Author Archives: Ginny Grimsley

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Trade Shows Expert Shares 3 Cutting-Edge New Technologies

Most of us think about technology on a mostly two-dimensional plane as we flick our way from screen to screen on touch glass. But today’s tech includes applications that are far from flat, says major-events expert Ann Windham.

“What if you could control all primary aspects of major events like trade shows, big weddings and awards ceremonies through your iPad or smartphone; imagine shutting everything down at the end of a long and exhausting night by pushing one button on your phone – that’s just some of what’s possible with today’s software,” says Ann Windham, president and CEO of Imagine Xhibits, Inc. (imaginexhibits.com/events).

Lights, climate control, projectors and monitors, curtains, fountains and much more can be controlled with an app, and the data that you take away from trade shows can be used to quickly follow up on sales leads, says Windham, who will be showcasing this cutting-edge technology July 9 at Trade Show Technology Summit 2013, to be held at the Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas in Irving, Texas.

The summit will show attendees how to manage technology such as QR codes, mobile apps, virtual trade shows, social media, on-line asset management, interactive media and live stream video on electronic devices as simple as a mobile phone, she says.

“We’ll show planners the newest event management tools for efficiency and streamlining tasks before, during and after their event. We’ll also have hands-on, educational workshops to show them how to use management,” she says.

Windham shares three of her favorite new technologies:

• Pre-show – Event Management Software: This one-stop source for managing every detail about your event – from Fed Ex tracking numbers to vendor contact information to photos from the show – even allows you to manage multiple events from any location. “In the past, we carried all the details for each show in one huge binder. If you were at a show in Texas and someone called with a question about the show in Oregon, you wouldn’t have that information handy,” Windham says. Event management software relies on cloud storage, so members of your team can access it from their smart phone or iPad no matter where they are. Another benefit: You’ve got just one place to input all that data.

• During the show – Remote Sensors: Sensors built into the walls of an exhibit allow you to control all of the electronics from your smart phone or iPad. Not only does it save time, it’s an easy way to add valuable theatrics during a demonstration. “Say you’re standing at the back of the room and you realize the speaker can’t be heard, you just turn up the volume on his mic, right from your your iPad,” Windham says. “Or, if you want to create special effects using lighting and room temperature, you can dim the lighting and drop the temperature.” Her favorite feature? At the end of a long day, rather than walking from one device to the next, shutting off each, you press just one button and turn everything off while walking out the door.

• Post-show – Sales Leads Follow-up: Seventy percent of percent of exhibitors who capture sales leads at trade shows don’t collect qualifying information, according to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR).Scanners collect only the most basic data from visitors to each booth – there’s no way of knowing whether they were a “hot” lead ready to buy, or someone who stopped by for the free T-shirt, Windham says. Now, however, event management software allows exhibitors to include qualifying information every time a visitor’s badge is scanned. “At the end of the event, you can quickly see who your hottest leads were and send them an email or postcard before you’ve even left the event,” Windham says.

For planners who’ve been hamstrung by personnel cutbacks in recent years, these new tools are lifesavers, she says.

“The days of ‘The Jetsons’ has arrived.”

Soaring College Cost and Financial Planning

What Parents Should Know Before Paying for College

From $20,000 to $65,000 a year – that’s the tuition cost for one year of college, says John McDonough, a money expert who helps retirees and parents plan for their families’ futures.

“For the 2012–2013 academic year, the average cost for an in-state public college is $22,261. A moderate budget for a private college averaged $43,289,” says McDonough, CEO of Studemont Group College Funding Solutions, www.studemontgroup.com. “But for elite schools, we’re talking about three times the cost of your local state school. Either way, your kid’s higher education can easily shoot into six figures after four years.”

Along with worrying about rising tuition prices, parents also fear for their own futures if their retirement savings are drained by children’s college costs, McDonough says. Only 14 percent, for example, are very confident they’ll have the money to live comfortably in retirement, he says, citing a 2012 survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

“Families feel they’re faced with conflicting goals, but there are numerous ways to pay for college while investing in your future retirement,” says McDonough, who offers insights for parents to keep in mind while planning for their child’s education:

• The ROI of a college education: At a time when so many American families are financially strapped, college is an especially stressful topic because parents know higher learning will help their kids succeed. College graduates earn 84 percent than those with only a high school diploma, according to Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce. Here is how earning breaks down over one’s life time, based on education: a doctoral degree-holder will earn $3.3 million over a lifetime; $2.3 million is estimated for a college graduate; those with only a high school diploma can expect $1.3 million.

• Move retirement assets to qualify for grants: Most parents know about the 529 savings account, but that’s not necessarily the best or only option. Reallocating your retirement assets, such as 401(k)s, can better position a child to qualify for grants and scholarships. This legal and ethical maneuvering may be the single most important factor when considering how to pay for college.

• Know your student’s strengths and weaknesses: Consider independent and objective analysis of your future college student. Assessment might include a personality profile and a detailed search for a future career. Also think about a more nuts-and-bolts approach, including scholarship eligibility, SAT and ACT prep courses, review of admissions essays and an in-depth analysis of chances for enrollment in a student’s top four choices of colleges.

• Make a checklist of financial aid forms: In order to maximize a fair price of higher education, remember there is plenty of data to review. McDonough recommends a checklist with a timeline and notable deadlines. Be ready to troubleshoot the “alphabet soup” of data forms: FAFSA – Free Application For Federal Student Aid; CSS profile – College Scholarship Service; SAR – Student Aid Report; and more. Think about this process as a second job, or find professional help you can trust.

tracking

Are Businesses Crossing Lines by Tracking Employees?

Nearly 10 years after real-time package- and people-tracking went viral with the advent of GPS-enabled cell phones, small businesses face two big concerns.

“One is expense. Small businesses, especially those still recovering from the worst recession in modern history, can’t always afford to provide their employees with GPS-equipped smart phones,” notes location-based services specialist George Karonis, founder and CEO of LiveViewGPS, Inc., provider of Mobile Phone Locate tracking service,  (www.mobilephonelocate.com).

“The second issue is privacy. People generally don’t want their employer to be a ‘big brother’ boss who can track their every move. It’s not because they’re doing something they shouldn’t, but because it invades their space, and the information could be misinterpreted or misused.”

But employee tracking has plenty of obvious benefits to small business owners:

• Provide baseline information. It gives businesses solid data to analyze for initiatives such as improving efficiency. Businesses with lots of workers in the field making deliveries or service calls can optimize routes and schedules.

• Improve customer service and satisfaction. Tracking helps a business tell people waiting somewhere for a delivery or service exactly where their package or service-person is and how long the wait will be.

• Improve response times. On-site coordinators can re-route workers in the field to respond to unscheduled calls in the most efficient way possible.

• Reduce costs. The greater efficiency provided by tracking helps lower costs by reducing both downtime and overtime.

So how can businesses circumvent affordability and employee privacy concerns?

One way is to accomplish both is to use a service that doesn’t involve extra equipment, including software, or a contract, Karonis says.

“If you’re not loading apps or software onto someone’s personal phone, it’s less intrusive for the employee and he or she will be more willing to allow use of their own phone. There’s also no added drain on the battery, because there’s no app constantly running in the background, and no hitch-hiking on their data plan or incurring a data charge,” he says.

“If you make it non-intrusive employees won’t tend to feel that you’re invading their privacy.”

Using a service that charges per location, with no requirement for a time-specific contract, is also more cost-efficient for the business, Karonis says.
“For the small business that’s merely seeking to improve efficiency and customer service, constant tracking isn’t necessary. That’s more appropriate in a situation where employers have large number of people constantly in the field, for instance, UPS. Or, employers who feel the need to monitor unproductive employees,” he says.

There’s a growing backlash as the public is subjected to more and more stalking – from cameras mounted at traffic lights to social networking sites recording shopping habits and topics of conversation, Karonis notes.

“We’ve reached a crossroads where we need to find a balance between surveillance that provides legitimate business advantages and surveillance that invades people’s privacy,” he says.

“It really is possible to strike that balance and, in a small business that thrives on trust, mutual respect and fully invested employees, it’s essential.”

excessive heat warnings

What Will Really Make You Happy?

The idea of a happy and meaningful life has become unnecessarily complicated in some circles, says author and certified positive psychology coach Lynda Wallace, who left a high-powered executive career with Johnson & Johnson to pursue her real passion – helping individuals and groups achieve greater happiness and success.

“Happiness has been appropriately cited as a goal in political debates on issues from taxation to the social safety net to marriage equality, but the debate is often confused,” says Wallace, author of “A Short Course in Happiness: Practical Steps to a Happier Life,” which topped Amazon’s Self-Help Best Seller list.

“Some people claim that happiness is all in your DNA or bank account. The truth is that happiness is largely a matter of everyday choices and actions. There are straightforward, well-researched and effective things every one of us can do to create greater happiness in our lives and in the lives of those we care about.”

The essential elements of a happy life are not mysterious, she says.

Research shows that the happiest people do four basic things that make the difference: they focus on what is good and positive in their lives; cope effectively with life’s inevitable challenges; develop strong relationships; and pursue meaningful goals.

“We can all become happier by putting our efforts into these areas,” Wallace says.

One of the first steps we can take is to get past some of the common misperceptions about happiness that can stand in our way. Wallace offers these four examples.

• Misconception #1: Happiness is about getting the big things right. It’s natural to think that if we were suddenly rich, beautiful and living on the beach somewhere, we’d be happy. But that type of good fortune turns out to have a surprisingly small impact on happiness. The happiest people are most often not those in the most enviable circumstances, but those who cultivate positive emotional outlooks and actions. So how can we do it? “Take concrete steps to practice optimism, gratitude, kindness and self-compassion in your everyday life,” says Wallace. “The cumulative effect of those everyday choices can have a tremendous impact on how you experience your life.”

• Misconception #2: Happy people suppress negative emotions. Happy people actually experience sadness, grief, worry and other so-called negative emotions nearly as frequently as unhappy people do. The difference is what happens when those feelings occur. Happier people are generally able to experience negative feelings without losing hope for the future. “They give themselves permission to feel sad, angry, or lonely, but they remain confident that things will get better. As a result, their sadness progresses into hope and action rather than regressing into anxiety and despair.”

• Misconception #3: Pursuing happiness is self-centered. The strongest of all conclusions drawn by researchers into emotional well-being is that our happiness is determined more by our relationships with other people than by any other single factor. The happiest people build their lives around good, trusting relationships. “If other priorities are getting in the way of your relationships,” says Wallace, “take steps to shift the balance back to where it will really make a difference.”

• Misconception #4: I’ll be happy when I achieve my goals. Have you ever noticed that when someone wins the Super Bowl or an Academy Award, or when you achieve a long-sought ambition, that wonderful sense of accomplishment and happiness seems to fade faster than you’d expect? “That’s just the way our brains work,” says Wallace. “Committed goal pursuit is one of the keys to a happy life, but most of the happiness we get from striving for goals comes while we’re making progress toward them, not after we achieve them. That’s why it’s so important that we choose goals that are in synch with what we love and value, and that we make a conscious effort to enjoy them along the way.”

Mayor Elaine Scruggs

Suns Co-Owner Shares Keys to Happiness

In his years as a successful entrepreneur creating and selling corporations to the likes of Coca-Cola and Kimberly-Clark, Richard Jaffe, one of the owners of the Phoenix Suns, found a few constants to guide him in business and in life.

“Love myself; live my values, and learn to give back,” says Jaffe, who gained respect as an inspirational leader.

The most important of these and the key to happiness, he says, is learning to love himself. It’s a recurring theme in the poetry he’s been writing for decades and recently published in, “Inner Peace & Happiness: Reflections to Grow Your Soul.”

“I’ve found that loving myself is fundamental to my happiness,” he says. “The one person I have a relationship with for my entire life is myself, so it’s essential to make that relationship my priority. When I have the inner peace that comes from loving myself, I don’t have to look to others to fill my emotional needs and wants.”

How does one learn to love him- or herself and to be happy? For Jaffe, it came from living and acting on his values in business and in his personal life, whether he was struggling or succeeding.

“These are the things that have worked for me,” he says. “Values guide my choices, and my choices affect how I feel about myself and how I interact with others.”

These are some of the values and tenets that have helped make Jaffe an exceedingly happy man.

• Find your passion and indulge in it. Jaffe has been expressing himself through poetry for 30 years – that is one of his greatest passions. “Poetry helps to provide me balance in life between work, family and other external commitments,” he says. “When I allow myself time to indulge in my passion, I recharge my spirit, my mind and my body.”

• Remember – givers gain. Even when he was a broke young entrepreneur, Jaffe and his wife of 28 years, Ann, always made sure to give to the community, to their temple, to charity. “Give even when you have nothing,” he says. “It always comes back to bless you, though sometimes from a different source.”

• Don’t rely on anyone else to make you happy. It doesn’t work, Jaffe says. When your happiness is dependent on your love for someone else, they control your happiness.  Love doesn’t always stick around – sometimes it comes into our lives in order to teach us how to care. We have to rely on ourselves.

• Be the very best you can be at whatever you do. Don’t compare yourself to your competition, to history, to anyone else. Instead, raise the bar on yourself. “Even if I get knocked down at something, I can be happy when I know I gave it my very best effort,” Jaffe says. “I don’t always succeed, but I can give an even better effort the next time because I will have learned from being knocked down. Defeat is being knocked down; failure is the unwillingness to get back up!”

• Control your thoughts and keep them positive. “My kids used to come to me to complain when they were unhappy about something,” Jaffe says. “I would tell them, ‘If you do not like the way you feel, just change the way you think!’ It drove them crazy!” But they did eventually understand that their negative thoughts were making them feel bad. Jaffe says beware — thinking positively is habit-forming, at least for him.

Jaffe is one of the owners of the Suns, a successful business leader and longtime philanthropist. Most recently the CEO of Safe Life Corp., a medical technology company, he also founded Safe Skin Corp., a latex glove manufacturer (acquired by Kimberly-Clark Corp.) and Nutri-Foods International, a frozen dessert company (sold to the Coca-Cola Co.) He is a member of the U.S. Golf Association’s Presidents Council and a supporter of numerous charitable projects.

Chandler Innovation Center

5 Mistakes that Quash Corporate Innovation

The biggest breakthroughs in the history of business – and the history of the world – are never  the result of conventional thinking, says Maria Ferrante-Schepis, a veteran in the insurance and financial services industry who now consults Fortune 100 companies such as GE with innovation agent Maddock Douglas, Inc.

“To echo Harvard Business School professor Theodore Levitt back in 1960, ‘In every case, the reason growth (in business) is threatened, slowed or stopped is not because the market is saturated. It is because there has been a failure of management.’ Many of the world’s biggest companies are simply riding on inertia,” says Ferrante-Schepis, author of “Flirting with the Uninterested,” (www.flirtingwiththeuninterested.com), coauthored by G. Michael Maddock, which explores innovation opportunity through the lens of the insurance industry

“There’s a great saying in the South: ‘You can’t read the label when you are sitting inside the jar,’ ” says Maddock, CEO of Maddock Douglas. “It’s hard to see a need and invent a way to fill that need when you’ve been inside one business or industry for a long time.”

Recognizing those needs requires stepping outside of the jar and viewing things from the outside, adds Ferrante-Schepis.

“You can’t innovate from inside the jar, and if you aren’t innovating, you’re just waiting for the expiration date on your business,” she says.

Ferrante-Schepis and Maddock bust five myths relating to corporate innovation:

• The preference of four out of five dentists doesn’t necessarily matter: Many years ago, when the Maddock Douglas firm consulted with P&G to develop new oral health care products, Crest was recommended by most dentists. However, it turns out the market had shifted; consumers became more interested in bright smiles than healthy gums. Many industries make the mistake of getting their insights from their own experts rather than asking the consumer.

• Giving all your love to those who already love you: In the interest of preserving customer morale, too many companies focus on those who already love their service. But that’s not what companies need to work on; they need to focus on what’s not working in order to improve. The haters very often offer well-targeted insights that can tremendously improve products, customer service, and/or operations.

• “We tried that idea. It didn’t work.” What idea, exactly? People who are in the jar interpret new ideas based on how they last saw them. You may think you’ve tried or tested an idea, but if you applied it in a conventional way, the way it’s always been used, you haven’t really tried it. Consider the term “auction” — in-the-jar thinkers envision Sotheby’s and not the more practical and innovative eBay.

• Trying to impress with insider jargon: Communication is a huge part of innovation. Policies in the health-insurance industry, for example, include language that may make sense to insiders, but say nothing to the average middle-class customer, which is prohibitive. Be very careful about the language you use. In this case, “voice of the customer” should be taken literally. Customers recognize, respond to and build from their own words more than from yours.

• Staying at your desk and in the office: Doubling down on what already has not worked for you is not innovative. Get outside your office and act like an anthropologist. Spend time with your customers and bring an expert interpreter and a couple members of your team. Compare notes; you’ll be shocked at how differently you all see the situation.

Marketing agency

How to Correct Lost Sales Leads

U.S. businesses spend billions of dollars generating sales leads only to lose more than 70 percent of them simply because they don’t make contact quickly enough, according to one study.

But that’s not the only way they’re losing out on opportunities, says Brandon Stuerke, president of Advisors Edge Marketing (www.advisorsedgemarketing.com), a specialist in marketing strategy and automation for financial advisors and other professionals.

“A study of more than 600 companies by Dr. James Oldroyd of MIT found that the odds of a lead entering the sales process were 21 times greater if the business made contact within 5 minutes of generating the lead versus contact in 30 minutes,” Stuerke says. “Another study, this one by the Harvard Business Review, found that the average response time by businesses to a generated lead is 42 hours – and that’s just for responses that occurred within 30 days.”

Generating sales leads is big business, with more than $23 billion spent on internet leads alone, he notes.

“If you’re a financial advisor or another professional, you may also be spending money on direct mail, invitations to seminars, TV commercials and/or print ads,” Stuerke says. “How many leads are you generating, and at what cost per lead, only to lose them?”

Stuerke, who began developing innovative marketing strategies while working as a financial advisor, says he has found four ways professionals commonly lose sales leads.

“And they can all be fixed!” he says.

• Advertising calls to action that are all-or-nothing. Most sales people offer only a face-to-face meeting or a telephone appointment as their call to action in their advertising. But that’s asking a lot of prospects who are simply exploring options and aren’t yet ready for that level of commitment. Those are leads that, three to six months from now, may become sales – but they’re lost early in the process. Instead, offer a less committed option such as “download this free report” in exchange for their information for follow up.

• No lead capture on your website. This is a huge problem! Many sites have no strategy for capturing information about visitors to the site, such as an email address. As a result, businesses spend thousands of dollars driving traffic to their website, but capturing none of the prospects’ information. As a result, those prospects come to the site and leave and the business never knows they were there. A free report, or series of reports or videos with useful information based on your expertise are good lead capture tools. Buyers today turn to the web for information while doing research, so that’s what you should give them. Offering free resources in exchange for a small bit of information is a great way to do that.

• Indifference in interactions. No matter what your profession, it’s likely you’ve got a lot of competition. For consumers, shopping includes researching, and they’re comparing services, expertise and experience before deciding who best deserves their patronage. If your interactions with prospects fail to “wow” them, they will quickly move on. But most professionals don’t have a storyboarded plan for giving prospects that experience, which is what is needed for consistent results. An automated system that delivers carefully planned interactions is a great way to achieve this.

• Using social media without a plan. Many professionals have discovered that delivering consumer-friendly, useful content through social media is an effective means of attracting followers and cultivating prospects. However, one of the biggest problems with how businesses use social media is that they post a lot of high level, one-way communication with no call to action.  Having a call to action in your posts leading prospects back to a website designed to capture leads is critical for producing tangible results through social media.

A lot of these issues stem from a common problem: businesses focusing only on the hottest leads – the people who are ready to buy today, Stuerke says.

“Instead of allowing those ‘cooler’ leads to fall by the wayside, businesses should capture and cultivate them,” he says. “Eventually, they’ll find that instead of constantly chasing leads, they’re harvesting new clients.”

Mayor Elaine Scruggs

Mastering Life Balance at Home and at Work

People are overwhelmed with the complexities of their own lives and are desperately seeking a way to maximize happiness in their home and work lives, says Gary Kunath, an entrepreneur, speaker and former CEO who works with some of the world’s top corporations and business schools.

“I used to be caught up in the spin cycle of thinking that net worth automatically afforded me life worth,” says Kunath, a speaker at top business schools and author of “Life … Don’t Miss It. I Almost Did: How I Learned To Live Life To The Fullest,” (www.lifedontmissitbook.com).

“I sacrificed time with my family with the justification that I was providing necessary material things, but at a certain point you realize that money doesn’t make you rich, it just allows you to buy more stuff.”

Priorities for professionals have shifted; now, U.S. workers seek family wellbeing above all else, he says. Companies need to recognize that it’s imperative to positively affect their employees’ lives, both inside and outside working quarters, he says.

“We need to bring humanity back to business,” Kunath says. “Leading corporations are aware that most professionals today – 70 percent – would trade a pay raise for an increase in personal wellness.”

But employers are struggling with that, he says, citing a new American Psychological Association survey released in March in which 48 percent of employees say their employers don’t value a good work-life balance.

More professionals are trying to find a path to life worth, rather than centering their behavior on net worth, Kunath says. He offers five ways career-minded individuals can achieve both:

• Look for signs you’re falling into the net-worth trap: For Kunath, those signs were clear. One day, he says, “it was like someone had smacked me on the head,” when his son, then 12, walked away in dismay after Kunath said he couldn’t play baseball with him because he was too busy working on a business proposal. “The look of disappointment on my son’s face was something I will never forget,” he says. Kunath dropped everything and spent the day with his son. “I promised that would NEVER happen again”. The next occurrence included a mental and physical breakdown after Kunath pushed himself to make an unnecessary business trip while sick.  After a 19-hour ordeal in a delayed flight to Spain, “…I knew in my bones that if I did not draw the line right there … I would ruin every part of my life that mattered to me.”

• Don’t be an employee, be employable: Unless you are self-employed, you are always vulnerable to someone else controlling your professional destiny, and therefore, your life worth. But employees can empower themselves by diversifying their skills so that they can have more choices about where and for whom to work.

• Bad things happen to good people: Adversity finds us all. No one enjoys the worst, most painful moments of their lives. Nonetheless, life events like loss of a loved one, financial ruin, divorce, addictions or illness tend to define us. We need adversity in our lives. Anyone can be a rock star when life is perfect. But when adversity strikes, then the “real” you is revealed. How you face adversity can either extinguish you or distinguish you.

• Believe in something bigger than you: There will be times when you are utterly helpless, with no control over an outcome. All the money in the bank and all the authority at work will do no good when it comes to, for instance, the death of a loved one. Believing in something bigger than you is an important part of having life worth; it helps you maintain your emotional health when you face life’s biggest challenges.

• Don’t Major in the Minors: As Henry David Thoreau wrote, “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” For every evening spent late in the office there are moments professionals miss out on – and can never get back. Many of us spend time on things that ultimately don’t matter. “The three greatest gifts you can give to your family are: Time, Memories and Tradition,” he says. “These are things in life that matter.”

Chandler Innovation Center

How to Turn Company Into Innovation Machine

The world’s future leaders overwhelmingly believe that today’s businesses can grow only if they can innovate – and that today’s business leaders aren’t demonstrating they’re up to the task.

While that’s the thinking of nearly 5,000millennials – the 20- to 33-year-old generation – at least one baby boomer, the innovator who transformed the U.S. travel industry with his creation of Travelocity and Kayak.com, agrees.

“The future for any business today depends entirely on its ability to innovate, and the youngest adults, ‘the idea generation,’ know that,” says Terry Jones, author of “On Innovation,” (www.tbjones.com/terrys-book), a light-hearted but practical guide for fostering and innovation.

“The millennials are the group known for pioneering new ideas, rethinking processes, end-running hierarchies and solving problems by doing what simply makes sense to them. We need to listen to them; they’re the innovators!”

But the worldwide survey of adults born after 1982 found that only 26 percent believe their bosses are doing enough to encourage innovation. The study by Deloitte ToucheTohmatsu Limited, publishedin January, reported 78 percent believe innovation is crucial for growing businesses.

Jones says there are some definite steps business leaders can and should take to ensure their company is hearing employees’ ideas, recognizingopportunities, and ensuring a clear path to execution.

1. Build a culture of experimentation. Not every project will succeed but you can’t learn from mistakes if you don’t allow them to happen. The corollary: Always analyze what went wrong. Why didn’t it work? To use a sports analogy, watch the “game films” to improve and learn as much from failure as you do from success. One fast and easy way to experiment is to test options out online. Whether it’s polling customers, measuring which approach gets the best response, or allowing a segment of your customer base to test drive a new tool, the results can be invaluable..

2. Kill projects not people. In many companies, people stop offering up ideas and volunteering for projects because the punishment for failure is greater than the reward for success. Lunch with the boss or a $100 bonus do not compensate for the risk of being demoted or fired, or suffering a tarnished reputation. When a project fails in a company with a culture of experimentation, the first thing you shoulddo is say, “Bob, what would you like to work on now?!”

3. Break thru the “Bozone layer.” Some of the greatest ideas for innovation will come from the employees on the front lines – those in direct contact with customers or production. But their ideas will never float up to the executive suite if you’ve created a “Bozone layer” by making it too risky for middle managers to experiment. (See No. 2.) While you’re turning the culture around, find ways to reach down to the front lines to solicit  ideas. Implement them and reward the contributors with a big, public shout out – which will help you start changing for the culture.

4. Install “sensors” to pick up customers’ ideas.  Don’t just look to employees for innovation – learn from your customers. They have ideas for new products and new uses for existing products, and their customer service complaints are a fertile source of ideas for improvement. Listen! Social media or a forum on the company website is a good sensor for picking up ideas; Glad Wrap’s 1000 Uses site is loaded with them. For customer service complaints, Travelocityinstalled a lobby phone booth where anyone in the company could listen in on customer service calls. Once a month, everyone was expected to provide feedback on at least two of those calls, and suggest an improvement to eliminate similar future calls plus a work-around for the interim.

Dark Days: Recession in Arizona

Life after ‘Till Death Do Us Part’

Perhaps the only bad thing about a lifelong romance is, eventually, someone has to die.

Short of an unnatural occurrence – a violent crime, a suicide pact, a plane crash – a wife or a husband will be forced to go on alone. After decades of shared life, love and happiness with her husband, Ralph, Thelma Zirkelbach says surviving “till death do us part” can be like wandering lost in a foreign wilderness.

“Ralph has been gone for 7½ years now; when I first lost him I had no idea that I’d have to get used to an entirely new lifestyle,” says Zirkelbach, author of “Stumbling Through the Dark,” (www.widowsphere.blogspot.com), a memoir about an interfaith couple facing one of life’s greatest spiritual challenges.

“When you’re grieving – whether your loved one is suffering from a terminal condition, or he or she has recently passed – practical things like funeral arrangements, short- to long-term financial issues or even what’s for dinner can seem very conceptual, abstract and far removed from what you’re feeling.”

But the biggest challenge is having no one with whom to share your life, she says.

“Family milestones, major news stories and technological changes are just a few things Ralph has not experienced with me,” says Zirkelbach, a grandmother, speech pathologist and Harlequin Romance author.

She offers five areas in which couples can prepare for both the process of dying, and life after death:

• At the hospital: We tend to take our health for granted until we don’t feel well. Sometimes, it’s something we can’t shake; for Ralph, flu-like symptoms would prove to be leukemia. At one point during her life at the hospital with Ralph, Zirkelbach kissed her husband before he was sent off to isolation as part of his treatment; it would be the last kiss for an entire month. When a spouse gets sick and requires extended hospital treatment, be ready for a shortage of parking, general uncertainty and an irregular schedule. Zirkelbach’s sanctuary during Ralph’s time at the hospital was the hospital’s café, where she “gorged on smoothies and cookies – sweets are my comfort food,” she says.

• Finances: This can be one of the most difficult areas because, too often, couples don’t prepare for the eventuality of a death well in advance. While older couples are more likely to be financially prepared for a death, younger couples are often caught blindsided by the loss of a spouse. Consider getting professional assistance from a financial expert.

• Spirituality: What is often put aside as secondary in daily life can quickly become the primary thought for someone who is grieving. Zirkelbach and her husband were an interfaith couple – he came from an evangelical Christian background and she is Jewish. Ralph was admitted to the hospital as Jewish; he had planned to convert, but as his condition worsened and his family became more involved, he stuck with Christianity. This was emotionally confusing to Zirkelbach during an already stressful period. Understanding each other’s views on matters of life and afterlife before a loss is helpful.

• Bad things can still happen: When Ralph got sick, Zirkelbach’s mother was also beginning a rapid decline, and ultimately died before Ralph. “Just because a terrible thing is happening to you doesn’t cancel out the possibility of another one happening,” she says. “There’s no credit limit for misfortune, which is all the more reason to show love, regularly, to the people you care about the most.”

• The journey of letting go: Zirkelbach quotes Mary Oliver’s poem “In Blackwater Woods”: To live in this world / You must be able … To love what is mortal … knowing / Your own life depends on it; / And when the time comes to let it go, / To let it go. “I had no idea I could survive all by myself; it seemed like I needed help with everything,” she says. “But I’ve learned a very important lesson — I’m much more resourceful, much stronger and much more independent than I ever thought I was.”

business strategy

Recession-Proof Tips from Immigrant CEO

Today, millions of Americans are suffering hardship due to the toughest economic downturn since the Great Depression 80 years ago. Unemployment remains critically high, near 8 percent, even though companies and the stock market are doing very well.

But the challenges Americans on Main Street continue to face pale in comparison to those endured by Daniel Milstein, who immigrated to the United States as a teenager from Kiev, Ukraine, during the last days of the USSR’s control of the Eastern Bloc.

“Everything was different; the food, the clothing and even the new English alphabet I was to learn, which has 26 letters instead of the 33 that I was used to,” says Milstein, author of “17 Cents and a Dream,” (www.danmilstein.com). “My family was allowed to leave with only one suitcase and $75 each – plus I had 17 cents for the postage necessary to send a letter to my friend in Ukraine.”

Impoverished, confused, feeling like an outsider and unable to speak English, Milstein did what he knew best – hard work. He would start by studying relentlessly and picking up every shift he could at the local McDonalds. Eventually, he received his bachelor’s degree with Cum Laude honors in business management and Honorary Doctorate Degree from Cleary University. Dan Milstein became the founder and CEO of Gold Star Financial, the 42nd largest residential lender in the country.

Milstein and his company have continued to thrive throughout the recession, thanks in part to the lessons he learned as an immigrant. He offers these tips for making yourself recession-proof:

• Land of opportunity: Despite his disadvantage, Milstein was able to see the positives and the opportunities — he was, after all, in America, where individual effort and initiative could be rewarded. Americans have the freedom to pursue a gamut of jobs; accepting those that require little skill may not pay well, but as long as you continue to educate yourself, they can be viewed as a steppingstone.

• Good, old-fashioned hard work: Like many of America’s previous generations, including those from the Great Depression, nothing was given to Milstein, who sometimes worked from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. at McDonalds as a teenager. Even though he’s on top of his company, “I still work harder than anyone else,” he says. He also makes sure he knows each of his employees and clients, and that they’re happy.

• Understanding the culture of your environment: Even while in Kiev, Milstein and his family were outsiders because of their Jewish heritage. There, he had to understand the culture and adapt, just as he did when he came to the United States. It can be challenging to recognize when cultural tendencies that you’ve grown up with clash with those in an adopted culture, but Milstein paid attention. When he realized that his brusque, Soviet way of doing business was turning off his U.S. customers, he worked on being warmer, friendlier, and a better listener.

• Listen to your elders: Milstein’s mother taught him to always work five times harder than everyone else because “being Jewish, it will always be an uphill battle.” His grandfather told him to guard his name and his reputation – “the only things you have in this world” and that he could become whatever he wanted, provided he was willing to work for it. As an adult, built found a mentor in an older business woman. One of the most valuable lessons she taught him was to “slow down and chew my food” – to take the time to enjoy life.

“Certain things can be taken away from you in your life – the recession has proved this true for many people,” Milstein says. “But there are also characteristics and personality traits that can be yours, unbroken by other people or shifting circumstances, for the rest of your life.”

kindle

How to Use Kindle to Generate Free Business Leads

Imagine Amazon sending you business leads regularly and even paying you to do so. Why would they do it?

“Amazon is desperate for reading material and you can publish your content for free as Kindle books,” says V. Michael Santoro, a managing partner with John S. Rizzo of Globe On-Demand, an internet technology company. The two are also the co-authors of, “Niche Dominance: Creating Order out of your Digital Marketing Chaos,” (www.NicheDominance.com).

“The twist is to use them as a generation system for sales leads.”

The audience is huge – Kindle is no longer just for people who purchase Kindle tablets. Amazon has also written Kindle Reader applications for every major smartphone, tablet, and computer including the Android phone or tablet, iPad, iPhone, Mac, Windows 8 PC or tablet, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone 7, Santoro says.

“Most businesses hesitate to use Kindle to generate sales leads because they think they need to write an actual book,” says Rizzo, “But that’s not true. You can write and publish short reports — as long as the content is original, of high quality and does not violate its Terms of Service (TOS), Amazon will publish your material.”

The key is to include a compelling free offer with a strong call to action and a link to a lead capture page – the page on your website where people can sign up for more information, special offers, your newsletter, etc.

And Amazon will even help market your book – for free!

When a new Kindle book is approved and published, Amazon will:

• Feature it in their new releases section.

• Email their customer base announcing it to those who have previously purchased a Kindle book in that genre.

• Offer the Kindle KDP Select Program for ongoing free promotion.

• Allow customers to highlight, make notes, and share your book’s content via Twitter and other social networks.

“By enrolling in the free Kindle KDP Select Program, you give Amazon exclusivity on a renewable 90-day basis,” Santoro says. “This program allows their readers to borrow your book from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, and when they do, Amazon pays you a royalty, as well as for book sales. However, the real benefit is that Amazon provides five days per quarter to give your book away for free.”

Why give your Kindle book away for free?

“Because, as a lead generation system, you want as many individuals as possible to download your Kindle book and visit your lead capture page, Santoro explains. Additionally, Amazon views each book download as a vote and rewards your book with higher page ranking. The more downloads, the better the chance of an Amazon Page 1 placement.

To create your Kindle report:

• Use Amazon to determine what current Kindle books or paperbacks are published about your topic.

• Decide what information will be helpful to your potential customers. Make sure it is original and offers value. Avoid information that is easily found on the Internet.

• Create your report in Microsoft Word and include images if appropriate.

• Include your call to action – a message that prompts readers to visit your website — and link to your website’s lead capture page.

• Create a cover graphic.

Publishing on Kindle is fairly simple:

• Go to http://kdp.amazon.com and sign up for a free Kindle account.

• Watch the “How To” Kindle publishing video.

• Fill out the Amazon Author Page to track your statistics.

• Reference the book on your website and link to your Amazon book page.

• Announce it on your Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter accounts.

“The goal is not to sell books, but rather to generate leads from Amazon’s huge customer base,” Rizzo says. An additional benefit is that you will differentiate yourself from the competition by being a published author. If your content is excellent and helpful, you will also build trust which will help to increase sales from these new leads.

social.media

Social Media Changes Driving Some Marketers Buggy

Social media is the most rapidly changing aspect of communications to begin with. Throw in an IPO (Facebook) and a major overhaul (LinkedIn) and modifications are barreling ahead so fast, even the techies seem unable to keep up.

“I’m a big believer in social media marketing for my business, so when I started having a lot of problems with LinkedIn, I didn’t wait – I sent an email to the Help Center,” says Marsha Friedman, CEO of EMSI Public Relations, (www.emsincorporated.com), in Wesley Chapel, Fla.

“Last week, a ‘customer experience advocate’ finally emailed me back. He wrote, ‘I apologize taking so long to get back to you. We are currently experiencing an unusual high volume of requests due to our recent site enhancements.’ “

Many of the changes were implemented Oct. 16 and, as EMSI’s social media specialist, Jeni Hinojosa, observes, “It’s a great overhaul.”

But, she adds, “It must not have gotten much of a test run because the site has been very buggy.”

Over on Facebook, Friedman says she’s noticed advertisements popping up everywhere – even in her news feed.

“Now that the site has gone public, it’s trying all sorts of new tricks to make money for shareholders, but it’s creating some problems,” she says.

One of her employees got this error message while trying to post to her wall: “The server found your request confusing and isn’t sure how to proceed.”

Hinojosa offered a brief overview of some of the changes and a solution people are turning to – at least in the case of Facebook.

LinkedIn: “One of the new features I like is that you can check for comments and other activity without getting notices sent to your email,” Hinojosa says. “Just go to your LinkedIn page and you’ll see the notifications at the top, just like on Facebook.”

“The bugs I and others have encountered include being unable to check private messages; sporadically unable to get into groups; and being notified that invitations to join others’ networks are waiting – but when I look, I don’t see any,” Hinojosa says. “When we report the problems, the responses we’re getting sound like they’re working on them but they’re overwhelmed.

“Hopefully, they’ll get them worked out soon. The good news is, they’re aware.”

Facebook: “Sadly, I’ve been down this road before – and it didn’t lead to a good place,” Hinojosa says. “Remember MySpace?”

Since its initial public offering in May, Facebook has been making a lot of changes designed to add revenue. The newest of these are a $7 fee for “promoted posts” from your personal page and a $5 to $15 fee to promote posts from your fan page. They’re not yet available to all 166 million U.S. Facebook users, according to tech bloggers, because it’s still experimental.

Now, those with the option will see a “promote” button next to the “like,” “comment” and “share” buttons. Click “promote,” put the appropriate fee on your charge card, and that post will go to the top of your followers’ news feeds a few times in the days ahead. (It will also wear the Scarlet S label of “sponsored post.”) The promise is that more of your followers will see it.

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense when applied to personal pages,” Hinojosa says. “How many people will pay to show off their vacation photos? But people using Facebook as a marketing tool may be motivated to pay for more reach.

“Soon, everyone will be scrolling through a bunch of ‘sponsored’ posts before they get to the ‘free’ ones. If you want someone to actually see your post, you’ll have to pay.”

That’s why, she says, people are jumping to …

Google+: “If Facebook and Twitter had a baby, it would be Google+,” Hinojosa says.

This toddler network, which launched in June 2011, combines Facebook’s capabilities for sharing news and photos and Twitter’s searchability.

“It allows you to designate one or more “circles” for your friends,” Hinojosa says. “One co-worker might be ‘business’ and ‘close friends’ while another could be just ‘business.’ So everyone sees what’s appropriate for them based on your relationship.”

“Like Twitter, Google+ uses hashtags to help sort information and allow people to search for posts on particular topics,” she says. “For instance, if you type #cutecats into the search box at the top of your page, you’ll see everything with that hashtag – including comments that incorporate the label.

“What makes me happiest is, Google had its IPO way back in 2004,” Hinojosa says. “So we shouldn’t have to worry about this company suddenly drumming up ways to make us pay for what we previously got for free.”