Category Archives: Keith Chagnon

The Art of Running a Successful Meeting

The Art of Running a Successful MeetingYears ago while part working for a global entertainment company here in Los Angeles, something I had joked about for years…finally happened. I was in yet another Senior Team meeting. It was the third meeting of the day. Five minutes into the meeting I realized I was in a meeting-about a meeting!! That was it…I’d had enough. The time had come to take matters into my own hands. I swore from that day on that I would do everything in my power to make sure that any meeting I was part of would have an agenda. It’s the only way to not waste everybody’s time.

Here are some helpful tips to run a successful team meeting.

1.) Set a specific time for the meeting. Give it a start time and an ending time. This will help with the pacing of the meeting. If your meeting is an hour long with 5 agenda points (see 4 below) you pretty much know that you have roughly 10-12 minutes for each point to be discussed.

2.) Be on time. It sends a terrible message to your team if you are the one habitually late to meetings. First it displays your bad time management skills and secondly it sends a message that your time is more valuable than others. Yes, we all know problems arise, fires need to be put out and projects get derailed-but make an effort to be on time.

3.) Make sure the right team members are present. Who is actually vital to the main topic of the meeting? Make sure they are there…not the entire team.

4.) Have an agenda. This helps everybody in the meeting to know exactly what’s going to be discussed during the meeting. Break down the meeting into small bite sized bits. This helps to accomplish a few things. First, everyone in attendance will be able to determine which parts of the meeting agenda specifically pertains to them. This also allows them to make notes ahead of time to answer questions.

5.) Use a timer. I have found through the years that this can be a really handy way to keep yourself and your team members on time. Use your iPhone timer or your watch. Let people you will be using this method for the benefit of everyone at the meeting. Trust me…it works.

6.) Take notes. This does not mean that you have to take notes…but make sure it gets done. There a few different ways to approach this. You can either assign it someone on a permanent basis or a rotating basis. Once the notes have been taken make sure that they are distributed to all team members in attendance as soon as possible after the meeting.

7.) Assign action points. During the course of the meeting when new tasks are discovered make sure that they get assigned during the meeting. Make sure that the tasks are assigned to the team members with complete info: what the task involves, what is the due date and who gets confirmation of the task being completed.

Finally, there is one last question to the throw out to the room once you’ve completed the meeting. What needs to be done from this point forward to take us to our next step? Look around the room and you will see a sigh of relief that you asked the question. Everybody had it on their mind and are now relieved that it has been put on the table.

Jedi mind trick!

As always, onward and upward.

Rallying Your Troops, A.K.A., The Power Of Positive Thinking

Keeping your team on point and happy is crucial to work getting done and productivity staying high. This happiness doesn’t always have to be paid out in dollars. Let’s take a quick look at how some of the biggest companies out there motivate and incentivize their employees.

the power of positive thinking

Google: Every wonder why Google employees love their jobs? Maybe, just maybe it’s because some of these perks.

  • Free food from gourmet cafes representing food from around the globe
  • Dog friendly work environment
  • On-site gym
  • On-site doctors
  • Free laundry machines

Netflix: When you work here you never have to worry about asking for days off-there’s no vacation policy. As long as you get your work done there is no limit to the number of days you can take off. What about a dress code? There isn’t one.

Facebook: Free food. There is $3,000.00 for child care reimbursement. So, what about time off? 21 days paid time off, 11 paid holidays and unlimited sick days. There is also four months off-paid for-for maternity/paternity leave.

Now that we’ve seen what life is like at the top of the food chain…let’s come back to reality for you and your small business! Once again-showing your appreciation doesn’t always have to be about dollars.

Employees want to be appreciated and they want to know “what is going on”. Working from this statement let’s take a look at a few things you can to keep your workplace a great, positive place for your employees to come to everyday.

Show Your Appreciation
When you have an employee that is doing stellar work-don’t it go unnoticed. Either taking them out to lunch or a verbal, “thanks for the great job you’re doing” can make a huge difference in an employee’s day. This is an instance where a little bit can go a long way.

Communicate-Make sure you have consistent communication with your team. It’s vital to keep moral up and positive. Don’t sequester yourself away from everyone. Try to be as open and real as you possibly can with your communication in the office. Remember…your attitude and vibe can often set the tone for the entire office.

Don’t Lie-If your employees find out that you have lied to them…your toast. Any trust that existed will be obliterated. Trust is directly linked to positivity and productivity in the workplace. Also, try not to ever over extend yourself to your people. If you promise to do something, then do it! Lying to your people is a guaranteed path to destroying morale in the office.

Stay Out Of It-The dreaded “M” word is micromanaging. Everyone knows you care about your company, your clients and your employees. Show that passion. Be that person to rally the troops and lead them into battle. DON’T micromanage them. You hired them all for a reason. Let them do their job. Hands off!

A Clear Goal-It’s really simple. When your employees have a clear and concise goal in front of them…it will make their road to success that much easier. Being vague never works. Be crystal clear about what you expect out of them so that they can feel good about the hard working they are doing and so that they can feel confident in your leadership.

As always…onward and upward.

Saying A Good Goodbye to Bad Clients

Saying A Good Goodbye to Bad Clients

It’s inevitable that it will happen. You have to come to the conclusion that you have a “bad client”. For whatever reason or reasons, the relationship is just not working. When it does happen, the first thing you need to ask yourself is this: Is this relationship mutually beneficial to both sides? If your answer is no-you need to figure out exactly why?

When you are preparing to go into a business relationship with any new client it’s a good idea for both parties to first determine the benefits of working together. This needs to a vital process in your business dealing with anybody-what will we, as a company, achieve from working with this particular client? The specific answers can only be determined by you and your team. Here are some factors to take into consideration.

1.) Value. Can each party clearly articulate the value of working together?

2.) Styles. Do your styles match? If you are a company that moves at a continuous, quick pace will your client be able to “keep up” or will you always have a feeling that you are “dragging” the client along?

3.) Clarity. Is there complete clarity about what the client is looking to achieve? This works for both sides. Does your team clearly understand the goal of the client and does the client understand what will be needed from their team to achieve their goal?

4.) Qualification. Wanting a goal and having the qualified people in place to achieve that goal are two different things. The client may want to build that very groovy, cool new mobile app but do they have the team in place to utilize it once it is built? Do they have the funding-now? Is your team qualified to build the app in a timely fashion?

5.) Communication. Does the client really understand? Do they really listen well? Do both parties do what they say they will when they say they will? This is a big one.

So you’ve covered all five checkpoints above and come to the conclusion that it is not going to be a good fit. You are now at the point where you are ready to “fire the client”. Do it with dignity and class.

First make sure ALL of your contractual obligations (up to this point) are fulfilled as best as possible. Second, stick to your guns about ending the business relationship. This will be really useful in the event that they make a request for you to do more work. Learn to say NO…with a thank you tagged on the end. Prepare a concise and constructive answer if they do request more work from you. You never know. Sometimes having these conversations can turn positive-for both sides.

In conclusion, always make sure you are being a great service provider to your clients. This can only be done by assessing the real value of entering into any new business relationship-before the relationship starts.

Onward and upward!

You Have Spent Money to Build a New Website But Now What?

what to do after building a websiteEarlier today I received a phone call from a family member who had a list of questions about social media and marketing. Perhaps you’ve gotten one of these calls at one time or another. The conversation usually goes something like this-“I just spent money to build a new website for my business…now what?”

Now what? Meaning…now that I’ve spent all this money…how do I get it to help me with my business? Spending the money on the tools isn’t enough. It’s just the beginning. Now comes the really hard part. It’s all about building a plan that utilizes the tools in a way that works for YOU and YOUR business.

Here are some social media tools that you are going to need to incorporate into your plan.

Facebook-Can’t get around this one. If you are not active on Facebook yet-get started now. Secure your business name as a Business Fan Page. Research some similar businesses in your area and on a national level. Check and see what type of activities they run on a regular basis. A Business Fan Page lets you create a page where customers or fans of your business can register as a “fan”. This will help to expand the presence of your business (because your updates will also flow to their pages).

Twitter-Once again, if you don’t already have an account-sign up for one immediately. Twitter offers a great marketing platform. Reserve an account in the name of your business. This will give you the option to tweet from your business account. Research various terms and phrases that have to do with your type of business. Also check out your competitors-see what they’re doing on a daily basis. Make sure to connect your Twitter account to Facebook so that your tweets will appear in your public updates on Facebook. This will let you leverage your time on Twitter to also update your Facebook fans.

LinkedIn-It’s the world’s largest professional network. There are 300 million users worldwide. The U.S. alone has 100 million users. There are 3 million LinkedIn business pages. You get the idea. Reserve your business name. Once again…look around to see how your competitors are using it. Also consider looking up your customers to “connect” with them. Don’t be shy about asking your customers or vendors to give you a “recommendation on your profile.

Your Business Name/Company Blog-For any small business, a blog can offer tremendous value. WordPress-go ahead and learn it and use it. A blog has one Golden Rule-content is king. Choose a focus-one that displays your expertise in your field. Next, write, write, and write. Once you’ve spent some time on your own blog and you have started to gain a level of credibility and trust, consider reaching out to the blog owners with similar businesses-ask whether they’d allow you to guest post an article on their blog. It can be a great way to get in front of a bigger audience.

Local Strategies-Google Maps and Yelp. You can add your business to Google Maps, or update your listing to include additional details. Yelp will allow you to include the URL of your business website. Don’t hesitate to ask your customers who’ve used your services for a review on Yelp.

Analytics-Google Analytics is a free tool from Google that provides detailed, useful information about your website traffic and the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. Without this data you will never know what’s working and more importantly what’s not working.

Multimedia- YouTube. You can make whatever type of video that works for your business and your marketing efforts. You can upload videos to YouTube to reach a broader audience and also embed the video content in your company blog posts. YouTube also has powerful analytics tools available so that you can evaluate the effectiveness of your video content.

In conclusion, whether you are using some or all of the above mentioned tools you must strive to maintain a strong brand consistency and a common voice. That doesn’t to say that the voice has to come from just one person at your company. What it does mean is that everyone that speaks on behalf of your company through your social media network must absolutely maintain the “voice” of your company.

Onward and upward.

The Only Place Success Comes Before Work Is In The Dictionary. (Vidal Sassoon)

The Only Place Success Comes Before Work Is In The DictionaryAs a child I was able to travel the world because my Father was in the military. Yes, I confess, I am an Army brat. As we moved from country to country, military base to military base, state to state, I could feel the influence it was having on developing my personality. When you are stationed somewhere for a little as 12 months at a time you learn to make friends quickly.
As I grew older and started my career in the entertainment business I joked to friends that all that moving served as a good training ground to learn how to deal with ALL kinds of people in the business. These are not normal people by any stretch of the imagination.
One of the biggest advantages to this upbringing was the honing of tenacious networking skills. To this day it repeatedly puts me into business situations and opportunities that otherwise would never be possible.
In the last two weeks I have been able to put two groups of people together to accomplish a common goal. The first group is the people looking for an experienced, reliable mobile app developer. The second group is the developer. E-mails and conversations are now taking place at a rapid pace…it’s now down to “go time”. What is this “thing” we are building going to cost? Time and time again-this is where things get sticky. I’ve seen it from both sides. In this case the company looking to build the app has posed the question to the developer-how much? WRONG!!! It is your job-as the client to know exactly what your budget is…to be able to relay this to the developer. Why? Here’s why. When you make the grave misstep of putting it out into the world that you either don’t have a budget or don’t want to share the info-you are painting yourself into a corner.

 

Again, why? Here’s why. You have now used or rather tried to use the not so strategic maneuver of “guess my budget”. This never works. You are wasting your time and more importantly the time of the developer. Be bold. Give THE number up. If you don’t, here is what most likely is going to happen. The developer is now getting a sense that you’re trying to out maneuver them. Guess what-you have not. All you have done is irritated them. You will now be getting a number from the developer that is loaded with a little extra “you are wasting my time” added to the budget. This will immediately stall the negotiations AND make you start second guessing the integrity, reliability and worth of the developers. So, I say to you today…be bold…put forth great plans into motion…give up the number!
Onward and upward.

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.