Tag Archives: business

Building Better Business with Generosity

By Stan CraigStan Craig

The full-page ad in a Sunday edition of The New York Times stated boldly that $60,000,000 was received in 2012, over $1,000,000 a week by a variety of recognized charities and community causes. The ad was not from a charity or fund-raising organization. It was from one of America’s largest retailers with multiple stores all across America. Why run full-page ads announcing charitable giving? Why not a sales ad or holiday offers? Because statistics prove over and over that customers, if given a choice, prefer to buy from those who provide support to charities and causes they see as valuable to their community.

More and more companies understand the balance sheet is more than numbers and have developed values that are stated, respected and carried out. Generosity is one of those values. The buying public has made clear that they prefer to buy from good corporate citizens. Generosity demonstrates a genuine corporate value that benefits the company, employees and the community.

When corporations were first granted their charters to do business in our new democracy, they were evaluated on the contributions they made to the public good. While much has changed in the way companies do business, providing public good is still very important and part of every balance sheet.

Generosity comes in all sizes. It will fit nearly every business. How is true generosity recognized? Generosity is noticed if its goals are visible and more than a sales or a morale booster. If your company is looking for ways to give back, consider the following options:

Money talks

  • Money works. In Louisville, Kentucky, the Chairman of the United Way Campaign for 2012, Tom Monahan, wanted to encourage greater participation at all levels of business. But he also had another goal: “to blow away the stereotype of greedy companies interested only in the bottom line.” Cash gifts were recognized in a new fashion.
  • Partnerships work. Monahan enlisted the help of other community leaders and organizations to create a “Partners in Philanthropy publication and an awards banquet to showcase funds for the United Way and demonstrate the many examples of community generosity. Both the publication and banquet recognized the corporations and businesses that gave the most in cash contributions to non-profits in the city.
  • Gifts in-kind work. Categories were designed to recognize large, medium and small corporations for their cash gifts. Non-profits and the work they do were presented. Small businesses were also recognized for the difference they made in a category called “partners in innovation.” A number of family-owned business leaders were included in this new recognition program. A local design company won for their work in renovating dormitories at a youth treatment center and for enlisting many others for gifts in kind to complete the project.

Volunteers matter: Volunteering works. Businesses that encourage employee volunteer days at a local non-profit of their choice get a double bonus. Employees enjoy serving and local non-profits see your company in a very different light. With employee verification, write a check to an organization representing the value of an employee’s work if a paid day-off can’t be granted. Schedule an employee generosity day for all employees to sign up for a community or team project.

Helping build a house for Habitat for Humanity, spending a day at a soup kitchen or shelter or helping in a local school or community center are all team building events as well as acts of generosity.

Here are just a few of the dividends that corporate generosity creates according to VolunteerMatch.org.

  • Raises employee morale: 94% of companies surveyed believed employee volunteering provides a way to raise employee morale
  • Boosts employee health: 92% of people who volunteer through their workplace report higher rates of physical and emotional health
  • Provides skill development: 88% of employee volunteers report that volunteering provides networking/career development opportunities
  • Increases employee loyalty: 66% of employees reported a greater commitment to the company as a result of their experience as volunteers.

There are many more examples of creative ways to be generous. Look around your neighborhood, your community. How can what you do every day become more evident and beneficial to others?

Little things count: “Giving” actually multiplies what you are “receiving.” Walk into most Sam’s Clubs or Costcos at 1 p.m. on almost any weekday and you can basically have a free lunch–and not by ordering at the lunch counter. Just walk down the aisles and you will find hot foods from pizza to burgers, cold beverages, hot beverages, sweets and treats of all sorts–freely and gladly handed out. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are doing the same for their customers.

Why this generosity? The truth is, even if the goal is not necessarily to be generous (as we think of it), generosity can build sales. Coupons for free items, free bonus gifts and prizes have always worked to gain attention and build sales for products from cereal and soap to jewelry and big ticket items such as automobiles and even homes.

Generosity pays dividends:

  • It is attention-getting
  • It is cost efficient
  • It builds top-of-mind awareness
  • It may increase sales
  • Customers or clients perceive a benefit
  • There is a spillover effect to other areas and products

But how can you be generous when your cash is low, your business consists of products or services that you can’t give as samples—or you have few employees to volunteer? What then?

  • Offer discounts to charitable organizations
  • Give time or funds to community projects
  • Participate in a community event that is not business-related
  • Offer your place of business for community use, seminars, calling-marathons, a meeting room
  • Lead a class on your specialty for the Chamber of Commerce or any local organization or non-profit
  • Speak to senior citizens clubs, retirement communities, schools, and PTAs and let the group charge participants for your valuable information and keep the revenue

Customers and potential customers will take note. Positive publicity is generated. Commit to generosity in the true sense of the word and it will make a difference that can pay dividends for years to come and build your balance sheet in ways that simply can’t be quantified.

Remember, your bottom line may not only be measured by revenue received, but by resources shared. Generosity is a business vitamin that will build a healthier bottom line.

Stan Craig, the founder of the ForeTalk Seminar, is an accomplished financial planner, executive coach and keynote speaker. He is also author of “ForeTalk: The 7 Critical Conversations for Living in the Season of Now.” As a finance professional, Stan enjoyed a 27-year career at Merrill Lynch, which included positions as National Sales Manager, Director of Global Sales for Defined Asset Funds and the First Vice President and Senior Director of the Office of Investment Performance. For more information on Stan, please visit www.ForeTalkSeminar.com.

Four Things You Have to Get Right in Business

By Michael MenardMichael Menard

Most organizations know that in order to grow and be an industry leader, they have to continually innovate and undertake key projects that lead to growth. Unfortunately, many companies do so in a haphazard or non-strategic way.

Here’s what typically happens: Leaders keep saying yes as various projects and ideas are presented to them for investment. They say yes until they run out of resources. The projects and ideas first on the list get funded in contrast to the best of all ideas across the organization. The sad truth is the early bird does get the worm. As a result, they waste money and resources, lose momentum, and then wonder why they never achieve their strategic goals.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s a proven approach that enables leaders and decision makers to make a greater contribution to the business, activate the strategic plan, achieve the desired balance, and optimize allocation of limited resources. Here are the four things you need to get right in order to make better decisions so you can maximize your company’s Capital Efficient Profitable Growth (CEPG).

1) Define your strategy: Before your company can undertake any new initiative, you first have to identify your strategy. In other words, who are you and what do you want to do? Unless you know this information, it’s difficult if not impossible to move forward in a productive way.

While most companies have a general idea of their strategy based on their vision or mission statement, often it’s not focused enough to translate into specific strategic goals. For example, suppose you’re a beverage company who offers a variety of soft drinks. How do you grow? You could introduce one new beverage after another and expand into new markets at random, but that will quickly drain your resources. A better approach is to define a specific strategy for growth. For instance, you may decide that you want to be the North American leader in bottled water. Now you have a focused strategy to guide your efforts.

2) Generate ideas: Armed with your strategy, you can now generate ideas that support the strategy. Some people call this step innovation or creative brainstorming. Whatever you call it, the goal is to come up with possible options for advancing the strategy.

Going back to our beverage company example, if the strategy is to be the North American leader in bottled water, your team needs to generate ideas that fit the strategy. Some ideas could include adding nutrients to the water, adding protein to the water, adding exotic flavors to the water, offering different bottle shapes or sizes, etc.

3) Prioritize and select the best ideas: Next is to select the portfolio of ideas that are the best for the company to pursue and that will advance the strategy. As you do the prioritization and portfolio selection process, you need to ask two key questions. The first is, “Will this portfolio of ideas and projects deliver our strategic goal?” If the answer is no, then you have to do something different. Either you alter your strategic expectation or you increase the number of ideas. Keep going through these iterations until you can say, “Yes, our portfolio has the potential to deliver our strategy.” And remember, at this point you’re simply assessing whether the portfolio will meet your strategic goals. You’re not assessing whether it’s something you actually could do.

Once you agree that the portfolio of ideas and projects will help you meet your strategic goals, the second question to ask is, “Do we have the resources (time, money, people, equipment, etc.) to fund the portfolio?” If the answer is yes, then celebrate and move on to step four. But if the answer is no, then you need to circle back and solve the equation. Can you lower your strategic goals? Can you generate bigger, better ideas? Can you add resources? Change the timing? Scale back the idea? Once you have a portfolio that allows you to say yes to both questions, you’ve completed the prioritization and selection process.

4) Execute on the ideas: Finally, it’s time to take action and actually execute the portfolio of ideas. This is where project management comes into play. As you execute each step to support the strategy, outline the detailed activities needed to complete the project on time and on budget. Assign key people to be responsible for each role, and establish checkpoints so you know if the project goes off track. The more thoroughly you manage the execution of the portfolio, the more success you’ll have.

Get it Right…Now! No matter what industry you’re in, long-term business growth depends on these four things: Strategy, Idea Generation, Project Selection, and Execution. When you take the time to implement this process in your company, not only will you make better strategy decisions, but you’ll also achieve the breakthrough results that achieve the ultimate goal: Increased CEPG.

Michael Menard is the author of “A Fish in Your Ear: The New Discipline of Project Portfolio Management,” and cofounder and president of The GenSight Group, which provides enterprise portfolio management solutions for strategic planning, project portfolio management and business performance optimization. A holder of 14 US patents, Menard has utilized his expertise to advise senior executives at organizations such as Coca-Cola, Cisco and the US Department of Energy. To learn more about Mike Menard please visit http://www.afishinyourear.com.

Sustainability is Good Business: Four Benefits for Your Organization

By Steve RichersonSteve Richerson

Going green to make green is red hot right now.

Recently businesses all over the globe have gotten into the “going green” trend and it’s paying off big for many of them. In fact, several recent studies have shown that sustainability-oriented companies have a better stock performance, lower volatility and a higher return on assets than other similar companies. In short, the “sustainable” or “green” companies are making more “green” than the companies that have not jumped on board.

You might be thinking, “That sounds great!  I want some sustainability for my company. How soon can I get it shipped to me?”

Unfortunately, sustainability is not a clever new accounting software, a sparkly new app or a cool new office toy.  In fact, it’s not a “thing” at all.  It’s a philosophy and it’s a very powerful one.

Sustainability is a commitment (from upper management to the front line) to switch from only focusing on short term profit to something even larger and longer lasting – a focus on maximizing the health of people, the planet and profits.

As you may remember from fifth grade biological science, the planet we live on is one big interconnected biological system. So sustainability means that we use this systems’ resources (air, water, land, energy, raw materials) in a manner that will not hinder (no pollution or overuse) future generations’ ability to use these resources. With 7 billion people currently living on the planet and all of them wanting to be rich, get rich or get richer we must start use the resources we have in much smarter ways.

Sustainability is that way and business is the perfect mechanism to deliver smart resource use to the planet’s people.

There are four great reasons why you should integrate sustainability into your business. They are:

(1) Sustainability can reduce business risk. For businesses, risk is omnipresent.  A sustainability approach (people, planet, profit) to business can reduce some of those risks, such as:

  • Litigation –Unfortunately each and every business is at risk for lawsuits.  Are you using chemicals in your business that could end up in the local air, groundwater or soil?  Finding ways to eliminate the use of these materials can align your business with the environment and reduce risk.

  • Cleanup – Accidents happen.  By using safer or more environmentally-aligned safety measures for your business, you can eliminate the need for cleanup, and thus eliminate that cost.  Brainstorming ways to eliminate accidents and subsequent cleanup costs before they even happen is smart and sustainable.

  • Environmental Regulations – Environmental laws are in place to protect the public (people) and the environment (planet) from hazards.  Instead of asking “how do we comply?” ask a much different question. Ask yourself, “what if there was no need for compliance?” What if we could point our company at the target of low or no waste, low or no emissions, low or no energy use? What if we exceeded the compliance standard so much that it becomes irrelevant?” No legal costs. No compliance costs. No problem. Okay… fewer problems.

(2) Sustainability can cut your costs. This is the low hanging fruit of sustainability and it’s not difficult to take on.  Focusing on what you take, make and waste in your buildings, stores, fleets and manufacturing plants can be a successful sustainable strategy for both the environment and for your company.  What if you could reduce your energy costs by using a sustainable resource or a more efficient process?  What if you could reduce your waste disposal costs by creating less waste through recycling or pre-cycling?  What if you could use less water?  What if you could use the sun to pre-heat the water you need for the process?  What if you could reduce your water, energy and waste?

(3) Sustainability can build your brand. You survive and thrive as a business because your customers choose to do business with you. If you lose the respect, trust or loyalty of your customers, you’re finished. Consumers today hold companies (your brand) to a much higher standard than ever before. They expect and reward companies that hold themselves responsible for the people the company affects and the planet it uses resources from. A sustainability focus allows you to make sure that you earn a profit while keeping your eyes on the positive treatment of people and the planet as well. Short-term profit margin focus only is no longer acceptable to customers and they can let the entire world know with one mouse click. The more your company acts like a decent local and global citizen, the more your customers appreciate it and the more loyal they are to your brand.

(4) Sustainability can grow your revenue. From a business perspective, this is the most fascinating area of “being green.”   New products and services are developed every day, but what if business used its problem-solving skills with sustainability as a guide? Viewing the market through the business lenses of sustainability allows you to see the market in a way you’ve never seen it before and capitalize on what you see.   Because it’s a paradigm shift, you may be able to see solutions that others focused only on short-term profit can’t see.

Let’s say you’re in the industrial floor polisher industry and everyone in your industry is worried about the toxic/hazardous chemicals used in the process. You are less likely to see that you can solve the problem with a totally different cleaning process (using water, ionization, for instance) rather than using less toxic strategies, unless you’re seeing the world through integrated sustainability lenses (reducing negative impact on planet and people). Through these lenses, our products and services take on new dimensions. We may even be able to take our core competencies and create new problem-solving products for the global market, which will lead us to long term revenue growth!

Sustainability is good business for the planet, good for the people of the planet and good for business.  What is your company waiting for?

Steve Richerson is a nationally recognized speaker and consultant. Steve utilizes his distinct presentation style to speak on the importance of sustainability and actionable guidelines to enact eco-friendly practices in business. As a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, National Recycling Coalition and the North American Environmental Education Association, Steve is spearheading the campaign to reduce wasteful corporate procedures and promote environmentally sound business methods. To learn more about Steve’s speaking, call 256-710-7216.

Technology In Business: Use It, Don’t Rely On It

Nathan Jamail-TECHNOLOGY IN BUSINESS

Grab your smartphone and check your appointments, while you’re at it, see if any of your clients have posted anything worthwhile on Facebook, tweet your new prospect, check your e-mail for any new appointment requests and then go grab lunch—what a day! More and more sales professionals are relying on technology to drive sales and increase market share; unfortunately that is the first step to staying mediocre.

More and more sales professionals are relying on technology to drive sales and increase market share. Click To Tweet

Getting sales professionals to find vertical markets and make outbound prospecting calls as well as setting sales appointments with prospective buyers (in person!) is still the best way to increase sales—period. All of the technology in the world cannot close more deals than getting in front of the decision maker, so put away those e-mail marketing techniques, fax-ready sales pitches and automatic voicemail calling systems. It is no more difficult today than it was twenty years ago; we just have new excuses.

The gatekeeper now is voicemail with a delete button versus a receptionist and a pink message pad. The great handwritten letter to the decision maker and the trashcan has been replaced with e-mail systems that have auto junk mail programs. The prospective customers have always been too busy or happy with their current product or service to meet. Principles and disciplines of getting new sales are the same today as twenty years ago; the tools and skills needed to get the appointment are new.

Make the Call

What do nice letters, great e-mails, logo gifts, catchy tag lines and marketing campaigns all have in common? Every sales person hopes that it will be the “new thing” that gets their phones to start ringing by prospective customers, but in short they are all just a “another reason for a sales person not to make a prospecting call.” No matter what marketing idea or event you use to attract prospective customers, the sales professionals still must make the follow-up call. If you are going to use a technology-based tool (e-mail campaigns, voicemail systems, etc.), use it only as a tool for you to follow up with the prospective customer, not as an excuse for you to wait for customers to call you.

Social Media is Just Another Tool; It Isn’t a Sales Plan

Social media is powerful and there are many experts that have shown and believe that social media can really help a company become better known, or take the “word-of-mouth” to another level. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are some of the great social media forums, but they alone will not increase a company’s sales. It is a nice added inexpensive media outlet (and highly encouraged!), but if social media is the primary source for a company to attract new customers or to sell their product and services then they are sure to fail.

Social Media should work in conjunction with a marketing and prospecting plan that is based on network marketing, cold calling, vertical marketing and other key prospecting activities. Prospecting is still the most difficult part of any company’s sales process, but it is not complicated. Prospecting is 90 percent discipline and 10 percent skill set. Sales professionals should take the time to learn how to maximize their social media, but they should not rely on it to make their sales. In the old day’s sales, professionals were taught to follow their dollar. This means where a sales professional spends money, they should look there for future prospects as well including friends and family; the “old” social network. Just like then, as it is now, social networking is not the only way to grow business and should not be relied upon exclusively.

If increasing sales was only about coming up with some creative way for prospects to call then companies would not need professional sales people and especially the added expense of their high salaries. If you want to increase sales in today’s economy, then use the technology of today with the disciplines and principles of yesterday. It has been said a million times and it is still true; increasing sales is simple, but not easy. People are still buying; the question is whom are they going to buy from? Make the call!

Nathan Jamail, president of the Jamail Development Group, and author of the best-selling Playbook Series, is a motivational speaker, entrepreneur and corporate coach. As a former Executive Director, life insurance sales professional and business owner of several small businesses, Nathan travels the country helping individuals and organizations achieve maximum success. Nathan has worked with thousands of leaders in creating a coaching culture. Get your copy of Nathan Jamail’s most recent book released by Penguin Publishers, “The Leadership Playbook” at www.NathanJamail.com.

Your Book as Your Business Card

Indie Book Publishing Provides Professionals the Edge

By Keith Ogorek

Keith Ogorek-Book as Your Business Card

What is 6” by 9,” usually weighs roughly one pound, and is giving an increasing number of business leaders an advantage over the competition? A book.

Thanks in large part to the explosion of Indie book publishing, the use of ‘the book as a business card’ has added a new and powerful tool to the marketing arsenal of many successful business people. For a few hundred dollars, seasoned experts and professionals are putting their knowledge into professionally-published books—a calling card sure to make a much bigger impression than the traditional business card.

A prospective customer isn’t going to necessarily care who published the book—they’re going to read it and discover that you really do know what you’re talking about Click To Tweet

Marketing—especially for businesspeople in consulting and service industries—is about credibility, and a book establishes a person as someone who has reached a level of expertise. It allows readers (potential clients) to learn more about their philosophies, thought process and successful case studies, much more so than a simple brochure. And, you don’t have to be published by a major house to achieve and utilize this credibility. Authors are proving that it doesn’t matter if a book is self-published—the end result in terms of marketing benefits is the same.

Imagine one business consultant calling on prospective customers with traditional marketing materials, and another calling on the same customers and supplementing materials with a book written about the field of expertise. Who do you think has the better chance of landing that sale?

Securing extra income from book sales typically isn’t paramount for business authors. Media coverage in the form of book reviews, interviews and feature stories not only spreads the word about the author to their target business groups, but also provides excellent fodder for meetings with prospects, and priceless material for other marketing collateral.

The marketing power of TV and radio shows appearances or an expert’s book featured in various public and trade publications is undeniable. Once again, it is the book that makes the media interested in the author; another benefit of publishing.

One case in point is AuthorHouse author Stacey Hanke, whose book Everything You Need From A to A To Z To Influence Others to Take Action, has received interest from over 120 media outlets.

“My book has given me the opportunity to promote my business in ways I could not have done before,” says Hanke.

Randy Petrick, a writer, speaker, and money coach with more than thirty years of experience teaching financial concepts, has received nationwide media attention for his book Money Games: 85 Ways to Save Money and Attract Abundance. Petrick’s book and expertise has made him a particularly attractive source for the media in light of the recent economic difficulties and many Americans’ increased focus on stretching their dollars.

“Writing and publishing Money Games has been a wonderful opportunity to enhance my business as a financial consultant,” says Petrick. “I can’t imagine a better ‘business card’ in these financial times than my book.”

The expansion in the popularity of Indie book publishing, more commonly referred to as self-publishing, is drawing attention from prominent media in a time when publishing as a whole is experiencing contraction. Recent features in the Time Magazine and The New York Times draw a distinct contrast in ‘old publishing’—which was often fraught with obstacles and disappointment for prospective authors—and indie book publishing which is opening up the goal of publishing a book to everyone, including business professionals.

If you’re a business person selling your services, a prospective customer isn’t going to necessarily care who published the book—that’s not their mindset—they’re going to read it and discover that you really do know what you’re talking about, and you’ve proven it in the book.

Keith Ogorek is Vice President of Marketing for Author Solutions, Inc. (ASI) ASI, owned by Bertram Capital Management LLC, is the world leader in indie book publishing—the fastest-growing segment of publishing. ASI’s self-publishing brands: AuthorHouse, AuthorHouse UK, iUniverse, Xlibris, Wordclay and Inkubook; have helped more than 70,000 authors self-publish, promote, and bring to market more than 100,000 new titles. In 2008, one out of every 20 new U.S. titles was published by an ASI brand—more than any publisher in the world. Headquartered in Bloomington, Indiana; ASI also operates offices in New York City; Indianapolis; Milton Keynes, England; and Cebu, Philippines. Visit www.authorsolutions.com or call 877-655-1722 for more information.