Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Best of Barry: Thank you for accepting my weakness

It's smart to focus on our strengths. But what if I only do a few things really great every day and the rest of the 23 1/2 hours of the day I stink?

Is my weakness my problem or is it to be shared by those who surround me?

I don't think the answer to this is black and white. Sure, I should focus as much as possible on where I make a big difference. But then again, if I try to grow and learn, I can expand that strength area a little and be more valuable to my team.

On the other side of the equation, my customers or bosses can look at me as a person with specific talent and do their best to put me where I can succeed.

For my part, I need to build on my strengths, not just sit on them. Hopefully, those around me will appreciate it and we'll build on that.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
Originally posted 01/10/11

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Best of Barry: Why creativity should be booming

In a tough economy, you have less people hanging around. You have more people knocking on your door looking for work. And you have clients more hungry than ever for great ideas.

That means the old way of doing things: giving all the creative opportunities to the same people at your company--is changing.

Now, companies in all industries will be moving toward competitive sourcing--internally and externally. That means having your employees compete against your suppliers in order to find the best idea. Why not? It may reduce the complacency in your company. It may allow you to test drive a freelancer or new supplier.

The price is small: a few bucks to a supplier to come up with ideas. The upside is great: better ideas and reduced complacency.

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond
Originally posted 09/12/09

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Best of Barry: The love of numbers

We have data available to us everywhere. We can learn about the trends. We can track progress on graphs and charts. We can access statistics from years ago or minutes ago. Problem is, all those numbers are useless unless we do something with them.

My company, LaBov & Beyond, worked for a large corporation to help track its customer satisfaction scores. They knew the status of every customer and every dealer that customer bought from. We helped our customer tabulate the findings and we found some trends that could dramatically alter that corporation's performance for the better. Only one problem: they didn't want to do anything about it. They merely wanted the data to prove they cared about customer satisfaction--not to do anything about it.

It's not about having the numbers, it's about using the numbers.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
Originally posted: 10/01/10

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Best of Barry: Commitment is Critical

I was just at a seminar and had to make a decision: Do I really commit to this message, do I give more of myself than I usually do...or do I sit back and see if get pulled in?
This time I decided to give it my all and I really was moved, I think this seminar can really make a meaningful difference in my life. The thing is, the facilitator was good, but not phenomenal. The message was strong, but not unique. The setting (the room, the locale) was decent, but not breathtaking.

The big deal was that I was ready to receive and to engage. We may hope our ideas, our events, and our messages are brilliant, but if the audience doesn't jump in with both feet, it doesn't matter.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
Originally posted 11/12/10

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Best of Barry: Why a little measuring is good. A lot, maybe not so...

Some of us are data-junkies--the more the better. Numbers, numbers, numbers, etc. Others play it by feel--this feels good, that doesn't, etc.

Even a feel "player" can benefit from data once in a while. Our world is so busy that it's impossible to see where you stand accurately with customers or general business performance. A couple of valid, real numbers you can track and learn from can make all the difference. For instance, if a manufacturer can use its customer satisfaction scores to determine if it's making progress in quality construction, that's a lot better than "feeling" things are going the right direction.

Is there one or two metrics that can help you? That's the key word--"help"--because often we reject data because it doesn't "feel" like fun. Look for the measurements that you can affect, that will help you know you're on track (or maybe need some help).

A couple of metrics may just anchor you in the sea of daily craziness, too many of them will sink the boat.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
Originally posted 11/10/10

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Best of Barry: Option, what option?

There's a reason why new technology is utilized in war times. It's because it has to work. There is no longer time to wait and wonder and tinker and fiddle around--it's time to pull the trigger.

Well-known technologies, from atomic bombs to bunker busters, have been employed in wartime to gain advantage, each after years of experimentation. All the way back to the Civil War, new technologies included submarines, military railroads, hospital systems, the Gattling Gun and others.

Does that apply in the workplace? I think so.

If I don't have an option to take a day off because I'm not in the mood, then maybe that makes me face my issues and solve them. If I don't have an option to lose that sale, maybe it makes me hunker down and get to the heart of the issue.

When you don't have an option to fail, it dramatically increases your chances to succeed.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
Originally posted 02/10/11

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Best of Barry: Business card or ticket to leave?

You're at a store and are interested in buying a product. The salesperson is not the best in the world. You could be persuaded to buy, but you're not making it easy for him. Then the salesperson reaches into his pocket and hands you the ticket to leave--his business card. He says, "Call me if you have an interest or want to stop by again."

You walk out, time goes by, it's two weeks later and you reach into your pocket and find that guy's business card, only by now it's wrinkled up and tattered, because it's been in the wash a few times. So, of course, you throw it out.

Just like he threw you out as a customer.

I knew a salesperson years ago who had an interesting approach: he never printed up his own business card. When you'd ask him for his card, he replied, "I don't carry business cards, but I'd be happy to take yours." Pretty smart--he'd keep control by being the one with the information.

Also, it saved him money printing up business cards that would result in him losing business.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
Originally posted 05/17/10

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Best of Barry: "Your" versus "Our": Ask "Y"

There are times to take credit. Sometimes it is simply accurate to say that concept is your idea. Or maybe it would be viewed as insincere to imply it was ours when nothing could be further from the truth. But...

Most of the time, ideas, concepts, new products, great performances are not created alone. They truly are collaborations. Why not share the glory?
The difference between saying something is yours, versus it is ours, is the letter "Y." Ask "Y" when you're tempted to say it's yours.
What I find is that taking credit is also time-sensitive. Haven't we seen someone take credit for an idea after it had been loved by the client? Where was that conviction before the client bought it? That person was laying low, playing the game. If it turned out bad, then he wouldn't take credit.

Here's when to take full credit:

1) When it is 100% accurate to say so.
2) Before the idea has been declared a winner.
3) When you are also willing to take total responsibility should it fail.

Otherwise, just ask "Y."

Barry LaBov
LaBov and Beyond
LaBov & Beyond
Originally posted 01/15/10

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Best of Barry: Powerwalk vs. Sleepwalk

I just hung up the phone talking to a CEO friend of mine. My company has done a little business with his company (let's call them Company A), but never really clicked with them. They were too slow-paced, too low-intensity. The CEO realized it and asked me to help identify it for him. I told him of another multi-billion dollar company (Company B) we work with that has also gone through tough times. But you can clearly see their response is different.

I told the CEO he should visit Company B and walk the halls, but when he does he better make sure he walks fast or he'll be run over. At Company B, the people are so focused and intense that they power walk down the skinny halls of their old building. Company A's employees sleepwalk through their cavernous hallways.

Look at the pace of your company, what does it tell you?

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
Originally posted 07/21/10

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Best of Barry: What is Loyalty?

Lots of efforts focus on loyalty. Lots of money is spent on measuring it, learning where it's lost, learning what can increase it, etc.

But what is the definition of loyalty? If a company offers me a couple grand off my next purchase and I buy their product because of it--does that constitute loyalty, or does it constitute a good deal?

Why judge my loyalty only after years of owning a product? Why not consider (and treat) me as loyal the moment I buy that product and put down thousands of dollars?

Am I a loyal employee if I stay an extra year to get my bonus or because I have golden handcuffs and can't leave?

People are loyal because they choose to be, for reasons independent of a bribe (cash). When we believe and buy in, we are on the road to loyalty. Let's call the other stuff what they really are: special deals, discounts, bonuses, etc.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
Originally posted 10/04/10

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Best of Barry: Ownership is the elevator to the top

There's no substitute for taking ownership in business. I don't care if you're the tallest or most beautiful or most brilliant person--if you don't take ownership, you're in the way.

The stakes are so high today that ownership is more important than ever. So, if you're young, unproven, or have stumbled in the past, don't worry. You will rocket to the top if you commit and take 100% ownership of the success of whatever it is you do.

And, if you're in a position to be a leader and don't take ownership, that elevator will plummet faster than you can imagine.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
Originally posted 08/25/10

Monday, January 16, 2012

Good luck with that

Remember the old cartoon where a bunch of soldiers were lined-up and their commander asked for volunteers to step forward and everyone but one poor sap stepped backwards? Ever feel like that?

As I've become an old codger, I've adopted a response to being "volunteered." I'm okay with it as long as the following are true:

1) I get no unsolicited advice on how to do the task from someone who is not joining me as a "volunteer." Basically, it's "put up or shut up," as harsh as that sounds.
2) Anyone joining me as a volunteer needs to be treated respectfully and allowed to do things more or less his or her way (within reason, of course). With great (and uncompensated) responsibility comes great freedom.
3) This should be enjoyable, fun and enriching for those involved. So, if it means we celebrate or we hire out part of the process, then we do it.

Some of the greatest experiences in my life have been when I was volunteered. I was volunteered to buy and help run a golf course and club, coach a girls basketball team, lead a bible study, preside over a nonprofit, lead a rock band and even run a business or two.

After all those experiences, I just smile as the soldiers start stepping back.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Power of Security

I'm helping a friend in a job search. He wants to move on from his current employer. His job is stressful, it has plenty of unknowns and its industry is in flux. I understand his need for change. But, as he looks for alternative careers, he has to realize that many of the problems he thinks he will leave behind will be waiting for him at his next job.

That's because of two reasons:
1) We bring our baggage with us to every relationship. So, if he has issues with authority, guess what? He'll have that at the new job. Ditto for other things ranging from everything from how hard he's willing to work to personal hygiene. If he is challenged currently in any area, he probably will be in his new job.

2) Every job has its issues. At best you leave a ton of big issues to work at a place with issues that you feel you can deal with. But there's no guarantee.

I'm not saying he should stay where he is, in fact, it's too late for that. But, there is something to be said for security--knowing where you work, knowing the people, the expectations and having confidence that you will be employed there tomorrow unless you do something really bad.

That's why you see a person quit a company he's worked at for ten years, and over the next 12 months go through three or four jobs. It's easy to lose perspective and forget the power of security.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Customer Communications

Many brands create customer communications, whether they be magazines, emails, newsletters or blogs. Taking a good look at them, one thing will emerge:
Many customer communications are not of interest to the customer.
Well-intentioned brands all too often communicate in a language that only they will appreciate. If I buy a computer, I don't want to know how to program it. If I have a financial advisor, I don't want to know which algorithms to apply in my investing. If I own a high-def  TV, please don't talk about technical details only an A/V installer can fathom.

Customers come in all shapes, sizes and pyschographics. Some are technical, others can't stand technical stuff. If you know the various motivations of your customers, you can communicate to them in their voice(s). Usually that means your message will not be in the words of the technician or engineer that services or even created that product.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Customer Experience

The leader of an iconic brand recently stated that while the customer experience at their 1000 locations was uniformly excellent, it was too diverse. There was not enough uniformity amongst all locations to give the customer an experience they could count on.

That's a provocative thought. Is it preferable to have the same experience at 1000 locations? Or is it more meaningful to have a unique one at those locations? Is it better to have 1000 stores with the same fixtures and layout or is it cool to have 1000 stores with varying combination of fixtures and layouts?

The upside of conformity is that processes can applied to them all and it can be easier to achieve at least a good level of performance. The downside is that you lose the ownership and personality of those in charge of the 1000 locations.

What do you think?

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Restless Econony

Recent reports on the economy strike very different tones:
Things are either getting a lot better or getting a bit worse again
We can choose which reports to base our next moves on, the good or the bad ones. Or maybe, it is true that things will get better and worse... because it's not like there is one economy, there are numerous ones. It is conceivable that mass retailers will be reducing their locations while other industries are growing.

There's another word for all of this: change. We cannot count on things being as they were, not only two years ago, but six months ago. It's a restless economy: we cannot rest.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Monday, January 9, 2012

Remembering Joe

A great man named Joe just passed away. He was a leader in my area of the country. I remember him as a bigger than life kind of guy, energetic and very people-oriented. He knew everybody and seemed to get along with everyone.

I looked at his list of accomplishments and it was overwhelming--dozens of boards that he sat on, numerous nonprofits, he was a great family man, etc. What moved me most was that he focused much of his time on supporting local businesses and growing the local economy.

It's meaningful to focus on one thing, such as your locale, to give greater meaning to your efforts. It's hard to affect an entire nation, but you can make a difference in a city or region. Smaller focus can bring bigger results.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Next Level

What is the "Next Level" and why do so many of us want to take things there?
It's cliche to say we want things taken to the Next Level when most of us haven't stopped and determined three things:
1) What is the Next Level?
2) Why is it so important to change things?
3) Assuming you have defined the Next Level and why it is critical to your future, are you really willing to do what it takes to shake things up to achieve it?

To gather the resources and focus to achieve something great, we have to first determine what and why--and then IF we really are willing to do what it takes. Otherwise, it's just a feel-good cliche that does no good.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Happy for the salesperson

A sign that you have a good salesperson is that you are happy they can make the sale, enjoy success and earn a fair profit from working with you.

If we reverse that statement, it causes the salesperson to realize that  customers expect to be asked for the sale and they expect to be charged fairly.

Don't disappoint them.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Pleasing the unpleasable

Dealership salespeople will tell you it is almost impossible to please some people. Very true. According to research, the worst thing you can do is to try to please them to make them happy. It won't work.

A difficult person will be suspicious of your intentions of pleasing, so don't please, give them a dose of reality in a pleasant respectful, but firm, manner. Don't massage the truth, don't b.s., don't laugh at every joke they tell (if they tell any), just purely be who you are, ask the tough questions, tell the tough truths and seriously, sincerely put yourself in their shoes as you recommend or advise them.

All of the above non-pleasing activity will result in them being very pleased.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Negativity Cycle

We all hate negativity, who doesn't? Even a negative person hates negativity. Here's a thought from all the years I've run a business and have worked with large corporations and dealers and watched them handle issues and people.

I believe that negativity doesn't pop up out of nowhere--seldom is a person just "mean" and likes to bring everyone down. Often, not always, the negative situation is fueled by a series of non-confrontations: various people avoiding expressing their concern or busy people putting off an undesirable talk.

As this cycle of non-confrontation continues, the stakes get higher, the pressure raises and at some point, someone (either the person most frustrated or the person who is most outspoken) blurts out something that is concerned "negative." Then the recipient of the outburst usually feels sorry for himself or herself, maybe angry, confused--and that's understandable because "up till now nobody had said anything."

I think we can reduce the negative situations one step at a time if we can address little issues before they grow. The good news is that if we do that, those issues are not nearly as difficult to deal with when they're small as when we leave them to grow.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Monday, January 2, 2012

Not my fault

I think the toughest thing we face in our business and personal lives is accountability. We just find it hard to accept that we have caused something to go wrong or that we simply aren't up to the task.

Some of us over-compensate and say that everything is our fault--but we really don't believe that inside. Admit it, it's far more pleasurable to point a finger at someone else than to point it back at ourselves. So why do that, if you don't have to?

Because it sets you free.

Sincerely admitting a shortcoming allows you to face what you've been fearing (looking bad, for example), it stops destruction because it's all out in the open and it gives you a chance to do extraordinary things--things you have not been doing such as asking for help or getting to the bottom of the issues that really trip you up or maybe even realizing that you're trying your darnedest to do something you (maybe nobody) can do.

Or you can point a finger at someone else. And the stress and worry continue.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond Marketing Communication and Training