Friday, February 27, 2009

Thank the Big Three for Destroying the image of Biz Jets: Part One

Until a few months ago, it was a positive reflection of a company if it had a business jet. Now, it is viewed as a negative, some kind of lavish, wasteful use of corporate dollars. We can thank--I mean blame--The Big Three automakers for that. And we can give an "assist" to congress for continuing to push this idiotic mantra.

I do NOT believe in private jets--I do support business jets. I do not agree in a fat cat executive being flown around in a 747-sized jet all alone. That's wasteful.

I DO believe in utilizing a business jet to bring in more business--to visit clients and to meet new prospects.

Why didn't the congressmen and congresswomen grill the Big Three execs on whether they owned $20k Rolex watches or if they were chauffeured in limos or if they stayed in luxury hotels or if they owned custom tailored suits? None of those extravagances can bring in business or add employees to a corporation.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

If Seth can do it, why can't you?

The other day, I reached out to Seth Godin, renown author and strategist on a question. I don't know Seth, but my company did attend a seminar of his years ago, so I took the chance and emailed him a question.

I expected nothing. I even gave him an "out" in my request--I told him I understand if he doesn't respond back. I wasn't even sure the email I had was valid.

Two hours later I had a response Seth. He was polite, respectful.

If a person that has thousands of things going on can respond to a stranger in a short period of time, why can't clients respond to their suppliers? Children to their parents? Corporations to non-profits? Friends to their friends?

Can we make it a point to be respectful and responsive in this high-tech world?

Barry LaBov, CEO
LaBov & Beyond

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Apologizing for apologizing

I recently wrote a post where I bragged about a great leader of a company I know. He took the "fall" for a particular issue at his company and in so doing, showed leadership and inspired his people.

He later let me know that one of his execs saw the post and felt it was not a good reflection of their company because it implied that they had a problem. Without being asked, I deleted the post.


How do we show great leadership if we try to hide how we dealt with our challenges?

I still think that great leader is a fine person. I just wish that his company would allow his leadership to shine.


Barry LaBov, CEO
LaBov and Beyond

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

We need new heroes, Part Two

In my previous post, I discussed how we need new heroes. Our current heroes are so flawed and too often so one-dimensional that they deserve little attention. People like Barry Bonds, A-Rod, Michael Phelps, etc.

We need new heroes, like the numerous volunteers that help us everyday.

I've seen firsthand that volunteers get little appreciation today. Volunteers--people that are paid nothing, yet give of their time to helps others, are usually criticized or at best, taken for granted.

I coached baseball and basketball as a volunteer for nine years and enjoyed it overall. I was truly grateful for the few special dads and moms that also volunteered to help me and developed lifelong bonds with them. But all I saw from most parents was a minivan driving up, the side door opening, junior jumping out, the door closing and the minivan speeding away.

I did get criticized after coaching my daughter's basketball team as we broke it's school's 100+ game losing streak--a parent thought I should have played her daughter more minutes. (I have to note that a fellow volunteer, a good friend of mine named Joe Sowder, was co-coaching with me and was the one with the basketball talent--he was responsible for the win).

I loved coaching kids but had to focus on the positive--helping the kids, working with the engaged parents. The politics and the absentee parents that looked at the volunteers as a babysitting service were the downers.

The answer? Volunteer. Use your unique talent. I'm very limited as a coach--I'm a good cheerleader but am very challenged as far as technique goes, so I found great volunteers that made up for my shortcomings. Be a role model for a young person. You may be the only positive role model they ever have.

That's being a real hero.

Monday, February 23, 2009

We need new heroes, Part One

I just saw the news story on Alex Rodriguez admitting to doing steroids back in 2003. I don't want my blogs to be sports stuff--too much of a turn-off for many people--but A-Rod is the highest paid baseball player in the world. He's paid $27 million a year.

Let's see--Barry Bonds, the all time home run king, Mark McGuire, the former single season home run champ and Roger Clemens, arguably the best pitcher ever--are all involved in steroids accusations.

If the allegations are true, they all made millions of dollars unfairly.

We need new heroes.

When I grew up following baseball, if a guy hit .280 and had 30 home runs, he made about $60k a year. Those guys would quit baseball in their mid-thirties and "cash in" on their notoriety to become insurance agents or run beer distributorships.

Today, players that have those statistics make at least $10 million a year, they see no need to quit until they secure a contract that pays them beyond their productive years.

We need new heroes.

Why isn't there a "teacher of the year" or "volunteer of the year" that we all know the name of, that we all emulate?

We need new heroes.

Friday, February 20, 2009

And what if 2009 is really a lost year?

An earlier blog of mine discussed the current opinion that 2009 is a lost year--write it off. Basically the prevailing message today is: Wait for 2010.

Let's say 2009 is a lost year and you give up, you throw in the towel and wait for things to improve.

Does that also mean your competitors are going to do the same? Will everyone wait for you to "wake up" and re-join the race in 2010?

If you're thinking of throwing in the towel for 2009, go ahead, but don't be surprised if your competitors are happy when you do.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Negotiating Genius

I just read a great book on negotiating entitled, "Negotiating Genius" by Malhotra and Bazerman.

Sure it covers the usual negotiating staples, but what I liked is the positiveness I felt from it. What's great about smart negotiating is that it's not pure emotion, it's thought-out. It forces you to have a perspective--is it worth it to sue a guy over a $500 dispute? Is it ever okay to lie to gain position?

I was inspired, grounded and excited to tackle new negotiations in a positive, productive way. Must be a good book.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Playing hardball in 2009

Sure it's tough out there. Companies are discounting, almost giving stuff away.

Some clients are playing hardball with suppliers--demanding discounts, concessions and throwing away whatever loyalty they had by bidding out everything.

Sounds good for clients. But...

If you're a client and your budget is reduced 40% this year...and your staff is reduced...playing hardball with your suppliers may not be the wisest decision.

That supplier, due to budget cuts and the economy, may make little to no profit on your business this year. They may have more knowledge about your product/service than some who remain on your staff, plus they bring additional insights from other businesses they deal with. You can benefit from that knowledge. It might be better in the long run to work with them and see them as a partner rather than as an expense or easily exchanged commodity.

If you eliminate them, it may be far more painful to you (the client) than the supplier.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

2009: The Lost year?

Right now the popular prediction is that 2009 will see the economy struggle and eventually stabilize and that 2010 will begin to show growth, small growth.

What does that mean? Do we wait till next year? Do we stop living till 2010? Can we we really trust that 2010 will be that much better?

My two cents is that the same people that are telling us that 2009 is a lost year year and that 2010 will be better are the same people that didn't see any of this coming.

So... I say focus on what can be done to make this as good a year as possible, one day at a time. Don't give up, don't concede.

For all we know, this is the best year we'll have in the next three or four.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A brave new world

Programming update: We're partnering with the TQM Network to host a CEO roundtable discussion from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. this Friday morning, February 20. Join us for refreshments and an enlightening discussion about bravery and passion can help your organization thrive and grow in this down economy. More details on the event can be found here, or by clicking on the title of this post. We hope to see you there. 

Thank you, Carlos

I think we Americans are pretty self-centered. We feel the recession is all about us, that we're the center of the universe, etc.

I met a smart guy named Carlos in Puerto Vallarta recently. He works at a car rental place and graciously drove me to the airport and enlightened me.

He let me know that the economy is bad everywhere, not just in the USA. He also let me know that one man did not create the problem nor can one man alone solve it. He told me that most Mexicans are happy that Prez Bush is out of office because that while he appeared to be a good person, he made many poor decisions.

I asked him about immigration. He said, "Mexicans don't all think the USA should open up the border for everyone. We just think that Mexicans living for years in the USA should be treated with respect." I was a little surprised. He added, "You know that Mexico has immigration problems with Central America. There are plenty of people fleeing there trying to cross the southern Mexico border. We understand what that's like."

I hated to admit it to Carlos, but I did not know that Mexico dealt with its own immigration issues at the southern border.

I'm just a self-centered American. Thanks for the reality check, Carlos.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Note to Millenials

The Millennials, the current 20-something generation is known to be a hard working group that will have approximately 17 jobs and/or careers in their lifetime. That means in general, they will switch jobs every two to three years. Much different than their parents' generation and totally different from grandpa, who had one job his entire life.

I have no problem with the two year job jumping. In fact, a smart company can base their culture around that.

I do think that it might be wise for the 20 to 30 year old to look first at the reality of the economy and consider that a good job at a good company is very important at this time. Maybe it is more important than jumping ship and traveling to a new situation that is not a 100% smart move. Yes, that new job would look good on your resume, but what if you are there only for a few months?

It might be wise to re-think the "do what looks good on my resume" approach at this time and make the job you have you have even better. Just a thought....

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Interesting learning regarding consumers in this economy

Our company conducted focus groups for a luxury manufacturer recently. We wanted to understand the effect that the economy has played in their customers' buying habits.

These were consumers that were used to spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a product. We wondered, would they now buy a smaller product, a more cost efficient product?

The answer surprised me.
They all told us that the next time they bought that product, they wanted a bigger one, a more powerful one. No compromises.
A lesson for all of us. Yes the new economy stinks. Yes, there are people out of work. BUT, that has no bearing on the buying habits or expectations of the people we talked to. They want a great product. They expect tremendous service. And of course, they now expect a real good price.

This is not the time to compromise. The people that are buying (even though there are less of them) still expect a great product. Don't underestimate them.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tough economy. Good opportunity,

Things are tough. Companies are struggling.

But friends are still friends. Ideas are still ideas.

Some things change, like the economy. Other things like loyalty and inspiration don't.

We have to appreciate that.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Too many resources?

One positive regarding the recession? Maybe some of us have had too many resources at our disposal. Maybe we've had it little too easy.

With less resources at our fingertips, we'll have to be more hands-on. We'll feel the pain of failure and we'll feel the excitement of success.

We won't have to find out about that stuff from our assistants or associates. That could help.

Monday, February 9, 2009

How can you tell if you have a good idea?

We can spend millions on research to test an idea. We can graph the validity of of a concept. We can test a concept in front of a focus group.

We're all humans. The best way to know if an idea is inspiring is this:

After you hear the idea, are you more excited than you were before you heard it?

If you're confused, down or ambivalent, it probably is not a great idea. If you can't remember the next day, it probably isn't either.

But if the next day, you still remember, can easily explain and you still feel excited, you probably have struck gold. We're human, if our adreline is flowing, it's a good sign.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Marketing: Where to start (this may surprise you) Part #2

My previous message introduced Internal Marketing:
An enterprise-wide initiative of means educating, inspiring and engaging all the people that your corporation employees on your Brand, product, technology and vision.
How? In a nutshell:

1) You face the "invisible elephants"--all the things that your employees have been wondering about but are sure that you won't deal with. Be vulnerable, truthful.

2) Share the vision, give your "elevator speech" and urge your employees to create their own elevator speech. After all, they deal with most customers, the sales channels and they combined, have a huge base of influence and the clearer the message to them the better the results you'll get.

3) Educate the employees on the Brand, the products (how many of your employees have actually tried/used/driven/experienced your products or services?), and the technology (or design).

4) Educate employees on the customer. Not just their demographics, but their psychographics.

5) Celebrate. You may ask celebrate what? Any company has things to celebrate if they look deep enough. Rally your people to the cause by celebrating those performances that best demonstrate the behaviors you want to see going forward.

If you engage your employees first through internal marketing, it will intensify the external investments being made in ads, marketing, PR and the like.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Marketing: Where to start (this may surprise you) Part #1

You need to market because you need to increase sales. Let's get going on ads, PR, blogs, let's print brochures and update the website so we can attract customers. Oops. Forgot something.

All the above can work, but there is another kind of marketing that is most often overlooked. It's less expensive, it's 100% targeted and it's guaranteed to affect business positively:

Internal Marketing.

Internal marketing is where you should start--that means educating, inspiring and engaging all the people that your corporation employees on your Brand, product, technology and vision.

Without your employees, the backbone of the corporation, being united, any effort will be compromised.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

How are you on your best day?

Dan Merchant is smart marketing guy that I always enjoy talking to. He's a longtime ad guy, former CMO. You either love him or you can't stand him (that's ok with him) because he'll say things that sometimes just don't go down easy. I'm going to share one of his brilliant nuggets. It's a two-part nugget. It's starts with the question:

At its best, on its best day, what does your company do, how does it behave and perform?
I'll be vulnerable and answer that about my company.

On my company's best days, we're brave and passionate. No fear, lots of fun, lots of exciting, inspirational ideas. I love those times. When we're not that way, when we're fearful or just following orders, it's not any good for anyone. I don't enjoy it at all, I'm not sure anyone does.

The second part to this nugget is: Now that you know how you are on your "Best Day," make everyday a "Best Day." Or at least come as close to that as you can. That means you have to do things that will allow these days to happen more often, whatever that takes.

Apply that to you and your company. 1) Determine how you are when you truly are at your best on your best day. 2) Try to have as many of them as possible.

Could you imagine how your company would be if you had 200 "Best Days" a year?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Everything old is new this recession

48% of all car owners are now saying they will hold onto their current car a year or two longer. Instead of turning in the old one for the new model, people are planning to hold on longer. A used product is now more attractive to the masses.

Bad news? Yes, if you sell only new stuff. But it's good news if...

You sell used stuff or
You sell old stuff that you fix up or
You provide service to people who have old stuff that needs to be fixed

Monday, February 2, 2009

Avoid the void

What do corporations do when there's undesirable situation?

They usually avoid it, pretend it's not there or hope it will go away. Sometimes they re-name the thing to sound less offensive. For example, instead of lay-offs or firings, we now have a RIF--a Reduction in Workforce. Now, that feels better...

It's best to face the issue and communicate to your employees, clients, suppliers, whoever. Why?

Because when there's a void in communication, people will usually fill that void with negativity.