All posts by Keith Chagnon

Social Media…With Great Power There Also Comes a Great Responsibility

Social Media…With Great Power There Also Comes a Great ResponsibilityFacebook…Twitter…Instagram. Each three are all new, powerful social media tools of the modern world. Each three of these tools are vital components of any social medial plan assembled for your business. They are in essence, broadcast tools by which you will send messages out into the world conveying information pertaining to your business. These messages will help to spread your brand message, drive traffic to your site, increase your audience and ultimately increase your customer base. That’s looking at it from a positive perspective.
There is another side to the power of social media. It’s a dark, irresponsible side. Recent case in point: Australian Singer and Songwriter Sia Furler was looking to seek revenge via Twitter after dry cleaning staff at Metropolitan Garment Cleaning in Jamaica, New York did a terrible job with her favourite clothing. They quite simply ruined her favourite clothes. She immediately enlisted the help of 468,000 Twitter followers to offer “suggestions for revenge/pranks on dry cleaners that ruined favourite things and won’t take responsibility? Please discuss.”
Suggestions from followers ranged from writing a hit song about the dry cleaner to bringing in deliberately soiled garments to the dry cleaners. Sia then posted yet another message. “Please write ridiculous terrible reviews here.” She then put the link of the dry cleaning business together with her post. Subsequently, Yelp was flooded with negative reviews of the dry cleaners from many of her fans that don’t even live in New York and could have ever used the service. Due to the fact that Yelp’s Terms of Service states that reviews must be based on your personal experience with a business- the bad reviews which were a direct result of Sia’s tweets, had to be removed.
While this is a rather extreme case of social media being abused it does speak to a bigger issue. When you are crafting messaging to send out to the world via your social media network, make sure it is done in a concise and positive manner. The messaging you are sending hopefully represents all the hard work that you and your company do on a daily basis. If it doesn’t, then you need to rethink the message. Think of it this way. Years ago when e-mail became our main source of communication in the world I had one suggestion for all my business colleagues. Never send messaging in an e-mail that you would not say to the person if they were standing right in front of you. It’s not rocket science…make your message simple and straight forward.
Onward and upward.

The Speed Of The Boss, Becomes The Speed Of The Team (thanks to Lee Lacocca)

speed of the boss

Years ago I had the opportunity to be part of a development team here in Los Angeles for a large, global entertainment company. The team was to put together by some of the brightest and best of the music/entertainment industry in the U.S. The reason for this was as follows. While the company had a large presence around the world…this team was being assembled to build the first e-commerce offering for the brand. The powers that be were aware enough to realize that the team had to work out of the Los Angeles office-home of Hollywood. It was an exciting and inspiring time. Nobody in the business world knew yet exactly was “e-commerce” was going to be-things still felt a bit…like the wild, wild West.

As things progressed and we inched closer to our launch date, I began to notice some interesting happenings in the office between the U.S. team and our counterparts in the U.K. Syntax of language became a big part of my day. We quickly became two teams divided by a common language. Here are some examples of what would happen. The word “sale” here in America indicates that some of the stock you hold is going to be put on a special discount…it’s going to be part of a “sale” you are having. This concept was met with horror and disbelief from our counterparts across the pond. In their mind a “sale” meant that times were tough and you were trying to liquidate stock…trying to save the business. As more of these terms came to light as being misinterpreted I realized I needed to quickly create a playbook…a glossary of terms that we would be using moving forward. It was initially looked upon as a bit of comic relief-but soon became the bible for both teams to fully understand how we were going to approach and assemble a marketing and sales plan that would help us hit our sales goal. There were a few lessons that I quickly learned from this scenario.

The first was-everybody on your team has to be on the same page. Whether separated by countries, cities or office-every team has to have a complete understanding of what goals of the business are-where you’re going. The second lesson I learned was even more important. The speed of the boss becomes the speed of the team. What that means is that if there are weak or insufficient leaders in place-it will hold the team back. Deadlines and goals will not be met-ever. Conversely, when there are leaders in place that inspire and continuously display a complete grasp and understanding of the business and the goals that are to be met-great things can and will happen.

Inspiration serves to motivate individuals to believe that they can do anything. They will make significant strides towards achieving their goals. Why? Because they believe they can. They see from their leaders that they can. They become more engaged-they believe more passionately that they will succeed. Their success quickly becomes the success of the company. A great secret and success only of any great company is not just measured in how well the “top” employees perform but rather in how some of the lower achievers are brought along-inspired developed and motivated. As always, onward and upward.

Hope Is Not A Business Strategy

business strategyFirst…this has nothing to do with President Obama. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s begin. A frequent comment I hear from people discussing their business strategies is this: “Well, we’re going to try this out and hope for the best.” Umm, huh, what? Here’s a quick list of some vital strategies you are going to need to figure out for your business.
Technology Strategy-This is often the one strategy that doesn’t get the priority it deserves. What I mean by that is that there is usually a bigger focus on marketing and advertising as a means of achieving business goals. The truth is that developing a solid IT strategy can save your business time, money and resources. One of your first decisions will need to be whether you will hire staff internally or outsource IT staff and network security.
Marketing Strategy-This will help you to identify the best target markets for your business based on what it is that you offer as a service or goods that makes your business unique. Your marketing strategy should also outline all the aspects of your business-opportunities that exist, your strengths and weaknesses as well as a clear and concise budget. This will allow you to set up expectations and keep track of your spending so that it doesn’t get out of control.
Advertising Strategy-Marketing and advertising are similar-but not the same. Once you’ve built out a marketing strategy, you will need an advertising strategy to determine which methods you are going to use to build public awareness of your business and the services or products that you offer. A “message” as well as a call to action needs to be created and then the determination of which advertising media and channels will most effectively communicate the message. In simple terms, what is the message we want to convey about our business and what is the best way to get that message out into the world?

 

All three of these strategies require scoping and thorough planning. Here’s a really quick to understand why it’s so important to do the work up front-to avoid spending more money than necessary further down the line.

 

Take a look at the graph below. In the lower left hand corner is the convergence point of money and work. The bottom line of “work” also serves as a timeline. Say you decide you need to make changes to parts of your strategies-6 week after you have launched. To see how much additional money you will need to spend, move straight up from the bottom line-this is the additional amount of money it will be necessary to spend.

Hope Is Not A Business Strategy

 

This is proof positive that doing the necessary work up front can save you money in the long run.

 

Pay now or pay more later. Hoping won’t help to avoid this dilemma-good business strategies will.

Leveraging Your Assets

My father was a man that I truly adored. He had a long and illustrious career in the military which lasted over 30 years. Once he had made a decision to leave the Army the rest of the family was pretty sure he would never be able to survive off a military base as a civilian. The first few years he went through an array of different employment choices. It wasn’t until he took a position at a major newspaper in Florida that he began to realize that he had found his second calling. His first assignment at the newspaper was literally in the print department…not glamorous work at all. He did it because he enjoyed the challenge and more importantly he had a family to support. After a short time at the newspaper someone in upper management scoured through my father’s records-a glorious history of success and achievements. It was then quickly decided that it was time to put my father’s talents-his assets to work. Within a few short years my father became an editor at the newspaper. This was a position he held until the time of his passing more than 20 years later.

My point is this. You and your employees are the most valuable asset to the success of your company. When you begin to optimize the talents of each individual that works as part of your team you will then be able to put your business on your path to success.
Optimizing these assets can often times be the great differentiator between your company and the competition.

You might be asking yourself-what exactly are some of these assets? Some of them will be tangible-degrees, awards, certifications, etc., while many others might not be quite so obvious.

Here is a quick list of assets to consider-for yourself and your employees:

• Intuition – This can be an invaluable asset. Perhaps there is a team member that goes on “feel and instinct” rather than always relying on critical analysis of data. Coupled with team members that do work strictly from data analysis can sometimes be an interesting match.
• Life Experiences – Team members that possess diverse and rich experiences in their life can often times bring new, unique and fresh perspectives and ideas to their work.
• Connections/Relationships – Nothing better than to find out you have a tenacious networker on the team. Those relationships and connections can be a potential gold mine of new clients.
• Creativity – Creativity can show itself in many ways other than just concepts, campaigns and designs. It can also be applied to the way that you and your team communicate and problem solve. Instead of thinking outside the box…perhaps you might be able to completely do away with the box.

Hopefully some of these ideas and suggestions will allow you to see yourself and your team in a different light. It can be a rejuvenating process to approach things from a different angle by utilizing all the assets of everybody involved with your business!

Creating The Culture Of Your Business

digital marketingThe word culture in the title above most likely has some of you wondering-why is culture in your business so important? Here’s one of the most important reasons. As a small business owner, you are able to create a company culture of your own making!

Whether it’s part of your mission statement or “understood”, your sense of culture for your business can only grow and thrive through the efforts of the people working for you. Even the best strategic business plans on the planet mean absolutely nothing without the proper people to do the work. Attracting driven, inspired, capable employees is the one of the most crucial steps in creating a new business. However, beware. Being part of a startup isn’t for everybody. It takes a particular type of individual-someone who possesses a taste (translation: high tolerance) for risk and is willing to get in the trenches to get the job done. Very often projects can require long work days that quickly turn into long nights. It’s vital that you consciously work to create a healthy, encouraging culture which will help to remind people “why” they have chosen to be part of your business.

Below you will find a short list of factors that can contribute to your business culture in a positive manner.

Accessibility/Communication. There are advantages to working with a small staff. It gives you, as the leader, an opportunity to sit with small groups or in one on one employee sessions to let people voice their questions and concerns about the business. It’s also a great forum to let everybody know where the business is headed. Warning…you must be brave to sit and listen with open ears and an open mind to what your people are saying and then devise an action plan to deal with their questions and concerns.

Appreciation. This can be as simple as buying the entire staff pizza on a Friday for lunch or planning once a quarter outings-away from the office. Whether it’s a company day outing with employees and family or a pint at the local pub there’s no better way to get to know your people then by spending time with them out of the office. Lampshades are optional.

Flexibility. Allowing employees to have the option to work from home a certain amount of days within each work quarter of a year accomplishes two things quickly. It sends a message to your employees that you value them and it also develops a sense of loyalty.

Giving Back. This can be as simple as rallying the troops to vote for a cause that the company will support. Perhaps let the staff suggest different ways to help through on-site messaging for volunteering or providing info for fundraising. In addition to the company chosen “causes” you might want to consider the creation of a program where interested employees are allowed to take off a certain amount of days per calendar month to volunteer for causes that are more personal.

I’ll leave you today with one of my favorite quotes about business culture from Edgar Henry Schein, a former professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management: “If you do not manage culture, it manages you, and you may not even be aware of the extent to which this is happening.”

In other words, what happens in the office doesn’t always stay in the office.

Without A Plan It Wont Work

BUSINESS PLANWithout a plan…it won’t work.

It’s usually the first question to pop out of someone’s mouth when presented with a new project or landing a big new client. How do I/we do this? Whether deciding on a how to give your client’s website a facelift, devise a new client SEO strategy, manage a client’s on-line reputation, building a new gazebo in your backyard or planning an event for 250 people-one thing is for sure. None of it will work without a good, solid plan.

Before we get started, a few quick words of advice. Keep the length of your plan readable. If it’s so long that nobody involved feels compelled to thoroughly read through it-then guess what-it is too long. Generally speaking your plan should do the following. First it should tell you where your business or project is going and second it should cover the time frame and identify milestones/performance measures for how you will know when you have achieved your goals, objectives and strategies.

All that being said, here are the key components that will assist you with assembling a solid plan.

Goal: First and foremost a goal is very broad in purpose and very often associated with the company mission statement. It should be the number one statement to which you or your company is committed.

Objective: In simple terms, this is a specific, measurable result you are expecting to see within a certain time period. This time period should also be defined in your plan. Your objective should also have defined measures to clearly define not only when you have succeeded, but also when you have failed. Your objective should also be S.M.A.R.T. (a business acronym). This means that you have spent time to analyze your goal and it is:

Specific-The objective states exactly what is to be achieved.

Measurable- The objective absolutely has to be capable of measurement, otherwise how will you ever know if the goals you have set forth are being met?

Achievable- The objective has be realistic in accordance with the particular circumstances associated with the setting and the resources available. Do you have enough staff to meet your goals in a timely fashion? Do you have enough 4 X 4 planks to finish the roof of your new gazebo?

Relevant- Your objectives should be relevant to the people responsible for achieving them. Have duties been properly assigned accordingly to skill sets?

Time Bound- Objectives should be set with timeline/deadlines in mind. The deadlines also need to be realistic in accordance with the resources available. This is a vital and essential responsibility of a good project manager-the person cracking the whip on a daily basis to ensure that all parties involved are meeting their timelines with their deliverables. If they are not-for whatever reason-adjustments need to be made to keep the project on track.

Strategy: This is the action path you have chosen to realize your goals. It’s the approach you are going implement to achieve your goal and make it a reality. Strategies can also help to establish much broader themes for any future actions.

Measures: So, you’ve taken the time and resources to create what you feel is a viable, strong, sensible to achieve the goals you have been set forth for you, your business or your clients. Now is when the tricky part comes into play. How do you know if any of it is working according to plan? This is where having measures in place is of the utmost importance. By definition a measure is a quantifiable indicator used to assess how well an organization/business or as in this case a plan is achieving its desired objectives. Are our strategies working to help us achieve a predetermined increase in revenues? Are you on track to meet your objectives? Has my client seen their Google ranking move them into the top 20? Do my 250 guests have enough food and drinks to last them through the next three hours? By having measures in place you are able to assess such things as results, production, demand and operating efficiencies. In addition it gives a more objective sense of how your plan is working and whether improvement and more importantly change is necessary.

Timing: This is often times the part of any good plan that gets-shall we say-gets a bit neglected or overlooked. The timing portion of your plan is without a doubt THE most tactical part of your overall plan. It is a description of when each of the assigned tasks will be completed. One of the best ways to assemble the steps in order is to put them in a calendar form-weekly, monthly or quarterly. The length of the project usually points to which form works best. Make sure that all team members involved can complete the tasks during the time you have designated for their assignments. A great thing about viewing all the assigned tasks in calendar form is that you can quickly see whether you have loaded too many tasks into one time period and need to shift some of them or whether you have assigned too many tasks to one individual and need to reassign tasks. This portion of the plan really helps to keep your entire project on track.

So there you have it-a clear and concise list of components necessary to complete your new project and meet all your goals. Good luck to you!