Archive for the 'Brand Image' Category

Is There A Business Revolution?

Over the past two weeks I’ve spoken to two groups about business changes happening in the UK and thought I’d share some of the discussion.

As we all know the past few years has been full of stories of greed, corruption and poor business practice. MP’s expenses, Bonuses for failure, phone hacking, payments to officials by journalists and even match-fixing in sport. No wonder some people wonder if the whole world in on the make!

Marketing being reviewed
So it’s come as no surprise to me that many business teams are looking at their marketing and highlighting their ethical and moral values image to customers and to each other. It includes behaviour of staff both inside and outside of work, guarantee of product satisfaction, standards of production, client handling, remuneration and so on.

Extravagant displays of wealth
But how will this translate in the future? I think that extravagant displays of wealth by companies and their employees are a thing of the past in order to avoid this reflecting badly on companies. Gone are the days when bankers will be photographed swilling Krug after their bonus payments. Not because they aren’t buying Krug or getting a bonus but because the Bank doesn’t want such photographed splashed all over the media and causing adverse comment from clients and regulators. Teams are being warned to avoid displays of wealth that may reflect badly on the employer.

Future displays
One wonders how business will display to clients in the future?
Will offices be more spartanly decorated, how much will be spent on flowers and art, whether to have leather or plastic visitors chairs for reception and how will employees dress?

I also suspect that in the future customers will favour businesses that look as if they don’t spend too much on employee comfort. This will be especially true of professional firms such as solicitors and accountants that charge fees and supply a service. On the other hand they won’t want to look as if they are short of money!

Yet I can’t see the customer abandoning their desire for the latest Apple Iphone and even the latest fashion clothing item.

It looks like being an interesting balancing act for business.

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Becoming Business Savvy

Did you read that the CIPD (Chartered Institute for Personnel development) conference discussed how HR should become more business savvy to increase their impact.

Too little influence
For years the CIPD have been moaning that HR has too little influence at senior levels in so many businesses. One solution given to the conference was to “Discuss business challenges as opposed to HR Issues”.

Changing attitudes
The problem with this strategy is to persuade CEO’s, Directors and other Executives that HR is able to discuss “Business issues” when they have been used to discussing only HR and as a reaction to events as opposed to a developer of strategy.

In my experience such a change in emphasis would be easier for a “New Hire” HR Director or manager rather than a current incumbent!

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Don’t ask “Can I Help You?”

Over the past few weeks I’ve been talking to some managers responsible for teams of sales assistants in large retail shops. The task was to show them how they could restructure their team’s approach to customers that would generate an increase in sales.

In this videoclip I tackle two main problems.
The first is the problem with asking “Can I help you?” that too often destroys a sale.
Secondly, how to generate multiple sales

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The Paralysis of “You’re Brilliant”

Yesterday I had a great time with some business friends discussing the scandal of the NOTW and Rupert Murdock’s business empire. We all agreed that there have been lots of occasions when businesspeople believe their created image that they then become paralysed when things start to go pear shaped.

“You’re brilliant”
Director paralysis isn’t new. This often comes from having people around you that always tell you how brilliant you are. The more a business leader hears it the more they come to believe it. Murdock’s thousands telling him how brilliant he is seemed, at the start of the scandal, to create a paralysis of understanding of the seriousness of the situation. This, as is so often the case, was translated by the UK public as being arrogance.

Then again I’ve observed Directors of much smaller companies believe their own image and create similar problems for themselves. Like the Sales Director who joined an insurance company saying he had come to “save the company” when most people didn’t know, or believe, that it needed saving.

Or the Managing Director who told me that in twenty eight years at the head of his business he’d not made a “New hire mistake ever”. In fact he told me that he could identify a success when “they walked through the door“. His staff turnover was very high and continually created problems for his sales.

“Remember you are mortal”
As generals drove through the ancient Rome after winning a war a slave at the back of the chariot would whisper in their ear “Remember you are mortal” in case they believed the crowd’s adulation. I wonder how many CEO’s would consider hiring someone to continually question their thinking, just in case they thought themselves infallible?  

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Business being murdered

The report showing serious concerns raised by the NHS care regulator about the way some hospitals in England look after elderly patients highlights a problem in the management of health care for the elderly. But is this a general problem of management in the UK?

The Care Quality Commission said three had failed to meet
legal standards for giving patients enough food and drink and treating
them in a dignified way. Not surprising then that people are puffing out their cheeks and saying that it’s disgusting and that things must change.

Rules, rules  and Regulations
The problem is, how? The UK and much of Europe is weighed down and being murdered with regulations on this and directives on that. Indeed one of the explanations we all understand for people prevented from doing something quickly is “Health and Safety mate”. We shrug our shoulders and accept the inconvenience.

This was demonstrated to me twice yesterday when, funnily enough, I was visiting a hospital to talk to some executives and offered a cup of tea. I picked up the pot from the counter to pour the cup for myself to be told that I had to allow my host to pour it in case I spilt hot water over myself, “Health and Safety”. After being handed the cup of hot liquid to hold I marvelled that I was allowed to drink the dangerous liquid on my own!

The second situation I came across was the location of a lead free electric kettle. “Which shouldn’t be too close a sink in case the water from the sink caused an electric shock”. Again Health and Safety was quoted!

Statistics before customers
I agree that business needs to record information, particularly for those in hospital that will aid recovery but this shouldn’t be at the expense of providing the service that the customer or patient expects? Would it not be possible to design a system that allowed nurses more time to administer care as opposed to filling out forms?

But hospitals aren’t the only area where this question could be applicable. Too often in business we record statistics, create and follow procedures and are constrained from giving a good service because the rules don’t allow the time to allocate towards giving the customer what the customer wants.

Sign above the door
It reminds me of the time when a company wanted to increase customer handling and I asked a Director about the policy for making customers feel welcome. The answer was, “We have a sign above the door “Welcome to the store” and every receipt has “Thank You” printed on it”.

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Do self-help programmes really work?

I’ve been struck in recent months by the number of products being offered for improving or developing a persons personal “brand” or “image”.

There’s a profusion of courses, books and CD programmes that promise instant impact with those you meet and lead, career success and, of course, instant riches by creating the “right impression”, “instant respect” or being seen in the right places.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that these things aren’t important. It’s only an idiot who thinks that dress, image and an ability to communicate aren’t vital to one’s career. Indeed it’s only a few days ago that I spent some time persuading an aspiring manager that having the 007 ringtone on his mobile might not be creating the best corporate image.

I’m also a fan of trainers who train people to describe themselves and what they do in a more succinct statement than some of the sermons we have to suffer at networking meetings. Actually I subscribe to the rule that an “elevator pitch” that’s greater than 35 words is a waste of the listener’s and speaker’s time.

However, I feel sorry for those that buy these programmes simply as Pollyfiller for the chip on their shoulders or who believe that it will produce instant and lasting results. One book isn’t enough to change a person overnight from a boring fart to a sparkling raconteur. What it can do is to make the person aware of the improvements they can make with effort.

I agree with a well known founder of a social media network who recently said to a group of delegates at a conference on the topic of self-wealth programmes, “Remember, no-one’s interested in making YOU rich!”

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Social Intelligence is Essential to Reach The Top

To succeed in today’s business climate it’s not enough to have general intelligence coupled emotional intelligence to be a success! Social Intelligence is also an essential requirement.

Over the past year I’ve been spending increasing amounts of time working with aspiring executives and explaining that their colleagues want the top job as much as they do and that often the only difference between candidates is their social intelligence.

it’s more than a smile, walking around the office thanking people for their work, being at the top of people’s party list or even having a sense of humour. Social intelligence is the ability to set oneself apart and to be identifies as the candidate for leadership because people are attracted to you and will follow.

I so enjoy working with people to develop their social radar and create an understanding of what will create and harm reputation. So the manager who accepted that having the 007 theme tune on his mobile phone was’t  the “coolest corporate image” was in fact demonstrating a distinct lack of social intelligence.

Creating a personal presence so that we can empathise with people’s feelings and, here’s the difference with emotional intelligence, being able to manage how we work with others despite our internal emotional feelings is now an essential tool.

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Winner of Poor Shopping experience medal

Loads of shops say they deliver an “excellent shopping experience” who, in reality, don’t. So I’ve decided to award these businesses my own “Poor Shopping Experience Medal” and the first is awarded to Homebase in Bridgend.

Yesterday I needed some bubble wrap, the stuff that protects fragile objects. Homebase in Bridgend allowed me to buy it by the metre at £1.49 (meter in USA) and some kind assistant walked me to the back of the store and cut a length after measuring it against a ruler.

I took my neatly rolled bubble wrap to the counter to pay. “Three metres of bubblewrap” I helpfully told the young lady behind the till. “I’ll have to measure it” she said as it was unravelled. Then looked at me as if I was trying to steal the crown jewells “It’s five metres”.

Now I’m sure that Homebase suffers from people trying to walk out of their store without paying for some items but I can think of more valuable things that two metres of Bubble Wrap!

“But I only want three” I protested. She turned to the manager and shouted “He says he only wants three, can we call Fred to recut it”. Having originally waited five minutes for Fred to arrive to cut the original amount I could see this taking more valuable minutes and hold up an ever increasing number of annoyed people in the line behind me. “I’ll take it” I said in frustration. The bubble wrap was passed over to me to refold with a look of “I knew you were trying it on” from the lady and probably by others in the line behind me.

Can I suggest that Homebase could save time, misunderstanding and embarrasment when their shop assistants cut lengths of bubble wrap, or anything else for that matter, that the customer is given a note to show at the pay counter as proof of the amount requested. Self cut lengths could then be measured in the usual manner. Then I would suggest Homebase train the cutters in measuring a metre length. Until then my award medal for poor shopping experience goes to Homebase in Bridgend, South Wales.

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Displaying Personal Presence at networking events

Last week I attended a number networking events and was surprised at how badly some people use them to make contact with people. At one I was monopolised by someone desperate for an appointment to sell their product to me and was sticking to me like glue. After a boring fifteen minutes I managed to introduce him to someone that, on relection, I’m sure was a waiter and then I managed to move away.

At another meeting I met a very nice couple who subsequently told me that they wanted to meet me  again because I was “the only person that looked as if they were having fun”

A lot of my Senior Executive mentoring time is spent on creating “personal presence” and a personal brand image and this includes how to network.

The most common mistakes we talk about are:

  • Monopolising a single person (Between 5 and 10 minutes is generally enough before inviting someone else to join the conversation in order to to create a larger group)
  • Describing what you do and your benefits to a potential prospect in more than 21 words (rambling and ill constructed descriptions are boring and confusing. If it takes more than 15 seconds to say it’s time wasted)
  • Not acting as a host to the group (leading the group by initiating introductions, leading topics and making sure that everyone gets to say something)
  • Being too serious (only wanting to talk about business. Have fun and make sure others are having fun too)
  • Handing out business cards instead of collecting them
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Is there value in a diploma with no written exam?

I’ve just had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine about business qualifications being one way to improve job prospects during a downturn in job opportunities. However he pointed out that Training Journal reports that the National Skills Academy for Financial Services (NSAFS) is launching a  qualification aimed at senior financial advisers wanting to upgrade their skills that doesn’t have a written examination. The FSA is expected to approve the qualification on 6th February.

Simon Thompson, CEO of CIOBS, which is awarding the qualification, said: “We know the great majority of existing advisers provide high quality advice to their clients day in, day out, but some may struggle to demonstrate this in a traditional, written examination”.

I may be mistaken, probably am, but if they find a written exam difficult then writing reports to clients advising on pensions, investments and so on to look after their client’s money is probably also a struggle?

My friend suggests that qualifications awarded on work assessment should be indicated by the eletters (WA) 

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