Monthly Archives: June 2013

7 Reasons Why Customers Should Be #1

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Ilya Posen put up this cool article on LinkedIn yesterday. It is written primarily to customer serving folk but I believe his ideas on what persuades people in this article are universal. Give it a read!

The customer is king. Believing otherwise will likely drive your business into the ground.

Here’s what I mean: Far too many businesses are stuck on perfecting their ideas, products, or services, when the real focal point should be pleasing the customer. Those businesses and brands who do cater solely to their user will always win in the end. But transforming your company to better serve your customers may not be as simple as it sounds.

To get more proactive insight on putting your customers first, I spoke with John Tabis, the founder and CEO of TheBouqs.com, an LA-based cut-to-order online flower delivery company. After recently receiving a $1.1 million seed round of funding, it’s clear their focus on improving the overall customer experience hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Here are a few tips from John to get you on the fast-track to putting your customers first:

1. Define and focus. Before your can begin to improve the overall experience for your customer, you must first understand who they are and what they really want. Toss out the idea of having a broad audience and hone in on the specific target market most relevant to your business. Research their basic interests, wants, and needs and begin transforming your business to better accommodate these aspects.

2. Keep it simple. If you’re really looking to stand out, simplicity will be your saving grace. Far too many businesses think their customers want fancy features and end up overbuilding their products to the point of no return. In reality, your customer craves a simplistic experience with no unnecessary features, “extras”, or gimmicks.

For example, Tabis knew a stealthy, no-nonsense ordering process mattered to the target audience of TheBouqs.com. They created a straightforward, honest, and simple way to purchase their product that involves one flat fee, only 40 bouquet options to choose from, no hidden fees, and just three clicks to checkout.

3. Tout your personality. Who says simple can’t be fun? Make your brand more memorable by injecting it with a level of personality. TheBouqs.com may have a simplified ordering process, but their website and online presence boast a youthful and engaging level of personality. From their bouquet names to their use of photography, one click-through of the website gives customers a taste of the energetic personality of their brand.

4. Find what’s missing in your market. This mixture includes equal parts of knowing what customers in the market want and understanding what your competitors aren’t doing right. By fixing this disconnect and filling a void, you’re not only going to stand out from your competition, but also have a chance at changing the market in the process.

In the flower industry, many businesses have completely forgotten about the buyer by throwing in hidden fees, spamming marketing materials, and trying to sell non-bouquet extras in the purchase process. TheBouqs.com got to the heart of this big market-related issue, which also positively transforms the customer experience as a whole.

5. Develop a pleasant experience. By making your customer’s interactions and experiences as efficient and effective as possible, you’re ensuring their return. Streamline interactions and processes to cut the fuss and put your customers at ease. This means providing fewer clicks at the point of purchase and keeping fees as transparent and standard as possible.

6. Show them respect. Giving your customers an unmatched experience is only possible through respecting their time and inbox. Don’t spam your customers with marketing materials or hit their inbox too often. Too many businesses believe this is a way to keep their customers “in the know” when it’s actually working to push them away. At TheBouqs.com, they send out one email a week. For your customer, twice a week or daily might be best. You need to customize your marketing to match your customers wants and needs.

7. Play to your user’s values. Sure, you may doing your best to give your customers what they want in terms of experience, but keying in on their values will show them you really care.For instance, TheBouqs.com knows their customers value social-responsibility. They built their business foundation on this value through partnering with eco-friendly, sustainable farms that respect the environment and their farmers.

When it comes to your customers, giving a little will get you a lot in the long run. Put your customers first and you’re sure to come out on top.

 

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Leading is Like Walking a Tightrope

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image courtesy of nbcbayarea.com

Perhaps you were like me Sunday night and you watched Discovery Channel’s SkyWire special. If not, well, I’ll fill you in: Nik Wallenda, a renowned tightrope walker and daredevil, walked across the Grand Canyon with no harness or catchnet. Every second was caught on film and it was intense.

This whole event got me thinking about leadership and management. Nik embarked on an all-or-nothing adventure that would make or literally break him. Much of our daily lives are similar. We are forced to walk a tightrope, where consistency, balance, and pace are imperative to keeping us alive. Without a balanced tactic, we run the risk of sliding off of the narrow tightrope and failing. The stakes are high as a leader and person in the spotlight round the clock… but the rewards are also worthwhile and life is ultimately satisfying.

The other thing to take from this is activity. I’d never heard of Nik Wallenda before Sunday night. In order for us to be effective, we need to be in the game and leading alongside others. If we sit around on the couch eating Doritos and watching tv all day long, our amazing potential to affect others may never be realized.

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5 Questions with Hsuanwei Fan

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Hsuanwei Fan

Name: Hsuanwei Fan

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Occupation: Teach For America Corps Member assigned to the Los Angeles School District

1. Think back to when you were extremely motivated by a boss, leader, or teammate. What did they say or do that motivated you so much and why did it work?

I think the best kind of motivation I’ve received from a leader is seeing them lead by example. It is one thing to try to lecture a team to victory and a whole different story with the one in charge LEADING the charge. I like seeing my leaders in action because then their passion for the cause becomes evident, and it is a good way for them to also display their expertise at whatever you’re trying to accomplish, which wins me and my loyalty and respect over a hundredfold over just words that were meant to be inspiring.
2. When have you been very unmotivated by a boss, leader, or teammate? Why did it create a feeling of un-motivation to do your job better?

I think the worst kind of example a leader could set is a display of incompetence. It is important for leaders to continue to educate themselves and sharpen their skills so that in the end, they are not only seen as someone who delegates responsibilities and sit back. Another trait that makes it difficult for me to respect a leader is when they are extremely closed-minded. A good leader is able to take and value input from different people, regardless of whether there is an impressive title or credentials by their name. I value leaders who can take constructive criticism and occasionally change their mind for the benefit of the cause or project that the team is hoping to accomplish.

3.What is one characteristic you look for in an effective leader?
I think I may have touched upon this quite a bit in the past two responses, but another characteristic that impresses me in an effective leader is the ability to be versatile and resilient. A leader who can quickly adapt to drastically changing situations calmly and without panic helps the team remain focused on solutions rather than uncertainty. In the face of a setback or disappointment, a leader who is able to remain optimistic and reassuring can inspire hope, which is much more preferred compared to the alternative.

4. Think back to when you were extremely motivated by a boss, leader, or teammate. What did they say or do that motivated you so much and why did it work?

I think the best kind of motivation I’ve received from a leader is seeing them lead by example. It is one thing to try to lecture a team to victory and a whole different story with the one in charge LEADING the charge. I like seeing my leaders in action because then their passion for the cause becomes evident, and it is a good way for them to also display their expertise at whatever you’re trying to accomplish, which wins me and my loyalty and respect over a hundredfold over just words that were meant to be inspiring.

5. When have you been very unmotivated by a boss, leader, or teammate? Why did it create a feeling of un-motivation to do your job better?

I think the worst kind of example a leader could set is a display of incompetence. It is important for leaders to continue to educate themselves and sharpen their skills so that in the end, they are not only seen as someone who delegates responsibilities and sit back. Another trait that makes it difficult for me to respect a leader is when they are extremely closed-minded. A good leader is able to take and value input from different people, regardless of whether there is an impressive title or credentials by their name. I value leaders who can take constructive criticism and occasionally change their mind for the benefit of the cause or project that the team is hoping to accomplish.

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How Do You Define Success?

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Once upon a time, I had a conversation with a friend. We talked about his work. I remember asking him “Do you meet your numerical goals?” and they responded with “I am not sure – I don’t know what my goal is.”

The manager inside me shrieked in terror upon hearing that.

Friends, employees, leaders, managers – how often do we get frustrated when people aren’t doing what we hope for them to do? However, instead of feeling frustrated, perhaps we should turn the focus on ourselves.

Have we defined what success looks like for the people around us?

It can be a number. It can be a qualitative goal.

If we define and validate what success looks like to those around us, life will be much easier… and we will become more successful.

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Stop! Look! Listen!

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I recently switched departments at work. This is a common thing in our company and facilitates personal and professional development for leaders, as well as simply changing up the leadership voice for each department.

Receiving a new assignment as a leader comes with a responsibility to NOT act. As leaders, we are wired to act, act, act, and create change around us constantly. We want to develop and evolve our tasks at hand. However, we need to also remember to stop, look, and listen to those around us. If I were to come into this new challenge and change stuff up immediately – even if it made perfect sense – I would absolutely isolate my employees and miss out on their valuable input and insights.

As leaders, we need to slow down sometimes.

We need to earn the respect our employees, followers, and peers.

By stopping, looking, and listening, we will achieve success.

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5 Questions With Mark Keating

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Mark Keating

Mark Keating

Singer Songwriter (TMG)

Think back to when you were extremely motivated by a boss, leader, or teammate. What did they say or do that motivated you so much and why did it work?

The sense of motivation came through a couple different ways. There was the opportunity aspect and the prospect of a challenge. The best example of this that I can think would be a situation with a band I used to play with. I started acting with them when I was 17 and the more opportunity I was given to do different songs the more I rose to the challenge and grew as a musician.

When have you been very unmotivated by a boss, leader, or teammate? Why did it create a feeling of un-motivation to do your job better?

The circumstance in which there was a lack of motivation came from a different boss, one that I also no longer work for. The obvious displays of favoritism and being passed on for opportunities for advancement played a key role in that. Self-motivation can only get you so far when a manager creates an environment without incentive. You don’t motivate the worker who is being treated less favorably because their efforts reap no fruit and it spoils the others into not striving for anything.

What is one characteristic you look for in an effective leader?

I look for honesty in a leader. If a manager or boss can’t look honestly at a situation and make the best decision based on facts instead of opinion or favorable feelings then the company or group will suffer. This includes being able to honestly discern the employees’ skills and capabilities.

When have you motivated another person to better themselves or to be more productive in their job?

I go into any sort of leadership position, however big or small, with the same attitude. Treat an employee or a student with a sense of respect. Actually expect something of them but give them the tools and opportunities to do succeed. I have done that with music lessons with my students by having shows in which they can demonstrate what they’ve learned and feel proud of it. I’ve done in more normal job settings by training people then letting them do it. I don’t constantly hover over them waiting for a mistake. If a mistake is made I offer help but allow them to try and remedy the situation themselves.

What is one piece of advice you’d give towards aspiring leaders?

My piece of advice would have to be warning against the destruction of micro managing. No employee exceeds expectation while being micromanaged. No employee grows as a leader themselves if they are not delegated some responsibility. You end up with a team of well-trained yes men and that does not for a good company make.

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Leadership Is Climbing the Mountain – A Trade with Strategic Monk

I love being original and keeping things fresh with this website. My friend, Greg, over at StrategicMonk.com came up with a cool idea: trade posts. So… I’ve posted on his website, StrategicMonk.com, and his entry with the same title is posted below. Enjoy!

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The gently rolling hills of Wisconsin, smoothed by glaciers so long ago, are a great place to be born and raised. They did not, though, teach me many lessons about climbing mountains.

Mountain climbing was a purely theoretical exercise for me. There were pictures of mountains in books. They brought to mind exotic names of distant places like the “Alps” or “Himalayas.” They were far removed from my everyday life.

The first time I ever saw a mountain was from the window of an airplane. It was majestic, but still did not give me any practical insights into mountain climbing.
In the same way, leaders were not people with whom I recognized having any real connection. They were pictures in books or on television.
Now I live in a place where I can see mountains from my front window. I have climbed mountains, and have a tangible appreciation for what it takes to climb them well.
The key to climbing mountains, and to leading, is taking the next step. It is good to have the right equipment, but you would be amazed at what you can improvise. It is good to have experience and information, but analysis can also stop us from doing what we need to do.
Each step is significant. Each step determines what comes after it. Each step informs you about your own resources and insights, and helps you see your true self more clearly. Each step is a journey of its own.
As we take each step into the unknown future, we turn potential into reality and possibilities into results. We learn the lessons each step has for us, and we transform the exotic into the everyday.
What mountains are you climbing today?
Where will your next step take you?
You can read more of Greg’s reflections on leadership at his website, StrategicMonk.com, or follow him on Twitter at @StrategicMonk.

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