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