Use Yah Blinkah!

A few weeks ago the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (DOT) revealed their latest digital sign, “Use Yah Blinkah” to remind those of us in the fabulous state of Massachusetts that communicating with other drivers about our next move is important. If you’ve ever driven through Massachusetts you’ve discovered that most of us consider the blinkah an optional gadget in our car. Seriously, it’s amazing we don’t have a major problem with road rage because, from my observation, most of us simply ignore this important safety rule.  This month we discuss the importance of speaking yah customer’s language!

Beth Goldstein

What Do Yah Customahs Hear?

DOT recognized that they weren’t getting  through to their customers but instead of pleading with drivers to be courteous, they decided to use humor to grab our attention. They successfully managed to gently remind us to observe the rules of the road by having fun with the fact that Bostonians are known for dropping their “r’s” when speaking.

I suspect that the DOT has tried more conventional methods of getting drivers’ attention. However, I missed the message and I wonder how many others did as well. Nonetheless, this creative tactic certainly got my attention and went viral pretty quickly. I found out about it through a Facebook post. At first I thought it was a hoax but was delighted (thrilled actually!) when I saw one of the signs on the Massachusetts Turnpike (aka Da Pike).

Imagine that – a government agency acting like a business to ensure their message was not just delivered but received! They became marketers – thinking like their  ‘customers’ to ensure that those who had gone deaf listening to this message in the past were now hopefully more engaged in the dialogue.  I think it was brilliant marketing and applaud the DOT for having the courage to think outside of the conventional box to appeal to its citizens using a voice they recognize and can smile at. Humor can be a very effective form of communication.

Why is it so important to think like your customers to ensure they hear you?
This reminds me of the personal branding story I’ve shared in my books and told numerous times during my growth seminars. Here’s the story, if you missed it… or simply want to hear it again.  I know this is my mother’s favorite!

When my son Ben was a little boy we decided to have the shutters replaced on the outside of our house. It was the middle of the winter and our contractor placed a large blue tarp over our house to protect us from the pending blizzard. When Ben asked why our house was covered in blue, we explained that there was a huge blizzard coming and we needed to be protected from it. Unfortunately this caused  a lot of fear for our 3-year old and Ben had nightmares for several days until  we figured out what the root cause of the problem was.

It turns out that 3-year olds don’t know what blizzards are but they do know what lizards are. Ben didn’t comprehend what we said (we failed to think like him) and he believed that we needed to be protected from the huge lizard that was about to attack our house. You see, perception is reality and Ben only heard what he was able to comprehend – lizard…. not blizzard.

It seems that the DOT understood that they weren’t getting their message delivered any better than Ben’s dad and I had. Message delivered but NOT received – as anticipated is a problem in business and well, in all aspects of life.

How Effectively Are You Communicating Your Brand?

Check with your customers and see if the message you’re delivering is the one they are receiving. How? Simple – either ask them to describe your value to them or  use social media to check. Social media can be a great way to determine how well  you’re explaining your company values, benefits and brand. If the buzz about your business, being shared through the voice of your customer, is different than the  one you believe you are delivering then it might be time to USE YAH BLINKAH and  starting communicating better with customers and prospects that clearly influence the success or failure of your organization. Remember, don’t let your brand be a lizard.

Are YOU a Game Changer?


Regular readers of my blog know that this summer was pretty exciting for me as I had the opportunity to teach at two universities (Brandeis and Boston University) and visit Lagos, Nigeria where I spoke with over a thousand students about innovation and entrepreneurship.

However, the lesson that stands out the most from this summer is that one-time speaking engagements and short-term (3 to 5 day) conferences don’t really ensure nor support meaningful change. It’s great to speak with motivated students and business owners about change and innovation but it can also be quite disappointing if the impact you are aiming for is fleeting.

How many times have you left a seminar charged up and inspired to execute change within your organization only to return to your ‘daily life’ and ‘business as usual’ never implementing the much desired change? I can personally attest that this is something that plagues me and sometimes leaves me pondering why I bother attending or speaking at conferences if it isn’t going to make a difference.

This month we explore how to shake things up and become the game changer you need to be!


 We all know that change is hard, really hard, but if you (and I) don’t take the steps required to execute on our dreams, then nobody is going to do it for us.  Change is in your hands but it won’t happen simply by attending a few workshops or networking occasionally to make the ‘right’ connections. These are activities that are great starting points but you must take the time to create very specific and measurable goals in order to achieve the vision that you are aiming for.

As a trainer, my desire to have a long term impact on individuals I have the privilege to work with led to the creation of a business card handout used to capture an important SMART goal. It asks ONE simple question: “What SMART goal do you want to achieve in the next 30, 60 or 90 day period (you pick the time frame)?” Plus, there’s space for only four actions to be executed during that period to ensure you don’t become overwhelmed with too many activities that simply won’t get done.

Since I started handing these out at seminars I have been thrilled with the responses I have received. Months later participants in a workshop or talk I gave have come up to me to show me their SMART Goal card and tell me that they carry it around to ensure they actually do what they had committed to. This takes the prize when it comes to my own job satisfaction. Would you like your own card? Feel free to click here to download the SMART Goal Card.

 I’ve seen the benefits of follow up in my workshops and in the classes I teach at BU and Brandeis. One example is a course I taught over the summer called the BU Urban Business Accelerator. This is a 10-week course designed to help students gain expertise through consulting with small business owners in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. The students achieve solid experience as they begin to truly grasp what it means to be a small business owner and see first hand the obstacles encountered in growing and maintaining a business. The business owners get support from dedicated, hard working students who research their specific industry (e.g., beauty salons, electronic stores) and help them better understand how they are doing relative to others in the industry and learn how to manage their business by the numbers.

This course, masterminded by a BU student in his senior year, has a unique twist that is at the heart of its success and differentiates its impact and value from other programs. There’s a 24-month follow-up.  The program doesn’t end when the course does, unlike most traditional classes and business growth programs. This follow-up provides a chance to review what’s working, what’s not and what midcourse corrections need to take place to ensure the companies are using the new tools provided to them by the students. While we are still in the early stages of gathering this post-initiative data, I am convinced, based on early data collected, that this is a critical element that will help make this program a true game changer. In fact, I believe it makes enough of a difference that I am reviewing other business growth classes that I offer to determine how I can ensure that the lessons taught are lessons executed

Long-term success has a better chance of occurring when individuals measure their success not by the strength of their idea but by the actions they take to directly achieve their goals.

Like a great diet or exercise regime, success depends on what happens when we leave the protected environment of the classroom and return to working IN the business. Without making time to work ON your business and make appointments with that very important VIP – you, you may have had a nice experience but the bad habits return quickly.

Ready to set your SMART goals now? Simply visit the SMART Goals page here on my website for a worksheet to help you define your goals and executable action steps and to download my SMART Goal card.

Everything Critical About Business I Learned From My Dog

biscotti_ben_spaghettiThis month’s newsletter is dedicated to my recently departed dog Biscotti (pictured above with my son Ben about 10 years earlier showing their beautiful trusting relationship). Biscotti reinforced in me (and my children) the values that we hold true in business and life. After 15 years of loyal companionship and love, Biscotti is no longer with us, except in spirit.
The story I share this month is about a disastrous lobster bake I hosted for Ben’s high school graduation (he’s grown up since the picture was taken) and exemplifies the best and worst of people in business. I’m confident Biscotti is looking down upon us grimacing at the horrible traits that not even a bad dog would exemplify and secretly wishing he had been there – simply to have feasted on the lobster that splattered to the floor after 3 hours of cooking.Beth

Lessons From Our Canine Friends

Beth GoldsteinWhat are the most important traits that define a business and exemplify its brand? They include: establishing relationships built on trust, being loyal, making good connections, following through and showing unconditional compassion. Those characteristics are ones exemplified by our canine companions and the reason we call dogs ‘man’s/woman’s best friend.’ Biscotti held these traits, and as a member of our family, he was loved and respected by all. In the best business relationships, these same characteristics are self-evident. In the worst, they are completely mutilated, and my Lobster Bake story unfortunately shows the complete obliteration demonstrated by the owner while his young crew showed the best of these qualities.

It all began when I saw a Groupon for a Lobster Bake and thought – wow, what a great idea for my son’s graduation. I looked up the company, Saldoni’s in North Chelmsford, MA, (yes, in this rare instance, I am sharing the company’s name) and didn’t find anything negative about them. Since the Groupon was a bit vague, I called the owner directly to make sure I understood what was included, and he pitched me an offer to go directly through him. Knowing that Groupon would have provided him just 25% of what I paid, it sounded acceptable, and I hired his team months in advance. He told me his crew would arrive at 5 p.m. on the day of the event to setup and we’d be eating around 6 p.m.

A few days prior to the event, he called me to confirm, and we reviewed times again. Things, however, went downhill from there. On the day of the party, no one showed up at 5 p.m. The owner didn’t answer or return my calls to him at 5:15 p.m., 5:45 p.m. or 6:15 p.m. My messages began in a gentle tone and then escalated as time passed. I grew annoyed as my guests grew hungrier. At 6:20 p.m., he finally called back. That’s when the ugliness began. He told me he was sorry, he was catering another affair, and didn’t know where his crew was but that he would solve the problem ASAP. They showed up a few minutes later looking innocent and honestly surprised when I asked them why they were so late. They told me they were instructed to arrive at 6:30. Nonetheless, they could not have been sweeter. It was obvious that they felt terrible and quickly pulled things out of their car to begin the lobster bake.

Immediately, I felt better seeing this as a communication gaffe that wasn’t their fault but clearly the owner’s responsibility. I was watching them work hard to set up the equipment in my back yard when the owner called back and told me, “My crew had a flat tire!” Really? I exclaimed because they told me they were instructed to arrive at 6:30 p.m. I asked, “Which lie is the correct one?” and he got mad at me and said, “This is my business, and they had a flat tire.” I knew he wasn’t telling me the truth but checked with them any way. They were as surprised by the lie as I was and they were looking me in the eye telling me there had been no car problems.

The situation then went from bad to ugly. After learning that the owner had thrown his team ‘under the bus to protect himself,’ I then discovered there was a problem with the equipment. To make a long story short, they couldn’t get the water to boil because the equipment wasn’t working. Two hours later, we gave up with their efforts and attempted to cook the lobster on my stove (in my lobster pot) and finally got them semi-cooked by 9 p.m. The rest of the food couldn’t fit in my home-style pot so it had to be thrown away or frozen (anybody interested in frozen corn? I have a lot).

Talk about a WOW (NOT) experience! This was beyond disappointing. To top it off, the owner told me his policy was to never provide refunds (even when he’s at fault?) and kept insisting that I accept another meal on ‘the house’… personally cooked by him. Seriously, the last thing I wanted was this dishonest business owner, who treated his staff with disrespect, to cook a meal for me and my friends. It took me two days and one nasty YELP review (social media can be quite powerful) to convince him to give me a refund. Let’s face it, people make mistakes and equipment fails. I am very much pro small business and would have forgiven him (and not gone to the web to voice my disgust) if he had been honest.  But when he tried to place the blame on his honest employees… that was the last intolerable straw for me.

What does this tell us about his business and his brand? Nothing positive, for sure. He’s not trustworthy, doesn’t deliver on promises made to customers, is unfaithful to his employees and doesn’t follow up. If only he had taken a lesson from my dog BIscotti or perhaps yours, and shown loyalty and compassion… he wouldn’t have a really awful review on the world of social media (feel free to check it out).

In closing, as you manage your business, always keep in mind the important lessons of honestly, trust and loyalty that our four-legged friends teach us every day.

Now, please excuse me as I go give our other dog, Twizzler, a belly rub! Next month I will share stories of my adventure in Nigeria as I head out next week to speak at conference on innovation and entrepreneurship in that fascinating country.

Why Is Walking Away So Darn Hard…Even When It’s the Right Decision?

I haven’t slept well over the past few weeks plagued by a ‘Go – NO Go’ decision over a major contract that was certain to have a huge impact on my business and my personal life.  Why is walking away ALWAYS so darn hard, even when you know it’s the right decision?

A few years back I was involved with helping a non-profit organization create a curriculum for a program to educate inner city businesses throughout the U.S. They ran the program through the SBA and now, in its fifth year, the program is offered in almost 30 cities. The contract with the SBA to run the program recently became available for bid and boy, did I want it. I really, really wanted it (did I mention that I wanted the contract?).

The current program is excellent and I have a lot of respect for the organization running it but, like every entrepreneur, I was (and still am) confident that I could make it even more effective in terms of its economic impact on urban businesses. I’ve run a variety of uniquely designed business accelerator programs since then for a number of organizations engaged in helping small business owners grow, including the state of Massachusetts. So taking the lessons learned, I am totally confident that I could deliver one heck of a program. So, what’s the problem? Why not go for it?

Well, honestly I wish it wasn’t such a complicated decision but the bottom line is, I don’t currently have the business model nor infrastructure required to effectively run the program in so many cities (30 simultaneously). My fear is that running a program of that scale would either destroy my current business model  or my mental stability or both. The thought of not sleeping for an entire year is not very appealing. Have you been in a similar situation where you really (REALLY!) wanted to do something but your gut told you, Stop and evaluate what this will mean in terms of your business and your life? It’s akin to a chef who loves to cook opening a chain of restaurants across the country all at the same time. She might be able to handle running one (although preparing amazing meals and running a business are different) but a chain, I don’t think so!

(Continue Reading on the Marketing Edge Newsletter Website…)


Biz-Edge Video Series: Episode Nine – The Importance of Understanding Your Competitors

Welcome to Biz-Edge where we answer YOUR business questions. In the ninth of the Summer 2012 Series, I address a question about understanding who your competitors are, even when they don’t look nor act exactly like you.

Competitors don’t always offer the same product as you do. Therefore, in understanding and clearly defining who your competition is, it’s critical to think of them in terms of the solution they provide because that’s what you will end up competing on. Watch how I respond to a question about defining competition to grow a business.

Have a question about business growth? Here’s your opportunity to ask questions about business challenges you face so you can gain an EDGE in business. Plus, hear advice that we’ve given other small business owners and entrepreneurs to help them make bold leaps forward. Complete the form at the Biz-Edge Website and I will try my best to answer it via video.

Biz-Edge Video Series: Episode Eight – Gauging Interest in a New Product

Welcome to Biz-Edge where we answer YOUR business questions. In the eighth of the Summer 2012 Series, I address a question about how to best gauge interest in a new product.

Market research is not just an option for large businesses. If you are thinking about launching a new product, it’s critical to gauge customer interest before you release it, to ensure the best outcome. Watch how I respond to a question about how small businesses can learn more about their customers’ needs.

Have a question about business growth? Here’s your opportunity to ask questions about business challenges you face so you can gain an EDGE in business. Plus, hear advice that we’ve given other small business owners and entrepreneurs to help them make bold leaps forward. Complete the form at the Biz-Edge Website and I will try my best to answer it via video.

Biz-Edge Video Series: Episode Seven – Do You Have A Branding Problem?

Welcome to Biz-Edge where we answer YOUR business questions. In the seventh of the Summer 2012 Series, I address a question about the importance of aligning customer perception with reality to secure a solid brand.

Branding is all about the customer experience and perception IS reality. Watch how I respond to a question about the challenges and danger of misaligning one’s brand/value promise with what the customer actually experiences when they interact with a business.

Have a question about business growth? Here’s your opportunity to ask questions about business challenges you face so you can gain an EDGE in business. Plus, hear advice that we’ve given other small business owners and entrepreneurs to help them make bold leaps forward. Complete the form at the Biz-Edge Website and I will try my best to answer it via video.