Archive for July, 2010
A few years ago I saw on interview with Cordia Harrington, on Donny Deutsch’s show The Big Idea. It really struck a cord with me and I think of it and refer to it frequently. When stuck or frustrated, I sometimes think, "What would Cordia do?" So I thought I would share the bullet points with you.
* Cordia Harrington opened a McDonalds restaurant in Effingham, Illinois, population 10,000.
* Her McDonalds wasn’t doing well and she needed a way to drive traffic to this rural location. So she borrowed the money to buy a Greyhound Bus franchise and put the bus stop right on the corner of her McDonalds parking lot. (I didn’t know Greyhound bus stops were franchises. Interesting.) On a normal day, 88 buses would stop daily, and over 120 buses a day stopped during the summer. Sales took off, and Cordia’s McDonalds became one of the top forty in the US. She was able to open two more McDonalds in the Midwest.
* During this time she was put on the McDonalds bun committee, the group that oversaw quality and consistency of the hamburger buns. Cordia learned a lot and decided that she could produce buns for McDonalds more efficiently than the current producers.
* Today, she is CEO of The Bun Company with three high volume bakeries, which supply buns and English muffins worldwide to McDonalds and other food distributors.
* Cordia Harrington also started a trucking company, Bun Lady Trucking, to make sure that her buns get to market on time.
Cordia Harrington sums up her philosophy, saying “Instead of moaning and complaining, you have to take that energy, when problems happen, and put it towards taking you to the next level.”
The lesson: If you have a problem, look at it from every angle, and then fix it by taking control of the situation.
I had a different post for today, but I had a great first-hand experience with customer service last week and wanted to share the lesson.
I have been preparing for tonight’s free online class. I had been practicing using the free-trial version of Webex, and everything was great. But when I officially signed up and started practicing with my live site I ran into transmission problems. I won’t go into the painful tech-y details, but here are the events:
My new Webex site was “not responding”.
The Webex tech woman had me check several settings on my computer and we tried to start a new meeting and the problem was still there. She ran a trace and said it was a problem with my Internet provider and I would need to contact them.
I called SBCGlobal, sent them the report from the Webex woman. They ran a bunch of tests and concluded that the problem was not with them, but with either Webex or Level3, a third party that leased server space to large companies. SBCGlobal had no contact info for this company.
I found contact info online and called their support department (I was determined to ride this train to the end of the line).
Even though I was not a direct customer, they ran a bunch of tests for me (how cool is that) and concluded the problem was with Webex.
This all took place over 5 hours, no break (and no dinner) – it was awful.
I contacted Webex the next morning and got a different tech support person. He read my support ticket and knew immediately what the problem was, helped me fix it, and I was good to go within 20 minutes.
Yes, the first person jumped the gun and sent me on a wild goose chase, but because she and every subsequent support person I dealt with was professional, nice, patient, and genuinely wanted to help me fix the problem, I never developed bad feelings toward any of the companies. I had every right to say "To hell with Webex, I’ll go with another company", but the attitude of their support personnel (and everyone else along the way) kept me from going to that dark place. And now I’m set up and ready to go ahead with my free call tonight at 6pm, and with my 8-week online course.
People want to be heard, and they want to be treated as if they matter. I was treated that way, and because of it, I continued to love Webex, even through the pain. Keep that in mind the next time a customer comes to you for help or with a complaint. They are not an intrusion, they are the reason you are in business.
If you’re trying to manage your time, you’ll have much more success if you understand how you’re currently spending it. It’s much like trying to improve your diet before understanding your current eating habits. All the diet experts say that logging your food is one of the keys to weight loss success, and logging your activities is the key to getting the most out of your day.
A good approach is to log how you spend your time for 7-10 days. Some of you may be surprised at the pockets of unproductive time you see. And by unproductive, I don’t mean recreation or rest, I mean wasted time: time spent playing Farmville, watching “nothing in particular” on TV, or staring with dread at your to-do list.
Once you see how you’re spending your time, productive or otherwise, you will be better able to plan your weeks. Get rid of the "junk food", and make your time count. And that means including plenty of time for yourself, your family, and your friends.
When you’re ready to start planning, I recommend downloading the spreadsheet from www.my168hours.com. It is a basic Excel spreadsheet that lists the 168 hours of the week, by day. (It’s so simple, you could create it yourself, but why?) You can then use this sheet to plan your week.
It may take a few tries before creating a schedule that is right for you, mainly because in the beginning, you’ll probably over-schedule. You have to keep in mind, just because there’s an empty timeslot on the chart doesn’t mean you can squeeze in one more task. Our energy and focus is limited by more than a filled chart.
For new business owners, time management is one of the most important things to master, especially if you’re going it alone. And especially, especially if you have kids and/or are keeping your day job while you get started. Don’t give up before you even start - before saying “I have no time to start my business”, find out if that’s actually true.
There are a few things that you should do at the very beginning of your business. Creating a solid brand is one of them. But even if you've already started your company, you still need to make sure your brand is clear and consistent.
It is important to understand that your brand is much more than the name of your company. Your own core values will be at the heart of your brand, and your brand will permeate every aspect of your business. Branding is not just for product based companies, either. If you are an individual who is selling your services, you need to be conscious of your brand. You can not determine your target market until you define your brand. And you can't effectively market your business until you can identify your target market.
I'll use an example I used in a previous post: Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream.
Ben & Jerry's is a company with a strong brand. Their product and their company completely jive with who Ben and Jerry are. The company is progressive and socially conscious in the way they produce their ice cream, run their company and give back to society. These characteristics are reflected in their packaging, the names of their flavors and their charitable contributions. By creating a strong brand they have created trust and allowed themselves to stand out in a very crowded market.
Here are a few things you can do to help identify your brand:
1. List 5 words that you want your company to reflect.
2. Have your friends and family list 10 words to describe yourself and your business or product(s). Try to get at least 12-20 people to do this for you.
3. Highlight all of the overlapping words and rank them by most to least.
Now evaluate your results. See if the overlapping words match any of your preferred characteristics. If the results are close to, or exactly, what you want, congratulations. You are on your way to creating a strong brand. If there aren’t very many, or any, overlapping words, or if there are overlapping words, but they don’t match your list, this is a problem. You aren't sending a clear message, or at least not the right message.
This exercise will help you see where you’re at. If it’s far from where you want to be, don’t be discouraged because that is valuable information. Go back to the people you polled and get details about why they answered like they did. With this information you will know what needs to be changed, eliminated, or added.
Building a company that stands out has never been tougher, and it won't be getting easier. But you must stand out if you want to survive, so creating a strong brand must be a priority.