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Why e-mail is killing your business

Originally published on November 6, 2015 as a Guest Column in The Globe and Mail: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/why-e-mail-is-killing-your-business/article27123869/

Following a recent keynote I delivered, somebody asked me why an innovation guy like me would still be using a device as passé as a BlackBerry. “Two words,” I responded: “No typos.”

Viva keyboards! I went on to say how tired I was of receiving business e-mails with the “cute” disclaimer, “Please excuse the typos.” I always want to respond, “Excuse me for taking my business to a company that values accuracy of information and delivery as much as I do.”

Glib? Too harsh? Neither one. Would it be okay for your technology partners to say, “Please excuse the random mistakes, but the data is mostly correct.” Is it okay for an airline to say, “Sorry, we got the day right but we typo’d the time, so you’ve missed your flight.”

Obviously, these excuses would be unacceptable. So why tolerate mistakes in your e-mails?

Michael Eisner, former CEO of The Walt Disney Company, pointed out that your company’s reputation, or brand, “is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures.”

So exactly what is the brand message you’re sending when you let customers know that your brand of service includes typos?

Don’t let sloppy communication be your brand.

A related e-mail problem I’ve often encountered arises from the common complaint: “I regularly send e-mails to my team leaders or store managers, but they never seem to read them. What else am I supposed to do?”

One suggestion I often provide is, “Don’t write them. Or at least, not so many and not so often.” You know the definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

This comment usually elicits perplexed reactions – furrowed brow, furious rubbing of the temples, and a questioning stare that asks if I’m really advocating a return to the Stone Age. But think about it. Business success hinges on working with, managing, influencing and, above all, selling to people – and yet we keep choosing e-mail, the most impersonal means of communication available to us today.

The disconnect could not be more glaring.

Even when Walmart founder Sam Walton was the richest man in the world, he would still climb into his propeller plane and fly himself from store to store to greet team members and customers. He understood interpersonal communication, and the power that comes from speaking with your whole body: eyes, mouths, ears and even handshakes.

I understand that, as small business owners, we can’t all fly ourselves around the continent. But we can certainly mix up the way that we communicate with our customers and team members on a regular basis. Yes, there are e-mails and social media, but there are also powerful personal tools such as person meetings, the telephone, and even Skype and video conferencing.

You need to find and deploy the very best communication tools and customer experiences for your business – because building team and customer loyalty is getting harder and harder. Competition is increasing, attention spans are shrinking and consumers are more willing than ever to try something new.

Don’t make it easy for customers to take their business elsewhere. Keep things personal. Saying “no” in person or to somebody you know is much more difficult than deleting a message on your smartphone.

Here’s the interpersonal communications hierarchy I recommend for you and your team when communicating with each other or with customers.

  • For simple, fact-based communications, use e-mail
  • Use the phone for issues-based discussions
  • Conduct new or forward-looking discussions face-to-face

So many companies that I work with fail to grasp this essential truth: in business, communication is king. Don’t be sloppy. Take the time to truly engage your team and customers, and they in turn will be much more likely to engage with you.

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Happy People, Happy Customers, Many Happy Returns: Building a Culture of Intrapreneurship

With the pace of technological change growing ever faster, Spyder Works CEO Ken Tencer says that there has never been a more important time for businesses of all sizes to generate ideas and continuously explore opportunities for growth.

As he will share with those attending the World Innovation Convention in Berlin this December, Ken believes that the practice of generating and implementing new ideas from within a business – known as “intrapreneurship” – is frequently underappreciated by those in corporate management, despite the impressive results this approach has yielded over the years for firms like American Airlines, LinkedIn, DreamWorks and Adobe. Intrapreneurship not only serves as an innovation catalyst in its own right, but it creates a culture of innovation by helping to attract, engage and retain top talent – heralded by Ken as a driving force behind repeatable and sustainable innovation.

According to Ken – as many of the world’s successful and enduring organizations have discovered – some of the most promising new ideas for growth come from within, from those in constant touch with customers and their changing needs.

Don’t miss this keynote as he will draw insights on intrapreneurship from his highly anticipated third book set to close the loop between insightful team building, customer experience and in-market success – Happy People, Happy Customers: Many Happy Returns.

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Experts suggest using innovation in times of crisis

Photo credit: Dudu Leal

This post was translated from Portuguese.  It was originally posted by FIERGS in Brazil following a keynote presented by Ken Tencer at their Innovation Forum, “Innovation in Times of Crisis”.  The original post can be read at: http://www.ielrs.org.br/pt-br/noticia/especialistas-sugerem-usar-inovacao-em-tempos-de-crise

“Nothing like a good crisis to generate great opportunities”. This was one of the takeaways shared by Ken Tencer, entrepreneur and Spyder Works CEO, during the 3rd Forum on Innovation and sponsored by the FIERGS System, through Sesi, Senai and IEL. “Many great businesses have started during recessions,” he told more than 700 people who came to FIERGS Events Center this Wednesday. “It’s important to focus on key clients and invest in innovation in a few areas,” said Tencer, a leader in management and innovation, and co-author of The 90% Rule®, which empowers companies of all sizes to identify, prioritize and implement growth opportunities. “Every day I challenge myself and my team to search for the next 10% of growth. We have to think about innovation every single day”, he commented. During the talk “Cause a Disturbance – a Simple Way to Innovate Continuously”. Tencer, who also co-authored bestseller Cause a Disturbance (2014), recommended delighting customers, “because they will delight your bottom-line”. To do this, the Canadian speaker suggests always listening to your customers, “because that’s where your ideas will often come from”. He said there are six steps to ensure that innovation is lasting and targeted (1) Engage emotions, not numbers, (2) Change the lives of your customers, (3) Connect the dots – between your business and its customers, (4) Identify and rank the opportunities, (5) Develop a plan, and (6) Communicate the plan.

In addition to Tencer, Gijs van Wulfen, an expert on innovation and design thinking, from the Netherlands, also spoke at the event. Van Wulfen is founder of the Forth Method which has been implemented by 35 European companies and is a LinkedIn Influencer, with more than 260,000 followers throughout the world. Van Wulfen shared 10 insights to innovate in times of crisis (1) Teamwork -You can invent alone, but you cannot innovate alone. Innovation must be bought in by all, (2) Choose the right moment, (3) The pace of the process has to be slow, (4) A great idea is a simple solution for a problem or a dream the customer has, (5) If you don’t have new insights, you will not have new ideas (which is essential for the sound operation of a business), (6) Think outside the box, but present it in a box, (7) Have a business plan, (8) Connect with the client from the start of the innovation, because “he is your support”, (9) “Innovation doesn’t stop at the first No, that’s where it starts”; 10) Lead your people, show them the way.

Gijs van Wulfen also presented the Forth Method, with its five islands of thought. According to van Wulfen, first we have to know where we want to get to, and then, look for the knowledge to get us there. “Ideas will come after a while and, with knowledge, we can choose the best ideas, try them, get the feedback, and then outline our business plan”.

Also presenting at the Forum was the company Imobras, which was featured in the Best Practices Toolbox, an initiative by the RS Innovation Center in the State of Rio Grande do Sul. The Center was created to support businesses in generating innovative solutions to their own challenges.

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