Why the Next Ten Years of Technology Will Not Surpass Old School Technology

Computer technology is pervasive, a blessing and a curse. With the touch of a button you have access to an up to date picture of inventory, sales, and cash on hand. Assuming, of course, you have been disciplined about keeping this information current.   Technology is great when it works. Most importantly, it doesn’t always work. With a population of approximately 490,000 people, the city of Atlanta discovered what happens to technology when it is attacked by cyber ware. Five of thirteen departments were hit. Services were disrupted. Some departments resorted to paper records. When technology failed, old school methods rose to the occasion. We rely on technology. Maybe too much. Do you remember the last time you had to recall someone’s telephone number? Consult a paper map for directions is unheard of today. Just ask for directions from your phone or the navigation system in your car. How do you make good use of technology without turning in your common sense? There are still some quaint, old school methods that are important to learn and to use. Old School Methods for Today Know the cardinal directions of North, South, East and West. Since 2015 the US Naval Academy has required its seamen to learn how to use a sextant for celestial navigation. Take notes with a pencil and paper. Only do this is you want better retention of what you are learning. Write thank you notes by hand and mail them using a stamp. I prefer a colorful, interesting stamp. Email and texting may be faster. Nothing is as thrilling as receiving a thoughtful handwritten note by mail....

Why Customer Care Is the Secret Sauce to Success

Many companies tolerate poor customer care. Could the damage be $84 billion annually for US companies as some sources claim?  In a recent trip to an automobile dealer to purchase a car, the sales person stunned me. After a test drive in a pre-owned car with 25,000 miles, I asked for a copy of the CarMax report. He attached his business card to the report and put it on his desk. I explained this was my first stop in shopping for a car. He pushed the report across his desk to me. He said, “I hope I’ll be here to help you when you decide.” He stood up and walked away. That dealership has a slim to none opportunity to do business with me because of this experience. Poor customer care costs companies of all sizes. CTMA, a research group from New Zealand, calculated an 87 percentage point drop in customer loyalty if a customer was “very dissatisfied.” Not only do customers find another provider, they share their bad experience with others. See previous paragraph. Understandably business owners want to maximize profits by minimizing costs. Cutting costs in customer care training is false economy. Also, not knowing how your customers experience an interaction with your company, hides areas that could be improved or enhanced. What can you do to be profitable while providing excellent customer care? Invest your resources to train employees in all areas to be great representatives of your company. Include marketing, sales, operations, finance, and everywhere else. Make internal customer care as important as external customer care. Each division serves the other. Use technology wisely to...

What Your Employees Want You to Know About Authenticity

One obvious requirement of business leadership involves the universally respected value of trust. This leads us to the topic of authenticity. Are business leaders today seen as highly rated by their authenticity or are they seen as disingenuous, shallow, self-promoting or even dishonest? Are business leaders trusted? This is a hard problem to quantify. Entire industries, as we know, are sometimes marred by isolated scandals that lower the public’s view of them. When an oil tanker leaks, the reputation of an entire industry sinks. When the Great Recession hit in 2008, bankers were considered the scourge of their times. When authenticity erodes, profits tumble and the public wants someone punished. In a publicly traded company, this often goes straight to the top office. Your business is a microcosm of this dynamic. If a business leader is disingenuous or dishonest, middle management becomes restless and employees sense trouble. Discipline breaks down as employees begin to take shortcuts and feel more anxious about their job security. Morale falls and turnover rises. Blaming becomes commonplace. In the words of Ricky Nelson, “…ya can’t please everyone, so ya got please yourself.” Trying to please everyone is an energy drain. Who respects a leader who tries to make everyone happy all the time at the expense of her values? This is not sustainable. It’s a recipe for burnout. Authenticity promotes stability, strong company values and teamwork. It also promotes clarity and loyalty, both of which contribute to productivity. What can you do to establish greater authenticity among a diverse group of managers, division leaders and employees? Here are what your employees want you to...

Don’t Give Worry the Keys to Your Mental Real Estate

When the pressure is on, we worry. Everyone makes up stuff to some degree. Why allow these stories to occupy such valuable mental real estate? Some of us are more susceptible to worry than others. Regardless of your propensity to ruminate, it is quite expensive. For one thing, it raises your cortisol level which has a negative impact on your immune system. It gives credibility to the expression, “I’m worried sick about _________.” Worry looks important and it gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere–think rocking chair. So why do it? If you worry, it’s proof that you care. If you don’t worry, you are an unfeeling, callous person. So, do you do it to impress others? Does it solve anything? Just as I suspected. Nobody is impressed. It is an unproductive habit of recycling the same thoughts without any action to find a solution. With uncertainty of the outcome, it’s natural to envision the worst possible result. Most of the time what you worry about doesn’t happen or the outcome is not nearly as terrible as you imagine. Why spend sleepless nights turning it over and over in your mind and it makes no difference. None. Determine what you can control and make a plan to address your concerns. With brutal honesty, acknowledge the issue. Is it health, financial, relationships or business? Get the facts, not beliefs or opinions, about your dilemma. Identify the ideal outcome when the problem is resolved. Calculate the value of the ideal outcome. Decide what action is required. Take the first step. Be willing to experience something better than...

Use a Culture Makover to Yield Better Results

The shared assumptions, values and beliefs in your business, are the culture producing your results. How people in your organization dress, behave and execute their jobs is influenced significantly by this system. It’s everywhere. It permeates everything. It’s an invisible yet powerful force. It’s the corporate personality. The cost of a toxic culture can be high turnover, customer defection, infighting, inferior quality products, and more. Save yourself the effort of a brilliant strategy to solve the problem. The underlying issue is the culture your team and you have created. One summer I worked for a large state agency. I vividly recall looking up at the end of the day to see a line of my fellow workers waiting to walk out the door at 4:55 pm. I quickly learned that quitting time was 5 pm and not one minute later. Leaders set the course for the culture of an organization by their own behavior and action. Behavior that is rewarded persists and becomes stronger. What you pay attention to indicates it’s important. Allocating resources to something means it is of value. As an organization grows, leaders like to hire people like they are. So the behavior continues and it spreads. People who do not conform to the culture will either self-select out of the organization or will be fired. If they stay, it is at great peril to their wellbeing and that of the company. So to say they are “not a good fit.” If your corporate culture is counterproductive to your goals, you can take steps to change it. It’s not a quick fix and it is not...