Vocabulary…It Does Matter

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Few things make an impact, or lack thereof, like the words you allow to flow from your lips. Regardless of your station in life, vocabulary absolutely matters…It matters to an even greater degree for those in positions of leadership. Before I go any further, let me state for the record that I’m not a prude nor am I a mama’s boy. I’ve traveled the world, spent years in athletic locker rooms, served in the military, and have been in my fair share of interesting places. I’m also not going to present a religious argument, or come at this topic from the perspective of academic elitism. That said, I am going to tell you what I think of the value of possessing a great vocabulary. Moreover, I will comment on what I believe to be appropriate and inappropriate use of speech, and I’ll do it all without pulling any punches.

Let’s get the topic of profanity out of the way…In this author’s humble opinion there is absolutely no value whatsoever in coloring your verbal communications with expletives. As noted above, I’ve seen a lot in my life and experience has shown me that the use of profanity typically boils down to an individual being guilty of having one or more of the following flaws:

1. Lack of Intelligence: The English language offers us the choice of so many wonderful adjectives, analogies, abilities to paint word pictures and a variety of other descriptors such that there is no need to substitute with expletives. The insertion of a four letter word for “emphasis” usually only points out the speaker lacks command of his vocabulary. Nothing flashes “stupid” like the use of profanity. Don’t make the mistake of appearing to be uneducated if you’re not.

2. Laziness: We have all met bright people who swear. This usually means that they either think that they are smarter than everyone else so people will put up with their use of profanity or that they have just fallen into a rut and are too lazy to work on improving their verbal communication skills. Either scenario is a negative label that professionals should not desire to be tagged with.

3. Poor Anger Management: People who are not quick on their feet or do not possess adequate conflict resolution skills often revert to profanity as a safety net of sorts. If all else fails people who fall into this category resort to attempting to intimidate the other party with the use of profanity (see # 4 below). People identified as having anger management issues typically don’t reach their full potential without learning better skills. If you would rather spend your career advancing in the ranks as opposed to spending time in counseling or coaching sessions lose the profanity.

4. Insecurity: People that are not confident in themselves and/or their abilities often try and bolster other’s perception of them by using off-color language as an attempt to feign strength and power.  Here’s a tip It doesn’t work. Profanity won’t intimidate anyone (at least not any worthy opponent) and will likely only lessen your image with the audience you are trying to impress.

5. Socially Inappropriate Behavior: The show off, ego-maniac, substance abuser, the female trying to be “one of the boys” or the want to be comedian are all examples of socially inappropriate behavior that will often times result in the use of profanity. No body likes a show-off, substance abuse is never a good thing, most guys don’t find it attractive to hang out with women who curse like the proverbial drunken sailor and inappropriate jokes are more likely to get you a sexual harassment charge than a laugh

Now that we’ve beaten the profanity issue to death, let’s move on I have always said that 90% of the problems in business could be eliminated through the use of direct, clear and concise communication. Being a great communicator is one of the “x” factors in business. Part of what makes a great communicator is not only possessing a great vocabulary, but knowing how and when to use it. Great orators have commanded the attention and respect of others since the dawn of time. They are rarely ignored or spoken over, but tend to inspire, motivate, educate, influence and lead those around them.

If you reflect back on your experience and think of those people whom you hold in high regard, more often than not, they will have been great communicators. Rarely will the people that come to mind fall into the “swore like a drunken sailor” category. Most of them will however have either possessed great vocabularies or will have completely mastered the use and timing of a more limited vocabulary.

While it would be easy to include discussions on focus, clarity, consistency, active listening, brevity, picking your battles and a number of the other traits possessed by good communicators this piece is about vocabulary. Vocabulary is the one of the least costly investments into personal and professional growth that an individual can make. Simply eliminating the “you knows” and the “and ums” from your patter can make a big difference in how you are perceived by others. Ask someone whom you can trust to be honest to give you an evaluation of the depth, breadth and appropriateness of use of your vocabulary and then diligently work to correct whatever shortcomings were identified.  You’ll be glad you did

Digital Marketing

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Those of you familiar with my personal history know that I have a strong background in, and affinity for, digital marketing.  Now that my bias is fully disclosed, I’m going to tell you what most traditional ad agencies will not that the digital medium is far and away the most powerful, cost effective and measurable form of media available today.  Advertising and MarComm budgets can no longer focus solely on traditional communications mediums; rather budgets must be spread across a broader spectrum inclusive of digital mediums.

Digital content is diverse. Like print advertising and direct mail, the content distributed via the Internet is still largely based on the written word. As with printed media, much of Internet related media relies on graphic images to support marketing messages. However, unlike print and direct mail, the Web enables audio, video and other moving graphical images to be conveyed to the prospect or customer. In that respect, it is more like radio, television and the telephone as the Web can enable one-to-one, interactive communication with e-mail, instant messaging and voice. Yet, unlike any direct response medium, the Web can present the customer with a virtually unlimited amount of marketing information in multimedia format.

To fully understand the power of the Internet it helps to understand distribution. Print advertising is delivered through magazines, newspapers and outdoor signage (wallscapes, billboards, digital signage, etc.). Direct mail is delivered via the U.S. Postal Service or another delivery service. Radio and television are delivered via airwaves through passive listener or viewing devices. Telemarketing is delivered over the public switched telephone network (PSTN) or voice over internet protocol(VOIP) technololy. Unlike any other medium, the computer delivers Internet based content in nonlinear information format. All other mediums are linear, meaning they have a beginning, middle, and end.

Digital marketing is direct marketing at its most developed potential. It is the logical extension of a measurability mentality that is already inbred in business-to-business marketers. They recognize the importance of the brand, and they understand the need for awareness, but they also know that marketing must go well beyond brand image and awareness advertising. They need marketing that produces results.

As a marketing medium, digital media has become the easiest, most cost-effective route to global marketing. The stunning cost implications of digital marketing in part, fuel the Internet’s unprecedented growth. The Internet is not only cost-effective; it is downright cheap in comparison to other media. It is often estimated that digital marketing is 60 to 65 percent cheaper than other traditional direct marketing mediums.

Used effectively, digital media can deliver personalized content to each and every customer, or even automatically to another computer desktop via push technologies. As a result, a marketer can initiate a one-to-one relationship via e-mail and the Web with a prospect, customer or business partner. The marketer can also learn from that relationship via database marketing and grow the relationship over time.

A marketer can build and host a Website, blog or forum and reach a worldwide audience at a cost that is far less than the cost of one national television commercial. E-communication has a whole different cost structure from traditional print, direct mail, telemarketing, radio or television media. There are no media placement costs associated with launching a corporate Website or employing e-mail as a marketing medium. You may have to rent e-mail addresses, but you do not have to engage printers or mail houses, or pay postage when you launch an e-mail campaign. There are no hotel, travel or on-site materials costs for Webcasts and other virtual events. There are no printing and mailing costs for e-fulfillment. Even order fulfillment is cheaper with the Internet, especially if electronic catalogs are used to replace traditional paper catalogs.

Research indicates that digital marketing represents a threefold cost-savings over traditional direct marketing. Moreover, digital marketing can bring up to 10 times the return of a traditional direct marketing campaign. The areas in which you will achieve the largest amount of savings are likely to be: fulfillment, delivery, the medium used and the analysis of campaign metrics.

Digital media turns traditional media cost structures upside down. With digital marketing, there is nothing to print and mail, there are no advertising materials to reproduce, no telemarketing calls to handle. Web content can reach one, a hundred, a thousand, or millions of prospects or customers for about the same cost. With the proper in-house tools, e-mail can be widely distributed without unit cost implications, unlike direct mail, and at least so far, the Internet is a tax-free commerce zone.

The question is not whether digital marketing works, or is digital marketing here to stay, but rather how can a business leverage an integrated digital marketing strategy that will service their needs both now and into the future.  So next time your ad agency is getting ready to pitch, make sure that they include a sizeable allocation for digital media.

Time Is A Key Success Metric

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Even though time is a key success metric I am always amazed at how many executives don’t manage it as such. Time is indeed a precious and finite commodity and those professionals that manage it wisely are those that achieve the greatest results. Show me an executive that doesn’t leverage time to its highest and best use and I’ll show you an executive likely to be replaced by one that can. In today’s blog post I’ll examine the value of time.

The proper understanding of how to use time directly impacts income…Let me give you a personal example. I had my first six-figure year when I was 24 years old (stop laughing…I know it was a long time ago) and I still remember the formula that led me to attaining that figure. $100,000 dollars a year was equivalent to $8,333 dollars per month, $2,083 dollars per week, $416 dollars per day and $52 dollars per hour. I took those metrics and then applied them to my business development model to determine:

  1. How many calls I needed to make to generate an appointment;
  2. How many presentations I had to make to acquire a new client, and;
  3. What my average client yielded in terms of revenue.

By simply using the above three steps I was able to determine what my production hurdle was. Once I understood my production hurdle I broke down my earning goal into bite size metrics and managed my time accordingly. It was understanding how to leverage time that made all the difference and that hasn’t changed over the years.

Whether you are a sales person, professional advisor, entrepreneur or executive you only have 24 hours in a day which consists of 1440 minutes and when reduced to the ridiculous about 86,400 seconds. If you want to earn more you must make more out of the time you have at your disposal. I earn considerably more today than I did as a young professional, but I actually work fewer hours because I’ve learned to leverage my time. So, my question is this…How well do you leverage your 86,400 seconds?

Have you ever heard someone say they wish there was more time in a day? Well, the secret is you can in fact increase the amount of time in a day if you know how. Some people use only a portion of a full day, while others leverage the entire day and those who are most productive leverage multiples of a day…Multiples of a day you ask? In my world there are far more than 24 hours in a day…Through making good use of personal time, leveraging staff and technology, outsourcing across different time zones, upgrading the quality of clientele I serve, making sure to provide clients with HUGE return on investment and a number of other factors I estimate that I’m able to average nearly a full week’s work into a single 24 hour period while rarely working more than an average work week on a personal basis.  

In two previous posts entitled: “How Productive Are You?” and “The Power of Focus” I provided insights on how to get more out of your day. Understanding that time itself is a key success metric is step one. You can either manage your time or allow time to manage you. Once you learn how to manage your time you can then get to a point where you can start to leverage your time into multiples. The first step in learning to manage your time is to maximize personal time by avoiding the most common workplace time-wasters. According to Swingline, the following items represent the top 10 time-wasters:

  1. Shifting Priorites;
  2. Telephone Interruptions;
  3. Lack of Direction;
  4. Attempting Too Much;
  5. Drop-in Visitors;
  6. Ineffective Delegation;
  7. Lack of Organization;
  8. Procrastination;
  9. Inability to say “No”, and;
  10. Meetings. 

Time can either be your best friend or your worst nightmare. Executives that understand how to use time to their advantage accomplish great things and those who allow time to slip through their fingers don’t. The game is to learn to earn more through leverage while decreasing personal time investment.

Leveraging Corporate Real Estate

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Most corporations of any size and scale have large investments in the land and facilities necessary for the successful operation of their business. While making corporate investments into real estate assets may seem to be a reasonable strategy at first glance, they are rarely investment or capital driven decisions, but rather operating decisions that in retrospect usually fail to maximize the leverage and value of their land and facilities beyond what is typically provided for within traditional ownership and financing structures. In today’s post I’ll address one of the popular options for leveraging your corporate real estate assets   

When an operating business finds itself in need of low cost capital their corporate real estate assets should be evaluated as a source of readily accessible quality capital. While a number of financially engineered solutions are available to maximize corporate real estate assets, the most commonly used structures center around sale leaseback transactions. These sale leaseback transactions are popular solutions for the following reasons:       

  1. Improved Financial Statements: By moving corporate real estate assets “Off-Balance Sheet” financing solutions are engineered that create no mortgage or other indebtedness to be carried as debt on your company’s balance sheet. The immediate boost in cash without offsetting debt can improve the overall financial health of a business. Book income typically increases in the transaction’s early years, with rent payments less than the interest and depreciation under conventional financing. With most sale leaseback solutions, the book value of company assets is effectively understated thereby enhancing your company’s Return on Assets (ROA).  
  2. Financial Flexibility: Corporate real estate transactions are not bound by formalized loan industry or REIT requirements, giving lenders flexibility to meet the operating needs of your business. Rents can be fixed for the full lease term without inflation adjustments or any percentage rent. Rents can also be stepped to be lower in the early years or reset periodically to take advantage of improved credit, interest rates and other conditions. The sale leaseback structure can also be engineered to address seasonal financial variations.  
  3. Operational Control: Even though you no longer own the facility, most lenders offer programs that will allow you to retain complete operational control of the property for as long as it is required in your business.
  4. Low After-Tax Cost: The lease payment under a sale leaseback structure is fully deductible over the lease term, making the after-tax cost to your company less than with alternative forms of asset-based financing and is also less than the market rent you would typically pay. For federal income tax purposes, a company can only depreciate buildings and other physical improvements, but not land. Most sale leaseback solutions factor the value of the land into the rent. The rent is fully deductible, effectively enabling you to depreciate the cost of the land.  
  5. Credit Tenant Property Can Provide Similar Financial Benefits to the Issuance of Corporate Bonds: If a business is deemed to be a credit tenant or its financial equivalent, its corporate real estate assets can be effectively used to secure management-free cash flow with exceptional liquidity and high leverage performing like corporate bonds while preserving the benefits that real property offers. Because of the secure character of credit tenant property investments, properties can be leveraged far more highly than traditional real estate. Based on the lease guarantee by the tenant, non-recourse financing may be arranged with a 1.0 debt coverage ratio, allowing for financing Up to 100% loan to value. Income from an investment grade tenant over the length of a multi-year lease offers reliable returns comparable to those of corporate bonds.  Credit tenant leases are usually written for terms ranging from 10 to 25 years.  Lengthy terms eliminate concern about tenant turnover normally associated with real estate ownership.  
  6. Near-Zero Volatility: Many of the corporate real estate programs today offer fixed rent structures providing full inflation protection. Because the key value determinant of credit tenant property is the long-term corporate guarantee, this asset does not experience the cycles affecting other real estate markets.  Long-term, highly leveraged financing removes interest rate risk and minimizes pricing volatility.  Circumstances affecting traditional real estate, such as changes to surrounding property, local politics and market swings have little impact on credit tenant property values. 
  7. Liquidity: The long-term corporate guarantee of rental income and expense coverage combined with the tenant-based financing enable corporate real estate assets to be traded with exceptional liquidity not typically associated with real property. Most lenders will allow businesses to convert existing fixed real estate assets into cash at fair market value at what may be a premium over book value. Funding can also be used for new construction including the cost of the land acquisition. Proper use of corporate real estate as a financing tool will eliminate the need for a business to tie up capital or credit in land or buildings.  
        

     

A wide variety of sale leaseback structures are available from lenders who have a practice area dedicated to corporate real estate finance. When developing your capital formation strategy make sure you evaluate corporate real estate assets as a viable vehicle for accomplishing your goals. 

 

Internet Vision and Strategy

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Here is a message that you might not want to hear I am willing to bet that your company is not even remotely beginning to harness the full power of the Internet. Moreover I’m also willing to bet that you probably already know this. In a 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 experience tells me that the results of the WebTrends survey are spot-on. Regardless of the size or sophistication of the companies I have worked with over the years I have rarely come across organizations that really understood the power of the Internet. Oh sure, on an intellectual basis I think most executives understand the opportunity that the Internet affords, but it is the rare executive who will take that high level understanding and turn it into a well defined corporate internet strategy.

So, if the country’s best and brightest marketing minds are perplexed with how to best leverage the Internet to their advantage how can mid-market companies hope to thrive in this complex and ever-changing environment? The truth of the matter is that it is difficult, but then the greatest gains to be made are rarely easy to come by. Truly great advances in corporate growth require time, commitment and resources and cracking the key to success on the Internet is no different.

There is not nearly enough room in this blog post to cover the subject at hand in great detail so I have decided to focus on what I consider to be the most important decision you can make with regard to your company’s internet strategy Who are you going to put in charge? If you follow the guidelines outlined below you’ll be off to a better start than most and your business will begin to see gains that will be sustainable over time:

If the person in charge of your internet strategy is not a subject matter expert you are in great trouble. A well designed internet strategy can broaden and deepen customer relationships, increase brand awareness, expand revenue channels and markets, leverage business intelligence, increase efficiencies, create economies of scale, lower operating costs and add value to a variety of other mission critical items. So why would you trust something this critical to anyone other than an expert? Here are some of the most common mistakes to avoid when making human capital decisions with regard to your internet group:

1. Not having an internet group: Not having a group solely focused on vision, mission, strategy, goals, objectives, tactics, and process related to internet objectives is your first mistake. It is essential to apply dedicated/focused resources in this area to maximize opportunity.

2. Give the responsibility to IT: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the person charged with the responsibility of the corporate internet strategy be an IT staff member who is really nothing more than a already overworked network administrator who happens to be able to write a bit of code. Certainly web based initiatives require technical ability, but a very specific set of technical skills combined with branding, design, marketing and communication skills not ordinarily possessed by IT staff are also required.

3. Charge marketing with the responsibility: Not all mediums are created equally…print is different than radio which is different than TV, etc. As you have already seen by the results of the WebTrends survey most CMO’s don’t even consider themselves to be experts in this area so why would you assign the responsibility here? If you want a very pretty, but functionally useless internet presence then travel this path.

4. Responsibility by default: Worse yet is the scenario where internet responsibility is just added to someone’s job description because they happen to be a bit more web-savvy than anyone else on the management team. These individuals are rarely selected because they have any particular competency or even a desire, but rather they were the unfortunate soul that drew the short straw.

Let me ask you this question; did you recruit, hire and deploy your internet talent at the same level and in the same fashion that you did your finance talent? By way of example I have served as both a CFO and a Director of Internet Strategy and I can tell you that I was able to have much more impact and make much more substantial contributions with the Internet Strategy position. You wouldn’t let a bookkeeper serve as your CFO, or a paralegal serve as your General Counsel so why treat what is arguably a position of greater influence than the aforementioned two senior positions as an afterthought.

If your staff doesn’t possess subject matter expertise on internet design, functionality, usability, application development, architectural considerations,  process engineering, digital media, search engine optimization, search engine marketing, linking strategies, e-commerce strategies, the blogoshpere, social networking and the virtual plethora of other web-centric skill sets and competencies then I would strongly urge you to look toward an outside vendor until you can afford to build the necessary domain expertise internally. 

In a perfect world your Chief Strategy Officer, Chief Marketing Officer or Chief Technology Officer would have very strong Internet competencies. However if they do not, I would suggest either upgrading the quality of your C-suite talent, creating a Director of Internet Strategy position to give the non internet savvy C-suite executives the support and guidance they need or engaging an advisor to bridge the gap. A focused competency in internet practices will produce a high return on investment by increasing revenues, margins, brand equity, and valuation.