Thursday, December 31, 2009

Every day begins a new year

So maybe it's been tough, it's been a grind of a year. It's great to begin a new year. Kinda like golf: you play a crappy front nine and man is it great to start over with a new back nine.

But let's be honest. It's all in our heads. We can change or begin to change now or tomorrow or last week, if we want to. The question is: what's stopping us from doing what we should be doing? What's in our way?
In leadership and in goal setting, it's not always about the new goal you give yourself. It's sometimes about what you take away or move out of the way that will help you succeed.
Before you tell everyone your New Year's resolution.... tell us what you're taking out of the way.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Misperception of the "Big guy"

We hear it often about top execs or ultra-successful people: they're cold, calculating, selfish, political, etc. After all, they have to be, to be to be successful, right?


The majority of the successful people I've known are respectful, inspiring, honest, sincere and fair. They have to be or they'd be facing failure at every turn.

Successful people are sometimes vilified by others who don't want to do what it takes or be what it takes to be successful themselves.

Successful execs have a lot of pressure and time constraints, but so do most of us. The best of us still take time to focus on relationships.

An employee of ours told me once about how great one of my friends, Rich, was. "Oh, he's just great, a real normal, down-to-earth guy." When I told her that Rich ran the largest division of an orthopedic company, she replied, "Oh, well he's different than the rest of those execs, then. He's a real person."

We can't profile execs anymore than we should anyone else. They're human beings and when they are successful, it's usually because of the good things--not the bad things--they do.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Thursday, December 24, 2009

It's in the Dirt

Ask a winemaker and you'll hear what makes the ultimate wine. "The dirt." Without great soil and growing conditions, no one can make a great wine.

The same at corporations. Why are some corporations destined to struggle while others thrive? Sometimes, it's in the "dirt."

The dirt at a corporation is the culture, the foundation of everything that company is made of. That explains why some corporations consistently stumble. They have issues at their very core they can't cover up or hide. These issues will continue to occur unless something extraordinary happens.

One answer is to move your company. My company, LaBov & Beyond Marketing Communications, has seen numerous clients re-locate across the country. At first glance that might appear to be foolish and expensive. But it can be smart. One advantage is they settle on new soil--which means their new environment brings a different kind of employee and a different local culture. The old way of doing business gives way organically to the new environment.

Another way to look at this concept is to identify what in your "dirt" keeps bringing you success? If you're experiencing a tremendous success, then it's never a good idea to change your soil, it's an ideal time to focus on it and bring out its best.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Great "New" Source for Ideas

One of the things I love most is bringing a new idea to someone--especially if it's something that never has been done before.

In the marketing and advertising business, most of the time those breakthrough ideas are presented, it's to a prospect. Most agencies and suppliers gear up for the cool ideas when it means taking them to a new prospect.

There is a far better source for your best ideas: your clients.

There's more than meets the eye to this. It's not just the fact a supplier might be too enamored with a new prospect as opposed to a client. It's also about the relationship with the client. Often, the client just wants what they ask for. They're busy, they don't want to be bothered, they're under pressure, etc. The account person doesn't want to bother or irritate them.

Suppliers have to fight the temptation to allow the status quo to continue. We must pleasantly, yet firmly, bring new ideas to help our clients. And clients, you not only need to want that, but also appreciate those suppliers that care enough to push for it.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Change: Reality or Casualty of the Culture?

If you're a corporation that needs fresh ideas and wants to shake things up, congrats. Good thinking. Our company, LaBov & Beyond Marketing Communications, loves when clients want to break the mold. But...

One thing to keep in mind: too frequently, things never end up changing. And here's one reason why:
Quite often, the fresh ideas that are created to help the corporation overcome its cultural issues (problems) are being judged and rejected by the very people who represent and embrace those cultural issues (problems).
In other words, the people that need to change are judging, and in many cases, stopping the change from occurring.

If you really, truly want change, then make sure the right people are in charge of the movement. Otherwise, it will be another casualty of the culture.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond Marketing Communications

Monday, December 21, 2009

Four Questions for Dealers (Sales Channel) to Answer

If you're a dealer or the sales channel (distributor, rep or agent) for at least one manufacturer, here are four questions to answer:

1) Are you entrepreneurial? Believe it or not, many dealers struggle with this. Yet, the primary reason a manufacturer links up with a dealer is that dealer is supposed to be entrepreneurial, to want to sell, grow business, expand, etc. The best dealers are hungry, they're looking for more business, they know they're customers, they have a long-term view and they take their business personally. That stuff is impossible for a behemoth manufacturer. Don't become them.

2) Is your staff a bunch of order-takers or order-makers? Not just your sales staff, but your service staff--are they looking to grow business or are they sitting around waiting for it to come to them?

3) How well-trained is your staff? Today it's easy to be trained. The manufacturer offers it. There are plenty of outlets offering training. Your staff must be experts. They must know significantly more than today's Internet savvy customer or they render your dealership useless.

4) Do you "own" the customer or do the brands they buy from you "own" them? If you merely represent and sell brands that customers want, what is your value? If, on the other hand, the customer loves and trusts you and will consider any brand you represent, that's a totally different story. You have value, you have security and no doubt you will prosper.

A sales channel that is entrepreneurial, expertly trained, that generates business and has customer loyalty is extraordinarily valuable--not only to the customer but to the manufacturer. And, BTW, it's also highly profitable.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Friday, December 18, 2009

Four Questions for Manufacturers to Answer

Here are four questions for manufacturers that sell through sales channels to answer.

1) How engaged is your sales channel? Do you look at your sales channel as a necessary evil or are they an extension of your Brand? Do you talk down to them or are they eye-to-eye with you?

2) How willing are you to be vulnerable and open with your key suppliers? Your suppliers know more than you give them credit for. They probably would love to be engaged deeper with you. All you have to do is ask.

3) How inspired is your product? Is your offering a me-too or an original? Does it motivate, do people smile when they talk about it?

4) How internally focused versus externally focused are you? Is there a very clear understanding of the customer and who they are and what they want? Or is the corporation focused on itself, its politics, and its processes?

A manufacturer that has a fired-up sales channel, dedicated supplier partners, inspired product and an intimacy with their customers can only win.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond Marketing Communications

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The best bet in this economy

As the economy is supposedly improving, already you hear companies saying things are on the upswing. That feels good. But let's look at reality.

It is conceivable the economy and the stock market will improve, but that doesn't mean we're out of trouble. We're in uncharted territory. What will the deficit mean to all of this? What about the numerous regulatory laws that will be affecting industries? Inflation? Deflation? De-valuing of the dollar?

There are too many unknowns out there due to the uniqueness of our economic situation. The best bet? Stay hungry, be aggressive.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Amish RV Company: The Best-Kept Secret

My company, LaBov & Beyond Marketing Communications, worked with an Amish recreational vehicle company for years. I love the response when I tell people that--they always smile. It sounds like the opening line to a joke. But it was no joke.

The president at the time, who was a fantastic gentleman, told me they were "the best-kept secret" in the RV business. They made the best product, but few people knew about them.
Think about it. When is it ever good to be a "best-kept secret"? Maybe if you were a secret agent or in the CIA. But if you sell a product and it's a secret, you're in trouble.
I told the president, after he hired us, that if one year from that day they were still a best-kept secret, we'd resign the account--too humiliating to be the marketing agency for a best-kept secret.

Turns out the Amish RV company made a great product, but other than putting out brochures, they never engaged their dealers to sell. They took care of customers' problems brilliantly, but never reached out to them otherwise.

All we did was help them balance their approach to marketing (less focus on brochures, more focus on generating action, improving the customer experience, and energizing the dealers).

And by the way, the Amish were fun to work with.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond Marketing Communications

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Five signs of entrepreneurial dealership salespeople

As an entrepreneur, it's clear to me. Dealership salespeople, in general, are order-takers. Some are well-trained order takers. Some are high-performing order-takers. But most are order-takers. They are like most sales people.

It's easy to identify an entrepreneurial dealer salespeople. They generate business. They:
  1. Join business networking clubs to meet people that might buy their products
  2. Use LinkedIn and other social media to make connections
  3. Mine their client list to make sure clients are satisfied and to learn of referrals
  4. Conduct their own sales events. For example, they invite their customers to dealership to see new product or just to thank them
  5. Keep ongoing communication with their clients and prospects. For example, they may have their own newsletter or if nothing else they send press clippings of new products when appropriate to this list.
An entrepreneurial salesperson is gold--and they make gold. The bad news is most salespeople are order-takers. The good news is if you're an entrepreneurial one, you're going to beat the others left and right. And if you're a manufacturer with an entrepreneurial sales force, you're an unstoppable force.

Barry laBov
LaBov and Beyond

Monday, December 14, 2009

A powerful incentive for dealers

Corporations that sell through sales channels often ponder on which is the best way to motivate their dealers. How much money? How much hold-back on the product? Should it be a tiered discount system? Should there be sales incentives?

Sure, money is great as an incentive, who can so no to more money? But there is another option if you (the manufacturer) qualifies.

If you have a hero product, the kind that sells itself, the kind that is the one product that the sales channel is begging you to send more of, then use it as an incentive.
If you manufacture five products and you want all five to be represented by the sales channel (not just the hero), then reward the channel with more hero product to sell if it also sells a mix of the other products (you determine the mix). This will force the channel to focus on the other product--they will have to learn about it, be trained on it, and actually generate business for those other products. The channel will make more money and they'll also be able to sell more hero product,too. And by the way, the manufacturer makes more money.

Now all the manufacturer has to do is be able to make more hero products...

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Friday, December 11, 2009

The three "must-do" email communication secrets

We have plenty of emails flying into our lives everyday. It's like Chinese Water Torture. Bling, in comes an email. We read it, then go back to what we were doing. Bling, another email. And so on.

Here are three important secrets to communicating via email:

1) Make sure your communication is clear enough that it doesn't require another email to clarify. Too often, an email comes in stating merely, "Had an interesting discussion with Rhames. He needs to change the schedule." What does that mean? Was it a good or bad "interesting" discussion? What is the new schedule? Will we be able to meet it? Clarify, clarify, clarify.

2) Write it with the understanding that anyone--I mean anyone--could read it. Any derogatory or negative statement you write may end up on the screen of someone not intended to read it.

3) No mass emails. Sure there are going to be a few now and then, but I've done research on this. There are people who receive numerous mass emails and there are others in the same position who almost never do. If you help propagate mass emails, they will come back to you. If you never respond en mass to them, they will almost never come back. Respond one-on-one unless necessary.

We have too much going on to increase the interference and confusion in our business lives.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Push and Pull

In marketing there's a concept called "push marketing," which is basically pushing your product on your dealers. Making them stock your stuff so they feel the pressure to sell.

Then there's "pull marketing," meaning the dealers or customers are demanding your product, they're pulling it from you. Obviously, the ideal is to be in a "pull" position. You can demand a better price, better terms and there is healthy competition for your product.

At large and small corporations, there's the same phenomena. There are "push" people and "pull" people. The "push"people are the ones that need be forced to do their jobs, they have to be checked up on, they take orders and do little else. The "pull" people are the ones that want more opportunity, they have ideas and take ownership for them.

In this economy, there is no more room for "push" employees. In essence, in many cases those employees push themselves out the door. The higher the percentage of "pull" employees a corporation has, the better its success.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Technology and Mediocrity

Way back in the old days, a good musician had to play rhythmically and accurately to be considered good. Then came computers. A decent software program would allow a sloppy performance to be loaded in and then be corrected so it was tight and error-free.

In the old days, a graphic artist actually drew things with a pen or pencil. The artist would use a razor blade and cut out the art work and glue it (paste it) on to their boards. Then a computer program came along that allowed the computer to draw and also to cut and paste anything.

Now, the big craze is social media. A few people are really mastering it and are making a living utilizing it. Social media will only get bigger. But technology will also continue to creep in to its space. Right now, few people are great at it. In a couple years or less, there will be scores of software programs that will do to social media what they did to music and graphic arts: it will become easier to be mediocre.

The technology doesn't make the musician or the graphic artist more creative, but it does help anyone get up to the level of mediocrity a lot easier. Social media will be the same.

Lesson: if you think you're pretty good at it today, you better keep growing and learning because technology will be nipping at your heels.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Monday, December 7, 2009

Brands are vanishing around us

Another casualty of this economy is that brands are disappearing and if we don't stop and realize, we may not notice they're gone.

Plymouth, Oldsmobile, and Saturn have vanished over the last few years. Buell Motorcycles also just announced it was closing down.

It's no longer just the lay-offs and down-sizing that are going on. Brands are being cut. A sign of tough times.

This is the beginning of brand reductions. It's simply too expensive to fund and subsidize brands that can't pay for themselves.

It used to be that an individual had to "pay for himself (or herself)" in order to ensure he (she) could keep his job. Now, brands are being expected to do the same.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Friday, December 4, 2009

One on One Gets it Done

We've all heard the saying, "The more the merrier." I think that's true when it comes to ideas--the more ideas on the table, the more likely you'll find a great one.

But when it comes to making a presentation or discussing a difficult issue, it doesn't ring true. If you are truly committed and truly believe, then a one-on-one is far more effective than bringing three or four (or more) people with you.

Ask yourself this the next time you work with a client or present an idea: Am I bringing in the fewest people as possible or am I bringing in more people because it feels better or because it looks impressive?

Another thing about being going one-on-one when there's an issue--it takes guts. It's not easy. But it reaps dividends. You can make real progress, talk about the most sensitive issues. And you're respected for having that courage. That won't happen if you bring in a troupe.

When it comes to ideas, the more the merrier. When it comes to communications, the fewer the better.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Why isn't there more entrepreneurial thinking at dealerships?

You'd think that dealerships would be a hotbed for entrepreneurial behavior. That's what manufacturers that use dealers expect: the manufacturer builds something and the dealer sells it. By why is there so much friction between those two entities?

One answer is that dealerships quite often are not entrepreneurial. Sure, they started out that way when Dad or Grandpa or Grandma founded them. But today, most dealerships are family businesses and it's the second or even third generation that is in charge. Those second and third generation folks are smart, but quite often they're a different breed. They're more conservative, less risk-taking. They are focused are maintaining the business, less on growing it.

Sometimes dealerships are started by enthusiasts or technical people, such as engineers or mechanics. Again, they may be brilliant, but thinking like an entrepreneur is a stretch for them.

It's time we realized that training is an answer--but not the traditional product, technical or soft-skills training. We need a new kind of training and development: to awaken the entrepreneur at our dealerships or at least open their eyes to entrepreneurial thinking.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

An Eleven Year Old Can See It

I was sitting at a little league baseball game watching a great game until, unexpectedly something happened. It had been a close game between a good team and a struggling team until that losing team fell apart, giving up the maximum number of runs in the last innings to lose the game. I was dumbfounded. How could this happen, it was almost impossible? Then I heard a little voice behind me say, "I knew they'd do this."

I turned around and it was an eleven-year-old ballplayer waiting for this game to end so his team could start their game. I asked him, "How did you know this disaster would take place?"

He said, "Simple. The team that lost didn't believe in themselves. They gave up and the other team sensed it." "Yeah," said a chorus of his teammates as they picked up their gear and headed to the dugout to get ready for their game.

Think about it--if you don't believe in yourself or your company or your product, I bet your customers sense it, I bet your competitors sense it.

Maybe what the eleven-year-old said explains why we make presentations and the customer doesn't buy-in or why some people sell a lot and others fail--all selling the same product and brand.

We have to believe, we have to give it everything we have or our customers will sense we're not committed, that we don't believe. And we can't fake it--our customers and our competitors will know. Just ask any eleven-year-old.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Erin's House, a great example of a non-profit

My company, LaBov & Beyond Marketing Communications, supports a non-profit that provides counseling and therapy for children who have lost their parents to death. This non-profit, Erin's House, is a dream to work with. We provide our creative services pro bono (free) and yet it's an exhilarating experience because of their cause and because of the way Erin's House conducts itself.

Erin's House is the rare non-profit that inspires its suppliers. They allow our creatives to do their best work. One of owners, Cathy Schannen, works closely with their board to produce print pieces and to help them raise funds. Cathy is fired up about helping them, which has infected me to feel the same.

Non-profits are struggling. They need to learn from Erin's House: choose your suppliers--don't put them to bid against each other. Allow the supplier to do their best work. Include the supplier in their events and be part of their family.

There are millions of non-profits with great causes. Yet, most are in peril. Non-profits: choose your partners and show them loyalty; allow them to help you and feel a part of your cause.

Barry LaBov
President, LaBov and Beyond

Monday, November 30, 2009

Listen closely, there's a change going on

I just went to a get-together, a reunion of sorts and got to listen to dozens of people talking about their lives. It was enlightening. I believe had this meeting taken place two years ago, I would have heard something completely different.

To a person, people said they were pressured by the economy and had readjusted their goals downward. They spoke of their hobbies and part-time pursuits glowingly. Most of them were employed, but were if anything--underemployed--working ultra-flexible jobs at a lower income than they previously had. That flexibility allowed them to play music on the weekend or pursue their art careers, for example.

Location was an interesting topic--most of the people worked at home or at least had the option to work at home when they wanted.

Were they stressed out or unhappy? I'd have to say they were grounded in reality--they were making less money, they had less job security, but they had jobs, flexibility and were pursuing some interesting things.

How does that affect business? I think it says there are plenty of us out there that no longer expect a corner office or high salary (along with the high stress of that job), there are throngs who would like to jump into an opportunity that pays decently, but more importantly offers possibilities--like working from home, playing gigs during the week or hanging out with the kids.

We all know that we have a new economy. Now, we're getting to meet the new work force.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Friday, November 27, 2009

Different Kind of Energy

The nation and the world are obsessed with energy--saving it, conserving it, creating it in new ways. Listen to young people talk and you'll learn that energy is invaluable to them. They are mesmerized with solar energy, hybrids, wind farms, etc. Very exciting.

Why is this? It's because we've been lazy for so many years that we're threatening our existence. We've gone along with what is easiest without realizing that we can do better. Now, we're waking up to this and are drawn to new forms of energy like a magnet.

There's another energy that we can provide: personal energy. In our businesses, think of whom you'd rather work with with on your team--a drowsy order-taker or someone who's engaged and energized? For too long, our robust economy has allowed many of us to sleepwalk, it's time to wake up..

If you're a supplier, your client wants someone who will charge them up. If you're a manufacturer, your dealers want you to fire them up. If you're a dealer, your manufacturer wants a dynamic dealer base to propel them forward and to inspire them to engineer and produce the best products.

Sure, we have to be sincere and we have to be focused, not just excited. But our job with our employees, our dealers, our manufacturers--whomever--is to crank it up, to be their department of energy.

In a numb business world, the person or the corporation that ignites the passion in others will stand out and will energize.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Looking out for #1 is looking out for no one

With an economy such as this, there are fewer opportunities for everyone. Companies are fighting over the crumbs they used to step over.

That's why a corporation with a sales channel can't afford to protect itself against the very pipeline it sells products through.

That's why dealers or reps can't protect themselves against the "factory"--the very source it receives the product it sells to customers.

There are enough competitors for the manufacturers and their sales channels out there--they don't need to be competitors themselves. They have to work together, even if imperfectly, to identify and act on how they can be their best. Then they'll have a better chance to beat their mutual competition.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and beyond

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A goal bigger than ourselves

How can you protect yourself in this economy? How can you make sure your company isn't a casualty of the recession?

The answer is to focus on something bigger than yourself. We can all spot a person who is trying to sell you on how important they are. Or a person who is hiding, keeping their head down to survive one more day. We can easily identify a company that has pulled back and is merely going through the motions.

A person or a company that is primarily focused on themselves , will not thrive. Only the ones with a mandate that focuses on bringing real value to others will.

It's scary, but if an employee thinks his/her job is in jeopardy, the only course of action is to make sure he/she is making a positive difference at the workplace, regardless of how he/she looks at a given moment. It will be difficult to eliminate that person or position even in a bad economy.

The only opportunity for a company to ensure it survives and thrives is to make sure its lifeline--the customer--is feeling the love, getting the attention and the respect it deserves. It will make it almost impossible for the customer to eliminate them--why should they if they're doing well?

Surviving is no fun. Thriving and growing are. We have to serve, to think about and to dream for something beyond just our own well being. What's your goal or dream?

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond Marketing Communications

Monday, November 23, 2009

More on Passion, Bravery and Joy

A previous post focused on a way to live, a way to do business--PB&J or Passion, Bravery and Joy.

Think of passion and bravery as your behavior, it's how you are at your best. Today we need all the passion and bravery we can muster. When there's passion and bravery, we have the chance for some breakthroughs--that's the "joy."

Walk through most corporations--how does it feel? Is it morose or can you feel the energy, the enthusiasm--the "joy"?

Very few corporations actively promote passion and bravery. But those few people that flourish and make a positive difference have a heavy dose of PB&J. They show the energy and belief in their company. They think of exciting ideas or opportunities and they pursue them courageously, even against the odds. That's passion and bravery.

The result is a person or an organization that truly makes a positive impact. And let's realize that skipping around the office excited doesn't bring you any results, you need not just passion, but the courage to make things happen to get those results--the joy.

My company, LaBov & Beyond Marketing Communications, is writing a book on Passion, Bravery and Joy and would like your help.

What people, what companies do you know that are living PB&J? Send us your recommendations. We're now considering which individuals and corporations to feature. Our goal is to celebrate those with PB&J and inspire all of us to spread PB&J in our business lives and our personal lives.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond Marketing Communications

Thursday, November 19, 2009


PB&J stands for more than peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It stands for a way to do business.

At our company, LaBov & Beyond Marketing Communications, PB&J in business stands for Passion, Bravery and Joy. It's a mantra, a direction, a guideline, and a litmus test. It can work for all businesses. Try it out.

Too often in business you can have enthusiasm and a great idea (passion) but don't have the courage (bravery) to stand up for it. In the end, you get nothing.

Sometimes you can have guts (bravery) but don't have anything unique, exciting or inspiring (passion) to show to the customer. Again, you don't succeed.

Sometimes, you can just take orders - no passion or bravery there. And no reason for the customer to be thrilled with you, either.

But when you have the passion - those great ideas, the infectious enthusiasm coupled with the bravery to express that passion in whatever way necessary to get it resonate with your customer, you can achieve magic.

That magic is the "J" or the joy that you get when you help that client, when your project moves mountains, and your customer can't dream about working with anyone but you. That's joy. Your customer-facing people will view joy as customer retention; the designers, engineers and creative people will recognize joy as the brilliant idea that became reality. Your accountants will look at joy as profit and financial security for your company.

PB&J is never fully achieved every day 24/7. It's not possible, but the better we strive for it, the better we perform and the more fun and results we achieve. Feel free to spread it.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Results versus Body of Work

Results are crucial, we all know that. Just as bad as being oblivious to results is being blinded by results.

Here's what I mean. If you have a goal, a deadline, or a milestone and you achieve it by smartly utilizing resources, engaging your team and thoroughly pleasing your client, then Bravo!

But if you ultimately achieved that goal, yet there are disconnects on your team, resources were grossly wasted and the client was reluctantly satisfied; then that's nothing to brag about. Yet, we do usually brag about it, because, hey, we made the goal.
We have to look at the "Body of Work" when determining whether we succeed or not. The "Body of Work" means what exactly happened, was it positive, did we achieve the goals and did we do it in a healthy, appropriate manner? If we had to push, prod, twist, and slide into home plate at the last second to meet the deadline, then we have to judge that performance on the whole picture--the "Body of Work," which means that we did not truly succeed.
Results, when achieved poorly, are ultimately detrimental. Results achieved in a healthy, engaging way are the recipe for long-term success.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Following up on follow-up

An earlier post focused on follow-up. How often are we following-up as promised? How often are we being followed-up on as promised by suppliers, co-workers and so on?

I think a critical indicator of success is follow-up. The most successful people and organizations follow up as a rule, not as an option.
Many times, we neglect to follow up because we have no news or worse yet, we have bad news. To further add fuel to the fire, when we don't receive the promised follow-up we often assume it's because of something negative: there's bad news or that the supplier/co-worker just doesn't care.
It's key to separate the results from the effort. You can't control what the news is--whether or not it's good. But you can control whether or not you follow up.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and beyond

Monday, November 16, 2009

Can't Buy Me Love or Happiness

We know the stock market is down, the GNP is down, the economic indicators are down. We know most companies are seeing less sales and profit.

But does that mean that everybody is also less happy? Some consumer research shows that people are actually happier than they were a year or so ago.

Maybe it's because we've learned we can do without. Maybe we have learned that we need to appreciate what we have.

Maybe some businesses are closer to their customers, more focused on creating great products or services.

Business indicators can be down, but that doesn't have to affect happiness.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Friday, November 13, 2009

The good old days are not coming back

After this recession is over--some say it has already passed while others say we have another "dip" to deal with--we have to face one thing: the old days are not coming back.

I don't think that is a negative or positive statement, just merely fact.

There will be industries that do not recover, there will jobs or positions that will go unfilled. Yet a new economy will roll forward.

What are you doing to make sure your job is valuable today and in the future? What are we doing to make sure our businesses are relevant today and tomorrow? What are manufacturers doing to make sure their new products are viable today and tomorrow?

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Decision: Fun Stuff or Profitable Stuff?

Large corporations have an interesting dilemma today--do they focus on the profitable products they produce or do they funnel resources toward the more exciting opportunities out there?

With technology speeding ahead faster than ever, some corporations are focusing on new products, new segments and new ways of communicating. These efforts can be exhilarating and they often feel right.

At the same time if we don't watch out, the tried and true product that is allowing the corporation to survive, may be ignored. In tough economies, this can spell disaster.

Consider this : there is a corporation that makes most of its profit from one product. Yet, its energies--its emotions--are focused on a small segment that represents no profit and very little in sales. Another corporation is forsaking its bread and butter services and instead has most of its resources focused on communicating with customers in unique and fun ways.

In each of these cases, there has to be a balance. Today, there isn't enough business to go around to allow a corporation to take its eye off the ball (profitable products) and still thrive.

New ideas and technologies are vital for future growth, but you have to have a future in order to use them.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Resourcefulness--the new value story

In our new economy, it's obvious that cheap has become chic. It is cool to save money, to hold off buying. Bankers will tell you that people aren't spending over their means like they once did. This is not bad, in fact there is a lot of good to this.

My buddy, the brilliant Dan Merchant, told me a great way to describe the new approach people are taking in their purchasing: resourcefulness.

People are more resourceful. They want as much as ever, but want it for less. They'll forsake the unimportant stuff, but still want the really important stuff. They'll spend three days at the Ritz at a reduced rate instead six days at full rate. They'll shop for a great tasting wine that costs $18 instead of loading up on the $200 stuff that has cache but lower ratings.

Getting more for less and being involved in the decision--that's what consumers are doing and that's what manufacturers have to realize in creating their products. People don't want crappy, inexpensive stuff--they want cool stuff (not necessarily stuff that is perfect or bloated with all the extras) that they can get at a great price.

Now it's our job to help our customers feel resourceful.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Follow-up: Lost Art, Secret Weapon or Business as Usual?

Take a quick inventory. How often (what percentage of the time) do people follow-up as promised? If you're a corporate exec, how often do your people report back as promised on the various issues you've discussed? How often do your suppliers or partners live up to what they said and communicate it to you? Or do you have to track down those individuals or teams to learn what is going on?

If you're a supplier--how often do you follow-up as promised on all expected information--good and not-so-good?

And internally at your company, how often do you follow-up as promised on what you've committed to with your superiors, co-workers or direct reports?

Follow-up, you'd think, should be a no-brainer. You promise, you do. But today it is not a given. Too often, follow-up is an option.

Do yourself a favor. Track what your follow-up score is--how often you live up to what you've said to others. And track the follow-up score of those that report to you (suppliers or direct reports).

I'll follow-up with more on this subject. I promise.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Monday, November 9, 2009

New Competitor for Service Firms?

If you're an aggressive service firm, you not only focus on the customer, but you're also well aware of your competition. The competition today may be hyper-aggressive, or it may be in a slumber - either way, it's imperative that you know their status.

There is a new competitor that we need to be aware of today: the customers themselves. More customers are taking services in-house. They see no problem pulling in basic functions ranging from Web to marketing to customer relations and so on.

There are two reasons for them doing this. 1) Obviously, it saves saves money, at least initially. But the biggest reason it's being done is 2) it's viewed as a way to increase job security. If they can have their in-house team produce services, that team would seem to be less likely to be laid-off, they would be proving their value to the organization.

I have no issue with the client going in-house, if those services can be done by them just as well as their supplier would do them. But as suppliers, we need to make sure our clients understand the real value we bring - that may influence whether they bring that work in-house.

Otherwise, if suppliers don't make clear what unique value and talent they bring, they have another competitor in a crowded recessionary market.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Friday, November 6, 2009

Corporate Speak Hindrance

People are simple. I know I'm real simple - ask anyone who knows me. Things are so complicated today that we have no more room for more complexity and interference.

We have too many choices for entertainment, for information, for news and for political views. We have too many choices for management advice. Too many options for transportation and communication - do you want to communicate in-person, on the web, on the phone, via email, over LinkedIn, Facebook or by smoke signals?

Which leads to those things we use to communicate with others: words. We already have enough words, yet we are creating new ones and we're adding acronyms almost on an hourly basis. Go to this site if you want to see a list of some of the corporate lingo we overuse daily.

Do you want to break through and really inspire people? Talk clearly, avoid the corporate speak and be real. Avoid the useless language that gets in the way.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Old Dog, New Dog

Sometimes we old dogs get complacent. We have it figured out. Then a new dog comes along and we're uncomfortable. After some time, we get a little more used to it. Then we might even get a little energized. And maybe, we actually have more fun with that new dog than we've had in a long time.

Whether we're talking about the workplace or whether we're actually talking about about canines, it's all the same.

Team up an established employee with a hungry, enthusiastic one and you might see some great results.

If nothing else, it'll be fun to watch.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

PS I thank Sonya (young pup) for giving this old dog this insight.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

You can spot the most successful people

The rap on successful people is that they're egotistical, they're selfish, and they're brash. Of course, that's an understandable prejudice, since it's perpetrated by people who feel they aren't successful--how else can they rationalize their shortcomings?

In truth, the successful people I've known are generally pretty nice, fair and giving people. After all, they've been successful due to others wanting and helping them to succeed - who would want a lousy, selfish jerk to do well?

Those real successful people are also smart, but no smarter than most of us. They just somehow have that drive and focus to achieve, yet at the same time, have involved and engaged others in the journey.

Not all the great successes I've known are nice, but more often than not, they have plenty of good traits. Even the difficult ones usually are pretty decent once you get to understand them.

Our world is all about people and very few of us can succeed without their support and belief.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Statements You May Not Realize You're Making

Think about this:

One afternoon at 4:30 p.m., a corporate CEO announces tough decisions - he lays off 3,000 employees, cuts benefits, shutters factories and takes away things like company picnics and holiday parties.

The next morning at 7:55 a.m., he drives in to the office in his $120k luxury sports car to start the day.

There's something wrong with this picture if you happen to be the ex-employee, current employee or local citizen.

There's a statement being made that no longer works. It used to be if your CEO drove that $120k car, it implied that your company was on the rise, going somewhere. Now that statement could be interpreted as: there's a CEO looking out for himself (or herself) who doesn't care about the little guy.

I think corporate business jets, if properly utilized, can help grow business. But there's no real rationale for the $120k luxury car parked in the CEO's parking space.

By the way: I'm not in any way throwing stones at the CEO. The car is probably on lease or part of the employment package. But it will be judged nonetheless.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Monday, November 2, 2009

I Met This Famous Guy

Back when I had hair, I was in a rock band. I loved, and practically worshiped, some of the great rock bands. I recently met a guy that was involved with many of my rock-and-roll heroes.

I couldn't wait to ask him the questions I'd stored up for decades. Then I met him.

Basically, every question I asked was dismissed. His view of the era was dramatically different from mine. You see, he was a performer in the era; I was a spectator. I glorified what he was involved with. He looked at it as his job - one he really loved, but a job nonetheless.

Freud said "Sometimes, a cigar is merely a cigar." Sometimes we (I) blow things out of proportion when they are merely no more than what they are.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Let the software take care of that

A multi-million dollar IT project is running behind. No one seems to be saying anything about it. Its failure could be catastrophic. Yet no one is stirring. Why?


The project manager knows there's an issue and has been ignoring the repeated email alerts from the software program. Her other team members know there's an issue and are wondering when she's going to do something. The accountant knows there's a problem and sees the printouts and is frustrated waiting for a response.


Just like handing off responsibilities to your subordinate, handing off responsibilities to a software program is a critical error.

Two options: uninstall the software or get off your chair and go meet with human beings to discuss, learn and solve.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Superstar mentality

"He's a superstar at the office." "She's unbelievable." "He's the most creative person around." "We have the best team anywhere."
We hear superlatives all day long and we let them go without testing them:
Is he really a superstar or is he good, with a lot of room to improve?

Is she unbelievable or is she really above average?

Is he the most creative person or is he really strong in one particular area?

Do we have the best team in the world or are we comparing ourselves to ourselves?

One problem with superlatives is that we believe them. That doesn't help the performers who have the potential to be truly great--if anything it demotivates them.

Another problem with superlatives is that often they are not about the person or team being "superlatived," they are about the person handing out the superlative--it makes them look good, nice, etc.

We need to test and challenge our superlatives if we're going grow any true "superstars."

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Monday, October 26, 2009

Waiting for the shoe to drop

I work with an executive who told me he was expecting to be fired or demoted at any minute. That thought was in his head all day long for weeks, if not months.

He's a great guy, very sincere, very smart and yet he was preparing his "failure speech", kind of like you'd see at a press conference after a sporting event. You know, when the losing coach gets up and puts a spin on how the team lost. What a waste.

It's tempting to have the "failure speech" prepared and to practice it until it sounds pretty convincing. But that takes a lot of energy, focus and time--which are just what you need to overcome whatever it is that you need to do to succeed.
Why not forget the "failure speech" and put the time on fixing the issues; or better yet, enjoying what you're doing?

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Friday, October 23, 2009

Need to increase sales? Think small...

A manufacturer with 300 dealers has approximately 1000 dealership salespeople that offer its products. Those salespeople also sell other brands, sometimes competitive brands. If you could crawl inside their heads, how much of their focus and attention is on that manufacturer's brand?

I'd guess that the answer would be: not very much. So logically that manufacturer figures it needs more salespeople. But that isn't true. They need less. Far less.

They need one or two dealership salespeople per dealer that are steeped in their brand, that think of their brand first. If each of those 300 dealers had one die hard dedicated salesperson focused on their brand, they could move mountains.

In conjunction with our client, we focused on one salesperson per dealership--we trained, motivated, and incentive-ized that one person. The result: that one person helped increase sales 35%. That one person made a lot of money. That one person also woke up the other salespeople to how viable our client's brand was.

We have to fight logic and think small--think about the difference one person (who is totally engaged) can make.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hard to feel loyalty

I was talking to a friend who works at a huge conglomerate. He told me he always checks the paper and the internet to see what companies are looking to hire.

I asked him why. After all, he made a nice living. Why wasn't he showing loyalty?

He had a good answer.

His company had gone through six lay-offs in the last year. It's hard to figure you have a future with all that going on.

Good point. They probably would have been better off doing a huge lay-off instead of pacing them to occur every two months or so.

Barry LaBov
LaBoiv and Beyond

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Used to be you'd be embarrassed if you told people that you wore a lot of hats at your company. As a business owner, it was a sign of weakness to admit that your accountant also answered the phone and was a great PR person for your shop.
But today, it's a sign of engagement that people do more than one thing at the company. And it's smart.
Some days there's no need for one thing that you do. Good thing you wear those other hats.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Falling in love with a sweetheart product

It's easy to be fired up about a great product your company makes: it's clever, it's ingenuous, it works and it's been increasing sales at a 30% clip for the last year. Sounds amazing. But...

Do you have other products that are old (mature) that still outsell the sweetheart? Are you profitable with those products? Do customers love those products too?

We have to treat our product lines like we should treat our children--with no favoritism.

That sweetheart product may be cool, but it may not make you any money. That old dog product may be helping to fund the sweetheart--let's show the old dog a little love.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Monday, October 19, 2009

Freelance or Hire or ?????

With all the people unemployed in our nation, we have a shift towards becoming a freelance economy.

Why hire a high-level exec when you can pay them by the assignment? Why hire a full-time engineer when you can get a world-class engineer to design your system freelance?

I think there are three factors that would influence the decision to hire versus pay-per-project (freelance). Those factors are:

1) Frequency
2) Extraordinary talent
3) People skills

I'll start with frequency--if you need that person's talent daily--eight hours a day--it is probably smart to hire a full-time person.

Second, if you encounter someone with extraordinary talent and you don't want anyone else to have it, it may be the right move to hire that person as an employee.

The third factor is most fascinating. If you need the talent a lot, and the person you interview is fairly talented, and he/she is fantastic with people, then don't let the person leave your building un-hired. However, if the person is a soloist--a talented one--then why hire full-time when you can get his/her best attributes on a per-project basis?

It's funny, but we need employees that inspire and bring out the best in all of us. If we interview a person that can do just that, they're worth their weight in gold. If they are merely a very talented engineer or designer, they're better left off the payroll and need to be hired on a per-project basis.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Two kinds of retirement

Practically everyone grows up thinking that someday each of us will be able to retire and not have to work anymore. That means we'll have to have saved up enough money to do that, because there no longer will be a salary check coming every two weeks.

There is another type of retirement that will be threatened more than ever today: on-the-job retirement. You know, the person that has effectively quit but is still showing up getting a paycheck.
On-the-job retirement will be exposed during recessions because everything will be scrutinized including the guy or lady who has been a mystery to many employees but has somehow skated through for years.

It's easy to be resentful toward that person, but they aren't alone in the problem. The company has allowed it and the other employees have looked the other way, which has clouded the situation, even to the person who has retired on the job. He or she may not fully realize it, so there's always the chance they could wake up to it and try to contribute.

Maybe from time to time we all retire on-the-job for a day or two. But a vibrant company can't allow valuable resources (people or money) to be squandered. On-the-job retirement may need to be retired.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Nothing exists until it does

A great insight into the most productive and successful people is they seem to have a lot going on, yet are not bogged down by it all.

Conversely, many equally talented people seem to chronically underachieve because they can't handle all the stress of what might happen if they close the deal or if they take on another assignment, etc.

The most successful people I've known look at it this way: Nothing exists until it does. Until that deal is closed, there's no reason to fret, no reason to worry how we'll do it because we've always been able to come through before. Until that new responsibility is reality, it is not a worry. Don't concern yourself about the five prospects all deciding to say yes at the same time until it happens (which is highly doubtful--but wow, what a great problem!).
I had a friend who was stressed out one day. He told me he was immobilized due to the big event he was producing for a major client. I asked a few questions of him only to find out that 1) the event was not yet reality and 2) if and when it did become reality, my friend wouldn't be engaged in it for at least three months from then.

Nothing exists until it does. Once it does, you tackle it.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Lowest-Price Assumption

A common trap that we fall into when the economy is bad is assuming that a low price will guarantee a sale. That's called the lowest-price assumption. While a ridiculously high price will ensure no sale happens, we can't assume that a low price is all the customer is looking for.

Even in tough economies, people want high quality stuff. They don't want the cheapest, poorly made item. They still want the best, or at least something they consider high quality.

So if we make the lowest-price assumption, it means we feel the pressure to provide the best product at the lowest price, which of course means we lose either way: if they don't buy, we lose a sale, and if they do buy, we lose money.

It still comes down to relationships--do customers trust you, are they comfortable telling you what they want--do they want you to get into their businesses? If all of that is a yes, then the rest is easy--providing them with the product they want at a fair price.

If you don't do the above, there isn't a low enough price that will overcome it.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Monday, October 12, 2009

The most talented person I've known

My Uncle Irv was without a doubt the most talented person I've ever known.

At the age of six, he played percussion in the Philadelphia Philharmonic Orchestra. During High School, he was a sports star.

In WW II, he was a war hero and fell in love with a German girl, Lydia, who was his wife until he passed away a couple of years ago.

He gave up playing sports and music to coach boys baseball and even had a future star on his team (I asked Uncle Irv about that kid and he told me, "He was a skinny kid, good hitter, great fielder, nicest boy on the team--his name was Reggie Jackson").

He then became a carpentry and shop teacher in the Philadelphia school system until he retired.

During that time, he began painting portraits, which was his hobby for the rest of his life.

Throughout he was fiercely dedicated to his family. He was the only person other than my dad who taught me how to play baseball.

I think of Uncle Irv often. Here's what I've learned from him:

Few of us know how much talent we have
Few of us follow our passions
Few of us spend time helping kids
Few of us, despite our talents and our distractions, know our priorities

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Friday, October 9, 2009

Dealership salespeople or entrepreneurs?

Fewer people are walking into dealerships to shop today. That's the bad news. The good news is when a person goes to a dealership today, he or she is more likely to be serious about buying something.

Still that's not enough to keep most dealership salespeople afloat. There is one other thing they can do:

Think like like an entrepreneur. Join business clubs, conduct customer events, create your own specials or promotions, etc. The best dealership salesperson I met told me he spent very little time waiting for prospects to walk through the door. The bulk of his time was focused on his existing clientele, making sure they were happy, and of course, finding out if they had referrals or other needs.
Why not think like an entrepreneur? I think most salespeople assume it will require more time. But it doesn't have to. It is scary because it involves reaching out to people and being vulnerable to them saying "no thanks." It does require dealing with different types of people at business clubs, but so what?

The options are to wait for the next person walking through the door or to go out and build your business (and while you're building your business, a few people may also walk through the door).

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sell 'em in bunches like bananas

An old sales training axiom is "sell 'em in bunches like bananas," meaning it's smarter to sell many things at the same time than it is to sell them one at a time.

Apply that to the corporations that sell through sales channels. That's exactly what they're supposed to be doing--selling a bunch of tractors or cars or planes or boats or artificial hips in bunches through their dealers, reps or other channel partners.

Yet, only the smartest corporations get that. Many corporations view their sales channel as something less than a partner.

Right now, there are dealers that know how to sell products "in bunches like bananas," why not learn from them and help more dealers do the same? The best corporations will be doing that, the rest will be wondering where their market share went.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The "nostalgia file"

In the great movie "Glengarry Glenross", one of the characters, a hard-edged salesman, was given a stack of 3X5 cards with customer names. The names and contact info were years old. The salesman looked at the stack and threw them out, calling them the "nostalgia file." He was right, the old names and contacts were of little-to-no value.

Today, there should never be a nostalgia file. Not with LinkedIn, Facebook and all the other technology that connect us.
I spoke with someone recently who told me he had a database of hundreds of contacts from a convention he went to a few years ago. I asked him if he had kept in touch with those contacts, and he said, "no." "Ahh, the nostalgia file," I thought.

I can understand why decades ago there were nostalgia files. Communication was tougher, there were no emails or LinkedIn, people often had no voicemail, even. Few people had cell phones.

But today, all we need to do is sit in front of a computer and tap on the keyboard and we've communicated something to someone. No excuse. No nostalgia files.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

How to spot a visionary

It's pretty impressive to say that someone is a visionary. All the great leaders have been called visionaries.

It's easy to spot a visionary today. Probably easier than it has been in a long time.

Today's visionary is taking advantage of the opportunities that the economy has presented. There are more opportunities laid in front of us today than in recent memory, but few people are doing anything about them. The ones that are will no doubt be rewarded.

There were more millionaires created during the great depression then at any other time in our history. The same will go for our great recession.

Look around--who is acquiring, who is growing their client base, who is developing new technology, who is buying that sponsorship that no one else wants?

We call those people visionaries.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Take nothing for granted: Chicago Olympics or Saturn

In the news, we all read that it was an assumed victory for Chicago to win the Olympics bid. A done deal. A no-brainer. But that's not how it played out. In fact, Chicago was the first of the finalists to be eliminated.

Another done deal was Saturn being sold to Penske. We all saw the TV commercials telling us, don't worry, Saturn will be here for a long time. No doubt. In the bag. Didn't happen. Now, GM says it's shutting Saturn down.
Doesn't matter what economy we're in, nothing can be taken for granted, not your customers, your business, your contracts, nothing.
That's why the successful suppliers, dealers, organizations and people are plowing ahead looking for opportunities every second. If that assumed victory falls through ala Saturn, you still have a lot of momentum elsewhere. If the assumed victory really does happen, what a great problem you'll have--too many victories.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Friday, October 2, 2009

Classic salesmanship doesn't cut it

The classic sales approach of push, push and push again will not work in this economy. That goes for dealerships, corporations and for suppliers to those corporations.

Yes, corporations have money, and so do customers. But over the past year, we have all been programmed to think and say, "no" when it comes to spending.

So, the dealership salesperson that calls and calls his/her customers to pressure them to buy will lose. The supplier that calls his client and repeatedly asks for the sale, will not get it.

Today, being the classic salesperson is not enough. You have to be a confidant, an advisor, and an expert. You have to bring a sincere, thought-out recommendation to the customer, because that will be what is required to overcome their first-blush response of "no." Then maybe they'll listen and consider what you've brought to them.

If you hope for success by asking the same question over and over and expecting a "yes", these are going to be frustrating times.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Engage--Ask for Volunteers

Engagement is focus for all large and small corporations. Not just engagement from employees, but also from customers.

A great example is my golf club, Sycamore Hills Golf Club in Fort Wayne, Indiana. We're a Top 100 ranked, Jack Nicklaus Signature Course. We recently had the opportunity to host the National Ladies Team USGA Championship. A huge undertaking.

I was moved at the opening event (the night before the competition begin) as I heard from the hundreds of volunteers (many were members of the Club) as to how excited they were, how beautiful the course was and what a great opportunity it was to host the event.

That's engagement. Because, all of the members (including myself), pay to be part of the Club, in essence we paid for the opportunity to volunteer at a non-profit event and we're all fired up about it!

As I was talking with the passion-filled volunteers, it occurred to me what would have happened if this indeed had been a for-profit event in which the members were not asked (or needed) to volunteer. I think the enthusiasm and buy-in would have been dramatically reduced.

Apply it to our for-profit businesses. The more we engage our customers or clients, the more they'll enjoy their ownership experience. How can you find ways to engage your customers so they will in turn, be more engaged with your brand?

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

More than Meaningful

The largest corporations have the toughest issues because they have more people, processes and channels to deal with. The pressure is to process and policy themselves to success, because they can't just sit down and talk to a couple of employees and solve a problem like a small company could do.

I read that a corporation wanted to make things "meaningful" to its reps, employees and suppliers. I think that's a good start. Whatever we do should have meaning. But that's still not enough.

Something can make sense and have meaning, but that doesn't mean we'll do anything about it. A person may understand the importance of say, a playoff game in the NFL. If the team doesn't win, they're done for the season. But that doesn't mean that person will attend the game or even watch on TV.

The same with an initiative at a corporation. Employees may understand it. Maybe they think it has meaning for the enterprise. But does that employee care enough to do anything about it? Is he or she buying in?

We need more than meaningful communications. We need to engage our suppliers, employees and reps, they need to want to play a key role. That's the challenge - and we can't let go of it.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and beyond

Monday, September 28, 2009

It's a New Day...Again

I walk into a client's office. He tells his team how they are changing processes, that everything will be different. He declares, "It's a new day."

Eight months ago, his predecessor addressed her troops. She shared news of cost-cutting moves, RIFs and pay reductions and declared, "It's a new day."

Two years prior, the head of the same division stated to employees in a town hall that things needed to change. "It's a new day," he told them.

This has been a new day for years. I think we'll be having new days for years to come.

Our challenge as communicators is to help our employees, suppliers and dealers buy in to the fact that every day is a new day, that we all have to continue being hungry, focused and better than the day (the old new day) before.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Friday, September 25, 2009

(Lack of) Communication and Control

There are many mysteries in business. One is why a person doesn't communicate frequently; you know, the person you have to track down to get an update from.

You'd think that with all the technologies available, that we'd be communicating more than ever - you can phone, meet in-person, email, drop a note, even send a text message.

It doesn't matter if a dozen new communication technologies are created tomorrow, people will still avoid communicating for a number of reasons, including control.

If you don't let your co-workers or boss know the status on a project, you're in control. Maybe you're more important, because you're the center of conversation - "Has anyone heard how such and such is going?" If you don't give updates to your clients, they'll need to track you down. It's about control.

But, control is elusive. Once the non-communicator is tracked down, the situation may get contentious, the project may be at risk, etc. They'll be tempted to be even more non-communicative.

The best communicators, the most confident and the most successful, communicate openly and succinctly to the right people - frequently. They have the confidence that information and updates will help their team achieve success. For them it's about success, not control.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Desperation and Motivation

Ever know someone who didn't do much in a particular job he or she had and then after being laid-off or let go, emerges at another company and is a ball of fire? I've seen it a few times.

Sometimes the person may have had a wake-up call, or maybe he or she had a healthier environment at the new company.

Sometimes it's desperation. The person is keenly aware that if things don'thappen immediately, he or she will not have their new job for very long. He or she is desperate, willing to push and push to get results. Willing to cheat, to break non-compete agreements, to stoop to almost anything.

In the short term, this may work. In the long run, though, it may not. The clients that are being pushed and prodded will sense the desperation and will turn away. Plus, if a company breeds that environment, the culture will eventually turn on itself.

If you need desperation to have motivation, the results, if any, will be short-lived.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Two Different Responses to Free Ideas

In our business of marketing, it's controversial to provide free ideas or spec work. One side of the argument says it's entrepreneurial to do that; the other side states that if you provide free ideas, you devalue your worth. I think both sides are right - depending on who is receiving those free ideas.

Here are two examples with two different outcomes:

For Company A, we conducted a mini-brand assessment as a way to get to know them and to prescribe what we thought they might need to grow.

We conducted a similar exercise for Company B that included creative concepts, with the intent that we would again, better understand them and show our value - all leading to paid opportunities.

Company A respected and valued our ideas and engaged us in working with them immediately.

Company B liked our ideas but immediately let us know that it would take time before we work with them and that if anything, they'll do a lot of the next steps internally.

Two different outcomes. Our team was excited to work with Company A and was deflated after the session with Company B.

The best conclusion I've come up with is that before considering free work, be completely convinced that the company you're doing it for is the right kind of future partner. If they're looking to take advantage of suppliers, it's best to leave the free work to someone else.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Generate vs. Wait

We read that there is low consumer confidence. That tells us most people have some money but they don't have confidence that they'll keep their job or that the stock market will rebound soon--they just aren't feeling good about the economy.

But the economy isn't 250 million people, it's 250 million economies of one person. Each of us has a different story: some have no job, some are holding on to every dollar, others are doing well.

If you're a corporation that sells through channels such as dealers, reps or distributors, you have to do more than supply a product at a good price. You have to educate your channel on generating sales, not just taking orders.

The sales channel that is also trained on how to network, how to be entrepreneurial and how to create sales opportunities will do far better than a knowledgeable, but reactive or passive, channel.

Today it's not just about the product features and the sales price, it's about finding that consumer who has the resources to buy. They are out there, but you have to work to find them. The sales channel that focuses on this, will have an advantage throughout the recession.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Burden of Success

Tony Mikes, of Second Wind, the world's largest advertising agency network, talked to me the other day about what he called the burden of success.

Today, with all that people have going on, it's all too common for us to look at opportunities as burdens - something that will get in the way of the other stuff we're doing.

The unique person that grabs the opportunity and runs with it can do wonders and may very well become a superstar. But while that sounds simple and easy, it's not.

In order for a large corporation or a small company to have people grabbing for those opportunities, three things have to take place:

1) The company must hire the right people in the first place
2) The company culture must support and promote that behavior
3) The company must reward that behavior

Do you have the kind of people that love challenges? Does your culture promote that behavior? And can a person do really well when they tackle that new project and make it a success?

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Best Flogging

I have a buddy who works in a large corporation where it is difficult, to say the least, to be creative. The internal culture there is a bit stodgy and dark.

My buddy has the perfect attitude. He lets it all run down his back, almost to the point of denial. But he's smarter than that - he knows what he's doing.

He chooses to enjoy the contentious meetings, which is actually a brilliant move, because his response throws water on the fire of negativity there.

As he is "enjoying his floggings," he is also enjoying his job. Smart guy. Kudos to his company for hiring him, because he'll be able to positively alter their culture.

Each job has its challenges, and sometimes the best ones have the most.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"Lifting" Ideas

Few things are more devastating than having someone take credit for your idea. Psychologists will tell you that. That's why at my company when a buddy of mine, Jim Buck, comes up with a great concept, I'll routinely say immediately, "Boy, am I glad I came up with that idea." To which Jim 's left eyebrow raises and we laugh.

But there's a more serious side to idea theft that happens in corporate America. It occurs daily in numerous scenarios. Sometimes there's a bid and one of the losing bidders has an idea "lifted" from their proposal and given to the winner. Sometimes, a supplier brings an idea to the customer, the customer takes it quietly or not-so-quietly and either does it in-house or gives it to a different supplier.

The point of this post is not to discuss ethics or bemoan situations like these. Rather, it is to offer one more reason why it's not the thing to do. That's because if you receive a great idea from someone and steal it, why would that someone ever bring another idea to you? If that idea is valuable, I think it's safe to assume that person is a source for more valuable ideas in the future.

The great songwriters, Lennon and McCartney, didn't write one good song, they wrote hundreds. The great authors, philosophers, and scientists were known for their great ideas--not that one thing they came up with.

When we hear or see a great idea, I think we need to realize that not only is that idea of value, but so is the source (the person, the company, etc.) from where it originated. The future ideas they have may be far more valuable than the one in front of you.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond Marketing Communications

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Leadership is not waiting for support

Carol Ann is a friend of mine. She loves golf and had a dream. She wanted her golf club to host a national event. Sounds good, but it means a lot of work for a lot of people. It means taking a chance that the event doesn't turn out well.

Well, her dream was realized and the event was a huge success, thanks to her hard work and the hard work of hundreds of others.

She told me at the closing celebration how happy she was and that only months ago people were not believing in the dream, but as time went on and the event took shape, they started to support it more and more.

This is what all leaders face, whether at a non-profit event or in a multi-national corporation with 800 dealers worldwide.

If you wait for enough support that your task is easy, then you'll probably never get started. A true leader has the vision, the passion, and is willing to stick her (or his) neck on the block to make it reality. With that commitment, along will come the support of those who start to see and feel that vision, too.

The question to each of us is, are we willing to stick our necks on the block to make our vision happen?

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond Marketing Communications

Monday, September 14, 2009

FDR was right

I remember the famous line from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." I never really paid attention to its meaning; I just thought it was one of those catchy quotes that will live on forever.

Well, he was right. Fear is what we should fear. Fear of being open with a client or with an employee, fear of telling the truth, fear of being vulnerable, fear of charging what is fair.

When we're fearful, we send a clear message to others - whether they are clients or employees or friends - that we don't believe, that we don't have passion, etc.

We can't fool ourselves about fear - we can smell fear on others, and they can smell it on us.

For our companies to prosper and for each of us to lead fulfilling lives and careers, we have to fear only one thing - fear itself. We have to conquer it.

FDR was so right.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Friday, September 11, 2009

Start from the Heart

The familiar mantra at corporations: advertising budgets are slashed, sales are down and there are more new cost-cutting and efficiency initiatives than you can keep track of. All this leads to confusion, low morale and poor results.

There is an answer. Start from the heart--internally market and inspire your employees before you launch the next big product or before you begin your consumer re-branding campaign.

Our company, LaBov and Beyond Marketing Communications and Training, is working with a major corporation to help them motivate their brand teams and sales force on a new initiative that could dramatically impact sales and profit. The obstacles to success include reduced budgets, reduced client staff, and at least a dozen other internal programs going on concurrently (ranging from cost-cutting to re-orgs).

The only chance for success is to engage the employees first, well in advance of the customer base. If the employees see this initiative as something positive, something special and something that is separate from the other programs that are mentally draining them, then we have a chance to move a mountain.

Start from the heart. Look at your employees as your primary market. If they buy in and are energized, you have a chance for success. If you ignore them and focus on the external customer, think how limited your results are if your employees don't believe...

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond Marketing Communications and Training

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Double-edged Sword Economy

We are experiencing an extraordinarily interesting economy. Much less business is going on than a couple of years ago. Prices have fallen. Companies are teetering on collapse. The government is becoming a dominant force in the business sector, actually owning businesses and controlling them to an extent. The stock market is rising as it compares itself to six months ago, instead of two years ago.

We have millions unemployed and millions taking pay cuts to stay employed. Yet, there are opportunities.

Prices have fallen, making it more attractive than ever to buy product or even businesses. Cash is king, so if you have it, you're in the driver's seat.

But the thing is--and this is what is most amazing--many companies are not taking advantage of opportunities because of perception. They are not buying that business jet at a reduced cost because it will look bad to the shareholders. They are not buying that new building for their headquarters at 45% off because it will look wasteful. They are not investing in a tournament or a sponsorship because it's a bad message to employees and shareholders, yet it is at a bargain-basement price and it is believed that it would help grow the business. If they do own sponsorships, the corporations in some cases are taking their name off so that no one knows their involvement.

It's a double-edged sword economy. The corporations and individuals that will greatly benefit will have to face up to perception issues and weather that storm. Those that avoid the perception battle, will watch the opportunities slip away.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Priorities vs. Options

In a previous post, we focused on the fact that non-priorities can be detrimental to progress. We have to clear them out of our minds and out of our way. That leaves us with priorities.

A common pitfall I see is confusing priorities with options. Just because you have a top priority, it doesn't mean your other priorities are now options--they may still be priorities and need to be tackled now.

If we can remove the non-priorities out of our way, that frees us up to focus on the critical issues, tasks and opportunities. That should clear our minds a little, and it ensures that we find some way to make sure every priority is handled successfully, not just the top one or two.

In a challenging economy we don't really have a choice as to which priorities to focus on.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

It's the non-priorities that you have to watch

At corporations, large and small, in general, there are less sales going on. So, we should be less busy, right? Wrong. It may be busier than ever.

Since there are less people at corporations, that means we are tackling more responsibilities, more territory and more responsibility. Plus, if we're focusing on attracting new business, we may be overwhelmed with prospects that require attention.

That's why we have to fully comprehend what our non-priorities are. We have plenty of priorities--those things that are vital to our business. But if we don't watch out, we'll spend our time on things that are urgent and of the moment, but are clearly not key to our success.

Imagine a corporation that sells over a billion dollars of product yearly. They have a great brand, excellent product and are strong potential for growth. But they are tempted to dilute that focus on pet projects that clearly don't have the magnitude of a number of other, less glamorous, issues that could be tackled. Yes, their people are busy, yes they have exciting things going on. But if they don't identify the non-priorities, they will be facing a disappointing year and plenty of lost opportunities.

It's not easy for all of us to do it, but with restricted resources and opportunities, the non-priorities have got to be identified and put on the shelf for someone else to tackle or for a different day (and economy).

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Friday, September 4, 2009

Why it may be smarter than ever to do acquisitions

The sales cycle in our economy is extraordinarily slow today. It takes longer to make a sale, and when it finally happens, it may be for a reduced budget and it will probably move slower than imaginable. That means that new business development is more costly than in previous years.

It may be smart today to look at acquiring firms because they represent a faster alternative to grow business; and, since the economy is sluggish, those acquisitions should be more affordable than ever.

Of course, to do that, you need cash. Assuming you have cash, then every new business development plan must have acquisitions as a prime focus.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

No time to be cocky if you sell through the channel

In a previous recession, a former client, the president of a multinational company, had a business that was down 20 percent. He felt it was time to take his dealer network up a notch and demand more from the dealers. I didn't disagree with him that the dealers could do better.

He then said, "Since our business is down 20 percent, that means the dealers are down, too, which means I can play hardball with them. They need me more than ever."

That I disagreed with, but he didn't listen. He went ahead and crafted a new policy toward dealers that included reduced commissions and reduced territories. It went over very poorly and was a disaster. Why? Because he didn't understand the dealer mentality.

The average dealer is a small business person. He or she is important in the community and is not, generally, not in awe of a corporate exec. Many dealerships are family businesses, which means the current dealer principal is second- or third-generation, is used to living pretty well and is not interested in losing a hard-earned position in the community or at the country club or wherever. The focus is on protecting his or her wealth.

Upon hearing the threat from the president, several dealers quit and joined up with his competitors. The vast majority did not quit; they did something worse. They gave lip service to the president and then went about protecting themselves by dabbling in other small business ventures that would add a little money to their coffers. All that activity took the focus off my client's business and, in turn, he saw his sales and market share plummet further. His career with that company ended soon after that.

The corporation that sells through channels such as dealers or reps needs to make it as attractive as possible for the dealer (or rep) to focus all its energy on selling its products or services.

Just because sales are down doesn't mean the dealer is more focused on your product - in fact, it may mean the opposite.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Corporate and dealer relationships in a recession?

We all know there is a recession going on, but the aftermath of it will be felt in the relationships that dealers have with the manufacturers they represent.

Most manufacturers have reduced their sales force, which means that fewer of their people are spending less time developing relationships and business with the dealers. If the manufacturers don't overcome this, then dealers will look elsewhere to make money - they'll turn to the companies that spend time with them or the products that are easiest to sell.

The answer is to 1) increase the sales force (not likely); 2) focus on the top dealers and drop the rest; or, 3) develop alternative tools to engage the dealer such as online training or specialist programs designed to reward the dealer focusing only on your product and not the competition.

Once the economic recession starts to subside, there will be a relationship recession that will have to be overcome - unless you're one of the few that avoids it.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Monday, August 31, 2009

Mental Bandwidth

I worked with a great young performer who told me she was feeling burned out. The funny thing was, she was not putting in extra time at the office or traveling. Nothing seemed out to make sense until she told me what she had been working on.

It seems that she was doing her job as an entry level customer service person and was growing into a middle manager role, which seemed good to me. What was not good, however, was that she worked for a supervisor who was pretty much absentee. She felt she had to do much of her supervisor's job, too--even though she admitted it took very little time on daily basis.

It turns out she was not burned out, at least not from working too much. She was too stretched, far beyond her natural "bandwidth" or comfort zone. She was confident doing the stuff she knew how to do, but she was stressed out and emotional over doing her boss's work. We removed her boss's work from her plate and things improved.

She opened my eyes to realizing that at times I suffer from the same bandwidth issue, only from the opposite end of the equation. I can handle the big stuff, the strategy and leadership issues, but the more I get pulled into the more detail areas, the more my bandwidth is stretched.

Sometimes it's not burn out, it's about bandwidth. Another reason we must make sure we have the right people doing the right jobs.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond Marketing Communications

Friday, August 28, 2009

Another Factor in this Economy

One thing that is easy to overlook in this recession is speed. The sales cycle has slowed down to crawl. That means that new prospect may be ready to work with you but it will take three times as long to get going now as it would have two years ago. And it may take a year to grow to the point that you would have normally reached in three months prior to the recession.

Even as the economy improves, the pace of progress will be slow.The good news?

Two years ago you may not have had the opportunity to meet, let alone begin working with that new prospect.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Thursday, August 27, 2009

An Issue I Have

I was talking to a buddy of mine who is a coach of sorts. He told me that his observation of me is that I don't deal well with people that have no initiative or passion. He told me I was great with people that were enthusiastic, passion-filled and high-initiative. He said I'd do anything to help them. I think he's right.

The only answer I see is for me to focus on the people that have energy and initiative and give them the support and opportunities. Someone else will deal with the other folks.

Maybe that's how clients look at our companies?

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tag - you're it

The very best people are not perfect - not even close. But they do solve problems and deal with issues the best they can. That may not sound like much, but it's huge. Why?

Because in the crazy business world we're in, the last thing we need is useless stuff to bring us down, to take our focus off what is most important. The person that lets you know that there's a problem or that a client is disappointed or that there's an internal problem is not helping; they're bringing you and the organization down.

Better that they take ownership and face the issues the best they can, even if the outcome is not perfect. It's not about perfect; it's about ownership.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Award versus assign

How can some seemingly limited companies do so well in serving their clients while other huge, resource-rich companies fall flat?

It's because the client ultimately doesn't value the vast resources a company can bring them unless there is a person or a team that actually is excited, passionate and engaged in serving them. So, a small company with an "obsessed" team will be more fun and more valuable to that client. If they don't have resources in-house, they can always go outside to get them, especially with the technology we have today.

Maybe it all has to do in how we start off a relationship with a client. If we assign a responsibility to someone ("You're now on the such-and-such account"), we may have a competent person, but do they really care that much? It's a crap shoot - maybe yes, maybe no.

If we start by first learning who has passion for that client or their industry, and we award the individual that is qualified and filled with passion with serving that client, we have a far better chance of doing great things for the client.

I'd rather have a less experienced team than a more experienced team if the former had passion and enthusiasm for the client and their industry. And I think the client would agree.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond Marketing Communications

Monday, August 24, 2009

That which is not addressed

My wife and I were in a meeting with a company that we did business with. The business relationship was not going well. Their company had undergone a lot of changes and was not on its game. My wife told them that we had been approached by several of its competitors. She asked why should we consider staying with them.

I thought that we would hear an interesting response filled with persuasive arguments on why their company was the right choice. Instead, I was shocked at what I heard.

They ignored the question and moved on to talk about mundane issues that were not related. Within a few minutes, we wrapped up and said goodbye; they were all smiles and promised to follow up as if everything was fine.

This was the second time we had expressed concern about working with them. Both times, we were ignored.

Denial is a common response to complaints, but it is not effective. The client will move on sooner or later. Better to face it, talk from the heart and, even if you don't have the perfect response, at least you're in reality.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Friday, August 21, 2009

Before you get too comfortable with the recession...

We're now becoming used to the recession. Things are slow, money is tight. But don't get too comfy. As soon as things pick up, we'll have new challenges.

There will competitors that will be approaching your clients for business and your clients will be excited about the economy turning. They'll be more than interested in giving someone a chance to get some business. It'll make no sense to the loyal supplier that has been waiting out the recession, but it will happen.

It will be time for you to be that supplier that goes to your competitor's clients and asks for a little business. Rust never sleeps, and neither can we.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond Marketing Communications

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Relationships still the key

My previous post focused on the role that technology is playing in our relationships via Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. The prime differentiator in success still remains the ability to forge meaningful relationships.

I've studied, enjoyed and competed against people who have cultivated great relationships with clients. The ability, the willingness, the energy and the integrity to forge a valuable relationship is the primary reason a person succeeds in business. Why?

Relationships take time, patience, focus and selflessness - a person looking for a quick sale won't "waste" his or her time on trying to become friends with a client or trying to understand or help a supplier.

Whether the economy is great, bad or so-so, there will always be people - and they are looking for someone that values them, someone they can trust - even if that person's product isn't the cheapest or the best. It's that simple...and that hard.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond marketing Communications

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Relationships more important than ever

Remember when the Internet started catching on and how it and the other technologies were going to change everything? Save us time and money? Well, it took a while, but things have sure changed.

But it also seemed like the Internet and computers were actually keeping us apart - less interaction, less personal communication.

As my good friend Sonya pointed out to me recently, now with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and their counterparts, we're able to be more connected with each other than ever. We can be communicating and enhancing relationships with people all over the globe 24/7.

Sonya's right; in fact if you're going to grow your business today you have to utilize those forms of communications or you'll be left behind.

Now technology is bringing us together for maybe the first time.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond Marketing Communications