Rigs on Biz…Relationships, Your Secret Tie Breaker (491 words)

 

Have you ever wondered, how come the other guy got the business? Great Biz Relationships are the answer.

You know that, your product is as good, your service is as good and your price is as good as the other guy’s. But, you didn’t get the business—Biz Relationships again. Today, ya gotta have a tiebreaker to get the business, and outstanding Biz Relationships is a magnificent tiebreaker. Let’s look at this from the perspective of you being the customer.

So many business owners have told me, “When it all goes to crap, that’s when I know who my real suppliers are.” They continue to say, “That’s when relationships really matter!” Don’t you feel the same way? Sure suppliers can fill the pipeline, but what about when supply is disrupted?

If you know, understand and like someone, you are more apt to make an effort to work out challenges, be they a supplier or customer. Better yet, if you trust someone, when things go into the dumper—you absolutely know that you’ll be protected, that they’ll make things right. Isn’t that what you want from your suppliers? Isn’t it also what your customers want of you? You know it is.

To get the Biz, ya gotta build better Biz Relationships

  1. You already know that you have to keep your word and follow through.
  2. You already know that if you break your word, you can’t be trusted. After all, Business is about results, not excuses.
  3. But, did you know that communication is the most important element in developing and maintaining outrageously successful Biz Relationships?
  4. When was the last time you sat over a beverage (away from the office, work site or factory) with your customer and asked, “How can I serve you better?”
  5. Over time, many companies have developed “score cards” or “report cards” to more formally communicate with their customers. A number have also done this to better communicate expectations with their suppliers. I believe these reporting methods extremely valuable conduits of developing open communication with customers, and suppliers. This tool can easily become your tiebreaker in the marketplace. If you develop this tool for yourself, focus on the following two key areas: First, It is important to ask, “How are doing?” and second, “What do we need to do to get a higher score or grade?”

The great benefit to you in developing better communication with your customers will be a greater understanding of what “extra” services and activities your customers perceive as being valuable to them. It really doesn’t make much sense doing extra things for your customers that they do not hold as being valuable, now does it?

It will serve you well to build better Biz Relationships through a regular reporting or scoring system with your customers. I believe you will also find this to be an important tiebreaker that you have over your competitors. Do more, sell more and have more!

Are Your Corporate Policies Up to Date?  (1024 words)

By Ralph G. Martinez, Esq. & Ed Rigsbee, CAE, CSP

If your employee is punching in a telephone number or raising their cell phone to their ear while driving, you might be liable.  A growing number of states in the USA and several foreign countries are making it a crime to use a cell phone while driving unless one’s cell phone operates “hands free” or has a “hands free” device.

On July 1, 2008 law enforcement officers in two more states, Washington and California, begin writing citations to drivers who do not comply with the “hands free” cell phone law that became effective on that day. In California, a ticket now costs a driver that violates the law $25 for the first offense and $50 for each violation thereafter. Drivers that are minors are prohibited entirely from using a cell phone or a “mobile device” while driving. What is your company’s current, and written, policy on cell phone use while driving on the job?

States Adopting New Laws

California and Washington State join Connecticut, the District of Columbia, New Jersey, New York, and the U.S. Virgin Islands in completely banning the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. Even more states prohibit minors from using a cell phone at all when driving. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia in the United States have adopted laws that deny cell phone use to driving minors.

If you travel outside of the United States, you will recognize a similar pattern. Twenty-five foreign countries have laws that restrict or completely ban the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. Australia, Austria, Britain, Brazil, Chili, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Israel, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Philippines, Romania, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden,Switzerland, Taiwan, and Turkey have taken action to restrict the use of cell phones in cars.

If your state or country does not restrict using a cell phone in cars, you can anticipate that soon they will.

The trend across civilized society is to consider hand-held cell phone use a driver distraction and a contributing cause of many accidents.Many states that have not enacted a “hands free” cell phone law have been gathering collision data where cell phone use was involved. It is a reasonable that law makers will use this accumulated data to sell the need for a restriction or ban of hand-held cell phones in cars. Some states have declined to enact a restrictive use law, but have defined the use of cell phones in cars as a “careless driving”[1] or defined the use of a cell phone while driving within the definition of “distraction.”[2]

Productivity and Connectedness

Technological advances improve our productivity and connectedness.  Drivers across the United States redeem some of their driving time each day by staying connected with parents, children, and friends during their commute. Many also conduct business by telephone during these long commute or travel times. In decades past, you would have to pull over to the side of the highway when you found a telephone booth or a pay telephone. This may return as the preferred way to stay connected in route, particularly for driving minors. Technology may give us advantages, but they sometimes bring unexpected changes in our lifestyle. The law all over the world is responding to the increased number of accidents that involve drivers being distracting on a cell phone. The law is merely catching up to the new risk introduced by new technology that has been embraced and exploited by all of us.

Higher Potential Liability for Employers

The protection of these new safety laws also creates new risks for you, the businesses owners and leaders in the United States and elsewhere.  In most areas of the United States , if an employee violates a safety law while involved in a car accident on the job, they and their employer may be held negligent, even if they are otherwise driving well. Generally the concept is referred to as negligence per se.Lawyers use the principle of negligence per se as a shortcut to establish liability in law suits to win damages for people injured in accidents. The new wave of cell phone laws are safety laws designed to eliminate distractions and prevent accidents. Depending on the extent of the injuries, this financial risk to an employer could be very substantial. If the cited employee driver has violated the cell phone law before, significant punitive damages could be assessed against the employer. Negligence per se as a principle will be used more frequently in personal injury cases when a driver was using a cell phone.

Employee Handbook and Written Policy

As an employer, you should adopt a written policy and/or amend their employee handbook to require strict compliance by their employees with the “hands free” cell phone law that is adopted by their country, state, county or township, or city by all employees. Many businesses may instruct their employees not to use cell phones while driving and to let incoming calls go to voicemail to be returned outside of the car in a safe area. If your business issues cell phones to its employees, or necessarily requires the use of a cell phone by its employees, make sure that the cell phones can be used “hands free.” Note that a cell phone that has a speaker phone function will not necessarily comply with the law.  Employers who hire employees under age 18 should prohibit their use of a cell phone in a car. The policy should be acknowledged by employees in writing and enforced by the company. An attorney can help your business assess the specific risk to it and how to protect against that risk with an appropriate policy and implemented management practice.  We have developed a policy and are helping many businesses protect against this new risk from this new safety law. Adjusting to these developments not only will allow you drive more safely on the highways, but to continue with your business efforts – in both cases, undistracted.

Videoconferencing—Friend or Foe? (933 Words)

On the Cover of the November 19, 2001 issue of Meeting News, the article stated, “Prior to Sept. 11, meeting by electronic means had already gained momentum among U.S. organizations. But now, with the terrorist attacks having exacerbated an already-weak economy, look for electronic conferencing, also known as virtual meetings, to advance substantially in 2002.”

Is a videoconferencing session in your future? If you are a professional speaker and plan to continue in the speaking and training business, you can be assured the likelihood is strong. I believe videoconferencing is both attendee and speaker friendly.

Some of the advantages videoconferencing offers you, the professional speaker; include timesavings and the ability to be in two places at the same time. Additionally, you can do multiple client dates in a single day and travel less. Some of the advantages video conferencing offers meeting planners are reduced speaker cost (travel & fees), availability of multiple location venues (saving attendees travel) and real time global interaction

To make videoconferencing part of your success plan, master the six main areas to that are to follow. The six areas are: Meeting Industry usage, Profitability, Local Accessibility, Technology Applications, Technology Providers and Presentation Skills. Let’s take the areas individually.

Meeting Industry Usage:

Often, videoconferencing is replacing small meetings. Owens Corning has installed desktop videoconferencing in about one-fourth of the firm’s 80 locations worldwide. This allows team members worldwide to meet and make decisions within hours rather than days or weeks before the technology. Ford Motor Company created their FORDSTAR dealer communications network employing satellite transponders. This allows broadcast quality on several channels. The main purpose has been training. Additionally, executives can inform all manufacturing locations on developments without having to travel. National associations and corporations are including real-time videoconferencing in their annual meetings. Also, multi location meetings save travel and hotel expense. The explosion is close at hand. About one-fifth of the Fortune 1000 companies have corporate networks. I believe we professional speakers must design our future. It is better than flowing with the uncertain wind, wherever it goes.

Profitability:

There is gold in those Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) lines if we know how to dig. Besides the time savings and multiple client days, back-of-the-room products (video) can be the byproduct of a videoconference, just record it, the camera is already there. Clients, who before could not afford you, now might.  Your clients will experience the hard-dollar benefits with multiple locations and reduced travel expenses. Additionally, companies with videoconferencing capability are receiving soft-dollar benefits through improved information sharing and productivity gains.

Local Accessibility:

How much time you save will depend on how close you are to an organization that has a videoconferencing studio for rent. Kinko’s, one of my partners in the bringing the technology to the National Speakers Association (NSA) convention a few years ago in Orlando, has 800 locations worldwide. They might be the first place to check, call 1-800-2-KINKOS for the nearest videoconferencing location. Additionally, universities are a good place to look, as are large corporations with public rooms and other providers. Another possibility is to purchase your own camera, like PictureTel’s Live 50 desktop unit.

Technology Applications:

How can you profit? When you want to interview an important person, have them go to their local Kinko’s. They will get a kick out of it and you saved travel expense and time. The few dollars it cost to set up the videoconferencing network is usually less than the cost of a flight. You can close deals with important clients who have the technology. You can do your consulting using the technology as will as simply making presentations. Not to make it sound like a kinko’s advertisement, but it is half-price on the weekends.

Technology Providers:

My partners at the NSA convention were PictureTel, Kinko’s and Sprint; they paid for everything but the ISDN lines in the hotel. For videoconferencing to work needed are cameras and monitors for all locations (to be interactive) and the network (telephone or private) to carry the sound and picture signal. The telephone line capability is currently the bottleneck. For clean broadcast-qualityvideoconferencing, three ISDN lines are required.  ISDN lines carry up to 128 kilobits per second. Think of your dial-up modem at a maximum 56 kilobits per second and you will understand. Lucent Technologies is currently laying fiber optics cable across the USA (they recently tore up the streets in my neighborhood). Also higher speed cable and DSL are becoming available for your home or office.

It is now time for a warning. The technology usually works if connected properly. If you are going to use the technology in a real-time situation at a conference, have a technician on site. PictureTel hired VideoLinx Communications in Annandale, Virginia to do the connection in Orlando and they were great. Without a qualified technician, you could end up eating crow.

Presentation Skills:

The camera is much different from live. Things you need to consider include: Move slower, make smaller gestures and romance the camera. The camera lens is the portal to your audience. Avoid plaids and prints that may be emphasized on the screen. White clothing creates glare and red bleeds. Videoconferencing etiquette reminds us of the broadcast delay. Remember to give the person on the far side time to answer before you start again. Avoid coughing into microphones, shuffling papers or possible side conversations.

Videoconferencing technology could be your foe (speaker and meeting planner) if you are not willing to learn. But, like getting your first computer, master it and the technology will be your friend in new speaking and meeting possibilities and profits.

eCommerce Is Still In Your Future (1128 Words)

“Unbelievable, only one California distributor had a link!” In my recent opening keynote presentation for a group of industrial distributors, I mentioned that I was alarmed. Upon visiting a major manufacturer’s web site, I conducted a distributor search for California. When the list appeared on my screen, only one distributor listed had a link to their site from the manufacture’s site. It’s unfortunate that so many distributors are slow to partner with their principal suppliers. For some distributors it is because they do not yet have a web site, hard as that is to believe. And for others it is a trust issue. Some distributors still believe that by sharing information, they will loose customers. How wrong they are.

Your customers might not be getting any younger, but their purchasing staff most certainly is. With this youth, also comes new ways of doing business. Younger people are quite comfortable with the Internet and many prefer e-commerce to “bothersome” visits from your reps. Just the other day upon leaving for school, my nine-year-old son asked my wife to find him some pictures of jellyfish for a school project. He proceeded to explain to her how to go to www.Yahoo.com and so forth to find the pictures he needed. She thought it was so cute. For technophobes, it’s a wake up call!

E-commerce is taking on several forms from the straightforward Amazon.com style of giving your credit card number, selecting the items you want and receiving your purchase a couple days later via a delivery company to more sophisticated arrangements similar to what the automotive industry is putting together. I personally find CheapTickets.com both a convenience and a time saver, giving me a wonderful choice on my air travel needs. I might not have ever considered that as a possibility. But, a while back my travel agent started tacking on a $10 per ticket booking fee. Their new business strategy did not add value to our relationship in my eyes. Needless to say, I am no longer their client.

Back to the younger purchasing agent trying to work their way up the corporate latter. They are putting in extra hours, working late. Since it is late and manufacturers are closed, they go to ThomasRegister.com looking for a particular product supplier and find what they need. The manufacturer is a real partner in distribution and has distributor search capability at their web site. As with the earlier mentioned example, if there is only one distributor with a link that is where the purchaser goes. Will that be you?

Ford Motor Company is unleashing the power of the Internet for their employees around the world. It’s taking a step forward to reach its vision of being on the leading edge of technology and connect more closely with its customers. In support of this vision, the company announced on February 3, 2000 that eligible employees worldwide would be provided a computer, printer and Internet usage at home for a nominal fee ($5 a month).

Ford Chief Executive Officer and President Jac Nasser said, “This program keeps Ford Motor Company and our worldwide team at the leading edge of e-business technology and skills. We’re committed to serving consumers better by understanding how they think and act. Having a computer and Internet access in the home will accelerate the development of these skills, provide information across our business and offer opportunities to streamline our processes.”

Ford Chairman Bill Ford added, “It is clear that individuals and companies that want to be successful in the 21st century will need to be leaders in using the Internet and related technology. That’s what this program is all about.”

Michael Dell, Chairman and CEO at Dell Computer weighed in telling business leaders attending the Windows 2000 Deployment Conference in San Francisco (February 15, 2000) for the new computer operating system by Microsoft Corp. He said, “The Internet will become as fundamental to your business as electricity. Businesses will need an information technology infrastructure that possesses the same attributes of systems that provide electricity whenever and wherever needed, at the click of a switch, to power anything from a small store to an entire city.”

Dell mentioned that industry researchers forecast that 38 percent of U.S. households will have two or more personal computers by the end of this year and that by the year 2003, high-speed broadband Internet connections will be used in 33 percent of U.S. households. “In a world where every business is an e-business, Internet systems technology will no longer be just the concern of the information technology department. It will be critical to your customers’ satisfaction and ultimately to your bottom line,” said Dell.

To put Michael Dell’s comments in perspective, Dell Computer Corporation is the world’s leading direct computer systems company. This is based on revenues of $25.3 billion for the past four quarters (as of 2/15/00). Dell ranks No. 78 on the Fortune 500, No. 210 on the Fortune Global 500 and No. 3 on the Fortune “most admired” lists of companies.

This is just in from WALLY BOCK’S MONDAY MEMO — 1 May 2000 (weekly e-newsletter). Bock states, “There were lots of studies and surveys out last week that give us some insight into how we’re moving along the adoption curve of digital technology. Here is a couple. Net Portrait found that almost 60% of US households have a computer and that 47% of households have Internet access.  Some of the others just stay late at work, where Greenfield Online found that 10% of workers stay late so they can access the Internet.”

I recently listened to Tim Underhill explain to a group of distributors how their customers frequently pay three times for the same shipping and handling services in a discussion on the value of integrated supply. I sure do not want to pay thrice for a product or service, nor do your customers. In distribution today the game is adding value and streamlining costs in the distribution chain, not simply adding cost. While we are still at the early stage of e-commerce, sooner than you think, your customers will be demanding the capability of you. Will you be left in the cold?

When I started my career in outside sales in the mid 1970s, my boss, Ray Kahn told me that if I lost a major customer while paying attention and doing everything I could to keep them happy, that he could live with it. But, if I lost a major customer because of not paying attention, that he’d fire me. Was he serious? Absolutely—Mike, one of my colleagues, got the axe for just that reason. If you lose customers because you are asleep at the wheel in regards to the Internet and e-commerce, should your suppliers fire you?