Friday, May 28, 2010

Do We Need To Make Mistakes?

A good buddy of mine told me many, many times that he had to make mistakes to learn. He went on and told me, "We all need to make big mistakes so we can become better." He usually pontificated that point shortly after he failed at something, vowing he would never make that mistake again. And sometimes, he lived up to that promise.

I think our approach toward mistakes should be this:
1) Always own up to and learn from your mistakes so you never repeat them.
But even better:
2) Learn from other people's mistakes so you don't make the same ones they did.

It's not magic or some top-secret thing--we can learn from others (both the good and the not-so-good) every minute of the day by observing, reading, listening and asking questions.

It comes down to being a student--of yourself and of others. Mistakes happen every day and we will all make them. But if you can learn from others and avoid a mistake they've made, why not do that?

It's great to learn from your mistakes. It's even better to never have made that mistake in the first place.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & beyond

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Get ahead of it

It's not easy to deal with tough situations. You can feel the weight on your shoulders or the pain in your gut. You can hear the pain in others by the quiver in their voice or by the way they become "small" and almost disappear.

What we don't fully appreciate, though, is how difficult it is facing every day with that issue hanging over you. What can you do?

You can get ahead of the problem.

Much of the time our frustration and paralysis about an ongoing problem is based on the past--what happened, what didn't or isn't working, etc. We're living, to an extent, in the past. If we can muster up the courage to make a decision, a change that will position us for the future, all of sudden, the weight is off our shoulders and our voice doesn't quiver.

Business can be tough. Tough decisions are hard. But avoiding the decisions only makes things worse.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Playing in the Sandbox

With a downsized economy also comes another important talent needed for companies to succeed:

Being able to play in the sandbox with others.

Many large corporations have employees who need to stay busy. They are now being assigned to duties that used to be the responsibility of suppliers. In the past, a supplier could play "hardball" and demand they were in charge of all that work. Now, for suppliers to thrive, they have to be willing to share responsibilities and collaborate with internal departments.

This development is ultimately a good thing. The corporation can learn which suppliers are truly dedicated as partners and which ones are merely trying to protect their turf.

It's critical to get along in the sandbox, because as the economy has shrunk, the sandbox has become smaller.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Questions and More Questions

We've all been taught it's important to listen. It's important to ask questions in order to learn and improve. But it's also important to have an idea, an opinion or a recommendation.

Some of the most overrated people ask the most questions and appear to be most impressive. But, other than asking questions, what value are they bringing? If they aren't also suggesting solutions, I suggest they are doing no good and are if anything, a distraction.

Whether we are dealing with customers at our store or clients over the phone or having a talk with our boss, we have to bring them something of value, something more than peppering them with questions. We have to offer up a piece of ourselves, our hearts, our minds--something that is meaningful.

Asking questions of others is only good if it results in us providing them answers.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & beyond

Monday, May 24, 2010


Things could be simple, but they're not. Departments should be working together, but they're not. Products should be made better, but they're not. Why?

Sometimes there is a smokescreen obscuring everything. A smokescreen could be any semi-real or fabricated situation that stands in the way of a positive, progressive situation at home or at work.

If something seems like it should be simple (and fun) to achieve, but it isn’t, there may be a smokescreen blurring your focus.

Smokescreens include:
Unhealthy relationships that keep people from openly talking
Imaginary obstacles or fears that will most probably never materialize but will keep people and solutions apart
Outdated or historical assumptions that intimidate people from attempting change

Find the source of the smokescreen and clear the air.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
LaBov Sales Channel
PB&J Newsletter

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Seventh Sense

In the ultra-popular movie, "The Sixth Sense," a child has a unique talent, he sees dead people. That talent is both a blessing and a curse to him.

Many of us have a Seventh Sense that is both a blessing and a curse:

We see what people can be.

This sounds nice and pleasant, but it is not always good. I've seen what a person could be--their potential and talent--and have erred. I've pushed them, raised my expectations and have been clueless as to why they don't seem to care. It took me years to realize that sometimes a person may be bright, talented and uniquely gifted for a particular career, but that doesn't mean they want to do that particular thing.

On the positive side, I have seen the potential in a person and she responded by exceeding everything I expected. That has been a tremendous experience for all.

My learning is: Even if we see that brilliant talent in a person, before doing anything to help or motivate them, make sure they have that dream, too.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
LaBov Sales Channel
PB&J Newsletter

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Time for a Raincheck?

I've lived most of my life in a northern climate, which equates to a good four to six months a year of generally nice weather. Then of course, there are the other six months of the year, which are generally less than pleasant.

If I don't watch out, I'll live for the sunny days only. Those are the days you can do the fun things, enjoy the outdoors, ride a bike, play golf, etc.

In our business and personal lives, it's tempting to live for the sunny days when things are fun, easy and exciting. The rainy, bad weather days, though, can be just as fruitful. Those are the days you can catch up on things, clean up stuff, gather co-workers around to tackle a project, etc.

Look forward to a rainy day, or better yet, create your own. Tackle the undesirable, un-fun and tedious junk. Stop and think. Stop and organize. Stop and appreciate what you have...and the sunny days coming up.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
LaBov Sales Channel
PB&J Newsletter

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What Took You So Long?

You fret over making a decision. You don't want to let anyone down. You weigh the pros and cons, you think about the worst-case scenario, then you consider the reaction you'd get from others... All of this gnashing of teeth will generally result in nothingness--nothing happens.

So, you wait and wait and wait. Then the situation becomes bad enough that you have to do, you do it. You brace yourself for whatever will happen, for how you'll be viewed by others, etc. Then you get your first response:

What took you so long? We've been wondering when you'd do something about this.

Most of the time our toughest decisions are made much tougher by us avoiding them.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
LaBov Sales Channel
PB&J Newsletter

Friday, May 14, 2010

Dealers Who Don't Get It

Many dealers are great, they are entrepreneurs. They love their businesses. But...there are dealers who give away business.

I practically begged to be allowed to buy a product from a local dealer. They wouldn't let me. They said I'd have to schedule a time to come back and try the product. It turns out they have a competitor an hour away who told me to stop by any time to check out the same product. Guess what? I bought the product from the dealer an hour away.

Last weekend I went back to the local dealer again to buy some accessories. My total sale would have amounted to about a hundred bucks of profit for them. But I made a critical mistake: I showed up at 4:05 PM on a Saturday. I walked up, the lot had plenty of cars, the showroom had a dozen customers in it, but the door was locked. A guy carefully opened the door and said in a stern voice, "We're closed. We close at four." I turned around and began to walk away as he asked, "See you Monday?" I turned and replied, "No." (Funny thing, I don't think they're open on Mondays either.)

For all he knew, I was there to buy a $30,000 product. But after all, they close at 4:00 PM on a Saturday. So now I'll buy those accessories online at a discount. I may have to wait three or four days, but I can stand that.

Mr. Dealer, allow me to buy. Humor me if I don't know the secret handshake at your dealership or if I don't know your store hours. I have money to spend if you allow me to trade it for the product you have in your showroom.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
LaBov Sales Channel
PB&J Newsletter

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Treat New Business Like You Treat Your Kids or Friends

The best growers of new business all have it in common. They approach new business just like they do reaching out to friends or family. They do it often, daily, when the inspiration strikes. They never, ever wait for the perfect time.

Would you ever say to your child, "I won't pay attention to you today, because there are other things to do, but I do promise in three weeks or so, I'll set aside time to focus on you." Of course you wouldn't. If you're like most of us, you speak, email or text to your kids or spouse or friends throughout the day. That's also the best new business approach.

Reach out to your prospects, your current customers and suppliers daily--text them, email them, call them, etc.

Is there a best time to talk to your child when she needs help? Sure. Now.
Is there a best time to reach out to potential new customer? Sure. Now.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
LaBov Sales Channel
PB&J Newsletter

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Hard Truths

These are some hard truths:

The economy will not truly recover as we would like. It has been downsized. That means there will be less jobs than before and less products bought.

Entitlement will be prevalent in companies despite the down economy.

The cost of employees will rise due to taxes and various government programs, meaning there will be more contractors and part-time employees than ever before.

Consumers will not accept a compromise in quality. They will want more for less and will still expect products or services to be as good as ever.

So where does that put us?

To succeed, we can't waste our energy bemoaning the economy or judging where the country is going. We can focus on what we can control: our response.

We can:

Analyze our investments in people and clients to make sure we're focusing our resources wisely.

Focus on creating great products or services for the right kind of customer who appreciates them and will show loyalty.

Enjoy what we do whether our company is 50% or 80% the size it was two years ago.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
LaBov Sales Channel
PB&J Newsletter

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Balancing Act

I'm not a big believer in balance. I guess it's because balance is sometimes used in what I feel is the wrong context. For example: "I don't want to try hard at work because I need to be a good parent." Or, "I have to balance what my company needs with what my client needs."

I think you can indeed, do a great job at work and go home and be a great parent. I believe you can do a great job and make both your company and your client thrilled.

But one area where balance can be good is in client focus. If you're a manufacturer that focuses only on its few top dealers, then there's a chance a lot of good things will be missed out on. Sometimes a smaller dealer does things better or has more potential than the dominant dealer. If you're a smaller company and have a dominant client who gets all your best people and thinking, you're shortchanging those smaller clients that could turn into big clients.

Plus, a little competition is good for all of us--why not have that big dealer look over his shoulder at the little dealer? That little dealer just might be treating customers better or might be selling more aggressively. That big dog could learn a few tricks from the toy dog.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
LaBov Sales Channel
PB&J Newsletter

Monday, May 10, 2010

Simple is Our Friend

If you want to be paranoid about one thing in business, be on the lookout for complexity.

Complexity is the downfall of many great ideas, companies, and relationships. If something seems too complicated or a relationship too fuzzy or a product is difficult to use, you can count on failure.

If an employee says his job is hard to understand or her responsibilities are not clear, at best they're crying out for help, at worst, they're letting you know they're not engaged. No matter, count on that professional relationship falling short.

Why do we surround ourselves with complexity instead of simplicity? It's scary to deal with simplicity. Simplicity is clear, black and white, and it's naked--nothing is covering it up.

Complexity is out to get us. The answer is simple.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & beyond
LaBov Sales Channel
PB&J Newsletter

Friday, May 7, 2010

Soft Skills can be So Hard

Selling skills or soft skills are the number one need today for the sales channel to thrive. The old-style sales books and cassette tape series were good way back in the days of the wood-burning computers, but they are not enough today.

Today's selling skills have to include technology. In the old days, for example, they taught you to network to grow your book of business. That meant joining associations, getting involved in non-profits, etc. All that would allow you to grow your contacts and hopefully, some of those contacts would walk into your store and buy something.

Today you still need to do that. But you also need to tackle technology. You have to network on LinkedIn and Facebook. You have to engage in Twitter and other social media because people are hanging out there, too.

That means more areas of responsibility and opportunity: You can be "old school" and focus on in-person networking and succeed. You can use technology and spend your time networking via social media. You can do both and you'll be a lethal selling weapon. But if you do none of the above, stick a fork in it, it's over.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Back to Basics?

My company, LaBov & Beyond Marketing, Communications and Training, is being deluged with clients that need help educating and motivating their sales channel to sell their products. So what's new?

Today's sales channel has a good knowledge of products and benefits... What they don't have is a strong grasp of selling skills, the so-called soft skills that have been downplayed for the last decade.

You might be surprised as to the blue chip corporations with world-wide brands that are losing out because their dealers and salespeople know the product but don't know how to drum up business, how to overcome objections and how to close a deal. Now, it's time to get back to basics and learn how to sell.

It's not enough to manufacture a great product at a great price. It's not enough to have a great ad campaign that brings consumers into the store. You have to be able to sell.

Who would have thought that soft skills could be so hard to master?

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
LaBov Sales Channel
PB&J Newsletter

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Creativity needs contraints

Way back when I had hair and was a musician, the goal for any rock and roll songwriter was to write a hit song.

A hit song had its constraints:
It had to be approximately three minutes long
It needed a "hook" or a catchy chorus
It needed an instrumental introduction (so the radio deejay could speak over it when introducing the song)

If you didn't do the above, you weren't going to have a hit. For example, there have only been a handful of hit songs that were longer than three and a half minutes (Hey Jude, Roundabout and Bohemian Rhapsody come to mind).

You'd think that these constraints would hamper creativity. The opposite is true. Those guidelines allowed songwriters to focus in on their songs and they forced the creative ideas to conform to a structure while at the same time still retaining their originality. That's not easy, but it is inspiring when it happens.

That's what we have to do in our business lives: work within a system while still creating breakthrough ideas and concepts. Beethoven had to create symphonies that had four "movements" and Bob Dylan had to keep "Blowin' in the Wind" to three minutes long.

We have to realize the same in our businesses and not stop until we create something great.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Ownership, Investment, and Resentment

For a business to be great, there has to be ownership throughout the organization. The more people who take charge and make decisions as if they owned the company, the more inspired and intelligent those decisions will be.

But, how often do we feel we are alone, or almost alone, in getting things done the right way in our company or department? Many times the very best people are the ones who are overloaded with tasks and don't have time to think.

Here's a thought-jogger I hope can be of help if you run a department, a team, a store or a company.

Add up the investment you've made in the team you have--that includes salary, benefits and other things such as office space, education, perks, etc. Are you getting a fair return on that investment in terms of performance, ownership and fresh thinking?

Let's say you've estimated or your company has invested $350,000 a year in that team. Are you getting $350,000 worth of decision-making, ownership, initiative and expertise? If you were to start over from scratch with no team and decided to invest $350,000 to get things done, would you expect and demand more than you're getting today?

As leaders, we have to first realize how much we're investing, then give people the room to do their jobs and then hold them accountable. Assuming the team is filled with good people, you'll see more ownership from them. And you'll have time to do your job instead of a little bit of everybody's job.

Being a hero and doing too much of your people's jobs will not be appreciated, it will be resented by them and ultimately become the norm for them.

If you want real ownership and success, add up your investment and expect returns.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
LaBov Sales Channel
PB&J Newsletter

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Great Time to Get Better

There are plenty of good people looking for work. That means for dealers, manufacturers or service companies there is the opportunity to upgrade. There just may be a tremendous performer who is now ready to move.

The good news is this is a chance for the healthy companies to become stronger and for that top performer to find a home where he or she can make a big difference.

The challenge for companies is: Are you willing and open to new thinking? Because that's just what is going to happen.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
LaBov Sales Channel
PB&J Newsletter