Meet John Smith

Traveling has taught me many things. Like how to pack the most into the smallest space. How to sleep on planes. How to speed pack. However, I just experienced something that we all need reminding of … How to talk on cell phones in public.

This is not a story complaining about the ‘Chatty Cathy’ types of cell phone users. But a story about how using your cell phone can give

many strangers a lot of information about yourself and your business.

Today, I met John Smith. He doesn’t know that we met, but in the airport, he was on his cell phone giving out his name. I also now know his street address and that he lives in the same zip code as I do. He also has a Bank of America credit card, which, if I had wanted to, I could have keyed his account number into my cell phone.

 I know that John is not happy with Bank of America and that he was contacted repeatedly by the banks representatives about, ironically enough, their identity theft protection package. I know that John declined the package (he apparently doesn’t need anyone helping him protect his privacy. I am now aware that his charge card statement reflects the cost for the identity theft protection, and that charge was for $90.

While learning a great deal about John Smith that I don’t need nor want to know, I had to think about how many times I have been on my cell phone in public. Sometimes, I am discussing my dealings with someone in an airport or some public place swarming with strangers within ear shot of my conversation.

John taught me a valuable message and I am passing this along to you. Remember when using your cell phone in public places to be aware that there are people around you. Individuals who may be the type to key in your credit card number for later use of their own. Those who may be friends of your ‘client from Hell.’ People who might work at a competing shop and just need to hear a little bit of your dirty laundry to take your big client away.

Five general rules to follow when talking in public places.

  1. Don’t use names (both company and person) when having conversations in public places. If you need to do so, find a private area before making the call.
  2. Don’t discuss any financial information. In addition to account numbers, don’t talk about billing rates, cost rates, salaries, or sales figures.
  3. If you need to introduce yourself with first and last name, find a private place before you make the call.
  4. If you are calling about a topic that makes you agitated, be sure to keep a gauge on your volume. Just because you are frustrated with the company/person/situation, doesn’t mean that everyone around you needs to know about it. Save that for social media!
  5. Finally, don’t discuss work problems in public places (on or off the phone). Recently I was at lunch with an Agency Owner who was venting his frustrations about one of his employees. Since I had never met this employee, we were both surprised when the employee had been sitting right behind him the entire time.

I would like to thank John Smith for teaching me this lesson. Maybe I should stop by his house and share the lesson with him.

Continue reading 'Meet John Smith'

If You Really Care, Own It!

Last week I cried. Then, I cursed. Then, I cried some more.
While working, I reached for my coffee. Then I heard that dreaded sound. I heard my phone fly off the desk and crash onto the tile floor. After the graphic language had stopped flowing freely from my mouth, I picked up my phone – only for the expressions to start flowing again!
Yes, my iPhone screen was shattered – for the second time this year. Fortunately, I had purchased Apple Care – an insurance policy that would pay the majority of the cost to replace the screen.

Since this is my lifeline to my clients, I dropped everything and made my way to the Apple Store. As usual, it was packed with people. Many of them there for the same reason. After about five minutes of searching for an available employee, I was approached by someone holding their iPad.

He asked what brought me into the store. I held up my phone and showed him my frowny Emoji face. He took my name and even noted that I had Apple Care. He then explained it was about a three-hour wait. I expected this and had brought work with me, so found a place to park myself.

Once an Apple Genius became available, I learned that my phone’s serial number had been stolen, and my Apple Care was no longer valid.In total, I spent about 18 hours over two days getting the glass on my phone replaced. I had the pleasure of working with nine Apple Store employees and two customer service phone representatives.

What if, the process at the Apple Store had looked more like this?

  1. I (the customer) walk into the store looking for help.
  2. A representative approaches me (the customer) and asks what I need help with.
  3. When asking for the person’s name, the agent also gets the serial number for the device needing repairs.
  4. This information is entered along with my (customer) name into the iPad. Any unexpected issues that may exist are discovered and resolved before any wait time.
  5. The representative remains the central point of contact throughout the entire process. Connecting me (customer) with the necessary people and departments through the final resolution.
The lesson we can all learn from this experience is to provide due diligence at the beginning of the client’s experience. This means taking ownership in the beginning.
Regardless of what your role is within your Agency – Account Service, Creative, Traffic, or answering the phones – take ownership in all the experiences you encounter. All it takes is one or two simple questions up front. For example, you can always ask people who approach you how you can help them. Alternatively, you can ask if there is something you can do to make their day better. The point is to take ownership in your interactions with others and demonstrate your concern for them and a positive outcome for them.
The result is an improved experience for everyone involved – especially your client.

3 Ways Busy is Hurting your Profitability

I remember when I started in this Industry several years ago. Ok, it was many more than ‘several’ years ago! My typical day left me in my cubicle while those in more Senior positions went to meeting after meeting. For myself and others low on the totem pole, it seemed the busier the scheduled commitments, the more important you were. Being involved in meetings was a status symbol.
One would think that with the development of email, messenger, and social media, the number of meetings we have would be fewer and fewer. However, if you work at an agency, you are pretty much 100 percent guaranteed to answer the question “How are you dong” with “Very Busy.”
This is an issue that afflicts agencies across the globe. We have confused being busy with being productive. This has become a huge issue in our Industry – odd for those specializing in Communication. There seems to be a pride element to having a calendar with back-to-back meetings.
I hear from many of my clients that there is a great deal of ‘busy time’ with little productivity. I also hear that the people who are needed most for feedback, approval, and guidance, are the ones who are least available.
The problem is that this ‘busy time’ is not because of actual work, but rather by meetings. Several issues result from these ‘binge meetings’, but they are easily solved.

  1. When meetings are back-to-back, there is no time allowed for digesting and implementing the take-a-ways from any of the meetings. Our Industry, in particular, is affected most by this since creative minds need quiet time to process information input and develop ideas.
  2. We have lost the meaning of meetings. Meetings should result in decisions and assigned action items. Their purpose should NOT be to introduce information or ideas. However, most meetings are held to share information. I see most agencies conduct a job kick-off meeting where the creative brief is shared for the first time with the group. So, a good portion of the meeting is spent either reading or being read the brief.
  3. I have seen agencies get hung up in the billable hour trap. Many agencies are not billing their hours to clients these days, although it is still vital to track the time spent on clients – a discussion for another article. I have spoken with clients in Senior Management who admit they are spending time on client work that they could use in a more productive way. For example, I know of at least one Account Director, who has weekly one-on-one meetings with their Account Managers to keep up with what is going on with the client. This happens even though the Account Managers copy the Director on emails and submit a weekly status report. When questioned as to their reason for these meeting, I heard answers such as “I always had these meetings when I was an Account Manager” and “This is what we have contracted with the client to do.”

It would seem that we have accepted that being busy is a symbol of status in our workplace. The perception is that if you are crazed and too busy, then you are productive.
In reality, the human mind is much like a computer. At some point, you need to pause to let the processor work through the entered information before you get any logical and beneficial answers.

Decide Today for Tomorrow’s Success and Growth!

In today’s world, it is vital to complete tasks that not only fulfill the needs of the present but will serve as building blocks for reaching your long-term goals.

Living in the moment isn’t the way for an entrepreneur to move the business agenda forward. Plans don’t just fall into place because you make them.

When you think about your long-term goals, consider what provides your agency with advancement and success. Then think about what might hinder your future growth – for example:

  1. Will I have enough assets to make it through a business building process?
  2. What will my cash flow look like this time next year?
  3. What is the ultimate result?

When making decisions today, make sure they are achieving both short-term and long-term goals. Short-term goals are those that have the immediate effects on your business.

Decisions that impact your long-term goals are those that ensure your business survives both today and will still be running ten or twenty years from now.

I have known agency owners take a ‘sit back and see what happens’ approach to decision making. Most of those agencies have either closed their doors or are now struggling. No matter your choice in your decisions, you are taking charge of your destiny.

One example that comes to mind is an agency I worked with through an acquisition. This particular agency bought an agency with an entirely different business model and culture than their own. The questionable decision was not the acquisition. We did successfully merge the two companies into one business model and culture – both groups adjusting so as to meet in the middle.

The short sighted decision was when the owner decided to use much of the capital investment made for the acquisition towards office expansion – specifically $50,000 for hallway artwork and $10,000 for branded M&M’s. The reasoning made was that this helped everyone feel more comfortable with the new culture and environment. Even with that justification, this was clearly a short-term goal decision with no thought of the agency’s long-term goals of being in business and long-term financial health.

While you live in the present moment, remember that the choices you make today will affect your business tomorrow.

Don’t Communicate to be understood. Rather, communicate to not be misunderstood.

Recently, while working with a client, I could not help but think about the irony we face in this Industry. We are in the Communications business, but when it comes to communicating with each other, our clients and our vendors, we lack both skills and talent.

I see this issue at almost every shop I walk into.

The first part of our series “Keys to Effective Communications,” starts with successfully beginning a conversation.

The first step to improving our communication is not to communicate to be understood; rather, communicate so as not to be misunderstood.

While this seems counter-intuitive, it is a pivotal piece to effective communications.

People want to know three things before they are willing to opening enter into a conversation with you:

1. Is what you want to talk about going to be painful?

2. How long is it going to take?

3. When you finish talking, what do you want from me?

If they don’t know these three things up front, they will make excuses to avoid you in person or avoid talking to you on the phone. It is simple; people always want to know the exit to the conversation before they feel safe engaging in it.

So for example, if you are calling a client, the very first thing you may want to say is: “I know you are busy, so I will only need one minute of your time to let you know about __________.” This way they know it will be quick and painless and that you just want to give them a few facts on the call that will only last a minute. Now they can relax and listen to you as you share the described information. Had you not explained if the call would not be long and painful, they may try to make an excuse that they can’t talk right now, and be distracted during the conversation.

The Same advice applies for approaching your boss, manager or another employee to set up a meeting. Let them know if it will be painful, how long it will take and the result you are asking for – they will be much more apt to schedule a time for you.