a new role.  You’re green, and come with ideas, and without baggage so now is the time to make a splash.  Without really thinking about the book, when interviewing for my last two jobs I have come prepared with a 30-60-90 day plan to give to a potential supervisor so that he or she felt that that part of the puzzle was already thought out.

I planned on contributing and here was how I was going to do it.  You need to focus on the low hanging fruit and be confident that what you bring to a new organization is critical in terms of a new mindset and how to change some things that perhaps hadn’t been working, or hadn’t been paid attention to.

With that said, eventually…you might find yourself becoming part of the problem.  But how do you mitigate against that? How do you stay ahead and keep your mind fresh and limber, how do you not take on baggage?

Here are some recent, and not so recent bu valuable, articles:

The 90 Day Plan
Beyond the First 90 Days

After the First 90 Days
Executive Integration Beyond the First 90 Days – “It takes most leaders almost three years to integrate into a new role, make important improvements, and then see the results of their efforts. In a world that is becoming more impatient—too focused on superficial quick fixes—successful onboarding can best be assured by how well a leader navigates through three predictable “waves of change” during the transition.

Setting Goals

I like how an article about metrics driven goals starts out, “A dream without a goal is just a wish.” – Dave Kerpen

I think I am going to have to adopt this as one of the mantras for when I speak with a lot of the vendors I work with.  There are those instances when it just seems like someone doesn’t want to be measured on something, nor held accountable, and that’s simply unnaceptable. 

Personally, I wish I could be super succesful.  But wishing and aiming for a certain goal are two different things, as is generalizing success.  The success I have in mind has many layers and if I don’t identify what theya re and set individual goals for each layer, I’ll be left wishing, wanting, and hoping.

What did you do today?  Did you set any metrics driven goals?

2013 in review

Lessons learned from…

Home Life:

1. Having and raising a baby is tough work.

2. Having to balance taking care of said baby/newborn while trying to work from home is not a good idea, you feel like an all around failure that can’t focus on any one thing for any amount of significant time.

3. Unless you have a husband who loves to clean, which I am lucky to have, your home will fall into complete disarray after having above mentioned baby, at least until the age until he or she is able to do something other than eat and sleep in your arms.

4. Each holiday is that much more exciting as you have a whole new way of experiencing it.

5. Talking is very important.  Having a baby puts a lot of strain on everyone and if you don’t talk things out it can lead to built up anger, which is the last thing you want.  Try and accept that one of you will take to taking care of the baby quicker and easier than the other.  Divide and conquer my friends!

Work Life:

1. Having to balance taking care of said baby/newborn while trying to work from home is not a good idea, you feel like an all around failure that can’t focus on any one thing for any amount of significant time.

2. Things can change at the drop of a hat.  Accept it.

3. Be flexible and adapt to new surroundings and processes.

4. If something is becoming an issue, nip it in the bud right away.  Don’t allow it to become a habit.

5. Always strive to do more.  Any job you are in is yours to improve and learn from.  Always make sure to make the msot of it.

Happy New Year! What did you do today?  Did you reflect on your life before the start of the new year?

Manager Training 101

As promised, I want to share with you what I learned in the Management Skills for First Time Supervisors course that I took at the end of February.

Effective training can build skills and set both companies and their employees an the path to success.

We all sat down and were greeted by Cherie Cross who is a motivational speaker with corporate experience who told us, in my opinion, about more than we thought we’d get.  She covered not only management tips and tricks but also taught us a bit about labor laws.  Since these notes are my own hand written notes I feel as though I can share with you what I jotted down.  I hope these tips and thoughts help you in leading your team.

1. Act as if you’re happy.
2. Never make decisions based on feelings.
3. You can’t use logic to lead, right and wrong has nothing to do with leadership.
4. Learn to love the color of grey.
5. Blessed are the flexible for they will never be bent out of shape.
6. Never pit employees against one another and don’t take someone’s word unless you saw what happened yourself.
7. Be brief, be bright, be gone.  Just share the bottom line when it may come to bad news.
8. Never defend corporate policy, always support it.
9. Your number 1 responsibility as a leader is to protect egos.
10. You have a right to request respect.
11. Don’t state opinions, i.e. an employee is not a team player, as those can be subjective.  Only focus on facts.
12. A good leader will encourage an employee to own their work.
13. Don’t say, “I don’t know.”
14. Don’t punish mistakes.
15. Present change on a trial basis.
16. Only use “we” when everyone knows who “we” is. (Instead of  “we came to a conclusion” say “a decision has been made”)
17. Instead of using “needs,” i.e. area in need of improvement, say “areas of focus.”
18. Define expectations & define parameters.
19. Never use personality as an excuse not to improve.
20. Eliminate these from your vocabulary: “from here on out” “from this point forth” “from now on.”
21. Confrontation simply means face to face.
22. Delegation=training employees to do your job, Assignment=asking the employee to do their job.
23. Create opportunity if none exists.
24. Ask for volunteers on assignments.
25. Never ask “why?” It is a trigger word & is emotional.  May show that you are right and the other person is wrong and you don’t understand why they did something a certain way.  Instead simply ask them to explain their thinking.
26. How to deal with complainers: Inquire, Validate, Focus on the future.
27. Let liars lie.
28. Keep every conversation directed toward the future.
29. Employees have a right to be unhappy and a right to complain, behind closed doors.
30. The rules of Discipline
        1. Confront in private.
        2. Communicate intentions “my intentions are…to offer support.”
        3. Discuss issues once.
        4. Be specific about the behavior.
        5. Ask open-ended questions that lead the employee to their own conclusions, i.e. how does it affect…, what does corp. policy state, what are you going to do differently?
        6. Offer solutions (if they don’t).
        7. Create a plan.
        8. End with the positive, be specific.
        9. Schedule a follow-up.
       10. Document & hand write everything.

I hope these help you and I know reading them another time and rewriting them should help me commit these commandments to memory.

What did you do today?

P.S. Looking for more resources?  Of course I have some for you:

1. Training is key for positive employee engagement
2. Effective Management Skills
3. A test – How Good are Your Management Skills?

Management & Leadership

I am a new manager, I admit it.  Now, I think we can all say, “I have managed before.”  “I have managed teams through a project.” “I have managed a project.”  The list goes on.

But, managing direct reports is something entirely different.  You are now in charge of not only getting your work done, but also ensuring that the people reporting to you are happy, well-rounded, want to come to work everyday, oh and of course get their work done as well.

I found it particularly interesting when a potential candidate we were interviewing asked me what kind of manager I am.  I had to admit what I admitted to you in the beginning.  I am new at this game.  However, I am striving to be a good manager.  I want people to be able to rely on me, be honest with me, but also respect and back me up me when I push them in a certain direction that may have a tight deadline.  As I have done with everything, I’m not sitting back and hoping I get it right.  Luckily, my company provides all kinds of great leadership and mentoring opportunities.  I am particularly interested in those that ask for anonymous feedback from my peers and direct reports as I don’t want to go in to the “Dark Side of Leadership.”

So now I ask you, what courses or measures are you taking to continue to strive to be the best at not only what you do, but also at how you lead while doing it?

What did you do today?

P.S. Recently it was this blog’s THREE year anniversary!  I can’t even believe it.  Thank you all for reading and thank you to those who comment and leave their own advice and thoughts behind.  You’ve certainly allowed me to grow and I hope I have helped some of you along the way too.

P.P.S.  Here are some great resources for management training:
AMA – American Management Training
Business Management Courses by Learning Tree
National Seminars for First Time Managers–>I will be blogging about this one toward the end of this month!
Talent Management & Leadership Development group on LinkedIn
Manager Tools – Podcast
Manager Tools – LinkedIn Group