Thursday, September 30, 2010

Enjoying the Disagreement

I just spent a few hours with a couple of clients who have worked together for over a decade. They got along well as far as I could see. Then they shared a secret: they hardly ever agree on anything.

You'd think that would be the kiss of death in a relationship, but they've endured and capitalized on their different outlooks to achieve success.

How did they do it? For one thing, they continued to show respect to each other even though they didn't share the same opinions. And, they admitted, one of them (the boss) usually "won" the battles, and that was OK. It wasn't all about winning the fight, it was about bringing up ideas and settling on what was best for the business.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


How can you tell if you've created a great product or service? A great company?


Are people energized about the product or service, do they smile when they talk about it? Do your customers smile and become animated when they talk about your company and the energy they feel from it?

We're all in the energy business. The more you generate and inspire, the more success you receive.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What's your new model year update?

Manufacturers of cars, motorcycles and other products instinctively look to the next model year (for example, next year will be the 2011 model year) as their chance to unveil a new, improved version of their products. We expect the 2011 model to be an improvement over 2010, and it certainly should be superior to the 2005 model.

But as I think of myself, my personal brand--is the 2011 me going to be improved, and if so, in what way(s)? Is my current 2010 me superior to the 2005 model?

There is nothing more exciting for a manufacturer to launch its new model line-up. Shouldn't we think the same about our personal brand? How is the 2011 me going to be better, yet retain the best of my previous years of performance?

Barry LaBov

Monday, September 27, 2010

Does it have to be that difficult?

We're in a world where we fight for our time--there never seems to be enough of it. We sometimes wish we could clone ourselves. Maybe, just maybe, there is hope.

It could be that we don't need that much time to do some things. Those hours, those days that we have set aside may be overkill. It is possible that whatever it is--it could be done quicker.

Some great ideas were hatched in very little time, for example, on the ride into work or in the shower. Some breakthroughs were accidents that happened quickly on the way to other things. So, what do we need to jump into this "time machine" and actually buy some of our time back?

We have to do the hardest stuff. We have to completely commit, take ownership in the project. We have to lose ourselves in the process. And we have to fully realize what the end result is, so we can know when we have achieved it.

Too often we begin work on something and don't really know what the end result is supposed to look like, we aren't committed, we have good intentions but we just aren't very effective--that's why we need so much time in the first place.

So, first figure out what the end is supposed to look like, what your purpose is. Then jump in and commit until you've achieved it. You may look up to find there's not only an inspired idea, but you arrived there ahead of schedule.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond

Friday, September 24, 2010


I've been recently introduced to Strengthsfinder 2.0, which is a good book on identifying your strengths. What a great topic. Who wouldn't want to focus on and examine their strengths?

The concept is that if you focus on strengths and not your weaknesses, you'll flourish. But what happens when you find out a person's strengths and are surprised because they don't use them at the workplace?

You could have a strength in achievement and be a great tennis player, a great Bible Study leader, a super-mom, but be very submissive at the office. Why? Could be you're in a position or company that isn't a good fit. Could be you're dis-engaged and don't realize it. Could be you don't think about bringing the real "you" to the office.

I think it comes down to a basic realization that ideally you should be the same person at work as you are at home or church or on the golf course. We need to bring the "real" us to everywhere we go. If we don't, we create pressure, because we're not allowing oursleves to be who we really are.

Are you different after work than you are during work? Why?

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Thursday, September 23, 2010

That Calm Guy

Way back in the days of wood-burning computers, when I actually had a little bit of hair on my head (it was more of a tuft), I had a client named Bill.

Bill ran an agency and it was a nice, little agency. He was an honest man and was a pleasure to work for. There was one thing that stood out about Bill: He was calm. Always calm. Nothing ruffled his feathers. Many of his competitors were nut-cases, arrogant, hot-headed and wrecks to work with. Not Bill.

As I got to know him over the years, it was apparent that while he was calm on the outside, he certainly had dealt with some real tough, emotional issues in business and in his personal life. But, Bill was always calm and cool when discussing those situations.

I don't know whether he was truly calm inside and out, but one thing I do know: his calmness allowed others (including me) to do good work, to have a confidence in him and his company, and to really like working for him.

Maybe the answer for emotional people like me is to act as cool as possible, not because that's how we feel, but because that will ellicit the best results. I could get real excited about that!

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

One-hour meetings, half-hour meetings, what's next?

Meetings are a much-maligned part of our workday. An interesting trend is taking place and I wonder where it will end up.

One-hour meetings are being replaced by half-hour meetings--and now we are starting to see fifteen minute meetings taking their place.

Is this good or bad or in-between? I'd guess that most one-hour meetings could be done in half the time. But, it's a stretch for me to imagine much being accomplished in fifteen minutes.

But one thing's for sure--this trend requires the participants to be on-time for meetings. Anyone that's ten minutes late to a fifteen-minute meeting has missed 2/3rds of it. Might be a good idea after all...

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Why Be A Good Customer?

Why in the world should you be a good customer? After all, you're in control, you're the one who pays for the product or service. In this economy, the customer has the upper hand, so why not use it?

First of all, we need to realize that everyone, at some point, is a customer. And we are all on the other side of that equation, dealing with (or serving) customers. Until my daughter worked in a coffee shop, it didn't occur to me how much a tip meant to a young person making a latte.

I think if you are cold, indifferent or worse as a customer, you have to realize you might miss out: Miss out on inspiring someone or letting someone know they did a good job or miss out on making someone's day (maybe they've been going thorugh a tough time).

Some of us are terrible customers--demanding, irritable, bullying, deceitful, etc. Short-term, maybe you get something for that--a free product, a bunch of people nervously running around to please. Maybe you feel strong.

But long-term, being a good customer brings a lot: great ideas, friendships, loyalty, etc. Being a good customer is good business.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Monday, September 20, 2010

"More" Junkies

The more the merrier. Sounds great, right? Not in business. The top issue I see in many corporations is having too many processes, options, programs, guidelines, and goals.

Most of the corporations that have this problem realize it, and what do they do? They come up with a new solgan or mantra--one more thing they introduce to make things better.

The answer is "less." Don't try to cram two hundred pounds of stuff into a paper bag. Be bold and vulnerable enough to focus on what you think the key issues and answers are and stop at that.

That means no new options until you see the previous ones being utilized. That means adding no additional steps to a process that already is too long. Simplify, simplify, simplify.

And when you do finally simplify, you can actually expect, if not demand, that those processes or steps be adhered to.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Friday, September 17, 2010

Confessions May Not Mean Forgiveness

I heard a top exec from a major manufacturer speak to suppliers a year ago and can still can't forget his speech. I enjoyed listening to him because my company is not a supplier of theirs, so I approached what he said rather clinically.

The exec smiled and confessed that they had not been good to their suppliers in the past, that they had broken promises and cost their suppliers dearly. He continued, "Things are different now. We are committed to being a good partner to our suppliers."

I had mixed emotions about his speech. I think it's admirable for him to bravely confront the past--kudos to him. But, on the other hand, if I were a supplier, I'd be wondering why it's okay for my customer to apologize and expect me to be okay with that. What if my company went out of business or was severely hurt by their actions?

Maybe the exec really was saying, "Look, we've reneged on our promises to you and know it probably hurt you. But, we're not going to do anything but move on--and if you want our business, you'll need to do the same."

I don't think the exec was a bad guy, in fact, he seemed very impressive. The truth of this situation is probably more complicated than "good versus evil." The manufacturer did mess up, but many of the suppliers probably took advantage of the manufacturer over the years, too.

Move on.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
LaBov Sales Channel
PB&J Newsletter

Thursday, September 16, 2010

How Much Do You Need?

How many customers do you need?
How much money do you need to make?
How big of a company do you want?
How many employees, how many projects, products, services or options do you need to offer?

We cannot have it all, despite what we read or hear or fantasize. A manufacturer cannot increase its numbers of dealers, products, profit, employee morale, sales and quality all at once. Over time, sure that's possible.

A dealer cannot increase sales, locations, customers, customer service, employee retention, and profit all at once. Not possible.

At first blush it sounds great to have all those goals, but the reality is that there must be a priority. We must stand for a few things, not everything.

To get the few most important things, something else must "give." Or you get none of them.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

One Extra Question

It's easy to jump to conclusions, to make a decision based on one statement or fact. But in large and small corporations, that's a challenge. Often, a new policy or campaign is launched and fails because it was built on a faulty premise, assumption or edict.

Sometimes all it takes is one more question to clarify what's at the heart. My sister-in-law is a great example. She was called into the doctor's office for tests. After she went through numerous ones, the doctor came in and tried to assure her by saying, "I think you're fine. If you were my wife, I wouldn't do anymore testing."

She looked up at him and asked, "How well do you get along with your wife?"

One question can clarify a lot.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

No Time to Think

The business world is full of conflict, pressure and competition. We focus on the competing companies or the economy, but seldom do we realize that time--or lack of taking time--causes more problems than anything else.

Our technologies keep us in the know 24/7 and we allow them to rob us of the solitude that humans need to thrive. That hour of focus time without interruption could save hundreds of hours or make millions of dollars.

Stop. Exhale. Think. Can't hurt, can it?

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tension Reducer

It's great to have a strong will and fierce determination. It can help you go a long way. But unless you have the right team with the right skills, at best, you'll have a high-tension atmosphere where many people are under-performing and a few are burned out from working so hard.

I've been guilty of trying to turn people into what my company needs--I see what they can do and am convinced that they can do it. Problem is, many times, they don't have the skills or the interest. They may be great people, but if they're in the wrong position, there is little chance of success. Far more likely, it will be a battle that no one enjoys.

The more I've focused on getting the right person, who is skilled and motivated, in the right position, the less pressure and the more success we've seen.

Sometimes it's pride, sometimes it's that we have no time to think--but it's worth it to stop and assess our people to make sure we have the right skills to do what we need. Otherwise, it's a pressure cooker, for all.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
LaBov Sales Channel
PB&J Newsletter

Friday, September 10, 2010

The bigger the person...

As I've gotten to meet some great people throughout the years, I've found that the very best of the bunch--those real top men and women at their corporations--were also the most gracious.

Those "big people" were the ones who sent hand-written notes or emails on the weekend or who called with advice or who reached out to help.

Their smaller counterparts quite often were focused on their favorite subject: themselves.

It's easy to assume a high-level person is cold or selfish, that's how our society pigeonholes successful people. But take a closer look and you'll very often see someone who is sensitive, caring, honest and sincere. And it makes sense, after all, because those are the very traits that brought them success--who wouldn't want to see that kind of person do well?

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
LaBov Sales Channel
PB&J Newsletter

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Roles of Each Department

At dealerships, you can have a "mall mentality." There are businesses under one roof at a dealership--sales, service, parts, accessories, and more. It's tempting for the assumption to be there is a dominant department that is most important, and the others are merely "moons" that circle it.

In reality each department plays a role in the customer experience. One department can retain, save, or destroy a customer relationship.

The parts guy who is rude, the saleslady who doesn't follow up, the parts counter manager that overcharges, the accessories department lady who ignores you can be overcome by the parts guy who guides you, the saleslady who sends you a thank-you note, or the accessories lady who notices you have an interest in a tee-shirt.

Imagine if each department understood the real value of their customers and the role their department played in retaining them.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
LaBov Sales Channel
PB&J Newsletter

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Fewer The Games The Better

Whether we mean to or not, we create games that people play at our companies. There are games that hurt us such as the "stay away from me, look how busy I am" or "I'll take anything on" or "I'm just doing what I'm told" or the "the economy stinks, so it really doesn't matter what I do" games.

Those bad games take our eye off the right things, such as taking care of the client, living up to promises, collaborating and being profitable.

If we can focus on the meaningful games and give people the autonomy to play those games well, we all win.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
LaBov Sales Channel
PB&J Newsletter

Friday, September 3, 2010

Be like Mike

I just caught up with one of my first mentors, Mike. I hadn't seen him in years, yet it was like we hadn't skipped a beat.

I'm still learning from him and can see why he's successful. He has energy, he is constantly looking for new ways to help clients and grow business. He's humble and loves to see others prosper.

He works in a tough business, but hasn't jumped ship, and because of that--and his incredible work ethic--he has done very, very well.

Thirty years ago I called him up to ask for advice and he was gracious and helped me. People like Mike inspire others to be like him. Thanks, Mike!

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
LaBov Sales Channel
PB&J Newsletter

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Leverage what you've got

One of the best clients my company works with provides their dealers with hundreds--yes, hundreds--of tools to help the dealers perform well. One problem with that: Most of the dealers don't use those tools.


Our client has continually answered that problem by building more tools for the dealers so that maybe they'll use the new tools.

One answer is to provide no more tools and to help the dealers utilize the existing ones. If we do that, we may find that some of the tools are worthless, some may be darn good and others may need a little improving.

But more important than all of that: the dealers will appreciate and value the tools, which is the biggest battle of all.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
LaBov Sales Channel
PB&J Newsletter

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


One thing we take for granted is the investment some companies make to do business. Sometimes, that investment is extraordinary; building factories, facilities, hiring hundreds, even thousands of people. All to build a product and sell it.

Even small companies do the same, they buy equipment, they hold onto people they could have let go, and they put great efforts into growing that business.

If you're that corporation that invested billions of dollars or that dealership that built that new showroom, it's a good time to make sure all involved understand the commitment being made.

You're the rare breed that has belief in the future. Share it with those who have inspired your belief and inspire them to make it a smart investment.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
LaBov Sales Channel
PB&J Newsletter