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Monthly Archives

March 2015

The 3 Threats that Should Be Keeping Your CEO Awake at Night

By | Blog, Executive / Entrepreneur Leadership | No Comments

While coaching and mentoring CEOs, many of whom are immensely successful, I observed that so many of them were kept up at night by important but outdated issues. In a recent Harvard Business Review article, the authors conducted a survey that showed that the greatest 3 concerns as expressed by CEOs queried were talent, operating in a global environment and regulation and legislation.

While these areas indeed are important, are there not new and emerging issues that can affect a business and its reputation faster than the speed of light? Are there more important and potentially very damaging issues to consider?

The recent Starbucks’s campaign #RaceTogether is a great example of a CEO concerned about a social issue, bringing it out, apparently without a great execution strategy, and seeing it fail miserably almost instantly. Starbucks’ PR executive was essentially forced off his Twitter account by the avalanche of negative comments about the campaign.

What this really means is the millennials (18-24) are now the largest influential population segment. They are totally embracing social media. They are the customer and at the same time the de factor employee of thousands of companies providing all the labor to produce the information, product or service, mostly online.

They are the airline ticket agent, the online self-service purchasing agent for thousands of companies they buy from. They do all the work except for the delivery of the product. They control the vast majority of information and opinion development; they provide reviews and recommendations and critiques of every product and service imaginable.

So, what does all this translate into for CEOs? As a CEO you need to worry about this very visible army of customers that will punish you and your brand reputation in nanoseconds.Then in minutes, millions of people know how your company failed them.

Consider then the 3 most important concerns that threaten a company’s reputation that should keep a CEO awake at night:

First, a product or service failure, or stated simply, the failure of the company to match expectations and perceptions of their customers. When something goes wrong, real or perceived, the CEO and his team need to understand how quickly the word can spread and damage sales, employee morale and reputation.

Secondly, failure to take ownership for a disaster or a crisis. The real disaster is for a CEO to avoid taking a leadership position and to blame others for causation and tragic results. The CEO of Lufthansa initially was upfront, and impressed most people with his forthright and honest comments about the airline crash in the French Alps. He did it right. But that changed when some very damaging information about his company’s handling of information about the co-pilot’s was revealed. BP’s CEO, Tony Hayward did it wrong with the Gulf oil spill.

Finally, avoiding the use of social media and taking too long to respond to an event can be worse than the event itself. CEOs who face an issue head on via social media can almost instantly guide reaction and opinion rather than having it preordained by the initial round of comments from the public.

CEOs need to acknowledge that when they wake up in the morning a firestorm may already be brewing – and at a fever pitch by the time they reach the office. There will be little hope of regaining momentum unless they already have a plan in place to respond instantly to negative publicity.

To all CEOs: Don’t be consumed by trending issues – be sure to also think outside of the box and address what is right in front of you in everyday life. It’s not the talent search or government overreach that should be top of mind, but the ease in which the magnifying glass that the public has on your business can create a backlash before you awaken on a new day.

If you have had to combat a threat to your reputation on social media, please share the outcome. If you don’t have a damage control plan and want to learn how to develop this, send me a message and we will chat.

Norris Beren, Chief Executive Advisor | norris@rredinc.com

Need to Revive Your Network? Flip the Script.

By | Blog, Executive / Entrepreneur Leadership | No Comments

One of the most difficult jobs in growing your business is meeting people who either can hire you as a vendor or lead you to people who can.

Most sales people, business owners and entrepreneurs will agree that the vast majority of new business opportunities stem from relationships, referrals and connections to others, a process commonly called networking, over any other activity such as responding to advertising, e-mail campaigns, etc.

Networking is productive for getting your message out and cultivating opportunities. Most networking is done in groups, formal or informal, designed around the single purpose of meeting other similarly situated people looking for business. Other networking is done throughout daily activity—church, sports activities, supermarket, conferences, etc.

Experts in sales training and business development skills tell you to target prospective customers, connect with people who work where you want to get their business and focus on people who are well connected that can get you more connections.

These are all significant strategies but isn’t it all one way? We want our network to do the work for us, we want our contacts to become or introduce us to the next big customer. Aren’t there people in your network waiting to receive the same benefit from their network?

Flip the script and try Reverse Networking. You can get more value out of your contacts and, more importantly, give real value to others as the inducement to help you and keep you and your business situation top-of-mind.

The reverse networking approach is based on how you can work together with others and/or share some connections and resources.

Meet people and develop connections at networking activities around the notion of how we might interact to see if any of the executives, presidents and owners of companies I know may make good introductions to you and your business growth. Ask questions about their business and what issues they might need help with. Ask whether they are looking to solve any problems for which you may know some quality business owners whom they should meet.

In other words, be a connector, not a ‘connectee’, and lend your ability to provide valuable connections to others instead of only focusing on who can be a customer or who can connect you to one.

This is about giving, not taking – fostering meaningful introductions for others makes you an asset to their network not just your own. Reverse networking is a very powerful approach to developing relationships and creates sustaining value for both parties.

If you have tried this approach, please share how it has been successful for you.

>>If you want to learn how to develop this strategy to maximize your networking activities or re-connect with people and awaken some relationships, send me a message or email me at norris@rredinc.com.

Future Technology – Real Threat or Real Advantage?

By | Blog, Executive / Entrepreneur Leadership, Transportation | No Comments

“Real Threat”… is how Warren Buffett summarized his thoughts at the six-hour 2014 annual meeting of Berkshire Hathaway, his flagship enterprise. These two profound words are in reference to one of the most memorable comments at the event: continued advancements in cutting edge technology – and it keeps Mr. Buffett awake at night.

Clearly the world trend today is towards hyper connectivity – connecting everything to everything with new technology or the ‘internet of all things’. The best estimates are that by 2020 fifty BILLION “gadgets” will be connected to each other everywhere. Connected devices followed by enormous data harvesting will result in an explosion of further technological engineering; continuous attempts at developing new ways to help companies earn more revenue, cut costs and hopefully increase profits.

On the surface, this would seem advantageous as technology is known for creating efficiencies and reducing costs in many ways for many businesses. But, as Buffett highlights, it doesn’t always guarantee increased profits.

To illustrate his concerns, he gave as an example the advent of self-driving cars that combines many technologies into a single product. This advanced collaboration of technologies potentially poses a threat to one of his business units – GEICO.

As an insurer of vehicles, Buffett predicts there will be fewer accidents with the adoption of self-driving cars which will result in lower insurance premiums and therefore lower profits would follow. The ‘Real Threat’ according to Buffett? Lower profits!

While his scenario suggests how external improvement for customers can in fact become a consequence for a business, technology can pose a real threat in numerous ways. Most CEOs are quite satisfied with assuming that the usual advances in technology will give them a competitive advantage over time. The associated risk is amplified when the focus instead remains on selling price considerations, best service levels or other tired concepts that are not distinguishable between vendors, product or service.

To complicate the issue further, a great amount of advanced technology is accomplished in an uncontrolled manner – a company may become significantly impacted without warning. Will your business model be prepared for the next big thing, or will it crack under pressure?

An advantage is only realized if you know how to use technology to become truly unique and competitive in your space. One must remain abreast of new technology that will be available to their industry in the future, spend time considering how everything can and should connect within the business, and how it connects to other businesses. If you think this applies to the big guys with lots of money, vision, and IT capability – think again. It’s the nimble, little companies that will capitalize on the opportunity.

This concept of hyper connectivity is the way life and commerce will grow. These changes can potentially shrink the lead you currently have on your competitors overnight.

Will you be ready?

Action Item: Become more aware of the technological advances in your industry and learn how to take advantage of the advancements to help you and your customers develop greater competitive advantage as well as helping your customers become more competitive with their customers. This is the most effective way to provide value in your role in the supply chain.

How: Read, establish Google alerts on technology topics in your industry, attend conferences, talk to vendors, share information with your LinkedIn connections and participate in discussions in your online groups.

» For more information on how you can become ready for the Internet of Things (IoT) and develop a true competitive advantage send me an email at norris@rredinc.com and I will send you my 7 point outline on How to Become an Industry Leader in the Next Industrial Revolution.