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Entries in Business Mindset (12)

Wednesday
Jun302010

The "Creative"/"Suit" Spectrum

There are plenty of people for whom creativity is the main fuel for their day. Designers, marketers, artists, chefs all exist in environments that demand fluency in creative thought. However, there are a lot of jobs that center on process, routine and analytical thought where there isn’t a lot of room for creative thought. Neither extreme can lead to a completely successful career; “creatives” still need processes and business acumen to grow and market while “suits” need creativity to find new opportunities and innovative solutions that enable evolution and expansion. Most people appear naturally towards one end of the “creative”/”suit” spectrum. The lucky ones are those who incorporate their “creative” or “suit” status in their work but it is the successful professionals who acknowledge where they fall and seek ways to move towards the other end.

So, I ask you where do you fall on the “creative”/”suit” spectrum? If you’re a “suit” how do you try to introduce creativity into your work? If you’re a “creative” what ways do try to embrace process and analysis? I challenge you to determine where you fall on the spectrum and work to move yourself towards a more centered place by exploring a way of working that may not be natural but will be more fruitful.

Wednesday
Jun092010

Innovation Comes From Within: Progressive employee policies

A lot of changes in workforce management have occurred in the past decade as the economy, communication methods and technology have all done a fair amount of shifting. People no longer feel obligated to stay at the same company for decades; in fact, many workers change entire careers as their interests dictate. Yet the need for dedicated and skilled workers is as great as ever. So what are employers doing to build effective workforces? They're thinking out of the box and embracing progressive employee policies. If you're looking for new ways to improve the results you're getting from your employees consider some of the following ways other companies are shaking things up in their work places.

 

  • Give them room to roam; it is a well recognized fact that everyone learns in their own way. Some are visual learners, others do better if they hear a lesson and there are also those who thrive in a tactile learning environment where they can work through problems with their own two hands. The same can be said for the way people work; everyone has a particular method to be most productive. If you're interested in getting the best results from your workforce's individual skill sets then give them some freedom to find their comfort zone. If they are morning people then encourage them to come in as early as they'd like, if they work better standing up then allow them to change their desk situation. Working within the parameters of your expectations of them do your best to enable them to achieve those expectations in their own way.
  • Encourage creative thinking and allow employees to pursue their own ideas. Companies like Google and Azavea are getting a lot of recognition for allowing their employees to use 10% of their "work hours" to pursue individual projects. Their theory is that the more their employees work to build their own skill sets and interests the more they will benefit from the diversity of perspective and a staff capable of demonstrating initiative. Allowing workers to broaden their horizons can bring new ideas and opportunities to your company simply by extension of your employee's interests. This is particularly effective if you've hired people who are passionate about the work they do for your company as well as the company's overall ethos, then it is even more likely that their outside interests will dovetail with their internal projects.
  • Embrace the untraditional; identify elements of your business that are unique and build them into your employee policy. If you're an eco-friendly company encourage and enable a green work environment (provide a bike helmet for everyone who bikes to work, allow composting in the cafeteria) if you're an arts centric company set aside three or four days for cultural events like going to a concert or festival. Incorporating the company's brand identity in your employee policy is a way to not only practice what you preach but also encourage your workforce to partake of the ethos themselves.
  • Ask what you can do to make your employees' day easier. Offering small fringe benefits like dry cleaning pick up from the office, a monthly visit from a masseuse, arranging for a grocery shopping service to take orders and make a single delivery at the office are all small ways you can help reduce non-work related stress. The less they have to worry about all the things they have to get done after work the more they will focus on the tasks at hand while they're still at work.
  • Make learning accessible. The practice of reimbursing employees for going back to school while working for you has been around for a while but usually relegated to larger companies. More recently small businesses have been taking their own approach to providing educational opportunities to their workers by hiring consultants to teach their workforce about the strategy and lager business theories that drive businesses. These courses go beyond specific job training and reenforcing company policies to encompass more general business theories. Providing the opportunity for employees to learn more about their industry or business in general -trends, strategies and best practices - can improve their ability to work within your company and to understand the larger context within which that company operates. If you can't afford to hire an outside firm to provide courses (webinars, lunch and learns and face to face training are all common approaches) consider giving each employee some money to purchase business books or building an in office library.
  • Put yourself in their shoes. PortionPac, a cleaning chemical manufacturer in Chicago, sets aside one day every year to play a little musical chairs with the employees. The administrative workers go into the production center and spend the day in the shoes of the employees who actually produce their cleaning products. Shifting everyone's perspective of the company's workflow provides the opportunity to reconsider their methods. Doing someone else's work always changes the way you do your own, making this practice part of your company policy can help everyone get a better sense of their place in full workflow.

If your company is already using some innovative employee policies let us know. We're always interested in how businesses are evolving.

 

Tuesday
May182010

"Good Customer Service Is Good Social Media Marketing"

I came across this phrase in one of Tamar Weinberg’s posts about using Facebook for business & marketing and it really stuck with me. This statement captures a unique point where traditional and progressive business mindsets find harmony. I am a huge proponent of providing high quality customer service, subscribing to the old business philosophy “it’s easier to keep an existing customer than find a new one” as a founding principle for my work. However, a lot of business owners I have spoken to are so caught up in marketing to new customers –increasingly using social media- they have overlooked providing their existing customers with impeccable service to maintain their business. Weinberg’s philosophy though, brings attention to the potential relationship between marketing and customer service in a social media world. In the age of “Yelping,” “checking in” and “liking” marketing and customer service are becoming more and more mutually inclusive.

Establishing a traditional customer service approach – follow up calls, service support, frequent user incentives – can now result in the customer expressing appreciation on social media sites like Yelp, Facebook or Twitter. A positive review or endorsement on any of these sites can help build new customer awareness of your products and services. Or, you can incorporate customer service initiatives in your social media marketing strategy – promote incentives for people who “check in” to your store, maintain a Twitter presence to monitor Twitter feeds to address anyone’s complaints, create a Facebook page that encourages customers to provide feedback (good and bad) – all of which can strengthen your relationship with existing customers; ideally, a satisfied customer will then spread their praise to friends continuing the mutually beneficial relationship.

Good customer service is good social media marketing; keep this in mind as you continue to pursue new customers and provide stellar service to your existing customers.

              

Wednesday
May052010

Take A Curiosity Break

Earlier this week I came across an excellent article about the link between curiosity and living a happy healthy life. It outlines the ways being consistently inquisitive can contribute to healthier brain activity, IQ and relationships, as well as, increased happiness and personal satisfaction. I am a huge proponent of creative thinking and would like to think curiosity has fueled some of my more inspired moments so, the correlation presented in this article weren’t a huge surprise. However, the article did get me thinking about the benefits of incorporating “curiosity breaks” into a personal workflow.

New Business Opportunities:

Allowing yourself a bit of time each day/week/month dedicated to pursuing new interests or random thoughts may lead to the new business opportunities you’ve been attempting to discovering through more traditional channels. Learning about a new hobby, culture or experience can reveal a new industry/audience in need of your products or services or a new solution you can adopt to expand your offerings and attract new clients.

Reinvigorated Approach To Existing Business:

Exposing yourself to alternate environments and processes can shake up the way you approach your existing projects and customers. We all tend to fall into a pattern of thinking about how we do our work and the methods we use to solve problems. Investigating new topics – as assorted as they may be- can break up cyclical thinking and unconsciously new context and mindset can sneak in, breathing fresh life into a stale routine. Even something as simple as observing someone else do their job in an entirely different professional sphere can inspire new ideas for improving your own work. A “curiosity break” could also be the fix for a mental rut, those periods – sometimes weeks long- when you can’t seem to operate as productively as you’d like. Allowing yourself the leisure of curiosity replenishes mental creativity and energy.

More Enlightened Holistic Perspective:

On a larger scale embracing curiosity can help you become more satisfied with your life & work. Building your knowledge and familiarity with an assortment of activities, cultures, hobbies, place or wherever your interests lead brings more opportunities for enjoyment into your daily reality. The more you engage your mind and it’s curiosities the more energized your overall outlook will become. Investing in an intentional curiosity practice and truly integrating creative wonder into your routine will unleash a ripple of fulfilling satisfaction through your entire perspective.

In the process of writing this post I have reminded myself how important my varied professional interests have been to creating a rich, dynamic and satiating career. I would encourage you to start making time for “curiosity breaks” in your routine.

For some simple ideas on how to start feeding your curiosity refer to "The Power Of Curiosity"

Tuesday
Apr272010

Be Here Now: A Practical Approach To Starting A Social Media Strategy

Everyday a new report on social media is published; many seeking to provide the definitive, albeit elusive, answer in the search for best practices in social media. Using survey responses, case studies and analytics to support their claims they attempt to shine light on the strategies and tactics that lead to greater brand recognition, more web traffic or more business opportunities. What few reports or observers fail to emphasize is the fact that there is no one way to successfully navigate the social media waters. The technology and user familiarity are moving too fast; methods and tactics used today may be entirely obsolete in two weeks. Additionally, depending on company size and vertical focus the strategy is – and should be- very different. While patterns may be deciphered from this early research the best way for you to start building your social media is to be here now. 

While it is wise to do a little research into how companies have previously used social media streams the best investment of time and brainpower is in staying in tune with your daily social media activity and returns. At the very outset of your quest for social media relevance identify three or four attainable goals; for example, increase web traffic 10% or acquire two new actionable sales leads per week. Then use these goals to dictate your daily use of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or whatever your preferred service may be. Each day be mindful of how your social media actions may influence your goals. Note any response or feedback you get in a spreadsheet. You will find yourself adopting a social media rhythm based on the behaviors with the best results and over time you’re notes and hyper awareness will build an organic sense of your company’s social media niche and potential.

Obtaining a sense of purpose and direction within your social media activities provides a solid foundation on which you can build a more complex strategy. Being present in the ebb and flow of your brand’s social media relevance may reveal opportunities unique to your company and audience. It is that dynamic conversation that makes social media such an exciting new territory for business development. Immediately investing a great deal of time and money into a more advanced social media campaign may overlook the more nuanced relationship your company has – or could have- with a wider audience.

Keep in mind, this is just a starting point. Eventually, if your social media efforts prove successful, you will want to expand your strategy; incorporating the basic information you have gathered with higher-level tactics. But, when you’re just starting to explore the social media waters keep it simple and stay tuned in to where you started and how you’re progressing. It will make it easier for you to determine the directions you want to pursue. There aren’t any secrets to social media that you can’t figure out if you dedicate yourself to a mindful daily practice.