Category Archives: Uncategorized

What Does it Mean to “Follow Your Passion”?

Every year during spring graduation season, we hear variants of the advice to “follow your passion” in life. In today’s social media-enabled marketplace of personal brands and curated public images, it may seem like anything is possible and simply being one’s best self is a foundation for a lasting and fulfilling career. But is this true? More importantly, is it helpful?

I have always been mildly suspicious of this strain of advice… it feels simplistic. How does one know what’s really important? Is a passion stable enough to build a life around?
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Saying Farewell to A True Innovator: Zaha Hadid

Ambition and audacity are two of the strongest qualities an innovator can possess. Looking across time, these two ideals are common characteristics shared by those who have changed our world forever. These leaders had a vision, and they let nothing prevent them from realizing it. 

Last week, the world lost one of these truly great innovators: Zaha Hadid. An Iraqi-born architect, Hadid was arguably one the most distinguished architects of our time. She was the first woman ever to win both receive the Pritzker Prize (2004) and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Gold Medal (2014). It goes without saying that Hadid was a pioneer in her field, opening the door for women in her profession across the globe. In a speech last February, Hadid explained: 

“We now see more established female architects all the time … That doesn't mean it's easy. Sometimes the challenges are immense. There has been tremendous change over recent years and we will continue this progress.”

In remembrance of Hadid's contributions to her field, I'd like to highlight some of her amazing achievements.

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2016 Edelman Trust Barometer Wrap-Up: Innovation Requires Trust

We've now spent the last four weeks discussing the results of the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer, and the global impacts those findings may have on a series of institutions—mainly the government, big business and the media. If you're just joining us, a marked divide is emerging between what Edelman has coined the “elite” population and the rest of the general public. The elite or informed public – those possessing at least a college degree – express far higher levels of support and confidence in the government, media and industry when compared to the rest of the “mass population.” 

And while these gaps are significant in all areas across the globe, the largest disparity in trust is observed in the business sector in general. Richard Edelman elaborates

“The most profound difference between elite and the broader populations is found in their attitudes toward business. There are double-digit gaps in half of the countries surveyed, the most significant being in the U.S., where 70 percent of the elite population express trust in business in contrast to 51 percent of the general population, a 19-point difference.”

Altering these opinions will neither be easy or immediate, but if we're armed with an understanding of why trust levels have changed – coupled with strategies to change how every citizen views business leaders – we can start cultivating trust in our own companies.

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The 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer: 3 Reasons the Trust Disparity Exists

We've believed for a while that companies of any size must cultivate trust. Consumer trust plays an important role in brand advocacy, social media engagement, and the success of new products. While much of the analysis and conclusions surrounding trust in the business world has tended to be on the theoretical side, a recent survey has revealed some very interesting, concrete facts and statistics surrounding consumer trust. And this survey has revealed that trust isn't just a “nice to have” thing for your business or organization; it's now a “must have” if you want your company to succeed. 

Let's take a look. 

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Worldwide Innovation: 3 Entrepreneurial Organizations Making a Big Difference

There's no mistaking the impact some innovations have had on our world. The smartphone has revolutionized the manner and speed at which we communicate. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have created a sort of radical connectivity most thought impossible two decades ago. And, with the hyper-development of the new “sharing economy,” transportation and hospitality will never look the same again.

However, regardless of the impact these developments have on society, I hesitate to call them life-saving. Our lives wouldn't end without our smartphone (although I know some Millennials and my grandchildren might think otherwise). Without Uber and Airbnb, the world wouldn't crumble beneath our feet. 

While many of these new innovations we interact with daily are certainly life-altering, I do believe some innovating businesses and platforms really are actually life-saving. What if every entrepreneur had access to capital – however small – allowing them to follow their dreams and end the cycle of poverty? What about a world with a fully stocked pharmacy around every corner, or a refrigerator in every household?

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The Why Behind Your Company: The Importance of Vision in Executive Leadership

When you think about leadership, what comes to mind? 

For some of you, it may be the loud-mouthed, hard-nosed sports coach who always finds a way to win. For others, leadership connotes great heads of state: Reagan, Roosevelt, Churchill—or even stretching further back into history to leaders like Julius Cesar or Alexander the Great.

When it comes to leadership in business, I believe the most important aspect of being an effective leader is defining and carrying out your vision. Initially, our vision is the inspiration needed to undertake the challenge of building our business. Daily, it drives our team to work hard to make our businesses better. And eventually, it's our vision that interests customers and drives them to become involved with our brand. However, it amazes me how many business owners stump at the following question:

What is your vision?

The Reasoning vs. The Road Map

I often hear vision compared with a road map. When business owners begin answering the question of what their vision is, they dive into breakdowns of employee roles, budget targets and complex development plans all aligned at a certain big goal—a bit like they're driving a car on a road trip. While long-term maps like these are great and often a sign of proper planning, they don't actually indicate that the leader understands his or her vision. 

Too often, we mistake our vision for a destination, an end point of some kind. However, I tend to believe this is too narrow and simple of imagining what our vision should be. In an article in Forbes, Eric Basu, a serial entrepreneur and host of Cybernation, uses a similar metaphor to explain this notion of a vision:

“The vision is less tangible but also more important than the strategic goal.  The vision is the reason for being in the car and driving in the first place.”

Our vision resonates from what we're passionate about. It doesn't necessarily equate to a specific goal or company milestone, but it's more the reason why the company exists in the first place. Our vision involves certain milestones, countless months (sometimes years) of planning, and true grit and determination—a bit like a road map. However, as Basu argues, the vision is not the map or the city at its end, but the reason that inspires us to craft the map in the first place. 

Determine the Why 

Defining our vision in its most basic form can often be the hardest part. So, where's the best place to begin?

Begin with what you love. What inspires you and drives you? What makes the hairs on your arms stand up? If your vision is based around these roots, no matter how extreme the change or severe the road, we are more likely to persevere if our vision is rooted in fundamentals in which we believe. 

Take Wendy Kopp, founder and former CEO of Teach For AmericaWhen Kopp graduated from Princeton in 1989, she could have pursued a variety of careers and likely been successful in any of them. Instead, she decided to follow her passions. Her strong desire for equality and her connection to education guided her toward a vision: a national teaching corps designed to help students in impoverished and under-served schools.

So many challenges stood in her way with an idea like this (Kopp herself is the first to admit this), but she let none of these stop her. With her core beliefs at heart, she has watched her vision grow from 500 initial corps members in 1990 to more than 50,000 current members and alumni in 2015. Kopp had a vision rooted in ideals she believed in, which helped her follow it through to reality.

Communicate Clearly

Understanding a vision is just the beginning. Communicating it clearly to all those around you – whether they be employees, investors or customers – is just as crucial. To clearly communicate your vision, you'll need to do three things: simplify, question and listen. 

1. Simplify 

Keep it simple. A complex vision usually just means we're confused. Remember, your vision isn't some complex road map for a trip through the jungle but, more important, the reason(s) behind the trip itself . Keep it clear.

2. Question

While this may seem counterintuitive, I often think this is the most important step. Good leaders are known for more than providing great direction and giving enthused speeches. Great leaders, like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, are known for their ability to ask the right questions. When Jobs founded Apple in 1976, his vision wasn't to create computers. He envisioned a world flooded with technology within its every aspect. In order to realize this vision, he constantly questioned both his accomplishments and his team's understanding of his initial vision. Eventually, this approach would lead him to the Apple that exists today.

3. Listen

This step is too often forgotten. We can only provide direction and assign tasks so often. One of the reasons we bring others on board to help us execute our vision is so they can contribute to refining and acting upon it. To be successful, we'll need the contributions of those around us. Knowledge is gained through dialogue – not monologue – and the sooner you realize and embrace this, the more successful your vision will be. 

A Collective Vision 

Sharing your vision is vital to your company's success. Your vision communicates to your team internally why they show up and externally the values and mission your company follows. When you're ready to communicate your vision, make sure you understand the how and the why. How will your vision become a reality? Why is your vision important? Beginning with these questions and using these above steps will get your team headed in the right direction. 

Al Eidson is the owner of Eidson & Partners, a business and marketing strategy consultancy, and a founder of SparkLabKC, an early-stage startup accelerator program in Kansas City. He's an expert in taking products to market and has launched more than 220 new products and ventures through his career. He's also proud of killing off a great many problematic products before they hit the market. His vision involves meaningful and lasting products through innovation. 

Your Customer Satisfaction Survey Stinks: 4 Ways to Make Feedback Matter

Creating an online survey is simple. Choose one of the hundreds of existing builder sites, check a variety of drop-down boxes, add some questions and click submit. However, as we've recently discussed in our blog series, creating an effective survey is much more difficult. 

Once you've managed to craft a customer feedback tool that accurately measures satisfaction (and not an experience with your call center), it becomes vital to determine how best to implement the feedback. I've seen far too many businesses get complacent once they start gathering these metrics, only to do nothing with the data. Remember that your customer feedback can be the most powerful tool you have! 

Although every company is different – whether you sell lawn mowers or Learjets – there are commonalities when it comes to implementing change based on customer feedback. Let's dive in. 

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Happy Holidays from Eidson & Partners!

It's time! The millions of bright, flashy lights and the crazed shoppers dashing through store aisles only mean one thing: It’s the holiday season. And as the year draws to an end, we here at Eidson & Partners want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have made our year (and this blog) a big success.

As the year winds down, it’s easy to get lost in all the haste and hustle the holiday season brings. However, I really strive to take the opportunity to step back, examine where we've come over the last 12 months and, along the way, remember those who have helped us grow into what we are today.

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Live Where You Want

ING Bank is creating its own mortgage customers with its new service called "Live Where You Want." The program is based on the assumption that many homeowners are currently not interested in selling but would do so for the right offer. It works like this — you tell ING and their real estate firm partner what house you want to buy. They work with you to create a reasonable offer and get your financing lined up. Then, they go to the homeowner and make the offer. As a homeowner, you get a price based on the real estate firm’s due diligence and a buyer with a pre-approved loan.

What a great way to create a market! Don’t wait for the customer to need a loan — create a need for a loan.

Are there ways you can proactively create a buying situation without waiting for it to come to you?

Cause Washing

I’ve been hearing more and more about "green washing" — the concept of touting your product/service/company as being environmentally friendly without really putting resources toward the effort. I think the same applies to much of the cause marketing we see today.

Tom Fishburne hits the nail on the head with his post "The Cause Marketing Bandwagon" that has a wonderful formula in the cartoon regarding why the company loves causes. He makes the point with the example of a smoothie company that quietly and effectively supported a cause that was a perfect fit with their brand.

We get into trouble when we base philanthropic decisions on marketing instead of core company beliefs.

What is the worst (or shall we say best?) example of insincere cause marketing you have seen?