Tag Archives: strategic planning

Strategic Planning: Answering the Next Magic Question—“How?”

By Andy Slipher

Strategic Planning, by Andy SlipherHow do we get it done? What’s our next move? Now that we know what we want and why we’re here, where do we begin? You’ve likely heard variations of these questions in your organization—particularly if you’re at any level of strategic planning how to achieve favorable outcomes.

It’s one thing to know why you’re doing something, who you’re selling to, or even what makes your product or service better than the next guy’s. But, until you can adequately and effectively answer for how, your idea, product, sales, or whatever you endeavor to achieve may not become all you hope for.

The biggest how you can ask begs for a coherent approach. It means building a distinct advantage toward a favorable end. This level of “How?” is best answered with strategy.

Strategic planning exists to solve problems. More often than not, calling upon strategic planning means that your problem is big—significant, complex, and with higher-than-average stakes. That’s why we call upon strategy. It is the means to simplify and unify activity to get from your Point A to Point B with greater clarity, effectiveness, confidence and efficiency.

Planning without strategy is like feeling around in the dark. You may eventually find what you’re looking for, but it will most certainly be unpredictable, take longer than anticipated, and you run a greater risk of falling on your face along the way.

Here are three things you need to know about strategic planning in order to adequately answer any big “How?” and to improve your strategic planning process, no matter what the challenge.

1. Strategy is about choice.

Strategy is a word and concept that is abused today. People love to use it because it sounds, well, strategic. Unfortunately, calling something a strategy doesn’t make it one. Strategy, in order to function as it’s intended, means choosing—making significant choices throughout the planning process. In any complex or challenging situation, such choices are hard. Something must be sacrificed in order to move in a true and distinct direction. If you’re not making hard choices in your planning, you need to ask yourself and others how distinct, clear and achievable is your approach?

Consider this example: When Steve Jobs returned to a struggling Apple in 1997, one of the first things he chose to do was to stop selling so many products. He literally put an end to more than 70 percent of Apple’s products (laying off more than 3,000 employees in the process) in order to focus on a handful of truly innovative products. This hard choice allowed Apple to focus its resources around innovation—developing something truly game-changing. The result? The Apple iPod.

There’s little doubt that Jobs’ efforts would have been significantly more difficult and unclear if he had not made this critical strategic choice.

2. Strategy fits between your goals and plans.

Strategy is not the most important thing. But good strategy is necessary and often critical in order to be successful. Once you’ve defined your goals, strategy comes next. To delineate between goals, strategy and plans:

  •  Goals answer, “What is the end for the effort?”
  • Plans, which follow strategy, answer, “What are the blueprints for success?”
  • Strategy is the point in between that answers, “In what way are we going coordinate our efforts to get there?”
Planning without strategy is like feeling around in the dark. Click To Tweet

A good example of this hierarchy can be seen in the successful approach of the Allies in World War 2. The goal (the end for the effort) was clearly to win the war—to defeat the Axis powers (Germany, Japan, Italy). At the time, the U.S. was faced with the prospect of a two-front war. Without a clear strategy, plans would undoubtedly be murky. However, the overwhelmingly critical factor was the clear and growing threat of Germany to Europe and Russia. Therefore, the Allies made the critical strategic decision to focus first on taking back Europe and defeat Germany. The resulting plans included the D-Day invasion of Normandy (effectively thwarting a German invasion of Britain) by the U.S., the Allied movement upward from Northern Africa and the Russian forces fighting the German army to the east.

3. Strategy marries strength with opportunity.

The beauty of strategy is that it coordinates and integrates activities around a common goal. What’s more, good strategy finds the sweet spot where strengths meet opportunity. If you identify an opportunity, yet have no strengths to take advantage, how effective will you be? Likewise, if your strengths abound in a certain area, yet no opportunities exist, your strategy could come up short.

Know that in order to improve the odds of achieving your goals, your strategy will need to amplify your strengths, while playing to the opportunities at hand. A great example of this can be seen in the way Procter & Gamble (P&G) has nearly cornered the consumer package goods market. With its humble beginnings in soap and candles in the 1800s, P&G slowly and methodically built a strength producing, packaging, marketing and selling package dry goods of all types. Over the years, the company has taken advantage of opportunities to both develop new products and acquire its way into new product categories. Today, the company’s product holdings cover close to 80 products spanning roughly seven categories of products we buy every day. P&G has employed different business strategies over the years, but has always weighed opportunity in light of the company’s inherent strengths.

Whatever your challenge, follow these three fundamental principles for better strategic planning. Your strategy will be both more clear and coherent.  What’s more, you will be incrementally farther down the road toward more successful outcomes sooner.

Andy Slipher is founder of Slipher Marketing, a consultancy where strategy comes first, followed by tangible marketing results. He is an accomplished strategist, interim CMO, speaker and writer on marketing strategy. He is marketing lecturer for SMU’s accredited Bank Operations Institute for professional bankers, and for the Independent Bankers Association of Texas (IBAT). Andy is the author of The Big How: Where Strategy Meets Success. For more information on Andy Slipher, please visit TheBigHow.com.

1+1=7: Leveraging Value-Based Healthcare for Positive ROI

By Gregory T. Reinecke

Gregory T. Reinecke-healthcareChange is about change! In the healthcare industry, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 included another definition for clinical success. The government determined success to mean a patient does not return to the clinic within thirty days of original discharge. This is now old news. Yet a survey in 2017 showed that 59 percent of healthcare organizations (up from 33 percent in 2016) still had concerns about the Affordable Care Act. The consensus was that dealing with this move from a volume-based care requirement to a value-based one is still of concern.

The shift from fee-for-service to a value-based model is driving change and a rethinking of doctor/clinic and patient relationships. With change you are forced to review allocation of resources, investment strategies, and even to do more with less. In this changed landscape—in a value-based environment—how do you define ROI? Where do you invest?

With a greater awareness and focus that past practices in treating and releasing patients will need to be revamped, new consideration on non-clinical patient information has become important. In the current approach, the doctor is concerned with the patient in a one-on-one relationship. In the new environment, the interaction with the patient goes beyond the clinic and into non-clinical areas.

What is in the patient’s home environment that supports or does not support healing and wholeness? What external factors are detrimental to a patient’s ideal recovery? These factors have been noted to include social and physical determinants. How does one sort these new factors and determine where to invest?

Value-based healthcare clearly shifts the practice to include more people-side intangible factors—into areas not as comfortable for the medical practitioner. The practice of medicine deals mostly with specifics, not with non-specifics such as feelings and emotions. The new practice of medicine is moving into a full partnership with intangible factors, especially social determinants that affect success of healing and wholeness for a patient.

A 2018 report of data collected from 300,000 Americans identified factors that create healthy living environments. They reported that only twelve factors contributed to 90 percent of the variations in the well-being of people across the country. These factors were related to demographics, clinical care, social and economic factors, and the physical environment.

It is clear the welfare of patients is no longer focused in the clinic, but has broadened into a holistic, community enterprise. You have heard it said that it takes a village to raise a child; now it takes a community to help people heal! No doubt this recognition of the broadening healthcare enterprise may be part of the reason 59 percent of health providers find the new healthcare expectations challenging.

As a means to begin to understand how to peel back this onion, we have looked at what options healthcare organizations have in making change. A good place to start is to follow where we currently spend money and use resources and then decide where we need to reallocate funding for the new healthcare needs. So which investments might lead to a more applicable and responsive patient care program?

In every organization, there are seven types of investments available. In the outline below, we view each of the seven investments from the perspective of the current Fee-for-service focus to the Value-based focus. For each investment, we have imagined what change result might be desired. The first five capitals followed with asterisks are people or people-derived investments.Understanding the patients’ demographics as well as well as geography will be important in characterizing diverse subgroups in communities under consideration. Click To Tweet

HUMAN CAPITAL

  • Fee-for service: Patient is a number
  • Value-based: Patient is a person
  • Change desired: Consider a clinical team focused on what an ideal (people focused) value-based healthcare system could be

RELATIONSHIP CAPITAL

  • Fee-for service: Transactional: buyer (patient) and Seller (doctor)
  • Value-based: Familial: cooperative solutions, especially post-clinic
  • Change desired: Need to better engage patient in their community; build relationships, understand subgroups

SPIRITUAL CAPITAL

  • Fee-for service: Formal (culture, satisfaction, norms)
  • Value-based: Informal (family-like: culture, satisfaction, personal, relationships)
  • Change desired: Need a support network for patient: partner and co-fund with community groups for health and wellness; environmental integration

CUSTOMER CAPITAL

  • Fee-for service: Cordial formal service
  • Value-based: Collegial informal service; partnering together for health
  • Change desired: Need a new mindset to think health and wellness, holistically; see patient in their environment.

ORGANIZATIONAL CAPITAL

  • Fee-for service: Clinic and equipment support
  • Value-based: Invest to support patient beyond the clinic
  • Change desired: Need to imagine ways to connect/build wellness infrastructure to include community partners and ancillary health groups

PHYSICAL CAPITAL

  • Fee-for service: Focus on clinical needs and technology
  • Value-based: Invest in post-clinical and discharge needs
  • Change desired: Need to fund ongoing support, such as with out- patient wellness support to include wellness integration aides

FINANCIAL CAPITAL

  • Fee-for service: Revenue generation first
  • Value-based: Patient satisfaction followed by Revenue generations
  • Change desired: Need to fund ongoing support, such as with an out- patient ‘wellness’ aide

We have previously shown that an investment on either the task or people sides requires an investment on the opposite side to reap optimal ROI.  For example, an investment of new technology requires an investment in people to maximally exploit the technology. Or if one invests in people to do work, look for ways to invest in materials or technology to help people optimally perform. Since 71 percent (five of seven) of the investment opportunities are on people or people-derived assets, investment opportunities are mostly on the intangible, soft side.

Value-based healthcare investments are thus people-side ones. Understanding the patients’ demographics as well as well as geography will be important in characterizing diverse subgroups in communities under consideration. In order to plan for investments, a strategic approach is needed to tactically allocate resources. We believe that what underpins an effective tactical response is knowledge and understanding of situations and challenges on the ground. They directly affect why people get sick but also can expose the environmental factors that will slow their recovery and adversely affect ROI. Proactively responding to complex challenges at the core must fundamentally go beyond traditional 1+1=2 solutions and embrace a broader range of intangibles into the equation. Depending on the desired change result, one invests accordingly. With this mindset, we are certain that the ROI will be better than 1+1=2, and more like 1+1=7!

Gregory T. Reinecke, President, GeoDimensional Decision Group LLC has over three decades of experience delivering powerful value-driven solutions focused on ROI to healthcare, public safety and government agencies. GeoDD creates solutions that help clients manage risk and solve difficult problems, utilizing big data, geography, geospatial engineering, plus social science and demography to reveal new solution possibilities. For more on Gregory T. Reinecke, please visit www.geoddgroup.com.

Breaking Up Isn’t Hard to Do

Why Companies Lose Customers and What to Do About It

By Kate Zabriskie

Kate ZabriskieAlthough Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield may have been right about love relationships when they penned their hit, “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do,” when it comes to business, that notion rings less true. Customers frequently break up with their suppliers, vendors, and partners. And guess what? Most of them don’t find it hard.

Are breakups inevitable? Not always, but businesses need to understand the four reasons customers leave and how they can avoid them.

Better Product

Sometimes customers decide to breakup because they find a better product. They discover something that addresses their needs that’s faster, easier, healthier, more effective, more enjoyable, or improved in other ways that are important to them.

Are you buying the exact same things you were buying twenty or forty years ago? Have you any use for a Walkman? Probably not. Smart companies listen to what their customers want, think beyond those demands, and push themselves to innovate and improve.

Relationship Extenders

  1. Pay attention. Know what you’re selling, what others are selling, and how your customers are using what they buy from you. What problem are you solving? What would customers buy if you weren’t around? What did they used to buy instead?
  2. Challenge the status quo. It’s easier to innovate when you’re not being reactive. Don’t wait for a customer exodus to motivate you. Challenge yourself to innovate before you’re faced with no choice. What could you do better?

Better Process

Leaving for a different product isn’t the only reason customers tell companies goodbye. Good processes count too. Without them, the customer experience suffers. For instance, imagine a movie theater with great films, state-of-the-art sound, pleasant employees, and clean facilities. So far, so good. Now pair that vision with long lines, staff members who can’t figure out to work the cash registers despite their good manners, double-booked theaters, and so forth. Would you risk taking someone you cared about to such a place, or would you choose to avoid the headache and go somewhere else? Most people would prefer to opt for a breakup and avoid potential pain and problems.

The lesson? at a minimum, doing business should not be hard. If you’ve got processes in place that inflict pain on your customers, don’t be surprised when they bolt the minute they find an acceptable alternative.With some diligence, you can avoid the break-up blues and spend many happy years together. Click To Tweet

Relationship Extenders

  1. Make doing business easy. Walk in your customers’ shoes, and experience your business the way they do. What are you making difficult? What could you make easier? Where are you wasting their time? What used to make sense but doesn’t anymore?
  2. Borrow from others. Process improvement ideas are everywhere you look if you know how to find them. When you are interacting with other businesses, ask yourself what they are doing well and what you can adopt or adapt.

Better Service

All else being equal (or even in the ballpark), customers will often break up with organizations because someone else is paying them more attention or better attention. Consistent caring doesn’t happen by accident. It requires organizations to: define great service, hire people who are capable of delivering on those promises, train them how to do it, and put a management team in place to oversee the process.

Relationship Extenders

  1. Define what you expect. If you don’t identify what A+ service looks like, don’t be surprised when your employees don’t deliver.
  2. Train people and hold them accountable. Plenty of organizations offer training, but they treat it like a one-and-done activity. After you’ve defined what you want to see and hear, you need to put a plan in place to teach people how. Once they know what they are supposed to do and how to do it, hold them accountable. Reward the good, and coach the deficiencies.
  3. Don’t get too comfortable. If you think your customers will just be there because they’re there, you’re mistaken. You must earn and re-earn your customers’ business. Look for signs you’ve gotten sloppy or lazy, and take immediate steps to get back to your best behavior and woo your customers again.

Better Price

The final reason customers will leave a business is price. If customers can get the same product and service they receive from you from someone who charges less, often they will leave. In other words, when the value to price equation gets out of whack, people look elsewhere. That doesn’t mean organizations should race to the bottom and strive to be the low-cost provider. What it does mean is businesses need to ensure they have a value proposition that matters to customers and aligns with the price being charged.

Relationship Extenders

  1. Shop around. Know what your competitors charge and what they deliver for that money.
  2. Find out what matters to your customers other than price. What do they care about? What are they happy to pay more for? What are you offering that they don’t seem to value? What should you add? What should you subtract?

Staying in any relationship requires work, and when it comes to customers, many a suiter will try to take them away from you. With some diligence, you can avoid the break-up blues and spend many happy years together.

Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised. For more information, visit www.businesstrainingworks.com.

Serve This, Not That…

Five Things You Need to Know About Planning a Menu for your Next Business Meeting

 By Tracy Stuckrath

In the past when you scheduled a business meeting you had pizza delivered or ordered sandwiches from the local deli. Sometimes you splurged by taking the group out to a local restaurant. It was never a concern about what was offered or served to the group.

As someone in charge of planning a company function these days, however, ignoring the needs of your employees or clients could potentially send some to the hospital or break a sale. David learned this when he was preparing for a lunch presentation and had a couple of new consultants at his client’s firm.

He had started a practice of sending the standard, gluten-free and vegan menus to his clients “to let people figure out what they would like to eat instead of getting stuck with another round of pizza or sandwiches.” He had heard one of the new guys was hard to get along with. Little did David know, that by sending over different menus, he was able to meet the new person’s dietary needs and that a consultant didn’t have to sit through the presentation watching everyone enjoy their lunches while he was “eating his second piece of lettuce.”

Sending over the multiple menus for him to choose from also allowed a relationship to begin on a positive note and he has since worked with him on other projects and has shared some of his own experience with food issues that his daughter was being tested for—win-win all the way around.

The number of people adhering to specific diets these days is increasing daily. From paleo to keto, food allergies to diabetes, celiac disease to veganism, cancer to halal, your employees, customers and potential clients may well be following a special diet.

Reasons for the increase in requests include:

  • Rotating location of events to different parts of the world
  • Increased international attendance and diverse, global workforces
  • Increase in chronic disease and aging workforce
  • Kosher attendees are asking for accommodation
  • Rise in food allergies
  • More attendees are choosing to eat vegetarian or vegan
  • Diverse religious dietary requirements
  • Growing acceptance of alternative diets
  • General desire to eat healthier

No matter the reason, understanding and accommodating the dietary needs of your employees and customers should be considered standard practice for anyone planning a meeting or event. But with so many requests, how do you if know if you can serve this and not that?By taking a few extra steps to ensure their personal enjoyment, safety and health is valuable and showcases your professionalism. Click To Tweet

1. Know the Needs

Managing the multitude of requests can be challenging at best, but understanding the basic guidelines for the most prevalent requests can go a long way.

Food Allergies: More than 120 foods are known to cause allergic reactions, but eight foods cause 90 percent of all allergic reactions—milk, egg, wheat, soy, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish and fish—by touching, ingesting, or inhaling. Food allergies can be fatal, so it’s important to take these requests seriously, and ensure your catering partners do too.

Medical Conditions: There are a variety of other medical conditions that are managed through diet—celiac disease/gluten sensitivity, diabetes, Crohn’s, diverticulitis, heart disease, cancer and obesity. Although they may not be immediately life threatening like food allergies, they can trigger serious health issues that take your attendees away from your meeting.

Lifestyle Preferences: More than 27 million people follow a vegetarian-inclined diet. Millions of others are eating gluten-free, paleo, raw, macrobiotic or vegan. The reasons for doing so can be personal, moral or health-related. No matter what the reason, meeting hosts need to appreciate and accept their preferences.

Religious & Cultural Practices: One third of the world population follows a religious-based diet, so knowing attendee demographics is important. Some may choose to eat vegan or vegetarian when traveling, but others may require a certified meal. And some religious diets vary based on the calendar and the time of day.

2. Planning is Critical

Managing food restrictions and needs can be cumbersome, but a little extra planning and forethought can go a long way.

Ask your attendees about their dietary needs when inviting them. If you have online registration, be specific by using check boxes—not fill-in-the-blank boxes—which leave room for assumptions that could potentially be fatal. Otherwise, give attendees a way to inform you of their needs.

Talk to your attendees. If you have questions about their needs, call them. Put them in touch with the chef or restaurant directly. They’re the experts on their own needs, so who better to ask? Maybe they could even help plan the menu for everyone.

Communicate with your caterer(s) in advance—not hours, but at least a week before, if possible. The earlier your catering partner knows, the more time they have to incorporate the needs into the overall menu or provide quality options. Also ensure the necessary safety steps are being taken in preparing, cooking and serving food. Cross-contact in the kitchen and the front of the house can be fatal.

3. Offer Fresher, More Nutritious Options

While chain restaurants are now required by law to provide nutrition information about the food they sell, ordering food from a local restaurant that makes their food from scratch allows for easier identification of ingredients and to make any necessary adjustments for dietary needs.

4. Foster an Inclusive Environment

The ideal inclusive environment has long been meant to allow individuals to bring their true and authentic selves to work. However, most inclusion efforts do not address dietary needs.

For example, an Indian man accepted the chicken salad plate presented to him at lunch because he did not want to ask for a vegetarian meal. Instead he ate the romaine lettuce the chicken salad was placed on. John, a vegan who was interning at a company who offered him a job upon graduation was partaking in the intern pizza lunch. When he was not eating the pizza, he was asked why not. Instead of asking if a vegan pizza could be ordered, he ate his vegan protein bar.

5. No Longer Just a Matter of Good Guest Relations

In 2008, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) was amended to clarify and broaden that definition of the word “disability,” thus expanding the number and types of persons protected under the ADA, including individuals with food allergies, celiac disease, and other conditions that affect their ability to eat.

At meetings that are either a requirement or benefit of employment, a reasonable meal accommodation must be provided to meet an employee’s dietary need(s) or it can be seen as discriminating against the employee for their disability. The ADAAA protection also extends to any events held in places of public accommodation, such as restaurants, hotels, convention and conference centers.

In conclusion

As a meeting host, you’re responsible for bringing people together from around the world to share an experience. While at your meeting, they are in, in an essence, under your care. You have taken on the commitment to plan their meals and their experience. And, as such, you’re responsible for the health, safety and well-being.

By taking a few extra steps to ensure their personal enjoyment, safety and health is valuable and showcases your professionalism.

As founder and chief connecting officer of Thrive!, Tracy Stuckrath helps organizations worldwide understand how food and beverage (F&B) affects risk, employee/guest experience, company culture and the bottom line. As a speaker, consultant, author and event planner, she is passionate about safe and inclusive F&B that satisfies everyone’s needs. She has presented to audiences on five continents and believes that food and beverage provide a powerful opportunity to engage audiences on multiple levels. For more information about Tracy, please visit: www.thrivemeetings.com.

Does the Virtual You Byte? Managing Your Digital Twin

By Kate Zabriskie

Kate Zabriskie“We were ready to make him the offer, but then I saw the domestic abuse arrests. With a quick Google search our clients could easily find the same information. I don’t need to ponder the larger risks because this problem alone is a showstopper.”

“Why would I buy from someone who chooses a middle finger shot as his Twitter profile picture? Goodness knows I made some bad choices early in my career, but clearly, he’s not ready to manage an account like ours. It’s too bad. I liked his presentation.”

“I couldn’t believe it when I came across what I did. She works for a great non-profit and I liked what she had to say, but that’s not her only career. The boudoir shots and escort activities are an interesting sideline. Call me judgmental, but I just don’t want to work for her. I can’t be associated with people involved in those kinds of activities.”

A little digging on the internet can reveal of wealth of information. Some of it is true, some of it isn’t, and all of it is out there for the world to see.

Fair? Probably not, but it is what it is. Our digital doppelgangers have tremendous power, and as long as finding information online is easy, it will be found.

So, what’s a person to do to get control of his or her online image without spending a fortune? By following seven simple steps, you can take charge of your digital reputation.

Step One: Understand Your Digital DNA: The first step in managing the cyber you understands who creates him or her. If you use social media, you’re contributing to your footprint. If you have ever owned property, had a land line, donated to charity, sat on a board, or participated in any activity where information is published in an online newsletter, that information is part of the digital you.

You need to understand your digital twin has lots of parents, and some of them are more concerned about presenting him or her in a positive light than others. Google yourself, and make a list of from where information is coming.

Step Two: Choose a Strategy: The key to an effective online presence (or absence) is planning. Without a strategy, you have no plan. To manage the online you, you must decide what you want people to find. You might choose to present yourself as a well-rounded candidate for a job, define yourself as an expert on a particular topic, or align yourself with a cause that means something to you. Whatever the choice, one should have a goal for presenting an online picture that matches your offline objectives.The key to an effective online presence (or absence) is planning. Without a strategy, you have no plan. Click To Tweet

Step Three: Remember, It’s Not All Bad: In most cases, a well-managed digital presence is better than no presence at all. Think about it; if you were in a hiring manager’s chair and could find nothing in cyberspace about a candidate you were considering for an important job, would it concern you? Maybe.

What most likely wouldn’t concern you, however, would be the discovery of a professional LinkedIn page. In fact, the existence of such a page would probably serve as additional evidence of the candidate’s qualifications and suitability for a job.

Step Four: Put the Best You Out There: A picture is worth a thousand words, and a lot of what people say about themselves when choosing a profile photo isn’t too good. The photos are blurry, old, or just inappropriate. Get a professional photo taken and use it.

Your virtual you should be congruent with the real you. In other words, don’t promise one thing and deliver something else. Update your photo every five years or after you’ve had any significant physical transformation.

Next, check your privacy settings on all social sites into which you opt in. Do you really want people knowing what you’ve “liked” online, what your following, and so forth? If your brand strategy isn’t to be political or provoking, think before you comment on anything controversial.

Also, don’t forget that privacy settings change, people share comments, and so forth. In short, what you say among friends may at some point be seen by people you wouldn’t expect to have access to your conversations.

When it comes to social media, be disciplined, and make choices that fit with your strategy.

Step Five: Manage Unflattering Information: If you’ve got information out in cyberspace you wish weren’t there, and you are blessed with a common name, your dark data is probably buried pretty far down in the search results—especially if you actively publish other information about yourself.

If you have a rather unusual name coupled with a bad PR problem, you’ll need to be more proactive. Make site-by-site requests for information removal, and start publishing. Comment on reputable blogs using your real name, leave product reviews also using your real name, publish articles, and so forth. Your goal is to create noise and push negative information to the bottom of the pile. The stronger the sites where you post “good” data, the more likely those items will appear at the top of the results.

For most people, a do-it-yourself approach is sufficient, but if you’ve tried and are still struggling, you can always hire an expert. Prices vary widely, so shop around.

Step Six: Set Up an Auditing System: Online reputation management isn’t a one-and-done activity. It’s ongoing because the internet is fluid. What’s there today could be gone tomorrow and vice versa.

As your own reputation manager, this means you must be on your toes and aware of what’s being said about you. An easy way to stay in the know is to set up a Google alert for your name. Then, as that search engine finds new mentions of you, it will let you know.

Next, search the top engines for your name once a month. Check the first two pages of results for anything troubling. Finally, once a year, do a deep dive and look at every result. It’s time consuming but worth the effort—especially if you’ve encountered problems in the past.

Step Seven: Remember Why You Care: When you work hard to make the real you great, your digital twin shouldn’t be allowed to ruin your reputation. In other words, the online you should be your advocate, not your adversary, and if you don’t manage him or her, you roll the dice and take your chances.

Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised. For more information, visit www.businesstrainingworks.com.