Monday Mornings with Madison

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Turning Customers into Fans

Every company claims to offer superior customer service, or some such assertion. Excellent service is touted so often as a distinguishing feature in marketing and promotional materials that it really has little meaning. When companies with the worst record for service talk about their ‘commitment to service’, that’s when it’s sadly obvious that the term ‘great service’ has lost all meaning. Think Comcast Cable, a company that consistently tops the list of worst service providers year after year and did so again in 2017 Think Wells Fargo, also on the worst service list, who was caught creating millions of fake customer accounts last year. Actual great service – service that goes above and beyond and consistently makes customers happy – is rare and can, therefore, really be the ultimate differentiator in business. That kind of service is about going beyond the basics. It is about helping customers to not just connect with a company, but actually invest themselves in the brand.
According to Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles in their book Raving Fans, “Your customers are only satisfied because their expectations are so low and because no one else is doing better. Just having satisfied customers isn’t good enough anymore. If you really want a booming business, you have to create Raving Fans.” They wrote that over 20 years ago. Having sold over 12 million copies, their book aimed to help business owners learn how to define a service vision, identify what a customer really wants, institute effective systems, and make stunning customer service a competitive advantage—not just a “flavor of the month” program. Of course, technology and robotics is changing how we interact with customers in a multitude of ways, raising the bar ever higher on the level of service customers expect today. So what does it take for a company today to deliver a level of service so profound that it turns customers into fans? How can a company or organization lead customers to become so emotionally invested in the brand that they become raving fans? Die-hard fans? Continue reading

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How to Find Talent Today, Part 2

Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, wrote that “Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” Regardless of what a company does, having top staff is essential to every organization. From mortgage lending to manufacturing and from waste disposal to web design, companies need good employees in order to execute. But, with the overall unemployment rate at a historic low of 4.1% and with the bachelor’s degree-holder unemployment rate holding at 2.1% in many gateway and key secondary markets, it places serious constraints on the ability of companies to grow or thrive.
According to Steven Lindner with The WorkPlace Group, “With fewer unemployed people in the market, recruiting qualified candidates becomes more difficult. Employers must now begin to consider including other tactics in their recruitment strategy.” To compound matters, a thriving economy prompts companies to expand, requiring even more staff just when there are fewer candidates available. It’s a perfect storm of decreased supply and growing demand. That’s when HR Departments and Hiring Managers must get creative with their recruiting efforts. Not only do they need new strategies for attracting and retaining talent, they also need innovative sources for talent. Fishing in the same waters as everyone else will surely produce a smaller catch at the end of the day. It’s time to try new fishing holes. Continue reading

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How to Find Talent Today – Part 1

Bill Gates once said that “The competition to hire the best will increase in the years ahead.” The truth is that finding the right people to fill job openings has never been easy, but he was right that it has gotten harder. With the unemployment rate holding at 4.1% nationwide — which is at the lowest level since 2000 and before that the lowest level since 1970 — it is getting harder (and may get even harder still thanks to stimulus from the tax overhaul) to find employees without throwing huge salaries and loads of benefits at the problem. And finding highly-skilled, educated and experienced talent is even harder.

Sometimes, the challenge is finding people with the education, experience and skills to fill a high-level job. Think of a CTO for a blockchain currency company. Other times, the challenge lies in finding people with a combination of skills and experience that is hard to find in one person. Think of a CMO for a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company that raises capital for real estate and is expanding into Latin America. Still other times, the job may require a very deep level of knowledge in a niche area that few possess. Think of a Chief Hardware Design Engineer for the Avionics department at SpaceX. Or the job may be in very high demand and it may be hard to find someone who wants to leave an existing job to take a job with a less well-known company or one that isn’t offering as high a salary or benefits. Think of programmers in Silicon Valley or Investment Bankers in Manhattan. It can even be hard to fill customary positions — such as customer service, accounting, tech support, and sales — if a company simply has a lot of vacancies to fill because it is growing. Given the today’s job market, what should hiring managers do today to find talent? Here are some ideas. Continue reading

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How to Use Artificial Intelligence to Boost Business

Word Count:  1,751 Estimated Read Time: 7  min. As news articles tout how big advances in technology will make certain jobs obsolete, fear of technology is growing.  Think robotics and blockchain.  This fear of displacement is real and, to some … Continue reading

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The Search for Sound Business Advice

The world is changing fast… so fast that saying those words simply doesn’t do justice to the rapid-fire speed of transformations. New technologies, terminologies and strategies emerge practically daily. The Blockchain. Artificial Intelligence. 3D printers. Biohybrid Robots. Underwater drones. Quantum computers. Virtual Reality. Augmented Reality. Fusion Energy. Gene Editing. The list goes on and on. There isn’t an industry or field in which advances are not happening at a dizzying pace. And thus businesses are having to evolve at a faster pace. Business leaders are having to parse through mountains of information to determine what matters and what doesn’t, and then how to act on it. More than ever, there is a need to quickly separate the wheat from the proverbial chaff to identify quality information and apply it wisely. But how do we know what sources are offering advice that is solid, reliable and worthy?
It used to be that certain publications, books, news channels, universities and organizations that were considered the gold standard for business advice. But as media has struggled to keep up with the digital age, sources that were once considered unimpeachable have begun to allow chaff in with the wheat. Universities have begun to conduct studies on behalf of big business to skew information in one direction or another. No longer can an organization or publication be accepted at face value as completely reliable. Thanks to self-publishing and print-on-demand, having a book in print does not necessarily make an “author” of a business book an “authority” on business. Leaders and managers must be much more discerning of what information is consumed, trusted and implemented. So how do you sort out the nonsense and fluff from solidly researched and validated information?
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Customer Service Is Everyone’s Job

Just whose job is customer service anyway? Most companies have a Customer Service Department that handles questions and complaints from customers. These employees are usually individuals who are skilled at handling customer complaints and knowledgeable in how to best answer questions. These are typically people who have ‘a way with people’. They are empathetic, good listeners and excellent problem solvers. The best customer service people have a calm demeanor, are likeable and genuinely care about the people they are helping.
So, are those the only people who are responsible for customer service? In today’s business landscape that reeks of service ranging from mediocre to downright lousy, creating and reinforcing a service-centric culture is an excellent way to differentiate a company from its competitors. But it requires that every member of the team adhere to that customer-centric focus. It means customer service becomes everyone’s job. Just what does that look like? Continue reading

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Grit is an Essential Ingredient for Success – Part 2

Most every leader, entrepreneur and manager wants to have and hone the qualities that contribute to and best predict success. For example, most leaders want to demonstrate the qualities of confidence, organization, selflessness, structure, humility, and conscientiousness. But, in excess, even the best leadership qualities can become flaws. Someone who is too confident can become arrogant. A person who is too organized can become obsessive. A person who is too selfless can become a people-pleaser. A person who is too structured can have trouble being creative. A person who is too humble may not be able to inspire others to follow. A person who is too conscientious can become neurotic. However, there is one trait that every leader should have in as much abundance as possible. That is grit, a perseverance and passion for long term goals. There doesn’t seem to be such a thing as too much grit. The more grit a person has, the more they press on in the face of adversity. There is no downside to it.
Grit is a key trait – or combination of traits – that is absolutely essential for success. And, according to Dr. Angela Duckworth who won the Genius grant for her study of grit, it is also an excellent predictor of success. People with grit usually demonstrate courage, resilience, conscientiousness, follow-through, and excellence in very specific ways. A person with grit usually has a goal he/she cares about so much that it organizes and gives meaning to almost everything he/she does. Best of all, grit is something that can not only be learned, but also something that tends to increase with age. Continue reading

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Grit is an Essential Ingredient for Success

Practically every major business news outlet has written or broadcast an article or show in the last few years about grit. New York Times. Entrepreneur. Inc. Fast Company. Fortune. Business Insider. Wired. Forbes. NPR. Psychology Today. Slate. Washington Post. Ted Talk. American Radio Works. Success. PBS. Why is this topic getting so much media attention? While there has never been a shortage of books and theories about what it takes to succeed, the current focus is on grit because it is not only an essential ingredient for success, but also a top predictor of success too. And doesn’t everyone want to know if they have what it takes to succeed?
Let’s start by understanding what grit is. All of these articles aren’t referring to the Meriam-Webster dictionary definition of grit as “courage and resolve; strength of character; indomitable spirit”, although it does have some relationship to that. In its application to human behavior and success, grit is defined as “a positive, non-cognitive trait that is based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or end state, coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve that objective.” In other words, it’s about having a perseverance and passion for long term goals. So, based on that definition, grit isn’t actually a single trait as much as a rich stew of traits that, when combined within a person, becomes more like a super trait…. and thus an excellent predictor of success. People with a lot of grit are usually successful. So exactly what does grit look like in practice. And, is it possible to deliberately increase our ‘grittiness’? Is grit an inherited trait that some people simply have (like winning the lottery of personality traits), or is it something that is learned? Continue reading

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Updating Your Corporate Brand with 2018 Design Style

The relentless pace of change is accelerating. Just keeping up with technology, systems, processes, laws, regulations and trends can be positively draining for corporations. Every time we blink, some other aspect of business has evolved and requires updating. With the arrival of 2018, companies big and small are reviewing, revisiting and restructuring their legal and operational organizations to maximize the financial and tax benefits. There is so much that will need to be overhauled in just those areas alone. It is easy to overlook sales and marketing when everything else needs attention, and that would be a mistake.
It is also important to review and revamp a company’s brand to keep up not only with big changes in design but also to ensure that the company’s identity has the portability to be viewed across a multitude of devices and outlets. Companies of all sizes are streamlining and optimizing their brands to ensure they resonate across a wide array of mediums, audiences and platforms. To tear a page off Nike’s playbook, it is key to build a brand with ongoing appeal to every demographic and across every medium worldwide. Indeed, when it comes to universal brand appeal that is continually evolving, Nike is King. But actually all savvy brands understand that a brand’s identity – the look, feel, voice, attitude and personality — is not something that is created and done. It must evolve with the times and trends. To that end, what should corporations be considering as they look to update their brand to today’s design trends? Continue reading

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Employee Loyalty and Employee Turnover in 2018

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in the U.S. is holding at 4.1%, the lowest it’s been since December 2000. In fact, for the first time on record, there has been job growth for 86 consecutive months. This is considered by most economists to be close to or at “full employment.” The stock market has also been setting records seemingly every month. Greg Ip, a writer for Dow Jones Newswires, reported last July on Fox Business that “the economic expansion is now entering its ninth year and in two years will be the longest on record.” That is now a year and a half away and economic expansion continues. By all accounts, this is the hottest economy the U.S. has had in a very long time.
Current tax reform is expected to further spur economic expansion and business growth. Companies are poised to take advantage of the myriad of tax benefits. Many businesses are already making plans for capital improvements, equipment updates and new technology purchases. Armed with updated systems, businesses are expected to expand their geographic reach and/or product lines. A surge in the creation of small businesses is also anticipated given the tax benefits for pass-through companies. By all accounts, if there was ever a time to start or grow a business, it is now. All of this business growth will likely spur increased hiring, which will likely push the unemployment rate even lower. How will a heated labor market affect employee turnover given the U.S.’s current labor force? Continue reading

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