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Why Businesses Fail—and Succeed

Adam Cuppy Presenting
Above: Adam Cuppy speaking on leadership (photo by Jim Craven; courtesy of The Southern Oregon Edge)

Why do most businesses fail? Is it lack of resources? Poor marketing? Untrained employees? Or perhaps it’s their location—the company’s too far away from the epicenter of their industry, too under the radar to get noticed.

None of the above, according to Coding ZEAL co-founder Adam Cuppy. He thinks it’s because “their leadership is very poor.” His fellow founders Sean Culver and Trever Yarrish agree.

Drawing a diagram of a snow-capped mountain, Adam explains, “Leaders tend to think they need to … stand on top of the mountain. Reality is,” he continues, “they’re the one holding it up.”

Instead of being on a power trip, leaders should practice humility and service. By switching from proclaiming to listening, managers learn valuable truths from their employees, customers and the community.

Leaders can get stuck in a circular loop, asking and then answering their own questions. This is when stagnancy occurs.

The leader who stands on the top of the mountain “always has the answer.”

Coding ZEAL turns that model upside-down. “As leaders, our responsibility is to ask questions constantly,” says Adam. “The problem is that if it’s the same person that’s answering the question, you run into a dilemma because it’s not giving an opportunity to the other people in the organization to help you answer that.”

At Coding ZEAL, every new employee becomes a partner in a way. The structure is not flat, but it’s agile and encourages creative collaboration.

Hire for Culture

The three founding partners agree culture is crucial to their success. “We hire for culture fit and we hire for empathy and we hire for capacity,” says Adam. “You don’t hire for current talent necessarily. That actually becomes an added benefit.”

Coding skills and algorithms can be taught; empathy, zealotry and excitement must come from within.

We’ve blogged about the centrality of culture to authentic branding in past articles such as Creating Your Brand from the Inside Out: Why Your Culture Comes First, and Coding ZEAL is yet one more successful example of this principle in action.

Growth

“We are only limited by our perceived constraints,” says Adam.

That optimistic philosophy has paid off. “We’re at a point now that is super exciting and fun,” says Adam. “It feels we’re constantly bursting at the seams. We’re always in that catch-22 of capacity being maxed out and needing to hire more people.”

Good leadership involves finding that sweet spot between too many and too few employees. You don’t want to grow so quickly that the culture becomes diluted, nor do you want to grow so slowly that your employees become overworked.

Pair Programming
Above: Coding ZEAL developers pair programming (photo by Jim Craven; courtesy of The Southern Oregon Edge)

Pair Programming

Guided by Kent Beck’s extreme programming (XP) principles, Coding ZEAL developers practice pair programming. Not only does this allow veteran programmers to mentor newer employees, but when two minds focus on a task, they can spot and resolve problems far more quickly.

“Randy is bringing his expertise to the table, Sean’s bringing his expertise to the table, and where they overlap, greatness happens,” says Adam. “Where they don’t overlap, the other one’s learning.”

By investing in skill-building and education, Coding ZEAL is laying the groundwork for happier, and thus more productive, employees.

Code Occasions

“People are everything, you have to rock everybody’s world,” says Adam.

Knowing how mentally taxing coding all day is, Adam notes, “It’s imperative that there be developer happiness.”

Coding ZEAL leaders recognize that for their programmers, “much of that happiness has to focus around … mental space,” Adam says.

That is why they came up with the idea of code occasions. Coding ZEAL actually pays for its developers to go off and play, to create and imagine and implement their own ideas in a fresh and stimulating environment with one or two coworkers.

“It’s the inspiration, that cross-pollination,” says Adam, “that’s huge in everything we do.”

Employee Happiness

Coding ZEAL T-ShirtWhen you have happy, fulfilled employees whose creativity is stretched and nourished, the company flourishes, too.

Driven by a superhuman enthusiasm, Coding ZEAL developers gladly devote hours of intense focus to deliver products that exceed customer expectations. For them, this isn’t a job; it’s a calling.

By cultivating employee happiness, Coding ZEAL leaders enjoy unbridled loyalty from their programmers, whose emotional connection with the company results in sentiments like, “I will show up on the weekends if I have to. I will do what I have to because I have this vision driving my ambition,” explains Adam.

If poor leadership is why businesses fail, Adam’s, Sean’s and Trever’s empathetic leadership is why companies succeed.

To read more wisdom from Coding ZEAL founders, see our last article on the secret to exceeding customer expectations.

Wednesday
18
March 2015
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The Secret to Exceeding Customer Expectations

Coding ZEAL Leaders
Above: Trever Yarrish, Sean Culver, and Adam Cuppy (photo by Jim Craven; courtesy of The Southern Oregon Edge)

What do coffee, code, and marketing have in common? For Adam Cuppy, Trever Yarrish and Sean Culver—founders of the wildly successful Coding ZEAL based here in Southern Oregon—it doesn’t matter what they have in common. What matters is the experience customers have while enjoying your product and interacting with your company.

“It’s not about the product you think you’re selling,” said Adam in a recent interview I conducted with him for The Southern Oregon Edge. “It really is about the relationships.… Ask yourself what is the experience you’re going to provide to the people that are going to consume it.”

In 2007, Yarrish and Cuppy left their stint as Dutch Bros. marketing and creative directors to create a marketing company in Grants Pass. Six years later, they partnered up again—this time joined by Sean Culver—to found a superhero-flavored development company in Medford.

Guided by the principle of zeal, the founders sought to “create an amazing experience.” Discussing the origin of the name “Zeal,” Adam says, “What I love about the name was I looked it up and it said ‘gross unadulterated enthusiasm.’ What’s more amazing and audacious than that? What says nothing about programming and everything about the experience? ‘Zeal’ does.”

Sure, the quality of your product matters, but what matters more is how you answer the question, “What am I going to do to blow people’s minds? What am I going to do make raving fans?”

And Coding ZEAL has done just that. With clients ranging from Mavenlink.com to Oregon Shakespeare Festival, SilverCloud to Scratch-it.com, the company has seen 1400 percent annual growth since its launch.

Agility is at the heart of their success. “We’re an agile agency,” says Trever, “so when technology changes, we move where we need to move.”

This fluidity allows the company to focus on not only satisfying customers but on wowing them.

Coding ZEAL Customer Expectations Versus RealityTo illustrate this concept, Adam draws two columns, one representing customer expectations and the other reality, each with a scale ranging from 1 to 10. The customer relationship begins when expectations meet reality.

A customer usually starts by expecting an average experience—a 5, say. If you give them what they expect, no lasting impression will be made. If you give them a 4 or worse, you’ve not only lost the opportunity to build brand loyalty, but that customer may go on to complain publicly, leading to the loss of other potential customers.

“So instead what we’re going to do is they come in and they get a 7. They come in and we’re going to take an opportunity to blow their mind somehow, some way,” explains Adam.

But that’s just the beginning. Now that they’ve had a 7 experience, their expectations will change, and they’ll want a 7 again next time. So what do you have to do as a company? You up the ante. You give them an 8.

With each new interaction, you deliver an even better experience. Once a relationship is built, you just have to sustain that level of service. Even if a bump occurs along the path, the customer is going to be more forgiving because of the positive relationship you’ve established.

Using this model of expectation dilemmas, a company that consistently achieves between an 8 and a 10 discovers “this wonderful, wonderful thing,” says Trever. “Right there is the secret to success in forming loyalty.”

Empathy is key to continually exceeding customer expectations. “We are trying to always understand where you’re at, what you’re needs are, what’s most important to you,” says Trever.

At Coding ZEAL, questions drive the conversation. They don’t assume they know what customers want.

“As leaders, our responsibility is to ask questions constantly,” says Trever. “One of those questions can be, ‘So how can we speak to our customers more clearly? Where are our customers? Who can we service better every single day?’”

In the end, it’s all about that fundamental connection between two people. The company, the product—those are ephemeral. What the customer will go away remembering, what they will feel and think and what will impact their future buying decisions, occurs in that magical moment of interaction.

For Cuppy, Yarrish, Culver and their happy employees, zeal “is not just a word and it’s not just a logo. The excitement and energy that’s wrapped around our brand is real and authentic and we mean it,” says Adam. “Every day, it’s about waking up and feeling that level of excitement and reaching out with that intention, with the intention that we’re going to connect with our clients. We’re going to connect with each other. We’re going to connect with our culture, our environment.”

Our next post will explore Coding ZEAL’s insights into leadership and employee happiness.

Wednesday
04
March 2015
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Ever Wonder About the Value of Marketing?

Oregon Vineyards
Ever wonder about the value of marketing?

Well, you’re not alone.

Last week, I saw an example of best marketing practices in action—at the Portland, OR, airport. We were in between flights from Medford to Spokane with some time to enjoy. We happened past the Made in Oregon store, where there was a wine-tasting in progress.

We tried some terrific wines and developed a nice rapport with the person pouring wine—I’ll call her the brand ambassador. She told us she had earned her bachelor’s degree at Southern Oregon College (now Southern Oregon University). A self-described hippie, she loves Ashlandand she would be happy to come to our house and do a full-blown wine-tasting event!

“WOW!” we said. “You’ve got a deal.”

Waiting for the connection to Spokane, we spent 20 minutes coming up with the perfect guest list. Let’s do it when my parents are visiting from New York. That would be fun. Who do we want them to meet? Who do we know that loves wine? Hmm … it’s an easy list to make.

Then we started thinking about marketing. And how powerful a brand ambassador can be.

This brand ambassador is going to travel from Eugene to Ashland to entertain and delight a party of wine and food aficionados. She will probably pour six bottles of wine during the tasting plus another six during the meal. We will pay for some of it. She will leave the party with orders from our guests—maybe up to 20 cases of wine. Not much of a return for the cost of it all, you say? Well, think about the lifetime value of a customer.

I’ve learned a customer’s value should be measured over their lifetime. That’s calculated by initial purchase, subsequent purchases and influence on others’ purchases. This is a little hard to measure, but it’s important to attempt a rough estimate. And don’t forget the concept of brand loyalty. You know what it is. You have it. We all do.

Think about this: our new friend Shelley, the brand ambassador from Willamette Winery, will travel to our house from Eugene and pour wine for 20 of our foodie friends to get an initial order of possibly 20 cases and 20 new customers, who will tell their friends and become like brand ambassadors themselves.

To me, that sounds like good marketing. What do you think?

I love examples of good marketing practices in action. What’s your favorite? Please share here and visit Capiche’s Facebook page, too.

Tuesday
17
February 2015
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Who’s the Boss of Work Engagement and Happiness?

Time to Focus
Try a new perspective: Instead of asking what your employer is doing, check in with what you are doing.

Whose responsibility is it to create employee engagement, happiness and thus, results?

According to most old-school employee engagement assessments, the employee is treated as a passive participant. Questions like, “My employer encourages work/life balance” or “My manager gives me opportunities to set goals” take control from the employee and put it squarely in the hands of the employer.

Coaching guru and thought leader Dr. Marshall Goldsmith is working on a book based on research he and his daughter, Kelly, are doing on personal responsibility toward engagement and results at work. Kelly has a PhD from Yale in behavioral marketing and is now a professor of marketing at the Kellogg School at Northwestern University.

The Goldsmiths found that the employee has direct control over his or her own happiness, productivity and engagement. Engagement and results are a joint responsibility of the employee and the employer. As I see it and as the book portrays, the employee has more to do with the outcomes than the employer ever will. The results of their research flies in the face of most HR programs, which put the responsibility for engagement and results on the employer.

The results so far have been intriguing. Marshall shared his process and findings in a podcast with Dr. Cathy Greenberg and Dr. Relly Nadler. The podcast aired in January 2015 on the Leadership Development News. I happened to hear it recently while in the San Francisco Bay Area assisting with a workshop on relationship systems coaching through CRR Global.

As relationship systems coaches, we believe the quality of relationship systems is based on the emotional intelligence, social intelligence and relationship intelligence of the participants in each system. In other words, the individual is largely responsible for his or her own engagement, happiness and results.

The Goldsmiths’ research hinges on six questions:

  1. Did I do my best to be happy?
  2. Did I do my best to be kind-meaning?
  3. Did I do my best to build positive relationships?
  4. Did I do my best to set clear goals?
  5. Did I do my best to make progress toward goal achievement?
  6. Did I do my best to be easily engaged?

People evaluate themselves every day with this new paradigm. Instead of asking, “Is the company motivating me?” they now ask, “Did I do my best today to make progress toward goal achievement?” Rather than asking, “Do I have a friend at work?” they ask, “Am I doing my best to build positive relationships?” And so on.

So far the Goldsmiths have conducted 41 studies with 1,710 participants. According to Marshall, “We asked people to just answer these questions, and we give them a challenge every day: ‘Did you do your best to …?’ Then, two weeks later, we asked if they had become happier, is your life more meaningful, etc. What we found is, so far, 30% of the people said, ‘I got better at everything.’ All six items go up. 59% said 4–6 went up, 86% said something got better, 14% said no change, and nobody got worse at anything.”

The results are exciting. It’s more proof about the adaptability of the brain and new developments in neuroscience—what you attend to and focus on becomes prominent and is more malleable. In this case, focusing on doing one’s best to increase engagement, happiness and progress pays off.

Marshall’s 35th book, Triggers, will be published in May 2015. The promo reads, “Drawing on his unparalleled experience as an international executive educator and coach, Marshall Goldsmith invites us to understand how our own beliefs and the environments in which we operate can trigger negative behaviors, or a resistance to the need to change. But he also offers up some simple, practical advice to help us navigate the negative and make the most of the triggers that will help us to sustain positive change.”

Need some help getting started on the path to positive change? Contact Capiche’s Chris Cook to see if performance coaching is right for you. Call 541.601.0114 or email chris@capiche.us.

Wednesday
28
January 2015

What a Year It Was—What a Year It Can Be

New Years Fireworks

With the holiday season wrapping up and a new year on the horizon, this is the time of year we reflect on the past and set our intentions for the future.

I have a series of reflections I use with my coaching clients as well as for myself. Try them out! Answer where you can from both a personal and professional stance.

Looking Back on 2014

  1. What was one defining moment in 2014?
  2. In what way(s) has 2014 shaped you for the better?
  3. As you reflect on 2014, what are you grateful for and what are you appreciating?
  4. Overall, how would you rate 2014 on a scale of 1 to 10?
  5. What would have made 2014 a 10 out of 10?

Looking Ahead to 2015

  1. As you look ahead to 2015, what excites you?
  2. What are your key goals and objectives for 2015? (or as the book The 4 Disciplines of Execution asks, “What are your Wildly Important Goals?”)
  3. Where and how do you want to stretch yourself in 2015?
  4. What will make 2015 a 10 out of 10 year for you?
  5. What is a possible theme for the year that could serve to lock in a resonant 2015? (Maybe a song, a sports team or a movie—old or new—as long as it resonates with you.)

You may find this is a fun way to spend New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day with loved ones. I believe sharing these reflections deepens their meaning. And sharing your goals and dreams with those you care about provides more of an incentive moving forward.

Let me know if there’s a question you like to reflect on that’s not listed above. This is a process I have been evolving for some time now, and surely there are other reflections that would enhance the process.

Time to Get a Coach?

Perhaps this is the year for you to get a coach. People with coaches are seven times more likely to achieve their goals because of the accountability a coach requires and the support and positive motivation a coach provides.

Give Chris a call at 541.601.0114 or email for a sample session to see if coaching is right for you.

Read our other blog posts on coaching:

Why Coaching, Why Now

The Wall Street Journal reveals that executive coaches report steady demand for their services despite the recession. As the economy begins to bounce back …

Leadership Coaching

As a leader, you want your organization to succeed. You work hard to create a culture of high-performance. You encourage your employees’ happiness because …

Personal Coaching for Leaders and Organizational Development

Personal coaching supports and challenges leaders to maximize their potential, which ultimately maximizes the potential of the people they lead. Our coaching goals are to …

What’s Holding You Back from Reaching Your Potential? How to Find a Coach Who’s the Right Fit

Do you have a goal you want to reach by the end of the year—either career-related or personal? Is there something you want to improve or …

This Is for All the Lonely Leaders: Why Partner with an Executive Coach

Think back on your life. As you were growing up, who nudged you toward greatness? Who gave you gentle support while simultaneously …

Tuesday
30
December 2014
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Naughty or Nice: Which Makes for a More Effective Leader?

Mean Boss

Which boss do you think achieves better results—the one who inspires by kindness or by fear?

Despite the inroads made by science of happiness researchers in recent years, the general consensus in business culture still seems to be that the tougher the leader, the more productive the employees.

Many believe fear goes hand in hand with hard work and that “softer” leaders won’t earn the respect of their employees, rendering them less effective.

What does the research say? A recent Harvard Business Review article (“The Hard Data on Being a Nice Boss” by Emma Seppälä) reveals tougher bosses generate higher levels of stress, not performance.

According to Stanford Associate Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education Seppälä, these higher levels of stress “carry a number of costs to employers and employees alike.”

These costs include:

1) Healthcare

A stressed employees costs an organization 46 percent more than a healthy, happy employee, partly due to the link between stress and coronary heart disease.

2) Turnover

Stressed employees avoid the workplace through whatever means possible, whether by calling in sick, seeking a new position, or simply quitting, according to research by S. Bridger, A.J. Day, and K. Morton.

Why Be Nice?

On the other hand, nice leaders tend to have higher-performing, happier, and healthier employees.

Here are some of the reasons why:

1) Trust

Harvard Business School Associate Professor of Business Administration and social psychologist Amy Cuddy has demonstrated that managers who convey warmth get better results than harsh ones, even when the tough bosses are more competent. Employees are more likely to trust a person who practices compassion and understanding.

2) Altruism

Leaders who put others above themselves gain a higher status within the group, according to the article “Nice Guys Finish First: The Competitive Altruism Hypothesis.”

3) Fairness

When managers are perceived as being fair to everyone on their team, employees not only perform at higher levels but also become better citizens themselves.

4) Inspiration

According to research by New York University Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership Jonathan Haidt, managers who demonstrate self-sacrificial behavior inspire employees to become more selfless, too. They are not only more helpful and kind to their coworkers but also more loyal to the company. Gretchen Gavett explores the contagious effects of paying it forward in an HBR article titled “The Paying-It-Forward Payoff.”

5) Stress Reduction

More than just a bumper sticker, random acts of kindness reduce stress, making people feel safer and therefore less stressed. Managers who foster a nurturing environment and encourage positive social interactions may actually boost employees’ immune systems and lower their incidences of heart disease. On the other hand, bosses who pit employees against one another and sow division cause stress levels to spike.

6) Engagement

Most of us already understand why employee engagement is crucial, and research connecting engagement to well-being only strengthens the argument for nice bosses since compassionate leadership, altruism, and integrity spark employee engagement.

7) Happiness

If you’re a follower of this blog, you also know happiness trumps high pay. As we discussed in our 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace series (see part 1 and part 2), it is far more important for employees to feel recognized and appreciated. When a workplace exhibits a culture of friendliness, helpfulness, and warmth, improvements are seen in areas ranging from customer service to performance to health and wellness to client satisfaction.

It’s time to shift the consensus that naughty is better than nice when it comes to leadership. Let the holiday call to be good for goodness’ sake carry over into the workplace—throughout the year.

Tuesday
09
December 2014
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Too Busy?

Tasmanian Devil
How did you answer the last time someone asked, “How are you?” I’ll bet it was something like:

  • Oh, I’m slammed.
  • I’m so busy!
  • Crazed.
  • Buried.

Recently a colleague told me she was “doing a trapeze act until the monster project is finished.” The week before, she was “wrapping up a gargantuan project.” Sounds impressive, but what does that even mean?

It seems that people have confused their own busyness with importance, value or worth. If I’m this busy, I must be in demand. I must have a thriving business. I must be very successful.

Think about the perception that your busyness creates for others. Have you created a personal brand as a very, very busy person? What does this mean? When I think “busy,” I think harried, rushing, frantic—and probably not necessarily effective or of great quality. More Tasmanian Devil and less effective leader or loving family member.

The sad thing is this perception of busyness is harming how we connect and how we interact with one another—both with colleagues and with family and friends. We forget to make time for important things like mentoring a new professional (they wouldn’t dream of asking for help from such a busy person). Or we may miss an invitation to a niece’s piano recital or basketball game because everyone knows “Aunt Chrissy is too busy.”

We have a choice in how we perceive and how we show up in the world.

I have chosen NOT to be busy busy busy. I prefer to think of myself as happily making my way toward my personal and professional goals. I take time for things that need time. I savor. I enjoy every moment that I can. I am grateful.

While I may have as many time challenges as the next person, I choose to represent myself (and think of myself) as a happy person who is in control of my life and not being run ragged by myriad demands and pressures. Ask me how I am, and chances are I’ll answer, “I’m great.”

If you are looking to change how you perceive and how you show up in the world, you are in luck. Research shows that we can rewire our brain at any point in our life. It comes with intention and practice. Let me know if you would like a free coaching session to get started.


As happiness guru Shawn Achor likes to point out, people get happiness backwards. Getting that monster project done will not make you happy—but your being happy will get that project done faster and better. It’s called the happiness advantage.


Thursday
20
November 2014
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What Tops the List of Lessons Learned by a Recent Master in Management Grad?

Mind Meld

Emotional Intelligence Deemed Critical for Success


“Success rests in having the courage and endurance, and above all, the will to become the person you are.” —George Sheehan


“Was it worth 20 months and $20,000?” This is the question posed in the October 26, 2014, article by Statesman Journal editorial page editor Dick Hughes. As an adjunct instructor who taught Working with Emotional Intelligence to Dick and his cohort, I am happy to report Dick’s answer was an unequivocal “Yes.”

Dick even gave a nod to emotional intelligence as he recounted the lessons he learned during the program: “Technical skills are over-rated in hiring. In most jobs, from teaching to bartending to scientific research to accounting, the typical applicant will have the technical skills required to perform the job functions. What will determine his or her success is work ethic and people skills. Emotional intelligence is at least as important, and often more important, than the technical skills. A corollary is that good leaders are smart, not necessarily brilliant. Leaders need a combination of skills beyond traditional IQ.”

Other high points in Dick’s learning were:

  • Treat others with respect
  • Stay in the moment—understand what is happening in the here and now
  • Understand your ability to motivate others
  • Embrace responsibility—don’t blame
  • Don’t shortcut the process—involve all affected parties
  • Encourage calculated risk taking

However, Dick ruminates, couldn’t he have learned all this and more at various seminars and by reading books and magazines?

“Yes,” he answers. “I did those things. The lessons faded.”

“That was the power of an accelerated, virtually full-time master’s program, even while working full time, being a spouse and parent, and volunteering in the community: The lessons stuck.

“And to make sure it sticks, the Sticky Note on my phone reminds me of one such lesson: MTBOI. Make the Best of It.”

And that’s just what he seems to have done.

Bravo to Dick Hughes and the others in his Southern Oregon University Master in Management cohort. You did it—you joined the 11 percent of the US population with a master’s degree. May your years ahead be enriched by the knowledge you gained and the lessons you learned.


“The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.” —Ray Kroc


Read the full Statesman Journal opinion piece here. To read Dick’s previous editorial on emotional intelligence, click here.

Tuesday
28
October 2014
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Are You on Track to Meet Your Year-End Goals?

Woman Jumping a Track Hurdle

Here are 5 steps to make it happen.

Last month, I read a blog post by my high school classmate Bruce Johnson titled “How to Craft a 100-Day Plan So You Finish This Year Well.” He’s a very smart guy who, as he puts it, has “a business growth coaching, consulting and executive education firm that helps business owners and entrepreneurs like you become great at building a business that’s designed for maximum growth, impact and profitability.”

His post got me wondering what I could do to boost the year for Capiche—my own coaching and consulting firm. I read Bruce’s steps and realized that not only could I do these for my own business, but also that I could help other businesses implement these steps for their success.

I encourage you to read Bruce’s post. I’ve outlined his steps below and added some of my own ideas for #5: Set Yourself up for Success for Next Year. Have a look.

1. Be Clear on Your Starting and End Points.

It’s October. January is less than three months away. What is realistic? What is most important? Focus there. As Bruce reminds us, “Don’t limit your targets/metrics to just revenue. Pick three to five metrics for you and your team.”

2. Go for the Low-Hanging Fruit First.

Seems obvious. We have long- and short-term plans and tactics, and while we need to be working both, at year’s end, it’s okay to hit the short-term plan hard. Typically, this means re-igniting relationships with current/recent clients vs. reeling in that new client.

3. Double the Speed.

I love Bruce’s analogy of the two-minute warning in football or that last leg of the track race. You don’t slow down because the event is almost over—you put it into overdrive to come out ahead. Do the same with your business tactics.

4. Calendarize Your Tactics.

Calendarize? Really? Bruce, is this even a word?! (Just kidding. I looked it up. It is.) In other words, set dates and hold people—including yourself—accountable. It’s easy to blow something off when there’s not a deadline. Time is short. Calendarize every step toward your goals.

5. Set Yourself up for Success for Next Year.

Bruce mentions things like a new marketing campaign, a new product, a new technology issue or capability, hiring or training some new talent, researching a new market or redesigning a new website with new capabilities.

Here are a few other ideas you can accomplish this year to set yourself up for success in 2015:

  • Revisit your organization’s mission, vision, values and purpose. Do your mission, vision, values and purpose still make sense? Do they ring true? If not, it’s time to get clear on what you DO hold true and how you want your business to move forward.
  • Do a brand assessment. Check in to see if you are in alignment with your brand. Are you living your brand? Do all your business decisions align with your brand? Does every action and communication align with your brand? If not, it’s time to get a clearer definition of your brand, which will guide you toward a more focused business strategy.
  • Conduct a perception survey to determine how others view your organization. Talk to key stakeholders (clients, customers, suppliers, vendors, influencers, and your in-house team). Use this information to chart where you are now vs. where you want to go in 2015.

Let Capiche help you with any or all of the three strategies listed above. You’ll be delighted how these simple actions will craft a winning strategy for 2015.

I’ll sign off with Bruce’s signature closing . . . “To your accelerated success!”

Thursday
09
October 2014
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Mt. Ashland Creates Its Brand from the Inside Out

Mt. Ashland

Why Your Culture Comes First

Your culture is your brand; your brand is your culture. The two are one and the same—inextricably intertwined. It’s where marketing, positive psychology and innovative business practices intersect. And it’s the common denominator in successful companies. Virgin Atlantic, Apple, Google, Harley Davidson, BMW and Autodesk all have strong brands and strong cultures, and all are wildly successful. I’ll bet you can name one or more in your industry.

Anyone who has been through a branding process knows the hardest part of branding isn’t coming up with a logo or tagline. It’s getting to your company’s DNA (what is at its heart)—its values, vision, passion and purpose. That’s your culture. When you get to that, you can create your brand.

Yes, this is a revisit of a previous blog post, but it’s a topic that’s particularly important to me now. It’s more relevant than ever as my Mt. Ashland—and I say my because I am a season pass holder, a board member and chair of the Community Outreach Committee—begins its 51st year with a rebranding.

Here’s an outline of what we are doing and best practices you can use in your own organization:

1. Define Mt. Ashland’s DNA.

What this means is we have defined its culture, values, vision, passion and purpose. It is real, honest and yet still a little aspirational. This is important because a brand must be rooted in reality with room to reach toward the future. Clearly defining an organization’s culture is the first step in building a brand.

2. Bring the brand to life with words.

What are your key messages? How do you communicate values, vision, passion and purpose? These words will shape all communication and will serve to be a barometer for each and every business decision. Because Mt. Ashland says it’s a steward of the environment, it will look for ways to reduce energy use and landfill waste as well as protecting the Forest Service land it operates on.

3. Create a visual identity with graphics, colors, photos and video.

Thanks to an in-kind donation from Lithia Auto Stores, we are working with their world-class marketing team. They have taken on the graphic design element of rebranding. We saw the first logo design suggestions yesterday—amazing!

4. Live the brand.

This is the hardest part. This is where most organizations fall short. Creating and embodying your unique company culture is how you answer the phone. It’s how you interact with others on the team and everyone who comes into contact with your organization. It’s whom you hire. And it’s how you bring them on board. It’s what you base EVERY business decision on.

Medford Mail Tribune Article on Mt. Ashland

Click here for a recent Mail Tribune article on this topic.

Building the culture/brand is everybody’s business, and companies that understand that have a real advantage. That’s why it’s crucial to engage your employees in your branding process, asking them to help define your values, vision, passion and purpose. Getting their input and buy-in is critical to the success of your brand. You all need to get behind the same values, vision, passion and purpose. It’s vital to creating a cohesive, productive and engaging workplace.

You will also be asking all your constituents to weigh in on what defines your company DNA. This means clients, subcontractors, other team members and influencers. Asking and listening to your constituents (and employees) is a natural way to build trust and take your relationships to the next level. This is marketing and management brilliance.

Mt. Ashland accomplished this with a community survey that was distributed widely and completed by more than 1,200 area residents. Mt. Ashland is listening to the public and making adjustments to the ski area based on their input. The aspirational part of the DNA is based on satisfying public desires for the ski area.

Good to Great and Tribal Leadership Book CoversThe realization that happy workers drive business success is sweeping the world, and the research keeps growing. Researchers at Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, University of California at Riverside and Oxford University are leading the pack. Bestselling management books Good to Great and Tribal Leadership credit a shared company vision and purpose. A company with a vision has a higher purpose beyond just money, profits or being number one in a market, and this important element separates sustainable profitable companies from the rest.

Are you seeing a connection? The “great” companies build their brands around their values, vision, passion and purpose, which guide the company’s culture. The two are inextricably intertwined.

When your people are living your brand, their personal values are in synch with the company’s. They are happier and more productive—and they are your best ambassadors. Involve them from the start, get clear on values, vision, passion and purpose, walk the talk, and enjoy your success!

If you are ready to get going on your company culture and brand, give me a call at 541.601.0114 or email me at chris@capiche.us. Let me help you uncover your own unique culture and brand to propel your organization forward. And let’s have a great time doing so!

Wednesday
24
September 2014
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