Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Being the kind of leader your people would want to be!

Do you believe that being the boss means being first to work and last to leave?  Does the phrase "If you want it done right, do it yourself." ring true to you?

If these are true about you, your people will NOT want to be you.  They want to work for someone who realizes that you are only as good as your least productive employee.  They want to work for someone who empowers their people to do great things, make decisions. 

There was an article about the CEO of Verifore.  This large multinational organization was run by a man that believed that he made better decisions than his people because he had better information.  So each time that he read something that was valuable, he passed it on to EVERYONE in the company.  Therefore, every employee in the organization possessed Executive Level information.  Armed with all the information, they made better decisions.

12th Image
This same CEO had 11 photos on his wall of the same image.  The image was a man telling his dog to sit.  The dog standing, not obeying.  And the 12th image was the man telling his dog to sit, and the dog sitting.  The reporter asked him why he had that collection of photos on his wall. 

The CEO said it reminded him that most employees are NOT going to get it the first time.  He needs to cast the vision EVERY day.  And slowly over time, his people will GET it.

And for me, the thing that I realized is that people often got it.  But over time if I did not continue to speak our vision and values, my people would slowly forget. 

All this to say that your people would like to succeed.  They would like to be empowered.  They would like it if you shared the challenging projects.

As the boss, we feel we need to be the person that makes all the hard decisions.  We need to be the one that comes up with all the best ideas.

You are fooling yourself.

Your people are closer to the action.  They are so willing to be committed to helping you create great success for your department or company.  They just need to be given the information to make great decisions.  They need to be allowed to give input about what they think might work best.  Your people want to be challenged with hard projects. 

Give them a chance.  Share the load.  Make your job look less stressful because they are doing all the more interesting, more stressful projects.  Trust them to be engaged.  They will put in the extra time if they know you care about what they are working on.

And you will be rewarded with fantastic, engaged cheerleaders for the company!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How to launch a product...

Salon Owner, Manufacturer Garrett Markenson
At Mirabella Beauty, we are shooting a new video.  We are using a local salon, Garrett Markenson Coiffure.  The owner, Garrett is launching his own product, Milk.  As we got to chatting, it was so amazing to think of how hard it is to actually launch something right.

I assume by now you have priced the product so that you can make money.  That reminds me of an episode from The Office where Michael is talking to the kids of the employees on "Bring your kids to work" day.  He tells them that Dunder Mifflin buys the paper for a $1 and sells it for $2.  All the kids said, you are ripping people off! 

Don't worry about what the kids think, that is how business works.  You have to determine your cost of goods.  This must include everything; packaging, filling, literature, labor.  Then determine how much you want to sell it for.

If there is not enough room, then you won't have a business.  The only additional thing I would say is that often while you are small you have to live on a small profit margin until you can buy enough to lower your per unit costs.

The other obvious thing you need to consider with pricing your product is the market you are going after.  If you want to be premium, check out what the most expensive product is.  Are you going to be above that price?  At that price?  Or below that price?  And that depends on the quality of the product and the market you are trying to capture.

OK, so you have priced your product.

The first thing that someone has to do is determine distribution.  Who will sell your great new product?  Are they a distributor?  Do they sell competitive products?  Are they large and demanding?  Or are they small, focused but likely have less resources?

Perhaps you don't want to go through distribution, rather you want to sell directly to the retailer or consumer.  Again, do you want large national retailers or small local retailers?  It probably is easier to get into smaller local retailers, but how do you get to enough of them to be large enough to compete?  Large retailers can be great, but as a new manufacturer do you have the money and resources to service a National chain?

Once you determine your path, you need to set your distributor or retailers up to succeed.  That means you need to do something to help your product stand out.  With National retailers this can be difficult and potentially expensive, but you might instantly have shelf space in 500-1,000 retailers!  Pretty good trade off.

If you are going through distribution or if you are selling to small retailers, the process for standing out is probably the same.  You need to package your product in such a way to make it easy for your retailer to succeed.  Get one box.  Put your tester and retail in the box.  Put the signage in the box.  If you have a display, put that in the box.  Don't forget to give the retailer a price list!  They need to know how much to sell your product for.

Make it so the $8 receptionist or stock clerk can open the box and make it look EXACTLY the way you want the product to look on shelf.  The easiest way to assure this is to put pictures of exactly how it should look.

And then there is the whole aspect of building a brand but we will save that for another day!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Lead like The Avengers!

I brought my family to The Avengers this weekend as did most of America!  What a fun and exciting movie.  But as always, I cannot keep my business hat off!

How did Loki (the bad guy if you didn't see it) almost beat The Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man, and the rest of the team?

He got them thinking about themselves only.  He got them concerned about Loki and his strengths.  He pushed them so that each was trying to "win" by beating him by themselves.  So ultimately the most powerful fighting force imaginable was being beaten by the weaker brother of Thor!

And THAT is a great leadership lesson!
If you are trying to create a great team, which is exactly what Nick Fury (the leader of The Avengers) was trying to do.  Nick should have spent time trying to get them to realize:
  1. Who the team was, 
  2. Who they were trying to beat, 
  3. And then The Avengers could figure out HOW to beat Loki.

Dr. Banner and Tony Stark were sitting in a room just below the enemy getting mad at him, instead of thinking proactively about a strategy to win.

When I think of most companies that lose, that is exactly what is happening.  The team focuses on their enemy.  They worry about what that enemy is doing.  They concern themselves with fear; fear of getting beat, fear of what losing will mean to them personally.

In leadership, we need to first always address who we are.  What makes us special?  Why are we great?  Once we have a great idea of our value.  Only then can we begin to address actually attacking the problem. 

And the problem is NEVER the competitor. 

Don't focus on your "enemy", but focus on what you are trying to accomplish. 

Too many people study their competitor, obsess over their competitor.  They end up following instead of leading.  You can never win with the strategy of following. 

In sports, coaches tell their teams "we need to play our game."  In business it is having a conviction about your company and its products and services!  Then passionately capturing the opportunity with that conviction.

I won't spoil the movie if you haven't seen it, but let's just say they do begin focusing on their strengths and working as a team!  And how can you lose with that philosophy?