Saturday, September 10, 2011

Job Seekers Are Remembered For Their Passion

Picture the scenario: You are unemployed or just not in the right role in your company that causes you to smile while sleeping. You have heard all of the right advice from all of the right experts; your resume is perfect, you have crafted an effective cover letter and you have even role-played interview questions with your mentor. What's next?

You begin applying to every position you think you have the skills to perform.

WRONG!

Landing the right role, in today's job market, is similar to applying for a credit card…the more positions you apply to (at one company) – the more your value, in the eyes of that company, decreases. Think about it, when you apply for 10 credit cards, what happens? Yes, that's it – your credit score DECREASES. The same is true when applying for jobs today.

Why?

You Will Be Remembered by Your Passion or the Lack Thereof

Employers today are looking for the most qualified candidate with a true passion for the work that s/he performs. Let's not forget, most companies have 500+ candidates applying for each and every job they post. Only those candidates that leave a positive impression, as it relates to the entire recruiting process, receive the interview and chances are will land the job. While it may appear to candidates that the best way to land a job is to apply to everything, it is actually the worst thing one can do as it relates to showcasing one's brand. It gives the appearance that you are unfocused.

President Obama Only Applied to ONE JOB

Regardless of your political affiliation, you can see a recurring theme here. Find the one thing you firmly believe you are good at, aligned with your passion, and only apply to the roles that allow you to do that. Now, I understand – when you are unemployed you simply want to land A JOB. But in today's job market, those candidates who can clearly show passion in the jobs they apply to, begin not only to build brand awareness of their skill set, but oftentimes receive regular calls from recruiters prior to jobs being posted. A great recruiter is known by his/her network and how quickly they can locate diverse top talent for the organization. If a recruiter can quickly call their top three Brand Strategy & Marketing candidates for the newly posted Director role instead of waiting for the hundreds of qualified, and unqualified candidates, to apply – guess who gets the informational meeting or the interview FIRST?

Sage Advice: Apply to 1 – 2 Jobs Per Company Per Month Instead

So you applied to the one or two positions that fit your skill set. It's obvious the company somehow took a peek at your résumé BEFORE they posted the role, as every single line seems to read your name – IN BOLD. You sit and wait, wait and sit; maybe you even searched LinkedIn for the top recruiter to contact ensuring your résumé is seen. You bite your nails right before reality sits in, you were not chosen to interview.  Bummer! How dare they ignore you and the value you bring to the table?

So now what?

This is the time when you NETWORK YOUR WAY INTO THE JOB YOU WANT.

I've often found candidates who had the skills who didn't land the job as well as candidates who didn't have all the skills but are receiving the new company badge, business cards & corner office. So there's got to be something to this thing called NETWORKING. It's clear, just having the right skills doesn't cut it in today's marketplace.

Now think back to the 1-2 jobs you just applied to but didn't get – the first step is to develop a relationship with the recruiter. Making this one, extremely important person in the hiring process, your best friend is crucial. That doesn't mean you stalk them or buy lavish gifts, but regularly follow-up with him/her to make them aware of your continued interest in the company. In every communication, make sure to highlight the area in which you're passionate about (Marketing, Finance, Development, Script Writing, etc.) At some point you can even invite the recruiter to coffee or lunch – but this can be tricky – take the lead from your recruiter & their openness to such an invitation. Your objective is to always be seen as a top candidate who just hasn't found the right role within the company – not the pestering candidate who doesn't understand "NO."

The second step is to reconnect with the hiring manager by locating the top organizations that cater to the leaders in that industry. For example, in the Entertainment Industry, NAMIC (National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications) would be at the top of my list if I were trying to network with industry leaders. Your objective is to be in the places they are, again, without being seen as a stalker.

The more you get involved…

  • The more likely you'll increase your network.
  • The more likely you'll run into the hiring managers that said no.
  • The more chances you'll have to convince them they made the wrong decision.
  • The more likely you'll receive a call when the next opportunity presents itself.

Today's job market has redefined how companies recruit, requiring top candidates to redefine how they get noticed. As a candidate, it is important to always be mindful of the brand you are displaying and polish that brand regularly in a way that brings positive attention to the skills and attributes you bring to the table. Don't fall into the trap of applying to everything; instead polish your brand and network, network, network. I have yet to meet the candidate who just applied online and landed the job – I am sure s/he exist – I have simply never met him/her. But I constantly meet the candidate who made a lasting impression upon the company, built relationships and networked their way into a role. That candidate can be YOU.

James Wright is the founder of JamesWantsToKnowYou.com, a key business strategy developed to drive social media networking initiatives to attract top candidates; designed as a social media recruitment tool. James is also Manager of Talent Acquisition Pipeline Development at NBCUniversal.

Thanks to James Wright / Careerealism
http://www.careerealism.com/job-seekers-passion/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+careerealism+%28CAREEREALISM%29

Keep Your Career Success Goals With You At All Times

uccess Tweet: Keep your goals with you – in your wallet, or on your screen saver. They will be a constant reminder of what you will achieve.

Notice the last two words in the tweet – "will achieve." I didn't say, "hope to achieve," or "want to achieve," or worse yet "try to achieve." I said, "will achieve." "Will achieve" is a positive, proactive statement that reinforces your visualization of your career success. As the tweet suggests, keeping your goals close at hand is a constant reminder of what you will achieve. Thinking in terms of "will achieve" rather than "hope to achieve," want to achieve," or "try to achieve" is a solid piece of career advice.

The other day, I saw a quote from John Wooden, legendary college basketball coach, and the author of several books on life and career success. This career success coach has them all in his library. Coach Wooden's success pyramid is a truly comprehensive look at how to become the life and career success you deserve to be.

Here is the quote:

"I am not as good as I ought to be. I am not as good as I want to be. I am not as good as I'm going to be. But I am thankful that I am better than I used to be."

Notice that Coach Wooden uses positive affirmative language when he says, "I am not as good as I'm going to be." Even at 99 years old, he was still growing.

Keeping your career success goals with you is a great way to help you become as good as you're going to be. For one thing, keeping your goals nearby makes it easy for you to reflect on them several times a day – see the post I did on this. For another, keeping your goals with you, makes them part of you.

I keep my goals in my wallet. They're easily accessible. I pull them out and look at them so often I usually have to print a second copy midyear. The originals tend to get creased, dirty and threadbare from so much folding and unfolding. Having my goals in my wallet in right front pants pocket every day makes them seem more real to me. Reviewing them a couple of times a day motivates me to do the work I need to do to accomplish them.

As I often am when I write these blog posts, I'm on a plane. I just wrote all of this week's posts. Then I took a minute to stretch and review my goals. One of those goals is to create a membership site using Success Tweets and these blog posts as part of the content. The sooner I write all 140 blog posts, the sooner I'll be able to put up my membership site. The sooner the membership site goes up, the sooner I'll be helping more people take advantage of my career success coach thoughts and ideas. Just reviewing my goals gave me the energy to keep writing, instead of reading for the last hour of the flight.

See how this works? First of all, be thankful for being better than you were, believe that you will be better than you are. Use your goals – the things you will achieve – to inspire you to do the work necessary to become better than you are, and to become the life and career success you deserve to be. Pretty good career advice, if I do say so myself.

The common sense career success coach point here is simple. Successful people set and achieve high goals. Goals are your promise to yourself that you will become better than you are. If you follow the advice in Tweet 26 in Success Tweets, "Keep your goals with you – in your wallet, or on your screen saver. They will be a constant reminder of what you will achieve." You will be more likely to achieve your goals, become better than you are, and create the life and career success you want and deserve. I keep my goals in my wallet, and look at them at least a couple of times a day. Try this career success coach advice. You'll be surprised at how much you can accomplish.

Bud Bilanich, author of the FREE e-book called, "Success Tweets," is a motivational speaker and blogger who will help you create the life and career success you want and deserve.

Thanks to Bud Bilanich / Careerealism
http://www.careerealism.com/career-success-goals-times/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+careerealism+%28CAREEREALISM%29

10 Job Search Tips That Take Less Than One Minute

We recently received the following question from one of our CareerHMO.com members and wanted to share it with our readers.

"I am curious if there are any job search tips that take less than one minute to execute. What quick action can I take as a job seeker than can really enhance my job search? I need to feel like I'm being productive!"

We reached out to a community of career experts and asked for their advice. Here are the top 10 responses:

  1. Google yourself. Job seekers should take a few seconds to type their names into various search engines to ensure that the skeletons have stayed in their closets. [Advice by Jeff Diana | www.successfactors.com]
  2. Post a detailed "elevator pitch" on your LinkedIn profile. [Advice by Tom Toole | www.mrinetwork.com]
  3. Phone a friend. We all have life-lines, but often we are hesitant to use them! Pick up the phone and call a friend who may have a connection that can help get your foot in the door. [Advice by Dr. Woody | www.drwoody.com]
  4. Write down a quote that inspires you, and put it up somewhere you look regularly. Inspiration will keep you focused and positive, which means you'll be ready for that big interview when it comes. [Advice by Karlin Sloan | www.karlinsloan.com]
  5. When you get an interview write a "Woowhoo!" on your job search success calendar to remind you that your efforts are paying off. [Advice by Linda Hardenstein | www.lindahardenstein.com]
  6. Identify what is most important to you - geographic location, industry or company. This will drive all your future decision on job opportunities. [Article by Stuart Mease | www.stuartmease.com]
  7. Hold yourself accountable. Tell someone (a friend, a coach, a family member) each week what you plan to do to move your job search forward that week. Saying it aloud to someone else and having them follow-up with you often results in increased productivity. [Advice by Scott Rozmann | www.scottrozman.com]
  8. Scan the business section. A quick read of your local paper or news website's business section can tell you a lot about what's going on in your industry. You should know which companies have major projects in the works, which executives are moving up (or out) and how you could help a company with their next big move. [Advice by Denise Felder | www.denisefelder.com]
  9. Stay positive. No matter what your circumstances, be positive. No one cares about your sob story. It's about the employer. [Advice by Mark Grimm | www.markgrimm.com]
  10. Use spell check! Applying for a job is not the same as texting your friends. Use real words and actual sentences. If you don't, it looks like you are too lazy to spell out words. Definitely not the impression you want to make. [Advice by Maureen Mack | www.hrprincipal.com]
 
 

Job Interview Autopsies: What You Don’t Know Will Hurt You

We've all had that awful job interview where either we bobbled a question someone tossed at us (Like, "If you could be any animal, what would you be?") or we gave a bad answer and afterward we smack our foreheads because we realized we could have given a much better answer.

I talk to a lot of people who are very stressed out about interviews and loathe them for the very reason because they've had bad ones…many say they would rather go have a root canal than go through the painful examination of an interview.

But you know what?

Interviews are actually good for you.

Why?

Think about it. They put us on the spot in a way we usually don't encounter on a daily basis. An interview actually is a very powerful experience because you learn how you react under pressure.

If you really want to get over those jitters, you'll need to do an autopsy to discover what you need to know and/or work on to improve your skills in these situations.

Here are some tips on becoming more comfortable and at ease:

1. Interview often.

Practice makes perfect. The more you do it, the more it's like staying on your bike. And if you do happen to fall, it'll be a lot easier to get back on again.

2. Dig into the interview and autopsy it.

What did you do well? What did you do wrong? What did you expect? What happened that was unexpected? Did you feel prepared or totally unready?

3. Write down all the questions you can remember after the interview.

By keeping a running list of real interview questions you've encountered, you can gain skill in knowing what might be coming your way the next time you meet an employer.

4. Do your research.

Did the employer field a question to you that had something to do with the company? If you had done your research, confidence comes with knowledge and even buy you some time. Sometimes, even deflecting those questions with similar but different detailed information can help you wiggle out of tight spots.

5. What was your gut instinct about the interview?

Trusting your intuition is important…if you are feeling not-so-great about an interview and your performance in there, there might have been something perhaps non-verbal the interviewers were exuding that put you off. If you aren't walking out pumped up and energized, is this really the right opportunity for you?

If you don't take the time to truly examine how you performed in an interview, and don't dissect the pieces you did well versus the ones you had an #epicfail on, you won't learn about yourself nor will you learn what you can do better for next time. In your lifetime, you'll have a lot more interviews than job offers, so mastering the knowledge of your strengths and weak points is incredibly important to your career…otherwise, what you don't know will hurt you.

Dawn Rasmussen is the Chief Resume Designer and President of Pathfinder Writing and Career Services.

Thanks to Dawn Rasmussen / Careerealism
http://www.careerealism.com/job-interview-conduct-autopsy/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+careerealism+%28CAREEREALISM%29

4 Tips For Connecting With A New Boss

Undoubtedly, most of us have gone through some kind of transition with our supervisors. Perhaps the person was recruited away to another company or maybe there was a merger and they got reassigned to another department.

Whatever the reason, something important has been lost. When your boss leaves, they take with them that person's knowledge of your contributions, skills, knowledge, and expertise.

And a new boss means a completely blank slate.

Your new job is to get to know them, ASAP. If you don't take the time to build rapport, it could have deadly consequences to your career.

The reason?

If they don't know your value, they could make decisions that don't factor you in as a valuable asset.

Try using these four tips to build a connection with a new boss:

1. Speak up in meetings. If you are always in the background, now is the time to jump in. If you aren't seen as an active participant on the team, this could be a red flag to a boss who might be surveying the landscape for potential house cleaning later. Be a positive contributor.

2. Set up a one-on-one meeting. If the boss has not done so already, set up a time to meet with them to provide an overview of your work and to allow them to get to know you better. Building connections will also help you both assess your working styles to figure out how you will be able to communicate best. This can lay the ground work for a great collaborative work relationship.

3. Provide regular updates. You don't need to be a classic 'brown-noser' but proactively providing updates on project status or other work you are conducting is one less question or request that the boss has to make. If you reliably turn in work or reports on-time and in an organized fashion, you'll be perceived as professional and as the department standard.

4. Empower, Educate, and Engage. New bosses don't necessarily want to admit that they are behind the learning curve in getting acclimated to a new company or division. They are struggling to get caught up with priorities, challenges, and opportunities, while trying to get to know the team that will take them there. Be willing to share in a helpful way to give the new boss the knowledge and tools to get them up to speed as soon as possible.  You could gain a very powerful career advocate as a result.

If you build a reputation as a helpful, friendly resource who is competent in your work and an engaged member of the team, your new boss will see you as an important asset and include you in key projects and potential promotions.

Dawn Rasmussen is the chief resume designer and president of Pathfinder Writing and Career Services.

 
 

4 C’s To Career Success

Creating the life and career success you want and deserve is simple common sense. It's not hard, but you need to do it right.

First, focus on the 4 C's of Success: clarity, commitment, confidence, competence.

1. Clarify the purpose and direction for your life and career.

  • Create clarity by figuring out what success means to you personally.
  • Create clarity by creating a vivid mental image of yourself as a success.
  • Create clarity by determining your personal values.

2. Commit to taking personal responsibility for your life and career.

  • Take personal responsibility for your life and career success.
  • Take personal responsibility by setting and achieving high goals.
  • Take personal responsibility by choosing to react positively to the people and events in
    your life; especially the negative ones.

3. Build unshakeable self confidence.

  • Build your confidence by choosing to be optimistic.
  • Build your confidence by facing your fears and acting.
  • Build your confidence by surrounding yourself with positive people.
  • Build your confidence by finding a mentor to help you create your success.
  • Build your confidence by sharing your knowledge and wisdom through mentoring others. Get competent: create positive personal impact, become an outstanding performer, become a dynamic communicator, build strong relationships.

4. Positive personal impact.

  • Create positive personal impact by creating and nurturing your unique personal brand.
  • Create positive personal impact by being impeccable in your presentation of self; in person and on line.
  • Create positive personal impact by knowing the following basic rules of business etiquette.

Outstanding performance.

  • Become an outstanding performer by keeping your skills up to date by becoming a
    lifelong learner.
  • Become an outstanding performer by learning to manage your time and life.
  • Become an outstanding performer by living a healthy life style.

Dynamic communication.

  • Become a dynamic communicator by demonstrating strong conversation skills.
  • Become a dynamic communicator by writing clearly and succinctly.
  • Become a dynamic communicator by mastering public speaking skills.

Relationship building.

  • Build relationships through self awareness. Use this knowledge to better understand
    others.
  • Build relationships by paying it forward; give with no expectation of return.
  • Build relationships by using conflict to strengthen, not weaken, relationships with the important people in your life.

Bud Bilanich is a motivational speaker, author and blogger who will help you create the life and career success you want and deserve.

 
 

 

Does Your Business Need Customer Relationship Management?

It may seem like a creepy invasion of privacy, but having a system to track everything from a customer's purchase history to birthday or how they heard about a product or service is integral to building and sustaining a business.

Customer Relationship Management, or CRM, systems help business owners organize information to maximize new leads, repeat sales, improve customer service, cut costs and integrate information from operations processes like e-commerce or web forms. But according to some experts, entrepreneurs often overlook the value in implementing such a system. 

"A lot of small business owners see CRM as a cost and expense. But, if approached correctly, a CRM system can help you take your business to the next level," said Peter Wolf, president of CRM advisory firm Azamba Consulting Group.

Maximizing the benefits of customer relationship management should start at inception.  "The minute you open and have your first customer interaction you need some sort of system that tracks customer information that is relevant to your business," advised consultant Whitney Keyes.

But for owners well into the lifecycle of their business, it's not too late to implement CRM. Keyes recalled working with a salon owner who had not kept one client record and was beginning to see business dwindle after 20 years. Keyes recommended she survey her customers, which found that most customers had learned of the salon from a sandwich board on a sidewalk. Armed with this information, the owner placed more sandwich boards around town and saw revenue increase through basic surveying and record keeping.

While customer information can be tracked on a simple Excel sheet, as a business owner's expectations grow so does the complexity and expense of the CRM system needed. Companies like SalesForce.com, Zoho, Sage ACT! and Constant Contact offer CRM solutions at various price points.

In order to assess which CRM system works best for a particular business, consultant Whitney Keyes recommended entrepreneurs know how they will use the information. "If you are trying to figure out sales, you'll want to track what items are popular, how much you closed with the client and what were the details of the conversion," she added.

Entrepreneurs who don't want a cookie-cutter CRM system can create their own or customize an existing system, but they should be prepared to disclose how the business operates.  Sarah McLennan-Stapleton, chief operating officer at Beyond Your Typical CRM goes through an 11-point discovery process that examines everything from the workflow of a sale, to who does invoicing, what referral programs are in place and who runs the system reports.

Business owners should also align their customer relationship management goals with their short and long-term operational goals, not just their present needs. Kendra Von Achen, president of database and business consulting firm DB Pros advised, "CRM is not just for today. You want it to last three to five years and you want it to be ready for your next steps."

A successful CRM system grows as a business grows. Wolf from Azamba Consulting Group, recommended that business owners "approach CRM in steps. There is no reason to dive headfirst into the deep end."

Since a customized CRM implementation can take anywhere from a few weeks to a year, entrepreneurs need to keep consultants abreast of changes within the company's operations as that will impact CRM development.

While additional expenses can be alarming, Von Achen of DB Pros, noted that "business owners often make the mistake of bypassing possible automatic integrations in order to save money, but then pay employees to enter the data manually."

 

 

Innovation: Make It Someone Else's Problem

New research suggests that you are likely to be more creative when you imagine the problem is someone else's instead of your own.  Evan Polman and Kyle Emich describe their studies in their April 2011 article that support this conclusion.

In one study, 262 participants were instructed to draw an alien for a story that they would write, or alternatively for a story that someone else would write. When drawing an alien for someone else's story, they produced a more creative alien. In another study, 137 students were instructed to picture either themselves or a stranger stuck in a tower and to think of a way to escape using only a rope that did not reach the ground. Of the students who imagined a stranger in the tower, 66 percent found the solution—divide the rope lengthwise and tie the pieces together—compared with 48 percent of those who pictured themselves in the tower.

For innovation practitioners, teachers, and consultants, this research suggests a new technique to improve innovation output. When using an innovation method or problem solving technique, participants should try to image the problem is not theirs.  Instead, they want to mentally simulate the problem belongs to someone else.  One way to do this is to have participants imagine they are innovating for a similar issue but in a different industry.  As an exercise, have participants apply a technique in this scenario first as a way to activate and expand their creative output.  Only then, have them apply the same mental structure to their actual problem.

Here is an example.  Imagine you are facilitating a team that makes diagnostic equipment for automobiles. They want to innovate new ways to use the data that is collected by their equipment.  You are about to apply the S.I.T. Subtraction Technique (remove an essential component).  Normally, you would have the team apply Subtraction by eliminating the vehicle data entirely - a great way to break functional fixedness.

Now, in light of this new research, here is what you might do instead.  Tell the team they are in a different industry - medical diagnostics - but that they are not allowed to use any traditional diagnostic tests on their patients (like blood tests, x-rays, vitals, etc).  Ask them, "What would you do now to get useful data about your patients?"  After a round of ideation, have them re-do the exercise back on their own problem.  Mentally imagining the problem to be someone else's first will boost creative output on their own problem.

Thanks to Drew Boyd / Innovationin Practice
http://www.innovationinpractice.com/innovation_in_practice/2011/09/innovation-make-it-someone-elses-problem.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+typepad%2Fdboyd%2Finnovationinpractice+%28Innovation+in+Practice%29

 

Managing The Unmanageable

If we truly want to deal with a difficult or unmanageable person, we have to get at the thinking behind the behavior. Why do they do that? Why are they that way?

Instead of going deeper, it's easier to just label them and avoid the issue. He's rude. She's unreliable. He's an egomaniac. She's self-absorbed. Anne Loehr and Jezra Kaye, authors of Managing the Unmanageable, say that these "unmanageable" people are costing companies a fortune. Loehr estimates that her clients lose, on average, 30% of their productivity because of issues related to unmanageable employees.

The fact is, "there's a world of difference between someone who's acting unmanageable, and someone who can't [won't] act any other way. There's a world of difference between someone who's become unmanageable in response to a particular set of circumstances (that can, at least theoretically, be changed) and someone who's just like that." Perceiving the difference is the task of leaders, managers, and coaches. Most of the time we deal with people at the symptom level.

Managing the Unmanageable is written to help you do just that. They begin with an appropriate caution: If you find yourself being convinced that someone could never have the slightest redeeming good quality, find a way to deal with your own feelings before you try to manage theirs. Good advice.

There are some early warning signs that it is time to look deeper than the behaviors you see:

Diminished Motivation: "Frustration with a job can grow out of unmet or unrealistic expectations, company-wide uncertainty or relationship problems on a team or with a manager." You'll hear comments like:
"I'm just not into it anymore."
"This job isn't what I expected."
"I can't stand the people on my team."
Unclear Expectations: Misunderstandings are common. We don't always communicate as clearly as we think. Too much often goes unsaid. Sadly, too, "managers and executives sometimes purposely lead employees astray, confuse them, or keep them in the dark to avoid unpleasant issues or consolidate power in their own hands." It sounds like this:
"I have no idea what she wants."
"It's impossible to satisfy him."
"She thinks everything I do is wrong."
Lack of Confidence of Self-Esteem: "It's natural to wonder if you have what it takes when the stakes go up or your job becomes more complex. But if that lack of self-confidence persists, an employee can become resistant, defensive, and ultimately unmanageable. They will say things such as:
"I don't know why they thought I could do this."
"It's just never going to get done."
"Maybe I should switch careers."
Personal Issues: "When your employee is distracted, self-absorbed, or unable to focus, her problem may stem from conditions outside of work. It might be expressed as:
"I haven't slept through the night in weeks."
"I just can't seem to concentrate."
"Life is too damned hard these days."
"A radical shift in behavior," say Loehr and Kaye, "may be your first indication that a good employee is morphing into an unmanageable employee."

In short, other people have many of the same problems we have, it's just that they haven't learned how to deal with it or are not in a position to do anything about it in the same way that we would as leaders.

The book specifically deals with the excuse-maker, the grumbler, the egomaniac, the loose cannon, the joker, the do-gooder, the wallflower, the gossip, the slacker, the rude-nik, and the AWOL.

Each "salvage" operation follows the 5-C Model: Commit or Quit, Communicate, Clarify Goals and Roles, Coach, and Create Accountability. The focus of each chapter is to get behind the behavior of each type and understand it. You will find helpful composite cases, practical tips and dialogues for dealing with each type.
 
 
 

7 Ways To Inspire Yourself

hinking is great.  But action makes things happen.  One of the biggest differences with people that successfully grow, expand themselves, and reach their goals, is that they consistently take action.

Action takes energy though, so where does that energy come from?  It comes from within.  Inspiration is a powerful force, and inspired action is one of the most powerful ways to motivate yourself.  It beats "carrots and sticks."   Carrots and sticks are usually external forms of motivation.  Instead, if you inspire yourself, you light your fire from the inside out.

Here are seven ways to light the fire and inspire yourself to take action:

1. Be decisive. Decide.  Make a decision and "go."  If you waffle back and forth on things, or can't make up your mind, you spend a lot of energy in analysis paralysis.  Instead, decide on something you want, and test it.  Take action and test your results.  The act of making a decision and taking action will build momentum, and fuel your fire and fan your flames.  Rather than trying to figure everything out up front, start taking action, test your path, and learn and adapt along the way.

2. Act like you mean it. Maybe you want to get in great shape, but are you acting like you mean it?  How many hours are you putting in each week?  What routines are you trying?  Maybe you want to be a rockstar at work.  Who are your mentors and models?  What bold actions are you taking that walk the talk?  If you act like you mean it, you'll make better choices, show more confidence, and build energy that helps you spiral up.

3. Draw from inspirational words of wisdom. Quotes are your friend.  Whenever you need to summon your inner-strength, it helps if you have little one-liner reminders that keep you going.  One of my favorites is by Winston Churchill, "If you're going through hell, keep going."

4. Stand on the "shoulders of giants." Find some role models and heroes to use to lift your spirits and paint a canvas of possibility.  Just having some examples under your belt can inspire you to new levels.  For example, for me, I always look to the amazing physical and philosophical accomplishments of Bruce Lee.  Chances are, no matter what problem or challenge you're up against, somebody's been there and done that.  If not exactly, then at least you can draw from similar experiences.

5. Play the favorite scenes in your mind. We all have favorite scenes from movies over the years.  It's those scenes of triumph, or courage, or an incredible move that inspires us.  Have these at your mental fingertips and draw from them.  Continue to fill and expand your collection by paying attention to the scenes that move you.  You can also draw from scenes in real life.  We all have our shining moments.  Keep those close, and think of them as flash cards to whip out when you need it most.  Simply see the scene in your mind, remember the feeling, and use that to fire you up.

6. Shift to the future. Dwelling on the past is a quick way to bring yourself down.  To lift yourself up, switch to the future and envision the possibilities.  See what's possible.  This is where hope springs from.  By having a compelling vision, you have something to shoot for.  Now instead of having to "push" yourself to something, you will literally be "pulled" by it.  Like a magnet.  The more compelling the vision, the stronger the "pull" will be.  A few simple ways to shift to the future are … "How can I solve this?" … or "What would good look like?" … or "What's the end in mind?"  Questions are a powerful way to shift gears.

7. Connect to your values. You can connect everything you do to your values.  This is a powerful way to inspire yourself with skill.  For example, let's say you value "continuous learning" or "growth".  Whenever you take on a task, ask yourself, "What can I learn from this?" or "How can I improve this?"  Simply by connecting to your values, you tap into your inner source of power.  Your values fuel you and get you jazzed.  For example, one of my values is, "adventure", so at work, I turn every project into an "epic adventure" and make it about the journey.  There's always a big villain or challenge to conquer, and an epic win to shoot for.  And plenty of "growth" along the way.

These are proven practices for inspiring yourself with skill.  Now the question of course is, what are you going to do with all your inspiration?

J.D. Meier is a Principal Program Manager on the Microsoft Enterprise Strategy team.  He shares proven practices for personal excellence at Sources of Insight.com  He's the author of eight technical books, and his first non-technical book is Getting Results the Agile Way, which you can read for free at Getting Results.com

Thanks to J.D. Meier of Sources of Insight / Life Optimizer
http://www.lifeoptimizer.org/2011/09/09/ways-to-inspire-yourself/

 

5 Questions To Consider When Writing For Children

"I want to write a book for children" gets you about as far as saying, "I want to write fiction" or "I want to write nonfiction." It's a start, but only that. There are many forms and genres and age groups to consider, and though you can certainly move fluidly among them, what you're going to write right now needs more focus.

As you develop your ideas for a children's book, be sure to answer these questions:

1. What do you want to write about?

Is your book going to be autobiographical or semiautobiographical? Is it about a natural phenomenon, or a historical event, or a social issue? It is about a cultural or artistic topic? Write a sentence no longer than any of the ones in this paragraph that summarizes what the book is about. Or step back even further and try a tagline — like the snappy phrase on a movie poster or a book's back cover — that encapsulates the theme. (The tagline for one story I've been working on is simply "Believe." Another theme is "Friends don't hesitate.")

2. What form will the story take?

Is the book nonfiction, explaining a scientific concept or exploring an issue from the past or present? Or is it going to be a fictional account of a scientific discovery or a story that takes place during a significant historical event or cultural movement? Either form may serve the subject matter well, but you must decide which one this project will take before you develop the narrative.

3. What's the target demographic?

"Children's books" is a huge category. Are you writing for beginning readers, elementary school students, preteens, or adolescents? Will children of one gender or another be more likely to read your book? Is it directed toward a certain ethnic group (but written in such a way that others don't feel excluded)? Research reading levels and match your book's vocabulary to the intended age range.

Decide who the ideal reader is, and check your work frequently to make sure you're focusing on that child. If you repeatedly veer off, don't try to force yourself to get back on target when it's obviously not the right fit. Change the target.

4. What's my word count?

For very young children, picture books (generally 28 pages in a 32-page book with up to a few sentences on each page) are the norm. You should be able to tell your story or account in as little as a few dozen words for preschoolers to up to several hundred for seven- or eight-year-olds. Chapter books — novels for readers this age or slightly older, might have up to a thousand words or so.

Preteens can handle up to 40,000 words or so, and young teenagers about twice that; books for older adolescents, like those for adults, are often 100,000 words or more.

5. How do I want readers to feel?

Basically, comfort young readers, and challenge older ones. For preadolescents of any age, nonfiction should not frighten children with stark facts about environmental crisis, for example, and fiction should not expose them to unhappy or uncomfortable circumstances. The violence and turmoil of the kind found in fairy tales and myths is acceptable, but real-life mayhem is off limits.

Teenagers, on the other hand, are coming to grips with reality and can more or less handle more adult-themed materials as long as it's not explicit or bleak. Psychological issues, familial and societal friction, and other mature themes are appropriate when handled evenhandedly. Even books for adolescents, however, should have upbeat conclusions. (Comeuppance for villains or reprobates is fine, but sympathetic characters, while they should be given obstacles and ordeals to overcome and can experience physical and psychological pain, should emerge from the story intact.)

Thanks to Mark Nichol / Daily Writing Tips
http://www.dailywritingtips.com/5-questions-to-consider-when-writing-for-children/

 

Can Sovereign Borrowing Be A Criminal Offence?

There is a winding path in our contemporary history from the Keynesian multiplier through the double-dip recession, majority rule and sovereign debt default, to the penal responsibility of a former Hungarian socialist premier for the excessive budget deficit of his country—a path whose twists and switchbacks it is perhaps instructive to survey.

Three generations of economists have been brought up on the Keynesian mechanism of the economy. They think in the terms John Maynard Keynes formulated to describe the Meccano construction he put up—the propensity to consume, the saving-investment identity, liquidity preference, the marginal efficiency of capital—even when they are in substantive disagreement with Keynes about what these levers really do and how they ought to be pulled to get certain results. The domination of Keynes's model is not undeserved. It is clearer, less ambiguous than its predecessors, it is far easier to teach to students and more convincing to the man in the street because it holds out the prospect of simple remedies against the ills of unemployment on the downside, and overheating on the upside that a market economy is apparently so apt to catch.

Over the three years 2008-2010, most governments in Europe and America have been knowingly swallowing big doses of the Keynesian remedies to pull their economies out of recession. Some did so as a matter of deliberate choice; the U.S.A. is the clearest example. Others, of which France is the most typical, merely allowed their vast welfare overhang to act as an automatic stabilizer. With well over 50 per cent of GDP absorbed by government spending and independent of market demand, and with the oncoming recession actually stimulating government spending on unemployment benefits while government income falls as tax receipts fall, the French-style modern welfare state generates the rising dissaving needed to offset the falling private investment and consumption. This big government is supposed to act as its own stabilizer. In fact, during the grim years of 2008 and 2009, France's GDP fell noticeably less than the Western European average, and the country's mostly left-leaning intelligentsia had much satisfaction in pointing out that a model biased toward "social protection" is proving to be more stable and resistant to shocks than one biased toward unfettered free markets.

However, the automatic stabiliser effect of the welfare state involves an equally automatic swelling of government debt, for the stabilisation operates through additional government dissaving. A rough measure of this dissaving is the budget deficit. Whether the deficit rises thanks to automatic shortfalls in tax revenues and costlier social protection, or because governments deliberately pump up anti-crisis spending programmes, the effect is the same. Over the three years 2008-2010, the sovereign debt (roughly, the cumulative budget deficit) of the European states as well as of the United States rose by 20 to 30 percentage points of their GDP, reaching 85 per cent in France and 100 in the United Kingdom and also in the United States. Current economic consensus holds that the 90 per cent level is critical and once beyond it, it is inordinately painful if not impractical to work it down again. A fundamental and almost sacrilegious question then arises: does the Keynesian mechanism work as it was supposed to do? Do the stabilizers really stabilize? Could it be that while the deficit ought to stimulate output and employment through the effect of the Keynesian multiplier, the rising level of the national debt acts as a kind of negative anti-multiplier that offsets the stimulus?

If it had gone by the book, the recovery that started in the second half of 2009 should have been gaining speed and roaring ahead full blast in 2011. Instead, in most of Western Europe and the U.S.A., it has slowed down to near stalling speed and stock markets are dramatically signaling the coming of the second dip of a double-dip recession soon.

We may soon be witnessing the coming in the journals and textbooks of a "new paradigm" in which macro-economic activity is governed, not by one multiplier, but two. One is the old and familiar Keynesian one in which incremental government dissaving increases aggregate demand by an amount greater than itself. The other—call it the counter-multiplier—kicks in when the level of sovereign debt approaches the worrying level. Some countries may start worrying at 60 per cent of GDP (which they have agreed to do in the late lamented Maastricht treaty that no one took seriously), while others, like Italy today, keep a poker face with sovereign debt at 120 per cent. But once at the worry level, any incremental sovereign indebtedness will actually decrease aggregate demand as industry gets frightened and cuts investment and employment, and as households try to reduce credit card and mortgage debt.

If this "new paradigm" of the two multipliers is at all right, it brings a silver lining with the black clouds. Whilst massive increases in the deficit and monetary "easing" of unheard-of proportions fail to stimulate the recovery and may in fact suffocate it, deficit-cutting may, contrary to orthodox beliefs, act as a stimulant: a negative change in government deficit multiplied by the negative multiplier would then produce rising aggregate demand. If only protestations of fiscal rectitude and promises of balanced budgets could be believed!

Under the "new paradigm", there is no counter-cyclical excuse for the deficit. It is plainly bad not only for the next generation which does not count for much in democracies, but also for the present one, which is usually quite ready to vote for it and shoot itself in the foot. In Hungary, which has been known to invent some original ideas in the past, the question has now been raised: can a government or its head be held responsible, and perhaps criminally responsible, for running the national debt? The present centre-right government of Viktor Orban is waiting for the courts to rule whether legislation to this effect is constitutionally admissible.

In Hungary, over two four-year terms of a socialist government from 2002 to 2010, the national debt was run up from 53 to 80 per cent of GDP. With the sales of the "family silver", i.e. state assets mainly to foreign buyers, and with inadequate maintenance of the capital stock, national impoverishment was greater than this. Profligacy peaked in 2006. The government of the ex-communist billionaire Ferenc Gyurcsany looked like losing the general election, but with some bold promises of an extra month of payments to all pensioners and other gestures of social generosity, he "bought" re-election. (Soon afterwards in a surreptitiously recorded closed-door speech to party cadres he admitted to have "lied morning, noon and night.") Buying an election by taking the money from the electorate's own poorly lined pocket is perhaps not a felony. Perhaps it is not even an indictable offence. But then what is it? Unless Hungary were to legislate differently, it is nothing at all, it is just normal practice under majority rule.

Politically correct Western European opinion never forgave Hungary for giving Mr. Orban's centre-right a two-thirds majority in the 2010 election. The language barrier is so impenetrable that news agencies and foreign correspondents rely for information and interpretation on a small soft-left core of Hungarian intellectuals well versed in the jargon of political correctness. The very idea of making a head of government like Ferenc Gyurcsany in some manner accountable for using deficit finance to get himself re-elected turned in Western European media to an appalling symptom of the anti-democratic leanings of the Hungarian centre-right. Even the elite press from the Economist and the Financial Times downwards, condemned it as authoritarian. An editorial in the latter declared that such matters should be left to the courts—which is what the Orban government has done by referring it to the constitutional court even before benefiting from the advice of the Financial Times editorial.

Chances are that no legislation that would make it an indictable offence to use the nation's credit and to steal money from the electorate to bribe it and get oneself re-elected will get on to the Hungarian statute book. The evidence the prosecution could ever muster would always be equivocal. This is a great pity, for such a law is, to put it no higher, an urgent necessity, and not in Hungary alone.

Thanks to Anthony de Jasay / Econlib / The Library of Economics & Liberty
http://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/y2011/Jasaycriminal.html

 

High-Trust Cultures And Strategy Execution

Trust is probably the most important and least discussed aspect of working effectively and efficiently. And, trust is something that is earned by a manager or by a co-worker.

Trust comes from:

  1. Saying what you'll do - and then, doing what you said you'd do.
  2. Being honest about your skills, your abilities, the things you know and can share with others.
  3. When people can look around and see that the "values" in the value statements and mission statements aren't just words but are put into practice by everyone in the organization.
  4. Actions - not words. From your legacy - what you leave behind.
 
 

Poor Leadership Costs Average Organization Over $1 Million Dollars Year

A new white paper from The Ken Blanchard Companies shows that poor leadership is costing the average company an amount equal to 7% of their annual revenue. That's over a million dollars a year for any organization with $15 million dollars or more in annual sales.
 
The three big culprits?
  1. Employee turnover. Poor leadership is responsible for up to 30% of the reasons why people leave their organizations according to exit interviews conducted by The Saratoga Institute.
  2. Customer turnover. Poor leadership negatively impacts employee satisfaction, which in turn negatively impacts customer satisfaction and retention. Research published in Harvard Business Review calculated that every 5 point change in employee satisfaction scores caused a 1.3 point change in customer satisfaction scores.
  3. Employee productivity.  Poor leadership leads to poor employee productivity.  Research from Blanchard shows that direct report productivity can be improved 5-12% through better management practices.
 
 

10 Principles Of Writing For The Web

Writing for online reading is basically the same as writing for print publications. "Writing for the Web" is more about the presentation than the content itself, but it does require a shift in thinking and some mechanical changes to prose. Here are some tips:

1. Introductory Text

Site visitors rarely read introductory paragraphs on their first visit. Why? Most people arrive at a site via a search engine, so they often bypass the home page. Others, of course, follow a link to a home page, or click on a Home link inside the site to see what else it has to offer, so an introduction isn't useless, but make it short and sweet, answering the what and the why in as few words as possible. The same goes for introductory text on interior pages.

2. Points of Entry

Most people scan, rather than read, Web pages, at least initially. Many, of course, read entire articles and essays, but home pages and other top-level pages should catch visitors' attention with scannable text like linked or unlinked keywords, practical (not clever) display copy (otherwise known as headings, subheads, and the like), and bullet lists.

3. Pare Paragraphs

Brief paragraphs that contain just one idea are ideal for online readers. (See?)

4. Key Facts First

Employ the inverted-pyramid model of writing, based on journalistic style, in which the most important information is featured first, followed by decreasingly significant information.

One advantage of this strategy is the same one that made it integral in newspaperese: If content is too long, it's easier just to cut from the bottom rather than try to delete passages throughout. (You can always repurpose the deleted content for another article, or, like many online newspapers, have visitors click to a new page to finish reading.)

5. Link In and Out

Provide links to related material on your Web site and on others. Don't be concerned that visitors won't come back to your site once they leave; if you routinely send them to good material, and you have good material waiting when they return, they'll return.

6. Say It Straight

Chant your new mantra: SWYM, MWYS. (Say what you mean, mean what you say.) Objectivity equals authority; avoid marketese, promotional excess, hyperbole — whatever you want to call it. If people trust you to be evenhanded in your writing style, they will trust you.

Also, be literal, not figurative: If, in a heading for a sports story, you use metaphorical language like curse instead of something more concrete like "losing streak," you lose the opportunity for search optimization.

7. 1st Words Count

Many site visitors scan in a rough F pattern, keeping their eyes on your page's left-hand margin as they dart slightly along each line before dropping to the beginning of the next. Make the first dozen or so characters in your display type count. Avoid bland and coined terms, and start with keywords.

8. Be Passive

Don't go out of your way to avoid passive sentence construction, at least in initial sentences. Why? "Mark Nichol recommends that online writers embrace the passive voice so that key information appears up-front in sentences" breaks the rule recommended in the previous paragraph.

Who cares about Mark Nichol? Start with the point of the sentence: "Passive voice is recommended by Mark Nichol to help online writers place key information up-front in sentences." Of course, you can also place important words at the head of an active sentence: "Passive voice is useful for placing key information up-front in online writing." (And leave me out of it.)

Note, of course, that not every first sentence in a paragraph or even a section needs to be headed by keywords, but don't pass up an opportunity to do so.

9. Write Well

The best way to attract visitors to your site is to provide them with high-quality content. It may not get them there, but it will keep them coming back.

10. Break Rules

Disregard any and all of these rules as you see fit, but know them and apply them often.

Thanks to Mark Nichol / Daily Writing Tips
http://www.dailywritingtips.com/10-principles-of-writing-for-the-web/

Refresh Your Retro Resume In Six Steps

Many people are facing the prospect of finding a new job. And some are even contemplating a complete career change. If it has been years since you've updated your resume, you may be wondering where to start. Follow these six steps to turn your dusty retro resume into a high-powered personal marketing tool for winning interviews in today's competitive job market.

Find Your Resume's Focus

Before you start refreshing your old resume, you need to clarify your job target. Without a clear vision of your career direction, your resume won't do a good job selling you to potential employers. If you have more than one career interest, you'll be much better off developing different versions of your resume rather than trying to construct a one-size-fits-all document.

Having trouble finding your focus? You might want to start with some self-assessment tests or by speaking to a career counselor.

Research Your Target Job

Thoroughly research your job target before writing the first draft of your resume, especially if it's been a while since you've been in the job market. Talk to people in your target industry, and scour job postings on Monster to get a good idea of the qualifications employers are looking for. If you are changing careers, your research may prompt you to enroll in continuing-education classes to gain new skills.

Look for keywords that continually crop up in different ads. If you see terms used frequently, they should probably be in your resume whenever applicable. Pay attention to skills that aren't mentioned in these ads as well, and remove items from your old resume that will make you seem outdated.

Develop Your Career Profile/Objective

Now you're ready to begin writing. If you're a career changer, you'll need a clearly stated objective to open your resume. Don't expect busy hiring managers to figure out what you want to do. Use this section to explain key skills you can leverage from your prior career into your new job target. Emphasize how you can help the organization, rather than what you want in a job.

Here's a before-and-after example:

  • Before: Seeking a challenging position with a future-oriented company offering opportunities for growth and advancement.
  • After: Dynamic public speaker/presenter with advanced technical knowledge, seeking to leverage these strengths as an award-winning computer instructor into an entry-level software sales position.

If you're looking for a new position within your current field, use the Objective section on Monster's Resume Builder to write a compelling career summary. This is the perfect place to write a few hard-hitting sentences emphasizing the breadth of your experience and the value you bring to the table.

Zero in on Your Achievements

Your resume must have an accomplishments-driven focus to compete in today's job market and maximize calls for interviews. Avoid simply rehashing boring job descriptions. Instead, detail the results and outcomes of your efforts.

If you were a hiring manager, which would you find more compelling?

  • Before: Responsible for troubleshooting and maintaining workstations and systems.
  • After: Improved systems uptime from 91% to 99.9% for 350 corporate and remote users through expert, cross-platform (Windows NT/UNIX) troubleshooting/maintenance.

For each of the positions you've held, use action verbs and phrases to describe how you contributed to your employers, such as cut costs, generated revenue, improved service, enhanced processes, solved problems and saved time. Use numbers, percentages, dollar amounts, comparisons or other key details to back up your claims. Be sure not to reveal facts that disclose proprietary or confidential company information.

Design Your Resume

Does your retro resume resemble a typing job circa 1970? To stand out from the crowd, use your word-processing program's advanced formatting features, such as bold, italics, line draw, industry icons, attractive fonts, etc. -- without going overboard -- to give your resume a distinctive look. If you are not confident in your design capabilities, seek assistance from a resume writer or talented friend.

Proofread and Test-Drive

Your resume must be perfect. Carefully proofread your resume to ensure proper grammar, punctuation and usage. If you are changing careers, ask for feedback from hiring managers in your targeted field for valuable input on how your resume stands up to the competition. After it's complete, post your resume online where thousands of employers will see it, and you can apply for jobs easily.

Thanks to Karen Hofferber, Monster Contributing Writer / Monster
http://career-advice.monster.com/resumes-cover-letters/resume-writing-tips/Refresh-Your-Retro-Resume-6-Steps/article.aspx?WT.mc_n=CRMUS00066

 

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Legendary CEO For The Rest Of Us

Shortly after Steve Jobs announced his resignation as CEO of Apple, Costco announced James Sinegal's retirement as CEO. Both men are founders of their company and they've both had a superb run.

If you're a boss and you want an example to follow, James Sinegal sets a good one. Not that Steve Jobs wasn't an effective CEO, he was one of the most effective in my lifetime. But a big part of Jobs' effectiveness springs from his ability to conceive and develop game-changing products. That's hard to copy.

Jim Sinegal doesn't seem to do anything that is beyond the reach of most bosses and he's delivered astounding results, too. Here's how Jena McGregor described it in her Washington Post column titled "The Costco king checks out ."

"Sinegal founded Costco with Jeff Brotman, the company's chairman, in 1983 and expanded it in the 1990s when his company combined with Price Club, which was owned by Sol Price — who pioneered the warehouse concept and had been a mentor to Sinegal. From those beginnings, he's created a warehouse behemoth that pulled in $76 billion in revenues in 2010. Despite the poor economy, customers kept paying the $50 to $100 annual fees for the privilege of shopping at Costco: 87 percent renewed their memberships in 2010. He laid no one off during the recession, other than short-term staff for holidays and store openings."

Sinegal works hard. Costco has 580 stores in nine countries. Sinegal visits every one, every year. He also keeps things simple, stays with what works, and acts like he's a member of the team instead of the king of it.

Costco's policies are simple. House brands are marked up a maximum of 15 percent over cost. Other products are marked up no more than 14 percent, ever. That's what brought the store success and so Sinegal has kept doing it. It's one reason that Costco outsells Sam's Club by s big margin even though Costco has far fewer stores. 

One way that Sinegal acts like part of the team by being paid like it. His $345,000 salary is far less than the average Fortune 500 CEO and far less likely to generate resentment. He answers his own phone, which means that other Costco managers do, too. Even his voicemail message is simple: "This is Jim Sinegal and here's the beep." Go to Costco headquarters to meet him and he'll come out to reception to get you.

The man also makes sure that Costco looks out for the people who work there. Salaries are higher than the competition and Costco pays the lion's share of the cost for health benefits for both full and part time workers.

You don't have to be a genius to do those things, but you do have to be disciplined. And you have to act like you care about the people who work with you and the people who shop in your stores. That's simple, but it's not easy and especially not easy to do day after day and month after month for almost thirty years.

Boss's Bottom Line

Looking for a role model? Jim Sinegal would make a good one.

Thanks to Wally Bock's Three Star Leadership Blog
http://blog.threestarleadership.com/2011/09/08/a-legendary-ceo-for-the-rest-of-us.aspx

 

Is Your Company Missing The Boat On Pricing Opportunities?

While the slow economic recovery certainly affects the profitability of producers of many goods and services, a reluctance to "optimize" prices is a trend that could have far-reaching negative consequences for companies in most sectors of commerce.

The vast majority of companies have spent years achieving gains through cost cutting, outsourcing, process reengineering, and the adoption of innovative technologies. However, the incremental benefits from these important activities are diminishing, and companies need to look at other areas to improve their business results.

Perhaps the area most commonly overlooked—an integral part of the marketing mix—is pricing. A recent study by Atenga Inc. (Woodland Hills, CA), a strategic pricing consultancy, found that a bewildering 82% of CEOs felt that price was not a high priority for them.

"Cost cutting has been the mantra in the business world for decades," says Per Sjofors, Atenga's president. "We found that people think they have cost cutting under control. What they don't have under control is sales growth, and to an even greater extent, pricing. While an optimized pricing strategy has the greatest impact on increasing sales, profitability, and market share, many companies are guessing at what their pricing levels should be, or use a simple rule of thumb, like adding a fixed margin to their cost. They don't actually know what their customers are willing to pay, and may be very timid about raising prices in the present economy."

Sjofors adds that one of the reasons why some companies are timid about pricing is because they have accepted to become commoditized, allowing buyers to have the ability to instantly compare prices for many products and services online. Another reason is that a company's own sales management or distribution channels may be telling senior management to aim for increased sales through volume discounts, which often have a negative impact on profitability.

By shifting its policy to optimized pricing, companies shift the battle to where their strengths lie, in their ability to deliver unique benefits, said a business review by MIT's Sloan Business School of Management in a 2010 Wall Street Journal article. Optimized pricing is defined as having four components: identify value opportunities; choose which ones to prioritize; align their value and price; and constantly communicate to the customers the value being provided.

Two examples of the performance pricing may be found in Netflix's recent price increase and Best Buy's innovative Buy Back program.

Netflix chose to separate its formerly bundled price for ordering movies as DVDs or watching a large selection streaming on personal computers, raising the price for both by 40%, but giving the customer the option to buy either, if they so choose. Although the bundled price increase has stirred controversy, Netflix will most likely hold its customers since the company offers more streaming movies than any competitor and while also offering a similarly wide selection of new movies on DVDs as other providers. Hence, its existing customer base is likely to be willing to pay the price increase.

In the case of Best Buy, its Buy Back program assures customers that they can upgrade their consumer electronics purchases anytime within two years from the purchase date (four years for TVs) based on a scheduled trade-in value. While customers have to pay a premium for the program (similar to an extended warranty), it encourages many consumers to shop at Best Buy simply because of this differentiating option.

Atenga, which works mainly with companies in the $50 to $500 million range, views optimized pricing as both creative and analytical. Specializing in the pricing of new and existing products and services, as well as life-cycle pricing, the firm uses an in-depth analysis of market: Company and customer information are used to measure the true value a product or service provides to its buyers through a process called Optimized Pricing Process (OPP). Using quantitative research and qualitative analysis, data are provided to client companies, giving them realistic criteria on which to determine pricing decisions.

"This OPP approach enables pricing managers and company executives to avoid the many pitfalls in internalized pricing decisions," Sjofors explains. "Many mistakes occur mainly because companies are not actually used to gathering the complete range of pricing criteria."

One such mistake made by many company executives is the failure to segment its customer base. For example, a client had developed an innovative software product, priced at $79.00 per seat, a figure that "felt right" for the executive team; yet sales stagnated, although OPP research showed that there were two distinct market segments for the software: consumers and professionals.

"The $79.00 price was too high for the consumers who were interested in purchasing the product, and too low for the professionals," Sjofors says. "It communicated 'not a serious tool' for the professionals who were interested in its value proposition. As a result of this research, the company decided to focus on the professional marketplace. The company raised the price to $129.00, and sales soared."

In another example, a company was persuaded by its sales staff to reduce the price of its keynote component from $2,400 to $1,800. The staff believed, and persuaded management, that lowering the price would drive sales volumes proportionately higher.

"This is a common error," Sjofors says. "The result was catastrophic. Sales volume over the following year declined almost 40%, as customers and channel partners perceived that the lower price signaled a lower quality. That lower-quality perception prevented the company from reversing the price increase, and it was not until a new product was designed and released—18 months later—that the company began to recapture its former price point, and sales volume."

Sjofors cautions that many other mistakes to pricing are common, and that making the right decision is difficult when dependent on internal data and opinion. He says that, in addition to comprehensive research and qualitative analysis, an educational process is also required to educate company executives and their staffs, particularly the marketing and sales teams, on defending new price increases.

All indications at Atenga are that price optimization is invaluable and helps prevent a brand from becoming a commodity. The firm has done an extensive study on public companies that have optimized their pricing versus peer companies that have not. Among the findings were that companies that optimized pricing had twice the growth rate, twice the profitability, and four to five times higher shareholder value.

"It's worth it," says Sjofors. "By being superior to your peers on pricing, you will grow more quickly, you will be more profitable and you will be more competitive. You will also have more resources to develop new products or services, more resources to innovate and serve your customers better, and more resources to market your company. It will become a self-reinforcing cycle."

Harland David Sanders A.K.A. Colonel Sanders (Sep 9, 1890 – Dec 16, 1980) Founder Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC)

Harland "Colonel" Sanders
Born September 9, 1890
Henryville, Indiana, U.S.
Died December 16, 1980 (aged 90)
Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
Nationality American
Occupation Entrepreneur
Religion Disciples of Christ
Spouse Josephine King (divorced)
Claudia Price
Children Margaret Sanders
Brandon Sanders
Grant Sanders
Mildred Sanders
Parents Wilbur David Sanders
Margaret Ann Sanders (née Dunlevy)

Harland David Sanders, better known as Colonel Sanders (September 9, 1890 – December 16, 1980) was an American entrepreneur who founded Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). His image is omnipresent in the chain's advertising and packaging, and his name is sometimes used as a synonym for the KFC product or restaurant itself.

Early life and career

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Harland Sanders at age 20

Sanders was born to a Presbyterian family in Henryville, Indiana. His father, Wilbur David Sanders, died when Harland was five years old, and—since his mother worked—he was required to cook for his family. He dropped out of school in seventh grade. When his mother remarried he ran away from home because his stepfather beat him. During his early years Sanders worked many jobs, including steamboat pilot, insurance salesman, railroad fireman and farmer. He enlisted in the Army as a private at the age of 16. (Sanders lied about his age) He served his entire service commitment in Cuba.

At the age of 40, Sanders cooked chicken dishes and other meals for people who stopped at his service station in Corbin, Kentucky. Since he did not have a restaurant, he served customers in his living quarters at the service station. His local popularity grew, and Sanders moved to a motel and restaurant that seated 142 people where he worked as the chef. Over the next nine years, he developed his "secret recipe" for cooking chicken. He made use of a pressure fryer that allowed the chicken to be cooked much faster than by pan frying.

He was given the honorary title "Kentucky Colonel" in 1935 by Governor Ruby Laffoon. He was re-commissioned in 1950 by Governor Lawrence Wetherby. Although he had been a Kentucky Colonel for nearly two decades, it wasn't until 1950 that Sanders began to look the part, growing his trademark mustache and goatee and donning his white suit and string tie. He never wore anything else in public during the last 20 years of his life, using a heavy wool suit in the winter and a light cotton suit in the summer.

At age 65, his store having failed due to the new Interstate 75 reducing his restaurant's customer traffic, Sanders took $105 from his first Social Security check and started visiting potential franchisees.

Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy's Old Fashioned Burgers, was offered a chance to turn around a failing Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant. He helped save the restaurant, and revolutionized the fast food industry by simplifying the menu. At the time, there was an excessive number of items on the menu (possibly more than one hundred). Working with Sanders, Thomas stripped the menu down to just the basic fried chicken and salads.

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The restaurant in Corbin, Kentucky where Colonel Sanders developed Kentucky Fried Chicken

Sanders sold the Kentucky Fried Chicken corporation in 1964 for $2 million to a partnership of Kentucky businessmen headed by John Y. Brown, Jr. The deal did not include the Canadian operations. Sanders moved to Ontario and continued to collect franchise fees. Sanders continued on with Kentucky Fried Chicken as its spokesperson and collected appearance fees for his visits to franchises in the United States and Canada. In 1973, he sued Heublein Inc. (the KFC parent company at the time) over alleged misuse of his image in promoting products he had not helped develop. In 1975, Heublein Inc. unsuccessfully sued Sanders for libel after he publicly referred to their gravy as "sludge" with a "wallpaper taste".

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Gravesite of Sanders

Death and legacy

Sanders died in Louisville, Kentucky, of pneumonia on December 16, 1980. He had been diagnosed with acute leukemia the previous June. His body lay in state in the rotunda of the Kentucky State Capitol; after a funeral service at the Southern Baptist Seminary Chapel attended by more than 1,000 people, he was buried in his characteristic white suit and black western string tie in Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville.

He had a son, Harland, Jr., who died at an early age, and two daughters, Margaret Sanders and Mildred Ruggles.

Since his death, Sanders has been portrayed by voice actors in Kentucky Fried Chicken commercials on the radio, and an animated version of him has been used for television commercials (voiced by actor Randy Quaid). Sanders also appeared, portrayed by drummer Brooks Wackerman, as part of Tenacious D's backing band for their last world tour.

In 1965 Sanders moved to Mississauga, Ontario to oversee his Canadian franchises. Sanders later used his shares to create the Colonel Harland Sanders Trust and Colonel Harland Sanders Charitable Organization, which used the proceeds to aid charities and fund scholarships. His trusts continue to donate money to groups like the Trillium Health Care Centre; a wing of their building specializes in women's and children's care and has been named after him. The foundation granted over $1,000,000 in 2007, according to its 2007 tax return. The foundation is based in Sidney, British Columbia.

Sanders was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 2000.

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