Tag Archives: Business

Play the Pauses

My 3-year-old daughter loves the recent Karate Kid movie with Jaden Smith. We have been watching it a lot lately. There is a line in the movie I think has some relevance to the business environment today.

The character played by Jaden is trying to reassure a friend about an upcoming performance. His counsel? “Play the pauses.” The simple and insightful suggestion is that the musical performance is as much the pauses between notes as it is the notes themselves.

Business is a fast-paced world. It is all about doing more with less, faster than the competition. I have witnessed and heard of many stories about critical mistakes because a decision was made based on a summary of information or a quick overview of circumstances.

Without question, overviews and summaries are a vital part of doing business. It is simply not possible for any member of an organization to master all details relating to every decision. What I am suggesting is that we rethink a little how we manage the swelling tide of information. We need to know when to play the pause.

Team members need to learn how to recognize when to call a time out for vital details that just cannot be accurately summarized. Leaders need to develop confidence in those they lead to encourage their team to speak up and insist the time be spent so a well-informed decision can be made. Taking time to play the pauses will save the time required to recover from critical mistakes.

What are your thoughts? Do you have ideas on how we can condition our teams to know when to play a pause?

What Do You Want:

In my role, I have the unique opportunity to participate in a great many discussions across a broad range of companies and industries. Most meetings revolve around business models or how to make adjustments with the market.

Over the last few years certain topics fade in and out of agendas relating to innovative new technologies. Statements like, we need to have a “this” strategy, or we need to sort out how to use “that” technology. I just can’t help but think of the age old sales analogy. You know the one. What does a customer want, the drill bit; or do they want the hole it makes? If you want to sell a drill bit, you need to match up the hole they want with the drill bit that helps them get it.

The same is true of the many hot topic technologies that businesses are seeking to leverage. The fact of the business environment today is that not many companies can afford to adopt a technology for the novelty of it. Running through the streets waving your drill bit as evidence of innovation will impress no one.  Novelty will not attract droves of customers to your doorstep. It does not matter that your drill bit can leap tall buildings with a single bound. If it does not create the hole your customer wants, it will not help you sell.

There are a great many trends or technologies that have captured the full attention of not a small number of companies. It would be really interesting to discuss business needs that do not seem to have a clear solution but keep us all up at night. Let’s talk about some of those technologies that businesses are scrambling to adopt but are unclear on the actual business benefit. I also would love to see us talk about some practical applications that are unique and solve a clear business need.

I have my ideas, but I would like to hear from you. In the comments, let me know about the proverbial holes out there and what you think is the best way to make them.

Enterprise Software Development: GO MOBILE RIGHT NOW

I’m going to tell everyone publicly what I’ve been telling (in some cases yelling) to our management for over a year, and I strongly suggest you start doing the same within your own company. Are you ready?  Repeat after me: “Take budget away from desktop/web development and start developing for smartphones and tablet RIGHT NOW!”

Repeat this until A) you get the go-ahead, or B) you get fired. B isn’t as bad as it sounds. If your company doesn’t “get it” at this point, then there is a good chance you’ll be looking for a new job in the near future anyway as your nearsighted company fades into oblivion because they failed to have vision.

Since I’m still employed at MarketStar, you can deduce that option A worked out for me.

The fact is your desktop development projects have an enormous opportunity cost because they are directly taking away from what you could be doing on mobile platforms!

Putting desktop/web projects into maintenance mode and using your existing resources on mobile is the right decision for many of us and I’ll shout it from the rooftops as long as I need to. Note that I said “many” and not “all,” there is still a great need for non-mobile projects and it’s up to you to decide what’s more important in meeting your goals.

The tech world is evolving and there is an ever-increasing need for mobile software and services:

  • Younger generations in the workforce prefer mobile solutions.
  • Smartphone adoption exploded in 2010 and continues to build.
  • 2011 will see enormous adoption rates for tablets.
  • User experience and productivity on mobile is superior to PC in some cases.
  • The social Internet is changing the way we do business.
  • Once people get a taste of using mobile devices for productivity, they crave more.
  • As people and workforces become more mobile and decentralized, the tools required to support them also must go mobile.

As you identify problems that need to be resolved with software, you now have a serious decision to make that didn’t exist a year ago: Will this software satisfy my users better on the desktop or on a mobile device? If you don’t answer this question upfront in your discovery stage, you’re doing a huge disservice to your end users and eventually you’ll regret it.

If you only take one thing away from this article, let it be this: If your company is not investing in mobile tools, then your company is being left behind and you better do everything in your power to change it!

Playing to Win

Protect the bottom line, do what it takes to keep the account, do more with less, hit your sales goals, and many phrases like these are common terms in a world challenged with our current economic climate.  Few times in history have there been so many external forces squeezing companies to hit profitability and revenue goals, resulting in both the organization and its employees posturing to stay in business.

Executives are asking their companies to run leaner and stay ahead of the competition, but it’s important that as these pressures are applied business units focus on “playing to win” as opposed to “playing not to lose.”

In the National Football League, a team with a lead at the end of the game will inevitably go into a prevent defense and start playing not to lose. I’m no Vince Lombardi, but from my perspective it’s interesting to watch the losing team move the ball down field quickly because their opponent has abandoned its game plan and now looks like they’re hoping they don’t lose instead of fighting for the victory.

It is my personal and professional philosophy that the best defense is a good offense. Regardless of the sport, if you have the ball you’re in control of the game and your future. We need to take this same approach as business leaders and not wait to be acted on. We should act first with sound leadership principles and avoid the defensive posture of just managing and “staying under the radar.” Companies need leaders who are willing to step up and aren’t afraid to engage customers, clients and senior management with strategic recommendations and solid execution.

As with all things there needs to be balance. In order to play to win, we focus on the task at hand and avoid getting caught up in “shiny objects” or other ideas that derail organizational focus. Organizations lacking focus remind me of my children’s soccer teams when they were young. The players would all bunch up and play a game that looked more like “clusterball’ than soccer, chasing the ball wherever it goes. Inevitably, you would face a well-coached team that were taught to efficiently cover the field while their opponent runs out of steam chasing the ball all over.

As organizational leaders we need to keep the business unit focused, give clear direction and help avoid “clusterball,” so that as we play to win we do it efficiently and better than the competition. We can’t allow our business units to chase every idea that might increase revenue, ultimately straying from the game plan. Being challenged to do more with less, we have to stay efficient and focused in order to succeed. We can’t allow “fire drills” or fear for one’s job to foster defensive posturing.

At MarketStar, we put our clients in an offensive position and “play to win” by proactively engaging in Client Strategy Sessions. We also challenge our leadership team by conducting regular SWOT team meetings. In a SWOT assessment, the manager is put in front of a panel of his or her peers and is challenged with questions about efficiency, goal attainment, thought leadership and employee development. Through this experience our leadership team is forced up out of the weeds and all participants receive the benefit of best practice sharing and foresight.

As a leader, evaluate the direction and message you deliver to your business unit. Ensure clear boundaries and expectations are in place so that you’re in the offensive position and playing to win as opposed to playing not to lose.

Tight lines!

ABC, Always Be Connecting

The immortal line “ABC, always be closing” coined in the 1992 film, “Glengarry Glen Ross,” stereotypically illustrated the epitome of the salesperson and the sales process. Alec Baldwin gave a stellar performance as the over-the-top aggressive closer.  In the traditional sales model “Leads, Leads, Leads” are the swansong every salesperson sings.  A marketing machine behind the scenes develops targeted campaigns designed, automated and evolved to generate “hot leads.”

But alas, the paradigm is shifting.

In our world of information overload, we have the ability to know more about our leads than ever before and vice versa. A subtle change in the sales and marketing process has begun to occur.  In the sales role, instead of the closer “closing,” the leads collectively are in the driver seat essentially “closing” or “efficiently consuming” on their own.

In other words, the tactics of the traditional salesperson, influencer or closer are now transparent and ultimately seen as ingenuous.  “Used-Car” or “Snake-Oil” sales can’t survive in the information age.

In addition to generating hot leads, marketing’s role of awareness and brand is expanding more into creating visibility not just for the company, its product and services, but also for the people doing the work, including sales.

Today, the sales process is expedited by the intelligence both buyer and seller can garner to reach a mutually beneficial transaction. For the buyer, access to communities for dialogue, research and reviews is on-demand and trustworthy. The success of eBay, Amazon, Groupon, Wikipedia and even the Oprah Winfrey Book Club are all based on this idea of active involvement of community to facilitate outcomes.

For the seller, your integrity is also assessed within these communities. Using social media, blogs and active community engagement, you essentially sell yourself, which creates the opportunity for the buyer to trust what you sell.

I would like to see a remake of “Glengarry Glen Ross,” 2011. I am sure Alec Baldwin would be more apt to say “ABC, always be connecting” and the new swansong would probably be “Communities, Communities, Communities.”

Am I right or what? What do you think?

A Collection of Connections

“To friend or not to friend” that is the real question.

I would love to see how Shakespeare’s Hamlet would have questioned his social media presence. Wait a minute, I just checked; he already has a Facebook page that more than 50,000 people have “liked,” including two of my friends.

These days when it comes to connecting with friends, family and business colleagues, there undoubtedly is an online component.

When we think about our business network, we emphasize the importance of the relationship, but how deep do we go? The extent of our relationship in days of old would be limited to knowledge around a birthday, kids, animals, vacation spots and maybe shared mutual experiences.

Now we know soooo much more, and thus two emotional and psychological events occur.

  • First, we inherently feel closer to the person.
  • Second, we have the opportunity to open more of our personal kimono to that person.

It is an interesting new give and take in the business relationship.

The ability to comment publicly within the communities we are involved, opens the door to visibility among peers you may never have engaged with before, have worked with in the past, or who are connected to others where you have an established relationship.

These days, the art of the business connection is just that, art. Different methods, preferences, expertise, likes and dislikes, limitations, boundaries, attitudes, opinions, experiences, behaviors, and on and on, are all elements to mold and craft that personalized connection.

Some of the best advice I was ever given was, “People do business with people they want to do business with.” Simple, grammatically incorrect and very true, even in this new age of business networking.

Integrity, truth and a genuine shared passion for the common business goal seem to be essential in developing strong business relationships. With the tools we have today, the tenure of those previously time-stamped friends is extended, and they are now accessible and re-established when your paths cross again.

Regarding the quote “To be or not to be” it has been said the speech is a subtle and profound examining of what is more crudely expressed in the phrase “out of the frying pan, into the fire.” In essence, life is bad but death might be worse.

So, I would argue that the answer “To friend or not to friend” is to friend … with a pragmatic footnote. Do so with integrity, truth and a genuine shared passion for a common business goal, and you are probably going in the right direction.

Am I right or what? What do you think?

Global Success Requires a Localized Touch

I caught this rather humorous FedEx commercial while watching football Sunday.

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The commercial is a lighthearted metaphor of the pain associated with expanding your business globally.  Beyond the awkwardness of this young business professional’s innovative solution, there’s a lot of truth to the challenges addressed in the short 30-second spot.

When looking to expand business globally, many underestimate the challenge of  setting up shop in another country. Just like cows weren’t meant to swim, it’s important to remember that not everything we expect to thrive overseas will thrive. It’s a new environment. Just because your sales and marketing methodology was successful in one country, does not guarantee success in another. The best way to influence business for the better when expanding globally is to partner with someone who can provide a localized understanding of the cultural ecosystem.

In the context of the commercial, posing as a foreign-exchange student created several distinct advantages for the businessman:
• His host family offered stability at the point of execution as well as an acute knowledge of the area.
• They offered localized resources at an affordable rate.
• They provided a native’s insight on local laws, customs and regulations that might impact his success.

While I am not condoning posing as a foreign-exchange student to start a business overseas, the benefits listed above helped mitigate both the costs and risks associate with international expansion. While the hurdles of expanding internationally are real, the financial rewards and current opportunity for success have never been greater. Partnering with companies who have successfully navigated the waters of global expansion and currently have localized resources deployed and ready to execute is the quickest, most cost effective way to launch your product into these uncharted waters.

Want to learn more? Download our White Papers:
“Global Expansion with Local Execution”
“Sales and Marketing Outsourcing for Savings and Growth”

Marketstar offers the spectrum of sales and marketing services with current deployments in over 20 countries around the world. We have successfully executed programs on 6 continents in a myriad of languages. By offering localized resources along with the ability to do business in local currencies we offer real efficiencies and savings for our clients.