Thursday, September 22, 2011

Demand, Part 1

Recent economic reports -- and the projections for the remainder of 2011 and early 2012 -- have been grim.  The Federal Reserve added a new "twist" to its arsenal of unconventional tactics as it downgraded it's economic view.  Doom and gloom is pervasive, economically speaking, it seems.

There are many aspects of the world that can and should worry us as human beings.  But as business people, our success is directly dependent on our ability to focus on the drivers of our organizations and not be distracted.

What's a business owner to do?  Turn off the telly...delete CNBC from your bookmarks...stop worrying about the macro.  Why?  It's not in your control.

During the latter days of the year, you should be focusing on a plan for stoking demand for YOUR products.  That's totally within your control.

Start with your customer base...when was the last time you talked with your customers?  Have you analyzed your sales; do you understand what they are buying and why?  Have you conducted a marketing review and ROI to determine if you are in synch with buying patterns and demand.  Do you know which 50 percent of your marketing spend is being wasted?

Don't have a plan?  In our next post, we'll share some tips.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Ownership attitude

At our monthly TAB Board meetings, we usually start off with the host of the meeting sharing with the group a quote, phrase or story that has some personal meaning.  At a recent meeting, the quote and story pertained to perseverance; how not giving up can be the difference between success and failure.

The story evolved into a discussion of the attributes and attitudes that characterize success, especially among business owners.  It was a lively dialogue, and ended up on "ownership attitude" and the difference between owners and  employees. Like leadership, and more famously, pornography, the ownership attitude may be hard to define, but easier to identify.

Owners are independent, strong-willed, risk-taking, opinionated, combative, willful, perfectionist, far-sighted, deaf, myopic, sleep-deprived, the first out-of-pocket but last to be paid, and most often not millionaires-or-billionaires.

While not exhaustive by any stretch, what these attributes illustrate is that owners are NOT employees.  In fact, they make HORRIBLE employees, by and large. 

Do these traits describe you?  What others would you contribute?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

On 9/11

Many say they hate change and no doubt that is true. But who hasn't changed in the last 10 years? I have.

I have changed in ways both profound and subtle; physically and emotionally; personally and professionally. Like it or not, change is a constant in our lives.

On 9/11/01, I was a senior executive in NYC at a large international consultancy, with about 40 in my group if memory serves. Other than the occasional fire drill, perfunctorily practiced, we had absolutely no preparedness for an incident like the terror attacks that day. No escape plan, contingency plan or formal communications tree.

I like many others, lived in blissful (willful?) ignorance. Professionally, I never met a planning exercise I wouldn't run from. On 9/11 I had never felt so unprepared, so exposed. Thankfully, we were all safe from harm, and managed to not harm ourselves in the ensuing chaos. Never again, I vowed.

Today, I am Mr. Plan. I have to - at the very least - sketch out any path from A to B that I am considering, get down the to-dos and task lists and outline my SMART goals. I have learned that planning is essential to managing change and embracing the ambiguity that confronts us daily.

It's one of my learnings from 9/11. What are yours?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Questions, questions...

I'm often asked (or overhear when I'm eavesdropping) "How do I sell more," or "How do I get my salesperson to sell more."  I always answer by asking "Who's buying now, what are they buying and why?"  Very few business owners or CEOs have a real handle on who their customers are, what motivates them and why.  One owner I know refuses to even ask his customers, believing it is an intrusion.  Oy!  Tip:  your customer has already made a commitment to you with their initial is up to you to turn that into a relationship. Ask them how you can best serve them...they will be delighted to tell you what they think.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Overcoming disaster

Another hit to the backbone of our economy: many businesses took a big blow in and around the NY Capital region (and elsewhere) from Irene.  A lot are up and running again, but as one owner put it to me, "The costs didn't stop; the income did.  For a small business in this environment, that hit is very hard to overcome.  But we'll try and push forward."

What to do?  Many businesses are already running as lean as possible, and agonizing over every cost and potential investment. A disaster recovery plan, no matter how well thought out, can't overcome limitations of size and inadequate reserves.  Indeed, for some, proper insurance and the help of the government may not be enough to fuel long-term health.

Our local citizens can and must help....  Here's an idea...instead of using the web, going to a big box or mall...for the rest of the year, find, patronize and support local, and locally-owned businesses.  Call your local business association and Chamber of Commerce and get a membership list.  Share it with your friends.  Tweet it, "like" or "friend" a local business.  Get the word out and take action.  Support your neighbors and rebuild our communities.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Get out and dance

An active web-marketing capability is not a luxury or an is a necessity, a utility, like heat or electricity.  I meet business owners everyday who are still "trying to figure this social media thing out."  A few are still debating whether they need a web site.  It's like shy adolescents at a school dance:  standing on the sidelines watching others have all the fun.  Ladies, Dudes:  You've got to get on the floor to score!

Welcome to CEO Bootcamp blog

Welcome to CEO Bootcamp.  A blog of tips, advice, inspiration and an occasional kick in the rump for those leading private businesses.

We may be the backbone of the US economy, but sometimes we all need a little tough love.