Wednesday, March 25, 2009

You Have This Window of Opportunity Called a Crisis. Better Move Fast

Do you have the right people around you now? Chances are you don’t.

“When you have that window of opportunity called a crisis, move as quickly as you can, get as much done as you can. There’s a momentum for change that’s very compelling,” Anne Mulcahy, Xerox Chairwoman and CEO told the New York Times Sunday.

Rupert Murdoch, head of another global behemoth that still considers itself nimble, seems to agree: “The world is changing very fast. Big will not beat small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow.”

“Adaptability and flexibility. We have to change all the time,” continues Mulcahy. “The people who really do the best are those who actually sense it, enjoy it almost, the lack of definition around their roles and what they can contribute.”

Sounds great, Anne. That’s the entrepreneurial spirit that Xerox and many other great American companies were built upon. But, how do you train HR departments and company recruiters – traditionally the champions of internal process -- to find good people who relish “the lack of definition around their roles and contribution?” Anyone? Anyone at all?

That’s right. Most can’t do it because they have to fill “slots” and “silos” that were budgeted under the company’s legacy business model. They want people who can “fit in” to the pre-existing “culture.” That’s HR speak for: Stay in your box. Don’t look outside your box or else you’ll have a pink slip in your box.
Says Mulcahy: “We’ve learned a lot about identifying failure quickly. As much as it’s sometimes hard to make choices about where you invest, it’s equally hard to make choices about where you don’t invest and what you eliminate.”

Not all failures are equal, cautions William Davidow, of venture capital firm, Mohr Davidow Ventures.

A company (or project) might fail because its timing was bad or because the entrepreneur was a poor manager. Davidow says that despite a recent Harvard Business School survey to the contrary he expects a higher follow-on success rate for failed entrepreneurs than first-timers, and a serial entrepreneur will find it easier than a first-timer to get in the door to meet him. “I would want to know why the least deal failed and what the person learned from it.”

The same thinking should be applied to managers and top brass of media, information and technology companies. To find the leaders who are going to lead you out of this financial (and decision-making) deep freeze we’re in, you’ve got to seek out those who’ve made a few stumbles along the way….It’s more about what they learned than how well they could (or couldn’t) cover up those mistakes and re-assign blame.

Mulcahy is a rarity among Fortune 500 CEOs who has run a human resource department. She acknowledges that most HR departments don’t get useful and honest feedback from employees and they tend to get hung up on fairness above all else.

“Not everybody is created equal,” she says, “and it’s equally important for companies to identify high potentials, accelerate their development and pay them more. I think companies tend to get confused with processes they think are fairest and that is not what companies need.”

Amen to that.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Virtual Events Are Enhancing, Not Replacing, Live Events

Savvy marketers are fine-tuning event ROI despite lousy economy and corporate travel restrictions.

Even in today’s crappy economic climate, live events are a cost-effective marketing and business building strategy. According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, companies spend five times as much ($1,039 vs. $215) to identify and contact a prospect in the field as they do to meet face-to-face at a trade show.

As BtoB's Ellis Booker quipped in his latest Op Ed piece , businesspeople have a biological need to be around other business people in order to do business. “Make no mistake, events aren’t going away – even in today’s dismal economy. In-person gatherings are an essential step for moving business relationships and commerce along, not to mention educating audiences and collecting qualified leads. “
Booker is right. Business people are still going to be networking and shaking hands. They’re just going to be using technology more often, before, during and after events to open doors, close the deal and measure results.

Pre-event exhibitor scouting and due diligence can be done more effectively online. Many aspects of product demos can be done online. And hybrid events – in which live events broadcast to a larger audience at multiple locations off-site – can expose your event to attendees who never would have attended otherwise.
So while booth space, attendance and sponsorship may be down this year, the quality of attendees will be up (a lot more decision-makers and a lot fewer lackeys). That means fewer tire-kicker business cards to wade through if you’re an exhibitor and fewer inexperienced company reps to get in our way if you’re a buyer seeking a solution. Either way, that spells ROI and a lot fewer cancelled flights, bad meals and lost luggage.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Teaching Your In-Box Who’s Boss

Stop wasting time, eliminate guilt and get more done. Advice from the experts.
TO: Readers
FROM: Hank B
RE: E-mail management

FYI: Farhad Manjoo had an interesting take in yesterday’s New York Times about the age-old problem of handling (or not feeling guilty about ignoring) the deluge of daily e-mail that’s dominating our work and personal lives these days. Borrowing heavily from productivity gurus Merlin Mann and David Allen, Manjoo offered some good tips for making your online life less stressful and more productive. Next week, I’ll offer up some snarky responses to folks who call you on the phone (or stop you in the hall) to say: “Hey, did you get my e-mail?”

Expert suggestions for better e-mail mojo:
Limit Your Time With E-Mail. Turn off all auto-notifications that alert you to incoming mail, and if you must check mail while you’re on the go, keep it to a minimum.
Clear Your In-Box. Set aside an hour or two to respond to every important message that has dogged you in the last couple months (anything older than that is too ancient to bother with).
Archive It. Most e-mail messages require no action or response on your part. Skim through these missives (or leave them unread), then shoot them into your archive and forget them.
Respond. If the e-mail message calls for an easy answer, send it. David Allen, author of Getting Things Done has a rule of thumb that comes in handy here: If responding is going to take two minutes or less, you’re better off doing it now than procrastinating.
Forward It. If the message is better handled by someone else — your boss, your sister, anyone but you — send it off to that person, then archive it.
Hold It For Later. OK. Some e-mail messages demand complicated answers that require some thought. Other messages simply require information (or permission/approval) not yet available. Don’t pull the trigger finger too soon. Let it sit until you get the ammunition you need.

Amen. It’s your inbox and no one else’s. You own it. You decide where, when and how to respond to all this missives demanding your attention. Thanks Farhad.