Wednesday, February 29, 2012

It took one more day

Since today is February 29, that means it will take one extra day to get to March 1st this year. Is this year going to benefit from that extra day we have been given?

What could you do with today to take advantage of this?

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

False Humility

How often do you hear someone who did something well (or at least thought they did) give over-the-top credit to someone else? The response from those around is the same, people smile uncomfortably because intuitively we all know something isn't quite right. Either the person who's giving all the credit away is sincere, yet clueless to their contribution or they are lavishing praise on the other person to actually position themselves as a great humble, person.

None of this false humility is any good. Why not be totally honest and accurate? Maybe you did a good job and another person played a key role? Say that. Maybe you did all the work and the other person is your boss or client and was asleep at the wheel. Gently focus on the positive part of that and say nothing negative as to embarrass. Maybe the other person actually is completely responsible for the success. Make it clear.

False humility is just that, false.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Monday, February 27, 2012

Differentiation, true differentiation

I met with a manufacturer that had been experiencing a drop in their market share. They had tried numerous things to overcome the loss of profit, including everything from lowering their prices to re-tooling their processes through Six Sigma. Market share keeps going down.

It turns out that their chief differentiator (which I cannot divulge) is no longer a differentiator since their main competitor can now claim the same thing. This differentiator, which they leaned on for decades, has all but vanished. Yet, they hold on to it. Big mistake.

It's the most exciting or terrifying time in their company's history (or maybe both). They now have to actually look at what they do and determine why a customer should choose them. It's been a good ride for them, but now they have to make the tough decisions that their "differentiator" had allowed them to avoid for years.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Sunday, February 26, 2012

We need a finish line

Starting off on a good foot with a new customer or new member of the team or a new project is great. But, if we don't have a finish line, an end-goal or measurement or some way of knowing if what we're doing is working out, we take a strong chance of being disappointed.

I think that's because we look at those kinds of metrics as bad or as potential punishments. And sometimes they can be. But how do I know if I did well or that I'm worth it--other than me judging myself?

It's just as vital to have an end-goal as it is a starting point.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Friday, February 24, 2012

Small business is not always the answer

Small businesses such as dealers, service companies, restaurants and shops are not all created equal. Contrary to what we read, small business does not always add to the growth of our economy.

Microsoft was a small business and it added, and still adds, thousands of jobs, true. But the corner liquor store or the small bookstore down the street may not have added a job in years.

The truth is, we need large and small businesses alike to grow jobs.  We need to celebrate the huge corporations that invest billions into a facility and jobs, as well as we do the local start-ups that just opened offices, or the dealership that added a new showroom ands hired a handful of employees. They all add up.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Buy-in before process, Part Three

As we try to establish that new process that will dramatically improve our companies, our client experience and our employees' lives, we have to realize processes are not perfect. They don't need to be, either.

A process that is imperfect but has the buy-in of everyone involved is as close to perfect as possible. A brilliant process that has no support is not just a waste, it's worse than no process at all.

If the people who will follow the process are the ones who helped create it, then at worst, the process will live on. At best, the process will constantly be tweaked and improved upon.

You don't need "perfect" if you have collaboration.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Buy-in before process, Part Two

It's easy to say you need buy-in before a new process will be accepted and become a part of a culture. But how do you get buy-in? 

Some companies provide arguments, others mandate, while others ask kindly so as to not anger anyone. None of these work ideally. Legalistic arguments make logical sense, but adoption of a process is not usually logical, it's emotional. Mandating creates a flavor-of-the-month compliance, which we all know will not last. And finally, asking nicely will not get results because you would have gotten them already.

To ensure your new process will be adopted with love and enthusiasm, you must NOT unveil your process. You must, instead, include all the constituents in the creation and testing of it, which will cause some tensions, but will dramatically improve your odds of success.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Buy-in before process, Part One

I admit it, I'm not a real "process" guy. Process, just the word itself, sounds cold and sterile to me. As I've aged, I've come to accept that processes are critical in any company.

But, the one thing I've learned is that while processes are important, they mean little unless they are "bought" by the individuals who are supposed to be executing them.

The greatest process in the world will fail if people don't understand or like them. However, if people really get it and feel a part of the creation of the process, it's an entirely different world.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Good Client

Good clients wants their vendor to succeed. They have an interest in their vendor's success and are happy to pitch in.

The not-so-good-client is looking for the vendor to slip up, to make a mistake and pounces on them when they do.

The good client has a lot more enjoyment and sees more success.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Friday, February 17, 2012

Be careful what you change

When our company, LaBov & Beyond, does client assessments, our biggest challenge is not learning what our clients should change, it's identifying what they should NOT change. It's so easy for an entrepreneur to stop doing something or to alter course--after all, that's what they do.

Problem is, sometimes, the one thing you change is the one thing you got right. Beware of changing for change's sake.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Best of Barry: The burden of success

Look around and we see people wearing the burden of success. They're stressed, unhappy and beaten up from the responsibilities on their shoulders. A shame.

There should not be a burden of success. Success is meant to be enjoyed and used to benefit as many people as possible.

Have success of any kind? Feel fortunate. It's a blessing.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
Originally posted 03/10/11

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Best of Barry: What's right, what's wrong and what's reality

Woody Allen once said that he wrote and produced movies in part because they offered him a chance to have things turn out the way he thought they should have in real life.

In movies, media and books, we all are "treated" to good versus bad. The bad congressman, the evil business tycoon, the poor victim, the inspiring rags to riches athlete, the hard-working single parent, the bad rich kid, etc.

But in our lives, reality is different. There is seldom a totally evil customer or boss or employee. Or a true victim or a completely bad or completely wonderful child.

It's complicated at times. It's not black and white, it's various shades of many colors, and yes, once in a while it is black or maybe white.

We have to face and deal with all of this and on a one-to-one basis, do our best each day, realizing that our best may not be enough. That's in our personal lives and business lives. That's why we're here on this planet. That's reality.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
Originally posted 06/22/11

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Best of Barry: Tired of the topic

Make it go away
Get it done asap
Sell it as soon as you can

In negotiations, there are many motivators. Sure we want to get a good, fair price, maybe even a higher, unfair price for our product or service or whatever. We want to be treated with respect. We want to like whoever it is we're selling to. But, there is another motivation:

I'm sick and tired of dealing with this property/issue/situation

Sometimes our biggest motivator to sell is to just get rid of this anchor that's around our neck. Even if we don't make a lot of money, even if we lose money in the transaction. The weight of that burden being lifted off us is worth a lot.

Sometimes the cost of dealing one more day or hearing about it in one more meeting will motivate us to sell, to settle, or to compromise. That's ok, it's worth it if we don't have to deal with it one more time.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
Originally posted 2/24/11

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Best of Barry: Killing you with ideas

I love ideas and come up with a lot of them. Some might even be good once in a while. So why aren't they always greeted with excitement and anticipation?

Because people feel they are already busy and don't need more junk (ideas) clogging up their day. And I hate to admit it, they're right.

It's tough enough trying to do everything every day really well, without adding fifteen new great breakthrough ideas to focus on. So...

If you're going to bring a new idea to the table, it better be a great one, a big one. And you better bring just one if you expect people to be ready to commit.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
Originally posted 10/28/10

Friday, February 10, 2012

Rock Band Business Management #4: Mistakes

We all hate mistakes. But in a rock band, mistakes are where the genius is found. The wrong note that the bass player hits that sounds incredible. The error your fingers committed on the way to a chord that is amazing. The wrong note the singer hits that works perfectly.

I believe that most of our favorite songs were born of errors, they were those moments that happened when someone stopped and made that "mistake" again and decided there was something special here.

Same thing goes with our businesses. Sometimes, the wrong word or the wrong color or image or wrong page in a presentation happens. Before it's rejected because it's wrong, it may be worth stepping back and seeing it in a different light. You may have a hit on your hands.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Rock Band Business Management #3: Dive Deep

The great progressive rock band, Yes, was known for its complex style. Folklore has it that they would work on one measure of music for hours or days until they could make it perfect.

I recently saw their lead singer, Jon Anderson, play and sing in a one-man show and he was great. But the songs he played from Yes sounded very simple and easy--nothing like the band. Obviously the band took his simple songs and dove deep and found (or created) a complex, yet beautiful final product.

Many times in our business lives there are ideas that are pretty good. But, if you dive deep and find the beauty in them, they could be phenomenal.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Rock Band Business Management #2: Jamming

In a rock band, you jam. Jamming is a way to experiment, to stretch out, and in some cases, to create something special. Jamming can be unpleasant and appear to be a waste. And sometimes it is. But once in a while, the band hits on something that is magical and that turns into a hit.

In business, we are seldom encouraged to jam unless it's an official creative session. The thing is, there's plenty of room for jamming and experimenting in other facets of the business. The more you jam, the more you create the opportunity for magic.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Rock Band Business Management #1: Accept

As an old washe-outd, has-been rock 'n roller, I've adapted a management style with my business that is pretty close to how a rock band is run.

In a rock band, you have to accept the weird quirks of the various members. You can't change a bluesy gutiarist into a rap guitarist. You can't change the vocal range of the leader singer, he has a range and you write your songs to fit it.

In my business, I do the same. I take the specific talent and match it to what we need. It may not make sense at first, but often it works. For example, we may meet with a construction client to discuss marketing. What if you have a construction expert in your midst, but he's not a customer-facing person on a daily basis? Take him, even though he may not play a huge role. Let him engage, let his passion show through to the client. Where will it all end? I don't know, I'm in a rock band, let the guy finish his solo and we'll see...

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Monday, February 6, 2012

Name your price

If you really think you have the answer to the customer's problem, and your answer is uniquely yours, then name your price. BTW, that answer may be a car, motorcycle or a solution.

Often the customer will then try to negotiate you against others who don't have the answer (but who are cheaper). You then have two choices: 1) stay firm or 2) reduce your price to the point where you can't provide the answer.

Name your price, not someone else's.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Best of Barry: Conflict, criticism and candor

At my company, LaBov & Beyond Marketing Communications and Training, we surveyed our employees on two things: 1) What do you like most about our company and 2) What about our company would you like to change?

One thing that our employees love is our culture of entrepreneurialism--they love our high standards, intensity and tremendous client list.

One thing they wanted to improve is how we deal with each other in regard to criticism and dealing with conflict.

We're tackling that as I write this. We'll succeed, but I think it will be a challenge. If we want to do great work to exceed our clients' expectations, it will require total dedication and open communication. That means we can't avoid conflict or criticism because that will erode our performance--we all need that feedback to do our best.

It sounds easy, but it's not. We've worked with clients that ran their business like a church or volunteer organization where it was all pleasantries and conflict avoidance. We've also worked with clients that all but had fistfights in the cafeteria every day. Neither resulted in a healthy organization.

So, we can't avoid the truths, but we can't trample on the spirit. The good news is that by facing it and addressing it, progress is already being made.

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

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Best of Barry: Hobbyists

Noun: hobbyist - a person who pursues an activity in their spare time for pleasure
Look at the above definition. Does that describe the stuff you do outside the office or does it describe what you do for a living?

I know that's a tough question, but I think it's worth considering. I bumped into this situation when I bought a division of a client's company and inherited a staff of six employees. A couple were artists, one was a photographer, one was a videographer and the remainder were writers. A funny thing happened as we got to know each other: I found out that none of them were trained or educated in their area. They had worked elsewhere at the company and over the years for various reasons transferred into this division. They were put in an unfair position of being expected to do something they were not equipped to do. In fairness to their former company, the employees could have asked to be trained or get schooling, but did not. Hence, the reason the division was sold--it didn't perform well because it couldn't.

We are paid to do our jobs every day. Are we hobbyists or specialists?

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
Originally posted 3/29/11

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Best of Barry: Put on your oxygen mask first

When you sit on a commercial air flight and listen to the safety instructions, what do they always end up telling you? 

In the case of de-pressurization, put your oxygen mask on first, then help others, such as a child.

I was at first surprised when I heard that years ago, but it makes sense. You have to make sure you are clear-headed first, and then you can help others.

Isn't that what leaders need to do in business? Leaders have to take time to clear their minds and sharpen their focus to truly help their team.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond
Originally posted 11/15/10