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Your Enemy is not Uncertainty, but Complexity

uncertainty

Your Enemy is not Uncertainty, but Complexity

As a nation, we look to the economy to answer our basic questions about the future. What will fluctuations in global markets and supply chains bring? How will the dollar recover from the circumstance of a stalling consumer market? And what impacts, if any, will change the way we do business? As spring approaches, the anticipation around these questions builds. We watch for signs of our shuttered economy lurching back into motion.

Businesses, much like individuals, have coping mechanisms when faced with a crisis. There are ways to build a business contingency plan, even with unforeseen challenges. Some industries have not dusted off their plans since the financial crisis of 2008, and there is anxiety around what it means to enact it. But the truth is: business contingency plans are built precisely for moments like the spread of COVID-19. And while words like “unprecedented,” “alarm,” and “volatility” rule headlines, reactivity is not how businesses run. It is through preparedness and foresight. It is with a business contingency plan.

While no leader takes comfort from enacting their company’s plan, the ability to swiftly empower crucial business functions with ease is possible. Uncompromising company and financial data security and work-from-home procedures are not mutually exclusive. A bit of knowledge is required to migrate an office environment to the home without opening new vulnerabilities.

Divide and Conquer

Dividing and conquering is the oldest trick in the book for any opportunist looking to damage their business. Security hackers and other ill-intentioned opportunists look for times of organizational chaos to strike. They trust that business leaders have overly-divided their attention and that employees will not adhere to traditional protocols for data security or safe treatment of sensitive information.

There are also a substantial number of leaders who will focus on the uncertainties of the future, preventing them from seeing vulnerabilities that are right in front of them. This, of all things, means that many companies and their leaders must know the enemy is not the distractionary dips and dives of the economy, but the complexity of an organization that prevents it from responding elegantly to uncertainty. Military strategist Sun Tzu of The War of Art provides insight into how we should prepare for battles with the unknown:

“Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles, you will never be in peril. When you are ignorant of the enemy, but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain in every battle to be in peril.”

Having a business contingency plan is only the beginning. Redraw your battle lines when uncertainty strikes, and you will unmask the hidden areas that need better solutions.

Strategies for reducing business complexity:

Strategy #1: Define ‘new normal’ from the top down, but bring insight from the bottom up

Your employees will not naturally intuit where the new boundary lines exist. Spell it out so that everyone is on the same page. Barring in-person meetings, you may need to host a company-wide Zoom call with a panel of C-Suite leadership to reassure, set new expectations, and answer questions.

Most importantly, leadership should use this as a chance to gather further information. Seek out the experiences of those who serve your customers directly to get their perspective. How are customers responding to the shift? What are their emerging needs, and is there a niche there that your industry can uniquely fill? Keep your company’s ears to the ground.

Strategy #2: Banish organizational drag through automation.

In environments of economic hardship, businesses with leaner operations and less organizational drag do better. Cutting out redundant manual processes is crucial to eliminating complexity. A business contingency plan will help enact the first line of defense for your business. However, this is not all you will need. The second wave of reinforcements is crucial to keep your business advancing through times of uncertainty.

Automation is your greatest ally in this fight. Now is the time to abandon stale processes. If they’re manual or paper-based, requiring cartons of messy file work or repetitive wet-ink signatures, its time to rethink. Lean heavily on electronic AP solutions, which can clear up the bottlenecks choking out crucial supply chain relationships.

Never in history has the value of a swift and reliable supply chain been more evident than now, as hospitals face shortages of both personal protective equipment and crucial medicines. Industries are re-learning a valuable lesson: that while necessity is the mother of invention, the cost of waiting to innovate can be incredibly painful.

Strategy #3: Reach for a sturdy bottom line more than blue-sky profits

This year is unlikely to offer many sunny prospects in the realm of profits. Yet cost-cutting initiatives will provide the kind of stability a company needs to make impressive cumulative gains in the coming years. What does this mean? Playing defense isn’t your only strategy. You can also cut costs to preserve the liquidity you do have.

With electronic tools already up and running for staff communication or remote meetings, it’s time to ask yourself how you might unburden other areas of the office from slow performance inefficiencies. What is sending through the mail that could be automated? How might making payments to suppliers electronically cut back on paper check costs? Explore every avenue for cost savings. There are many electronic solutions at the ready to lift manual-based work with minimal if not zero downtime for your business. Now is the time to employ these solutions and not hold back when better-designed options exist.

Strategy #4: Invest in secure solutions without needing to hire more IT

Everyone at this point could do with one more great IT hire, but the point of a business contingency plan is to be resourceful with what resources do exist. Making quantum leaps from the office to a remote setting is much easier for companies who have already made steps toward digital transformation.

Instead of losing more time to processes like answering phones, getting approvers to hand-sign checks, and sending paper mail to closed-up company headquarters, make them digital, with greater control and traceability. Fraudsters’ potential access to your systems diminishes when you have greater visibility and fewer cooks in the kitchen. Higher thresholds for security mean that problems or threats are identified in real-time and careless or lagging processes fall by the wayside.

Strategy #5: Innovate, innovate, innovate

It’s tempting to lose steam during a crisis and consider it the wrong time to try creative solutions, but the logic doesn’t stand. Now is absolutely the time to try new things.

Since volatility has introduced new stressors into the equation for your business, the target has shifted. A brand new segment of the market may have just locked into place in the form of potential customers. You have the potential to attract them by showing that you understand their needs quicker than anyone else in the space. This requires agility and a bit of risk, but it’s a risk worth taking, even under present circumstances. Innovation isn’t an optional advantage in times of plenty. Innovation is essential to the survival of every business.

In the words of Sun Tzu, “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.” Do not take advantage of the chaos, but respond with resilience to its demands.

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Lauren Ruef is a research analyst for Nvoicepay, a FLEETCOR company, with years of experience conducting market research and crafting digital content for technology companies.  Nvoicepay optimizes each payment made, streamlines payment processes and generates new sources of revenue, enabling customers to pay 100 percent of their invoices electronically, while realizing the financial benefits of payment optimization.

company

Is Your Company’s Bench Deep Enough During Difficult Times?

In the uncertain times that the coronavirus produced, business leaders were forced to face the fact that employees might not be available every day to do their jobs – either because of their own health concerns or because they were scrambling to make childcare arrangements because of school closings.

And, as the economy takes a hit, some businesses may even need to downsize, leaving the remaining workers to take on duties they are unprepared for and weren’t hired to carry out.

That’s one reason why it’s always a good idea to cross-train employees, allowing someone else to step in when circumstances necessitate it, says Bill Higgs, an authority on corporate culture and the ForbesBooks author of the Culture Code Champions: 7 Steps to Scale & Succeed in Your Business (www.culturecodechampions.com/training).

“Ultimately, you want everyone who works for you to broaden their knowledge and expand the scope of what they normally do,” says Higgs, a founder and former CEO of Mustang Engineering who recently launched the Culture Code Champions podcast.

“The result is a more efficient and productive workplace.”

In his younger days, Higgs was an Army Ranger, where the need to cross-train was inescapable.

“If you are on a critical military mission and someone goes down, another Ranger needs to take over that person’s duties,” Higgs says. “Otherwise, the mission would be scrapped.”

The average business day may not be as severely distressing as a military mission, but just as in the military, cross-training comes with benefits, he says. It prevents mistakes. It improves accuracy. It saves time. It saves money.

And each additional duty an employee can take on during uncertain times could make the difference on whether a project or order is completed on time, and whether missed deadlines leave customers unhappy, costing the business money – or even leading to it going out of business.

“Some business leaders may say they just can’t work in the time for cross-training because they and their employees are too busy,” Higgs says. “They probably are busy, but it needs to be a priority and they need to figure out a way to find the time. We’re probably seeing right now just how important it can be.”

A few suggestions he has for working cross-training into harried schedules include:

Make use of downtime. Few people are busy every minute, so take advantage of any downtime to slip in cross-training, Higgs says. “That way no one is just sitting around waiting for the next project,” he says. “At Mustang, for example, if an instrument engineer’s work slowed down, then we moved him or her over to automation or some other functional area that was related to, but slightly different from, the person’s regular job.”

Schedule time. “I’m skeptical when people tell me they don’t have any downtime, but let’s assume that’s so,” Higgs says. “Then I recommend you set aside time specifically dedicated to cross-training. It’s that important.” Figure out who you need to cross-train, he says, and find the areas of your business where cross-training will pay off the most.

Implement “lunch-and-learns.” Nearly everyone eats lunch or takes a break at mid-day, and that’s a great time to set up some lunch-and-learn times when someone in the company can teach others about what they do, Higgs says. “At Mustang, we even had vendors come in and talk about their products and services,” he says.

“An added bonus to cross-training is people who don’t normally interact are brought together and develop a better appreciation for what others do,” Higgs says. “That helps to create an even greater sense of team throughout the organization, which is especially important during difficult times like these when everyone needs to pull together.”

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Bill Higgs (www.culturecodechampions.com/training), an authority on corporate culture, is the ForbesBooks author of Culture Code Champions: 7 Steps to Scale & Succeed in Your Business. He trains companies on how to improve their bottom line by improving their culture, and recently launched the Culture Code Champions podcast, where he has interviewed such notable subjects as former CIA director David Petraeus and NASA’s woman pioneer Sandra Coleman. Culture Code Champions is listed as a New & Noteworthy podcast on iTunes. Higgs is also the co-founder and former CEO of Mustang Engineering Inc. In 20 years, they grew the company from their initial $15,000 investment and three people to a billion-dollar company with 6,500 people worldwide. Second, third and fourth-generation leaders took the company to $2 billion in 2014. Higgs is a distinguished 1974 graduate (top 5 percent academically) of the United States Military Academy at West Point and runner up for a Rhodes scholarship. He is an Airborne Ranger and former commander of a combat engineer company.

10 Tips to Manage Labor More Effectively in Your Supply Chain Logistics

The productivity of the supply chain logistics you’re running is at the hearts of the workforce working for you. With improved productivity, the company stands to make more revenue and profits because the entire workforce will be wisely using their work hours.

As the business owner or the operations in-charge, how can you improve productivity within your workforce? Here are 10 tips to manage labor more effectively in your supply chain logistics business.

Train the workforce

Training the workforce you have employed will help them know exactly how to do the tasks assigned and won’t spend much time trying to figure it out. Above that, employees will be more engaged in the jobs they do if they see that the employer cares about them.

If you care about the employees working for you, that can be manifest by developing their skills through organizing and investing in their training. Collect data about the company you are running and arrange training based on the critical factors that keep the business running.

Understanding all employees

To manage the workforce better, you need to understand them more and that will enable you to care for their individual needs. If you know their skills and abilities and assign them tasks that will make them function at their best potential, they will be more confident and be more productive.

That can be achieved by open communication between you and each employee. Instead of staying in the office all day every day, you can consider going to the common area during lunchtime to communicate with employees.

Gauge the performance

To manage your workforce more efficiently, you need to track their work performance and determine if they are working to their full potential. You can do so by figuring out the customer satisfaction rate. If customers are satisfied with the service, it might mean that everything is still under control.

Don’t wait until there is a complaint that comes to you but rather ask for each customer’s opinion about the service they got. Using a review system like that will help you know exactly how customers feel about the performance of the workforce you’ve employed.

Integrating technology in operations

Another way to empower employees is by offering them all the resources necessary to accomplish their daily tasks. That can be fulfilled by integrating technological systems that will assist them to do their tasks more efficiently.

For example, you can use wearable technology to help with scanning packed boxes and determining what is inside them. If the work of employees is lighter, they will be happier to come to work and that will result in increased productivity. Another measure you can take is automating some of the tasks that were burdening the workforce.

Practically assist employees to be more productive

Some employees are destined to be great leaders in the industry you are in and caging them by not giving them development opportunities can be harmful. The workforce you have deserves to grow and show leadership skills in the teams they are working in.

Instead of hiring managers when the need arises, groom the employees you have right now to be able to fill that role when that opportunity comes. The employees will also be motivated at this and will start putting in some more effort when doing their work. The same applies to you as well.

If you are the head of the operations or an employee in supply chain logistics, and you don’t feel productive in the place you work in, look for a new job that can cater to your needs. Go through top resume reviews and ivory research to get the best resume, LinkedIn profile and cover letter designed.

Observe and report

You probably know the way you would like certain tasks to be carried out for optimum productivity, but the question is how do you implement it?

The most important thing is to understand where you are in relation to that goal you have set for yourself. That can be accomplished by observing the employees and seeing how they do things and determine where they can improve. Once you have done so, you can come up with a plan of action on how to incorporate those ideas you have.

Periodical motivational meetings

Everybody needs some motivation once in a while and you as an employer can arrange meetings with the entire staff. Those meetings will discuss the milestones and goals you have accomplished as a whole.

You can also include a snapshot of the work that is still upcoming and express that you believe in the entire team you work with. The motivation will help employees see what they are doing is truly worthwhile and that their efforts are appreciated.

Implement Warehouse Management Systems

You can implement a warehouse management system to oversee the tasks done at your workplace and try to optimize them. All the tasks that are optimized by these systems will help you cut down costs and have a more productive and engaged workforce.

Unlike humans, these systems primarily care about carrying out tasks efficiently. In that way, it can be a good balance between generating revenue and managing the workforce better.

Instill effective labor management systems to managers

Managers are the tip of the spear in the workforce. They have to report to the big bosses and still deal with the employees under them. Because of that, it is very important to speak to managers and train them on how to manage employees better.

They know the individual employees better and they should be tasked with the work of encouraging employees on the effort they are putting in the company. Managers should also be able to spot underperforming individuals and help them improve.

Incite professional competition

Professional competition is a great way to keep your employees on their toes. By having leaderboards on the work that the teams produce weekly or monthly, more workers will be keen on getting more done.

Also, you can have an employee of the month award and other rewards for workers that outperform and always show great work ethic. The awards don’t have to be expensive, simple things like recognition can do really well.

The bottom line

You can manage your workforce more effectively in the supply chain business by implementing warehouse management systems and integrating technologies in the daily operations of the business. Also, focus more on individual performance and then motivate and encourage based on that and help employees improve in their respective jobs they do.

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This guest post is contributed by Kurt Walker who is a blogger and college paper writer. In the course of his studies he developed an interest in innovative technology and likes to keep business owners informed about the latest technology to use to transform their operations. He writes for companies such as Edu BirdieXpertWriters and uk.bestessays.com on various academic and business topics.

business

The 5 C’s That Can Help Businesses Ride Out Tough Times

With corporate CFOs expressing worries that 2020 could bring a recession, businesses small and large know they need to hope for the best and brace for the worst.

But, as important as business savvy and financial expertise can be in riding out difficult times, other traits also come into play and maybe just as essential, says Marsha Friedman, a successful entrepreneur who still leads a business she launched three decades ago.

“One of those essential traits is courage,” says Friedman, founder and president of News & Experts (www.newsandexperts.com), a national PR firm.

“Thirty years ago when I started my company, I probably would never have said it takes courage to lead a small business, but without it, I assure you, you’ll fail.”

Friedman, who is also the ForbesBooks author of Gaining the Publicity Edge: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Growing Your Brand Through National Media Coverage, understands this first-hand. Her firm, like many businesses, endured tough economic times after the 9/11 attacks. Revenue dropped and bankruptcy loomed as a real possibility.

“I had to figure out how to turn my company around,” she says. “It took courage, endurance, and perseverance, but I knew I could not go back, so I had no choice but to go forward.”

Courage is just one of what Friedman calls the 5 C’s for building and maintaining a successful business.

“They’re the guiding principles I’ve learned through the ups and downs and all the mistakes,” she says.

In addition to courage, Friedman’s other C’s are:

Caring. First, care enough about yourself and your dreams to believe you can achieve success, Friedman says. “Just as important is caring about your staff and creating a positive work environment for them,” she says. “Be supportive when stressful situations arise in their lives.” Finally, a good business leader cares about customers, Friedman says. Be willing to listen to their concerns, take responsibility for mistakes, and correct them.

Confidence. Most people have faced and overcome challenges in life. The confidence that allowed them to prevail over those challenges needs to be brought into play in business, Friedman says. “Believing you can reach for and achieve your short-term and long-term goals is essential to getting you there,” she says.

Competence. It’s critical to stay up on the trends and disruptions in your industry. “But you need to recognize your limitations, and you shouldn’t take on jobs within your company for which you’re not qualified,” Friedman says. “You’ll make yourself miserable and your business will suffer.” So, she says, hire an accountant to handle the financials. Get marketing help if that’s not your thing. Hire competent people who you will trust in their jobs – and then trust them.

Commitment. Stay dedicated to your goals no matter how difficult that becomes. Friedman says there are times when this will be not only difficult but downright painful. That was the case for her during those tough times after the 9/11 attacks. “I had to make drastic cuts, including letting go of beloved employees,” she says. “For more than a year, I ramped up marketing efforts, diversified our services, and took other steps to get the business out of the red. In 2005, I succeeded – and it has been upward and onward ever since.”

“If you’ve recently launched a new business, know that you’ll encounter challenges, but don’t panic,” Friedman says. “When times get tough, if you rely on the C’s as a sort of compass, you can guide the business back to smoother waters.”

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Marsha Friedman, author of Gaining the Publicity Edge: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Growing Your Brand Through National Media Coverage, is a businesswoman and public relations expert with nearly 30 years’ experience developing publicity strategies for celebrities, corporations and professionals in the field of business, health and finance.  Using the proprietary system she created as founder and President of News & Experts (www.newsandexperts.com), an award-winning national public relations agency, she secures thousands of top-tier media placements annually for her clients.  The former senior vice president for marketing at the American Economic Council, Marsha is a sought-after advisor on PR issues and strategies, who shares her knowledge both as a popular speaker around the country and in her Amazon best-selling book, Celebritize Yourself.

confidence

Is Your ‘Inner Critic’ Undermining Your Career? 5 Ways To Boost Your Confidence.

The workplace, like the playing field in sports, is packed with competition — often against oneself. It demands being at your best, reaching and exceeding goals, working hard to master all aspects of a position, and proving you’re capable of taking on more.

Someone might have all the requisite skills to succeed, but they also might become their own biggest obstacle when self-criticism gets in the way, corporate observers say. Confidence becomes a problem when difficult experiences at work, such as making mistakes or being passed over for an opportunity, cause us to question ourselves and create negative thoughts.

To produce positive thoughts and smooth the path toward success, one needs to create a mindset based on processes that are purposeful, says Grant Parr (www.gameperformance.com), a mental sports performance coach and author of The Next One Up Mindset: How To Prepare For The Unknown.

“The mind can get lonely and focus on negative things,” says Parr. “We risk giving our attention to thoughts that can eat away at us, destroy our confidence, and take us out of our rhythm.

“We begin to listen to a cartoon version of the devil who sits on one shoulder and whispers in our ear. So we need to develop ways to listen to that other voice within us, that angel on the opposite shoulder, to quiet the inner critic.”

Parr suggests a five-step process to develop a more positive mindset and boost your confidence in the workplace:

Focus on winning in the present. Dwelling on past mistakes or worrying about what comes next can create self-doubt. Staying present is key and requires resiliency, which leans on past training and the skills that led to achievements. Parr likens a resilient worker with athletes such as a placekicker, who shakes off a missed field goal and comes back to make the game-winner. “The workplace setting doesn’t wait for you to get over things,” Parr says. “And rather than fearing making more mistakes, you must ask yourself, ‘What’s important now?’ To be the best you can be in the current moment, you have to focus all of your energy on the present and embrace it.”

Breathe to relax and refocus. “Refocusing always starts with your breath,” Parr says. “It casts out distractions and allows you to be yourself. Focusing on your breathing reminds you that this is something you can control, and in turn you can control your thoughts. Ultimately, you’re training your subconscious mind how to use breath to settle you.”

Meditate. “Meditation builds off your controlled, sustained breathing,” Parr says, “and it becomes a practice to develop clarity and create a calm space in the mind. Meditation brings control and harnesses much of the untapped power of the mind. It aligns your mind, body, and spirit.”

Visualize. To reach peak performance, Parr says, people must be able to see themselves performing well. “The more precisely you can see yourself in action, the more you are able to adjust and control that image, change its details, and guide its outcome,” Parr says. “Visualization also entails tapping into an emotion, feeling the confidence of the moment that you see yourself making happen.”

Engage in self-talk. “Learn to become your own best motivator,” Parr says. “You can do this through the power of positive language directed at the self. We want to develop a language that creates purposeful optimism. Find specific language that can give voice to your feelings and enhance your internal drive.”

“Training the mind to generate confidence, qualm fear and spark joy empowers someone to be better than their negative side thought they could be,” Parr says.

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Grant Parr (www.gameperformance.com) is a mental sports performance coach and the author of The Next One Up Mindset: How To Prepare For The Unknown. Parr owns and runs GAMEFACE PERFORMANCE, a consulting firm that enhances mental skills for athletes and coaches. A recruiter and sales leader in the corporate world for 17 years, he now works with a wide variety of athletes including Olympians, professionals, collegians and high school athletes. His podcast, 90% Mental, provides a window into a broad range of athletes’ and coaches’ mental games and shares their insights around mental performance.

employees

Why Teaching Employees Your Company Financials Is A Winning Formula

In many businesses, a wide gulf exists between ownership and the workforce, a disconnect that can leave employees feeling undervalued and wanting to leave.
The high cost of replacing them means it’s important to find ways to retain the best performers, and studies show that transparency and education from the top can be a solution, boosting employee engagement and motivation.
And one way to achieve that transparency is to open the company’s financial books to employees and teach them the business, says Rich Armstrong (www.greatgame.com), a business coach, president of The Great Game of Business Inc., and co-author with Steve Baker of GET IN THE GAME: How To Create Rapid Financial Results And Lasting Cultural Change.
“Too often in business, we fail to show the players on our own team the big picture – the overall score of the game,” Armstrong says. “We tend to try to manage from the sidelines, focusing on individual performance. Why not teach them what winning means in business?
“But opening the books may be the first time in the employees’ lives they feel they’re being treated as adults. This type of financial transparency builds trust and mutual respect. Teaching employees the business involves them in making a difference, so as a business leader, you need to get comfortable with opening things up.”
Many business owners are hesitant to open the books to their employees. One of their concerns is giving employees access to salary information, but that isn’t advisable, says Baker, who is vice president of The Great Game of Business.
“Opening your books does not mean sharing every detail,” Baker says. “On the other hand, if people see how much the company is making and that makes them want more, that’s what you want as a business owner.”
Armstrong and Baker break down how to open the books for employees and the benefits of doing so:
Bridge the gap between perception and reality. The perception among employees that the owner is focused on self wealth can be changed, Armstrong says, by teaching employees how hard it is for most companies to make money. “Many people would be surprised to know how little even large companies make in profit from every dollar of sales,” Armstrong says. “Research shows the median bottom line in companies in 212 industries across the U.S. is 6.5 cents on every dollar of sales. But the average employee thinks their company makes six times that.”
Break it down for them. “Once you show your team how hard it is to make money, sketch out a simplified income statement for your business, showing your revenue streams and all your expenses,” Baker says. “Draw a dollar bill and show them how little the company keeps out of every dollar.”
Bring the marketplace to your people. An owner can provide clearer perspective to the employees by sharing how and what other companies in the industry are doing. “Do your homework,” Armstrong says, “and find out about your competition. If your employees know how they stack up against the field, most will respond to your appeal to move the needle. Your transparency has made them feel valued.”
Make teaching financials interesting. “The strategy is to create a business of business people,” Baker says. “But remember, you’re trying to educate your people about your business, not create a bunch of CPAs. Share, teach and involve them in the numbers they can impact. Your people rarely need to know about debits and credits or how to do an adjusting entry. But they may very well need to know how production efficiency is calculated and why receivable days matter.
Teaching the business helps everybody begin to understand what they can do, both individually and as a team, to influence bottom-line financial results.”
“The purpose of opening the books is to boost the employees’ confidence in understanding the numbers and in the company itself,” Armstrong says. “Then and only then will they begin to make a connection to the numbers that measure their performance and talk intelligently about improving the business.”
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Rich Armstrong (www.greatgame.com) is the president of The Great Game of Business Inc., and co-author, with Steve Baker, of GET IN THE GAME: How To Create Rapid Financial Results And Lasting Cultural Change. This book is the how-to application of Jack Stack’s 1992 bestseller, The Great Game of Business. Armstrong and Baker co-authored the update of Stack’s book in The Great Game of Business – 20th Anniversary Edition. Armstrong has nearly 30 years of experience in improving business performance and employee engagement through the practice of open-book management and employee ownership. He serves as a business coach and senior executive at SRC Holdings Corporation, one of America’s top 100 largest majority employee-owned companies. He’s also a board member for the National Center for Employee Ownership (NCEO).
Steve Baker (www.greatgame.com) is the vice president of The Great Game of Business Inc., and is a top-rated, sought-after speaker and coach on the subjects of open-book management, strategy, and execution, leadership, and employee engagement. Baker is a career marketing and branding professional and an award-winning artist.

6 Advanced Digital Marketing Strategies You Should Try

Marketing is crucial for your business to succeed. Whether you are an online retail shop owner or a first-time entrepreneur, you probably already know the importance of smart and effective advertising.

In order to kick-start your business and support it as it grows, you should have a detailed marketing plan. This article will look into six advanced digital marketing strategies you should try in your campaign.

1. Guest Posts

Guest blogging is often being overlooked by the majority of entrepreneurs and even marketers themselves. The primary purpose of guests posts is link building, and perhaps they are the best tool for it.

Guest posts are essential for growing your business, and here’s why:

They help build relationships: If you are an expert in your field, you will easily be able to establish a connection with your audience and with the bloggers you collaborate with. Being professional about what you do and displaying an insightful look at the industry can help inspire loyalty and trust in your customers.

They are good for SEO: When you leave a link to your website on the guest post you write on an authoritative blog, you will not only receive more traffic through those links, but your website will rank higher in web searches. Google sees backlinks from different places that lead to your site and this makes the search engine prioritizes your website over others.

They are relatively cheap: Compared to other marketing techniques, guest blogging is fairly cheap. The thing to keep in mind though is that you must mainly focus on the quality of content instead of trying to sell your products. If your article has no value, then what use is it?

They provide new leads and opportunities: As mentioned before, being an expert in your field can potentially lead to new customers. If people like your content, they will want to find out more about your business and eventually become your clients.

2. Translations

The logic behind this strategy is fairly simple: the more accessible you make your content, the more people you will reach. By translating your website into different languages, you will be able to appeal to the foreign audiences, which will lead to your business going global.

If you are not good with languages and don’t know anyone who can translate your content, you can always turn to online translation services which have become very popular in recent years. Such sites as The Word Point offer translations to dozens of languages for a decent price and in a small amount of time.

For this marketing strategy to be effective, you should consider translating to at least two or three languages other than English. If you are based in North America, a good idea would be to spread into South America. This means that you will have to localize your content for the respective countries, whose main languages are Spanish and Portuguese or variations of these.

Likewise, if you are based in Europe, you can target the biggest potential markets that you are missing out on at the moment. Don’t try to hurry though, and start off with several languages first. You can increase that number once you have established yourself in your target countries.

3. Skyscraper Technique

When using the Skyscraper Technique, you will be able to develop many aspects of your business marketing. The technique itself is pretty simple:

Find Trending Content: The first thing you do is find the content in your niche that is currently trending. Sometimes such topics can die out as fast as they sprang up, so be sure to act fast.

Compile A List Of Distributors: Now make a list of websites or blogs where you will be posting your future content. Your articles might be guest posts, so you have to find out if the sites permit backlinks beforehand.

Create Better Content: Go through the content you found and make it better. Develop certain points or include additional analysis. Maybe the content lacks facts or statistics. If the language is too complicated, simplify it so that more people can understand it. Your goal is to create an article that is better than what you found. Because you are using a trending topic, you will most definitely succeed in finding an audience for your work.

Post It & Receive Feedback: Once you post the content on the sites you chose, keep interacting with your readers. Show that you are willing to stay up-to-date on the topic and are a professional in your industry. The backlinks should increase your traffic too.

4. Smart Emails

You are probably thinking about how useless and ineffective email marketing is nowadays. But this is actually not the case if you know how to do it properly.

A good email will possess all the qualities of a good ad. To make your emails more appealing, think about these features:

  • -Design is everything. Make it stand out.
  • -Less text. More images.
  • -Saturate your content. Only on topic.

Along with the things listed above, try targeting specific people instead of the general public. Look for certain users on the Internet and aim your emails at them. One way to make email marketing easier is to use such a tool as MailChimp or analogs. It makes sending these messages faster and more efficient.

5. Moving Man Method

This is a fairly new tricky technique that was coined by Brian Dean. The system goes like this:

  • -Find Defunct Websites: Find websites in your industry or niche that have moved to a new URL, changed names, stopped offering services, or went out of business completely.
  • -Look Through The Data: Carefully look through these websites to find the content you like.
  • -Create Better Content: Just like with the Skyscraper Technique, create better content than what they used to offer.
  • -Reach Out To Sites With Backlinks: Find sites and blogs that contain backlinks to these defunct websites. Reach out to them and ask if they would change the links to your own articles.

Quite a witty technique that is gaining popularity right now, the Moving Man Method is an easy way to create quality content and get backlinks to your site.

6. Advertorials

Last but not least, advertorials are the way to go because of their unique nature. Unlike traditional advertisement, advertorials serve the purpose of connecting with your audience rather than plainly selling your product.

There is a great article on How To Write An Advertorial that you can check out to get acquainted with what an advertorial is. Here’s a rundown of how to make your advertorial more appealing:

  • -Find the right media outlet. Don’t choose at random.
  • -Clearly label your advertorial as ‘advertisement’ (according to FTC’s guidelines), or else it will be banned.
  • -Advertorials are like blogs: don’t sell the product, sell the content related to your product.
  • -Share your advertorials on social media.

To sum up, these are definitely not the only advanced digital marketing strategies that will aid you during your advertising. But they are most obviously worth a try and may be of great use when implemented right. Don’t pass by and take note!

success

How To Make The Mindset Change That Creates Good Habits — And Success

Achieving success or struggling depends on many factors, but habits go a long way toward determining either outcome, research shows.
Breaking bad habits and cultivating good ones can be difficult, and willpower alone isn’t enough, says Ngan Nguyen (www.nganhnguyen.com), a leadership coach and author of Self-Defined Success: You Already Have Everything It Takes.
“You can’t create the life you want unless you replace bad habits, and that happens by developing a new mindset,” says Nguyen. “These are new thought processes that are linked to your new clarity of vision for your life.
“Usually, some sort of stimuli triggers our habits. Breaking a habit requires changing the action that we take when the stimuli appear. Repeated over and over, these new, more constructive thoughts and resulting positive actions automatically become the new habit.”
Nguyen offers the following tips to transform bad habits into good habits that lead to success.
Clarify your life vision. “Reassessing what we want out of life can provide a more efficient roadmap of goals and how to reach them,” Nguyen says. “Translate your longings and discontents into an actionable, crystallized vision that propels you forward. If you feel stuck, a powerful vision that’s in alignment with your core values is the most critical first step in liberating yourself and creating the results you want. Good habits flow from an energizing new life vision.”
Don’t let doubt or worry hold you back. “Distinguish between believing if you deserve to live your dream life, and whether or not it is possible,” Nguyen says. “You don’t want to talk yourself out of the vision you have crafted for your life based on whether or not you think it is possible. It is absolutely possible, because if you can imagine the outcome, then there is a way. Knowing that, your new habits stay consistent.”
Replace negative beliefs with positive, empowering thoughts. Nguyen says habits that hinder success often stem from negative thoughts. Some common ones are beliefs about ourselves, other people, money, and success. “People think, ‘I’m not good enough, not smart enough,’ or, ‘Other people will deceive me,’ and, ‘Money is scarce and hard to earn,’ ” Nguyen says. “Changing our beliefs to positive is what will allow us to access ideas and allow new positive perception to enter our consciousness. If we recognize that a thought doesn’t serve us, then we can choose to think differently when a stimulus to think negatively occurs. Over time, it becomes easier to think differently because new neural pathways are strengthened with our persistence.”
Analyze your stories. “Stories are how we live our lives,” Nguyen says. “The way we each live is guided by our beliefs, habits, values and emotions. It becomes destructive when patterns repeat in our lives that we do not desire, like always having problems with money or the inability to have a fulfilling relationship. If similar patterns play out that we do not like, we can identify what the underlying belief is by taking an objective look at the story.”
“It is when your beliefs, thoughts, and emotions completely align with the person who is living their new, clarified vision that the life they want becomes possible,” Nguyen says. “New, good habits become second nature, and while success is never automatic, good habits make it far more likely.”
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Ngan Nguyen (www.nganhnguyen.com), author of Self-Defined Success: You Have Everything It Takes, is the founder/CEO of Cintamani Group, an executive coaching and consulting firm. Nguyen coaches on leadership and empowers entrepreneurs as an intuitive strategist, incorporating actionable concepts to achieve higher goals. With over a decade of business strategy experience as an advisor to Fortune 100 companies, Nguyen is also a certified master-level intelligent leadership executive coach with John Mattone and was an analyst for McKinsey & Company. Nguyen graduated with a double honors degree in biochemistry-biophysics and bioengineering from Oregon State University and completed a research fellowship at MIT in nanotechnology.
recession

A 4-Step Business Plan That Will Have You Looking Forward to the Next Recession

The following is adapted from Rock the Recession: How Successful Leaders Prepare for, Thrive During, and Create Wealth After Downturns.

The highest-performing companies don’t fear recessions—they look forward to them.

The idea sounds counterintuitive, we know. What possible reason would a business leader have to want an economic downturn?

The answer is simple. A recession, properly planned for, can present opportunities for growth that would otherwise take a decade or more to pan out, like mass purchasing expensive assets for cheap, acquiring other companies, and convincing top-shelf talent to join your team.

By following the four steps outlined below, you can plan ahead and set your company up to not only survive the next recession, but use it to fuel your growth.

Create Uncontested Market Space

Rather than struggling to beat the competition and exploit existing demand during a recession, the more strategic route is to create uncontested market space (read the book Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne for more on this topic). Doing so, of course, is easier said than done and requires creativity and drive, but if you can successfully pivot to a new market, the payoff of a less-crowded space will be worth it.

Research shows that “companies that successfully adapt can emerge stronger than ever,” while those that do not “face a Darwinist reality” (Journal of Business Research). Why fight the competition when you can make them irrelevant?

The best way to create uncontested market space is to adopt new technology and use it to differentiate your service from your competitors’ before they get the chance to do the same. Find a way to solve a problem for your customers that no one else has solved. Embrace technology as a way to both create a better user experience on your clients’ end and to save labor on yours.

You’ll be able to integrate new tech into your company with fewer hiccups if you follow the next step and look ahead to your end goal.

Begin With the End in Mind

Look at your business goals from a strategic perspective by beginning with the end in mind. In other words, look ahead to what would happen in an exit situation.

Consider, for example, how an acquirer might pay seven to eight times earnings for an annuity service business, but they would only pay book value, or at most two to three times earnings, for a one-off project business. Use these predictions to plan how you want to diversify or grow your business to maximize its value.

Growing your company in a good economy will make you more likely to survive a recession because, in general, bigger companies tend to fare better. By looking ahead, you’ll know where to invest your money and efforts to reach the goals you have in mind.

This step naturally ties into the next, which involves bridging the gap between your beginning and end states.

Bridge the Gap

Once you have an end goal in mind, you need a plan to bridge the gap between where you are now and where you want to go.

For example, if you aim to go from $25 million to $100 million in revenue, and want to enter different markets, but don’t have the in-house talent to do it, then what you have is a “talent gap.” One way to close that gap could be through acquisitions.

Similarly, if you want to adopt continuous improvement practices within your company but don’t have anyone on your team who is an expert—that would also be a talent gap. Hire a “lean” expert.

Identify your gaps and come up with a timely, actionable plan to fill them.

Create Your “To-Buy” List

You have your market, your goal, and your plan. Now you just need to seize the opportunity created by a recession and acquire assets while the price is low.

As a general rule, everything is cheaper in a recession. Talent is cheaper. So is the competitor you want to acquire. And when banks are looking to dump assets that they’ve already written off—assets they just want to get off their books—that’s when you can score some of the best deals.

By planning out what you want to acquire—and maintaining enough liquidity to buy it—you can strike as soon as the recession hits, giving you first pick of assets while your competitors scramble to find the capital. 

Hopefully, being armed with this four-step plan will turn your recession fears into anticipation. Start creating market space, setting goals, laying out actions to make them happen, and writing your to-buy list, and you’ll be well positioned to experience enormous growth when the recession finally hits.

For more advice on recession planning, you can find Rock the Recession on Amazon.

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Jonathan Slain and Paul Belair founded Recession.com to give entrepreneurs a free tool to assess their recession readiness at Recession.com/Ready.

Jonathan Slain spent the Great Recession huddled in the fetal position on the floor of his office. He borrowed $250,000 from his mother-in-law to survive. Jonathan paid his mother-in-law back and is now a highly sought-after consultant (and, yes, he’s still married!). Jonathan leverages his experience in investment banking and as an entrepreneur on the keynote speaking circuit because he doesn’t want anyone else to have to borrow money from their mother-in-law in the next recession.

Paul Belair wasn’t scared when the Great Recession hit. He invested $1 million to purchase a business and just five years later sold it for over $70 million dollars. He achieved an American dream exit by using the Recession Gearbox model outlined in this book to create an intentional recession preparation plan. Paul is a CPA and an MBA, and currently serves as chair of the Young Presidents’ Organization Construction Industry Network.

5 Tips For Going From Bench Player To Star In The Business World

Sports history is filled with the heroics of substitute players coming off the bench and playing a big role in a victory.

Likewise, in the working world, being a dedicated and consistent role player can prepare someone for a promotion that entails bigger responsibilities. The key, as in sports, is being ready when called upon.

“Understanding and fulfilling your role as you await your opportunity is a critical aspect of truly growing so you are prepared to make good on that opportunity when it happens,” says Grant Parr (www.gameperformance.com), a mental sports performance coach and the author of The Next One Up Mindset: How To Prepare For The Unknown.

“Athletics is filled with role players ready to meet the demands and the game speed of competition. The mental preparation is equally important in the workplace for those aspiring to climb the ladder and be continually successful.”

Parr offers five ways to spend time wisely while waiting in the wings and how to be well-prepared for the next, bigger opportunity:

Maximize your role. The path to promotion, Parr says, starts with the right mindset in lower positions. “Training the mind for success is essential,”  Parr says. “It begins with fully understanding and embracing your role. Doing that consistently gets you ready for the next one. Your role will be what you make of it — a launchpad for future success and a support to others while you learn, or a holding pattern leading toward stagnation and frozen development.”

Set achievable goals and commit. “How you approach your goals matters,” Parr says. “You need to write them down, including all the tasks required to accomplish them, and you need to visualize the feeling of reaching them.”

Remove negatives. “These invariably come up,” Parr says. “Be aware of the obstacles, people, and thought processes that can derail you, demotivate and distract you from making the most of your opportunity. That way, when those things appear, you are prepared to manage them and stay on track.”

Lead and set an example. “In sports, always being one of the first to practice and among the last to leave, and being the one who always encourages others — all those qualities stick in your teammates’ minds as a disciplined, winning example they can count on,” Parr says. “In the business world, your chances of reaching the next level are greatly enhanced when you exemplify a team-first, cheerful attitude on a daily basis, always being helpful to the levels above you as well as your own team, and going the extra mile.”

Study good examples/role models. It certainly helps in sports, and the corporate office is no different, Parr says, when it comes to the benefits of learning from mentors or reading up on achievers who had humble beginnings. “Watch, listen to, read, and learn from the advice and experiences of those who have excelled,” Parr says.

“Moving up in the world entails lots of things that can knock you down,” Parr says. “Embracing your role, whatever it is, means embracing the struggle to get where you want to go. You are working toward something higher, preparing for the unknown, and it requires diligence and commitment.”

Grant Parr (www.gameperformance.com) is a mental sports performance coach and the author of The Next One Up Mindset: How To Prepare For The Unknown. Parr owns and runs GAMEFACE PERFORMANCE, a consulting firm that enhances mental skills for athletes and coaches. A recruiter and sales leader in the corporate world for 17 years, he now works with a wide variety of athletes including Olympians, professionals, collegians and high school athletes. His podcast, 90% Mental, provides a window into a broad range of athletes’ and coaches’ mental games and shares their insights around mental performance.