The Lessons Taught by The Movie “Office Space”

The Lessons Taught by The Movie “Office Space”

Close your eyes and picture this: On your early morning commute, you get stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Your senses are bombarded with horns honking, the sound of breaks squeaking, and the pungent smell of exhaust. Your reward for making it through this mess isn’t much better. Your individual cubicle awaits, lit only by artificial lights which have a way of making you look sick and feel hopeless. Once you arrive in your allotted space, you are faced with mountains of redundant, seemingly meaningless tasks you must complete, while answering to eight different bosses who don’t communicate amongst themselves. 

If the movie “Office Space” came to mind during this exercise, you are getting the right idea. While the movie’s comedic portrayal of an office environment is exaggerated, as business owners, it’s wise to learn the lessons you can glean from it.

Delegate

Bill Lumbergh is the boss in the movie “Office Space.” He is often seen hanging around Peter’s (main character’s) cubicle, overreaching his boundaries and seemingly controlling every aspect of Peter’s day. Peter also has eight bosses other than Bill, or maybe including him. This means everything has to be repeated over and over to the point of insanity. This drives Peter crazy, and it is not productive either.

Lesson #1: Give your employees what they need to do the job: training, materials, etc. Then, let them work. Get out of their way. Studies have even proven that micromanaging can cause employees to perform at a lower level, not higher. Just imagine trying to do even a simple task with someone standing right over your shoulder, and it’s easy to understand why micromanaging is so detrimental. 

Provide Well Functioning Equipment/Updated Software

In the movie, the copy machine almost takes on the role of character thanks to the fact that it is so detested by Michael and the other main characters. It seems this copier/printer will never work properly, which causes endless difficulties. Peter, Samir, and Michael (main characters) end up destroying the machine in a rural field outside town after their frustrations reach a boiling over point.

Lesson #2: You should provide your employees with what they need to get their job done as mentioned above. Sure, things break. That’s understandable. However, expecting your employees to continue to use subpar equipment, computer, software, etc. yet still pushing them to meet deadlines and maintain the same level of production simply isn’t fair.

Create a High-Quality Working Environment

It is no wonder the characters of “Office Space” so detest their jobs. They work in 6′ x 6′ cubicles with no windows. In addition, Peter is situated right across from another employee who patches calls through, so in essence, she spends all day saying “just a moment” in an irritatingly spunky voice.

Lesson #3: Cubicles are sometimes unavoidable in today’s office buildings. However, give your employees the freedom to move around to break up their day. Make sure you have seating available for your employees outside where they can walk around and enjoy being outdoors. If outdoor space isn’t an option, at least make sure you provide a lounge with couches or comfortable chairs where employees can go to take a break from their own cubicle walls.

Most employees understand that doing business in today’s technology-saturated society often means they are required to sit at a desk and work on a computer most of the day. This doesn’t have to look like the movie “Office Space,” though. Thankfully, with a little thought and purposeful planning, you can ensure your employees never feel like Peter or the other characters from the movie. Simply adhere to these lessons from “Office Space,” and you will be heading in the right direction. 

Read More

From Small Things Come Big Changes

From Small Things Come Big Changes

Pierre Omidyar didn’t plan to start a mega-corporation in the late fall of 1995. In fact, all he wanted to do was get rid of some computer equipment he had laying around by selling it through a digital garage sale. However, once he realized how popular his simple web page started to become, and the fact that he could charge a fee for folks to use it, eBay was born.

In three short years, the eBay online auction concept went from a private website to a viable business that quickly began to explode. Omidyar had hit on what many in business invention call a “primal need,” something that everybody needs and doesn’t yet exist. 

With the help of Jeff Skoll, Omidyar brought in Meg Whitman, the same Whitman who later ran for California’s governor, and corporate eBay took off. By 1998, eBay had gone beyond just selling used and collection items and was quickly becoming a viable brand name for online selling in general. The model continues today and competes directly against regular retail selling.

Seeing What it Could Become

The key aspect of Omidyar’s success, however, was not Whitman and her corporate choices of personnel, nor was it the smart linkup with PayPal to make eBay’s payment processing extraordinarily fluid and easy for customers. Omidyar could see that he had something valuable and, if given the resources, what it could become. This key talent is what makes the difference between inventors and idea people who never quite achieve success, and people like Omidyar who realize what seems to be impossible starting out.

Omidyar had a number of essential factors present and working in his favor:

  • Again, the primal need for an online auction platform or similar garage sale digital tool was needed.
  • Second, it could be easily accessed by anyone who wanted to participate and pay the fee.
  • Third, the tool was easy to use and produced immediate results and rewards for those using it.
  • Fourth, and most important, no one else was making the same idea happen successfully at the time.

Without these elements in place, Omidyar’s personal website might have made some small cash and even generated a small following, but it would not have turned into the worldwide corporation we know as eBay today. 

Finding Ways to Make it Grow

Some explain the opportunity as a momentary blast of good luck or fate, and others argue it’s the genius of the person involved producing some incredible new service or product. In reality, eBay is neither; it is a product of Omidyar being able to see the promise of an idea and finding ways to make it grow and become more useful, accessible, and popular. 

Ebay expanded and became a household name because the company took every opportunity to follow the four principles above in its business strategy. That constant commitment to creating value in a brand is why people keep coming back to eBay as a service some 20 years later, regardless of what the internet and technology have provided since.

If you need help creating value in your brand, we’re here to help. Give us a call today!

Read More

Why Does Elon Musk Want Dissenters in his Company?

Why Does Elon Musk Want Dissenters in his Company?

In many companies and organizations, there is a position that most employees learn to avoid. It’s the position that stands out from the crowd and represents the minority voice on the team. Instead, folks learn to see which way the water is flowing and the music is playing, and they align their interests and concerns accordingly. It’s often couched in phrasing as “being a team player” and being a “proactive player instead of a negative burden” or similar.

Elon Musk, the well known chief executive of SpaceX which just recently solved how to create a space rocket that can land itself and be reused again, follows a different path with his employees. He actually wants people to tell him when they think he’s going down the wrong path. As Musk puts it, the lone dissenter or minority voice often points out issues and facts that if ignored can turn into costly problems later on. However, if a company team only follows the majority path, it can quickly turn into the fatal path of groupthink and “yes” men, ignoring major warning signs a big disaster is about to occur.

The Reward Dissenters Bring

Elon Musk and SpaceX are no strangers to risk. They operate in the high stakes game of off-Earth space transport and travel. A mistake in this environment has almost always meant total loss and millions of dollars wasted. So from Musk’s perspective, a dissenting voice provides multiple benefits. It forces the supported path to be defended better by showing why the concern raised is not an issue, a form of vetting before moving forward. Second, the minority opinion frequently brings up risks or concerns that may be glossed over otherwise because they are inconvenient to the supported path. Again, the biggest business mistakes often start with small, ignored issues, like a small leak in a levee.

The idea of rewarding the person who raises potential problems goes against the trend of American business. For decades business managers have been taught that the team is all-powerful and that many minds in synergy produce more than the individual alone. However, this also assumes a lot of mistakes are made along the way to develop that experience. In rocket-building, however, mistakes can’t be tolerated, so Musk believes in asking every question and giving a chance for dissent, an antithesis to traditional corporate culture.

Think This Doesn’t Apply to You? Think Again

Some might argue that the same situation of a rocket company doesn’t apply to a business creating software or coffee-makers. Businesses can afford to have mistakes and still make sales. However, in practice, this logic fails when the company gets sued and loses a major product warranty or personal injury case. Litigation has killed more than one small or medium business with a great product or service but no defense to a mistake that harms someone.

Musk doesn’t believe every dissenting opinion should be followed. In fact, he notes in his advice they can be incorrect. However, listening causes the path chosen to be analyzed just a bit further to identify weaknesses missed. And in Musk’s business, if it exists, avoiding that weakness can mean his multi-million dollar rocket landing again in one piece. What does it potentially mean for your company?

Read More

That Cranberry Drink of Yours Might be 87 Partnership Years Old

That Cranberry Drink of Yours Might be 87 Partnership Years Old

The typical perspective taught in business class is that one must compete against other similar businesses to obtain, hold onto, and grow a market share. And for that to happen, either the market must be new, or someone has to give up some of their market shares to make room for a new business. However, while this “top dog” approach is treated as the norm in capitalism, it’s not always the best approach to business success.

Making Cranberries Successful

The Great Depression of 1929 began because of a stock market crash and a sudden loss of cash liquidity. As a result, both successful and not so successful businesses were destroyed when the crash occurred. 

However, in 1930, amidst the worst economic condition the U.S. had seen and with thousands out of work, the Ocean Spray Cooperative was started in Massachusetts. This cooperative venture, started by three separate cranberry farm growers, was the result of a smart and realistic realization that going it alone in the post-crash market was not going to be possible. Rather than fight and compete against each other, the three growers bonded together to combine their resources and success. 

It ended up producing one of the few business success stories launched in the midst of the Depression. Today, that same cooperative now includes a membership of over 700 different farm operations in six states and two countries. The key to their major success was partnership and sharing versus competition and “winner takes all” attitudes.

Half a Loaf is Better Than No Loaf

Going it alone in business may mean you’re accepting pain and struggle that isn’t necessary. Business owners should look around and see if there is any potential to partner up or form an alliance with available competitors, thereby sharing a larger market potential than what their single business is capable of. The results can potentially ensure long-term viability and strength versus suffering from the common “flash in the pan” syndrome so prevalent with new small businesses and startups. This approach can be particularly effective and strategic when a business wants to venture into an unknown, new territory that the potential partner is already present in.

The digital world offers multiple ways for partnerships to be established. Businesses shouldn’t limit themselves to just horizontal relationships with other similar businesses. Vertical relationships with suppliers and end users or business clients can lock in additional market share and business not accessible by simply going it alone. 

For those who think that partnerships are temporary mutual positions at best, take note of the fact that 1930 was some 87 years ago, and Ocean Spray is still going strong with cranberries as well as other agricultural products for the national food market. 

While cooperating with other businesses may not work for everyone, clearly, the synergy of the many can outdo any singular benefit of a lone business acting in a market isolated and against everyone.

Read More

The One-Trick Pony Syndrome

The One-Trick Pony Syndrome

Have you ever heard the phrase, “a one-trick pony?”

Researchers believe the “one-trick pony” phrase comes from an entertainment background. According to research, the earliest reference was associated with circus ponies used to perform a trick or feat that impressed audiences. The ponies involved could do an amazing act, such as walking on their hind feet, but that was all they could do. Eventually, the audiences got bored with the show. In one version of the story, a pony had a dog partner that would ride on it. While the audience got sick of seeing the pony do the same thing every time the circus was in town, the dog gained fame because it learned and began to perform new tricks. In time, the dog became the star, and the pony was relegated to hauling circus carts.

Is Your Business A One-Trick Pony?

The moral of the story here is not to allow your business to get stuck on only one good thing. It’s tempting to think that if you have something good going, why ruin it? Well, over time that good thing will become less and less popular. The number of customers who want it will diminish and the business will have to start cutting prices to keep it attractive. Eventually, the product or service won’t sell at all. 

Palm PDAs and Blackberry were both perfect examples of the one-trick pony mistake. They both had a really good product for a while, but both companies failed to upgrade and develop new products. Eventually, someone else did, and their customer base walked away. Those text screens on a Blackberry and similarly on a Palm PDA simply looked old and obsolete versus smartphones like the original Apple iPhone. The world had changed.

It’s Time to Diversify

Is your business riding the wave right now of a star pony? If so, now is the time to be looking for and generating a new path. Diversify into a new product or new service. Not only does it protect your business’ longevity, but multiple revenue streams from different customers will eventually offset each other when one of them starts to weaken. 

Companies that map out their product/service life cycle and plan for eventual loss with replacement “ponies” are the firms that survive and grow. Don’t let all your energy, money, time, and effort go down the drain with a one-trick pony. Instead, use the initial success to be your springboard for the next one.

Read More

Never Be Afraid to Take on the Big Boys

Never Be Afraid to Take on the Big Boys

Something strange is happening on the yogurt shelves: the most popular yogurt is not from a big maker like Dannon or Yoplait. It’s a product from a small, 12-year-old upstart from New York. In March, Bloomberg wrote that Chobani had overtaken Yoplait to become the most popular yogurt in the U.S. The story of how this independent took on the big brands and won has lessons for all of us.

Distinguish Yourself From Your Competitors

Big yogurt brands had become complacent and did not anticipate how new products would catch customers’ interests. Instead of sticking with the same types of yogurt already popular in the U.S., Chobani made their name with Greek yogurt, a thicker and richer product. By the time the larger yogurt companies introduced their own versions of the product, it was too late. Consumers had become loyal to the brands that made Greek yogurt popular.

If you craft your marketing materials and your products to fill a need that your competitors are not, that gives you a competitive edge. Look for what makes your product different from a bigger player in your market and offer what they don’t. By the time they are playing catch-up, you can be the leader.

Be Willing to Make Changes Quickly

Product development at big food companies can take years. At Chobani, a product will sometimes go from concept to trial in the space of a weekend.

In your marketing, if you see an opportunity, be willing to take it before your competition does. This requires a high degree of social listening and a willingness to take chances. Smaller and leaner organizations can adapt far more quickly, allowing them to be the ones who seize an opportunity. 

Be Authentic

Millennials now make up the largest consumer cohort. Their priorities are different than the priorities of previous generations. They are less likely to do business with a company that they perceive as a large and impersonal conglomerate. Chobani was founded by a Kurdish immigrant who fled political turmoil in Turkey. After spending time in Europe, he arrived in the U.S. with $3,000 and a small suitcase. In the following years, he built a company that dominates the $3.6 billion Greek yogurt industry.

Do not try to look like one of the big companies in your industry. Portray yourself as the lean, quick, and effective organization that you are. A smaller company, for instance, has staff at the highest levels who are knowledgeable about all customers. This can give your customers a far more personal degree of customer service.

Make News

Over the past couple of years, Chobani has made news for its innovative policies. When the company began seeing large successes, Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya responded by giving 10% of the company’s equity to employees and putting a generous 6-week parental leave policy into place. 

What does your company do that is newsworthy? Those practices can build your image and give you more effective marketing than you can buy.

A company’s dominance in an industry is never certain. By taking advantage of opportunities that you have and the bigger players don’t, you can increase your own success.

Read More

Using the Holiday Season to Your Advantage in Your Marketing

Using the Holiday Season to Your Advantage in Your Marketing

When it comes to marketing success, the importance of a timely, relevant campaign cannot be overstated enough. You see this all the time with major brands – some big event is going on somewhere in the world like the Super Bowl and marketers rush to be the first to integrate it into their campaigns. As the cheery holiday season rolls around yet again, you’re presented with the perfect opportunity to do exactly that – at least until the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve.

But, if you really want to integrate the holidays into your marketing campaign and generate the type of success you deserve, you’ll want to keep a few very important things in mind.

Use Holiday Visuals Whenever Possible

Visuals are always an important part of your marketing collateral, but they become especially so during the holiday season. From roughly November until the Christmas holiday season passes, people are already in a receptive mood for this type of imagery – so filling your marketing materials with holiday-themed colors, Christmas trees, packages, and other items is a great way to make sure you’re noticed.

According to one study, this type of imagery can increase a person’s retention of your messaging by up to 80%. This type of visual element can make your content more likely to be shared up to 40 times more than the average amount.

Look for Local Events You Can Sponsor

If there’s one thing you can essentially guarantee about the holiday season, it’s that calendars will be filled to the brim with holiday events all throughout the month of December. If you really want to attract the attention of that ever-important local market, you should start looking around for local events that you can sponsor. Not only can you help get your brand out there and raise awareness, but even if the event is only slightly related to your product or service you can still make new contacts and generate new leads as a result.

It’s All About Emotion

If there is one key to success regarding holiday marketing, it can all be boiled down to a single word: emotion. The holidays are a naturally emotional time as people get nostalgic for friends, family members, and holiday experiences of years past. It’s also a time where people make decisions emotionally rather than rationally – especially when it comes to purchases. Because of this, you should try to lean into the most emotional factor of your campaigns as much as possible. Focus on cheery words and images that will help people feel good about things like giving back, “paying it forward,” and more. This is more likely to trigger an emotional response in your campaign, which will spawn action sooner rather than later.

These are just a few of the core ways you can use the holiday season to your advantage throughout your marketing campaign. Perhaps the most important benefit of the holidays is that you’re working with a built-in ticking clock. Christmas is right around the corner, and no matter what you do, you can’t delay it. People will naturally feel inclined to get those last minute gift purchases in before the big day arrives. If you’ve been playing into the holidays for your entire campaign, you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll be on the forefront of their mind.

Read More

How to Court the Younger Generation: Creating the Future of Your Business by Marketing to Millennials Today

How to Court the Younger Generation: Creating the Future of Your Business by Marketing to Millennials Today

In the world of marketing, there’s a natural instinct to go after certain segments of the population when marketing because those are the ones that spend the most money. That may be good for short-term gains, but any business worth its salt will always be thinking about the future. And regardless of the industry, the future can be summed up in one beautiful little word: millennials.

Commonly defined as anyone between the ages of 18 and 34, or those born in 1982 and up, millennials outnumber baby boomers by roughly a half a million people. They’re the largest generation in the country right now and, make no mistake, the one that the very future of your business will be based on. If you want to court the younger generation and create a solid future for your business, you’ll need to keep a few key things in mind.

Treat Them as Equals

No consumers like to be talked down to or told what to do – but this is especially true with the younger generation. Millennials can absolutely sense “marketing speak,” so don’t think that is going to buy you a whole new generation of customers, either. According to one study conducted by Kissmetrics, 89% of millennial buyers trust recommendations from friends and family members MORE than any claim that a brand could make.

Use the same tactics that you’ve been using to win over older generations, but reconfigured for a younger audience. You should still be putting helpful, relevant content that appeals to the people you’re trying to attract out into the world, but keep in mind that what is relevant to a 20-year-old isn’t necessarily the same thing that’s relevant to a 65-year-old. Buyer personas are going to be hugely valuable in this regard to help guarantee your eye is always “on the prize.”

You’re a Combination Marketer Now Whether You Like It Or Not

Marketing to specific groups of people has always required putting your efforts to where those people actually are, and millennials are no different. Millennials are nostalgic about direct mail and appreciate personalized invitations and advertising they can hold. Likewise, according to a study conducted by Nielsen, more than 85% of millennials own a smartphone. That means your digital marketing needs to marry with your print marketing for the best way to meet your audience where they’re at.

When used together, print and digital marketing successfully target that coveted younger generation. Think digital with a smartphone-based loyalty rewards program, and connect that program to your direct mail campaign. Social media is another obvious example. Tie your social media efforts with posters, envelopes, and more to create the best of both worlds.

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that no business – regardless of what it is – is time-proof. If you focus all of your efforts on one particular age range or demographic, you run the risk of accidentally making yourself irrelevant when that group invariably ages out of the product or service you’re offering.

Read More

4 Stubborn Business Myths

4 Stubborn Business Myths

Entrepreneurs know that owning a small business takes dedication, passion, and hours of concentrated work. You may run into obstacles that test your business and your perseverance, obstacles that are norms in the world of business which each entrepreneur must learn to navigate. However, there are some obstacles that you may be facing without realizing it. Those barriers are stubborn business myths that just won’t go away because people believe them, even though they aren’t true.

1. It’s not what you know but who you know.

In the course of doing business, business owners or potential business owners come up against this belief time and time again. However, while it is true that knowing the right people may help you get started or get access to some deals, in most businesses it is expertise, experience, and skill that propel you forward in business. If you can provide the solutions customers want, they will refer you to their friends and family.

2. Nice guys finish last.

This myth is a holdover from the era of Western movies and superhero comics. Nice guys (always portrayed as pushovers or wallflowers) finish last because the villains and heroes walk all over them. In film, this may be true. After all, Tony Stark isn’t a nice guy. He is an arrogant, self-centered genius. However, The Avengers aside, in real life, nice guys finish first quite often. While a person with low self-esteem who doesn’t speak up will not be successful without change, a courteous business owner is appreciated immensely by customers and vendors.

In today’s modern world, people are used to dealing with machines, poorly-paid clerks, and online shopping. Finding a business person who is willing to offer them genuine customer service, build a relationship and spend time getting to know them to better serve them is rare. Many people are happy to pay more for real customer service. Therefore, being a “nice guy” is valuable to your contacts. They will remember your excellent service and come back for more.

3. Don’t work hard. Work smart.

This myth is one of the worst business myths out there. There is no way you can run a business without working hard. Hard work is what separates the “men from the boys” as entrepreneurs. Successful entrepreneurs put in hours of labor to get their businesses off the ground. Working smart is just another way to say that there is a workaround or that you can find a way to skip the hard work. It just isn’t possible in reality. If you aren’t willing to work hard, you won’t make it in business.

4. It’s called work for a reason. It’s not supposed to be fun.

All work has elements that workers do not like to perform. It might be the paperwork that you need to fill out for each customer or the data entry on your last case. However, why can’t work be fun?

People who find work that satisfies them are much happier in life. That happiness translates to their work and their interactions with co-workers, customers, and vendors. If you love to sell, create graphic designs, or help customers find what they are looking for, then you ARE having fun at work. In fact, many companies are now providing their employees with ways to have fun at work to help reduce stress and fatigue.

So go ahead and have fun while working! It can only improve your outlook and production. Work can be fun.

Read More

Create An Environment That High-Value Employees Want To Work In

Create An Environment That High-Value Employees Want To Work In

If you tasked most business leaders with sitting down and making a list of their struggles, attracting high-value employees would more than likely fall close to the top. Finding those versatile, well-rounded, and driven candidates is one thing – getting them to come aboard is something else entirely. Making sure you’re not just a “stepping stone” in someone’s successful career is also a lot easier said than done. If you want to attract the type of high-value employees that will carry your organization forward, you have to start from within and create the kind of organization they want to work for in the first place.

Would You Want to Work for Your Business?

If you want to attract high-value employees in a marketplace that is growing increasingly competitive with each passing day, you need to start by putting yourself in their shoes. What are some things that 21st-century talent may be looking for that you aren’t currently offering?

Thanks to things like SaaS (software-as-a-service) and IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-service), the ability for businesses to allow employees to work remotely has become a significant priority for quality applicants. Even if you don’t feel comfortable bringing someone on and allowing them to work from the home full-time, see if having them work remotely two out of the five business days is something you can manage.

Likewise, BYOD (bring your own device) has become a significant priority for younger employees. It lets them bring their own smartphones, tablets and other devices to work that they already feel comfortable using, thus increasing the overall quality of the work they’re able to generate. It also helps save money for businesses, as you no longer have to pay to purchase and maintain a computer for an employee if they’re already bringing one from home. These small changes to your existing policies can go a long way towards creating the type of environment and culture that attracts the talent you’re after.

Get Competitive

Another one of the core ways to attract valuable employees these days involves being as competitive as possible when it comes to job perks. Apple, for example, has a now-legendary attraction strategy that includes not only traditional perks like healthcare, but also things like educational reimbursement as well. Not every company has the type of bankroll that Apple does, but it’s always important to remember that making an investment in your employees through competitive perks is ultimately an investment in the future of your company.

These are just a few of the many ways that you can create the type of environment that makes it easy to attract high-value employees and even easier to retain them for the long haul. Remember: quality employees don’t grow on trees, and the difference between someone who is “just punching a clock” versus someone who is putting their blood, sweat, and tears into the task at hand is an immense difference, indeed. By putting yourself in their shoes and creating the type of company they can’t help but want to work for, you, in turn, create the kind of company clients can’t wait to do business with.

Read More