Archive for 'event'

When Your Salary is Too High

Once again, I’m overly frustrated with UofL’s basketball program. We lost to UMass at home last night which makes our record 1-2 versus Atlantic 10 schools this year. Before I get into this, UMass has a nice squad, but they shouldn’t be marching into Freedom Hall and taking home a victory. This comes on the heels of a rather poor showing over the weekend where the Cards played three mediocre teams in three days (all at home) and struggled with each one of them.

Usually, I try not to call people out, but it’s time to address the issue head on. Rick Pitino has lost his fire to coach I’m afraid. He made a ton of money with the Celtics, he’s getting $2 million plus per year here, and it’s deadened the value of a lucrative salary as motivation. He’s made it already! He’s not hungry like he was at UK or Providence. Yes, he took Louisville to the Final Four two seasons ago, but last year’s team and this year’s collection of athletes look absolutely lost, they don’t defend well like “typical” Pitino teams, there is no improvement noticeable, and the player rotations leave the majority of fans scratching their heads.

This is a prime example of someone’s salary being too high which shows in the final product. Would your company allow its leader to get away with this? If so, what about that particular person allows them to get away with such? If they own the company, that might explain part of it, but they would eventually be forced to sell or retire if their objective was to keep the company afloat.

If a major corporation repeatedly missed its numbers, and the CEO gave flimsy excuses every time as to why, that CEO would be replaced. That’s all I’m asking in this situation–hit your numbers (Rick) and honestly tell the public what is going on. Enough with the excuses and mind games–we’re not falling for it anymore. The product you’re producing is very below average, and it’s not delivering the value your customers paid for and you promised.

Many have criticized me for taking such a hard stance on this topic so early on in the season, but I took a similar stance during Denny Crum’s last season–it’s either the coach gets replaced or my season tickets will not be renewed. It’s come to this unfortunately. I was very excited when they hired Pitino, and I was thrilled with the Final Four run, but I refuse to waste my time watching a piss poor product that costs a lot of money for two straight seasons. The value equation is all out of whack, and that falls back on the CEO (head coach). It’s his “corporation” to run. He’s CEO of the basketball team, and he’s paid very handsomely to be that. He’s no different from Bob Nardelli at Home Depot or Terry Semel at Yahoo! They need to go too.

If you have a better solution to this dilemma, please share it.

Thanksgiving Musings

First off, I hope everyone is having a great Thanksgiving and a safe one. Our family got together for a fantastic meal at my brother’s house in which his wife (Donna) cooked up a mean bird and her world famous green-beans. I used to hate green-beans, but she got me back to liking them to the point I can make a pretty tasty pot myself (her recipe tweaked of course).

Since this day is about giving thanks, I thought I’d take the time to give thanks for the following:
1) My parents are still alive and kicking. Mom is in a nursing home, but she’s at least adjusted and seems content/at peace. I hate seeing her there, but they can give her the care she requires at this juncture. Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease that I hope they find a cure for as it’s affected my mom’s side of the family pretty heavily which scares me to no end—I have seen what the disease can do, and I don’t want to go through that. That’s a selfish view, but I can’t help but wonder if I’m headed there eventually. Luckily, my dad’s side of the family doesn’t seem to be afflicted with Alzheimer’s so there’s hope. Anyway, I’m very thankful my parents are still with us regardless of capacity. If your parents are still around, please appreciate the time you have with them.

2) I have my health for the most part. My knees now cause issues, but I’m in pretty good condition other than that. Every since I kicked the diet drink habit (February 8, 2006), I’ve felt much better overall, and my cholesterol, blood pressure, resting heart rate, and energy levels have returned to normal. That aspartame is a demon—stay off that stuff if you can.

3) I met a great girl this past year (Jennifer), and we’ve been going strong since March. While I’m sure I frustrate her with my tunnel vision focus on work sometimes, I’m really glad to have her in my life. I’ve been fortunate in the dating department and probably take some of it for granted when I get zoomed in on another aspect of life, but that’s just who I am.

4) I got my own business started in earnest this past year—something I have always desired to do for as long as I can remember. It’s beginning to produce fruit so I feel good about the future of this firm. It takes a lot of work to start a business (a topic for a future article?), and I honestly had no idea what I was doing when I started down this path last year. I halfway started this thing then, but I threw myself totally into it in the summer of 2006. I’m thankful to have the opportunity to work with some great people and expand my own knowledge along the way.

5) Last but not least, I’m thankful for my family and friends. I’ve got some high quality people in my life, and I’m glad to have them share in the trials and tribulations of my life and vice versa. Every successful person has a solid support group so I’m fortunate to have that. Repeated success is sure to follow with the group I have in my corner.

Now onto a recap of my Thanksgiving if you’re interested.

Day in General
My day got started by doing something I truly enjoy—bicycling with our Louisville Race Team. We (13 of us at the start; 9 at the end after a few peeled off early to head back home) set out to do 40 miles from one of the local parks at a decent pace but nothing too brisk. I somewhat determined the route we’d follow with input from a few other guys. Much to my chagrin, I guided the team past a key turn about 25 miles in, and we ended up with 70+ miles instead of the planned 40. Oops! Sorry about that guys. I hope nobody got thrown into the doghouse for being late, but I’m guessing a couple of guys did. I feel bad about that because I don’t like misguiding a group of friends/teammates, and I really didn’t want the extra 30 miles because I’ve been battling knee pain for a while now, and that didn’t help matters. Around mile 50 or so, my legs started locking up in the knee area (of course) so the last portion of the ride was rather painful. Thankfully we weren’t drilling it out today, or I’d have been complete toast! Not sure if I can ride tomorrow, but the ride today really helped create quite a bit of hunger so there was some serious damage done to the food spread. This is the first Thanksgiving I can remember in a long while I haven’t been hung-over from totally blowing it out the night before so I’m happy about that. I drank nary an ounce last night so I felt pretty good all day aside from the end of the ride. Perhaps I’ve finally matured?

Work
I’ve actually done some work today—can you believe that? Maybe I’m obsessed, as some have suggested, but I truly find it easier to “catch up” during holidays because people aren’t looking to do something or go somewhere.

I am working on another SEO article and also researching different copywriting techniques to guide people through a website and ultimately get them to sign up for something or at least have enough interest to contact me. I’m disappointed in my website’s traffic so I’ve decided to do something about it. Getting it to rank well is one thing, but “converting” visitors is another. The site gets consistent new visitors each week, but they obviously aren’t intrigued enough to go to the contact page and fill out the form or sign up for the newsletter. If you have some constructive criticism you’d like to share on what you’d do to better “convert” visitors, I’m very open to that. The site can be found at http://smbconsultinginc.com/. Check it out and shoot me an e-mail (go to the contact page on site and reference this post otherwise I’ll think you’re just some wise ass. Ha, ha.)

Sports
While I sit here watching the Boston College/Miami college football game, I’m reminded of how far the Hurricanes have fallen yet I don’t believe Larry Coker should be fired. The guy has a 58-15 record (.795 winning pct.) coming into this game. That’s phenomenal! I think he should be given another year at least. You can’t throw someone with that kind of record under the bus so quickly and easily even though the fans are screaming to chop the guy’s head off.

Tomorrow the Cards play in Cincinnati against Dayton in basketball, and Saturday the football team is at Pittsburgh. Both are worrisome games because the basketball team can’t stop dribble penetration worth a damn, and the football team’s defense struggles against the pass. Tyler Palko (Pitt) is a solid quarterback that could pick apart the secondary if we don’t get consistent pressure on him. I believe we will put some pressure on him, but that doesn’t mean a win is guaranteed because of that alone. Our offense has struggled of late, and this game has been a source of stress all season even when we were undefeated and rolling.

As for the basketball team, there is a good group of young talent, but Rick Pitino doesn’t like to play freshmen as much as he’s going to have to play them this season. That troubles me because this freshman class is a very talented one, but they have to learn on the job. Last year was a complete circling of the bowl in hoops, and I frankly won’t go through another one of those this year. If this team shows signs of sucking, I’ll have to find something else to do with my time. My blood pressure simply can’t handle a repeat of last season.

There you have what’s on my mind today. Not a lot of business for a change, but I figure a change of pace every now and again doesn’t hurt anything. Right?

What are you pondering this Thanksgiving Day? What are you thankful for? As always, f
eel free to e-mail me or comment below, and thanks for reading.

Assessing a Competitive Sales Opportunity

Have you ever found yourself wondering how you shot the last sales opportunity even after everything seemed like a close was eminent? Many times the answer lies within us if we’re willing to dig deep enough. Let’s take a look at five possibilities for why things may have gone awry.

Did you uncover a true pain for the customer? As salespeople, we’re quick to assume we completely understand the customer’s dilemma because we want the sale, but that assumption often leads us down a twisty path all the while instilling a false sense of optimism in the opportunity. A true pain is uncovered only after you’ve validated it with the owners and completely understand the impact it has organization wide. You may talk with a prospect that says “we need your product now because I’m up to my eyeballs in complaints, and it will vastly eliminate the complaints” yet the pain is only seen as affecting that particular person or department. Maybe the organization itself doesn’t understand the domino effect the pain has on the organization so that means someone didn’t do a thorough job of exploring and explaining the pain with others in the organization.

Did you uncover a reasonable budget for your product or service? Prospects sometimes have a decent idea of what your product or service should cost, but many times their only basis for determining such is an online search and a quick review of a few of the results from that search. Don’t leave it to the prospect to price your product or service for you—let them know as early on as possible a ballpark range to expect to pay. If they heavily balk at the number, get out early and move on. It’s much better to qualify a prospect out than to waste a bunch of time on wasteful meetings and proposals when you’re out of the game before it even begins. Hearing things such as “oh don’t worry, I’ll get the funds for this when we need them,” or “this is a future project, but we’re getting a head start” should sound warning bells that you’re up against possible budgetary issues or future price shopping regardless of how you position the deal.

Did you really talk with the proper decision makers? If the sale is potentially complex, meaning it may impact multiple areas of the customer’s business, several people are likely to be involved. If the pain you’ve uncovered is legitimate, it’ll become apparent to the contact person you’re talking with that more people need to be involved before contract time. If the prospect is serious about implementing your product or service, they’ll welcome the interaction with others as a way to gain their approval and solidify the decision. If they prevent others from getting involved, you likely aren’t dealing with the decision maker, or the project isn’t likely to happen.

Was the timeframe realistic? Just because a prospect says they need your solution implemented by the end of the month doesn’t mean it’s feasible. The burden is on you to help your prospect establish a workable implementation schedule. If you can’t come to an agreeable schedule, you’ll both be better to walk away from the deal. Forcing your organization to do something they’re not skilled at doing or requires too many resources is only going to make things worse. Look at it this way, your competition will have to bend over backwards to meet the terms meaning they’ll be allocating extra resources just to make it happen. More often than not, they’ll have problems, too so don’t fret over it.

Did you establish an agreed upon value analysis? All the ROI analyses and charts in the world may make sense to you, but did the customer buy into it? Too many times, a value analysis looks phenomenal on paper and in theory, but it has little chance of being realized because it was designed for a perfect world—one in which we do not live. Make sure you establish realistic metrics with your prospect prior to suggesting any return expectations. Nothing will burn you more than inflating ROI numbers that will never be realized by your customer. It’s always better to under promise and over deliver than to over promise and under deliver.

While there are far too many factors that can lead to a lost opportunity, you can greatly improve your odds of closing a sale if you consistently address these five areas throughout your sales process.

For more sales and marketing related information, please visit Marketing Consultant.

Leveraging Better Competition

Most people who know the least bit about me know I’m a huge University of Louisville athletics fan, and I’m also an avid cyclist. I’ve been a season ticket holder for UofL football and basketball for over ten years, and I’ve been involved in organized cycling for seven plus years. It is through these two interests in conjunction with a childhood of playing competitive baseball I have developed a strong appreciation for the value of solid competition. It has also taught me that in order to achieve improvement, you need to compete against those stronger/better than you.

This Thursday’s West Virginia versus UofL football game is a case study in the value of strong competition. Last year, Louisville (and others) joined the Big East Conference, and many said it was a conference undeserving of a BCS bowl bid and was a severely watered down football product. Nobody questioned the level of competition in basketball, but the losses of Miami, Boston College, and Virginia Tech in football was supposed to be too great a hurdle to climb in terms of bonafide respectability. Nobody was counting on Louisville and West Virginia raising the football bar to Top 5 levels so quickly. West Virginia comes in ranked #3; Louisville #5. The high level of play by both programs already has forced programs like Rutgers and Pittsburgh to improve, making the overall conference a pretty formidable league all of a sudden. Syracuse and Cincinnati have shown improvement but are likely a couple of years away from being real threats. UConn and South Florida aren’t pushovers necessarily, but they haven’t quite kept up with the others in the league. The league itself has moved ahead of traditional powerhouse leagues in the computer rankings because it is much stronger top to bottom than many envisioned. My belief is the top tier programs have forced the bottom tier to step it up or risk embarrassment and humiliation (a very strong motivator).

In cycling, there are five divisions in road racing (Categories 1-5 with 1 being strongest). I’m admittedly not in that strongest group (I raced Category 4 this past season), but I frequently train with some of the category 1-3 guys when improvement is my focus. Time constraints often prevent many of the members on our team from training the 20+ hours/week it requires to race at that top level. If I consistently train with my peer group, however, I’ll merely maintain my existing fitness levels, and I’m less likely to move up to a higher category. Our team (Team Louisville) has been debating various improvement training programs on our team message board the past few days so that’s why I’m including this in today’s post. Some have called for our team to strictly train together with no other teams involved over the winter, and others have suggested that we mix it up with stronger teams in order to improve our overall team. The problem with training just with our team is our team is composed of cyclists of very similar abilities and styles. To me, it’s not an endeavor that is going to improve our team or teach it anything new. That will come with training consistently with stronger riders and teams which brings me back to the value of stiff competition.

If you are looking to improve your business or any aspect of your life, look at businesses or individuals that are currently better than you at whatever it is you’re looking to improve upon. If you merely continue challenging yourself in a manner you are accustomed, you will succeed at developing a plateau not improvement. Sports provide several good examples of this concept in action, and the lessons should not be lost in the business world.

Product Differentiation? Hardly.

By Roger Bauer

It struck me the other day during lunch at a local Moe’s Southwestern Grill that a new phenomenon has swept the restaurant landscape in the form of poor attempts to differentiate from the competition—renaming accepted terms of business with cutesy nicknames. This is readily visible in the faster food sector, and it’s becoming more prevalent as companies struggle to connect with the consumer in manners which create loyalty and/or preference.

Take Moe’s as a primary example. Personally, I believe they have a very good product to offer, but they’ve gone and out “cuted” themselves with ridiculously silly nicknames for their fare which only serve to confuse and frustrate the customer. It’s easy to see them thinking behind the scenes, but it’s a risky attempt at product differentiation. They’re in fierce competition with franchises such as Qdoba, Baja Fresh, Chipotle, LaBamba, Taco Bell, and Tijuana Flats, (plus many others) but those competitors don’t require a translator to order a simple burrito or taco. Try popping into one of those places one day or night to order a “Joey” or an “Alfredo Garcia.” You’ll get looked at like you have three heads (with good reason).

What would possess a franchise to resort to childish nicknames to try to differentiate themselves? It’s probably an executive’s poor excuse of a marketing concept designed to separate from the competition, but that’s not the type of separation that enables your concept to survive long term. It will ultimately separate them all right—the competition will eventually gain as the initial shtick gives way to annoyance and turns consumers off to the point they prefer the competition even with all other factors being relatively equal.

Sure, things look great for Moe’s presently, and the concept seems “fresh” today, but that can change on a dime without warning. Their current growth could be sapped with one false step because there is less room to wiggle when you’re attempting to retrain your customer base to conform to your concept. What happens if the consumer collectively says “I’m no longer in the mood for Moe?” Would being “cute” be overruled by a desire to becoming truly different (i.e. better)?

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of positives. Their restaurants are well laid out, the décor is modern, the lighting is appropriate, and the food is tasty not to mention reasonably priced. The physical atmosphere is hip and inviting. There are glaring negatives, too. The staff collectively insisting on yelling “Welcome to Moe’s!” at the top of their lungs as a new customer enters doesn’t make me want to setup shop for very long. I can’t wait to get out so I don’t have to hear that any more than I have to. I’d like a little peace and normalcy with my meal Moe, thanks.

Topping off the frustrating concept Moe’s obviously insists upon cramming down the consumer’s throat is the staff correcting the customer when ordering by the desired ingredients instead of its nickname. You’re not training me Moe, you’re supposed to be providing a quality and quick meal which I am going to ring your register for—don’t correct me, simply make the food, take the money, and let me eat in peace!

Moe’s is not alone in this feeble attempt at differentiation, and they won’t be the last, but the lesson to be learned is to keep customer service just that—customer service. The customer is paying so don’t believe you’re going to train the customer as long as the equation is structured that way. If you begin to pay people to come into your franchise or business, you’re well within your rights to try to train them to do business your way. Stick to doing business as the industry dictates until you develop a better way of doing things. Then, and only then, you will have a true differentiator. Simply renaming a common item or process doesn’t make you different—it makes you contrarian. Don’t confuse the two.

Roger Bauer is Founder and CEO of SMB Consulting, Inc., a Louisville, Kentucky based small business consulting firm specializing in strategic planning, web presence, internet marketing, SEO, technology, and business analysis. To learn more, point your browser to Business Consulting. To contact a small business consultant today, e-mail info@smbconsultinginc.com.

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