Tag Archives: business relationships

Lollipop Moment

25 Jan

I was listening to a podcast the other day, TED Radio Hour.  The topic was Disruptive Leadership, but the one talk that stood out for me was a discussion by Drew Dudley entitled “Have You Changed Someone’s Life Without Realizing It?”

In this talk, Mr. Dudley relates a story of how HE changed someone’s life. It is a GREAT story.  A lollipop figures into the story ( you can google ‘lollipop moment’ and get to the same talk).

This got me thinking about my own “lollipop moments”.  In the 6th grade, I was having difficulty seeing the blackboard at school.  My parents took  me to the eye doctor and had me fitted with glasses.  Now, at Bentley School in Manchester, CT, there were only two male teachers.  One of these teachers was my 6th grade teacher, Mr. Ewald.  When I went to school my first day with glasses, he stopped me in the playground, looked down at me and said, “Richard, you look handsome in those glasses”.

Friends, I’ve seen pictures of myself in 6th grade, and let me tell you, I looked DORKY in those glasses….  But to this day, I can see him. towering over me, almost as tall as the basketball pole behind him.  I’ve rarely considered contact lenses, and never thought seriously about laser eye surgery.   Five decades out of 6th grade, I still wear those glasses.

Even in my adult life, I can remember an executive at a company I worked for back in the 80’s telling me “You’d make a great salesperson!”  I followed his advice, though I had always been an engineer, and never felt that sales was for me.

On the giving end of ‘lollipop moments, my daughter, on more than one occasion, has said,  “You know, Dad.  I always remember you telling me ______”  and the ‘fill in the blank’ is something wise and thoughtful that I have no recollection of ever saying to her.

Keep in mind this cuts both ways.  A careless derogatory comment has as long a life as a quick compliment.  So, be nice.  You never know when what you say will be that ‘lollipop moment’ for someone else.

– RTR

 

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We Are All Permanent Beta… or we SHOULD be

5 Oct

Back in May, we hired a new Client Support Specialist.  He is a very bright individual, but new to our technology and our line of business.  Now, four months later, he and I were having a discussion about a few customer issues, and I was struck by how, well, comfortable, he looked.

I commented on this, and he told me that while he is more comfortable, he considers himself “Permanent Beta”.  I had never heard that term before (a phrase I believe coined by Reid Hoffman earlier this year).  I love the term, much more high tech than ‘work in progress’

I did a bit of googling and found numerous references to ‘Permanent Beta’.  Ironically, this term has both positive and negative connotations.  The positives being continuous improvement, self improvement, etc.  The negatives were in articles about products that are never finished (example: Google Apps End Their State of Permanent Beta).

Frankly, I like the idea!  Is ‘never finished’ a bad thing?

When I joined the iPhone set, I thought it was really cool that Apps are updated continuously, with no requirement for me to go somewhere to get the update.

I am happy to see technology that brings me along.  I don’t have time to look for version 5.1.3.2.55 or whatever.

So, who would complain about ‘Permanent Beta’?

– People and organizations that are rigid.

– People and organizations using products or technology that require ‘big-bang’ implementations.

– People and organizations that want things ‘the way they used to be’

Not me, I’m loving this idea.

I just joined the local rec center, I’m there every morning, huffing and puffing on the treadmill, lifting embarrassingly small amounts of weight on the machines.  No matter.  I feel better, I have more energy.  I’m permanent beta.

Let’s talk eProcurement.  A year ago I didn’t know what it was.  today I’m creating punch-out supplier connections, loading local catalogs.  I’m permanent beta.

Y’all better get on this band wagon.  The Permanent Beta train is leaving the station and it NEVER STOPS.

The alternative?  You get left behind.

– RTR

 

The Customer Is What?

15 Aug

Just don’t have ANY TIME for blogging lately.  Too busy, too busy, TOO BUSY!!

So, by way of apology, this blog is commenting on a two-week old blog from Harvard Business Review, with the grabber title “If the Customer is Always Right, You’re in Trouble”.  Being in the Client Support Biz, I had to check it out, because, well, my customers ARE always right, aren’t they?

Turns out, the blog is not about customer service at all, it is about “the death of Solution Selling”.  Well, having spent the better part of 20 years selling (if you can call that better) I not only have had Solution Selling training, but also smatterings of Gitomer, Sandler, and, of course, both learning and teaching Dale Carnegie Sales Advantage.  NOW you’ve got my attention, HBR!

So what is this “death of Solution Selling” all about?  This blog describes, in gory detail, how the tenets of Solution Selling just don’t apply anymore:

“Across the last five years, however, we’ve observed both in our data and our conversations with sales leaders around the world a dramatic drop in the efficacy of this [solution selling] approach. In a survey of several thousand B2B customers conducted by our company, CEB, we found that B2B customers were nearly 60% of the way through a typical purchase before they reached out to a sales rep for input. More often than not, the hard reality is that customers have begun the buying long before suppliers have begun the selling. So by the time a supplier is called in, there’s no need to discover needs at all. By and large, customers (believe they) have figured everything out…

… For most companies, the biggest competitor today isn’t the competition, it’s customers’ ability to learn on their own.”

So, what is the answer?

According to HBR, there are two questions that most suppliers overlook:

“First, where do your customers learn? Is it on the Internet? In online communities? From third parties (and if so, where do those third parties themselves learn)?

Second, do you teach customers something new and important about their business that they cannot learn on their own? Because if your biggest competitor is the customer’s ability to learn, then that’s what you’ll need to do to win.”

So there you have it.  It’s not good enough to ask the right questions and get to the ‘C’ suite.  If you are not a Subject Matter Expert that can, in fact, become a Trusted Advisor and “teach your customer something new and important”, you may as well  just sharpen your pencil, because in the sea of look-alikes, it always comes down to price.

– RTR

Commenting on “The Art of Letting Go”, Kenny Rogers and Don Draper

7 Jun

My new favorite blogger, Tony Schwartz, has done it again.  His blog “The Art of Letting Go” is a great piece for that sale, that venture, that relationship that you just can’t give up on.  It reminds me of that classic greeting card a friend once sent me:

They said it couldn’t be done….  How did they know?

Tony talks about how tough it is to go against the grain, how we are predisposed to fight the good fight, persevere against all odds.  The fact that this perseverance does exact an emotional toll.

I recall many instances in my sales career where the handwriting was Sharpied indelibly on the wall.  Without question the deal was dead, but we spent additional time, energy and effort to change the mind of someone who’s mind was already made up.  This is a chronic entrperneurial disease.  It is hard to walk away when you are small, trying to rapidly make the Big Time.

Tony ends the piece with a simple set of four questions:

1. Do I have a feeling in my gut that this dog just won’t hunt?
2. How important will this seem to me in six months?
3. How important will this seem to me in two years?
4. Is there a more enjoyable and productive way I could be investing my time and energy right now?

If the answer to 1 and 4 are “yes,” or the answers to 2 and 3 are “not much,” it’s time to let go.

Which brings to mind the timeless wisdom of Kenny Rogers….

“You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, know when to run”

OK, that was way too obvious.

I have a better quote…  Here’s where the connection was made and the fuse blew, and I started writing…

The phrase that came like a bolt out of the blue  into my consciousness came from Sunday’s episode of “Mad Men”, when Don Draper (Jon Hamm)  asked Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) to resign after he was caught embezzling.  I so wanted to get this right, I actually paid and downloaded the episode from iTunes to transcribe it accurately.  Lane sobbed “What do I tell my wife?  What do I tell my son?”…

Don Draper’s words are all the more riveting, considering how the episode played out:

“Tell them that it didn’t work out, because it didn’t

Tell them the next thing will be better, because it always is …

I’ve started over a lot, Lane.  This is the worst part.”

– RTR

The Magnificent Seven

1 Jun

Another great blog from HBR. The blog, “Seven “Non-Negotiables” to Prevent a Bad Hire”, is required reading!  What are the seven?

Respect, Belief, Loyalty, Commitment, Trust, Courage and Gratitude

I have been in industry since the stone age, and have worked for dozens of managers and with hundreds of co-workers.  Many of these people were technologically brilliant, hard working, intense individuals.  However, the ones I remember, the ones I would go to battle with, can be singled out based on the magnificent seven above.

This is especially true in the last few decades, where I have spent my time in small (<50) person organizations.  To elaborate:

Respect – The fastest way to lose a ‘subordinate’ is to treat them like a subordinate.  I don’t know why this happens, I suspect insecurity in the management ranks….

Belief – Nothing will deflate a team faster than a non-believer.  Naysayers drag everyone down.  I have had extremely talented people in an organization that were POISON.  There has never been a situation where one of them has left and things got worse.  They have always improved!

Loyalty – Loyalty to the organization AND loyalty to the individual.  I have worked in companies where organization trumps individual.  This is the ultimate demotivator.  Management sometimes forgets that the organization IS a collection of individuals.

Commitment – Commitment isn’t “I’ll try”, or “I’ll give it my best shot”.  Commitment is “I’ll get it done”.  One of my coworkers here is fond of saying.  “It’s a problem, let’s fix it”

Trust – I had a job once where, when my wife met one of the executives, she said “He wouldn’t look me in the eye, I don’t trust him”.  She was right.  Unfortunately, I didn’t catch on for quite some time.  If a team member is not trusted, respect belief, loyalty, commitment won’t be possible.

Courage – I remember a poster that said something like “If you can keep your head at times like these, perhaps you don’t understand the situation”.  From the outside, this is not always recognized as courage, but that’s what it is.  I’ve had coworkers in the past say, “The boss just doesn’t get it”.  The truth of the matter typically is, the boss DOES get it,  but the boss has to have the courage to push it aside.

Gratitude – I’m not stupid.  I know the difference between gratitude and pandering.  We ALL do.

Great blog HBR!

– RTR

Where PLM and eProcurement Meet…

29 May

My previous world (PLM) and new world (eProcurement) collided in a blog by my friend Oleg Shilovitsky; “New Definition of PLM from UK Datamation Info Assets”.

There has been a significant amount of ‘virtual ink’ spent discussing “exactly what is PLM?”  It’s provided me with a lot of blogging material over the months….

This new ‘definition’ in Oleg’s blog I found to be intriguing:

PLM is different from say CAD, ERP, CRM, etc. and therefore investment decisions in it should be based on different criteria. PLM’s key role, as defined in the Datamation PLM Model report, is the effective management of information assets through-life. In other words, it is a “live entity”

There you have it.  PLM is typically sold based on what it does for you now (vaulting… security… design process management).  Not all that different from an eProcurement system (catalog management, purchasing, contracting).  The key value through life is not that it can handle these day to day tasks.  The key value is based on the fact that it builds an endless repository of all of those transactions.

In the PLM world, this data could be used to create design best practices, or it could be used for intelligent trouble shooting of design flaws.

In the eProcurement world, this data powers Purchase Decision Optimization (PDO).  PDO means that each and every purchase can be optimized, based on previous buyer experience, supplier performance, trends, etc.; the kind of social marketplace that has become 2nd nature in the consumer world, but is still rare in business to business transactions.

So, whether it’s design data in a PLM system, or purchasing data in an eProc system, it’s not how you get the data, it’s what you do with it once you have it that counts.  Learn more about PDO here.

– RTR

Consensus & The Marine Corps

8 May

Commenting on a great Forbes Blog from a couple of weeks ago “Consensus – Team Building’s Silent Killer”; then another from Vistage that I dredged up from January comparing business to the Marine Corps.  Connecting the dots….

I remember being surprised by a quote from William H. Cosby, EdD, not because it didn’t resonate with me (it did), but because it didn’t sound like something ‘comedian Bill Cosby’ would say:

I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.

This rings true (like a bell clapper upside the head) for this ‘middle child’.  I was the third child of six in a loud and boisterous Italian-American family.  I learned early on that getting along sometimes meant keeping my thoughts to myself (you’ll notice I didn’t say “keeping my mouth shut”, not much danger of that).   However, with everyone talking at once, even if I HADN’T kept my thoughts to myself, no one might have noticed.

As I joined the work force and moved into management, I had two choices.  Be the loud, table-pounding type of leader (and risk alienation) or be a ‘consensus’ guy (and risk looking weak and indecisive).  Well I chose the later, and wound up with a reputation of ‘going with the flow’.  But that’s a good thing, right?  Nobody gets hurt, right?  So, it was interesting to read:

Teambuilding is not about equality at all – it has nothing to do with consensus. Rather team building is about alignment of vision with expectations, ensuring team members clearly understand their roles, and making sure they have the right resources to perform said duties with exacting precision.

Wow, us consensus guys missed the boat!   It’s not all about getting along, singing Kumbaya around the campfire and all that.  It’s about Shared Purpose, Roles, Responsibilities and Accountability.  Leadership is not a popularity contest, it’s much more difficult than that.  It’s a fine line tight rope walk between authority and popularity, where the answer can’t be the parental fallback “Because I SAID so”, but neither can it be “Whatever YOU think”….

The second connection was a Vistage blog entitled, “This is NOT the Marine Corps! In Business, It IS Okay to Leave Someone Behind”. It got me to thinking about a tumultuous time I lived through, the CAD/CAM contraction of the 1990s.

In about 1988, Prime Computer acquired the company I was working for, Computervision Corporation.  Regardless of how anyone on either side of the Prime/CV divide felt, looking back, I believe one of the reasons that the combination ultimately failed was that management was loath to lay people off.  The savings from the elimination of redundant functions never really materialized.  I know this sounds cold hearted, but there is NO ONE of the group laid off from Prime/CV that did not move on to other gainful employment.

Are there people in your organization that are ‘OK’, that you have decided to ‘accept as is’?  Of course there are!  I’ve never seen an organization of solid superstars, top to bottom.  The Vistage blog talks of three distinct groups:

In most companies, employees fall into three groups.  Core Employees, comprising about 20 percent of the workforce, are dedicated to giving everything to do their jobs well.  … . Temporary Employees—people who haven’t figured out yet whether they want to be a Core Employee or not—account for about 60 percent of the workforce. … The Others—the remaining 20 percent of the workforce—who have made a career out of mediocrity by doing just enough to not get fired but not nearly enough to help move your business forward.

A leaders job is to help transition as many ‘Temporary’ into ‘Core’ as possible, and ease out the ‘Others’.  So, how do you differentiate between a ‘Temporary’ and an ‘Other?  This brings me to my other favorite quote; author unknown:

If this was easy, ANYONE could do it…

– RTR