Posts Tagged ‘Identity’

Where is the competition?

by Guy Ralfe on August 19, 2009


Being a Boston resident I was contemplating how Dunkin’ Donuts has dominated the regions coffee and donut market and who were their real competitors. I then happened to read an article on that gave a description of the various levels of competition an organization faces which was very clearly laid out in three tiers.

First Level – the specific brands which are direct competitors to your product or service, in your geographic locality

Second Level – competitors who offer similar products in a different business category or who are more geographically remot

Third Level – competitors who compete for the “same-occasion” dollars

Relating back to our local Dunkin’ Donuts shop their first level competitors are going to be any local, regional or national brand coffee & donut shops operating in the geographic area such as Honey Dew Donuts, Krispy Kreme. In so far as second level competition goes this would be other food outlets offering coffee and quick food. McDonald’s comes to mind as they added the McCafé premium coffees to their restaurants over the last two years to compete in this space. At the third level, competition is in the form of gas stations and 7-Eleven convenience stores offering a quick cup of unpretentious freshly brewed coffee on tap at self serve counters.

Looking at these three levels you will notice that at Level One you are competing on a product, service and location basis as the customer is having to make a choice about a specialty offering. At level two you are now competing on a product, timing and convenience basis. This is when Mum has to get the kids some lunch but is dying for her caffeine fix, McDonald’s with their PlayPlace and fast food provides a compelling option. The level three competition shows up when the customer was not consciously seeking a coffee but since they are available they will take one. Level Three transactions are the ones you generally can’t count on getting but they make a big difference to the bottom line for whoever is winning them.

At the end of the day we compete on value, but what is often forgotten, is that the customer determines what is valuable. Don’t forget Value is not just currency but includes all the associated costs of making a transaction such as time, convenience, situation etc.

This is relatively easy to see from a product or service point of view but how is it for you the individual? We are all competing in a global marketplace at multiple levels if we like it or not; in our jobs, our relationships, our careers and our social networks – everything that we do. Technology has continually upped the ante and today we live in a marketplace where we are not much different from the marketer for Dunkin’ Donuts, just this time the product is ourselves.

    • We compete with our colleagues in the tasks we perform to get the recognition and to get the salary increase or promotion.
    • We compete as a contributing part of our company to win business, produce a higher valued products and services in the marketplace to increase market share and profitability.
    • We compete with every individual out there that wants what you have – and never underestimate for a second how many that is.

You may not be able to see your competition, but be sure your competition is always looking out for you!

The Most Respected SOB

by Yakov Soloveychik on August 17, 2009

patton11“Every Successful enterprise requires three men:

a dreamer, a businessman, and a son of a bitch.”

Peter McArthur, Photographer

History has shown that whenever the Presidents’ approval rating drops under 50%, the markets rally and the growth averages 9%. Sounds strange?

Change isn’t always popular and as a young COO running the operations of a $25 Million manufacturing company, I found myself being disappointed if at the end of the week I did not find any graffiti about myself on the notice boards of the plant restroom. I could not understand why I felt disappointed until one day it came to me … I was not active enough and I needed to take more risks that introduced change into the idling system. CHANGE is what causes popularity loss. Not the talk about change, but the actual change/shakeup of someone’s perceived state of “unruffled” comfort.

Note this sequence:

Popularity DOWN when CEO demanded –

    • higher efficiency
    • more overtime
    • more output
    • more sales effort

Popularity UP when CEO increased –

    • increased benefits
    • increased commissions
    • increased paid time off programs

You can continue this list, but you see the trend.

The formula for business is: Profitability = Revenue – Costs.  Simple and obvious yet very complex at the same time. Every CEO must (and CEO performance is based on) driving revenues UP and driving cost DOWN so that they do not grow in the same proportion as the revenue. That will assure growth in Profitability.  Now compare this objective of every CEO with issues related to His/Her Popularity. In most cases, when one strives for Popularity, this will increase the cost of running the business and will stagnate revenue growth.

For example, Steve Jobs, a dreamer, a businessman, and most unpopular CEO (to insiders) of Apple, created an unprecedented business success story for a company that was about to collapse.  While he strived to create a new type of industry and product lines for Apple, there were still stories about people trying to avoid at any cost getting in the same elevator with him. Today the results are outstanding and those who benefited on the share price growth are happy, but most of them still do not like the CEO who introduced the CHANGE, got them all to work hard and sacrifice a lot of personal comfort in the process.

Leadership is tough on popularity and likability. Executives and managers who strive for popularity, friendship, and for “being liked” by their peers and employees will become less effective and as a result, often impede their progress to succeed in the marketplace.

Let’s take it to my favorite examples with our kids. There is always this dreadful moment when your 5 year old suddenly in frustration tells you: “I hate you …”. What just happened? Your popularity rating just dropped to the bottom … but most likely this was after you got him to do what you wanted as most of the time these words come after your insistence on doing something they do not want to do on their own. If you let them have their way and drop your demands … well, you know, you will get a smile and “I love you” and a kiss. It is hard to demand and insist … but it builds character and eventually respect; after recognizing that your demands were reasonable and fair and that after performing as requested, you gave them candy or something they wanted so much.

Lets just substitute the striving for “love and popularity” with striving for respect and you may hit the perfect balance.

So here are two magic life rules for a better balance that will lead to respect and efficiency:

    • Always demand performance, but be reasonable and fair and adjust these demands to the person you are asking to perform these requests.
    • Always acknowledge the effort of the implementation even if the result is not 100% to your expectation, but do not hesitate to ask and insist on another solution if the result is unacceptable.

General Patton was known to demand performance and would not take any excuses, for that many called him “the most respected SOB” in the forces.

Yajov Soloveychik PicYakov Soloveychik is a business advisor, mentor and a personal coach to CEO’s and business owners. Yakov’s professional and entrepreneurial career includes VP,  COO, CEO positions and service on board of directors with a number of technology based companies in Los Angeles and Silicon Valley

My Computer Got Infected By The Swine Flu. What?

by Robert Driscoll on August 6, 2009

SpamIn April and May of this year, while the CDC and other federal agencies were working hard to prevent the spread of a swine flu outbreak, another outbreak was occurring that did not catch the headlines: Swine Flu Spam.

With Swine Flu at the forefront of everyone’s mind, spammers got busy. When the possible Swine Flu outbreak was being reported in April of this year by the media, Cisco stated that Swine Flu related spam accounted for 4 percent of the worldwide total at its peak. Symantec reported on their blog one scam that spammers unleashed where they had a viral PDF document of Swine Influenza FAQs. When users clicked on the PDF document, it unleashed a malicious InfoStealer code onto the victim’s computer.

Well just when we thought our computers were safe from getting infected by the Swine Flu, Sophos Labs reported on July 22nd on their blog that with the Swine Flu pandemic ongoing, spammers are continuing to play off of peoples fear. This time they sent an email titled, “Novel H1N1 Flu Situations Update,” which had an attached Word document that when opened had the following image in it:


This image is identical to the one found on the CDC website. Unbeknownst to the users who clicked on the Word document, a Trojan was unleashed on their computer that not only stole all of their passwords (encrypted ones as well), but it also tracked all of their key strokes. All of this information was sent back to a malicious website where most likely the stolen information would be sold in one of several underground markets. Spam continues to be a major problem not only for individuals but corporations as well. Symantec reported that as of April of this year, “unsolicited email made up 90.4% of messages on corporate networks.” While companies have become “smarter” in not allowing certain attachments to pass through to their networks, spammers have started attaching URLs in their messages enticing people to click on them which then redirects them to a website that carries the malware. This type of spam generally tends to not get stopped by firewall or anti-virus or anti-spam software.

So how do you defend yourself against malicious emails?  To lower your risk of malware infections, you need to:

  • Download software only from sites you know and trust.
  • Set your browser security high enough to detect unauthorized downloads.
  • Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software, as well as a firewall, and set them to update automatically.
  • Don’t click on links inside pop-up windows.
  • Don’t click on links in spam that claim to offer anti-spyware software; you may unintentionally be installing spyware.

Clues that malware may be on your computer include:

  • A sudden increase in pop-up ads.
  • A sudden or repeated change in your computers Internet home page.
  • New and unexpected toolbars or icons on the system tray at the bottom of your computer screen.
  • Slowed computer performance.
  • Random error messages.

While it is important for both individuals and corporations to have the necessary security measures in place to protect them from these spam messages by incorporating firewalls, antivirus software, email filters, etc…, the best way to reduce these threats is to simply educate yourself, and if you work for a corporation, educate your peers to not open or click on anything that looks suspicious. Sound stupid? Well, so does your computer getting the Swine Flu.

UpbeatAt a recent barbecue a typical social situation permeated where the women spent time together talking about fashion trends and must have accessories and the men huddled together to discuss the goings on of corporate America and sport. While as a social gathering it was a great time and everyone enjoyed themselves it reminded me of some wise words I had read in Rajesh Setty’s book Upbeat.

The chapter in the book that came flooding back was what Rajesh calls the Trap. He describes this trap as the daily conversations we are in that have absolutely no bearing on our daily lives, rajesh-jul2009-01 yet, we get engrossed in them, unknowingly, as the media bombards us with the “drama” of these sensational stories. These stories then become the background that controls our moods and permeates all our engagements with others in social and business settings. Take, for example, (as pointed out in Upbeat), how many of your interactions start with ‘How is the market treating you?’ or ‘The Economy is very bad…’ You get the point.

Rajesh wrote the book about his learnings from starting his first company in late 2000, right at the start of the dot-com recession and it is very opportune that he has published this work for the current market that we are ‘told’ we are in today. While the book can fall under the broad business book literature, Upbeat is far more focused on the individual and exposes the flaws in the thoughts and actions adopted by the average person in the marketplace. What I liked so much about the book is that it was extremely simple to read, immensely practical and filled with actionable items that help change your thoughts and actions immediately.

There are so many things that we do automatically because we see so many other people doing them, that we never stop and question why we do them or what the consequences are of acting in such a way. Rajesh has taken the time to include in the book a ‘How to’ section which takes the guess work out of some of these less often thought of questions. One that I particularly liked was in the Tenacity and Discipline section – ‘What Assets are you building that will pay back in the long term? If there are no assets that you are developing , it will only be “YOU” that will have to work for you. There will be absolutely no leverage and this will hurt you.’

Upbeat is filled with great thought provoking insights and self assessments, and is easy and quick to read. I have given a number of my friends copies of Upbeat, so it goes without saying, I think this is an essential read for anyone wanting to distinguish themselves from the pack and to start acting for their future.

You can pick up your own copy of UPBEAT by going to Amazon. You can also follow Rajesh on Twitter @UpbeatNow or read his current posts on his blog Life Beyond Code. Raj also maintains a Q&A called (rightly so) TH!NKsulting.

Here is a four part video where Rajesh discusses Upbeat with Steve Piazzale

Photo Credit: Craig Williams

Part 1 (9:39 min)

Part 2 (7:46 min)

Part 3 (4:56 min)

Part 4 (6:22 min)

I would also like to thank Rajesh on behalf of the Active Garage team, who, without Rajesh’s help and vision, would not be where they are today.

Win one of the five copies of Upbeat

This is the 50th blog post for ActiveGarage… and the fact that Active Garage was started just 3 months ago calls for a celebration! To commemorate this milestone, we are giving away five copies of Upbeat. If you want to win one, all you have to do is to share your own Upbeat story in the comment box. Here’s some help to get you started: Through your story, answer two simple questions “What are you doing to stay upbeat when the odds seem to be against you? and What do you think others should do stay upbeat?

Go ahead and share your story. Make it inspiring. You might just make someone’s day and win a copy of Upbeat.

How Social Media is changing Marketing

by Deepika Bajaj on July 3, 2009

socialmediawagonIt is important to understand what is going on here. There is a real shift underway. Building your brand through traditional tools and trends need a closer look. Are they making you vulnerable? Are they making you a stronger business?

Speed of change is HIGH. Advertising has been moving online and is becoming less effective. The payouts of online advertisement are declining. It is harder to justify marketing budgets and ROI for online advertising.

Here are some current trends:

Trend #1 Balance of Power
There has been a big power shift and today consumer has unparalleled power.

Trend #2 Emerging Marketing opportunity
More intimate customer relationship marketing is possible.

Trend #3 New Technique to build brand identity
You can shape your brand identity through response to social market. Transperancy and humility are rewarded. Authenticity is identity.

Every marketeer is now struggling with the following questions:

Should we be on FB?
Do we start a blog?
Do we offer everything for free?
Why aren’t we tweeting?

There are a lot of people who know what is social media BUT are not sure how to use it. Social Media is focused on the long tail so it is customized for easy adaptation by consumers. For marketeers to use it effectively, they need to demonstrate leadership in using social media. They need to develop social leadership strategy that delivers desired outcome and meets their business objectives.

All day I read articles, blogs, case studies about brands that tried something — usually — missed the boat, and are now enjoying the not always positive feedback we are all so ready to give. But then again, every once and a while a company comes along and really hits the nail on the head.

The Nature Conservancy leverages Facebook and Digg for cause marketing: How TNC raised nearly $75,000 through Facebook Causes and a partnership with Lil Green Patch, a popular Facebook application. The group has also built significant brand awareness through the social news site Digg! (As reported by Jonathon Colman of TNC, September 29, 2008).

So why bother with social media?

I meet with a lot of companies, and almost always I am asked to “give an example of how a company has increased their bottom-line with social media.” Well, now, in addition to my usual spiel of stats, graphs, etc., I can also hand case studies. What it comes down to is any company can find success with a social media strategy; they just need to have the right goal in place. They need to understand where their audience is hanging out, and get in there with a good story … start passing it around. The rest usually takes care of itself.

DD_headshot Contributed by Deepika Bajaj, President and Founder, Invincibelle, LLC. Invincibelle helps women who live and work in a multicultural world to accelerate their professional growth. You can follow Deepika on Twitter at invincibelle.

Stop Busying… Start Acting!

by Guy Ralfe on July 1, 2009

Stop Busying and ActEvery day I hear the same thing “I am so busy, that I should /could /didn’t/ nearly…”. Well maybe it is time to think about what it is to be busy? It sure doesn’t sound like the recipe for success?

Every day we go to work with tasks to complete, over and above that we get emails, have to answer telephone calls and interact with colleagues – and those never have any task requests?? So we end up being incredibly busy throughout the day juggling our tasks to get through as many as we can. Sound familiar?

Busy by definition is to remain occupied? “Remaining occupied”, by itself alone, doesn’t sound like it is going to produce extraordinary results, does it?

So, what is it that produces extraordinary results? It is “Purposeful Action“.

Purposeful Action:

1. Produces Results. Results that are well thought of. Results that directly address real concerns.

2. Produces careers. Not just “Busy Work”, but Careers and Careers last a lifetime.

3. Produces Accomplishments. Accomplishments produce powerful identities. Powerful identities produce trust. Trust works like an invisible force that helps your customers choose your offers over your competitors.

4. Is Strategic. It takes care of concerns over a long-term, not just the short-term.

5. Produces Peace of mind. Busyness produces panic. Clearly, peace of mind is a better place to be than a perpetual state of panic.

Now apply this to the Projects you invent… or the project that is your life. Projects are constituted to enact change to move from one situation to another, which is more favorable. There is no guarantee that being busy every day will produce results. However, what is guaranteed is that it will surely produce fatigue. To produce effective change you need to take purposeful action and that is constituted with tasks that are thoughtfully designed, planned and executed.

To act is to produce effective action. To effect positive outcomes for our lives we need to stop Busying and start Acting. Purposefully. Start with an action plan for your life. Be purposeful when you do that… and you’ll see the results!

All businesses need to develop an “identity” in order to be strategic players in the marketplace. That identity (aka logo) is key in assisting the consumer in recognizing the brand in the marketplace. Businesses such as Nike, AT&T and FedEx have spent much effort researching and developing their successful identities.

What makes a strong corporate identity
? This is somewhat subjective but here are a few examples of logos that have strong identities in the marketplace.

AT&T is recognized globally as a leader in the communications industry. Recently, AT&T modified their logo from using capital letters to lowercase letters. This change can be perceived as one that was made in order to convey themselves as a more consumer friendly and approachable business. AT&T also modified the globe component of their logo from a 2 dimensional globe to a 3 dimensional one. This change can be interpreted as emphasizing the expanding depth of services as well as its global presence. In this case, the company believed it was important to highlight these attributes in a market that is ever changing and constantly growing.


FedEx, like AT&T, is a leader in its industry and have a globally recognized logo. Their logo is simple with just the letters juxtaposed in a way that creates a negative space in the shape of an arrow in between the e and the x. This arrow in the FedEx logo has been used as a form of subliminal advertising of the brand, symbolizing forward movement and thinking and stability. If you’ve never noticed it before you surely won’t miss it now!


The importance of identity does not apply just to large global corporations but to small, local and regional companies as well. For example, MicroJenisys, Inc., a web development company in business since the mid 1990s that provides solutions for clients as diverse as Verizon Federal to the City Theatre of Miami, is one of those companies. They assist their clients in creating an online identity in order to be competitive and successful in this competitive landscape. MicroJenisys followed their own advice and redesigned their own identity in 2006 after carving a healthy niche for themselves in the market place. This identity redevelopment not only allowed them to stay current in the marketplace but allowed them to reintroduce themselves to their customers as a company aware of the ever changing business world and the need for businesses to change along with it. Their new logo brands them as a concise, forward thinking team. The clever play on the letters m and j emphasizes creative fluidity which is necessary in building a successful brand identity.


When creating a logo it is also important to identify who you are targeting in the marketplace. AT&T is not targeting the same consumers as FedEx. FedEx is not targeting the same consumers as MicroJenisys. Their logos help them in creating their identities in the marketplace. Get the most out of your identity by creating a clear target audience.

This will help you separate your company from your competition and avoid an identity crisis!

Much of the supporting information was provided by Stacy Driscoll. Please click here to find out more about her work.