Tim Kist

Tim Kist

Columnist

Tim is a certified management consultant with more than two decades of experience in various marketing and sales leadership positions, where he led teams, launched products and services, suffered corporate bumps and bruises and learned a lot of valuable lessons along the way.

Recent articles of Tim Kist

Customers win with marketing and sales harmony

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Customers win with marketing and sales harmony

Tim Kist 5 minute read Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022

Recently, a client asked me about my experiences regarding the relationships between sales and marketing during my business career. I have seen examples of tremendous collaborations and success and, unfortunately, I have also seen testy sales and marketing turf wars, where a referee would have been welcomed. Continuing on last month’s theme that marketing can be a force for good, let’s explore the components of a strong relationship between these two functions.

The marketing function should be the keeper of all things related to customers. This concept of being the central repository of customer knowledge is essential, so all data points can be properly consolidated and shared. It is especially important to remember that this is not so marketing can hoard or hide data from other departments. This is so one department can be the primary caretaker and consolidator of the data and insights in order to better support other corporate functions.

Peter Drucker said, “The aim of marketing is to know the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself.” This statement by the “Dean of modern management” underscores the reason for marketing to be the central repository of all things related to the customer.

However, in order for sales to be successful, marketing must share its insights about customers, competitors and emerging or impactful market trends, so the sales department is well-equipped with the most current data to help affect change for their customers. Sadly, this lack of sharing of information leads to compounded problems and the creation of a “blame game” mentality between the two functions.

Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022

Recently, a client asked me about my experiences regarding the relationships between sales and marketing during my business career. I have seen examples of tremendous collaborations and success and, unfortunately, I have also seen testy sales and marketing turf wars, where a referee would have been welcomed. Continuing on last month’s theme that marketing can be a force for good, let’s explore the components of a strong relationship between these two functions.

The marketing function should be the keeper of all things related to customers. This concept of being the central repository of customer knowledge is essential, so all data points can be properly consolidated and shared. It is especially important to remember that this is not so marketing can hoard or hide data from other departments. This is so one department can be the primary caretaker and consolidator of the data and insights in order to better support other corporate functions.

Peter Drucker said, “The aim of marketing is to know the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself.” This statement by the “Dean of modern management” underscores the reason for marketing to be the central repository of all things related to the customer.

However, in order for sales to be successful, marketing must share its insights about customers, competitors and emerging or impactful market trends, so the sales department is well-equipped with the most current data to help affect change for their customers. Sadly, this lack of sharing of information leads to compounded problems and the creation of a “blame game” mentality between the two functions.

Marketing Positivity – A Force for Customer Good

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Marketing Positivity – A Force for Customer Good

Tim Kist 5 minute read Saturday, Jul. 2, 2022

Some of my recent articles have highlighted aspects of corporate life and poor leadership decisions that negatively impact customers and employees. With so many stories of woe and poor service, and with the barrage of negative economic news these days, I want to bring an element of freshness and enthusiasm that can inspire positive actions for employees as they serve their customers.

A frequent question on quizzes in the marketing classes I teach at the University of Winnipeg asks, “What is the easiest thing for a marketer to accomplish for their product?” And the answer is, “Maintain a positive attitude.”

The concept of marketing positivity gelled with me as I was reading various industry blog posts and articles. There is no real definition that I could find and I believe I may have invented it. When you have a positive mindset, you are able to tackle challenging situations, make necessary alterations to improve performance, and celebrate the excellent work that your employees are doing for your customers.

Research shows that having a positive mental attitude can lift your spirits for extended periods of time. And this attitude becomes contagious. I am not talking about “false chatter” which is just empty words of encouragement. I am talking about a deliberate approach to developing a positive mental attitude about what your company creates and delivers to customers, how you treat customers and employees, and your general corporate responsibility within your community.

Saturday, Jul. 2, 2022

Some of my recent articles have highlighted aspects of corporate life and poor leadership decisions that negatively impact customers and employees. With so many stories of woe and poor service, and with the barrage of negative economic news these days, I want to bring an element of freshness and enthusiasm that can inspire positive actions for employees as they serve their customers.

A frequent question on quizzes in the marketing classes I teach at the University of Winnipeg asks, “What is the easiest thing for a marketer to accomplish for their product?” And the answer is, “Maintain a positive attitude.”

The concept of marketing positivity gelled with me as I was reading various industry blog posts and articles. There is no real definition that I could find and I believe I may have invented it. When you have a positive mindset, you are able to tackle challenging situations, make necessary alterations to improve performance, and celebrate the excellent work that your employees are doing for your customers.

Research shows that having a positive mental attitude can lift your spirits for extended periods of time. And this attitude becomes contagious. I am not talking about “false chatter” which is just empty words of encouragement. I am talking about a deliberate approach to developing a positive mental attitude about what your company creates and delivers to customers, how you treat customers and employees, and your general corporate responsibility within your community.

Focus on your values to deliver customer excellence

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Focus on your values to deliver customer excellence

Tim Kist 5 minute read Saturday, Jun. 4, 2022

These days, most business articles from news sources, major worldwide consultancies, subject-matter experts, academics, and corporate leaders, seem to have a major focus on company values. The primary assertion I see is the focus on corporate values as a key element in corporate identity. This is more than just “finding your why” as author Simon Sinek postulated about a decade ago.

This is supposed to be the essence of the organization. These are the core elements that build the successful culture of a business.

We talk about core values when I lead strategic planning engagements. When I teach courses, establishing values is a part of strategic planning and marketing.

And yet, we still have reports of corporate greed, ethical violations, fraud, corruption, poor labour relations with employees, and various other incidents that make me shake my head. I do not want to dwell on these items — they exist. The bigger question is, “what can be done to improve commitment to core values?”

Saturday, Jun. 4, 2022

These days, most business articles from news sources, major worldwide consultancies, subject-matter experts, academics, and corporate leaders, seem to have a major focus on company values. The primary assertion I see is the focus on corporate values as a key element in corporate identity. This is more than just “finding your why” as author Simon Sinek postulated about a decade ago.

This is supposed to be the essence of the organization. These are the core elements that build the successful culture of a business.

We talk about core values when I lead strategic planning engagements. When I teach courses, establishing values is a part of strategic planning and marketing.

And yet, we still have reports of corporate greed, ethical violations, fraud, corruption, poor labour relations with employees, and various other incidents that make me shake my head. I do not want to dwell on these items — they exist. The bigger question is, “what can be done to improve commitment to core values?”

Complaints can Bedrock Your Winning Game Plan

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Complaints can Bedrock Your Winning Game Plan

Tim Kist 5 minute read Saturday, May. 7, 2022

Last month, I wrote about my experience with a difficult-to-open pickle container and provided some insights into how the process of obtaining customer feedback can help with product design improvements. It turns out that many of you had the same experience I had with the redesigned pickle container and expressed their frustration with the package design.

I summarized the feedback I received and sent a message to the company to share their customers’ complaints about their problematic pickle package. I also included a copy of my article as a reference and validation of the source of the issue. I received a polite and thoughtful reply from a customer service representative explaining the main reason for the package redesign from a vertical jar to a horizontal plastic container was for shipping purposes.

While I understand the functional reason and company benefit for the change, the bottom line is that the plastic container appears to be poorly redesigned for customers. The customer service rep provided images and a video showing how to use a spoon handle to open the container. Unfortunately, the video showed pickle juice spilling on the counter while prying off the lid. One positive note in the response was that the company is redesigning the package to address concerns about it being difficult to open.

If you search “best ways to handle customer complaints” on Google, you will receive almost 14 billion entries. And the top few pages are remarkably similar in their structure of a good response. In summary, start with acknowledging the respondent, validate their issue, offer a solution, and thank them for their important feedback.

Saturday, May. 7, 2022

Last month, I wrote about my experience with a difficult-to-open pickle container and provided some insights into how the process of obtaining customer feedback can help with product design improvements. It turns out that many of you had the same experience I had with the redesigned pickle container and expressed their frustration with the package design.

I summarized the feedback I received and sent a message to the company to share their customers’ complaints about their problematic pickle package. I also included a copy of my article as a reference and validation of the source of the issue. I received a polite and thoughtful reply from a customer service representative explaining the main reason for the package redesign from a vertical jar to a horizontal plastic container was for shipping purposes.

While I understand the functional reason and company benefit for the change, the bottom line is that the plastic container appears to be poorly redesigned for customers. The customer service rep provided images and a video showing how to use a spoon handle to open the container. Unfortunately, the video showed pickle juice spilling on the counter while prying off the lid. One positive note in the response was that the company is redesigning the package to address concerns about it being difficult to open.

If you search “best ways to handle customer complaints” on Google, you will receive almost 14 billion entries. And the top few pages are remarkably similar in their structure of a good response. In summary, start with acknowledging the respondent, validate their issue, offer a solution, and thank them for their important feedback.

What to do when your packaging is in a bit of a pickle

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What to do when your packaging is in a bit of a pickle

Tim Kist 5 minute read Saturday, Apr. 2, 2022

Every leading company has a winning game plan that includes the 4 Ps of marketing – product, place, price, and promotion. Understanding the 4Ps has served me well during my career as a senior executive and serving my clients in industry today.

A focus on “Product” came to light in a recent marketing class I was teaching when one of the students asked how companies know when to make changes in their game plan for existing products. Know that the definition of product includes the actual product that is consumed, the packaging that protects and showcases it, and any service aspect that supports the value the product delivers for its customers.

My response was that leading companies apply ongoing assessment to ensure that their product delivers appropriate value for their customer. The first indicator to consider change is if sales are declining. In addition, scanning the environment for changes in consumer trends, competitive innovations, and societal and social influences are also important areas they monitor regularly.

While this works in theory, and for those companies that apply this approach, there are many examples of companies providing “new and improved” that is more like “new and worse.” Research on new product development confirms that approximately 80 per cent of new products fail. I believe the failure rate for changes to existing products is also very high.

Saturday, Apr. 2, 2022

Set your company apart by being different

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Set your company apart by being different

Tim Kist 5 minute read Saturday, Mar. 5, 2022

Most of us spend our formative years up to high school trying to fit in with our friends, the cool kids, the jocks or other groups. We are taught the same core values and graded the same way. This is so much about conforming to a set of norms.

When we get to post-secondary education, we specialize in areas of personal interest. And yet, we still get clustered into groups. I am not suggesting this is bad, but when do we learn about being different?

Sure, there were always kids who were outliers — private and rarely interacting or special in a way that they were recognized for their unique skills and/or abilities.

Therefore, it is not surprising that we bring this sameness and consistency to our jobs. We help our companies do things consistently well and the same as others. And yet, most organizations just “fit in” with their immediate competitors in an ongoing struggle to find and keep customers. This was reinforced to me, in a recent discussion with a client, that their need to stand out differently was part of their winning game plan.

Saturday, Mar. 5, 2022

Consider your business simply the best? Says who?

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Consider your business simply the best? Says who?

Tim Kist 5 minute read Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022

I was watching the NFL playoffs the past two weekends and noted the frequency of a Pepsi No Sugar commercial. The background music was the Tina Turner song, Simply the Best. Also running with some frequency over these weekends was a commercial for Coke Zero. So, while Pepsi was claiming to be “the best zero sugar,” Coke was claiming to be “best no sugar ever.”

Consider the money invested into the customer research, the development of the ads, and for the rights to use Tina Turner’s song. After thinking about all the work to create the products and the ads, I believe that neither company can make the claim. Only the customer can determine “the best.”

The topic of “best” also came up during a discussion in a strategic planning class I teach at the University of Winnipeg. We had a lively discussion as students considered the concept of “best.” We concluded that “best” is subjective and only your customer can determine what “best” is and what specifically you are “best” at providing them.

Typically, companies will become particularly good at something that is distinct or different than what their competitors offer. These traits are not necessarily “the best” because the best can be replaced or improved upon. Just like the Wild West, where there was always a faster draw, gun-slingers had a limited shelf life if they made claims about being the fastest or best.

Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022

I was watching the NFL playoffs the past two weekends and noted the frequency of a Pepsi No Sugar commercial. The background music was the Tina Turner song, Simply the Best. Also running with some frequency over these weekends was a commercial for Coke Zero. So, while Pepsi was claiming to be “the best zero sugar,” Coke was claiming to be “best no sugar ever.”

Consider the money invested into the customer research, the development of the ads, and for the rights to use Tina Turner’s song. After thinking about all the work to create the products and the ads, I believe that neither company can make the claim. Only the customer can determine “the best.”

The topic of “best” also came up during a discussion in a strategic planning class I teach at the University of Winnipeg. We had a lively discussion as students considered the concept of “best.” We concluded that “best” is subjective and only your customer can determine what “best” is and what specifically you are “best” at providing them.

Typically, companies will become particularly good at something that is distinct or different than what their competitors offer. These traits are not necessarily “the best” because the best can be replaced or improved upon. Just like the Wild West, where there was always a faster draw, gun-slingers had a limited shelf life if they made claims about being the fastest or best.

Marketing Reflections for 2021 to Prepare for 2022

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Marketing Reflections for 2021 to Prepare for 2022

Tim Kist 5 minute read Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022

I recently attended a webinar that focused on what has happened to the customer experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. The key conclusion from the presenters is that there is a disconnect between what customers want from their customer experience and what companies think they want. For example, 58 per cent of brands believed that high quality is the most important factor for customers, while customers only placed the importance of high quality at 35 per cent - a significant gap.

The other factors that were included as responses similarly showed the disconnect between brand view of priority and customer view of priority. This tells me that knowing your customer better becomes an even stronger need than ever before. Great companies continuously study buying patterns and review customer feedback to see what customer habits and priorities may have changed.

Companies typically have a substantial amount of data, yet they are starved for customer insights. With so much data available this means that often no decision is made, or an erroneous decision is made using incomplete or inaccurate information.

The insights that are gained through this analysis must then be applied to your business processes and decisions, so that your customer experience delivered by the company is solid. Too often we hear about “best practices” and comparisons to industry leaders. Companies often shift their approach to mimic someone else rather than create what should be specific to their business and customers based on the direct feedback their customers have provided.

Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022

I recently attended a webinar that focused on what has happened to the customer experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. The key conclusion from the presenters is that there is a disconnect between what customers want from their customer experience and what companies think they want. For example, 58 per cent of brands believed that high quality is the most important factor for customers, while customers only placed the importance of high quality at 35 per cent - a significant gap.

The other factors that were included as responses similarly showed the disconnect between brand view of priority and customer view of priority. This tells me that knowing your customer better becomes an even stronger need than ever before. Great companies continuously study buying patterns and review customer feedback to see what customer habits and priorities may have changed.

Companies typically have a substantial amount of data, yet they are starved for customer insights. With so much data available this means that often no decision is made, or an erroneous decision is made using incomplete or inaccurate information.

The insights that are gained through this analysis must then be applied to your business processes and decisions, so that your customer experience delivered by the company is solid. Too often we hear about “best practices” and comparisons to industry leaders. Companies often shift their approach to mimic someone else rather than create what should be specific to their business and customers based on the direct feedback their customers have provided.

Anatomy of a customer-centric event

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Anatomy of a customer-centric event

Tim Kist 5 minute read Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021

As the playoffs near for the CFL, college, and with the NFL also in full swing south of the border, teams look to assess their performance to ensure they always know what is working and why, and what is not working and how it can be fixed. Over the past few months, I have shared some customer service nightmares and provided some guidance on fundamentals that should be entrenched in every organization to improve their game plans.

This month, we are going to assess the anatomy of a first-class customer interaction and capture the fundamentals this company employed. A colleague provided the details of this story because I have not experienced this level of “owning” a customer interaction like this in quite some time.

My colleague had given a used Toyota RAV 4 to his son, who lives in another province. There were some mechanical problems occurring, so the son contacted his father. It seems the local dealership in a small British Columbia town could not diagnose the exact problem. The father suggested to his son that the local dealership contact the Winnipeg dealership where the vehicle was originally purchased and that had performed all the service work on it.

Not surprisingly, the small dealership did not contact the Winnipeg dealership. So, my colleague went to the Winnipeg dealership and spoke to the service advisor and explained the situation. In a very proactive move, the service provider said, “Well, I will call the other dealership right now.” And he proceeded to make the call.

Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021

As the playoffs near for the CFL, college, and with the NFL also in full swing south of the border, teams look to assess their performance to ensure they always know what is working and why, and what is not working and how it can be fixed. Over the past few months, I have shared some customer service nightmares and provided some guidance on fundamentals that should be entrenched in every organization to improve their game plans.

This month, we are going to assess the anatomy of a first-class customer interaction and capture the fundamentals this company employed. A colleague provided the details of this story because I have not experienced this level of “owning” a customer interaction like this in quite some time.

My colleague had given a used Toyota RAV 4 to his son, who lives in another province. There were some mechanical problems occurring, so the son contacted his father. It seems the local dealership in a small British Columbia town could not diagnose the exact problem. The father suggested to his son that the local dealership contact the Winnipeg dealership where the vehicle was originally purchased and that had performed all the service work on it.

Not surprisingly, the small dealership did not contact the Winnipeg dealership. So, my colleague went to the Winnipeg dealership and spoke to the service advisor and explained the situation. In a very proactive move, the service provider said, “Well, I will call the other dealership right now.” And he proceeded to make the call.

Horror stories from the world of customer service

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Horror stories from the world of customer service

Tim Kist 5 minute read Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021

Writing about marketing as a fundamental building block of a winning game plan is a real joy for me. During my career, I have been fortunate to work with some great companies, where a strong marketing mindset led to success.

However, I am dismayed at the number of customer service horror stories that seem to be increasing and are occurring across a variety of industries. The 1988 “Marketing is You” booklet that I’ve referred to over the past few months provided the marketing fundamentals for developing a winning game plan. Sadly, there seems to be more negative stories shared with me by readers than positive ones.

While I am a believer that you should look internally in your company and build off what works, we can also learn from the mistakes of others to understand why customers have chosen to leave. The lessons must be more than saying “don’t do it that way” because that does not provide any real guidance to effect positive change in your marketing mindset across the company.

Consider the following examples from different cities and different industries.

Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021

Writing about marketing as a fundamental building block of a winning game plan is a real joy for me. During my career, I have been fortunate to work with some great companies, where a strong marketing mindset led to success.

However, I am dismayed at the number of customer service horror stories that seem to be increasing and are occurring across a variety of industries. The 1988 “Marketing is You” booklet that I’ve referred to over the past few months provided the marketing fundamentals for developing a winning game plan. Sadly, there seems to be more negative stories shared with me by readers than positive ones.

While I am a believer that you should look internally in your company and build off what works, we can also learn from the mistakes of others to understand why customers have chosen to leave. The lessons must be more than saying “don’t do it that way” because that does not provide any real guidance to effect positive change in your marketing mindset across the company.

Consider the following examples from different cities and different industries.

Common-sense marketing: feel like a customer

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Common-sense marketing: feel like a customer

Tim Kist 5 minute read Saturday, Sep. 4, 2021

Over the past few months, I have written about fundamental concepts that appear to be absent from so many interactions with businesses. Building from a pamphlet that was written in 1988, I have addressed some of the key ways businesses can improve their relationships with customers.

But why is this customer-centric approach so important? Many business leaders may be concerned about making costly investments that might not result in increased revenue. Further, how can one be sure about the financial returns since no one can really predict the future? There must be some grounding to demonstrate that a customer-centric approach is just common sense.

My colleague, Dr. Linden Brown, chairman of MarketCulture and author of the 2015 business book of the year The Customer Culture Imperative, explains the importance of a customer-centric culture. He says, “Customer culture is to business, what breathing is to living. Yet so many leaders do not know the impact of their culture on their customers’ experiences. Direct interaction with customers helps leaders create a “customer mindset” that is needed before decisions are made and practices are implemented that show their customers that they care. These practices, reflected by the behaviours of leaders and their employees, can be measured, and benchmarked against the most customer-centric companies in the world. It’s a good starting point for action by leaders to embed stronger customer-centric practices as a culture, that everyone in the business can embrace.”

Dr. Brown’s position is very clear that customer-centricity provides a competitive advantage for an organization over the long term. Specifically, the research he conducted has confirmed that customer-centric companies are more profitable.

Saturday, Sep. 4, 2021

Over the past few months, I have written about fundamental concepts that appear to be absent from so many interactions with businesses. Building from a pamphlet that was written in 1988, I have addressed some of the key ways businesses can improve their relationships with customers.

But why is this customer-centric approach so important? Many business leaders may be concerned about making costly investments that might not result in increased revenue. Further, how can one be sure about the financial returns since no one can really predict the future? There must be some grounding to demonstrate that a customer-centric approach is just common sense.

My colleague, Dr. Linden Brown, chairman of MarketCulture and author of the 2015 business book of the year The Customer Culture Imperative, explains the importance of a customer-centric culture. He says, “Customer culture is to business, what breathing is to living. Yet so many leaders do not know the impact of their culture on their customers’ experiences. Direct interaction with customers helps leaders create a “customer mindset” that is needed before decisions are made and practices are implemented that show their customers that they care. These practices, reflected by the behaviours of leaders and their employees, can be measured, and benchmarked against the most customer-centric companies in the world. It’s a good starting point for action by leaders to embed stronger customer-centric practices as a culture, that everyone in the business can embrace.”

Dr. Brown’s position is very clear that customer-centricity provides a competitive advantage for an organization over the long term. Specifically, the research he conducted has confirmed that customer-centric companies are more profitable.

Listen to front-line workers

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Listen to front-line workers

Tim Kist 5 minute read Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021

Last year I wrote a series of articles focused on helping businesses create a winning game plan.

A major component of creating a winning game plan is building off the business fundamentals of taking care of your customers and your employees. While a focus on fundamentals is always a good approach, I want to dive deeper into where you can find untapped gold from your customers and employees who can help you create additional success.

Your front-line staff deal with customers on a regular basis. These interactions result in valuable insights and anecdotes that can help an organization understand how their product or service assists their customers to get their jobs done. People don’t buy a product or service just because they like it. It is because they have some type of job to be done. Needs aren’t vague and unknowable, they are how customers measure success when getting a job done. Are you collecting this data to build an improved understanding of your customers’ wants and needs based on the job they need done?

In my experience, one of the reasons that unsuccessful companies do not capture this data is that senior leaders do not believe what the front-line staff are saying. This is somewhat reminiscent of the news correspondents that were in Vietnam during that war.

Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021

Last year I wrote a series of articles focused on helping businesses create a winning game plan.

A major component of creating a winning game plan is building off the business fundamentals of taking care of your customers and your employees. While a focus on fundamentals is always a good approach, I want to dive deeper into where you can find untapped gold from your customers and employees who can help you create additional success.

Your front-line staff deal with customers on a regular basis. These interactions result in valuable insights and anecdotes that can help an organization understand how their product or service assists their customers to get their jobs done. People don’t buy a product or service just because they like it. It is because they have some type of job to be done. Needs aren’t vague and unknowable, they are how customers measure success when getting a job done. Are you collecting this data to build an improved understanding of your customers’ wants and needs based on the job they need done?

In my experience, one of the reasons that unsuccessful companies do not capture this data is that senior leaders do not believe what the front-line staff are saying. This is somewhat reminiscent of the news correspondents that were in Vietnam during that war.

Marketing is easy when you do the hard work

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Marketing is easy when you do the hard work

Tim Kist 5 minute read Saturday, Jul. 3, 2021

Last month, I wrote about two of the 11 practices identified in a 1988 American Marketing Association (AMA) pamphlet titled, “Marketing is You.” This month, I thought I’d touch on two more concepts on the AMA list, namely, “treat each customer as you would like to be treated” and “make it easy on the customer.” Just as with last month’s concepts, these two are marketing fundamentals and yet are difficult to find consistently applied in practice.

When I am on the receiving end of poor customer service, I find it hard to imagine anyone would want to be treated that way themselves. Just a bit of self-awareness should be enough for staff to realize that the service they are providing is not reasonable and must be improved. And yet the low quality persists. Perhaps if management “walked the floor” or “secretly shopped” at their own business they would experience the level of service offered to paying customers and changes would be made to deliver a quality customer experience. This simple exercise, and the insights it can reveal, is what made the show Undercover Boss so popular

Where is the pride in doing a good job?

Two recent first-hand experiences reinforce how these fundamentals are still lacking. We searched and found a website with beautiful images and ordered a floral bouquet as a gift. The arrangement that was delivered was nothing like the picture of what we selected. When we followed up the response was simply, “We have been assured the order was filled to value.” Whose definition of value did they use? Because it was not ours.

Saturday, Jul. 3, 2021

Last month, I wrote about two of the 11 practices identified in a 1988 American Marketing Association (AMA) pamphlet titled, “Marketing is You.” This month, I thought I’d touch on two more concepts on the AMA list, namely, “treat each customer as you would like to be treated” and “make it easy on the customer.” Just as with last month’s concepts, these two are marketing fundamentals and yet are difficult to find consistently applied in practice.

When I am on the receiving end of poor customer service, I find it hard to imagine anyone would want to be treated that way themselves. Just a bit of self-awareness should be enough for staff to realize that the service they are providing is not reasonable and must be improved. And yet the low quality persists. Perhaps if management “walked the floor” or “secretly shopped” at their own business they would experience the level of service offered to paying customers and changes would be made to deliver a quality customer experience. This simple exercise, and the insights it can reveal, is what made the show Undercover Boss so popular

Where is the pride in doing a good job?

Two recent first-hand experiences reinforce how these fundamentals are still lacking. We searched and found a website with beautiful images and ordered a floral bouquet as a gift. The arrangement that was delivered was nothing like the picture of what we selected. When we followed up the response was simply, “We have been assured the order was filled to value.” Whose definition of value did they use? Because it was not ours.

Customer service at centre of true marketing culture

Tim Kist 5 minute read Preview

Customer service at centre of true marketing culture

Tim Kist 5 minute read Saturday, Jun. 5, 2021

I was doing some spring cleaning in my office and uncovered a pamphlet I had acquired back in 1988 titled, “Marketing is You.” The pamphlet was created that year by the American Marketing Association (AMA) and featured a list of 11 practices to become a better marketer.

All 11 practices remain valid today because they reference the importance of the customer-first approach businesses must have. However, it begs the question of how, in 33 years, many have not been able to actively implement these practices on a consistent basis to create better customer encounters. As a followup to my May article on building trust, I want to focus on two of the 11 AMA items that can help any organization improve their trust with their customers.

The No. 1 concept on the AMA list is, “be friendly and willing to help.” This is so basic and yet it is often difficult to find in practice. Customers expect “service reps” to be friendly and helpful because it is in their job title. In my experience grocery shopping, I have encountered positive and negative examples of this concept. I am sure everyone has had questions of where to find certain items in a large store. At Safeway, the employee will take you to the aisle and find the product for you. This act of friendliness and helpfulness creates a high degree of trust with me for the store and the employee. Unfortunately, there are other stores where the employee acts as if you are interrupting their day by asking such a question and respond with something like, “I think it’s in aisle seven or maybe 12.” I no longer shop in those stores.

The second concept that can be a building block of creating trust with your customers is “handle complaints quickly and professionally.” There is almost nothing a person in an organization can do to erode trust faster than to mistreat customers during a complaint situation.

Saturday, Jun. 5, 2021

I was doing some spring cleaning in my office and uncovered a pamphlet I had acquired back in 1988 titled, “Marketing is You.” The pamphlet was created that year by the American Marketing Association (AMA) and featured a list of 11 practices to become a better marketer.

All 11 practices remain valid today because they reference the importance of the customer-first approach businesses must have. However, it begs the question of how, in 33 years, many have not been able to actively implement these practices on a consistent basis to create better customer encounters. As a followup to my May article on building trust, I want to focus on two of the 11 AMA items that can help any organization improve their trust with their customers.

The No. 1 concept on the AMA list is, “be friendly and willing to help.” This is so basic and yet it is often difficult to find in practice. Customers expect “service reps” to be friendly and helpful because it is in their job title. In my experience grocery shopping, I have encountered positive and negative examples of this concept. I am sure everyone has had questions of where to find certain items in a large store. At Safeway, the employee will take you to the aisle and find the product for you. This act of friendliness and helpfulness creates a high degree of trust with me for the store and the employee. Unfortunately, there are other stores where the employee acts as if you are interrupting their day by asking such a question and respond with something like, “I think it’s in aisle seven or maybe 12.” I no longer shop in those stores.

The second concept that can be a building block of creating trust with your customers is “handle complaints quickly and professionally.” There is almost nothing a person in an organization can do to erode trust faster than to mistreat customers during a complaint situation.

How to establish trust in business

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How to establish trust in business

Tim Kist 5 minute read Saturday, May. 1, 2021

In the animated Disney classic, The Jungle Book, Kaa the snake is wrapped around young Mowgli and serenades him with a song with the lyrics “trust in me, just in me.” As amusing as this is, there is a reality that exists in business where a prevailing attitude is just telling customers to trust in the company. In both cases, just saying something does not make it so.

Trust is essential in our lives, particularly in the 24-7 instant-access news and comment world we live in. We have experienced mixed messaging related to major issues, such as COVID-19, that causes citizens to question which piece of information is correct. We have trust issues in relationships that can fracture families and friendships. Trust is required everywhere and yet often fails to take hold in a meaningful way.

When you see or hear messaging from companies that includes “we have great customer service” or “we have the best staff,” we are usually skeptical of such claims. Our skepticism exists because these are claims provided with no evidence to support them. They are claims made by the organization, not by those being served. When you make a claim related to trust, you need to demonstrate trustworthy activity. And this often includes taking full responsibility for your actions and words.

Many organizations believe they are trusted advisers to their customers. However, there is typically little evidence provided to support that customers believe this to be true. Therefore, the question becomes “how do we create trust with our customers?”

Saturday, May. 1, 2021

In the animated Disney classic, The Jungle Book, Kaa the snake is wrapped around young Mowgli and serenades him with a song with the lyrics “trust in me, just in me.” As amusing as this is, there is a reality that exists in business where a prevailing attitude is just telling customers to trust in the company. In both cases, just saying something does not make it so.

Trust is essential in our lives, particularly in the 24-7 instant-access news and comment world we live in. We have experienced mixed messaging related to major issues, such as COVID-19, that causes citizens to question which piece of information is correct. We have trust issues in relationships that can fracture families and friendships. Trust is required everywhere and yet often fails to take hold in a meaningful way.

When you see or hear messaging from companies that includes “we have great customer service” or “we have the best staff,” we are usually skeptical of such claims. Our skepticism exists because these are claims provided with no evidence to support them. They are claims made by the organization, not by those being served. When you make a claim related to trust, you need to demonstrate trustworthy activity. And this often includes taking full responsibility for your actions and words.

Many organizations believe they are trusted advisers to their customers. However, there is typically little evidence provided to support that customers believe this to be true. Therefore, the question becomes “how do we create trust with our customers?”

Don’t forget, your value is defined by your customer

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Don’t forget, your value is defined by your customer

Tim Kist 5 minute read Saturday, Apr. 3, 2021

Last month, I wrote about three ways local companies (the Davids) can compete against the large multinationals (the Goliaths).

In my work as a certified management consultant, I use many tools to assist clients (the Davids) in their positioning and actions. In my article, I introduced the concept of the value intensity profile (VIP) as one tool that businesses can use to determine the values that are sought by their customers. The strength of this tool is that you capture the non-price values your customers say are important. They are not what you think is important.

The only way to determine the values that are important to your customers is to ask them. You can easily have a coffee with a customer to talk about their qualitative issues. Tracking customer complaints also indicates areas of importance to your customers. Simple surveys can be sent to customers to ask them to rate the criteria you capture. The summary results will provide you with a good starting point. Another approach is to create a customer council that is representative of your customer profiles. Use the same ranking exercise to determine the top three, or up to 10, non-price criteria customers value. These are only a few considerations of the many unique and special ways you can connect with and gain insights from your customers before you call in a professional.

Next, once you have determined the top criteria, you need to have your customers score each value on a one to 10 scale. To work on the most appropriate values, you must ask your customers and carefully listen to their responses. Just as you asked customers to tell you which values are important; you are now asking them to tell you how well you deliver on these values. This complete VIP approach is typically conducted once per year to determine the values and get a ranking of how well you are delivering the value to your customers.

Saturday, Apr. 3, 2021

Last month, I wrote about three ways local companies (the Davids) can compete against the large multinationals (the Goliaths).

In my work as a certified management consultant, I use many tools to assist clients (the Davids) in their positioning and actions. In my article, I introduced the concept of the value intensity profile (VIP) as one tool that businesses can use to determine the values that are sought by their customers. The strength of this tool is that you capture the non-price values your customers say are important. They are not what you think is important.

The only way to determine the values that are important to your customers is to ask them. You can easily have a coffee with a customer to talk about their qualitative issues. Tracking customer complaints also indicates areas of importance to your customers. Simple surveys can be sent to customers to ask them to rate the criteria you capture. The summary results will provide you with a good starting point. Another approach is to create a customer council that is representative of your customer profiles. Use the same ranking exercise to determine the top three, or up to 10, non-price criteria customers value. These are only a few considerations of the many unique and special ways you can connect with and gain insights from your customers before you call in a professional.

Next, once you have determined the top criteria, you need to have your customers score each value on a one to 10 scale. To work on the most appropriate values, you must ask your customers and carefully listen to their responses. Just as you asked customers to tell you which values are important; you are now asking them to tell you how well you deliver on these values. This complete VIP approach is typically conducted once per year to determine the values and get a ranking of how well you are delivering the value to your customers.

Preparing David to defeat Goliath

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Preparing David to defeat Goliath

Tim Kist 5 minute read Saturday, Mar. 6, 2021

I learned the story about David versus Goliath back in Sunday School. It was a wonderful example of what the underdog could do when he uncovered a weakness in his enemy. This story has been used as an analogy for the underdog fight in business and sports for decades. In business analogies, most of the stories have simply been about the large and cumbersome soulless corporation (Goliath) that is typically able to crush its smaller competition (David).

I believe that local companies, typically defined as single location companies, can compete successfully against the large corporations. I will not refer to the local companies as “small businesses” because to the owners and people who work there, it is in fact their life and a very big business. So, let’s just call the two protagonists David and Goliath and define their characteristics.

Goliath is at least a national competitor, if not an international competitor. It knows its customers by account number. It has growing revenues, particularly in the past year because it could stay open primarily as an essential business. Vast financial resources are noted in its balance sheet and this gives shareholders a good feeling about their retirement funds. When it launches a new product, service, or division, it takes time. Once started, it can often act as a road grader to any smaller competitors who usually do not have the same resource availability.

David operates in the local market and knows its customers by name. If a change is required or improvement in operations is needed, the Davids can respond quickly to make it happen. Resource availability is often with banks or specialized investors. And its revenues were probably affected in the past year as it adjusted from in-person customer visits to virtual or online sales only. Unless of course it was deemed an essential service.

Saturday, Mar. 6, 2021

I learned the story about David versus Goliath back in Sunday School. It was a wonderful example of what the underdog could do when he uncovered a weakness in his enemy. This story has been used as an analogy for the underdog fight in business and sports for decades. In business analogies, most of the stories have simply been about the large and cumbersome soulless corporation (Goliath) that is typically able to crush its smaller competition (David).

I believe that local companies, typically defined as single location companies, can compete successfully against the large corporations. I will not refer to the local companies as “small businesses” because to the owners and people who work there, it is in fact their life and a very big business. So, let’s just call the two protagonists David and Goliath and define their characteristics.

Goliath is at least a national competitor, if not an international competitor. It knows its customers by account number. It has growing revenues, particularly in the past year because it could stay open primarily as an essential business. Vast financial resources are noted in its balance sheet and this gives shareholders a good feeling about their retirement funds. When it launches a new product, service, or division, it takes time. Once started, it can often act as a road grader to any smaller competitors who usually do not have the same resource availability.

David operates in the local market and knows its customers by name. If a change is required or improvement in operations is needed, the Davids can respond quickly to make it happen. Resource availability is often with banks or specialized investors. And its revenues were probably affected in the past year as it adjusted from in-person customer visits to virtual or online sales only. Unless of course it was deemed an essential service.

Your brand is much more than a logo

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Your brand is much more than a logo

Tim Kist 5 minute read Tuesday, Mar. 2, 2021

MY sons often tease me when an organization talks about its brand because they know it gets my dander up.

In every situation, the brand conversation is usually nothing more than a new logo design or tagline. To be very clear, a new logo, colour scheme, promotional concept, design details, or catchphrase are NOT a brand. These are brand identifiers, but they do not make the brand.

The best definition of a brand I know is “what people say about your company/product when you are not in the room.” I have seen other similar definitions from gurus like Prof. Mark Ritson and Seth Godin, so I am confident in its validity. The definition is important because if your brand is not compelling enough with your customers you are susceptible to substitution by a competitor.

Why should this be an important focus for every company, and not just the Coca Colas, Apples, and McDonald’s of the world? Because having a strong brand that is understood, reflects your unique value and is specifically requested by your customers, can set you apart from your competition. All three of these companies have very strong or industry-leading products or service and you know the value you get when you buy from them.

Tuesday, Mar. 2, 2021

MY sons often tease me when an organization talks about its brand because they know it gets my dander up.

In every situation, the brand conversation is usually nothing more than a new logo design or tagline. To be very clear, a new logo, colour scheme, promotional concept, design details, or catchphrase are NOT a brand. These are brand identifiers, but they do not make the brand.

The best definition of a brand I know is “what people say about your company/product when you are not in the room.” I have seen other similar definitions from gurus like Prof. Mark Ritson and Seth Godin, so I am confident in its validity. The definition is important because if your brand is not compelling enough with your customers you are susceptible to substitution by a competitor.

Why should this be an important focus for every company, and not just the Coca Colas, Apples, and McDonald’s of the world? Because having a strong brand that is understood, reflects your unique value and is specifically requested by your customers, can set you apart from your competition. All three of these companies have very strong or industry-leading products or service and you know the value you get when you buy from them.

Who took the customer out of customer service?

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Who took the customer out of customer service?

Tim Kist 5 minute read Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021

It is an easy excuse to blame any business problem or delay on COVID-19. While the pandemic has created myriad challenges for almost every business, many have found ways to overcome the impact of the virus on their situation.

And yet, based on multiple first-hand experiences, and receiving stories from colleagues and friends, I fear the concept of real customer experience has been lost and that many businesses are not embracing their opportunity to gain and retain customers.

I am sharing a couple of highlights of what real people, those whose job it is to deliver a positive and memorable customer experience, said and did to real customers.

First, a colleague noticed the interest rate had dropped dramatically on one of his savings accounts and decided to ask a representative (teller) at his bank for an explanation. When the representative couldn’t explain the sudden interest drop, she looked at him and said: “So, what do you want me to do?” Taking the initiative to connect the customer to someone in the bank who could explain the rate change would have avoided a disenchanted customer… and this story.

Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021

It is an easy excuse to blame any business problem or delay on COVID-19. While the pandemic has created myriad challenges for almost every business, many have found ways to overcome the impact of the virus on their situation.

And yet, based on multiple first-hand experiences, and receiving stories from colleagues and friends, I fear the concept of real customer experience has been lost and that many businesses are not embracing their opportunity to gain and retain customers.

I am sharing a couple of highlights of what real people, those whose job it is to deliver a positive and memorable customer experience, said and did to real customers.

First, a colleague noticed the interest rate had dropped dramatically on one of his savings accounts and decided to ask a representative (teller) at his bank for an explanation. When the representative couldn’t explain the sudden interest drop, she looked at him and said: “So, what do you want me to do?” Taking the initiative to connect the customer to someone in the bank who could explain the rate change would have avoided a disenchanted customer… and this story.

An eye to the future, preparing for the post-COVID recovery

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An eye to the future, preparing for the post-COVID recovery

Tim Kist 5 minute read Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020

There will be a time when our society will move past the COVID-19 onslaught. We can envision stores being full of customers again, having to navigate through rush hour traffic, and watching outdoor activities in full swing. The reality of this vision is that these things will not just happen automatically. They must be planned and ready to launch when the opportunity arises.

Last month’s article discussed how to ensure your marketing engine is working properly. I want to build from that foundation and discuss one specific focus that can help set up any organization for readiness and success.

A marketing mindset indicates we must create differentiation that did not exist pre-COVID. When you consider the product “P,” which is the one of the “4Ps” I will focus on, there are recent examples of companies switching their manufacturing lines to make masks or switching their alcohol production to create hand sanitizer. I am certain there are many other companies that successfully adapted their product line to serve customers in new ways with essential products at this critical time.

Product innovation can be complex and costly. Philip Kotler, considered the dean of modern marketing, recently noted that the service aspect of most product-driven organizations can often receive the least amount of focus but offers the greatest opportunity for differentiation. While I agree 100 per cent with Dr. Kotler (he is one of my marketing heroes) it is evident that most companies pay lip service to this point. I constantly see and hear ads that proclaim a certain company has “the best service” and I cringe because most companies fail to live up to their claims. Leaders in organizations want to believe this is true for them, but they rarely take a specific assessment to confirm how true this may be.

Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020

There will be a time when our society will move past the COVID-19 onslaught. We can envision stores being full of customers again, having to navigate through rush hour traffic, and watching outdoor activities in full swing. The reality of this vision is that these things will not just happen automatically. They must be planned and ready to launch when the opportunity arises.

Last month’s article discussed how to ensure your marketing engine is working properly. I want to build from that foundation and discuss one specific focus that can help set up any organization for readiness and success.

A marketing mindset indicates we must create differentiation that did not exist pre-COVID. When you consider the product “P,” which is the one of the “4Ps” I will focus on, there are recent examples of companies switching their manufacturing lines to make masks or switching their alcohol production to create hand sanitizer. I am certain there are many other companies that successfully adapted their product line to serve customers in new ways with essential products at this critical time.

Product innovation can be complex and costly. Philip Kotler, considered the dean of modern marketing, recently noted that the service aspect of most product-driven organizations can often receive the least amount of focus but offers the greatest opportunity for differentiation. While I agree 100 per cent with Dr. Kotler (he is one of my marketing heroes) it is evident that most companies pay lip service to this point. I constantly see and hear ads that proclaim a certain company has “the best service” and I cringe because most companies fail to live up to their claims. Leaders in organizations want to believe this is true for them, but they rarely take a specific assessment to confirm how true this may be.

Are you prepared for more unpredictability?

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Are you prepared for more unpredictability?

Tim Kist 5 minute read Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020

The cooler temperatures are sure signs that winter is coming, and a reminder of the unpredictability the next few months can bring. Winnipeggers know this change of season happens every year, yet we so often ignore these reminders and wait until the last minute to get our vehicle ready for the pending changes in the weather. And then we complain when our mechanic cannot get us in for three weeks. It’s not their fault, is it?

As the calendar year draws to a close, it also marks the fiscal year-end for many businesses. Planning activities for 2021 have, ideally, started and are nearing completion. But there are still two important months left in the year. While regular maintenance on your marketing activities should take place throughout the year, this is an ideal time for a final “marketing maintenance” program to help your company finish strong in 2020. You can also get ready for any dramatic changes in 2021, like what we saw with the ripple effects of COVID-19 this year.

Experience tells me that over half of companies have not even considered a review of marketing activities to ensure a successful final two months of the year. I strongly recommend using the fundamentals to assess your original marketing objectives and goals based on the 4 Ps — product, price, place, and promotion.

In many ways, you could consider yourself a mechanic, opening the hood and inspecting your marketing engine and the four pistons (4 Ps) that drive growth in your organization. A good mechanic can listen to a vehicle’s engine and hear where there are problems. A good marketer knows where to look and listen to uncover any challenges within the 4 Ps of the marketing engine.

Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020

The cooler temperatures are sure signs that winter is coming, and a reminder of the unpredictability the next few months can bring. Winnipeggers know this change of season happens every year, yet we so often ignore these reminders and wait until the last minute to get our vehicle ready for the pending changes in the weather. And then we complain when our mechanic cannot get us in for three weeks. It’s not their fault, is it?

As the calendar year draws to a close, it also marks the fiscal year-end for many businesses. Planning activities for 2021 have, ideally, started and are nearing completion. But there are still two important months left in the year. While regular maintenance on your marketing activities should take place throughout the year, this is an ideal time for a final “marketing maintenance” program to help your company finish strong in 2020. You can also get ready for any dramatic changes in 2021, like what we saw with the ripple effects of COVID-19 this year.

Experience tells me that over half of companies have not even considered a review of marketing activities to ensure a successful final two months of the year. I strongly recommend using the fundamentals to assess your original marketing objectives and goals based on the 4 Ps — product, price, place, and promotion.

In many ways, you could consider yourself a mechanic, opening the hood and inspecting your marketing engine and the four pistons (4 Ps) that drive growth in your organization. A good mechanic can listen to a vehicle’s engine and hear where there are problems. A good marketer knows where to look and listen to uncover any challenges within the 4 Ps of the marketing engine.

You have to call the right plays to have a winning game plan

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You have to call the right plays to have a winning game plan

Tim Kist 5 minute read Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020

In recent conversations with colleagues, I was asked about the difference between a winning game plan concept and regular strategic plans. In research in Harvard Business Review and Forbes, studies indicate that 67 per cent of strategic plans fail. When put into a football context, one might say that the failure rate in sport is higher, since there is only one champion crowned each year. However, head-to-head competition means 50 per cent of winning game plans are successful.

During my football career, I have been above and below that 50 per cent success mark. Recently, I came across some of my old Montreal Alouettes game plans. One game plan for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers stood out, as it clearly missed the mark, and the Bombers won 58-2.

Interestingly, a couple of other game plans looked very similar and we were successful. While there are many factors to consider, it is the proper play calling and execution by the players that can make almost any plan a winning plan. The same holds true in business. The research I mentioned earlier showed that a predominance of companies fail due to poor execution. How should companies approach the activation of their plans to increase the likelihood of success?

There are three main areas that companies must focus on when executing their winning game plans. First, the right play needs to be called. The company must conduct a thorough assessment to determine the key factors for success. Determining if a problem is being solved or an opportunity is being accessed ties in with the development of the game plan. Identifying a coherent set of action plans with appropriate resources assigned to the tasks are the core elements of your game plan. These are your plays.

Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020

In recent conversations with colleagues, I was asked about the difference between a winning game plan concept and regular strategic plans. In research in Harvard Business Review and Forbes, studies indicate that 67 per cent of strategic plans fail. When put into a football context, one might say that the failure rate in sport is higher, since there is only one champion crowned each year. However, head-to-head competition means 50 per cent of winning game plans are successful.

During my football career, I have been above and below that 50 per cent success mark. Recently, I came across some of my old Montreal Alouettes game plans. One game plan for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers stood out, as it clearly missed the mark, and the Bombers won 58-2.

Interestingly, a couple of other game plans looked very similar and we were successful. While there are many factors to consider, it is the proper play calling and execution by the players that can make almost any plan a winning plan. The same holds true in business. The research I mentioned earlier showed that a predominance of companies fail due to poor execution. How should companies approach the activation of their plans to increase the likelihood of success?

There are three main areas that companies must focus on when executing their winning game plans. First, the right play needs to be called. The company must conduct a thorough assessment to determine the key factors for success. Determining if a problem is being solved or an opportunity is being accessed ties in with the development of the game plan. Identifying a coherent set of action plans with appropriate resources assigned to the tasks are the core elements of your game plan. These are your plays.

How your winning game-plan fundamentals enable adjustments

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How your winning game-plan fundamentals enable adjustments

Tim Kist 5 minute read Saturday, Sep. 5, 2020

There is a widely used quote that has been embedded in my mind since I first heard it: “If you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” The essence of the quote has taken on a new level of immediacy due to the COVID-19 situation where major disruptions and opportunities must be assessed quickly for immediate action.

The foundation of a winning game plan is to develop one that you can put into action immediately. In normal years, football games are played weekly. Each team specifies the offensive and defensive plays and schemes that will be the core of the plan. They also add any new information about their opponents. The most important aspect of the winning game plan is the focus on fundamentals. Players work on fundamentals such as blocking and tackling, and other position-specific drills like one-handed and contested pass-catching, in their individual units at the start of every practice. This constant reinforcement of the fundamental techniques and skills prepares players for game-day adjustments.

During a recent conversation with Winnipeg Blue Bomber Hall of Fame player Joe Poplawski, I asked him how he was able to adapt to changes during a game. He said, “although training camp was the football season’s most gruelling two weeks, it prepared us for the challenges expected throughout the upcoming games. Two practices per day followed by meetings and video review allowed us to rehearse our entire playbook. These two-hour practices included periods for individual skill development, pass and run game, followed by entire team sessions. Although we weren’t always successful, camp got us ready for the upcoming competitions.” After football, Poplawski took this focus on fundamentals with him to create a very successful business career.

In my review of businesses today, I see too many companies trying difficult actions when they have not built a plan, including a focus on their business fundamentals. Without a solid foundation, it is exceptionally difficult to ask employees to perform something more complex or to do a brand-new task.

Saturday, Sep. 5, 2020

There is a widely used quote that has been embedded in my mind since I first heard it: “If you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” The essence of the quote has taken on a new level of immediacy due to the COVID-19 situation where major disruptions and opportunities must be assessed quickly for immediate action.

The foundation of a winning game plan is to develop one that you can put into action immediately. In normal years, football games are played weekly. Each team specifies the offensive and defensive plays and schemes that will be the core of the plan. They also add any new information about their opponents. The most important aspect of the winning game plan is the focus on fundamentals. Players work on fundamentals such as blocking and tackling, and other position-specific drills like one-handed and contested pass-catching, in their individual units at the start of every practice. This constant reinforcement of the fundamental techniques and skills prepares players for game-day adjustments.

During a recent conversation with Winnipeg Blue Bomber Hall of Fame player Joe Poplawski, I asked him how he was able to adapt to changes during a game. He said, “although training camp was the football season’s most gruelling two weeks, it prepared us for the challenges expected throughout the upcoming games. Two practices per day followed by meetings and video review allowed us to rehearse our entire playbook. These two-hour practices included periods for individual skill development, pass and run game, followed by entire team sessions. Although we weren’t always successful, camp got us ready for the upcoming competitions.” After football, Poplawski took this focus on fundamentals with him to create a very successful business career.

In my review of businesses today, I see too many companies trying difficult actions when they have not built a plan, including a focus on their business fundamentals. Without a solid foundation, it is exceptionally difficult to ask employees to perform something more complex or to do a brand-new task.

Leadership, accountability for your winning game plan

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Leadership, accountability for your winning game plan

Tim Kist 5 minute read Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020

Last month, I asked readers to send me thoughts about future topics for my column. While my last article focused on delivering quality customer service, many respondents wondered why more companies were not delivering on the promise of “great customer service.” As I pondered the different perspectives provided by readers, I believe the answer lies in the definition of leadership and truly holding people accountable for their actions.

For me, the best definition of a leader is “someone others willingly follow.” The best practical definition of accountability is “delivering on a commitment with responsibility for an outcome.” Successful business and pro sports organizations embrace honourable leaders and hold a firm belief that everyone must be accountable for the results of their actions.

During my time in the CFL I have seen first hand that top coaches are action-oriented, decisive and able to lead their teams to achieve their goals. Subsequently, working with numerous organizations as a management consultant, I have seen that effective business leaders share these characteristics as they lead their companies.

While this is simply stated, the challenge is in consistent delivery on what you are supposed to do as a leader and an employee. Winning game plans will identify the elements of accountability that coaches and players are individually responsible for. Coaches are responsible for preparing the players to perform to the best of their abilities, and to create the strategy to defeat their opponent. They ensure players have prepared physically and mentally to execute on their assignments. It is then up to the player to transfer this preparation into the game. Successful business leaders ensure their organizations are similarly prepared with the right strategy and their employees are properly trained to be accountable.

Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020

Last month, I asked readers to send me thoughts about future topics for my column. While my last article focused on delivering quality customer service, many respondents wondered why more companies were not delivering on the promise of “great customer service.” As I pondered the different perspectives provided by readers, I believe the answer lies in the definition of leadership and truly holding people accountable for their actions.

For me, the best definition of a leader is “someone others willingly follow.” The best practical definition of accountability is “delivering on a commitment with responsibility for an outcome.” Successful business and pro sports organizations embrace honourable leaders and hold a firm belief that everyone must be accountable for the results of their actions.

During my time in the CFL I have seen first hand that top coaches are action-oriented, decisive and able to lead their teams to achieve their goals. Subsequently, working with numerous organizations as a management consultant, I have seen that effective business leaders share these characteristics as they lead their companies.

While this is simply stated, the challenge is in consistent delivery on what you are supposed to do as a leader and an employee. Winning game plans will identify the elements of accountability that coaches and players are individually responsible for. Coaches are responsible for preparing the players to perform to the best of their abilities, and to create the strategy to defeat their opponent. They ensure players have prepared physically and mentally to execute on their assignments. It is then up to the player to transfer this preparation into the game. Successful business leaders ensure their organizations are similarly prepared with the right strategy and their employees are properly trained to be accountable.