Introducing Garage to Global

Garage to Global

What does it take to start a home-based business and turn it into a global organization?  I am sharing the many lessons I’ve learned to do just that.

In 1985, I started a small business from my home in Southern California.  Today, BNI has ovBNI Member Growth Through 2014er 7,400 locations in more than 65 countries around the world (see the member growth chart to the right).

From business networking to management, scaling a business, and surrounding yourself with good people, I will be sharing with you the secrets for building a global brand.

Go here and subscribe to my new Garage to Global Channel (part of the Entrepreneur Network) on YouTube: http://tinyurl.com/garagetoglobal.

Share with me below what you think it takes to go from “garage to global” (but don’t forget to subscribe to my new channel. 🙂

Why We Need to Stop Reinventing the Wheel

ID-10026461As business people and networkers, and even in our personal lives, we are often trying to make things harder than they need to be. There is an abundance of techniques, for sales, communicating, and general business practices, that are tried and true, so much so that they seem too simple to truly be effective. We re-evaluate them, we “improve” upon them, and we overcomplicate them. Possibly worse, we sometimes just scrap the old way and try to start over from scratch.

Often, we think we are smarter than those who came before us. Our egos prevent us from listening to those who have more history. The danger here with reinventing the wheel is that it puts us in danger of history repeating itself.

Here are three common warning signs that you may be falling into the danger zone of repeating work, and what to do about them.

  • Instead of solving a problem, you come up with new features to cover it up. First and foremost, this is poor customer service to add features to try to distract from a known issue with a good or service. Instead of wasting your time coming up with new features on an old issue, spend time diving into the old issue and make minor changes on existing features to elevate the whole product.
  • When something with history doesn’t work perfectly, you think it might be easier to start over. Without a doubt, there was a reason things got to where they are. Instead of erasing all of the work of those before you, do a little research. Take time to talk with your predecessors and learn what the motivation behind choices were. Chances are you will discover the core problem, and be able to instead make moves to target that issue, instead of starting over.
  • The wheel you’re looking at reinventing is a common wheel that many business people are faced with. Is your wheel unique to you, or is it something that many in your profession are faced with? If the latter, it is highly possible that there are many people also working to reinvent that wheel right now. Perhaps it is a standard business practice in your field that simply doesn’t work. Instead of putting forth resources (including time and money) to tackle it on your own, see if there is a group in your field working on this issue. If you are working to forge new paths at the same time others are trying to do the same thing, you’re all wasting resources and could likely work more effectively as a team.

Have you ever tried to reinvent the wheel? What happened?

Ya Gotta Know Your Audience!

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We were having some wine the other night with a friend who had just come from a private jet show in Geneva, Switzerland (sounds like fun!). He was telling us about what a great job one of the exclusive, high-end private jet companies had done to wow their potential customers.

He said that they gave a new iPad to each invited guest in which they had loaded all the specs for their various jets, including apps that let the prospects choose the plane they were interested and create a custom interior from all their choices – woods, carpeting, leathers, etc . . . They could see what their new plane would look like right there on the spot. Brilliant!

Everyone seemed extremely impressed with this high-tech marketing tool, until it was handed to someone my friend recognized immediately – Bill Gates, Founder of Microsoft.

His words? Something like, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Someone had failed to think about how the Founder of Microsoft would react to being handed an Apple product to use in the process of a potential sale. It’s a small detail, you may think, but you really have to know your audience. What may seem like a small detail to you could end up being huge to your potential customer and could make or break the deal!

Have you witnessed a situation where someone didn’t think about their audience and blew an opportunity? If so, please share it here–I’d really like to hear about it.  Thanks!

Is It Really All About the Customer?–YES!

In this video, I discuss a recent e-mail I received from a friend and colleague which really surprised me and made me realize that sometimes things which I think are totally and completely self evident to others may not actually be obvious to some people at all.

In my mind, it’s completely clear and non-debatable that that the customer is the most important entity when it comes to the success of any given business.  Realistically, however, it’s quite common for business owners to get caught up in the aspects of business they think take precedence over everything else when challenges arise and it’s easy to forget that the most important aspect of business is ALWAYS the people paying for the service.

In this short video, I explain why, in business, the customer is hands down the most important player in the game.  It’s not that the customer is always right–believe me, they’re not–but without the customer, you have no business.  If you are conducting your business with the belief that you, your business partners, your franchisor, your vendors, or anyone else is more important to your success than the customer then, I hate to break it to you, but that belief is absolutely bunk.  Even the legendary Henry Ford acknowledged during his lifetime that the customer is the ultimate key component in business–watch the video now to see what he had to say about this topic and, also, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic so please leave your feedback in the comment forum.  Thanks!

May I Take Your Photo?–A Lesson in Great Customer Service

Givers Gain Art

I was at the BNI® U.S. National Conference in Nashville, Tennessee last week and every day, room service would come up and deliver my meals (often, right as a meeting in my suite was wrapping up).   Leslie (pictured below) was the employee who most often made the deliveries during the last part of my stay. On one of these days, I had a group of ten BNI Directors in my suite. They were kind enough to give me a Givers Gain® plaque (pictured at right) made by one of their local members.

Leslie--Omni

We started to gather around to get a photo and Leslie said, “Would you like me to take the picture?”  Now that’s not a big surprise, employees at hotels and restaurants have become accustomed to taking photos of the many people going through their venues. But here was the unusual part; she then said to everyone – “Okay, everybody give me all your cameras–I’ll take a photo with each of them.” She then dutifully accepted each camera and phone and, one by one, took many photographs making sure that everyone got their own picture.

While I was watching all of this, it struck me that she not only didn’t act “put-out” by having one camera after another given to her – she happily took each picture patiently and professionally, and smiled and chatted while she took each and every photo as though she were taking photos of her own family. I couldn’t help but think that there was some supervisor downstairs wondering what was taking her so long. The truth is, she was giving the guests at her hotel a very nice experience.

It made me start to think about each trip that Leslie made to the room. She was courteous, friendly, helpful, and attentive. I was so wrapped up in “the business of a running a conference” that I didn’t really notice just how good she really was until things started winding down for me.

So, for the record – to Leslie’s supervisor at the Omni Hotel in Nashville: Please know that Leslie was working diligently at creating a great guest experience. So much so, that I told the hotel manager that Leslie should be teaching customer service training – she’s that good. Thank you, Leslie – your stellar service was well noted (it may have taken me a few days – but I noticed).

If you’ve had a terrific customer service experience in the past, I’d love for you to share it in the comment forum below because I’m very interested in hearing about it–I’m particularly interested in your thoughts on what it was specifically that made your experience great.

P.S.–Many of you know that I radically altered my diet and, because of that, my wife Beth and I work closely with the hotel chefs when we travel. Well, Chef Harker from the Omni was also incredible (much like Leslie)–he’s one of the best chefs I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with during my travels.  Thank you, Chef Harker!

The Four-Letter Word That Should Be in Every Networker’s Vocabulary

“Sell” may be a four-letter word, but it’s certainly not a “bad” word . . . far from it.  “Sell” is a word that should be in absolutely every networker’s vocabulary.

 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run across businesspeople over the years who are fantastic networkers, but they think that just because they know how to network, they don’t need to know how to sell. They think that people will like them, and then their products or services will sell themselves. This kind of mentality is unfortunate because people who think this way may be leaving business on the table.

Anybody who’s experienced and successful in referral marketing will tell you that sales skills are needed in every part of the referral marketing process–not just in closing the sale with the prospect.

From the very beginning, you must sell yourself to your potential referral source. A referral is not a guaranteed sale; it’s the opportunity to do business with someone to whom you’ve been recommended. You still have to close the deal. You have to make it clear that you know how to sell, and that you can and will provide the products or services you’re expected to provide. If you can’t make that first “sale,” your potential referral source won’t become your referral provider.

Beyond selling yourself to the referral source, you have to sell yourself to the prospect to get that first appointment. Then, once you’ve made the appointment, you have to persuade the prospect to buy your product or service. This is the part that usually comes to mind when you hear the word “sell.” However, in referral marketing, closing the deal with your prospect is neither the beginning nor the end of the selling process. The sales process is all about keeping an ongoing relationship with the client or customer. This is something that the best referral marketers know and understand.

 What are some of the tactics you use to continually sharpen your sales skills and/or ensure that you continually invest in an ongoing relationship with your clients/customers to actively keep the sales process afloat?  I’d love for you to share your thoughts and ideas in the comment forum below–thanks!

Jim Blasingame: ‘The Age of the Customer’

I have been good friends with small business expert Jim Blasingame for over ten years and I can fully attest to the fact that his knowledge of what it takes to achieve success in small business is unparalleled (but don’t take my word for it, check out his bio below*).  I am excited to announce that just a few weeks ago, he released a revolutionary new book that will change the way the we think about buying and selling.

This short video offers a quick overview of the premise of Jim’s newly released book, The Age of the Customer, which focuses on the momentous marketplace shift currently taking place that is affecting the way we all do business.  Watch the video now to get a glimpse of what this significant marketplace shift means and to gain an awareness of the greatest danger it presents to business owners across the globe.

Knowledge is power and preparation is one of the greatest keys to success in business; The Age of the Customer arms you with the knowledge you need to prepare your business for lasting success.  CLICK HERE FOR A FREE SAMPLE OF THE BOOK.

After watching the video, reading through the free book sample, or reading the entire book, I’d love to hear your thoughts on Jim’s ‘Age of the Customer’ concept–please leave your feedback in the comment forum below. Thanks!

  * Jim Blasingame is one of the world’s foremost experts on small business and entrepreneurship, and was ranked as the #1 small business expert in the world by Google.  President and founder of Small Business Network, Inc., Jim is the creator and award-winning host of The Small Business Advocate® Show, nationally syndicated since 1997.  As a high-energy keynote speaker, Jim talks to small business audiences about how to compete in the 21st century global marketplace, and he talks with large companies about how to speak small business as a second language.  A syndicated columnist and the author of three books, including Small Business Is Like a Bunch of Bananas and Three Minutes to Success, which have sold almost 100,000 copies combined; his third book, The Age of the CustomerTM launched on January 27, 2014.

 

True or False?–Your Best Source of Referrals Is Your Customers

Do you believe your best source of referrals is your customers?  If so, think again . . . the reason people sometimes fall into believing customers are there best source of referrals is that they’ve been trained to believe it and have never pursued any other source of referrals.  The only referrals they’ve ever received are from customers.

Don’t get me wrong–customers and clients can be a very good source of referrals and I’m not denying that.  However, many businesses (especially big corporations) are out of touch with the fact that other referral sources are available that can be extraordinarily powerful.  Clients, although often the most readily available sources, are not necessarily the best or steadiest sources of high-quality referrals.  The best sources in the long run are likely to be the people you refer business to.  When you help another businessperson build his or her business, you’re cultivating a long-term relationship with someone who’s motivated to return the favor by bringing business to you, who’s sharing your target market, and who will work systematically with you for mutual benefit.

With a well-developed referral network, you can realize more good referrals from one or two professional referral sources than from all your customers combined.  Why?  Because these professionals are better salespeople than your clients and they spend more time in contact with your target market.  They know how to sell to your client base.  They talk your talk.  If you’ve done your job of educating and training them to refer business to you, they can communicate your value better to their contacts.

There’s also a built-in challenge with viewing customers as referral sources.  If you’re spending part of your time with a customer trying to get referrals, you’re generating a conflict of interest.  Instead of devoting all of your time and attention to the customer’s needs, you’re diverting part of that effort toward your own self-interest.  Instead of devoting all your time and attention to the customer’s needs, you’re diverting part of that effort toward your own self-interest.  The customer may sense that they are not getting full value–and the truth is, they may be right.  You may be sending mixed messages.  You may be polluting customer service time with “gimme business” time.

Yes . . . you can expect to get referrals from a happy customer, but you’d better make darn sure the customer is indeed happy.  This means keeping your attention–and your motivations–focused on the customer’s needs when that is the purpose of the visit or call.  However, there’s nothing wrong with asking for another appointment specifically so you and your client can discuss how you can help each other.

What’s the best referral you’ve gotten recently (think about the referral you’ve been the most excited about)?  Where did that referral come from?  I’d really like for you to share your answer in the comment forum below because I’d love to get a conversation going about the diverse array of avenues from which good referrals can be generated.  My goal in writing this post was not at all to discount customer referrals, but rather to emphasize that they are not solely the best source of referrals–great referrals can come from many places.  For that reason, I’d love to hear where your most recent standout referral came from so please share your story with us–I know more people in addition to me would really like to hear about your experience!

 

Tactics for Tapping into the Customer’s Perspective

Last week I posted a blog explaining why I believe that understanding the buyer’s perspective is one of the most important keys to selling.  Today’s post is a follow up to that post because I want to take this opportunity to offer some tactics for tapping into the buyer’s (i.e., the customer’s) perspective.

Learning and adapting to the issues and whims of the buyer while moving the sale forward to a conclusion is a complex and intricate task.  Attentive listening can help you, the seller, determine if the buyer is putting you off or merely attending to pressing internal demands.  Personality profiling (come back on Monday, July 22nd for details about Personality Profiling) also helps by giving you knowledge about how to craft your sales and reporting program to the style of communication most comfortable to the client.  All customers like to be communicated with in a manner that is most familiar to them, and knowing their personality profiles helps the seller customize a sales approach for each unique individual.  One form of customer communication is the product presentation, which has a strong influence in a successful sale.

Andy Bounds, from Liverpool, England, is a sales communication expert who reminds us that the ” . . . prospect is really interested in the total opposite of most commonly delivered product presentations.  The prospect really only cares about his or her own present and future, whereas most presentations focus on the seller’s past and product features.”  Andy reminds us to talk about what the product will do for the customer rather than its features.  His favorite phrase is, “Customers don’t care what you do; they care about what they’re left with AFTER you’ve done it.”  He uses the word “after” to keep the product presentation focused on the customer’s needs, and recommends the following customer-oriented questions:

  • “What are you looking to achieve after our work together?”
  • “What would success look like to you as a result of this project?”
  • “Looking back a year from now, what will need to happen for you to think things have gone brilliantly?”

Nothing works perfectly every time, and being able to read the customer’s buying signals is crucial to making necessary course corrections that meet the customer’s top-of-mind concerns.  The state of the selling art allows masterful salespeople to combine a little science with human relation strategies to create a wonderful buying experience for the consumer, while still maximizing the seller’s commission.  Most of the time, timing is everything, which is why we wanted to take the time to share several concepts, strategies, and techniques to help you land the hesitant customer in front of you (whose hesitation may have nothing to do with your product).

Are there some additional tactics for tapping into the customer’s perspective which you’ve personally had success using?  If so, I’m eager to hear them–please share your thoughts in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

 

Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast

Strategy is often talked about in business schools, in fact it’s a primary focus.  Culture however, is less understood.  Culture involves a variety of contributing factors including a blend of attitudes, beliefs, mission, philosophy, and momentum that help to create and sustain a successful brand.  It represents the vision, norms, symbols, beliefs, behaviors, and traditions that are taught to new members of an organization.  Organizational culture affects the way people within an organization interact with one another and the people they serve.

Culture is key in an organization for long-term success. It is the most important thing in an organization and it applies at all levels, from the top of the organization all the way down.  Rules, regulations, and operating standards are important, of course, because you have to have systems in place to guide activities. But culture is the factor that stands above all others.

There are many factors that go into building an organizational culture.  Each successful company has a different combination of factors that makes their culture successful.  Here are a few that I think are particularly important.

1. Traditions

Traditions help make a company what it is.  They tell the world who they are as an organization.  One way for an organization to maintain and develop its organizational culture and ethos is to introduce and celebrate a variety of traditions.  Disney in particular has been a master of this concept by training all new employees on the traditions of the organization.  Strong traditions that are applied throughout an organization are one of the best ways to maintain a healthy organizational culture.

2. Mission

A burning mission can give laser focus to an organization.  The mission statement needs to be short and memorable. Most importantly, it needs to be a rallying cry for people throughout the organization.  One thing I’ve learned in running a business for almost thirty years is that “ignorance on fire is better than knowledge on ice.”  Getting employees and clients excited about the mission is critical to organizational success.  If the average employee can’t recite your mission – it’s too long. 

3. Engagement

Collaboration encourages engagement.  Get all levels of an organization involved.  In BNI, the global referral network I founded almost 30 years ago, we have focused on getting a high level of engagement at all levels of the company.  This engagement includes a Franchise Advisory Board made up of key franchisees to address organizational challenges, a Founder’s Circle of stake holders to provide direct feedback to management about issues concerning the organization, a Board of Advisors made up exclusively of clients to ensure engagement regarding policies that effect the organization globally, an Executive Council made up of the largest seven master franchisees within the organization, as well as a number of other entities to help ensure full participation at all levels of the organization.  Engagement can be messy, but when done correctly, it encourages a collaborative culture.

4. Recognition

Many years ago, Ken Blanchard got it right in The One Minute Manager.  He said, “catch people doing something right” and recognize them publicly.  Praise in public and re-direct in private.  No truer words have ever been spoken when it comes to building a healthy organizational culture.   Recognize and celebrate successes.  As Blanchard says, if you can’t catch people doing something right – then catch them doing something ‘partially right’ and recognize that.

5. Education

Immerse and engage in a culture of learning.  The more a company can integrate ongoing learning into the organizational ethos, the more likely that company is to stay nimble and prepared for change.  Educating the organization regarding the culture of the company is particularly important to fuel and maintain a great culture.  A great strategy keeps you in the game, however, a great culture helps you win.  Especially important are the traditions and mission of the company. These things need to be part of the ongoing education of all new and existing employees.

Culture is a critical key to organizational success. It is one of the most important things in a company and it applies to all levels, from the top of the organization all the way down. The challenge with culture is that it is illusive.  The best and most scalable culture is one that is managed and maintained by the majority and not by a single policing body or by management alone.

Companies that dominate an industry for a long period of time do so because of a shared vision of organizational culture that is effectively implemented throughout the company.  That shared implementation of the vision is an important key to building a successful organizational culture.  If all the people in an organization row in the same direction in unison, that organization can dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.

Implementing a strong organizational strategy can be difficult however, implementing a healthy organizational culture is rare and in my opinion when all is said and done; culture, eats strategy for breakfast any day.

The "Friendly Skies" Are Back

Long lines, deteriorating service, flight attendants grabbing a beer and pulling the emergency exit handle to slide out onto the tarmac are part of our vision of airlines these days.

However, I had an experience last week that was truly amazing in this day and age.

My wife and I were flying on United from LAX to New Orleans for a business conference.  Before we were about to land, Rebecca, the flight attendant, handed me a business card from the Captain.  His name is Patrick Fletcher.  On the back of Captain Fletcher’s card was a handwritten note that said:

Flight 139, January 19, 2011

Mr. and Mrs. Misner,

It’s great to have you both with us today – Welcome!  I hope you have a great visit to New Orleans – we really appreciate your business!

Sincerely,

Pat Fletcher

Rebecca (who was a great flight attendant, by the way), told me the Captain wrote these notes to everyone who was a member of their premier level frequent flier club as well as all the 1st class passengers.  On this day, that was around 12 people.   She said he is great to fly with because he really treats the passengers AND the crew very well, mentioning that he had brought scones to all of them that morning.

I fly A LOT.  In the last 20 years, I’ve probably traveled on over 800 flights all around the world.  In that time, I’ve never received a personal note from the Captain.

Entrepreneurs and major corporations alike can learn from this story.  Personal service that goes above and beyond the call of duty, can generate great word of mouth.

Captain Fletcher – my hat’s off to you.  Well done.  I think this is a great example of how one person in a really large company can make a difference in a customer’s attitude.  Your note was creative and appreciated.  I hope to be flying with you again.

In the comments section below, please share with me a great customer service experience you have had and how it has impacted your conversation about that company with others.

My Marriott Experience

UPDATE:  Before you read this blog (which was posted on Saturday the 8th), I’d like to give an update.  I was contacted by John, the Director of Customer Advocacy at the Marriott Hotels.  He contacted me when he heard of my complaint.  He handled the situation with concern and professionalism.  He also made the matter right in the best way I think he could.  All companies make mistakes, attempting to make it right says a lot about a company.  Thanks John for your follow up.

Just yesterday I wrote about the great experience I had at the Apple Store in Southern California and now one day later I have a great example of how NOT to treat a customer.  I’ve been staying at the Marriott Desert Springs Vacation Villas in Palm Desert for the last several days.  I brought more than a dozen members of my executive management team here for a 3 day strategic planning meeting during which time we had all our meals on site, some golfed on site and some used the hotel’s spa facilities.

Checkout for the facility is at 10am (10am—how many hotel/villas have a 10am checkout!?).  OK, it doesn’t matter—I called more than an hour before checkout time and asked for an 11am checkout.  The Marriott recption desk attendant said, “Sure, if you want to pay an additional $50!”  Really? $50 more to check out at 11am?!!!  I told Melissa at the front desk that I brought more than a dozen people here for the last three days and charging me $50 to check out at 11am didn’t really seem appropriate.  She said they charge everyone—period.

Now here is where it gets really interesting.  I told her, “I brought 12 people for three nights and put them up in three – 2 bedroom villas and you won’t give me an hour later checkout?  If that is the case, I’ll never come back here again.  If you’re OK with that, I’m OK with that.”  And her answer was… wait for it… wait for it…. “Yes,” she actually said: “I’m OK with that.” 

So let’s go back to the “experience.”  This employee could have acted like she cared and maybe even asked her manager (which I requested).  But no, her answer was a “No,” end of discussion.

It wasn’t the $50 that was the big issue for me.  After spending thousands to bring my team there – $50 was not a big deal.  What really frustrated me was the fact that she didn’t seem to care if we ever came back or not.  It was not important to her.   The quality of customer service is so different from company to company and even locations within a company.  My experience here—was bad.  And Melissa should be happy to know that she has motivated me to not come back again.  Well done, Melissa.

Oh, if only Apple ran a hotel.  That would be an amazing place to stay.

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