Are You Doing What It Takes To Become Indespensable?

8 07 2013

indesBe a change agent.  Differentiate or die.  Change for the sake of change.  I can’t tell you how many times I have heard those phrases or similar lines.  One thing is certain – change is inevitable.  Our world is changing faster than the speed of light and if we don’t change along with it, we will be obsolete in our professional lives.

Regardless of what field you are in, you are being affected by technology in some way.  For the most part, companies are becoming leaner, more efficient, and learning to thrive with less people.  Gone are the folks close to retirement who took the buy out.  Ousted are the individuals resistant to change.  Few are the people still around that are clinging to the way things were done in the past and wondering how much longer the unacceptable will be acceptable.

Trust me, my intent is not to bum you out.  These are exciting times we live in and we have so many ways at our fingertips in which to ensure that we flourish and our futures are bountiful.  But we have to work harder on our special powers…that secret sauce that positions us leaps and bounds ahead of our colleagues.  We have to learn to be rain makers regardless of the position we hold, leaders no matter what title we have and artists regardless of the type of work we do.  And if that weren’t enough, we must consistently over achieve and raise the bar of expectation placed on us.

How do we go about doing that?  There are hundreds of ways and my formula will be different from yours and yours will be different from someone else’s.  No two ways will be identical.

Here are seven simple “habits” that I have adopted:

1.  Arrive early and stay late.  This shows you are dedicated to your job or you don’t have a life.  I actually do have a life, but have a lengthy commute to and from the office.  I have little patience for traffic and choose to miss it both coming and going.  I also LOVE the early mornings before my colleagues show up. That sacred “me time” where I am able to get things off my list that will create the clearest path for the remainder of my day.

2.  Make the company more money.  There are 2 ways to be successful with this one.  Figure out ways to increase revenues or save the company money.  If you can do both, all the better!

3.  Demonstrate leadership.  It doesn’t matter what title you have within a company, you can step up and be a leader.  Take charge, assume ownership, lead by example.  Oh, and take on the responsibilities no one else wants to do.

4.  Be fully present.  Only take a sick day or a personal day when you absolutely need to do so.  Rest assured, there is always someone keeping track of your attendance.

5.  Self-Education.  If you’re not regularly reading about industry, trends in trade, business publications, podcasts, articles on leadership, self-improvement or studying the habits of established successful people, you’re compromising your career growth.  Staying current, and being able to apply your learned knowledge demonstrates your understanding and place within the industry.

6.   Prioritize.  Many people have paralysis by analysis…you know, the to do list that never gets shorter.  It is so easy to add things to your to-do list, but just as critical to know what to take off.  Good decision making, delegating and prioritization are the signs of an effective leader, regardless of your title and stature within an organization.

7.  Say no to drama.  Don’t get caught up in the office politics.  I must admit that the entertainment value of showing up some days at work is priceless.  But at the end of the day, it takes your eye off of the ball.  If someone starts gossiping to you, take the high road.  Don’t give them the stage to interrupt your important work.  Simply excuse yourself by explaining you have an important project to finish.  This allows you to avoid the gossip without being rude to the gossiper.

Making yourself indispensable is something everyone can do regardless of your position or lot in life.  Our workplace no longer accepts the status quo.   It requires constant growth and change.  Being adaptable, and growing and learning as your company changes and evolves.  If you aren’t growing you are becoming obsolete.

At the end of the day, you are doing one of two things:  You are either working to make yourself indispensable or you’re working to make yourself obsolete.

The choice is entirely yours.


I’m Ready To Be An Adult Now

29 06 2013

job-huntI recently read an article where the  US Bureau of Labor Statistics cited that one out of every two Millennials—age 18 to 32–is either unemployed or under-employed equating to approximately 80 million people (there are actually more Millennials than Baby Boomers).  After spending the past 3 weeks interviewing some young folks for a couple of job openings within my department (all of which relate to marketing and brand management), I can honestly say that there are multiple reasons why junior is living in your basement at age 25.

The recurring theme was a lack of preparation, an incomplete understanding of what the job entailed, and the inability to think creatively on short notice when asked basic marketing questions.   But the biggest shocker of all was the lack of personal investment in themselves.  Only a couple read books, were on Linkedin or had the desire to read on-line content relevant to marketing, social media, self-help or success.  Where did we drop the ball with young people?  Why haven’t more established professionals and/or teachers taken these youngsters aside and explained to them about the real world where it isn’t always who you know and you can’t have the expectation that you’ll be able to ride someone else’s coattails and score a job.

There was even one candidate that said they were ready to be an adult now and if they were chosen for this job they would go the extra mile to invest in themselves and stay on top of the ever changing world of marketing or any field for that matter.

Here is what I look for in a candidate during a job interview:

  • Appearance
  • Verbal presentation skills
  • College education – I am more concerned that you have a degree than specifically what the degree is in.  Show me you can keep commitments, stay the long haul and not be a quitter by neglecting to finish your degree.
  • Have you done your homework on my company and the job you are interviewing for?  Did you find an inside coach to help you?  Have you thoroughly combed our website, made yourself familiar with the brand or product and thought of ways we could benefit from having you on board?
  • Have you tried to do research on me or the individual interviewing you?
  • Can you think on your feet with tough questions?  Go ahead, I encourage you to Google tough marketing interview questions and get comfortable answering the uncomfortable.
  • Do you invest in your self?  Meaning do you read books that will help you grow in the field you want to work in?  Do you study successful people?  What about Car University?  All of this is at your fingertips on the internet, just waiting for you to consume it.
  • Are you on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter and how are you using each platform?
  • Do you send a hand-written thank you note after the interview?

Here is my advice while you are job hunting:

  • Start establishing  a powerful personal brand independent of your work experience. Pursue your own aspirations and learn how to define them and market them to the corporate world.
  • Take advantage of being a digital native and learn as much as you can with the tools at the tip of your fingertips.
  • Rethink your social media presence.  If you come to work for me, social proof is critical    Ditch the party photos and all the liquor brands you LIKE and avoid the drunken tweets. Turn your public social media presence into a showcase of your personal brand and portal of interests and skills. Connect the dots for me and demonstrate how I can’t possibly live without you on my team.
  • Be unusual and memorable.
  • Show you have a big and growing network that comes with you when you get hired.

And, whether you’ve graduated from college or never went at all, never stop learning. The Web is filled with tons of information and on-line courses.

At the end of the day, I’m looking for moldable, adaptable, resilient people who can be mentored for current positions as well as jobs that don’t exist yet.  That same person who might have made my drink at Starbucks this morning or cleared my dirty dishes at dinner last night.

Stirring the Pot

14 06 2013


No, I’m not talking about making trouble for someone.  Cooking and selling have many things in common…You are always working with a variety of ingredients to create the desired end result.  You turn the heat up or down.  You let things simmer to achieve perfection.

Are you stirring the pot enough with your business?  We’ve all had the experience of cooking something in the kitchen while also reading a book, magazine or watching TV at the same time.  Where you become completely, temporarily engrossed in what you’re reading or watching and then SNIFF, SNIFF, the smell of charred food fills the air.  I recently set flour tortillas on fire…no kidding…in my microwave.  I was so caught up with talking on the phone that when I smelled something burning, I kept checking my pots on the stove and for the life of me, couldn’t figure out what was causing the smell and smoke.  The skillet and sauce pan were just fine.  In our sales world, we can burn things up as well and it all starts with complacency.

Complacency is defined by Mr. Webster as:  A feeling of contentment or self-satisfaction, especially when coupled with an unawareness of danger or trouble.  Hello…something is definitely burning here!  Complacency happens to all of us if we allow it.  For a salesperson, or entrepreneur it is especially dangerous.  When sales are going great, you have a large client investing heavily with you, or perhaps a project deadline seems way in the future, it is easy to let up and think the workload or commitment to customer service can wait.  Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the large client has cash flow problems, changes their marketing direction or moves to an ad agency and it doesn’t include your advertising medium OR you.  Couple that with the fact that a project is due next week and you haven’t closed a sale all month.  Did these things happen by accident?  Absolutely not.  The pot was left on the burner too long without any attention from you.

My advice:  Stir the pot before things start to boil over.  When sales are going well is not the time to sit back, relax or become otherwise preoccupied.  It IS the perfect time to use the positive energy and confidence you feel and apply it in new directions.  Research, read books that propel you forward with ideas and attitude, call on new prospects or touch base with your current customers  so they know you’re thinking about them.  By stirring the pot, you are showing care and attention to yourself as well as your customers.  You are anticipating needs and planning for future business.  It doesn’t take much work and the rewards are great.  Let’s face it, we all need to be Betty Crocker’s of our business.

Sales 101 – The Most Successful Sales People Do Their Homework

31 05 2013


The majority of my week is spent in one of three ways:

  1. Sitting in front of clients uncovering needs or finding that one big, hairy, problem that keeps them awake at night
  2. Brainstorming ideas with Media Sales Reps that addresses needs they’ve uncovered while meeting with clients or prospects
  3. Crafting ideas to use as valid business reason to secure that initial appointment

You see, I am in the relationship marketing and management business.  It is my job to come up with creative ways to assist business owners in moving their customers up the ladder of loyalty using a myriad of integrated marketing tactics that could include radio, digital, mobile, video, social, experiential marketing or a combination of the aforementioned in addition to numerous others.

Today, we have many ways to research a client and their business versus years ago when it was limited to print, networking, and (if you were lucky),  a little bit of data from the internet’s infancy.
Here is the process I use the majority of the time:  Prior to sitting down with a client or the sales rep that calls on them, I do my own independent research on the client’s business.  My research always starts with an organic search within that client’s business category on Google.  For example, if the client’s business category was furniture, I would Google St. Louis Furniture Stores.  Then I would check for the following:

  • Did this client’s business show up?  If so, were they on page one?
  • Did any paid search show up at the top of the listings?
  • How about their Facebook page, did it appear in an organic search result?

Next, I follow the same process but actually use their business name (example:  Fabio’s Fine Furniture) in my organic search.  I go through the same drill as with the business category search to see where they rank, and what exactly it is that is showing up in the organic search.  At some point, I would spend time with their website, audit their Facebook page (if applicable), check to see if they have any customer reviews or feedback (Yelp, FB, etc…), see if they have been in the news lately for any reason, learn about their origin, their owner, how many locations they have, etc…If at all possible, I would stop into one of their locations if it were a business I had never or infrequently visited.  What about networking?  Are they on LinkedIn?  Better yet, a I connected to anyone that is connected to them.

You only get one chance to make a first impression.  Don’t squander it away by thinking you’re prepared.  Really, REALLY do the research.  I’ve sat in front of enough clients that actually make it a point to thank me and/or the sales rep for being so prepared during the appointment.   Being prepared helps you understand the needs of your client better and gives you a head start with potential solutions to fill the need.  It also sets you way ahead of the competition as you have shown an honest and sincere interest in their business.  Not to mention the confidence you will have during the appointment and the credibility you will build with the attendees.

By doing your homework and researching the client or prospect, you will be well on your way to building a productive relationship.  So I ask you now?  Do you have productive relationships with your current clients?  Do you exercise the same philosophy with prospective clients?  Have you done your homework?

Tip for Successful Local Internet Marketing

5 01 2013


Go Deep.  As advertisers begin to embrace local media web sites as great tools for reaching their customers, the tendency is to go with the big guys.  No doubt that in St. Louis, there are several glaring large sites that local radio competes with.  But, research has shown that you can often reach more local consumers at a lower cost by using a combination of smaller newspaper sites and local radio websites.  An advertiser may find that by doing so, will deliver to them the same number of click thrus or responses at a fraction of the price.

Another important fact to remember about radio station websites is that their site traffic is made up of very station and format passionate individuals.  What I have found with radio is that their best listeners (P1’s) are typically an advertiser’s best customer.

At the end of the day, these websites offer an audience you just can’t reach using the local newspaper or television sites.  Would your business rather be a little fish in a big pond or a big fish in a little pond of engaged, passionate, brand loyal sets of eyeballs with spending power?

A Time For Reflection

26 12 2012

reflectionI recently received an email with the subject title: What career advice did your parents give you? Given the fact that yesterday was Christmas and I have so much to be thankful for, I thought it was only appropriate to address this question in my blog.
My parents taught me many things about being in the workforce. Some of the things they verbalized, but most of what I learned was by watching how they conducted themselves. Here is a short list:
1. Be early, stay late and do more than is expected.
2. No matter what you do, be the best at it.
3. The harder you work, the luckier you will be.
4. You don’t have to be the smartest if you have the ability to outwork everyone else.
5. Continue to invest in yourself…it will pay dividends.
6. Be honest and have integrity in all that you do.

My parents always wanted their kids to have it better than they did. I owe much of my success to both of them. They worked hard at raising me and my brothers. I can only imagine how difficult it was for them at times to give us all the wonderful things that we had growing up. The sacrifices they made so we could have nice things.
I only wish that my mom could have lived just a little bit longer so I could pay her back during her retirement and spoil her like she spoiled me. Thankfully, I still have my dad. I can say that after my mom passed, my dad and I became much closer. I will continue to do everything in my power to make certain my dad has everything he needs whether it is help making ends meet or extra spending money to do fun things he should be doing during retirement.

I can NEVER pay them back for all they have given me…but I can sure try.

If I Owned A Starbucks

7 08 2012


I am about as good of a customer as you can get at a Starbucks.  I frequent Starbucks everyday (7 days a week) and sometimes twice a day.  In all honestly, I am there twice a day during their $2 receipt treat days.

I spent many years avoiding the hoopla and over priced beverages that define Starbucks.  I am and have never been a coffee drinker and I don’t own a coffee pot/machine.  The only time I have ever made coffee was back when I was 16 and worked at Mallo’s Bakery in Belleville.

You are probably asking yourself how that is possible.  How can I not be a coffee drinker yet be a Starbucks consumer?  Thanks to a co-worker, I got my first taste of Starbucks around 4 years ago.  She introduced me to a low calorie, fat free alternative to vending machine cappaccino and hot chocolate that were loaded with fat and empty calories.  My tastebuds immediately took to it and just like any other text book addiction, I became hooked.

My drink of choice: the skinny vanilla latte.  Iced during Spring and Summer months and hot during the cold months.  I started out drinking tall, moved to the grande size and now I am fully vested in nothing but the vente.  I am also a gold club member, pay with their downloadable app and put $100 at time on my account.

I’m a Starbucks junkie!  I am so fascinated by Starbucks that I have even considered looking into how to pursue getting my hands on my very own store.  If I had my own Starbucks it would be the gold standard in the Starbucks chain.  My store would be 2 stories tall (probably a first for Starbucks) with each level being about 1,600 square foot each.  The upstairs would be much like a loft where my Starbuckers could peer down from the upper balcony and check out the people below.  Customers would be treated like gold…Starbucks gold, and walk away every time with an experience worth more than the coin they just dropped for their favorite drink or pastry.

My store’s marketing plan would be on steroids -being everywhere our customers expected us to be and everywhere they didn’t. My employees would be the cream of the crop.

But unfortunately, I don’t own a Starbucks.

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