Black Monday

Posted by stevesipress on January 2, 2013

New York Jets fan

On Sunday, my beloved New York Jets football team ended their dismal season in grandly-disappointing fashion by being blown out by their division’s last-place team.

I’ve been a loyal and rabid Jets fan all my life, and of course I would never root for them to lose.

But — I can’t say I’ve been too disappointed over the past two weeks when they looked terrible in defeat… because if they had won, there was a chance that their owner wouldn’t have realized what kind of serious trouble the franchise was in.

(The 2012 Jets have been described as a “circus,” a “disaster” and a “laughingstock,” among other things. Experts and fans have called for drastic changes to be made both on and off the field, including dumping their General Manager, Head Coach and Quarterback.)

Sure enough, the day after the 2012 season ended has been dubbed “Black Monday” because of the no-less-than 11 NFL GM’s and Head Coaches (including the Bears’ Lovie Smith) who lost their jobs.

Even though the Jets inexplicably made what Adam Schein called their “worst move of 2012” (and that’s saying an awful lot) by foolishly deciding to keep their Head Coach for another season, they did have the sense to fire their bumbling GM (with their sub-standard QB to follow, no doubt).

When he made the move, at least Jets owner Woody Johnson showed that he has the most basic understanding of proper public relations for a company in turmoil, admitting the team’s recent failure in his statement:

“Like all Jets fans, I am disappointed with this year’s results. However, I am confident that this change will best position our team for greater success going forward.”

This is simply “Public Relations 101.”

Hopefully, YOU never make such a mess of YOUR company that you need to make drastic management changes and face a flood of customer complaints. But if you ever do, you must pay attention to the most basic PR principle:

Step 1: Admit your shortcomings.

All too often, we see companies trying to fool themselves and everyone else during their times of trouble by acting as if (or worse, actually stating that) “it’s business as usual.”

As a result, those companies often suffer unnecessarily because of that denial, as their customers lose trust in them and eventually flee. Business expert Jim Collins explained this and much more in “How The Mighty Fall.”

As for me, I know about denial, because I suffered from it in my personal life for years…

Although I had refused to smoke or drink or do drugs all through my high school days, I gave in to “peer pressure” and drank my first beer as a freshman in college. Unfortunately, I then spent the rest of my college and law school days, along with the next several years, sowing my wild oats… living with the youthful craziness I had denied myself all through high school.

All that time, even though it was painfully obvious to everyone around me (AND they let me know it), I actually denied that I had a drinking problem.

Now YOU may never have had a serious problem with alcohol or drugs – or even your business. But you are probably still aware that the first step towards beating any problem is:

Admit you have one.

At this time of year, with 2012 ending and 2013 just starting, it’s a logical time to review where you are now, as compared to where you wanted to be when you made your 2012 plans a year ago.

If your 2012 results fell short of what you wanted, then now is a perfect time to assess the situation and make the adjustments necessary to fix your business for 2013.

And remember: The first step is to admit – to yourself AND your customers, clients, patients or members – that things are not as great as you want them to be in your business.

So… How do you know if your business is “sick”?

Other than the obvious benchmarks of revenue, profits and number of clients, customers, patients or members, here are just a few possible warning signs…

  • Customers are complaining
  • Employees, strategic partners and/or vendors are unhappy
  • Quality issues keep cropping up
  • Your product and/or service deliveries are delayed

Now here’s the good news…

Even if you’re having any or all of these issues in your business, you can still right your ship and come out stronger than ever.

Just remember…

The best thing you can do is to recognize and admit that you have problems, apologize to people, offer to make it up to them and ask them to hang in with you – especially your “champion” customers and ones who have been loyal to you the longest.

The worst thing you can do is to ignore your problems, not communicate honestly or quickly about them with your customers, clients, patients or members, and act like everything is just “business as usual.”

Here’s to a great 2013 for you, your business and your family!

Are you anywhere near the Chicago area?

Come join us next Monday or Tuesday to learn more specific, proven strategies and tactics to beat the odds and grow your business in 2013. For details and to RSVP, go to: http://www.SmallBizSeminar.com

Help Wanted

Posted by stevesipress on December 26, 2012

drowning help

In recent posts, we’ve been following the turmoil at a local Chicago corporation, GKIC (formerly “Glazer-Kennedy Insider’s Circle”). It’s been a lively discussion, with some thoughtful and constructive comments (mixed in with a lot of angry ones).

(Catch up on previous posts by clicking on them in the “Recent Posts” list to the left.)

Last week, Ben Glass posted a comment saying he’s “Not sure the old GKIC will ever be returned…GKIC is trying mightily to become something different” with a link to the online job posting for their new President.

If you clicked on that link one week ago, when Ben posted it, you would have seen a red “Apply Now” button. But if you click on that link now, you’ll see a message that reads, “Bummer. That job is no longer available.” (Don’t you just love everything online that thinks it has to be hip and cool?)

The listing on www.TheLadders.com states “POSITION FILLED.”

This is good news for the overall economy (one more job filled), and for the job seeker who got the $304K/yr + stock options position – if it’s true.

And it’s also good news for small business owners and entrepreneurs around the world who look to GKIC for direction and help in growing our businesses.

But I have to wonder…

If GKIC did in fact find a new President nearly a week ago (AmericasJobExchange.com states “This job is no longer active” and lists the “End Date” as December 20, 2012), why hasn’t anyone heard anything about it?

Not a single email about it. No mention on the company website. Nothing on the “official” Facebook page. Not even a tweet. And most definitely not a letter, fax or phone call to any of its members, customers or strategic partners.

It’s a veritable cacophony of multi-media silence!

More amazing than the complete lack of communication about this momentous event in the history of the company would be the fact that they actually found even a single qualified applicant, based on the job description:

GKIC President job description

And even more amazing to me is that while the job doesn’t require any knowledge of or experience in Direct Response Marketing, the candidate is required to hold an MBA from a “top school” (and they probably don’t mean the best possible school for an entrepreneur, the “School Of Hard Knocks”).

You may be a solo-preneur or business owner who’s still in the near-startup mode of trying to do practically everything yourself, but if you keep at it and take the right steps to grow your business, at some point you’ll be looking for a President of your own. Or, you may own a larger business where you are now, or have been in the past, looking for a President.

With that in mind, here’s an opportunity for an interesting and educational exercise…

If you were writing the job description for the new President of GKIC, what would you require? Would your ideal candidate to lead the turnaround have to be…

  • A serious student and fan of Dan Kennedy?
  • An experienced and accomplished information marketer?
  • A proven expert in direct response, relationship-based marketing?

…or any other qualifications mysteriously absent from GKIC’s list?

And what qualifications would you NOT require, that GKIC did?

Join the discussion by posting your comment below.

Can You Hear Me Now?

Posted by stevesipress on December 19, 2012

thumbs down

Some businesses do an exceptional job of paying attention to customer feedback. Many discover that this practice becomes a path to phenomenal success.

…but other businesses choose instead to ignore negative feedback from their customers – or even deny that anything is wrong. Unfortunately, such denial often leads to the demise of the company.

Sadly, this is a common problem for business owners.

The fact is…

Even though you may think you’re doing a great job and that your business is on the right track… if your customers, clients, patients or members don’t agree, you’re in danger of losing them – unless you pay attention to their feedback, listen carefully and make some changes.

When I see a company that I like heading in the wrong direction, I express my opinion to try to help them get back on the right track. So do many others, as evidenced by a flood of passionate comments on my blog posts of the past few weeks directed at a company they feel has disappointed them.

(Catch up on previous posts and read the comments by clicking on the links in the list to the left.)

But for most people, it’s natural for people to avoid conflict and not voice their displeasure and concern. That’s why not all displeased customers are as helpful as I am to companies that make mistakes.

Michael Leboeuf wrote about those “nice” customers in his classic, “How To Win Customers And Keep Them For Life”:

“I’m a nice customer…You all know me! I’m the one who never complains, no matter what kind of service I get… I never kick…never nag…I never criticize. And I wouldn’t dream of making a scene, as I’ve seen some people do in public places. I think that’s uncalled for. No, I’m the nice customer. And I’ll tell you who else I am…I’m the customer who never comes back!”

Dan Kennedy, the world’s #1 small business marketing expert, often cautions against the risky practice of ignoring your customers, referencing a survey by the customer service research firm, TARP, about why customers stop doing business with a company:

  • 1% die
  • 3% move away
  • 5% develop other friendships
  • 9% leave because of competitive reasons
  • 14% are dissatisfied with the product
  • 68% quit because of an attitude of indifference towards the customer by the owner, manager or an employee

Okay, so you get the point. All customer feedback is a gift to a company.

So how about your business? Are you consistently seeking out, listening and responding to feedback – especially from your best customers?

Here are some customer service facts that may interest you…

According to Lee Resource, Inc.:

  • For every customer who bothers to complain, 26 other customers remain silent.
  • It takes 12 positive service incidents to make up for one negative incident.
  • The average “wronged customer” will tell 8-l6 people about it. Over 20% will tell more than 20.
  • 91% of unhappy customers will not willingly do business with you again.
  • 70% of complaining customers will do business with you again if you resolve the complaint in their favor.
  • 95% of complaining customers will do business with you again if you resolve the complaint instantly.

According to GfK NOP:

  • Reducing customer defections can boost profits by 25-85%.
  • In 73% of cases, the organization made no attempt to persuade dissatisfied customers to stay; even though 35% said that a simple apology would have prevented them from moving to the competition.

According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs:

  • Happy customers who have their problems resolved will tell 4-6 people about their positive experience.
  • It costs five to six times as much to get a new (first time) customer as it does to keep a current one.
  • Customer loyalty can be worth up to ten times as much as a single purchase.

According to “Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner:

A typical business hears from only about 4% of its dissatisfied customers. 96% just go away, and 91% will never come back.

As Bill Gates said…

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”

Have you been avoiding, ignoring or dismissing complaints, or denying major problems in your business even when they’re fairly obvious to your customers?

If so, I hope I’ve helped you recognize the increasingly-fragile nature of customer loyalty in our current economy. …And I also hope I’ve convinced you of the importance of taking steps to improve your customer relationships.

If you want help improving your customer relationships and building a better business, try our FREE test drive and gain access to an amazing wealth of resources, tools and coaching.

SSSMarketingUniversity.com

 

 

And please leave a comment below to let me know what you think.

How To Turn Around A Company

Posted by stevesipress on December 12, 2012

Business Turnaround

In recent posts, we’ve been discussing the troubled company, GKIC (formerly “Glazer-Kennedy Insider’s Circle”).

(Catch up on previous posts by clicking on them in the “Recent Posts” list to the left.)

Dozens of current and former members, strategic partners and employees have commented on my posts with their opinions and observations, and many more have communicated their concerns and complaints to me in private.

But very few have offered suggestions on what GKIC should do to turn itself around.

As Anthony D’Angelo says…

If you have time to whine and complain about something then you have the time to do something about it.

Here are a few of those who offered solutions…

Susan Kirkpatrick: “I recommend leadership at GKIC to complete ‘The FIVE Most Important Questions Self-Assessment Tool’ as originally created by the Peter F. Drucker Foundation.”

Rob Anspach: “GKIC lost the trust they had with their members, by bringing in someone who was an outsider. Now, they have some serious problems to face. Restoring that TRUST should be first and foremost a priority. They need to reach out to people… and offer an apology and make things right. They need to humble themselves.”

Jarrod Cash: “I love Dan Kennedy, Bill Glazer, Lee Milteer, but one look at the alphabet soup behind everyone else’s name there is enough to keep me away. CEO, COO CFO….. E-I-E-I-O….. that crap dooms most companies, just as Dan says in his old-school material.”

Phil Brakefield: “The business landscape is littered with the corpses of companies who became convinced their brand (MO, policies) was more important than their customers… The view even from 30,000 feet over the past year or so has looked more like Hiroshima than the GKIC we know and love. Looks to me like the fates have created for GKIC an opportunity to bring into play (on steroids) all the strategies it teaches it members about how to reactivate/re-energize lost followers.”

As the late, great Zig Ziglar taught…

Statistics suggest that when customers complain, business owners and managers ought to get excited about it. The complaining customer represents a huge opportunity for more business.

If you have been hearing any of these type of comments from your customers, clients or patients, you may not get excited, but you’ll want to make sure to pay attention so you don’t enter what business expert Jim Collins calls “Stage 3 of Decline: Denial of Risk and Peril.”

I spent some time as a Senior Business Analyst for a consulting firm that specialized in small business turnarounds, and I’ve helped dozens of companies engineer successful turnarounds, so I think I’m somewhat of an expert on this subject.

I’ll point to five sources of help I suggest for companies in Stage 3 of Decline…

1. Of course, there’s Jim Collins’ chart on page 77 of “How The Mighty Fall”, where he contrasts the attitudes and actions of leadership in companies heading in different directions.

Here’s the first item on the list…

On “Teams on the Way Down”:

“People shield those in power from grim facts, fearful of penalty and criticism for shining light on the harsh realities.”

On “Teams on the Way Up”:

“People bring forth unpleasant facts – “Come here, look, man, this is ugly” – to be discussed; leaders never criticize those who bring forth harsh realities.”

This point hits especially close to home for me, because even though it seemed like almost every member was complaining about the dangerous direction GKIC has been headed in over the past year-and-a-half or so, when I repeatedly voiced my opinion to GKIC leadership of troubling developments…

  • The CEO basically told me to shut up, because “loose lips sink ships;”
  • A GKIC attorney sent me a letter threatening me with legal action if I continued to make “disparaging remarks;”
  • Two corporate executives summoned me to a meeting so they could “set the rules of engagement” for me; and
  • In one of her last official acts, the former CEO actually threw me out of the last GKIC major event “for being negative”

You are likely to have a similar knee-jerk reaction when you hear customer complaints, but I urge you not to ignore them.

Instead, heed the advice of Hall Of Fame baseball manager Sparky Anderson…

I understand people who boo us. It’s like going to Broadway show, you pay for your tickets and expect to be entertained. When you’re not, you have a right to complain.

2. Another great resource for GKIC (and all business owners) is Dan Kennedy’s “No B.S. Trust-Based Marketing.”

3. A search on Amazon.com for “small business turnaround” books shows 103 results.

4. It just so happens that the Turnaround Management Association (www.Turnaround.org), the only international non-profit association dedicated to corporate renewal and turnaround management, has its international headquarters right here in Chicago.

And GKIC has one HUGE and rather obvious advantage that you and I don’t…

5. Dan Kennedy himself, the world’s foremost living small business-building expert, is a part of their team (although many long-time GKIC members and observers say they’ve seen very little evidence of that fact since the new ownership took over).

My #1 piece of advice for GKIC (and your company, if you’re also struggling) is to admit to yourself and everyone else (because they already know it, so it’s counter-productive to ignore or deny it) that there are major problems that call for fundamental changes, and then study and implement as many of Dan Kennedy’s teachings as possible.

When a struggling sports team gets a new owner, general manager or head coach, the new leader comes in and proclaims a dedication to change and rebuilding.

(Imagine how insulting and dangerous it would be for the new leader to ignore all of the warning signs and make no mention to its loyal fans and players that it realizes that fundamental changes need to be made!)

I am convinced that many of us long-time, loyal GKIC members are rooting for the company’s leadership to come to its senses.

  • We want its leadership to recognize and admit that the future of the company is in danger.
  • We want them to make the right fundamental changes to rebuild the trust of its members and avoid disaster.
  • And we want them to do it soon – before it’s too late.

If you are struggling to turn around or grow your business, try our FREE test drive and get access to some of the best resources, tools and coaches available anywhere.

Four Very Scary Words

Posted by stevesipress on December 5, 2012

denial of peril

Last week, we discussed the troubled company GKIC and how its freefall and recent ouster of its CEO relates to Jim Collins’ “Five Stages Of Decline.”

More than 20 new members, long-time members and former members shared their thoughts on the matter with me. Some said they saw it coming, some offered possible solutions. All agreed with me that things are fundamentally very wrong with GKIC.

You can review that post and the comments here.

And in case you were wondering which of “The Five Stages Of Decline” GKIC is in…

Yesterday, a full week after the departure of their former CEO, GKIC’s COO and CMO sent out an email to their members which made no acknowledgement of or apology for any troubles or missteps. Sandwiched around a list of “some of the new things you will be seeing” were these two statements:

  1. “As you might have already heard, Bette Tomaszewicz has decided to leave GKIC to pursue other opportunities outside of our industry.”
  2. “We continue to grow together and become stronger, as individuals and as a team….our success could not be without YOU!”

As a certified “Independent Business Advisor” of GKIC, I also received more than one communication from one of the company’s leaders over the past week that included a very scary and delusional four-word phrase: “it’s business as usual.”

I’m sure that phrase was meant to calm people down, just like when a police officer tries to clear an unruly mob from a gruesome murder scene by telling them, “Everything’s fine. Nothing to see here. Move along.”

But as Jim Collins explains in his best-selling book, “How The Mighty Fall,” these communications are clear signs that GKIC is at best in Stage 3: “Denial Of Risk And Peril.”

And that’s very troubling to those of us who are members, customers, supporters and fans of the company.

How could any leader inside a company which just ousted its CEO in a move so hasty that it didn’t even have an “interim” leader in place for about a week – and still has no long-term solution anywhere in sight – be so delusional or dishonest to say “we continue to grow together and become stronger” or to claim that “business as usual” is a good thing?

I’m all for “getting over the past” and “moving forward,” but shouldn’t that begin with being honest and aware of the present troubling circumstances?

As a life-long, loyal New York Jets fan, I can tell you that after yet another dismal performance by our team’s quarterback resulting in his mid-game benching, no Jets fan wants to hear, “Don’t worry. It’s business as usual.”

Instead, we want the team’s owners to tell us, “We know the team is in trouble, and we promise to make whatever major changes it takes to fix it.”

As one of GKIC’s certified “Independent Business Advisors,” I’ve spent much of the past four-plus years promoting the company and defending its actions. But that role has grown increasingly difficult since the new ownership took over in March 2011.

Since then, “business as usual,” from what I hear, has meant a consistent decline in overall membership and major event attendance, and an increase in customer complaints about the attitude and actions of the new management.

And most disturbing of all is how unhappy many long-time customers of the company like me are about the lack of respect shown for the company’s co-founder, Dan Kennedy, widely regarded as the #1 small business marketing expert alive today.

The CEO took the fall for all of this, much in the same way that a losing sports team fires its coach. But even the most casual observer has to see that the problem goes much deeper than that.

Bottom-line: I still believe that the company can be saved.

But that challenge needs to start with the company’s management being forthright and honest about its failures, and declaring its intention to make major changes in attitude, personnel and overall direction.

I, for one, am certainly rooting for that to happen – before it’s too late.

How about you? What’s your opinion?