Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Royal Road to the Heart

A Royal Road to the Heart

"The royal road to a man's heart is to talk to him about the thing he treasures most."



Relationships are the backbone of everything we do, especially in business. Whether you intentionally network or avoid small talk like the plague, relationships are something you can't afford to ignore. A Harvard University study showed that only 15% of the reason a person gets, keeps, or advances in a job is related to technical expertise, but a crushing 85% has to do with our interpersonal skills!



Networking is a Lifestyle


Here's the good news: the best networking is what naturally occurs in authentic, real-life relationships. Networking isn't just something you do at professional mixers or conventions, rather, connections that leverage results are the ones we build every day. Networking is not an event, it's a lifestyle! However, daily networking means you may need to stretch yourself socially, which can be a challenge for Americans. The APA defines Social Phobia as an (irrational) fear of looking stupid, and social phobia is especially common in the United States. Social phobia can be healthy, acting as a "social glue" in relationships and protecting our reputation. But is there a down side? Does social phobia keep us from advancing? Maybe more than we think!



Conversations: The Critical Link to Success


"You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you."



Conversations are a critical link in the chain of relationships that lead to success, so if you want to grow professionally you need to get over your nerves and genuinely enjoy people. Sweaty palms? That's ok! The best way to conquer fear is to go out and get busy! Here is a wonderful visual memory "stack" to move conversations forward and empower you for more proactive, inspiring conversations.



The Conversational Stack



Visual #1: A huge brass nameplate.
Introductions start with names, and people love talking about themselves! Use names early and often.



Visual #2: Atop the nameplate sits a large white house.
Ask where someone lives or where they grew up. When people talk about their hometown they loosen up and you find many common connections.



Visual #3: Inside the house is a family playing board games by the fire.
Ask about family and important relationships!



Visual #4: On the fireplace is a large work glove and a clock.
Work and daily tasks are a huge part of identity. Chat about work, school, or how they spend their TIME.



Visual #5: The work glove holds the tail of an airplane.
Many people adore traveling and talk for hours about their adventures.



Visual #6: The propeller of the airplane is a tennis racket.
Ask people about leisure, hobbies, and what brings them joy.



Visual #7: The airplane propeller is attached by a lightbulb.
People love to discuss books they've read or concepts of interest. People think cool thoughts; encourage them to SHARE!



Visual #8: On the lightbulb stands a Private First-Class soldier.
If you want to genuinely connect, never forget to ask about Problems, Frustrations, and Concerns.



Visual #9: The soldier holds a football goal post and a trophy.
If you want to inspire, be sure to ask about goals, dreams, and accomplishments. Affirm and encourage people too!



A Guaranteed Return on Investment


Why make conversation? Because success stems from relationships, and great conversations always bring a 100% return. So, go enjoy people, and stop in to see us soon. We look forward to more wonderful conversations with you this year!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Using Continuity to Strengthen Your Branding Efforts

Your brand is a lot more than just a name or a logo. It's the feeling that someone gets when they come into contact, any contact, with your organization. In fact, the thing that really increases engagement and drives loyalty isn't your products or services (though, to be fair, they do help quite a bit) - it's this idea of the larger brand itself.



Because someone could potentially have that experience with your brand, the idea of brand continuity could not be more important. Regardless of how someone interacts with your brand, it should all feel like it's naturally coming from the same place at all times. To truly master the idea of using continuity to strengthen your branding efforts, there are a few key things you'll need to keep in mind.



One Brand, One Voice - No Exceptions



Continuity means all of your marketing efforts need to feel as consistent as possible regardless of what those efforts happen to be. In the world of print marketing, this can be as simple as making sure that all of the fonts in your advertisements match (or at least reflect) the fonts on your actual products themselves. This can also encompass larger ideas, like if you revamp or redesign your company logo in one place you immediately roll it out everywhere at the same time to avoid confusion.



In a single word, your goal is "synchronicity." Every marketing-related decision you make must serve two masters. First, it must be purpose-driven with a strategic move made with a specific payoff in mind. Secondly, you need to make sure that it is NOT a move that is ultimately at odds with the way you talk to customers, the relationship that you have with them, or the idea that they have of your brand to begin with.



A Great Persona Makes All the Difference



Brand personas are incredibly helpful in this regard because they allow you to laser-focus your messaging on a few of your "ideal" customers in a way that makes it much easier to maintain one voice. If you segment your target audience into groups that are each represented by a singular fictional persona, it makes it much easier to make consistent decisions across all of your efforts. You can both make sure that continuity is preserved for all materials targeted at those people, but you can also easily get a "bigger picture" look about how each individual effort plays off of and compliments the rest.



The impact of negative brand continuity isn't limited to a customer getting their wire's crossed. Eventually, this problem will create a challenge that is much harder to overcome - a total loss of brand value in general. Not only will this see fewer sales for your actual products and services, but the same will be true of any retailers that may sell your products as well. This, in turn, will create fractured relationships, which goes a long way towards putting you farther away from your goals, not closer to them.


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

You Don't Demand Employee Trust. You Earn It.

Corporate culture is pretty much the key to everything in the world of business. According to a series of studies reported on by Forbes, nearly 90% of people who responded said that company culture was incredibly important for their firms. In fact, 92% said that they firmly believed that improving corporate culture would enhance the value of their business, while more than half of respondents said that corporate culture influences everything from productivity to creativity to profitability, value, growth and beyond.



At the same time, only 15% said that their company's culture was where it needed to be.



It Begins at the Top



At first glance, these numbers may appear to be somewhat at odds with one another - but they really aren't. Corporate culture begins at the top and, if anything, that 15% statistic can be attributed to one essential little word: trust. Leaders set the tone that affects the entire organization, and if employees don't trust their leaders, they ultimately don't trust the direction of the business that they're devoting so much of their lives to.



Make no mistake: trust is not something that you can demand from your employees. It's something that you have to earn - all day, every day. It's also something that requires you to keep a few key things in mind.



Trust is a Privilege, Not a Right



Yes, you worked incredibly hard to become the leader that you are today. You put in long hours. You worked weekends. You devoted the majority of your life to your career and a constant push to achieve bigger and better things for yourself. Now you're in charge of the proverbial ship, and everyone should just trust that you know what you're doing by default, right?



There's an old rule of storytelling that says that whenever possible, "show, don't tell." That essentially means that instead of having a character talk about some important development in the plot, SHOW the development instead by having them do something active. It's why in "Star Wars," instead of just having people stand around and talk about how bad the Death Star is, we see it blow up a planet to convey the same information in a much more active way.



This is the same mentality you need to adopt if you want to start earning the trust of your employees. If you make a mistake, don't shift the blame - accept responsibility. Don't ask any employee to do anything that you would be unwilling to do yourself. If you want people to come in on the weekend, you should also come in on the weekend. If you need your team to work long hours, guess what - you need to work them, too.



Show You Care



Every day, look for new opportunities to show your employees that you not only value what they do but that you're all in this together. Remember that their productivity, hard work, and excellent performance needs to benefit more than just you and your career - it needs to positively impact them, too. They're not going to follow you into battle because you tell them to. They have to want to do so.



The only way you can get to that point is if they trust you, and the only way you can get to THAT point is if you're someone worth trusting. This simple distinction is often what separates a good leader from a great one.


Friday, December 15, 2017

Why You Should Try to Incorporate the Holidays Into Your Marketing Efforts

If it seems like more and more marketers are incorporating holiday-themed elements into their campaigns, you're absolutely right. Though some may think this is a symptom of the commercialization of events like Thanksgiving or Christmas, it really isn't - at least, not if you approach it from the right angle. In truth, incorporating the holidays into your larger marketing efforts is and will always be a good idea for a number of compelling reasons.



It's All About Timeliness



Most marketing campaigns live and die by their timeliness. After all, what is a piece of marketing collateral if not a sure-fire way to get the right message in front of the right people at the right time? But this idea can take on a far greater meaning, particularly as far as the holidays are concerned.



Consider the fact that according to one recent study, about one-third of all shoppers reported that one or more holiday weekend purchases (think: Black Friday) were driven specifically by promotions. Likewise, another study revealed that in 2017 alone the average per person holiday spending will reach a new high of $805.65.



The ability to say "I'm having a one day sale for the holidays and here are all the details you need to know" is a great way to light a fire and motivate someone to make a purchase. But the reason why you should always try to incorporate the holidays into your marketing efforts runs far deeper than that.



In many ways, it plays directly into another one of the strengths of thoughtfully designed marketing collateral: emotion. You're not just trying to establish a connection with someone - you're trying to do so in the most emotional way possible. Connections based on emotions are the ones that instill a great sense of customer and brand loyalty.



What, then, could possibly be more emotional than the holiday season?



Capitalizing on Emotion



Think about it from the perspective of your average consumer. The holidays are something that they spend a huge portion of the year thinking about. They're devoting a large amount of their day at this point to getting ready for Christmas. They're looking forward to reconnecting with friends and family members that they may have lost touch with throughout the course of their busy year.



Emotions are already running incredibly high. So why on Earth would you NOT want to take advantage of that?



Making an effort to incorporate the holidays into your marketing efforts - even in some small way - taps directly into what people are already feeling all across this season. Even if you're not running a holiday promotion, making an effort to use holiday-themed visuals - or even just wishing your audience a heartfelt "Happy Holidays" - goes a long way towards connecting YOUR brand with what THEY are experiencing in the moment.



It's also something that you can never begin too early - particularly considering that 49% of marketers now say that they begin their holiday campaigns BEFORE Halloween. Make no mistake about it: if you're able to successfully connect with your audience via a holiday-themed campaign at the end of the year, you'll be building the type of emotional bridge directly to your audience that will serve you both well.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

What Your Customers are Worth (and Why it Matters)



What is the value of a customer? What profit can they bring this week? This year? Over a lifetime? It may seem like a simple concept, but many small businesses have no idea what a regular customer is worth to their business. This creates two problems:



  • Uncertainty about effective marketing. What is the number of new customers you'd like to attract and what is an appropriate budget to do that? Defining a customer value will guide your marketing strategies!

  • Ambivalence regarding customer retention. With a metric for measuring customer values, you can navigate appropriate parameters for retaining them or expanding their business. Research shows that increasing customer retention rates by merely 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%!

Customer Lifetime Value



While there are many complex formulas for calculating a Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), a basic approach is to break calculations into five digestible portions, like this:




  1. Average Order Value (AOV). On the most basic level, AOV is calculated by how much money is spent per customer in a year, divided by how many orders are placed by that customer in that timeframe.

  2. Purchase Frequency (f). Take the number of orders/visits/transactions from the past year and divide it by the number of unique customers you had. The total equals frequency, or how often an average customer purchased from you.

  3. Customer Value (cv). The base value of a customer can be calculated by multiplying the AOV by the purchase frequency (cv = AOV * f). In this instance, the customer value is being calculated for one year.

  4. Average Lifespan/Time (t). A customer's lifespan is how long they actively connect with your business before they move on or go dormant. This can be a complex calculation, but to keep things simple you can either give a broad estimate (an educated guess) or you can calculate an average based on a select number of known customers (adding the length of each of their commitments and dividing by the number of customers). For example: Total Length of Commitment/Number of Individual Customers = Average Customer Lifespan (t).

  5. Customer Lifetime Value (CLV). Now that you've got a general idea of a customer's value for a year and the average customer lifespan, you can use these variables for a lifetime value: Customer value (cv) * Average Lifespan (t) = Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)



While this is a very simplified equation, even a ballpark CLV can give you a more accurate idea of how valuable each client is to your business. What should you look to spend in order to gain a customer? How much should you spend to extend their loyalty? A benchmark CLV will give you a helpful base for marketing, loyalty programs, and sales goals for the upcoming year. Take a look at a more complex approach Starbucks has taken to determine their CLV as a whopping $14,099!1



Your Customers Are Your Future



A customer represents the future of your success and your livelihood, and it will be difficult to thrive if you aren't willing to risk or invest to attract new business. What are your obstacles to expanding your reach or enlarging your advertising? Has the uncertainty of direct mail marketing kept your business from growing? Why not rely on our expertise? We offer sophisticated, simple ways to reach a mass audience for an amount that works within your budget. Need a creative concept or help to carry it to completion? We offer prompt, knowledgeable service for every custom design mailing. Give us a call today!


Monday, December 11, 2017

The Lessons Taught by The Movie "Office Space"

Close your eyes and picture this: On your early morning commute, you get stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Your senses are bombarded with horns honking, the sound of breaks squeaking, and the pungent smell of exhaust. Your reward for making it through this mess isn't much better. Your individual cubicle awaits, lit only by artificial lights which have a way of making you look sick and feel hopeless. Once you arrive in your allotted space, you are faced with mountains of redundant, seemingly meaningless tasks you must complete, while answering to eight different bosses who don't communicate amongst themselves.



If the movie "Office Space" came to mind during this exercise, you are getting the right idea. While the movie's comedic portrayal of an office environment is exaggerated, as business owners, it's wise to learn the lessons you can glean from it.



Delegate



Bill Lumbergh is the boss in the movie "Office Space." He is often seen hanging around Peter's (main character's) cubicle, overreaching his boundaries and seemingly controlling every aspect of Peter's day. Peter also has eight bosses other than Bill, or maybe including him. This means everything has to be repeated over and over to the point of insanity. This drives Peter crazy, and it is not productive either.



Lesson #1: Give your employees what they need to do the job: training, materials, etc. Then, let them work. Get out of their way. Studies have even proven that micromanaging can cause employees to perform at a lower level, not higher. Just imagine trying to do even a simple task with someone standing right over your shoulder, and it's easy to understand why micromanaging is so detrimental.



Provide Well Functioning Equipment/Updated Software



In the movie, the copy machine almost takes on the role of character thanks to the fact that it is so detested by Michael and the other main characters. It seems this copier/printer will never work properly, which causes endless difficulties. Peter, Samir, and Michael (main characters) end up destroying the machine in a rural field outside town after their frustrations reach a boiling over point.



Lesson #2: You should provide your employees with what they need to get their job done as mentioned above. Sure, things break. That's understandable. However, expecting your employees to continue to use subpar equipment, computer, software, etc. yet still pushing them to meet deadlines and maintain the same level of production simply isn't fair.



Create a High-Quality Working Environment



It is no wonder the characters of "Office Space" so detest their jobs. They work in 6' x 6' cubicles with no windows. In addition, Peter is situated right across from another employee who patches calls through, so in essence, she spends all day saying "just a moment" in an irritatingly spunky voice.



Lesson #3: Cubicles are sometimes unavoidable in today's office buildings. However, give your employees the freedom to move around to break up their day. Make sure you have seating available for your employees outside where they can walk around and enjoy being outdoors. If outdoor space isn't an option, at least make sure you provide a lounge with couches or comfortable chairs where employees can go to take a break from their own cubicle walls.



Most employees understand that doing business in today's technology-saturated society often means they are required to sit at a desk and work on a computer most of the day. This doesn't have to look like the movie "Office Space," though. Thankfully, with a little thought and purposeful planning, you can ensure your employees never feel like Peter or the other characters from the movie. Simply adhere to these lessons from "Office Space," and you will be heading in the right direction.


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Cash Flow and Marketing: What You Need to Know

Cash flow is important in the lifespan of any business, but one of the key things to understand is that it's about more than just "money in versus money out." It's a valuable look into the bigger picture of what you're doing, and by having a handle on this aspect of your finances, you can take advantage of business opportunities when they arise.



First, you need to understand how every element of your business relates to this cash flow concept, including marketing. To that point, marketing has a very specific relationship with cash flow that you're going to need to be aware of moving forward.



Hone Your Budget



Yes, it's true that marketing costs can often seem unpredictable. However, working hard to hone your marketing budget can make these unexpected situations easier to deal with.



To get started, sit down and think about your upcoming marketing efforts in relation to your other expected cash inflows and outflows. You can't afford to throw just anything at the wall to see what sticks; you have to be more precise than that. Create a realistic marketing budget (that includes room for experimentation if needed) that is proportional to the rest of your expected business expenses and revenue streams.



It's All About That Return



What matters most? Return on investment. For this, focus on the metrics that provide you the context necessary to understand your marketing efforts.



Essentially, stop thinking about marketing ROI as just "how many sales did that last campaign bring in?" and don't be afraid to break things down on a more granular level. Start looking at metrics like your customer acquisition cost. If one of your campaigns was aimed at increasing more traffic to your website, start breaking things down based on metrics like "time spent on site" and "conversion rate."



It's important to know how your marketing collateral is performing in terms of overall sales and revenues, but in terms of your cash flow you need to dive deeper than that. As long as you're able to A) show that your marketing is giving you something in return, and B) you can identify exactly what that something is and when it occurs, you know where the value of every marketing dollar rests.



This, in turn, will give you the context necessary to understand marketing's affect on cash flow and vice versa. When you know that "X action will pay off in Y way after Z amount of time," you suddenly know the impact that every marketing decision you make actually has and when that impact is going to occur. This makes long-term cash flow projections not only easier to make but more accurate as well.


Friday, December 1, 2017

Visuals Need a True Narrative For Maximum Effectiveness

Human beings are visual learners, which is part of why visual communication is so effective (and important). Whether you're talking about a B2C or B2B situation, marketing presentations allow your message to transcend the world of more straightforward marketing tactics and take on a whole new potential audience at the same time.



Case in point: according to one study, people only tend to remember about 10% of what they hear just three days later. If they receive the same message when paired with relevant visuals, that number jumps to an incredible 65%. It makes sense, then, that 37% of marketers said that visual resources like presentations were one of the most important forms of content for their business in general.



However, presentations are NOT necessarily a silver bullet, and you shouldn't treat them as such. Without a strong narrative at the core of your marketing, in general, it's far too easy to get lost in fluff that ultimately doesn't matter - affecting the impact on your audience as a result.



What's in a Narrative? Quite a Bit, It Turns Out



Call it whatever you'd like - a narrative, a central idea, the main thesis, etc. Every campaign needs a straightforward idea (preferably one that can be summed up in a sentence or two) at the start of it all, acting as a solid foundation from which everything else is built.



For the sake of comparison, let's look at the power a simple narrative brings to the table regarding another visual communication medium: filmmaking. The movie "Star Wars" from 1977 is one of the most successful films of all time. It spawned billions in merchandising sales, one of the most successful franchises ever, and even led to the $4 billion acquisition of LucasFilm by Disney a few years ago.



But "Star Wars" isn't really about crazy aliens, amazing spaceships, thrilling outer space battles and all of that other stuff. At heart, "Star Wars" is a simple and relatable narrative: a young boy who grew up on a farm dreams of a better and more exciting life, so he jumps at the chance to join the Rebellion and travel the stars.



It's not any more complicated than that. Every single scene in the movie reinforces that narrative in some way. It all relates back to that simple idea.



Simple and Effective



Your marketing needs to be the same way. Whatever idea that you're trying to convey or message that you're getting across, it needs to be A) stated up front, B) as short and as simple as possible and C) relatable in some way. As long as you have those three elements, every other decision you make with regards to content needs to refer back to it, and your marketing will soar.



Having a strong, true narrative (and identifying it before you begin work) keeps you focused. Without a true narrative at the heart of it all, you're left with marketing that doesn't really justify its own existence.


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Repeat Success is No Small Achievement

Arnel Pineda never imagined that he would be fronting the world-famous rock band, Journey, when he began singing American rock songs with his friends' band as a teenager.



For years his exceptional singing talent had been good enough to belt out songs with club bands doing parties, special events, contests, weddings, and regular appearances around the Philippines, Pineda's home country. However, one evening Pineda was filmed doing his performance with a particular Journey song, "Don't Stop Believin'." The performance, as well as Pineda's accuracy in singing the song so similar to how the original version was sung by the first Journey frontman, Steve Perry, shocked people. It also shocked the guitarist and an original member of Journey, Neil Schon, when he watched the YouTube video as well. One would think that the fairytale story ended at this point as Pineda rocketed to fame as Journey's replacement singer. However, that's not quite how things went.



Upping Your Game



Yes, Pineda could sing, no argument. And he did a darn good version of Journey as a bar band singer. However, the band made it clear to Pineda that if he were to be considered a serious contender for the real band, he would have to up his game. That meant singing all the original Journey songs to perfection.



It's easy for the typical person to think this challenge might be doable. That's because no one sees what Pineda had to go through to match every tone and every inflection that Steve Perry had done to make Journey's songs famous in the first place. Unlike Perry, who could craft a new song with any version of voice he liked, Pineda had to duplicate the original to every single detail. It was a grueling process with Schon and company catching every mistake and pushing Pineda to reach the zenith of his ability. There were plenty of times Pineda wanted to quit as well, questioning his own talent. Fortunately, the Filipino singer realized his full potential and succeeded.



Success Can Be Hard to Repeat



This story is a classic case showing how hard it is to achieve success a second time once a standard or great performance has been achieved in the first place. In business, a one-time success is just that, a fortunate blip. When a business team can repeat the performance and do even better consistently, that's a huge achievement. It proves that the success was not just good luck or a brief opportunity when things just fell into place.



Repeat success is the primary goal every business team strives to achieve. And it is extremely hard. Conditions change, markets fluctuate, customers move to new interests, team members leave and get replaced. All of these factors and more change the mix in how successful a team can be. To overcome these changes and repeat the success is really the higher level of performance that pays big with rewards when it can be achieved.



Not Just for Entertainment



Think Pineda's story is just something that happens in the entertainment world? Look at Apple after Steve Jobs passed away. The Apple team lost a core resource in Jobs and still had to find a way to keep Apple growing and succeeding even more than what Jobs had achieved with the company. CEO Tim Cook and company did exactly that, but it was a huge challenge to fill Jobs' shoes year after year since his passing. In many ways, Cook had to perform just as hard a Pineda to repeat a success and make it better. So the next time you see a repeat success story, don't dismiss it so quickly. It's frequently much harder to succeed a second time versus the first.


Friday, November 24, 2017

From Small Things Come Big Changes

Pierre Omidyar didn't plan to start a mega-corporation in the late fall of 1995. In fact, all he wanted to do was get rid of some computer equipment he had laying around by selling it through a digital garage sale. However, once he realized how popular his simple web page started to become, and the fact that he could charge a fee for folks to use it, eBay was born.



In three short years, the eBay online auction concept went from a private website to a viable business that quickly began to explode. Omidyar had hit on what many in business invention call a "primal need," something that everybody needs and doesn't yet exist.



With the help of Jeff Skoll, Omidyar brought in Meg Whitman, the same Whitman who later ran for California's governor, and corporate eBay took off. By 1998, eBay had gone beyond just selling used and collection items and was quickly becoming a viable brand name for online selling in general. The model continues today and competes directly against regular retail selling.



Seeing What it Could Become



The key aspect of Omidyar's success, however, was not Whitman and her corporate choices of personnel, nor was it the smart linkup with PayPal to make eBay's payment processing extraordinarily fluid and easy for customers. Omidyar could see that he had something valuable and, if given the resources, what it could become. This key talent is what makes the difference between inventors and idea people who never quite achieve success, and people like Omidyar who realize what seems to be impossible starting out.



Omidyar had a number of essential factors present and working in his favor:



  • Again, the primal need for an online auction platform or similar garage sale digital tool was needed.

  • Second, it could be easily accessed by anyone who wanted to participate and pay the fee.

  • Third, the tool was easy to use and produced immediate results and rewards for those using it.

  • Fourth, and most important, no one else was making the same idea happen successfully at the time.

Without these elements in place, Omidyar's personal website might have made some small cash and even generated a small following, but it would not have turned into the worldwide corporation we know as eBay today.



Finding Ways to Make it Grow



Some explain the opportunity as a momentary blast of good luck or fate, and others argue it's the genius of the person involved producing some incredible new service or product. In reality, eBay is neither; it is a product of Omidyar being able to see the promise of an idea and finding ways to make it grow and become more useful, accessible, and popular.



Ebay expanded and became a household name because the company took every opportunity to follow the four principles above in its business strategy. That constant commitment to creating value in a brand is why people keep coming back to eBay as a service some 20 years later, regardless of what the internet and technology have provided since.



If you need help creating value in your brand, we're here to help. Give us a call today!


Making Philanthropy the Family Business

If you ask the owners of many large, family-owned businesses what keeps everyone together, you may notice a trend: philanthropy. Helping others truly does run in the family, and multigenerational businesses are in a unique position to pass along not just the business perspective needed to be successful, but also how to have a positive impact on the community. Even if kids are too young to be involved in the family business, it's never too early to begin coaching children about why it is important to help those who are less fortunate. It's not just large organizations that benefit from giving back -- family businesses of all sizes find that philanthropy offers a way for all ages to come together around a common goal.



Teaching Financial Stewardship



While most parents strive to raise children that are strong and confident of their place in the world, the reality is that there will always be others who do not have the same opportunities for nutrition, good schools, and a loving family environment. It can be challenging for kids growing up in a family business environment to understand that not everyone has access to the same technology, toys and clothing -- and that being a good steward of finances means finding ways to contribute to the health and well-being of others. This often starts early with a percentage of allowance going to support those in need and can continue to grow throughout their life.



Legacy of Values



Passing a company down through multiple generations is a powerful legacy, and one that provides no small measure of pride when passed along. The values of hard work, thrift, and benevolence make for great leaders in the community and in the business -- and are a good way of maintaining strong ties with customers and employees. Even family members who are not a part of the daily running of the business are often able to get involved in a philanthropic effort in some way.



Deliberate Goals



Being deliberate about creating goals for your family business around giving is yet another way of enforcing the importance of strategy within the organization. When multigenerational leaders work together to solve challenging problems for the greater good, that hard work often spills over into daily life. A key to selecting a good philanthropic effort is that it's large enough to engage family members of all ages in some way. This allows you to tailor opportunities for service and giving to the specific preferences and strengths of an individual. For instance, some people are born to be fundraisers and are able to weave a compelling tale about the how monetary gifts will be utilized in a way that compels people to provide cash infusions. If others are more comfortable working behind the scenes, there is plenty to be done there as well.



Building family values, providing support to the community -- where's the downside? When you need printed materials for your next community project, contact us!


Friday, November 17, 2017

Boosting Customer Engagement with Fall-Themed Promotions

Fall is a beautiful time of year with cooler weather in some regions, and connotations of family in all parts of the country. Fall brings with it traditional themes of back to school, falling leaves, carving pumpkins, football, and fall holidays. One of the most popular traditions during the fall season is the range of pumpkin-flavored treats available. Using these themes, you can create campaigns to drive new customers and return business.



1. Giveaways and Contests



It is always fun to promote a coupon or giveaway with a fall flavor. These can include coupons to neighboring businesses for cross-promotion or sweepstakes for fall gifts. For B2B companies, it is best to keep these rewards under $10 because some industries have strict limits on what they can receive as gifts. Easy gifts are seasonal doughnuts, bags of coffee, pumpkin pie or other food specialties of the season. If you prefer to offer non-food rewards, small sports-related gifts make good selections. It is best to have rewards that appeal to most clients whether men or women and any age.



2. Seasonal Discounts



Offering seasonal discounts as companies ramp up for the year can drive business. These discounts should be offered in early August to allow for planning time. Giving customers bulk discounts for large orders is a good incentive for any product or service.



3. Educational Videos



Combine some video with your print promotions to encourage loyalty from your customers. Videos can truly be on any subject to help customers better understand what you do and how best to approach you for specific jobs. Humorous videos are an excellent way to help customers remember what they have learned. You can promote custom products and services that make your business unique and invite them for a free sample after viewing the video.



4. Fall Infographics



The football theme is a great one for fall infographics. You can lay out a play-by-play scenario for a custom service on a colorful direct mail infographic that will catch your customer's eye. Use it as a poster in your building, email it to your customer list, and hand it out with orders. Infographics are great for simplifying complex ideas with simple illustrations and graphic arrows.



These are just a few ideas to get promoting this fall. Remember, if you need help with your printing and marketing, give us a call today!


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Healthy Employees Are Productive Employees: Why to Incentivize Health at Work

Productivity really is the secret to everything in terms of your business' success. Happier employees tend to be more productive, which is why it is essential that you focus on things like corporate culture and team-building exercises whenever the opportunity arises.



Many people don't realize, however, that this is only one small part of a much larger story. It isn't enough for your employees to be happy - healthy employees are also significantly more productive than those who are not, which is why if you're not already making health and wellness top priorities within your organization now would be an excellent time to start.



Healthy Employees and Productivity: Facts and Figures



According to a series of studies that were recently conducted on the subject, healthy employees may be a whole lot more valuable than you've even realized:




  • On average, employees who eat healthy foods (or who at least make an effort to do so) tend to be about 25% more productive than those who do not.




  • Employees that exercise for at least a half hour each week are an impressive 15% more likely to have higher job performance than those who do not.




  • Healthy employees also take fewer sick days, which is not surprising. The true revelation, however, is just how far this benefit goes: absenteeism is a massive 27% lower in employees who A) eat healthy, and B) exercise regularly.




  • The most important statistic of all is the fact that overweight and generally unhealthy employees cost employers in the United States an astounding $73.1 billion collectively per year, part of which has to do with the fact that they tend to file twice the number of workers' compensation claims than those who do not.



At this point, the answer to the question "how important are healthy employees?" becomes resoundingly clear: very, very important. But saying that you value your employee's health is one thing. Actually taking steps to show that this is true is something else entirely.



How to Value Health at Work



Luckily, valuing healthy employees is simply a matter of a series of small choices. You can begin by making sure that healthy snacks are available for employees in the office who may be "burning the midnight oil," for example. If you're one of the many workplaces around the country that has a vending machine on-site, consider restocking that vending machine with healthy snacks like fruits and vegetables instead of the traditional potato chips and sweets. People will absolutely start to eat them, especially if they don't really have an alternative.



You'll also want to consider emphasizing health in terms of things like employee benefits packages. Consider throwing in a free gym membership to a local fitness club that employees can take advantage of after they've worked with your organization for X number of weeks or months. It may not be something that everyone uses, but those who do will benefit greatly. You'll also benefit, too, as this is a clear sign that you actually care about the health and fitness of your employees - something that will make it easier to attract top talent in the future.



Also remember that according to one report by Quantum Workplace, employees tend to be 14% more engaged when they are provided some time off to "recharge their batteries," so to speak. So the next time you think it's a good idea to make people work incredibly long hours week after week, you may want to think again.


Friday, November 10, 2017

What Google's Mistakes Can Teach Us About Leadership

One of the things that Google is famous for is data-based decision making. When they want to find the most effective way to do something, they look at the numbers and work from there. However, even a company as married to analytics as Google is vulnerable to lapses and oversights. Recently, their data showed that their process for hiring and promoting the best managers for the job was all wrong.



When you look at where Google made their mistake and what they did to correct it, you could save your company some money and heartache and also create a more effective workplace.



Google's Error and Assumption



Besides a dedication to data, Google's other key characteristic is a high regard for technical expertise. Tech savviness was so prized that, historically, it was one of the top factors in whether someone would get promoted to management.



When Google set out to learn whether their hiring and promoting strategy was working, they discovered something interesting: the best managers were not necessarily the ones who were technical experts at all.



After gathering and analyzing data from 10,000 manager observations, they learned that the quality they valued most had almost no bearing on whether someone was a good manager. Instead, soft skills were what made all the difference.



What the Data Says Makes a Good Manager



Google used their large pool of data to identify eight qualities and habits that make great managers. While technical skill was on the list, it was the least important of all the qualities on it. In order of importance, the qualities that make great managers include:



  • Good coaching.

  • Empowering your team to work without micromanaging. A good manager hires good people, then gets out of their way.

  • Interest in employees' well-being and success. People are more motivated and show greater job satisfaction when they know that the people they work under care about them.

  • A results-oriented and productive outlook.

  • Excellent communication skills, especially good listening.

  • An interest in employees' career development. Good managers understand that we all do better when we all do better.

  • A clear vision and strategy.

  • Key technical skills. These aren't important because your manager will be doing hands-on work, by the way. They are important because it allows the manager to advise the team that they've assembled for the job.

In addition to the revelations above, Google discovered a lot about the types of managers who make employees happy. The most important quality is a calm demeanor and an even keel. In a high-stress environment, someone who keeps things steady is key. They also discovered that the best leaders puzzled through problems with employees instead of just telling them what to do.



By looking at the real data about good managers, Google was able to improve their hiring practices, improve worker satisfaction, and increase productivity.



The biggest takeaway? Always challenge your assumptions. You may learn that what you thought was effective may be harming your company more than it helps. By taking an honest look at your analytics, you can seize startling revelations. Use them to make your company a better place and to rise above the competition.


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Bullies, Burgers, and Buzz

What do Whopper Juniors and bullying have in common these days? They are both being talked about. A LOT.




Recently, Burger King released a three-minute video in honor of National Bullying Prevention month. The viral video revealed that 95 percent of customers were willing to report their smashed, "bullied" Whopper Jr., but only 12 percent stood up for a high school student being harassed in the same store. The "No Junior Deserves to be Bullied" spot received national attention, generating countless online shares and loads of free publicity. One blogger said this:





"Yes, this is basically a three-minute Burger King ad. And, yes, it's not subtle. But this PSA is better than it has a right to be, and is certainly more than you'd expect from a restaurant that doesn't really have an ethical obligation beyond selling burgers . . . this weirdly good anti-bullying PSA will wreck your day."





Viral: Why Certain Messages Multiply



Have you ever wondered why some YouTube videos go viral? Or why some products receive more word-of-mouth and top-of-mind awareness? Whether we're in marketing, politics, or public health, it's helpful to consider why certain products or ideas catch fire. Wharton marketing professor Jonah Berger, author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On, devoted nearly a decade to researching this very question. We all know that word-of-mouth marketing is the most dynamic form of influence, but why do some things seem to create more buzz? Berger gives several ideas for getting your ideas to stick and to SPREAD.





  1. Social Currency. What we talk about influences how other people see us - whether we look clever, silly, or thoughtful. How can our product or idea be a fun or interesting thing for someone to share with others? Many who shared the Burger King ad found it to be a compelling social commentary, a fun (but thoughtful) perspective worthy of passing along.


  2. Triggers. People often talk about whatever comes to mind. Just like a Subway ad might be effective in a subway station, a trigger is an association that prompts people to think about related things. Burger King wisely released this PSA during Bullying Prevention month, because what is on the top of the mind is often at the tip of the tongue. Burgers and bullies were on our lips in October.


  3. Emotion. How can we craft messages and ideas that make people feel something? Our relational bent prompts us to share things that are surprising, inspiring, funny, beautiful, or motivating. Burger King tapped into a heartfelt issue, knowing that when we care, we are more likely to share!


  4. Stories Sell. Why are Super Bowl commercials so fun? Because nothing tops a great story, and these ads tell them well. Top marketers know that one way to replicate a message is to embed it in a "Trojan Horse," or a noteworthy narrative people are bound to repeat. In this instance, the Whopper Junior had a supporting role in the greater story of bullying and social justice. But Contagious reminds us the product or idea has to be essential to the plotline: "We need to make our message so integral to the narrative that people can't tell the story without it."




Getting Your Message to Spread and Stick



Looking for ways to get your message to spread and your brand to stick? From large-scale publicity to customer care and referral options, we have opportunities in all sizes. We'll help you package your stories, triggers, and ideas with several time-tested tools and tricks. Give us a call to talk options!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Ways to Protect Your Brand in the Real-Time Information Age

A brand is more than just a company logo, and it's bigger than any one particular product or service. Instead, it's the feeling that people get when they think about your company. It's what goes into the instinct they have regarding whether or not to make a purchase.



A brand is also massively important in terms of how successful your marketing efforts will be in the long-term. The impression someone has of your brand is something that occurs almost immediately. 48% of consumers say that they are more likely to become loyal to a brand if their first experience is a positive one, regardless of whether or not that experience actually took the form of a purchase.



That means your brand must be protected at all costs, particularly in the real-time information age that we're now living in. People are being marketed to from nearly every angle. If you don't work hard to strengthen and hone your brand, you run the risk of being lost in the shuffle. Hope is not lost, however, as there are a few key things you can do to protect your brand as much as you can.



Consistency is Key



One of the most important things you can do to protect your brand is focus on something that real-time information doesn't provide: consistency. According to one study, 90% of consumers expect that their experience with a brand will be similar across all channels - whether you're talking about print, in-person interactions, or digital content.



Don't Wait For Your Audience to Come to You



Another study estimates that, on average, you really need about five to seven positive brand impressions with a consumer before they start to remember your brand in a similar light. This is good, but you need to remember that in a real-time information age, you don't necessarily have the time to wait for a consumer to initiate those impressions.



Also, consider the fact that brands that are consistently presented are three to four times more likely to experience brand visibility. YOU must be reaching out to your audience by way of consistent, enjoyable and helpful experiences whenever and wherever you can. Increase the frequency of the print marketing collateral that you're putting out there and focus on being helpful, educational, and informative.



The Unmistakable Benefits



Give people as many opportunities to experience your brand as you possibly can and your entire identity will benefit as a result. If brand visibility is something of a numbers game, you need to play those numbers as well as you possibly can. Don't wait for someone else to hopefully do it for you.



Successful branding brings with it a wide range of different benefits, from increased customer loyalty to an improved image, to a relatable identity and beyond. But in an age where information is everywhere, your brand is something that you also need to work hard to proactively protect. If you don't, you run the risk of watching those important relationships with your audience begin to deteriorate.


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Maintaining a Work/Life Balance: Why Perspective Is Key

Work/life balance? No problem, right? But then those daily tasks start to add up and your nights start getting longer. You start going in on the occasional Saturday, then the "frequent" Saturday. Pretty soon you're so bogged down with your "to-do" list that you can't even think about taking that vacation with your family.



Maintaining a proper work/life balance is a challenge, sure - but it's also a lot easier than you might think.



Enjoying Life is a Task, Too



When the pendulum that is your work/life balance begins to swing decidedly in the direction of "work, work, work," you start to encounter a few key problems almost immediately. You're trying to do too much at the same time, and the quality of work tends to suffer. You're also getting burned out, which leads to less getting done because you lack the motivation to push on when you need it the most.



This is a large part of the reason why experts agree that you should look at downtime for what it is: a mission-critical task that you need to preserve your productivity throughout the week.



As you begin to build your schedule each week, make sure to add leisure activities at strategic points when you'll need them. Don't be afraid to add "go to the movies" to your calendar for Thursday, or pencil in that lunch with your old college friend on Monday afternoon.



If You Want to Move Up, Plan Some Down Time



Human beings NEED downtime to stay efficient. It's a way to periodically re-charge our batteries. It's the reason why people say you shouldn't cram all your studying into the night before a big test in college and should instead break your coursework down into smaller, more manageable chunks in the weeks proceeding that moment. The former is an absolute recipe for disaster, and the latter supports the way your brain operates.



If you add in leisure items to your list of things to do, you'll enjoy the added benefit of being able to check them off said list throughout the week. When you do this, it releases endorphins into your brain - meaning that you get a boost of satisfaction from having accomplished something, anything, and you get to take a mental breather at the same time.



None of this is difficult advice to follow - all it requires is some perspective about the things that matter most in life. Yes, work is important, but actually living your life is important, too.


Friday, October 27, 2017

3 Signs to Help You Identify if Your Market is Changing

So much of your marketing success depends on your ability to get the right message in front of the right people at exactly the right time. To accomplish this, you need to know your audience - and the market that they inhabit - as intimately as possible.



But what happens if one day, suddenly and without warning, that market begins to change? Worse yet, what happens if this trend started while you weren't necessarily paying as much attention as you should have been? The answer is both unfortunate and straightforward: you'll be stuck playing "catch up."



This is a situation that you do NOT want to find yourself in. Here are a few key signs that indicate a market change may be taking place.



Product Innovation Is No Longer a Key Value Driver



You've worked hard to build a robust and stable business and nobody offers what you do in quite the same way. You've had a tremendous amount of success relying on this type of innovation up to this point as a result. However, if things start to shift in the opposite direction, you may be looking at a market change that you'll want to adapt to as fast as you can.



Simply put, product innovation - that is, the quality of what you do and how you do it - should always be the key value driver for your business. If you start to have to fall back on things like your prices, the reputation of your brand, or simply your ability to "out market" your competition, it's likely that your audience is reaching a maturity level that will represent a challenge in the future.



Look to Your Competitors



Competitors are not always a hurdle to be overcome. Oftentimes, they can be the "canary in the coal mine," so to speak, especially in a situation like this one. Take a look at some of the leaders in your industry, especially competitors that are larger than you are. What are they doing? Are they growing or retracting? Are they doing something that nobody else is doing because they can see something coming down the road that nobody else does? Keeping an eye on the health of your larger competitors can be a great way to stay ahead of the larger market trends that may be right around the corner.



Listen to Your Customers



Ultimately, the most important thing you can do to identify signs that your market may be changing requires you to see your marketing strategy as a two-way street. You're not just communicating with your audience; your audience is also communicating with you. If you're having a hard time getting solid insight into the direction of your industry and market alone, cut out the middleman and go right to the source: ask your audience what they see as their future needs in the areas you've dedicated yourself to serving.



Send out surveys or questionnaires asking for raw, honest insights into the questions you're asking yourself today. Take a current client or customer out for dinner and ask them what they see for the next five or even ten years in your industry. Never forget that without these people, your business wouldn't exist - so it's in your own best interest to listen to them as often as possible.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Print Advertising Feels Like Printing Money

Wouldn't it be great if you could print your own money? Life would be so much easier, right? Well, maybe not, but here's a little secret that feels like printing money: print advertising.



Print Advertising is Like Printing Money



Good advertising can go a long way for your business. Sometimes it's hard to explain what good advertising is, but you know it when you've seen it. Whether it's a heartfelt image or a tagline that makes you think, there's just something about incredible advertising that has a way to move and motivate you.



Good print advertising can inspire you to make a change, donate to a cause, or purchase that cool, new tech device. It provides everyone who passes it, holds it, or takes it out of a mailbox the chance to see that printed information. And, since print advertising is often locally targeted, it means that you can create a far more personal connection to your community than you can with digital ads.



Every time someone sees your printed advertisement and, in turn, goes in and buys a product or service from you, you're essentially printing your own money! These customers may have never come to your business and purchased your product or service without seeing the advertisement.



You Like What You See, You Buy What You Like



Picture this: You're walking down the street. Maybe you just finished grabbing a coffee with a friend, and you're heading back to your car. You check your watch to make sure you're still on time to pick up the kids from school. You look up and there, on the side of a building, is a poster for a brand new product one of the local boutiques is offering. It stops you in your tracks as you gaze up at it. It's incredible! How come nobody else ever thought of that before! You pull out your phone and snap a picture, so you remember to pick up the item later.



All of this is the power of print advertisement. People pay little mind to online advertisements, and TV ads are often on while the viewer is off grabbing another beverage from the kitchen. Print ads, however, are there regardless of what a person is doing and how often they pass a certain intersection. And every time someone sees the advertisement and buys something, you've just printed more of your own money.



So, what are you waiting for? Now is the time to start printing your own money in the form of print advertising!


Friday, October 20, 2017

Want to Be Successful? Take Time to Dream

One of the most famous dreamers of our time is Steve Jobs, the Co-founder and CEO of Apple, an iconic visionary who believed so deeply in the power of his dreams that he was able to bring them to life for millions of people. Jobs believed that the era of mediocrity was over and that you should put in the work on every project to make it great. His famous recommendation to a Disney retail executive to "Dream bigger" when it came to Disney stores resulted in a new type of store experience that continues to delight children of all ages. How can you leverage these same tactics and take the time to dream big in your own life?



Dream Fearlessly



Individuals often lose confidence in their dreams because everyday reality creeps in and has a way of tamping down your passion. Big dreamers are different. Even if you think they're relentlessly optimistic, it requires constant hard work and commitment to make dreams come true, and a fearless need to be successful.



Believe in Yourself



Constantly second-guessing yourself doesn't leave a lot of time for forward movement, making self-confidence a critical requirement for living your passion. You have to identify every element of your vision down to the smallest detail, and then break it down into the small steps required to make it happen. Professional athletes are very familiar with this concept, as they are coached to visualize making a basket, getting a hole in one, or nailing a complicated gymnastics floor exercise.



Take Action



Dreaming is great, but once the dream is solidified it is time to begin moving! Harness your beliefs and stay focused on reaching your goal. There will be others who will support you along the way -- great! There will also be those individuals who are constantly looking to undermine your skills, your ability, and your passion. Graciously ignore them, and keep taking steps to move your dreams forward into reality. Pausing too long to consider the consequences can often result in a missed opportunity, which may not come around again.



Compete to Win



Successful dreamers are by nature quite competitive. They're always looking around for how their competition is doing something and finding a way to improve upon the concept, or better yet -- revolutionize it in their own way. Solving problems for your customers is a daily devotion, allowing you to rise to any challenge and overcome it as you follow your dreams.



Leave Space for Dreaming



What can you stop doing (immediately, next week, in six weeks) that will free up additional time for dreaming? It can be incredibly difficult to fuel your passion when you're so caught up in everyday activities and overall busyness that you aren't able to stop and think. Actively look for ways that you can create space in your daily activities that provide a block of time in which to think about the future and how you'll get there. Your future self will thank you!



Finally, and perhaps most importantly, persevere. When things don't work out exactly as you had planned -- keep going. Remind yourself that nothing good comes overnight, and success can take years to achieve. Stay resilient, be patient and keep dreaming!


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

What Leadership Really Means in the Era of Working Remotely

More employees are working remotely than ever before. According to research conducted by GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, roughly 50% of the workforce in the United States holds a job that is "compatible" with at least partial telework. Of those people, about 20 to 25% of them actually do work remotely at some frequency.



More than that, a further 80 to 90% say that they would really like to work remotely at least part time - pointing to a trend that is only going to get more popular as time goes on.



Employees who are all able to work from home (or wherever they'd like, really) sounds fantastic... if you're an employee. But what if you're an employer? More than that, what if you're a leader? How do you continue to do your job of bringing people together to benefit the greater good if they're all spread out over a potentially massive geographic area?



The Job Hasn't Changed...



The "good news" is that the leadership qualities required to steer any organization towards success have not changed, nor are they likely to ever do so. You still need to be an excellent communicator, making sure that everyone is on the same page, that they know what "success" looks like, and that they all still feel like they're contributing to something much more powerful and important than themselves.



You still need to be willing to lead by example, never asking someone to do something that you're unwilling to do yourself. You still need to inspire people to give their all not because their paychecks depend on it, but because they just can't help themselves.



... But the Tools Have



Things have changed, however. In terms of communication, for example, you need to be willing to adapt your process to rely less on face-to-face interaction and more on the digital resources that you have available to you. Collaborating on a project no longer involves sitting in the same room and hammering out ideas. Now, it'll involve using some cloud-based solution to give everyone editing access to the same files at the same time.



This type of thing will require an adjustment from your perspective, but it is one that is undoubtedly worth making. Typical telecommuters tend to be much happier with their jobs than people forced to come into the office every day, which will directly affect both productivity and work quality in a positive way. 73% of telecommuters say that they're more satisfied with their company than they've ever been before. Most of them work more than 40 hours per week. They also tend to work harder to create a friendly, cooperative, and positive work environment - something that you're also trying to do by being the best leader you can be.



In truth, how you're able to change your management style to keep up with the demands of the modern telecommuting workforce will go a long way towards deciding what type of leader you'll be today, tomorrow, five years from now, and beyond.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Your Company's Waste Makes This Man Rich

Matt Malone would probably be considered an odd fellow and maybe even mentally ill by those seeing him on the street. However, for those who know Malone personally, they might think that he's a genius.



Malone is, in modern terms, known as a dumpster diver. That involves essentially going into large dumpster bins and rummaging around to see what people have thrown away.



Malone was first introduced to the practice by accident when working in a company that got rid of far too much valuable, working equipment. What he realized at first was that the items were still usable, valuable, and most importantly, functional. However, when he took them home and started making inventions with the items, he realized something more - people wanted what he was finding and were willing to pay real cash for the items.



Diamonds in the Rough



Today, Malone is at an expert level, finding gems in the rough and converting them into sales of hundreds and even thousands of dollars. In fact, he makes more in dumpster-related sales than he does in his regular job.



However, this article is not about Malone's success. It's about the fact that Malone's earnings are possible because businesses regularly throw away thousands of dollars of perfectly fine commodities and equipment simply because it's not needed, no longer perfect, or no one knows what to do with it in the office. As a result, companies small and large are bleeding expenses daily without seeing the full benefit from what was bought. And that makes Malone a rich man.



Whether it's security cameras, unused ink toner, or usable furniture, companies move out perfectly viable goods and products to their collective dumpsters every day. And this obvious waste and loss of company money is because there is no incentive within most companies to try to make things stretch further. Don't need that toner anymore? No problem, buy a new one and throw the old one in the box in the hallway. The janitor will take care of it regardless of the fact we spent $300 to buy it on the last office supply order.



Reuse, Resell, Recycle



People regularly make fun of the TSA and government airport security, but the security agency has one step up on some of the smartest companies. Instead of adding more trash to landfills with all the nail clippers, pocket knives and nail files they confiscate from travelers at the security gates, they bundle them into large bins and sell them on eBay, recouping actual cash from free confiscations. How many companies actively recoup funds by reselling what they don't need? Not enough, which is why Malone and dumpster divers like him are becoming rich people.



Many parts of the world look at the U.S. and see it as synonymous with waste and laziness. But it doesn't have to be this way. A simple bit of attention on equipment and inventory can change behavior dramatically in every office and program.



General Motors got smart and now saves a $1 billion a year. By simply making it clear not to waste and to proactively consolidate extra material for reuse or resale, companies can add a small, but valuable additional revenue stream to their bottom line. That may be bad news for Mr. Malone, but he's likely not too worried. So many businesses are throwing away so much product daily, he's unlikely to run out of free trash discoveries and supply for a long time.




#Design #Print #Promote #Web
#ShopLocal #Printing #Manassas #AmericanPrinting

Friday, October 6, 2017

4 Productivity Tools That Will Give You Back Your Sanity

Whether you're working from home or the office, distractions happen, and they can be a productivity killer. Nearly everyone has an example of weeks that you look back on and wonder "What happened? I know I was busy . . . " while still feeling as though you've accomplished nothing. With deadlines crashing down on your head and the constant demands of family and work, it's important to be as productive as possible to maintain your sanity. These productivity tools are vetted by experts to help bring balance back to your life -- while still getting things done.



1. Time Trackers



Even if you're not a fan of tracking every task that comes across your desk, a time tracker can provide a valuable way to give yourself mental freedom from specific tasks. For instance, what if instead of tracking the time you're doing something, you track the time when you're not doing something -- like checking email? Set a timer for three hours and (gasp!) close your email client completely. Turn your phone over on your desk, and turn off the ringer. For three hours, allow yourself to focus on something other than responding to others. You will be pleasantly surprised at how productive you're able to be without the constant distractions caused by emails, text messages, and social media without feeling like you've been out of the loop for too long. Of course, you can always use time trackers in the traditional way, by setting estimates for time and tracking how long specific tasks will take. Either usage will help bring your productivity back into focus!



2. Take it to the Cloud



Cloud-based document and data storage platforms allow you to be productive regardless of your physical location -- a critical need in today's always-on business world. Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box are a few of the options that offer low-cost ways to sync your information between tablets, mobile phones, and laptops or desktops, so you're never truly away from the office. More corporations are utilizing these cloud alternatives to traditional enterprise data storage due to the relatively inexpensive cost and ease of use for employees.



3. Expense Management



Mobile apps such as Expensify allow you to take a quick snap of receipts and classify them by project, something that is invaluable for today's busy professional. Keeping track of receipts and ensuring that they get assigned to the right account is yet another of those small yet nagging tasks that can reduce your available mental space without a single return. Clear out the clutter mentally and physically when you use a digital expense management tool.



4. Email Productivity



Professional emails can be a hassle, from trying to remember to send something at just the right time to getting off the myriad of email lists that tend to stack up in your inbox. Tools such as Unroll.me will quickly unsubscribe you from a wide range of email lists in a few short seconds, while tools such as Boomerang allow you to schedule messages for delivery at a later date. This keeps your email from hiding at the bottom of an inbox that is stuffed full overnight.



Ultimately, these productivity tools will help you squeeze a few extra moments into your day by automating simple tasks such as unsubscribing from email lists and having the information at your fingertips when you need it. When you're able to take these actions when you think of them, you're clearing your mind for additional productivity -- instead of having to maintain a mental database of open tasks to be completed. Take back your sanity by becoming more productive and regaining some of your focus!


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

4 Ways to Incorporate Humor at Work

Nothing is more embarrassing than telling a joke and having it fall flat at work, but don't let that stop you from adding appropriate humor to the workplace, as it can be a great way to reduce tension and improve overall relations.



Having fun with the people you spend at least 40 hours per week with can raise your mood and boost camaraderie throughout your office. Here are some of the top ways you can incorporate humor at work:



1. Hire for Personality and Cultural Fit



When you're the hiring manager or simply someone able to have input into hiring processes, try to look for someone to join the team who approaches work seriously, and themselves lightly. This could come in the form of an easy smile, a little self-deprecating humor, or the ability to find the amusing side in everyday situations that others may consider stressful. When you have someone on your team who can inject some fun into the workplace, it gives others permission to crack a smile as well.



2. Encourage Silliness



Sure, you don't want to be silly all the time as you'd get nothing done, but a little wackiness once in a while can break up an otherwise boring or tedious day. Send a cute animal meme or 30-second video to a small group of work friends and enjoy the smile on their face when they view it. If it's not against your rules, post a humorous cartoon that has a positive message. It is important to be careful, however, as longer videos beyond two minutes or so sent to a large list of people can effectively kill productivity (which won't make your boss happy at all!)



3. Keep it Professional



A great rule of thumb is that if you would be embarrassed having whatever you want to say plastered on a billboard -- don't say it! Same goes for the grandmother test. If you wouldn't want your grandmother to hear what you've been saying, you probably should abstain. Don't make fun of others even when it's "just for fun," and keep teasing to a minimum. This especially holds true if you're a supervisor or in another position of power. You may not realize that your good-natured poking fun at others can be taken much more seriously when there's an imbalance of power.



4. Inspiring Others



You're more approachable to others when you're smiling, which may be one of the reasons that many leaders work hard on keeping a pleasant look on their face. When you work hard to uplift others with a pleasant word, even sharing amusing inspirational videos can provide you with some personal collateral to be used at a later time. It's important to note that individuals who appropriately use humor at work are likely to be promoted more quickly and make more money, so there are definite reasons to putting some fun-loving vibes into the air!



Using humor appropriately at work can tighten the bond between co-workers, keep those creative juices flowing, and make the days fly by! However, you always have to balance the good times with ensuring you're being as productive as possible on the job. Jokes and effective banter can improve your standing within the organization specifically because it is assumed that you are mature enough to understand the proper use of humor and that you're relaxed and confident enough to call attention to yourself.



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Friday, September 29, 2017

Why Does Elon Musk Want Dissenters in his Company?

In many companies and organizations, there is a position that most employees learn to avoid. It's the position that stands out from the crowd and represents the minority voice on the team. Instead, folks learn to see which way the water is flowing and the music is playing, and they align their interests and concerns accordingly. It's often couched in phrasing as "being a team player" and being a "proactive player instead of a negative burden" or similar.



Elon Musk, the well known chief executive of SpaceX which just recently solved how to create a space rocket that can land itself and be reused again, follows a different path with his employees. He actually wants people to tell him when they think he's going down the wrong path. As Musk puts it, the lone dissenter or minority voice often points out issues and facts that if ignored can turn into costly problems later on. However, if a company team only follows the majority path, it can quickly turn into the fatal path of groupthink and "yes" men, ignoring major warning signs a big disaster is about to occur.



The Reward Dissenters Bring



Elon Musk and SpaceX are no strangers to risk. They operate in the high stakes game of off-Earth space transport and travel. A mistake in this environment has almost always meant total loss and millions of dollars wasted. So from Musk's perspective, a dissenting voice provides multiple benefits. It forces the supported path to be defended better by showing why the concern raised is not an issue, a form of vetting before moving forward. Second, the minority opinion frequently brings up risks or concerns that may be glossed over otherwise because they are inconvenient to the supported path. Again, the biggest business mistakes often start with small, ignored issues, like a small leak in a levee.



The idea of rewarding the person who raises potential problems goes against the trend of American business. For decades business managers have been taught that the team is all-powerful and that many minds in synergy produce more than the individual alone. However, this also assumes a lot of mistakes are made along the way to develop that experience. In rocket-building, however, mistakes can't be tolerated, so Musk believes in asking every question and giving a chance for dissent, an antithesis to traditional corporate culture.



Think This Doesn't Apply to You? Think Again



Some might argue that the same situation of a rocket company doesn't apply to a business creating software or coffee-makers. Businesses can afford to have mistakes and still make sales. However, in practice, this logic fails when the company gets sued and loses a major product warranty or personal injury case. Litigation has killed more than one small or medium business with a great product or service but no defense to a mistake that harms someone.



Musk doesn't believe every dissenting opinion should be followed. In fact, he notes in his advice they can be incorrect. However, listening causes the path chosen to be analyzed just a bit further to identify weaknesses missed. And in Musk's business, if it exists, avoiding that weakness can mean his multi-million dollar rocket landing again in one piece. What does it potentially mean for your company?



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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Why Educated Confidence Will Carry You Far In Business

To say that confidence is an important quality for a business leader to have is an understatement. At any given time, your employees are going to be looking to you to make decisions and provide insight. They need to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you're confident in the actions you're taking. You need to know that you've given serious thought to the long, often difficult road ahead of you and that you're making the right move for the right task at the right time. If people can see that you believe in yourself, in your business, and what you've worked so hard to build, they'll start to believe in those things, too.



But something many people often don't realize until it's far too late is that "confidence" and "educated confidence" are NOT the same thing.



What is Educated Confidence?



Trust, belief, faith, conviction - these are all among the most essential ingredients that go into creating a confident leader. But one of the most important is also one of the ones that is rarely mentioned - humility. Humility allows you to acknowledge that even though you're a leader, you're still just one small cog in a much bigger machine. A living, breathing machine with a life of its own - one that is much more powerful than any one individual working within it, even when that person is yourself.



In many ways, educated confidence is all about slightly adjusting your perspective to account for your own limitations. You need to be confident in the fact that you're not always going to have the right answer to every problem you face. And that's okay - because you're also confident in the people around you and you know that you'll get through it together like you always do.



You need to be confident in the fact that you are going to make mistakes as a business leader - probably a lot of them, in fact. But this is something that you welcome because you're also confident in your ability to learn the right lessons from these mistakes and strengthening yourself and your entire organization in the process.



It's All About the Decisions



It has been said in the past that leadership essentially comes down to your ability to make decisions - but this is only one small part of a much larger story. It's also about your ability to see those decisions through the lens of all possible consequences, both good and bad.



An overly self-confident leader often becomes one that people follow because their paychecks depend on it, not necessarily because they want to. We've all had these types of bosses - the people who are experts at delegating responsibility (read: barking orders) but who always seem to disappear when those proverbial chickens come home to roost.



A leader armed with the power of educated confidence, however, is someone that people follow because they just can't help themselves. They acknowledge that they don't have all the answers and they likely never will, but that's okay - because "we're all in this together." It's the idea that just because you're a leader doesn't mean that you're always right - and you wouldn't have it any other way.



Educated confidence is that little voice inside your head that says "maybe I should get a second, or third, opinion on this, as this is definitely outside of my wheelhouse." It's a voice that you shouldn't try to stifle or tamp down, resist or ignore.



Instead, you need to give that educated, confident little voice a megaphone.



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