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5 How to Hold Productive Meetings That People Don’t Actually Hate

This post is one in a series of tips for making your small business run better and is sponsored by UPS.

Scheduled communication may be one of the most powerful team and accountability building tools available when done the right way.

photo credit: MoDOT Photos

Meetings are an essential aspect of getting things done, collaborating and delegating, but for many they are the bane of business life. People actually leave companies because of the life draining nature of their meeting culture.

This commonly accepted feeling about meetings comes about because most people have been trained to handle meeting in one of two ways.

One is the “I hate meetings, so just come to me if you have a problem” method. Of course this is quite possibly the most frustrating approach for all concerned. This approach leads to lots of wasted time and the every ten minute or so interruption.

The other approach is what I refer to as the “I’ve called a meeting, but it’s really a reading” approach. In this approach managers read from a list of to-dos that could have been sent via email and then propose some things to try to get buy in.

This second approach eventually leads to adopting the first “I hate meetings” attitude and drains any sense of commitment from all involved.

Here’s the deal: you need meetings, perhaps frequently, but you need them to be energetic, useful and in the words of consultant Al Pittampalli – modern.

In Read This Before Our Next Meeting, Pittampalli lists the seven attributes of what he calls the modern meeting. This is a great framework for how to think about meetings that generate energy and action.

1. The Modern Meeting supports a decision that has already been made.
2. The Modern Meeting starts on time, moves fast, and ends on schedule.
3. The Modern Meeting limits the number of attendees.
4. The Modern Meeting rejects the unprepared.
5. The Modern Meeting produces committed action plans.
6. The Modern Meeting refuses to be informational. Reading memos is mandatory.
7. The Modern Meeting works only alongside a culture of brainstorming.

Read Pittampalli’s book before your next meeting and consider making it a gift to everyone in your organization.

Adopting this approach to meetings and making it the “accepted meeting protocol” in your organization will reduce the need for meetings that drain, hold anyone that calls or attends a meeting accountable for action and even keep the boss on task. (Well, maybe)

Pittampalli’s last point can’t be emphasized enough.

Brainstorming is an essential business tool as well, but it’s not the same as a meeting. Meetings are for making decisions, brainstorming sessions are to throw out ideas, discuss constraints, test theories and get feedback on ideas.

You need an entirely different framework for brainstorming. You need to frame the idea, throw roles and titles and encourage big thinking. (And, don’t forget to feed everyone well.) In fact, brainstorming sessions should be held offsite in settings that encourage and foster creativity.

Far too many meetings are really just protracted brainstorming sessions where little gets done. Hold advertised brainstorming sessions as special events to take advantage of this unique tool, but resist the temptation to bring this dynamic into meetings.

Again, meetings are for making decisions, most everything else can be handled with email, IMs and texts.

This applies to team meetings, all hands meeting and even one on one meetings.

Embrace this mindset and watch what happens to the energy, accountability and action produced from meeting that nobody hates.



8 Are Relationship Management Skills a Predictor of Success

This post is one of a series of posts sponsored by UPS in support of the Inc Growco Conference held April 6-8 in Las Vegas, NV

Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone and Who’s Got Your Back has built a multimillion dollar business out of his passionate message regarding relationships. In fact, he boldly claims that relationship management skills are the number one predictor of the success of an organization.

Now, to some, the idea of intentionally managing the relationships in your life, both personal and professional, may seem a tad contrived, and it certainly can be, but it’s really a matter of focus.

The things you pay attention to, the things you focus on will thrive and grow. With the crush of business running responsibility shouting in your ear, it can be easy to neglect your most important relationships. This can be true of a spouse or an important customer.

On the stage in Las Vegas, Ferrazzi’s presentation lacked cohesion. It felt as though he was giving a two hour presentation in a one hour time slot, but there is no way to ignore how much he believes in the power of the personal relationship as a tool to grow your business.

I’ve read and reviewed both of Keith’s books and appeared on a panel discussion with Keith and Seth Godin. I think Keith’s message is an essential part of the overall marketing mix and one that must be incorporated into your daily and weekly rituals.

Here’s an action step takeaway for you to sink your time into today:

  • Identify the 50 most important people to your business (this list will includes clients and current relationships, but it should also include people you would like to form a relationship with – stretch a little here)
  • Pick out 5 people on this list and do your homework on them (Use social media to learn more about what they are talking about)
  • Reach out to each one with a specific action item or way to help them

Simple, small steps, taken repeatedly in a focused and sincere effort to help others get what they want might be the best way to summarize relationship management at its finest.

If you want to take long term dive into Ferrazzi’s approach check out his Relationship Academy

12 How to Create a Culture Overhaul

This post is one of a series of posts sponsored by UPS in support of the Inc Growco Conference held April 6-8 in Las Vegas, NV

Culture is marketing. That’s my take anyway. Culture touches every part of an organization and that means it touches every part of the customer experience.

Sometimes companies come to the painful realization that what they perceive as a product or sales problem is really a culture problem. People aren’t shown how to serve, examples of shoddy work are ignored, there’s no connection to a simple mission that resonates. Consequently, the business floats aimlessly, always on the brink of the next contraction.

I had the occasion to visit with Dan Goodgame, VP of Corporate Communications for Rackspace and he recounted the story of how Rackspace founder Graham Weston came to the conclusion that their business was dead without a complete strategy change and subsequent overhaul of the culture.

“Change is hard,” that’s the message on the opening slide of Dan Heath’s presentation during his session at the Inc GrowCo Conference. Dan and his brother Chip are the coauthors of the best selling book Switch. (I interviewed Chip – Made to Switch for an episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast.)

In the book Switch, the Brothers Heath introduce the idea of the two states of human change. They portray the emotional side as an elephant and logical side as the rider. The rider mistakenly believes they are in charge and guiding the elephant, when in fact the elephant often goes where ever it wants. (Like straight to the cupcake store)

Here’s Health’s Prescription for Change:

Direct the Rider

Culture change requires strategy change at every level in the organization. People need to understand why change in coming, why it’s a good thing and how you intend to prove you’re serious about. That’s the logical part and it’s only half the deal.

The reason change is hard and why any attempt to create a culture shift in an organization will fail is because we attempt to convince the rider. The rider already has the data and knows what to do, that’s the not the issue.

Motivate the Elephant

Notice this doesn’t say talk to the rider. The elephant must be inspired and this is a tough one, particularly if you’ve taught them bad habits for years.

This step requires a radical change in mission, direction from the top and may even require changing a handful of customer and employees relationships.

But, this part will fail if you can’t define the new mission in dead simple terms. If you try to build a culture on the idea of “being more customer focused” don’t expect anything to happen.

If instead your new culture goal starts, as did Rackspace’s, with embracing the term “Fanatical Support” and then that term is driven into every communication and you start giving out the “straightjacket award” to the customer support actions that are so over the top people call them crazy.

Words and slogans are easy, finding simple ways to inhabit the words may be the hardest thing you ever do.

That’s how you start to motivate the elephant, but a word of warning, this will take great inertia and great commitment – we’re talking about an elephant here.

Culture shifts come about only through small actions repeatedly over time.

Shape the Path

Ambiguity is the enemy of change. If you’re culture shift is a desire to be much more customer focused you must develop a checklist of action steps, processes and behaviors that deliver this objective and are easy to understand.

And, you must reward people for doing them and insist that it’s now okay to fail from time to time as long as you fail in favor of a customer focused activity. The easiest way to get the change you desire is to make it for people to be successful delivering it.

You must be obsessed with dissecting every daily action into steps that collectively create the change you are seeking

32 My Analog Toolkit

UPSThe International Business Series is brought to you by UPS. Discover the new logistics. It levels playing fields and lets you act locally or globally. It’s for the individual entrepreneur, the small business, or the large company. Put the new logistics to work for you.

Seems like the entire world of business is digital these days. And I have to admit I spend a great deal of time running my business with laptop, mobile device and the Internet.

Email is digital, contact is digital, lead generation, education, and advertising has all gone digital. Heck, when I’m working in my office, my tunes are even digital.

That’s why I cherish the handful of analog things that keep me grounded to the fact that no matter how high tech we become, so much of what’s rewarding about being in business, whether it’s around town or around the globe, is found in things that are high touch.

Today I’m sharing my high touch or analog toolkit in hopes that it reminds you a bit of things that keep you unplugged, balanced and using our sense of touch.

Sensa PensSensa Rollerball Pen – I love the feel of writing wiht the Sensa X400 Rollerball Pen. I use a pen so infrequently that my handwitting is pretty bad unless I use a high quality ink and take my time, but that’s a big part of why I wrote this post. One of the values of clinging to analog things in our lives is that they make us slow down and feel more of what we are doing right now.

moleskinMoleskine notebook – I know you’ve heard me go on about this product, but I use it every single day, even on weekends. I use two sizes – one that I carry with my whenever I leave my office and the larger size that sits at my desk for the creation of my daily to do list. I love having the past weeks and months worth of lists there in the notebook. I have stacks of both of these sized filled from years of doing. It’s kind of fun to go back and page through them.

business cardBusiness card – The real need for a business card – a tool that delivers your address, phone or email – is pretty limited in business these days. For the most part people can either find the info online or zap it to each other electronically. In a way this shift has made the business card an opportunity to make a statement. With the functional need removed you can put your energy into producing something that makes people go wow, that’s cool. Since people aren’t using them that much you have the ability to stand out by doing so.

note cardNote cards – I’ve been sending handwritten notes every Friday for as long as I can remember. I also keep a stack of simple, branded cards on the corner of my desk for the purpose of sending thank you and just thinking of you kinds of notes. I can’t tell you how many referrals and nods of appreciation this little habit has drawn. People don’t write cards to each other any more and you stand out in a very positive way when you do.

file foldersMulti-purpose plastic file folders. I got this idea from David Allen’s Getting Things Done. I have a set of folders for each month and then another one for travel documents and things I need to read and review when I can. The plastic folders take any amount of abuse and just make me feel more organized. Of course I put typed out labels on them as well.

I would love to hear about your most cherished tactile analog tools.

12 The Logistics of Time

UPSThe International Business Series is brought to you by UPS. Discover the new logistics. It levels playing fields and lets you act locally or globally. It’s for the individual entrepreneur, the small business, or the large company. Put the new logistics to work for you.

Time is a funny thing – it’s the scarcest resource we are allowed to use. There are countless books, software programs and systems that aim to help us manage and control it, but for the small business there is a complex set of variables that come in to play.

time

Image: gadl via Flickr

I’ve begun to apply the term logistics more broadly when it comes to running a business. The term is commonly used when referring to the idea of delivering a product or set of good from one location to another, but what if you began to think about the logistical consumption of time to deliver a result from one state to another. I think that’s what small businesses must do at the highest level and the manager or owner of that business brings the highest value when they can orchestrate, not manage, time – the organization’s greatest resource.

Stay with me on this because now I need to add another layer. Today it’s not enough to show up and create a to do list and call it a symphony of time. Today every business has three clocks running at all time – and the management of the flow of goods, information and other resources, energy and people and depend on observing each of these clock – although they run at different paces.

Today’s business needs to live simultaneously in real time, deal time, and meal time.

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2 Hidden Challenges Lurking in Global Business

UPSThe International Business Series is brought to you by UPS. Discover the new logistics. It levels playing fields and lets you act locally or globally. It’s for the individual entrepreneur, the small business, or the large company. Put the new logistics to work for you.

international

Image: See-ming Lee via Flickr

The Internet has certainly made expanding into all corners of the world an appealing reality. For very little extra expenditure businesses can set-up a virtual shop in any country within a matter of hours. Attracting and hiring the best talent available on the globe may only be an email away.

For this post I asked two entrepreneurs that have experienced what it takes to do business or enable other businesses to do business globally to share some of the pitfalls and best practices they’ve encountered.

First up is Ryan Carson, founder of UK based Carsonified.

1) Tell us about your current business environment – companies, virtual workforce, markets served, etc

Carsonified hosts conferences for web designers and developers like Future of Web Apps and Future of Web Design in NYC, London, Las Vegas and Miami.

We also run a video training site for web designers and developers called Think Vitamin Membership where members pay an affordable monthly subscription and get unlimited access to our large video training library. Our customers are truly global, spanning all the way from Japan to Russia and everywhere in between.

We’ve got nine people in our office in Bath UK, three in our office in Orlando and one working from home in Greenville South Carolina.

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7 A New Model of a Sustainable Business

UPSThe International Business Series is brought to you by UPS. Discover the new logistics. It levels playing fields and lets you act locally or globally. It’s for the individual entrepreneur, the small business, or the large company. Put the new logistics to work for you.

When it comes to green business practices there’s a long held notion that in order to adopt sustainable business practices you needed to make sacrifices, pay higher prices or receive lower profits.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of interviewing Tom Szaky, CEO and founder of TerraCycle, a company now considered by many to be one of the leaders in the production of recycled, sustainable, and green products. TerraCycle builds all of its products using a practice they call “upcycling” and has a lot of people rethinking this idea compromise.

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4 Engaging Your Collaboration Universe

UPSThe International Business Series is brought to you by UPS. Discover the new logistics. It levels playing fields and lets you act locally or globally. It’s for the individual entrepreneur, the small business, or the large company. Put the new logistics to work for you.

universe

Image credit: Argonne National Laboratory via Flickr

In my view one of the most positive things the Internet and its host of associated web applications has fostered is our ability to collaborate over space and time.

Many organizations have tapped the power of online meetings, shared virtual workspace and file sharing, but few take a holistic view of the new social strategic reality of the collaboration universe.

Since we now have the ability to collaborate with anyone, anywhere, we need to start looking at the various groups or segments present in our businesses with an eye on developing business processes that take full advantage of our innate need and ability to collaborate.

This view of collaboration is partly tool based and partly systems thinking based. It is more than an efficient way to get work done; it’s an entirely new way to think about engaging your markets, building connection and community, and empowering your staff to more effectively deliver on your marketing promise.

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14 Customer Service Is Everyone’s Job

UPSThe International Business Series is brought to you by UPS. Discover the new logistics. It levels playing fields and lets you act locally or globally. It’s for the individual entrepreneur, the small business, or the large company. Put the new logistics to work for you.

serviceHere’s something your customers won’t ever tell you but that you had better understand: Your employees probably treat your customers about the same way you treat your employees. Let that soak that in for a minute, and think about the ways your everyday behavior might be affecting your organization’s ability to generate positive buzz.

Organizations that provide the best customer service consider service traits when they hire and treat their employees like prime target customers. It makes sense, of course; happy employees are much more likely to represent the brand in a positive manner. Let’s face it: Companies aren’t capable of making emotional connections; people are. But it takes effort.

In all but the most technical positions, much of what employees do on a day-to-day basis can be taught. It’s much harder, however, to teach someone to be trustworthy, to give, or to serve. Yet, as stated above, these are key traits of organizations that known for great service.

If your organization has more than two or three employees it’s a pretty good bet they will interact with customers and prospects in ways that will affect your brand. So the question is, are you hiring and training to create a service culture?

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3 Creating the Mindset for Global Marketing Success

UPSThe International Business Series is brought to you by UPS. Discover the new logistics. It levels playing fields and lets you act locally or globally. It’s for the individual entrepreneur, the small business, or the large company. Put the new logistics to work for you.

Global BusinessGrowth in some mature industries may only be achieved by reaching out to emerging markets. To succeed with global expansion you must adopt an internal mindset that treats each new culture as a unique market segment.

Assuming that entering a global marketplace is simply a matter of applying what you do in your domestic marketplace is a recipe for disaster. As you analyze potential expansion into other parts of the world you must start by understanding the differences in each market, as well as the commonalities, with an eye on developing a unique approach to each

Name a champion

Think of your global expansion like you might any large project – the first step is to find, hire, or appoint a champion – someone that can view getting your global expansion off the ground as both a personal and business opportunity.

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