A New Detroit Attitude

Earlier this week I attended  TedX Detroit where I had an opportunity to speak with a lot of people including some recent Detroit transplants. What I heard from these new Detroiters is what I’ve heard this several times in the past 12-18 months. It goes something like this, “Wow, Detroit is cool…so much energy.”

Really, people are saying that about Detroit?  Yep, they are.

One young man, a 24-year old, who was here on assignment from Dallas, said “the creativity and friendliness of the people in this area is unlike anything I have seen on the east coast or in Dallas.”  He also asked me, “Has it always been like this?”

His question caught me off guard. “No,” was my immediate response. But I had to explain to him that this was once a very, very different area. There was a birthright expectation for so long… an expectation that we would walk out of school (high school or college) and walk into one of the automakers.  We would stay there for 30 years and leave with a pension that would take us into our old age.

For perspective, I have lived in the Detroit metro area all of my 53 years so I have seen a lot of changes. In the past handful of years alone, I have witnessed the loss of 350,000 manufacturing jobs in Michigan.  I also watched as auto suppliers lined up, one after another for bankruptcy. The effects have been devastating economically and socially.  Seth Godin, as usual, has an interesting take on the changes to industrial America http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2011/09/the-forever-recession.html.

But, if you haven’t kept your pulse on Detroit, you are missing the birth of some incredible ideas and some astounding young people. From Tech Town to Robot Town and from Josh Linkner to En Garde Detroit — we are seeing some ideas that were inconceivable a few years ago.  It is also refreshing for me to see ideas coming from across the social-economic spectrum.  There is no regard to skin color or gender; everyone is working together.

This is why I walked away from TedX Detroit energized: There are new ideas, new thoughts, new businesses, and a new spirit that are re-defining Detroit.  And I dare say these talents and ideas may have lain dormant had the aforementioned birthright remained in Detroit.

Are there still problems in Detroit and Michigan? Sure, there are a lot of problems.  But, at least I am seeing action not apathy and no longer an attitude of how come, rather an attitude of how can we.


The Tone of Your Face

You are setting a tone in the workplace, the only question is, what tone are you setting?

Like it or not, you do set a tone or an atmosphere in your workplace. Furthermore, the higher up in the organization you are the more that tone resonates. 

But we don’t necessarily communicate with our words.  In fact, according to A. Barbour (author of Louder than Words: Nonverbal Communication) 7% of our communication is verbal and 38 % is vocal (pitch, volume, rhythm, etc).  Fully 55% of our communication is body movements, mostly facial expressions!

So, who cares? If you care about productivity, you should care. If you care that you have a pleasant place to spend half your waking hours, you should care. If you care that truly effective leaders – lead by example, you should care.

If you want your place of business, from office to factory or farm, to be a place that people joyfully give 110 % then smile & greet your co-workers with a joyful face.

“A happy heart makes the face cheerful…” Psalm 15:13 (a)

Reality Check

My prospects just don’t get it; they keep buying from the competition.  Maybe someday they will wise up!

Have you ever heard this type of logic? Worse yet, are you guilty of at least thinking this? It’s a destructive mindset. If your prospects are consistently buying from the competition, your competitor just may have figured out something that you haven’t; namely what the customers want.

But you say, “We are better, our product is better.”  Maybe.  Maybe you are delusional too.  Seriously, how do you know you are better?  Do your customers or prospects know this?  Have you told them (more than once) how you can help them?  Can you prove it?  Have you sold them?

Competition can bring out the best in us, or it can just bring out a litany of excuses.  Take an honest inventory of yourself and your company; where do you need to make changes?   What are you going to do about it?


Whose Fault?

It’s very easy to criticize others, make excuses, and rationalize your lack of results in any aspect of your life.

You can even find people that will listen to you, sympathize with you, and agree with you. But that is not what you need.

You need a real friend one that will force you to look in the mirror and ask tough questions. All those people you don’t get along with…all those projects you didn’t get…all those jobs you lost…and those broken relationships…they have a common denominator – that person in the mirror.

Don’t concern yourself with the external; control your behavior, your reactions, your thoughts, your actions, and your habits. Man up and take responsibility.

It’s not any one thing…it’s everything

Sales and Marketing can be challenging and downright discouraging.  After all…

  • The direct mail piece didn’t solicit one phone call.
  • The email marketing only resulted in three “unsubscribe” notices.
  • The networking event didn’t provide any potential leads.
  • The seminar was only marginally attended.
  • The white paper had only a few takers.
  • The advertisement looks nice, but what will it really do for my business?
  • The last sales call was just uncomfortable…

 But if you didn’t do this could you have said…

  • My client held on to that direct mail piece and called me three months later.
  • The email marketing was forwarded to a prospect who wanted more information.
  • I added five new names to my database from the networking event.
  • The material from my seminar was placed on my website and now it’s showing up in searches.  
  • My White Paper prompted an industry publication to call me to write for them.
  • My advertisement gave me name recognition and help open doors with the new prospect.
  • The last sales call may have been uncomfortable, but I know something more about that industry and I have some new ideas for products that are needed.

Remember, it’s not any one thing you do, it’s everything you do. Your next big opportunity might just be one marketing effort away, don’t give up!

Which is better, your hype or your service?

Everyone wants to create “buzz” about their company.  How can I be the next internet sensation, how can I get people to spread the gospel of my product or service?

And with a myriad of on line tools from web design to social media, we have the ultimate buzz platform at our fingertips. Given the right tools, the right issue of the moment, and a a fair bit of good favor, you might be fortunate to create some noise about your incredible product or service…but…it cuts both ways.

Let’s say you found that right cyber formula and you blog, tweet, and YouTube yourself to the top of the search gods and you are now “The Company” everyone wants. You’ve arrived and can bask in the glory of your new found fame.  But…now the rubber meets the road, it’s time to deliver that sensitized product or service.  What if your company just isn’t as advertised?  What if you are just so-so, or worse, you just plain stink!  Now you have a new buzz about your company…a buzz that stings.

Getting the marketing cart before the service/product horse can be fatal.  When you begin by delivering exceptional service/products, consistently, you have the real platform for success.  

Can you stumble upon the right formula for creating buzz?  Maybe – but more often than not it requires a well-f0cused effort.  Can you stumble upon the right formula for delivering the “to die for product or service?”  Not too likely, it requires a plan, hard work, and sacrifice.  

Get your product and service in order first and then you have something to shout about from the rooftops or whatever your platform.

The Birth and Death of an Idea

Got a new idea? 

Grab that new idea and assign it a number, get the correct form completed (in triplicate) and get it into the system. Once it’s in the system, you can hold a series of meetings and talk about the potential upside of the new idea and the potential pitfalls of the new idea. 

Once it’s through the initial committee, create a spreadsheet and rank the idea according to its merit and how it may be perceived.  Test this new idea with a focus group and bring it back to committee to get a quantitative assessment against industry benchmarks.

…if it looks good and you have management buy in then maybe the idea to order nonfat creamer will be a go in the coffee room.

A little tongue in cheek…but really how many simple ideas get bogged down by a bureaucratic process?  How many tasks that should be simply delegated get caught up on senior management’s desk?

Ideas and new ideas in particular, are the life blood of any small company.  Don’t let these ideas, small or large, get gummed up or for that matter changed so much that it just looks like…an old idea.

Break Bread with Your Client

Maybe it’s time to send out another cleaver marketing piece or email to try and get some more work in the door.  Maybe you can send a personal email to one of your long-standing clients just to touch base.

Here’s another idea: pick up the phone, call your client or prospect, and meet with them face-to-face.  Do you know what challenges they are facing?  If you haven’t met with them recently, then the answer is likely no.

Don’t put that call off until tomorrow and don’t delegate it; you make the appointment. Imagine finally getting up the gumption to call that old client…next week…and they say, “I wished you would have called me last week, I just gave your competitor that work…I didn’t know you did that.”

I’m all for consistent marketing but nothing takes the place of meeting with your client over coffee, breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

With whom do you need to break bread?

It’s Just Between You, Me and the Whole World…

If you wouldn’t write it on your forehead, if you wouldn’t banner it behind an airplane, if you wouldn’t put it on a sign and march in front of your clients and friends…then don’t say it in social media!

“Bellyaching” is best left between you and your friends, spouse, or even your pet.  Hopefully, your woes and complaints are just between you and them.  But when you put it out there for the world to read, comment on, and pass along, there are no take backs.

 If you’re not sure if you should post it – don’t.