Caution on Conventional Wisdom about Millennials (482 words)

Just as bald white male baby boomers are not all the same—neither are millennials. One would be wise in considering this in member recruitment and retention. To paint such a broad-brush stroke is to leave many behind. While everyone, every generation, every color wants value from their membership—not all are viewing your membership organization from the same kaleidoscope of value.

For several years now I have been reading the endless fountain of articles on understanding Generation Y. These articles talk about millennials growing up with hovering (helicopter) parents and being immersed in technology. They want among other things:

  • A seat at the C-suit table—NOW
  • Inclusion for all
  • Meaningful work within their jobs
  • Prefer cause related organizations
  • Entrepreneurial opportunity
  • Extreme experiences at corporate, association and society meetings
  • Online supported relationships near and far
  • A sharing economy rather than ownership of stuff
  • Freedom

Well now, who wouldn’t the above? Let’s face it, all generations (painting with my broad brush) desire the above—but do they?

Raising Millennial Children

First up, I have two millennial sons and I’ll categorically state that the above is not their job or association shopping list. Sure each might desire some of the above and yet each has different perspectives and desires. Heck, two millennial men from the same household do not agree on all of the above. With that, how in the world can the “generational gurus” state “millennials want X, Y and Z”?

In raising our Y Generation sons, my wife and I relied on authoritative help in “understanding age-appropriate behavior” which was also a broad-brush perspective. The assumption was that the child was being raised in a nurturing North American home. For the first year or two, the information was helpful but after that “child’s personality and parenteral influence” had a greater influence on behavior thereby leaving the authoritative help—less helpful.

Today’s Millennials Are Diverse

Generation Y, perhaps more than the generations that were before, have had easy opportunity to learn from far more resources that that of traditional education. As such, some embraced the opportunities and others did not. Some became aware without education, some unaware with education and some aware and educated. Each of the three paradigms delivers different perspective to the workforce. Add to that geographical, gender, athletics and other various endeavors and you have quite a diverse generation. To state that “millennials want X, Y or Z” is to speak from a lack of knowledge and understanding. Humans are individuals.

Regardless of whether you are hiring a millennial to work at your association or attempting to influence them to join your organization the core truth is this—not everybody is the same and to paint people with a broad-brush is to make erroneous assumptions. Value means different things to different people. Keep this in mind as you make the decisions that will affect your association, its staff and members.

Adapted from The Membership Strategy-Membership is Everybody’s Business to be published early 2018.

Member Retention through Relationship Bank Deposits (829 words)

Ultimately yours like most associations and societies are looking for net-member growth. Some do a great job keeping members but still lose many to attrition. Some are awesome at recruiting but tend to have a turnstile of members coming and going. Unfortunately, net-growth seems to be illusive to many.

Offense and Defense

To enjoy net-member growth, it’s obvious but frequently forgotten, that an organization has to be excellent at both recruitment and retention–every day. This is a challenge as many find it hard to continually focus on two things (1) how to get them and (2) how to keep them. Many of the features of membership you make available to members can help with both—the hard part is communicating how the features make members’ life better. This is the Achilles Heal of most associations and societies—communication. Specifically, communicating value. Too many of the communication directors want to concisely communicate facts to save their readers time. That’s great, but in doing so there is a massive opportunity loss—opportunity to prove value, remind of value, and subliminally lock in the perception of value among the membership. This ability is excellent offense and defense.

If You Don’t Tell It Didn’t Happen

Early in my career I received a lesson that I have carried for life. Selling consumer goods (sunglasses) to the retail industry (drug stores), I was making my rounds when upon visiting a particular store I found the products of a competitor on my display. Upon asking the owner about his purchase he told me that he was told that the particular style was very trendy. I agreed and told him that that particular style had been on his display (from me) for several months already. He didn’t know because I failed to mention it to him, therefore leaving a competitor to wedge in. If you fail to tell, it didn’t happen and you are leaving an opening for another organization to sell their value.

Value Communication

Communicating value to your members is making relationship bank deposits. Two key places to look to determine the quality of your value communication is at (1) your “Member Benefits” page at your website and (2) your electronic communications. Are you “telling” members how your organization makes their life better or simply mentioning features of membership and expecting them to make the translation for themselves?

  • Member Benefits page. First check and see if the text happens demonstrate features or benefits? Features explain what’s built into the product or service and benefits explain how the features make the user’s life better. You’ll most likely have to admit that what you have listed is features rather than benefits.
  • Electronic Communications. Most likely your communication editor is keeping the copy “tight” in hopes that the reader will review the entire piece. Read through what is written and ask yourself this for everything you read, “Who Cares?” and “So what?” If your two questions are answered clearly, you might have benefit copy.

Every time, you want to communicate in as many methods as possible, “Because of your membership, this is how we are making your life better.” This kind of communication, continually, is how your organization makes regular relationship bank deposits with its members.

Relationship Withdrawals

In order for your organization to make sufficient relationship bank deposits for the time of member renewal…when you do attempt to take a withdrawal, this effort must be CONTINUAL. In the cosmic relationship bank, consider that about a dozen deposits are requited for each withdrawal. This would mean that you would have to make about one deposit a month just to get a member to renew. Deposits come in all sorts of forms: awesome meeting, membership pins stating longevity, HQ staff helping with something, etc. The sky is the limit; you just have to remember that value is in the eye of the beholder. This means that just because you think something is valuable (a deposit) if the member does not think the same—it is not a deposit.

Everything as Separate

Bundling is easy, saves time and makes the life of your staff easier. But, doing so diminishes member-perceived value. Everything your organization does for a member should be delivered, regardless of the conduit, separately. Sending a new member package filled with stuff is one relationship bank deposit. However, sending each included item out separately—while it does take more work—is one relationship bank deposit per item. With a little more work, your organization can create vastly more perceived-value. As we all know, it is about the member’s perception, not yours. Never offer two or more resources at no charge to members in a single email—break it up. If you extrapolate out this paradigm throughout your organization you will, yearly, deliver enormously more perceived-value to your members and they will reward you when renewal time comes and you request a relationship bank withdrawal.

Adapted from Ed Rigsbee’s forthcoming book titled, The Membership Strategy-Membership is Everybody’s Business to be published in early 2018

Improve Your Member Value Proposition for Total Organizational Growth (788 words)

Your organization’s Member Value Proposition is more than the sum-total of its programs, services, products, affinity programs and anything else offered to members.

Your organization’s member value proposition is also determined by the beliefs, perspectives and emotional connection of members to the organization, its staff and volunteer leaders. The other side of that coin is how the industry, in general, perceives your organization. If operatives in your industry thought membership in your organization was a great deal, then they would already be members.

 

Member Communication: inform or influence

This is an area where every organization can improve. The vast majority of stories in your Member Communication fall short of influencing members as the stories mostly inform. The difference is in how a story is written, most of the stories are not written through the window of “what’s in it for the member” and therein we find the rub—this angle is what can cause a member’s perception of value to change for the positive—or the negative.

 

How to Write Benefit Copy

  1. First determine what is being sold. It should be one of 4 things for your Communication: product, event, member recruitment or member retention
  2. Then determine which feature of membership (from your member benefits web page) the thing being sold is.
  3. Next determine which buying motive is at play: profit/gain, fear of loss, avoidance of pain, love/affection, comfort/pleasure or pride/prestige. Many times there can be more than one buying motive but pick one for simplicity.
  4. Now write copy explaining the “what’s in it for the reader,” why they should care and include a call to action statement.
  5. Last, write the title of the story or promotional copy using one of the following perspectives: shocking, ask a question, offer data, create a value statement or reveal a secret.

 

Qualitative Focus Group Research

To find out what your current members believe their member value to be in actual dollar numbers you will want to conduct a series of Member ROI Valuation focus group sessions utilizing qualitative research methodology. This is an excellent starting point for boosting your value proposition.

 

Strategy Mapping Exercise

The strategy mapping exercise is your next step of discovery as you want to compare your organization to competing organizations. This exercise allows leaders to compare with the various competing organizations—those that also compete for membership dollars, mindshare and value perception of people in your industry. Ideally, in contrast to the below example, the lines would not track but rather demonstrate vast differences.

Features Framework Exercise

The third step is to conduct the features of membership framework exercise—first with staff—then with volunteer leaders and overlay the three pieces. This will create visual impact for staff and volunteer leaders. The step-by-step “how to” can be found starting on page 88 of The ROI of Membership.

 

Getting all the Departments in Alignment

Every department at your organization must use new decision filters. The important filter to add is the “decision filter” of how the actions considered will affect positively or negatively the organization’s value to members, return on investment, member retention and recruitment. Each department has to align toward making your organization more member-ROI-centric.

 

The Hard Truth

Accepting change and shifting your organization’s culture is something that will be difficult. Sure, the volunteer leaders and paid staff give the idea lip-service and “embrace” the new but when push comes to shove, they fall back into their “non-productive” comfort zones and eschew the necessary change. This is the fulcrum point where you might be currently failing. This is where all the above work becomes mute, meaningless, and a waste of time as the players in your organization thinks they are changing but in reality is only getting ready to get ready. What most people in this situation are really saying is that they agree that others should change but they themselves want to hold on to control because they know better than the others.

 

Embrace Change Management

If you truly desire to push past the current “failure point” and move into a new era of high-level member value, everyone from the executive director and president to the newest section leader needs to be on-board because membership is everyone’s business. Now here’s the difficult part of the equation, if there are volunteer leaders and or staff pushing back—there is no longer a place for them in the organizational chart. Yes, a staff member that is not willing to play the new game must leave the organization and for the volunteer leaders—they must give up their positions. Are you willing to go to these lengths to grow? Think hard before you answer as you will be held accountable—not by Ed Rigsbee—but by your conscience, integrity and morality.

Power—the Struggle between Paid Staff and Volunteer Leaders (858 words)

For a number of associations, I am convinced that the primary core issue hampering membership growth revolves around volunteer leader control of the organization. While I have worked hard with a number of organizations to help them shore-up symptoms, this pervasive challenge remains. I realize that paid staff could sometimes be the problem, but that is for another post.

I believe it is now the time for many organizations to honestly face this hampering core issue. Too many organizations have held a central belief that any non-(your industry, fill in the blank) person is simply not capable of understanding the industry issues and as such is incapable of effectively managing the organization. Today, such dismissal of professional association management personnel is a mistake. This is not a critical commentary but rather a (frequent) honest observation. Most hampering symptoms seem to emanate from this core issue.

Days Gone Bye

There was a time when your organization’s leadership was composed of the most influential names in the industry. These captains of the industry had legions of secretarial staff to whom they could assign their volunteer leader responsibilities…and things would get done in a timely manner. Questions could be easily answered and decisions made. This capability made it logical that the organization’s volunteer leadership would hold power as they could direct implementation (by their employees).

Today’s Paradigm

Many volunteer leaders today do not have an army of clerical staff at their beck and call. If they have association work, they have to do it themselves. Couple today’s dynamic with yester-year’s idea that volunteer leaders are in charge (of everything) and what transpires is a continual and massive bottleneck.

Too many of today’s volunteer leaders rely on the excuses of “I have a job” or “I’m just a volunteer” for non-performance of their accepted duties. A symptom of this can be the lack of clear and concise volunteer leader job descriptions. And, most are not held accountable for their performance. I have seen it time and again where volunteer leaders will go “underground” for weeks at a time while important organizational business/duties need to be resolved—the bottleneck. It is completely understandable that people have to earn a living, and conversely perhaps your organization is tapping the wrong people on the shoulder to be leaders or needs to accept a new method of operation.

Power

Today’s non-profit volunteer leaders, especially those of baby boomer age, joined and matured within their association/society at the latter days of the bye gone era. They observed earlier leaders hold absolute power over the organization and to some degree, covet the same for themselves. That paradigm would be fine except for the key ingredient—the army of secretarial help that “got the job done” in the old days.  This by the way is not uncommon within mature societies/associations throughout the United States. For a new era, new “power and control” considerations must be adopted.

The Partnership

Volunteer leaders have approved the hiring of paid staff—some staff members are more association-professionally trained than others. Bylaws generally state something like, “The Executive Director shall be the administrative officer of XYZ functioning under the immediate direction of the President and the Executive Committee. The Executive Director shall have charge and direction of XYZ’s office and its employees and shall conduct the business of XYZ. It appears to me that there is a myriad of interpretations of the above within volunteer leadership ranks.

In benchmarking today’s more successful associations and societies, there is a partnership between the chief staff executive and the chief elected officer. Partnership is the key word. Each must understand their duties and execute accordingly—the CSE with his/her staff and the CEO with his/her volunteer leaders and membership at large. I frequently find this missing in organizations. Yet, this is to where many must evolve.

In today’s world of professional association/society management, the role of CSE is frequently given the title of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) because that is truly what the role necessitates.

What I unfortunately see too much of—is volunteer leaders (current and past) considering the paid staff as their minions—much like the clerical staff that the leaders of old once enjoyed. This should not be the case. Today’s association/society staff is more professional than those of years ago. Today’s staff has educational and certification opportunities that were not available to them just a few decades ago.  On the flip side—rarely do non-profit volunteer leaders take advantage of the plethora of association/society leadership and governance education available to them—they are too busy “at their day job” to dedicate the necessary time and energy. Again, this is simply an observation rather than a critical analysis.

However, this is necessary for organizational survival and hopefully success, to develop a respectful and effectively working partnership between volunteer leaders and staff.

Moving the Needle

In many organizations the Staff is positioned to help launch a successful member recruitment campaign, and what is needed is some horsepower behind the launch—which is only available from the volunteer leaders. The choice is in the domain of volunteer leaders, they can encourage or continue to corral.

Build it and They will Come? (440 words)

My work over the last 20+ years has revealed to me that the member perception of value is paramount. What members (or prospective members) believe is all that matters.

Associations frequently do a good job of creating member value, but not such a good job of communicating that value in a way that matters to members. It is a particular skill set to be able to write influencing (sales) copy. Most association marketers write about the features of membership but forget to tell the member or prospect how those features will make their life better. (It is all about me :>) Everyone wants an exceptional return on their investment (ROI) of time and money, but how many association marketing and/or communication pieces clearly demonstrate that. (Not many.)

What many association executives do not understand is that is is a “relationship bank” issue. Making no, or few, deposits throughout the year equals bankruptcy–but at the end of the year association executives try to take a withdrawal (ask for renewal) when there’s nothing in the bank. Crazy, isn’t it? How can you expect to drink from an empty glass? Funny how some think they can.

Qualitative research, specifically the Member ROI Valuation Process reveals member perception of value…helping association staff and volunteer leaders to determine what products and services to sunset and what to keep. If something you do only benefits a very few, why are you spending resources in that area? Invest your organization’s resources (time and money) in things that benefit MOST of your members.

Build it and they will come…but only if you build it correctly (member expectations) and do an excellent job of communicating why it is in their best interest to come (not the association’s best interest). In my book, Developing Strategic Alliances I when into great detail about relationship bank deposits. Key for this discussion is an understanding of what creates value for the other? If you develop something your members and/or prospects do not want–you get frustrated that they do not take advantage and they get frustrated because your are shouting from the rooftops about something in which they have no interest.

To earn my Certified Association Executive (CAE) credential, I had to understand the SPIE model: Scan, Plan, Implement, Evaluate and so do you. Scan what your market offers and what your customers (members) want. Then develop a plan to build it. Now build it. After you build it, review–did they really want it? Did you build it correctly? Did you market it correctly?

Build it correctly and tell your market how it will make their life better…and they will come.

Association Volunteer Leaders-The Will to Perform (539 words)

Oh how things have changed. The association world was once filled with members that pretty much did everything…and if they were lucky, they could afford an executive secretary…mostly to keep the clerical in order. Today, that executive secretary, in many associations enjoys the CEO title. This is because they really do act as the CEO of the association. The chief staff executive runs the HQ office and directs the staff to achieve what members (volunteer leaders) once did themselves.

But, what about the members, are they still doing their share? In too many circles, an observer would have to answer with, no they are not. Today everyone’s world is compressed—we are all trying to do too much in too little time. It is common to hear among the volunteer leaders, “The staff will do it; it’s their job. “ This sentiment is heard across the association-sphere, regardless of how full the staff members’ plates are.

Let’s bring this discussion to membership. While we all “mouth” that membership is important and it is the life-blood of an association…our actions do not always demonstrate this. In too many associations, and let’s be honest, membership is an afterthought or the department gets short shrifted as to resources, attention, and prestige.

While the above can also be said for other departments in associations, membership in my experience is the most egregious.

What can we do? First, we must embrace that in today’s world of associations—there must be a partnership between staff and volunteer leaders in each silo/department of the organization. This is where the Will to Perform is most crucial. If either side of the partnership does not perform, trust is lost and the partnership is ineffective. Staff has to abandon the, “I have a life” as well as volunteer leaders must abandon the, “I’m just a volunteer; I have a job or a company to run.” Neither of these excuses for lack of performance is acceptable.

While this idea can be extrapolated throughout the organization into all silos/departments, specific to membership, we must communicate to our volunteer leaders and staff alike that, Membership is Everybody’s Business. We are all in this together and together we will resolve all issues. Members of today, unfortunately, have been trained by staff to expect everything to be done by staff. Moving forward, this must be changed.

Give your members a precious jewel. All volunteer leaders need a reason to perform before they can muster up within themselves the Will to Perform. What is the core value to them and the organization for them to desire to perform well? In the membership silo/department it is this—membership is a good business, financial, and career decision. If the association’s CEO can broadcast this message in a way that staff and volunteer leaders accept as a precious jewel that membership is a good business decision and held close to the heart—then it can and will be shared with others—the uninitiated.

If you are an association CEO, Executive Director, Executive Vice President—the chief staff executive, your job is to demonstrate in deed, more than in word, that Membership is Everybody’s Business and that membership in your organization is a Good Business, Financial and/or Career Decision. (c) 2017

Showing the Love to New Members with 12 & 12 (835 Words)

Both conventional wisdom and numerous member surveys tell us that first-year members are most at-risk for non-renewal. Fair enough, I couldn’t agree more. The important question is what to do about it?
I suggest to my clients that they create a 12-Month/12-Touch New Member “Showing the Love” Assimilation System. The idea is a combination of my Relationship Bank Deposit recommendations in my second book, Developing Strategic Alliances and an idea from John Gray, Ph.D. who is the author of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.

I’m sure you’ll agree that one must make Relationship Bank Deposits before one attempts to collect a withdrawal. For anyone that disagrees…try getting money from a bank with which you have no prior relationship and you’ll quickly see it is a no-go. In relationships the ratio is generally 10 to 1, meaning 10 deposits for every withdrawal.

A number of years ago I sat in the audience when John Gray addressed the National Speakers Association and I’ll always remember this; it is about the points. He had a bouquet of roses on a pedestal close to his lectern. He made a statement alluding to the point that if one gives the bouquet to their special someone, it is one point. However he stated that if one gives only one rose, it is also one point. He lectured the men in the audience about giving the bouquet once a year and thinking one is done. Not good enough he stated. However, give one rose a month and one has earned 12 points.

Putting the two ideas together we have the 12-Month/12-Touch New Member “Showing the Love” Assimilation System. The idea is simple, in addition to everything else you do for your members, have a special “onboarding” process that consists of one touch each month for the new member’s first year. Then in a year’s time when you request that they renew, sufficient Relationship Bank Deposits have been made to justify a Relationship Bank Withdrawal. This will be equally successful for individual membership organizations and those with company memberships.

The 12 Touches Delivery

Many associations and societies have automated new-member emails that go out at various intervals. This would be great if their open-rate was better than the common 20-40%. What it means though, is that 60-80% of the emails sent are never opened. Some organizations even mail a new member package with lots of stuff. However, wouldn’t it be better if the stuff was dripped out over time?

Your plan should be to mix up the conduit for delivery: USPS, UPS, FedEx, email, phone calls, etc. Each month have a different kind of touch using a different delivery method. This will assure that most of your touches are being received. One of my clients came up with a novel idea; on the new member’s birthday, that first year, they received an email telling them to respond within 48 hours and the organization would send them a cool T-shirt with the organization’s logo. They have been getting excellent results from that single touch.

Various Touches to Consider

Remember to mix it up over the 12 months and be careful of not relying too heavily on email because of open rates. The below are simple to do, you will need an organizing system that might be as simple as an Excel spread sheet or as complex as using your Association Management System (AMS).
• Telephone call from membership director
• Telephone call from chapter leader (urging them to get involved locally)
• Telephone call from executive director
• Telephone call from member of the board of directors
• Mail simplified new member package
• Mail membership pin
• Mail membership card
• Mail membership certificate or plaque
• Mail specialty advertising item (swag, trinket, tchotchke)
• Mail Association logo wear
• Email new member information bundle containing several documents of interest (generally as PDFs)
• Email containing new member video
• Email containing new member survey
• Email discount coupon for your products/services
• Email special new member discount for annual meeting
• Email video message from executive director or president
• Email directions video about how to navigate your organization’s member-only website section

Do not limit yourself to the above. Meet with staff and/or volunteers to determine what kind of touches would be appropriate for your organization. Develop in implement your own 12-Month/12-Touch New Member “Showing the Love” Assimilation System and I can assure you that your first-year member retention will skyrocket.

Five Short Partnering Articles

Below, are a series of five short Partnering articles adapted from my recent book, PartnerShift—How To Profit from the Partnering Trend. Association editors are hereby given permission to reprint these articles at no charge. Please include the bio below with each article.

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Adapted from PartnerShift-How to Profit from the Partnering Trend by Ed Rigsbee, CSP, published by John Wiley & Sons, New York, October 2000. All of Rigsbee’s books are available from Amazon.com.

 

Article #1 of 5

Total Organizational Partnering for Your Success

Are you tired of adversary business relationships draining your energy? If so, it’s time to consider a new way of conducting business. In this, and in future articles, my goal is to share with you the Power of Partnering. Partnering, as I define it, is the process of two or more entities coming together to create synergistic solutions to their mutual challenges. To adopt Total Organizational

Partnering as your management strategy, you’ll need to understand the Partnering Pentad (group of five). To give you a visual, see in your mind a five-leg star and each of the areas below represent a leg.

1. The Synergistic Alliance is what many consider Partnering and simply stop here. This is the leg of your business where you develop external alliances with others. These could include: purchasing, R&D, manufacturing, employee sharing, distribution, marketing, advertising and the list continues.

By sharing your core strengths with others and theirs with you, both can create an environment of synergy.

2. Partnering with your suppliers is essential for companies wanting just-in-time manufacturing (JIT) and electronic data interchange (EDI). I frequently here suppliers making this comment about their customers, “They’re talking marriage but acting one night stand.” Whether you’re a dealer, distributor, or manufacturer, you had better start developing long-term relationships.

3. Partnering with your customers is the leg of outward focus. You must be customer/market driven rather than product/service driven to understand what your customers want. Your customers will spend if they feel they’re receiving good value. This is crucial if you are interested in Integrated Supply.

4. Partnering with your employees, to many businesses is a non-issue, meaning that they don’t. If you want your employees to have Emotional Ownership in the success of your business, you must create a climate of empowerment for them. Empowerment means giving authority and encouragement.

Then, employees will accept the responsibility.

5. You, the Owner or Executive as the Optimal Partner. This is the final and arguably, the most important leg. Not from the perspective that all revolves around you, but rather that you determine your company’s culture. The coveted center of the star you are visualizing is reserved for the relationships that bind all the legs of the Partnering Pentad.

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Article #2 of 5

The Ten Critical Qualities in Selecting an Alliance Partner

If you think partnering might be for you, selecting the right alliance partner is generally the difference between alliance failure and success. Be certain your alliance partner exhibits most of the following qualities.

Wants to win. There is no reason to partner with a looser. A weak relationship will only bring you down. You and your partner must have a desire to win, to want to do better, to be useful in creating a synergistic relationship.
Know they are ultimately responsible for their own success. Look for partners who understand the value of synergistic partnering relationships. While accountability goes both ways in partnering, in the end, we are each individually accountable for our own success.
Is an active listener. To keep an alliance healthy, active listening is important. This helps each partner to know what the other needs. Alertness from both sides equals mutual success.
Understands and cares about what drives their partner’s businesses. Each partner must do things that consistently give value to the relationship and their partner. The only way you can effectively add value to your partner’s business is to know what your partner considers valuable.
Responds well to, and acts on feedback. To move forward, leaders must be willing to accept counsel. None of us know it all. Just think how special your partnering relationship would be if your partner never acted on your ideas.
Flexible, especially when events or circumstances are not what was expected. If you, or your partner, don’t have the ability to change direction when the road ahead is washed out, failure is certain.
Trust and integrity. Once the fabric of trust is ripped apart, although it may be repaired, the blemish will always show. You will always have it in your mind that it is not if, but when, they will do it to you again.
Seeks win-win arrangements and solutions. You and your partner must believe that you are working toward a bigger pie, not just a bigger piece of the pie.
Understands that partnering is a relationship of interdependence. It’s not about dependence or independence? Visualize your partner and yourself as partially overlapping circles.
Great chemistry. If you like each other, you’ll work hard to overcome conflict and make your alliance work long-term.
Now grade your potential partner in each area on a 1 to 10 scale, add it up and now you have a baseline potential partner grade. By the way, they should do the same on you. The greater the circles of interest overlap, the greater the value each sees in the relationship.

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Article #3 of 5

Partnering Pitfalls, Land Mines & Roadblocks

Alliance mortality rates hover at about half. Be realistic with your expectations of others. As with a spouse, partnering alliance members don’t change with time. If you suspect core problems at the onset, you probably are accurate in your assessment. Do not try to build relationships on a foundation of quick sand. Watch out and try to avoid the downside of partnering. Let’s look at some partnering killers you’ll want to avoid:

Underestimating the complexity of coordinating and integrating corporate resources, and overestimating your partner’s abilities to achieve the end result.
Situations where a customer is the driving force behind a partnering arrangement. Be sure to examine each proposal in the context of your company’s overall partnering strategy.
Not having access to the employees of your alliance partners. The closer the planned relationship between the two companies, the greater the importance of the linkages between them.
When a large company partners with a small, the interaction between companies becomes a challenge. Representatives of the small are usually top executives, but representatives from the giant must take a proposal up the chain of command. This policy can become frustrating for the small company.
One partner not completely embracing the principles of partnering at the top level or even in departments, divisions or regions while the other does.
Partners have different core values like trust and integrity or there are corporate culture clashes, employee turf protection, and resistance of some employees to new ideas, these issues can wreak havoc.
Partners internal reward structure. In partnering with customers or suppliers traditional reward for buyers comes with wringing out concessions from the seller and by showing that their efforts had achieved cost reductions. On the flip side, sellers usually reward for sales performance.
Having a third party that is not willing to playing ball. All the members of a partnering agreement will have to “give a little” for the agreement to work.
If a partner receives unfavorable media coverage you are pulled into the picture. Real or perceived, image and reputation are critical to a company’s success.
When sitting down at the partnering table a partner might find the partnering seat uncomfortable. It could be that your partner has a different level of emotional and physical comfort, or sometimes it is simply a change in corporate strategy or a restructuring which leads away from a partner’s product and/or technology causing the partners distress.
After making a partnering commitment, a partner may have a hidden agenda or decide they don’t like or want to follow through with that which they committed, or does not have the capability to do what is necessary.
Contracts with an overseas market, for instance, often take a long time to finalize. By the time you get going, in the technology industries, your competition may have already started.
There can be difficulty in communicating across various time zones. Solving problems quickly when your partnering factory is located halfway around the world is hard enough when you speak the same language. Add the increased difficulty of language barriers, and major challenges can emanate from the alliance.
The disloyalty that can occur when you try to partner with a potential or current customer and have them renege on the promise of purchasing from you after you have delivered complementary or introductory training.
When unequal dependence in a relationship occurs, the partner with the least dependence could be less likely to compromise and expend energy into the relationship.
Complacency is an insidious relationship-killer. Continuously ask questions in a way that encourages partners to relate problems and shortcomings. Ask, “What have we not done lately?”
Meanings assigned to words by different cultures can cause serious problems. Does quick delivery mean today, this week, this month or this year?
Unrealistic expectations of any partner’s capabilities these areas include: technology, research, production skills, marketing might, and financial backing.
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Article #4 of 5

Shall We Start The Partnering Process?

Both external and internal Partnering are necessary in developing a complete management strategy. I call this Total Organizational Partnering. The Partnering Pentad (alliances, suppliers, customers, employees, and management) is the conduit, and will assist you to accomplish your partnering goals. Follow these steps to successful partnering.

Step 1: Monitor.

Study your business, observe, and identify areas for improvement. Also, take inventory of core strengths that might be valuable to a potential alliance partner. Specifically, define what it is that you want and help others to define what they want and help them to achieve it as quickly as possible. Study other industries that have embraced partnering along with the individual companies that have been successful with partnering. Study what worked and what did not.

Step 2: Educate.

Learn about companies you might consider for partnering arrangements. Look for arrangements that create a win-win result for all who participate. Ask yourself and your management team these questions: What are their strengths and weaknesses? What effect would they have on our business and vice versa? Be sure that the company cultures are complementary and that the people who will be in charge of the relationship can get along.

Step 3: Select.

This is the critical step. All your future efforts will be built on your selection. Search for the strongest alliance members for your partnering foundation. Customer-oriented culture is critical to the success of the partnering alliance. The greater the sophistication of a company and its officers, the more likely a company will enter into partnering. Keep this in mind when making your selection. Embrace long-term thinking. Partnering is rarely a quick fix, but a sound long-term business strategy. Target companies, large or small, that can aid you in rapidly and efficiently, reaching the goals of research, technology, production and marketing.

Step 4: Organize.

Now you’re to the point of identifying, understanding, and putting together the possibilities for your alliance. Work with internal and external personnel to develop not only your partnering structure, but also your road map. Success in blending of cultures is pivotal. Take great pains to insure this achievement. Access is crucial! Create a convenient communication system for all partners, especially decision makers. Plan procedures to keep relationships between key people of partnering companies open and constantly alive.

Look into the future, plan for the long-term relationship and encourage strategies that will sustain the relationship through to its conclusion. Phasing in the partnering relationship could be a preferred strategy, as this method will allow partners to have a “get acquainted” time. This can assist in the identification of reaching milestones, successfully or identify the need to reassess before moving on to a higher level in the relationship.

Step 5: Charter.

This is the agreement, whether it is a handshake or actual contract. Even so, I strongly urge all partnering alliances to put their agreements on paper. Having each alliance member’s commitment to the other on paper will smooth a path through the potholes of partnering. Also, your charter should explain conflict resolution. Being ready for conflict will make resolution more timely and amiably.

Develop a clear agreement on what your goals are and make sure they are measurable. Have a formal mechanism for alliance members to identify the goals, milestones, and turning points crucial to the success of the relationship. Devise some form of evaluation that will measure how well plans have been implemented. Additionally, consider having the partnering agreement include forms of dispute resolution for more formal arrangements, along with exit strategies as partnering safety valves.

Step 6: Post Agreement.

Regularly review your partnering efforts through value updates. Discuss the value you receive, the value you believe your partner receives and vice versa from the relationship. This will help in determining if relationships should be upgraded, maintained, or downgraded. Discuss opportunities for improvement and ways to enhance performance.

What you really want to build is Outrageously Successful Relationships (OSRs) in all five Partnering Pentad areas. Again, this is Total Organizational Partnering. The benefits generally outweigh the pitfalls if you’re careful. The ability to successfully adopt the partnering paradigm philosophy is the first challenge of partnering. And, Partnering is only for the mature.

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Article #5 of 5

The Necessary Core Values To Build Outrageously Successful Relationships (OSRs)

Outrageously Successful Relationships (OSRs) in business are based on the desire to create synergy between multiple entities. Five Partnering Core Values support the foundation of such relationships. To build OSRs, integrate the following five core values into your paradigm of operation and you will experience wizardry for yourself and others!

1. Trust. This is having confidence, reliance or resting of the mind on the integrity, veracity, justice, friendship, or other sound principle of another person or thing. It’s also the glue that binds a relationship. For successful business relationships, trust is necessary to move from inertia to action. Trust is that wonderful, mystical and cherished virtue hoped for and shared among practitioners of what I call the Partnering Paradigm.

In trust, you’re continually putting yourself at risk. It’s the process of taking risks necessary in building relationships. At times you are certain to be disappointed, but hopefully these disappointments will be few, compared to the availability of beneficial experiences.

2. Tolerance & Understanding. It’s unfortunate, but the words tolerance and understanding, have become a cliché that too easily rolls off the tongue in business conversations. For business OSRs to work, this core value must be cherished and practiced by all. When you can accept the value of an idea rather than be concerned by whose inspiration it was conceived, you would truly exhibit tolerance and understanding.

3. Cooperation & Growth. In my relationship seminars, I lead an exercise where several people are standing in a circle, facing center, blindfolded, and holding a rope. Then I tell them to make a square. I use this exercise to show how much more is possible when participants work together rather than separately. This is only possible when they adopt an attitude of cooperation. During the rope exercise, it is always interesting who shows up as the leader to make the square. It’s not always the person who signs the paychecks. Growth is the natural outcropping of this exercise because participants see each other in a new light.

4. Caring & Commitment. Caring about a business relationship is essential in making a commitment to its success. This is what will usually smooth out the potholes on the road to OSRs. It’s this element that allows others to voice their opinion and remain safe from criticism. Additionally, there is also the commitment that is necessary to the function of leadership, and at times, the ability to follow when another is currently leading.

Another important aspect of caring is to welcome and accept responsibility. Rather than saying, “You really should . . .” in OSR building it would be better to say, “This is what I think we need to do.” Then say, “If it is ok with you, I’ll take care of it.” In many businesses, idea people are a-dime a-dozen, but those who can implement are immeasurably valuable.

5. Synergy & Mutuality. OSR building must be an institution of trust, tolerance,

understanding, cooperation, growth, caring, and commitment. This results in synergy and mutuality, similar to that of a successful marriage. Business OSRs have much in common with the institution of marriage. Both require all of the above, and both offer benefits that outdistance the possibilities available singularly. Build your OSRs and enjoy the benefits.

Quick Bits

Rigsbee’s Partnering Chronicles—Large and Small Businesses Succeeding Through Smart Alliances – 5/20/03

Sears has reduced its distribution inventory levels of Michelin tires by 26%, while improving its store fill-rate by 11%.

How did they do it? Internet Retailer reports that following a year of collaborative planning, forecasting and replenishment (CPFR) with Michelin, Sears, has achieved this result. Sears collaborates with Michelin through its supply chain collaboration application hosted by the GlobalNetXchange web portal. Sears gets a better view of Michelin’s production levels and can coordinate that information with changing demand throughout Sears’ retail operations. This has enabled the Sears to work with Michelin early enough in the production cycle to increase or decrease orders. The benefit is that Sears can assure that the right amount of particular models and sizes of tires to get delivered to the stores and regions where demand is greatest. Sears has also started similar collaboration efforts with Goodyear and Sumitomo tires and expects to collaborate with several more tire manufacturers soon.

How can you better collaborate with your suppliers to take costs out of the distribution channel? Perhaps you should ask your suppliers for their recommendations?

Internet Retailer-News Story from Tuesday, December 31, 2002

No baloney: Wireless fidelity is attracting new customers to Schlotzsky’s

Schlotzsky’s Inc. President and CEO John Wooley had a hunch that offering free wireless fidelity Internet access would draw new customers to his restaurants. He was right: A recent survey showed 6% of customers came in mainly for the wi-fi web access. The increase in business, about $100,000 over the course of a year in a single restaurant, is 20-25 times what Schlotzsky’s pays to install wi-fi at each location. “We’re seeing a really positive response from customers of all ages,” Wooley tells Internet Retailer.

Wi-fi, which extends high-bandwidth Internet access from fixed lines to wireless access, enables Schlotzsky’s customers to quickly download Internet content, including streaming media, music recordings and other data-intensive files, to their personal laptops or PDAs or to one of Schlotzsky’s iMac computers.

The cost to implement a wi-fi network in a retail location depends on the range of applications involved. Schlotzsky’s used its own IT staff to install wi-fi at a cost of $4,000 to $5,000 per location. But Wooley figures the new revenue at each location from customers attracted mainly by wi-fi amounts to about $100,000. The average ticket in a Schlotzsky’s Deli is $6, and each restaurant handles about 300,000 customer orders per year.

The only additional costs related to the wi-fi program are the 3 to 6 iMac desktop computers the company installed in each Deli, though Schlotzsky’s had planned to purchase these with or without wi-fi, Wooley says.

It’s Time To Deliver Your Conference Attendees More Value

Find out what your alliance partner considers as valuable and deliver it! The proceeding is, and has been, the basis of my partnering philosophy that I have shared over the last decade in my books, articles and seminars. For trade associations in particular, delivering true value to your attendees can at best be difficult.

Generally there are two types of conference attendees. First, there is the member that attends the conference to basically support the association. They come no matter how good, or bad, the program. Usually, they also consider the trip a vacation of sorts. Second, there is the attendee that is coming for education. This type also has the agenda of synergy. They believe they can get more for their education dollar through the collaborative effort than on their own.

The second attendee type is the one that will select not to come if the price seems too high for what they believe they will receive. This is the attendee that needs the maximum amount of value in order to leave their business to attend your conference. What have you done for this attendee lately? They ask the question, so shouldn’t you?

Meeting Surveys? Unfortunately they can be meaningless if laid out only for the affirmation of the meeting organizer’s. Are your surveys detailed to determine the value received? And hoped for, but not received?

Have you ever asked your speakers to comment? Generally they will only give positive unless there is a safety net in place.

Executive Foibles

Use your bullets wisely. Every business leader gets a limited number of workplace bullets to use. When you waste them on issues unimportant to the success of your business, you diminish your stature in the eyes of your employees as well as your ability to lead. Here is an example of a company president squandering one of his precious bullets. It was later referred to as the toilet caper by his office staff.

From the men’s restroom, just across the hall from the conference room, an unpleasant scent appeared to originate. It was a problem because the conference room was regularly used to meet clients. One day the president decided the problem was resulting from certain individuals’ library habits. His solution was to remove the toilet seat, thereby restricting library usage. Sure he could have had the smelly old carpeting replaced with tile or purchased a scent control device, but instead he took the easy but draconian measure. Needless to say, it caused quite a stir.

Eventually, the executive realized his foible when one of his partners had the carpeting replaced with linoleum, purchased a scent device and connected the fan switch to the light switch, thereby solving the problem. Even years later when someone brings up the president’s toilet caper in the presence of a new employee, it’s always the same. The disbelieving incredulous look on the face of the new employee is worth a thousand words. Be careful how you chose to use your bullets.

Success Strategies for Recently Merged Organizations (546 Words)

In business today, it seems that mergers are as commonplace as reorders. If a merger has not affected you, I’d be surprised. With the blending of two cultures, generally come challenges and opportunities. To better focus on the opportunities, and not the challenges, follow the recommended process below.

1. Decide Synergistic Expectations. Be clear on what you are looking to have happen, resulting from the merger or acquisition. Top on many lists is economies of scale that generally result is cost savings.

2. Inventory the Expectations of Employees, Management and Executives. Job security will most likely on the minds of middle management and workers. Executive compensation parity will on the mind of many.

3. Inventory the Core Competencies from Each Company. When products and services from each differ, but serve a similar market that’s synergy. Yet, when products are similar but have different markets, which also can mean synergy. Have a strategic plan about how economies of scale will be achieved, through sales, through purchasing, or hopefully, both.

4. Inventory the Cultures and Policies of each Company. Varying levels of formality can prove to be an Achilles heel if not addressed. Also, words used by both organizations may have taken on different meanings. Each organization must give a little in the area of policy. Don’t be married to the past and, the “This is how we’ve always done it.” With DalmerChrysler, the German’s beer breaks have been interesting for the Americans to accept. While the Germans have difficulty with the casual atmosphere of the Americans. Look at where Chrysler is today…

5. Decide where Circles of Interest, Expectations and Inventories from above overlap, and where they do not. The more the circles of interest from each faction overlap, the more reason each has to make the marriage work. This was a problem with the failed merger of Price/Costco in the mid-nineties.

6. Uncover Expected Roadblocks to the Blending Process Before you merge. As with Price/Costco, today simply known as Costco, it was the ancillary issues of office buildings and mall development that they couldn’t on that kept their focus off the core competencies and developing synergistic economies of scale. As you might guess, there are several areas of potential roadblocks. The not-invented-here mentality is common.

7. Publish the above Findings for all Employees of both Companies. Otherwise they will fill-in the blanks for themselves, usually with erroneous information. Factual merger information will go a long way to sooth fears and help all concerned understand the strategic plan and all the challenged in its implementation.

8. Help everybody, from Entry-Level employees to the Executive Suite to have an Emotional Ownership in the Success of the recently Merged Organization. Developing how-to road maps will go a long way in helping both organizations with the change. Make the first official day of the newly merged organization a celebration. DalmerChrysler did this, calling it “Day One.” They had a celebration and gave all their over 400,000 employees a merger “kit” and Swatch watch bearing the new company name.

Sure, it is much work, and it takes more than the above eight steps, opportunities abound. For those who are willing to be flexible and open to possibilities, being part of a newly merged organization can be the opportunity of a lifetime.