My CMMA Newsletter Writeup

White Water Ahead!
Navigating the Speed of Change

Q: What white water do you see ahead for you and your team? And how will you navigate through it?

A: I was watching Deadliest Catch last night, yes I like that show, and one of the captains was encountering 20-30 foot waves due to a massive storm.  He said the only way to get through rough waters is to push the engine as hard as it can go (full throttle) into the wave, otherwise the wave controls you.  Whether it is communications or any other profession, you have to be prepared for the rough waters ahead of you; and when those rough times come you have to be ready to give it your all.  The best way to do that in my mind is to watch communication, business, and technology trends. In the nautical world looking for trends is keeping your eyes and ears open to changing conditions.  Things like reading maps, learning about tides, wind speed, and listening to weather reports are just some of the ways you can prepare yourself for changing conditions.  If you aren’t looking and listening to the trends around you, your vessel may not be able to weather the storm.  I’d also say whenever possible make sure you have a clear strategy for where you are looking to go and have a good team on board with you.  If your craft leaves port without a plan for where you are headed there is a very good chance you and your crewmates will be lost at sea.

Everything Is A Remix The Ideas Episode

Everything is a Remix Remastered (2015 HD)

“I invented nothing new. I simply assembled the discoveries of other men behind whom were centuries of work. Had I worked fifty or ten or even five years before, I would have failed. So it is with every new thing. Progress happens when all the factors that make for it are ready and then it is inevitable. To teach that a comparatively few men are responsible for the greatest forward steps of mankind is the worst sort of nonsense.” — Henry Ford

“The act of creation is surrounded by a fog of myths. Myths that creativity comes via inspiration. That original creations break the mold. That they’re the products of geniuses. And appear as quickly as electricity can heat a filament. But creativity isn’t magic. It happens by applying ordinary tools of thought to existing materials. And the soil from which we grow our creations is something we scorn and misunderstand even though it gives us so much. And that’s copying. Put simply copying is how we learn. We can’t introduce anything new until we’re fluent in the language of our domain and we do that through emulation. For instance all artists spend their formative producing derivative work.”

Happy Meal Marketing Magic

I’m not a huge fan of the quality of McDonald’s food but sometimes the golden arches have a tractor beam that pulls me in with a force that is very difficult to resist. Part of why I think I think I still like McDonald’s is because of my memories as a child. Back then I wouldn’t have ever stepped foot into a Burger King, Jack in the Box, or Wendy’s if it had been up to me. I now prefer burgers from Fudruckers or Five Guys but noticed about a year ago Tyler started recognizing company brands wherever we went. I’m obviously loyal to Safeway and shop there frequently so Tyler learned to recognize Safeway and its trucks on the roads quickly. I have always loved Starbucks since I was introduced to coffee in college and Tyler knows that brand because I frequent their establishment and his mom and I have exchanged custody in their parking lot quite a bit.

What is interesting to me now raising a child is what companies are, and are not doing with regard to marketing to children.  I have taken particular interest in McDonald’s marketing strategy because they are masters of catering to youth and thus older demographics. I’m a big fan of ice cream so on a nice hot day a McDonald’s shake is awesome.  Not to mention the Shamrock Shakes around St. Patrick’s Day, but I digress.  How is your company’s marketing to younger demographics?  McDonald’s is a master of marketing to children, their happy meals and “Play Places” are brilliant.  Whether you are a retailer, technology company, church, or politician you can’t forget about youth if you want to compete and stay relevant long term.

  • A few ways you can market to children
    • Children’s menus
    • Seating area for children
    • Play area for children
    • Carts for children to push around your store, or ride in
    • Those gumball machines at the “choke points” in every store, the entrance/exit
    • Free cookies or goodies.  Give away a cookie but mom and dad have to go into the department to get it which usually leads to them looking for other goodies for themselves which aren’t free.  It is the drug dealer tactic, I’ll give you this one for free and I know you will want more
    • Internships
    • Commercials
    • DVDs that come with toys which has taught Tyler all about “Imaginex”
    • Candy and toys in the checkstands
    • Don’t forget about your employees either.  Daycare at your facility while mom or dad are working is one of the best ways to retain talent.  Lunch with the kid(s) increases work/life balance, even if it is just for an hour.

What are some other strategies you’ve seen?  Any other ideas or thoughts?

Qwiki In The Enterprise

I commented on a LinkedIn discussion board comment/question today and wanted to share it.

Q:

The alpha version of qwiki (search engine that builds interactive videos on the fly) is pretty exciting. What do you think a corporate version could do to juice up employee or investor communications?

A:

Engaging content is definitely the future. You want to know the interesting thing in my mind though? Everyone says content is king and I agree. Corporations can have great tools, but only if they have great content. If you are interested try and remind me to talk with you in about a month. I’ll need to get clearance to show it to you but we are working on a knowledge sharing tool within the company and it has some really interesting social gaming aspects to it.

My hope is in the coming years we can use these types of tools as a basis for merit increases and performance reviews. That type of thinking is counter culture to many organizations but social tools can help break down information silos and encourage collaboration like never before. They “can” also show you who your team players are in the organization meaning those who are helping others and not just themselves. If we reward and recognize via virtual currency and in the future provide monetary incentives, it will be very interesting to see what happens as a result. Whether you have a LinkedIn discussion board, a blog, or a survey people are busy and often hesitant to share.

Want to see a dramatic increase in our discussion board usage? Send out a message to membership telling them if they post at least one comment or post on the discussion board they will get 25% (50%, 75%, 100%…whatever) off their next conference fee. My point is some people will share but many will do so only when rewarded or recognized.

The other interesting thing I like about Qwiki is they are using it as a platform. I was fascinated by what they are looking at as a future alarm clock (see video link below). I’d imagine it won’t be too many more years before our bathroom mirrors are huge rear projection touch sensitive screens which let us see news, weather, or any other gadget/widget we want to subscribe to. Same thing with the business world. I’d imagine it won’t be long before E-ink type screens will allow us to have constantly updated information presented to us to interact with throughout the day. But we can only have these tools if we have the content which means employees will need to write and contribute that content.

Watch the whole video or forward to 4 mins in:

Qwiki at TechCrunch Disrupt

Retail Company Revenues By Employee

Yes, I’m a data geek and I crunch company operating results for fun.  Check this out…

Wolframalpha is a public data search engine which allows for lots of complex data analysis.  The data below is how much revenue each publicly traded company generates when it is divided by the total number of employees it has (per year).  I work in the retail sector so I first looked at how much revenue each company makes if it were divided by their number of employees.  As you can see below I for instance was able to determine that Kroger is making $36,841.74 more revenue per employee than Safeway.  The numbers are correct and publicly available via calculation but they don’t make sense to me.

I’ve posted similar things in the past and have had some really smart followers of this blog add to the conversation so I hope this post continues that trend.  Why would a Safeway employee create more revenue per year than a Walmart employee?  Why would a Kroger employee make $36,841,74 more revenue per year than a Safeway employee?  The interesting thing about doing the calculation this way is it takes out unions, employee compensation, and other factors.  What are the contributing factors?  Is sales per square foot the real reason the numbers are so unexpected?  Is the number of retail stores a major factor?  Did these numbers surprise you?  Is looking at annual company revenue by employee even important?  Then when you think each retail revenue by employee is high look at Google and Apple!

Annual Company Revenue/Employee
Kroger =    $244,659.51
Safeway = $207,817.77
Walmart = $198,398.10
Target =    $189,692.31

Google =   $1.81 million
Apple =     $1.32 million

Source: http://www.wolframalpha.com/

Disclosure: I am in no way representing any company in this post or site.  I’m surfacing public data and merely asking what we can derive (if anything) from it.  Thanks for taking the time to read this and thanks for adding to the conversation.

You should look at profits by employee.  A more telling story.

The Lamborghini Story

I love my lunch time chats with coworkers and I know they are anything but typical.  We get into some interesting subjects and I always seem to take away at least one thing every lunch hour.  Somehow the topic of Ferrari’s came up a few months ago and after doing some fact checking I found what they told me to not only be true, but also inspirational and amusing.  I wasn’t aware Ferruccio Lamborghini started his career building tractors.  He had a passion for sports cars and Mr. Lamborghini wasn’t satisfied with the quality and performance of his Ferrari so he requested a meeting with Mr. Enzo Ferrari himself. I love the story of Mr. Ferrari and Mr. Lamborghini meeting because it helps demonstrate why leaders need to listen and respond to the feedback they are provided.  If you fail to listen you leave the door wide open for others to stop telling you and to start showing you what they want.  In some instances what is requested is in fact a better way of doing things and if those who were trying to give you feedback to help you stop telling you and start showing you, they can become your most fierce rival.

Below is an extract from Wikipedia of what happened in the meeting with Mr. Ferrari and Mr. Lamborghini:

“The exchange between Ferrari and Lamborghini is often cited as the latter’s inspiration for founding a carmaker in the first place, but it is as much the stuff of legend and myth as it is a factual occurrence. In the 1991 Thoroughbred & Classic Cars interview, Lamborghini said that after the clutch problems endured, “I decided to talk to Enzo Ferrari. I had to wait for him a very long time. ‘Ferrari, your cars are rubbish!’ I complained. Il Commendatore was furious. “Lamborghini, you may be able to drive a tractor but you will never be able to handle a Ferrari Properly.’ This was the point when I finally decided to make a perfect car.” Later re-tellings of the story center around several basic points: Lamborghini visited Ferrari; proceeded to challenge, demand improvements, or deride Ferrari; and finally was dismissed as a mere tractor manufacturer. Whether the industrialist’s spite was enough of a reason to enter the carmaker business, or if the exchange inspired further business interests or merely served as an anecdote, is unknown. Sackey writes that the economic motives for entering the high-profit-margin sports car business far outweighed Lamborghini’s personal sentiments. In the T&CC interview, Lamborghini notes that “Ferrari never spoke to me again. He was a great man, I admit, but it was so very easy to upset him.”

Long live the Lamborghini…

Today’s Raging River Of Information

At today’s Dev Learn 10 in San Francisco I attended a seminar where a woman at the back of the room said “social media is great and all but I am overwhelmed with the influx of information all around me”.  I liked what another person said which was that just because there is lots of data in the world it doesn’t mean you have to consume everything available to you.  The 3-4 minute discussion gave me a lot of ideas so hopefully you beat me to solving the problem because either way we’ll all win.

Nordstrom Company Culture

For many years, new employees were given a copy of the famous Nordstrom’s Employee Handbook – a single 5-by-8-inch (130 × 200 mm) gray card containing 75 words:

Welcome to Nordstrom

We’re glad to have you with our Company. Our number one goal is to provide outstanding customer service. Set both your personal and professional goals high. We have great confidence in your ability to achieve them.

Nordstrom Rules: Rule #1: Use your best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.

Please feel free to ask your department manager, store manager, or division general manager any question at any time.

However, new hire orientations now provide the card above along with a full handbook of other more specific rules and legal regulations, as the way Nordstrom operates has changed. During this time, Nordstrom had the highest sales per square foot performance in the retail industry – by almost double.

>> Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nordstrom#Employee_handbook

More on Nordstrom’s Culture:

  • Nordstrom’s culture encourages entrepreneurial, motivated men and women to make the extra effort to give customer service that is unequaled in American retailing. “Not service like it used to be, but service that never was.”
  • “A place where service is an act of faith.”
  • Nordstrom’s executives aren’t snobs; it’s just that they are uncomfortable with blowing their own horns.
  • Their system is embarrassingly simple “we out-service, not outsmart, the competition”.
  • The truth is “We can’t afford to boast. If we did, we might start to believe our own stories”.
  • “Our success is simply a matter of service, selection, fair pricing, hard work, and plain luck!”
  • ‘It was never that we were so great, it was just that everyone else was so bad.’ We know that at this moment, someone somewhere is getting bad service at Nordstrom
  • When you stop worrying about the money and concentrate on serving the customer, the money will follow. (People who succeed in sales understand this paradox.)
  • Nordstrom’s standard of performance is “Sales per hour”.
  • Nordstrom’s salespeople are empowered to make decisions and Nordstrom management is willing to live with these decisions – it’s like dealing with a one-person shop. Empowered employees are energized. “Giving away responsibility and authority is the ultimate expression of leadership”.
  • “The customer is always right” is not a cliché at Nordstrom.
  • Decision by consensus is how the Nordstrom brothers run their business. Disagreements are worked out behind closed doors and a united front is always presented to the public.
  • When the company expands to other regions, it dispatches an advanced force of veteran “Nordies” who carry the culture with them and imports it to new employees.
  • Nordstrom never acquires other chains, because it is too difficult for those employees to break old habits.
  • Nordstrom’s employees are instructed to always make a decision that favors the customer before the company. They are never criticized for doing too much for a customer; they are criticized for doing too little.
  • “If I take care of the customer the dollars will follow”
  • Nordstrom believes that too many rules, regulations, paperwork, and strict channels of communication erode employee incentive.
  • Nordstrom is informally organized as an “inverted pyramid” with the top positions occupied by customers and salespeople. Every tier of the pyramid supports the sales staff.
  • The unconditional money-back guarantee is designed for the 98% of customers who are honest.
  • Employees have access to sales figures from all departments and stores in the chain, so they can compare their performances.
  • Outstanding sales performances are rewarded with prizes and praise, as are good ideas and suggestions.
  • Part of good customer service is (Store Design) creating “a memorable experience”:· Store presentation must be understood immediately· Nordstrom states that it only takes 15 seconds to impress their customers. That’s why Nordstrom has more seating, better lighting, larger fitting rooms, wider aisles, and a more residential feeling.
  • Nordstrom feels that the best training courses come from parents. Previous retail experience or a college degree has never been a prerequisite for succeeding at Nordstrom.
  • Nordstrom “hires the smile and trains the skill.”
  • Because Nordstrom doesn’t have many rules, employees don’t have to worry whether they are breaking any.
  • Nordstrom would rather hire nice people and teach them to sell, then hire salespeople and teach them to be nice.
  • At Nordstrom, the priority is on Selling, and the key to successful selling is providing outstanding customer service.
  • If you treat customers like royalty and let them know that you will take care of them, they will usually come back to you.
  • When customers enter a department salespeople always make sure they are acknowledged. They are relaxed and unhurried in order to help the customer feel the same way.
  • At its best, Nordstrom never forgets that it doesn’t have all the answers. They know that the customers have all the information that they need and that salespeople are the most valuable people in the company!
  • The underlying Nordstrom culture and philosophy is not difficult to pass on to the next generation because it’s simple: “give great customer Service.”