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Only a Few of Anything REALLY Matter

Whether you are a business owner or salesperson trying to please your customers, a comedian attempting to win over a tough crowd, or a politician trying to win votes, it is an entirely NATURAL human desire to want to pay attention to/focus on (and try to please) EVERYONE.

Today’s business tip is inspired by the notion that LESS IS MORE or:

“You can make ALL of the people happy SOME of the time and SOME of the people happy ALL the time, but you can’t make ALL of the people happy ALL of the time.”

Need proof? Let’s go back a 100 years…

Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian economist who studied the income distribution of citizens in Switzerland around 1900.

He found that a relatively small percent of the population controlled most of the countries’ wealth (sound familiar, fellow Americans?)

During the 1940s an American named Dr. Joseph Juran expanded upon the work done by Pareto, by studying significant numbers of data from many different industries and case studies. He found that a relatively small number (20%) of the total were always critical, and a majority of the data (80%) was relatively unimportant.

Dr. Juran discovered that this mathematical formula had nearly universal application. So, what that means is the Pareto Principal dictates that:

* 20% of your customers are responsible for 80% of you sales, revenues, and profits.

Looked at another way, if you were to categorize your customers in terms of their loyalty to your offering and satisfaction with you, nearly 75% can be defined as “mercenaries.” While they have high satisfaction with (they purchase) your products and services, they have little loyalty to you and will leave you in a heart beat if they find a cheaper price, newer model, etc.

A much smaller segment (no more than 20%) of your customers can be considered loyalists. They are highly loyal to and satisfied with you. NO MORE THAN A PALTRY 5% can be considered “raving fans” or “apostles.”

A raving fan is a customer that sticks with you through thick and thin. They are 100% loyal to you and thrilled with your brand. They tell anyone and EVERYONE they know about you and they provide you with a constant pipeline of referrals.

They are the “unpaid sales reps” of your business who behave like Loyalists BUT they also provide you with much needed input/criticism that helps you to continuously improve your offerings.

The challenge we face is create an action plan to find apostles in your customer base. You do this by moving your customers up the three step sales ladder from prospect to Raving Fan/Apostle. You initially have to convert them during the first step from a prospect into a customer. During the second stage, you migrate them to the more lofty status of repeat customer. At the highest level of customer engagement, you need to convert them from a repeat customer into a raving fan.

Conduct a needs assessment for your top non-apostle accounts, convince those clients to embrace/accept/implement your recommendations, and review their plan with them every 3-4 months. It will help you to write down the names of a few of your apostles. Think about those relationships. What did it take to convert them from repeat customers? What does it take to maintain a “raving fan” relationship with them? Which existing clients will you target to convert this year?

Start now! It takes time and special nurturing. Remember that less is more, and a handful of clients hold the key to your future success.

Bad Things ALWAYS Happen to Rip Van Winkels

It’s a sad but absolute truism that when you fall asleep at the wheel (or under a tree) for a significant length of time, bad things are sure to happen.


For countries that fall asleep, bad things happen in the form of failing social services, exodus of jobs, atrophied infrastructure, failing education standards, a dwindling Middle Class, lack in global competitiveness, etc.

When organizations fall asleep, they lose market share, lose sight of their best customers’ needs, stop making relevant products or offering services that matter, lose talented employees, and miss opportunities to enter new markets.

When individuals like Rip Van Winkel fall asleep, they wake up to find they spent a career in a job they hated. They miss out on opportunities to develop lifelong transferable skills, have their experience become outdated/obsolete, fail to keep up with the latest trends and developments, miss out on chances for promotions or lateral career moves, etc.

The question we all need to keep asking ourselves is: “how can I stop myself from falling asleep, by applying personal career insomnia?”

Phrased differently: “what can you do to not miss out on life’s golden opportunities? Following are a few strategies that you can employ to stay wide awake:

* Pursue lifelong learning;
* Conduct a personal career exploration audit every 3-4 months;
* Hire a career or life coach;
* Go back to school – take classes or teach;
* Turn your passions into a career;
* Monetize your hobbies;
* Update your resume especially if you are happy in your current job;
* Network like a fiend to find out what other people are doing;
* Join relevant industry associations;
* Shake things up! Embrace change…try a new haircut/style, take up an instrument, try a new sport, sign up for an art class, or go see a movie by yourself;
* DON’T PROCRASTINATE!!! Set weekly personal goals;

We all have a tendency to get so caught up in the moment of performing our daily routine that with time it becomes nearly impossible to wake ourselves up.

Let this be your WAKE UP CALL!

My Dog Molly’s GREAT Career Advice

Molly, my two year old terrier mutt was looking over my shoulder as I began writing this blog. She yawned, licked herself, and was looking very bored and unimpressed.

I got a bit insulted at her lack of enthusiasm so I snapped at her: “Do you think you can do better?”

She jumped off the bed, onto the chair at the computer and started banging away on the keyboard furiously.

Since she almost NEVER exhibits that kind of enthusiasm for my work, I let her have a go at it. Turns out, her advice is brilliant!

So with a minimum of editorial changes (she doesn’t have thumbs so there were a lot of typos) I give you Molly’s tips for exceptional career success.

Time Management: Make Time to Lick Yourself

It’s not easy sleeping 20 hours a day and still accomplishing the most pressing business matters I face. So, I need to be economical and know my “up” and “down” time. I plan accordingly and stick to a schedule. I wake early EVERY day, to prepare for a day of napping AND barking at every noise outside our apartment. I manage to get in three good walks a day, fit in an hour of ball chasing at the park and ample time for licking myself. Do you have a well planned out routine and plan each day and week to accomplish clearly defined goals?

Be an Expert at Non-Verbal Communications

Without as much as a single word spoken, I can convey my constant desire to play fetch with the human (that’s Ethan) by dropping my ball at his feet constantly for TEN OR MORE HOURS EVERY DAY. It took a lot of work on my part, but he was finally trained. When he fails to respond – I bark (walk quietly and carry a big stick – or bark, I say!) then he focuses on me and I get what I want. It’s my way of saying “ball…ball…ball…ball…” loudly and clearly.

I am also quite capable of expressing my need for receiving affection. All I have to do is waddle over to any available human in the family then plop down next to them and ever so gently push my muzzle under their hand. I’ve trained them all to understand that means scratch me until I cuddle up into a convulsing fit of pleasure. It brings down their blood pressure, and it makes me feel REEEAAALLY good. It’s a WIN-WIN.

By paying attention to the subtle body language and non-verbal cues between your co-workers, partners, bosses, clients, and prospects you separate the terriers from the retrievers, and the most effective leaders from the ineffectual manager types.

Do YOU practice conveying your feelings, emotions, and desires without speaking? Are you adept at reading others’ non-verbal cues? If not…practice. Start by dropping a ball at a co-worker’s (or bosses) feet repeatedly…or something else. You’ll find it works wonders.

Relationship-Building Skills To Be the TOP DOG

This is a truly critical skill that is mandatory for successful career mobility and professional development. Trust me, I know. It’s taken me two years to build a reputation as the most demanding, ball-obsessed barking terrier on the block!

I make those nearest me feel special EVERY day. I greet my fellow pack (family) members at the door when they arrive home. Whether they’re gone for nine hours or 5 minutes, I wag convulsively in my excitement when they walk through the door, until I nearly fall over. It must work really well…they keep feeding me!

Do you do the same thing with your humans (whether employees or team members you manage?) I suggest recognizing their work and accomplishments, rewarding them, paying attention to them, and soliciting their ideas.

Well, that’s it for now. I have to go lick myself, take a nap, play some ball, and bark at the mailman.

Being Great DEMANDS Follow Up With People.

Today’s business tip is really nothing more than a simple common courtesy, yet it seems to have become a lost art for many in today’s hyper-frantic 24×7 world in which we conduct business. It has to do with returning people’s phone calls, responding to emails, confirming you’ve received information others have sent you, and/or completing tasks that you agreed to as outcomes of meetings or working in teams.

We can get overwhelmed with work when we’re working harder than ever and putting in more hours. For many of us, our workload has increased significantly when we inherited the work performed by others in our organization laid off. But that does not justify refusing to extend others the courtesy of a call back, email reply, or status update on the work we agreed to contribute.

This failure to follow up may have something to do with a more subtle issue of deciding to be passive aggressive when we don’t want to talk to the person contacting us or we put off doing the tasks that were assigned to us or we volunteered to do. When this happens, our reputation demands we act in the most professional manner.

Whatever the motivation, when you make a commitment to follow up with someone or take on an action your decision not to follow through speaks volumes about you…and it’s not positive. Your reputational brand is a transferrable skill that you take with you. By establishing a proven track record of reliability and accountability, it becomes a part of your USP – Unique Selling Proposition.

A further motivation for having the professionalism to follow through on commitments has to do with the very small world that we live in. We all know Kevin Bacon through six degrees of (LinkedIn) interconnectedness.

When you make a bad impression with others (whether it’s with peers in your organization or acquaintances you know in your social or professional network) it can become a Scarlet Letter that brands you as someone that lacks respect for others.

So, is there someone you owe a call to? Pick up the phone and call them, or return those emails sitting in your in-box.

Consider it an invaluable step in your ongoing career and professional development.

Your Employees Hate You and They're Telling Everyone

Psst! Your Employees HATE You and They’re Telling People

In any place of work, employees have an annoying habit of talking to each another. Sure, they complain about their boss to their co-workers, but depending on how well (or poorly) their employer is treating them they may also talk to their friends and their family members.

So what, you ask?

Well, if that isn’t potentially damaging enough to your company, if they’ve been treated really badly they will keep talking to more people.

What if your employees are talking (negatively) about you to your competitors? Worse yet, what if they are complaining to your prospects or…GASP …your customers?
Are your actions as a manager (or boss) jeopardizing your business survival by unleashing a toxic sea of bad press through your employees’ collective ill will?
What are they saying…and where are they saying it?

Are your employees bad-mouthing your company on employment rant websites like Jobvent, JobGrades, WorkRant, and Telonu, or social media websites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and MySpace?

Yes? Then it is incumbent upon you to figure out why AND RECTIFY THAT!

Be honest. Are you personally or your organization guilty of the following?

• You haven’t given your people a bonus in years (or ever) even if they really deserved one. Did you reward yourself, your senior management team, even a select few employees you really like without regard to performance? Oh-oh!

• Have you even given your people a cost of living salary adjustment to compensate for increases in the cost of living? No? Danger, Will Robinson!

• Have you terminated people in the past two years, and made the workers you kept work harder by giving them additional responsibilities…at no additional pay increase? Do they work longer hours, or take work home with them to do nights and weekends just to keep their head above water?

• Have you stopped offering a holiday party,cut back on basic supplies (coffee, post-it’s toilet paper – don’t laugh! I’ve seen it) or forced people to share computers, phones, workspace?

The people that you laid off were friends of the ones you kept. Do you think that the ones left behind are motivated to work harder?

• Do you treat your people like children? For example, do you use software to monitor/track their use of social media at work? Do you limit their personal calls? Are you requiring them to sign in and out, limit their breaks and lunch time…whether they have abused workplace procedures or they are stellar employees?

• Do you exercise an autocratic leadership style that berates and belittles people, and demands they check in with you for every little action?

• Do you make them pay their own work-related expenses?

• Is your performance management/review process fair? Heck, do you even have one?

• How often do you communicate with your people? Do you encourage them, by telling them when they’ve done a good job?

• Do you ever do anything FUN for your people…a night out bowling? Afternoon pizza party? Throw bean bags at a blow up clown or darts at a board with your face taped to it?

Do you notice a THEME in this line of questions? Let’s say you’re “guilty” of some of these abusive employer actions. Is your answer to all these questions: “my people are lucky they are employed and receiving a paycheck?”

If that is your mindset and your firm keeps treating your people this way, rest assured they will leave you as soon as they get the chance.

Rather than punish your people for expressing displeasure in your horrible treatment, why not become a world class employer? Solicit their ideas all the time how to make your business better. Empower them to take calculated risks, and recognize them for their successes and their failures by learning from the failures.

What do you do to ensure that your people grow professionally? Do you challenge your workers to challenge themselves, think creatively, and act independently? Do you reward and recognize your workers? Do you communicate with them constantly? Have you promoted people?

By implementing a few of these strategies, you will become a preferred employer who has their employees’ ultimate respect and loyalty. Your people will run through walls for you, achieve amazing results, stay with you when times are rough, and help you not only survive but thrive in these transformational times. Your people will still talk about you, but it will be glowing rave reviews that create a strong reputational brand that will make top talent flock to you and the press cover what you do.

So, if you can’t be altruistic do it for purely selfish reasons.

Or, keep doing what you’re doing. I’m sure your workers like spending most of their days playing Solitaire, chatting on Facebook, and searching for a new job.

Put Your People's Untapped Talents to Work For Your Organization's Success.

In nearly EVERY organization that I have worked for or consulted with, most employees have tremendous skills that AREN’T being utilized.

Here’s why…

Nearly every organization hires its people to accomplish a set of pre-defined tasks associated with a job vacancy. They then force their employees to fit into the role defined by the job description.

However, if you look at every employee in your organization’s core competencies, you will find that there are many untapped talents that each possesses that are not being used.

Rather than allow these skills to lie dormant, why not redesign their job to take advantage of the depth and breadth of background they possess through their: prior work experience, training ,education, language proficiency, customer service, cultural diversity, volunteer work, hobbies, interests, and passions.

The employee will feel more engaged which will make them feel happier and thus…MORE PRODUCTIVE! That will build a more loyal workforce, increase your employee retention rates, and reduce the significant recruiting costs associated with filling vacancies when people leave.

The beauty is, it only takes minutes to implement such a strategy – call it a HUMAN CAPITAL AUDIT.

Here is how you accomplish this…have every employee’s manager sit with each employee and list the employee’s primary roles and responsibilities for their current job in one column.

In the column to the right, list all of their top competencies. Then they should decide together which competencies are currently being used (you will be surprised how few of your people’s collective top skills are being leveraged.) Then you design an action plan to begin integrating their most relevant skills into their job.

Assign a time-frame to begin using each unused skill. List any contingencies or barriers that will prevent them from accomplishing this in the agreed to time-frame.

Once you conduct this human capital audit for all your people, your organization will begin benefiting immediately from the unleashed talents that your people start leveraging in their day to day jobs.

In today’s challenging business climate, the key to your organization’s competitive advantage and long-term success is right under your nose…in your people.

Here’s to your continued success in 2011!