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