Archive for 'group'

Apprentice: Stefani Wins!

The season finale of the Apprentice just now finished airing, and The Donald selected Stefani over James. I’m a bit surprised by that, but I believe it’s a good choice. James has been a strong performer, but he had some close calls in the boardroom, and that seemed to be the deciding factor as both candidates had very few holes in their credentials.

Frank and Nicole had a pretty poor video in my opinion, and that got them booted before Trump focused in on Stefani and James. Both individuals should be highly successful moving forward. This group had a couple of super-stars in the making including Stefani, James, and Heidi although Heidi flamed out pretty bad so maybe she wasn’t as much of a star as I would like to believe–she just has that “it” factor though that it makes it hard not to WANT her to do well. Time will tell I suppose.

Anyway, the finale wasn’t a complete shock as the two predicted to be the favorites ended up that way, but it’s a little surprising James wasn’t chosen. Best of luck to Stefani in her new role with the Trump Organization.

If Heidi, Aimee, or Nicole would like a job working for a consulting firm, I might have a spot for one of them. 😉

Branding: Differentiate or Die

By Derrick Daye on Sprint

What has changed in business over recent decades is the amazing proliferation of product choices in just about every category.

It’s been estimated that there are 1,000,000 SKU’s (Standard Stocking Units) out there in America. An average supermarket has 40,000 SKU’s. Now for the stunner: An average family gets 80% to 85% of their needs from 150 SKU’s. That means there’s a good chance they’ll ignore 39,850 items in that store.

The dictionary defines “tyranny” as absolute power that often is harsh or cruel. So it is with choice. With the enormous competition, markets today are driven by choice. The customer has so many good alternatives that you pay dearly for your mistakes. Your competitors get your business, and you don’t get it back very easily. Companies that don’t understand this will not survive. (Now that’s cruel.)

Just look at some of the names on the headstones in the brand graveyard: American Motors, Burger Chef, Carte Blanc, Eastern Airlines, Gainesburgers, Gimbels, Hathaway Shirts, Horn & Hardart, Mr. Salty Pretzels, Philco, Trump Shuttle, VisiCalc, Woolworth’s.

And this is only a short list of names that are no longer with us.

In this global killer economy you have to find a way to differentiate yourself–or have very low prices. To do this, here are the steps you must follow:

Step One: The Context

Arguments are never made in a vacuum. There are always surrounding competitors trying to make arguments of their own. Your message has to make sense in the context of the category. It has to start with what the marketplace has heard and registered from your competition.

The context also includes what’s happening in the market. Is the timing for your idea right?

Nordstrom’s differentiating idea of “better service” played perfectly into the context of a department store world that was reducing its people and service as a way to cut costs.

Lotus launched the first successful network on “groupware software” called Notes just as corporate America was networking its PC’s. IBM ended up buying Lotus and Notes for $3.5 billion.

It’s like riding a wave. If you’re too early or late, you’ll go nowhere. Catch it just right and you’ll get a long and profitable ride for your difference.

Step Two: The Differentiating Idea

To be different is to be not the same. To be unique is to be one of a kind.

So you’re looking for something that separates you from your competitors. The secret is understanding that your different-ness does not have to be product related.

Consider a horse. Yes, horses are quickly differentiated by their type. There are race horses, jumpers, ranch horses, wild horses and on and on. But in racehorses, you can differentiate them by breeding, by performance, by stable, by trainer and on and on.

A product or service can be differentiated by feature, leadership, preference, heritage, specialty, how it’s made and on and on. (I wrote a book on this subject if you want more ways to differentiate your brand.)

Step Three: The Credentials

To build a logical argument for your difference, you must have the credentials to support your differentiating idea. This will make it real and believable.

If you have a product difference, then you should be able to demonstrate that difference. The demonstration, in turn, becomes your credentials. If you have a leak-proof valve, then you should be able to have a direct comparison with valves that can leak.

Claims of difference without proof are really just claims. For example, a “wide-track” General Motors’ Pontiac must be wider than other cars. British Air as the “world’s favorite airline” should fly more people than any other airline. Coca-Cola as the “real thing” has to have invented colas. When it’s “Hertz and not exactly,” there should be some unique services that the others don’t offer.

You can’t differentiate with smoke and mirrors. Consumers are skeptical. They’re thinking, “Oh yeah, Mr. Advertiser? Prove it!” You must be able to support your argument.

Step Four: Communicate Your Difference

Just as you can’t keep your light under a basket, you can’t keep your difference under wraps.

If you build a differentiated product, the world will not automatically beat a path to your door. Better products don’t win. Better perceptions tend to be the winners. Truth will not win out unless it has some help along the way.

Every aspect of your communications should reflect your difference. Your advertising. Your brochures. Your Web site. Your sales presentations.

In marketing, the rich often get richer because they have the resources to drive their ideas into the mind. Their problem is separating the good ideas from the bad ones, and avoiding spending money on too many products and too many programs.

Unfortunately, without the proper resources, even the best differentiating idea won’t get off the ground. Look what happened to AT&T in recent years. They failed to differentiate themselves from Sprint Nextel and MCI. The result: A price war that ended in the ignomy of being bought by a Baby Bell.

As I said, differentiate or die.

What's Happened to Effective Writing?

There are several poorly written articles circling the bowl on a daily basis, and this may end up being yet another one, but it’s alarming to me that professional journalists consistently botch spelling and grammar. It used to be newspapers, magazines, and books served as an example of the proper use of punctuation, word groupings, grammar, and synonyms. Not anymore.

On any given day, I challenge you to count the number of typos or grammatical miscues in your local fish wrap. In the past, you’d be lucky to find one per month. Nowadays, you’d be lucky NOT to find one per section. Online versions are even worse, but that is likely due to the push to get more and more content live and the desire to make the online versions more “free flowing.”

That said, is it too much to ask of someone paid to write for a living to pay attention to the squiggly lines in the word processor? Those lines are trying to tell you something! At least pay them some lip service, and double check your work before you submit it to an editor. Speaking of an editor, what are these people responsible for now? In the old days, they served as quality control, but today they seem to be more interested in cranking out material to meet or beat a deadline. Quality doesn’t seem to matter anymore and we, the public, don’t seem to care because we still read the stuff even if it is sub par without complaining loud enough for anyone to hear us.

Another reason sub par material may have become acceptable is the big business management approach of the major literary outlets. When larger companies attempt to manage numerous resources by stretching everyone thin in the interest of “productivity,” things naturally slip through the cracks. I run a small business so if a larger firm came to me and offered to buy me out for a nice chunk of change, I’d have to listen. It would be nice if there weren’t so many mergers and spin-offs of media companies, but that is the world we live in today.

You regularly hear phrases such as instant gratification, microwave society, what have you done for me lately, etc. when describing the order of the day. They all apply, but are we in such a hurry that we can’t take a little more pride in the work we produce? I would hope the majority of people would be embarrassed by producing a widely viewed article or literary piece peppered with poor grammar and/or spelling errors. The good old days of looking to print media as an example to follow are long gone, but I wish they’d return at least in this aspect. Am I asking for too much?

Why Most Small Businesses Fail

Michael Gerber, author of the mega-best sellers “The E-Myth” and “The E-Myth Revisited,” is one of the people I admire and respect and who has had a significant impact on me and my businesses. Although I have listened many times to Gerber’s audio tape about the E-Myth, and have read and reread his book, I always come away learning more. In addition, I have read a booklet by Michael Gerber entitled: “Why Most Small Businesses Fail and What You Can Do About It.”

In this booklet – Gerber lists the 10 reasons why most businesses fail – and how you can avoid them. So – here they are:

1. Lack of management systems

2. Lack of vision, purpose, or principles

3. Lack of financial planning and review

4. Over dependence on specific individuals in the business

5. Poor market segmentation and/or strategy

6. Failure to establish and/or communicate company goals

7. Competition or lack of market knowledge

8. Inadequate capitalization

9. Absence of a standard-quality program

10. Owners concentrating on the technical, rather than the strategic, work at hand.

After reading this list a couple times, it became apparent that “strategic planning and strategic thinking” are absolutely vital to avoiding these reasons for failure. And that is the primary focus of my consulting practices, J. G. Ebersole Associates and The Renaissance Group(TM). If you would like to learn more about how to be better prepared to develop and grow a successful business and know how you can avoid these ten reasons for failure, please contact Glenn Ebersole through his website at or by email at

Glenn Ebersole, Jr. is a multi-faceted professional, who is recognized as a visionary, guide and facilitator in the fields of business coaching, marketing, public relations, management, strategic planning and engineering. Glenn is the Founder and Chief Executive of two Lancaster, PA based consulting practices: The Renaissance Group, a creative marketing, public relations, strategic planning and business development consulting firm and J. G. Ebersole Associates, an independent professional engineering, marketing, and management consulting firm. He is a Certified Facilitator and serves as a business coach and a strategic planning facilitator and consultant to a diverse list of clients. Glenn is also the author of a monthly newsletter, “Glenn’s Guiding Lines – Thoughts From Your Strategic Thinking Business Coach” and has published more than 250 articles on business.

To find out more about the benefits & rewards of effectively working with a strategic thinking business coach, please contact Glenn Ebersole through his web site at or

Strategic Planning – The Three Key Elements

For businesses strategic planning is a concept, a mind set and a process. It is looking down the road at what’s around the bend. When everyone around your place is focusing on what’s coming you will all recognize it in time to take advantage of it.

As things appear on the horizon each of you will be asking the question, what’s important about that from your various perspectives. You will be able to articulate the important elements of foreseeable future possibilities so you can all focus on the possibilities each offer. The goal of the business is, after all, to help each of you make your dreams come true.

Strategic planning keeps you focused on the options you now see more clearly, so you can collectively make choices that benefit the company and all of the people involved.

In this brief article I will describe the five key elements of a business strategic plan. It has been my experience that when these three elements are combined into a simple straightforward do it yourself process your company will achieve its goals. This is not rocket science, unless you are building rockets, and will work for companies of as few people as one and as many people as you have on board your company.

Your Strategic Planning Team:
The strategic planning workbooks, textbooks, and how-to books all discuss the importance of the strategic planning team – the implication being that the company must be big enough that there are leaders at every level who can become part of the strategic planning team. Unfortunately that eliminates about 75% of all the companies in existence.

If that includes you do not fear as I am about to show you how you can reach out to the best people possible, individuals with various perspectives whose input will help you create a balanced strategy. In addition these successful people will help you develop and maintain this workable strategy over the long haul. And since they are not going to be charging for their input you will be able to afford an active strategic planning team forever.

I recommend that you connect with members of your industry’s trade association, business owners whose results have been demonstrated over time and whose opinions you trust. The well known power of group dynamics suggests that you limit the size of your strategic planning group to 6-8 people including yourself.

Each of you should also be located outside each other’s traditional marketing areas. If some of you are nearing retirement with vast experience, others in the midst of their careers growing their companies and some who are successors in successful businesses in your industry you will have an important range of diversity. Those who have been around a while can see things coming that are invisible to those just starting out and vice versa.

The Strategic Planning Process:
The strategic planning process should be simple, just three questions to focus on, so you will keep them at the top of your mind. Naturally there are multiple components of these three questions that will become second nature as the process of discussion moves along.

What are you going to sell in the future and how? Each member of your strategic planning team will offer different ideas based on what’s working for them now, what they have already considered for the future and their perspective (such as their Internet savvy or lack of same). ,p>

Who are your target customers and why? Every successful business owner focuses on their market share inside their traditional market. With different perspectives you will be able to expand that traditional marketing area AND focus on increasing your share of each customer. Members of your strategic planning team will open your mind to tactics they are using to sell more products of one kind or another to your existing core customers.

How can you differentiate your company vs your competitors? This often means discontinuing lines no longer profitable that you’re still carrying because you’ve always carried them. It may mean focusing on fewer products and services where your specific capabilities excel. And it most assuredly will mean introducing new products and services recommended by your strategic planning team based on their experiences and perspectives.

Once you and your team have these three questions at the forefront – the qualifiers become automatic. What’s important? What is it now? What exactly do you want it to be? And what’s possible to achieve at the intersection of your goals and your resources?

A Commitment To Action:
With the continual input from your strategic planning peer group you will be able to more easily target strategic opportunities all around you. Opportunities that would have continued to be invisible to you without their well considered input. These actions will, in and of themselves help you choose those capabilities important for your future growth and enhance your capacities for making the most of them.

As you and the other members of your strategic planning peer group put your plans on paper and keep them in front of each other you will develop an environment for continually review and modify your evolving mission statements.

Continually articulating your goals for the future as they are continually refined by your strategic planning peer group will keep the important next steps always in view. Taking action yourself or delegating it to the individuals or teams within your organization who have the power, authority, and accountability for their completion is all that now stands between where things are today and where you want them to be in the future.

If you are seriously interested in your organization’s future you’ll find that there’s really no better way to create and manage your strategic planning process.

Your next move should be to click below and take five minutes to review my recently published report that contains complete instructions for your Do-It-Yourself Strategic Planning process. Article by Wayne Messick, publisher of

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