When Did Hiring a Lawyer Become the Easy Way of Handling Conflict?

 

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Ever have one of those days (or weeks) when you just felt like  sticking your head in the sand? I love a good challenge and embrace the opportunity to learn from every scenario presented to me. But I have no patience for people who don’t practice a high standard of business ethics and morals. 

In this month’s blog, let’s talk about why shared business values are so critical in selecting your partners, clients, customers and anybody with whom your business interacts.

Beth

I admit it, I’m a bit of a domain hoarder. In fact, I own over three dozen domains. I’m a marketer still plagued by the fact that I didn’t buy marketingedge.com in time. So now whenever an idea for a product or service pops in my head, I check to see if the domain is available…and buy it. They automatically renew, so oftentimes I forget I own them – which can create issues….

Recently, an organization that I did business with a few years ago decided that they should be the legal owners of a domain that I bought in 2008. This is a group to whom I had donated hours and hours of my time to help them create their product.

Instead of picking up the phone to call and ask me to transfer the domain to them, the head of this non-profit organization hired a lawyer (who I presume works pro bono) and sent me a certified letter DEMANDING that I turn over the domain to them.

As a small business owner getting a letter from a law firm via certified mail does not constitute ‘a great day.’  I turned to two different legal experts for advice and spent hours piling through contracts since I needed to know my rights. Frankly, I was shocked. If you’ve done any work with me, you know that I am a huge supporter of small businesses (for profit and non-profit). It’s simply not part of the ethical business standard that I follow to try to cause harm or disrupt the operation of any other organization. I won’t get into the legal issues here, but both lawyers assured me that I had not done anything wrong and could not be held liable. Nonetheless, I spent days dealing with this before I spoke to the organization’s president.
 
What was most surprising and what  I wanted to know was why she decided to hire a lawyer rather than simply calling me. Her response? It was easier to hire the lawyer. REALLY? When did hiding behind lawyers become the easiest way to handle conflict... especially when one party doesn’t even know that conflict exists.

A simple call would have been more than sufficient to resolve the issue. I would have given her the domain had she just asked.  Instead, this non-profit organization forced me to hire my own legal experts to confirm my rights.

In the end, I have agreed to give them the domain because I still believe in the stated mission of the organization and it is the right thing to do. But I’m disappointed (no, horrified) by this organization’s actions against me and by the fact that their stated mission to support small business owners somehow did not extend to me.

Contrast this recent domain-name trouble with an earlier one. About a year ago, I received a call from an organization that was running a national event called The Small Business Tour. They were using the domain name: thesmallbusinesstour.com and contacted me because I owned SmallBusinessTour.com (which, at the time, automatically directed to my website m-edge.com). It was causing confusion amongst individuals who wanted to register for their tour. They were interested in purchasing the domain from me.

The woman who called me was terrific and we had a great exchange about our business models and goals and quickly recognized that our missions intertwined. She asked me if I would be interested in being a speaker and sponsor for the “Tour.” To make a long story short, I pointed my site to their site (it’s still pointed there) and also got involved with the event. It was a win-win and they are great people whom I totally respect.

Both of these incidents raise the question: Should goodwill be a core value of a business or organization? 

Where do YOU draw the line for what constitutes right and wrong in terms of ethical and honorable business practices?

Please email me your thoughts on this compelling issue and, as always, I look forward to being inspired by what you have done to propel your business forward

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Empower Growth By Learning to Say NO

I want to share a story about a recent challenge I faced saying ‘no’ to an opportunity that my gut immediately rejected but my heart fought for (and lost). Back in November I was asked to serve as the president of an impressive product marketing organization based here in Massachusetts. I was honored to be asked, especially since the founder is an individual whom I greatly respect. The organization is successful and they are looking to take themselves to the next level. So, I had two key questions to answer: ‘Was I the right person to help them grow?” and “Was this the right organization to help my business grow?” The latter was harder to answer than I anticipated.

Over the past few years I have worked diligently to establish myself as an expert in business growth (building upon my marketing/sales background). While I love ‘all things marketing,’ as a small business trainer I have learned that teaching marketing on its own simply isn’t enough to help business owners achieve the success they desire.Being able to set actionable goals, understand cash flow and manage and motivate your team is just as important as understanding why customers buy from you and why they might also buy from your competitors.  I now integrate all aspects of business strategy, tactics and growth in my workshops to ensure a more significant impact on the small business communities I work with. Returning to a role focused solely on marketing strategy doesn’t align with my business model.  So, this should have been an easy ‘No,’ right? Wrong!

Lucky By Design RoadmapHere’s where my dilemma began. I was personally excited about working with this group because the people in the organization were truly passionate, dynamic and interesting individuals with whom I wanted to collaborate.But, the organization didn’t fit into my wheelhouse, so how could I say ‘yes?’ Good question! I searched for this answer for weeks. I interviewed almost two dozen individuals associated with the organization, looking for a reason to say ‘yes’ but I kept coming back with ‘no.’ Nonetheless, Irefused to listen to my ‘logical’ side screaming that this was not the right role for me.

So, how did I resolve this dilemma? I removed the emotion from the decision. I created a spreadsheet (nothing fancy, trust me) and on the vertical axis (also know as the Y axis for you engineering-types) I plotted all my 2012 projects, training initiatives and other key activities like my book tour, speaking gigs, articles, newsletter and blog. Then on the horizontal (X) axis I plotted my business goals: consulting, training, being a thought leader, helping inner city and small businesses, etc… You get the point. I also included a business goal category called college fund. Why? Because I could do what I love all day long but if I’m not getting paid, my kids will have to rely on the dogs getting great modeling jobs to support their college education (cute as the dogs are, that wasn’t happening any time soon).

Next, I decided that every project listed on the vertical axis had to fit into at least two of these goal categories (three if there was no revenue involved). For example, the training program I run in Salem, MA fit into several categories including: small business, training, coaching and college fund. Other initiatives such as blogging or writing my newsletter didn’t make the college fund but fit into small business, thought leadership and coaching categories. Simple, right?

TrainingYou’d be surprised how cathartic this was. When the chart was completed, I could see in black and white, no emotions involved, everything that I had accomplished in the past year. I could also see how some of the initiatives I had taken on were clearly not smart choices. Honestly, I already knew which initiatives I shouldn’t continue but now I had no reason to argue with myself over continuing them. Here it was, plain and simple, staring back at me from my computer screen – my smart choices and my ‘not so smart’ decisions. The visual impact was quite empowering.

 Ultimately, this chart gave me the power and internal strength to say ‘no’ to the position as president of this organization. The organization just didn’t fit into my current goals. I simply couldn’t justify saying ‘yes,’ hoping that the pleasure of working with the folks in the group would somehow payoff in the long term. It just didn’t make sense but now it was no longer based on a gut feeling or emotion. It was pure logic.

When I called the founder and politely turned down the opportunity, I knew I had made the right decision. Interestingly enough, several new opportunities opened up in the weeks that followed. Ones that I wouldn’t have been able to go after if I had agreed to serve as president of this group and ones that very clearly fit into my wheelhouse. Now I have this amazing chart to refer to each time I have to decide ‘yes’ or ‘no.’

PortfolioIf you are grappling with a logical system to streamline your goals, actions and empower your ability to say ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ spend an hour doing this exercise. I guarantee it’ll be the best hour you’ll spend on yourself and your business. When you’re done, email me and let me know what you are doing differently this year as you focus your efforts on growth and please share your stories of how you learned to say ‘Yes’ to ‘No.’ 

 

Can Dog Breath Teach You About Creating Loyal Customers?

 

Happy Holidays! As 2012 comes to a close, I want to thank you for your support and friendship. Many of you have reached out to share your stories of success and disappointment. I have appreciated your honesty and hearing how you have overcome challenges throughout the year.

Can dog breath teach you about creating loyal customers (and I don’t mean the already-loyal, four-legged kind)? 

To find out, please read the article below.

Is your 2013 growth plan in place? If not, I have a special offer to help you create a plan. As part of my latest book, Lucky By Design, I created a 5-part webinar series where I walk you through the process of creating your Lucky By Design Roadmap (your growth plan).

The Webinar Series is on sale now (through the end of the year) for only $20.13 (that’s a 65% discount). Plus, if you haven’t purchased my book yet (or would like another copy), you can buy it for $10. Interested? Click here for more details!

Wishing you a joyous new year!

Beth

How Dog Breath Taught Me a Valuable Lesson About Creating Loyal Customers

If we’ve spent any time together, you know that I’m an ‘over the top’ dog fanatic. Our home boasts two, four-legged canines (Biscotti and Twizzler), and they delight us on a regular basis. So, you won’t be surprised that as critical members of our household, they are clearly the most spoiled in the family (yes, even more than my 2 teenagers!)

Last month one of my students sent me a link to a video related to dogs. Naturally,  I dropped everything else I was doing and clicked on the link. It featured a clip about Orapup, a tongue brush designed to help dogs (well, actually humans) manage dog bad breath problems. Let’s face it, the dogs don’t care that their breath stinks.

As you might guess, I purchased the Orapup for both of my pups and waited for shipment to arrive this month. Now, the product wasn’t actually ready – they were taking pre-orders. Since I love to support startups and it seemed legitimate, I figured I didn’t have much to lose. It’s not like the dogs would know that their Hanukkah presents arrived late (they are really bad at reading the calendar).

On Dec. 12 I received an email stating:

Beth,

I want to deliver a personal message about your Orapup Preorder Status in the video below.

Sincerely, Dr. Bob

Orapup

It turns out the factory didn’t deliver their mold on time so while Orapup had anticipated a December delivery, it was now going to be January before shipment arrived. Having spent many years working with manufacturers, this is not an uncommon challenge. But how they handled it was less common.

If you watch the video (click here or on the image above) you will see how they use self-effacing humor, provide real information and sincerely apologize for the delay…even offering money back to the >14,000 people who pre-ordered. Their video was short, engaging to watch and very real and honest. What more can you expect from a company? Assuming I like the results of the product (better dog breath), this is a company I am very likely to engage with in the future and recommend to friends/colleagues.  I’ve told you, right?

Let’s face it, mistakes happen, no matter how hard we work to prevent them. However, the true nature of a person and an organization can ALWAYS be measured by HOW they react to the mistake. Remember this the next time an error occurs – on your part or somebody else’s. Think of your reaction as an opportunity to demonstrate the beliefs and principals you adhere to in your company (and life). In addition, you will also learn a lot about a colleague, business or friend relevant to how THEY react to their own mistake. It will help you determine IF this is a person or organization with whom you want to engage in future endeavors.

Charles Darwin said:

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.

As I await my order of Orapups, I wish you health, peace and happiness plus the ability to respond with dignity when needed. Please continue to stay in touch and share your stories with me. They provide me with great inspiration.  From my home to yours, happy holidays!

Beth, Ben & Jacqui
Beth, Ben, Jacqui, Biscotti & Twizzler

 

24 Hours Until the Small Biz World Summit Begins: Tip of the Day

The Small Business World Summit starts tomorrow. 

 Keep Your Friends Close but Your Enemies Closer
 Beth Goldstein, Marketing Edge

Competition is not limited to companies that offer products or services exactly like yours. Companies compete on solutions and their value to customers. Therefore, competition is about fulfilling a need, not about offering an identical product or service. What needs do your products or services fulfill? How else can your current or potential customers have their needs met? What companies fulfill this need? You must continually assess companies that offer like solutions, ensuring you understand their value proposition and benefits to your customers. 

The Summit gives you the answers you need to take your business to the next level – FAST! We answer your questions about marketing, sales, building online customer communities, cash flow, leadership, HR, and other challenges that you face every day.

Plus, it’s completely free to watch starting tomorrow and throughout all of Small Business Saturday Weekend (Nov 23 – 26).

Click here to learn more and to register!

2 Days Until the Small Biz World Summit Begins: Tip of the Day

 TIP OF THE DAY:  Continually Check-In With Customers
Beth Goldstein, Marketing Edge

The Small Business World Summit begins in 48 hours! TODAY IS YOUR LAST DAY TO Pre-register and get the Small Business Growth Package worth $149 –  FREE!

There are many variables that influence customers’ needs and you must be aware of current as well as future ones if you are to grow your business. Even if you’ve been in business for a significant number of years, it’s critical that you constantly check in with your customers to see how their needs have changed over time. Simply take the time to step back and look at your business objectively. Force yourself to ask your customers questions about their needs, even if you are 100% convinced that you know the answers. Some of the responses might surprise you.

The Summit gives you the answers you need to take your business to the next level – FAST! We answer your questions about marketing, sales, building online customer communities, cash flow, leadership, HR, and other challenges that you face every day.

Plus, it’s completely free to watch during Small Business Saturday Weekend (Nov 23 – 26).

Click here to learn more and to pre-register!. Plus, when you pre-register you will get a Small Business Growth Package worth $149 for FREE that includes:

  • Keeping Score Manual, Ribbon
  • Business Boot Camp Accelerator eBook: Setting the Stage for Growth, Marketing Edge
  • Building an Email List that Build Your business, Constant Contact 

3 Days Until the Small Biz World Summit Begins: Tip of the Day

Initiate Tactics That Directly Align Your Unique Value With Customer Needs
Beth Goldstein, Marketing Edge

The Small Business World Summit begins in 3 days! Pre-register now and get the Small Business Growth Package worth $149 –  FREE! 

While it’s important that you understand the products and services that you offer customers, it’s even more critical to understand what your customers value and why they buy products/services from you rather than your competitors. What common needs and characteristics do your customers share? By understanding how much each customer spends with you, how often they frequent your business and why they value their business relationship with you, you can more easily execute activities that will impact all of these factors and increase your value to them and consequently their value to you.

The Summit gives you the answers you need to take your business to the next level – FAST! We answer your questions about marketing, sales, building online customer communities, cash flow, leadership, HR, and other challenges that you face every day.

Plus, it’s completely free to watch during Small Business Saturday Weekend (Nov 23 – 26).

Click here to learn more and to pre-register!. Plus, when you pre-register you will get a Small Business Growth Package worth $149 for FREE that includes:

  • Keeping Score Manual, Ribbon
  • Business Boot Camp Accelerator eBook: Setting the Stage for Growth, Marketing Edge
  • Building an Email List that Build Your business, Constant Contact