Wednesday, January 25, 2012

SERIOUSLY? Bob discusses work/life balance, throws a question out to readers and offers a free lunch...

I'm a big proponent of a positive work/life balance. When I got married I was also carving out the future of my career. One of the things my wife and I agreed upon was that we would always take time to enhance our personal life together and balance it with our work life. We agreed to have dinner together every evening, and when kids came along, they became part of the nightly ritual of the family dinner and, as the kids  grew older, we shared in their sports and other extra-curricular activities. We still maintain a balance to ensure our personal life is equal to the time spent with work, even if it means working after hours at my home office so that the family can spend some dinner and after dinner time together. I learned, early on, that our personal lives can be a great way to relieve the stressors in our work life.

That's not to say I don't think work can -- and should -- be fun. The culture at Shamrock is to try not to take the stressors of the work day too seriously. After all, we're not in the business of curing cancer. We're trying to help people market and sell their products more successfully. It's work that's enjoyable, enriching and, at times, very rewarding.  Doing a good job at work is serious, but we can certainly approach our day with a sense of enjoyment, and at times, even wonderment.

As I've often said, I think of employees as family, and we care about them as family. That's why, over the years, we've developed a culture at Shamrock that helps make coming to work pleasurable. Among the things we do to stay in touch are monthly meetings that include all Shamrock employees. Our culture club includes employee volunteers from every department, who help us to define the culture we want to instill in the workplace family. And, like a family, everyone has the freedom to express his or her opinion and make suggestions.

The last few years have been difficult for anyone in business. Some days work wasn't as much fun as I'd like it to be. But we've managed to overcome the worst days and I see far brighter days ahead.

Part of staying close with my work family (which includes employees, customers and vendors) has always been to ask questions for an open dialogue. It's part of staying in touch with one another and finding out what issues are important. This week, I have a question for you: "How do you manage your work and life in order to keep a sense of balance that's comfortable for you?"

I look forward to your answers. We'll choose the best answer, post it, and the winner will be invited to talk with me about his or her personal and professional plans over a private lunch. I look forward to hearing from you! 

Friday, January 20, 2012


Winning in business today is the game of three:
1.  Using social media as part of your communication tool box
2.  Incorporating new technology into the equation
3. Making sure your business is up to speed and that you understand how to best use 1 and 2

In some ways, it's a tougher game. Just learning all the right social media moves and what tech tools will help keep your business floating above the near drowning overflow seems like a job in and of itself. But the good news is that now there is so much more access to information, which helps make the job easier.

I'd like to share an article I found online the other day. It discusses how emerging technologies can help businesses gain greater insight and new customers (Emerging Tech Trends). The article cites several trends that will quickly impact how we do business, including social, next-gen mobile, cloud, consumerization, and big data. I'd like to focus on smart mobility and HTML 5, discussed in this worthwhile post, since we're presently considering these two for customers.

Mobile phone apps as an enterprise tool are quite common today. But you may be surprised to hear that up to 96% of enterprise tablet activations in 2011 were iPads.  And that's just the tip of the iceberg. According to this Emerging Tech Trends post, "Social business efforts must make platform an equal citizen, and in many, if not most, cases go mobile first.  Oncoming rapidly however are technologies such as near-field communications or NFC, which will make location-context, payments, and gamification much easier. In terms of social media, NFC is going to make check-ins on location-based social networks like FourSquare even simpler, enable single-gesture product comparisons in stores, and even make friending each other less of a hassle by simply tapping smart devices together."  Right now, we have customers getting ready to take mobile apps to the next level. Are you ready?

The second big thing everyone's talking about is HTML 5. It almost makes the web competitive with the current crop of proprietary mobile platforms such as iOS, Android, and Blackberry OS. It does this by adding much of what is missing from a common browser, such as location, local storage, video and audio streaming.  In the near future, those of us building or acquiring social apps will likely have to deliver them in HTML 5 to reach the widest number of users with the richest form of functionality. Ready yet?

Thursday, January 12, 2012


We're always seeking ways to do outstanding work and stay connected with our Customers. In fact, we've decided our second resolution for 2012 is Taking Communication to the Next Level to Amaze Our Customers. And by the way, our employees are considered Customers too, since they are the first line of communication to the community, our vendors, and of course, our business-to-business associates.

I believe the best way to amaze Customers through excellent communication includes three important steps:

1.  Stay connected / Stay involved. The only way to find out how we're doing and if we can do it better is to ask.  And that requires honest, straightforward, face-to-face communication with all of our Customers. It also includes using new forms of communication to know what our Customers are thinking.
2. Ask Questions. "What's new? What are some of the business problems you're facing right now? What areas of spending in your business do you foresee increasing or decreasing?”
3. Always be ready to help Customers find solutions. "Here's how we/I can help."

Last week I spoke about our first resolution: How we will use social media as a communication tool. Social media is a great way to communicate with Customers and share ideas. I'm not saying we should ignore picking up the phone and talking with Customers, or sharing a good idea with your Shamrock peers. Actually, I think a phone call to a business associate or a walk down the hall to talk with a co-worker is a great method of connecting and communicating. But social media gives us a chance to connect and share ideas, trends, and new concepts with so many more people at one time. Without connecting there is no amazing.  In the 20th Century "old days", we called this information gathering. It still is, and it still works.

Information gathering is a great way to reveal new ideas and share them with Customers. In the upcoming months we'll be asking you questions, gathering your thoughts, and sharing them, using social media, email, and face-to-face communication, as well.

Taking Our Communication to the Next Level to Amaze Our Customers takes many forms and fills many gaps. One form is recognizing a job well done. In the next week or so we'll be announcing an exciting new employee recognition program, intended to reward employees who go the extra step to find ways to connect, communicate and amaze our Customers, whether they're our co-workers, our vendors, or our business-to-business associates. So, here's a question for you: How does your company recognize employees? Please let us know by responding to this post or on our Facebook page, and we'll pick the most interesting response and reward the winner with a gift.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Making business resolutions is no different than making personal resolutions. For any resolution to stick it should be:
1. Specific
2.  Measurable
3.  Actionable
4.  Realistic
5. Time bound
6. Written down

Let me give you an example. In 2012, Shamrock has specifically resolved to expand the ways in which we communicate with our customers. Our plan to achieve this and measure its success in 2012 will be accomplished by integrating our messages through all forms of  social media. Why? Because social media gives Shamrock the opportunity to reach customers in ways that are meaningful to them. whether it's Facebook, Twitter, a blog post or email, we know that everyone has their favorite way to receive information. So, we're relying on all the communication touch points in 2012 to provide useful information and receive feedback from our customers.

We resolve to make our social media more actionable. We'll do this in two ways. In 2012 you'll find that our Facebook and blog posts will be more conversational. We'll be asking questions, taking polls and offering informative statistics. And we'll rely on getting your answers by using the oldest tactic in marketing: incentives. (Yes, you'll have to read our blog posts and friend us on Facebook to check out how we'll be using incentives that will reward respondents with prizes.)

Is this resolution (by the way, it is a written plan)realistic? I believe so, because we specifically designed our new communication and feedback strategy to define our service offerings so that we can find new ways to help our customers approach challenges using inventive tools and, hopefully, turn those very challenges into new and exciting opportunities.

The new year has become synonymous with making resolutions.  What's your top resolution? Does it include the six steps? Nine times out of 10, resolutions don't stick because they're not realistic or they're not specific. Losing weight means nothing. Writing down that you plan to lose five pounds in five months by cutting down on sweets and dairy products and upping your workouts from three to five times a week is specific, achievable, measurable, realistic and time bound. It has a chance to stick around beyond January 31, 2012.