Posts Tagged ‘’

Why I Blog

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

I was recently interviewed by a promotional industry publication on why I blog.

I started blogging in early 2006 as I wanted to experiment with a new medium as well as connect with people on a different level. So, 5 years later, I reflect on the what, why and how.

Why do you blog? How do you get the most out of your blog for the purposes you intend it to serve?

I have always enjoyed writing. Blogging gives me a creative outlet as well as platform to express ideas I have about the industry and business in general.

I use the blog to write about my philosophies as they relate to our business, RIGHTSLEEVE. I have found this to be a more genuine way to express an opinion as it comes across as more authentic than publishing a marketing brochure (there is room for this as well, it just serves a different purpose). Clients and prospects read our blog to learn about the human side of our company.

What advice would you give to companies looking to start a blog of their own?

(i) Have Fun

(ii) Be Human

(iii) Write it yourself

What is your overall impression of your blogging experience? Have you found it to be a successful marketing tool? Why or why not?

I have really enjoyed blogging because it has given me a way to connect with people on a whole new level. It is not a direct sales platform, rather it is a conversational platform as people will weigh in on what you write about and this starts a dialogue. I have met a number of new and interesting people via blogging (and other web 2.0 properties like Facebook, Twitter, etc). As with all solid relationships, a level of trust is established which can often lead to sales. As a result, blogging can be a wonderful, albeit indirect, sales tool. 

It has been a very successful marketing tool as it puts us into a smaller group of distributors that have taken the time to maintain a blog. I would guess that 5-10% of the promotional industry has a good blog and it’s always nice to be competing against a smaller number of people who are blogging than the majority that aren’t.

We also operate within a very competitive and commoditized industry with little to differentiate distributors from one another. The standard complaint about our industry is that “you can buy the same products from any distributor.” However, a blog is something that is unique to a company, something that can’t be shopped like a product SKU from a supplier catalog. Anything that is unique like this is a good thing in the industry as it helps sets you apart.

Promotional Products and Social Media

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

This week I attended the PPAI Expo, the largest and longest running promotional products show in the world.

I was invited to present on how my experiences with social media have allowed RIGHTSLEEVE to grow and differentiate within this industry. I’d be reluctant to ever brand myself a “social media expert” (I am skeptical of the term), rather I like to think of myself of an industry entrepreneur that has dabbled in social media over the past 5 years and has learned a lot along the way, my trail scattered with a mix of failures and successes.

I have drawn inspiration from a number of people whose works I reference in this presentation. The links to their books  can be found here:

Tara Hunt The Whuffie Factor
Chris Anderson The Long Tail
Clay Shirky Here Comes Everybody
Joel Comm Twitter Power
Mitch Joel Six Pixels of Separation

Chris Anderson The Long Tail

Clay Shirky Here Comes Everybody

Tara Hunt The Whuffie Factor

Joel Comm Twitter Power

Mitch Joel Six Pixels of Separation

Predictions for 2010

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

2009 has been a learning experience, to put it mildly.

I have spoken to countless business owners across a range of industries about 2009 . Most people have indicated it was the worst year in their entire business careers. Industries are down on average 20-25%, bankruptcies and mergers abounded and I had to catch my breath when an industry colleague told me that his business was down 50% in 2009 …. 50%! 

All of this has given me pause to consider what we have learned in 2009 and how this will impact our business landscape in 2010. I have distilled this down to 3 thoughts.

 1. It’s not about the product, it’s about the process

The way companies have ordered promotional products has not changed much over the years. Most organizations place their orders through a promotional distributor who is responsible for the ideation and ultimate production of the order. I think this is an outdated process, one that will be replaced by more sophisticated web based processes that allow companies to procure their merchandise via simple to use order management systems. As a result of what technology enables, this will be available to companies of all sizes, not just the multi-million dollar programs.

Let me give an example. We were approached by an organization looking for a second opinion on their merchandise program. They had been working with an incumbent distributor who was doing a nice job in terms of ideas and execution. However, the organization’s real challenge was inventory risk and being stuck with product if it did not sell. We honed in on that specific challenge and offered our online retail store which collects orders across the entire organization and then produces the goods just in time, thereby eliminating the inventory risk. The product became secondary, shifting the focus to how the process could help solve their business challenges.

2. Social media is now mainstream

@techfanster tweeted the following which sums up exactly where we are in the social media space as of late 2009

If I hear “social media expert” once more I’m going to scream. Congrats on having twitter AND facebook… so does my mom. Really.

Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, etc are still enjoying the spotlight. Users have set up accounts in droves, web 2.0 conferences abound and “experts” have come out of the woodwork to educate the masses. People listened and started experimenting in a big way in 2009.

So, now what?

I see 2010 as being the year where we will see the true divide, specifically between the people who use these tools effectively to develop a strong community of friends, fans and customers vs the bandwagon jumpers who setup a Twitter profile only to spam people with product specials. My friend Bobby Lehew wrote a fabulous post about this very point, highlighting the difference between “social networking and social netbeing”. In the post, he suggests that having a social media presence takes a lot of work, just like networking in real life does. It’s just as hard to fake it online as it is in real life.

3. Differentiate or die.

The promotional industry shrunk by 20% in 2009 as buyers across North America scrutinized their budgets. Questions ranged from “do we really need to give polo shirts for this year’s tournament” to “are we spending our budget in the most efficient way possible?”

I believe that companies will be able to grow in 2010 by truly differentiating themselves from the competition. Focusing on a specific market segment, developing a proprietary technology, becoming the expert in a specific product category are all ways to accomplish this vs being the “I can get you anything” product generalist. As they say, “jack of all trades, master of none.”

Regardless of whether any of these predictions prove to be true, 2010 is certainly going to be an interesting year.

Please feel free to post your predictions for 2010 – I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Who: The A Method for Hiring

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009


I recently read Geoff Smart’s Who: The A Method for Hiring - a comprehensive look at how to interview and ultimately hire top talent into your company. I synthesized the main steps in his book and have listed here to help others who are involved in the hiring process.

Hiring is never a perfect science, but the process can be made more effective by digging deeper into a candidate’s career history and asking the right questions. After years of interviewing candidates for positions at RIGHTSLEEVE, I found this book a very worthwhile read with many clear takeaway points.

Part 1: Establishing a Scorecard

Taking the theoretical definition of a A player and putting it in practical terms for the position you need to fill
1. Mission
Develop a short statement of why the role exists. Example for a VP Sales: To Double our revenue over 3 years by signing large profitable contracts with industrial customers. And to set up one hunting team to land new accounts and one farming team to grow existing accounts.
2. Outcomes
Develop 3-8 specific, objective outcomes that a person must accomplish to achieve an performance. For example “improve customer satisfaction on a ten point scale from 7.1 to 9.0 by December 31.”
3. Competencies
Ensuring Behavioural Fit.  Identify as many role-based competencies as you think appropriate to describe the behaviours someone must demonstrate to achieve the outcomes. Make sure to include competencies that also describe the culture of the company.
Typical examples: Efficiency, Honesty, Organization/Planning, Aggressiveness, Follow-through on commitments, Intelligence, Analytical skills, Attention to detail, Persistence, Proactivity, Ability to hire A Players, Ability to develop people, Flexibility, Calm under pressure, Strategic thinking, creativity/innovation, Enthusiasm, Work Ethic, High standards, Listening skills, Openness to criticism, Communication, Teamwork, Persuasion
4. Ensure Alignment
Compare the scorecard with the business plan and the scorecards of the people who will interface with the role. Ensure there is consistency and alignment.
Part 2: Four Interviews for Spotting A Players
(i) Screening Interview: Culling The List
15 minutes over the phone
1. What are your career goals?
2. What are you really good at professionally?
3. What are you not good at or not interested in doing professionally?
4. Who were your last 5 bosses and how will they rate your performance on a 1-10 scale when we talk to them? 
- always ask for specific examples when the candidate is answering your questions
- if a candidate is responding to the weakness with something like “I am a perfectionist”. Respond with “that sounds like a strength, what are you really not good at?”
- Get Curious: ask what, how, tell me more? 
(ii) Topgrading Interview
The first in-person interview 
1. What were you hired to do?
2. What accomplishments are you most proud of?
3. What were some of the low points during that job?
4. Who were the people you worked with? Specifically:
(i) What was your boss’s name, and how do you spell that? What was it like working with him/her? What he/she tell me were your biggest strengths and areas for improvement?
(ii) How would you rate the team you inherited on an A, B, C scale? What changes did you make? Did you hire anybody? Fire anybody? How would you rate the team when you left it on an A, B, C scale?
5. Why did you leave that job?
- These 5 questions are asked for each job on the candidates resume, starting from the oldest job so that the interview flows chronologically.
- Interrupting the candidate (necessary to move the interview along)
- Push vs Pull (People who perform poorly in their jobs were pushed out vs People who perform well in their jobs are pulled out).
Example: Why did you leave that job?
    - Push: “It was time for me to leave”, “It was mutual”. “I missed my numbers”
    - Pull: “My biggest client hired me”, “My old boss recruited me for a bigger job”
(iii) Focused Interview
Turning the magnification up a notch on the specific outcomes and competencies of the scorecard
1. The purpose of this interview is to talk about             (insert specific outcome or competency from scorecard)
2. What are your biggest accomplishments in this area during your career?
3. What are your insights into your biggest mistakes and lessons learned in this area?
(iv) Reference Interview
1. In what context did you work with the person?
2. What were the person’s biggest strengths?
3. What were the person’s biggest areas for improvement back then?
4. How would rate his/her overall performance in that job on a 1-10 scale? What about his or her performance causes you to give that rating?
5. The person mentioned that he/she struggled with               in that job. Can you tell me more about that?