Monthly Archives: September 2011

Alan Weiss Interview – Serving on Non Profit Boards is Good Business

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DASM: The Big Squeeze

(DASM= Dumb ass, stupid management)

The Big Squeeze

Outstanding businesses attempt to improve and increase their value to customers, thereby enabling higher prices/fees and enhanced customer loyalty and referral business.

But if you walk out the door these days, you’re not in any danger of tripping over those outstanding businesses.

Here are just a few examples of what airlines have done:

• Reduced amenities.

• Increased annoying charges for meals, luggage, leg room, etc.

• Penalized customers who choose to deal with people and not computers.

• Decreased ticket flexibility and change options.

And banks:

• Implemented fees for merely holding our money.

• Eliminated amenities such as free checking.

• Reduced services and hours at local branches.

• Increased fees for typical services (e.g., stop payments).

And newspapers:

• Annoying stick-on ads on front pages which must be removed.

• Charging for obituary notices.

• Increased charges for home delivery.

• Reduced news space and news influenced by advertisers.

And credit card companies:

• Increased monthly fees.

• Reduced billing cycle times requiring faster payment.

• Draconian penalties for missing a payment date or minimum amount.

• Interest rates far higher than economically necessary.

I could go on, but I have space limitations. Stupid management takes the constant position of regarding the customer both as a problem and an ATM. (“This business would be great if it weren’t for the customers.”) I remember interviewing a candidate for managing director of a theater company. “Why did the theater you left almost go bankrupt?” I asked. “Because,” he immediately responded, “the  audience was biased and didn’t understand out offerings.”

Oh. But you can’t fire an audience, can you?

Enlightened leadership understands the obligation to increase value. Dumb-ass, stupid leadership simply strives to perpetuate the enterprise, meaning you cut services and exploit the customers. (If you’ve been flying airlines and dealing with banks and DON’T feel exploited, you have a higher threshold of outrage than I do.)

For consultants, the opportunity is clear and so is the challenge. First, find prospects and buyers who believe in value and investing in business. Eschew those who want to squeeze the customer and sell the conference tables.

Second, when you find clients sliding into reducing its value for any reason, tell your buyers you have just three words for them: Bank of America. Amadeo Giannini would be spinning in his grave, but I think there’s an extra charge for spinning these days.

© Alan Weiss 2011. All rights reserved.

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The Adventures of Koufax and Buddy Beagle

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Million Dollar Club Meets in Stresa, Lago Maggiore, Italy

I’ve published some of the findings from this fourth annual meeting, and more will come. Courtesy of Chad Barr, here are some glimpses of the meeting.

Left to right: Guido Quelle, Susanne Quelle, Suzanne Bates, Drew Yarro, Maria Weiss, Alan Weiss, Chad Barr, Stuart Cross, Phil Symchych, Kerri Symchych, Wendy Nour, David Nour

Getting my hair cut while eating pasts at Il Taverno di Poppagallo.

One of the restaurants and the view from the Aminta Resort.

Typical crowd at the parking lot. That Bentley in the foreground is the same color as mine, but has a smaller engine.

Chad and I at the poolside reception.

Chad, Stuart, Phil, Kerri, Guido, Susanne.

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Episode 61: Sandbox

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House Growth

Since my daughter, her husband, and our grandchildren moved up to Rhode Island from New York, the lovely Maria (TLM) told me we no longer had to buy a new home close to them. I had nine seconds of joy until she told me we’re refurbishing our house. Some of the changes while we were in italy:

The living room and dining room are about 85% complete. That's a temporary dog-proofing fence.

Leading up stairs. You can see Koufax's blanket on the couch below.

Two wine racks, one on each side of the breakfront. Bottom right are exquisite reds.

I was happy in Capri!

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Guest Column: Herding Cats

Todd Ordal is a member of Alan’s Private Roster Mentor Program and a graduate of the Million Dollar Consulting®  College.

Herding Cats

No Win Assignments

By Todd Ordal

As I came upstairs from my basement office the other morning for Round 2 with the coffee machine, my wife yelled, “Come here, I need your help!” I dutifully responded and found her wearing exercise garb and straddling her bike just outside the front door. “You need to go tell Ike to come home,” she said. “He’s over there about to get into a fight, and I’m late for my exercise class!”

“Are you nuts?” I said as she rode off. But Ike was making demonic noises about 3 feet away from my neighbor’s window, and it was 7 a.m. So I felt obligated.

As you probably guessed, Ike is a cat. We adopted him from the Humane Society, and he was a hurricane cat. By that I mean the Humane Society rounded up animals during hurricane Ike and sent them around the country, ergo his name Ike. The society must have found Ike in a dark alley beating up some other cats (maybe even some people), because he has the heart of a lion and the temperament of Attila the Hun.

Back to my cat-herding assignment … I hadn’t shaved, my hair looked like Kramer’s from Seinfeld and I was wearing a T-shirt that a Salt Lake City friend sent me, emblazoned with “Polygamy Porter/Bring Some Home for the Wives/Why have just one?” I find it a terribly funny T-shirt, but I’ve been told not to wear it in public (I was not told to refrain from talking about it in public). Off I went to try to reason with Ike to drop his belligerent behavior and come home. You can imagine how successful I was.

No-win assignments are handed out all day long in most companies, resulting in wasted talent, squandered dollars, frustrated bosses and even more frustrated workers. I now have the luxury of working with only those whom I chose to work with on assignments with clear and achievable objectives. I’m self-employed.

Those not at the top of the heap are sometimes asked to “catch a hurricane,” and there may be situations where they cannot change that. However, the most successful executives whom I work with, whether CEO or a notch or two down the ladder, have a “self-employed” attitude, even though a company employs them. This doesn’t mean they’re not committed. It does mean, however, that they expect rewarding, ethical work where they can add value. And they’ll do what they can to ensure that this takes place, even if they have to leave the firm.

What can you do to minimize no-win assignments? Ask three penetrating questions:

  1. Clarify objectives. “Exactly what are we trying to achieve, and how does it tie to our vision and strategy?”
  2. Define how to measure success. “How will we know if we won?”
  3. Ask, “What value will we achieve?” Remember OMV: objectives, measures and value. A brilliant guy named Alan Weiss taught me this simple concept years ago, and it helped me dramatically increase my clients’ levels of success. If you can instill this discipline in your company, you’ll achieve the same.

Copyright 2011 Todd Ordal

Todd Ordal is President of Applied Strategy LLC. Todd helps CEOs achieve better financial results, become more effective leaders and sleep easier at night. He speaks, writes, consults and advises on issues of strategy and leadership. Todd is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000. He is a Certified Management Consultant® and a Certified Professional Coach. You can reach Todd at 303-527-0417 or

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In Case You Were Wondering What I Was Thinking

• Why do airlines charge more at the last minute when they should want to fill empty seats, and less far in advance, when they’re giving people more choice and options?

• Hotels are more frequently using independent audio/video companies, which are separate profit centers, so you’re dealing with more expense and less flexibility. I was recently cited a charge of $25 “to connect your music to our sound system.”

• Seriously, your mattress is looking better and better as a depository, since banks are now charging monthly fees merely to hold your money, pay no interest, are eliminating free checking, are strangling new credit, and even charge for deposits in many cases. I might buy an old Holiday Inn just to let people keep money under the beds. At least they won’t be losing any of it while it’s there.

• The reason that awards categories now include “best revival” is that the originality in the theater has diminished to an all-time low. I’m waiting for “best derivative work not obviously stolen.”

• People who scurry to buy url addresses that they think they can resell later to someone whose work is related to the name, remind me of scalpers who buy good seats with the intent of reselling them at a premium later. That’s illegal in a lot of places, and it’s not exactly a huge value-contribution to society.

• Be careful. With the advent of the iPhone and social media platforms, the odds are that both a video camera and audio recorder are present, and what they record can be instantly broadcast.

• If you tell one other person, you no longer have a “secret.”

• The expectation of retirement at 65 is absurd, not because of finances and recession, but because it’s so boring and useless.

• In Italy, you don’t take your shoes off going through security, nor take out liquids. Are they daredevils, ahead of the US technologically, or merely less paranoid?

• Watch the new show “Pan Am.” That’s very much how it used to be. Pan Am was a client, and I often had stewardesses in my training programs. I can remember flying a Pan Am 747 from New York to San Francisco in first class at a special rate because they were introducing the new plane on that route. Flying to Australia, we all used to rush up the stairs to the piano bar to grab a couch seat. I kid you not.

• If you’re not sure where you’re really headed, stop trying so hard to get there, and spend some time identifying your personal destination. (Note to the airlines: “Final destination” is redundant.)

• When I was young, the leading industries were steel, auto, rubber, and textile If you think that’s an aberration, think of newspapers, banks, and airlines today, powerhouses no more.

• When every prospect attempts to get a deal from you, or refuses to call you back, then you’re doing something wrong, not them. When every CEO the board chooses turns out to be a disaster at Hewlett-Packard, it’s the board’s deficiency, not the candidates’. The entire HP board ought to be prosecuted for malfeasance.

© Alan Weiss 2011. All rights reserved.

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Million Dollar Consulting® College

We now have 12 people representing 6 countries. There is still time to register and participate in the October 31 event in Newport. The only other College currently scheduled is in South Africa in March, 2012.

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Talent Synthesis

My observation is that a “talent synthesis” is going to be required by all types of businesses in the years ahead. By that I mean that executives are going to have to identify the types of talent, sources of talent, and relationships with talent that are optimal to maximize the impact of products, services, relationships, and resultant profit.

The recession and volatility of the times have created a conservatism about investment and growth. Large staffs and concomitant overhead aren’t prudent—in fact, they’re frightening. From the employees’ perspective, the daily likelihood of reduced benefits, lower salaries, and minimal job security create an intelligent demand for more personal control over one’s destiny than is currently in danger of a scary call to visit human resources first thing in the morning.

Organizations require outside talent, because the residual talent within the firm’s four walls has been vastly reduced and, truthfully, much of it is far more economical on a temporary rather than permanent basis. That’s why the future is so rich for consultants—very few organizations can justify internal consulting and organization development staffs, which were far more the norm a decade or so ago.

I think the talent synthesis looks like this:

  1. Residual Talent: These are the people worth investing in on a full-time basis. Insurance companies require actuaries and underwriters, coffees shops require whatever a “barrista” is.
  2. Technical Talent: These are “pairs of hands” as opposed to trusted advisors. They are stereotypically the IT people writing code or the trainers hired to deliver a seminar. They are told what to do and complete tasks.
  3. External Expertise: These are consultants who are trusted advisors and most obvious to be requested. They might include local people on retainer, trusted by the buyer, or a “name” consulting firm which is expert in a field in which the buyer craves security (and justification to the board).
  4. External Extraordinary Expertise: These are consultants specially sought out because of their intellectual property, body of work, public profile, and so on. These people can demand a premium fee. They are considered important and even “status” investments.
  5. Client Synergy: There will be more and more occasion to embrace customers and clients in issues such as design, delivery, customization, support, and so forth. We’re seeing this daily with forums, chat rooms, and web sites supported by companies urging their customers to offer suggestions. (I design new offerings based on the participants in, knowing that I have a ready audience and no risk in the development investment.)
  6. Serendipity: Just as chemists frequently claim they invented the wrong thing that serves a better purpose (Post-It® Notes), organizations will find that varied combinations of the above five sources will produce innovation and improvement that can be harvested.

Someone will have to help organize and coordinate these resources. I doubt it will be an internal department. It may well be by default. But it may also be an ideal opportunity for those in category 3 above to add still more value by establishing criteria and metrics to maximize these new talent opportunities.

My own view is that those organizations that can best access and utilizes all six will race to the front of their markets.

© Alan Weiss 2011. All rights reserved.

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