Sunday, November 23, 2014

Should Your Business Close for December?

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For retail businesses, now starts the biggest time of the year. In fact, many retail chains report doing about 90% of their sales from now through the New Year. But for the rest of us, the Monday or Tuesday before Thanksgiving is pretty much the last day of the year any business will get done. Break out the bubbly, the year is as good as over.

Though many like to deny it to the board, employee productivity drops significantly during this time. It's not just the Holidays to blame. Depleted budgets, holiday parties, "use it or lose it" vacations, associated family events, school closings, not to mention the flu season being in full bloom all add to making December the most infuriating month for upper management.
Perhaps the most frustrating part of this is for most of us who despite the temptation to slough off, procrastinate, and avoid, do the opposite during this time. We work harder in fact to meet those end of year deadlines. We have the reports ready, but nobody's ready to read them. We have the contracts ready but good luck getting them signed. I bet you say it every year: "Am I the only one around here who works during December?!"

Some businesses now throw their hands up and close from just prior to Christmas until after the New Year. Many small businesses have always done this. The vast majority though, particularly here in the US insist on keeping their doors open employing a skeleton crew. Hospital workers, customer service reps, and wait staff can only dream. I don't know what the statistics are on this but I'm willing to bet it costs some companies more money and certainly more frustrations from Christmas to New Year's who stay open. And for those of you who associate more with Scrooge than Fezziewig, consider the studies to the contrary.

I've always been envious of friends who worked for advertising agencies as it was commonplace to have Fridays off during the summer. The knowledge of that was not only a morale booster for them but a productivity booster during the previous four days. So more work was done, more business was made, employees were happy. A win-win situation.

Many European companies close during the month of August for vacation but that's just not going to happen in the States. Ever. A business-free December may not be much closer on the horizon. But before I receive all those angry comments from the bottom-liners out there, I do not think it would make sense for all businesses. I'm thankful not to see "Closed for The Holidays" signs on the doors of my local fire department, hospital and gas station for example. However, I think that same win-win caveat would be created for many businesses who viewed the winter holidays less as a necessary evil and more as a way to reward and create an incentive for their employees.

Monday, November 17, 2014

2014: Year of the Wishy Washy Business Strategy

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I've been thinking about an article on the importance of spontaneity or perhaps indecisiveness? I'll write it when I have more time, maybe. Instead, I'll point the mic towards business. I've had a lot of contracted consulting assignments over my career, but the ones in 2014 win a unique award. I am deeming 2014 "The Year of the Wishy Washy Business. The one thing these companies had in common was they all were in a rush to avoid a decision.
I received urgent calls from referrals, past business associates, all in a different fields who "needed help ASAP." Sometimes it was me calling them. Sometimes it was the CEO or the CMO. But every time they claimed the monies were allocated in the budget. Everyone assured me they had to sign off and blessing from management, and everyone needed me to start "yesterday." But 9 times at 10 the deal fell through - not because of time or money or even won by another, but because of internal "reevaluation."
Whether it's consultant and freelance gigs, or new hires, new products and joint ventures, there was a great hesitancy this year for executives to pull the trigger. When the recession hit a few years ago, any unnecessary or new costs were shelved. Then as we crawled out and opted for cautious spending. All SOP. I'm not talking about that, I'm talking about the wishy washy executive that just can't seem to make a decision.
Some will be quick to point out that it is often budget cuts that are being disguised as reevaluation as to save face. ("The deal is off because we ran out of money," said no business ever). And yes market dynamics, unforeseen costs, etc. can alter the plan as well. But this is not the case. There is a trend to "pre-hire" or "pre-qualify" long before the company is ready. "We've but the project/job/product on the back burner." Or alternatively: "After months of negotiations and interviews looking for X, we concluded we needed Y." Really? Months? And at what cost to the company? That free ad is costing you a fortune. That acquisition potential just went elsewhere. It's beyond due diligence. It's poor planning and fear served up in a melange of meetings and RFPs.
Ultimately, it isn't the individual to blame, but the corporate strategy that handcuffs its executives into indecisiveness in fear of losing their job and makes it's assessments after setting its benchmarks. Rather than evaluation it becomes reevaluation stuck in a loop. So if after extensive interviews, you decide a sales position for example is better served in customer service, or new facility should be located in Springfield and not Seattle, then put a freeze on everything - and find a new business strategist.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Repost Without Reading: Are You the Unaware Sharer?

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I know you're busy...

Maybe you're one of the "lucky" ones who got to keep their job after the recession hit and now get the "privilege" of also doing the work of the three others in your department who are no longer there? Or maybe you're the new hire getting paid peanuts - no I mean actual peanuts and other snacks that corporate has replaced in lieu of monetary rewards. Or maybe like me you do all things marketing because, well, no one else will do it? Regardless, not being able to see over the piles of files on your desk is not just cause for sharing, forwarding, liking, and tweeting, articles, emails, blogs, tweets, and posts that you haven't actually read.

Everyone has a Top Sharing Offender in their lives. A friend, parent, acquaintance, or boss who needs to attend Repost Anonymous meetings ASAP.  But most of us are guilty of the occasional unaware share. I just did it today when I forwarded an article to my Harry Potter fanatic kid. Something about a rap, or a new book, - I don't know, let her read it. She'll enjoy it...I think. 

But as business professionals in a new economy, we are under additional pressure to increase brand awareness in addition to everything else we do. No longer good enough to just do our job, we need to stay uber informed, and crow about everything because we are told by the marketing person (Yep. Guilty again as charged, your honor) that it helps foster our career, our brand, and/or our company's visibility in the marketplace.

But in our haste to remain "topical, thought-leading, influencers" (whatever that really means), we immerse ourselves in the social media ointment at times without forethought and decide by the headline alone. We shove information at each other like medicine down a sick dog's throat. We share for the sake of sharing rather than because it struck a chord and should be shared. "They Can Always Just Delete It" is the accepted mantra because, after all, it doesn't cost us anything, right? Not exactly. We are faced with a new SPAM that's an informational junk mail, but unlike the SPAM blocker that weeds out these frivolities, it takes our time and judgment to make these decisions.

Despite the irony, I bet you're tempted to plaster this article on the page, feed, email box, (and maybe on the forehead of ?) "that" friend/acquaintance/boss who doesn't seem to get the message that you don't want the message. Go right ahead, you should. Chances are you're reading this because an editor who read it thought it would be of interest to you or maybe you've enjoyed reading my other articles. In either case, it was more likely through decision not chance. I'm not calling for a moratorium on reposting. I'm simply suggesting more forethought on what should and should not be shared by reading the article and not the headline before posting and forwarding. I know...we're too busy.

If you do decide to distribute this article, include the #IReadThisBeforeRepostingIt so everyone will know that you did.

Follow Frank Bocchino, is a Los Angeles-based writer, designer, and digital marketer who helps   organizations create qualified strategies that generate new business using the latest tools for lead generation, SEO, and social media.

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