Friday, January 29, 2010

The temptation to focus on the wrong stuff

A manufacturer I know has invested heavily in a training program specifically focused on its under-performing dealers. The goal is to improve their performance so that they can move up to being "average." Sounds like a decent idea, I guess.

But we have to watch that our limited focus and resources be spent where they really count. Maybe those under-performing dealers will improve, but if it's at the price of helping top performers do even better, then we have to re-consider those programs.

Freud said that sometimes a cigar is simply a cigar. Sometimes a low performer is merely that. If our resources are scarce, why not focus on the performers that truly perform?

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Missing the boat on diesel or hybrid products

You walk into a car dealership and are asked about the new hybrid or diesel model...What will you likely hear? Probably what I heard recently: "You don't want to buy a diesel or hybrid, because in the long run, you'll spend more for one."

Who said the only reason I want a diesel or hybrid is to save money? What if I want to help save the planet?

It's the difference between demographics and psychographics. My demographic is how much money I make, where I live, all that factual stuff. My psychographic is what I believe, how I see the world, all the stuff that explains what's important to me.

Our world is becoming much more focused on the "what I believe" arena. Let me buy a diesel or hybrid car.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond
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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

New is no longer new

If you're a corporation, dealer or supplier, you're hopefully focusing on new business. If not, life is going to be tough if you count on your current clients to maintain their level of business and to be loyal.

Current clients are the focus, but right after them is the new prospect who will ideally become a client in the near future. Your biggest challenge? "I've never done this before."

There is a resounding chorus of "I've never done this before" every time you begin to work with a new client. New client, new industry, new personalities, new technology, etc. We can't let that stop us. If we do, it means we can never serve a new customer.

It is assumed that a new customer will be, well, new. Our job is to help that new client by using all we have, including all our expertise and passion.

If you want to grow, "new" is not a bad word.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and beyond
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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Money is not the object in this recession

You'd think in a challenging economy, everything has to be done cheaply. Certainly, the idea of over-charging is wrong in this or any economy. But think of this:
Most large corporations have slashed budgets, payrolls, closed factories and killed new products. Now those companies have to grow their businesses back. They are willing to spend money to do that--and they have a fair amount of money to do it with.
Suppliers can't think small today because the expectations and the pressures to help that large corporation are so big.

It's not about cutting corners, it's about moving mountains. That takes money.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
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Monday, January 25, 2010

Entitlement and Recession--interesting combination

Usually when there's a recession, the overall feeling at the office or the factory is "Hey, whatever you need, I'll do it. I need a job." I've personally been through four recessions and have become accustomed to that.

Today, we have a challenge. This recession is different. There is a strong feeling of entitlement despite there also being a weak economy. The sentiment from a lot of employees is, "I expect to be paid well, I don't like to make sacrifices and I want to work on things I find interesting." That attitude probably works best when the economy is robust. It's a huge challenge when the economy stinks.

The danger with this is that an entitled attitude in this economy will quickly un-employ an employee. We have to constantly remind each other why we're in business (to take care of the customer) and if we don't want to do that, then there's no company, no salary and no job.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond
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Friday, January 22, 2010

"Thank You" to the Best Clients

You know who you are. You're the client who is honest, supportive, and courageous. You're the client who puts yourself in the shoes of the supplier or the dealer and understands what they may be going through. You're the client who is energized by new ideas and opportunities and encourages us to bring more. You're the client who is smart and loyal.

You're the client that inspires us to do our best, to care even more. On behalf of all of us that you touch, thank you.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

No Room for Perfect

I get to work with some wonderful people and brands. One barrier I see many of them face is perfection. Who doesn't want a program or promotion or product to be perfect? But perfect is just a word. It's a direction or aspiration, but not a destination. You can't get there from here. You can't achieve perfection no matter how hard you try.

There are downsides to perfection:
1) It sounds and feels good. Who can argue that you want something perfect? It sounds good and unarguable.
2) It is elusive. Different people view perfection differently, so you'll never get consensus that something is perfect. You still will have to search for it, which will lead to more compromise.
3) It slows or stops progress. Waiting for perfection will take so long that once you think you have achieved it, you have lost the opportunity.

Here's how to deal with perfection:

1) Realize it's unattainable.
2) Look instead to piloting ideas or testing new approaches. Piloting a new program will lead to new ideas and improvements.
3) Trade perfection for speed. By testing or piloting an idea, you can increase the speed of implementation and results dramatically.
4) Trade perfection for progress. If the goal is to make progress, to learn and improve the program while getting results quickly, that beats the pursuit of perfection.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Sales Channel: 5 New Rules for the Channel Itself

If you're a dealer, distributor or a rep for manufacturers, here are five rules to succeed in this economy:

1) Specialize. If you represent more than one brand, specialize. Have salespeople that are specialists in each brand, even if it's a small brand. This will increase your expertise and sales. Of course, you can allow each salesperson to sell any brand, but if you have go-to people for each brand, it will only help.

2) Forget. Forget there's a recession going on. Realize people are buying and competitors are selling product. Don't allow there to be a defeatist attitude in your operation,it will only reduce morale and sales.

3) Get in touch with your inner entrepreneur. Most small companies started out as entrepreneurial ventures. Over the years, and as generations have passed the company on, those companies lose that entrepreneurial edge. This is the time to do the aggressive things that just may move the needle. Why not? That's how great companies started.

4) Network. You're the sales channel, you're the one who knows the customer. Use that advantage, network with them daily. Use LinkedIn and other social media. Have your team join local business clubs, have your staff give speeches to local schools and organizations. Networking is practically free and it's one of your greatest advantages.

5) Pony Up. Your manufacturer is not perfect, but they are probably providing material, new product and maybe incentives to promote and sell their products. Step up and use what they give you, even if you have to tweak it to make it work. Don't be the distributor that sits on the sidelines and watches the game. Get in the game, promote the product, even if it's not your favorite and give all you have to making it succeed. You just may be surprised at the success.

LaBov & Beyond focuses only on the manufacturer-sales channel dynamic. Check out our sales channel blog, LaBov Sales Channel at

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
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Monday, January 18, 2010

Five Tips on Maintaining an A+ Performance Environment

As I've stated, we must strive to do A+ performances in this economy. C+ jobs will merely result in a short-lived relationship with a client, whether you're a manufacturer, dealer or supplier.

Doing our very best work is not a burden--unless you strive to do that work in a team that includes people who don't share your passion. Or unless you have a client who doesn't appreciate or recognize great work. Either of these situations should be eliminated.

Five Tips on Maintaining an A+ Performance Environment

  1. Realize an A+ performance is temporary or momentary. It can be ruined by your next performance or enhanced by it.
  2. Let the client's behavior, not their words, determine whether or not you performed tremendously
  3. Realize that A+ work is filled with joy. If you're not feeling the joy, identify the source and do something about it.
  4. There are people (clients) who don't appreciate tremendous work. They are not a source of joy. Consider other clients to serve.
  5. There are people (employees) who don't have the passion to do great work. Their job is just a job. They will bring no joy or great performance to your work. Consider working with other people.

Realize and appreciate the results of A+ work: your client seeks you out, shows appreciation, offers more opportunities and wants you to prosper. The alternative--mediocrity--results in stress, unhappiness, uninspired work and the need to replace the client that just walked out the door, never to return again.

Barry LaBov

LaBov & Beyond

PB&J E-newsletter

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Value of Loving Your Job

Research tells us that if you love your job--and let your client know that--you're more likely to succeed.

Telling, and more importantly showing, that you love your job connects you with clients, especially successful clients. Why? Because they relate to you better. Otherwise, there's a wall between you: you're the supplier or the dealer and they're the client or the consumer.
Too often, we show clients that we don't love our job by:

1) Letting them know we're new to the company or the project (we're not responsible)
2) Merely taking orders, offering no new ideas (doing the minimum)
3) Not receiving client criticism positively
4) Not responding promptly and on-time
5) Letting them know our personal problems
6) Not learning about the client--professionally and personally
If we show we really love our job, we'll succeed. Which means we'll love our job even more. But that assumes we really do love it. If not, what's in the way?

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

How do you know if you did an A+ job?

In a earlier post, I stated that we must do an A+ job in these times to have hope of maintaining and growing our jobs and our clients.

A good question raised to me regarding this was, "How do you know if you did a great job, who decides?". We, the manufacturers, dealers or suppliers, cannot decide if we did an A+ job. We're biased. And surveying or pressuring a client to tell us the same is equally inaccurate, also.

Here's my answer. The client's behavior tells you whether you did an A+ job. Note I said behavior. Not their words--if you ask them, they may tell you "great job." I'm talking about unsolicited, unprompted actions from the client.

Here are a few signs that you must have done an outstanding (A+) performance:

The client calls you with good news--they have more work for you
The client refers you or your product/service to a friend
Without you present, the client raves about you
The client sends you a thank-you gift for the great work

These are a few examples of unsolicited behaviors from the client that tell you that you have indeed done something special in their eyes.

An A+ job is identified not in the words, but in the behavior of the client. Look for it.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

For Better Or For Worse: In Marriage and Business

When we marry, we promise to stay with our spouse through the good times and the bad. It's a commitment. But more than that, it's a relationship enhancer. It gives meaning to our lives, it enriches each of us.

The same goes with business. Sure, it's great to benefit during the good times--bonuses, stock options, perks, etc. When the tough times come, it's tempting to bolt, but isn't that when some of the most meaningful and exciting opportunities arise? I think so.

If you're a manufacturer with a declining market share, is this the time to give-up or the time to make history? If you're a dealer that has an empty showroom, is this a sign that you should close your doors or do you shake things up?

Sure, there are valid reasons to give-up. But mere adversity shouldn't one of them.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Monday, January 11, 2010

How a recession can lift the fog

Stop for a moment and think back a year and a half. Look how much things have changed. Sure, the economic changes are clear. But let's look at something not as quantitative: people.

I consulted with a corporation two years. They were succeeding and were "full of themselves." Everything seemed to be going their way. They had some great employees, but like most enterprises, they had a lot of so-so performers, too. The trouble, in retrospect, was that their so-so performers acted and had the demands of the top performers. The situation clouded the reality that many of those so-so performers were actually over-compensated. But two years ago, who could say something like that? It was unthinkable.

Today that corporation is recovering from the recession. And what their leadership now views as unthinkable is giving those so-so performers increased compensation, in fact they're fortunate to have a job.

The fog has lifted for all of us. It's time to think introspectively: how good is our product or service? How good am I as a performer? Am I really bringing anything meaningful to the table when I'm in a meeting or on an assignment?
Clearer decisions will be made now that the fog has lifted. That spells opportunities for the right people and the right companies. It also foretells major negative changes for the people and companies that don't perform at a high level.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Friday, January 8, 2010

The five differences between A+ and C+ performance

It used to be acceptable to do competent work. There was so much work to go around that it just wasn't that critical. But those days are over. Here's why we have to strive for A+ work:
1) Doing an A+ job may be the difference in getting all of your clients' business and getting none. Why should they commit themselves to a company that is not superior to the others that are begging for business?

2) Striving for that A+ performance is motivating to the best people at a company. They want to do great work and are appalled and demotivated by mediocrity.

3) A+ work is profitable. A client will gladly pay for something that is head and shoulders above everyone else. Whether it's for ideas or for a brand new sports car, a client will pay more--if there's clearly a difference.

4) Focusing on doing the best performance is cathartic. It is healthy for a company because it exposes weak areas as well as strengths. Until you test what you're capable of, you'll never fully appreciate what you have (in terms of people as well as capabilities).

5) Doing A+ work leads to efficiency. Yes, it will take less people to do the best work, because the best people are so much more valuable and have a vast output compared to the rest.
There is no reason to do anything other than our best. So what's stopping us?

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Waking Up from the Recession Slumber

As the economy improves, there is a phenomena that is taking place. There is less business going on, yet people seem to be too busy to pick up more slack. True, in many cases, there are less people working due to lay-offs and downsizing. In many cases, we've become accustomed to a slower pace, which isn't going to help us recover.

The salesperson at the empty dealership is not calling you back regarding that car you inquired about (or if he does, it's a day or two later). The product manager is not responding to a market opportunity fast enough to take advantage of it. The supplier is sensing opportunity but they're moving at a snail's pace to do anything about it.

Why? Because some of us are still in the recession slumber. We're drowsy. We don't have our bearings yet. But, we can't just roll over and go back to sleep. It wasn't a bad dream that will go away. The sooner we wake up and get moving the better.

The good news is that some companies will take a Rip Van Winkle approach and try to sleep through this. That's good news if they're your competition.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New luxury, new opportunity

In this economy there is a new luxury consumer. The corporations and dealers that understand this will have an advantage.

The 2010 affluent consumer will still want nice stuff and they'll have money to buy that stuff. They may have less money than they did years ago, so they'll be more discriminating before they purchase. But they'll still want the best.

However, now that affluent consumer will be mindful of what others will think. Will buying that million dollar RV be a little too much? Will purchasing that $50,000 watch be over the top? And if that consumer is an executive in corporate America, he/she may also be concerned as to how it will look to employees if a $400,000 sports car is parked in their executive parking space.

The manufacturer and the dealer that knows how to produce, position and present their offerings to the new 2010 affluent consumer will have an edge over the old-schoolers who still think it's 2007, only smaller.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The fear of being imposed upon

Diana has great ideas and a ton of energy. She speaks with conviction, she makes a great impression. But, she's never been happy with her job. She feels she should be making more money and have more people people working under her. I'd guess her husband feels sorry for her and looks at her company in a less than flattering way.

Here's the truth about Diane. She is smart and has a ton of energy. But she has one overwhelming fear in her life that taints her performance, relationships and results: fear of being imposed upon.

She is reluctant to commit to a project, to put in extra time to make it great or to really help fellow co-workers--because she fears being sucked into more work and fears she'll not be rewarded appropriately.

I've known many great people with this fear and none had a smooth road. They were either that enigma at the office--the disgruntled person who seemed to have it all together but never lived up to her potential, or the person that was constantly pushed and prodded to do what they had to do. In neither case, does the person have great relations with co-workers or lead a fulfilling work life.

To those of us with the fear of being imposed upon--why not move forward with trust? Trust that you will be rewarded fairly (even if not on your timetable). Trust that helping others is rewarding for you, and in most cases will not be stuck doing that additional work forever. Trust that throwing away this fear will also make you more employable and more enjoyable.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Monday, January 4, 2010

Be an "engager"--You don't need to work long hours, but...

After studying successful businesspeople, one finding is that working long hours is no indicator of success.

We can be more successful and work less hours, but we have to inspire, inspect and demand good (or better) work from our associates. If we don't receive that support, then we will be left with either working longer hours to do that work or we'll catch that "disease" and shortchange the work, the client and and eventually our careers.

Really, don't at least 80% of all people end up in these two buckets? They either:
1) Focus on their own time (or effort) and give as little as possible or
2) Focus on pleasing people and don't rock the boat--meaning they work longer and are less effective in the long run
The minority--the real successes--take a different, less comfortable path. They:
1) Commit to doing great, inspired work
2) Are engagers--they engage their clients, co-workers and suppliers in doing great work
3) Face the tough situations--they make sure their ideas are on-track, they demand great performance of themselves and others--even the client has to live up to their promises

These successes, or engagers, have stress for sure, but they also receive the spoils of doing great things--the pride, exhilaration, the camaraderie, and the freedoms (time, money, flexibility) that go along with being a success.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond