The Case of the Phantom Sofa

My wife recently bought a patio furniture set from the Bay. It was a great deal for the floor model set that included a chaise lounge, a club chair, an ottoman and a sofa. The only problem was, when they delivered the furniture, there was no sofa. The invoice showed us paying for a sofa, but the packing slip showed no such thing. Apparently, we were sold a sofa that doesn't exist.

When my wife bought the furniture, it was out on display in the store (except for the sofa). When my wife asked where the sofa was, she was told it was in the back storeroom. So imagine our surprise when it never arrived. After speaking with four different employees, including the rep who sold us the furniture, no one can (or will) explain what happened. It has been well over a week and we are still sofa-less. We have been told that they will find us a sofa and that a team of people are working on this, but only after repeated phone calls and persistance by my wife.

There are some good lessons for businesses on good customer service:

– Don't sell products you don't have-make sure you have the product somewhere before asking a customer to pay for it

– Call your customers back-even if you don't have any new updates, you gain trust and loyalty by doing what you said you would do

– Take action to fix the problem-offer an apology as well as some additional incentive to maintain the loyalty of your customers

Customers will judge you on how you handle problems when they arise, so these are good opportunities to show your customers how much you care. Right now, I don't care for the Bay very much.

What Should Yahoo Do?

As you have likely heard already, Yahoo got themselves in a little bit of hot water lately when it surfaced that their new CEO, Scott Thompson, lied about his university degree on his CV. He claimed to have a computer science degree from a school that didn't offer that degree until four years after he left. So what should Yahoo do?

This is only one of a series of bad decisions that the Yahoo board has made, showing that maybe they are not the right group to steer Yahoo back in the right direction. Sure, the board made a correctable error by not checking into Thompson's credentials, but the bigger issue is what to do with Thompson. He lied on his resume and admitted to it in a letter he sent to all Yahoo employees.

The issue isn't that Thompson lied about a degree, it is that he lied, period. I don't profess to know him, but does this say anything about his character? Does it mean he has lied about other things in his career? Does he lie to his staff? These are not irrelevant or far-fetched questions to ask.

Yahoo is clearly a company struggling to find itself and this takes them in the wrong direction. What would you do if you found out the person running your organization had lied in order to get the job?

What Can the World Learn From Healthcare?

As a consultant who helps many companies in the healthcare industry I believe that there are many of the solutions that are being developed that can apply to other industries. Here is my little secret on how.

Overall, I help companies improve profitability and performance and help them become more operationally efficient. This happens to be in high demand in the healthcare industry right now as organizations fight to do more with less. So we need to look at ideas and solutions that increase innovation and provide for better results while not working any harder. Resources are stretched and being asked to take on more work, budgets are being frozen or reduced, there is a shortage of skilled resources and organizations are trying to maximize return on investments and minimize costs and government involvement is increasing. Does this sound familiar? Of course it does because these challenges can apply to almost every other industry.

The healthcare industry has no choice but to innovate and no choice but to make improvements because of all of the funding constraints. But that means that there are some remarkable ideas and partnerships being developed that other industries can learn from.

Just to give you two examples of this: private sector companies are partnering with public sector organizations to fund redevelopment projects and healthcare providers are collaborating with supplies to develop new technologies to improve patient outcomes.

There is a lot we can learn from what is going on in healthcare right now. The question is are we open to that learning?

Resolving your organizations biggest challenges

My clients face many different challenges, but let me share the top three with you and how I may recommend you resolve them.

The first challenge is that they don’t implement their strategies effectively. This seems to be a constant problem as great strategies are developed but never implemented successfully. In order to implement these strategies successfully you need to involve employees in the strategy development process. Create internal champions who will help everyone see how they fit into the bigger picture. You need to provide clear accountabilities and measurements so people know what success will look like and how they can help get there.

The second challenge my clients face is that they don’t collaborate enough with their customers and suppliers on improving performance. You must engage employees, customers, and suppliers more often in identifying new performance improvements. Look at your best customer relationships and determine why that is. Look at how your suppliers are working with their best customers. What can you learn and build into your own organization?

The third challenge my clients face is that they move too slowly. Organizations often spend a lot of time on activities that are not adding any value to the organization. You need to assess your operations and stop performing activities that don’t increase profit, improve attraction and retention of top people, improve customer service or improve the sustainability of the organization. I help my clients focus on value added activities and if you ask yourself those four questions and you can’t answer yes to any of them you need to stop doing the activity.

Research In Motion (RIM) is a classic example of a company that moved too slowly and now they are struggling for survival in the cut-throat cell phone and tablet markets. They developed some very good products but became complacent and they are now losing market share rapidly to companies like Apple and Samsung.

Speed is a key component to the success of any company. What are your biggest challenges and how are you tackling them?

The Four Attributes of Successful Leaders

In a conversation with a client recently we were discussing what are the attributes of successful leaders? I believe that there are four key ones.

The first attribute is adaptability, which means that a leader must be able to lead in varying environments whether it be a crisis, a boom, moderate success, ambiguity. A leader must be able to understand and then adapt to the environment around them.

The second attribute is being perceptive. Leaders must know what is going on around them, the different personalities of the teams they lead, the different agendas people may have and how the leader is perceived by others and use that information to determine how to best achieve their goals and objectives.

The third attribute is being decisive. This means balancing the desire for consensus with the required speed of decision-making. It also means that in most cases some action is better than no action.

The fourth and final attribute successful leaders have is being humble. We often read about leaders who give most of the credit to the people around them when things go well but shoulder most of the blame when things go awry. A leader needs to recognize that he/she needs smart people around them and that they can’t do everything on their own.

I will also let you in on a little secret. Great leaders aren’t always at the top of their organizations. There are many great leaders we have never heard of yet show all of the attributes I have just discussed. Do you know who those people are in your organization?

Why We Procrastinate

It is new month, the flowers are blooming, the grass is growing and golf season has started. It is a time of change. But when isn't it a time of change? The most successful companies are always changing, yet most of us have a habit of procrastinating. We even procrastinate those things we know will make us feel better or help us grow our businesses. Before tackling how to stop procrastination, we need to look at why we procrastinate. Here are seven reasons:

  1. Fear of rejection-We fear that if we try something, we will be turned down. No one likes to hear the word 'no.'
  2. Fear of success-We worry what will happen if we become successful. We might feel like an imposter waiting for someone to discover the truth about us (see Lack of confidence).
  3. Fear of the unknown-We always worry about what we don't know and how people will react and this causes us to freeze up.
  4. Complacency-We get comfortable with our routines and are hesitant to change because we know change is difficult, so we take the path of least resistance-status quo.
  5. Lack of confidence-We have low self-esteem and don't believe what we are doing will be valuable to others.
  6. Not knowing where to start-We think of things in such a broad sense that we get over-whelmed and don't know where to begin.

Often there is a simple solution to breaking through the reasons mentioned above: just start moving. If we spend some time breaking down the initiative into digestible chunks, it becomes more manageable. Once we actually take the first step towards that goal, we can overcome all of our fears.