Archive for category Best business practices

Finding the right combination

1101151209a_HDRI’ve encountered two online applications this week that stood out from the crowd. I’m not sure if the questions they asked helped tease out whether someone would be a good employee or not, but they certainly identify people with whom you’d like to dine.

One asked about where one gets their news and what were the last three books one read. I think that question is more revealing than what one’s favorite book is. I wouldn’t trust any answer provided because people have carefully researched the right response. But the last three books one read? If answered truthfully, that would really provide great insight of a person.

The other application felt very intrusive and personal. “What is your goal in life? How do you describe a life well lived? How do you determine if someone is successful? How would this position move you closer to your life goals?” I don’t think “it would allow me to eat, which is a basic life goal” is the answer they’re looking for.

At the very least, I would have preferred to have waited until the second interview (date?) to have revealed things I haven’t told anyone but my closest confidante. I bared my soul and I doubt I’ll ever hear back. I wonder where THAT application will end up in cyberspace.

I also received my first rejection that I’m certain was from a computer. I had completed my application only the day before when I received an email that said that due to the large number of applicants, they would be pursuing other applicants with blah, blah, blah. I am pretty confident that a person didn’t read my application.

It seems as though I have to push the right buttons in the right order to get into drive. Can anyone help me with the code?




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Business Badger awakens after 5-year nap

I find myself in a spot somewhat similar to where I was five years ago, when I started this blog. I’m back in the job market and blowing the dust off my blog so I can share my job search experiences and some observations I’ve picked up since.

The blog began five years ago as I noticed that applying for jobs is a demoralizing, time-sucking pain in the neck. Nope, nothing has changed on that front, but I certainly knew what to expect. The primary difference is trying to outsmart SEO. Haven’t quite perfected that yet either, because you know, I’m a person, not a word cloud.

So the new, improved Business Badger is going to tell you about what I’ve learned in the five years since I last published this blog. I’m going to write about:

Win-loss analysis

I’ve spent the past five years as a consultant to Fortune 500 companies in regard to win-loss analysis and customer experience. I have interviewed thousands (really, thousands) of buyers and customers. As I’ve said many times, it’s amazing what strangers will tell me on the phone.

They told me 1. what a specific sales process was like, 2. how competing products compared and 3. what their perception was of my client’s company, as well as my client’s competitors.

Then they told me the most important thing. They told me what was the primary reason they chose that $100,000 widget over the competing $100,000 widget. Seriously. I asked them as an objective third party and they TOLD me! In great detail! Even though I told them I was recording the conversation. Even though I told them I would provide their feedback to my client, whom I named. They told me anyway.

Where information goes to die

Here’s another lesson I learned about win-loss that absolutely blew my mind. I told my clients what their buyers told me, even quantified it across several buyers. I put it in a PowerPoint. I drew arrows, added bright colors and repeated several times the two or three key reasons they were losing deals. And you know what? More often than not, they went “hmmm.” “Interesting.” “Yes, that’s what we thought.”

Then you know what? THEY DIDN’T DO A DAMNED THING ABOUT IT! Time and time again, client after client. Nada.

To be fair, some did take action and they saw their win rates increase. But it was a small percentage.

For those who did little to nothing, I’m astounded. Yeah, change is hard, I get that. But, really? Your buyers told you, verbatim, why you lost that deal. Then another buyer told you the same thing. And another. And another. I think they were trying to tell you something.

So, here is what learned what happens to most win-loss analysis results. “Great data. We’ll just put it over here. In the corner. Behind the fake plant.”

I think what happens is corporate leaders think they have to come up with a big, fat PLAN to address all of these recurring issues. Here is a secret. No, they don’t. They have to fix the first issue that keeps coming up. Then test to see buyers mention that again. If not, the problem was fixed. What’s next on the list?

For those who didn’t want to change or thought they couldn’t, eventually they got tired of hearing from me, telling them the same thing, buyer after buyer, quarter after quarter. They liked the idea of win-loss, but not the work. It’s hard work to change a process, or a product, or a sales leader. But sometimes the data is right there telling you exactly what to change and why. It’s telling you. From behind the fake plant. In the corner.






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The first step is admitting you have a habit

For some reason, I was given a review copy of “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business,” by Charles Duhigg. He’s a NYT reporter, so of course I readily accepted his emailed offer to send me a copy of his book.

Still mystified as to why I received a copy of the book, I began reading. The prologue begins, “She was the scientists’ favorite

participant. Lisa Allen, according to her file,…..” I’ve seen my name in print hundreds of times, even on the cover of a couple of books I edited, but wow, there it is in a book written by a New York Times reporter. I don’t know if that’s how I appeared on his radar, but if so, it was a brilliant

marketing move.

Most of the book is right on, but it reaches a little too far when it comes to the civil rights movement.

However that book landed at my doorstep, I’m glad it did.

It’s an intriguing romp through Mr. Duhigg’s research and the many twists and turns his growing database took. That’s what I love about journalsim. One starts in one spot and you never know there the information will take you. Unfortunately, he follow

ed one path in the book he shouldn’t have. One large tangent doesn’t belong and undermines some of the overall value of the book. He pushed too hard to argue that the civil rights movement occurred because long-standing habits finally snapped. He also argues that fundamental sociological responses derived over generations and founded on the necessity of human interactions stem from habits. I don’t buy it. I cannot categorize the culmination of 100 years of American history, social pressures and basic human needs into something as a simple as subconsciou

s reactions to cues, routines and rewards.

The civil rights movement was too complex, too political and too orchestrated  to stem from subconscious behavior. That’s my caveat to recommending this book. I loved everything about it, but. That segway doesn’t ruin the book, but it doesn’t fit within it. It was too much of a stretch.

With that exception, the book is definitely worth reading. You’ll talk about it, think about it and keep picking it up to reread sections.

My favorite parts were reading about the success of Alcoa under the safety-obsessed Paul O’Neill, marketing Pepsodent, unwinding to the source of infant mortality and recognition of William James’ brilliance.

I loved the business applications of habits and their use for good (Alcoa) and evil (Target).

The price of admission is worth Mr. Duhigg’s notes alone. I enjoyed knowing immediately what reaction his reporting evoked from his sources, including the terse replies from Target, and the shut down from the compulsive gambler. From his notes and sources, I have another large reading list to explore the porttions that interested me, including the civil rights movement but along other premises.

Thanks to Mr. Duhigg’s book and the treasure trove of resoures, he has made learning, about habits and other topics, well, a habit.

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Three business lessons learned in a Santee bar

Three bar stools  032

Image by tomylees via Flickr

I recently spent three days in Santee, S.C., a town of 800 on Interstate 95 smack dab between New York City and Miami although it couldn’t be farther from either. I was there to write about the town for AAA’s Go Magazine that covers the Carolinas. (Interesting find: when one Googles “Go Magazine,” a lesbian magazine is the first result. Bet that would surprise a lot of people in AAA marketing department.)

I started to write this blog about three lessons I learned in Santee, but I realized three great lessons come from one place, The Oasis Bar and Grill on S.C. 6 in Santee.

Good business practice lesson one: Warmly, sincerely greet your customers. (Note: Yelling ‘welcome to Moe’s!’ loud enough to startle the interloper might have an opposite effect, but that’s another blog for another time.)

Details: My traveling partner and I spent WAY more time and money at the Oasis Bar and Grill than we planned simply because we were warmly welcomed by Sharon, a waitress there for five years. She truly seemed happy to see us. I’m always glad when someone is happy to see me. Makes me all warm inside. She introduced us to a few of the regulars around us and we felt like regulars in a matter of hours. (I said we spent too much time there, but I’d go back in a flash.)

Good business practice lesson two: Promote yourself and your products, even after your customers are in the door

Details: I noticed a well-written flyer on the bathroom door announcing upcoming events at The Oasis and it included some boilerplate touting the Oasis, like best bar in Santee, favorite destination from tourists, etc. It reinforced the feeling that I was smart for being so wise to detect a successful business from the highway. In short, it made me puff out my chest with pride for choosing well. Another flyer inside the bathroom reminded patrons of watching college football at the bar. One also got half off your first drink if you wore your team’s colors. Score in the marketing column! Another good idea: the screen saver for the cash register is a rolling list of cocktails and their ingredients. Customers seated at the bar might bend to the power of suggestion and break away from a draft beer.

Good business practice lesson three:  Be bold, be clever, take a few small risks.

Details: Santee is home to a huge lake, so boating is a recurring theme throughout town. The Oasis beached a broken-down boat in the parking lot and guarded it with railroad ties. Was it meant just as a conversation piece, I asked owner Dennis Krauer? Nope. It’s protecting the septic tank beneath it. Good idea. The Oasis also built a half-acre outdoor bar area shieled by an 8-foot privacy fence for outdoor concerts or karoake. (Can there be too much karoake? Please, someone cry uncle!) It’s taking a while for the area to catch on, but Krauer’s sticking with it. A small risk that might pay off.


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