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Mike Hartley
Client Experience Management
Mike Hartley
Michael T. Hartley, CEO DKE Inc.

For years we have spoken about and elevated the concept of CRM; Client Relationship Management.  We talked about managing the number and types of touches we have with clients.  Birthday cards, reports, calls, and emails were tabulated and prompted.  CRM is a model that companies used to manage interactions with present and future clients.  Software is frequently the heart of the system each company designed to automate and organize marketing information (like the sales pipeline), client service, and support.

CRM software systems are generally of two types:  B2B (Business to Business) and B2C (Business to Customer/Client).  The difference in the two systems relates to the number of contacts, typically being much fewer in typical B2B systems compared to B2C systems.

Relationship vs. Experience

Relationship is defined as “the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected.”  CRM focuses on the number and consistency of ways a company is connected to customers or clients.  Managing the number and type of touches becomes the primary focus of the CRM activity with the expectation that the number and consistency of connections to a client or customer will result in a long-term business relationship.  While CRM is certainly a step up from haphazard, unmanaged touches, I believe that there is another level in relationship to which we can aspire.

CEM:  Client Experience Management

I read an article put out by the Disney Institute through Inc. recently (I attended Disney Institute in the 1980s and found it tremendously revealing and motivational) that elaborated on the lengths the Walt Disney Company goes to “over manage” all of the touch points where the company interacts with a guest.  Each potential touch point is identified and given deliberate attention, organized and planned in detail so that when a guest interacts at that touch point the experience is excellent.

Following are some of the key concepts from the Disney Institute/Inc. article:

  1. Walt Disney said “People can feel perfection.”
  2. Every touch point must be given deliberate attention.
  3. In business the power of service lies in the ability to create an emotional connection rather than a purely rational connection.
  4. Emotional connections can lead to many ambassadors for your brand.
  5. Our goal:  be intentional where others are unintentional.  Over managing the things most companies ignore or under manage is what differentiates us.


Next Steps

At DKE we are in the process of developing a firm wide Client Experience Management program.  It will start with the creation of a comprehensive inventory of client touch opportunities.  Once we analyze the inventory of touches we will identify touches that should be there but aren’t and then organize and plan each of them in detail so that no matter how a client encounters our organization or the work product of our organization they will encounter an excellent experience.

I will report on our progress with this initiative in future posts.


Invitation to comment:  What have you noticed about the impact of a great client experience on your relationships?



Mike Hartley
Recommended Reading Through January 31 2014
Mike Hartley
Michael T. Hartley

Challenges, Opportunities, and Strengths.

A number of challenges were faced in January starting with global concern about economic conditions in a number of emerging market countries, often linked to weakness in the Chinese shadow banking system.   Inflation that was below central bank target rates in the Eurozone and Japan remained a continuing concern.  The stock markets faced increased volatility and generally declined throughout the month.  The Federal Reserve continued its bond-buying program, but tapered their purchases from $75 billion to $65 billion per month.

Opportunities.   I am always energized by thinking about ways to grow both personally and professionally and to innovate and grow business.   Several of the suggested articles that follow deal with personal growth and personal impact.

Strengths.  Even though the financial markets cooled, conditions weren’t all bad as consumer confidence and spending continued to improve in the U.S. and the International Monetary Fund pronounced that the global economy had hit the long-awaited  inflection point and was expected to post a 3.7% increase in global economic output.  I have provided a link to a Forbes article that explores the Federal Reserve’s plans for supporting growth in the U.S. economy.  I hope you enjoy this issue’s selection.   Mike

Want to Be Truly Productive? End Each Day Like

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How you end your day is just as important as how you begin it. Here are eight tips that will close your today right, leaving you well prepared for tomorrow.

Recently, I wrote a column with tips on how to start a great day. What I neglected to mention is that the best way to make sure your day has a solid start is to have a great ending to the day before. If you finish your day stressed and worried with lots of loose ends, it will impact your time at home as well as your sleep.  String a few of these unhappy endings together and you’ll watch your productivity plummet like a rock.

You can solve this problem with a small paradigm change. Focus as much or more energy on ending your days well and you’ll start each day more rested and vibrant. Here are 7 simple tips to help you finish right so you can start the next day with a clear mind and a happy heart.

1. Finish one “organizing” project. Busy people always have some organizing project they have yet to get accomplished. It might be cleaning out an old file drawer or clearing your email. Whatever it is, schedule 20 minutes at the end of the day and tackle it.  Even if you get partway done you’ll feel like you started to accomplish something.  Within a week at most the task will be done and you’ll feel lighter inside.

2. Address all communication. I hate having email and messages that lag overnight. They create little voices in my head screaming Answer me! Answer me!  I feel like I was rude and left people hanging.  I hate ending the day feeling guilty. Even if you can’t find a way to deal with all your correspondence and messages, the least you can do is acknowledge that you received the communication. Create a signature that says: Thanks, I got this. I’m a little busy but I will respond within a day or two. Then you can add the task of responding to your list of things to do without offending those who made the effort.

3. Do a brain dump. When I am really busy, my brain will run in circles and I struggle getting to sleep. Rather than suppressing the mental energy, I prefer to release it.  I sit down and write down everything in my brain. Not everything that comes out has value (as some have told me.) But once it’s in a document or on paper, my brain frees itself and allows me to rest. Journaling can also help extract those sticky thoughts. I often write my columns at the end of the day since it leaves my head drained and ready to recharge on the pillow. (This one is being written at 2:30 AM.)

4. Review your calendar and to-do list. It seems obvious to do this, but many people wait until the morning to make their list and set their dates. I find the later part of the day is the best time for making the to-do list and reviewing the calendar since that way I can make sure I didn’t leave anything hanging or open-ended from the day.  There is nothing worse than trying to rest and feeling like you forgot something important.

5. Set out your clothes. Weather reports have become sufficiently accurate to know how to dress the next day. If you followed tip #4, you’ll also know if you have any meetings that require you to dress a little nicer. Better to have a fashion crisis in the evening while watching TV than to end up late because you couldn’t find that tie or blouse. You can even catch a little more sleep if the clothes are all there, pressed and waiting when you wake up.

6. Set a “Shut Down” time. Even though late-night phone calls are rare around my house, email and texting can go all night long. This is not a good idea. I finally made a decision to stop checking a couple of hours prior to bed.  It allows me to decompress and takes away the risk of adding more thinking to my brain that will disturb my rest. I’m not a doctor or paramedic, so there are few emergencies that need my immediate attention. They can wait until morning when I am fresh and ready to address them.

7. Center yourself. Once everything is put away, organized and the day is over, find 20 minutes before bed for some relaxing introspection. Be it meditation, prayer or simply quiet breathing, isolate yourself from people and electronics so you can spend some quality time slowing the outer world. (It’s ok to have the poodle on your lap. At least this works for me.) This is a good time to let go of anything that made you angry or upset. It’s also a wonderful time to acknowledge gratitude for anything good that happened. If that doesn’t help you start the next day on the right track, nothing will.

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What People Really Care About When They Meet You: Are You a Good Person?

by Andrew O’Connell  |   HBR Online |  8:30 AM January 22, 2014

When people meet you, their impressions are formed more by their perceptions of your moral character than by your personal warmth (or lack thereof), suggests research by Geoffrey P. Goodwin, Jared Piazza, and Paul Rozin of the University of Pennsylvania. For example, in one study, research participants who were asked for their overall impressions of people rated those who were “cold” but had “good character” more positively than those who were warm but of bad character (5.59 versus 3.60 on a nine-point scale). The researchers’ finding about the importance of moral character—that is, whether you’re a good or bad person—contradicts recent theories that the two fundamental dimensions of perception are warmth and competence.

SOURCE:  Moral Character Predominates in Person Perception and Evaluation

Progress Versus Perfection: What Steve Jobs Can Teach Us About Coping With Failure

It’s more important to do good work over a long period of time than to seek perfection at one thing. Besides, if you fail, it’s a great opportunity to learn.

I realize I am a little late to the party, but I have finally read Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. His portrait is fascinating. Jobs was equal parts futurist, salesman, slave driver, narcissist, and perfectionist. And it is hard to argue with his success at creating products that fundamentally changed the way we live.

Of course, when we read biographies like this, we hope to draw lessons for how we should live our lives. Is there something in the life of Steve Jobs that holds a lesson for us that might help us to make a contribution to our own industry? I have spent a lot of time thinking about this question. I serve as the director of the program in the Human Dimensions of Organizations at the University of Texas. This program brings the humanities and the social and behavioral sciences together to train a new generation of leaders. Towering figures like Steve Jobs loom large in the eyes of our students.

Many of the lessons we might try to take away from Jobs’s successes are wrong. The one that frightens me most is his perfectionist streak. In products ranging from the Mac to the NeXT to the iPod, Jobs stayed focused on seemingly minor details trying to get them exactly right. Products had to look and feel beautiful. Even parts of products invisible to the consumer had to be beautifully designed. Jobs would routinely push back release dates until every aspect of the product met his standards.

And (with a few exceptions like NeXT), it clearly worked out well for him.

Generally speaking though, I think people are paralyzed by perfection. When I start working with new PhD students for the first time, one of the first pieces of advice I give them is that the best dissertation is a completed dissertation. That is, it is crucial for students to find projects that are manageable. Many PhD students never finish their dissertations, because they want their PhD thesis to be a masterpiece. But, careers are built up through the repeated development and refinement of ideas. If a dissertation is the best piece of work a student ever does, that is a shame, because it means they did not sustain a career. It is much more important to do good high-quality work over a long period of time than to seek perfection in any particular project.

The same is true in any endeavor. It is far more important to make steady progress on projects and to get things done than it is to guard against the possibility that any mistakes will be made. No product (not even the Macintosh computer) is perfect when it is first released. Instead, it has to be improved through successive versions and revisions.

Why do people value perfection over progress?

We have a toxic relationship with failure. From an early age, we are taught in school that mistakes are bad. Mistakes on papers and tests are marked with a red pen and points are taken off. As a result, school teaches us to avoid mistakes rather than to make mistakes and then learn from them.

Failures are actually brilliant opportunities to learn. It is often easier to diagnose what went wrong after a failure than to figure out the key elements that lead to a success. By avoiding failure, then, we are removing an important tool from our mental toolbox.

It is important to readjust our relationship to mistakes and failures. To do that, it is important to distinguish between negligence and failure. Negligence happens when a project is done without effort and careful attention to detail. Failure is when a project does not turn out as we hoped it would, despite our best effort. Negligence should be punished. Failures should be studied. The good efforts should be praised and the mistakes should be corrected.

And if we truly look carefully at the success of Steve Jobs, it becomes clear that, while he had very high standards, he was not truly a perfectionist. He did make compromises to get products out the door knowing that they could be improved in the future. Indeed, it was significant failures like the NeXT that helped drive home for Steve Jobs the danger of striving too hard for perfection.

[Image: Flickr user Shawn Campbell]

Stay Interviews: Hold On To Your Best Employees for Less

Jan 23, 2014 by Curt Finch In Employment  SmallBizTrends

As the economy improves, employees are feeling more comfortable with their career prospects. A new Glassdoor survey found that two in five employees expect a pay raise in 2014 and their fear of layoffs is at an all-time low since 2008. Though this speaks to a healthy economy, perhaps most distressingly for small business owners, one in five employees also plan to search for a new job in the coming year.

So, what can you do to retain your top employees? Many small businesses don’t have the funds for lavish benefit packages, but there are cheap ways to improve your employees’ satisfaction and morale.

Hold On To Your Best Employees

Stay Interviews

Most employers conduct exit interviews to find out why employees are leaving, often at a moment in time seen as “too little too late.” But stay interviews can be a great way to check in with your top employees and make them feel valued even midst their tenure.

Ask your employees what they love about their job, and what they could do without. Do they feel that they are doing the “best work of their life.” Are they treated fairly by their managers? Do they feel that their work makes a difference to the company? All of these questions are viable and not only a great tool for helping an employee feel valued, but equally great for encouraging an open company culture.

If done effectively, stay interviews are a cost-effective way to boost employee engagement. Interviews are informal, you won’t have to train your interviewers, and limiting the interviews to only your most essential employees will save you time and effort. In turn, the employees will appreciate the personalized attention that a stay interview offers. In fact, Webroot Software enjoyed a noticeable decrease in turnover rates after implementing stay interviews.

Additionally, once you’ve conducted a round of these interviews, you will have specific, actionable insights on how to make your company a better place for your employees.

Offer Flexibility

Most employees struggle to balance their career with their life outside work. According to recent study by Accenture, more than half of employees value a work-life balance more than their salary or their specific position. This balance can be especially important to parents who have major outside obligations that often interfere with work.

Make your employees feel like they can always ask for time off if something comes up unexpectedly. These emergencies will most likely be rare, and your employees will really appreciate it. Additionally, consider allowing your employees to work from home, at least part-time. In a recent survey, 94 percent of respondents believe that working from home is an important option for new parents.

As an extra bonus, at-home workers are actually more productive than their in-office counterparts. In one study (PDF), home workers had fewer breaks and sick days than office workers, and there was a 13 percent increase in their performance.

Another great way to give your employees flexibility? Let them take their lunch. According to a recent study in the Academy of Management Journal, about 30 percent of employees feel pressured to work through their lunch break. Instead, employees should have the choice over how they spend that time. This autonomy decreases their end-of-work fatigue, and presumably increases their satisfaction with work in general.

Perks, Perks, Perks!

Can’t afford to give your employees a comprehensive health care plan or a month-long vacation? Don’t worry. According a recent survey, more than a fifth of employees rank perks among the top office benefits. These include easy and cost-efficient perks like allowing your employees to dress casually or to bring pets to the office. You can also provide free drinks and food on special days.

The survey also found that these perks are especially valuable to women and to those living in the South and the Midwest, so know your company’s demographic makeup before implementing any changes. It is also a good idea to send out a survey to your employees to see what perks they’d like to have in the office. For more ideas, check out what sort of perks the top companies offer.

Employees have more career options these days, so you want to make sure your company remains the best option. Conducting stay interviews, allowing your employees flexibility, and offering fun office perks will help to maintain a positive working environment. You employees will do anything they can to stay.

Employee Photo via Shutterstock

5 Questions That Measure Team Toxicity


The secret to growth, innovation, and happiness at work? It all begins with organizational health. Here’s a five-point checklist for gauging your team’s health and well being.

Being a great team is a choice.

It doesn’t just happen naturally when you bring together a group of talented individuals; it takes hard work and a firm commitment. The sum of a team’s parts is tremendous when working cooperatively, as is the pay off for all that hard work. That’s the good news.

The bad news: Most startup teams are actually functioning more like working groups, which look like teams but don’t achieve the same results because they’re just not as productive. What’s the key difference? Organizational health.

So how do you know if your team is healthy? Here are five quick questions to gauge your team’s health (and future prosperity):

1. Are your team meetings a nightmare?

You can tell a lot about a team by its meetings. One toxic example with which you might be familiar: the leader holds court while everyone around the table nods their heads and takes notes, then the meeting is adjourned. No discussion; no argument; in fact, hardly any interaction at all. No one really feels part of a team in this scenario. It’s more like a monarchy.

Equally bad is the meeting that plays like one PowerPoint deck after another, leading up to a foregone conclusion. There’s no real discussion. A decision is rubber-stamped, and the team leaves. Then the real meetings start. Team members meet up casually in offices, the lunchroom, and the hallways to share ideas about what should really be done.

When a healthy team meets, it discusses issues relevant to everyone present. People voice their opinions — even those outside their areas of expertise — without fear. Decisions are made and everyone is clear on the reasoning, benefit, and company-wide message.

2. Do you always get the best ideas on the table?

Do people hold back their honest opinions from the group? Perhaps they fear being ridiculed or, worse, ignored. Maybe they’re just not sure if the idea is good, and they don’t want to risk sharing a doozy.

The reason doesn’t matter. Keeping silent undermines productivity. On healthy teams, opinions — no matter how far into left field — are shared at the meeting, in front of the leader. Team members do not hold back and they’re not afraid to advocate for their point of view. The goal is to hear all of the best ideas before making a decision for the organization. Where those ideas come from and how they get aired is immaterial.

3. Is there backstabbing?

Do team members hold one another accountable and discuss destructive behaviors openly? Or do they take the backdoor and complain to colleagues but resist telling the person directly? Do managers end up playing the middle role and negotiating between two warring colleagues?

This, like #2 above, is fundamentally about trust. High-performing teams trust each other and know that whatever feedback they receive — no matter how hard it may be to hear — is aimed at getting the best results for the team. It is not personal. Of course, on great teams, teammates tell each other the kind truth — the most constructive way of saying something. And they honor their colleagues by saying it to their faces.

4. Do you hold each other to the same standards?

Do you look the other way when star performers act out? This is a touchy one. Some people bring in the bacon. Others fry it up. I’m kidding. But not really. There are different roles on every team, but the succesful ones hold everyone to the same standard. Regardless of whether they’re generating revenue, providing support, or leading, each person plays by one universal set of rules .

5. Do team members put the good of the group ahead of their personal goals?

Do people understand that the goals of the team supersede their personal or departmental goals? Do they automatically put the good of the whole first?

Let’s play this one out. If a team is struggling and needs to cut expenses, do teammates willingly make sacrifices in their areas for the greater good? Would a team member offer a painful cut that might greatly benefit the entire organization? That’s what happens on great teams. People have a sense of shared responsibility, and they trust that they’ll be taken care of when it matters most.

In my work, I’m asked a lot about the worst behavior I’ve seen on a team. Well, I definitely don’t air clients’ dirty laundry, but this list is a pretty good overview of common unhealthy habits. Focus on these five and your team will achieve great things.

Fed To Further Trim Monthly Asset Purchases To $65 Billion As Economic Growth Continues

(contributor_data.name)!?html Samantha Sharf Forbes Staff

In a press release announcing the reduction, the FOMC wrote, “Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in December indicates that growth in economic activity picked up in recent quarters. Labor market indicators were mixed but on balance showed further improvement.”

In wording nearly identical to last month’s taper announcement, the release noted that the decline unemployment rate remains higher than the committee would like, but household spending and businesses investment are accelerating, even as home buying slows. Again the committee wrote, “Fiscal policy is restraining economic growth, although the extent of restraint is diminishing. Inflation has been running below the Committee’s longer-run objective, but longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable.”

Looking ahead, the FOMC once again noted that, “the Committee will likely reduce the pace of asset purchases in further measured steps at future meetings. However, asset purchases are not on a preset course, and the Committee’s decisions about their pace will remain contingent on the Committee’s outlook for the labor market and inflation as well as its assessment of the likely efficacy and costs of such purchases.”

The Fed maintained expectations that the federal funds target rate of 0% to .25% will remain low as long as unemployment remains above 6.5%. They expect inflation to be at most a half percentage point above its 2% long term target for one to two years. The statement reiterated anticipation that targets will hold “well past”when the unemployment rate declines below 6.5%.

The Fed purchased $85 billion worth of bonds each month for most of 2013 in an effort to stimulate the laggard economy. Last month, citing moderate economic expansion, the FOMC cut monthly asset purchases by $10 billion, while maintaining tight control on interest rates. Discussing the Fed’s December decision in a press conference Bernanke noted that “even after this reduction we will be continuing to add to our securities holdings at a rapid pace.”

While global markets initially responded favorable to the announcement, stocks have trended down since the turn of the year. In the last two weeks investors around the world have been sharply selling off equities as emerging markets falter. Experts say that the Fed’s December taper was a catalyst for recent moves, even if it took a few weeks to trickle through.

“If you think back to last April, May, June when the fed was really hinting at tapering,” notes Kathy Jones, a fixed income strategist at Schwab, “we started to see some of riskier markets globally start to decline, not hugely but there was a decline in emerging market currencies, and commodity prices had already been falling for quite some time. I think that was an indication that the proverbial punch bowl was being pulled away.”

Following the FOMC June meeting, Bernanke unveiled plans to begin cutting back asset purchases within six to 12 months. At that point investors began to realize that liquidity would be leaving the global economies that had benefited from the Fed’s open pocketbook. The Dow lost more than 200 points that day and the 10-year treasury note yield jumped to 2.34%.

Markets rallied when the Fed ultimately declined to taper in September and again in October. But once tapering finally began, and markets came to anticipate more, investors began fleeing risky assets in favor of safer havens.

“My interpretation is the first phase was a recognition that there was a frothiness to certain markets,” says Jones. “In the second phase we are uncovering the unwinding of positions people have probably had for a number of years. One that we talk about is the carry trade, which is where you borrow in, say, U.S. dollars because rates are so low and you invest in higher yielding currencies and earn the spread. When you start to unwind those trades after people have had them on for a couple of years, that can go very very fast.” She calls disappointing data from China’s Purchasing Manager Index the “final straw” that sent markets into their current decline.

Jones, like most Fed watchers, expected a $10 billion reduction to bond purchases, evenly split between mortgage backed securities and treasuries. While she believe “everything” factors into such decisions she notes that the Fed tends not to set policy based on global conditions, instead focusing on what is happening at home. While the Fed still hasn’t hit it’s targets on inflation and employment things seem to be improving.

After the economy added 200,000 or more jobs in both October and November, the light 74,000 jobs added in December caught many by surprise. But with many saying that the December slow down was due to bad weather, most didn’t expect one number to convince the Fed to change course.

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How You Give Back Provides Purpose to Your Personal Brand

BY | January 31, 2014|  Entrepreneur

The following is the 13th in the series, “Personal Branding For A Better Life,” in which marketing expert Jim Joseph applies big brand marketing lessons to help you build a successful personal brand.

If I can be accused of anything in this series, it could be that I appear a bit self centered. The hyper focus on personal branding can make it seem like it’s just all about you and what you want and need and how are going to do to get it.

That is indeed partially true. Personal branding is about self focus, self reflection and self actualization.

But it’s also about being a part of a larger team, as we mentioned in the last post. Doing for others as they do for you is a core part of who you are as a person.

Related: The People in Your Life Are Your Personal Brand Team

There’s another dimension to personal branding that is even more important. While personal branding is self centered, it’s also about figuring out ways that you can give back.

It’s about having a purpose to your brand. Giving back to those in need — in your community, around the world, to the next generation or whatever fits your brand.

This isn’t just about charity — it’s about giving back in a way that suits your personal brand. It’s about putting a purpose into your brand so that you stand for something more than just yourself.

This is about making your mark, not just having personal success. It’s about doing good for those around you.

Related: 4 Ways to Tell If Your Personal Brand Is in Danger

This should not be an afterthought once you’ve achieved your goals. Having a brand purpose should be a natural extension of your brand definition and a definitive part of your brand as you progress through life. You need to bake it into how you carry yourself and weave it into your plans.

Part of my brand purpose is to support the next generation of marketers. That is why I teach and write so much; it’s my way of giving back and it’s woven into the very fiber of my daily life. It’s been an evolving part of my own personal brand definition as I have grown through the years. I do it because I had amazing mentors early in my career, so I want to make sure those coming into our field have access to those who have come before them.

But that’s me and my personal brand.

Think about how you can add purpose to your personal brand. Create a way to give back. Find a way to make your mark, and make it a part of your plans … you’ll find it brings rewards you never thought possible.

Related: Why Reputation Management Is Critical to Your Personal Brand

The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.

Read more: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/231049#ixzz2s5diMC3A

Mike Hartley
Recommended Reading Through January 20 2014
2009 MTH Color 3R
Michael T. Hartley, CEO
DKE Inc.

The year is off to a fast start with no clear directions indicated for the capital markets.  The good news is that investing doesn’t have to rely on picking the best time to get in or out.  A good strategic, long term plan and discipline trumps guessing.

Many of the world’s economic system and business leaders are meeting in Davos with a lot of attention being paid to concerns about wealth inequality in addition to considering the forces at play that will influence the coming year’s rate of economic growth.

The articles highlighted and linked to in this posting deal with a variety of themes including the management of your most important contacts, and how our brains seem to be hardwired to like short term goals.  The article about the questions you should ask your staff each week was particularly thought provoking.  I recommend each of them as time worthy for your consideration.  Good reading!

Mike Hartley

Why Our Brains Like Short-Term Goals

In her book, The Entrepreneurial Instinct: How Everyone Has the Innate Ability to Start a Successful Business, author Monica Mehta explores the role of brain chemistry in entrepreneurship. In this excerpt, she details goal setting.Achieving your goals isn’t just about hard work and discipline. It’s about physiology. By understanding how the brain processes success and failure, you can jump-start your productivity to create a winning streak and put an end to failed New Year’s resolutions.The more times you succeed at something, the longer your brain stores the information that allowed you to do so well in the first place. That’s because with each success, our brain releases a chemical called dopamine. When dopamine flows into the brain’s reward pathway (the part responsible for pleasure, learning and motivation), we not only feel greater concentration but are inspired to re-experience the activity that caused the chemical release in the first place.

This is why the cultivation of small wins can propel you to bigger success, and you should focus on setting just a few small achievable goals. While your ambitions can remain grand, setting the bar too high with goals can actually be counterproductive. Each time we fail, the brain is drained of dopamine making it not only hard to concentrate but also difficult to learn from what went wrong.

Are You Neglecting Your Most Critical Contacts?


Most of us focus too much time and energy on growing our networks, when research shows that more is not necessarily better. Instead, follow this advice to forge better, stronger connections with the contacts who matter most.

I have 765 LinkedIn contacts. According to analyses of LinkedIn data, I’m connected with more people than 67.6 percent of LinkedIn users. That means I’m earning an A in networking, right? Not so fast.

Too often, we collect contacts like people used to collect stamps or pennies. More names, more cards, more sense of accomplishment. But we can get distracted from the real riches of our relationships by constantly seeking new ones. Not only is this a mistake; it also runs contrary to how our brains operate.

The Magic Number: 150

You may have heard of Robin Dunbar or the Dunbar Number. Dunbar, an evolutionary primatologist, discovered a relationship between the size of the mammalian neocortex and the number of social relationships we can maintain. That number in human groups is 150. That’s not to say that some tremendously gifted networkers can’t handle larger numbers. But the average person tops out around 150.

The people in our Village (as Dunbar calls the 150) are those who know us best. They’re our allies, our advocates, our friends, and our colleagues. They’ve worked side-by-side with us over the years and they know our strengths and our limitations. They have tremendous assets and gifts, yet so many of us focus so much energy on expanding our networks that we forget the connections we already have.

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The Classic Harvard Business Concept You’re Probably Getting Wrong


In 1990, Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad introduced a highly influential–and often misunderstood–idea in business. Here’s what it really means.

Sometimes an idea can seem so astounding, so insightful, so revolutionary and smart that its influence is legendary. That’s the way you could describe the 1990 Harvard Business Review paper The Core Competence of the Corporation. In a dozen printed pages, C.K. Prahalad and Gary Hamel laid out the notion that corporations had missed a principle that was critical to success–core competencies.

As the pair write in the first paragraph of the paper:

The most powerful way to prevail in global competition is still invisible to many companies. During the 1980s, top executives were judged on their ability to restructure, declutter, and delayer their corporations. In the 1990s, they’ll be judged on their ability to identify, cultivate, and exploit the core competencies that make growth possible–indeed, they’ll have to rethink the concept of the corporation itself.

Few other ideas in business have been so influential. Talk to entrepreneurs today and chances are you’ll hear about supporting core competencies and possibly outsourcing non-core aspects of their companies. Unfortunately, as influential as Prahalad and Hamel have been, they were also widely and profoundly misunderstood.

Reexamining Core Competencies

Many in business have taken the concept of core competencies to mean, find what you excel at–or perhaps what you enjoy doing–and to minimize the work you need to do in other areas. For example, a company might decide that it is exceedingly good in marketing and assume that it could leave product development, IT support, accounting, and fulfillment to others through outsourcing.

But the two authors explicitly argued against treating support of core competence as a way of reducing costs:

Nor does core competence mean shared costs, as when two or more SBUs use a common facility–a plant, service facility, or sales force–or share a common component. The gains of sharing may be substantial, but the search for shared costs is typically a post hoc effort to rationalize production across existing businesses, not a premeditated effort to build the competencies out of which the businesses themselves grow.

A competence is an area in which the company either already has or can obtain expertise, knowledge, and experience and that can contribute to a variety of products, possibly aimed at disparate markets. But rather than a random assortment of goods, what the company does is make use of deep competencies, the way 3M excelled in Post-It notes, coated abrasives, pressure-sensitive tapes, and magnetic and photographic films because of its competencies in “substrates, coatings, and adhesives.”

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Mind reading 101: The 10 questions you need to ask your team every week

By , Friday, 17 Jan ’14 , 08:34pm

I am not a mind reader, but I’ve tried playing one at work. I think we all have. I used to imagine that I could peer into the silent void of a discussion with an employee and their thoughts and feelings would magically pop in my head. It never happened.

We are in the feedback business. Through running my company, 15Five, on our own product, I have found that regularly asking questions is an agile and lightweight way of keeping up with what’s really going on. Answers become conversations about what is most essential and meaningful for the team and the company, and those conversations transform into action.

The first place to start is by asking the right questions. Here are some of the best I’ve found:

1. What’s going well in your role? Any wins (big or small) this week?

This is a great place to start. Employees get to celebrate and even brag a little about all the positive stuff that happened that week by simply answering that question.

This includes the small things that often get overlooked because they aren’t related to top priorities. As a bonus, you will glean what employees consider triumphs relative to the goals of the organization.

2. What challenges are you facing? Where are you stuck?

The quickest way to overcome challenges and get unstuck is to say, “I’m stuck!” When we can identify where we’re stuck and then bring someone else’s attention to the challenge at hand, we are in a position to receive the coaching and guidance that helps us think about the issue in a fresh new way.

Often just writing about where we’re stuck begins the process of getting clear on how to resolve it ourselves.

3. What is the business doing, or can be doing, to make you more successful?

You don’t know what you don’t know until you ask your team the right questions.

Employee success is a dynamic and always evolving process. Sometimes what your team needs is more training or a one on one meeting. Other times they require help with learning a specific skill set.

This question gives permission to ask for the things that will move the needle forward and build more engaged and happy teams.

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True Secret to Success (It’s Not What You Think)


If you’re not exercising this emotional muscle, you’re probably setting yourself up for failure.

I’m utterly convinced that the key to lifelong success is the regular exercise of a single emotional muscle: gratitude.

People who approach life with a sense of gratitude are constantly aware of what’s wonderful in their life. Because they enjoy the fruits of their successes, they seek out more success. And when things don’t go as planned, people who are grateful can put failure into perspective.

By contrast, people who lack gratitude are never truly happy. If they succeed at a task, they don’t enjoy it. For them, a string of successes is like trying to fill a bucket with a huge leak in the bottom. And failure invariably makes them bitter, angry, and discouraged.

Therefore, if you want to be successful, you need to feel more gratitude. Fortunately, gratitude, like most emotions, is like a muscle: The more you use it, the stronger and more resilient it becomes.

Practice Nightly

The best time to exercise gratitude is just before bed. Take out your tablet (electronic or otherwise) and record the events of the day that created positive emotions, either in you or in those around you.

Did you help somebody solve a problem? Write it down. Did you connect with a colleague or friend? Write it down. Did you make somebody smile? Write it down.

What you’re doing is “programming your brain” to view your day more positively. You’re throwing mental focus on what worked well, and shrugging off what didn’t. As a result, you’ll sleep better, and you’ll wake up more refreshed.

Reprogramming Your Brain

More important, you’re also programming your brain to notice even more reasons to feel gratitude. You’ll quickly discover that even a “bad day” is full of moments that are worthy of gratitude. Success becomes sweeter; failure, less sour.

The more regularly you practice this exercise, the stronger its effects.

Over time, your “gratitude muscle” will become so strong that you’ll attract more success into your life, not to mention greater numbers of successful (i.e., grateful) people. You’ll also find yourself thanking people more often. That’s good for you and for them, too.

This method works. If you don’t believe me, try it for at least a week. You’ll be amazed at what a huge difference it makes.

8 Tasks You Should Delegate Today

When Matthew Levey launched his all-natural beef-jerky company in 2010, he and his two co-founders rode their bikes to as many New York City grocery stores as they could to conduct in-store demos and sign up new accounts. After signing up 60 stores in the first month, the three realized that the strategy was neither sustainable nor scalable.

“We knew we needed to do demos to create awareness and promote our brand,” says Levey, who runs Brooklyn-based Field Trip Beef Jerky with Tom Donigan and Scott Fiesinger. “But we also knew we couldn’t spend five hours a day passing out samples and still grow our business.”

The entrepreneurs hired a sampling team to market their products in stores, a move that has helped their business expand steadily. Today, Field Trip products are sold in more than 5,000 retail locations nationwide.

“Even though it was a very important part of our business, delegating that job to someone else freed up our time so we could focus on growth and building our bottom line,” Levey says.

We’ve all heard startup founders describe themselves as “chief cook and bottle washer.” But while multitasking may be necessary in the earliest days of a venture, it’s important to know when to let go of nonessential tasks so you can focus on the areas that are necessary to build your business.

Here are eight types of tasks you should be delegating in order to propel your startup forward in the most efficient way.

1. Tasks that keep you from growing your business
When Levey and his team realized that the hours they spent on a bike en route to product samplings were not enabling them to scale to a nationwide platform, they hired a demo team. “Getting customers to trial something is important, but we also realized it wasn’t a good use of our time, because it wasn’t conducive to our long-term growth,” he says.

Independent contractors were brought on to handle sampling and inform customers about the products’ nutritional facts; that freed Field Trip’s founders to pursue new accounts, which today include several major grocery chains, as well as JetBlue Airways, Vitamin World and Costco.

2. Activities that will help speed up cash flow
As a small company represented in huge grocery stores with more than 50,000 SKUs, Field Trip found that its relatively modest invoices often would get overlooked. “Checks for $100 get lost against the $10,000 checks pretty easily, so we were hounding the stores just to get paid,” Levey explains.

The founders discovered that hiring distributors not only got them paid faster, it also enabled them to get paid with a few large checks rather than many small ones. The company now employs more than 25 distributors.

“By delegating that work to distributors, our accounts receivable have significantly improved, as has the timing of our working capital,” he says. “We’re getting our money faster, and we’re also getting checks that were previously going unpaid because we didn’t have time to follow up on them.”

How To Be A Super-Achiever: The 10 Qualities That Matter

This is an update of a story by Jenna Goudreau.     Forbes

What do actor Alec Baldwin, game-show champion Ken Jennings and baseball icon Yogi Berra have in common?

That’s what husband-and-wife duo Camille Sweeney and Josh Gosfield set out to discover. For their book The Art of Doing: How Superachievers Do What They Do and How They Do It So Well, they interviewed 36 star performers who climbed to the tops of their fields.

“We didn’t want to theorize about success,” says Gosfield. “We went straight to the source, finding the most amazing people in all fields and asking them, ‘How do you do what you do?’”

In interviews with top achievers, including actress Laura Linney, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh and crossword mastermind Will Shortz, patterns emerged. No matter how diverse their goals or crafts, these super-achievers shared many of the same habits. How can you follow in their footsteps? These are the 10 qualities that will set you apart, say Sweeney and Gosfield.

1. Dedication to a Vision

“Every great success starts with inspiration, but not every inspiration leads to success,” says Gosfield. “The most common thing we found was these people’s devotion to the day-to-day struggle.” Glossy magazine success stories often don’t show the dark moments, the daily grind or flagging energy that super-achievers endure to realize their goals.

2. Intelligent Persistence

One thing successful people know: Dedication and blind persistence are two very different things. “You can work hard but not smart,” says Sweeney. “When something’s not working, you’ve got to tweak it. Some people just keep banging their heads against the wall.” Instead of doggedly using the same ineffective tactics, super-achievers pivot and try to tackle the problem from a different angle.

3. Fostering A Community

Star performers know they can’t achieve success on their own. Instead, they must galvanize a group of people around their idea or goal. Teamwork, or having an ecosystem of supporters, turns out to be essential. It doesn’t just include partners and coworkers. It might also mean employees, customers, investors, mentors, fans and social media followers. The authors quote business guru Guy Kawasaki: “First you have to create something worthy of an ecosystem. Then pick your evangelists.”

4. Listening and Remaining Open

“You don’t normally think of hard-charging, action-oriented leaders as being good listeners,” says Sweeney. “These people’s ability to practice the art of listening helped them learn what they needed to know about the world around them.” For example, Zappos’ Hsieh asked all his employees to share their personal values so that he could incorporate them into the company’s culture. Likewise, Linney says she never accepts a role unless she has read and reread the script so many times that she fully understands it.

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Mike Hartley
Top Reads Through 12/31/13
2009 MTH Color 3R
Michael T. Hartley
Chairman of DKE Inc.

From Mike’s Desk:

As we close out 2013, or any other year, we tend to look back to see the progress we have made, the challenges we have overcome, and the opportunities we have either passed on or made the best of.  2013 presented a number of challenges including weather extremes, online privacy concerns, and a slowly growing global economy.  Ultimately the financial markets performed spectacularly and most of us are feeling a bit more confident.

Once we have taken stock of the year just passed we quickly turn our attention to the year ahead.  The articles I have curated for this posting tend to focus on tools, techniques, and other information you can use to manage your business and personal life for optimal results.

One great technique I learned from Dan Sullivan at the Strategic Coach is called the concept of being caught in the Gap.  Dan said that humans make goals by imagining a better future and that as they approach those goals they make even more expansive goals.  As a result they are always short of their ideal situation and this results in frustration.  He said it is like sailing toward the horizon – no matter how far you sail it is still beyond reach.  This situation is called “being in the gap.”  It is the distance from your current situation and your ideal situation.

To avoid falling into the frustration cycle that result from being “in the gap” Dan says that you should look back and take stock of all of the progress you have made.  Your goals are still in front of you but you can gain energy and confidence from celebrating progress.

Good luck, and Happy New Year!            Mike

Forget Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead.

From Entrepreneur

We all have things that we want to achieve in our lives — getting into the better shape, building a successful business, raising a wonderful family, writing a best-selling book, winning a championship, and so on.

And for most of us, the path to those things starts by setting a specific and actionable goal. At least, this is how I approached my life until recently. I would set goals for classes I took, for weights that I wanted to lift in the gym, and for clients I wanted in my business.

What I’m starting to realize, however, is that when it comes to actually getting things done and making progress in the areas that are important to you, there is a much better way to do things.

It all comes down to the difference between goals and systems.

There’s No Such Thing as a Culture Turnaround

Harvard Business Review Blog Network

by Jon R. Katzenbach  |   8:00 AM December 18, 2013

Company culture changes very slowly, so efforts to do an about-face are inevitably a waste of time and energy: Organizations either declare victory prematurely or, in frustration, abandon the attempt.

You’re better off thinking of your cultural situation as an underpinning you’ll have to work with over time. It will evolve, but more slowly than other elements of your enterprise, such as a new operating model. You can shape your culture, however—and you can make better use of it by altering or adopting a few key behaviors.

That’s what one client of ours, a large industrial manufacturer, did to accelerate its recovery from severe financial distress during the recession. This example from the past is particularly instructive because we now have the distance to see how a few behavioral changes not only improved performance right away but also are having a longer-term impact on the company’s culture.

At the height of its troubles, this manufacturer was hamstrung by a risk-averse, slow-moving culture. At the time, the interim CEO assumed he wouldn’t be there long enough to “turn around” the culture—and in a sense, he was right. But we worked with his senior team to better understand the existing culture and to foster three key behaviors that would improve performance.

First, the management team started making significant, visible decisions—for instance, canceling a major product line expansion—in a matter of weeks instead of years. Next, several senior executives conducted small-group discussions with informal leaders in the organization about which cultural traits needed attention—something they’d rarely done in the past for fear of either wasting time or meddling outside their formal jurisdictions. They also put more in-house people in direct contact with customers more of the time.

Those adjustments have helped the company cultivate three traits—speed, risk-taking, and accountability to customers—deemed essential to its success.

All leaders can learn from this example: Target a few behaviors that will immediately energize the elements of your culture that are critical to moving your business forward. It is surprising how rapidly you can revitalize existing cultural traits if you concentrate on the right behaviors. Though it takes a bit of time and patience, viral spreading among informal leaders is a lot faster than programmatic spreading through redesign. Here’s what you do:

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 15 Ways To Fly Flu-Free This Season


Maybe you’ve noticed over the years that every plane trip seems to end with a cold or bout of the flu. Is there a connection? Well, yes, just as there is in any situation that puts many people in close proximity in an enclosed place for a long period of time.

While the modern airplane ventilation systems on larger planes are much improved, research by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows that nothing can stop a sneeze from reaching you within two seats in any direction from someone who’s sick.

And researchers at the University of Victoria in Canada used health records and statistical analysis to conclude that air passengers were 113 times more likely than the general population to come down with a cold in the week after a five-hour flight. According to the study, published in the Journal of Environmental Health Research, possible culprits include recirculated air, close proximity of passengers, and most importantly lack of humidity.

One more thing: the air isn’t your only concern. Rhinoviruses, the germs responsible for the common cold, can survive for up to three hours on surfaces like railings, door handles, armrests, tray tables, and seat pockets, reports the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

As always, the secret to self-protection is to be prepared. Here are 15 ways to germ-proof yourself while you fly.

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Most Economists Say Happy New Year — Really


As the new year begins, most economists’ annual forecasts are brimming with good cheer.

“The economic news remains broadly encouraging,” the Goldman Sachs forecasters write in their 2014 outlook.

And the brighter prospects are not limited to this country. “The global economy is likely to emerge in 2014 with modest growth of 3.3 percent compared with 2.5 percent this year,” according to Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at the forecasting firm IHS Global Insight.

Most stock analysts also see more gains coming on Wall Street. JPMorgan chief U.S. equity strategist Tom Lee, who accurately predicted stock advances for 2013, says Americans are now in the midst of “a classic bull market,” driven by good earnings.

So, why all the upbeat forecasts? What has changed? These are among the most commonly cited factors:

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5 More Incredibly Simple Things You Should Do To Protect Your Privacy

 Kashmir Hill Forbes Staff 

 Alex Knapp Forbes Staff

Today’s creepy news is that snoops can turn on your Mac’s webcam to spy on you without activating the camera’s telltale light. But rejoice, there’s a way for even the least tech-savvy among us to prevent this hack from working: putting something opaque in front of your camera. I opt for a sticker tailor-made for the job by civil liberties group EFF.

Because a sticker (or post-it note or thumb) over a camera is an incredible simple way to protect your privacy, it’s time to add a few more tips to my popular list on the topic from last year. Without further ado, here are some additions to my privacy tips for lazy people.

1. Put a removable sticker over the cameras on your Internet-connected devices. As noted above, things connected to the Internet have the downside of possible hacking. If there’s a camera aimed at you that you’re not actively using, it’s a good idea to go ahead and cover it up. If people say you’re seeming a bit tin-foil hattish paranoid, send them links to this or this or this or this or this….

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7 Ways to Improve Your First Impression



Many forget the importance of a first impression. Here are 7 tips to help you get off on the right foot.

I am amazed how little most people care about the initial impression they make. Are they unaware or just simply uninterested? Recently, I have been helping a few clients with business development and hiring. In that process, I have interviewed potential partners, vendors, management candidates and entry-level applicants. Across the board, I am astounded at how poorly people present themselves in person, online and by phone.

So many express dissatisfaction with their ability to close deals, make the right contacts or attract powerful opportunities. But for many, it’s not the economy, their financial status or even Congress getting in their way. It’s their inability to leave the kind of first impression that would make other people want to come back and spend more time, money or effort.

A little thought and intent goes a long way toward improving how people see you. Here are seven tips to help you wow them from the start.

1. Dress Well

Your outer appearance is your packaging. If you look cheap and unappealing, people will have a negative reaction. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to look groomed and well-dressed. Every city, including New York, has places where you can get a decent haircut for less than $30, and there’s an abundance of affordable, stylish clothes in stores and online. But grooming takes time and attention. You have to care about details like hair and nails. Being appropriately stylish doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune on Armani, but you need to understand color, material and effect. Every industry has minimal appearance standards, and you owe it to yourself to meet or exceed those–down to your shoes–regardless of your position. If you put in the care and effort, others will notice and respect you for it.

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Mike Hartley
Top Reads Through December 20, 2013
2009 MTH Color 3R
Michael T. Hartley, CFP

Following are links to seven more timely articles I have selected to share that appeared in various media outlets including Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Fortune, Inc. and others .  They are focused on information about trends, tools, and techniques you can use in your investment advisory practice.  This week’s articles include an excellent piece focused on Nobel Prize in Economics recipient Eugene Fama that traces the history of modern portfolio theory.  Business Insider also contributed a a sobering article about big lottery winners that lost everything over time.  It provides a look into the ways unexpected and unprepared-for wealth can become a disaster for families.

All of these articles appeared in our Flipboard e-magazine, DKE Daily Knowledge Engine.  I

What can you learn from Mr. Efficient Markets now?

It had all the appearance of a market anomaly. For 25 years the world’s leading academics in the field kept predicting that Eugene Fama was certain to win the Nobel Prize in economics. If this year wasn’t Fama’s year, the talk always went, it would come soon. In an efficient market like the one Fama champions for stocks — where what most people expect to happen is the best forecast of what will happen — Fama would have won long ago. It didn’t happen.

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20 Lottery Winners Who Blew It All

As one of the largest jackpots in U.S. lottery history climbs to $550 million and potentially beyond, we’re reminded that winning the lottery will not solve all problems.

In fact many people’s lives became notably worse after they got super rich, and they managed to lose it all quite quickly.

2 Tips for Handling Difficult Customers

John Butman knows what it’s like to deal with divas.

As the founder and principal of Idea Platforms, a company that develops book proposals for subject experts and thought leaders, he is often in the position of advising would-be authors about how to hone their themes and messages. But when it comes to temperament, not all experts and thought leaders are created equal. Some are a pleasure to work with. Others are what you might generously call pain-in-the-ass customers.

In nearly 25 years at the helm of Idea Platforms, Butman has handled his fair share of pain-in-the-rear clients. Here are two of his tips, for two very specific types of pains:

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Your Company Is Only As Extraordinary As Your People

There is nothing more powerful than employees’ passion and initiative to make customers happy to spark long-lasting word of mouth about your brand. Your company is truly only as great as the people who embody the mission of your organization, those who go above and beyond to see the company succeed and to make your customers happy.

The brands that understand this fundamental principle empower their employees. The brands that understand this simple truth trust their employees to be the best spokespeople, the voice of the brand, they can be. Brands like that don’t need huge marketing budget because they have an army of employees and customers telling their story, thus sparking the word of mouth that is way more powerful than any ad.

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When You Criticize Someone, You Make It Harder for that Person to Change

by Daniel Goleman  |   12:00 PM December 19, 2013

“If everything worked out perfectly in your life, what would you be doing in ten years?”

Such a question opens us up to fresh possibilities, to reflect on what matters most to us, and even what deep values might guide us through life. This approach gives managers a tool for coaching their teams to get better results.

Contrast that mind-opening query with a conversation about what’s wrong with you, and what you need to do to fix yourself.  That line of thinking shuts us down, puts us on the defensive, and narrows our possibilities to rescue operations. Managers should keep this in mind, particularly during performance reviews.

That question about your perfect life in ten years comes from Richard Boyatzis, a professor at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western, and an old friend and colleague.  His recent research on the best approach to coaching has used brain imaging to analyze how coaching affects the brain differently when you focus on dreams instead of failings. These findings have great implications for how to best help someone – or yourself — improve.

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9 Branding Rules to Live By


In an effort to succeed in this challenging economy, small business owners must effectively manage their brands. Remember, for many of them, there is little difference between your personal brand and the brand of their business. This is especially true of the launch phase, when the old adage rings true: “People do business with people they know, like, and trust!” People also tend to do business with and purchase from brands they respect, that are consistent with their values, and make good on their promises. Ideally your business has the makings of an iconic brand, with clear positioning and a strong promise. To make sure your business evolves on this path, focus on the nine Cs of Branding to stay at customers’ top of mind.

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How To Incorporate Charity Into Your Business Model

Are you looking for a different way to add charitable giving to your business? Maybe you don’t want to just make a one-time donation to an organization or just match what your employees are giving. Maybe you’d rather take on a cause and make it part of your business. But where to begin? Below are a few tips to help you get started.

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Mike Hartley
Top Seven Reads for Week Ending December 6, 2013

A Note from Michael T. Hartley, CEO DKE Inc.

2009 MTH Color 3RFollowing are links to seven articles I have selected to share that appeared in various media outlets last week.  They are focused on news you can use in your investment advisory practice.  This week’s articles include two articles on company strategy, articles on staff management, a TED talk about why expressing gratitude can help you become happier, and an in-depth look at a $100 million verdict against Grant Thornton that shows why clients sue their advisers.  This week I have also included a bonus link to a video from Stanford Business about a way to rethink your notions of time and goals management.

All of these articles appeared in our Flipboard e-magazine, DKE Daily Knowledge Engine.  I hope they prove useful to you.    Best regards, Mike

From Inc. Magazine:  5 Ways to Keep Your Company Ahead of the Curve

The world is advancing faster than ever before. Can you keep up? Here Inc. columnists share how to stay ahead of the game.

The rate of technological and cultural change is astounding.  The first text message was only 21 years ago. Due to cellphone usage, the government and phone companies are currently negotiating how to eliminate the use of the near obsolete copper phone and switching system. Google is only 15, Facebook will turn 10 in 2014 and Twitter has only been around 7 years. Companies and industries have seen infrastructure changes of mass proportions in the last 2 decades. 18-year-old Amazon is one of the fastest change agents. They have now added Sunday delivery and are actually developing the use of flying drones that can deliver individual packages to your door in 30 minutes.

From Forbes:  ‘Strategy Without Execution Is Hallucination!’

95% of most MBA programs’ strategy classes focus on the process of developing strategy and largely ignore execution. After interviewing over 200 CEOs I have concluded that for the vast majority it was almost the exact opposite in real life. Even for the vast majority of CEOs, 5% or maybe 10% of their time is spent on strategy development and +90% of their time was spent on doing – execution. CGI (a +70,000 strong IT company) CEO Mike Roach tells my MBA CEO Insights class, “Strategy without execution is hallucination!”.

From Entrepreneur:  “5 Ways to Get Your Staff on the Same Page”

When a major issue arises, is everybody at your company serving the same interests? Or is one person serving the engineering team, another person serving the sales team, one board member serving the VC fund, another serving the early-stage “angels” and another serving the CEO? If that’s the case, then your team is misaligned. No individual department’s interests are as important as the company’s.

From TED:  “David Steindl-Rast:  Want to be happy?  Be grateful.”

The one thing all humans have in common is that each of us wants to be happy, says Brother David Steindl-Rast, a monk and interfaith scholar. And happiness, he suggests, is born from gratitude. An inspiring lesson in slowing down, looking where you’re going, and above all, being grateful.

From Forbes:  “$100M Verdict Against Grant Thornton Shows Why Clients Sue Advisers”

Not every tax benefit is crystal clear. Our tax system is enormously complex, and some tax plays are aggressive, others not. That is one reason people use tax lawyers and accountants in the first place.

Some deals go way beyond normal tax efficiency and seem to defy simple economics. Others may seem too good to be true but can deliver business and tax advantages that can make 2 plus 2 equal 5. Usually, though, if it seems too good to be true, it is.

From Entrepreneur:  Breaking Up With a Client: What to Say

Breakin’ up is hard to do, particularly when it comes to ending a client relationship. These conversations can be awkward or even emotional, but it’s important to approach to situation directly. Nobody likes to be evaded or have a relationship broken off without knowing why, say our experts. Providing a clear, reasoned argument for why the business relationship needs to end and offering contacts or referrals for companies that you recommend to replace your services can help avoid bruised egos and burnt bridges. These will still be difficult conversations, but here are a few tips to make it a bit easier.

From Inc.:  “The real costs of keeping a toxic employee”

Stellar performance doesn’t excuse bad behavior. Check just how much damage one bad apple can bring to your team–and your bottom line.

You know the type. They can’t work with others. They’re negative, volatile, and often disruptive. Some people call these toxic employees “bad apples.”

Another way to think of them? “Hurricane” employees–because the damage they cause extends far beyond themselves.

Michelle K. Duffy, a professor at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, says that hurricane employees can affect each organization differently. But, in general, they have the ability to “destroy the social fabric of the organization by creating friction, drama, tension, and hostility among other employees,” Duffy told the blog Knowledge@Wharton. “Hurricanes damage not only the people in the network, but also the ties among them.”

Bonus video from Stanfordbusiness:  Jennifer Aaker- “Rethinking Time & the Power of Multipliers”

Finding time is the significant challenge for many people. Instead of giving up goals, Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Jennifer Aaker offers a new solution: rethinking time. This module illuminates how to align goals and execute on them by creating “Multipliers” (defined as one activities that fulfill multiple goals), which will enable you to achieve more goals that are important to you. Learn about Jennifer Aaker’s online course The Power of Story to Fuel Innovation: http://www.powerofstorystanford.com