Tag Archives: business

Missed Opportunities: Discovering What’s Next

In an age of rapid change and technological advancement, it can seem as though every decision is a crossroads. Whether choosing where to invest or who to vote for, every choice we make can result in runaway success or a missed opportunity. In business, these crossroads might lead us to thrive or to fail. 

How can we clearly see what’s ahead of us and avoid missing out on the next big thing? Let’s start by examining one of the most noteworthy missed opportunities in business history: when Blockbuster Video passed on the chance to buy an emerging competitor called Netflix.
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Leading in the New Age of Influence: 3 Simple Things Leaders Can Do to Build Trust

We've now spent a few posts discussing the results of the 2016 Edelmen Trust Barometer and the global consequences associated with its findings. By now, it should be evident that the ever-growing trust disparity that exists between the “informed” and “mass” populations is responsible for a variety of effects on the government, media and, most substantially, the business sectors. Edelman explains his findings:

“…in the U.S., 70 percent of the elite population express trust in business, in contrast to 51 percent of the general population, a 19-point difference. This skepticism is clearly manifested in the perception of specific industries… as CEOs are substantially more trusted by the elite population…”

If nearly half of the general population in the United States is expressing some form of skepticism toward the business sector, leaders of businesses can benefit their companies by taking deliberate steps to establish trust. This week, let's take a look at a few ways business leaders can work to build that trust. 

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The New Landscape of Information: 3 Consequences of the Trust Disparity

If you're joining us for the second installment of our series on the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer, you understand there are a few key elements of today's society that are contributing to the growing trust disparity between the “informed” and “mass” populations. As Richard Edelman sums up

“Trust is rising in the elite or “informed public” group – those with at least a college education, who are very engaged in media, and have an income in the top 25 percent. However, in the 'mass population' (the remaining 85 percent of our sample), trust levels have barely budged since the Great Recession.”

As it currently sits, the trust gap difference between the informed public and the masses is nearly 19 percent. When these views become the norm – when the staggering majority accepts skepticism as a consumer mindset and cynicism as a political platform – consequences arise. To quote Holly Green, CEO and managing director of The Human Factor, in an article in Forbes

“Putting our collective cynicism aside, this pervasive lack of trust represents a leadership crisis of staggering proportions. When we don’t believe that our business and political leaders tell the truth, it sets in motion a tidal wave of negative attitudes and ways of thinking and behaving that gets in the way of achieving our goals.”

Though you might have a “so what” reaction to the idea that large portions of the population have diminished trust in government and business, we're now seeing that trust levels have a measurable impact on how our society functions and how consumers interact with businesses. And this impact demonstrates that trust is a must for businesses to cultivate. 

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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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