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Google just took big steps to make search more secure. What it means for marketers? Time to rethink your SEO strategy.
Think search marketing is old fashioned? Maybe, but it's still probably the source of your most valuable customers. The thing is, the way you handle SEO has just changed for good--but not in a way that will make you happy.
Google has just moved to secure search. That is, all searches are now performed using HTTPS rather than just those for people who are signed into their Google accounts. Put in non-technical terms, that means that Google will no longer pass keyword search data to websites. That means you can't track users by the keywords they've used.
Knowing keywords is vital in online marketing because that's how you know what prospects and customers were looking for when they show up at your virtual doorstep. You might be able to adjust your content and targeted keywords and then see how each change affects trends, but forget real time. You're running blind. Here's how integrated marketing firm V3 puts it:
For instance, if I've got a client that sells little girls' accessories, and I know there's a lot of search traffic for the phrase "girls red tutu" (instead of, say, the phrase "red tutus for girls") I'm going to make sure my product descriptions on the website use that phrase, my blog content uses that phrase and my social media content utilizes that phrase. That's like using honey to draw the bees. You do the homework to find out what it is they are searching for, then make sure your marketing messages and content speak in the language customers and prospects use when they are searching.
The change at Google doesn't affect what other search engines like Bing do, but let's get real: Google has maintained about two-thirds of the search market. When you lose Google, you lose the big majority of the keyword data you used to get.
As V3 notes, this isn't a death knell. It takes the emphasis off getting on the first page of Google and puts it onto creating content that provides real value to customers and prospects. Simplistic strategies such as relying on the right combination of a few words lose power. Instead, you need the expertise to create what people will actually want to read, view, and hear. However, make no mistake: this is one major upset and a lot of marketers will have to make some big shifts.
Sometimes, just being the boss isn't enough.
As a pragmatic leader you have to justify your agenda if you want others in your business or to take action.
It is not enough to simply say, “This is a good idea. Let’s start right away.” You have persuade those around you that there is a need for timely, immediate action. While personal credibility and legitimacy are crucial to pushing a new agenda-;you must also be able to justify your new agenda with compelling reasons.
In trying to enlist people to join you in your effort, you should consider the four scenarios that you can use in making your case.
1. Rational Scenario: Look at the Numbers
By using a rational scenario, you present a by-the-numbers case for change. You show your business or team all of your careful analysis, detailed cost-benefit projections, and examinations of all the alternative options. You prove, to the degree that you can, that your idea is a sure-fire, clear-cut winner.
By asking people to look at the numbers, you’re asking them to take voluntary action based on sound data and logical projection. It is a great way to take raw emotion out of the debate and bring it around to the calculated benefits of your new idea.
Weakness: Some will argue with your calculations and challenge your assumptions, no matter how accurate or well-grounded they are. These objections can cause delay by subjecting your team to endless circular arguments about numbers, figures, and projections.
Relying on the rational scenario is difficult, especially when - as it does now - the economy seems uncertain. It will always be a challenge to have a “perfect” solution when we live in a world of bounded rationality, with incomplete information and data. While the rational scenario, in some ways, seems to the easiest to implement, it can be extremely time consuming.
2. Mimicking Scenario: Everyone is Doing It
Making the case that “Everyone is doing it” may seem simplistic, but it is often a very sensible justification when you don’t have the time or resources to experiment with an array of alternatives.
The mimicking scenario is great because it shows that your proposal isn’t that risky: “This has been done before and it worked. Why can’t we do the same thing?”
The fancy term for this, which you’ll hear in board rooms and meetings, is “best practices.”
Weakness: The mimicking scenario is very easily attacked by critics and skeptics. They can claim your idea is uninspired or, worse, claim that it won’t set well within your specific team or organization. Just because someone else has done it doesn’t mean you can match their results.
3. Regulation Scenario: They Made Us Do It
Laws or regulatory changes occasionally require an organization to change its processes and/or the way it operates. You can use these changes to justify your change agenda.
With a regulation scenario, there is a strong third-party mandate for change. It is not difficult for you to obtain information about rules and regulations particular to an industry to determine whether the regulations actually require changing operations. Though not always quantifiable, regulations are nearly always accompanied by a body of written documentation that can be easily accessed and cited when necessary.
Weakness: Acquiescence to regulation and pressure does not automatically translate to increased organizational effectiveness. Many industries may see regulatory changes once every decade, while changes in their business take place annually or every couple of years.
4. Standards Scenario: People Expect it of us
While regulations provide an explicit measure to justify change, standards expectations provide implicit reasons for change. When you use the standards scenario to justify your agenda, you are not proposing that the organization has to do something as much as you are suggesting that if the organization doesn’t do something, it will be at a disadvantage. Or, that if the organization does act, good things are likely to happen as a result.
While you may recognize that in the short term, this may not be beneficial to the bottom line, you believe that taking action that meets community expectations will have long-term benefits, such as customer loyalty, community trust, etc.
Weakness: This justification can attract critics who claim the short-term costs are too high and the change is basically unnecessary.
No argument is perfect. But these are the four basic, tried-and-true scenarios that will help you make the best case for your plans.
In a thriving startup culture, it's not unreasonable to wonder whether you should skip the academics and learn it on the job. Twelve entrepreneurs weigh in.
Entrepreneurs who have been there (and those who deliberately have not) share their thoughts on the whether an MBA is worth the time and money for the startup set.
1. Learning Comes From Doing
Many students in business school emerge with an idealized version of how business works. That idea is often outdated and unrealistic. No business school can truly teach you how to launch a successful business. You might learn some good tips and accrue some useful knowledge in class, but you'll learn the fastest by diving in and starting something in the real world.
--Patrick Conley, Automation Heroes
2. There Are Better Alternatives
Traditional business school wouldn't be worth it for my personal needs, so I enrolled in Josh Kaufman's Personal MBA program online. I hire coaches and take online courses from other entrepreneurs all the time. For the time and money, I find this approach to be much more tailored to my personal needs than enrolling in a standard business school program.
--Allie Siarto, Loudpixel
3. An MBA Is Worth It
An MBA gives you three things: an education that gives you high-level knowledge in leadership, incentives, sales, and operations; a network of experts you can tap and who want you to succeed; and credibility with investors and employees. I highly recommend an MBA. Just make sure you go to a school that focuses on entrepreneurship. --Suzanne Smith, Social Impact Architects
4. An MBA Is Useful but Unnecessary
Having the knowledge that comes with an MBA or business classes would be useful. However, receiving advice from those who have been there before, utilizing alumni resources to learn more, and actually doing the grunt work are what you truly need to learn the most about running a business. That said, some classes (accounting, business law) may be far more useful than trying to research those topics yourself. --Bryan Silverman, Star Toilet Paper
5. Connections Are Important
In business school, you can pick up specific skills, such as understanding financial documents. That said, most skills are in fact rather easy to pick up on your own. The best reason for entrepreneurs to go to business school is to make as many connections with people in the business world as possible. The connections will help when you're ready to start a company.
--Nick Soman, LikeBright
6. Taking School Seriously Has Benefits
Entrepreneurs who treat business or another graduate school as a job will find enormous benefits from earning an MBA. The classwork can inform all aspects of your business. Classmates can be co-founders and investors. Professors can serve as advisers. And a university setting can prove a fertile testing ground for any idea.
--Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches
7. Real Lessons Come From Work
Entrepreneurship is something that's very difficult to teach in a classroom. If you don't have real-life scenarios to which you can apply the learning, then classroom lessons are meaningless. If you've been in business for a few years, however, classroom learning does become valuable because it gives you a chance to reflect and think about ways that you can actually implement what you're learning. --Raoul Davis, Ascendent Group
8. It Depends
B-school was great, but it didn't teach me how to figure out the missing pieces and fill them in--that skill just isn't something you'd necessarily learn in a classroom. And that's what entrepreneurs are really adept at doing. However, B-school did give me an amazing global network that I can leverage for knowledge and support when attempting to solve problems, build my company, and ultimately realize the overall vision of what I'm trying to achieve.
--Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer, AirPR
9. Network Opportunities Make It Valuable
The best part about getting your MBA is having the chance to build your network. You have professors, faculty, classmates, and alumni to call on whenever you need them--for the rest of your life. That's an extremely valuable asset for any entrepreneur.
--Adam Lieb, Duxter
10. Conferences Are More Valuable
Instead of taking an extra business class, go to conferences, such as an Inc. 500 | 5000, Underground, or Big Omaha. You can also go on trips organized for relationship-building, such as Under30Experiences. Entrepreneurial conferences and trips can give you significantly more value because of the relationships you create, versus the lessons you learn in a classroom.
--John Hall, Influence & Co.
11. Experience Trumps Education
Real-world experience trumps traditional education in almost every way. I took years of business courses at Stern at New York University, and I rarely tapped into that knowledge base when starting my company. You can't take case study knowledge and simply apply it to the real world. Working for a startup for three months will teach you more about how to start a company than a year at a university. --Rameet Chawla, Fueled
12. School Shouldn't Be Required
You spend more waking hours with your colleagues than with anyone else. Here's an easy way to strengthen those relationships.
I recently attended the Wisdom 2.0 conference and one of my main takeaways was about the importance of being present--not distracted--when you're with people who are important to you. "Disconnect to Connect" was the motto and the entire conference was buzzing with ideas to build more human connection into our lives.
If you're an entrepreneur (or really any working adult), chances are you spend more of your waking hours with coworkers than with your own family. And knowing how important relationships are to your happiness, I'd like to encourage you to spend a little less time hyper-attached to technology and a little more time building deeper connections with people that matter to you--at home and at work.
Starting a morning meeting with one revealing question costs literally nothing, but can return dividends by way of building better relationships at work.
So, put down your cell phone. Pick a question from below. Ask it. See what happens.
1. What would you be doing if you weren't at your current job?
2. What more are you wanting in your career right now?
3. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are living right now?
4. Describe your biggest failure in business.
5. What is one word you would use to describe yourself as a child?
6. How do you recharge?
7. If you were to tell one person "Thank You" for helping me become the person I am today, who would it be and what did they do?
8. What one thing about you do you want in your elegy?
9. What movie or novel character do you most identify with?
10. When are you the happiest?
11. Fill in the blank: If you really knew me, you'd know_____.
12. What quality in you would you hate to see emulated in your employees or children?
13. If you were to start a company from scratch, what values would you build it on?
14. What would you most regret not having done by the end of your life?
15. What characteristic do you most admire in others?
16. What kind of impact do you believe you have on people?
17. What one memory do you most treasure?
18. If you could change one thing about how you were raised as a child, what would it be?
19. What super power would you like to have?
20. What would a "perfect" day look like for you?
21. What's the most important lesson you've learned in the last year?
22. How do you think your coworkers see you?
23. If you ruled the world, what would you change on Day 1?
24. How do you act when you're stressed out?
25. What are you most afraid of and what's it stopping you from doing?
Readers: What question would you add?
Lacoste is the latest company to fire an employee for a picture posted on Instagram. This as a bad move in so many ways.
Remember the utter shock you felt when, as a kid, you ran into one of your teachers at the grocery store? It was such a strange idea that your teacher needed to eat food, and that she actually left the classroom. You knew, of course, that she did eat food because you had seen her eat cupcakes that the moms sent in for birthdays, but the concept that she would actually go grocery shopping was just mind-boggling.
In some way, employers act like the third graders they once were, and are shocked (shocked!) that their employees have lives outside work. And furthermore, they not only have lives, they have Twitter and Facebook and Vine and Instagram accounts and--here's the really weird thing--sometimes they talk about work on these accounts.
And employers are desperate to control what is said and how it is said. And they do this by making absolutely foolish decisions in regards to social media. They monitor, they hover, they encourage tattling, and then freak the heck out when someone says something somewhere that wasn't approved by the corporate office.
Case in point: Wade Good, a Lacoste sales person in New York, posted a picture of his paycheck on Instagram, along with the following commentary:
Paycheck. Still silly to me. Ever since I was a kid I've thought it was completely insane that we have to work all our lives. I still feel that way. Especially when it's only enough to live in a third world apartment with [sh**ty] everything. Which for some reason in NYC is ok. ... I'm done with it.
Even though the Instagram account was private, one of his "friends" gave a copy of the post to Lacoste, who then fired him for violating "confidentiality." Because, of course, they want to keep things quiet and private and let's be honest, that worked well in 1972 and even 2002, but not so well now. And how do you know it's not working? Because you're reading this article, right now. And someone in Lacoste corporate HQ is reading this article, because they undoubtedly have alerts set up to report when people are talking about them.
And talking we are. First of all, it's highly possible that this termination wasn't just stupid, but illegal. Employment Lawyer Jon Hyman points out that this termination violates law. He explains:
Employees have an absolute right under the National Labor Relations Act to discuss with each other how much they make. It is violation of federal labor law to have a policy that prohibits wage discussions, or to fire an employee for engaging in such discussions. If Mr. Groom has any co-workers who follow him on Instagram (and it's a safe bet that he does, since someone gave the private photo to management), then the company might have a big legal problem. Regardless of whether the termination is legal, a "confidentiality" policy that prohibits wage discussions violates the NLRA. Either way, Lacoste should be calling its labor counsel.
So, not only is Lacoste getting bad press, they may find themselves in legal trouble. Why? Because they wanted desperately to control what someone said on their private Instagram account. Oh yes, and he made a negative comment about his salary not being massive. Let me tell Lacoste Execs and HR managers a little secret: We already knew that your sales people weren't making $250,000 a year because it's a retail job. The secrets you were desperately trying to protect? Everyone already knew.
Furthermore, if you hadn't fired him, we would never have heard about this incident because no one knows who the employee is and his Instagram account was private. The bad press on this was caused entirely by Lacoste, not Wade Groom.
You cannot control your employees' social media usage. You just cannot. You should have a good policy in place, but save your punishments for egregious things, like threats or proof of fraud. Do not fire someone for posting his or her paycheck. That's just dumb and possibly illegal.
If you cannot handle the fact that your employees may say something negative about your business, then stop looking for trouble. Because the employees will say it, and the internet will mock you.
Advice from entrepreneurs and TED organizers on giving a knockout speech on one of the world's most prestigious stages.
It was the scariest f---ing thing I’ve done in my life,” Derek Sivers says. Before him sat Microsoft founder Bill Gates, former Vice President Al Gore, and about 400 other audience members. Sivers, a lifelong entrepreneur, was about to share leadership lessons--by way of narrating a YouTube video featuring dancing hippies. He had three minutes.
It was 2010, and Sivers was onstage at TED, the biannual gathering known for serving up exquisitely crafted talks to the world’s big thinkers and leaders. TED presenters aren’t typically professional speakers but researchers, technologists, and other people simply doing interesting work. Months in advance, TED organizers hunt for new speakers and solicit proposals from past attendees. Last year, TED also began hosting a talent search that allows hopefuls to apply online and submit videos. “We want people talking about the ideas they most love,” says conference programmer Kelly Stoetzel.
About two months before the conference, speakers must submit an outline or script. Then, Stoetzel and her team help them hone their ideas and incorporate anecdotes. A month beforehand, they schedule a Skype rehearsal, during which the presenter gives the talk and gets feedback on structure, pacing, and clarity. After that, they encourage speakers to practice--with a stopwatch, in front of nonexperts, in front of a mirror, over and over again, and get the talk down to their specified time limit.
Then, a day or two before the conference, speakers do a dry run on the actual stage, with countdown timers running, to get a feel for standing there, looking out at the seats, and projecting to the back row. The hope is that the training takes over when the unexpected happens. And the unexpected usually does happen. Nilofer Merchant, author of 11 Rules for Creating Value in the #SocialEra, remembers when an unexpected laugh threw off her TED talk about the benefits of walking meetings. “I thought, Oh, no; I just lost a line,” she recalls. “I literally threw out a point I was going to make.”
Sivers managed to narrate the hippie video, which showed how one crazy person can start a movement, just as he had practiced it, word for word. It got laughs, a standing ovation, and more than three million views online. “No other conference I’ve ever spoken at required me to do so much, so far in advance,” Sivers says. “But it really helps.“
Keeping it Real
The best presentations seem spontaneous, even if they are highly scripted. Here are tips
for staying cool onstage from TED organizer Kelly Stoetzel.
1. Tell the Story Your Way. You may be tempted to copy the structure of popular TED talks from the past. But if you do that, your talk may very well end up feeling contrived. Instead, map out the structure that seems most natural.
2. Work The Crowd. Before your speech, chat with conference attendees during coffee breaks, lunch, or cocktail parties. The small talk will give you a better sense of your audience. Even better, you’ll see a few friendly faces in the crowd when you take the stage.
3. It’s Not About You. When you write and deliver your speech, don’t think, This is a message I must communicate, Stoetzel says. Rather, she suggests thinking, People will love knowing about this! “It’s almost like you’re providing a service on the stage, and makes it feel more like a conversation.”
Kelly Stoetzel describes some stand-out TED talks and the keys to a great presentation below.
Are you using social media to its fullest potential? Here are some tips to get you on track.
As I wrote way back in 2007, there are plenty of things wrong with social media for B2B marketing. But in that post I also alluded to the fact that there are plenty of things right.
Social media tools like Twitter and blogs (it's frequently forgotten blogs are social media) are becoming standard in the toolboxes of B2B marketers.
But the truth is most marketers are not leveraging social media to full potential to create a brand, reputation and authority for themselves or their companies.
So, here are five key ways B2B marketing professionals can leverage social media.
1. Build a rock-solid reputation.
Social media allows marketers to build a strong reputation by earning the trust of their peers and industry, 100 percent organically. Like many marketing tools, social media makes this possible, but not necessarily easy. With social media, you can build relationships and connections without the need to get past gatekeepers such as editors and traditional media.
The new gatekeepers are your peers, where trust is formed by the idea of social proofing. Social proofing, also known as informational social influence, is a psychological phenomenon that occurs in ambiguous situations when people do not have enough information to make opinions independently. Essentially we look for external clues about things like popularity, trust, etc. The web allows you to display earned social proofing publicly to help paint a picture of your positive reputation.
After reputation is successfully built through the use of social media, that reputation becomes a pull factor in attaining organic attention -- from media, from your industry or from prospects. And the best part is that it's possible for you to form our own reputation based on the merits you deem worthwhile.
Use social media to build the kind of reputation that resonates with prospects, and success will be a natural byproduct.
2. Nurture leads long-term with targeted, qualified prospects.
Reading some pundits and blogs, you might be deluded into thinking that social media is a quick path to leads. But the truth is while you can create connections quickly with social communications tools, long-term lead nurturing is still a must to actually make sales.
It is not uncommon for a prospect to read a vendor's blog for six months or even longer before engaging that vendor, or for a lead to require seven or eight marketing touches before being sales ready. If you ignore the requirement to nurture leads, you're yielding this opportunity to more agile competitors who will scoop these savvy prospects out from under you.
3. Build a strong permission marketing asset like a trusted blog.
Marketo's Modern B2B Marketing blog is read by an organically formed community of thousands of marketing professionals interested in the B2B space. (As of September 2009, we have more than 4,500 subscribers and 10,000 weekly visitors.) Subscribers have come to anticipate content aimed at helping them achieve success with everything from finding qualified sales leads to learning about demand generation and all things B2B. We've worked hard over the years to develop a voice in the industry and share tips, tools, and best practices with the marketing community as a whole. For it, we're rewarded with one of the most valuable assets any B2B marketer could ask for: an active, engaged audience.
4. Attract leads at scale once your brand 'tips' in the social web.
People like Seth Godin and Chris Brogan have strong personal brands (in other words, they probably don't need my links). Their brands have "tipped" in the social web -- in other words they have become organically referential (thus my links). Marketers large and small reference these thought leaders on digital channels, at conferences, during networking events and when discussing top marketing practitioners. Both Seth and Chris get no shortage of book deals, speaking opportunities and consulting offers. And it's all inbound -; that is to say, their efforts are focused on getting found by potentials through inbound marketing. This is scalable, it delivers quality and it's authentic. Put your sharpest team members out there, and the same is possible for your brand.
5. Maximize the social and SEO synergy.
Roughly one-third of all commercial searches on Google are B2B in nature, more than 50 percent of Google's target advertisers are B2B, and almost 38 percent of Yahoo's target advertisers are B2B. Clearly, SEO is essential for modern B2B marketers to succeed. And to not put the SEO and social media synergy to work for your brand is a mistake. Having an industry presence in the social web that delivers value, such as a blog, positions your company as a referential brand. And what does it mean to be referential on the web? It means you're going to consistently attract organic, editorially endorsed links: the lifeblood of the engines.
Women working the highly pressured field of neuroscience share what their studies -- and their lives -- have taught them about work-life balance.
When it comes to who has the toughest work-life balance challenges small business owners might plausibly make a case for a top slot, but academic scientists are right there with them. A highly competitive work environment, long hours, and frequently moves between cities and institutions are all part of the game, so how do the women who take up these sorts of careers manage to balance them with a happy home life?
And better yet, how do women who study the human brain manage their lives so that they work for their professional ambitions as well as the peculiarities of the wiring in our heads?
… it does in fact take a village, the women agree, but our modern views of childrearing sometimes keep us from embracing help. "Throughout most of history, there were many people who played a role in the raising of each child. Mothers, fathers, grandmothers, sisters, brothers and whoever happened to be standing around. It’s the natural way of doing things, except that we live at a funny cultural moment wherein that normally collective job largely falls on the shoulders of one person: the mum," explains Anne Churchland of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories.
“When my children were first born, I drafted complicated schedules wherein my husband and I could offset our work hours to minimize the time our son would be in the care of others. This was fine, but we also minimized time with each other, and my life got much easier when I accepted the fact that, realistically, I needed a lot of help. A LOT,” she concludes and the other commentators largely agree: fighting the cultural pressure that causes mothers to feel guilty for leaving their kids in the care of others leads to happier parents and better socialized kids.Having Money Matters
This may seem obvious, but all the talk of optimal schedules and choosing caregivers can mask the brutal truth we all know but sometimes fail to mention -- the more money you make, the easier it is to manage the juggle. "Spend money on services," recommends Ila Fiete, a professor of neurobiology at University of Texas, Austin. "Hire babysitters, house cleaners, gardeners, lawn mowing services, any logistical help you can manage to outsource... I cannot recommend this more highly."
For academics the takeaway from coming to terms with this reality is simple: advocate for yourself. "Ask for raises because childcare is expensive," says Catherine Carr, a biology professor at the University of Maryland. Leslie Vosshall of The Rockefeller University is equally blunt: "Earn enough money to make all this work. Children are expensive." For small business owners who have no one but themselves to appeal to, it may be worth taking a hard look at how you price your products and whether you can squeeze any more profit out your business -- even if that means a bit more time away from your family.Your Kids Can Be a Help Not a Hurdle
This is a big one and comes up again and again in the women’s responses. Yes, of course, kids are demanding, but depending on how you raise them, they can also be a big asset in your struggle to fit it all in. "When time is tight, it’s so easy to just do everything for kids rather than teach them or wait for them to do it slowly. But if you don’t give them the time they need to become independent, they will stay dependent and that is much more frustrating in the long run," says Gwenn Garden, a professor of neurology at University of Washington, Seattle. "I heard the suggestion about storing plates and cups in low cabinets and drawers from an older woman scientist several years ago and immediately implemented it for my step-daughters. At age 5, my daughter already helps empty the dishwasher, gets her own cups of water and helps get everything ready for breakfast." This approach doesn’t just make parents’ lives easier, the women note, it also boosts kids’ confidence.
"Children today are all geniuses. It’s amazing! Their parents tell you how they can count to 100 at age 4 or play symphonies at age 3 or read Shakespeare at age 5. A miracle! However, these geniuses are almost uniformly clueless about how to load the dishwasher, put away laundry or make a sandwich," observes Churchland, who notes that "parents are usually aware of this fact and frustrated by it- who wouldn’t like a little help around the house? But the parents of the geniuses devote all their parental resources to cultivating the genius and far fewer resources towards skills that would actually be of use. Cultivating useful skills does take time and thought, but the payoff is huge!"Ignore Others’ Judgements
"Try not to waste time worrying about what your senior colleagues think," advises Garden, who came to this realization after she noticed sensible people don’t obsess over their colleagues’ arrangements: "I couldn’t remember much about my colleagues actions like whether or not the were regularly present and departmental functions or faculty meetings or did their ‘fair share’ of administrative or teaching responsibilities. The only things I remembered was the last time they presented their research or the buzz around a high impact publication. Once I realized this, it became easier to avoid, say no to and/or leave in the middle of a lot of things when what I would rather be with my husband and daughter."
It’s also important not to judge yourself. "No matter what, be gentle with yourself. As women, we are often our own harshest critics," says UC Berkeley’s Marla Feller.And a Final Bit of Advice…
If your husband or partner isn’t as helpful with logistics as you want him to be, the University of Washington’s Adrienne Fairhall says you should try to be understanding. His brain is most likely to blame: "My husband’s inability to do family logistics is, I have learned, not universally but statistically significantly gender-characteristic and is not to be attributed to personal failings."
This may seem like a lot of advice but the scientists were all generous enough to provide lengthy responses, so there’s much more to read in the complete post if you’re interested.
Do you agree with all this advice? What would you add?
It's that time of year again. Here's how to evaluate the state of your business and make sure the end of Q4 is a total winner.
The fourth quarter of the year starts next week. Often it's a blur of activity as everyone lurches toward the finish line, feverishly trying to complete their goals, reach their targets.
As a leader, you can't afford for it to be that way. Here's how to lead in Q4:
1. Complete your strategic plan for next year.
We've already seen the importance of the strategic planning process and identified ways to jump-start the process.
Sadly, many smaller and medium-sized businesses start the strategic planning process every year but never get around to completing it. Like school homework, there are always other things that seem more enticing to spend one's time on.
If you haven't finished your strategic plan for next year, grab your calendar, schedule three half-day sessions over the next four weeks, and get it done.
2. Select 1 or 2 "nearly theres" to push over the line.
If you review your key objectives for this year, you'll likely find some out-of-the-park successes, a few "nearly theres", and a bunch of "never-going-to-happens".
The successes are done and dusted, and there's little you can do about the last group of sad sacks. So choose a couple of the nearly-theres (two is quite enough for the remaining time available in the year) and identify the two or three things you could do to push each of them over the line. Jot down the clear next actions you're going to take-- with whom, and by when-- to get them over the finish line.
By now you know the two or three main barriers to even greater success this year. Those barriers may be misbegotten initiatives, poor processes, injudicious goals, or, sadly, the wrong people in the wrong place.
Don't wait until Q1 next year to tackle the barriers you already know are slowing the growth of your business. Write them down, stare long and hard at what you've written, take a deep breath, and start weeding.
4. Get a third-party view.
We all get a little too close to the trees to see the forest. By Q4 in the year, you can bet that this applies to you.
Call a friend-- someone whose judgment you respect, but not someone with a fiduciary or other interest in your business, and trade something (mutual affection, bourbon, chocolate, whatever floats their boat) for a few hours of their time. Find a quiet place, bring a bunch of relevant data, and start talking about this year and how it's turned out.
Be honest, be open, be non-defensive, then invite questions. Answer the questions in a way that builds a dialog, rather than shutting down discussion. I guarantee you'll be surprised by what you get asked, and even more so by your replies. Make notes for later reflection. Later, reflect.
5. Hunt down outstanding commitments.
The one thing that undermines your credibility faster than anything else is not following through on commitments.
Most leaders fail to do so, not because they're jerks, but because they simply lose track of all they've said they will do for others.
Now is a perfect time to fix that. Walk around to where your main direct reports and your peers live. Ask for three minutes of their time, then ask a simple question: "What have I committed to do for you this year that I haven't followed through on?". There's no harm in explaining that you're taking inventory now, so you have a chance to deliver on those outstanding commitments before the end of the year.
Oh, and take notes. You don't want to be the person who asked that question and still failed to deliver.
Discover how to keep the momentum going in Q4 and throughout next year. Download a free chapter from the author's WSJ best-seller, "Predictable Success: Getting Your Organization On the Growth Track - and Keeping It There" to learn more about building a world-class culture that will rapidly accelerate the growth of your business.
Being a "me too" retailer doesn't cut it anymore. Here's how retailers can differentiate their products and gain competitive advantage.
Creating customer value is the key to any business. The way to win customers often involves a basic understanding of how to create an offering that consumers value more than competitors' offerings. Something that meets their needs, at a better price, is bound to draw them in and create incremental growth for your business.
The key is figuring out the formula that works for your business and the ability to consistently deliver against that formula.
We've been working to turn around a technology retailer, in a heavily competitive market. Their target consumers make decisions every day about which store to stop into, whether to buy in the store or online, and whether to shift between our client's offerings and those of its competitors.
In the course of our work, we focused on two relevant trends that are driving their retail performance, trends that Ander and Stern highlighted in the book, Winning at Retail: Developing a Sustained Model for Retail Success.
- Consumers shop at places they believe offer the best value
- In 1989 Americans spent more money in department stores than at discount stores; by 1999 they spent 3 times as much money at discount stores
- Consumers shop less often than they did 10 years ago, and want to shop even less
- A survey of two-income families show that 71 percent do their shopping on weekends; 9 of 10 reported they would like to spend less time shopping
- In 1980, shoppers spent 10 hours a month at a mall; by 2000, that figure had plummeted to 3.5 hours a month
The retail environment has changed dramatically, with customers seamlessly moving between brick-and-mortar and online shopping channels. But the basic fundamentals of retail success remain the same. Here are three important keys to creating customer value in the retail environment:
- Determine where you have the "right to play", but deliver more than your entitlement
- Are you a value-oriented offer, a convenience offer, or a luxury offer?
- What does your target customer want, and why would they choose you over other alternatives?
- Can you become the No. 1 or No. 2 choice for a set of customers?
- Determine what you can be best at
- Whether it's the most important element in the minds of customers or not, it's important that you are positively differentiated in one or two aspects of the experience
- It helps to be on par at the other elements as well
- Tune your 4Ps toward attracting and maintaining the target customer
- Product: Do you have the products they want?
- Price: Is it at the right price?
- Place (Distribution): Are you offering it in the channel and location they desire?
- Promotion: Are you getting their attention through effective promotion?
Being a "me too" retailer doesn't cut it in a competitive consumer environment. Focusing on these three elements can help you to create an advantaged offering for your customers.
Share your questions about building customer value. We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Six ways to ensure you get the most out of yourself, every single workday.
Business is all about managing people but the most important person you need to manage is always yourself. Here are some rules for getting the most from yourself, regardless of where you are in your career.
1. Assess your strengths and weaknesses.
Nobody is good at everything, and that includes you. Therefore, just as you would with a new hire, you should first assess where you're most likely to be successful (your strengths) and where you're likely to need help from others (your weaknesses).
This is more challenging than it sounds because your own view of your own abilities is always subjective. Sadly, there are millions of people in this world who wrongly believe that their greatest weakness to be their greatest strength.
The easiest way to objectively assess your strengths and weaknesses is to ask somebody whom you trust, who's had the opportunity to see you in action and, most importantly, is willing to be honest with you.
Probably the best person to ask is a former co-worker who doesn't have any reason to sugarcoat his or her observations. Your "significant other" probably has insights, too. Another option (if you can afford it) is to hire a life coach.
Once you've gotten an objective perspective on yourself, mentally stand back and ask yourself: "If I were managing this person, how would I use the strengths and work around the weaknesses?"
Use the answer to that question as a touchstone as you work through the rest of this post.
2. Set reasonable and stretch goals.
As every manager knows, it's absolutely essential to have goals and objectives for every employee. Goals, however, are tricky, because if they're too easy, employees will do the minimum, but if they're too hard, employees become discouraged.
The best way to solve this dilemma is to have two sets of goals: a minimal set which represents what you can reasonably expect from yourself, and stretch goals that represent what's difficult but still achievable.
The management challenge here is differentiating between the two. Luckily, there's an easy way to sort out whether goals are definitely reasonable or possibly achievable: schedule the intermediate steps required to make the goals happen.
Reasonable goals have intermediate steps that are sparse and spread-out, so that you know you can get each step completed, no matter what. Stretch goals always create tightly-scheduled intermediate steps that require everything to happen just so.
In other words, the difference between what's definitely reasonable and possibly achievable is time. Tightening the timing on a reasonable goal makes it into a stretch goal, and vice versa.
Adjust your goals accordingly.
3. Stop micromanaging yourself.
Nothing drives employees crazy more quickly than a manager that's always looking over their shoulders and telling them exactly what to do next. However, while most people realize this, many people blithely micromanage their own activities.
Self-micromanagement takes the form of to-do lists that keep growing and growing to the point where nobody could possibly get all those to-do tasks completed. The cure is to think about the results you want rather than the tasks you should do.
Rather than a to-do list, have a to-accomplish list. Then, as you approach each item, figure out the quickest and easiest way to get that item accomplished. Meanwhile, go ahead and let things fall through the cracks.
Here's a big secret: the stuff that falls through the cracks usually isn't all that important anyway. When you focus on what's really important (as opposed to a list of tasks) almost all of the really important stuff gets done first.
4. Regularly evaluate performance.
There's a reason most companies have performance evaluations. They help both managers and employees better understand what succeeded (and what failed) and what needs to happen to create future success.
It's crazy to depend upon somebody else (like another manager) to provide this essential service for you. In fact, the only thing crazier is to not have a performance evaluation at all...which is the case with most entrepreneurs.
If you want to manage yourself well, you absolutely must create a formal process that looks at the goals you've previously set, maps what you've accomplished versus those goals, and then adjusts the goals.
If you fail to do this, and just depend upon your "gut feeling" of whether you're performing the way you'd like, I guarantee you that you will eventually (and probably quickly) drift off course.
5. Manage your emotions.
Over-emotional employees are famously difficult to manage. They explode in anger unexpectedly or simmer for days in a passive-aggressive stew. When you're managing yourself, you do not want to be this kind of employee.
The trick to getting your emotions under control is to stop thinking of your emotions as "things that you feel" in response to events. Instead, think of your emotions as "behaviors you do" in response to events.
The difference is crucial: what you feel is always outside of your control. For instance, if the air is cold, your skin feels cold. By contrast, what you do is always in your control, allowing you to decide whether or not you actually want to do that behavior.
For example, suppose you lose a big customer. When you think of emotions as behaviors, you realize that it's your choice whether to react with fear and anger ("Damn!"), or to react with curiosity and thoughtfulness ("I wonder why we lost them?").
The same is true of positive emotions. If you only experience joy only as the result of some arbitrary exterior event, you're limiting yourself. By contrast, if you decide that you will "do" joy (i.e. enjoy) every day, you will.
6. Take responsibility for your decisions.
You may have noticed that the previous five steps are all about decision-making. That's intentional because making decisions is what good managers do. The flip side of decision-making, however, is taking responsibility for outcomes.
There's nothing more irritating than an employee who fails to accomplish something and then attempts to fix the blame onto somebody else. Surprisingly, though, many people tolerate this behavior in themselves.
While you do not have control over events, you do (and did) have control over the decisions that you made in response to those events. They were (and are) your decisions and the outcomes of those decisions belong to you. Nobody else.
Great entrepreneurs and great leaders all know this. They never point fingers of blame but instead point the way to the future. That's just as true when they're managing themselves as when they're managing other people.
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Six insightful depictions of leadership during wartime.
The Killer Angels
"Everybody should read this phenomenal novel. Here is Joshua Chamberlain, a professor of rhetoric-turned-Union Army colonel, standing there on the edge of Little Round Top at Gettysburg, unable to retreat, almost out of ammunition, in danger of being outflanked, and where does his fear go? Into the mission and taking care of the people around him. That's what great leaders do--channel fear, because fear is a form of motivation and ambition, too."--Michael Shaara
1776 by David McCullough
"George Washington was a leader with extraordinary Return on Luck. He basically failed his way to success. I define a great leader as one who has superior results, makes a distinctive impact, and has an enduring legacy. Washington's legacy was not just leading the Continental Army and serving as the first President. It was also his decision to step down after two terms. Yes, he was personally ambitious and proud, but in the end, it wasn't about him. It was about the country."
American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964 and Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War
"These books, together, are a spectacular combination. MacArthur lacked humility, but he was a strategic genius, no question about it. Goodbye, Darkness is Manchester's autobiography. As a Marine in the Pacific War, he was severely wounded on Okinawa, and as a middle-aged man suffered from nightmares. Eventually, Manchester goes back to Okinawa. He writes that, in the end, you fight for each other."--both by William Manchester
Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne From Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest
"Major Dick Winters was the hero of Band of Brothers, which is a great book and a great television mini-series. If you read his autobiography, you realize he's just an average guy who was thrust into this situation and rose to greatness. After the war, he goes back to being an average guy. He's the classic case of the great leader who was a tool in a toolbox. But a spectacular tool he was."--by Stephen E. Ambrose, and Beyond Band of Brothers: The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters by Dick Winters and Cole C. Kingseed
A recent survey from Nielsen found that consumers are more trusting of advertisements than they were in 2007.
According to the recent Nielsen's Global Trust in Advertising and Brand Messages survey, consumers are more trusting of ads today than they were six years ago, but the forms of trusted advertising has seen a bit of a shake up.
The survey, which included responses from 29,000 consumers taken between February 18 and March 8 of this year, found 84 percent of those surveyed said word of mouth advertising is still the most trusted form of advertising. Surprisingly, branded websites made a nine-percentage point leap into second place with 69 percent. In addition, 68 percent said they trust consumer opinions posted online.
In general, online advertising saw the most improvement. More than half (56 percent) of respondents said they trust consumer-consented email messages--up 7 percentage points since 2007. Nearly half of those surveyed trust ads in search engine results, online video ads, social network ads and online banner ads--promising news as advertisers spent 26 percent more money on display internet ads during the first quarter of 2013 than in 2012.
Mobile also saw a jump in trust. The survey found that 45 percent of those surveyed find mobile display ads credible, with 37 percent of the respondent pool trusting text ads--an 18-percentage point leap since 2007.
Advertisements on TV, the radio, before movies and in magazines also saw improvements in trust--over half of respondents found advertisements in each of these forms to credible. Only newspaper ads saw a drop in trust. In 2007, 63 percent of respondents trusted newspaper ads, dropping to 61 percent in 2013.
And now a word from our sponsor--the Affordable Care Act
Congressional Republicans may be blustering (and filibustering), and states like Florida, Missouri, and Ohio doing their best to undermine the rollout of new public health care exchanges. But from Connecticut to Hawaii, other states are going full-steam ahead to promote their exchanges with slick marketing campaigns that would make a Madison Avenue proud.
The Associated Press estimates that states and the federal government will spend at least $684 million on publicity, marketing, and advertising related to the launch of the exchanges, which are supposed to be ready for open enrollment by October 1. Citing figures provided by TV executives and a broadcasters’ trade group, the Wall Street Journal predicts that insurers alone will spend about another $1 billion on TV advertising related to the health-care overhaul.
Most of the beneficiaries of the boomlet in Obamacare advertising are small, entrepreneurial marketing shops. Louisville agency Doe Anderson scored an $11.3 million contract to run Kentucky’s educational campaign; GMMB, a D.C-.based firm with a Seattle office won the $9.37 million contract to educate Washington state residents; and Pilgrim, a Denver-based shop, was tapped to promote Connect for Health Colorado.
Most of the spots are aimed at groups that have traditionally had large numbers of uninsured: young invincibles, whose participation in the exchanges is essential, and minorities. While most states’ ads focus on individuals, a few, including Connecticut and Hawaii, have ads that target small business owners, too, emphasizing benefits such as the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit.
Here, a sample of the Obamacare pitches. What do you think? What would Don Draper say?
This spot, made for Cover Oregon by Portland-based agency North as part of a $9.9 million contract, has garnered the most publicity. Teetering perilously on the edge of Portlandia spoof, the ads feature Oregonian singer-songwriters Laura Gibson and Matt Sheehey earnestly strumming guitars in front of idyllic rural backdrops and exhorting a young millennial target audience to “live long.”
Arkansas awarded a $4.3 million contract for marketing its insurance exchange--Arkansas Health Connector--to the Little Rock firm Mangan Holcomb Partners earlier this year. In addition to TV, radio, and print ads, the campaign will include gas-pump advertising at stations around the state.
Colorado’s ads by Pilgrim emphasize the benefits of competition among insurance companies in its exchange--and tout the potential for many Coloradans to receive tax credit subsidies that will reduce premium costs.
With a multicultural cast of animated characters, this 30-second TV spot for Kentucky’s exchange, created by the Louisville, agency Doe Anderson, appeals to “everyone who had to choose between medicine and a mortgage payment.”
A match made in heaven may be hard to come by, but that doesn't mean you can't make it work.
Partnering with a competitor or giant distributor isn't easy.
Corporations and start-ups often speak different languages, or one moves slow while the other moves quick. Sometimes the companies complement each other, but most of the time problems arise. A start-up's unorthodox practices, for example, might tarnish the more established brand's reputation. Or perhaps both start-up's cultures will clash and one will pit itself against the other.
August Turak, author of Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks: One CEO's Quest for Meaning and Authenticity, says, "The single biggest mistake we make in our partnership efforts is treating potential partners as if they were end users. While the interests of partners and end-users must overlap, they are seldom, if ever, identical."
Here are three of his tips for making partnerships work:
Move the corporate mule.
Corporations can be slow moving and for that reason Turak suggests doing most of the work yourself. "Getting executives into a room and hammering out a contract doesn't make a deal. Every partnership is like moving a stubborn mule," he says. When Walmart was looking for a partner to provide sunglasses, for example, one company came to the meeting with their sunglasses already tagged, coded, and mounted on display cases. They even studied Walmart's floor designs and suggested spots for their products.
Roll products out slowly.
Turak says to avoid blanket launches after forming a partnership and roll out slowly, ideally in small batches. "Every cleaning solvent recommends trying it first on some inconspicuous place, and this applies to joint ventures as well," he says. "Not only will we uncover potential hitches, but managing the critical buzz is much easier. Always remember that people talk and that first impressions are critical to making a deal successful."
"Always remember that a heavy handed 'push' from corporate headquarters often backfires," says Turak. "If, for example, a sullen salesforce refuses to sell your product, it will be your product, not the salesforce that your partner will blame. Winning hearts and minds upfront among the rank and file is much more effective than relying on diktats and quotas from corporate."
A well-intentioned interaction can backfire at any moment. Before you engage, listen. Then make your tweets relevant.
As a leader of a social media agency, I often obsess over the tweets that my staff sends on behalf of brands. That’s because a well-intentioned interaction can backfire at any moment. I'm fairly well versed in what to do and what not to do when this happens. But I can only imagine how a small business might feel when readying to engage on social media--one misstep can reverberate well beyond the intended target.
Avoid a Twitter #hashtagfail by remembering three pieces of advice.
The authentic voice is the loudest.
When McDonald's launched the promoted hashtag #McDStories, it envisioned a stream filled with tweets of love. You know, fond memories of good times at the chain. Instead, it turned into a McDonald's bashing party, where moms rallied against the company's highly processed, unhealthy options. The intention was to promote products and recall cherished memories of family trips to McDonald's. Instead, the brand received tweets like these:
One time I walked into McDonalds and I could smell Type 2 diabetes floating in the air and I threw up. #McDStories (via Twitter)
Dude, I used to work at McDonald’s. The #McDStories I could tell would raise your hair. (via Twitter)
Ate a McFish and vomited 1 hour later….The last time I got McDonalds was seriously 18 years ago in college….. #McDstories (via Twitter)
This doesn't mean that McDonald's needs to steer clear of Twitter. But creating a hashtag around its brand's aspirations versus its brand's reality certainly did backfire.
It's not about you.
It goes without saying that the Oreo "Dunk in the Dark" moment at the Super Bowl changed the game of engaging around real-time events on Twitter. It won every advertising award under the sun, and brands flocked to Twitter to search for what major event they could tap into next.
Award shows, holidays, and other pop culture events became reasons for brands to share their messages. However, brands have repeatedly taken this a step too far. Many brands took the opportunity to use September 11th, a day of remembrance, and make it a day about themselves. AT&T was a classic example; they posted this image of the lights at the 9/11 memorial as displayed from an AT&T phone. September 11th is not about AT&T. When people are talking about September 11th, they're not thinking about the sales being offered by brands. If you want to post a message around a holiday or event, don't make it about you.
If you have to stretch to make a connection, don’t.
With the recent push for real-time content, brands are desperately trying to connect themselves to current events.
According to Twitter, the birth of the royal baby generated conversation measuring at 25,300 tweets per minute. Brands felt the need to participate. This made sense for baby-product-only brands, such as Pampers or Johnson & Johnson.
But many companies tried to make a connection to this momentous occasion despite the fact that their brands had no relevance to the event itself. Nintendo made the birth all about their Princess Peach character. Worse, Charmin tried to connect their toilet paper to the "royal throne."
The bottom line: If you have to stretch to make a connection between your brand and something happening out there, it's not likely to work.
Want to know the most effective way to use Twitter, try just listening. By listening to what your customers are talking about, what your competitors are saying, and what's happening out there in the Twitterverse, you'll be able to speak--or in this case, tweet--in ways that are more informed and which then have more of an impact.
A rhetoric expert translates the body language of six famous speakers, including Steve Jobs and Bruce Springsteen.
Gestures and body language have long been powerful public-speaking tools. In the 19th century, rhetoricians created gesture manuals, codifying the connotations of poses including “defiance,” “ridicule,” and “penitence.” (Pictured above is an illustration of how to make a declaration from an 1899 edition of the White House Hand-book of Oratory.) Back then, speakers would learn each gesture and pose appropriately when they spoke, with the idea that the audience would understand the subtext.
These days, most speakers don’t put quite as much thought into body language. But their gestures still speak volumes. With that in mind, we asked Jay Heinrichs, an expert on oratorical history and the author of Thank You for Arguing, to analyze the body language of some contemporary figures.
The Regular Joe
This informal, “regular guy” pose sends the message that musician Bruce Springsteen is “a pal and not really a, you know, god,” Heinrichs says. “If you’re not a deity, go light on the informality, because it can lower you in the audience’s eyes,” he says.
Vice President Joe Biden is known for his direct speaking style. This show-all-the-teeth, crinkly-eyed expression conveys Biden’s “love-you’re-here attitude,” Heinrichs says. “Crow’s feet strongly recommended,” he adds.
Anthony Weiner, shown here at a July press conference, is making an encompassing gesture, indicating that he’s telling the whole truth. “Of course, we’re speaking rhetoricalIy here,” Heinrichs says. By holding her arms in front of her body, Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, is signaling self-protection and vulnerability.
Beyoncé Knowles’s “female celeb pose” exudes poise and confidence, but it’s not for everyone. “This takes practice and is really hard to do unless you’re X-ray skinny, female, and beautiful,” Heinrichs warns.
The Quiet Genius
During presentations, the Apple founder often looked down and strolled across the stage as if the audience weren’t there. Heinrichs refers to this as the “genius gesture.” “It’s as if you’re composing amazing thoughts in your solitary, genius way,” he says.
The Power Player
Soon-to-be-ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is using a power stance that puts focus on the hips, hinting at sexual prowess. “The gesture implies turbocharging,” Heinrichs says. “But it can give the impression of trying too hard: ‘These Windows tiles are gonna rock and roll, people!’ ”
Business models for everything from crash pads to cocktail dresses have been disrupted by this new trend. Is your business next?Can you remember the last time you saw a movie? Did you buy it or stream it from a service like Netflix or Amazon Instant Video? If you streamed it, you’ve joined the sharing economy, where consumers prefer to rent access to something instead of owning it outright. The sharing economy is exploding around us: •Instead of dropping $1,850 on a Catherine Deane "Godiva" gown, you can check out Rent the Runway, which allows women to rent the dress (and an entire collection like it) for $300 and guiltlessly return it the next morning. •Airbnb allows you to rent an expensive house for a short period of time, and the home owner gets paid to share their pad for a few days. •Zipcar enables you to rent a car by the hour, when you need one, without the expense of owning it. •We’re not downloading as many songs from iTunes as we used to. Now we simply share access to a music library from Spotify or Rdio. •Last month, eRetah announced they are launching a NetFlix-like model for e-books: all-you-can read books for one monthly fee. •Next time you need to do a major home renovation, don’t bother to buy a nail gun. You can simply rent it for the weekend from SnapGoods. Sharing stuff has been around since stuff itself, but the new sharing economy is being fuelled by technology: Websites like Airbnb match buyer and seller; your GPS-enabled iPhone allows you to find the closest ZipCar; Facebook and LinkedIn enable you to vet anyone you’re thinking of doing business with; and sites like PayPal allow you to safely pay for what you’re renting. There are two models gaining traction in the new sharing economy: A Sharing Marketplace Creating a sharing marketplace like Airbnb or Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO) means you set up the marketplace but you don’t actually own the things being shared. You simply take a cut of the transaction. The chicken and egg challenge is that you need listings to get traffic and you can only get the listings if you have traffic. Buy to Rent In the buy-to-rent model, you buy something with the intention of renting it out. Unlike the sharing model, Rent the Runway actually owns the dresses. Two key metrics define the buy-to-rent model: how long it takes to recover the cost of buying and your cost-to-rent ratio. Take the Catherine Deane gown, which costs $1850 retail. Let’s say Rent the Runway pays $1,000 for the dress (since they are buying a bunch of them, they probably get a discount similar to a retailer). Since they rent it for $300, and they need to steam clean it between each rental, they probably break even on the fourth rental. If they can rent the dress once per month, it will take four months to get their money back on buying the item. Buy-to-rent businesses often need a lot of capital, so the faster you can recover your cost of goods rented (COGR), the more sustainable the business. The other number that is important is the buy-to-rent ratio. In the case of Rent the Runway, it’s around 6:1; meaning you can buy the dress for about six times the cost of renting it. Obviously, the higher the ratio, the more attractive the rental option becomes for the consumer. On the flip side, the less often you need the item, the lower the buy-to-rent ratio needs to be. A wedding dress rental company, for example, may support a 3:1 buy-to-rent ratio, whereas a multi-purpose cocktail dress from Rent the Runway may only support a 6:1 ratio. There was a time when the pride of ownership trumped any cost saving associated with renting. But in an environment where everyone is “deleveraging,” and technology allows us to share without dramatically impacting the quality of our experience; for many, access now trumps assets. What will your sharing business model be?
Here are three things you can consider next time you're faced with a difficult decision.
As the leader of your company it's inevitable that you'll have to make some tough decisions along the way. It's part of the job. The way you navigate these decisions will impact how you're perceived and regardless, you'll be judged for it.
In the past 12 years of running my e-mail marketing company VerticalResponse, I've had to make my fair share of tough decisions, but you know, many of those choices have led to changes that have defined our product or our team. Here are three things you can consider next time you're faced with a difficult decision:
Use What You've Got
I'm a shoot from the hip kind of leader and trust my instincts, however that doesn't mean I only make emotion-based decisions. I surround myself with really talented team members and I draw on as many of them as possible to get the facts, figures and all the data I feel I need. But, you often won't get the luxury of having every morsel of information available from which to make your decision, so a point comes where you just have to call the ball and and make the choice based on what you've got. Will you be right 100 percent of the time? Not a chance. But, the longer you do it, the better you'll get.
Tune Out the Noise
It's really easy to get distracted by the noise surrounding any big decision. We've all been there when you've got a bunch of conflicting opinions, people may start to take things personally and it just snowballs from there. Not pretty and certainly not helpful in staying focused on the task at hand. In this case, you've got to clear the noise and make your choice based on principal and the information you've got.
Ultimately, no matter what choice you make, good, bad or indifferent, you've got to own it. If you make a mistake, the single best thing you can do is to be accountable. Immediately. And if you nail it and make the right decision, share the glory with your team. We all know none of us succeed alone. The more we can involve our teams in the good and the tough choices, the more they'll start to think and own the business like a boss--and that helps everyone do well.
If you're struggling to make tough decisions, my advice is to just do it. Use what you've got, tune out the noise and own it.
Have you made a tough decision that went well, or not so well? What did you learn? Share in the comments.
A hot market for initial public offerings and a wide range of relatively mature fast-growth companies should make this fall a big one for fundraising.
The initial public offering, once the ultimate validation for company founders, is in fashion for the first time since the dot-com bust. In the first half of 2013, U.S. IPOs raised $20.6 billion, according to Kathleen Smith, principal at Renaissance Capital in Greenwich, Connecticut. Excluding Facebook’s $16 billion debut, that’s 63 percent more raised than in the same period last year.
And though any IPO boom includes big-company spinoffs and overseas listings, in this one, entrepreneurs are bringing it home. Analytics firm Tableau Software raised $254 million in May and saw its shares rise 64 percent. Marketing software company Marketo raised $85 million and got a 78 percent pop. Biotech start-ups, such as Bluebird Bio and Agios, have had their own first-day frenzies.
Two key factors work in IPOs’ favor, one permanent, the other fleeting. Fast-growth entrepreneurs are starting to take advantage of the JOBS Act, which allows companies with less than $1 billion in revenue to file essentially in secret, get feedback from investors and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and only then decide to register or quietly back away. Biotech entrepreneurs, realizing that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is easing certain drug rules, are also adjusting accordingly.
Less reliably, the stock market is up about 12 percent this year, as of this writing. A hot market does wonders for new issues, because investors are “more comfortable with something new when the market is rising,” says Smith. It’s worth remembering, though, that markets also reverse; one debt-ceiling crisis or Mideast flare-up, and risk tolerance can shrivel overnight.
For a flavor of what it takes to go public these days, we asked analysts to name a handful of companies with much anticipated (and probably imminent) IPOs. They named companies with high margins, strong brands, and, in most cases, a founder still in charge. Not a Pets.com in the bunch.
Raised: $120 million
Valuation: $200 Million
In 1994, Dr. Emil D. Kakkis met the family of a child who had a rare metabolic disorder and was not expected to live to age 10. Working with funds initially raised from golf tournaments and bake sales, Kakkis synthesized a treatment to save the child’s life. Kakkis went on to become chief medical officer at BioMarin Pharmaceutical, where he won approval for three rare genetic disorder treatments. In 2010, he founded Ultragenyx, which now has one drug in a Phase II trial and another in a trial set to begin this month. The company raised $75 million last year; Sanofi-Genzyme BioVentures is a strategic investor.
Revenue: $62 million
Valuation: $1.25 billion
FireEye, which filed for its IPO in August, disables sneaky malware that firewalls can miss, such as emails with seemingly innocent zip attachments, and analyzes “zero-day” attacks (so named because they exploit previously unknown vulnerabilities--hence, “zero” days from discovery of the weakness to the attack). It counts more than 1,000 customers in 40 countries, including about one-third of the Fortune 100. In January, the company raised $50 million; investors even include the venture branch of the Central Intelligence Agency. Still, FireEye is the rare IPO candidate that is losing money--$67.2 million in the first half of 2013, despite a doubling in revenue.
Los Altos, CalifORNIA
Raised: $300 million
Valuation: $3 billion
Founded in 2005, while its founders were in college, online storage company Box has raised about $300 million and has an estimated valuation as high as $3 billion. Box says it has 180,000 customers--including more than 97 percent of the Fortune 500--and 20 million users. Revenue more than doubled last year. John Connors of venture firm Ignition Partners (not an investor in Box) says the business software market “moves slowly, sales channels can be expensive, and incumbents are hard to displace. But once you get the flywheel started, the market is very big.” When he says big, he means
big: $3 trillion worldwide.
New York City
Revenue: $800 millION
Valuation: $3.4 billION
With the global economic recovery has come an increased interest in luxury fashion. Gilt Groupe and Zulily are two brands certainly in investors’ sights, but the most talked about is the glamorous Tory Burch. The company sells its line of luxe bohemian women’s clothing, shoes, handbags, and eyewear at its own 90 stores, as well as at outlets such as Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Bergdorf Goodman. For an initial public offering today, “brand recognition is key,” says Kathleen Smith of Renaissance Capital, and Tory Burch has that in spades. Bloomberg recently valued the company at $3.4 billion.
Revenue: $580 million
Valuation: $10 billion
The social network with more than 200 million users filed for an IPO in September--but it used the JOBS Act loophole to do so, meaning revenue and profitability (if any) numbers aren't public at this writing. Research firm eMarketer predicts that Twitter’s ad revenue will hit $1 billion in 2014, and analysts say its valuation is closing in on $10 billion. Skeptics say it hasn’t yet transitioned from popularity to profit, but CEO Dick Costolo, had earlier sent an internal email saying Twitter wouldn't IPO until it had "very predictable quarterly earnings growth." There had been other hints: This summer, Twitter advertised for a financial manager familiar with IPOs and hired ex-Ticketmaster CEO Nathan Hubbard as its new head of commerce.
This story first appeared in Inc magazine. It was updated for Inc.com on Sept. 26, 2013, to reflect the fact that Twitter has filed for an IPO.