Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Fight Against Simplicity

We fight simplicity because:

  1. It exposes good and bad
  2. It may take work from me
  3. It may give work to me
  4. It may take power from me
  5. It won't make everyone happy at this moment
  6. It makes me have to stop and think
  7. It scares me

We fear simplicity because in many cases, we think we'll lose something--freedom, power, love, glory, ease, etc. But like a lot of things that you commit to, once you accept it and dedicate yourself to it, after a while it becomes apparent you're not missing anything of value.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Youth Gets Old

Advertising agencies, especially the huge ones, have a model that they've worked for years: they hire brilliant young people straight out of college and throw them into the cauldron of business. Those young people, filled with energy, work endless hours, travel constantly and get to see the world. Very exciting. And very draining.

After a few years most of these promising young people get tired of the grind, they get tired of not seeing their friends or loved ones. And they drop out of the business, sometimes forever. They are then replaced by a new crop of hungry young people ready to jump into the cauldron. And the cycle repeats.

What's lost in all of this is the client. Too often the client, who hired the agency after meeting with more mature (older) and experienced professionals, is then given a team of 20-somethings who are in charge of the account. Those 20-somethings are often very brilliant, but they don't have the extra decade or two of experience that the client also yearns for.

Youth can get old quickly. A balanced team of young and not-so-young may be the best answer for the agency and the client.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Monday, August 29, 2011

Simple is our friend

We have a friend, but we don’t always pay attention to her. She’s not as flamboyant or attention-grabbing. She doesn’t make everyone happy all the time. She is sometimes very blunt, but she is very clear.

Simple. Simple should be our friend, but we reject her because we get lost in the moment, in all the whirlwind of activity. But after the dust settles, the answer is always simple. We waste a lot of time avoiding our friend. 

Maybe it’s because we like the adrenaline of complex stuff flying around, maybe it’s because simplicity can hit you between the eyes and sometimes that hurts.

Make friends with simple.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & beyond

Friday, August 26, 2011

Forget ideal

Our dealership isn’t firing on all cylinders. Our customer retention should be better. Our morale has to improve.

Too often, we compare ourselves to the ideal—to what is close to perfect in some cases. It’s bad to compare ourselves to ourselves—that’s a waste, but, if we’re going to compare ourselves, let’s look for similar situations that are reasonable.

Ideal is just that, ideal. Real or reasonable is the only thing to measure against.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Let’s Expand

An option to mediocre sales and low momentum is expansion. Yes, that’s true. Is your product old in the tooth? Is your sales force complacent? Is your market sluggish? Expand.

Build products that are better, hire energized salespeople in new markets, expand the business. Of course, in order to expand intelligently, you have to make sure you have the right team, the right pricing, and the right product.

Expansion beats the alternative…

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Crazy Ted

Crazy Ted never shuts up. He talks all the time, just won’t leave you alone. Ted runs a construction business. He wins and loses business for exactly the same reason: his personality. You either love him or you run from him.

He’s obsessive, wacky, embarrassing, and yet, endearing. You trust him, you believe him. He’ll worry more about the work he’s doing for you than you will.

Ted has a very simple business model: I’m obsessed with doing a great job for you and may drive you nuts while I’m doing it.

That model doesn’t work when the product or service that’s provided is commonplace. But it can work if you’re a heart surgeon or a fighter pilot, because customers can set aside the personality when it’s do or die. And that’s where Ted’s intensity and energy come in: he makes you feel that painting your building or roofing your home is that critical—you have to have him….even if he drives you nuts.

Barrry LaBov
LaBov & beyond

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Gimme Traffic

Dealers want a product to sell to their customers. They want loyal customers. They want to make a profit. But most of all, today, they need traffic.

They need people walking through the door, people with cash in their pocket, people who actually are interested in their product(s). The manufacturer that understands that traffic trumps product will win. The best product in the world needs traffic. A mediocre product with tons of traffic will win every time.

So the answer is give the dealer a great product and generate tons of traffic for them. And sit back and count the money.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Monday, August 22, 2011

Julian the golfer

I’m a member and co-owner of a fantastic golf club, Sycamore Hills Golf Club in Fort Wayne, Indiana. We just hosted the Junior PGA Championship where 156 of the world’s best young golfers competed. There were only going to be one winner in the boy’s competition and one winner in the girl’s competition, and those players were tremendous. But then there was a 16-year old boy named Julian.

Born in Thailand and now living in Nevada, he and his mom (his father passed away a couple years ago) travel the country as he competes in tourneys. I had the opportunity to host Julian at my home for the week of the championship.

He did not win. He did not break par. He did not make the cut after the third round. He did make more friends with people of all ages than I thought possible. He was open, vulnerable about his game, his talent and lack of talent. He truly enjoyed his life, even when his golf deserted him.

One boy golfer walked away with the trophy and deserved it, he was great. Another boy walked away with experiences, laughs and a lot of friends.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Friday, August 19, 2011

Economic Fears

With the economy looking bleak again, where does that put us? Of course, we’ll hear the same things we heard a couple of years ago. The question is, have we learned from it?

The naysayers will tell of gloom. Others will be upbeat and predict it is a very short-lived situation.

No one knows. All we have is our response, which will affect the very situation. All we know is that it won’t last forever…and it won’t be the last time.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Thursday, August 18, 2011

There comes a time

There comes a time when:
You do what you believe even it’s not universally received
You realize that what you feared losing isn’t worth that much anyway
You realize that you have more control in some aspects of your life
You realize you have less control in some aspects of your life
You enjoy what used to be invisible to you

Those are pretty good times…

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Say no, say yes or bring an idea to the table

It’s pretty exciting to tell the customer “yes” to whatever they want. Equally exciting is playing hardball and laying a “no” on them. A lot of times “yes” or “no” work, but not always.
How about the next time you’re tempted to say the “y” or the “n” words, you stop and think—maybe there’s an answer that is for superior? It takes time, thought and guts (because you might be rejected) but it sure will be exciting not only for you, but the customer.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

There comes a time

There comes a time when:

You do what you believe even if it’s not universally received

You realize that what you feared losing isn’t worth that much anyway

You realize that you have more control in some aspects of your life

You realize you have less control in some aspects of your life

You enjoy what used to be invisible to you

Those are pretty good times…

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Friday, August 12, 2011

Too close brings comfort

Our children tell us as they grow up to leave them alone, let them do things on their own. They need to stand on their own, take a few falls and pick themselves back up.
Ditto for our businesses. We can be too involved, too available, too “always there.” A little distance can be pretty healthy. It exposes the good and the not good. It enables the employee to think first before giving up.

I have the problem of being too “always there” and have tried to improve on that. I have to actually work on not automatically helping or solving. Whether it’s in business or personal life, we must realize that people were given legs to stand up on their own.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Best of Barry: Fear the right stuff

Originally posted FRIDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2009

In business, it's easy to be afraid of what the customer might think or what the boss might think or how you look to your fellow employees.

But if we need to be fearful of anything (other than fear itself), we need to fear:

Not doing what we believe is right
Not taking complete responsibility or ownership
Not being honest and vulnerable
Not taking action
If we have to feel fear, the other stuff, such as how you look or appear to others, shouldn't even be a thought. Fear the right stuff.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Best of Barry: The War of the Words

Originally posted MONDAY, DECEMBER 28, 2009

With all the corporate speak and acronyms that we face everyday, we have to focus on simplicity. Even the best intentions will be undermined if we use different words and acronyms to say similar things.

Picture this:

1) You're a manufacturer and you have created 40 different programs that your sales channel uses for training their employees, to improve their performance, and to market to their customers.
2) You have 10 different suppliers as well a half dozen internal teams dealing with that sales channel daily, weekly and/or monthly.
3) The various programs are not stand-alones, they have connection with each other and in many cases, deal with the exact same issues.

Let's assume all 40 programs are smart and they are not redundant. Let's say, in fact, they are brilliant programs, invaluable to the sales channel. Then why aren't they working? Why aren't they a rousing success?

The answer: The War of the Words. If we aren't obsessively focused on clarity and simplicity, those numerous programs will each contain their own language. In some cases they also create new acronyms, sometimes clever and catchy ones. For example: we might call our customers: end-users, clients, consumers, buyers, purchasers, commiters, loyalists, and the list goes on.

There must be a common, simple language communicated when there are so many programs being sent out. In fact, I have a challenge for any of us involved with such activities:

Let's NOT add to the confusion--let's create no more acronyms or catch-words to the communications. Go even farther and ask, can we reduce the terms used by 20%?

Put yourself in the shoes of the sales channel in this instance. How would you feel if there were no more additional acronyms and instead, there were fewer terms, no redundancy, and a simpler message? It could only help.

It's time to win the War of the Words.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Best of Barry: Playing in the Sandbox

A Best of Barry: from May 26, 2010

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

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Best of Barry: The Toughest Decisions

It's hard to make decisions relating to business: do you have the right employees? the right clients? the right business model?

But it's even harder to make the decisions that many businesses are or will be dealing with soon. Those decisions are not black and white. As the economy continues to struggle, businesses will be facing the toughest decisions.

For example, say you run twenty stores across the nation. You need to shut down at least two. The problem is that there are no terrible stores in the group, in fact most are doing fairly well. No one deserves to be shut down, yet something has to happen.

The first cuts are the easiest, those are the ones that were first made when the economy crashed. The next ones we'll see will be more difficult to make and may seem more unfair. They will still need to be done.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Monday, August 1, 2011

Making it difficult

Products have warranties that make us feel safer when buying those items. But if it takes an act of God to make that manufacturer replace it under warranty, what's the message to the customer?

I had a water heater that didn't work properly and over a four-month period it malfunctioned numerous times. It was under warranty, but the manufacturer resisted replacing it, so did the distributor. Over those four months I learned more about water heaters than I ever wanted to know. Finally, after the dealer intervened, we were delivered a brand-new beautiful water heater.

I had two learnings over this ordeal. First of all, I have never appreciated the luxury of having hot water before. Now, I do. I also learned that I will never buy a product from that manufacturer again. They had a great warranty that was designed to sell products, not service and retain customers.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond