Tag: Leadership

TechCrunch Article – Is HTML5 the New Windows?

Paul, SmartDraw’s founder and CEO, wrote a compelling and thought provoking article on the rise of HTML5 for TechCrunch this week.

“Might the arrival of new cloud-based apps that run in a web browser and store their data in the cloud create enough of an advantage over the common desktop environment to cause a similar shift? Interestingly, there are quite a few parallels between the arrival of cloud-based apps and the arrival of Windows 30 years ago.”Paul Stannard

You can read the full article over at TechCrunch. What do you think? Is HTML5 the new Windows, and cloud-based apps the way forward?

5 Reasons Why You Should Determine Your Business’ Customer Satisfaction Rate

According to Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth, “ . . . the customer you’ve got is a lot less expensive to sell to than the one you don’t have yet.”  It’s a no brainer – satisfied customers lead to loyal customers which means more business. Boom. End of article. But businesses and the people that run them are all inherently different. Therefore, customer satisfaction is important to each business differently.


Have you determined the customer satisfaction rate for your business and how it has impacted it? If not, here are reasons why you should.

REASON #1 Customer satisfaction maximizes your marketing budget, by optimizing it

All businesses spend tons of money marketing their products and services to win new customers every day. From small “Mom and Pop” restaurants to large technology corporations. But if your customer satisfaction level is low, those customers may not return. However, as mentioned in the opening of this article the more satisfied your customers are with your products and services the more likely they will return again and refer others as well. When that happens, your marketing dollar is now stretched and optimized producing incremental business. Determining how satisfied your customers are may potentially lead to more business without actually spending more on marketing but rather making a concerted effort to keep the customers you have already originated because of it.

REASON #2 Customer satisfaction is your point of differentiation

Free market enterprise exists to produce competition in a variety of ways. So in essence, there are always options for customers to select which business they purchase from for their needs. Customer satisfaction, like anything else, quite often is the reason people select one business over another.

Take Apple for example. Apple, especially under the direction of Steve Jobs and his successor Tim Cook, has always aimed to create high-quality products and experiences with them. And as such they have a large fan base of product champions that continually grows each year. For years, Apple placed a premium on meeting and exceeding expectations of their customers that has led them to surpass technology giants like Microsoft and become the largest technology company in the world.

REASON #3 Customer satisfaction shores up operational issues and inefficiencies

Let me ask you a question – if you discovered that your customer satisfaction rate with your business was lower than expected, what would you do? Wouldn’t you look at doing business differently?

Change can often be a frightening word to people and especially those in business. But in this case, change can be a tremendous benefit. Your discovery leads to an opportunity to change operationally the things that are inefficient. New processes. New projects. And a tremendous chance to improve the overall quality of your products, services, and the rate of satisfaction your customers have for them.

REASON #4 Customer satisfaction spurs new ideas

Similar to the above bullet, knowing your customer satisfaction rate and its impact can lead to ideas that are with the customer in mind first and foremost. Apple is tremendous at this. They are quite keyed into making their products appealing, hip, fun, user friendly and simple. Customer satisfaction is at the core of what they do, and they’re notorious for not inventing new gadgets but reinventing ones already adopted and making them exponentially better. MP3 players existed before the iPod, but the iPod transformed the digital music industry. The iPhone? Same story. Apple makes the most popular personal technology products because their products are so engaging, and so customer-centric that their fans have no reason to buy such items from the competition.

REASON #5 Customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction are interwoven

When you work for a company that puts people at the center of its purpose, inevitably satisfaction levels remain high. Customers ultimately buy the feelings the products and services provide them. And employees perform with passion when they feel validated, challenged and involved. It’s a natural yin and yang.

Employees treated fairly and with a stakeholder mindset build better products and services. The customers that buy those products ultimately feel happy and satisfied about their decision to buy. And those same customers are more likely to do it again and share their experience with others. The positive mojo transfers from employees to customers and back again.

The Importance of Creating and Maintaining Your Company Culture

Purchased Image

The company culture. What is it? And why should I, as the company leader, care?

There are a number of variations of what a company culture is to an organization. Wikipedia, the foremost internet expert upon, well…. everything, defines the company culture as, “…the values and behaviors that uniquely amalgamate with the social and psychological persona of the company.” Certainly a generic and bland way to think about it. But that leads to some questions like: 1) do only established organizations have a culture? And 2) are the employees then the originators and stakeholders of the company culture?

The quick and dirty answer to both is “no.”

Company culture begins and ends with you

As the leader of your organization, the company culture begins and ends with you. Certainly employees, partners, vendors, and customers may help to refine it but it is the leader that sets the tone. Even a company of one or two employees develops a culture. It starts with the leader and how the leader functions and communicates the long term vision, values, and beliefs. Quite early on your employees’ behaviors are the result of your direct leadership and growth of the company. Assumptions are made. Processes and systems developed. Routines and habits are formed. And the very nature of your organization’s ecosystem is created.

But whether you are leading a small and emerging company, or assuming the reigns of a fully developed and mature organization, the culture blueprint is set forth by you. What you do, say, and believe as the leader about the operational aspects of your company plants the seeds. How you follow through, relate, and communicate, as well as your attitudes on display will begin to nurture what you have planted. Ultimately, what you harvest is in the results.

Needless to say it behooves you, as the company leader, to pay close attention to how and what you are doing in defining the company culture and how it is maintained. Even if you are assuming a new leadership role with an organization with a historically positive company culture, you as the leader can inadvertently change it without realizing it.

SmartDraw Tip: In the Template Screen’s Left Panel, navigate to the Marketing Charts category.  In the Marketing Chart Templates sub-category, select Marketing Mix-1. To insert an image into a shape, select a shape. In the Insert ribbon, select Picture.  Locate the appropriate image. Click Open.  
Click here to learn about more ways to use the Marketing Mix template.

Forging a new or refined company culture

With the many items leaders tackle, one of them should be to make time to think and diligently plan ways to positively impact the company culture from the outset. Take time to listen to employees and their ideas and thoughts. Provide customers and vendors opportunities to add input. Closely examine what outside influencers write about your organization. Regularly review the current company mission and values. Then….

Adjust as necessary. Focus on how to change the attitudes and beliefs strongly held by your team. Those adjustments will permeate across other teams and filter down to customers and vendors. For example, if your team struggles with its behaviors and performance with serving and supporting customers, learn to seek how those systems can be improved. Develop new systems. Charge and challenge your team with new roles and responsibilities. Model the behaviors and actions routinely. Align the attitudes and behaviors with desired results.

And in the end, the attitudes and behaviors of your team will change along with the improvement of a long standing corporate issue. Thus forging a new or refined company culture.

Three Character Traits of Successful Leaders

Pixabay  https://pixabay.com/en/chess-strategy-chess-board-316658/If you’re looking for a leader within your team, look no further than these three character traits:

  1. Goes Above and Beyond
  2. Has a Great Attitude
  3. Plays Well with Others

Goes Above and Beyond

A successful leader goes above and beyond the call of duty to benefit his or her company. Why? Because they have an instinctive urge to do more than simply fulfill the basic requirements of a job. Regardless of the industry or organization, their passion is to evolve and improve themselves and their surrounding circumstances (reference: Lifehack.org).

Going above and beyond doesn’t have to be anything earth-shattering. It could be as simple as picking up a piece of trash that is on company property, or as significant as proposing an improvement to the sales process that will increase revenue by tenfold. Leaders will do these things without being asked, and without expecting a reward.

As a manager of a team of employees, remember to keep your eye out for the “above and beyond” moments. A few examples of these are:

  • Proposing improvements for the company’s benefit, without being asked.
  • Proposing bonding activities to strengthen their team.
  • Helping others by mentoring or training them to become better at their jobs.

If you’re actively watching out for these things, you’ll find your leaders emerging naturally, and quickly.

Has a Great Attitude

Attitude is a choice. In a workplace, there are those who choose positivity and optimism, and there are those who choose the opposite- negativity and pessimism. Leaders arise out of the first group.  According to PayScale:

When an employee has an overall negative view of work, very often his or her attitude manifests as poor performance, [leading to doing] the bare minimum to fly under the radar of management.”

The same concept is true for an employee with a positive view of work- they manifest higher productivity, which leads to more responsibilities, and eventually results in raises and promotions. Even when a positive person experiences a negative situation, they are more likely to perceive it as a challenge and work harder (Reference: Martin Seligman).

When searching for leaders from your team, look for the optimistic workers who not only perceive work as positive, but also rise to a seemingly negative occasion with the desire to succeed.

Leaders_Attitudes_of_the_WorkplacePlays Well with Others

The point of any team is to work together toward a common goal. Sports teams want to beat their opponent, couples want to have a healthy and thriving relationship, and businesses want to gain valued clients and increase revenue. While some team members have a hard time communicating, collaborating, and ultimately, getting along, leaders do not. Leaders have a natural ability to “play well with others” while remaining focused on the task at hand, whatever it may be.

Observing your team in their natural work environment is a great way to determine who plays well with others. If this isn’t viable for your situation, as your presence might influence their true behavior, consider trying one of the following:

  • Sending around a quiz similar to this one, which measures the ability to get along with others. Although the opportunity for false answers may be present in this case as well, you can get a good idea of where your team stands.
  • Another method is to ask your team to plan something outside of work, say, a happy hour or something that could be perceived as fun, and non-work related. Request that they have a team meeting that you are part of, then watch quietly as they interact. This situation carries the potential for the natural leader to show his or her skills of respect, communication, and collaboration, while still focusing on the goal.
  • Quite possibly the best way to filter out a leader that plays well with others is to create a situation that is seemingly stressful or limiting. In marketing, for example, when forced to think of a call-to-action that is 35 characters long, the writer’s creativity must become heightened, because of this limitation. In the same way, when faced with a stressful situation, your team leaders will be pressured to get along with others in the face of adversity.

Of course, all of this takes time. If you are working with brand new employees, or new team members, keep in mind that they may still be trying to make a good impression, so their actions may not reflect their true characteristics. Over time, you’ll come to find your leaders through the above and beyond moments, the great attitudes, and the ones who play well together. Happy hunting!

Top 5 Leadership Traits That CEOs Seek

https://pixabay.com/en/boom-fireworks-american-839833/Effective leadership is one of the single most important drivers behind performance. Successful companies employ skilled leaders in every key position. CEOs know this and are in constant search of people who embody great leadership qualities and character.

But just what are the qualities of a good leader? What characteristics do CEOs look for in their leaders? Many studies have been done to decode the nature of leadership and in these studies several recurrent findings emerge.

The Top 5 Leadership Characteristics CEOs Value Most Highly

1. Effective Problem-Solver

Leaders constantly face the challenge of making decisions and solving problems. Good leaders can ask the right questions, compile information, process options, and apply analytical rigor to address the problems they face. Demonstrating your ability to make sound decisions, while working under pressure, will speak volumes in the eyes of a CEO.

 2. Focus on Results

Good leaders develop a vision. Great leaders, on the other hand, take this vision, bring it to life, and follow through on it – leading to real results and outcomes. It’s one thing to be visionary, it’s another thing to turn vision into results. Staying focused on outcomes, taking time to set priorities, and getting to the roots of efficiency are all qualities of a leader that CEOs look for.

 3. Supporter of Others

In the eyes of a CEO, an exemplary leader is one who is supports and cares about others. While this may seem simple, it is critical to the success of a company. A supportive leader will ensure that staff is engaged, happy, productive, and focused on achieving good results rather than preoccupied with worries, fears, or negative emotions.

4. Proponent of Different Perspectives

If you can put aside your ego and genuinely listen to the perspectives and opinions of others, chances are you embody great leadership qualities. While leaders have to weed out the good ideas from bad, and ultimately make the final call, this decision-making process should include an honest assessment of a variety of paths and options. You never know who will come up with the next revolutionary idea.

5. Champion of Change

Finally, you’ve no doubt heard the expression ‘walk the talk’. This is critical for a good leader. To make an impression on a CEO, you need to genuinely believe in your work and carry the vision with you everywhere you go. It’s fine to disagree and present divergent opinions, but unless you are truly excited about your company, chances are you’re not the right fit for its next leader.

A skilled CEO always has his or her eyes and ears open when it comes to seeking out leaders. If you embody these five leadership traits, chances are you’ll be noticed.

Creative Gift Ideas for the Operations Professional

https://www.pexels.com/photo/gift-present-macro-bokeh-76931/Top Operations professionals do a bit of everything. They wear multiple hats and are expected to be generalists rather than specialists. They are individuals who see the big picture, are highly analytical, detail oriented, able to work with a variety of people, and do things right the first time. In some cases, they are even expected to provide 24/7 operation for the services and products delivered by a company.  So what could a person with so many responsibilities and challenges need for Christmas, besides more time in the day?

Creative Gift Ideas & Solutions for That Dear Operations Professional in Your Life

For the IT-centric Operations individual . . .

who utilizes systems management tools to provide monitoring and management of all technological infrastructure, a metric-monitoring application is a critical component to the daily function of a company’s technical systems. Check out the following application performance management (APM) tools, which provide monitoring, analysis, and real-time reporting services for software systems of all types.

For those who encourage ideas and innovation . . .

from all staff, quickly identifying promising ideas and incorporating them into the strategic vision, may I recommend an internal feedback system which serves a dual purpose- to innovate and engage employees.  According to a Gallop article, data shows that managers who focus on the strengths of their employees create the strongest levels of engagement, which means a win-win for the organization: managers gain ideas while employees feel valued and engaged.  Out of the many feedback applications available, these two customizable survey and analytics applications stuck out to me:

For those working with product management  . . .

on cost modeling for new services and expansion of existing services, why not try a SmartDraw trick- A/B testing. In A/B testing, you compare two things (e.g. call to action) for a set amount of time (e.g. two weeks) to determine which performs better amongst your audience. After conducting a few A/B tests and analyzing the findings, you will have narrowed down a preferred option that works for your product or service. 


For those who design . . .

departmental operational skill-based curriculum for both internal members and customer groups, a resource and learning tool will come in handy. Chances are, your company’s members may not all be under one roof, and likely, your customers are spread over multiple regions, so the tools used for resources and learning should be somewhat mobile. Here are a few to consider:

  • Blissbook or WISP: Cloud applications used for creating an employee handbook and other HR-related documents
  • Lessonly: A cloud on-boarding, training, and learning software
  • Help Scout or Zendesk: Cloud applications that provide customer service tools such as hosted knowledge bases for your clients

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d8/Segway_PT_(2006)-02.jpg/322px-Segway_PT_(2006)-02.jpgFor the Operations Professional who visits . . .

the departments under his/her leadership on a daily basis to ensure smooth operations absolutely needs a Segway. This high quality piece of machinery is built for speed and comfort, allowing for prompt arrivals to and from various destinations. Okay, so perhaps a Segway isn’t necessary for visiting departments. Surely, a more common form of transportation could be utilized, such as walking or driving. But how fun is that, really?

There is no limit to how many responsibilities must be carried out by the Operations professional to ensure a healthy, thriving organization. While I list only 6 duties above, the reality is that there are many more. Fortunately, the tools and solutions available are just as numerous, and are wildly effective in business operations.

Source: The job responsibilities listed in italicized text were based on various Operations-related job roles posted on Monster, CareerBuilder, and Indeed.

Excel in Business: 16 Must-Reads for the Busy Executive

https://pixabay.com/en/tie-necktie-adjust-adjusting-man-690084/I do a lot of reading throughout the year, but it’s largely content from the web. But late November through December each year I make it a point to catch up on all the books I wanted to read. I thought I would share some of my favorites from the last few years.

The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business

by Josh Kaufman

This is the closest thing I have to desk reference. It’s not something you read cover-to-cover (I guess you could), but rather explore to find solutions to problems. It really is an MBA in book form.


by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

This is an odd book. It’s more a series of 2-3 page “posts”, and it has what you might call edgy language. But, if you can get past that, you’ll find this full of little nuggets you can start applying tomorrow.

E-Myth Revisited

by Michael E. Gerber

I first read this book just out of high school, and it changed my world view just as the first tech bubble was taking hold.  Years later and I still come back to it for management advice.

Reality Check

by Guy Kawasaki

This doesn’t produce any ground breaking ideas, but it packages well known business ideas into such a digestible form. Being able to recall the ideas is just as important as the idea itself, and for that reason I recommend Reality Check to everyone.

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

by Chip Heath & Dan Heath

Another book that reaches beyond basic business how-to. Made to Stick is all about crafting communications that resonate with people, but it delivers this by delving into the how we think, and why some stories stick.

How Will You Measure Your Life

by Clayton M. Christensen & James Alworth

Probably not the Clay Christensen book you expect to see on a reading list. But in many ways I find this more profound than his other works on disruption. You might call this a self-help book, but it’s so much deeper.

The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail–but Some Don’t

by Nate Silver

Using data to predict future results is a powerful tool. But it’s also so very difficult to execute on. Signal and the Noise attempts to make predictive analytics approachable and applicable. I think it succeeds and that makes it a great read.

Inspired: How to Create Products Customer Love

by Marty Cagan

Without question the best book on product management. But, don’t be fooled, it’s about so much more than that. Like Hooked, Inspired contains a ton of applicable ideas on making things people love.

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products

by Nir Eyal with Ryan Hoover

Creating user engagement can seem like mumbo jumbo. Hooked combines sounds behavioral science and the authors personal experience into a highly applicable framework. If you are at all involved in sales, marketing, or product development, I think you’ll find this book easy to read and immensely helpful.

Making It Right: Product Management For a Startup World

by Rian van der Merwe

Don’t let the title full you. This is not just for start-ups. It is for anyone responsible for a product, whether or not you carry the product manager title. It’s so full of practical advice I keep a copy at my desk.

Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business

by Gino Wickman

Marketing is way more complicated than it used to be. If you’re a small business it can feel overwhelming. I loved Traction because it broke down the various tactics into digestible pieces and made it feel normal to try and fail at some. Eventually, you’ll find some that work for your business.

Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit: The Secrets of Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization 

by Leonardo Inghiller & Micah Solomon

Service, and by extension customer loyalty, has rapidly become one of the key ways to differentiate your business. More importantly it has become one of the key ways to be profitable. If you want loyal customers, read this.

Implementing Value Pricing

by Ronald J. Baker

Determining prices is one of the most challenging activities for any business. Whether you sell services or widgets, getting this right can be the difference between growth and failure. I found value pricing the most logical method, and this book a practical approach to moving toward it.

Content Strategy for the Web

by Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach

Fundamentally, the web is about content. As the web has come to infiltrate so much of business, content has become increasingly critical. But most don’t have an overarching strategy. I find Kristina’s approach easy to understand and apply.

How to Make Sense of Any Mess

by Abby Covert

This is a top 5 book for me, because it takes this complex, academic discipline of information architecture, and breaks it down into applicable concepts. I warn you, once reading this, you’ll begin to organize everything around you.

The Design of Everyday Things

by Don Norman

If you are at all involved with design, you know this book. If you’re not, take my word for it this will be one of the best books you read this year. It’s worth picking up just for his analysis of a juicer.

5 Small Business Problems and Solutions

SmBiz - JeffSheldon https://unsplash.com/@ugmonk?photo=o6Y9E-DdG6wThere’s nothing quite like the excitement of owning your own business. But it also involves plenty of challenges you need to understand and be prepared to handle.

Here are five common small business problems and suggestions for how to deal with them.

1. Insufficient Capital or Cash Flow

By far the biggest hurdle faced by start-ups and other small enterprises is money. Too many times, entrepreneurs don’t start out with enough capital. Start-up costs often exceed budget. When starting out, get multiple bids for large-ticket items and always set up a contingency reserve for possible cost overruns.

The other factor is cash flow. It’s easy to be overly optimistic when projecting a break-even point. Be careful about forecasting unrealistic sales figures, or cutting your operating budget too thin. Many experts suggest having enough cash on hand to sustain the business for two years, at a minimum.

2. Failure to Plan

All too often entrepreneurs “fly by the seat of their pants.” Unfortunately, many of these businesses become casualties before they get very far off the ground.

If you want to succeed, you’re going to have to treat your small business in much the same way that larger, successful companies treat theirs. Have a strategic plan with your vision, goals, and some market analysis. Develop a business plan with a detailed budget, cash flow and break-even analyses. These don’t have to be long, narrative documents. In fact, you can create most of what you need with a few flowcharts, mind maps, project charts, and other business strategy diagrams.


But don’t cut corners in your research and analysis. It’s easy to get anxious about your new venture and overlook the difficulties you will face. Take your time and create well thought-out plans. Dealing with and planning for tough issues in advance will be a huge step toward your ultimate success.

3. Not Getting Expert Advice

You will pay a little more for a lawyer and a CPA to get your business established than if you do it yourself. But this isn’t replanting the flower bed in the front yard. Mistakes can be extremely costly. Good professionals will more than pay for themselves over time and you’ll sleep better knowing that you have things set up properly.

4. Poor Time Management

A plan is only good if you stick to it. That requires managing time well. Now, managing time well doesn’t mean packing so much into your calendar that you can’t possibly get it done. Pick and choose what’s important, focus on the critical stuff, and get it done. Little things will fall through the cracks. Let them. If they’re really important, they’ll come back up.


Use tools to help you, such as Gantt charts or Kanban boards. The visual displays make it easy to quickly decide on important tasks and follow them through to completion.

5. Resistance to Change

Whether your company is a start-up or has been around for 100 years, innovation can be a frightening thing. But change is real. Don’t get stuck in archaic ways of doing things. Embrace a culture of forward thinking. Be open with your staff about changes taking place in your organization, as well.