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

Monday, August 17, 2009

One way to handle a high maintenance person

Six years ago, I volunteered for a group that included what many people called a difficult person. He expected special treatment, made a lot of noise, was pretty irritating at times, but was also valuable in many ways.

I was counseled by numerous people on how to handle him, ranging from "stay out of his way" to "kick him out."

Honestly, as I considered what to do, I felt frustrated, because it seemed no matter what advice I took, it would turn out undesirable.

So I did one thing that turned out pretty good: I treated him exactly like everyone else - not better, not worse, not more special or less special. I treated him the same. This approach was not supported by several of my cohorts, because they told me it would never work.

Well, it worked. And for the next year or two we were together, he was less maintenance than ever and still contributed. I never told him I was treating him the same, he just saw that it was the case. He never commented on it, never complained and, if anything, he was better than ever for our group.

Sometimes, we are intimidated and actually contribute to how difficult a person can be. In a way, I just played dumb (easy for me) and didn't consider his ego or the egos of others and played by the rules. It also kept all of the other guys' egos (including mine) in line, too.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond Marketing Communications

Friday, August 14, 2009

We're no longer an island

I just returned from two weeks in Africa. It was the trip of a lifetime, not only for the safari, but for the hope I felt coming from the people there.

We visited a school in Botswana, an HIV-ravaged country, yet the people there feel proud. They told me they are a "rich nation," and the school was impressive. The students learn English in third grade. They're well behaved. Their curriculum is similar to ours in the states. These are future leaders in our world.

In Cape Town, South Africa, we visited an orphanage, again affected by the HIV epidemic (half the babies, toddlers and teens are infected at the orphanage), yet there is hope - people are pitching in, they have tolerance for each other and are fluent in at least two languages.

As an old codger, I've looked at the USA as the center of the universe. It's humbling and inspiring to see that the world is much more than just us.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond Marketing Communications

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Too much going on to think?

With the economy moving at a slow pace, you'd think this would be the time that we stop and access where we're going.

But, of course, that isn't the case, because many of us are busier than ever trying to generate business, to speed up the pace of progress.

If there ever was a time to stop and think, it's now: Do you have the right client mix? Are you focusing on the right opportunities? Is your work at the highest level and, if not, what is needed to improve it? Are your best people aware of your appreciation and do they know where you're company is headed?

The list could go on, but right now it is far too easy to keep pushing and making it through one more day. It's time to make sure your activity is focused.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond Marketing Communications

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The secret to growing

Here's a secret to identifying whether someone is growing or not:

If a person is frequently using the same terms or phrases and frequently tells you the same things over and over again, they're not growing. they're stagnant.

If they're not, they're growing.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond Marketing Communications

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

'It's no fun anymore'

A partner of mine called me up regarding a business we own. He was frustrated with one of our other partners and declared, "It's no fun anymore."

At first I was concerned and felt like I had an obligation to make it "fun."

But then I thought, Who said anything in life was always "fun?" Being a parent isn't always fun. Being married isn't always fun. Being in business certainly isn't. I can't think of anything that is always fun.

It's not about what's always fun; it's about what's meaningful and right. Which, in the long-term, is usually "fun."

Barry LaBov
President, LaBov and Beyond

Monday, August 10, 2009

When the economy grows, is it time to let clients go?

We will be facing an interesting dilemma as the economy turns around. As we are starting to see an increase in new business, we'll be stressed over how we can handle that influx. How many people do we add? Where do we find the right people?

Maybe the right people are already at your company.

Those really good people may be floundering working with customers that are unprofitable, unwilling to be a partner or who are just plain demotivating. Right now, you may be grateful that you have any business with these customers. But as the economy picks up, you won't be.

One option that will be staring us in the face will be: which clients do you let go so you can "trade up?"

I say this with no attitude whatsoever. It is simply a reality that a good business will need to face.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Friday, August 7, 2009

Aunt Peggy was right

I had an Aunt Peggy. She was a great lady, but she was a bit salty at times. I remember asking her who she was going to vote for in a Presidential election. She snarled at me and said, "It doesn't matter, they're all the same."

I was appalled. But then again I was ten years old at the time.

Of course, all politicians are not the same. But from a business perspective, she had a point. No matter who is in office, no matter what party is in control, we in business have to deal with it. And since they're politicians, they will meet the same fate all politicians face: at some point you're "in" and at some point you're "out." While all that's going on, we still have to run our businesses.

As business people, we need to focus on running our businesses and taking care of employees and customers. The political stuff will happen whether we want it to or not. No politician or party will ruin your business or make your business. Our businesses are our responsibility.

I believe it's inappropriate to stand on a soapbox and politicize about what party is the best for a company. It doesn't matter, like Aunt Peggy said. We need to deal with it and do our best and save the politicking for someone else.

Barry LaBov
President LaBov & Beyond Marketing Communications

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Little things big, Big things little

The Internet has changed the way we buy stuff. We know more about a product than ever because we can research it ad nauseum via the web. In fact, more often than not, we know more than the sales person at the store when we're shopping. We're all becoming a little more savvy and maybe a little more skeptical.

Look internally at your company. The most valuable people do one thing:

The best people make big things little. They do a great job and don't brag. They land a deal and they show appreciation to the employees and the client.
The weak performers make little things sound big. They have a nice phone call with a prospect and they make it sound like a sale. They talk about little things--how long a meeting goes, what pleasantries a client gave them--and they make it sound huge.

Today, we're savvy. We know that unless a client decides to choose us that we have not made a sale. We know that a 90 meeting without a decision being made is not necessarily a success.

The best performers focus on the result and not how they look or appear. Which makes them appear to be even better.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond Marketing Communications

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Meet Don: Mr. Initiative

One of my favorite people is Don. Three years ago, I invested in a company that had numerous challenges. Don was recruited to come in and help us. And without him, I wouldn't have time to blog or do anything else; I'd be in over my head trying to deal with the stuff he does every day.

Don's a unique guy. His clients love him. To them, he's fun, easygoing, hard-working, humble - and he gets stuff done. To his employees, he's a great boss because, while he is demanding, he's also trusting. He loves to see his employees do well.

What I love about Don is that he has initiative. He's focused and as serious as a heart attack. He allows me to calm him down, to tell him everything is going to be OK. He's a pleasure to work with. I enjoy him as a friend and as an associate.

Our clients want us to be this way. We should be the ones that are more serious about their company's success then they are. We should be more exacting about our work than they are. A little bit of Don's approach can go a long way.

Barry LaBov
President, LaBov and Beyond Marketing Communications

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

You can't teach height and you can't legislate initiative

An axiom in basketball is that, as a coach, "you can't teach height." Which means that having a tall player is a huge advantage - you can always teach a player how to shoot or dribble the ball better, but there's no substitute for being seven feet tall.

I think the same applies to business regarding initiative. No matter how hard you train a person on how to fill out a time sheet or how to dress or how to use a spread sheet, whether that employee has initiative or not is up to him or her. It's not something that's really taught.

I've been guilty of trying to instill initiative in people and failing. Just like trying to make someone seven feet tall, it's an exercise in futility.

I apologize to those who I've pushed, and I thank those I've had to calm down.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Monday, August 3, 2009

Business aviation in a sound-byte world - Part 2

Nothing has been more vilified in recent months than private aviation. The sound byte we hear from media, from Congress and even the President has been: private jets are wasteful; they're a toy for the fat cat business executive.

The sad thing that's missing in all this vilification is that a business jet can be utilized to retain and to grow clients - to increase business for companies. The business jet can actually cost less to fly to a location than commercial flights (add up the cost of commercial tickets, overnight stays, and food) and the business jet can actually allow the employees of the company to spend time at night with their family instead of being on the road.

Our agency, LaBov and Beyond Marketing Communications, is utilizing our business jet 15 percent more this year than last. We are making sure we spend as much time with clients as possible, and we are also responding to the most new business inquiries that we've ever received in our 25-plus-year history. Our business jet has enabled us to respond to opportunities and grow business.

We can operate a jet and not be wasteful. We fly with at least three employees on board, usually more (our jet can seat up to six). We fly to several locations a day if needed, so we can stretch the value of the jet. We fly all employees - it's not reserved for execs (in fact, I fly only 10 percent of the time). Our pilots are frugal - they negotiate on fuel, on landing fees, etc.

But all that info won't fit into a one-sentence sound byte. We have to fight the temptation to sound-byte ourselves into a corner. It'll take a few more words, maybe even a sentence or two, but if we want what's right, what's the truth, it's worth it.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond