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Been to Home Depot lately? If not, go and see how a good HR strategy equals a good marketing strategy!  And no, they’re not paying me for this.

In the midst of this record heat wave, I got up early to replace a hose so my lawn doesn’t burn out, and some weed killer, and Home Depot is conveniently close by. Several years ago, I would drive elsewhere because, IF I could find a clerk, they might have known where these were, IF I could get their attention.

Today, I was greeted as if I were the only thing that mattered and, after describing my needs, I was introduced to a herbicide expert who helped me find exactly what I needed. Then he escorted me to the hoses, ensuring that I had the necessary help (none required, really…).

What changed? A couple of years ago HR chief Tim Crow renovated training programs, expanded cash bonuses and increased employee/customer face time. And they’re having an impact: after a 2-year slide in sales and profit, both were up last year.

If the goal of marketing is to attract and retain customers well, it’s working at Home Depot, with a huge assist from HR.

And my wife no longer minds going there.

On my way home from a peer group session of CMOs (with a shout out to the Forbes CMO Network and gyro who sponsored the evening), I reflected on the commonalities between good networking and good marketing.

If you’ve ever been to a party (and most of us have), you’ve noticed there are those who “work the room” and seem to have met everyone there by the end of the evening. What do they do that makes them successful?

First, they engage. They don’t passively await someone to connect with them.

Second they question, and listen. They “always think in terms of what the other person wants,” to quote Korean war general James van Fleet.

And, third, the truly exceptional ones “arouse in the other person an eager want,” quoting Dale Carnegie.

A pretty good set of rules for marketers.

“…we’re realizing that the industrial revolution is fading. The 80 year long run that brought ever-increasing productivity (and along with it, well-paying jobs for an ever-expanding middle class) is ending,” writes Seth Godin in a provocative post, perhaps fittingly on this weekend symbolizing rebirth for one of the world’s major religions.

Only problem is his use of the word “ending” – the industrial run, as a driver of economic growth, actually ended a decade or so ago Read the rest of this entry »

Here’s another one: ‘work smarter, not harder!’

I hope you’ve never used this one in a misguided attempt to motivate a subordinate. If you have, you’ve just told the employee they’re dumb. Not very motivational, eh?

Personally, I don’t think employees are dumb (and if you have one, how did they get hired in the first place? And in the second place, why are they still with you?). Read the rest of this entry »

After Food, Inc (see my prior post, immediately below) opened my eyes to how food production has rather radically changed over the past couple of decades, I’m now conscious of how much attention we are starting to pay to nutrition as a society.

And when society pays attention, markets pay attention. And when markets pay attention (assuming there are no distortions), the incentives created by demand drives increased supply cause change to happen, very quickly. Not only are individuals and organizations motivated by potential profits rewarded, with the most responsive and efficient reaping the highest returns, but society as a whole is better off.

For example, in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal, Read the rest of this entry »

Why do some companies consistently outperform their peers?

The debate on CEO pay may seem to be only simmering for the moment, while other events dominate the news cycle, but it has not gone away. Working where I do, one of the things we study is the value of, and how to recognize, effective leadership – now, the Best Companies for Leadership; later, the Most Admired Companies. Read the rest of this entry »

From Hay Group:  

Winners and losers in the M&A game

After a period in the doldrums, M&A activity is beginning to bounce back, with rich rewards for those who make mergers and acquisitions work. So what should companies looking to conduct a merger or acquisition in a challenging economic climate be focusing on to ensure success?

Companies tend to concentrate on integrating tangible assets – such as IT systems – and on achieving cost synergies, to the detriment of their customers and this tendency is even stronger during tough economic conditions. The balance between these issues and the integration of intangible capital, such as people, processes and structures is often not planned for far enough in advance during the M&A process. Knowing where to start is half of the battle. For a merger to deliver on its promise, organizations must address these issues – while at the same time managing the risks of integration and extracting the maximum value from it. It’s a difficult balancing act. Read the rest of this entry »

Lord Horatio Nelson

For several decades now, I’ve been a student, observer and participator in strategy (corporate, branding and marketing) and organization – getting these right is, of course, critical to success. But I’ve seen many cases where carefully prepared plans and their support structures have not resulted in the desired results.

Reading To Rule the Waves, a gripping history by Arthur Herman, I was struck by the role communications played in two Royal Navy engagements, 25 years apart, each of immense strategic consequences: Yorktown in 1781 and Trafalgar in 1805.

Communications dictated the outcome of each, one a failure that lost a continent and one a victory that established naval pre-eminence for more than a century. The lesson: everyone in the organization must understand what needs to be done for a plan to be successfully executed. Read the rest of this entry »

I continue to be fascinated by Carlota Perez’ work on Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital. Briefly, she identifies 50 or so year periods of great economic advancement, followed by a bust which then creates the conditions for a period of steady growth and prosperity; each period goes through five phases: Read the rest of this entry »

Anyone who travelled in the Northeast US in the first two weeks of February has a story to tell – I heard a few in crowded trains and lounges. For example, in the midst of the blizzard, many of the eateries in Philadelphia shut down (imagine that!), and hotels did their best to serve their clients even with limited staff, many of whom had to overnight on the properties. By and large, no one complained, and there was a sense that we were all in this together.  

My intercity travel was by train and I found the Amtrak on-board and station personnel both helpful and cheerfully positive as they dealt with passengers trying to get somewhere in the face of cancelled and delayed trains. Read the rest of this entry »

Once again, I find myself flabbergasted at service levels in the midst of the worst recession most of us have ever seen.  In my post How not to make a sale, I describe how a retailer drove us from a physical establishment after we had committed to buy. But it appears that direct retail operations are also not immune mistakes in organization, job design and incentives that result in lousy service.  Read the rest of this entry »

Hay Group‘s research on the Fortune Most Admired Companies shows that those who make the matrix work get results: better and faster decisions. The seemingly simple trick is getting managers to act in the best interests of the company as a whole, not just maximizing their own results.

But this has implications for jobs, rewards, behaviors, culture and structure. Most critical: command-and-control management styles must give way to collaboration and cooperation. To crack the matrix code, organizations must: Read the rest of this entry »

Since 2005, Hay Group has researched the Best Companies for Leadership. In previous years our research focused on understanding how organizations were planning on meeting the impending leadership shortage, driven by growth in emerging markets coinciding with the retirement of the baby boomer generation. Read the rest of this entry »

Thanks to my Hay Group colleague Scott Spreier, who has done a lot of work with CEOs, for this guest post. NOTE – since the original posting, I’ve received a number of partisan comments, which was far from our intent; we were really looking at how leaders communicate and so, to be fair, we are going to code one of Reagan’s early term speeches for comparison. Stay tuned…
__________

Memo to senior executives in the finance and auto industry:

Regardless of your political persuasion, before you leave the office today have your assistant print out a copy of President Obama’s Cairo speech. When you get home, pour yourself a Scotch, pull it out of your briefcase, and read it – slowly and carefully. It may be the most productive time you’ve spent all day. There’s a lot you can learn from the President on how to talk to the public and regain your credibility. Read the rest of this entry »

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