From Fee & Free to Loyalty

One of my sons convinced me to (finally) signup for Amazon Prime Photos, which Amazon defines as, Secure unlimited photo storage and enhanced search and organization features in Amazon Drive for you and the members of your Family Vault.” In other words, a great place to backup and store all your digital pictures, and it’s included in the annual Prime fee.

What are some of the other Prime benefits, besides free two-day shipping?

  • Videos, including free movies, TV shows, and Amazon produced content.
  • Kindle First, a free Kindle book every month (to own, not borrow).
  • Kindle lending library.
  • Some same day, two-hour, and restaurant delivery.

I could go on and on, the above are things we use and the list on their website is about a foot long.

What does this mean? It means they are ingraining themselves into many parts of our lives and creating customer loyalty. Their goal is to have you and me think, when we need something, check out Amazon, which many of us do too often as it’s so easy.

What are you doing so your company is the first, and only, thing people think of when they need what you have? My goal is to be front-of-mind when everybody I know is asked about business buy-sell, exit planning, and related. You do this by:

  • Staying in touch (like this weekly memo, events I put-on, etc.)
  • Offering value, before, during, and after someone hires you
  • Doing great work

This doesn’t just happen. Amazon had a great idea (pay a fee for free shipping), added a lot more to the program, and ingrained themselves into the lives of many people.

“The future is already here; it’s just not evenly distributed yet.” William Gibson

Do More in Less Time

I recently read an excerpt from the book, “Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less (by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. Copyright © 2016), shared it with a client group for discussion, and I’m now reading the book. BTW, my clients really identified with the topic and had positive feedback.

The title of the excerpt is: “Darwin Was a Slacker and You Should Be Too – Many famous scientists have something in common—they didn’t work long hours.

In simple terms, the book (and article) explain why some of the most productive people ever to set foot on the planet only “worked” (or work if they’re still alive) about four hours a day. The opening of the book is about the science behind this (proving it) and is a bit deep as the author describes the various brain tests and similar.

Charles Darwin is a perfect example of this as he put in three intense 90-minute segments a day of work. The rest of his day was filled with correspondence (email to us), walking, napping, family, etc. During this time, and on this schedule, he wrote 19 books including the famous, “The Origin of Species.”

Other interesting tidbits:

  • Studies have shown there’s an “M” curve of productivity, which peaks at between 10 and 20 hours of work per week. After that, it’s lower productivity. In fact, 60-hour per week researchers were the least productive of all.
  • Great performers (music, dance, sports) didn’t practice more than the average but they practiced more deliberately. This means, “engaging with full concentration in a special activity to improve one’s performance.” It’s more than repetition, it’s focused, structured, and has clear goals and feedback.
  • The biggest factor was rest. The best scientists, musicians, dancers, and athletes, made sure they got enough rest, sleeping an average of one hour more per day than those not as good.

Interestingly, a few weeks ago I returned on Tuesday from a long weekend of fishing and other things, got in my office Wednesday morning about 8:00, at 10:00 I took my first break, realized how much I had accomplished, and noted I needed a break. It hit me how subconsciously I was doing as described in the book.

“I’m at the point where naps are a necessity not a luxury.” My best friend’s dad to my dad when both were in their 70’s

Controlling Your Customer’s Expectations

On their menus and placemats PizzaVino in Palm Desert, CA describes true authentic Neapolitan Pizza as, “It’s all about balance, The Oven, San Marzano tomatoes, Fior di Latte Mozzarella, and Doppio Zero flour.”

At the end of their description of how the ingredients come together they write,

“If you are looking for lots of pasty cooked tomato with funny Italian seasoning and lot of melted processed mozzarella then you are in for a disappointing meal. We hope you’ll order something else from our menu.”

Talk about a good job of setting customer expectations! Before you order you know you’re not getting assembly-line chain-restaurant pizza. You’re getting an old-world, handcrafted meal.

All (small) businesses should be doing something similar, i.e. letting their customers know to expect high quality (and that’s why the prices are not rock bottom). Small business is niche business and that means quality, value, and service.

Whether you provide a product, a service, advice, or a combination of all three, don’t chase the customer looking for a deal. Do what PizzaVino does – discuss quality and describe what you’re not. It builds better long-term relationships, better customers, and more profits.

“Americans who overslept invented the word brunch.” Joan Crawford

Getting Your Message Across

I’m a member of Seattle Executives Association (SEA) and we recently had elections for the board of directors. Unlike my Rotary club where there’s one person nominated for each position, in SEA it’s truly an election, with two people for president-elect and treasurer and six people for three board positions.

An interesting twist is you don’t campaign for yourself, you give a “speech” telling the group why your opponent (or one of your opponents) should be elected. What I noticed is:

All of those elected had their promotion filled with something a bit outrageous and/or humorous. Those not elected had their promoter give a talk filled with facts (went to this school, worked here and there, has these skills, etc.)

People remember stories and humor is a form of a story. An outrageous action (outrageous meaning a surprise or something unusual but in good taste) is remembered the same way.

The business lesson here is facts may be important but the delivery is much more important.


Pace Yourself with Urgency

The Seattle Mariners, like quite a few teams, started their 2017 season very slowly, going 2-8 at one point. The press and the casual fans started to panic, then they won 4 games in a row.

You see, the baseball season is like a life, it’s long and has many ups and downs. A baseball team with a 50-50 record at the All-Star break has plenty of time, there’s still a lot of season left.

By contrast, football is like a year of life. There’s 10% of the games (in football versus baseball), and a bad few games, like a bad few months in life or business, can wreck your season/year. A football team that is 5-5 at the same 5/8 point of the season better go at least 5-1 the rest of the way or they’re in trouble.

It’s why, in life and business, we need a balance between the short and long term. We can’t panic every time we lose a deal and we can’t get overly excited when we do get a deal. Our focus should be on what we need to do every day to keep a steady stream of customers coming in our door, which means long term strategy implementation.

However, we can’t lose urgency. Some things need be done now. You can’t put off phone calls for a month and expect potential customers to still be there. I can’t miss three weeks of this memo and then have four come out in one week.

For years I’ve told all my clients (buy-sell, coaching, mentoring, etc.) if they keep doing the things they are supposed to do, good things will happen. Of course, it usually takes someone who knows what the heck they’re doing to make sure the things they’re doing are the right things being done the right way.

“Status quo, you know, is Latin for ‘the mess we’re in’.” Ronald Reagan


Business Basics – From Day 1

A recent edition of my Marquette University alumni magazine had an article on a new mandatory Business School course, Business Day 1 (something I wish they had when I was in school). Every business school freshman takes this class, which exposes them to accounting, finance, managerial economics, human recourses, marketing, supply chain management, and IT.

The course culminates with a “signature curricular component,” an advanced business simulation. The simulation includes hiring, pricing, sourcing, marketing, and ethical scenarios (being a Jesuit institution ethics classes were always on everybody’s course list).

Like most universities, Marquette has a strong entrepreneurial program and this introductory class sounds great for budding entrepreneurs. As most of you reading this know, most business owners are strong in some areas and not-so-strong in others. In fact, they often have very limited skills outside of their core areas (core strengths being a huge component of why they’re good owners/entrepreneurs). A class like this will probably prevent many lessons learned from experience.

However, there’s one learning area missing, and that’s sales. I’ve maintained for years universities should require students to take a Sales 101 class. To give them a basic understanding of what sales and business communication really is (solving a problem) as well as to dispel myths about sales (no, all sales is not like an old used car lot, i.e. sell anything to anyone, just make a sale).

My first “real” job out of college had me buying services. I didn’t understand too much about sales. Although I must have been decent at it as I had my own painting business through college and grad school and I was the one doing all the customer relations and bidding. I feel class on basic sales would have tremendously accelerated my learning and career.

“People respond well to those that are sure of what they want.” Anna Wintour


Science & Sales

Earth Day featured multiple marches across the country, protesting the anticipated cuts in federal dollars to science.

An interview with one scientist hit the proverbial nail on the head. He said marches, protests, and similar won’t do anything, i.e. it’s preaching to the choir. He went on to say presenting facts (about why (fact-based) science is valid and necessary) doesn’t change feelings, because it’s just facts.

This is Sales 101, people buy with emotion and back it up with logic. Telling someone against science it’s a great investment because it helps mankind means nothing. Asking them if they’re happy their mother is alive after being saved from cancer by a targeted chemo not available 10 years ago creates an emotional pull.

It’s what we should do more often. Reduce the facts and fire up the emotions, then use the facts to support the emotional decision.

Leverage Our Instant Communication World

We live in the age of instant communication. We also live in the age of someone with a microphone just about everywhere. Mitt Romney found it out in 2012 and recently in the Seattle ares two fire district commissioners got in hot water when they made comments about controlling the budget by hiring Mexican firefighters because they can pay them less.

What we can learn from this is any communication can travel fast. I recently posted an article on LinkedIn and within an hour I had a call and an email about it (and more later).

It shows that even though there is so much information out there, if it’s of value it gets noticed. Why so many newsletters, like this one? Because people get them, read them, like them, etc. Why a lot of comments on LinkedIn posts (and especially Facebook posts, even the inane ones)? Same answer.

You sustain this by providing value. Posting someone else’s catchy saying or inspirational message online takes nothing more than perusing the Internet and doing some copy and paste. Taking the time to offer value makes people realize you know what the heck you’re doing.

Whether you provide advice as I do, sell an industrial product, or provide a service, stand out in a noisy world by giving people worthwhile information. It’s worth the little bit of extra time versus copying someone else’s work.

“Diplomacy is the art of telling plain truths without giving offense.” Winston Churchill


Let Your Employees Handle the Trophy

The front page of the Seattle Times sports section on March 20, 2017 had a picture of Seattle Sounders co-owner Drew Carey carrying the MLS Championship Cup as fans and he marched to the game. On the radio that day I heard a discussion that included:

  • How one of the announces was at the game and pre-game march and said the trophy was passed around amongst the fans.
  • One of the other announcers comparing this to when the Seahawks Super Bowl trophy was and is on display there’s a “guard,” he was the only one allowed to handle it, and he only touched it while wearing white gloves.

Think about this as you create policies for your employees. Is your company one where the owner is involved in everything (being the guard)? Is the owner a bottleneck because everything goes across his or her desk? (This also applies to any department head and his or her reports.)

Or is your firm one where the employees get to handle the trophy? Meaning, the employees get responsibility, the ability to make decisions, and the ability to learn from those decisions.

I’m going to state how it’s better policy to have the employees involved versus a bottleneck, which we also call a dependency. Whether you believe me on this or not realize if it’s ever time to sell your company the buyer will be interested in this. They want a competent management team and employees who can get things done without babysitting.

If you’re skeptical about this, here’s a short example. A client owns a firm in the trades, is looking to buy a smaller firm, and we found what appeared to be a good target. However, one of the supposedly experienced tradesperson can’t be sent to a job on his own. The owner must take him to the job, go over the job with him, and then he’s okay. This was a deal killer as my client doesn’t have the time or inclination to babysit like this. Let your employees “handle the trophy.”

“If I don’t go into work a little scared, I don’t have any interest in it.” Mary Tyler Moore

Estimates and Misclassifying Will Hurt You

It’s March and that means college basketball tournaments aka, March Madness. It’s your typical tournament in that all the number one and two seeds won their first games and by the end of the second round a number one, two number twos, and a number three had been upset. Also, the “experts” proclaimed some teams had been seeded lower than they should have been and therefore got games too tough too early.

Recently I wrote a very well received post about how projections are mostly meaningless. The same applies here but we should give credit to those seeding these teams as 75% of the “Sweet Sixteen” are where they’re supposed to be. Of course, even the experts brackets were busted by these and other upsets.

Those teams upsetting the much higher seeds got hot at the right time and these factors the same in our day-to-day businesses. Think about how often a “for sure” client doesn’t become a client. Or how the longshot customer buys from you without (what you perceive to be) too much effort.

We all misclassify the likelihood of someone doing business with us (both ways) and every so often we get “hot” at the right time, say the right thing, etc. That’s life, and it’s part of what makes life and business interesting. Of course, if, like sports teams, we practice what we do (and practice correctly), we reduce the chances of upsets and increase the chances of getting hot.

“The man who says his wife can’t take a joke forgets that she took him.” Oscar Wilde