Week 6: “Never, never, never give up.”

Steven Schussler quotes Winston Churchill in his book It’s a Jungle in There in support of his assertion that successful entrepreneurs are persistent. What doesn’t get mentioned is that Churchill never said those exact words.

Image result for winston churchill never never never give up

Here’s what he actually said on October 21, 1941 when he visited Harrow School, his alma mater:

“Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy. We stood all alone a year ago, and to many countries it seemed that our account was closed, we were finished. All this tradition of ours, our songs, our School history, this part of the history of this country, were gone and finished and liquidated.”

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter that Churchill is misquoted more often than not. The sentiment remains valid. What I appreciate, however, in the accurate quote, is that Churchill’s wisdom and ethical boundaries shine through. He infuses thoughts of honor and good sense in addition to the virtue of persistence.

Dogged determination without considering the human consequences is not virtuous. The end does not justify the means in every case, so congratulating ourselves when we accomplish our goals if the cost was crushing the people in our path is wrong. A true victory is won when goals are accomplished without harm, or better yet by elevating other people along the way.

Churchill also points to the use of “good sense” when applying persistence. I’m not 100% sure that Schussler would agree with Churchill on this point, given his propensity for applying the blood, sweat, and tears and off the wall approaches to his endeavors. When he shipped himself to a hiring manager in a barrel without air holes or turned his house into a functioning jungle it would be hard to argue that Schussler was practicing good sense. He has shown a preference for creativity and making a memorable impression over doing what most would consider good sense.

These differences are a great reminder to me that we all have to approach our businesses in our own way. It is our differences that make the world interesting, and if there were a “formula” for entrepreneurial success then there would be a lot more successful entrepreneurs. You have to be willing to push through the hard times to achieve your goals, but you also have to recognize when the right time is to take the lessons from one endeavor and move on to the next.

 

 

Week 5: Marketing Yourself to Market Your Business

As a senior leader within an organization, my experience has been that developing your personal brand adds value to your business. This is even more true for entrepreneurs, as they literally ARE their business. In It’s a Jungle in There, Schussler points out that when investors are considering a business, they are looking at both the viability of the idea as well as their impressions of the person or people leading the project.

The importance of first impressions was reinforced for me recently during a presentation by stylist Lamond Hart of The House of Lamond. He and his colleague Sheena from Alpha Male Nail Care presented to MBA students on style, giving several very helpful tips to help them elevate their personal brand. One thing I was taught early on when preparing for a job interview, many people judge your attention to detail by how well you care for your nails and your shoes. It is no wonder that Mr. Hart partnered with a shoe shine business and nail technician when he opened his salon in Uptown Charlotte. Having these two services within his clothing boutique is genius! Not only do all three businesses benefit from the patrons of the others, all three business compliment the others to result in a well styled gentleman.

Another great take-away for me from this presentation was that professional does not have to be boring. The sock styles of Canadian Prime Minster, Justin Trudeau are a great example of this. He is always well dressed, but the pop of color found in his sock choices have shown that he has a bit of flair and personality. Mr. Hart suggested that a colorful pocket square or unique lapel pin can make a similar impact.

Career experts regularly point to the importance of a good hand shake and the first and last impression it can leave with those you meet. The balance of firm, but not bone crushing, is not easy for everyone to master. This is particularly true when you are nervous and your mind is on the pitch you are about to make. I recommend to my students that they actively practice their handshake and not take for granted that what they do naturally is fine. The feedback you receive on this tiny action could dramatically impact the impression you leave.

Schussler spends several pages in It’s a Jungle in There sharing the value of a unique and memorable business card. With companies like moo.com and Vista Print there is no reason to have boring, unprofessional business cards. Additionally, I strongly recommend that people leverage LinkedIn to connect with people after meeting them. Not only does a LinkedIn profile give you a lot more information about the person you’ve met, but it provides you a tidy way to keep your conversation going after the initial meeting. I use my LinkedIn as a database to help facilitate connections for others as well, but then doing so is part of the brand promise of my institution.

Lastly, I would submit that it is good advice to get involved in service to your industry or profession. Doing so is great for your personal brand, but it is also great for your business. As people know you and associate you with expertise in your field, your business is bound to benefit.

Can Your Customers Find You?

Customers won’t buy what they don’t know exists” says Steven Schussler in It’s a Jungle In There. While this sounds intuitive, I still find the “if you build it, they will come” mentality to be much more common. The expectation by many is that if you have a great product, of course people will be lining up to get it. Unfortunately, this is simply not the case.

I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking (and worrying) about marketing in my professional role at Wake Forest University. Even though we offer the highest ranked part-time MBA program in North Carolina (according to U.S. News & World Report) people in Charlotte still don’t realize that we have a campus there. Wake Forest University is associated with Winston-Salem, where our main campus is located and where all of our undergraduate and full-time graduate programs are located. Needless to say, our market penetration in Winston-Salem is nearly 100%, since Winston-Salem is Wake Forest. Market awareness of our Charlotte MBA programs is typically about 30%. Part of this challenge is related to the fact that Charlotte has a growing “new professional” population, with lots of people relocating to Charlotte for work. Part of the challenge is also the lack of strategy for our marketing efforts.

Most of my energy recently has been focused on making sure we are appropriately utilizing digital marketing, or as most businesses call it…marketing. In the past, many companies have separated traditional marketing channels like print, television, and radio from digital channels like LinkedIn, Facebook, and paid search on Google. Increasingly, digital marketing is just thought of as marketing, not an “extra” or “bolt on” item to the marketing strategy (Abramovich, 2017). The benefits of using digital platforms for marketing include that it can be very targeted to the types of customers you are looking to reach and analytics are available to track performance.

Roesler (2015), writing for Inc., reminds us the search engine optimization (SEO) is important for digital and offline businesses alike. First, 91% of Google search clicks are made on results found on the first page. This means if you’re on page 2, you almost never get seen. Even companies without websites (YIKES) can be found if they are registered with the various search engines. This can include customer reviews, phone numbers, and directions to your business. It can also point searchers to your social media accounts, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, if that is primarily where you are promoting your product or service.

The moral of the story is that marketing is important and depending on your audience your digital presence may be the most important investment that you make.

Abramovich, G. (2017). Make The Shift From Digital Marketing To Marketing In A Digital World.
Roesler, P. (2015). 4 Reasons why SEO Matters to Business (Even Offline Business).

Week 3: Sweat the Small Stuff

This week’s post is focused on how critical attention to details is to maximize customer satisfaction and perceived quality of your product or service. It’s a Jungle in There author Steven Schussler points out attention to details results in the elevated customer service that can transform a casual patron into a loyal, lifelong customer. The impact that this attention to details can have when investors notice can be huge too.

My experience certainly reinforces the importance of sweating the small stuff. It is hard to know what detail will be the thing that connects with a prospective student considering our MBA. In the same way, you never know what missed detail might turn someone off. I’ve found one of the best ways to do more of what is working and fix the things that aren’t is to have a regular dialogue with prospective students. When you actively listen for the the good, bad, and ugly you can take your business higher and build fully satisfied and committed customers.

Schussler shares the famous reputation of Conrad Hilton and how burned out light bulbs signaled deeper issues in the performance of one of his properties. These small details really do matter, particularly before you’ve established a relationship with your customer. Working with a product that is high price only heightens the expectations of potential candidates, as they are looking for signals that the extra money they’ll spend will result in a greater value over the short-term and longer term.

One example of how we sweat the small stuff is our extended interview day. Each candidate receives a padfolio filled with supporting materials about our program printed in color that they get to keep, whether they are admitted or not. As candidates arrive, we take a photo of them standing with a life-sized Demon Deacon statue in our lobby. At lunch, each of them receives a color copy of their photo in a photo holder with our logo embossed in gold. We offer each person interviewing two formal interviews, sessions with career services and student services, and time with current students and alumni. Each part of this experience reinforces the prestige of the brand, competitiveness (exclusiveness) of admission, quality of the experience, depth our our relationships, and the intimate, personal experience of the program. We feed them lunch, have water in the interview rooms, validate their parking…the details go on and on.

No one in our market does anything even close to this, so when our candidates are considering multiple schools and compare their experiences the differences are very clear. These premium details are not things that everyone values, but for candidates who are looking for signals that a program is “the best” we stand head and shoulders above our competition. That is our goal and our brand promise.