Email Is Ruining Your Business

Why telephones are better than mail

I started working in my business in 1995. I had an “old fashioned” telephone with push buttons by my side and next-door in my bookkeepers office, stood two facsimile machines. I say ‘facsimile’ because I know what that is and I’m proving a point... more of that to follow.

Lets be clear. No Internet to be heard of. No Facebook. No email. No cell phones. We had the yellow pages and written CRM lists. Our invoicing and accounting package ran off a Pentium processor with a dot matrix printer attached via cable. It was slow but reliable.

Life and business was actually way simpler and way slower. As tech caught up with our need for speed and the Internet moved into our communication reach, our once heavily focused cold calling and telephonic relationship-based business started moving to the written word and my first email address [for the whole company] was set up. This in my opinion was the beginning of the end. Everyone from customers, suppliers and staff now started building a culture of “covering my tracks” and putting every last word in 11 point Calibri. Again, it worked for the most part very well. Productivity did improve and information flowed exponentially faster. But this was at the cost of relationships. Here is my visual estimation of how that looked:

 

Growing Pains coaching Relationship graph

 

So, as we started typing away, we stopped calling people and then the Hiroshima of communication was dropped – cell phones. As soon as short message system [SMS] became a ‘thing’ the written word became more powerful than our voice. We lost tone. We lost pace. We lost the sound of LOL and we started losing eye contact. Internet 2.0 brought us social media and along with mobile domination and Wi-Fi proliferation the problem was escalated.

We stopped making calls. We stopped taking calls. We huff when our mothers call and cant understand why they just don’t text us. We aim for the impossible Inbox Zero and are suffering from email fatigue. Add to that Slack fatigue, Whatsapp fatigue, Skype fatigue, Text fatigue, Social media fatigue, messenger fatigue and now Story fatigue.

We don’t LOL anymore ‘cause it’s lame. FFS. We have stopped laughing in text - never mind in real life. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. It’s called the telephone. It’s a place where you can address an issue in 2 minutes rather than bouncing a string mail back and forth 20 times to resolve something simple. It’s a place where you are not cc’d, Bcc’d or even forwarded useless, untimely information. There is no spam *gasp* in your conversation and you can in worst-case follow up with a simple bullet point email to “cover your ass!” [If need be.]

The phone is your friend. It’s the place you spent hours chatting to girlfriends, boyfriends and family in your youth. A place where you can laugh and even entertain the quiet moments, between words and thoughts. It’s the place you can enjoy people ‘umming’ and ‘ahhing’ to your voice. The phone gives you instant satisfaction and recognition.

This is a call for action. It’s a call to return to the decades before Snapchat and pick up the phone. Cut through the bullshit. Take a chance. Can you hear that ringing?? Answer the call.

Recent Update: It has become clear that more and more of my clients now are responding to mail with a call and making more calls in order to re-establish a missing feeling and ACTUALLY speed up the pace of their business. Voice is and always will be, quicker than your fingers.

Innovation and disruption labs exposed.

GROWING PAINS INNOVATION AND DISRUPTION LABS

At first Google ruined our perception of culture and set standards so ridiculously high that most business in South Africa doesn’t even attempt to fix their culture because the bar has been set so high. Now with their skunkwork’s “Solve for X” and the acquisition of Idealab Google have outsourced the smart thinking and can afford to hire the best minds in the world to help solve problems most of us don’t even know are problems yet. This should not stop even the smallest business from being innovative and disruptive in their immediate space. But what is Innovation and disruption besides the trendy terms that are thrown around and leadership conferences?

 

Its important to get your head around that fact that all disruptors are innovators, but not all innovators are disruptors. A disruptive technology or idea literraly changes the way we think, behave and buy and can influence countless people to experience something new in their lives. Innovation can do the same thing but more often than not, is incremental and has a smaller impact on the general populus but does simplify, speed up and improve something to justify the change.

 

The next imporant fact is that you are more than likely not going to be the ground breaking innovator in your industry and your opposition will be first to market. And thats perfectly okay. In Adam Grant’s book “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World” he beautifully explains how marketing researchers Peter Golder and Gerard Tellis compared the success of companies that were either pioneers or settlers.

 

The pioneers were first to market: the initial company to develop or sell a product. The settlers were slower to launch and waited until the pioneers had created a market before entering it. When Golder and Tellis analyzed hundreds of brands in three dozen different product categories, they found a staggering difference in failure rates: 47 percent for pioneers, compared with just 8 percent for settlers. Pioneers were about six times more likely to fail than settlers. Even when the pioneers did survive, they only captured an average of 10 percent of the market, compared with 28 percent for settlers. Feel better?

 

When you see disruptive innovations coming from outside your organization you have 3 options:

1.     Option 1: Chase the market

2.     Option 2: Find new markets based on your expertise

3.     Option 3: A non-productive approach, to deny that the disruptive innovation will affect you market at all and continue business as usual. Lets all bury our heads in the sand, shall we?

 

When you learn of a radical new invention that threatens to disrupt your business and market, do not ignore it and don’t “insulate” against these disruptive threats and try preserving your current business model. Don’t be afraid to educate the market if the move is happening especially if you are leading the charge.

 

So how should you bake innovation into your company?

 

At the pharmaceutical giant Merck, CEO Kenneth Frazier decided to motivate his executives to take a more active role in leading innovation and change. He asked them to do something radical: generate ideas that would put Merck out of business. His executives worked in groups, pretending to be one of Merck’s top competitors. His team developed ideas for drugs that would crush theirs and key markets they had missed. Then, their challenge was to reverse their roles and figure out how to defend against these threats as Merck.

 

This is referred to as a “Kill the company” exercise. Its super powerful as it reframes a gain-framed activity in terms of losses. When deliberating about innovation opportunities, the leaders weren’t inclined to take risks. When they considered how their competitors could put them out of business, they realized that it was a risk not to innovate. The urgency of innovation was apparent

Running an innovation lab or disruption session in your business is a great starting point. Start with some hard-hitting questions that address what actions might your competitors take tomorrow that would keep you awake at night. Other questions you can pose your team are as follows:

 

 

a.     What new technology could potentially destroy our business model?

b.    What new legislation/law could potentially destroy our business model?

c.     What's happening in another part of the world that you could adopt and adapt in your environment?

d.    What are some of the disruptive changes in your industry that might serve as the source of innovation for you and your company?

e.    What are the key emerging technologies, and how are they being used inside and outside your industry, company, and region to create proprietary advantage?

f.      Is there new business models emerging that you can adopt or adapt to deliver radical improvements in the way you and others do business?

g.     Can you expand not just your "share of market" but also your "share of wallet" by adding new business models—for example, if you currently have a product business, can you add information, services, or solutions?

h.    Can you expand into adjacent businesses by either taking over activities that used to be done by someone else in your industry, expanding into new markets, or adding new products?

i.      Are there fragmented industries where significant value can be delivered through consolidation?

j.      Are there shifts in power with an entry or exit of a key player or consolidation of several players, which threaten your existing position or create opportunities to partner in your existing business or enter a new one?

k.     Are new markets or businesses emerging in other parts of the world that create opportunities or threats?

l.      Are there opportunities to create value by outsourcing or offshoring activities that you currently perform inside your organization?

m.   Is there activities that you currently source from outside that you should be doing inside to create proprietary advantage?

n.    Is there impending or shifts in regulation, political power, or society that threaten to disrupt entrenched power bases and provide opportunities for new entrants?

o.    Where is the greatest complexity now?

p.    What are the most “emotion-generating/engaging” service attributes you can offer that you could never satisfy?

 

It is never a bad idea to throw in a PEST or SWOT analysis into the mix to thicken out the risk elements. Always think of worst-case scenario first and work your way towards a winning strategy. Successful entrepreneurs are able to recognize patterns before an opportunity takes shape and search for ideas at the intersection of markets, industries, and emerging technologies. Look for business models that work well in one market and can be adapted and applied in another.

 

An innovation workshop is never the only step to creating disruption in your business or market place. The stages you should try including are:

 

a.    Problem identification (customer journeys for anywhere between 1 month and 1 year)

a.    Clarify and challenge the biases and business models in your firm and in your industry

b.    Analysis and research; always have facts and figures as the basis for decision-making.

a.    Listen to—and learn from—the market: Identify sources of significant problems that cannot be solved using today's product and service offerings. Focus first on the problem—not the solution. Be sure that you don't just listen to your current customers.

c.     Design thinking stages (internal and collaborative); this helps you discover new product ideas.

d.    Unpacking the designs into options, road maps and feasibility.

e.    The decision making process.

f.      Assessment of capability and resource gap analysis.

a.    Identify important global and local trends that signal potential revolutionary shifts in customer behaviour

g.     The case for a business plan with revenue and value potential.

h.    The narrative for staff and the market.

i.      Design and implementation (includes assigning all your required resources)

j.      Testing the ecosystem.

k.     Launch and iteration.

 

Labs like these should take place on a set agreed frequency and adding external people for a unique POV adds a rich layer of brains that doesn’t have the same industry bias’ that your people do and broaden your perspective.

 

Here are a few tips on Innovation ideas and disruption workshops that spark original ideas:

 

·      Run an innovation tournament.

o   Welcoming suggestions on any topic at any time, doesn’t capture the attention of busy people.

o   Innovation tournaments are highly efficient for collecting a large number of novel ideas and identifying the best ones.

o   Instead of a suggestion box, send a focused call for ideas to solve a particular problem or meet an untapped need.

o   Give employees three weeks to develop proposals, and then have them evaluate one another’s ideas, advancing the most original submissions to the next round.

o   The winners receive a budget, a team, and the relevant mentoring and sponsorship to make their ideas a reality.

·      Picture yourself as the enemy.

o   People often fail to generate new ideas due to a lack of urgency.

o   You can create urgency by implementing the “kill the company” exercise [Stolen from Lisa Bodell, CEO of Futurethink.]

o   Gather a group together and invite them to spend an hour brainstorming about how to put the organization out of business—or decimate its most popular product, service, or technology.

o   Then, hold a discussion about the most serious threats and how to convert them into opportunities to transition from defence to offense.

·      The Pitch:

o   Invite employees from different functions and levels to pitch ideas.

o   At DreamWorks Animation, even accountants and lawyers are encouraged and trained to present movie ideas.

o   This kind of creative engagement can add skill variety to work, making it more interesting for employees while increasing the organization’s access to new ideas.

o   Involving employees in pitching has another benefit: When they participate in generating ideas, they adopt a creative mind-set that leaves them less prone to false negatives, making them better judges of their colleagues’ ideas.

·      Hold an opposite day.

o   Since it’s often hard to find the time for people to consider original viewpoints, one of the smart practices is to have “opposite day” in the boardroom and at conferences.

o   Executives and staff divide into groups, and each chooses an assumption, belief, or area of knowledge that is widely taken for granted.

o   Each group asks, “When is the opposite true?” and then delivers a presentation on their ideas.

·      Word Banishment

o   Ban the words like, love, and hate.

o   At the non-profit DoSomething.org, CEO Nancy Lublin forbade employees from using the words like, love, and hate, because they make it too easy to give a visceral response without analysing it.

o   Employees aren’t allowed to say they prefer one Web page over another; they have to explain their reasoning with statements like “This page is stronger because the title is more readable than the other options.”

o   This motivates people to contribute new ideas rather than just rejecting existing ones.”

·      Welcome criticism.

o   It’s hard to encourage dissent if you don’t practice what you preach.

o   When you receive an email criticizing your performance in an important meeting, copying it to the entire company sends a clear message you welcome negative feedback.

o   By inviting employees to criticize you publicly, you can set the tone for people to communicate more openly even when their ideas are unpopular.

·      Shift from exit interviews to entry interviews.

o   Instead of waiting to ask for ideas until employees are on their way out the door, start seeking their insights when they first arrive.

o   By sitting down with new hires during onboarding, you can help them feel valued and gather novel suggestions along the way.

o   Ask what brought them in the door and what would keep them at the firm, and challenge them to think like culture detectives.

o   They can use their insider-outsider perspectives to investigate which practices belong in a museum and which should be kept, as well as potential inconsistencies between espoused and enacted values.

 

In summary, throwing innovation and disruption workshops may be seen as a cool new thing but they stand for ground zero in change for big business and can be leveraged to unlock creativity for youur business and for customers and their wider community. Build an innovation lab to make sure you do not underestimate the value it can deliver.

21 Signs You Should Invest In Business Coaching.

Growing Pains business coaching reasons to coach

Running your own business is hard. It's lonely at the top. Often business owners just wish they had someone [who isnt a friend or spouse] to just give open, honest and objective advice on what they should do and not do next. That's where business coaching plays a vital role in your organisation. If you aren't even sure what business coaching is work out how many of these 21 points resonate with you?

  1. You can't determine what’s really important on a daily basis and aren’t even focusing on the ones you feel are. You are unsure what to do next and even what sequence to follow.

  2. You aren’t seeing the blind spots and feel you need someone to clue you into things you don’t know exist

  3. There is no one that you are accountable to and feel that having to answer to someone will keep you on track.

  4. You say yes to every opportunity and aren’t chasing the most fruitful ones.

  5. There is no focus on your weaknesses and you aren’t developing your strengths further.

  6. Your company lacks a differentiating factor that will advance your growth quicker and separate you from the pack.

  7. Your team are looking for a strong leader with powerful techniques to improve their own skills and keep them motivated.

  8. The business is treading water and just not growing fast enough and not reaching the potential you knew was there when you started the company.

  9. On a daily basis you are not happy at your workplace and are making excuses to not engage with clients and staff. You are looking for clarity, joy and increased success.

  10. There is no objective soundboard in your life that you can bounce ideas and frustrations off.

  11. Decisions are being made with no confidence and you are tired of making these choices alone. You know that what you are doing has been done before and just want someone to show you how.

  12. There is still passion in the business but you are finding it impossible to articulate this to potential clients and often find that people don’t really understand what it is you do. You lack a clear message and a juicy desirable brand.

  13. The constant “No’s” have bruised your ego and confidence. Getting new business is harder than you thought and you are too exhausted to keep trying.

  14. Your income is a roller coaster with great months and terrible month back to back, making it impossible to plan for stability and giving your team a feeling of insecurity.

  15. You really want to make more money and don’t know why its taken this long and aren’t sure if its meant to be this hard. Questioning yourself has become almost a daily occurrence.

  16. Marketing and cold hard sales are not your friend, but you would like them to be.

  17. You have heard of this myth called “work-life balance” and are desperately looking for a little of this.

  18. Comparing your business to other businesses has become a pastime and opposition are always quicker off the mark than you are.

  19. Your version of success has become muddy and your goal dates have come and gone more than a few times.

  20. There are no set processes in the daily operations and you keep repeating yourself to your team and making the same mistakes over and over.

  21. You’re serving everyone but yourself and you want better clients and don’t even know what your ideal client looks like.

If you don’t know how to build a business and are looking for the "Ah-ha" moments that will make your company a great company and getting a job is not an option, then you are ready for a business coach. Invest in your business. Invest in you and receive incredible value and freedom.

How To Identify A Team Players In Your Agency

Growing Pains Consulting and coaching

The best leaders seek out A players for every area of their business. This is not a problem for the most successful and profitable businesses. But your company, especially if it's a startup, might not have the financial ability to hire A players for every position. So what can you do to find these people on a shoestring budget and how do you recognize an A player? What are the common competencies and traits they possess that make them more qualified than their peers? 

This excerpt is taken from “The Marketing Agency Blueprint: The Handbook for Building Hybrid PR, SEO, Content, Advertising, and Web Firms” by Paul Roetzer. It covers the personality traits that you should be looking for when hiring A team players.


"Although intelligence and experience are key, their character, internal drive, personalities, and innate abilities are the intangibles that truly differentiate great candidates from good ones. Let’s take a look at some of the most desirable competencies and traits of marketing agency A players: 


Analytical: They make quick decisions based on logic and reason. They love data, and use it to educate, build consensus, and drive action. They are measurement geeks, and look to apply critical analysis to agency activities, and they integrate it into every phase of client campaigns. 


Balanced: They maintain a strong work-life balance. They have personal interests and hobbies that regularly present opportunities to unwind and recharge. This keeps stress levels controlled and energy high. Balance becomes more critical as professionals move up into management levels, and their responsibilities and stress levels grow. 
      

Confident: They put in the extra time and energy needed to gain knowledge and experience, which translates into confidence and composure. Confidence is not to be confused with arrogance and entitlement, which are two of the most undesirable traits of an agency professional.

Creative: They bring innovative approaches and thinking to projects. They have an innate ability to work within standard systems while efficiently integrating original ideas and strategies that strengthen the agency and client campaigns.
        

Detail-oriented: They are incredibly organized and thorough in all communications and activities, which instills tremendous confidence in their clients, peers, and managers. They rarely make careless mistakes. Their attention to detail enables them to excel at time management and project management.
        

Focused: They avoid multitasking in favor of concentrated effort. They know priorities at all times and work efficiently to deliver. They have the ability to shut off distractions, and are often the most productive and efficient workers.
        

Intrinsically motivated: As defined in Daniel Pink’s classic book, Drive, intrinsically motivated people seek: autonomy, the desire to direct their own lives; mastery, the urge to get better and better at something that matters; and purpose, the yearning to contribute to something greater than themselves.
        

The “it” factor: They maintain a strong presence and positive aura. They command attention when they walk into a room and exude confidence without an air of arrogance. They have an intangible element that cannot be defined, but it makes them uniquely capable of succeeding in an agency. They are born leaders.
        

Listener: They excel at listening and understanding the needs of others. They are adept at making others the focus of conversations.
        

Positive: They bring a positive energy to the agency that is uplifting and encouraging to the entire team. They make favorable first impressions. People want to be around them and work with them.
        

Relationship-builder: They know that strong relationships are the key to success in business, and proactively build connections with peers, clients, media, partners, and vendors. They are strong communicators who do the little things that matter, such as sending personal notes to recognize achievements and milestones. 
        

Risk-taker: They take calculated risks. They do not let fear of failure hold them back, and, as a result, they tend to be more aggressive and proactive professionals on behalf of the agency and its clients.
        

Social web savvy: They monitor and participate in forums and social networks relevant to their interests and the industry. They engage with peers and influencers, and they maintain a professional presence on all social networks that positively represents themselves and their agencies.
        

Strategic: They are capable of fully assessing situations, and considering short- and long-term outcomes. They know how decisions and activities affect different audiences, and how they work to achieve business goals. They make seemingly unrelated connections others commonly miss.
        

Team player: They function extremely well within a team environment, but they also excel when working independently. They always seek opportunities to support team members and encourage collaborative learning.
        

Tech-savvy: They stay immersed in technology news and trends. They continually evaluate emerging products and solutions for opportunities to improve efficiency and performance.
        

Writer: They possess exceptional writing skills and the capability to clearly and concisely articulate their thoughts. They use creative and technically sound writing to produce powerful and effective communications. Copywriting is one of the most valuable competencies in a marketing-agency professional." 

WHY YOUR COMPANY NEEDS A PEOPLE STRATEGY.

Growing pains people spillly

People are critical for any business to effectively transform it’s strategy into action. Ensuring that you have the right people to drive your business strategy is what will differentiate you from your competitors and ensure that existing customers are retained and that new customers are easily acquired.

People buy from other people, not companies.

How do you ensure that you have an effective people strategy in place? In order to acquire, retain, develop, reward and engage your people successfully, you must have a clear People Strategy in place that is closely aligned to your Overall Business Strategy.

Not only must this People Strategy be legally defensible and robust, it must also differentiate you from other companies and ensure that you remain an employer of choice as the demand and war for Talent escalates.

Your People Strategy will help you to effectively navigate calm and choppy waters and ensure that the hunt for profits does not distract you from the importance of attracting, retaining and growing your people.

 

The 5 components of a People Strategy are as follows:

1. Talent Acquisition

Use the correct Media Platforms to source the right talent
Shortlist the correct people using cost-effective, scientific methods
Interview the most suitable candidates and differentiate the best from the good based on your company’s culture and requirements
Recruit not just based on the job-match but on potential and cultural fit to the business as well
On-board the person and set them up for success in their new role

2. Talent Retention

Use effective scientific methods to measure Engagement and ensure that your people remain “raving fans” of the business
Maintain healthy relationships throughout the business, at all levels, across departments and externally as well
Allow communication, feedback and learning to drive continuous improvement and keep the company fresh, vibrant and relevant
Get feedback from your customers to encourage change, learning and growth and to identify new opportunities to thrive

3. People Development

Ensure that your people remain up-to-date with the market, legislation, new technology and developments
Maximize your BEE and Skills Development funding
Introduce Learnership and Internships to boost Tax refunds and improve people retention through growth and development
Use technology to encourage new ways of learning

4. Reward and Growth

Ensure that the way you reward and recognize outstanding performance does not cause competition, in-fighting and disagreement
Catch people doing the “right” thing and reward them with prizes that they appreciate and enjoy
Provide opportunities for your top people to grow and develop in the business and realize their potential internally

5. Performance Management

Establish a high performance culture and excellence mentality that ensures that you attract and retain “A” players.
Be brave enough to help “B” players to up their game and ensure that “C” players are moved out graciously, legally and professionally
Hold people accountable, ensure clarity of purpose and help your people to understand how their tasks contribute to the greater good of the business
Set tangible, realistic goals that are understandable, achievable and ambitious
Celebrate victory and recognize excellence.

 

In order to create a People Strategy we, at Growing Pains, can help facilitate a simple process as follows:

  • An initial 2 hour discussion will help to assess where the company currently finds itself and establish where it would like to be in the short, medium and long term.
  • The next step is an Audit that will assess all the elements of the People Value Chain and determine what is working, what can be improved, what should be removed and what should be introduced.
  • The creation of a people strategy roll out and implementation plan.
  • A monthly 2-hour session to keep the alignment across all levels will ensure that change is managed effectively as the People Strategy is implemented
  • Ongoing reporting and feedback will track improvements and measure ROI

The People Strategy helps to build the team spirit of Human Resources as it provides the platform for the communication in HR and it provides the basic playground for the discussions about the future of Human Resources. The story of the HR Strategy has to be attractive as it builds a common understanding to the keywords in the strategy and the HR employees do interpret them the same way.

The People Strategy takes many rounds of discussions to evolve, but the result can be amazing and when the HR Management Team does not allow the people Strategy story to disappear, the investment returns quickly.

For more information contact us and we will gladly assist you.

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