Feature Articles: Business Sense

Are you over them yet? I know it seems awfully early in the new year to be discussing things we’re sick of, but if you’re like me, you’ve already had enough of the “year’s best” lists. For everything from music and books to political gaffes and viral gifs, there’s someone somewhere choosing the winners and losers from the previous 365 days. And just when you think you’ve seen the last of them, the calendar rolls over to January 1st and out come the how-to lists, promising ways to make the next year amazing. Well, as the saying goes, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

As a consultant with a focus in marketing, I have to admit I struggle with the topic of this article. Ultimately though, success comes to those companies who have of all of their business functions performing at optimal levels. With the advent of the Internet and social media, consumers are now much more savvy, and some are skeptical of marketers. That’s why I say, “You can’t hang your hat on marketing alone to drive growth.” The other functions — product development, finance and leadership — are equally important to the success of a business.

In late October, Hurricane Sandy slammed into the New York City metropolitan area, Long Island and New Jersey, leaving coastal communities ravaged. Thousands of homes and businesses were damaged; many were destroyed. Unable to open for business, must employers still pay employees for not coming to work? Many employers suffered business closures or interruptions. The public transportation system shut down and the gas shortage meant employees could not get to work. So, as an employer, what are the rules? Should you pay or not pay?

With one in seven people on the planet using Facebook®, everyone pretty much knows that they should have some sort of presence on the popular social media site, but many are not sure just how to make the most of this opportunity. After conducting research on this topic for the last 18 months, I would like to share my personal experiences from a Facebook business page that I created and how those lessons learned might translate to your company pages.

Abraham Maslow, well known for the creation of his hierarchy of needs chart, managed to delineate in five steps all the needs of humanity. He starts with the most basic, physical needs including food, water and clothing and then progresses up through safety, love and esteem to what he calls self actualization. In the marketplace there are products to address and capitalize on these needs. Those products meeting the needs of the categories higher up on the chart can command a greater price because theoretically, they are harder to achieve. Knowing where your product is on the physical to emotional spectrum helps to direct how you communicate your product to the marketplace.

Lately I’ve been allowing my sweet tooth to make more and more of my eating decisions. Cupcakes in particular are a personal favorite. And clearly I’m not alone. The cupcake business continues to boom with new bakeshops popping up on every street corner. We certainly don’t need them to survive, so why are we consuming them at such a high rate? Obviously we’re addicted to the sugar rush, but there’s more to it. It seems the bakery industry has developed the perfect recipe for cooking up demand. And it’s time for other industries — ours included — to take note. Because let’s face it, no one needs anything brands are selling.

Wouldn’t we all like to see into the future and know exactly how successful our businesses are going to be? Forecasting sales demand is not that different than trying to forecast the weather; even when all indicators point to one likely outcome, something could happen to change everything in an instant. So what is a manager to do? Well, like most meteorologists you can hedge your forecast success with historical and present day data, and then use that information to make an educated guess.

There are certain brands that are considered “lifestyle” brands: Apple, Harley Davidson and Louis Vuitton for example. These brands evoke a particular image in the mind of the consumer. This image speaks to the type of person who uses these brands. We are told what they like to do, what they value and even the places they like to go. There’s no question that these companies have a delineated voice that expresses quite distinctly who they are to the public and how they relate. Not every brand has a clear voice, and those that don’t suffer for it.

For years, the symbiotic relationship between companies and unpaid interns was routine. Although they worked alongside paid employees, and often performed tasks required of the paid employees, interns were not paid, and they did not (outwardly) complain about their arrangement. Unfortunately for employers, in many cases unpaid interns are entitled to wages for the hours they work, and even more problematically, are beginning to file and participate in lawsuits to get what they are owed. Each day, employers see the effects of workers and their attorneys aggressively pursuing unpaid wages under federal and state wage and hour laws…