Archive for February, 2014

Hiring ducks and eagles helps build a social business

Posted by on Wednesday, 26 February, 2014

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I posted in September, 2012 about Building a better business: Hiring ducks and eagles for the right jobs. In that post, I explored the personal experience and positive results of team hiring practices that focused on finding the right person for the right job. The net conclusion of that post being: “Hire to your needs, but also to the candidate’s strengths and abilities. It isn’t easy, but the rewards and your future success depend upon it.”

But, I’d like to take that conclusion a step further now, since “future success” is a bit too nebulous for my taste.

From the social business perspective, hiring the ducks and eagles is a critical portion of our success, as people in the right job tend to be more motivated and passionate about what they do. It is this increased level of passion that is such an important building block of success in social business. Without passion, social business just becomes activities that fall flat, and your audiences will pick up on that immediately. Social businesses with passionate employees, however, are thriving and forging new paths in the world around us. It is that passion which drives employees, either on their own or with slight urging, to get out in the social spaces and share their knowledge and excitement with others. While the passion IS infectious, it also needs to be cultivated.

That passion is either fostered or stifled long before the employee ever has opportunity to play in the social spaces. It begins during the hiring process: identifying and hiring to both your needs and the candidate’s abilities right from the get-go builds that foundation to grow your company into the motivated and passionate social business you need. But it also continues through career development as we adjust and shift in this ever-changing landscape of social business: balancing your changing needs with the talent you have can be the difference between stagnation and real business results. 

Ensuring that you are using the right people, with the right skills, in the right places is a critical factor for business success. Leveraging employee skill sets for support calls versus forum engagement versus content creation will help with driving to this level of success. For example, some employees may be better at writing, some better at talking, others might be great in the limelight of virtual social environments, where some may prefer to work behind the scenes. Finding the skills, talents, and strengths within your existing staff and distributing those in the right spaces appropriate to both your needs and the employee’s passion not only motivates and encourages those passions, but enables the company and employee alike to see true results come from their work. Hire a duck for an eagle’s job (or vice versa) and you will stifle that passion. Likewise, put the duck in the right pond and enable the eagle to soar, and that same stifled passion now becomes a raging fire driving both to spread the excitement and achieve results. 

Your audiences can tell the difference between mere activity and authentic excitement, and they will treat your social business accordingly… Can you really afford to not  hire the ducks and eagles?

I’ll leave you once again with the video that inspired both post titles and over-arching topics: You Can’t Send A Duck To Eagle School:
http://play.simpletruths.com/movie/cant-send-a-duck-to-eagle-school/

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Two tenets for a successful social business program

Posted by on Thursday, 13 February, 2014

Guiding LightOwnership, and focus of vision. Those are the two recurring themes I’ve seen these past few years which are necessary to run a successful social business program; both of these will be your guiding light moving forward with any social business strategies or activities.

First up is the idea of ownership. What I mean by this is the transfer of control from a department or project lead to the individuals contributing to social engagement. In most cases this revolves around subject matter experts being enabled and encouraged to participate in their own ways, with their own voices, and around things for which they have passion. Of course, giving people this ownership is easier said than done…. What I have found to be effective is to work directly with people who want to become involved in social business and work with them to define their own vision and purpose. Sometimes that can be a single conversation, from which comes a clarity and inherent ownership over their participation.

Which, of course, leads me into the focus of vision. This discussion of focus actually plays tightly with ownership as the conversations around vision will serve to increase an individual’s personal ownership of their efforts, moving them from an attitude of “additional work” to one of passion and exuberance for engaging in conversation. But what do I mean when I say “focus of vision”? This is a multi-fold idea which can be encapsulated in a few questions posed to anyone who asks me what they should do to become more involved:

Question one: What is your purpose for engaging in social business?
This may sound simple, but the answers can be rather complex. Recall that social business is not an end state, it isn’t a goal in itself, and it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Rather it is a tool that can help you achieve defined business goals or address identified business problems. Once you are able to identify and verbalize the goals you are working to achieve, you will be able to begin looking to see how social business as a tool can work to your benefit. With these goals understood, the clarity of vision, you purpose will begin to permeate your engagement as a framework for everything you do, say, and share. A guiding light, if you will, that keeps you on track and on course to see the results you need.

Question two: Who is your audience?
Your clarity of purpose should help to answer this question as it will narrow your view and begin focusing in on the right people to engage with in order to achieve your goals. If your goal is to improve client satisfaction, then your audience may only be your existing post-sales client base and your efforts focused on helping them with product issues or education. If, however, your business goal is to increase sales, then you can see how your audience cap grows exponentially from post-sales clients to anyone who may be a potential client, as well as maintaining the client base you already have. Knowing with whom you want to engage with socially will go far in helping you to form the right messaging, the right tone, and the right conversations to build towards your end goals.

As an SME, an individual contributor, being able to answer these two questions will take you far in defining your own engagement in social business. With both an understanding of your audience and your vision/goals, you’ll be able to begin seeing the right steps to take, the right ways to engage, the right tone and timber of voice, and use that framework to guide your activities and conversations. More importantly, from a program manager perspective, being able to define those goals and understanding of audience will give your SMEs a deeper sense of ownership and responsibility to engaging in the right ways. It gives them control and over how they engage and serves to help them see their overarching reasons for engaging in the first place.

Of course, as social business program managers, these questions (and answers) should always be at the top of your mind, not only as you are engaging in social conversation, but especially as you are defining your social strategies and activities. They give you the frame-work to know if you should or shouldn’t engage in a particular way, or if a project being presented will be an effective use of your time and resources. If you take nothing else away from this post, let it be this: If someone asks you what they should be doing, or is asking you to take on a social project, make sure they can answer the two questions of goals and audience before going further.

A business ethos that transcends industry

Posted by on Wednesday, 5 February, 2014

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I was recently listening to a podcast via Bet On You in which my friend Ted Pappas was interviewed about  Big Bottom Whiskey and what inspired him to start the business. In this 45 minute conversation (it’s an interview but has a deep conversational tone that Ted cultivates well), he discusses a lot of the early trials and difficulties in the path and choices for the business. But, while I believe early failures are good and critical to success, what I believe is even more important is the latter part of the conversation when he begins discussing more of the ethos and philosophy behind the respect, camaraderie, and cooperative efforts which Big Bottom Whiskey is leading in the industry. Which gives me an opportunity to talk about it from my own perspective not only as a tenant to Big Bottom Whiskey with my own company Tualatin Valley Distilling, but to also expand the ideas beyond just the alcohol industries.

Ted’s ethos is about mutual benefit, respect, and helping others succeed in their passions. It is a direct result of this attitude that Tualatin Valley Distilling is a possibility and as a result of this shared vision, we also strive to help as best we can. As an alternating proprietorship, our visions are aligned and keep us focused on what matters: making great products that we all believe in; working together towards common goals.

It was while listening to Ted in the interview above that I realized our shared ideals, philosophies, and vision wasn’t specific to just the whiskies world. Rather, I started thinking of some big “what-ifs”: What if social business wasn’t seen as a zero-sum game. What if we all worked cooperatively, with a shared ethos of respect and camaraderie as social business professionals, while seeing competition as positive drivers for improvement rather than negatives to be conquered or fought.

What does this look like to a social business professional?
First and foremost it means seeing social business as something other than a marketing tool. Social business is in itself an ethos as well as a tool.
Secondly, the guiding principle of being a social business means engaging in conversations and listening to your audience more than talking  AT  them. It is conversing WITH your audience and building relationships using the tools of social platforms like twitter, google plus, tumblr, Facebook, and others. It is more about relationship management than marketing, working with your clients more than selling to them. It’s about building that community and collective intelligence to move us all forward in our collective and individual goals.

This spirit of cooperation and mutual benefit is alive and well in the Oregon spirits industry, one in which the Oregon Distiller’s Guild is helping to drive the recognition of Oregon products to the benefit of all. It is this same focus, this same attitude which can help redefine what social business does and how we do it.  Ted has proven that the ethos within his business model works (as he touches upon in the podcast about listening to his consumer base), and I am hopeful that my own work in social business can help exemplify how collaborative knowledge sharing can also drive success in both my day job as a global social business strategist as well as a small business co-owner creating products for our local market.

Until that day when my own success stands as self-explanatory, I will continue to drive the open and transparent, collaborative, inclusive, and humanist ethos within all of my work; whether it is in strategy or production. I also hope you’ll jump on board and also adopt a strong collaborative ethos as well… after all, I can’t collaborate alone now can I?

 

image credit:  Some rights reserved by Gauravonomics