The Complacent Management and Organization: Avoiding the Inherent Flaw Which Sabotages Businesses

By James D. Roumeliotis

According to the Oxford dictionary, the noun “complacency” is defined as “A feeling of smug or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one’s achievements.” It happens in some people’s lives, as well as in organizations, whether for profit or not. In the former case, complacency in one’s personal life includes fear of failure, remaining in the comfort zone, and being concerned about what others think. These can inhibit our potential, happiness, relationships, and fulfillment. In business, complacency includes low overall performance expectations, insufficient performance feedback along with unclear operational objectives for each employee, disengagement, lack of passion, and lack of investment in the operation and/or others. In both cases, uncritically satisfied with oneself or one’s achievements, smug, and apathetic with regard to an apparent need or problem.

Status Quo: The Silent Disease

Complacency is the quiet business killer that strikes without notice and has the power to destroy even the most successful businesses. The problem with many businesses, regardless of the sector they are in, is they are content with the status quo. A status quo bias minimizes the risks associated with change, but it also causes people to miss out on potential benefits that might even outweigh the risks. Consider the flawed proverb, “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.” It denotes to leave something alone and refrain from correcting or improving what is already working because any attempt of improvement may be risky and backfire. It has been used in the context of everything from social reform to business operations, as well as for personal mottoes. For many, it is an ingrained rule ─ a tendency to be lazy.

However, by rewording it slightly we can in-turn rephrase it as, “Just because something isn’t broken, doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.” Now, this! The automobiles we produce are excellent but we can make them even better, more technologically advanced, and more fuel efficient. My bed is not broken but that doesn’t mean I can’t find one that’s more comfortable. The educational system is not broken does not imply that it cannot be improved.

Continuous Improvements are Key to Sustainable Success

Continuous improvement is the continual process of making incremental and meaningful changes to products, services, or processes. It’s what keeps a business on the leading edge, retain customer loyalty and remains competitive. In Japan, a popular word used in many organizations and spread in many other industrial countries is “Kaizen.” It is a compound of two Japanese words that together translate as “good change” or “improvement.” However, Kaizen has come to mean “continuous improvement” through its association with lean methodology and principles. The five elements of the Kaizen approach are:

  • teamwork,
  • personal discipline,
  • improved morale,
  • quality circles,
  • suggestions for improvement.

Even when an organization is enjoying success, it should always be ready for the worst-case scenario of a disruption.

Actions are Either Proactive or Reactive

Sooner or later, most companies fall into adopting a reactive approach out of laziness, complacency, or the assumption that it cuts costs. It stems from the old-school mentality of “If it’s not broken, why fix it?”

When there is a culture of complacency, new initiatives struggle to get traction, the competition is not actively monitored, and market shifts are not looked at for potential new strategies. Without initiative and drive, resistance to change will only grow over time. Any form of business should be flexible and adapt to new techniques and technologies. It ought to endeavor to be proactive rather than reactive. The offense is critically important to success in business. Having goals and taking steps to reach them is what leads to business growth and, in many cases, the survival of the business. Business leaders must understand how to protect their operations not only in the short run but in the long run.  Being proactive can prevent imprudent mistakes from ruining your business. Unfortunately, most business owners tend to think of fixing the problem which strikes without warning as a reactive thought process. Changing your thinking from reactive to proactive will take the burden of stress and make you better prepared for the inevitable.

Avoiding Business Complacency

Here are some recommendations to keep you and your organization from being complacent.

  1. Practice Urgency Every Day: Begin the day looking for something to fix or improve. Nothing is perfect and neither will anything remain static.
  2. Find Opportunity in a Crisis: Eventually, a true crisis will come. However, once a crisis is in motion, turning it into an opportunity often requires new ways of thinking and responding.
  3. Correct Bad Habits: Sometimes employees do not recognize that they have developed a bad habit. In order to spot and address these poor behaviours, managers and coworkers should observe and mentor other employees.
  4. Talk About Change: When an individual is complacent, he or she will have a difficult time recognizing when change has occurred. It is important to talk about change often in an attempt to engage the mind. 
  5. Change the Routine: Rotate employees’ job tasks so they are not performing the exact same function day-to-day. This will help keep the employee thinking about what they are doing and prevent the slide into complacency.
  6. Encourage Employees to Build Value: Once employees have mastered their jobs, find ways they can bring more value to the company and their job. This keeps the employee engaged and thinking about what they are doing and how they can do it better.
  7. Recognize and reward strong performance: Competent employees will become more engaged if they feel valued for the work they are doing.
  8. Encourage open, honest communication: Provide employees with an efficient means of communicating with each other and with management. Foster a culture that allows for questions and differing points of view. Involve employees in discussions surrounding organizational changes.

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The Creativity and Strategy of Nation (Country or City) Branding

By James D. Roumeliotis

When branding comes to mind, we think of products and services. We also come to think of “personal” branding ─ especially in professions such as attorneys, architects, accountants, and the like. Moreover, with the prevalence of freelancing, as well as influencers, branding offers them similar benefits in regard to grooming their image and reputation to attract more clients and fans respectively. However, cities, towns, and even countries have joined the bandwagon and business concept in branding themselves. They do so because they understand the many benefits of branding nations. These include attracting trade, business investment, possibly immigration, and/or tourism. For a few, it may be reputation management due to a negative perception/disrepute of the location.
 
Nation Branding refers to a process in which a country claims a distinct brand positioning in the minds of its citizens, the global prospect/customer, and international stakeholders. This requires the country to invest resources in coordinating and integrating a multitude of activities.
 
In many cases, the country image provides credibility to the brand image. Think French wine, Swiss watches, German Cars, Danish designs, and Greek hospitality. Additional examples as consumers top of mind are Italian fashion, Colombian coffee beans, and 100% pure New Zealand wool, and are some of the well-known examples. 
 
Through effective nation branding, countries, and cities independently, can develop a distinct personality that benefits both the country and its renowned national brands within it. Tourism and national airlines may be the main representation between nation branding and corporate branding. However, there are various other sectors that can also partake an important role in nation brand building.
 
Countries are turning to PR to revive their global reputations
A Public Relations (PR) agency can bring value and enhance a nation’s reputation. They are storytellers who create narratives to advance their agenda.  Additionally, PR can be used to protect and build reputations through various online and offline media sources, as well as self-produced communications.
 
When Kuwait was invaded by Iraq, the former hired Hill & Knowlton. The agency was tasked with creating international sympathy along with Western military support for what was essentially an oil-rich undemocratic regime in the Middle East. This worked in its favour.
 
Where paid media, such as advertising by a country, is normally the default way to promote anything that may be construed as propaganda, earned media, which is what PR is considered, offers to help boost brand awareness, increase credibility and expand reach. Earning media on trusted outlets and news publications not only validates the content created but gives a brand for a nation third-party credibility. PR comprises any publicity or media that is not generated by the country (or city) or any of its agents, but rather by a third party ─ an agency along with organic methods via the targeted audiences, social media fans, journalists, and/or bloggers.
 
Corporate branding leveraging nation branding
Inherent connections exist between a nation’s brand and the corporate brands that operate within. Both rely on each other, thus leveraging each other’s fortes to build and further their reputation. One corporate sector that typically has close ties to a nation’s brand creation is the airline industry. For example, national carrier airlines such as Emirates in Dubai, Singapore Airlines in the island country of Singapore, and Turkish Airlines in Turkey, have been highly successful in leveraging their respective countries’ image, culture, and values in order to market their services, as well as act as nation brand representatives globally. The experience for visitors begins with the inflight experience.
 
The task of building soft power, along with a positive image of their nation, is one that policymakers throughout the world are becoming ever more concerned with. The soft power strategy has become popular in Turkish foreign policy. Turkish Airlines, a well-known international airline brand, has evolved into a tool for Turkish soft power because of this appeal and the momentum Turkish public institutions gave Turkey in its pursuit of soft power.
 
Case Study: Repositioning Greece
In today’s globalized world where national identity loses a step, a country willing to compete must have a brand. This brand should communicate to the world audience Greece’s characteristic values that make up her essence. The louder and clearer this message is broadcasted, the better Greece will emerge among the nations.
 
Greece is, in fact, easily recognizable globally, as a country mainly for its beautiful landscapes (especially its numerous islands), its history, food, hospitality, and some are even aware that besides tourism and agriculture industry respectively, the country is also known for its powerful merchant shipping domain. Greek shipowners control one-third of the world fleet. However, the fact that Greece enjoys a powerful image overseas does not necessarily mean that the country has a brand, at least not in a brand in the modern meaning of the word. Other countries have successfully built their own brands, but Greece has not, or at least not well enough, other than its Greek Tourism Organization with its annual tourism advertising campaigns (with a different theme and slogan every year).

Greece’s competitive positioning should be entrenched in both the leisure destination as well as an environment full of opportunities inspired by its residents’ lifestyle, boosting the business environment and merging the country as an attractive investment destination. The aim should be to create a country recognized worldwide (especially in the nontraditional international markets) for its unique lifestyle, talented people, innovation, and entrepreneurial culture but certainly without losing its destination branding features within the tourism and hospitality markets. Moreover, Greece can take advantage of its rich culture (philosophy, language, athletics, etc.) to improve its international image and cultivate cooperative relations even with countries that have no direct interests.

Greece should be able to gain competitive advantages over other nations. Being considerate of the nation’s image at home and abroad is paramount for this to transpire. Promoting a specific brand would definitely help.

In the end
Evidently, positioning or repositioning a destination is not an easy task. Effective promotional campaigns and shrewd diplomacy can be utilized as a means to achieve strategic objectives. In doing so, a country or city/town, like a product or service enterprise, should think analytically, target specific audiences, create a unique value proposition, and aim to establish a global brand that resonates. This requires conceptualizing nation branding as a form of national soft power. 

Futurebrand publishes the Country Brand Index every year, which includes an overall ranking of the 75 countries and rankings by dimension, FutureBrand collected quantitative and qualitative data from Approximately 2,500 opinion-formers and frequent international business or leisure travelers in 17 countries (USA, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, UK, Germany, France, Russia, Turkey, South Africa, UAE, India, China, Thailand, Japan, Mexico, and Australia). complete perception dashboards for the top five country brands, regional leaders, and ‘ones to watch’ for the future. Futurebrand tests a global research sample based on the Hierarchical Decision Model (HDM) which involves determining an individual’s awareness, familiarity, association, and preference toward a country’s brand. In their 2018-19 ranking, the top 5 nations’ brands were (ranked from first to fifth) Germany, Switzerland, Japan, Sweden, and Canada. (Source: Wikipedia)
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Evergreen Businesses to Launch: Enterprises Which Thrive Regardless of Economic Conditions

James D. Roumeliotis

Regardless of which direction the economy is moving towards ─ whether a recession, another pandemic, a calamity, or other external force, as an aspiring entrepreneur, launching a resilient type of business is key. As such, starting a profitable evergreen business idea could be the best bet for long-term survival.

Recession-Proof vs. Recession Resistant

Recession-proof businesses are traditionally defined as those that either thrive during adverse economic times or at least survive intact, whereas, recession-resistant businesses, are those with a better chance than most of riding out a recession.

Top 14 Profitable Evergreen Businesses to Consider

1] Noncyclical Businesses

These include consumer staples that are less reliant on business cycle shifts. Such companies produce or distribute goods and services we always need. Financially, they’re relatively stable and independent of the fluctuations in economic activity. For example, we won’t stop buying groceries because the economy is in a whirlwind. Then there are some which are not very sexy such as funeral homes/services.

2] Food Stores and Food Service

This includes take-out prepared meals and delivery. Regardless of the economy, everyone needs to eat. Specialty food shops such as gourmet, ethnic, and health-related are also ever more popular due to changing tastes and nutritional concerns respectively.

3] Health Care Providers & Products

As with food, health care is crucial as people continue to get sick even during bad economic times. Businesses include clinics, home care, and the pharmaceutical domain.

4] Discount Retail

Dollar stores and retailers selling liquidated items fall under this category. People cut back on luxuries during a recession but that doesn’t mean they never buy anything that isn’t strictly necessary. People who otherwise never step into a dollar store rethink their shopping habits when a recession hits. In categories that aren’t emotionally important, consumers ‘trade down’ or become bargain hunters. For instance, a passionate Porsche driver will shop at Costco every weekend.

5] Information Technology (IT) & Cybersecurity

There is no escaping it! Technology now permeates every sector of the economy, every company is now a “tech” company. Every business requires systems administrators, software designers, and cybersecurity specialists, so the demand for such independent contractors, workers, and services is higher than ever ─ despite the state of the economy. In addition, the International Data Corporation (IDC) forecasts that worldwide cyber security spending will reach $174.7 billion in 2024, with security services the largest and fastest-growing market segment. The rise in cyber attacks, especially ransomware, has fuelled the cyber insurance market.

6] Education Sector

While some areas of the education sector, such as schools, have been growing at 4-5 percent a year, others like multimedia content, pre-schools, and vocational training have been growing much faster at 20-30 percent. Overall, the education sector is estimated to be a $40 billion market projected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of about 16 percent for the next five years. Studies show that students are more like to enroll in college and even more likely to stay in college during a recession [source: Parker]. That was true during the Great Recession and every U.S. recession since the 1960s, making higher education one of the more recession-resistant sectors around.

7] Transportation, Logistics & Shipping

Transportation and logistics are a critical aspect of development for any country as it ensures the delivery of goods from one place to another. This gives rise to many lucrative transportation business opportunities that one can thrive upon and earn good profits. Businesses that thrive in a recession happen to have products or services that people need regardless of their circumstances. Both freight and logistics deliver the necessities, making it consistently a recession-proof and profitable evergreen business.

8] Electric Vehicle (EV) Repairs & Maintenance

There’s an opportunity for entrepreneurs in the electric vehicle market. Electric vehicles are sweeping the auto industry, and one crucial piece has largely been left out of the limelight ─ service. Tesla, the largest electric car maker, has famously struggled with servicing its growing fleet, and with demand for battery-electric cars skyrocketing, it may not be alone as many more start-up EV makers, such as Lucid and Rivian, along with legacy car makers, are churning-out more models. At some point, when their warranties expire, independent EV repair shops will be the go-to for diagnosis and repairs.

9] Various Trades in Constant Demand

If it requires vocational education or a trade college diploma, trades include Electrician, Plumber, General Installer (Handyman), Carpenter & Bookkeeping to name a few in high-demand occupations which can be turned into very profitable self-employed businesses.

10] Consulting and Brokerage

This includes a Procurement Broker, an Insurance Broker, Mortgage Broker, and a Rental Agent among others. Brokers manage various business deals and act as a liaison between parties, as well as create and maintain relationships, administer sales, and perform administrative tasks. They don’t need to own any physical products for resale (inventory) and can earn handsome commissions or success fees when closing deals ─ the lucrative types in particular such as a large project.

11] Pet Sector

People love their pets. If a beloved dog or cat falls ill, its owners are not likely to get frugal and skip on veterinary care. There is also pet insurance which is getting ever popular. Then there are numerous food choices, accessories, and clothing. Grooming and other pet care services are also part of the spending. According to the American Pet Products Association, in 2021, pet owners spent $123.6 billion on their pets in the U.S. and according to the 2021-2022 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, 70% of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 90.5 million homes.

12] Property Management & Real Estate Development

In this category, reference is notably made to residential property management such as for condominium buildings (common area & exterior maintenance) and management.  Real Estate development would be owning housing for rent via Airbnb and other such online residential rental platforms.

13] Daycare Center

The trend of working mothers has been increasing over the years. Therefore, there is a need for someone to take care of their kids. Day-care centers can solve this matter. If one can provide good and hygienic facilities, along with a structured educational program and activities, this can attract a good chunk of business (i.e., kids).

14] Organic-Urban Farming

These days, many are preferring organic food which is free of pesticides and chemicals. If you can take some piece of land, or build a reasonable size greenhouse, you can do organic farming (both organic vegetables and fruits) and supply to retail outlets, and high-end restaurants in towns and cities. Moreover, children are more susceptible than adults to diseases caused by chemical pesticide residues in food and so parents prefer to give them organic foods. Food producers experience many advantages in organic farming that conventional growers don’t. For example, organic farming doesn’t typically require the same high capital investments than conventional farming does. Especially when the expense of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and genetically modified seed stock is factored in. 

In Closing

Many of the evergreen businesses, stated above, do well during recessions by providing goods and services which increase in demand due to recession conditions. In addition, the ones which sell physical products offer less expensive alternatives to premium purchases since demand is relatively inflexible to changes in incomes. 

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The Business of Independent Contractors: Skilled at their Trade but Flawed in Their Business (How to Repair This)

By James D. Roumeliotis

For the last couple of years, I and several other people I know have been complaining about what it takes to reach out to a contractor for home renovations and landscaping. The idea of getting frustrated trying to obtain a quote or to initiate the work agreed upon is ludicrous. After all, shouldn’t a business be eager to get new business and build, as well as retain its reputation? Then there are contractors who do shoddy work, leave a big mess behind, and/or constantly delay completing the work.

While contractors are skilled, it does not necessarily make them great businessmen. As independent tradesmen, they evidently have not received much, if any, education on entrepreneurship including communications, sales, marketing, and customer service/customer experience. What they do practice is being all over the place with several simultaneous jobs, with no focus in sight, coupled with the present scarcity of skilled tradespeople to fulfill the work demand. They are a special breed of businesspeople. “Half upfront and I will get back to you.” Is their typical modus operandi. 

What Gives?

Many wannabe entrepreneurs (in this case ─ independent contractors) have too much on their plate while they lack adequate coordinating and communication skills. They are buying, selling, ordering, coordinating workers, suppliers, tools ─ and if they have a family, this also requires their attention. You get the idea. Furthermore, add to the equation the work truck which may have broken down. If your job is of less value than somebody else’s, you may be placed on the back burner or your request for a bid can be completely ignored while they work toward collecting money from another project. Sometimes obtaining parts specific to a job can be difficult to obtain due to the challenging supply chain. This causes long delays in receiving the necessary supplies. While waiting, the contractor, who needs to continue earning his income, goes elsewhere to work but will return to finish up a job once the item is in. “Juggling” and “prioritizing” is their default work ethic. That said, the customer is at their mercy.

Solutions to Reforming Their Business Conduct

The following are things contractors do that customers despise and how those missteps can be avoided.

  • Failing to Communicate

There is nothing worse than having a contractor with whom you can’t communicate or who does not respond to your messages in a timely manner. It lacks courtesy.  Not only can this affect customer relations issues, but also impact the entire construction team working on the project.

Solution: Be accessible and responsive to potential and existing customers. This is one of the best ways to gain their trust and build your reputation. Either obtain assistance from a family member, or better yet, hire someone to handle all communications.

  • Subcontracting

When a contractor delegates his work to someone else, the homeowner has directly no control of this. The customer has made plans with the initial contractor and the subcontractor may not have all the details and turn out to underperform.

Solution: A contractor should vet the subcontractor diligently and be on the same page in terms of the work specifications required to be completed along with a follow-up inspection.

  • Producing Low-Quality Work

Lack of communication and subcontracting can both attribute to low-quality work. If customers paid for a specific service and it was executed poorly, in their right, they expect to have it redone ─ and not have to pay for it again.

Solution: Contractors should only work with trusted and highly rated contractors, avoiding the cost and trouble of low-quality work.

  • Extending the Timeline

Before work on a project begins, an estimated completion date is usually given so the customer will know how long the job will take with the ability to plan appropriately. Disappointingly and often, a contractor will extend this time period not once but maybe even twice. It may be deemed acceptable if the weather has been worse than anticipated (such as a lengthy harsh winter), or there has been an unforeseen predicament. Oftentimes though, that isn’t the case. Usually, it’s a lack of being organized, issues with subcontractors and/or supplies, project challenges not envisaged during the onset, or undertaking too many jobs simultaneously.

Solution: Contractors should be well aware of the above outcomes and do a better job planning for the conceivable.

  • Lacking Cleanliness

Often, you will hear about how contractors and their crews leave behind a giant mess after they are done with their project. Homeowners should not have to pick up after the contractor’s workers, who can leave behind hazardous items, such as nails and broken glass to name a few.

Solution: Once the work has been completed, contractors ought to make certain they don’t leave their mess behind. A job well delivered is deemed professional and will lead to customer satisfaction along with referrals and a stellar image ─ priceless!

  • Unexpectedly Adding Fees

When all is said and done, customers get appalled soon as they discover that they are paying more than was initially established. There are times when these contractors won’t even have a reason for the price increase.

Solution: The work estimate should be worked on very carefully considering the worst-case scenario rather than spitballing.  Customers don’t care about your issues and underestimates. They want an all-inclusive and solid quote ─ in effect for at least three months).

  • Safety Negligent

Homeowners don’t appreciate when a contractor doesn’t ensure that his crew is following proper safety protocol. Not only are the workers subject to being injured, but the homeowner and his/her family coming and going from the house could also get harmed.

Solution: Safety should be a priority and contractors should maintain high standards including the safest, most up-to-date practices and procedures. They should be a member of a construction/renovation trade association.

  • Dividing Work & Attention

Contractors tend to be busy with multiple clients at once, thus their phones are always ringing. However, customers obviously hate it when contractors behave as if another customer and job seem more important than theirs.

Solution: Contractors should place their complete and total focus on the job at hand, as well as be honest about their workload. Once again, communication is key.

Bottom Line

It seems that the self-taught business ethos of independent contractors is: If they don’t need work right now or in the next few days, they don’t feel obligated to respond. From the consumer point of view, it’s definitely bad business. An MBA is not necessary to arrive at this conclusion. A small contractor has to wear different hats, but this person is usually only qualified to wear one of those hats. Here is how they get into this mess. Take on more jobs than can mentally and physically be handled/juggled at one time. Every customer wants it done now. “When can you start” or better yet, “When can you finish?”

The solution is to hire a full-time salesperson to price and provide service. Perhaps even hire a person to schedule work. In other words, separate jobs. However, the problem is that this may not be affordable for the contractor starting off. If applicable, a trusted member of the family, such as the spouse can be considered the best person to answer phones and undertake the scheduling until the business can begin to afford hiring staff. It’s the only way the business can scale properly.

The contents of this article were presented from a customer point of view and business advisor, along with frequent observation tempered with the knowledge of how many other businesses operate.

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The Dysfunctional Organization: Weak Company Culture and Negligent Leadership as the Culprits

By James D. Roumeliotis

How often do you come across a company, either as a consumer or at a business relationship level, and realize how frustrating it is to deal with?

To understand and penetrate the corporate governing structure and “culture”, you need to look no further than the upper echelon of the hierarchical tree. It is here that procedural decisions are shaped and executed. An entity’s leadership is expected to head the enterprise by governing its long-term growth and sustained wealth.

Moreover, there is a constant search for the “right” human resources. Recruited and fresh talent must resemble the leadership in tone and style. Call it the organization’s DNA. Exceptional organizations are good at these types of corporate strategies, thus strengthening performance effectively.

We notice that in certain types of B2B transactions, there can be scope for unscrupulous behavior. One or both parties are tempted by “disservice” during their business exchange. Shortsightedness might lend itself to making this underhanded approach appear “profitable” on paper. Such relationships inevitably end badly because they are not conceived with trust or respect.

Success Breeds Success

Companies that foster the right attitudes and strategies put themselves on track for success. Examining their corporate histories, you can witness a trajectory of growth. They have a tendency to dominate their markets and “win” through competent talent, innovation, and an entrepreneurial mindset within the leadership at the executive level. These choices underscore the prosperity and rapid growth of the institution. An examination of Alphabet (Google) or (Meta) Facebook shows this quite nicely. They are not built like “traditional” corporations nor do they act like them.

Organizational leadership is accountable for creating value for customers, employees, and its owners/investors. When Bill Gates conceived Microsoft, he put the firm on track for providing constituent audiences with what nobody else could provide. Understanding “asset” management in an expanded meaning of the term guaranteed that Microsoft would succeed under, co-founder, Gates’s stewardship.

The opposite is equally true. When top executives lack knowledge or experience for board positions, they should not be promoted to these leadership roles. Some family-owned businesses run afoul here and this brings up the issues of sustainability and corporate governance. Another weakness in running an organization, in my view, is pushing for short-term profitability at the expense of solid planning. For example, in large organizations, competence is not the primary value but rather connections, politics, and clever tactics. Such “benefits” can usually compensate for incompetence.

No business can continue to prosper unless it attracts fresh and eager talent. Despite the dilemmas within the financial world, top organizations consistently lure new talent with lucrative compensation packages. It is easier for a firm such as Goldman to tap the “best” because of its reputation, size, and success than a small local financial player. When Goldman recruits they know where to look, whether it is Harvard or the London Business School. Prospects will already contain the seeds of the corporate culture in their past. Given the “right” conditions, new talent blossoms. Qualifications are never enough. They are a starting point reinforced by attitude and values. The selection and screening process is designed by HR to weed out inappropriate candidates.

Established software companies’ interview process includes quizzing candidates with challenging technical questions. This practice not only assesses problem-solving and knowledgeability but also explores the ability to perform under pressure, which is a key skill required for software engineers to succeed in their intense work environment.

One thing is firmly certain ─ the best-managed companies have “one” factor in common:
They are constant achievers in their respective industries. These companies exude managerial excellence. Financial performance is the result of this style of management. Consider companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple, among others, which thrive and ranked in 2021 by the Drucker Institute Company Ranking, as America’s largest publicly traded companies according to Peter Drucker’s principles of effectiveness—“doing the right things well.

Deeds Not Slogans

Companies with inept leadership usually fail in the first year or two, but even established companies can stumble badly when they outgrow the capabilities of the founding team. Research by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics demonstrates that nearly 6/10 businesses shut down within the first 4 years of operation.

To be a successful entrepreneur is not an effortless task. It takes plenty of sacrifices. A new generation of young entrepreneurs thinks the road is smooth and a fast track to easy wealth. Not everyone will become Jeff Bezos. Obstacles and sacrifice are part of the deal. Harnessing opportunities and overcoming challenges daily to top the competition is constant work. These conditions are true no matter what the sector of a business engagement or company size.

Telltale signs of weak organizations can be traced to inept leadership. The following points highlight the deficiencies:
Poor customer service – slow or no customer inquiry replies – abysmal handling of sales and service complaints. Service is portrayed as a reward, not a right or benefit.
No Unique Selling/Value Proposition – Companies need to define and articulate their unique value proposition and deliver on it consistently. Create a platform for sustainable and competitive advantage.
Operational deficiencies – various ailments and no structure
• Absence of or very little communication among staff and management – Divisions aren’t well-coordinated and do not function as a team.
• No transparency – There is hardly any openness from management.
• Unethical practices – short-term selfish objectives in search of market share. Top executives should promote social norms and principles as moral agents.
• Lack of proper execution of decisions and new products/services.
• Productivity incentives should be implemented to boost results and employee morale. People must be given a reason to work hard and be efficient.
• Creativity is practically non-existent – An absence of innovation and employee empowerment will hurt progress and stifle new ideas.
• No clear vision/strategy – there needs to be a strategic vision that reflects a truly unmet need and has the commitment of a dedicated CEO. That means that there is a well-defined target audience with a distinct value position that is differentiated, meaningful, and deliverable.
• A weak sales force along with an unattractive compensation plan.
• Favoring nepotism and bias – promoting family members over other qualified employees often leads to resentment or, worse, prompts valuable non-family employees to leave the company.
• Poor hiring practices – should hire for attitude and train for skills.
• Slow/delayed decision-making process – too many layers – overwhelming bureaucratic structure.
• High turnover, which leads to poor employee morale, reduced intellectual capital, lower service levels, higher operational costs,
and decreased productivity.
Management in a state of denial about their organization’s shortcomings – remaining with the dysfunctional status quo
• No specific and/or stable channel strategy – Some companies focus on building a product but don’t think through how to get it into the hands of customers. Even if your product is great, unless you can sell directly, you may be dead in the water without strong channel partners.
• The hidden game – corporate politics – power plays by a handful of individuals for their own benefit to the detriment of their colleagues and the company.
• Misrepresentation of the brand(s) – too much hype – empty promises – not delivering on expectations – leads to dissatisfied clients who will alienate the brand.
Weak financial controls – cash flow dilemmas – over leveraged/undercapitalized (high debt-to-capital ratio) – not reinvesting a certain percentage of profits for future growth.
Absence of sound marketing program(s) and/or brand strategy – A brand is defined by how it behaves, from the products it builds to how it treats its customers, to the suppliers with whom it works.
Growing too fast and not staying on course as the company grows.
Lack or very little employee training & development.
Deficient in control systems – reactive rather than pro-active.
Lack of continuous improvements or complacent.

Top executives need to be accountable to the ownership or Board of Directors – whichever applies, or at least to an outside arm’s length and neutral party such as an adviser who can also play “devil’s advocate” when necessary.

Good Organizations Matter

The way to solve an organizational problem is to confront the structural issues with a moral sense of purpose and ethics. For its clients to receive stellar service, the firm must have its house in order. Besides structure and an efficient operation, employees should be trained and empowered to do their jobs efficiently.

Seth Godin, a renowned marketing strategist, stated succinctly: “If you want to build a caring organization, you need to fill it with caring people and then get out of their way. When your organization punishes people for caring, don’t be surprised when people stop caring. When you free your employees to act like people (as opposed to cogs in a profit-maximizing efficient machine) then the caring can’t help but happen.”

Companies that disrespect their employees and shut-out clients get willfully isolated and have a short life span through erosion of market share and significant loss of revenue. A company’s goal should place emphasis on serving its people properly and fairly. Higher morale generates higher profits – though occasionally other priorities hinder that objective, for example, self-serving behavior by certain executives.

Enterprises spanning a wide array of industries have earned distinction as “well-” or “best-” managed” by demonstrating business excellence through a meticulous and independent process that evaluates their management abilities and practices – by focusing on innovation, continuous training, brainstorming and caring for their employees’ well-being – as well as investing in meeting the needs of their clients.

In a nutshell: Well-run companies thrive no matter what by hiring the right people, taking good care of them, listening to customers, and never ceasing to innovate and improve.

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The Master Salesmen of Self-Help: Pitching Vague Concepts, Which Can’t be Measured, by Means of Savvy Messages and Emotional Tactics

By James D. Roumeliotis

In a Mad Men episode (Season 5, Episode 12: “Commissions and Fees”) actor Don Draper stated: “What is happiness? It’s the moment before you need more happiness.” Life should be a “do-it-yourself project.” Each level has its obstacles and perks, and you will be required to have a plan in order to navigate through it. With that said, the business of selling hope has been here since the bible. According to Marketdata, estimates are that the self-improvement market was worth $11.6 billion in 2019 ─ profiting off people’s problems. Not totally against this as it may actually help some individuals. However, most of the information provided is far from objective. The extravagant promotions (i.e., hype) utilized to stoke-up interest for the overrated and undervalued costly courses, as well as the 2-3 day “success concerts”, disguised as a business event with secrets to offer, along with all the hoopla on display, seem to be working for their intended target audience ─ mainly those with insecurities and inferiority complexes who believe they have been offered something of value and anticipate getting inspired. Needless to say, not everyone is a good fit for the schemes being sold.

Sadly, the euphoria, from success preaching concerts and sessions, wears off after several days, thus the attendees return to their pre-session selves. Evidently, you can’t be motivated by not being dedicated. Think of what was gained watching/listening to the “masterminds.” Possibly doses of motivation and common sense with a placebo effect.

Sold are also rehashed success “blueprint” programs where methods to become triumphant, on paper ─ in theory are scientifically unproven. Such recommendations are not blanket solutions to everyone’s challenges which one may be actually facing.

Then there are the coaching sessions which most of the time are not conducted by the extremely busy and prohibitively priced charismatic motivational “guru” himself or herself. Instead, the coaching task has been outsourced to a trained soldier who, despite his or her best effort and intention, does not possess the same persona compared to the one who had you sold on the overpriced sessions in the first place.

Master Salesmen at Manipulation & Emotions

There is a big difference between telling people what they like to hear and telling people what they need to hear. The new-age motivational gurus know exactly how to create a sense of urgency. Their charisma, voice inflection, observable passion, stage animation, audience engagement, and presentation skills are traits that create the buzz and draw crowds. They are most certainly very clever in marketing and packaging their personal image/brand. They put on a fancy light show accompanied by dramatic sound designed to evoke an emotional response in oneself creating the belief you are getting transformative change. There is no evidence to support the idea that those types of seminars have long-term positive changes in people attending them. People go to them because there is something about themselves that they want to change. There are other options and modes of therapy that are far less expensive that have been proven to be efficacious (think clinical psychology). What does it mean, for example, “to have a date with destiny”? Feel-good advice is a vague concept and an illusion. It does not solve anything or explain “how to” do something such as to overcome adversities in life or in a business.

Success trainers, income experts, and business coaches preach personal success systems. They supposedly know and share methods/strategies that will help you dream big and achieve your goals along with a substantial income. They do so by encouraging their audience to look at things from a different perspective and to become more attentive to their own talents and abilities. Yet most personal development coaches at motivational events often sell products including courses, books, and coaching. Apart from this, most built their success by selling rehashed advice. 

The Use of Verbal Jujitsu

Straight talk and common sense only go so far. Apparently, sometimes it pays to overcomplicate a simple message by using simple terms into scientific or eloquent lingo as a good way to sell ideas. As a result, this should make the success guru a thought leader or mastermind on that specific subject which in turn will cause his or her reputation and authority to surge. They use this in their favor to communicate to their audience what it must do to achieve success by seeing things from a different viewpoint using vague concepts which can’t be measured. It sounds good!

Alternative and Practical Complimentary Advice

On stage, the ‘Masters at Manipulation & Emotions’ deliver glorified common sense, stirring tales of how they attained success, as well as package their most important concepts and turn them into a compelling manifesto.  On social media, they deliver videos speaking about how they earned their millions. Likewise, those (self-proclaimed) success authorities use remarkably effective strategies to sell them in the form of books, talks and consulting engagements. Essentially, the takeaway from them should be how to approach personal branding with splendor.

Consider that life should be viewed as a “do-it-yourself project.”  Be proactive and responsible for your own destiny. No one has a silver bullet to offer you or do for you what’s necessary to progress in your life. Furthermore, no one owes you anything! Every single one of us (barring those with physical or psychological handicaps) is capable and should be responsible for self-development and for each of our outcomes.

There are some who have stated that they have spent a reasonable amount of money on Tony Robbins books and watched free videos on YouTube. They didn’t spend anything on his costly and at times reworked courses. Perhaps this is how people should learn from such popular motivational personalities. Avoid joining and following pricey cults and simply avoid parting with your money.

As a process, this is how one should essentially consider when working on thyself (from my perspective):

1. Define/find your purpose. Discover what drives you and pursue it…relentlessly.

2. Define your goals (short and long-term).

3. Deconstruct your goals into stages and steps.

4. Create a plan with specific date targets.

5. Execute consistently. Keep pushing yourself!

6. Fail, adjust and improve.

7. Persist until achieved along with the aid of practical resources (a tenacious mindset

    development is an important benefit).

8. Move on to the next.

As a final point, consider applying the SMART goals acronym to assist you in guiding your goal setting. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Details of this here.
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Beyond Loyal Customers: How to Develop Customer Evangelists

By James D. Roumeliotis

Loyal customers are always good for business. But there are customers who are a notch better than them. Before I dive into this category, I will define what a “loyal customer” is. It’s one who regularly purchases from a particular store or chooses a certain brand repeatedly. Although they are repeat customers, their loyalty may be driven by low prices, convenience, and/or a frequent positive customer experience. A business should strive to not merely create happy and loyal customers but the type who are so enamored by your company or brand that they are willing to go out of their way to become your advocate – even if you may have disappointed them once or twice. They forgive those occasional services and quality issues but let you know when quality slips. They are beyond loyal and make purchases for themselves and others. They passionately recommend you to friends, relatives, colleagues, and others, as well as provide unsolicited praise or feedback. This is the “customer evangelist” category of customers.

Customer Evangelists as Your Indirect Salesforce

Customer evangelists influence and, in some cases, become part of a company’s volunteer salesforce and/or brand ambassador. They will not hesitate to want others to benefit as they have. The term “evangelist” is derived from the religious believers who roamed the backstreets of the world to spread the word of their faith. Beliefs are based on emotional connection, profound convictions, and arise through experiences. Strongly held beliefs impel many to tell others about theirs.

Customer Acquisition: Word-of-Mouth Still Rules

Evidence shows that acquiring a new customer is five times more expensive than keeping a current customer happy. Moreover, customer profitability tends to grow the longer a customer stays with you as it costs less to keep a customer coming back for more. Results of a study reported in 2001 by Euro RSCG Worldwide, one of the largest advertising agencies in the world, regarding the influences on buyers of consumer technology products, found how consumers get most of their information about technology products: 13 percent from advertising, 20 percent from Web sites, and 34 percent from word-of-mouth (WOM). Furthermore, 78% of people rave about their favorite recent experiences to people they know at least once per week. These results are testament to the power of what is also referred to as “word-of-mouth advertising,” WOM marketing includes buzz, viral, blog, emotional, and social media marketing.

Social Media Customer Advocates & Influencers

An “influencer” is someone who, either through his or her professional or personal brand, has a large following or audience on his or her blog and/or social media accounts such as Facebook and Twitter, whereas an “advocate” is an actual customer who has a passion for the brand and expresses that love by sharing his or her experience with others. Influencers may have a large social media following but not necessarily create the ability to drive action ─ rather it gives the ability to drive awareness. Effective influential results require audience and advocacy. Thus, advocacy is driven by the depth of conviction, and influencers typically are less committed to the product or brand than are actual customer advocates.

Loyalty or Reward Programs

There are also reward or loyalty programs specially designed by companies and brands to incentivize customers who frequently buy their products or services to be their first choice each time. Cases in point are with rewards programs such as with Starbucks where each purchase brings a customer closer to free drinks and food, Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club a frequent flyer program that allows members to earn tier points. There are three loyalty tiers – Club Red, Club Silver, and Club Gold, each of which provides different benefits to the most loyal customers. Then there is Amazon Prime ─ a premium Amazon membership, for a certain annual cost, which provides its regular buyers with a bunch of benefits including free 2-day shipping on a wide range of products. Research shows that an effective, fair, and well-managed loyalty program works. According to Yotpo, 52% of American consumers will join the loyalty program of a brand they make frequent purchases from, and according to Bond, 84% of loyalty program members have made a redemption from the program. However, to stand the best chance of success in tough market conditions, programs must enhance the overall value of the product or service if they are to incentivize the customers to make their next purchase.

In the End

Customer or brand evangelists are customer advocates who stay loyal to a brand and make it recognized to the public on social media or word of mouth. This doesn’t simply occur on its own. It’s a process that a company/brand must design and manage through trust-building, positive customer experiences, and marketing activities. This should lead to an organic pool of natural advocates as satisfied customers are often very happy to share their experiences. Programs should also be considered and created to reward and incentivize these advocates. This is often a good return on investment. Additionally, finding and choosing people with authoritative opinions, who are followed closely by the company’s target demographic, called “influencers” may turn them into supporters as well.

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This Blog’s Top Five Most Read Business Articles in 2021

By James D. Roumeliotis

The five most-read/popular articles in this blog have been rounded-up for 2021.

Thank you for your readership! Much health and triumph to you this year.

1] Diffusion of Innovation: Getting past the first wave of innovators and early adopters to reach the tipping point

2] The Four T’s of Leadership: Truth, Trust, Transparency & Teamwork

3] Exceeding the Hotel Guest Experience: Anticipating and Executing Desires Flawlessly

4] Start-up Essentials: A Universal Roadmap for Starting a Business — Infographic

5] Sex and Sensuality in Advertising: Why it is effective and how to refine it

Keep moving forward!

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ME, Inc.: The Impact of Personal Branding in Strategic Marketing

By James D. Roumeliotis

I had a striking and might I dare say, haunting thought that continues to stick with me. Some years ago, I met a girlfriend through a dating site. Yes, I know this is not unusual. However, she initially remarked that I marketed myself online as if I was a (human) “product.” Through that pleasant conversation, I wasn’t certain if this was to be construed as a compliment or a criticism. Although my intent was not deliberate, I now understood the power of personal branding.

Today, personal branding is ubiquitous and an essential part of professional and non-professional activism. It isn’t different from product branding and relies on the same critical and analytical eye and criteria to float the “product” in the market. The only difference is that the product in question is “you.”

For example, if you are in the job market, the commodity you are selling is “you”. This also applies if you are seeking a promotion within your organization or whether you’re selling/categorizing yourself as the ideal independent consultant or political candidate respectively. The motives can be one or several.

The Brand Called “(Place your full name here)”
No matter what your name is or who you are, you are engaged in selling an image you wish to portray to a targeted audience. Joe McGinnis in his cutting edge book “The Selling of the President” showed how this could be done effectively. The book focuses on how Richard Nixon was able to “sell” his profile to the American public in 1968.

As individuals, celebrities have pretty much mastered the art of turning themselves into powerful, eye-catching and memorable personal brands. Think Paris Hilton, Madonna, George Clooney, and Donald Trump. Even President Barack Obama, during his campaigns, demonstrated how to take an unknown quantity and build a persuasive persona.

What Can We Learn from Them?
To start with, it’s not a one-off event but rather an ongoing process.  Companies constantly bombard us with messages and adverts for precisely this reason. To keep us reminded of their brand and thus reinforce their brand equity.

Keeping it genuine and delivering on promises is an equally important factor to consider. Your attitude and actions, from start to finish with any task you perform, set the tone for the type of individual you are and what others can expect from you.

Create a Brand Statement and a Value Proposition
Marketers, most notably, product brand managers, create messages about their products or services that encourage us to buy. Those messages tell us attributes about the product and the benefits to us as consumers if we purchase their products/services. Likewise, as a personal brand, you need to develop at least one message about yourself that tells your target market what you bring to the table, the benefits they receive from doing business with you, as well as what attracts them to you.

Your value proposition is all about your competitiveness and should spell out the strengths that surpass your competition. To put your brand to work for you in your job search, you’ll need to pull together all the pieces that make up your value proposition in the marketplace. A vibrant personal brand statement makes it that much easier for those assessing you to get an indication of what you bring to the organization.

Effective Communication Enhances your Brand
Whether you’re a CEO, manager, consultant, entrepreneur, business owner, professional, or even a job seeker, you should have the ability to persuade through your written and verbal messages. This includes giving effective interviews. Effective presentation skills will not only help you sell your ideas and products but will elevate your personal brand.

Management guru, Peter Drucker once stated, “As you move one step up from the bottom, your effectiveness depends on your ability to reach others through the spoken and written word.” This effective quotation not only tells it as it is, but it also tells us a lot about Peter Drucker as an effective management expert and communicator.

Character vs . Reputation
Reputation is what people say or think about you. That’s your personal brand and should be well-preserved. Character, on the other hand, is what you really are. It is crucial that you understand the distinction. It is said that character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing. Always deliver on what you promise and if you look after your character, your reputation will look after itself.

What does Personal Branding Entail?
For personal branding to be effective, it requires managing perceptions
effectively. This encompasses several characteristics including:

– Be Unique and Remarkable in what you do by differentiating yourself from the mainstream. In today’s crowded and competitive world, we need that extra something that sets-us apart. Be distinctive, daring and acquire a competitive edge. After all, it’s a “dog-eat-dog” environment and survival of the fittest. No
matter what you do, you don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to.

– Grooming and Clothes: — They are the packaging of your total image. The way you dress and groom says a great deal about you — whether you’re doing so out of necessity or doing it with flair, one can usually distinguish the difference. Watching your appearance also makes you feel good about yourself.

– Etiquette: — It forms a part of human interaction skills, is a strong indication of a refined person and proper upbringing. It should be applied in everyday life in a civilized society. In addition, Respect is esteem of a person, a personal quality and ability to demonstrate it to others through deeds.

Social Networking: Is it going to be Facebook, LinkedIn or Both ?
LinkedIn is the number one professional network, whereas, Facebook is presently the largest personal network with over three billion active users worldwide. Each has its unique purpose. Whether you’re a job seeker, consultant, and entrepreneur or happily employed, LinkedIn can be an incredible asset for your career or business. You can connect to over 800 million professionals in over 200 countries around the world. This is a cyber venue where a polished profile with a professional-looking photo and error-free text should be the only acceptable standard. It’s a portrait of you and your brand. It’s also where you will be importing your contacts and growing your network through new connections. In contrast to LinkedIn, Facebook is geared more toward socializing purposes with friends, relatives and acquaintances.

Many  companies are also taking serious notice whose idea is to engage with
present and prospective clients. It’s equally important that you are prudent and selective with the type of content and photos you place on your page as anyone can come upon it through searches. The message your page conveys will either be positive or unfavorable to your image. Frequent verification and updates on both social networks are recommended. Otherwise, your profiles become stale and unattractive.

Blogging
Another powerful marketing tool to consider is a blog. Writing articles for your own blog and for others will earn you consideration as a respected expert in your industry and subject matter, which, taken together, will create more credibility for you and increase your presence on the Internet.

In the Final Analysis
Regardless of the business you’re in or message you’re trying to depict to your audience, if you’re going to successfully shape your brand, you need to start by knowing who you genuinely are, then form the image you want to present, and subsequently, behave the part consistently.

Everyone, it seems, has a personal brand, but most people are not aware of this and as a result do not manage it strategically, consistently, and effectively. As your own “brand,” you are the head of “Me Inc.”

How does it feel to be the CEO of your own brand and life?

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Exploiting The Benefits Of Niche Marketing: Strategic Marketing

By James D. Roumeliotis

Who earns more money, a general practitioner or a specialist physician such as an ophthalmologist? The latter has spent additional years studying with an emphasis in one particular area of medical practice which makes him or her both scarce and sought after in his or her profession. The same goes for an organization that has spent years studying the market with emphasis on doing one thing, but one thing extremely well. This automatically justifies higher fees translating to improved earnings. How does an upscale saddlemaker to the horse and carriage trade (originally as a harness workshop in Paris in 1837) reposition itself to maximize its know-how in leather goods to now command more than $5000 for a simple briefcase? Or even hawk silk scarves at $500? Think Hermes.

The answer lies in specialization, craftsmanship, and branding. As with all other specialized professions, a business that, chooses to concentrate on a particular market segment should simply be generating higher revenues. Alternatively, if you join the herd of the mainstream, there is always a vast consumer audience to tap. Profit is driven by volumes. It is harder to compete on price to the point of being perceived as offering a commodity with little or no differentiation — otherwise known as a “unique selling proposition” (USP). The only exception to that rule is when an enterprise keeps churning out innovative, “must have” items ahead of its competition. Yet that requires constant creativity, refinements, and a considerable amount of R&D. Apple is an example of a brand that has managed to hit both objectives. Not bad for an enterprise, that started life in a garage.

Defining the term “Niche”
Strategically, niche marketing is the way to go forward. However, you ought to be on top of the game. Recently, the firm Kusmi Tea has managed to put all the right elements together in an unbeatable combination. It personifies mass marketing and branding. If you have a specific group of people interested in “organic tea”, you have your proverbial niche. Whether promoting niche products, in focused markets, such as those for vegans, cruises exclusively for “cougars and cubs” or geared for the ultra-high net worth individuals, the activities applied to attract those refined targets undoubtedly call for creative strategic thinking.

Targeted Audiences
The best way to start is to define your target audience. An 18 something-year-old girl who wants to lose weight to fit into her frock is interested in an effective and timely weight-loss diet. Your target is her waistline and this will be captured with simplicity.

The family who just purchased a puppy wants it trained and therefore requires the appropriate service. Show you can make a dog shake, rattle, and roll and still act well-behaved in the company of others and you will no longer need to flog dog whistles. Ever notice how a 50 plus-year-old lady wants to hide her wrinkles and is always searching for a miracle formula to make her wrinkles disappear in minutes? This “class act” can be achieved by reading certain women’s periodicals and purchasing any product recommendations. These cited groups above represent finely honed targeted audiences. Marketing to such audiences and building an emotional bridge from the intention to purchase decision always attracts higher conversions. You don’t need to recreate the wheel. All you need to do is to find a suitable product that your target market is seeking and present it on a silver platter. Target audiences desire to be addressed with intimacy and personal contact.

Driving the Niche
Common sense should point out that driving a selected audience is efficient and lucrative. The following key index shows how niche marketing should be your chosen business strategy:
1. When entering a new niche market, generally you will not have much competition to deal with. This is justification alone for choosing a specific market in the first place. It also makes your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Internet marketing strategy
focused and cost-effective.

2. Niche markets appeal to target customers, and they are generally much more willing to spend money when their specific needs are met. This means that by catering to a specific target market, you can generally earn a better profit margin.

3. Some niche markets contain sub-groups of the main niche. For example, acai berry weight loss pills or natural weight-loss diets are sub-niches from the weight loss niche. Despite their relatively small size, they are actually quite sought after. Identifying this need spares you from having to compete for similar businesses. People who fit this profile will seriously consider your product — especially if it offers them a genuine solution.

4. Niche marketing makes it possible to focus on becoming a true expert within a particular realm while building a reputable brand name. Strategically, it is also more focused and easier to segment and attack.

The “Ideal” Niche Player
A niche market player is very effective at working closely with customers to build and maintain long-term relationships by innovating and challenging the existing norms in the industry, thus adding value to the project, program, and organizational level. If one is considered an expert in what one does by focusing on one area, then great success will follow. The value proposition must be relevant to the target market. This signifies a target market must be clearly defined. Focusing on a specific market requires knowing it inside and out. This includes conducting a market analysis, stating a precise target market description and goal, as well as being clear about the type of relationship one would like to achieve with his/her market.

By definition, then, a business that focuses on a niche market is supplying a need for a product or service that is not being met by mainstream providers. As such, one can think of a niche market as a narrowly defined group of potential clients offering them the best of what you have. In return, their vendors will profit from higher margins and customer loyalty. As for targeting smaller “sub” niches, you will find them much easier to dominate.

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How to Raise Prices Without Turning Away Customers: Savvy and Diligent Tactics to Consider

By James D. Roumeliotis

Product and service pricing is a tricky strategy and depending on what is on offer − most notably a commodity, price increases can be very sensitive to the average consumer. How does a purveyor dance around this dilemma so as not to tick off its customer base? It takes several savvy and diligent tactics.

Pricing strategies

I begin by going over several types of pricing which a business will consider. These include:

Penetration Pricing: The price charged for products and services is set artificially low in order to gain market share. Once this is achieved, the price is increased.

Economy Pricing: This is a no-frills low price. The costs of marketing and promoting a product are kept to a minimum.

Price Skimming: When a higher price is charged because it has a substantial competitive advantage. However, the advantage tends to be unsustainable. The high price attracts new competitors into the market; however, the price inevitably falls due to increased supply.

Psychological Pricing: This approach is used when specific techniques are used to form a subconscious or psychological impact on consumers. The best example is when setting prices lower than a whole number such as 3.99 instead of 4.

Product Line Pricing: Selling a product at or below cost to incentivize customers and drive other sales. For example, a restaurant might offer a low-priced entrée with the purchase of a drink and dessert — both of which have higher profit margins.

Optional Product Pricing: A method applied to increase the amount customers spend once they begin to make a purchase. Optional ‘extras’, when purchased, increase the overall price of the product or service. Examples include computer printers and single pod coffee makers which mostly have a low initial entry price, whereas the cost of the ‘consumables’ or accessories, like printer ink cartridges and coffee pods, respectively, are much more profitable.

Captive Product Pricing: This occurs when an accessory product is necessary to purchase in order to use a core product. Examples of this include products such as razor blades for razors and toner cartridges for printers. This is also known as ‘By-product pricing’.

Promotional Pricing: Pricing to promote a product is a very common application. There are many examples of promotional pricing including approaches such as BOGOF (Buy One Get One Free), money off vouchers, and discounts.

Product Bundle Pricing: Here sellers combine several products in the same package. This also serves to move old stock. It’s a good way of moving old stock and slow-selling products. It’s also another form of promotional pricing.

Value Pricing: This is based on how much the customer perceives a product is worth. The objective is to make consumers believe they are getting the best value at a fair price. This type of pricing works well for ‘basic’ products that don’t have unnecessary details. Dollar stores are thriving due to value-based pricing on items that normally retail for more elsewhere.

Premium Pricing: Use a high price where there is a unique brand. This approach is used where a substantial competitive advantage exists, and the marketer is safe in the knowledge that they can charge a relatively higher price due to craftsmanship, pedigree and/or cache. Such high prices are predominately charged for prestigious and luxurious products and services.

Variable Prices vs. Fixed Prices:  Also known as “Dynamic Pricing”, “supply/demand pricing”, or “time-based pricing.” It’s a pricing strategy in which businesses set flexible prices for products or services based on current market demands. Examples of this are hotel and airline pricing according to the time of year/season, happy hours at bars (downtime), and TV/radio commercials cost during peak hours. In 2020, due to the start of Covid-19, “dynamic pricing” made headlines when the prices of everyday goods such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer suddenly increased dramatically ─ though this was a combination of demand vs. supply, as well as exploitation by many resellers.

Geographical Pricing: Geographical pricing sees variations in price in different parts of the world. For example, rarity value, or where shipping costs increase the price. In some countries, there is more tax on certain types of products which makes them expensive, or legislation that limits how many products might be imported again raising the price.

The general pricing strategy to be applied will depend on different factors including product or service costs, demand, the types of buyers/target market, or customer perceived value, and external factors such as competition, the economy, and government regulations. Moreover, the consideration is taken with the current stage of its product life cycle along with its distribution and promotion considerations.

Raising prices prudently

First and foremost, be transparent. If you make the effort to explain to your customers that you have hired extra staff to deliver an improved product, or for any other reason, the customer may consider accepting the increase, otherwise, he or she may simply suspect that you are simply doing so out of greed. How you pitch and position your price increases can determine the success of your business. Equally important, when making changes to your pricing, make certain that your staff have bought into the price increases. By supporting this, it will be able to communicate it effectively to your customers.

Following are some low-key approaches to price increases.

In Consumer-Packaged Goods (CPG): Producers often reduce the product/packaging size rather than raise the price to cut costs. However, this can irritate customers as they feel cheated especially when done discreetly. For environmentalists, the optics of this tactic may be deemed effective if the brand can make a case that reducing product sizing results in reducing waste and under-use.

Create Additional Value: When raising your prices, differentiate from the competition by creating additional value for your clients.  For example, if you want to stand out, you should go above and beyond in whatever you are doing so that your customer deems your brand and/or your offering as being superior to that of your competitors. You can add value to a product or service by improving the packaging or the design and adding a storyline. Moreover, refine the total customer & service experience which includes a seamless timely process and/or offer something extra without charge.

Regarding Hourly Pricing for Services: Charge per project rather than by the hour. This will place the clients at ease knowing the total cost is predictable regardless if a project takes a shorter or longer period to complete. It eliminates cost anxiety and lack of control over the actual hours undertaken and lodged by the services provider.

Consider Incremental Price Increases

By applying incremental price increases on a regular basis or on occasion, you will condition clients to expect it. Depending on what you are selling, such as a subscription service, providing adequate notice is the right thing to do. Stating the reason(s) for this imminent outcome is a plus (think transparency). This way, clients can adjust their budgets accordingly. Timing is important as your level of service and customer satisfaction feedback should align with any increase as appropriate justification.

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Sound Branding: Exploiting the Auditory Human Sense for Multi-sensory Communication and Emotional Connection



By James D. Roumeliotis

It is said that the human ear reacts to certain sounds which is telling that we’re wired for sound. Sounds, most notably music, trigger emotions, auditory pleasures, memories and associations. For branding, sound is multi-sensory communication and a holistic corporate model which drives perception, creates attention along with a familiar association. It’s also a means of differentiation from the plethora of advertising media.

The auditory effect to enhance brand identity

Whether it’s a memorable Intel or Coca-Cola jingle, a mega artist’s association with a soft drink or lifestyle brand, Harley Davidson’s distinctive and trademarked motorcycle exhaust sound, or Kellogg’s investment in the power of auditory stimulus with its cereal crunching sounds, marketing strategically through proprietary sounds is increasingly becoming a prevalent means of forming a distinctive brand personality. The advent of digital media and devices with built-in audio, such as smart phones, tablets, streaming media or podcasts, increases the opportunities for companies to utilize audio branding in their overall communication strategy and brand experience. Samples of audio identity can be viewed and heard here.

Consider, below, what some brands are doing with sound to entice new clients and retain existing ones:
– Automobili Lamborghini developed “The distinct sound of Lamborghini” — a stirring and thunderous video soundtrack and the prelude to a potent new driving experience.
– Hip boutique hotels such as Puro Hotel in Mallorca, whose beach bar has been voted one of the world’s 50 best by CNN Travel, surrounds you everywhere with lounge/chill-out genre of music compiled by its in-house DJ ‒ whether you open their website, choose to listen to their on-line steaming player, purchase a CD, relax by the pool sipping a passion fruit mojito or come nightfall, gather around to dance to their house tunes.

Martin Lindstrom, branding expert and author of several books on the subject of ‘neuromarketing’, wrote in his book “Brand Sense” (on “Branding the Sound of Falling Aluminium”), that the Danish luxury audio/video brand, Bang & Olufsen, has raised the bar in the manufacture of corded phones with the Beocom 2 model phone ring tone. He is quoted stating, “By refining this existing sensory touch point, additional brand equity is established, and a new aspect of the Bang & Olufsen brand is raised in the universe of the brand.” Birgitte Rode, CEO of Audio Management adds, “The difference between the BeoCom2 sound and other ringing tones is, that the Bang & Olufsen sound is human, it makes you feel at home, and it´s instantly recognizable.”

Producing a desirable ambiance best suited for your target

The late fashion design icon Karl Lagerfield once stated that “Fashion and music are the same, because music express its period too.” Music, effects, volume and vibrations ‒ the tone and the energy of any place can be set with the right music selections. Upbeat music that would be appropriate in the evening may not appeal to morning customers who may yet be fully alert. If you have an Italian-themed bar, you may want to interject some Italian music from artists like Zuccero or Eros Ramazotti. If your theme/branding and ambiance is geared to a very hip, young audience, it will likely suit your customers to include songs with a driving beat from cutting-edge alternative and electronic artists.

Emotionally anchoring a brand to its clients

Designing and implementing custom music and visual strategies emotionally anchor a brand to its clients. A 1982 study published in the Journal of Marketing determined that “it is possible to influence behavior with music.”

In 1934, a company named Muzak, now owned by Mood Media, launched a pioneering idea of low-level instrumental background music which they termed as “stimulus production” which improved worker productivity in offices. This was eventually taken to other areas most, notably retailers, as well as the hospitality domain as a means to enhance the ambiance in and around surrounding areas.

Retail background music which is curated though licensed music/songs, as well as scent marketing, and various stimulating visuals, such as video walls and digital menu board, indirectly captivate and influence clients’ mood to make purchases and improve sales. These help create emotional connections between the retailers and their shoppers.

DJs or Music Stylists, as they are more urbanely referred to, include Felix Cutillo at Sonodea, who compile the playlists to complement the client’s (retailer, hotel etc.) brand identity along with input from their client.

Taking this even further, with live music event sponsorships, brands can enhance their image on their clients which in turn can positively influence their sales ─ as a 2015 study from live event promoter AEG and marketing agency Momentum Worldwide uncovered. “When it comes to connecting with consumers, especially millennials, music is one of the most effective ways. For brands, the opportunity exists within music to create value for their customers and build a lasting relationship unlike any other,” according to Glenn Minerley, Momentum Worldwide’s VP, Group Director – Music and Entertainment.

At the end of the day

A brand’s identity is comprised of visual, auditory and other sensory components that create recognition in the mind of the consumer. The power of music has the ability to seduce the soul, raise the spirit, build social connections, wiggle our bodies to the rhythm, increase purchases, as well as develop, strengthen and recognize brands. Sound branding supports refining brand communication and in designing a better sounding environment.

In some fashion, all business is show business and storytelling. Brand image is all about the experience, perception and differentiation you create in the customers’ mind. Sound branding forms part of the equation and bringing all this into meaningful consideration by applying its multi-sensory approach to attracting and retaining clientele to your brand and business establishment. It is, therefore, essential to consider audio brand management and strategic use of sound in the total branding equation.

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The Business of Hospitality: How to Cater to Each Guest/Customer Category

By James D. Roumeliotis

The hospitality domain has begun recovering from its 15 month or so pause in bookings and vacancies due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Getting back to a new normal business mode requires a refined approach to attracting and retaining guests/clientele. Hopefully, the operators will profit from lessons learned from recent history along with adequate time they were reluctantly bestowed for reflection. From the following five types of hotel guests, each requires a different approach to effectively attract them. However, in regard to retaining them, the approach is the same across the board. Seamless service and creating a pleasant total guest experience will most certainly turn them as your raving fans. Nowadays, and moving forward, contactless check-in and check-out will be expected. Exceptional service should not be merely exclusive with luxury properties. Nothing can and should be taken for granted. Do not meet guests’ expectations, instead, surpass them.

1. The Leisure Traveler

The leisure industry is the segment of business focused on entertainment, recreation, and tourism.  To the leisure traveler, it is about going on holiday for fun, excitement, and relaxation ─ a vacation get-away whether for a few days or weeks. This may include relaxing on a beach or on the premises and/or going on guided tours and experiencing local tourist attractions.

Offering the guest enjoyment with the ultimate mix of relaxation and inspiration is key to winning them over repeatedly.

Along with the expectations of the staff being quite accommodating, the discerning leisure traveler in a luxury hotel expects generous property amenities and refined services such as:

  • Complimentary fashion house brand toiletries
  • Nutritious breakfast
  • Hair styling tools
  • Flexible checkout
  • Complimentary electronics chargers
  • Spa & wellness niceties
  • Exercise facilities
  • Distinctive and artistic entertainment
  • Custom offers
  • Curated experiences
  • Fancy bathrobes
  • Limousine service available
  • Kid-friendly rooms
  • Premium bedding

2. The Business Traveler

Unlike a leisure traveler, the business traveler is a hotel guest who arrives strictly for work. He or she is not there to view the sights. However, this traveler will be interested in local restaurants and coffee shops he or she can use for business and personal purposes. Typically, their days are long and full of meetings. More than likely, they’ll want to come back to their rooms to relax and have a quiet meal before doing it all over again the next day. While also in town for work, make time in their schedules for more leisure and tourist activities. The business traveler might extend his or her work trip into a long weekend and have a brief vacation before returning home.

To appeal to business travelers, keep the following into consideration:

Easy check-in: Business travelers demand a quick and effortless check-in process. Always make certain you have adequate, efficient and polite staff at the reception desk to meet this need. Consider offering online check-in with keyless room entry.

In-room business features: Fast, reliable internet along with conveniently located ample power outlets 

Co-working spaces: Create spaces and perhaps restaurants too where business travelers can work or have meetings.Loyalty programs: Creating a strategy for repeat business, like offering some free nights for a minimum number of overnight stays during each check-in is one effective way to attract and create repeat business. Alternatively, extend the negotiated discounted room rate through the weekend or add a few days pre-conference to encourage guests to stay longer or arrive early.

Work with local attractions and businesses: Offer incentives like discounts at local restaurants and shops or tickets to a museum or a show.

Having a solid CRM set-up, with proper usage, will make engaging with the guests/clients seamless.

3. Families

Families that travel together want to have shared experiences. With families, there will likely be differing styles of travel and preferences within the group. The key is to have something for everyone. Think like a parent and provide in-room amenities that can keep the youngsters occupied, like game boards, books, and fun snacks. Also, offer a nanny or babysitting service and a list of family care services in the area, as well as kid and family-friendly attractions and activities, such as discounted vouchers for the zoo, aquarium, and/or museums.

In addition, offer the ability for families to avoid carrying heavy cases and flight bags by providing essential items that enable families to travel lighter. This can be accomplished with guests reserving baby/toddler equipment online via the hotel’s website. In addition to an array of essentials, such as playmats, potties, and buggies, parents should be able to also request, ahead of time, non-essentials such as storybooks, swimming jackets and even car seats requested for private transfers.

4. Event Attendees

Event attendees can be a mixture of business and leisure travelers. Some might want to attend the conference and relax alone in their rooms, and others might be looking to explore the city more in their off hours. Most often, event attendees are interested in networking with others at the event and will seek entertainment after the end of the day’s events. This is where, as a hotel operator, you can attract and retain them by providing unique experiences for attendees that they will much appreciate and distinguish you from competing nearby hotels. To entice them, offer to organize receptions and other social activities for them, prior to checking-in, and make it easy for the attendees to add on their reservation. Additional activities can include a poolside happy hour, a dinner cruise (if applicable), or other group activities at a local attraction. Provide those guests incentives and special deals such as discounts for additional night stays or an exclusive dining experience at the chef’s table of your hotel restaurant.

5. Health and Wellness Travelers

Aside from travelers in general being more aware of cleaning and sanitization due to COVID-19, wellness travelers are those who are taking a trip to promote their own health and wellbeing. This type of traveler will most likely be interested in holistic wellness packages which include relaxation, detoxing, and practicing healthy habits during their trip. Some will be more concerned with physical and mental wellbeing, therefore features such as fitness, outdoor excursions, as well as yoga classes, workout sessions, spa treatments, guided meditations, and healthy dining options could be appealing. Additionally, more people will be looking for staycation trips. As a result, hotels should consider focusing their marketing efforts on guests who reside within a two-hour drive.

Creating Loyalty through Exceptional Service and The Total Customer Experience

What good is it to be an upscale hotel establishment with generous amenities if the service is weak? The “total customer experience” is defined as the interactions and relationship between a company and its customers. The customer experience journey can include how a customer interacts with a company’s employees, facilities, and marketing, in both the real and digital worlds.

The holistic approach to the total customer experience will make the difference between a single visit type of customer and a repeat and loyal customer.

The service dimensions consist of reliability, responsiveness, assurance, empathy which characterize an emotionally intelligent and spirited staff with tangible elements in the ensuing way:

  • Reliability reflects the service provider’s ability to perform service dependably and accurately.
  • Responsiveness is a strong indicator in assisting guests and providing prompt service.
  • Reassurance reflects the courtesy and knowledge of employees and their ability to inspire trust and confidence.
  • Empathy involves the caring individualized attention the brand provides its guests.
  • Tangible elements include the facilities, amenities and ambiance felt by the guest directly or indirectly.

A company’s reputation for excellence in the services sector can be developed and supported, as long as the firm has a strong organizational culture oriented in high quality service, customer focus throughout the organization, as well as a dynamic set of employees. They are conscientious and committed to act within the quality standards which the company has established.

For a hospitality organization to achieve high levels of customer service and maintain constant satisfaction, it should develop and implement a structured service strategy, which covers all necessary actions on what measures and actions will be taken to:

  • Create a customer-centric culture.
  • Develop and install appropriate infrastructure service delivery system.
  • Identify the necessary procedures to recognize and meet the needs and expectations of guests.
  • Refine and encourage staff to speak with the right attitudes, skills and behaviors to internal and external environment of the company and towards the guests.
  • Measure – evaluate the degree of guest satisfaction.
  • Continuously implement practices to improve internal operations and procedures relating to excellent guest service.
Credit: Deloitte

Contactless Check-in & out

A 2020 study revealed that 73% of hoteliers agree that self-service tech will become increasingly more important to their business and when asked what makes a good hotel stay, 90% of millennials said they would be interested in checking-in in a hotel through their mobile phones. If those statistics were pre-pandemic, imagine what they would look like nowadays. Guest expectations are not static, they evolve indefinitely. Contactless check-in and check-out do not have to be impersonal. The experience can be seamless and pleasant, whereby the hotel staff can still remain in touch with guests even without ever seeing them in person. During─and eventually post Covid-19, guests are demanding the highest levels of hygiene, ‘sanitization’ and social distancing. Study shows that 84% of guests would feel much safer with social distancing practices in a hotel and 71% of guests are more likely to stay in a hotel offering self-service technological capabilities.

On a Final Note: Targeting the Most Profitable Segments for Your Hotel

There are five main generational segments recognized by marketers. Each generation certainly differs and each of whom have unique spending patterns and personal preferences.  Their main characteristics are summarized as follows:

Credit: Hotelbeds

For advice on attracting Millennials and Gen X, reach-out to me at jdrazure(at)gmail(dot)com

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How to Attract and Retain Employees During a Pandemic and Beyond

By James D. Roumeliotis

These days (as the writing of this article) ask employers in any sector as to what is their main pain point and you will most likely be told that staffing is definitely the one. Barely a sign that it is an employer’s market. However, changes in job vacancies will vary much by industry, geography, specific skills, educational level, and other factors. 

Seems that during the Covid-19 period, many open job positions actually pay less than the expanded economic relief unemployment benefits many people receive(d) under the March 2020 CARES Act in the U.S. and CERB financial support in Canada to employed and self-employed Canadians who were directly affected by COVID-19. In fact, an estimated 68% of unemployed workers are collecting more on those programs than they earned while working. That said, there is not much, if any, incentive for such employees to return or gain employment as long as they are receiving such payments. This is a dilemma which many employers are reporting with a lack of applicants and an increase in interview no-shows.

Possible solutions and recruiting strategies to make your business stand out to job seekers during the pandemic, and beyond, should include:

1) Apply a Timely Hiring Process

Consider new methods for interviewing such as virtual interviews like Zoom or Teams, virtual job fairs, along with scheduling technology such as Calendly and text-messaging to make communication with candidates more effortless.

2) Utilize Third-Party Recruiters/Staffing Agencies

Utilize a third-party recruiting/staffing agency, specializing in your domain, to help source employees on a permanent or temporary basis. This is a way to spend less time, resources, and money on the sourcing and hiring process to allow more time focusing on the operations.

3) Offer Hourly Wage Increases or Bonuses

Consider offering a temporary (or permanent) pay increase for roles with essential duties and in high demand and offer a bonus for high demand jobs to attract talent. Although this increases payroll expenses, it may be necessary to attract and retain the right talent.

4)   Offer Flexible Work Hours/Schedules

This may include offering longer days or staggered shifts to allow for an additional day off during the week.

5)   Offer an Opportunity to Work Remotely (with Jobs That Typically Can)

Since the Covid-19 pandemic shook the standard workplace, the physical office ambiance was quickly ─ and at some businesses, reluctantly switched to working remotely. Many employees had to adapt swiftly which they eventually did and now wish to continue with this convenience. Consider either carrying-on, offering the remote home office option or proposing a hybrid whereby some days during the week or month will require a commute to the physical work location.

6)   Emphasize Mid-To-Long-Term Career Growth Opportunities

To help candidates recognize the temporary nature of collecting their economic relief unemployment benefits, highlight the long-term growth opportunities available at your company. Consider including the opportunities with your posted job descriptions.

7)    Ensuring A Good Candidate Experience

Candidate experience isn’t only important for employer reputation, but it is also a factor when your top candidates are evaluating your job offer. The way you treat candidates during the hiring process is a good indication and impression you convey the way a candidate may be treated once hired. positive candidate experiences can enhance an employer brand and reputation and encourage good candidates to join, as well as existing employees in providing you with additional good candidate referrals.

8)   Consider Hiring for Attitude and Training for Skills

Don not solely hire well educated and experienced people. More importantly, seek motivated, dedicated, coachable and candidates with interpersonal skills. Moreover, make certain that the people you hire fit-in with your corporate culture. Your organization should also foster an atmosphere of innovation and creativity through leadership. These conditions can’t help but breed success.

In the end

Some of the above do not apply to every type of job. Though the hiring challenges during a pandemic are a temporary issue, it is frustrating enough when taking into account job seekers who may be earning as much or more money through economic relief benefits. But with the above recruiting strategies in mind, employers should be able to attract more candidates, make the right hires and return promptly to a new and refined “normal” type of business and beyond.

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Business Vitality: Preventing Adversities Before They Occur

by James D. Roumeliotis

“Panic” and “chaos” are not what one should undergo in business. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs are caught off guard more often than necessary when operating their business. In his book “The E-Myth Revisited”, dynamic author Michael Gerber states that a business person ought to work “on” his/her business, rather than “in” his/her business.

Start-ups have a leg-up if they launch and persevere on the “right track.” The appropriate definition of these two words together imply following a proper course of action. The analogy which can be applied to a business well-being is our own personal state of formidable health comprising of a healthy diet, frequent exercise and undergoing an annual physical. The objective is to be proactive, rather than reactive.

Remaining diligent and active as opposed to reactive

Entrepreneurs may be quite well versed with the products and/or services offered, but not necessarily with running their business including a bucket list of daily administrative tasks. Most notably, sales, marketing and finance/accounting undertakings. This is where honest consideration should be given in either bringing in a partner to complement the entrepreneur’s weaknesses or an external adviser and/or mentor to guide him/her. A sounding board should not be dismissed as prohibitive, thus solely for larger organizations. Seeking professional help is an important way to avoid or plan for business challenges.

Moreover, when drafting a business plan as the road-map, include a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats) matrix and “what if” scenarios — which will reveal and prepare one in avoiding the pitfalls of running a business, as well as coping with various challenges which can arise. In addition, consider plotting a business model as a prelude to the business plan. It makes you think through your business plan, which in turn communicates the business model. Both should synchronize. Make certain a short term (less than 12 months), medium term (13-30 month), as well as a long-term plan (30-60 month) have been conceived.

Savvy business people – whether new or seasoned entrepreneurs or CEOs of large corporations possess:

  • Insight and foresight;
  • Strategies and execution competence;
  • Alternative plans with an exit strategy in case situations turn awry;
  • The perception to take “calculated” risks rather than dive into the abyss;
  • Openness to third party advice;
  • Focus and consistency to achieve their goals and objectives;
  • The ability to see opportunity before their competition does and act upon it in a timely manner.

Negligence with current enterprises

Growing pains in any organization require a formidable administration to keep the business operating efficiently which includes customer front & center, profitability and more than adequate cash flow. Telltale signs of weak organizations can be traced to inept leadership. The following points highlight the deficiencies:

  • Poor customer service – slow or no customer inquiry replies – abysmal handling of sales and service complaints. Service is portrayed as a reward, not a right or benefit.
  • No Unique Selling/Value Proposition. Companies need to define and articulate their unique value proposition and deliver on it consistently. Create the platform for sustainable and competitive advantage.
  • Operational deficiencies – various ailments and no structure
  • Absence of or very little communication amongst staff and management. Divisions aren’t well-coordinated and do not function as a team.
  • No transparency. There is hardly any openness from management.
  • Unethical practices – short-term selfish objectives in search of market share. Top executives should promote social norms and principles as moral agents.
  • Lack of proper execution of decisions and with new products/services.
  • Productivity incentives should be implemented to boost results and employee morale. People must be given a reason to work hard and be efficient.
  • Creativity is practically non-existent. An absence of innovation and employee empowerment will hurt progress and stifle new ideas.
  • No clear vision/strategy – there needs to be a strategic vision that reflects a truly unmet need and has the commitment of a dedicated CEO. That means that there is a well-defined target audience with a distinct value position that is differentiated, meaningful, and deliverable.
  • A weak sales force along with an unattractive compensation plan.
  • Favoring nepotism and bias – promoting family members over other qualified employees often leads to resentment or, worse, prompts valuable non-family employees to leave the company.
  • Poor hiring practices – should hire for attitude and train for skills.
  • Slow/delayed decision-making process – too many layers – overwhelming bureaucratic structure.
  • High turnover, which leads to poor employee morale, reduced intellectual capital, lower service levels, higher operational costs and decreased productivity.
  • Management in a state of denial about their organization’s shortcomings – remaining with the dysfunctional status quo.
  • No channel strategy. Some companies focus on building a product, but don’t think through how to get it into the hands of customers. Even if your product is great, unless you can sell directly, you may be dead in the water without strong channel partners.
  • The hidden game – corporate politics – power plays by a handful of individuals for their own benefit to the detriment of their colleagues and the company.
  • Misrepresentation of brand(s) – too much hype – empty promises – not delivering on expectations – leads to dissatisfied clients who will alienate the brand.
  • Weak financial controls – cash flow dilemmas – over leveraged/under-capitalized (high debt-to-capital ratio) – not reinvesting a certain percentage of profits for future growth.
  • Absence of sound marketing program(s) and/or brand strategy. A brand is defined by how it behaves, from the products it builds to how it treats its customers, to the suppliers with whom it works.
  • Growing too fast and not staying on course as the company grows.
  • Lack or very little employee training & development.
  • Deficient in control systems – reactive rather than pro-active.
  • Lack of continuous improvements or complacent.

The way to solve an organizational problem is to swiftly confront the structural issues with a moral sense of purpose and ethics. It must also have preventive systems in place in anticipation of issues which may arise.

For its clients to receive stellar service, the enterprise must have its house in order. Besides structure and an efficient operation, employees should be trained and empowered to do their jobs efficiently.

Companies that disrespect their employees and shut-out clients get willfully isolated and have a short life span through an erosion of market share and significant loss of revenue. Thus, a company’s goal should place emphasis on serving its people properly and fairly. Higher morale generates higher profits – though occasionally other priorities hinder that objective, for example, self-serving behavior by certain executives.

Superman Businessman

Operational prevention: Implementation of systems and risk management

To preventing operational problems before they even occur requires anticipating them through operational intelligence. The purpose of risk management is to identify potential problems before they occur. To do so entails early and in-depth risk analysis through the collaboration and involvement of all parties involved in running the business. It’s where brainstorming occurs about potential problems regarding the product(s), service(s), market(s) etc. to search for and foresee issues, as well as create solutions in advance – eluding the element of surprise at some point in time. Risk management is comprised of: 1) Identifying, outlining and analyzing potential risks; 2) A course of action in handling the identified risks, as well as the implementation of risk control/elimination plans when/where necessary.

Business leadership should contemplate allowing constant flexibility to adjust strategy when necessary if the initial one isn’t effective.

There should be continuous checks and balances – especially with regards to internal financial controls through various procedures implemented to reduce errors or possible embezzlement by staff. Trust but verify ought to be the organization’s mantra and actual implementation.

Perhaps you can consider a risk analysis software such as a SAS platform whose practical use offers best practices to help the company establish a risk-aware culture through various enterprise risk models and forecasting. We note examples of aircraft pilots who diligently prepare prior to a flight – or ship captains making their plans prior to voyages at sea.

When all is said and done – avoiding pitfalls

Companies with inept leadership usually fail in the first or second year, but even established companies can stumble badly when they outgrow the capabilities of the founding team. According to statistics, as the latest available numbers from the two U.S. government statistical agencies responsible for providing data about new businesses illustrate, The Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, five years after new establishments were founded (1995, 2000 and 2005 respectively), 50%, 49 and 47 percent of them (correspondingly) were still in operation.

To be a successful and sustaining entrepreneur requires vision, strategy, execution and constant diligence – along with plenty of sacrifice. A new generation of young entrepreneurs think the road is smooth and a fast track to easy wealth. Obstacles and sacrifice are part of the deal. Harnessing opportunity and overcoming challenges on a daily basis to top the competition is constant work. These conditions are true no matter what the sector of business engagement or company size.

Enterprises spanning a wide array of industries, have earned distinction as “well-” or “best-” managed” by demonstrating business excellence through a meticulous and independent process that evaluates their management abilities and practices – by focusing on innovation, continuous training, brainstorming and caring for their employees’ well-being – as well as investing in meeting the needs of their clients.

Well-run companies thrive no matter what and learn from their mistakes – making certain they don’t repeat them. However, never give failures a second thought. There are no dress rehearsals in business either.

Onwards and upwards!

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12 Tell-tale Signs That a Person Will Be Successful: What to Look for in a High-Value Person

By James D. Roumeliotis

Whether you’re looking to team-up with someone for a project, business partnership, hire for your organization ─ or even consider as a prospective long-term intimate partner (wink-wink), that individual, whether prospective or on the right track has certain traits which increase the likelihood of his or her success in life and/or business or profession.

This is by no means scientific. However, there are well-known characteristics of existing successful people ─ whether in their profession, trade, in business and or in any other endeavor. There is certainly a specific pattern that decreases the chances of disappointment.

Choose your key person or people wisely

Some people have the knack and intuition, whether they seek and hire talent such as an employee, bet on a senior executive or partner, for business development, or even choose an heir for their empire. What they look for, at the very least, are the following 12 high-value traits in a person, regardless of gender.

1] Ambitious: An essential start as it signifies the person has something he or she really wants to achieve. This could be considered his or her goal(s) in life and will go above and beyond to achieve them.

2] Self-motivated: Constantly taking action and initiative without any prodding by others. Showing commitment and drive to achieve. Likewise, passionate enjoying every moment spent working on a chosen pursuit.

3] Spends Time Productively: This person manages his or her time properly and cognizant that using time effectively increases the chances of accomplishing his or her goals. Among others, practical time spent may include activities such as exercising, reading, learning, volunteering, and devoting quality time with loved ones.

4] Timely & Reliable: They produce winning relationships and results. With such people, it not only means doing what they say, but it also means doing what is right, regardless of what they have committed to. They are results-oriented. If they tell someone they can do something or meet at a certain time, they have made a promise they keep. Being on time shows others that this a person of his or her word and makes the habit of always being on time for meetings and appointments.

5] Takes every Hurdle/Challenge as a Learning Opportunity: Recognizes what he or she is good at and polishes his or her strengths along with acknowledging weaknesses and works to improve them.

6] Enjoys the Company of Successful People: He or she understands and follows the stock phrase of “You’re known by the company you keep.” This person enjoys having others’ success inspire him or her. Those who don’t achieve success would rather be around smaller people because it makes them feel bigger. Moreover, he or she realizes the importance of support from those he or she admires when determined at accomplishing bigger goals.

7] Relentlessly Competitive: The people who are going to be successful in life are super competitive. It doesn’t matter what it is. It’s the one who sees winning as the job that needs to be done, so he or she will show up and do it each and every time. This person is determined to do it better, faster and to the fullest of his or her abilities than most people as he or she thrives on competition and welcomes the challenge.

8] Not a Fan of Excuses/Pretexts: Successful people find a way and refuse to cop-out, whereas failures find feeble excuses to avoid pain and commitment to their obligations and responsibilities.  No successful leader or entrepreneur makes excuses for inaction or action gone wrong. He or she make things happen regardless of the situation or circumstance.

9] Tenacious:  He or she knows that as long as he or she keeps at it, regardless of hurdles to overcome, a victorious outcome will be achieved. It’s all about persistence, perseverance, and determination to get things done.

10] Educates Oneself Constantly: This person has a growth mindset and mindful of the importance of permanent self-development, as well as very curious in nature who seeks to keep learning, discovering, thus improving his or her knowledge and skills.

11] Acknowledges Mistakes: This person is willing to admit to his or her flaws and errors and keeps refining himself or herself, as well as learn from mistakes so they aren’t repeat. In addition, this person possesses integrity with honesty and strong moral principles.

12] People Skills: A genuine interest for others and for long-term relationships. A person with a high EQ. Selfless, willing to help others do well with the ability to get the best out of someone, seeking mutual beneficial outcomes, and loyal to those with whom he or she has committed to. Thus, excellent interpersonal skills are essential for leading effectively.

How do you look for them?

It goes without saying that as far as knowing whether the person or people you seek possess the above characteristics, you ought to be familiar with them for an extensive time. It’s not possible from merely a casual acquaintance or interview.  With the latter, situational/behavioral questions can be asked which may give a glimpse of the candidate’s character and thought process. One way to spot them is identifying people who assume unofficial authority within the framework of their jobs within your organization. Such individuals possess certain traits that distinguish them from others on the team and build their credibility. Two other ways is either through casual or frequent observation over time or through a trusted referral from someone who knows him or her quite well and offers a personal endorsement.

In the end

Realistically, there is no perfect formula to any of this. No one’s ever going to fulfill 100% of the traits unless you’re seeking a unicorn. At the very least, one should expect somewhere between a 70% or 80%. If done right, much of the time, you should be able to put together an incredible team in your business so you will grow it and rise above and beyond. An effective leader doesn’t operate alone and neither taking all the credit.

On a final note, once ideal candidates are discovered and hired, good leadership and employers perform proper onboarding along with empowering them and providing ongoing training and development.

_____________________________________________________


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Why Many Businesses Earn a Paltry Profit, If Any: How to Turn This Dilemma Around

By James D. Roumeliotis   

10 Reasons Your Business Is Not Making Money – InsiderBLM

A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.” – Henry Ford

Every business launched should be infinite and earn a profit ─ unless, of course it is a non-profit organization. Profitability has an impact on whether a company can secure financing from a bank or attract investors to fund its operations and grow its business. Continuous prosperity is earned most notably by tightly controlled financial management, including cash flow/liquidity, a methodical and lean operation, and a policy with emphasis on employee, vendor, as well as on a customer focused environment.

However, many businesses are not earning a decent profit margin or produced one for some time. Those companies are at a stage where they can be profitable anytime, but they prefer to invest money back into the company to keep the growth steady. However, there are also scores of them where they cannot survive without external debt or they are operating at a highly unsustainable business model such as selling merely on price with no unique selling proposition (USP) and instead, paying more attention at how fast they are growing. 

How much profit should a business be earning?

A decent margin will vary considerably by industry and size of business, but as a general rule of thumb, a 10% net profit margin is considered average, a 20% margin is considered high, and a 5% margin is low. The industries with the highest average profit margins include:

Large Industries

  • Software publishing
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Database, Storage & Backup
  • Semiconductor industry
  • Financial services (non-bank)
  • Healthcare support services

Small to Mid-size Businesses (SMB/SME)

  • Accounting services
  • Lessors of real estate
  • Legal services 
  • Management companies including consulting
  • Orthodontic and dental offices
  • Computer software and hardware technical operations
If You're Only In Business To Make Money… You're Doing It Wrong – Call  Porter

Industries with low profit margins include airlines, grocery stores and automobile dealers as they are typical examples of low-margin businesses. Capital and labor intensive industries usually have low profit margins, due to massive investments with a low return or a long term return (ROI).

For a complete list of industries and average profit margins click here.

Popular newer companies with high values but no profit

Some notable relatively young companies across the tech and lifestyle sectors such as Airbnb, Uber, Wayfair and Peloton, to name a few, have yet to break even since their inception despite the justification for high valuations which are generally around the future prospect of earnings, among other factors. All highly hyped start-ups had great stories of scale, regardless of whether their stories have yet turned-out as predicted. In fact, many are actually losing millions every year during the first decade (think Amazon). Reasons for not making any profit include, in part, a large investment in sales and marketing, product development, technology and operations. Some are less efficient with scale. Consequently, to make money, they will need to re-engineer their business model and manage costs from running far ahead of revenues.

How to restore your business gains

There are several measures to take to make certain your business thrives, and profits are frequent, as well as attractive.

  • Your profit margins ought to be in line with your industry or better. Consider offering a premium product which will yield a better profit and reputation. Avoid markdowns as they are profit-killers. In addition, enhance your brand image and increase the perceived value of what you are selling.
  • Negotiate better pricing agreements with your suppliers to reduce the costs of goods and widen your margins. Negotiate for discounts. You may want to include free shipping or other offers such as receiving extra products for free. This works well when you are purchasing in bulk.
  • Reduce supply chain costs and inefficiencies. One way to accomplish this is by shipping product in less than a full truckload (LCL) as it is more costly when it is full (FCL). Making several deliveries each week is more expensive than just one. 
  • Streamline your operations and reduce operating expenses. Automate specific tasks in your business such as putting repetitive activities on autopilot. This way, you can reduce the time, manpower, and operating expenses required to run your business. Cut overtime and excess staffing as much as it is feasible and control other expenses by implementing rigid budgets and needless expenses. If the purchase does not contribute to the growth and improvement of the business, it should not be made in the first place.
  • Avoid over leveraging as this entails having a significant amount of debt in use along with a debt service strain. While debts used to generate revenue can increase revenue and profit over time, excessive debt can inhibit profitability. Keep your debt on the wise and strategic side of things.

________________________________________


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The New Retail Business Reality: Rethinking and Reinventing an Outdated Model

AW360 Interview with FITCH on the Future of Legacy Retail – Advertising  Week 360 • AW360

By James D. Roumeliotis

As far as many of us know, complacency does not offer any benefits. In fact, it is the enemy of progress and can be the single largest threat to any business. Any rational entrepreneur and business executive who is operating a business, any business, let alone a retail enterprise, should be savvy enough to understand that change is constant. Good times don’t last forever. You would think! Vision, creativity, and an element of innovation are key characteristics of a forward-thinking businessperson. Nothing in the world is static. This applies to business ─ any business. It’s an ongoing process.

What never ceases to amaze me is how at this day and age, you still have retail operators are in denial. They continue to focus on their bricks & mortar stores rather than witness the changes occurring around them in their sector and place additional focus on digital retail. Either stubbornness, short-shortsightedness or both are the culprit.

Legacy retailers embracing online or a hybrid channel

In 2019 more than $3 trillion dollars in global retail was transacted online which mainly comprised both tangible and intangible products including fashion items, airfares & tourism, tech products, books, music, and educational courses. If retailers, even in those sectors, for example, have not yet embraced eCommerce, they may not cease to exist in about 10 years’ time ─ or even sooner! The most successful retailers launched as upstart eCommerce sites rather than legacy bricks & mortar ones who transferred a big chunk of their business transactions online. The former includes Amazon, Wayfair, Zappos and Expedia to name a few prominent ones. Their purchase experience is seamless, their customer experience a delight, and their after sales service unmatched. Plenty of investment and reinvestment of funds in technology has catapulted and kept them in the forefront. The expression, “you snooze, you lose” applies fittingly in this circumstance.

The current role of physical stores

Despite brick and mortar remaining essential to retail, the purpose is evolving into using the stores as a means to attract customers by ways of a “media stage” in terms of experiential marketing, as well as another way to transact sales. Consequently, media is now a cost of sales and rent is now a cost of customer acquisition. This is the new retail business model. The old model relied almost exclusively on advertising to drive consumers to physical stores to purchase goods and/or services. Today, digital media and online sales are the drivers. Customers can purchase online and conveniently, in a timely manner, pick-up their order at one of the closest retail stores. This also saves the customer and retailer shipping costs.

Retailtainment: immersive retail experiences

Retail should be more than just products. It should be experiential, immersive and entertaining. It’s about bringing the products to life around the consumer rather than merely focusing on the features and benefits. With technology these days, it is possible to exploit those possibilities. According to The Freeman Company, 9 in 10 marketers believe that brand experiences provide engagement to that is more compelling for customers. EventTrack reports that 91% of consumers feel more positively towards brands after participating in events and experiences.

Experiential retail, or as it’s now coined as, Retailtainment is a marketing concept introduced by American sociologist George Ritzer in 1999. He defined it as “the use of sound, ambience, emotion and activity to get customers interested in the merchandise and in the mood to buy.” This translates to retail brands providing customers with fun, unique and in-person experiences that elevate shopping to new heights. This desirable retail experience can surely drive more traffic and as a result increase sales.

Examples of retailers who have implemented the Retailtainment concept in their stores include:

  • STORY at Macy’s
Retail therapy: Macy's Story shop comes to NorthPark, Office Depot wants to  charge you rent

This is a narrative-driven retail experience by the American department store, Macy’s, in partnership with brands like MAC Cosmetics, Crayola, Levi’s Kids and more than 70 other small businesses. STORY initially started as a unique retail store who operated on the idea of renewing its stock according to different themes every few months. Themes like ‘Love’, ‘Remember When’ and ‘Holidays’ acted as guidelines for every new wave of products. After seven years in business, STORY was acquired by Macy’s in 2018 and relaunched as STORY at Macy’s since then.

  • Estée Lauder’s Power of Night Pop-Up
The Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair and it's Key Benefits | Luxe Society  Luxe Society - Asia's Première Lifestyle Portal

The upscale cosmetics brand recently hosted their first Power of Night pop-up event at the Visual Arts Centre in Singapore. The focus of the event was on the Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Serum, a beauty favorite in Singapore to rejuvenate skin and boost complexion hydration levels. The brand took an interactive approach to educate guests about how modern life affects our skin and what the relation is between sleep and skincare while providing entertainment through a series of recreational activities aligned with the theme.

  • Uber luxury brand Hermès with Carré Club
At the Hermès Carré Club, the Silk Scarf Becomes an Artist's Canvas | Vogue

The French luxury fashion manufacturer, Hermès, launched the Carré Club much to the entertainment of glamorous Hollywood. The studio space located in Chelsea housed eight of Hermès’s talented crafters where their skills were put on display, allowing visitors a behind-the-scenes peak of the brand’s manufacturing magic. The New York club was only open for a limited period, but this pop-up concept is making its way across major cities like Toronto, Singapore, Los Angeles and Milan. The entire experience of the Carré Club screams exclusivity, treating every guest like a VIP client. The limited installments only add to the charm of temporary luxury.

In the end

Today and moving forward, retail physical stores are meant as a media stage and physical exposure at the “right” locations, whereby customers can make timely and convenient pick-up purchases ordered/purchased online. The stores should also consider designing them with the goal of providing an unconventional experience to its shoppers. The main goal here is not necessarily to sell products, but rather to make the shopping experience immersive and improve the brand image.

______________________________________

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How to Blemish Your Well Established and/or Prestigious Brand and How to Prevent It

By James D. Roumeliotis 

A business invests time, resources and money building a brand over the years. Its image and reputation are sensitive matters which should be kept top of mind as they form perceptions on the mind of the consumer. This in turn drives revenues and noteworthy profits. Thus, it goes without saying that a brand is core to a company’s success. Moreover, the leadership behind it should be making methodical decisions to retain the brand’s reputation through diligent decisions and actions. Surprisingly, this is not always the case with some brands ─ primarily the people behind it, the brand custodians, along with their organizational culture.

So, What Gives?

The main reasons why a company may be neglecting its brand image includes:

  • Bad products or service;
  • Below average post sale service;
  • Not delivering on promises or lying and over-hyping the features & benefits offered;
  • Mixing and associating politics, race, religion, sensitive causes, and rogue individuals;
  • Overexposure including not carefully vetting the licensees;
  • Not delivering on a positive and effortless total customer experience;
  • Lack of employee training, empowerment, motivation and not everyone being on the same page or common goal with customer centricity throughout the organization;
  • Paying little attention to the noise and discussions made about the company/brand over social media.

Classic Cases of Greed, Over-exposure, and Negligence

Pierre Cardin: When the late 98-year-old fashion designer with the eponymous name passed-away, he left behind a legacy mixed with unique creativity, yet his name was overexposed on hundreds of products, from accessories to home goods. From an icon to a blemished brand whose prestige waned to oblivion. For over seven decades, he designed unique and unconventional clothes which pushed the boundaries of the acceptable. For example, he introduced his “bubble dress,” a short-skirted, bubble-shaped dress made by bias-cutting over a stiffened base. He would experiment with synthetic materials such as vinyl, and Plexiglas among other avant-garde textiles. He also introduced unisex fashion which were indistinguishable between man and woman.

Later, Pierre Cardin developed licensing agreements with several industries which put his brand name on a vast number of consumer goods, including cosmetics, pens, even cigarettes. He once amused that, if given the opportunity, he may even put his name on a roll of toilet paper. As a result of his practice, he eventually cheapened his brand despite the wealth it afforded him. The overall effect of making Pierre Cardin appear on a variety of items was solely to make habitually non-fashionable products appear high-end.

By the mid 1990’s with about 904 licenses globally, his licensing overexposure led to the devaluation of the brand. In 2011, he attempted to sell his business. Despite discussions with several potential investors, he did not succeed in that endeavor.

So why did Pierre Cardin chase money to the detriment of his brand? He answered this question while defending his strategy by stating: “I don’t want to end up like Balenciaga and die without a nickel — then, 20 years after I’m dead, see others make a fortune from my name.

The moral of the story is that a fashion icon brand which wanted to exploit its reputation and expand beyond its in-house offerings, required a strategy of licensing with a selective and discerning manner.  

Donald J. Trump and the family owned Trump Organization: The former US President and once renowned NYC Real Estate developer went from a hyped-up and aspiring luxury lifestyle brand to one presently looked-upon with disdain. He spent four years treating politics, diplomacy, the climate, and the well-being of his people as trivial matters, and in the process, alienated more than half-the country’s voters. The final nail in the coffin was the backlash from the Capital riot that he incited on January 6th, 2021. Timothy O’Brien, Bloomberg opinion columnist and the author of Trump Nation, on MSNBC News declared: “Trump’s brand is associated with violence, insurrection and hatred.” The headline in an Ad Week January 8, 2020 article, states: “Exclusive: Trump’s Name, Once a Brand, Is Now a Banner of Extremism.”

According to several people close to him, winning the Presidency to the WH in 2016 came unexpectedly to Donald J. Trump. He wasn’t quite up to the task for the job, other than the prestige and power bestowed upon him. While moonlighting as President of the US, Trump spent four years destroying two brands: his own and his Republican party’s. Consequently, banks, business partners, his lawyers, and political allies have distanced themselves from the former president. Much of his licensing business, which grew somewhat following the popularity of The Apprentice TV show, has reached a low point since he became president. 

Outright Reject Creating Scams and Malfeasance

Moreover, as anyone who maintains an element of morals and ethics in the business world will acknowledge, scams and malfeasance are not a good brand-building strategy. Consider the extinct Trump University: an online education scam, the Trump Foundation: a scam-packed philanthropy, and Trump Network: a multi-level marketing and devious organization.

What Can You Do to Preserve Your Brand Reputation?

  • Have a viable plan in place to build and preserve your reputation: It is not a onetime event, or a serious of occasional events but rather an ongoing process. Constantly monitor your brand. Be proactive vs. reactive to prevent issues from turning into a crisis.
  • Develop an online strategy to spot increases in negative conversation before they reach bloggers and online media.
  • Use social media to clarify customer misunderstandings, reducing overall complaints and building brand fans simultaneously.
  • Keep an open-door policy and encourage dialogue with your employees to obtain any adverse issues before they get exacerbated.
  • Apologize to customer complaints in a timely manner. 
  • Be transparent when handling client issues and avoid using pretexts.
  • Use testimonials as these can help boost any image problems.
  • Reward loyal customers and supporters by making them feel appreciated.
  • Do not associate your brand with any rogue partners. Choose the charities, sponsorships and cause marketing affiliations carefully.

Finally, avoid being entangled with religion, politics or any other sensitive subject and institutions.

Complacency and insensitivity in your business should, by all means, be avoided let alone developing and retaining a stellar brand reputation.

____________________________________________________

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The Four T’s of Leadership: Truth, Trust, Transparency & Teamwork

By James D. Roumeliotis

Those, like myself, who are drawn to the discipline of “leadership” have read our share of articles, research papers and oodles of third-party opinions on the subject matter. However, most if not all of us, will agree that the definition arrives at the same conclusion: Leadership is a skill and talent, mainly by an individual, to lead, motivate, influence other individuals, teams, and entire organizations to act toward achieving a common goal. In business, this implies directing colleagues and workers with a strategy to meet the company’s attainable goals and objectives.

For leadership to possess credibility, it must earn three sacred principles: Truth, Trust and Transparency plus an additional and equally important one ─ Teamwork. These elements will be expounded below.

Leadership styles

Regardless of leadership style applied, the four T’s presence are not to be discounted.

Without going much into detail on the eight leadership styles, as this subject is an article or book unto itself, its effectiveness is summarized in the following table:

Leadership StyleCommonly EffectiveOccasionally EffectiveRarely Effective
DemocraticX  
Autocratic  X
Laissez-Faire X 
StrategicX  
Transformational X 
Transactional X 
Coach-StyleX  
Bureaucratic  X

The four T’s of leadership

The four “T’s” are considered the cornerstone to a leadership’s personality and long-term success. Those skills are all within reach and should be brought to the top of a leadership personality.  

Truth: Lack of truth expressed in any organization can take many forms. It could be departments not sharing information because it might put them in a bad situation with peers or it could be information not reaching a manager because no one wants to pass-on any bad news. Leaders need to know the truth to make intelligent business decisions and the employees at all levels should know the truth to do their jobs effectively. 

Trust: Without trust, a leader will not succeed instigating a productive team culture. Moreover, the most important attribute building trust is transparency. Leaders build up their team members’ trust by communicating transparently and truthfully – in other words, by being trustworthy. In addition to the importance of team members trusting their boss, it is essential that supervisors also trust their direct reports and facilitate their success by creating the conditions for it.

Transparency: A recent Forbes poll revealed that 50% of employees think their organizations were held back by a lack of transparency. When an individual or an organization is transparent, there are no hidden agendas and no information is being kept from people who need to know it. Transparency also promotes recognition of common goals. This is important because you are not stating one thing while covertly trying to achieve something else. Trust and transparency go hand-in-hand because transparency builds trust.

Teamwork: Teamwork is critical to success in any effort. Excellent leadership requires inspiring the people around them by empowering them, by enabling them to contribute their expertise as a collective and cohesive team, and ultimately trusting them.  Teamwork and leadership in tandem are important because they provide clarity for your team and have a direct impact on the vision of the company and its results.

The way these principles need to be applied will vary with each circumstance. However, the principles themselves remain the same. Therefore, leaders can and should apply these principles in an adaptable way.

The takeaway

Leaders must create the conditions in their organization to succeed, as well as trust their colleagues and workers to do so, and verify that they have done so ─ by keeping in consideration the proverb, “Trust but verify.” By applying the principles of trust, truth, transparency and teamwork, leaders will help ensure their teams’ success. I realize that helping others grow brings me fulfillment. I see how being an educator, mentor or coach and an advisor, as well as an employer are rewarding roles for me. 

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