Archive for 'opinion'

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. 😉

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 http://www.iBizResources.com

The 10 New Rules of Branding

By Derrick Daye on Walmart

1) Brands that influence culture sell more; culture is the new catalyst for growth.
Look at Google. They are changing the way we behave online. Nike is a brand that has become a part of all culture. If you get into that split screen, you become part of the lexicon of life.

2) A brand with no point of view has no point; full-flavor branding is in, vanilla is out.
Love or hate Fox News, you know where it stands on issues. And Ben & Jerry’s is more than just ice cream; it’s a company that stands for a cause. Younger consumers have grown up in a consumer world. They’re flexing their muscle, and they want their brands to stand for something.

3) Today’s consumer is leading from the front; this is the smartest generation to have ever walked the planet.
Today’s consumers are more discriminating and more experimental. They have very strong opinions on brands, and a lot of brands are getting consumers involved. Take Converse and the Converse Gallery, where consumers can make a 24-second film that will run on their site. It’s consumer-generated creativity and a natural savviness.

4) Customize wherever and whenever you can; customization is tomorrow’s killer whale.
The second advent of the Internet has consumers wanting something all their own. Consumers say, ‘I need something that is mine, not mass-produced for everybody.’ The best example is Apple’s iTunes Website. Instead of buying a CD, consumers are buying the tracks they want and putting them on their iPods. Look at Starbucks, which creates whatever beverage a consumer wants, and Nike, which allows you to design a shoe online.

5) Forget the transaction, just give me an experience; the mandate is simple: Wow them every day, every way.
Apple and Coach found that the best way to give consumers a brand experience wasn’t just to sell product in store but to control the entire experience. This is why they build stores in major cities. Looking for the other brands to soon be involved in the ‘experience.’

6) Deliver clarity at point of purchase; be obsessive about presentation.
There’s an “option overload” in the supermarket aisles, and anything that simplifies that for consumers is welcome. If I’m a consumer and I stand in front of a shelf, I see a wall of product. Brands are beginning to recognize that you have to be clear about what they are selling at the point of purchase.

7) You are only as good as your weakest link; do you know where you’re vulnerable?
Today’s younger consumers show zero tolerance when a brand makes a mistake. If a Website isn’t good enough, they will ignore your brand, and if you get negative PR about something, it will stick no matter what you do to rectify it. Brands like Wal-Mart and Nike are still connected to negative PR about alleged abuse of foreign workers.

8) Social responsibility is no longer an option; what’s your cause, what’s your contribution?
Consumers now expect corporations to get involved in cause marketing. Businesses are doing a better job at getting behind causes, for example, Timberland (“Take a stand against genocide”), Target (“Every day Target gives back to the community”), eBay (its Giving Works program, for starters), and GE (which this year launched its Citizenship Report, an annual report of sorts regarding the company’s environmental and safety initiatives). Not all businesses promote these efforts, however, because they’re worried their efforts will be seen as commercial.

9) Pulse, pace, and passion really make a difference; had your heartbeat checked recently?
We’re in a crazy world. We keep piling more devices upon us. The more you have, the more you need. If your business does not have a high metabolic rate, you’re not going to survive. Companies like Google move fast, and that means the older, slower companies are doomed.

10) Innovation is the new boardroom favorite.
Brands are inspired by Apple more than anyone else. They transformed the music business, and people are taking what they did seriously. Procter & Gamble and GE are driving this and have made innovation the core of their corporate strategy.

Gatekeeper Google's Unbreakable Algorithm

It seems we spend a lot of time talking about lawsuits filed against Google these days, what with Sumner Redstone’s $1 billion swing at the Web giant and all.

But it’s a smaller suit just dismissed by Judge Jeremy Fogel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California that may have larger implications and is infinitely more interesting.

KinderStart.com, a Norwalk, Connecticut-based company, claiming to be “the largest (and most popular) indexed directory and search engine focused on children zero to seven on the ‘net” sued Google in March 2006 alleging it had defamed the site by cutting it from its Web search ranking system. It argued that Google was behaving anticompetitively by skewing its search results to maintain its search industry dominance, reserving its top search placements for those paying premium fees.

But last Friday the judge quietly threw the case out, ruling:

“KinderStart had failed to explain how Google caused injury to it by a provably false statement … as distinguished from an unfavorable opinion about KinderStart.com’s importance.”

The ruling seems to be on solid legal ground, but here’s the thing: even if Google purposefully bumped a would-be competitor down in its rankings to maintain its global dominance, nobody would be able to prove it.

PageRank, Google’s trademarked process where a numeric value represents how important a page is on the Web, in only part of the secret sauce that makes the search engine so tasty.

Much like many recipes in the food world, a Google search is a matter of how much of each ingredient is being used — the “weighting” of each piece, reports Macworld. While there’s a bevy of information on the Web on the primary parts of the algorithm and what marketers or site owners should do to increase their rank, Google remains elusive on most of the 200 factors it uses to score pages and decide which page goes to the top of the results.

Even mathematicians familiar with the equations used to create the PageRank algorithm struggle with other non-numeric factors, Macworld reports. David Austin, a math professor at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich., who published a paper on cracking Google’s algorithm, says the secret sauce is really a popularity contest wrapped in linear algebra.

“It’s like you’re having a popularity contest and you think everybody gets a vote, so I can vote for as many people as I want to,” Austin says. “So if I vote for 10 people, I give everyone 1/10th of a vote. So who wins that popularity contest?”

But then Google goes further. “They take a second pass through it, and look at who voted for who,” he explains. Google assigns a value to the importance of the site that casts the vote (or links to a site), and that site can pass on its popularity and importance to the site it linked to.

Gupta chisels away at the PageRank algorithm simply by looking at what the No. 1 ranked sites are doing. “We have identified 250 parameters that Google studies to rank a site,” he says. “We’ve got labs where people are constantly monitoring the impact of each. But the birds-eye view is, how can we make a site simply perform well in the natural course?”

The answer is, they don’t know, and Google ain’t tellin’.

Until somebody masters the Google algorithm it will grow as the most powerful–yet opaque–gatekeeper of information and commerce on the Web. And you know what they say about absolute power…

Google’s unofficial motto is “Don’t Be Evil,” but even if they were being evil–manipulating searches to quash competitors–how would we know?

Posted by Alex Pasquariello at March 21, 2007 10:29 AM

Dealing with and handling change and uncertainty is one of the major challenges each of us faces in today’s world. And we face it in our business and personal lives. It can be said that change and uncertainty arrive together and that most people find it much more difficult to manage and endure ambiguity and waiting than to deal with changes as they happen. And, in my opinion, on thing is certain – each of us will face some type of change and uncertainty at multiple times during our life. So, what are some strategic actions we can take to deal with this change and uncertainty? Your Strategic Thinking Business Coach researched this question and developed seven (7) strategic actions to recommend dealing with change and uncertainty in business and life.

The seven (7) strategic actions are:

Strategic Action #1: Adopt an attitude that accepts and welcomes change and uncertainty as the catalysts for endless opportunities in your business life and personal life.

Strategic Action #2: Develop an understanding that “our thoughts” create “our reality” and that “our thoughts” will actually drive our response to situations. Negative thinking really weakens our creativity, problem-solving abilities, and our immune systems. Therefore, it is critical to think of all the possibilities of positive outcomes, rather than dwelling on the negative and problems.

Strategic Action #3: Develop a clear focused vision of the outcome(s) you are striving to reach, then proceed with passionate pursuit and deliberate intention to reach your vision and goals.

Strategic Action #4: Build an unbreakable spirit and use the awesome power of your spirit and its mysterious blend of emotional strength, energy, character, passion and “will” to defy all odds against reaching your vision and goals.

Strategic Action #5: Use the power of strategic thinking and keep the image of your vision in front of you at all times, instead of having your attention and efforts diverted toward the negative.

Strategic Action #6: Free yourself for your future by “letting go” of the negative and the past. Each of us on each of the days of our lives decides how we respond to life’s challenges. We have a choice to play the role of a victim and feel sorry for ourselves and seek pity, blame others and become very angry. Or we can choose to “let go” and look ahead for what positive things are yet to come.

Strategic Action # 7: Postpone your judgment about your today and your tomorrow until they become your yesterdays. Judge the present by taking advantage of viewing it through the clearer and more powerful lens of it being the past. I believe there is great truth and wisdom in saying that our tomorrows often look very different when they become our yesterdays.

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 http://www.businesscoach4u.com or jgecoach@aol.com

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