Friday, April 29, 2011

Help me, I'm a clueless customer

You walk into a dealership and ask to test drive a car. A friendly saleslady photocopies your license, hands you the keys and asks if you'd like to drive it yourself or do you want her to join you. You of course say, "No thanks, I'll take it for a spin by myself."

The problem is you aren't the expert on that car, you don't understand the brilliant technology it has or the safety features that are actually working as you turn the corner. Instead, you take it for a drive and turn into the dealership, thank the saleslady and walk off.

That car might have been the perfect car for you, or maybe not. But you'll never make an informed decision because you were allowed to be on your own with no guidance from someone who makes a living being the expert on that car.
Oh, salespeople of the world--help us clueless customers--demand, yes demand that you educate us on the products you know so well!

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Efficiency of Courage

By avoiding the tough questions or the difficult situations, we make extra work for ourselves. We tiptoe around topics, we don't ask specifics in fear of being ridiculed and we just plain stay away from tough situations if at all possible.

So since we do all this, the only answer is do more. More work, more ideas, more meetings, more estimates, more hours and more worry.

If we mustered up our courage, we would cut through the crap, face the uncomfortable truths and at the same time, show the people we're dealing with that we respect ourselves, our time and our minds. Which would influence them to do the same.

That's what courage can do. It increases efficiency. It cuts through the clutter. And, since it's in short supply, it gets attention and results.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Announcing a new concept

Want to increase sales, productivity, morale, innovation, and profit? Here's a breakthrough concept guaranteed to deliver results:

Do the basics
Follow up with prospects
Check your work before declaring your job complete
Be open and honest with your team
Invite everyone to brainstorm
Focus on your work and get it done quickly

There are no new concepts or breakthroughs, just those nasty basics that we'd like to avoid. Doing the basics, now that's an interesting concept...

Barry LaBov
LaBov & beyond

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Profit, Growth and Happy Employees

My company was conducting a brand assessment for a client and we uncovered very deep, serious morale issues that their employees were up in arms about. It seems the employees felt unappreciated, under-compensated and looked down upon, and many were totally disengaged.

At first, that seemed crazy because this company was profitable, they were growing and they were well-known (positively). But just because you're profitable, it doesn't mean your employees are engaged.

The Roman Empire did pretty well for centuries by conquering people and putting them to work under their control. I'm guessing Rome's conquered peoples probably would have filled out surveys that were scathing toward "management."

So, how can a company be so profitable, yet have a situation like this?

Most likely, they must have one tremendous product, service or process--some brilliant concept that has allowed them to succeed despite facing this push-back from employees. And, very possibly, this company doesn't communicate well internally. They assume employees understand why they are doing what they are doing. Obviously there is quite a void in that area.

From our view, that company had a lot of good things going for them and would do even better if they tackled this problem with the same genius they did when they started the company with their brilliant ideas years ago.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Monday, April 25, 2011

Charging for what is valued

When the economy was robust, we could be sloppy. We could think in the moment and not of the future. We could rob from Peter and pay Paul--as long as everything turned out okay, who cared?

Now that budgets are tight and there's less business going around, we need to make sure that we 1) know why a customer chooses us and 2) charge for those things that customers really value.

Knowing why the customer chooses us is critical because we need that customer coming back and we need more just like them. If, in this economy, they choose your company despite the competition, you better know why--was it your creativity, your service, your hunger, your pricing, your technology?

Even more important is understanding what your customer is happy to pay for--is it your customer service, your strategy, your flexibility? In other words, do they pay gladly for your customer service or sales rep, or does the customer put up with them in order to get something else, such as your counsel?

If we don't do the above, then it means we're blindly doing business and may be charging for the wrong things, which coupled with the tough economy, is a recipe for disaster.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Power of Consistency

I believe one of the top causes of frustration, failure and stress in relationships is lack of consistency. We may be good at what we do, but if we can't be counted on, then at some point the world will crumble around us.

How often have you worked with someone who is great except you can't count on them? They promise to follow up, but don't, they don't respond to an email, they don't check their work. Yet, on the other hand, wow are they tremendous sometimes. They have great ideas, tons of energy and they really can make a difference.

Whether it be in a personal relationship or professional one, consistency trumps almost everything else. It's hard to judge whether an idea is genius, but it is easy to judge whether you responded back to me as promised. It's tough to tell if I'm the greatest people person in the world, but it is real easy to notice that I forget to finish the work I owe you.

If I can do what I promise consistently, you'll value me far more than if I'm brilliant but undependable.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Reality Jumping

I'm bummed out, someone looked at my house and may buy it, I don't want to move.
I'm so excited, we met with the customer for two hours and know we're going to work with them, isn't it great?
My subordinate knows as much as I do on this project, she'll do fine, so I can now move on to other things.

The above examples happen daily. We jump to a conclusion and act as if it's real. Then we obsess on what it's going to be like, how things will be better or worse and so on. Sometimes we think this is a good way to think. It's positive thinking, isn't it? Actually it's not. It's plain foolish. It's not based in reality.

That kind of thinking, reality jumping, is wasteful and it takes our eyes off what we're supposed to be doing. Whether it's trying to sell a house, land a deal or work a project, we have to act as if nothing's been concluded (a sale, for example) until it has actually happened. Otherwise, we lose opportunities and spend emotions needlessly.

It may sound like a downer, but until the house sale is closed, it ain't closed. Until that client signs on the dotted line, they ain't a client. And that project you dumped off to someone else is still your responsibility. That's reality.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Stress Creation

Our society talks a lot about stress. Work stress, health stress, relationship stress, etc. It's all very real.

We act as if stress happens to us. Sometimes it does. But quite often, we create our fair share of it. We buy that new car or decide to take that new job or promise ourselves we'll lose 20 pounds by the wedding in two months, etc.

The next time we lament about how stressed we are, we ought to take an audit of how much of it we created all by ourselves.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Service: Part Two

After touring two colleges with my daughter, we drive up to our final school of the day. Interesting. It had a guard gate. Security. The guard was friendly and sent us to the building to start our tour.

We were asked to sit and wait for our guide. Soon, an attractive youthful lady sat down with us. She had done her homework. She knew my daughter's name and interests. She asked questions to learn what was most important, they had a few laughs. Then we toured their facility. Instead of staring at buildings, we entered them and took in the atmosphere, we learned about what the school's mission was. The guide focused only on us, we were the only people she was with.

Afterward, we sat down and the guide explained the options, the tuition, the scholarships and asked our shirt sizes. Soon she returned with tee shirts in the school's colors and with its logo.

This was not an efficient tour. The guide spent time with us one on one. She worked through her lunch time. When we left, we felt uplifted and soon (within 30 minutes) we had received a follow-up email thanking us and promising more information to be sent. Later the guide followed up with my daughter's high school to confirm records were being sent. All this took time.

You probably expect to hear that we chose that college (no decision made yet) or that this institution was the most expensive (it was less costly than the other two we saw). Or that it was in a beautiful setting (it was urban, hence the guard gate).

But the service was tremendous, it was personal, it was not perfect, but the customer (my daughter) felt taken care of. Sometimes that is all it takes to succeed, to make a sale of any kind. But it was not efficient or cheap, it cost time and care.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Monday, April 18, 2011

Service: Part One

So I'm checking out colleges with my teenage daughter and we hear this from one of the school's staff as we're standing around waiting to be received: "I'm glad the tours are dying down, we hardly had any to do today." Not a good tone to set for an hour tour of college. Secondly, it was raining outside, a downpour. I notice there were golf carts outside the door and asked if we could use them to shelter us from the weather. The answer: "No, they don't let us do that."

So, we quickly run around outside in the rain looking at the exterior of numerous buildings and then get back to the cafeteria in time to have us handed brochures and tuition information. We say good bye...forever.

My mind raced to ask how often have I ever treated a prospective client that way? I'm sure I have. It's very efficient to not utilize a golf cart (saves energy) and it's efficient to use young, inexperienced clerical folk to conduct the tours (cheap, won't waste the time of the top people), but it's clearly not effective (who would fall in love with a school after this experience?).

Lousy service can work--if you have a captive, desperate audience with no other options.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Friday, April 15, 2011

Five-Question Communication Quiz

Five-Question Communication Quiz:
1) How often do fellow employees, bosses or customers ask you for an update on where things stand?
2) How often do you send an email, text or voice mail that requires others to ask you questions to clarify what you communicated?
3) How often do you "reply all" to emails?
4) How often do you fail to return emails, texts or voice mails promptly--even when you don't have the answer--to at least let the person know you're working on it?
5) How often do you use email or texts (instead of in-person or on-phone) to deliver critical or emotionally charged messages?

If your answer to the above question is: every day, often, most of the time or a lot, you have a great opportunity to become more valuable to your organization and customers by changing your communications approach.
If your answer to the above is: never or seldom, you are the rare person who makes things clearer, calmer and simpler. You're a communications hero.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Dependent--Independent Trap

Steven Covey has a belief system that says that people are either Dependent, Independent or Interdependent. The ideal business culture is interdependent. In that environment, people are able to stand on their own two feet but also collaborate with each other to find the best outcomes.

From my experience, it is the trap of going back and forth between being dependent and independent that is so devastating to businesses. When a person constantly needs to be helped to do his job, he quickly begins to fear being exposed and will hide. It's natural--I don't think people feel I'm cutting it, I'm going to keep my head down and wait it out.
The truth is that sooner or later, it will be impossible to hide this. And it's better sooner to get feedback, help and support from others--which is being interdependent. But that's counter-intuitive--why let everyone know I'm having problems? I'll just get in trouble for that.

Ideally, you work at a company where the culture welcomes failure as a way to learn and grow. But if you're not in that idyllic setting, you have a choice:
Keep my head down or raise my hand for help
While either one could result in failure, the first option is guaranteed to fail in the long run.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


If only we could rewind our lives and go back to change our decisions. If we had a remote control on our business decisions we could make things so much better. So since we don't, what can we do?
Learn...Observe...Be vulnerable
A great option is to learn from and observe others so that we don't have to make the same mistakes they have. Most of us fight that because our situation seems special or unique. It's not. Our situation is so typical that it's almost funny. I look at it like I was going to the doctor. How often have I ever had a condition that is totally unique? Never. And that's a good thing, because it means there are people around who have been in the same situation, as well as people who can fix that situation.

But we fight all this because we don't want to be vulnerable, which is a very uncomfortable feeling. If you're comfortable, though, you're not learning or growing, you're stagnant. Since we can't rewind, we have a decision to make:
Do we stay the course or are we willing to be vulnerable?

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fair Share

In this, or any economy for that matter, there are only so many opportunities for growth. At a dealership, if you don't focus on the people who are currently considering your product, you will miss out. Because in a matter of time, they will be satisfied--they will buy--somewhere.
It's very tempting to look at it with a laid-back attitude and assume you'll get your fair share. But it won't happen.

There is no fair share. You have to earn your share.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Monday, April 11, 2011

Superstar versus Everyday

What is the difference between a superstar and an everyday performer?
Is it years of experience?
Or appearance?

A faux superstar--someone with the reputation, but more a soloist with talent--is not more valuable than an everyday performer who works within the team. In fact, the faux superstar is a detriment to the team.

A real superstar does all the little things and takes the responsibility for the results. And when those results become reality, shares the credit.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Friday, April 8, 2011

Now that you got your way...

Now that you got your way...
Are you finished?
Are you just beginning?
Are you appreciative?
Are you filled with doubt?
Are you pompous?
Are you humble?
Are you more valuable or less valuable?

It's an achievement to fight for something and get it. But our success will be determined by our attitude after that point.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Wait is a Weight

Many of us are waiting for our team to step it up or for an employee to really pick up the pace or take charge. My suggestion:
Wait No More
Waiting will not get it done. A problem with waiting is that we're the victim. We're hoping something happens. And when it does happen, we're hoping it will meet our expectations.
Wait No More
Clarify to the best of your ability what you expect and need. Share it with the person and treat the person as a human being, listen, absorb and come to agreements on what is needed to be done.
Waiting is a an anchor, a weight around our necks. Defining what we want with our team can only help and reduce the weight of wait.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Relieve me of business

You can tell when someone wants business and you can tell when they would rather not do business.
When someone doesn't really want your business:
They take a lot of time in responding to you
They complicate the process
They have that tone of voice that says you're bothering them
They can't confirm a time or date when they could get started
You feel no energy from them, rather you feel drained when dealing with them
They respond only to what you ask, they don't engage with you
They price their work high and don't spend the time to prove their value
When you tell them you're going to buy elsewhere, they're fine with it, almost relieved

It's sad, but there are plenty of people looking to be relieved of business. It's our job, those of us who want to do business, to help them out with that.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I need a team beneath me

I worked with a good guy for a long time. He constantly talked of needing to have a great support team so that he could do his job. He felt his boss was close-minded and cheap and would have nothing of it. I asked exactly what kind of team he needed.

As he described the team, it occurred to me that he wanted people who were actually better than he was at his job. People who would do the things he was paid to do, only better and at a lower salary. Having this dream team would afford him the opportunity to work the minimum number of hours, sit back and watch them perform, bring in results and ultimately, make him successful--without him having to break a sweat.

As you can guess, he didn't work out at this job. He went on to another job and then finally bought a business with dozens of employees. He talked to me years later and told me how hard he was working, how many hours he was putting in and how hands-on he was.

It's tough when you take ownership of your job or a company. You have to be hands-on enough to be in touch, but hands-off enough to allow others to grow and do what they do best.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Monday, April 4, 2011


I'll let you off the hook if you do the same for me
I won't mention how bad your project is going as long as you keep quiet about mine
The above are examples of collusion that we deal with every day in business. But there are other, less obvious, examples of collusion such as allowing a person to not do their job because they had to attend to someone else's job. Or to excuse poor performance because it involves a difficult client or under-performing employee.

Without realizing it, we excuse others and allow them to break promises so that we can do the same. This undermines our best intentions.

As tough as it seems, it is not okay if you break your promise, even though you're dealing with someone else who didn't live up to their promise. If we faced every situation like that, we'd be forced to solve our problems, not to endure them and accept them.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Friday, April 1, 2011

Foolish thoughts

Foolish thoughts:

Maybe it's all coming together (whatever it is)
Maybe someone will appreciate what I have done
Maybe I'll be paid for what I'm worth
Maybe I'll finally be satisfied (with whatever, fill in the blank)
Maybe this new product will turn our company around
Maybe waiting for the new manager to be hired will solve it all
This time, the government will get it right
Maybe this one blog will make the difference

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond