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.

Or contact Frank Bocchino for media opportunities. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Workplace Tattoos: Too much Ink in the Inc?

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"Tattoo? What Tattoo?"Regardless of whether you like them or not, does a visible tattoo influence your opinion of the person wearing it? Sure it does. It's why we wear a suit, shine our shoe and/or spend extra time on our hair for a job interview. Our appearance in the workplace says a lot. And tattoos can say much more.

According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center last year, the percentage of U.S. adults age 26-40 who have at least one tattoo is 40%.  How people react to tattoos depends upon many different factors.  Your generation, your cultural background or religion, your views on self-expression - all of which has nothing to do with the subject matter of the tattoo, where on the body it's placed, and whose body it's on. But in business, there are a slew more of questions often going undiscussed as it's a slippery slope.

 First, it depends on the visibility. Business people have had tattoos long before their recent popularity -- but they were often hidden on the upper arm and chest. Now, wrist, hand, nape of neck, feet and ankle have become popular tattoo locations.

Next I suppose it depends upon the business you're in. There are certain people we've come to  expect to have tattoos. Athletes, graphic artists, musicians, truck drivers to name a few. Nowadays, you raise an eyebrow if the bartender at the local watering hole doesn't have "sleeves."

 Thirdly it depends upon the tattoo. Say it's an offensive word or image. An inappropriate tattoo is no different than wearing an inappropriate shirt. In either of these cases, the workplace is no place for it. But then we get into the definition of what's offensive. (I told you it was a slippery slope). But many in the military wear their division proudly. Would that influence your decision? What if it a flower, a religious symbol, a significant date in that person's life?  In a Career Builder survey in 2011, some 31% of employers listed visible tattoos as something that would hinder a promotion.

Ask those with tattoos and they will probably tell you they have lost jobs because of their "ink." Discrimination by gender, sexual-orientation, race, physical disability are all handled by the EEOC. But what about tattoos? Can you legally turn someone away because of their choice to tattoo their skin? A US federal appeals court ruled in 2006 that ordering public employees to cover up their tattoos did not violate their First Amendment rights. New laws are trying to change that.

For me, tattoos are like fur coats: I may admire their beauty, but you'd never catch me with one. And I change the wallpaper on my phone weekly so I can't imagine being happy looking at the same design for the rest of my life. But if they make you happy, go ahead. I also don't care whether someone I do business with has one or several visible tattoos. I've tried to think of a scenario where in I would have reservations and I just can't. Heck, permanent make up are facial tattoos and no one has a problem with those. I suppose it's all how you at it.