3 things to remember for 2010

Now that we are approaching the new year, may we all live long and prosper in 2010, the Year of the Recovery. Since I may not post again until after the new year, here are three things to remember for 2010 (this is actually a re-post from something I posted in early 2009, but no one wanted to listen to me then):

Expand your customer base – offer new products or sell existing products to new markets. Look for complimentary products that you can offer customers and reposition existing products to new markets.
Expand your talent base – snatch up the resources that your competitors are letting go. With more people on the market, your options in the talent pool are increased, so look to shore up your strengths and supplement weaknesses with industry talent.
Expand your investments – purchase the new technology that you need to get to the next level and look at new equipment to streamline operations. Make the customer experience more inviting. Get product to them faster and easier. There are deals to be made with suppliers.

2010 is going to be a great year, so I wish you all the best during the holidays and beyond!

The speed of car rentals

Do you ever wonder why it takes so long to rent a car? I have never been able to figure this one out. People have been renting cars for years and years, yet, when you get in line to pick up your car, you have to wait an eternity. Nothing about the process seems to be standardized. The only time things seem to move quickly is when you have signed up for the preferred customer program and can literally just pick up your car.

Why not apply the same principles for all rentals? Why not have a separate line (when possible) for those with reservations versus those walking up to rent? Why not have people complete more information when they are actually booking the car online or on the phone? The more information provided at the time of booking, the less time required to pick up the car. Ask people if they want insurance when they book, not when they arrive. Explain to them the gas options when they book, not when there are 6 people behind them in line. Picking up your car should be as simple as confirming your booking details and size of car, photocopying a license and getting the keys. That does not sound difficult does it?

Car rental companies lose business regularly because they are too slow and inefficient, so the first one out of the gate with a faster, more efficient pick-up process will win the day. Best of luck to them.

Happy holidays!

The future of magazine advertising

Since the consensus is that eventually printed magazines and newspapers will die out (an opinion which I do not entirely agree with), what will be the future of advertising in magazines? Where will the sponsors go? Online of course. Much of the information we read is moving online, which actually allows us to get more current information. Advertisers are realizing this and putting more effort behind online advertising. But let's be real here, how many of you actually look at the banner or pop-up ads that are part of the web page you are reading? I bet most of you do not even notice them. I know I don't.

So the challenge for advertisers is how do they cut through all of the noise on the web to get their message across? They need to be interactive. What if you went to a magazine website and the person on the cover was actually talking to you telling some of the feature articles? What if they were describing some of the high points of the article featuring them? If magazines went to this model, advertisers could get their products mentioned as a part of this interactive relationship with the customer. What if there were quick games to win prizes? We all have very short attention spans when it comes to the web, but if we find something interesting and engaging, we are willing to spend a few minutes on it. Imagine Lebron James talking to you on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine; "check out this article on why Cleveland is going to win it all this year, and don't forget to buy new Coke, it is as refreshing as ever, ahhhh." Don't laugh, it might come sooner than you think.

The moral of the story is, the quicker that companies recognize the way in which information is going, the sooner they can get ahead of the competition and take advantage of it.

The speed principle

Do you know the benefit that your organization can achieve by doing things faster? How can these results be measured?

Speeding up positive business results is something that not enough organizations try to do. We talk about productivity and efficiency, waste elimination, value chain mapping, cost cutting, etc.-but what is the value of speed? Before answering that question, we need to put this in context. Increasing speed is not always what is best for the business. The key to effectively using speed to improve results is knowing when to speed up and when to slow down, as well as having the capabilities to do both. Sometimes that is within your control, and sometimes it is not. Many companies follow arbitrarily developed speed limits without asking how much faster they can go or at what times should they go faster. The key to increasing speed is ensuring that similar, or improved, outcomes are achieved. Speed is no good if it produces an inferior product or service.

What would be the benefit be if you could hire better people faster? What if you could resolve customer service issues more effectively and faster? What if you could identify prospective customers faster without losing the quality of the lead?

These are questions that organizations should be asking themselves on a regular basis and taking steps to answer them. In order to maximize the speed principle, organizations need to prepare for the conditions ahead, remain calm when moving forward and have the discipline to govern themselves to speed up and slow down when appropriate.

The G20 comes to Toronto

As a Torontonian, I was very happy to hear that the G20 will be embarking upon our fair city in June 2010. Many may think this will cause disruption to  the city-traffic, road closures, protests-I say, bring it on!

How often does a city get the opportunity to host something like this? 20 of the world's most important politicians coming to see our fair city and enjoy its wares. It will be a nice boost for summer tourism, for restaurants, for cab and limo companies, for retail outlets. Sure it will be chaos for the few days leading up to the Summit, but that should be more than offset by the exposure that the city gets.

People around the world will be able to see what a beautiful, multi-cultural city Toronto is. Couple that with the fact that the Winter Olympics are in Vancouver, and 2010 is looking to be a stellar year for Canada. Our country and two of its most beautiful cities will be on parade for all to see. We should embrace this opportunity because it can have effects that will last for years. So let's not screw it up!

To be honest or not to be honest, that is the question…

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind…..you get the idea.

The recent Tiger Woods situation brings up an interesting discussion - how much information is too much and how much is not enough? We clamour for celebrity information like it is the food that fuels us. But aside from that, what information should be disclosed? When is providing too much information more damaging than good?

Every situation is different and it is hard to point the finger at someone without knowing all of the facts. The problem is, the less we know, the more we speculate. Many celebrity athlete blunders have blown over quickly when the truth was told early (see Kobe Bryant's affair and Alex Rodriguez's steroid use). However, we have also seen telling the truth backfire on others (see Pete Rose).

So what should Tiger do? Who knows, but there are tens (if not hundreds) of millions of people waiting to find out…that is a lot of pressure.