8 Best Practices for Working Remote During the Pandemic Crisis

The world has sure changed in the last several days.  Things are developing by the minute and the fog of war element continues to creep into every discussion in our homes and workplaces.  As we move into a time of remote work, many find themselves operating, or trying to operate, in an unfamiliar environment.  For many, their homes have been their personal space, their sanctuary, away from the hustle and bustle of their professional life.  Now the two have come crashing together.

Here are 8 steps to take to improve your results for working from home:

  1. Start your day with your same routine.  If before your remote work began you woke, ran, ate breakfast, and caught up on your social feeds, then continue to do those same things in the same order.  Don’t allow yourself to put off your run until later in the day because you’ll be home.  Discipline is key.  You must maintain your routine first and foremost.
  2. If you live with friends or family, be sure they know exactly what’s required of you working from home.  While it may be impractical to ask multiple people for absolute silence while you work, you can at a minimum communicate the need for reduced noise.  Impress upon the members of the household the significance of being allowed to work from home and remain employed.  This is a good thing!
  3. Care for your pets…if you have them.  Ask for help from others in the house if you have a dog.  Remember, your animals will probably be wondering what’s going.  This will be a break from their norm.  Dogs may bark more often than usual until they adjust to your constant presence.
  4. Establish a formal work space.  If you have an office, you’re golden.  However, many do not have a formal office to work in.  Find a specific spot that you designate as your work area.  If you don’t have a desk you may find yourself using the kitchen table, or an old fashioned TV tray table to set up.  No matter how you set things up, make sure you focus on the “where” you set up.  Try to find a location that is as separate from your typical living area as possible.
  5. Make sure your electronic devices remained charged.  Set up charging stations.  If you have portable hotspots, tablets, multiple phones, or mobile power devices, remember to keep them charged.
  6. Pay attention to giving yourself time to get up and leave your remote work space.  If you were in an office, you’d likely get up occasionally to use the restroom, get water, coffee, or walk outside to get some air.  Be diligent in doing these things working from home.
  7. Communicate with your co-workers.  Many companies have implemented standard operating procedures for working remote.  Follow them.  If your company has not done this, be sure to remain in contact with your co-workers, even if it’s a quick simple email, chat, Skype, or Teams talk.
  8. Leverage video conferencing if available.  Seeing those you work with will help you stay connected and maintain the need for human connection.  Don’t underestimate the power of video chats.

Finally, if you find yourself with any downtime, have a book, or other form of developmental content handy.  This may include a list of blogs that are pertinent to your industry, or a variety of websites.  Keep you brain engaged rather than turning on the TV.  Productive work from home begins and ends with discipline.

Do You Need Customer Success? 7 questions to help make your decision.

Knowing where not to spend your time is as important as knowing where you should spend it.  Today’s buyers are more savvy, and demanding than they were just yesterday.  They are also more comfortable doing business with multiple providers versus selecting one preferred provider.  Left unattended, or worse ignored, buyers will seek to fulfill their needs as quickly and easily as possible.  The question for your business is simple:  do my customers know everything I can offer them?  If you’re like most businesses, the answer is simply “no”, our customers don’t know the depth of our capabilities, and this gap creates a significant risk to future revenue.

Customer Success focuses on three primary areas:  increasing customer retention rates, capturing a deeper share of wallet via cross-sell initiatives, and improving Net Promoter Scores.  Happy, more satisfied customers, tend to feel better about committing more of their spendable dollars with a business.  This translates into buying more products, additional services, or extending current terms of their services.  Effective Customer Success models can be measured by evaluating CLTV, or Customer Lifetime Value.  An increase in CLTV may be attributable to the effectiveness of your Customer Success program.

So how do you determine whether or not create and launch a Customer Success program?  Answer these 7 questions:

  1. What is the current retention rate on your existing customers over the past 12 months, and further 3 years?  If retention rates are low, or declining over a period of time, this is an indicator – although lagging – that a focus on Customer Success may be needed.
  2. What is your current Net Promoter Score and how often are you measuring it?  Low NPS scores can be an indicator of your customers willingness to move, or leave your company.  Dissatisfaction, lack of trust, unrealized value, are just a few sentiments that can be traced to low NPS scores.  Bottom line, the lower the score the more at risk your revenue is.
  3. What is the ratio of products per customer?  The retail banking industry has long tracked this ratio yet it hasn’t moved much.  The average bank has 2.3 products per customer.  Wells Fargo for years has been the king of this ratio touting an impressive 3.2 products per customer.  Of course this ratio must be evaluated against the total number of products you can offer to your customers.  The more products, the higher you want your ratio to be.
  4. What is your current account management strategy for engagement and interaction?  How often are you engaging your current customers?  What methods are you using to touch your customers?  Email, phone calls, visits, quarterly business reviews?  Does your customer have an assigned account manager?  Is that account manager’s compensation dependent upon a rise in NPS scores, and/or increase in customer revenue?
  5. How many referenceable customers do you have?  How many customers have agreed to be a reference for your company?  How many are willing to provide a testimonial either video or written?  How many of your customers are willing to engage in issuing a press release publicly demonstrating their chosen alliance with your company?
  6. How much of your current revenue is generated from existing customers versus new logo sales?  The more reliant a business is on existing customer revenue to make its number, the more exposure that business has to any volatility in customer attrition.  Furthermore, if your existing revenue is overweighted with a handful of customers, your revenue risk exposure is even greater.  It’s likely time to look at a Customer Success model.
  7. What is your 3 year history of renewal rates?  Have they increased, decreased, or remained the same?  If renewal rates are flat, or decreasing you likely have a need for Customer Success.

If your company is experiences decreasing retention rates, low NPS scores, and fading revenue from its existing book of customers, it may be time to focus on developing and implementing a Customer Success model.  Remember, your cost of acquisition is already sunk, yet your customer lifetime value can still be influenced.  Focusing on building meaningful relationships with your customers translates into increased revenue, improved brand value, and drives new logo sales by providing a stable of referenceable customers who become brand ambassadors.

If you would like to further explore whether a customer success model is right for your business contact me at josephgderosa@gmail.com.

Growing Through Adversity

Positive growth can happen even under the toughest of conditions. Perseverance, determination, and the ability to adapt are what’s needed to push through the challenges and capture the growth that’s yours. New skills, new perspectives, new ideas.

As I walked around our property today I saw this beautiful petunia growing in-between some pavers. Oddly this is not a flower we have planted anywhere on our property, yet here it is. With temperatures in the high 90’s this past week, and no rain or water, seeing this thing of beauty grow in the most difficult conditions made me realize how possible growth is in any environment.

It reminds me of the line in Jurassic Park – “Life will find a way.” You really can do anything you set your mind to.

How Sharing Can Accelerate Results

In today’s rapidly advancing digital age, information has never been easier to access. We shop for clothes, cars, computers, and countless other consumables and services through the internet. We research our customers, competitors, future employers and employees, and bosses. We share our experiences and opinions about banks, hairdressers, mechanics, and restaurants on sites like Yelp, Facebook and Google. In fact, by the time you finish reading this blog, more than 1 million posts will have been made on Facebook (assuming you can finish this in 2 minutes or less).

With so much information, so quickly accessible, why do businesses still operate in silos? Why do management teams, and executives, feel compelled to withhold information from their teams? Are there still people that believe in Jack Nicholson’s position in A Few Good Men? Perhaps some might not be able to handle the truth but most are far more capable than you may think. In fact, if you consider real-life General Stanley McChrystal, in his book Team of Teams, he talks about transforming the U.S. Military from a command-and-control operation to a “shared consciousness” where there is an organization-wide “understanding of the whole.”

So why do executives hold back? Why do they covet information at all? The answer is FUD – Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. Fear of embarrassment, uncertainty of reaction, doubt in the character and tenacity of the people on their teams. Harold MacMillian said, “A man who trusts nobody is apt to be the kind of man nobody trusts.” This couldn’t be more true.

Sharing for the sake of sharing is a waste of time and effort, however, sharing for the sake of establishing trust is an accelerator of positive results. How do can you tell if sharing is real? If the information the leader is sharing is sensitive, in that it makes him vulnerable, he’s sharing. If the information is sensitive, in that it may make the company vulnerable, she’s sharing. If there is any level of personal, professional, or company risk, this qualifies for real sharing. When real sharing is being demonstrated, a culture of trust can begin to develop and teams begin to form. A leader who shares real stuff is confident, comfortable being vulnerable, and willing (and interested) in learning. Those are the leaders people seek to follow.

Still think sharing is a crock? If you need further evidence that sharing can accelerate growth, look no further than Berkshire Hathaway which currently holds the title as the highest priced stock on the NYSE at more than $320,000 for a BRK-A share as of this blog post. If you, like me, believe that sharing is a critical ingredient to building trust, consider the words of Berkshire’s Charlie Munger, “By the standards of the rest of the world, we over trust. So far it has worked very well for us.” It certainly has.

How much courage do you have to start sharing?

Thoughts on Leadership

“He who cannot be a good follower, cannot be a good leader” ~ Aristotle.

Great leaders possess empathy and emotional intelligence. Caring enough to ask, and then listening, is the beginning for all great leaders. Charting a course that depends upon the contributions of others requires courage, fortitude and judgement. Leaders understand they are nothing without followers. Great leaders know that their success depends on the relationships they have with those followers. Trust, respect, and caring are ingredients that strengthen the bond between a leader and his, or her followers.

People want to know how much you care before caring about how much you know. Asking versus telling, guiding versus directing, teaching versus demanding, coaching versus demeaning…these are just some ways to demonstrate great leadership.

Leading others requires the leader to be vulnerable. It requires experience and judgement. Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment. There’s no shortcutting experience. You make the best decisions you can given the information at hand. Hindsight will always be 20/20, but we must live in the present which means the possibility of making a bad decision exists for each of us every day.

Embrace the learning. Be curious. Engage others and listen…truly listen. Open your mind to new perspectives. Create a list of leaders you admire and the attributes they possess that you strive to emulate. Getting comfortable being uncomfortable is the path to growth. Try many things. Fail fast. Don’t worry about being wrong. Nothing of greatness has ever been created on the first attempt. Diamonds take billions of years to create. The first mobile phone was a brick. The first car came in only black and had no windshield wipers. Progress takes time. The key is to keep moving, observing, doing, learning, adjusting. Trying to live life without failure is a wasted life. Life without failure is a blank canvas.

“We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.” ~ C. S. Lewis

Kindness – The Greatest Difference Maker

What makes a friend, a friend? What makes a candidate worthy of extending an offer of employment? What makes a great boss? What makes a life-long partnership work – personally or professionally?

In pondering these questions they have led me to other questions such as who do I like spending my time with? If I was stranded on a desert island for a month, who would I want to be with? What type of person? Who do I turn to when I’m happiest? And who do I turn to when I need help?

There are many ingredients that go into making a great employee, boss, spouse, and friend. Yet when all those ingredients are boiled down, there is one that rises to the top…kindness.

Intellect without kindness is arrogance. Discipline without kindness is abrupt. Motivation without kindness is dominating. Persistence without kindness is simply annoying. Determination without kindness is Machiavellian.

Sure, we all need a level of intellect, discipline, motivation, persistence and determination to succeed. And yes, there are many who succeed with these attributes in the absence of being kind. Why is that? Kindness costs nothing. You don’t have to take a graduate course to learn kindness. Maybe that’s the problem? Have we lost the ability to see the simplicity of success when kindness is added as the final ingredient?

Kindness doesn’t mean losing. Being kind doesn’t mean taking the back seat. Kindness does not operate from a position of weakness, but rather a position of strength. Being kind is a conscious choice. Your buyers feel it, your employees feel it, your spouse feels it, and yes, strangers feel it. That random act of kindness from someone you don’t even know that puts a smile on your face and warms the heart. We can all learn from kindness, and kindness is ours free to give. It’s your choice.

To Merge, or Not to Merge

Recent mergers within the payments industry have many wondering what’s next. In reading several blog posts, news publications, and LinkedIn articles, I see industry professionals scratching their heads and asking “what’s to gain from these mergers?”

Companies acquire or merge for 3 primary reasons – to gain market share, acquire talent, or round out a product gap – this includes technology. I suspect that the recent mergers have been driven by pressure from within the industry to achieve size and greater scale – hence share. The market share play becomes the focus of mergers when the other two reasons are lacking from the equation.

Imagine if two Pharma companies that both produced ibuprofen merged, what would they gain other than greater share? However, if one of those companies produced a ground breaking Alzheimer’s medication you now have a new entity that is potentially more valuable given its broader reach and product offering. So the question to be answered is what specific gaps and gains will be addressed by these recent combinations. And here’s a hint….the answer can’t be “operational efficiencies” which is simply code for saying the plan is based upon squeezing cost out of the business to drive short-term financial results.

Let’s also not forget the #1 reason for combo failures – cultural misalignment. Synergies that look great on paper still must be executed by human beings…those same human beings that have been living with, and in, specific cultural norms for a period of time. People often underestimate what’s required to combine companies – to combine cultures. What if the U.S. and Mexico were suddenly merged together into one country?  Just because it works on paper doesn’t mean it will actually take hold…heck we struggled to figure out NAFTA let alone something grander. Cultural differences are too significant to underestimate.

This will not be the last combination. Corporate decisions tend to revert back to our childhood days of playing musical chairs…no one wants to be left standing without a seat. Unfortunately these mergers are not addressing the key problems the payments industry is facing – a dynamic buyer, global sellers, legacy technology, and infrastructure dilemmas. How these four things can be best brought together is the idea, or solution, the market requires. These transactions clear the path for smaller, more nimble players to answer this question and disrupt what has been an industry slow to change and innovate. In the end, the buyer holds the most powerful vote to determine what is most valued.  My belief is they will continue to vote for more choices for easier and secure ways to make their purchases.  This vote will be given to those agile enough to listen to the need and place the creation of a new customer experience as the #1 priority, versus clinging to the belief that bigger is better.

A Thought on Empathy

Life is about perspective. It’s how we experience situations and the lens through which we view things…good, bad, or indifferent. Empathy is a powerful attribute for us all. Being able to relate to each other is what makes human beings…human.

I just watched the movie The Forgiven starring Forest Whitaker and Eric Bana. This movie is based on real events that took place in S. Africa. It is incredibly moving and serves as proof that it is possible – even under the worst circumstances – that we can all find common ground, forgive when needed, and find a positive path forward. Rarely have I seen something so powerful in a film.

#Empathy

#Coaching

#Selfimprovement

#SelfAwareness

Is different enough?

Without a doubt there is a conversation happening with marketing teams around the globe as I write this post trying to nail down differentiators. The more aggressive marketers might even be searching for “core differentiators” as if being different isn’t enough. Now we have to be different right down to our core.

Different is not good or bad. It’s not valuable or invaluable. Different is just, well, different. Who places a value on whether different is worth something extra, or worth something less?

Identifying your differences – or core differentiators – is a complete waste of time, money, and effort without first truly understanding your potential buyer. After all, who are you trying to appeal to with your differences?

Instead companies tend to begin on the inside rather than outside. Meaning, we tend to take the path of least resistance. Sitting in a conference room pontificating on why we’re different, and how much better we are than others does not get the job done. No. In fact, putting yourself in the market to truly listen to your buyers, and becoming vulnerable is what leads to innovation and disruption. Companies that do this well have no interest in being right….just in getting it right.

Does your buyer want different? What if all they want is better? Perhaps no one wants to relearn something entirely new. Perhaps all the buyer wants is for the “thing” they are currently using, to work better, or perform better. How do you know? Have you asked them? Have you asked enough of them to have a dependable sample size? Have you truly listened or did you embark on that research with a predisposition or set of biases? Were you tempted to skew the results to fit what you have in place?

In my book The Customer Mindset; Thinking Like Your Customer to Create Remarkable Results, I share an easy to implement process to map your buyers journey, starting with engaging your buyers and ultimately solving for the “so what?”. Yes, different can be better. The question is how much better, and does your prospective buyer care enough to pay for it?

When you look at your core differentiators, don’t forget to ask yourself (and your team), “so what?”

Business – it’s all personal

Business exists to serve peoples needs. It doesn’t matter if you work for a B2B, or B2C company. Somewhere downstream in the process, is a consumer who is making a decision to buy a product or service you make, or contribute to making.

Business is very personal. Only people can care, a business cannot. A business may be a culmination of caring people but by itself, a business is nothing more than an idea. People bring ideas to life. People bring passion to their work and workplace. People bring thoughtfulness and caring for one another and a community. That all happens with people. A business can only serve as a conduit to deliver what the collection of these people express.

When I hear “it’s not personal, it’s just business”, I would say, it’s all personal. People give their most valuable asset they have to a business…their time. With that time they could invest it elsewhere to generate different returns. With their families, with other businesses, other ideas, other objectives. It is a trade-off. Yet once that trade-off is made, an individual is committing themselves – their person – to the business. This is how business gets done, and it becomes very personal.

Empathy is a key emotion to bridge the gap between business and personal. Why? Because time is the only thing that binds us all together. We all have a set amount of sand in our hourglass. When it’s gone it’s gone. Take some of your sand, and use it with others at work to demonstrate that you hear them, you understand their challenges, and you have ideas to share that can help them. By doing this you add value. And while no one can put more sand into anyone’s hourglass, we can all put a little value into each other’s lives…in, and outside, of business.