Stop the (March) Madness

Saint_Josephs_University_Field_House_page1_image4Here we are again at one of America’s favorite sports times- the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, otherwise known as March Madness.  From now until April 4, everyone will be talking about their brackets, upsets, and teams left.  That same guy who is annoying during football season because of fantasy becomes a dream compared to the bracketologists.

Somewhere along the line, it became ok to obsess over your brackets and stop working- to the tune of $1.9B per hour in lost employee time due to the tournament.  $1.9B per hour!  That is a lot of lost productivity.  Another staggering estimate is that $2.5B is wagered in illegal office pools.

Now before the pot calls the kettle black as I always take the first two days of the tournament off, I think that there are some ways you can turn this lack of productivity into a positive.

1.       Have a team meeting during the first two days of the tournament.  Pick a spot and watch the games as a group.  It is amazing the camaraderie that will be built through this event.  You will also be amazed how your team will be able to relate to each other better and come out of it more cohesive.  Make sure you are smart and either not serve alcohol or provide rides home.

2.       Run a promotion during the tournament.  If you are in sales, this is really easy.  But if you are in AR or another department, you can have the same type of contest- whoever clears the most outstanding receipts gets a day off or something of the sort to keep people motivated to work.

3.       Have flex time during the first week of the tournament.  Work your forty hours over three or four days.  This works well for the non-basketball fans too.  Any extra time off is a bonus and well appreciated.

4.       Be a killjoy and block sites, ban cellphone or tablet use, and force compliance.  Probably not the best tactic, but it would achieve the goal of reducing wasted time.

I would avoid any type of activity that promotes gambling like bracket challenges as that type of sponsored program is decidedly illegal.  You need to be creative to get the most of out your team during this distracting time of the year.  But with a little planning, you can make the time fun and productive.  And- Let’s Go St. Joe’s!

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When to Follow Up

woman-on-phoneMy colleague and I were discussing the art of following up from meetings. It actually started out trying to decide when someone said tomorrow, next week, and in a few days what they actually meant.

That being said, follow up timing is a key skill that most people lack. The reason a meeting was held is presumably to accomplish something. Without a clear understanding of the next steps, why bother having the meeting in the first place?

In my opinion, here are some basic guidelines:

  1. Inbound Sales Request– the goal should be to give a full response immediately after receipt. In practice, no more than two hours should go by. The longer you wait, the more chance that potential client is finding someone else to fill their need.
  2. Minutes from a Formal Meeting– minutes should be distributed from meetings within 24-48 hours of the meeting ending. You want these attendees to get the minutes, review them and be able to comment while the meeting is still fresh in their minds.
  3. Recap from a Sales Call– should be done within 24 hours of the meeting ending and should be done by the company making the presentation. The note should include a thank you to all attendees plus a brief recap of the issues discussed and next steps.
  4. Summary from Internal Meeting– meeting organizers should always send a recap of the meeting that they called within 24 hours of the meeting ending.
  5. Internal or External Customer Contacts– if it is not an urgent issue, messages should be returned in four work hours. Urgent matters should be handled at once.
  6. Cold Calls– if you are not interested in the product and service, take the time to unsubscribe. It helps clean your inbox plus it lets the sender know that you are not interested in their product. Professional courtesy goes a long way in building your reputation.
  7. Your Superiors– thirty-minute max unless you are in a meeting or on a plane. For the most part, your superiors are contacting you for a reason, make sure you get right back to them- especially if they took the time to call you.

Your sense of urgency in your follow up timing really helps pace projects. If you are lackadaisical on your follow up, your team feels it. Being on top of when to follow up immediately after an event sets the tone for what is expected for the rest of the project.

As with most of my blogs, this isn’t rocket science, should be altered for your particular situation, and doesn’t include casual contacts where texts are appropriate.

Five Old Ways That Still Work

Told-man-business-suithe business world that we live in changes instantaneously.  Hundreds of new ways to reach, engage and measure are added to your landscape every day.  Thousands of business gurus tell you that you need to stop doing things the old way, that old ways don’t work, etc.  I agree with that assessment to a point.  Evolve or die is a truism that has followed my whole career. 

When you boil it down, what these people are talking about is mostly tactical.  However, to me, there are a lot of old strategies that need to be remembered as you are evolving.  Without them, it will be really hard to master the new ways of engagement.

1.       You need to stand for something.  Having conviction is one of the most important attributes a person or brand needs to be successful.  Trying to please everyone will make you please no one.  The adage “One Size Fits None” is more important than ever.

2.       Your message needs to be clear and concise.  By the time I am finished reading this line, you will have made a decision on whether I am on point.  A key for lasting in your job or a product lasting in the marketplace is to have an easy to understand. 

3.       You need to show up.  If you miss a sales appointment, your client cannot buy.  If you are not in stock, your product cannot be bought.  If either of these happen, you become unreliable and no one wants to do business with people or companies that they cannot rely on.

4.       You need to deliver on your promise.  For you, it is keeping your word.  For your products or services, it is doing what it said it does. 

5.       You need two way relationships.  You need to listen to your key influencers- vendors, coworkers, clients, consumers- and enact ways to satisfy their root needs.  That give and take is a key to successful career advancement and product improvement.

None of this is rocket science.  However, it is good regardless of how senior you are in your career to look at the key fundamentals of business.  People will always do business with people and companies that they like, trust, and listen.  The way to separate you is how you convey those emotions and convince people to give you a shot.