December 29, 2011

Why Are You in Business?

Focusing on what you want and why you want it, not on whom you’re going to sell it to or how you’re going to sell it.

That is from an email a friend sent me. It caused me to pause and read the line a few times. I don't sell paint or fix plumbing or increase revenue in one meeting. The value I bring is tougher to measure in a world of instant wins and spams that claim to solve all your problems with a click of a mouse.

Clients and prospects don't care about my quarter century of experience, they have issues that need attention. And that remains the challenge when deciding what companies to approach in the first place.

Narrow the Focus

No matter if you run a publicly traded multi-national organization or work for yourself, you cannot be everything to everyone. You do some things well, you need to improve on other items and you are not tapping into the true power of your people and your network. Or perhaps I'm alone on this.

If you are unclear on what you want and why you want it, your customers, direct reports and colleagues will be unclear as well. And perhaps that is where we slip up when trying to grow business?

Find the Quiet

Our lives are full of chatter and meetings, opinions and deadlines, politics and stress. We aim to please while we lose ourselves in the process.

Big company or sole proprietorship, it is imperative to have an honest look under the hood. You may discover the reason you're doing all this in the first place.

Do you know what you want and why?

Kneale Mann

image credit: soshable | original: mar 2011

December 28, 2011

Counting the I’s in Your Team


Earlier this year, I was meeting with a client and we got into exchanging business clich├ęs. When she used the “There’s no “I” in team”, I corrected her. I relayed a post I had written here a couple of years ago and it reminded me that most people don’t sift through the archives. This was originally published in January 2009.


We travel in packs, so it’s safe to say you more often work in a team environment. A group of people all wandering in different directions can be extremely dangerous. When we can share ideas with each other, magic can happen.


One of the coolest television shows ever was Long Way Down featuring actor Ewan McGregor along with his best mate and fellow actor Charley Boorman. This was the follow-up to their original trip entitled Long Way Around which began in April 2004. The goal was to take the long way around the earth - on motorcycles.


Charley, Ewan and their crew left from London, crossed over to mainland Europe then rode to France, Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Siberia, Alaska, Canada, into the U.S. and finally arrived in NYC. You don’t just wake up one more morning and try this. It takes a lot of preparation and a lot of people.


In January 2004 the boys began intense physical training which included weights, boxing, and cardio. In between workouts, they joined the rest of the team for intense road planning research. They also had to educate themselves on issues such as possible bear attacks, language barriers, passports, every possible weather condition, medicine, proper supplies and just for fun there was a television crew filming everything from day one.


They also had to be trained to deal with survival issues, possible hostile environments and of course first-aid. Nutritionists, GPS experts and seasoned outdoor travelers were consulted. This was all to prepare for their mammoth trip.


Three years later, they wanted to do another trip. This time, Scotland to South Africa. The same detail had to go in to this trip as with the last. They ran in to some passport issues and Ewan broke his leg which delayed things. But when you see them riding their bikes around the Great Pyramid of Giza or stopping to bungee jump over Victoria Falls, it's proof the prep was well worth it. Long Way Around was 115 days covering 15,000 miles. Long Way Down covered more than 20,000 miles in 85 days.


You may not have the desire to spend twelve months of your life training and riding motorcycles but the elements are the same. Working in a team environment takes many moving parts and many talented people who can take thoughts and turn them into actions and results.

You have to imagine the idea, inspire the rest of the team to get moving, integrate everyone involved and implement the plan.

Give some thought to the I's on your team.

Kneale Mann

image credit: birthplaceofhockey | original: jan 2009

December 26, 2011

Let’s Be More Foolish

For many, this is a reflective time of year. While we look at the best and worst of 2011, the world lost Steve Jobs. He wasn't superhero. He was a man full of flaws like all of us who simply tried stuff he thought about trying and the result was a cool organization, an animation company, thousands of forward thinking creative people and millions of evangelistic customers around the world. You're sitting on that idea, you've always wanted to try that concept. Why wait?

Let's turn reflection into action

Kneale Mann

visual credit: stanford

December 25, 2011

Happy Christmas

Kneale Mann

visual credit: Coldplay

December 24, 2011

Shopping More or Less This Year?

As millions race around today to do their final shopping and preparations for the big day tomorrow, some interesting statistics were released last month from Nielsen.

Of the online survey participants from fifty-six countries, almost half planned on spending around the same on Christmas as last year and a quarter expected to spend less. Eleven percent claimed they will spend more than they did in 2010.

Some More. Some Less. Some Same.

Of those who expected to spend more in 2011 for Holiday gifts, the majority are in the Asia Pacific and Middle East regions while Europe dominates the top countries where survey participants were planning to spend less this year.

Asia Pacific participants listed technology, apparel, books, vacations and jewellery. European participants listed books, toys, technology, apparel and vacations. Latin America included apparel, vacations, technology and bedroom/bathroom accessories.

Middle Easterners and Asians had technology, apparel, books and bedroom/bathroom accessories. North Americans listed toys, gift cards, technology, apparel and video games/consoles. And online shopping continues to increase which may surprise you if you are shopping today in the last mad dash so be careful out there!

If you celebrate, have a great Christmas!

Kneale Mann

image credit: Nielsen

December 23, 2011

Challenging Your Best Laid Plans

If you have read any formal information about marketing, you know about the four P’s.
If you have been exposed to anything with regards to growing business, you have undoubtedly heard the phrase strategy before tactics. And if you have been in the workforce as either a stakeholder or someone who has direct reports, you may be familiar with the difference between a boss and a leader.

So with all the formal and informal training, seemingly endless information and learning why aren’t we living in a world of unlimited success and riches? Politicians are grappling with debt load, companies are making blind cuts in a quest to improve the bottom line and we can’t go anywhere without reading about the global economic crisis. Is it any wonder we have a collective pang in our stomachs most of the time?

Energy and Attention

Now think back to your best bosses or beloved mentors. Did they remind you of all the doom and gloom? Was it their quest to constantly point out and highlight your flaws and shortcomings? Or did they steer you to focus on your strengths and talents?

Businesses, as with each of us, have plans in place to succeed. No one makes a habit of navigating their work into the proverbial rocks. Yet we do it all day long. Our best laid plans may, in fact, be our biggest downfall. It’s not that we make a plan; it’s that we may not even have the challenges facing in the direction. Whatever gets our attention gets our energy. So if we build a plan to get out of a negative spot, our focus isn’t on positive footing but rather eroding foundation.

Mean What We Do

Imagine you’re at an amusement park enjoying a summer afternoon eating junk food, playing games and enjoying some rides. Suddenly you hear a man yelling. As you get closer, you see he is actually screaming at his two young children. As you get closer still, you can make out what he’s saying; “Get on that ride and have fun!” What do you imagine is the kids reaction?

Having a plan that is flexible is essential. But often we can do what we think we need to do and remain stuck. As leaders, we can push our people to work harder without really knowing that we’re even working in the right direction. Activity and progress can get lost in our pursuit to improve. If our plan is flawed, changing the tactics may not help.

Are your best laid plans aligned with what you want to accomplish?

Kneale Mann

image credit: architecture411

December 21, 2011

Life Without Rules

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post entitled Lord of the Flies: The Business Model. Since then, I have recounted my theory on this countless times. It's the story of kids left on a deserted island to fend for themselves. At first, they are celebratory. There are no rules. And then anarchy ensues. We like rules yet we live in a time where some claim they own the rule book.

The premise is simple. The social web is a place where there are no rules or guidelines. Anyone with a keyboard and an Internet connection – and there are now over two billion of us – can publish online content.

No, you don’t need to use Blogger, TypePad or WordPress. Comments do not have to be activated. You don’t even have to be on Facebook or Twitter. In fact, you don’t have to read another word of this post. You can just go do whatever you want to do.

The Choice is Yours

You can post content on your company’s website or send emails to anyone you want. It is completely up to you. Google+ will go on with or without you. You don’t need to listen to anyone. It doesn't mean anyone will listen to you but that's okay.

It is rather curious how much online time some people spend trying to tell us the way to do things. This is especially tricky inside a larger organization where the evangelists are screaming (not literally) down the hall for the company to embrace all these cool channels and tools.

People are Listening

Then you have the advocates who are beginning to listen to all this screaming. And somewhere up the ladder you will meet a wallet. This is where the toy may or may not be taken away. These are the people who may or may not agree this activity is valid but will ask very succinctly, why and how long. They want a return on this investment.

Business is not charity. Work is not free. Time is not endless. So in order for ideas, concepts and interactions to accelerate, you may want (not have) to build in some rules – your rules. It is strongly suggested (do what you want) that you create even a rough outline of your company’s digital engagement policy and a set of guidelines for stakeholders to uphold.

Company Rules

After all, you do have schedules and meetings, dress codes and client deliverables to manage. No matter if you are a kitchen table company or running a worldwide enterprise, you have to be accountable to someone. So it stands to reason, your deserted island may need some parameters.

Your rules may not be right for me and mine may not work for you. So instead of telling each other what to do, let's share best practices and see if we can both improve.

Does that sound like a plan?

Kneale Mann

image credit: bikingtoronto | original: july 2011

December 19, 2011

2011: Did We Make It?

Historians may write their summation of 2011 a bit different than we are writing it now. When you look at it you can certainly say we have endured another challenging year. As we step into the Google Zeitgeist for 2011, the words that I keep thinking about are adversity, hope, conflict and empowerment.

What are yours?

Kneale Mann

visual credit: google | song credit: mat kearney - sooner or later

December 18, 2011

Viral Creation and Manufacturing Brands

Myth or Reality?

Many will argue they can create you a brand. It begins with a strong product or service followed by expertly designed look, feel, execution and emotional connection. Your intended customer will embrace such a wondrous entity and share the positive experience with all whom they know. And that simply not true.

Brands cannot be created. That is up to those who have the experience. If you are Canadian, you know the story well. If not, it’s one worth reading about all things branding and viral.

The Legend of Tim’s

If you are from or have ever been to Canada, you know of a phenomenon like few others on earth. It is a cultural and business marvel. And it is named after a legendary hockey player who was one its co-founders. The Tim Horton’s coffee company is one of the most successful franchise models and continues to grow into the U.S. under the expanded name Tim Horton’s Cafe and Bake Shop.

What the company does best is stick to what they do well. It amazes most experts that they can introduce new products all the time and all the while sell hundreds of thousands of gallons of coffee each year. What is equally amazing is that most of their customers have perfectly good coffee makers at home, but prefer to line up with their fellow java junkies for a cup of Tim’s. The future of building relationships and product awareness is through brand experiences customers can share with each other.

People Want More

Tim Horton’s doesn’t serve the most exotic coffee on the planet; it’s certainly not the fanciest joint on the block. However, while others try to dress up their customer experience with high back padded arm chairs and CDs featuring acoustic compilations, sometimes the right model is to get your customers in and out of your store with exactly what they want and expect from you. For that, they will line up.

Will Yours?

Kneale Mann

image credit: the fit gourmet | original: oct 2008

December 13, 2011

How Curious Are You?

The minutiae of day to day meetings and poor internal customer service can crush a company faster than a nimble competitor. We watch with amazement while companies like Google and Facebook seem to thrive within a hyper creative environment. This is not to suggest these companies don't make mistakes - in fact, many make them in front of the world in spectacular fashion.

It is not also to suggest it's all rosy and fun every moment because real work is being done. But what is the difference between the companies that many read, write and talk about compared to the businesses we pass by every day?

Perhaps successful business owners and managers keep these ideas fresh in the minds.

Stay curious for learning.
Stay curious about improving.

Stay curious through searching.
Stay curious like a child.
Stay curious about now.

Be curious, not judgmental.
Walt Whitman

Stay curious in life.

Stay curious for questions.
Stay curious in discovery.
Stay curious for you.

Stay curious through listening.
Stay curious in business.

Be less curious about people 
and more curious about ideas.
Marie Curie

Stay curious about others.
Stay curious with think time.

Stay curious for next.
Stay curious in leadership.
Stay curious toward answers.

Curious people are interesting people, 
I wonder why that is?
Bill Maher

Stay curious about possibilities.
Stay curious about your strengths.

Stay curious for what drives people.
Stay curious and motivate.

Stay curious. Always.

Don't underestimate the curiosity inside your company.

Kneale Mann

image credit: omnipress | original: Apr 2011

December 9, 2011

Internal Social Networking

This week I was on another conference call discussing the pros and cons of social media. This time it wasn’t whether the company agreed in their power or the fact their customer base utilized all the available channels but rather how to increase the interaction inside the enterprise.

There are deliverables and emails and meetings and customer interaction and sales and planning. Who has time to develop an internal social network? Well, if you do any one of these activities, you already have one. But you can slowly create something more collaborative and focused.

There is no Time

Running a business is hectic work and a keen eye must remain fixated on revenue. To many, realizing personal potential becomes secondary to making the quarter. We spend more waking hours at work than at home. But we don't seem to spend much time, if any, finding how those relationships can positively affect the experience.

Schedule the Time

Perhaps to start, you find an hour a week where you and your team get together and have an open and honest talk about each other rather than a client emergency or project deadline. Skip one of those agonizing status meetings where you dissect every current project to the point of nausea and spend it on each other's development. Perhaps it’s too touchy feely for some people at work but this is not to suggest tears and hugs are requisite. But it can unearth monumental ideas for growth.

It's a Waste of Time

You and I have interacted with companies that have horrible internal customer service and ones where the people actually like being there. Focusing on  the relationships within your company through clearer communication will create a stronger business whether that is through an internal social network or simply better communication among stakeholders.

Digital channels have proven we have the desire to connect and share with people all over the world. Are we doing the same within our organizations?

Kneale Mann

image credit: gettyimages

December 6, 2011

The Responsibility of Leadership

People are more easily led than driven. 
David Harold Fink

It’s easy to look at a company’s organizational chart, identify senior management and call that the leadership of the company. That can be flawed logic because leadership is not a title and if we wait to look for it when people become managers, it’s too late. And the biggest issue with corporate leadership is that companies expect you to do too many tasks which takes your time away from nurturing the strengths of your team.

Bosses say "Go!". Leaders say "Let's Go!" 
E.M. Kelly

If you are lucky to have a mentor, hang on to them with all you got. They are special people we need in order to move things along. If you’re lucky enough to be a mentor, take your role seriously. You are not only guiding a career, you are helping the hundreds they will touch throughout their career. Business is a team sport and if you choose the path of leadership, it can be a fulfilling decision.

Management is doing things right
Leadership is doing the right things
Peter Drucker

Leadership is a balance between the ego and grace. Well that’s until reality steps in. Quotas need to be met, revenue numbers hit, a competitor wins the contract and suddenly our flapless leader isn’t so helpful and nurturing.

Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.
Steve Jobs

In the corporate world, leadership roles are realized through myriad journeys. Some get the gig because they are the top sales person, others get it because someone left and they were the safe choice, the list goes on. Rarely does an organization choose its leaders purely from the perspective of leadership ability.

The only real training for leadership is leadership.
Antony Jay

If you’ve ever received a promotion within an organization you know that people start to look at you differently and you may feel a bit strange. That angry young person with all the bright ideas is in a position to act on some of them. It can be overwhelming. But that's what change and growth feels like.

It is not fair to ask of others what you are unwilling 
to do yourself. Eleanor Roosevelt

Leadership can be a lonely journey within a team environment but to the right person, the most rewarding career move of their lives. We all need to be leaders now and waiting for the corporate tap on the shoulder is not the time to begin the process.

How can you become a better leader?

Kneale Mann

image credit: istock | original: Oct 2010

December 2, 2011

What Will You Do in the Next 30 Days?

I was on a conference call this week and we were talking about all the things we wanted to do. Those items on some bucket list or someday sheet, tacked to the bulletin board next to the array of conference laminates, the calendar and a few wise sayings from past fortune cookies. We know our lives won’t last forever. As Steve Jobs said, "Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose."

A few years ago, Matt Cutts, whose day job is quality control at Google, felt he wanted to look at his list a little more carefully. And instead of placing it back on the wish he could get to it one of these days pile, he did it.

Will you get to your list?

Kneale Mann

visual credit: TED
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