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Are you planning an exit?

There are dozens of things to consider when you are planning an exit from your company. Most of the time you’re thinking about the valuation, the operations, the people, and whether or not the chemistry with the company you’re selling to or merging with will work.

There is one big, gigantic process you must go through prior to even considering an exit strategy. What does your brand stand for? Does it align with the culture of your organization? Do you communicate on a regular basis with the people in your organization and do they understand what your corporate North Star is? If you answer no to any of these questions you should take a step back to better understand how to align your company brand and culture.

This process requires a fair amount of diligence and understanding regarding the personality of your brand. In other words, you must treat your brand as though it were another person or a role model. All brands and cultures are unique, they are not like other brands and cultures. It doesn’t make sense to look at some other brand and say to yourself, let’s be like that brand or let’s be like that culture. It simply does not work that way. The Brand and Culture Alignment Toolkit (BCAT) consists of instruments that measure and map the shared perception of a team’s Brand and Culture, and methods that apply this information to enhance team performance. Based on an analysis of all of your team members’ responses to the BCAT Survey, the BCAT Team Report describes what your team would be like if it were a single “virtual person” at work, a Role Target, doing its best to keep all of its promises and reach all of its goals. It provides insights and actionable guidance that can help the leaders and members of this team work together more effectively.

Once you’ve identified the role target for your company and have a clear picture of what the brand stands for, only then can you develop your employee base and the culture of the organization to become more like the brand personality.

The next step is to ask for a personal alignment plan where each individual commits that they will act and behave in a manner that is consistent with the brand promise. So, on a daily basis, each employee commits to doing two or three things that move them closer to that brand promise. It’s only then that your company brand and culture will align. 

You will see better morale, a more engaged workforce, higher productivity, lower absenteeism, and a greater value for your organization. This should always be the first step in developing and mapping out a plan for an exit, and a real danger by not performing this task prior to any plan for exiting your company. #getbcat #newroi #alcini

Paradigm Thinking

Paradigm thinking.

For over a hundred years, baseball statisticians looked at the same data for each player, depending on the position. Then in the early 2000s, Billy Beane came along and changed the way baseball statistics were viewed. It began the era of Money Ball, a point in time that continues until today where sabermetrics has become an important role in evaluating a professional baseball player.

What’s interesting about Money Ball and sabermetrics is that in years past if a player hit .285, drove in 85 runs and hit 25 home runs, he was considered a star player. But, when further looking into the important situations a player was in, say for example with runners in scoring position, his batting average was far below the .285 he hit during the regular season, his value may have actually decreased.

Anyway, there’s lots more to talk about with regard to Money Ball. In today’s business world, the valuation of a business is being examined. We are in the era of pre-Money Ball for business. Dave Bookbinder’s recent book entitled The NewROI –Return on Individuals has shed a different light on the value of human capital. We can now draw a direct correlation between something called the Brand and Culture Index of Alignment, Employee Engagement and the Human Capital Value Equation.

We have amassed a community of companies or businesses who are working on the value of the human capital equation and we are finding some revealing statistics. We are in the throes of a revolutionary paradigm shift in the valuation of businesses based on the human capital element. Want to learn more?

No way this can happen!

Imagine walking into your office one morning at 7:30 when you’re typically the first to arrive. This time, there are four or five colleagues who beat you into the office. One of them bought coffee and another bought bagels and donuts. They’re from different departments and are already working on a project together, getting along well, and happily solving perplexing issues. The project is on time and on budget. The results are extraordinary.

How did this all happen? Could it happen for you?

Think about your organization as it is today. Consider the leadership, the teams, the mission.

Now, visualize your organization doing its best work on its best day, like the one you’ve just imagined.

That’s where we start when we begin the process of a brand and culture alignment.

An alignment enables your company to clearly understand its brand, what the brand stands for, and whether or not employees are moving in the same direction to uphold its promise. In other words, it helps your organization identify its “True North,” develop ways to stay the course, and offer you guidance as you do.

Why does this matter?

Because it’s easy to craft a well-written mission or vision statement. But words on paper will never guarantee results. Only a unified and committed work force who understands the company’s True North and contributes excellence in its pursuit can bring the words to life.

With alignment, employee engagement goes up; absenteeism goes down. Profits go up; mistakes go down. Morale goes up; complaints go down.

Is this really possible?

Well, it’s not magic, although it might seem to be. It’s more science, smart action and thoughtful communication that get everyone clear about the company mission and their role in preserving it.

Schedule a Brand and Culture Alignment to make the seemingly impossible a real-life scenario in your organization, every single day.

Making brand experiences dynamic, consistent and effective requires highly trained and motivated employees

It usually takes the business world a while to catch up and understand the value of new ideas and innovative practices coming from the academic community. The intrinsic value of internal branding has been discussed for many years on campuses around the world, but it finally took a five-year study to prove the point fiscally. Recent studies prove that effective communications plays a significant role in delivering a total shareholder return of as much as 29.5%. These numbers are powerful proof that employees like to be involved with the business in many ways. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. Organizations with poor communications have a negative 15% total shareholder return against comparable businesses.

Businesses spend tens of millions of dollars on external marketing communications plans only to have leads sit on a desk or the prospect under-whelmed by the first impression of a colleague. We all sit and wonder why the ad campaign didn’t work, the finger pointing begins and the ad agency is fired or even worse, you are.

Internal brand communications is certainly not a difficult concept to grasp, however the methods by which we communicate and what we share may be. Keep in mind that this is not a marketing or human resource issue, it must be a company wide initiative. Employees want to know where the company is headed strategically, financially and from a community standpoint. Employees like to see their names in newsletters and in e-mails, sharing the news connect people to people. You will find that throughout this post, we site specific methods of sharing information by well known brands and the importance of such communications in corporate structures.

Many of us have experienced eyewitness accounts of colleagues and employees not delivering the company “brand promise”, it can be both frustrating and more importantly financially draining to the business. We’ve all experienced walking into a retail environment only to be disappointed by the way we were treated, we tell our friends and family and they spread the bad news. The ripple effect can be devastating to the business.

So how do we change it? Strong leaders, across the company buy-in, making the emotional connection, communicating a million ways and holding people accountable are the keys to a successful and effective communications program.


Cold calling is alive and well, survey finds

Those who have been sounding the death knell for cold calling may have to reconsider their thinking. Customers are still receptive to cold calls. 

A recent survey of 1,000 executives, ranging from Fortune-ranked companies to small- and medium-sized businesses, conducted by DiscoverOrg showed that nearly 75% of decision makers took a call or gave a salesperson an appointment as a result of a cold call.

The data makes a strong case for the effectiveness of cold calling at a time when skepticism has been placed on the cold call and increasing attention has been devoted to social media, blogging, white papers and search engine optimization.

Keys to success

Of course, the decision makers surveyed weren’t high on all cold calling. It has to be done right. And the opening minutes of a cold call are the most critical. The challenge is to get the prospect past the “I’m not interested” or “I’m happy with my present supplier” responses.

The best way to do that is to get prospects interested enough in your opening statement to give you time to make a presentation.

Here are five tips that will help your sales staffers open a cold call successfully:

  1. Establish rapport immediately. Studies show that getting an appointment during a cold call depends 65% on the rapport the salesperson establishes with the prospect and only 35% on the product or service. Unless you get the prospect’s attention quickly, having the best product or service won’t result in a sale.
  2. Identify key problems. Prospects become customers when salespeople solve problems for them. The difficulty with problems is not in finding them but in getting prospects to admit to them. To overcome the initial barrier of resistance, try to find out exactly what’s important to the prospect and why.
  3. Distinguish the prospect’s goals. A salesperson becomes invaluable to the prospect when the salesperson shows that he or she understands the prospect’s goals and has the ability to help the prospect reach them.
  4. Develop the ability to persevere. Once problems are identified, back up your solutions with persistence and determination. Don’t consider the possibility of failure. The ability to persist is what it takes to overcome the most difficult obstacles in opening new accounts.
  5. Understand the objectives and strategy of the prospect’s current supplier. It’s not enough to think about how to convert a prospect into a customer. You also have to think about winning the battle with the present supplier, your competitor. Try to evaluate the present supplier’s position, strengths, weaknesses, strategy and resources.

Demonstrating credibility

It’s not enough to tell prospects you offer better service or quality than your competitors during a cold call. Prospects want to hear specifics about why you’re better.

Here’s a formula that helps show the difference more effectively:

  • Present unique qualities. What can you offer that nobody else can? Try to convert the value of your products or services into financial results.
  • Highlight advantages. What do you do better than the competitor? Give prospects what they need to understand the unique qualities of your product or service.
  • Establish parity. If there’s little difference between you and a competitor, look for minor ones that may add up to a competitive advantage.
  • Offset disadvantages. Are there areas in your product or service in which competitors have a definite edge? Focus on the advantages you do have to offset these disadvantages.

What prospects want and need

Cold calling can’t be successful if you don’t know what prospects want and need, think and feel, like and dislike. It all boils down to getting information. It’s not enough to ask questions. You have to prove to the prospect that you’re listening.

Two tips that may help:

  • Paraphrase. Repeat in your own words what prospects say. It lets them know you’re listening and have a clear idea what’s being said.
  • Summarize. Repeat in your own words one or more main points the prospect has made.

It takes courage, discipline, practice, patience and desire to make cold calling pay off. Attitude drives all of these behaviors. We behave as we believe. What we feel on the inside, we generally demonstrate on the outside.

That’s why pessimists have such a poor record while optimists excel at cold calling. Even when turned down for an appointment, cold calling encourages salespeople to do more research on a prospect and come back with a successful approach.

Adapted from the book “Lessons from 100,000 Cold Calls,” by Stewart Rogers, a sales trainer.


Business users creating content? Really?

Isn’t it amazing that much of what we encounter in today’s business climate is still kept in silos? We continue to build business models so that silos perpetuate themselves until we face the difficult task of breaking them down and reestablishing the culture we really want in our business. The hard work of convincing companies to become more engaged at every level in the organization is giving rise to a new, more collaborative organization, which will add to the effectiveness, and efficiencies companies need and deserve.

Since the financial crisis hit the world economy, there has been a push to do more with less and a compression of functions within corporations around the globe. We are starting to see a gradual erosion of select and specific roles played by employees. Think about typing your own correspondence today versus how business was conducted 25 years ago. It’s much different today than when an administrative person handled all departmental communication.

With the sharing of information through various means in the world of communications, ie: all forms of media, printing, big data, data analytics, we are beginning to see a change from the silo mentality to a more open and cooperative form of conducting day to day business. The speed at which the communications industry has helped us interact will continue to force the consolidation of roles across all industries.

Imagine if your content is pre approved and created by marketing? The look and feel always matches branding standards set by marketing. You will have instant access to design tools by business users for self-service, no waiting for creative staff to work it into the queue. It will be as flexible and as simple as using Amazon.

Or imagine the day where a typical business user can create content based upon a brand strategy and direction set by the organization? They would have the necessary tools to communicate directly with a prequalified prospect and customer base, which was previously vetted by the analysis of streams of data both resident and purchased.  There will be unprecedented savings and efficiencies the likes of which not previously seen in the arcane world of business.

For more information on how to accomplish this, call Mark Iorio at 609-643-4073 or email to schedule a time to talk.

It’s all about the people!

Marcus Lemonis was the guest speaker at this month’s Latin American Economic Development Authority (LAEDA) dinner at the Ray and Joan Kroc Community Center in Camden. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Lemonis, he is the chairman and CEO of Camping World and Good Sam Enterprises, and the star of CNBC’s The Profit, a reality show about saving small businesses. One of his key themes of the evening was the responsibility that comes along with running a business. Giving back to the community was a key topic, but during the course of the question and answer period, someone asked him about return on investment models and how he decides whether or not to buy a broken business. To our surprise, Lemonis said he doesn’t really factor return on investment into his decision-making, but instead looks more at people, process and product.

I couldn’t help but think that what’s driven our business over the last twenty seven years and the fact that “committed” people are an essential part of our company’s success. Profits always follow good business practices driven by good people!

So, from a billionaire to a struggling entrepreneur there is another valuable lesson to be learned . . . care about your people your business will flourish.

People Problems and Your Brand

I recently had the pleasure of attending a presentation made by Noam Wasserman of The Harvard Business School and sponsored by Edison Partners of Lawrenceville NJ. Professor Wasserman spoke about his bestselling book, The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a StartupFounder's Dilemmas, which resulted from over a decade of research and collaboration, studying business entrepreneurs and why their companies failed over time.

Wasserman concludes that over 65% of businesses fail as a result of poorly defined roles and responsibilities. In addition, there is a lack of clear understanding about leadership roles in the new company.

Poor communications is an issue that rarely goes away. If you understand that many businesses fail due to poor internal communication, you can look back to the development of the brand and why the brand is important to the employees of the company. This effort requires a diligent process of understanding the language stakeholders use when describing the product or service. Once we’ve distilled the common words and phrases used in the research, we begin the process of building the brand positioning statement which becomes the touchstone for all communications going forward. The communications I refer to includes all internal as well as external communications. The message being delivered to internal and external stakeholders must be consistent and true, factual and steady. Consistent messaging and by-in by employees can only help the advancement of the delivery of the brand promise.

The lesson here is that it is always difficult to talk about issues that confound and frustrate us, but like the proverbial elephant in the room, the topic will come back to haunt us. Be prepared to understand what people want and distill the message into thoughtful, consistent language and you will go a long way to insure your company is successful.

Brand Engagement – Olive Garden Fails at the Fundamentals

This recent blog post on recaps a report detailing how Olive Garden has lost its brand focus (the report is from hedge fund Starboard Value and there are links in the post that get you to more details). It’s an important reminder about the importance of brand engagement at all levels of an organization.

Say what you will about the food, at its heart Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant. From ” ‘According to Darden management, Darden decided to stop salting the water to get an extended warranty on their pots,’ Starboard, which is in a proxy fight for control over Darden’s board, explains. ‘Pasta is Olive Garden’s core dish and must be prepared properly. This example shows how disconnected Darden management is from restaurant operations and how little regard Darden management has for the guest experience. If you Google ‘how to cook pasta,’ the first step of Pasta 101 is to salt the water.’ “

What are you selling?

Those of you who listen to podcasts and/or National Public Radio have probably heard This American Life. It’s a great show, right? I love it too but rarely do I find a business justification for listening until a recent episode went straight to my heart as a marketer. Give it a listen . . . it’s worth a hour of your time.

Episode 533: It’s Not the Product, It’s the Person
Starting a business is not for the self-doubting. Or even usually the self-deprecating. The first thing you have to sell is yourself — like dating, but with a greater chance of landing in debt. Alex Blumberg tells the incredible, sweat-stains-and-all saga of a man fumbling through starting a new business, and the man is: himself. Plus, new stories from Mike Birbiglia and Love + Radio.