The keenly observant amongst you may well have noticed something different with i2i. After almost 15 years as a yellow brick it was time to say goodbye to the old logo and introduce a fresh, more dynamic look.
Working with long-time friend and associate Alan Hayward we bounced around several ideas, colour schemes and shapes until finally settling on the new look.
We’re delighted with the look of the new brand identity and feedback has been very positive. Now I’m wishing I’d taken the plunge a few years ago but at the very least we took the important step and engaged a professional designer to sharpen up the image.
Interestingly Google also thought the time was right to re-brand with their change of font. This has delivered the usual array of positive and negative comments but from my perspective it’s spot on and timely.
If you have a brand identity are you happy with it? If so is it because, like a pair of old slippers, it’s comfortable and not hurting anyone and the thought of changing it gives you a headache? Or it might be fresh out of the box and still shiny so not ready for any tweaks.
When engaging with clients on this topic I find it can quickly become an emotional rather than rational discussion. Business owners feel protective of the brand, probably because its creation felt a little bit like the birth of their first child or most successful effort at DIY. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” is a regular retort to suggestions of brand updating. I’m not unsympathetic to such views but if there is an engrained and stubborn refusal to accept an obvious flaw in a design or brand projection the business may well be losing custom simply through a perception based on looks rather than experience.
The Yellow Brick has come to the end of the road and now we’re hoping to A-peel with Orange (I can hear the groans from here you know). Essentially those involved in the business are behind the new brand and first impressions and feedback by clients has been better than we could’ve expected. As is typical in the culture of our business we don’t want to just talk about an area of marketing we want to get under the skin of it and understand it fully. By taking ourselves through this process I can assure you we understand both the pain and pleasure it can bring and for us in the short term so far the rewards.
The Values what are you looking to convey – expertise, good value, professional, quality, friendly, exclusive
Making an impression – will a new design create the impact you require, look at other brands and how you have responded, what do you want you brand to say to customers.
Staff – don’t overlook those working for you. Engage with them in the process but try and avoid committee led decision making. That typically ends up with consensus but little creativity.
Strapline – This is an interesting one. Some love the idea of a tag line to a brand others avoid at all costs. It can work very well or it can undermine the overall business strategy. For i2i we kept it very simple – moving to Marketing Management two words that for us sum up what we do but still contain a full range of services. Alternatively there is the ethos of the business and examples such as Adidas “impossible is nothing”, Subway “Eat Fresh” and then there’s the bold statement such as Carlsberg “probably the best lager in the world” great examples of enduring messages that underscore and enhance the brand.
Creativity – we all have an element of creativity in us and to lesser or greater extent an ego that wants to see our ideas in lights. In truth you don’t always need an expensive brand consultancy but we would recommend investing in an experienced graphic designer who can turn the ideas into a professionally finished identity.
Colour – If trading globally be aware of international conventions with colour and their cultural references. Also be aware of the way certain colours may appear in print or online. Checking out an HTML colour wheel against a printed pantone guide can deliver two very different results.
Feedback – take comments on board but retain your focus. This is very much a subjective area and will offer up a wide variety of opinions.
Old design – don’t lose customers by moving away too dramatically or quickly from a long standing brand. If you need to modernise consider a 2 or 3 phase approach taking as many years.
Context – consider all areas where the brand will appear – online, TV, video, radio, news print, glossy print, letterhead, e-mail, business cards etc…
All in all have fun with the process if you think it’s time to bring your business forward with a refreshed redesign of your brand make like Nike and just do it.
It’s surprising how many times we can make assumptions of others in the workplace and often underestimate the workload and stresses those in senior roles deal with. As a junior and middle manager I too fell into the trap of thinking the “boss” was not always engaged with the important stuff and didn’t understand what it was like at the coalface. Of course the chances were that not only was the boss aware of the issues they too were under enormous pressure and keeping many plates spinning on may poles, your universe of interest being just one.
The need is as great now as it’s ever been for business owners, directors and senior managers to understand how they can best inspire, motivate and manage the human resources around them.
The “boss” today has to look at markets that are increasingly competitive. There are very real pressures on expenditure and real need to maximise returns whilst customers are expecting “more for less” and the opportunities for growth harder to define and find.
Having recently worked with a number of clients with similar issues I thought it timely to look at some ideas to help better manage the essential asset of most businesses, their people.
• Time Management
How many times do you find your blood pressure rising when a member of staff saunters in at 9.15 a.m.? The fact is, strict times for starting and finishing a job may apply to specific jobs that require production schedules or the presence of those offering direct customer engagement. For many others, especially those in technical or creative roles, a 9 to 5 doesn’t really apply. What we should look at is not the hours spent sat at a desk but what was produced in the time they were at work. You could have the most punctual person in the world working for you but that doesn’t automatically make them better than someone who might arrive a little later. To overcome stresses and possible squabbles amongst staff offer a flexible working schedule and consider working from home as a genuine option. Remember to measure and manage what’s produced in that flexi time.
• Match roles and tasks to those best suited
Square pegs and round holes, yes it’s a very real problem for many businesses. Here’s a “for instance” – Derek’s worked in sales administration for years but is actually far better suited to working in IT and training others on how to get the most out of the software used in the company. How do you work this out? Talk to staff, make an appraisal a proper appraisal and assess real strengths and weaknesses and personal aspirations and likes. Quite often a secret interest or passion can become incredibly useful to a business. It helps to know what those special interests and skills are and to keep an ongoing dialogue with staff as things rarely remain static.
• Bright stars should work on the biggest opportunities
The high flyers in a business need sufficient air space to demonstrate their skills and offer the greatest return for your organisation. Too often talent is held back or restricted through traditional hierarchical structures and/or short sighted managers. The outcome? The talent leaves for a job where they can truly realise their ambitions. If you want to keep the best and get the most from them allow a little latitude, remove the shackles and allow them to take responsibility for their own projects. Building experience in such a way is invaluable and often rewarded by increased loyalty and performance.
• Set stretching but achievable goals
No one should suggest that we avoid measuring performance, quite the contrary but at the same time we shouldn’t become overzealous with our expectation and demands. Realistic, stretching but manageable objectives shared and understood by the team will provide the motivation to reach for the target. Too tough and it quickly becomes a disincentive to try and too soft and staff may believe they’re on easy street and get distracted with other non-essential matters.
• Put your trust in the team and let them know you trust them
Without a fundamental level of trust between business owners and staff, conflict, stress and aggravation often follows. People like to know that they are valued. Demonstrating trust through allowing self-control of their tasks, time management, resources required and engagement with goal setting can prove immensely motivational.
• When things go wrong don’t seek out someone to hang it on
Things will and often do go wrong. The way in which you handle the failures marks out the culture of the business. By way of comparison our own true character is often shown in adversity. It’s all too easy to find and single out the cause if it’s an individual, they may well admit to their part in the process. Remember Alan Sugar is playing a role in a TV show on the Apprentice and it bears very little relevance to the day to day running of a company. Be positive in the analysis and just ensure that the team understands where things went wrong to avoid the same mistakes happening again. In the same regard don’t desperately hang on to a failing project, be brave, assess the prospects and if the expected outcome looks unlikely to materialise, provide a positive review and close it down. It’s pretty de-motivating working on a project that just isn’t delivering, better to re-focus efforts on more positive opportunities.
• You’re the boss but you don’t have to have all the answers
All too often I meet with business owners who shoulder an enormous level of responsibility and in their minds the expectations of the workforce. Often they themselves apply the added pressure assuming staff are looking to the owners for the answers to every strategic and operational issue. This again reflects the culture of an organisation and if a “control freak” management style permeates the business, employees will sit back and expect that controller to manage them and make any major or even minor decision. That weight of expectation can be lifted by getting staff to think for themselves, make their own decisions and participate in planning.
• Give staff credit for successes
Don’t forget we all like to receive positive feedback and know we’re good at our jobs. Recognition and rewards are a very important factor in building and maintaining positive team spirit and momentum.
• Managing Change
In my experience the vast majority of employees can cope with and manage changes in their working patterns very well. A lack of communication however can seriously jeopardise the chances of capitalising on a change in business direction or move to new markets/ products. The more you involve staff at the earliest juncture and keep them updated the better the chances of success. Change can be worrying for some, so avoid big surprises by communicating as outlined above and cut off any negative rumours or grapevine that left unchecked may undermine your best efforts.
It’s true to say that managing people is one of the toughest aspects of running a business. Get it right and it not only has the prospect of providing a turbo boost to hit targets but also make the owners lives far less lonely and stressful.
David Laud – follow me on twitter @davidlaud
Having just returned from a trip to California I’m inspired to write about customer service. Not that we encountered the very best at every turn, yes it was mostly very good but my TripAdvisor reviews did include the odd horror.
Yes, even the great land of “awesomeness” and “super excitement” didn’t get it right all the time. Anyone who’s visited the USA will know that the policy of tipping can be delivered in a variety of ways depending on who, where and sometimes when you’re visiting. What you quickly realise is that “service” is very often included and if not added automatically you’re strongly encouraged by guideline % figures.
But if you don’t feel the service matches the promise it can get very interesting, almost as if the business refuses to accept they could get anything wrong.
On the downside we found attitudes were at times curt and clippy in certain establishments. The approach to customers tired and cynical. Service in a couple of restaurants started well but quickly fell away as other patrons arrived and their well of goodwill and friendliness quickly dried up as visible stress levels increased. One hotel in particular responded so poorly to my observations of their hotel on Trip Advisor that it will only serve to generate poor review number two. If a customer is not happy don’t poke them with a sharp stick. I was rather astonished at the arrogant dismissive response. If you’re running a business you need to take all feedback on board and respond in a balanced sensible way, even if you do think their experience somewhat far away from reality. The fact is it was their reality and their shoes you need to stand in.
On the upside we encountered many excellent examples of good service. The Café Los Feliz lived up to their Instagram presentation with the delivery of an outstanding breakfast. The Arch Rock restaurant in Santa Barbara who’s superb food was only matched by the excellent chat we had with the waiter and the Italian Seafood restaurant in San Francisco – Cioppinos so good we went back for more on another day. Their promise of finding a table for us in 20 minutes evaporated to 5 when the maitre d came to us whilst we were ordering drinks at their bar to say she’d loved the way we’d been so happy and polite and offered to jump us forward to the next available table.
So the US are not, in my view, the custodians of all that is “excellent” in customer service. Of course they’re still very good in so many areas but to my surprise there are a number who are clearly not as good as they should be. Not a perfect piece of research, we were on holiday after all and not handing out questionnaires or interrogating staff and fellow customers. Our perception however is real and nevertheless valid. Perhaps the recession has had its impact and service levels have as a result been adversely affected as profits became harder to find.
We did all love our Californian excursion a truly memorable experience but it’s clear you don’t have to travel so far to see excellence in customer service. This weekend we took our dog to the nearby beach at Saltburn. We stopped off for a cuppa and a bite to eat at a small café near the beach and noticed the many purple blankets at each table. The owners had considered the experience of their clientele, the UK climate and possibility of children and adults who’d taken a recent dip shivering as others decide to have a pit stop before heading home.
The blankets were a small but very important touch, showing that the Café understood its customers and cared enough to keep them comfortable whilst sipping tea and eating scones or ice cream. When it comes to customer service Camfields Espresso Bar in Saltburn have got it well and truly covered.
It’s the little touches that can make such a big difference and that’s true of any business. The result you want is a happy customer and for them to spread the word like warm butter on those Yorkshire scones.
Are you happy with your role? Content with the position you find yourself in at this point in time? Do you encounter many frustrations in your day to day work and find it difficult to manage them?
If the answer to the above is yes, yes, no in that order then congratulations but if not or you know someone who isn’t quite so satisfied with their life you might want to consider this short blog on looking at life afresh.
For many of us work is more than a means to an end, it’s a passion and something we take very seriously but all too few of us take the time to review where we are and focus on what we truly want to achieve.
Too many of us find ourselves trapped in careers or situations that limit the scope of achieving our potential. Overlooked for promotion or unable to grow the business; frustration builds until a day arrives when it may be too late to change and the opportunity has passed you by.
But that’s far too depressing and of course it’s never really too late. What’s important is seizing the moment, identifying that you have far more to give and working through the possibilities that could lead to a rejuvenated approach to work and life as a whole.
As part of the human condition we can at times find ourselves drifting through life. Be it our own personal relationships or career, a common failing is that we settle, let things remain unchanged because change represents a challenge and a challenge can make you uncomfortable.
Rather than being caught asleep at the wheel of your life it might be time to turn up the music, open a window and see what is really happening around you.
Make time for reflection and re-assess your priorities. The past 5+ years of recession and painfully slow recovery has led many to take a bunker mentality. Keep the head down and think “hopefully when I look up I’ll still have a job and/or a business”. The risk is that whilst you’re taking this “safe” option life is moving on a pace and others are seeking out opportunities around you.
So what can be done to bring things into sharp focus? Ask yourself these questions and be as honest as you can in answering them.
• Who are the positive influences in your life and why?
• Who are the negative influencers and why?
• What is most important to you, what could you not live without?
• Who do you admire and why?
• What do you like to do? (For work and leisure)
• What don’t you like doing?
• What would you like to achieve from your life? What does success look like for you?
• What is preventing you from achieving this goal?
• What steps could you take in the next 6 months to work towards the goal?
Being surrounded by negativity can be a very draining experience and in time can turn you into a negative force yourself. Identifying positive influences and spending time in their company can be a big step in helping boost your own morale. Finding a suitable mentor to support you in the quest to find the path to your goals can also be hugely rewarding. If you are in danger of waving at life as it passes by, decide to do something and decide to do it this week. You owe it to yourself and those around you to be the best possible version of whoever you are and the positive influence you can bring to bear on others can be infectious.
Good solid support and advice in the shape of an experienced and qualified mentor can be just the sat nav you need to put you back on course.
If any of the above resonates with you and you’d like further information to help move matters forward drop me a line firstname.lastname@example.org
The state of our economy can create a number of responses from the corporate world. An increase in the number of companies in administration, change of strategic direction, the board retains a fixed course with no change or they actively look to merge with or acquire a suitable partner.
On the topic of merger this can, if managed well, with clear vision and talent be a very positive step. Unfortunately the catalogue of merger histories is well stocked with its fair share of failures.
The original spark that created the merged business is typically founded in solid logic and should have all the ingredients for a successful outcome. Unfortunately the complexity and challenge of putting organisations together can dilute and lose the benefit of economies of scale and combined resources.
Critical to the success is a clearly articulated strategy delivered consistently by an effective leadership team. The focus at all times MUST be on the customer, lose sight of that key fact and matters can start to unravel fast.
Not many employees relish change and mergers present plenty of new challenges and potential threats to personal job security. Keeping the talent engaged is important as is the need to motivate the business to achieve the new goals.
There are many positives to be borne from mergers but before being charmed by a suitable partner it’s worth looking at theirs and other track records. We can and should certainly learn from the mistakes of others.
Interestingly in the world of telecoms there are 2 examples of where we appear to be seeing history repeating itself.
At the end of 2004 US telecom company Sprint announced its merger with Nextel. They were at the time the 3rd and 5th largest mobile phone operators in the US. The potential of such a merger was obvious and had the likes of AT&T and Verizon looking closely at the deal.
Sprint’s acquisition of Nextel ultimately was a financial disaster. In 2008 the company wrote down $30 billion of the $36 billion sum it had paid for Nextel in 2005, wiping out 80% of the value of Nextel at the time it had been acquired. The write down reflected the depreciation in Nextel’s goodwill since the date of acquisition.
CEO Gary D. Forsee was removed in 2007 marking a remarkable and rapid fall from grace. He had in 2004 been lauded as a “best manager” by Business Week only to become regarded as one of the worst CEO’s by Fortune magazine in 2009.
Why did this happen?
Despite much talk to the media of new technologies CEO Gary D. Forsee focussed on the financial savings to be gained out of the merger of the two corporations. He was heavily criticised for initiating programmes of micro management and cutting out costs from the business. The emphasis shifted from churn of customers to profit enhancements through cost savings. Claims of monitoring call centre staff toilet breaks only served to highlight the maniacal zeal Forsee had for getting every possible cent worth from his staff.
Complaints increased, 1,000 customers contracts were terminated by Sprint Nextel as they sought to rid themselves of persistent complainers. But many more followed putting the company at the top of the churn list as customers rushed to join the competition. There were also technical network issues which didn’t assist but overall the lack of investment in bringing customers over to the merged firm and inability to respond to the worrying customer indicators led to disastrous figures.
In the third qtr of 2007 Sprint lost a staggering 337,000 customers.
Fast forward to 2010 and the UK. Orange and T-Mobile announce their merger. A new brand of Everything Everywhere is announced and last year shortened to EE in an attempt to bond the networks together.
It’s a little early to state categorically that this merger mirrors the Sprint Nextel debacle but the signs are not good. Being a once satisfied customer of Orange I have seen a dramatic drop in customer service, lack of knowledge from front line staff and farcical cost management of rebranding high street neighbouring Orange and T Mobile shops to EE.
Efforts to communicate with CEO Olaf Swantee have not been successful – his army of executive office helpers must be very busy handling his inbox traffic too as they take a while to respond.
The @EE twitter feed is full of angry customers who can’t get a signal, or get help in an EE shop, have other technical issues and unable to get a response from the customer service helpdesk. The EE Facebook page is also loaded with frustrated customer comment. It’s worth a browse – raises the question of the logic of having such a facility when it provides such s public shop window of customer dissatisfaction.
Is the CEO of EE presiding over the same drive to save costs, cutting service and technical resource but using the smokescreen of new technologies such as 4G to cover the cracks? All I know is that at the sharp end as a customer things are far from healthy for the UK’s largest operator.
Dutch CEO Olaf Swantee doesn’t take any prisoners in the corporate world. On his first day he fired six of his most senior managers. He then informed a further 120 vice presidents and directors that their jobs were at risk. Not long after a tour of call centres he announced a further 1200 to be put under risk of losing thrir jobs. He’s quoted as saying; “I don’t have an objective to make myself popular,” He’s not wrong there, it’s not a popularity contest but it is an interesting way to generate goodwill and motivation.
EE’s problem is that it’s not as profitable as its competitors, O2 and Vodafone, and Olaf has stated that he intends to close the gap by 2014.
Of course the trouble is you still need revenue, that’s customers and satisfied ones at that. EE need to balance a high level of technical and personal service with a drive to reduce cost. Concentrating exclusively and aggresively on cost will potentially see Mr Swantee joining that Fortune league – do you think he can “Forsee” that?
On the upside mergers can and do deliver, but best look at an equation that gives 1+1 = 3+ not 0.
If you’re considering growth through merger we’d be happy to discuss.