A Business Perspective on Apple’s Latest MacBook Event

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If you’re interested in the tech world at all, you’re no doubt aware that Apple recently announced the 2016 MacBook Pro – something the company is calling “the best laptop ever made.” Indeed, it’s a unit with a technical specification sheet that can’t help but impress. Objectively, it likely will go down in history as the best laptop the company has released to date. However, some users are suggesting that Apple may be losing the balance between “user experience” and “marketing” in a way that is a bit unfavorable to their end goals.

The 2016 MacBook Pro

The new MacBooks don’t have a standard USB port at all, getting rid of them in favor of the new (and admittedly superior) USB-C. This is a great step towards a much more productive future, but it’s at the expense of the fact that we’re not quite at that future just yet. Case in point: the new iPhone 7 does not have a USB-C port at all. Instead, it uses Apple’s proprietary lightning cable.

This means that if you own both devices and just want to do something as simple as charge your iPhone with your MacBook, you need to purchase an external adapter. To be clear, this is not “the end of the world.” The MacBook Pro is still powerful; it can still be used with the brand new iPhone. However, what used to be a one-step process now requires two, as well as a purchase of additional hardware. This is contrary to the popular mantra of “design for the user experience first, marketing second.” This is the very same mantra Apple built its reputation on.

What Would Steve Jobs Say About All This?

Never one to shy away from “rattling a few cages,” this is one particular case where we don’t actually have to wonder what Steve Jobs may have thought about the steps that modern day Apple just took with the MacBook. He may have actually said it himself, in an interview conducted in the 1990s.

In an interview for the PBS documentary “Triumph of the Nerds,” Steve Jobs talked about how important sales and marketing people are to an organization, but how it’s equally important to keep them separate from the product development process. His argument was that all too often, products go from offering a great, easy experience to being “great and easy… to market.” Innovation, usability, and the overall experience tend to suffer as a result.

In that interview, Jobs said:

“… the people who make the company more successful are the sales and marketing people, and they end up running the companies. And the ‘product people’ get run out of the decision-making forums. The companies forget how to make great products. The product sensibility and product genius that brought them to this monopolistic position gets rotted out by people running these companies who have no conception of a good product vs. a bad product.”
Contrary to popular belief, Steve Jobs didn’t hold an “anti-marketing” stance at all. He supported marketers, and with good reason. Under his watch his own marketing team created some of the most successful campaigns of all time. What Jobs was warning against was the idea that you should always design a product or service for the customer first, and then turn it over to the marketing people to do what they do. When marketing is considered an extension of the product development phase, the positive qualities that brought you to your current position in the first place are often lost.


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Tips for Nurturing Existing Sales Leads

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While bringing new leads into your business is always important, sometimes it’s not the “be all, end all” solution to your bottom line. Remember that according to most statistics, an incredible 90% of new prospects are merely in the “browsing” stage of their relationship with your company – meaning that they’re not quite ready to buy. Out of every new lead you bring into your business, only 5% are ready to pull the trigger – if that. While you may think this means you have to work harder to bring in a higher volume of leads (this is a numbers game, after all), try a different approach. Don’t forget about the leads you already have.

If you want to get better at nurturing your existing sales leads to get them ready for that ever-important purchase, you’ll want to keep a few key things in mind.

You Are an Authority. Don’t Forget This

When people think about nurturing leads, one of the qualities required for a solid relationship is one of trust. Never forget that you’re not just selling a product or service – you’re also selling yourself. People are a lot more willing to spend money with your company if they trust that you know what you’re talking about.

Don’t JUST hit your prospects with sales materials over and over again; this isn’t lead nurturing, this is badgering. Instead, try sending helpful, well-researched content in their direction as well. You need to be focused on establishing that you know what you’re talking about. People aren’t just going to take your word for it. When you spend time positioning yourself as an authority and focusing on the other qualities of lead nurturing as well, people will begin to see you as the solution to their problem when they do feel comfortable enough to buy.

Don’t Just Make Contact When You Have Something to Sell

One of the biggest mistakes that a businessperson can make involves only remembering that a lead exists when you need to increase your sales numbers for a particular quarter. Nurturing leads requires you to keep in mind that you’re talking about more than just line items on a balance sheet – prospects are living, breathing people who don’t like to feel used.

As a result, make an effort to reach out to a few of your potentially higher quality leads even if you’re not pushing a new product or service. Thanks to the power of social media, this is easier than ever. Even a quick Facebook message on a birthday or at Christmas will go a long way towards strengthening (and increasing the ultimate value of) your relationship.
These are just a few of the many reasons why it is so important to nurture your existing sales leads. None of this is to say that you should stop focusing on bringing in new leads and turn 100% of your attention on existing ones. As always, success requires you to strike a delicate balance between the two. But if you let the majority of your existing leads lay dormant for too long, you’re burning a lot more than just potentially important relationships. You’re leaving a lot of money on the table at the same time.


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Inspiring Company Cultures: A Great Place to Work

business people fun playing office chair race man push woman colleagues casual group competitive team

How often do you dread coming to work in the morning? Even for business owners who love what they do, sometimes getting out of bed and coming to work can be a chore. Putting a priority on developing a company culture that inspires your employees to have fun at work can help take the dreariness out of the everyday mundane. While not all businesses have a budget to implement all of these ideas, you can find some creative juice from what these companies have put in place to make their workers enjoy the workplace.

What Makes a Great Place to Work?

Sparks, a marketing company, creates activities that make work fun for their employees. Some of the activities they have implemented include:

  • Mix & Mingle – A program that coordinates employees from different departments having lunch together.
  • Food4Thought – Focuses on lunchtime presentations from various departments and what they are doing.
  • Events – Creating parties for holidays and other occasions.

Encourage Staff to Get Up Out of Their Chairs

Limeade, an employee engagement platform, tries to get their workers out of their chairs by using standing desks, walking meetings, puzzle stations, coloring stations, fitness challenges, and even Nerf wars.

Let Employees Play Games

TinyPULSE, a performance review company, has office games that the staff play together to relax and de-stress throughout the day. Two of their favorite games are Werewolf and Eat Poop, You Cat. These games can be played by the entire staff at short intervals one at a time. Team members can take a few moments away from their job to have a bit of fun. You can find instructions for the two games at the links below:

Create Activities that Employees Can Enjoy After Work

SnackNation, a healthy snack company, designs activities for employees that they can do after work or on weekends. Most of those activities involve fitness at some level. Activities include going offsite to nearby parks such as Big Bear, scooter races in the parking lot, yoga in the office, boot camps, and Friday Happy Hours.

How Can You Develop Your Company Culture?

Even small companies can develop their business culture to bring employees together and make work more enjoyable. It doesn’t take a large budget to implement some of these ideas. While you may not be able to sponsor a weekend trip, you can certainly add some games into your day that only take a few moments away from the stress of work. You can find a lot of unique team-building games on the internet with a quick Google search, many of which take minimal money to run. Some take only a piece of paper and a pen. These types of games help your staff solidify by laughing together, and they will feel more comfortable working together later on. Additionally, work can be stressful. Taking the stress away will help staff become happier at work which will give them the incentive to stay with your company longer.

You can implement team lunches to share employee recognition or talk about what is going on in the company. You can also help employees build camaraderie with lunch-time sports. Think about how you can make small changes to create a positive, fun atmosphere in your workplace. If your staff is having fun, that attitude will translate to your customers who will enjoy coming into your office.

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Remaining Competitive in Business by Attracting Top Talent to Your Organization

Horseshoe magnet attracting new talents over white background, 3D conceptual image for illustration of talent acquisition strategy or recruitment.

Make no mistake about it: one of the biggest keys that you have regarding remaining competitive in a crowded marketplace isn’t the work that you’re doing, per say. It’s the people who are doing the work in the first place. By attracting top tier talent to your business, you affect the entire enterprise from the top down in a number of positive ways. Thankfully, actually getting the attention of these mythical “perfect” employees is a lot easier than you might think – provided that you keep a few things in mind.

Attracting Talent is One Thing – Keeping Them is Another

Many people believe that attracting top talent to a business is something akin to a sports draft. So long as you throw as much money at a person as possible, they’ll definitely come to work for you, right?

Maybe.

Getting a hugely talented person to work for you is really quite easy. Getting them to stick around is easier said than done. Studies have shown that people are willing to switch jobs not because they’ll make more money in a new position, but because they’ll be happier. According to a report published in the New York Times, when a person’s household income exceeds $75,000 per year, it really does nothing to improve the overall level of satisfaction that they feel. They don’t lead happier, more enjoyable or less stressful lives – at least not as far as money is concerned.

What this means is that if you’re offering a top tier employee $85,000 per year in an environment that they’ll ultimately not fit into versus a competitor who is offering $75,000 per year in a place that they would love to work in, that $10,000 ultimately doesn’t buy you as much leeway as you might think – if it buys you any at all.

Essentially, if you want to remain competitive by attracting top talent to your organization, you have to create the type of organization that top talent actually wants to work for. This means that your company culture needs to be welcoming and enjoyable. Your leadership needs to be more than just people high on the totem pole with fancy job titles – they need to be people worth following. The work that you’re doing needs to be something worth pouring your blood, sweat, and tears into. Whether this means continually rewarding employees for hitting certain productivity goals, profit sharing, a second-to-none benefits package or something else entirely remains to be seen – the answer will vary on a case-by-case basis.

The underlying point is crystal clear, though, – picture the employee you want to attract and make sure that your business is a place where that person might want to work. You essentially do the same thing with your marketing campaigns and buyer personas, so when you start to think of it in those terms it really isn’t that hard at all.

The Snake Eating Its Tail

At that point, attracting top talent to your organization becomes something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. By going out of your way to create the type of company culture and environment that top-tier talent want to work for, you’re in turn creating a better business and ultimately a better product at the exact same time. The competitive advantage that you’ve gained and the quality of the work that you’re turning out then go a long way towards attracting even more hugely talented people to your business, which essentially starts the process all over again.

Making this one decision to shift your focus towards creating the type of business that people can’t help but want to work for creates a snowball effect of positive results for nearly everybody involved. Talented people flock to your organization and don’t even dream of looking anywhere else for a job. Customers become more than satisfied with the work you’re producing as your employees are putting their heart and soul into everything that you do. This, in turn, feeds back into your business by way of increased revenue and profits, creating a situation where literally everyone wins. Doesn’t that sound like the type of environment you’d like to create for yourself?

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Bridge the Gap to a Successful Resolution

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In its simplest context, a bridge is a solution for getting from point A to point B. The best bridge is one that accomplishes that task with the least amount of difficulty. But bridges, even the metaphorical symbolic ones, come in all shapes and sizes.

In northern India, the roots of the banyan fig tree are used by the indigenous population to form bridges across ravines and streams. As solutions to problems, these living root bridges are quite successful. It is not known who first built these amazing structures, but the trees are known to live for more than 500 years. With that knowledge, at least as far as bridges are concerned, you don’t have to worry too much about the decay of your infrastructure.

These aerial roots grow perfectly well in the air, and the young pliable roots are trained to travel through hollowed out tree trunks laid across whatever must be crossed. The process can take up to 15 years, but once the roots attach themselves to the other side, the bridge is usable and simply must mature with a hardening of the roots to become fully functional. Some of the best solutions take time, but if you have one that is going to perform for 500 years, you have a pretty good solution.

Exemplifying another kind of bridge, in 2014, the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland, received an award of distinction for its leadership in the areas of diversity and inclusiveness. In fact, the award presented by the Greater Baltimore Committee is actually called the Bridging the Gap Award.

Led by Dr. Richard Bennett, Bayview’s Diversity Council was recognized as one of the nation’s top ten such councils. In this case, bridging the gap involved uniting business interests with community interests with the bridge of commitment toward generating summer employment for minority students pursuing health care and life sciences careers. Bayview was also recognized for its efforts to support leadership initiatives among the medical center’s under-represented minority and female staff members.

One of the most innovative and successful business leaders to emerge in the past 50 years was Steve Jobs. One of the primary problems he routinely addressed was how to do business with a focus not on his product, but on the utility of that product, and how clients received and used that product. Steve Jobs was focused on people, not products. As a result, his energy was poured into solving the problems of people rather than solving the problems of making products.

Clearly one of his biggest success stories was the iPhone, as it performed the functions of three or four machines with one device. That solves a people problem creating a bridge between multiple needs and utility. But it didn’t stop there for Jobs. He went further by creating an environment in which the iPhone was not merely an industry leader. Other companies in that industry were creating applications to use on his iPhone. In essence, he created an ecosystem in which his product sales were now being driven by other companies through their software marketed specifically for the iPhone. Steve Jobs built a bridge between multiple needs of people and the obvious solution to those many needs with a single product. And then, he widened the bridge by getting other companies to basically market his product for him.

Business has always been about solving problems. The best bridges solve problems the most effectively. Like the famous folk-rock group Simon and Garfunkel said in their Grammy-winning song, “like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down.” Successful bridges make the journey over troubled water a much easier task.

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