The Middle Class Revolution


Running a mutual fund and being in the investment world for more than 20 years got me in the habit of looking to the future and observing the changes that were coming, and what they would mean for new opportunities. This was necessary to look at where to place money for the prospect of generating above-average returns. It also appealed to my entrepreneurial side of filling a gap that existed because of the opportunities that I was seeing. I would sometimes go into overload, thinking about all the things that could be done to take advantage of potential opportunities.

Changes in demographics, technology, and political and social trends have a major impact on what happens next and how we proceed to get there. Check out this video that was sent to me by my EO friend, Connor Neill, in Barcelona, Spain, called The New Middle Class Revolution: Facts and Figures.

Here are some of the interesting demographics and stats to note from the video. For instance, you are in the middle class if you earn $10 to $100 a day. The middle class will grow from 1.8 billion people in 2009, to 3.2 billion by 2020, and another 4.9 billion in 2030! Think about how staggering that is for a second. That is 1.4 billion people in a decade moving to middle class, to have a better life, and to have extra money to spend in the process. What are they going to spend it on? I hope they will buy your product or service.

China will become the largest market for automobiles, tourism, and online consumerism. India’s airports estimate 150 million travelers in 2013, and a projected 450 million by 2020. I have been in at least seven of them, and they are all under construction to be massive. The India middle class is projected to be 200 million in 2020, and 475 million in 2030, making up the world’s largest middle class. This type of growth is also happening in Africa and Latin American, so it is going on everywhere, except in extreme, communist-type economies, like that of North Korea.

This is what capitalism does for people – it creates opportunity for exchange, pulling people up from poverty to higher living standards and to better lives! Who does not want that for our fellow human beings? It is sad that there are those that want to stifle this by pushing some sort of socialist equality on people. I have seen what government-run equality means to people in India, and that is the large majority are equally poor and pathetic. Now, with a more capitalist approach, tens of millions are moving to the middle class. I have seen the changes with my own team over there in the past nine years.

Looking at these trends, how are you going to put your business in the path of this growth opportunity of so many millions and billions who will soon have extra money to spend? We all have seen the explosion in mobile. All the mobile apps out there give us ease in our lives, in one way or another. That is what I am doing to put myself in the path – building mobile apps. Think of a billion more people with smart phones in the next decade. Does the prospect of them having your mobile app present a growth opportunity for you?




Dropping the Fear of Being Naked


Getting-Nake-Book-Cover1Last week, we discussed getting naked with our clients by being humble and real with them as we work together to create value for each other. This usually has roadblocks associated with it, by what Patrick Lencioni calls the three fears. They are the fear of losing the business, the fear of being embarrassed, and the fear of feeling inferior. Let’s discuss each one separately.

The fear of losing the business happens when fear prevents us from doing the difficult things that will actually keep the business – creating greater loyalty and trust with our clients. What people really want to know is that we are putting the highest priority on helping them over trying to make money. We lose their trust and respect when do something, or fail to do something, just to increase or maintain the business. When we get naked with a client, we are open to the possibility of losing the client, not being paid, or the client taking our ideas and not compensating us. This exposure actually builds trust and opens us to goodwill that we will generate if even in the short term it doesn’t look like it.

The fear of being embarrassed happens when we don’t want to look stupid or unknowing in front of others that are paying us to be knowledgeable. This happens even when we are afraid to ask a question because we may look less than if it seems everyone else knows the answer. The truth is, a lot of the time others don’t know and we are respected for asking the question. Lencioni says that this is rooted in pride and is about avoiding the appearance of ignorance. The naked service provider asks questions at the expense of getting laughed at, to make sure he or she is helping the client. They admit and even celebrate their lack of knowledge, because a cover-up is only protecting their intellectual ego and not helping the client.

The fear of being inferior is also about the ego, but is different in that it is about protecting the aspects of feeling important and our social standing relative to a client. Lencioni says, “It is completely natural for a service provider to yearn for respect and admiration, and have a disdain for being overlooked, condescended to, or treated as thought we are inferior.” We try to preserve this stature that is created in society by being the know-it-all and being above others in some ways. The naked service provider works to substitute this need of stature by putting themselves lower and being of service in whatever a client needs. When we put aside our egos and make the needs of others more important, this is the higher conscious approach, and respect and trust will follow.

Getting rid of the three fears boils down to being selfless and serving others at the expense of your own wants. This sounds like the way to not only make business relationships better, but our relationships overall. It sounds like there are more benefits to being naked then I originally thought. So are you going to undress your pride and ego and strip down for your clients?




Strategy Evolves, Does your Business?


evolution-of-technologyHow did your business strategy come about? Was it planned out in advance in the boardroom, or was it done by some type of trial and error? Did you start out knowing exactly what you were going to become? We started with a plan, but it has evolved into one that has taken time and been filled with trial and error.

Efficience came about as a company because we had an opportunity to come together and complete a big ERP system for companies that sell copiers to businesses. My partner, April Cox Abboud, was consulting in this space, came upon this opportunity and we started the company around this project. Our intentions were to build it and sell it, over and over, to other dealers and have a winning formula for success.

For many reasons, this didn’t happen and we went on to work on Software as a Service (SaaS) products. We have been working on a handful of ideas to get out there, and we have had limited success with one, and not much at all with the others. As I continued to see and read what was happening in the world, we decided to turn into a mobile app development company and help individuals take their ideas to the market, along with helping companies do the same.

We didn’t have a certain vertical to go after in the mobile space when we started, but knew that we wanted to have one. As we have worked to build-out mobile apps for some clients, we have now come about an opportunity with one particular client in the industrial cleaning arena. That client wants to partner with us to build mobile apps for their network of other companies. This is a great opportunity to push a success story out to these other companies and fill a need that isn’t currently being filled.

I have shared with you all for a while that we have been looking for a vertical in the SaaS, and now in the mobile space, to go after. As trial and error would have it, we have stumbled upon this opportunity. Our friend Rasmus Ankersen, whom I talked about in last week’s blog, discussed this in his own blog post back in March, which focused around strategy. When Pfizer was testing a drug to treat high blood pressure in the 1980s, they found it not to be that effective, but the men in the trails didn’t want to let go of their samples. Why? Because they were having a better sexual experience and soon the drug Viagra was born.

Jim Collins, in his book Great by Choice, discusses how empirical creativity was used by the companies that excelled over their competitors by 10 times. This basically means that when we talk about strategy, what you start with gives you data that you can work with, and create from there using real world feedback. Through trial and error, it comes about and sometimes ends up being nothing close to what you started out to accomplish.

I work hard to be open, adjust strategy and apply some creativity to the real world feedback that comes in as we go. How about you?




Do You Have Happy Non-Performers?


feet on deskI was excited to get confirmation recently that Rasmus Ankersen will be speaking at the EO Argentina University in November. I saw him speak at the EO India Conference a few years ago and his discussion stuck out in my head. Matt Stewart and I, as Learning Co-chairs, along with Joy Hayes and Leslie Baum at EO Global, discussed how he would be a good fit for our theme for the University of “Tango with the Unexpected.”

I have written about Rasmus a while back, with his research being very interesting on how to spot talent. He will share some of his new material with us. I found some of his recent blogs posts insightful and thought I would give a taste of what will show up at the University.

You would probably find it contradictory, as I did, that some of your happiest employees are your worst performers. Ramsus was looking at a study that said the lowest performers were even more likely to recommend your company over others in the organization. Wow! Does that make you stand up and say, “What!?”

Rasmus attributes this to a lack of managers’ courage to confront employees who are just not making it happen or getting it done. We seem to want to block it out and not confront their performance, thus avoiding conflict. This acceptance of low performance or ignoring it doesn’t serve any purpose, except to keep the low-performing person happy.

Does not managing these low performers serve the company, organization or other members of the team? We know the answer to that, but what we may not know is that this drags down the culture to accept lower standards. I just wrote a blog on how culture is the most important thing in great companies, so does this motivate owners and managers in dealing with low performers? Rasmus sarcastically asked the question, “Do you help people perform better or do you help them to feel better about performing bad?”

These universities are an amazing experience. This one was a little different for sign-ups, in that each region of the world was given different time zones to register. We signed up 415 members and have 160 on the wait list. Registration went as fast as 3 minutes, to up to 4 hours in other regions. This is a great experience to be on board, helping to create one of these amazing events.




The Best Have a Coach!


coachOne of the things about running a company is we get caught up in the issues that pop up daily. This, at times, blinds us to what is going on out in our business sphere – new technologies, new methods and to future opportunities. In my experience, this happens with everyone and none of us are immune. How to best deal with this is to get a coach and get help envisioning what you could achieve, but because of the constraints of our surroundings, we don’t.

The best of the best have a coach. Tiger Woods has one, Peyton Manning has one, and even the big business CEOs have one. I have written a post about the coaches to the business icons before. Why would it not serve us to have one also? At Efficience, we are pulling in a coach to help us with sales management. As I shared when I was at the EO Nerve conference recently, I saw Jack Daly’s high octane, intense and funny presentation on sales management. He said, “If you are a small- to mid-size business and you don’t have a sales manager, you will stay a small- to mid-sized company, or you will go out of business!”

An option, if you are not ready to make the leap to hiring a sales manager, is to hire a coach that will make sure you have the right processes in place and will coach your sales person or team to help get you to the level of hiring a sales manager. We have been able to get by without a formal sales process, but it does catch up with you. We are putting the position in place to make sure that we are getting what we need to maximize our value proposition and sales team to reach their potential.

I have worked with my personnel success coach, Steve D’Annuizo, for a number of years to have the highest version of who I am showing up more often than not. Steve has helped me with many facets of my life, from my spiritual and personal growth, to my business growth. One of the keys I realized from working with him is that happiness comes from within, not from what you have accumulated, what or where you have been, or what you have done. Steve came to me when I was having great business success and achieving all that I had dreamed of, but I didn’t feel a sense of completeness.

I recently received from my dad this quote that says, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time,” by Thomas A. Edison. I have found that a really good coach can give you the encouragement that, when it all seems bleak and you feel like giving up, will give you the right words and a gentle nudge to move you to get up and put the game face back on and keep going. As I have learned, any success I have had didn’t come the first, second, or tenth time. It happened because I didn’t stop!

Do you have a coach to help you break out or break down the right things to get you where you want to go?




Marketing through Online Contests


We have had some fun at my office recently, creating a video that will help to generate a feel and personality that represents our company. Mainly, it shows that we can let our hair down (or put some on) and just have some fun. We did this by putting together a rap video in the imitation of a rap song out there called “Thrift Shop.” The reasoning for this video is two-fold: Making it helped to create fun in our company, and it shows you how you can have fun by using contesting in your company’s marketing strategy.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/64913817″>Rap For Your App</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user17964486″>Tori Rose</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

We produced this video in conjunction with a contest we created, because that is what we do for clients – we create contests. Contesting is a very good approach to marketing for a number of reasons. This Mashable article highlights the four main ones.

1) Contests are a great tool for building your fan base.

2) Contests enable you to engage your audience.

3) Contests are a rich source of data.

4) Contests empower your customers to do your marketing for you.

You can check out the full article, but to sum it up, contesting helps you to build your likes on Facebook very quickly. You can double your likes, even if you have a lot already, with a contest. If you only have a few, you can take this up multiple times. You can engage your audience with user-generated content, which is what we did with creating a video and asking for a video in return to win a prize. This competitive nature is part of the human drive, and when others share their personal material, it invests them in your brand.

Getting data is crucial to building relationships, and contests are a key way to do that. This data will help your company to learn a lot about your potential clients during this interaction, so you can better understand their needs and how to provide value to them. It is also nice to have your clients share your story and to help you market. That is what a good contest can do – allow your customers to share with others and help foster name recognition.

When coordinated with an overall social media marketing plan, a good contest can be a powerful tool. What are you doing to create a contest that people will talk about and share with others? Oh, and feel free to enter our contest and Rap for Your App. You just might be the winner of a free mobile app for your company – built by Efficience, of course!




Want Big Bucks? Think Elegant Organization


live-communityWhat is it about Facebook, LinkedIn, and Amazon that we can’t stay away from them? What makes them so valuable? Well the answer is elegant organization. Let me give you a little background to explain what this means.

Back at the World Economic Forum International Media Council, in Davos, Switzerland, Mark Zuckerberg was 22. He was asked a question by a big media mogul, inquiring what his secret was and how could the mogul’s publishing company start a community like Facebook. Zuckerberg just sat quiet for a second and, as everyone was waiting for the secret sauce, he said in his direct, geek way, “You can’t!” Then he just stared and, with everyone let down, he went on to add what the real secret was all about.

He said a little later that they were all asking the wrong question. You don’t start communities, they already exist and they are already doing what they want to do. He then said the question you should be asking is how you can help them do what they want to do better. That was it! If you think about Harvard, where Facebook was started, they were in a community doing what they wanted to do for more than 300 years. Zuckerberg just helped them do it better.

This story was told by Jeff Jarvis who was at the summit and wrote the book What Would Google Do? I had read the book a few years back. I decided to read it again after a recommendation by sales guru Jeffrey Gitomer’s list of “A Dozen Books to Own and Read – At Least Once.” I picked it back up and started to go through it and look at how I can apply things today. We are building a few mobile applications right now that have the potential to help people organize their communities in a way that makes them better and get more information out of the community.

If you are doing anything in the area of building web applications or in building mobile apps, or you have one already that is bringing a community together to be more organized, I would think this book would be helpful to advance your thinking on community organization and a lot of other principles that Google uses to be successful.

If you think about some of the companies that help with organization, in addition to what I mentioned above, several like Skype, AOL and Yahoo give us tools to organize collaboration. You get photo organization with Flickr. Wikipedia helps to organize knowledge. There are many other successful companies and when you think about it what they are doing, it is elegant organization.

What are you doing to make organization more elegant, to make your business better, for growth opportunities, and to realize the big bucks?




The Power of Priorities and Focus


What are your priorities for the next year? Do you have a top 3 to 5 things that you are focused on? Do all of your employees know what they are, so all can be pushing forward in the same direction? We got to hear from George Bodenheimer from ESPN at the EO Nerve conference in Charlotte a few weeks back. He shared stories about his rise from the mail room to Executive Chairman, and how ESPN grew from its rocky start to the flagship of all sports networks across the world.

Bodenheimer showed us a video of the very first broadcast from ESPN that happened in September of 1979, and clips of the great moments over the years that have been part of our lives for a long time now. If you are younger than 35, just think how hard life would be without ESPN SportsCenter? Growing up in Rochester, NY, I missed a lot of great SEC college football because we didn’t have ESPN at that time. Now, you can be pretty sure that if there is a big game on anywhere in the country, you will see it on one of the ESPN stations, if not on major network.

Bodenheimer talked about moving out of the mail room and starting in sales down in Texas and a few other southern states. He would go to the local stations and have to sell them on using ESPN, which wasn’t always easy, despite that it was free. Imagine that scenario with how big the sports industry has become. Some questioned the money-flow involved in having a 24/7 all sports station. Well, we all know how that has turned out. When Bodenheimer was president of ESPN, he presided over the growth of: ESPNHD, ESPN2HD, ESPN Plus, ESPN PPV, ESPN3, ESPN Motion, ESPNU, and ESPN Deportes.

One of the key things that Bodenheimer pointed out to us was that to achieve the things that he did, he wanted to have all his people on the same page, focused on the key priorities. Each year, they would get the main supervisors together and they would all debate the 3 to 5 key priorities that they would focus on for the year. Then, they would have them printed out on a card and given to all employees so they would have them to refer to at any given time. This is crucial to get your team on the same page, pushing them all in the same direction.

priorities card

Here is what the card read:

2013 Company Priorites
• SportsCenter
• X Games
• US Hispanic Sports Fans
• Latin America

 

 

 

 

Another picture Bodenheimer put up for us was a picture he used to help remind himself of the power of focus. It is this old picture of a college football game.

burning school picture

As you can see, the school building is burning down in the background and the team continued to play on, focused on the game. He had this picture hanging where he could see it daily, so that he wouldn’t forget to place a lot of importance on focus.

What are you doing to create the few priorities that your company or organization can focus on right now, to move forward to your goals and to stay ahead of the footsteps coming up behind you?




The Conference Effect


Barbara CorcoranComing back from an EO event will usually light a fire under you bottom to get focused, look at new opportunities, fix or add a process, or just be plain fired up about your business. When you mix it up with 450 entrepreneurs from mainly the east coast and hear from great speakers, you feel the surge of entrepreneur juices flowing through you. It was interesting the things I got out of the conference. So I thought I would share a few of the take-aways.

I have been hearing for years how culture is key to your organization! But going to one conference and hearing three of the key speakers state this with such conviction, it makes you perk up a little more. From Steve Gilliland, our first key note, to Jack Daly, the sales guru, and Barbara Corcoran, from ABC’s show “Shark Tank,” they all said that your culture is number one in having a high performing growth company. When you have a culture that rocks and the people want to be there and feel engaged in the company, then an environment for great things begins to form.

Jack Daly talked about three things an entrepreneur needs to have: having a vision, key people in key spots, and culture. You have a culture in your company, whether by design or not, and if you don’t implement the culture you want, then an unintended – maybe negative and unproductive culture – may develop. Jack also said that a positive, strong culture makes people get out of bed and want to come to work. An example of a great culture is Zappo’s. If you are ever in Vegas, go to the headquarters and experience the free tour. You will get a feel of an amazing culture.

Another take-away I had from the conference came from Jack. He said that if you are a small-to-medium business and don’t have a sales manager, one of two things will happen. You will stay small-to-medium, or you will go out of business. He added the CEO, the COO or the best sales person can’t play sales manager on a part-time basis. I think this hit home for a lot of people, given some conversations I had after his talks, and others like me will be taking steps to implement a sales management process.

The key note that really made me think about life and where I am now and where I am going was Steve Gilliland, who wrote the book Enjoy the Ride. His presentation was hilarious, along with eye opening and thought provoking. He asked if everyone made the same wage of say $2 an hour, where would you work? Would you still do what you are currently doing? I had an inner chuckle at this since I know I would be doing the same thing I am doing, given that I have done it many times over the years without getting paid at all. His focus was around having passion for what you do or it was a ride that you wouldn’t enjoy. Gilliland said, “Love what you do, love why you do it, and love who you do it with.”

This conference was very inspiring and beneficial from a business perspective, and I thank my friend John Bly for leading the charge to make this Nerve Conference happen. I will be discussing more going forward on building a culture by design and my experiences on what we are doing to make our sales process better.




Is Geo-Fencing on Your Map?


map pinsAs we continue to build mobile apps for clients, the advantages resulting from these apps are appearing limitless. I have been in Charlotte this week for the EO Nerve Conference. When I called for a taxi, they said that I can download an app that will send a taxi to me. Not only that, but I can follow the taxi’s location as it comes to pick me up. How cool is that? This is the new wave of location-based services that is getting more popular and will help create a lot of conveniences, marketing opportunities and productivity.

Chris Shaffer, our technology lead at Efficience, says “The convergence of technologies, such as GPS and mobile broadband, allows users to leverage resources in ways that were unthinkable only 10 years ago.” According to Shaffer, “Geo-fencing is one such feature that allows devices to become ‘location-aware’ by tracking through GPS or location-based services.”

We will devise a lot of new ideas and reasons to have this working for us in all kinds of situations. Geo-fencing has created a new source of information that will revolutionize the way we interact with the world around us.

When you have the app of your favorite restaurant, it will know when you cross the virtual fence that they will designate, say like 3 miles from them. Restaurants will have ability to send you a notification of the special dish they have tonight or some type of discount. You already love to eat there and they just entice you to come back to spend more money with them, instead of all the other options you may have.

According to a study done by Pew Charitable Trust, 58% of adults access the internet through their mobile devices, which has been a big conversion away from the desktop. Smartphones are allowing us to get info and make choices that we didn’t have the information to do on the fly before. We check prices, watch movie trailers, and read about competitor choices as we are making decisions to spend our dollars.

Those that are connecting with their customers this way will have more flexibility, since a marketing campaign can be day-to-day or week-to-week. It can be tailored to the data that customers choose to give us so that we can meet their direct needs. Small businesses with limited budgets will have a much better way to compete with the big boys who wield massive budgets, just by having access to this technology. This will be mainstream in the not-too-distant future, but those getting in first will have a competitive advantage to attract customer dollars and grow their revenue sooner.

What are you doing to be ahead of the curve and benefit from location-based marketing?