Tag Archives: business

Feb 25, 2010

You Own a Business – Time To Pick a Management Style?

Being a leader carries with it much responsibility.  It takes on even a bit more weight if you’re leading a company of your own creation.  You can’t fail!  What a bloody bummer that would be!  You may start a business on your own, or you may start up with several employees.  Either way, you may eventually have employees that you’re leading into business battle.

What’s the best management style?  That is a most ridiculous question.  Do different situations require different management styles?  Certainly. But can you step out of your shoes and manage in a style that’s decidedly un-you?  I don’t think it’s a good idea.

Nevertheless, I am always reading and listening to interviews with other leaders, because I certainly have room to grow and much to learn.  This interview with George Cloutier, the 63-year-old founder and chief executive of American Management Services, paints the picture of a man that puts profit above all else and doesn’t suffer fools lightly.

I often discuss the future of LeBron James with my cousin Joe.  I love LeBron and watch almost every game the Cavs play.  However, I often think that LeBron will never win a championship. Yes I know he’s young, and yes, he’s younger now than Michael Jordan was when he won the first of his six championships.  But LeBron is just such a nice guy. He wants to be liked. Michael Jordan was famously competitive. So is Kobe Bryant. So is Tiger Woods (insert joke here?).  LeBron is not a cutthroat, step on your own mom’s neck, win at all costs type of a guy.  I hope he can still win one.  What should LeBron do? Should he just try to become a killer on the court? Should he start berating teammates, using fear to motivate? Should he stop doing his choreographed pregame handshakes with all of his teammates? Should he try to be something he’s not?

Mr. Cloutier seems like the Michael Jordan of business.  Profits and business first, family and people second.  Perhaps that’s oversimplifying, but I didn’t get the warm fuzzies when I read that interview.  And you know what? That’s OK for him – I would not advise him to get in touch with his soft side, to try to treat people in a different manner in order to really unlock their true potential. This guy has a system and it’s apparently working for him.

While I can learn much from reading this interview, I can’t directly incorporate all of Mr. Cloutier’s tactics into my business practices.  It’s just not “me.”  You can read every self-help how-to business book, but you have to be comfortable in your own skin, and you have to be true to yourself and your values.  Trying to manage in a way that’s not “you” will have you expending an inordinate amount of energy, and your chances of success are certainly diminished.

What do y’all think?

Feb 24, 2010

If You Want Someone's Business, Don't Place Unnecessary Demands On Them

Are salesmen the scum of the Earth, or the harbingers of helpfulness and productivity?  Or somewhere in between?  As with everything in life, it depends.  Second question – what’s the best sales approach?  Ahhhh, it depends.  Third question – how should you deal with a persistent salesman?  Saaaaaaaaay it….. …. it depends.

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I’m sitting at my desk, and I receive a call from a very huge, super well-known bank that shall remain nameless (they’re huge, you probably bank there).  The caller is an older sounding woman with a southern drawl.  She asks me if I’d like to meet with an officer from the bank so that they could explain their products and services to me.  At my day job, we have several banking relationships, and we’re always looking to make more banking friends.  We do not have any money at this bank, but for various reasons I won’t go into, it might not be a bad idea to get some money on deposit there.  This is a sales call that I didn’t mind taking!

I asked her if it would be her that was coming out. She made it clear that she just makes these phone calls, and that the local officer in charge is Joey Joe Joe (I changed the name to keep it all anonymous here).

So I asked if it was Joey Joe Joe that was going to be coming out. She said no, probably not, but she couldn’t be sure – it would probably someone that works for JJJ.  I know that it is probably impossible to be personal when you’re a gigantic massive bank, but this is failure number 1.  I like getting to know human beings – I’m relationship-driven. For me, I would have liked to know who I’d be dealing with. Yes, I’d find out the day they arrive, but I felt like a number. I got the idea that I wouldn’t be forging a real relationship with a local banker.  But I’m being a big baby about this; I digress.

She then says, “To make sure we send out the right person, I need to ask you some questions.”  At this point, I always get really paranoid and think to myself, “How do I know she’s really from So-And-So Bank?”  She doublechecks my name, business address, all that. And then she asks for our annual sales.  I’m secretive about stuff like this when I want to be or need to be, so I said, “We can discuss that stuff in person when you guys come out here.”

She sternly says “I am going to need to get this information from you if you wish for the call to continue.”  It is at this point that my eyes cartoonishly popped out of their sockets like horns (think Looney Tunes).  Buh-duh-buh-duh- WHAAAAAAAAA? You called me! You are trying to earn my business.

I said back to her, word for word, “I’d really like to talk about this with a live human being, in person.”  I’m sure I sounded like a real jerk, but it was an honest sentiment. An online bank like Ally.com is not relationship-driven, but my business banking relationships still are.

She persisted, and eventually she was able to get me to reveal a range of numbers that our sales fall within.

This blog post would be useless in the hands of the CEO of this big superbank that I’m going to be meeting with in a few weeks, but if you’re a just-starting-out, tiny, small, or even medium-sized business, this is advice for you: the number one word in customer service is listen. DO NOT FORGET THAT! You will see me blogging about this constantly – I will rap you about the head with it until everyone understands! You have to listen to your customers, pick up on their cues, make them feel comfortable, and provide them the information they need (not the info you want to shove down their throat).

Feb 23, 2010

Businesses on Twitter – You Have One Extra Rule To Live By

Can anyone guess what that rule is?  Drumroll please……….. . . . . ……….. you cannot randomly click on links sent to you in Direct Messages!  I will explain why below.  I am certain I could flesh this point out in greater detail, turning it into a full-blown how-to for businesses on Twitter.  But for now, allow me to point out something very important to you.

If you are a business on Twitter, you actually have several extra rules that you must live by.  You probably shouldn’t curse too much, call people names, fight with anyone, engage in even light racism, solicit sexual partners, fence stolen goods, or talk about how your farts smell.

And if you’ve hired a Social Media agency to handle your Tweets, you have to make sure they understand this, as well. Anything an agency is doing for you… they are doing it in your name. This should be second nature to them.

The pic below should illustrate how potentially jarring one small errant click can be.  I received the following Twitter DM from a CPA firm.  I blurred out their particulars just because it felt like the right thing to do.  If I were to click on the link they sent me, it would commandeer my Twitter account and send a bunch of these links to a bunch of my followers.  So someone handling the CPA firm’s Twitter account clicked on a similar link that they had received in a DM.  It’s a standard Twitter phishing attack.

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Ultimately, does this reflect really poorly on the CPA firm? That’s debatable – if you’re new to Twitter and aren’t aware of these phishing attacks, you might receive this message and say, “WTF is with this CPA firm?”  You might even unfollow them. But then I thought, the text of this attack is so outrageous, I think most people on Twitter “get it,” and therefore would not hold it against the sender. My guess is that this conservative CPA firm wishes that this had never happened!

Why, then, do these phishing attacks continue to work? Why have I received this exact DM over 50 times in the last two days?  It’s because people keep clicking them! Note that all you have to do is click – with many of these phishing attacks, you do not have to provide them your password – click, and they just steal it from you.  Clever, isn’t it?

You wouldn’t think that one click could get you in this much trouble. But if you’re a conservative CPA firm, or an office supply company, or even a funny t-shirt website :-) , you cannot afford to besmirch your good name by falling victim to a phishing attack. (Full disclosure: months ago, I clicked on one of these. It sucked!)

I suppose this advice is applicable to all of the Twitterzens on Twitter, but it carries special importance for businesses with brands to protect – stick to business, and stop clicking on random links in DMs!


As I was completing this blogpost, I received the apology you see below.  It came 90 minutes after I received the first offending DM. Out of the 50+ sex-related DMs I have received in the past two days, this is the only apology so far. I don’t need an apology, but these people obviously care about their business, and I applaud them for that.

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