Creating a Passionate Workplace

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Creating a passionate workplace is not as simple as one would like to think. I’ve written often on the important role that passion plays in personal success and fulfillment (see “Passion equals Purpose“). However in today’s post I want to offer a bit of a different take on the value of passion…In the text that follows I’ll examine the impact of passion as a key success metric for the overall enterprise. Before you read the balance of today’s post I want you to stop and ask yourself the following question: How many of your employees are truly passionate about your company, its vision, its mission and the role that they play within the organization? Don’t fool yourself…conduct a harsh, critical analysis and come up with a true head count of the passionate employees within your organization.

Your answer to the question above should be a very telling sign about the overall health of your business. Are people just showing-up and punching the clock to collect a paycheck, or are they personally consumed by, and committed to achieving the company vision? Are your employees corporate evangelists serving as a motivating force, or do they gather in small groups to gripe and complain about all the things wrong with the company and its leadership?

It is your passionate employees that are the franchise talent (regardless of position) that you should be building around. If you can’t get employees to see the light and become passionate about the company and their contribution, then seek to replace them as quickly as possible. Just as passion is a positive, contagious trait, it is important to realize that so are apathy and dissatisfaction. Passionate employees are productive, energized, committed and loyal assets. Apathetic employees quickly become disenfranchised liabilities that will hurt both productivity and morale. To drive home the point of how much I value passionate employees, I would take a moderately talented but passionate employee over a very talented but complacent employee eleven times out of ten…

Truly great companies are built around passionate employees. When you walk into a dynamic, thriving company you can sense the passion…you feel a certain buzz and fervor that pervades everything. Contrast this with a company that feels as if it has no pulse…If you’ve ever walked into an organization that feels like rigor-mortise has set in you know what I’m referring to…

As a leader you need to understand that your employees not only want to be led, they want to be led by a passionate leader, and ultimately, they want to be passionate about what they do. Think of the employees that started off with Gates and Allen at Microsoft, or those that worked with Phil Knight in his garage before Nike even had a name, or those employees that endured the early days with Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Google…it was their passion and commitment that helped change the landscape of business.

To build an extraordinary company, you must light the “fire in the bellies,” of your workforce…You must get them to feel passion about your organization and to connect with your vision. Passion is among the traits that are at the essence of being a great leader…So much so that if you’re not passionate, you simply can’t be a great leader. Think of any great leader and while you’ll find varying degrees of skill sets, intellect, and ability, I challenge to name even one that did not have passion.

The bottom line is simply this…If you don’t possess an unquenchable passion for your vision, you need to recreate your vision, or at least re-frame your description of your vision so it becomes connected to your passion. Until you do this you will never see your company reach its full potential.

Where Do You Seek Advice?

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

I believe that most reasonable people will concur with the following statement: The quality of the professionals you choose to surround yourself with will have a direct impact on the level of success that you achieve. So my question is this: Why do so many people surround themselves with mediocre to low-end professionals? I followed an interesting thread the other day which was something of a bashing session on “twenty-something life coaches” which poked fun at the thought of being mentored by someone who has yet to really even begin to experience life. I’ve also witnessed the other end of the spectrum which is the devastation that can occur when you place your trust in someone solely based upon experience without consideration for talent. Today’s post will be rather short and I’ll ask more questions than I will proffer advice as I’m interested in getting you thinking about your choices with regard to hiring professional advisors…

While you might be lucky enough to survive in business with little or no advice from others, you will certainly not maximize your potential for success by doing so. All CEOs and entrepreneurs need advice in a wide variety of constantly changing areas…That being said, as long as I’ve been in business I’m always somewhat perplexed as to why people hire certain professionals…Why would you hire anything other than the best talent available at any given point in time?

I try and surround myself with the best advisors I can find and recommend to my clients that they do the same. Few things in business will get you in as much trouble as not getting advice and counsel when needed or worse yet getting poor quality or incorrect advice. I would much rather pay an expert $1,500 dollars for 30 minutes of their time and get what I need rather than pay someone $100 dollars an hour who is faking it until they can make it…Questionable advisors will take much longer to get from point a to point b (if they get there at all) and will likely cost you more money at the end of the day when contrasted with their best in class peers.  

The nature of my business is that I often succeed other advisors who have failed in their assignments and I have witnessed first hand the carnage that can occur from following flawed advice. Ask yourself the following questions and see if you like your answers:

  • How do you decide when to seek out an advisor?
  • Do you use advisors to reactively triage and trouble-shoot or to be proactive in accomplishing certain tasks?
  • What do you look for in your professional advisors?
  • Why would you hire anything other than the best advisors possible?
  • What is more important to you…price, experience or talent?
  • Is cost a greater consideration than results?
  • Do you have a team of skilled advisors in all key areas of your business?
  • Do you have a go to advisor who helps manage and coordinate other professionals as, if and when necessary?

Don’t let price or even geography stand in your way…seek the best talent possible and your business will flourish. If you were to poll your peers and ask them to name the top 5 international experts in Capital Formation, Intellectual Property Law, Tax Planning, PR, IT, Advertising, M&A, Coaching, etc. and your advisors don’t make the list then I would question your decisioning. In most cases the reality is that you get what you pay for…

Push vs. Pull Marketing

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

It is more important than ever to understand the differences in and relationships between “Push” and “Pull” marketing given continued advances in technology, the corresponding proliferation of mediums and the ever shrinking global marketplace. I’ll also apologize in advance as I’m using this post as yet another opportunity to rant on the damage caused by those would be subject matter experts who are anything but…The only thing worse than no information is misinformation and the sad fact is that when it comes to the topic of marketing it is all too common to view misinformation, flawed business logic, analysis gaps and a variety of other constructive misinterpretations being flaunted around in the media as gospel. As you might have guessed today’s blog post was inspired by misinformation I read in a trade magazine on the topic of “push” and “pull” marketing.

The article I referred to above was written by a professor at one of the country’s leading business schools and published in a marketing industry trade magazine. While he accurately defined push and pull marketing he completely omitted (actually denied) the importance of the relationships between the two marketing approaches. I point this out only to caution readers that just because someone claims expertise doesn’t mean that they actually possess it. There is a huge difference in being conversationally literate and being able to use the right “buzz” words, and having deeply rooted subject matter expertise…Anyway, enough of the rant and onto the meat of the post…

Push marketing is the old-school approach of pushing marketing out to consumers via all manner of mediums and distribution channels for the purpose of creating interest in a product, service, event, brand, etc. Pull marketing is inversely driven by the recognition of a need, want or desire on the part of the end-user and/or consumer who seeks out the marketer. So, you may be asking yourself what’s the big deal here? The big deal is one of recognition…it is the classic battle between the late adopter and the first mover…The marketing savvy organizations vs. those who just don’t get it.

Many traditional push marketing organizations are late adopters in recognizing the inevitable shift to pull marketing and the race is on for these market lagers to develop competencies, shift budgets, build relationships and integrate campaigns in an effort to remain competitive. Consumers are much more knowledgeable today than ever before. They have access to more information as well as being armed with the technology that allows them to aggregate and synthesize data to make sophisticated decisions over very short periods of time.

It really isn’t a question of either or, but one of understanding the how and when of using the proper application and mix of the two approaches to build a truly integrated marketing approach. The issue is not radio, TV or print (Push) vs. Blogs, Podcasts, forums, RSS or online social communities (Pull), but rather how to create the right message for the right mediums in a fashion that creates synergy and interaction between push and pull marketing. It is not yin vs. yang, but yin and yang and thus it should also be push and pull not push vs. pull.

At the end of the day all we are talking about is understanding that the only true constant is change. Markets evolve and mature and that requires companies who have a desire to remain competitive to embrace change through innovation, knowledge management, business intelligence and personalized relationship marketing. Control of the marketing message is transitioning from the marketer to the end-user with consumer control (user-driven content) growing at an unprecedented rate of velocity.

If your enterprise defines digital marketing as having an e-commerce enabled corporate website you are already behind the curve…If your company is not racing to understand and integrate new media and social media channels into your marketing mix you are already losing customers whether you know it or not…

Democratic Entertainment

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

In a time when we should all take ourselves a bit less seriously I question whether a man who spends $400 dollars on a haircut and maybe one of the most vain individuals in recent history is Presidential material. You watch the above video and draw your own conclusion (be sure to turn up your speakers…it is worth it).

Dazed and Confused…

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

You can run, but you cannot hide…as a C-level executive you can bob-and-weave, spin with the best of them, delude yourself by inhaling your own smoke or just hide out in the corner office. However it’s only a matter of time until your ruse is uncovered as you will eventually be held accountable for what you know and what you do (or perhaps what you don’t know and don’t do). I’m always amazed at the number of senior executives that are completely out of touch with what’s truly going on in their business. In today’s post I’ll examine what appears to be a trend of a growing number of disconnected and out of touch executives…

Over the years I have observed executives that understand very little about the actual realities of their businesses. I have witnessed executives that measure and analyze little or no data, executives that analyze the wrong data, and executives that just don’t care. The only thing worse than an uniformed executive is one that doesn’t care, and in many cases they are one in the same. I am starting to see an alarming trend where executives are busier trying to keep their job than they are in actually performing the duties of their job. The flaw in their logic seems so obvious and bizarre to me because if they would simply do their job they would in fact keep their job…

Given that C-level executives are often the most highly compensated individuals in the business world it seems only reasonable that they would be totally in sync with the pulse of their companies. However study after study shows that this is clearly not the case. In a recent survey conducted by a New Jersey consulting firm in which more than 300 executives in the United States, Europe, Asia and Africa responded the following alarming results were found:

  • 81% do not know the cost of a customer complaint.
  • 75% do not know the cost of acquiring a new customer.
  • 60% claim they do not deserve their customer’s loyalty.
  • 51% claim their company does not deliver unique and beneficial products or services.
  • 50% do not know their organization’s annual customer retention rates.   

In yet another recent survey conducted by WebTrends in which more than 250 Chief Marketing Officers were polled, only 4% of respondents rated themselves and their staffs as “experts” on web marketing trends, strategies and technologies. My question is this…If your CMO doesn’t understand digital marketing then why are they your CMO? You cannot become tier-one talent without possessing subject matter expertise in your domain. Executives need walk the talk by investing themselves in their business, their staff and their customers and spend less time “playing” executive. One of the first things I do with all my clients is get an understanding of what they know, what they don’t know, contrast that with what they need to know and then to develop a plan to close any gaps. My job is to assist my clients in becoming the best at what they do and this doesn’t happen without commitment, knowledge and focus.

Bottom line…senior executives need to step-up or they should step down. If you are a senior executive and you don’t have complete control over key metrics related to your area of responsibility you’re wrong…As the old saying goes, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” and as I like to say “you cannot improve what you don’t understand to begin with”.

Tragedy and Business

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Regrettably we live in a time where tragedy strikes somewhere in the world on a daily basis. While certainly not to be minimized, most of us have developed the ability to come to grips with the earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters that impact our lives as we rightly categorize these events as circumstances beyond anyone’s control. When a soldier loses his life in combat we morn and grieve but it is still somehow easier to reconcile than an innocent civilian who is killed by an act of terror. As horrific as any loss of life is, crimes that are perpetrated by one civilian against another and include acts of violence (especially acts of violence committed against our youth) seem to fall into another category altogether. In today’s post I’ll share my thoughts and observations on the shooting at Virginia Tech and how tragedies impact our lives… 

The Virginia Tech massacre hit way too close to home…Both my children are in college and one of them attends the University of Virginia which is only about 150 miles from Virginia Tech. I was actually stationed in Virginia for a brief time when I was in the military and I have friends and colleagues who live in and around Blacksburg…needless to say today has taken an emotional toll on me. The reality is that few of us are prepared for tragedy when it strikes. We seem to regard it as something that happens to others, but certainly not to us. Given the state of affairs in today’s world I think it is important for all of us to contemplate how we will deal with tragedy when it inevitably strikes.

It is not uncommon to find out about a tragic event while in the workplace. We gather with coworkers watching news unfold on radios, televisions and computer screens. We gather in groups to discuss the event and share information, theories, thoughts, perspectives and emotions about what has taken place. We reach out in an attempt to understand how the tragedy is affecting our family, friends and associates. It is regrettably during these times that we have a chance to get a glimpse of authenticity and transparency that we rarely see during the ordinary course of business.  

The reality is that any public tragedy has a huge impact in the workplace. My personal belief is that it is incumbent upon organizations to assist their employees in successfully weathering a tragedy. Businesses can and should take reasonable and responsible steps to ease the stress and strain people experience during tragedy. Companies should temporarily set aside the attitude of business as usual and help their employees deal with the helplessness and grief they experience during tragedy. As a CEO or entrepreneur this is an opportunity to display the courage and empathy of a true leader in putting the immediate needs of your employees above the normal operational needs of the enterprise.

The bottom line is that employers need to cut their employees some slack and let them process their emotions in a healthy fashion not only because it is the right thing to do, but because people will be able to recover more quickly and get back to productivity in a shorter period of time than if a tragedy is just treated as a non-event. 

When tragedy slams into our lives, one of the last things we think about is how it all works together for our good. In a time such as this we need to celebrate the positive impact that those who lost their lives have had on us, reach out to help those that have been directly or indirectly impacted and use the information we’ve gleaned to do everything possible to prevent tragedies like this from occurring again. Let us not become desensitized, but let us become more sensitive…Please join me in praying for the friends and family of those who lost their lives yesterday.

Making the Most of Talent

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

I’ve written often on the subject of leadership development and talent management because very few things in business can catalyze change and create sustainable growth like leaders who understand how to leverage their talent and resources. It takes more than charisma and subject matter expertise to be a leader, it also takes a keen understanding of how to create organizational leverage. In today’s post I’ll share some thoughts on how to maximize your talent and resources…

One of the main keys to generating organizational leverage is for C-suite executives and entrepreneurs to know how, when, where and why to deploy (or redeploy) talent and resources. It has been my experience that it is much easier to recruit talent or acquire resources than it is to properly deploy talent and allocate resources.

Jack Welch the former head of GE built a reputation as one of the great business leaders of this era. When asked how he transformed a lack-luster, institutional, global corporate giant into a dynamic culture focused on innovation and growth, Welch responded by saying; “My job is to put the best people on the biggest opportunities and the best allocation of dollars in the right places. That’s about it. Transfer ideas and allocate resources and get out of the way.” Welch clearly not only understood the concept of organizational leverage through proper deployment of talent and resources He mastered it.

I’ve heard it said that the role of a leader is to create and manage good followers. While there is an element of truth in that statement if this is what you aspire to as a leader it constitutes a complete underutilization of leadership responsibility. I believe great leaders will mentor and coach subordinates for the purpose of identifying and developing other great leaders.

By way of example when I was in the military I witnessed many of my peers who felt it was their job to exercise command by giving orders and having complete control over their subordinates. While these individuals had all the outward appearances of running a tight ship, their units often times displayed an inability to execute at a high level in times of chaos or without frequent and direct communication with their leader. In contrast I felt it was my responsibility to use my position of influence to transfer knowledge and experience for the purpose of developing subordinates into becoming leaders in their own right. I wanted to make sure that I developed troops that could think on their feet and take charge in the worst of situations assuming that I might not be available to lead them.

Ask yourself the following questions: What are your best markets? Who are your best clients? Where are your greatest opportunities? Where are your biggest challenges? What are your biggest threats? Where are you going to deploy your top talent? Where are you going to invest your resources? Where are you going to develop more talent? Have you identified the proverbial diamonds in the rough lurking in the shawdows of your organization? Where can you create more resources? If these answers are not clear in your mind it is likely that you are not getting the maximum leverage out of your talent or your resources.

It is very typical (although not very productive) to have too much talent or too much budget being wasted in areas of little or no return. Any great leader will periodically challenge his/her assumptions to test whether given the current environment they have the right mix of talent and resources applied to the right areas. If you have what is perceived as a great opportunity yet is seems to be stalled, immediately stop and evaluate the talent, resources, systems, processes, market dynamics, etc. to determine where to apply leverage to kick the initiative into high gear. By way of contrast if an initiative has been taken from concept to implementation and it appears to running smoothly you need to evaluate whether key talent and/or resources can be redeployed to other higher and better uses.

It is essential as a business leader that you have a clear vision from which you develop a definable mission that leads to an actionable strategy. It is through articulating your strategy that you will be able to tactically recruit and deploy the right talent and make the proper allocation resources at the right time for the right reasons. Your talent and resources are valuable and finite commodities that are far too precious to waste…

Research & Benchmarking

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

I had an overwhelming positive response to my post the other day entitled “Identifying Competitive Threats.” In fact so much so that today’s post is somewhat of a follow-on piece based upon some of the questions that were submitted. As I read the comments and e-mails it became clear to me that while many of you understood that staying abreast of your competition is of critical importance, most of you just didn’t know how to go about getting the job done. So in today’s post I’ll provide the two key foundational elements of competitive assessments; research and benchmarking…

Step one on the way to dominating your competition is to conduct competitive research. This is the easy part of the process in that you have several options for how to accumulate the data you’re seeking. These days you can purchase pre-packaged industry reports by sector, vertical and in many cases by micro vertical for most any business line. Alternatively you can opt to conduct the research internally, hire a research or business intelligence firm, use a consultant, subscribe to third party data services or any one or combination of the aforementioned options. Regardless of how you go about gathering your data the important part is that you stop and take time to decide what data you want to gather and have a plan (resources, time frame and budget) for how you intend to turn that data into meaningful and actionable information which is a nice segue into step number two…Benchmarking.

How many times have you heard someone refer to themselves as or their company as “Best in Class?” If you want to have a bit of fun and silence even the most savvy sales professional try using my response to such a claim which is always: “how did you arrive at that conclusion and by what objective standards do you benchmark against for validation?” Nine times out of ten you’ll find that “best in class” is just a buzzword being used in a sales pitch, but every now and then you’ll find that the claim can be backed-up by solid third party research and benchmarking.

While benchmarking can be made to be extremely complex and expensive by using enterprise class software and analytics here are a few tips for keeping it simple:

  1. Open up an Excel spreadsheet.
  2. Take every single competitor that you desire to measure yourself against and create an individual worksheet for that competitor.
  3. Create rows in each worksheet for items you want to measure (business units, service lines, products, etc.).
  4. Now create columns for each benchmark which you choose to measure against. The benchmarks can be as simple as estimates of where you think your competitors will be in the next twelve months based on any number of variables which are determined based upon what’s important to you…The variables could be financial metrics like operating expenses as a percentage of gross margin to facilities costs per square foot or variables like customer loyalty, brand recognition, market penetration, revenue growth etc.

The only way that you can truly become best in class is to understand where your competitors are in various objective categories and then work to refine your organization to best the competition in any category of importance to you. Properly implemented research and benchmarking will allow your company to become a disruptive force in the market leading by innovation. You will be able to convert formerly unusable data into actionable information that will allow you to refine pricing, roll-out new products, open new markets, increase brand equity and bottom line margins. Understanding your competition is a very, very good thing…

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Media Gone Mad…

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Since this blog frequently addresses the topics of accountability, leadership, media, and CEO practices I thought I’d take this opportunity to use recent events in the media to rant about all of the above. Does anyone remember the days when the media actually took responsibility for the content it chose to air to the public? Many would say the media has always pushed the envelope in terms of balancing what they could get away with and public outrage with the economic benefits associated with increased ratings and market share. While this is no doubt true to some extent, it is this author’s opinion that things have deteriorated so far in recent years that you have to really work hard to find good guys in the media these days. In today’s post I’ll share my perspective on what needs to happen to bring the media back to reality…

Let me begin by saying that my intention is not to come off as sounding harsh, judgmental or out of touch with the times. However sometimes it is simply necessary to take a public stand on issues of importance regardless of the popularity of the position being taken. My frustration with the media lies in the fact that there is so much potential for not only great entertainment but also for tremendous social and philanthropic accomplishment that are in my opinion currently being lost in the quagmire and muck that represents the status quo.

You really have to turn back the clock to the 1950′s in order to find newspapers, television networks, film studios and radio stations that exercised common sense, practiced accountability and actually even cared about what was fed to the public at large. I can remember Elvis Presley’s television debut on the Ed Sullivan show where Elvis was only filmed from the waist-up. Walt Disney would roll-over in his grave if he viewed some of the things that Michael Eisner and Robert Iger have allowed to find their way off the cutting room floor at the Walt Disney Company. Don’t even get me started about the blurring of lines (or perhaps more accurately the removal of lines) between editorial and news content. I long for the days when I could turn on the television, go see a movie, listen to the radio, read a magazine or newspaper, view my e-mail or surf the web without getting ambushed by content that leaves me feeling violated and offended. Am I really crazy or is it just me?

Okay, I readily admit that some would say I’m living in the Stone Age and then they would go on to say what we’re experiencing in the media today actually constitutes progress. However I couldn’t disagree more and unless your definition of progress is contributing to the moral decay of our society then it is time to speak out and say enough is enough…So, the 64,000 dollar question remains how can we reclaim control over the runaway freight train that is today’s media empire? While I wish there was an easy fix, there is not…however change can be brought about if those that care (which I choose to believe is still the majority) unite and become louder and more aggressive in the defense of their beliefs than the ever so vocal minority that has taken control of our news and entertainment content. Following are my suggestions for holding the media accountable for their inappropriate actions or inaction as the case may be:

  • Vote with your wallet: Don’t spend your hard earned money on garbage. You do have a choice and if you choose wisely it will hit the media industry in the only area they really care about…the bottom line. In time they will change policies on programming, editorial and distribution choices that will bring about a change that will provide a more healthy alternative for our children and grandchildren.
  • Vote with your investments: I don’t own a single entertainment or media stock and my portfolio will remain void of same until I begin to see changes. Invest your money in companies that make our world a better place to live rather than companies that contribute to its decline.
  • Vote with your pen and keyboard: Today’s post is an example of how to make your feelings known…Blog, write e-mails and letters and make phone calls to voice your opinion. By communicating with corporate executives, the media and politicians you step out of the shadow of apathy and begin to create a voice for change. 
  • Vote with your vote: Don’t get caught up in being politically correct and looking cool. Rather look at the candidates, issues and legislation to determine whether or not they support your beliefs and values. Don’t cast a vote not aligned with your value system.   

I’m not nearly as frustrated with with the vulgarity of Don Imus or Howard Stern or by the treasonous propaganda of Rosie O’Donnell as I am absolutely furious with the network executives that provide them with a platform to leverage…As some of you saw MSNBC made the decision to suspend the Don Imus radio show for two weeks based upon the racist comments he voiced on air last week. This is nothing more than a nifty lulling tactic by MSNBC in an attempt to let the public outrage cool down and the storm pass so they can place him back on the air again. He should not be suspended, rather he should be fired as should Rosy O’Donnell and Howard Stern.

Corporate CEOs need to develop a backbone and do the right thing by building their company’s revenues and profit based upon quality content and sound decisioning. Why has Girls Gone Wild been allowed to run pornographic infomercials on TV for so long? Perhaps the fact that Joe Francis the producer of the show was recently arrested on charges of racketeering, drug possession, prostitution and sexual exploitation might cause them to do the right thing and take the ads off of TV, but I doubt it…Don’t the networks or advertisers care about the safety of our young women? Here is a message to media CEOs…Don’t tell me…show me! I’ve had enough of the platitudes, the pontification, the spin and the overall lack of substance by those CEOs who so easily talk the talk, but fail to walk the walk. Just do the right thing…