Many small businesses have the philosophy “it’ll never happen to us” when it comes to preparing for a disaster and many pay a heavy penalty if they are not prepared and it does happen. It doesn’t have to be expensive to have a disaster plan in place and there are many things you can do to reduce the risk of having a disaster or experiencing an extended outage to your business.
There are obviously disasters that you can’t prevent and we are all too aware of the weather and the potential affects that global warming are having on our climate. This is where forward planning comes into its own. Here’s my 10 tips:
1. Have a written plan. As simple as it may sound, just thinking through in ADVANCE what needs to happen if your server has a meltdown or a natural disaster wipes out your office, will go a long way in getting it back fast.
2. Hire a trusted professional to help you. Trying to recover your data after a disaster without professional help is business suicide; one misstep during the recovery process can result in forever losing your data or result in weeks of downtime.
3. Have a communications plan. If something should happen where employees couldn’t access your office, e-mail or use the phones, how should they communicate with you? Make sure your plan includes this information including MULTIPLE communications methods.
4. Automate your backups. If backing up your data depends on a human being doing something, it’s flawed. The #1 cause of data loss is human error (people not swapping out tapes properly, someone not setting up the backup to run properly, etc.). ALWAYS automate your backups so they run like clockwork.
5. Have an offsite backup of your data. Always, always, always maintain a recent copy of your data off site, on a different server, or on a storage device. Onsite backups are good, but they won’t help you if they get stolen, flooded, burned or hacked along with your server.
6. Have remote access and management of your network. Not only will this allow you and your staff to keep working if you can’t go into your office, but you’ll love the convenience it offers. Plus, your IT staff or an IT consultant should be able to access your network remotely in the event of an emergency or for routine maintenance. Make sure they can.
7. Image your server. Having a copy of your data offsite is good, but keep in mind that all that information has to be RESTORED someplace to be of any use.
8. Network documentation. Network documentation is simply a blueprint of the software, data, systems and hardware you have in your company’s network.
9. Maintain Your System. One of the most important ways to avoid disaster is by maintaining the security of your network. While fires, floods, theft and natural disasters are certainly a threat, you are much more likely to experience downtime and data loss due to a virus, worm or hacker attack.
10. Test, test, test! A study conducted in October 2007 by Forrester Research and the Disaster Recovery Journal found that 50 percent of companies test their disaster recovery plan just once a year, while 14 percent never test. If you are going to go through the trouble of setting up a plan, then at least hire an IT pro to run a test once a month to make sure your backups are working and your system is secure. After all, the worst time to test your parachute is AFTER you’ve jumped out of the plane.
Thinking isn’t results.
Why would anyone want to be known as a “thought leader” – for thinking? Thinkers are rarely leaders, so why do we use that term to identify people we believe are leading? There is a better term.
I’m not against thinking, I’m against elevating it to the highest status and the object of our affection. It’s not the lead actor – it has a supporting role in getting results.
Thinking is really important in the process of doing. As I’m moving forward, if I’m not thinking about all the feedback I’m getting I will just run into brick wall after brick wall. But the objective of thinking should be to create a result – to transform something.
So it makes no sense to me to call people “thought leaders” as if they are actually creating change. To call someone a “thought leader” is to focus on the process instead of the result.
Why do we celebrate thinking over results? I believe it’s because cognition, or thinking, has gained an inappropriately high status in our culture. The academics have taught us to assume that thinking is the result, not just one step in the process of getting a result.
Is this just semantics? No – there is a significant difference.
A thought leader is someone who has an idea. A results leader is someone who has changed something.
Thought leaders are educational. Results leaders are transformational.
Results leaders make history. Thought leaders write about them later.
We don’t think our way to a new way of acting. We act our way to a new way of thinking.
It is the act of acting that changes us, not the act of thinking. Nobody learns to ride a bike by reading books.
Einstein also believed we have given cognition too much credit. He said “rational thought” is the “servant of intuition”, but that we have “created a society that worships the servant and has forgotten the gift.” Cognition is simply one of the servants of getting results, and as such we should be focused on the higher value of results, not on thinking.
Many people we identify as “thought leaders” are really “results leaders”. We need to give them their just recognition and relegate thinking back to it’s appropriate role as a SERVANT of the result, not the object of our affection.
Let’s celebrate and promote “results leaders”. Thinking isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
What do you “think”?
This is part three of a three-part series on Facebook opportunities for franchisors and businesses with multiple locations.
In parts one and two of this series, we discussed how businesses can translate national brand strength into local Facebook success and how they can use Facebook’s Parent-Child functionality to do so. In both articles, we outlined both the benefits and the challenges to this approach. Today we will address the challenges and offer a solution to effectively manage a strong local Facebook network.
We at Reshift Media have worked with several multi-location brands to implement Facebook’s Parent-Child functionality. Although we are big fans for all the reasons outlined in the previous posts, it is not a perfect solution on its own. Although Parent-Child connects your national Facebook page to as many local ones as you like, it unfortunately does not:
- Enable you to cascade content to your local pages from one interface. Though the Parent-Child framework enables you to set up a “super admin” who can post to each local page, you either need to log into each page individually to post or tie each page into a dashboard such as Hootsuite or Sprout Social. This may be feasible if you have a small number of pages, but becomes unmanageable once you are managing dozens or hundreds of pages.
- Amalgamate metrics from the local pages. Again, as a super admin you can log into each individual page and access its built-in Facebook insights, but there is no standard dashboard where information from all your local pages is aggregated.
- Provide alerts to the super admin when customers comment and post on local pages.
This is probably a good point to recap why we recommend implementing local social pages in the first place: to encourage local engagement (likes, shares, check-ins) to increase visibility in social search and mobile, which can provide you with a leg-up over your competition.
Now here is the problem: no content means no engagement, and no engagement means no visibility. So if you are unable to populate relevant content onto the local pages on a regular basis, there really is no point in pursuing a local approach. In fact, I would go so far as to say that an empty local Facebook page is worse than having no page at all – it may even negatively impact your Facebook Edgerank score.
So the main issue to solve is the content one. To address this, the absolute best source of content is your local store/management/staff. If your local teams have the time and knowledge to manage their local pages, then that is the best way to go. Your local teams are best positioned to create original, highly localized content which can be used as an engagement opportunity. Lululemon, for example, has set up the Facebook Parent-Child framework and does a magnificent job of populating their individual pages with unique local content.
Unfortunately, Lululemon is the exception rather than the rule. In most cases, brands that have implemented Parent-Child have no local content and therefore are losing out on local engagement. In our experience, only about 20% of local stores make a lasting effort to populate their page. It isn’t a criticism in any way – these people have businesses to run and may not have the time or expertise to actively manage a social media presence.
After watching several of our clients struggle with this conundrum, we at Reshift Media developed proprietary software aptly named Social Brand Amplifier™ which we have partnered with The UPS Store to launch across Canada. The Social Brand Amplifier™ is fully integrated with Facebook’s Parent-Child functionality to take advantage of all of the benefits it offers, while addressing the challenges outlined above.
As outlined in this infographic, the Social Brand Amplifier™ allows multi-location organizations to:
- Reach 100% of their national and local Facebook audience by cascading content and offers to child pages
- Target posts by geography, demographic or custom parameters
- Maintain consistent branding including creative and tone
- Access metrics from national and local pages to create custom reporting and insights
- Receive alerts when customers post on their local pages, and respond accordingly
From a local perspective, there are many benefits as well:
- Complete flexibility to post relevant information and offers to local customers
- Automated local page setup pre-populated with:
- Creative and content to get started
- Address and contact information
- Map and directions to store
- Automatically receive high-quality creative, posts, offers and incentives from the national team to keep local page active
- Fully integrated into Facebook’s mobile app, “Nearby” functionality and graph search
So far, the effect on The UPS Store’s social visibility has been very positive. It is early days, but we are starting to see local communities take root and the local pages surface in both Graph Search and on Facebook’s mobile app – both of which have strong geographic aspects.
Part 1: Facebook Parent–Child Framework: What it is and Practical Applications for Franchisors and Multi-Location Businesses
Part 2: How To Translate National Brand Strength to Local Facebook Pages
Today: How Franchises and Other Multi-Location Businesses Can Effectively and Easily Manage Facebook’s Parent-Child Framework
As discussed in an earlier post, Facebook’s Graph Search (launched in beta January 15, 2013) is a powerful new opportunity for businesses to reach potential customers. The question is: what exactly is Graph Search and how can you achieve a first-mover advantage to leapfrog your competition? We’re here to share some ideas that should help you do just that.
Quick stats: according to Facebook, the social platform has more than 1 billion monthly active users who share 350 million photos, 2.7 billion likes, and 2.5 billion items of information each day. That is an enormous amount of information that so far has been extremely hard to search. This is the problem Facebook’s new search seeks to solve – in a nutshell, Graph Search allows people to search across the rich data set that Facebook has in a very personally relevant manner. Rather than try and explain in detail how Graph Search works, CNET and Gigaom have great articles that describe it well, including the underlying “Unicorn” infrastructure.
How can businesses prepare themselves to take advantage of this new way people are searching? The first thing to understand is that Graph Search is very different from web search (i.e. Google or Bing). It is powered by what people are liking and sharing, meaning it is about social connections as opposed to webpage inter-connections. Graph Search is poised to change the very fundamentals of search engine optimization (SEO), socially-informed search and content marketing. That doesn’t mean that you can’t apply some of the same thinking you would use for SEO to “social optimization,” though. Instead of developing strategies to build backlinks as you would for web search, you can develop strategies to build likes, shares, check-ins and comments – which are essentially the “backlinks” of social media.
To do this, there are a few common sense steps you should follow. First off, make sure you have a Facebook page. I know this sounds straightforward – but like any good story we should start at the beginning. There are several kinds of pages you can choose for your business, so be sure to choose the one that makes the most sense for you. MarketingGum has put together a good summary of the options available and some tips.
Now, what you might not know is that there is a good chance that your business may have an existing page (or pages) in Facebook already. This sometimes happens when you do not have an existing page and people checking in create a new page for your location. In some cases, your business may actually have multiple pages with different spellings of your company name, slightly different addresses, etc. It is very important that you go through the process to claim these pages and amalgamate them as necessary.
With your page set up and all “rogue” pages amalgamated, your next step is to fill out the “about” section of your page in as much detail as possible. Be sure to include your address, phone number, website URL, hours of operation and a good summary of what your business is about. If you are a business with multiple locations, you may want to consider Facebook’s Parent-Child functionality to ensure you have a local presence for each of your outlets.
Once these steps are completed, you are now set up for success because you now have a local address within Facebook and have included as much information about your business as possible. But you still have a lot of work to do, because Graph Search is all about how many likes, shares, comments, recommendations, etc. you receive. So your next step is to engage your customers to encourage these sorts of activities.
There is, of course, no one way to do this. Every company is unique and therefore every strategy has to be custom-tailored to your audience and brand. However, there are some common best practices for you to consider:
- Any good social media approach starts with great content. Be clear on what your editorial voice is, create a content calendar and source quality information that your customers care about
- Tell people about your social presence through every avenue you have. This includes your website, but also consider how you can use your stores and staff as opportunities to “spread the word”
- Specials and offers are a great way to engage people, and one of the main reasons people follow brands on Facebook
- Check-in deals encourage people to check-in when physically visiting your store to receive a coupon, which drives both engagement and sales
So, you might be wondering how this will help you achieve a first-mover advantage. Well, although these steps sound very simple, the majority of your competitors have likely not followed them. They likely have a page, but have they completed the about section, claimed all “rogue” pages and put a real effort behind building up their followers? Probably not. So, if your business does this first, you have a real chance to move ahead of the pack and grow a sizable audience in advance of Facebook Graph Search’s full rollout, which gives you a position advantage ahead of your competitors before they even know what’s happened.
Success breeds success, so done well this advantage can exist for some time. If you outrank your competitors in social search results right out of the gate, then you will be seen more, and being seen more leads to more engagement which keeps you on top – a virtuous circle of success is a real possibility. But it all starts with being that first mover, which means taking action NOW to jump ahead of your competitors in likes, shares, comments, etc. Is your business ready?
The three S’s are not Nirvana
Your parents, 3rd grade teacher, college professor and Giant Corporation, Inc. all have you chasing the wrong dream. It’s no wonder most people aren’t excited about where they’re going. My mother thought I was nuts when, after six years, I left the army 29 years ago.
From her perspective, I had it all – a nice brick home looking out over Chesapeake Bay, provided free by the government. A great job where I rarely worked four hours (not normal for the Army). A just okay, but very stable paycheck. Very inexpensive on-base stores, free medical, and an incredibly generous retirement package that I could take as early as 41 years old.
Oh, and a highly unusual guaranteed permanent assignment at a bucolic old fort surrounded by a moat, in beautiful Virginia. I could have stayed there for 20 years and retire. I was set for life.
My mother grew up in the great depression and lived through World War II, hoarding scraps of aluminum foil to turn back in to make airplanes with. As a result, she was motivated by three very basic things:
1) SAFETY – live “sterile” – in the suburbs away from “trouble”.
2) SECURITY – get a wad of cash in the bank and retire off the interest.
3) STABILITY – know what every day holds – they should all look the same.
But where do safety, security and stability show up on Maslowe’s hierarchy, or any other measure of meaning? At or near the bottom. The three things we’ve been taught to pursue more than anything else are barely more than survival techniques.
Safety, security and stability are basics, not Nirvana. And in my experience, pursuing them as an end in themselves will keep us from doing anything significant with our lives. We were taught to move from survival to success, and success was defined as pacifying these three survival needs. Get a big house, a big bank account and ensure every day looks the same, and you have arrived.
Problem: Making money is not an empowering vision. And either is the goal of making every day look the same. We’re not made to live that way. We need to move from SURVIVAL, right through the industrial age definition of SUCCESS, to SIGNIFICANCE.
Business owners who reach for something bigger than making money are likely to make a lot more of it. Why are you in business? What do you want out of your business? Do you have Lifetime Goals driving you forward?
On the back of my first book , the cover editor put – “Use your business to build your Ideal Lifestyle.” It’s about significance.
My mother was well-intentioned, but I wanted more out of life than a safe, sterile existence that looked the same every day. Safety, security and stability aren’t enough. We are all made to be and do something significant. And you won’t get there by living safe and secure, and doing the same thing every day.
Carpe diem – seize the day. Go to the next level. Use your business to build your Ideal Lifestyle, not just to survive.
This is part two of a three-part series on Facebook opportunities for franchisors and businesses with multiple locations.
In part one of the series we discussed Facebook’s Parent-Child functionality and the significant benefits it provides for franchisors and multi-location businesses. In that article we touched on a few of the reasons why companies should consider implementing local Facebook pages for each of their locations. This article outlines how multi-location businesses can translate the tremendous reach they have through their physical locations into social media dominance. We also discuss the ramifications of social media on mobile (in particular Facebook’s “Nearby” functionality) and social search (specifically Facebook’s new Graph Search).
Translating offline reach and brand strength into social media success
Franchises and other multi-location businesses often have tremendous reach and brand strength through their physical network. They may interact with hundreds or even thousands of people a day in their stores. However, in most cases that interaction is only for a brief window of time – usually just long enough to complete a transaction. Once the customer leaves the store, the relationship ends until the customer (hopefully) comes back.
Social media, particularly sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google+, offer a powerful opportunity for companies to engage in direct conversations with their customers after they leave the store. Using strong social strategies and engaging, relevant content, companies can create ongoing interaction and repeat business through:
- Information sharing
- Branding strategies
- Relationship building
- Customer retention activities
- Targeted offers and incentives
Realizing the benefits of social media, many organizations have already implemented a single “national” Facebook page for their brand, which they use across all of their stores. In many ways this makes sense, as a single page enables the brand to:
- Control interactions with consumers on one page as opposed to managing multiple pages
- Aggregate all “likes” from across all geographies to show scale
- Manage the brand personality and creative directly, as opposed to relying on local stores and risking off-brand messaging
However, for companies with multiple locations this approach does not take advantage of their existing offline reach and brand strength. In fact, by de-emphasizing their bonds within local communities and delivering only national, centralized messages, they are artificially limiting their social media heft. In order to effectively translate their offline strength to social media, these organizations must implement local pages for each physical location.
What is the big deal about local pages?
There are many reasons why implementing local pages are superior, many of which were outlined in part one of this series. When you boil it down though, there is really one core reason why individual local Facebook pages are a must-have: they each have a local street address.
For a company looking to translate offline strength into social media dominance, there is no better way than to literally replicate your store network address by address through social media, particularly on Facebook and Google+. Google+ deserves its own blog post and has different approach than Facebook, so we will leave that discussion for another time. For now, let’s focus in on the behemoth that is Facebook.
A local address is critical because it is the centerpiece for local customer interaction, mobile exposure and social search visibility.
No matter how well-managed a national Facebook page is, a network of pages will typically have a larger audience than a single national page can achieve. As described in part one, this is in large part due to the fact that local pages can tailor relevant content to their local community (i.e. local news, local people, local promotions, etc.). Locally-relevant information, photos, videos and other content will generate local engagement. Although the level of engagement on each individual page may be smaller than the national page, in aggregate across many local pages, the level of activity can be quite large.
In addition to local content, a major reason for increased audience size and engagement is the fact that the page has a local address. The reason this works is because a page with a local address is:
- Viewed as more locally / personally relevant by local customers, increasing the likelihood that they will become a fan of the page
- Easier to find when searching for local businesses (via maps and other location-based searches)
- Visible when someone is looking to check-in locally
What this means is that if you do not have a local address, you will not be found when someone is looking for a local business on Facebook – in this instance you are essentially invisible to potential local customers. This is critically important as we discuss mobile and search in the next sections.
Mobile & Facebook Nearby
Facebook owns mobile – period. The Facebook app dominates all other apps by a wide margin. According to a recent report from comScore, the Facebook app was the #1 downloaded app for both Apple and Android in 2012. Even more impressively, the study found that 23% of time spent across all apps is spent on Facebook’s. Think about that for a minute – of all the apps out there, Facebook commands a staggering 23% of all time spent.
With that type of mobile dominance, the Facebook app is something all businesses need to pay attention to. In particular, the “Nearby” functionality built into the app is something all companies with a local footprint need to be thinking about.
In December 2012 Facebook made some significant improvements to its “Nearby” functionality which will greatly benefit local businesses. Widely seen as a step towards Facebook’s grander vision of social search (as discussed in the next section), “Nearby” allows people to use their phones to find information about close-by businesses such as restaurants, retailers, hotels and others. This type of consumer discovery is very different that a Google search or other type of local exploration because:
- “Nearby” results are very personal. Facebook prioritizes results based on where a person’s friends have been, what they have liked and what ratings / reviews have been completed. This means that everyone’s results are different based on who they are friends with. It also means that businesses with few “likes” or “check-ins” are at a major disadvantage in showing up versus their competitors.
- The information people receive on a business via “Nearby” comes from the company’s local Facebook brand page or place page. Meaning that when a consumer is viewing a business’ information on their phone via the Facebook app they don’t see the company’s information from Yellow Pages, Yelp, Foursquare or any other source – they see the company’s Facebook address, phone number, timeline, number of likes, check-ins and Facebook user reviews. So, if your business does not have a local Facebook page with a local address, it will not show up when someone is looking for someplace to eat, shop or visit. A national page alone simply will not cut it.
So the long and the short of it is that if you do not have a local Facebook page, you are missing out on a major opportunity on the #1 downloaded and used mobile app.
As discussed in part one of this series, social search will have significant ramifications on how local businesses are found in the future. Facebook’s new Graph Search (announced on January 15, 2013) enables people to search across Facebook’s vast database of information, but in a very different way than a conventional search engine. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook employees explain Graph Search in the video below.
In simplified terms, a Google or Bing search is meant to return the most “relevant” answer to a question based on the inter-relationships of webpages across the internet and the billions of searches performed on a daily basis. What that means is, other than some “light” personalization that Google and Bing perform, your search results and the next person’s are more or less the same. This is not to say they are exactly the same – but they are based more on the inter-relationships of content across the internet as opposed to you personally.
Graph Search is very different. Rather than attempting to provide results based on inter-relationships of pages and information across the whole internet, Facebook looks at your personal relationships on Facebook and provides information that should be relevant to you based on who your friends are, where you live and what you like.
This is significant for businesses because it means that people using social search are finding companies, services and products based on personal relationships and affinity, as opposed to who is linking to whom across the internet. This changes the game for businesses, because it means that companies who have no Facebook presence or an inactive presence (meaning few likes, comments, ratings, etc) will be less visible than businesses that have a lot of activity on their pages. This is because a social search is inherently based on activity. Some examples:
“Restaurants my friends like”
“Restaurants in Toronto liked by chefs”
“Most popular stores in my neighborhood”
“Favorite music of my friends who live in Toronto, Ontario”
“People who like things I like”
Looking at the above list, the common denominator is activity – businesses that have more likes, visits or other activity will rank well in these searches, whereas those are not active will not show up.
So – bringing this back to the point of the article – how does a multi-location and/or franchise organization generate more local activity? Through a strong, relevant local presence, which includes:
- Local content that people care about. Don’t just shovel out marketing messages – interact with people as a member of the community. Talk about the local sports team, the weather (people love to talk about the weather), local events and other topical items.
- Local address & contact information. Make it easy for people to find you when looking for things to do or buy in their neighborhood or city.
- Local people checking in to your location, liking your page, commenting and rating your establishment.
There are, of course, challenges to this approach. The implementation alone of all those pages is a daunting task, but tools such as Facebook’s Parent-Child framework and the support of an agency that knows what they are doing can make the job much easier.
However, the implementation is actually the easiest part – it is the ongoing management of those dozens or hundreds of local pages that is truly the challenge. The most difficult task is in publishing timely, relevant content across all of those pages. Without content to engage with, people have nothing to like, comment on or share – which is the whole point in creating the local pages in the first place. In many ways, an empty Facebook page is actually worse than no Facebook page at all.
In a perfect world, all of the franchisees or local store managers would create local posts to engage with their communities. However, experience shows that only about 20% of locations will be effective in consistently maintaining their pages. Nonetheless, it makes good sense to provide training and support to your local teams, as there is no better source of local information (and therefore local engagement).
In addition to a strong local training approach, there clearly needs to be national content support for franchisees / store managers. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to automatically publish content to a multitude of pages. If your company only has a dozen or so pages then a 3rd party publishing tool such as Hootsuite or Social Sprout can be helpful, however, these tools are not designed to manage hundreds of pages. And unfortunately, Facebook’s Parent-Child functionality does not include content sharing capabilities.
Despite these challenges, it is imperative that multi-location businesses pursue a strong local strategy. There are absolutely solutions to the challenges outlined, which we will cover in our third instalment of this series.
For franchisors and multi-location businesses, translating offline reach and brand strength into social media dominance means implementing local pages within social media, particularly Facebook.
Implementing one corporate (or national) page may seem simpler in the short term, but it limits the organization’s ability to capitalize on local engagement opportunities, which is critical for effective customer interaction, mobile visibility and social search relevance.
Quitting process, not hiring process
How companies hire people is largely broken. We turned our hiring process into a quitting process. It works a lot better that way. We believe great people stay for what they GIVE and Industrial Age “employees” stay for what they GET. So we make them give a LOT before we hire them to ensure we have givers, not getters.
Problem: The Industrial Age taught people to get jobs, not do work.
Effect: BlessingWhite’s Employee Engagement Report 2011 says only 31% of employees are engaged – want to be there regularly, while 17% are totally disengaged. Another report said it more clearly. Companies would make more money if they paid 1/5th of their work force to stay home every day!
I believe only about 20% of possible employees are saying “Bring it on. Where’s the work? I want to be and do something significant. I’m having a blast here.” We have to find THESE people. Or get them to find US. To do this you have to weed out the 80% who largely just want to go to work, by making them quit before you ever hire them.
1) Stop interviewing. OK, not really, but almost. Stop doing the traditional 1st round, 2nd round, 3rd round interviews where you sit around and talk with people about their resumes, which I call tombstones – edifices that tell what we used to do in the most glowing terms possible.
Why do we think TALKING to people about work, and looking at a tombstone full of their own opinions on their past, actually tells us anything about how they would work for us? NEVER LOOK AT RESUMES IN THE FIRST ROUND, ALMOST NEVER IN THE SECOND ROUND!
2) Design unique hiring processes for each job. Don’t sit across a desk from a boiler tech talking. Go to the boiler room, break something and have them fix it.
3) Hire for culture, never for skills. That’s why you don’t need a resume in the first few rounds. The first rounds should ONLY be to answer the questions 1) does this person fit in here 8-10 hrs a day? and 2) do they really like to work? Until you answer those two questions a resume is worthless, and will actually improperly color your interviews (I WANT this person to fit because I like their resume). HISTORICAL BIAS is very strong when you’ve already looked at their resume before the 2nd or 3rd round.
4) Make them work HARD before you hire them. Create whatever environment they will work in (stressful, customer-oriented, phone work, sales, etc.) and have them do projects instead of interviews. If they need to be highly independent, create a hiring process that gives them very little guidance and see what they do with it. If they need to be highly detailed, hide details in the process and see if they catch and follow them.
Now is the easiest time to fire them or have them quit – before you hire them. And people who just want to GO to work will drop out very quickly in this kind of process.
How we did it
For our last hire (Chief Results Officer – half marketing, half administrative, half event management, and half leadership), we did a four and a half page ad on Craigslist (where the hiring folks said we should never try to find someone). We told them all about our culture, the result we would want from them (not the “processes” they would do), and asked them not to send a resume, but answer seven questions about culture, life, ambitions, motivation, fun, etc.
We were told we would get 300+ resumes in an hour, but most people quit just reading the ad (we were clear in offering no benefits, no work hours and no vacation time – be adults and take off when you’re work is done). These quitters saw they would have to WORK to answer questions instead of clicking and sending a resume. We only got 135 responses in one month. And we were able to delete 45 of those immediately because they didn’t pay attention and sent their resume along, too.
We had them do two rounds of projects, which made another 50+ quit, and then we asked for resumes from the final 40. We asked 18 of them to do another project and come in for a 10-minute interview, and that made another 7 quit. I did 10-minute interviews with eleven people and the final three were sent to others in our company for 30-45 minute culture-fit interviews (to answer the question, “Can you guys see yourself working with any of these folks?”)
Results? We found the pearl among the pebbles – a life long keeper who finds work extremely fulfilling, is self-motivated and fits in like she’s been with us from the start.
Put them through the wringer – throw everything at them they will experience when working with you. Make them work hard before they are hired so you know it’s not about the money, but because they find it incredibly fulfilling. Look for perfect cultural fits who have a passion for what you do.
Make your entire “hiring” process into a “quitting” process and you’ll get the right people.
When you are building a business, you are also building a brand. Some entrepreneurs, typically consultants and coaches, choose to build their personal brand (examples for people-brands can be Oprah or Donald Trump). Other business owners, who produce and sell physical products or provide services, may prefer to create a brand around their offerings (think Swiffer or Progressive). Yet others, usually entrepreneurs who want to build large businesses, put most focus on building their company brand (think Apple or Starbucks).
Brands are, in many ways, similar to people. A brand has a personality, a voice and a look. A brand builds a reputation and creates expectations. We become fond of some brands when we get to know them and when we like what they stand for.
Building a brand is a challenging task. It requires focus, clarity and consistency. In the vortex of an entrepreneur’s busy life, it’s easy to lose sight of these principles and compromise the brand you’ve worked so hard to build.
Here are three common branding mistakes that any business owner would try to avoid
1. Trying to be too many things.
To create a strong brand, you need to be courageous and to position it categorically. For example, your cupcakes can either be sinfully indulgent, or healthy. Your fashion line can either be wholesome, or sassy and daring. You, as a speaker and consultant, can either be outgoing, or reserved. It can rarely be both in one. Businesses who position their brands at the intersections of multiple claims do it out of fear that if they don't, they won't please everyone. Remember: pleasing everyone should not be your goal! As long as your brand appeals to your chosen target market, your business should be rock-solid.
2. Sending mixed messages.
All your Marketing efforts should reinforce your brand positioning, otherwise you will confuse your customers and will compromise your brand. For example, if a brand that claims to be high-end but sells for a low price, or has an average-looking website, it will be a while before it establishes its desired classy reputation. It's even worse when an established brand "does" something that doesn't fit its identity. A good example of damaged brand identity is what happened to Netflix a couple of years ago: A hip and fun brand, known for its convenience, Netflix launched Qwikster - a service that was anything but convenient. As a result, 800,000 disappointed customers took their business away in one quarter alone.
3. Repositioning too soon.
Unlike promotions, price discounts and ad campaigns, which you can turn on and off any time, your brand positioning is “on” for good. Your website design, logo, copy, marketing materials, and events you choose to associate your brand with all need to support your chosen brand positioning. Changing your positioning means rebuilding your brand from scratch. Because of the massive effort required to rebuild a brand, before you reposition, which is a valid option in some cases, make sure you've given your old brand positioning your all.
Did you know the laws around the late payment of commercial debts changed on 16 March 2013? If not, you need to read this article – it could save your business money by helping you avoid interest and other charges. The changes will affect all business transactions entered into on or after 16 March, so you need to act now and take any necessary actions to protect your business from avoidable costs, if you haven’t already.
The Late Payment of Commercial Debt (Interest) Act 1998 has been changed to help protect the interests of suppliers and combat the so-called ‘late payment culture’ amongst commercial purchasers.
Here is a summary of the changes:
- If you don’t specify payment terms in your contract with a supplier, you have 30 days to make payment. This 30 days commences on the date you receive the goods or an invoice, or on verification of the goods or services – whichever is the later – which, for the purposes of this article, we’ll call the Due Date. 30 days after the Due Date, interest will start to accrue on the debt. (This isn’t a significant change to the previous situation. Note, however, that a need to ‘verify’ of the goods can’t be used to extend the payment terms unreasonably – the verification period can’t be longer than 30 days unless agreed with the supplier and not grossly unfair).
- If you do specify payment terms in your contracts, these should be no longer than 60 days from the Due Date unless you can show that a longer period isn’t ‘grossly unfair’ to the supplier. If you insist on longer terms and these are later found to be unfair, interest will accrue after the first 30 days.
- If you are a public authority, you cannot extend your payment terms beyond 30 days from the Due Date, except for very specific circumstances where 60 day terms are allowed.
- Suppliers are now entitled to reclaim ‘reasonable recovery costs’ for late payments, on top of their pre-existing rights to charge a set fee that depends on the amount of the debt, as well as interest at the current Bank of England base rate plus 8%. This means that suppliers can now recover the true cost of enforcing their rights – including the costs of using a debt recovery agent where appropriate.
The key message we can gather from this is that it’s obviously in both parties’ interests that payment terms for business to business transactions are set out clearly in the contract.
What the changes mean for suppliers
The revised legislation is basically designed to preventsuppliers from being bullied into accepting payment terms that are longer than 60 days, unless there’s a really good reason for this. It also puts them in a stronger position when it comes to recovering sums owed to them.
What purchasers need to do
If you’re in the habit of paying late every now and again, you need to change your ways straightaway! Suppliers now have more reason than ever to pursue late payers, and because they can now reclaim recovery costs as well as interest and set fees, withholding payment without good reason could cost your business more than under the previous rules. Remember also, that suppliers can delay claiming for interest and compensation retrospectively for up to six years – so paying late could be building up a huge problem for you in the future.
If you haven’t reviewed your Terms and Conditions recently, it might be worth revisiting your approach to payment terms. As already noted, it’s in both parties’ interests for payment terms to be clearly set out in the contract, so start including them if you don’t already. And if your standard payment terms are longer than 60 days, consider whether you need to reduce these to 60 or 30 days. Remember, if you insist on longer payment terms and these are later found to be grossly unfair, you will be liable to pay interest and other charges.
As always, clarity is key for both setting out your payment terms within the contract and for justifying them if necessary. What is ‘grossly unfair’ is not defined in detail in the regulations – although there are guidelines – so it’s in both parties’ interests not only to to be fair and reasonable, but also to be seen to be so!
How Making People Smile, Think Or Even Dislike You Can Be Good For Your Brand.
Someone told me a long time ago that “people buy from people” and so when selling your products and services you should be yourself. So what if you are a quirky individual with a wicked sense of humour who runs a shoe shop, restaurant, flower shop, etc.? Well traditional views would have you acting in a friendly, professional demeanour at all times, which of course is correct, but that same view would strip you of all your personality too.
Those old enough will remember a very famous ad that Apple ran on television. It was based on Orwell’s book “1984” and it’s only daytime airing was on Sunday 22nd of January 1984. The ad portrayed the then leading partnership of IBM and Microsoft as the soul-crushing Big Brother, stifling creativity and individualism.
Back then this was seen as an incredible advance in advertising and branding, but it barely touched the approach taken by modern companies like Google, Facebook, Starbucks, Ben & Jerry’s and T.G.I. Friday, to name a few. These companies don’t just portray themselves in a quirky and unique way, they are the total embodiment of thinking and acting differently. They even interview differently in order to hire the right type of person that will help them to maintain their quirky eco-system. Imagine going for an interview at Google and being asked “You have a closet full of shirts. It’s very hard to find a shirt. So what can you do to organize your shirts for easy retrieval?” or “How many golf balls can fit in a school bus?” or famously “How much should you charge to wash all the windows in Seattle?”
So you are wondering whether this kind of thing can apply to any company, large or small. The answer is yes. The only difference is the amount of quirkiness involved. Obviously if you are a funeral director or investment bank, your opportunity to be quirky will be somewhat curtailed (although it’s still possible); but for everyone else you can explore the realms of possibilities in order to make people laugh or think.
And yes, even making people dislike you can work, but you have to really know what you are doing. Ryanair is a prime example of this with CEO Michael O’Leary going out of his way to reinforce the no-frills nature of his cheap flights ethos. There is no denying that the approach of (and I am paraphrasing here) “if you want the cheapest flight book with us, if you want anything more f*** off!” has certainly worked. But remember that they also have the deep pockets to pay for the times when their ads or statements back-fire.
But as much as I am advocating for you to be quirky, witty or controversial, remember that you can’t force this. If you are a conservative individual/company that tries to be quirky you’ll get found out and ultimately it could damage your business. It has to be you or you have to fully embrace the change for it to become a successful strategy.
I had two really good examples of this where I was once asked to review a website for a potential client. They sold printer cartridges and toner. Their site was pretty conservative and basic, but one of the menu items was “Humour”. On that page was a series of rather risqué jokes. The whole thing was simply inappropriate and executed badly. There was no reason for it, it was just there, like a guy standing at the back of a funeral in a Spider-Man outfit! Furthermore, the owner of the business was not a funny guy, if anything he was rather dour, which made the disconnect even more jarring.
The second example, on the other hand, was an email I received from a business coach. It was around Valentine ’s Day and he closed off the email with three Valentine related jokes. They were innocent but very funny. However, the whole email, including the business part of it was written in a familiar and disarming way, so that by the time I reached the jokes I was kind of “ready” for them. There was no disconnect. I had also previously met this person and although he was very professional, he did his business with a glint in his eye and a wit that had you laughing as much as thinking.
So, embrace you quirkiness and free your humour. It doesn’t have to be about full-page ads in national magazines. It might just be a single line on a product label, an image or tagline on your vans or a daily witty comment on your street sign. It can all work to make you memorable.