One of the neat things about writing your own blog is that you can pretty much write about whatever you want – you don’t really answer to anyone! And while ...
Part of living in a democratic society is that we also help contribute to the health, well-being and justice of the communities we live in. And as part of this comes a responsibility to also participate periodically in the social responsibility known as Jury Duty – where we give up part of our daily lives to the service of the community, in helping to determine justice for those amongst us. Another responsibility that is not as well-known, but also just as important, is that of Beach Inspection. This duty is very similar to that of Jury Duty, however only a select few will ever get called to this duty – it is totally random, and once chosen you do not have the liberty of backing out. You must serve!
Service typically means going through extensive background searches, removal of all known metal devices from your clothing – removal of shoes and even sometimes a manual pat down even after going through screening devices, all to make sure that you pose no threat whatsoever to the local environment of the beaches that you have been chosen to protect. Also, you have no real jurisdiction over where you must serve in this inspection process – it could well be in the upper coastline of Maine, along the shores of California, or in our case – along some beautiful stretch of Kiawah Island in South Carolina!
Once you arrive – you are shepherded into a community nearby the beach itself. Often times there are bathing pools in these compounds so that you can cleanse your body and soothe your mind after working all day. Your role is to basically walk up and down the beach to inspect the sand and all of the materials you may find on the beach – such as shells, crabs and such, and determine if in fact they are authentic. Have they been there since the beginning of time, or were they in fact bogus. This can be hard, especially when you do not have a great deal of experience, and that is why these assignments often take a full week to fulfill. When completed though, you can return home feeling genuinely refreshed knowing the impact the past week has had on your soul… or oops, did I mean the beaches? Well, either way, I think you get the idea that this is an awesome responsibility and one that must be taken seriously. Really!
And oh by the way, if I had not mentioned already, I happen to be on vacation this week and since it was also my regular time to blog I needed to come up with something! It is important to take some time away from work periodically and do something just to unwind – such as some creative writing and walking on the beach!
When is your next beach inspection scheduled?
How you do this could be the subject of many discussions – the type of media you use, the message you convey, communicating the spirit and passion of your organization, etc. Today though I am going to key in on the value of print, and how a truly unique presentation can help engage the reader – peak their curiosity, tease their senses, and make an impression. A truly creative printed piece can make a difference in how your company, your product or your service is perceived and remembered.
To begin with, think of the paper that you specify for the printed piece. Do you look to use an uncoated sheet to match the images best, or a coated stock? Want to really stand out – how about a textured paper? There are a number of truly unique finishes such as; stippled, felt, laid, linen, metallic, Oxford cloth, wood grain and so many more. When used appropriately with the right images, they will intrigue the reader and stimulate their sense of touch. With a wide range of colors, you can also get creative. Studies have shown a greater response when stock colors are used as compared to plain white.
Other options to consider are enhancing a design with either foil stamping, or embossing - or you can even combine the two. Foils stand out from the printed image in a way that immediately attract attention. They can be the traditional metallic gold or silver, but in addition you can select a wide variety of holographic foils or different shades of colors. For embossing, or debossing as well, the tactile effect can add interest – although many times you might find the need to add a colored “hue” to help embellish the effect and make it more visible. Typically these options are a little more costly, but for the right design they can make a difference. Die-cutting a shape within your printed piece is another great way to show a difference.
There are also a wide variety of coatings that can be applied to the printed sheet. Whether as an overall coating such as a soft-touch, or combination of gloss/dull coatings, you can change the effect or visual appearance dramatically. It is interesting to see people pick up a seemingly plain brochure, but when they feel the softness of the finish, they repeatedly will rub the piece and comment on it to others – even pass it along, all because it is so different than a plain piece of paper! For added effects, try the use of a glitter coating to add some sparkle – or a raised spot UV coating. Readers will touch the raised image and then continue to hold the piece at different angles to see where the image starts and stops – only to stop and think “how cool is that!”
To engage other senses, consider the use of a scratch n sniff image – there are a wide range of stock scents such as flowers, fruits, foods and perfumes – we could even mix up a special scent to match something custom. There can also be heat activated coatings that will show images hidden underneath when rubbed or exposed to warm air. For a more simple way to hide a winning prize, the use of a common scratch-off will do the trick!
While doing something a little creative does add cost to the printed piece, often the value realized through increased response rates can more than pay for the technique used. In addition, the number of added touches received from your piece being passed around to others extends the impact even more!
To see live samples of what I have suggested here we have developed a creative piece called Print Plus… a journey - contact me to receive a copy to touch and feel yourself!
How can we help you stand out in a crowd?
The most successful franchises indeed have all of the elements working together. It starts with the ownership that has a genuine commitment to making it all happen – which basically means they are willing to invest the money that it takes to continue to grow. This includes the stadium infrastructure and training facilities, just like business owners need to stay current with the equipment needed to remain technologically current. It also takes the money to invest in the employees – both the players and the staff to lead the players -coaches. This investment is definitely ongoing, not only with the initial hiring, but also in player development which is akin to encouraging and paying for continuing education, sales training, seminars, and conferences.
Successful franchises rely heavily on the head coach – the ultimate leader of the team, to teach, inspire, motivate and evaluate each of the individual players. To assist them they have a variety of assistant coaches – or as in business, department managers. Each of these assistants need to continually look at ways to improve performance. This could be in developing new plays, or processes in the business world, and making changes as needed to keep the whole team moving forward. It is the experience of these coaches that needs to be translated and communicated to each of the players. It is not enough to just have a “play book” on the shelf – rather they spend a tremendous amount of time in training camps looking to run plays, assign responsibilities, and practice - then keeping track of all the stats. This is the same in the business world too – we need to continually train our people, track the progress and hold them to standards - all with the idea of improvement. If we cannot consistently hit the quality or efficiency standards, then ultimately our clients will look elsewhere – just like the sports fan that chooses to support other teams when the results aren’t achieved on the field.
Then there are the players themselves – the employees on the production line. Okay, this might be more of a stretch in comparing them with some of the high paid, demanding athletes! None the less, these are the ones actually playing the game. With the right coaching and support from management, they will make the plays, hit the balls, score the goals. Over time, with the right players on the team and coaches to push while also holding them accountable, you will find a very passionate group of people who will drive themselves to achieve a common goal – winning a game, a divisional race, a championship, or business success! Everyone has to be on the same page, and “all in.” When one team player or employee lets you down, you need to find out why – is there something that you did not give them to do their job, or perhaps it just was not a good fit?
Teamwork is an ongoing challenge. Just when you think you are all set, things change – technology, people, spirit. Then the game starts all over again!
How is your team doing? What are the challenges you are facing? Are you giving them all they need to win?
This is a pretty busy sport’s weekend, especially if you are football fan – which I am! Although I do follow other sports, I will admit that I do not spend nearly as much time watching other sports as I do football – just do not find them as interesting.
So as I sit here today watching the playoffs evolve and then get tasked with writing my blog post, I got to thinking a little about how sports and business really have quite a bit in common. After all, the argument could be made that in reality sports is nothing more than big business! Sure we get hung up on who makes the playoffs and wins the big game – especially if it is our very own team, but let’s not forget that each season there are franchises that count on a budgeted amount of revenue from tickets sales, apparel sales, food and drink sales and even parking income to help fund the huge amount of player salaries that we read about every year. And don’t forget the income from television and radio as well!
To continue the analogies, just as businesses are tasked with advertising and marketing, so too are your favorite sports team. They continually are out there promoting themselves across a wide variety of media – radio, television, print, social media, etc. The better job they do, and the more revenue they will generate – sound familiar? Of course they typically have a pretty strong budget to work with, but even more the reason they need to try to “knock it out of the ballpark” with a new campaign, and one that is typically very interactive with the fans. They will even team up with other businesses to offer co-marketing opportunities, such as those that provide giveaways at games or pay huge amounts of money to have a stadium named after them.
Another area that has a strong correlation to business is that of player personnel. While most of us in business could not even think about paying the type of salaries that sports teams do, none the less we also have similar personnel challenges. Fortunately most of our changes are not as public as those in sports, on the other hand, perhaps we could learn from them! Sports teams are continually evaluating talent. Who are the new draft picks that will make a difference, versus perhaps some players that have passed their prime? Do they have contracts that become excessive over time, when someone is not living up to the expectations? Do they make a trade for some one on another team? When a mistake is made, they hear about it, and the pressure is always on to make the right choices – we should be as diligent in business!
When a business does a good job, they will receive a testimonial. If they are continually doing well by their customers, they will build on this and grow. It will become a place that others want to work at.. a reputation will be built and they will truly become successful! The same can be said about the perennial champions in a given sport. Their fans will go crazy and paint their faces even to show support! They will flood the streets after a championship is won – just to celebrate and promote their favorite team. The enthusiasm and faithfulness is unbelievable! On the other hand, when a team loses – and regularly, then the fans are not bashful about letting them know – this just is not acceptable! Social media will go crazy with people offering their advice – the press will take every opportunity to evaluate the problems, and at the end of the year… the drop in ticket sales or revenue loss from apparel sales will make an impact and reinforce the need for change. Want an example of this? Just check out the Chicago Bears this last year!
What other similarities are their between sports and business? Who are your favorite teams?
… that time again where we all start back at Zero! Yep, the start of the New Year is upon us and right after we all get to enjoy the spirit of the holidays with friends and family, we begin the business of building business.
For many of us we have the benefit of ongoing business relationships and perhaps even some contractual accounts. For others, each new month means literally starting from scratch. For all of us though, it is a given that we need to build on our past year’s history. Just because we may have enjoyed a good year does not ensure the same for the future, and in reality we need to be growing by 3 to 5 percent per year just to keep pace with increasing expenses. And likely this is not going to just come from raising our costs to clients – very few industries or market segments can increase year to year like the health insurance companies, and yet we all need to cover their increases!
I am optimistic that in 2015 we will all be able to see a stronger economic growth than even we had in the last year and no doubt this will help us. None the less, seeking new clients and markets will also be crucial to our success. Also, the way we look to engage these new potential clients will be critical – we cannot just knock on a door and suggest that we do blah, blah, blah! Rather we need to move on from responding to an existing need, and actually seek to create a potential solution to the challenges that the prospect may have. This process takes time and thought - a much longer sales cycle, but one that can also lead to a much stronger relationship – one that is not just built on price.
For some of us it will be a matter of working harder, and others it will be working smarter – trying to be more efficient and selective. If you are a one person show, everything will fall on you! For medium to large size companies, there may be a team involved. Either way though, the true measure of your success in the new year will be whether or not you were able to move forward and build on this year’s number. The company budget relies on this, your business associates are counting on it, and your own self-esteem is built from it – no pressure here!
So it is indeed time to get started… best of luck to us all!
I will admit to having a hard time thinking about what to write today. Sometimes the topic comes right to me or I have it on my radar for a while – other times it can take a while. As I do often though, thinking about it on the treadmill during a workout can bring clarity. Interestingly though, it was not until about halfway through my run that it came to me – right as I was thinking I needed to step up my pace and perhaps go even further than my typical 2 1/2 miles. The goal I set was to complete a full 5K – or 3.1 miles – and then to try to top my last official time.
So there it was… the concept of setting goals – striving for more than what we had done in the past.
This is actually a pretty good time to be thinking about this, as we draw near to the end of the year. Now that we see where we are finishing and what we will have achieved, we can also start the planning process for what we can realistically do in the coming year. Of course it is important to push yourself a little bit too. If we get too comfortable with the status quo, then over time we find ourselves actually falling behind!
In some cases we have others that are setting the goals for us. Perhaps you report to a sales manager, or for nonprofits a board of directors that task the development director to achieve a certain amount of fundraising growth. If you are self-employed, then the task of setting goals can even be harder – you have to not only do the work, but in the end, hold yourself accountable. Wherever the goals come from though, often times a budget is set accordingly and then there are even more people who are counting on your performance.
A great source of inspiration for setting goals can come from others. It could be a number of self-motivational books by authors such as Tony Robbins, Zig Ziglar, Napoleon Hill, Dale Carnegie and many others. It can also be from industry consultants, such as one that I like to read on a regular basis – Bill Farquharson. Bill does weekly videos and sales tips that are short reads and typically very down to earth, easy to follow. A link to some of his work can be found at: http://www.piworld.com/channel/the-sales-challenge .
No matter where you seek out your inspiration though, the point is that you don’t need to go it alone. Once you set your goals, lean on others to help. And of course it is critical to track your progress throughout the year to maintain the momentum. Break down the goals into monthly or quarterly objectives, then be sure to celebrate as you meet the goals.
As for my inspirational run today – yes I did make the 5K and the time I set as a goal. Made me feel pretty good too!
What are your goals for the coming year?
As I look back on this past Thanksgiving and the last couple of months in general, I have much to be thankful for. To be sure, this starts with family. My wife Julie offers me more support than you could know and puts up with my long hours at work – I am pretty sure I owe her big-time! My daughter Jenni has started a new career as a studio photographer and her creative talent will carry her far I am sure – this adventure takes me back to when I first started in business 33 some years ago! (Let me know if you need any family portraits :)) I am also thankful that I was able to spend some extended time with my parents this fall – both on a week-long vacation out to Colorado and then again with another visit a week later.
This past week Julie and I spent some time with our friends Patti and Steve that live out in Connecticut. As part of a tradition that has carried on for twenty years now, we get together and meet in some location across the country for a quick vacation and time to catch up with each other every other Thanksgiving. These trips have included Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia and this year in Memphis, Tennessee! A good time was had by all, and we got a chance to say hello to Elvis as well.
And then there is work, where I am very grateful to our many clients who have helped keep us very busy the past several months! In fact, I commonly refer to it as swamped busy – over 30% more than is our average in a month. This is very exciting to see this kind of growth, so thank you! This very much also leads to another group of people I am thankful for – our staff members! It is definitely a challenge to keep up with the daily deadlines, and especially when we have been down two employees in the past few weeks as well. Mike and Mary in our mailing and bindery departments have been stellar in their attention to workflow, and they have been assisted by Bob, Bill, Bob and Eva along with some great temporary workers as well. And while I know I have had a few long days, I believe Bob takes the ribbon for actually staying through all night once this past month!
Pam and Heather in our prepress department have been amazing in taking on the challenge of an additional workers load, and now that Dave has been hired to join them, he is getting to jump in feet first! Pat and Dave in our press department have likewise been up to the added workload of being down 1 person, and are doing a great job. Of course Hollie and Karen, along with a name from the past – Mary, have started the ball rolling with getting jobs into production, and then following up on all the details that often times change in mid-stream. Then Nancy and Ginny also feel the added workload from the additional business and need to stay on top of everything as well for client contact, billing and keeping track of many different postage balances!
All in all it has been a happy and busy Thanksgiving. I am indeed grateful for everyone that has been a part of it.
What is it you are thankful for?