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November 23, 2015 - No Comments!

JC Penney is Suffering an Identity Crisis

J.C. Penney Co. is suffering an identity crisis, and one that began before the disastrous term of Ron Johnson back in June of 2011. The Penney brand got old and tired. Pretty simple. Johnson had the sexy resume line item of coming right out of Apple. If anyone could revive the retailer, it would be him. We all know what happened—the implosion came fast and furious. But why?

JCP Identity Crisis_2One of my favorite quotes is, “It’s not change that people are afraid of, it’s the pace of change.” This saying applies to personal situations, workplaces, and your customers. Ron Johnson moved too fast. He tried to apply the Apple ultra-hip, no price compromise model to a store best known for its men’s khakis. It was too big of a stretch. And the Penney’s core customer is not the same as the Apple customer.

The consequence was two-fold: both Johnson’s personal brand and the J.C. Penney brand took a hit. In both cases, perhaps non-recoverable. Enter Marvin Ellison. In a recent interview with the Dallas Business Journal, Ellison revealed his plans for turning around the company and rekindling the damaged relationship with his core customer.

My first reaction to the article was that it was a little underwhelming, a little lacking in a sense of urgency, and a little elementary. Revamp the bedding department. Improve the online shopping experience. Not exactly Apple-esque. But safe. And while safe might be boring, I have to admit it’s probably the best approach for Ellison to take. Ron Johnson made a mistake that Ellison has not. He didn’t consider the customer. He thought what worked at Apple, with a completely different customer demographic, would work at JCP. There was no consideration of the customer. And the customer felt it. The change in what they knew and trusted from the Penney brand came too fast, with no warning and no explanation. The retailer was in trouble, and Johnson made it worse.

Ellison can’t afford to make the same mistake. He can only hope to undo the damage. Proceed with caution. Go back to the drawing board. And then hope he has a customer base left that will still be loyal. I like his plans to bring in a celebrity exclusive with Michael Strahan and the Sephora store-within-a-store concept. Will it be enough to keep the stores treading water long enough to apply some bolder moves down the line? Perhaps. Will the storied retailer go the way of Sears or Montgomery Ward? Likely. Either way, Penney and other retailers can learn some valuable lessons about staying true to your brand promise. Change is okay, if introduced and executed in a mindful way. With so many opportunities to engage in conversations with your stakeholders today, there is no excuse not to talk with them. And when you do introduce change it will be as a result of your customer being heard. That will go a long way towards rekindling those lost relationships and positioning your company for long-term success.

JCP Identity-crisis

October 29, 2015 - No Comments!

Jobs vs. Work

In good economic times or bad, the word “jobs” always seems to be a main topic of conversation, blogs, and political debates. Politicians promise “the creation of jobs.” Many have “lost their job” and now need to “find a job.” Linkedin, which started off as a business networking site, now serves as a “job board.” There are not enough jobs for “job seekers” one day, and not enough qualified applicants for “available jobs” on other days.jobs v work_branch manager

I propose that we gravitate away from the notion of getting a job or having a job to the idea of creating and finding meaningful work. Like many, my husband and I have both experienced job losses over the years, in one instance it was my husband at the height of the unemployment crisis. I advised him to not even bother to go through the motions on the job boards. Too depressing. Instead, we agreed that he had a lot to offer companies, especially being an effective manufacturing and operations leader—something sorely lacking in our country since the shift to production overseas—and why not go about finding work, as opposed to finding a job. We developed a website and profile on various social media platforms that presented the good work he could do. And he spent his time contacting everyone he knew in various industries, offering his availability as a consultant, temporary turnaround manager, special projects work, and even business partner.

This approach accomplishes several things:

  • He wasn’t putting people or organizations in a position of feeling bad about not giving him a job, making it more comfortable for both parties.
  • It got business leaders thinking differently about how to uncover and use talent, without necessarily adding someone to their payroll.
  • Approached as a temporary situation, the business owner didn’t have to commit.
  • In a time when downsizing and layoffs are common, they could still get good work done by a talented individual, and be poised to be ahead of the competition when the economy bounced back.
  • Both he and the employer would have an opportunity to work together and determine if there might be a fit for permanent employment.

Years ago I read a book called “Creating You & Co.” (http://www.amazon.com/Creating-You-Co-Learn-Career/dp/0738200328). I feel like the approach presented in this book is brilliant. You have something to offer, so find an organization that will make use of your talents. Create your own “job.” As Forbes contributor and Linkedin influencer Liz Ryan advises, find the pain points you can solve, and present how you will do it. Unfortunately, most organizations are still in the traditional “job” mode. “I’m sorry, we don’t have an opening right now.” In other words, “We don’t have a vacant cube with a very specific list of tasks available right now, and we are not forward thinking enough to find a way to use your unique talents in our organization.” How unfortunate for these close-minded companies! Think about how far they could advance by looking to the unique strengths and talents of an individual, rather than seeking out the highest number of key word matches on their resume.

jobs v work_purposeThe growing appeal of working for a start-up is evidence of the desire for people from Millenials to Baby Boomers to want to do good work, be part of something they can help build, and feel a sense of self that is hard to come by in common workplaces. Large organizations should pay attention to where the talent is going. Allowing flip-flops and dogs at work is not necessarily going to get them the best talent. Sloppy dressers, maybe. People who like dogs, definitely. But the most talented, giving, and excited employees? Not so sure.

Whether we are a “job seeker” or a “job giver,” let’s all shift our focus from good jobs to good work. Then, I bet we’ll start seeing real progress.

November 19, 2014 - No Comments!

Nice guys may not finish last, but they might put themselves at risk: How to protect your business and when you should be not-so-nice.

nice-guys-finish_squareThroughout my career, I’ve tried really hard to not succumb to the old adage “Nice guys finish last.” And by “nice” I also mean ethical, dependable, willing, and honest. I never wanted to believe that rising to the top meant stepping on others along the way. I’ve seen it happen both ways: I have known really nice guys [and by “guys” I mean both men and women] who have risen through the ranks because they are nice, never stepping on toes, always being politically correct, and staying under the radar. There are organizations who love that type of employee. They don’t cause any trouble! And on the opposite end of the spectrum I’ve known those who are relentless when it comes to demanding what they want, powering through ranks, keeping their sights straight ahead rather than around them.

In both cases, it seems to have less to do with how nice a person is as much as where their style, goals, and ambitions best fit. Those that find that ultimate match go far.

But as a business owner, I’ve learned that there is a time and a place for nice, and a time and place for standing my ground. I’ve also learned that you can do both simultaneously. When it comes to protecting myself, those who work for me, and my assets, well, that falls in the “standing my ground” category.

We’ve all been there. Especially when starting a new business. We’re so afraid of not having enough business that when someone actually wants to buy our products or services, we jump at the chance. And we tend to use the phrase “It’s okay” a lot. But all it takes is one bad client or customer to wake us up to the reality that there are bad people who will take advantage of a little guy like you or me.

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May 9, 2011 - No Comments!

Social Media: Listen. Learn. Respond. Repeat.

“It’s no longer about who you know. It’s about who knows you.”~Connie Glover

After TIME magazine featured Mark Zuckerburg on their cover as the 2010 Man of the Year, Fast Company magazine followed with an article about the power of Facebook as part of an overall marketing strategy.  “By any measure, 2011 is the year Facebook must be taken seriously by each and every brand. Not because of what it's worth as a company, but because of how that valuation reflects the potential impact of Facebook on every industry including entertainment, advertising and sales of all types.”

But while I will always answer the question, “Do I really need to do social media with my business?” with a resounding “Yes!”, you must commit. Worse than not including social media in your  marketing mix, is setting it up, and then not being consistently and frequently engaged.  Because marketing is no longer about “telling” your customers what you think they should know; it’s about being actively involved in a conversation.

Social media allows you to listen to what your customers are saying, about you, about your products, and about your competitors. More often than not, when they ask you a question they are really telling you something. And the more you respond to their comments and inquiries, the more you appear to really care about what your customers want. It’s almost like free market research!

This from the Razorfish Digital Outlook Report “Current media mix models are falling down; they are based on older research models that assume media channels are by and large independent of one another. As media consumption changes among consumers, and marketers include more digital and disparate channels in the mix, it is more important than ever to develop new media mix models that recognize the intricacies of channel interaction. Since online media is often linked closely with other media (TV can drive search, search can drive magazine usage and so forth) we need to  adopt new ways of measuring to account for the true complexity of media in the digital age.”

For small businesses in particular, there may still be room for radio, tv, and newspaper ads. But paid media is still just that―paid.  Read more

February 11, 2011 - No Comments!

If the Shoe Fits, Wear It

My friend Terri Thornsvard has an enviable job as a docent at the Madison, Wisconsin Museum of Contemporary Art.  She recently wrote a blog that I thought could be applied to branding.

Terri Thornsvard, docent MMoCA

"I joke a lot about shoes —especially my Louboutins (which incidentally I do not have). I have 3 daughters and I have told them that when I am old, senile, and in a wheel chair in a nursing home they are to put high heels on me, paint the soles red and tell me they are Louboutins. My point is, that over the years I have been trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up. Like many of us I have had many roles to play but could never comfortably settle into a label or shoe that fits. Read more

October 25, 2010 - No Comments!

Where does it all go?

William McDonough, sustainability thought leader and author of the innovative concept and book by the same name, Cradle to Cradle, frequently poses the question in his lectures, interviews, and book, “Where is away?”  In a throwaway society, when you throw something away, where is that, exactly? If we really knew the answer to the question…and I mean really understood what that meant to our planet, would we manufacture, consume, and dispose of things differently? Read more

October 14, 2010 - No Comments!

With branding, less may not be more.

Miller Coors beer and the Gap apparel could have learned a huge lesson from Tropicana orange juice on how NOT to rebrand.  I’m usually a very big advocate of “less is more” in marketing and P.R. I believe that shorter, bolder statements trump paragraphs of texts, especially in Web sites and press releases.  I think you can say a lot with a little; and when it comes to graphic design, that is the case sometimes as well.

But the recent debacle with the Gap trying to change its logo was a testament to the fact that when it comes to your brand, less may not be more. Several companies, including the ones I named above, have tried to...i don’t know...appear more contemporary? Cleaner?  Minimalistic?  Whatever the motivation, none of these things were accomplished.  The result in all cases was an insultingly simple design that was not only  generic, but also an insult to the consumer [and fellow marketers, I might add.]

We are all aware of the impact that social media has on news and business.  Everyone has a voice. Good as well as bad spreads...like a giant global wildfire.  If companies are smart, they will pay attention to the feedback, and in this case, the backlash.

Tropicana was the first to make this very public mistake. Read more

June 3, 2010 - No Comments!

Beyond BP

Mark Glover, President, Catalyst prc and guest blogger

By Mark Glover, Guest Blogger

After 45 days and millions of gallons of oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico I continue to see the focus of criticism, blame, and anger directed at British Petroleum. It is my opinion that this environmental crisis goes far beyond BP. This is not a BP issue, it is an industry issue, a global issue, an environmental issue, and most importantly, a leadership issue.

Like everyone else I have followed closely the events surrounding the oil spill in the gulf, the sudden acceleration of motor vehicles, the contamination and recall of food products, the emergency landing of aircraft in the Hudson River. These events do not happen by accident; they happen because businesses and industries are not in what I call “organizational equilibrium.” By this I mean that there are not as many people or resources ensuring the safety and effective production of goods as there are people and money needed to sell and distribute them. Every industry and business within that industry has responsibilities to uphold a standard of ethics, good manufacturing practices, and to play a role in developing regulations that safeguard the public and environment from catastrophe.

What I expect to see with a catastrophe like the one in the gulf is for leaders not just from BP, but ExxonMobil, Gulf, Chevron, Texaco, Shell, and CITGO to pool their vast technical and financial resources to execute a solution. Read more

May 9, 2010 - No Comments!

Whole Foods-An Insider’s View from an Ex-Team Member. Part 2: How Sustainable are the Whole Foods Sustainability Initiatives?

The WFM apron...left behind.

In my first blog in this series, I addressed my experiences at Whole Foods Market from the perspective of  talent management.  This post will address my question, How Sustainable are the Whole Foods Sustainability Initiatives?

During my recent graduate studies through the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University many of my research projects and areas of study focused on global food issues, sustainable agriculture, urban agriculture, and global organic farming practices. So I am able to look at this from a perspective that includes the importance of WFM’s impact on the food industry worldwide!

According to the 1983 Brundtland Commission Report from the United Nations, the true definition of Sustainability is "Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”  While most people think of “sustainability” as environmental, the environmental piece is only one of three. Sustainability in organizations involves environmental operational practices, economic health, and social responsibility―concerns for employees and the community.

Compare this to the Core Values that Whole Foods has built its company on since 1980: Read more

April 23, 2010 - No Comments!

Whole Foods-An Insider’s View from an Ex-Team Member. Part 1: Talent Management

The WFM apron...left behind.

Many people don’t know that I spent a year working for Whole Foods Market, first at the new store in Short Pump, Virginia (near Richmond), and then at one of their oldest stores in Charlottesville, Virginia. I was reluctant to tell people because everyone that knows me knows me as “Power Connie,” or “ABC”―All Business Connie. I didn’t think they would understand.

I had very specific reasons at the time for joining the company:

  • I was working through the graduate program in Sustainable Technology and Management at Arizona State University, and wanted to gain some experience in a company that visibly practiced sustainability values and practices.
  • Whole Foods is headquartered in Austin, Texas, and I thought if I could move through the company it would be easy to transfer back to my home state.
  • I love the store, and thought it would be a healthy, cool place to work.

The caveat is that in order to move up and through the company you pretty much have to start at the bottom. Read more