Tag Archives: phil hardwick

WHAT REMARKABLE ASSOCIATIONS DO THAT OTHERS DON’T

WHAT REMARKABLE ASSOCIATIONS DO THAT OTHERS DON’T

Why do some organizations thrive and really make a difference when others seem to be just hanging on? One thorough research project revealed that there are several things that make a significant difference in the success of associations. This research, which was conducted by the American Society of Association Executives, was presented in a book entitled 7 Measures of Success: What Remarkable Associations Do That Others Don’t. If you manage an association, serve in a leadership role in an association or are a member of an association this book is worth reading.

The 7 Measures Project, as it was called, began in 2002 and resulted in publication of the book in 2006. An updated version was published in 2012. It presents as checkup on the associations that were mentioned in the first edition. The research used the matched-pair methodology, which was also used by Jim Collins and colleagues and resulted in the classic business management book, Good to Great. Basically, what that means is that the researchers looked at organizations that were in the same era and faced the same challenges. The successful companies were then compared to those that were not so successful to find out why. The researchers looked at 104 associations that had been in business for a minimum of 20 years.

Listed below are the seven measures, or factors, that were discovered. along with some comments by this writer.

1. A Customer Service Culture – The remarkable associations built their organizations by serving members and providing value to their members. They actively sought ways to continuously improve services to their members.

Some organizations make the mistake of forgetting that they are membership organizations. For example, the leadership of one chamber of commerce in Mississippi decided that it wanted to effect change in an issue facing the public. It got involved in a campaign that resulted in a referendum that was defeated by the community by a wide margin. The members were never asked if they wanted to participate in the campaign. It took a while for the chamber to rebuild member trust.

  1. Alignment of Products and Services with Mission – The associations were driven by mission, not money. Everyone knew the mission of the organization and whom they served. The mission was central, regardless of the external environment.

Some organizations that are really good at what they good get lured into doing other things by funders who are in search of effective organizations. For example, an organization good at building houses may not be so good at job creation. But because of their success and opportunity to expand they refocused their mission, which led to a crisis when the funding dried up.

  1. Data-Driven Strategies – Surveys of members, analysis of the environment in which they operated and continuous analysis of information resulted in accumulation of data that was acted upon. The remarkable associations were good at gathering and sharing information. They knew what members wanted and were willing to pay for.
  2. Dialogue and Engagement – The staff and volunteers listened to each other and talked to each other. There were cross-functional teams, and no so-called silos. There was constant communication. By the way, the typical level of member non-involvement is 69.9 percent.
  3. CEO as a Broker of Ideas – The CEO facilitated “visionary thinking” throughout the organization and developed a strong staff and volunteer partnership. The CEO was not necessarily the idea generator, but was the person who connected ideas with people and action.

Organizations should beware of charismatic leaders who have followers. It should be the organization and its mission that is followed, not the leader.

  1. Organizational Adaptability – When remarkable organizations face a crisis they learn from it and change accordingly. Nevertheless, they know when not to change. The key is to know when to change. Sometimes that means abandoning a project or idea; sometimes it means refocusing.

This is why regular strategic planning is so important. Planning is about looking ahead, but it is also learning from the past, e.g. what worked and did not work.

  1. Alliance Building – These associations were very good at finding and forming alliances and partnerships that complemented their mission and purpose. They also were good at communicating clear expectations about the partnerships. They are not driven by money, nor were they afraid to dissolve the partnership if it was not effective.

Finally, just in case you are wondering, here are the nine organizations listed as “remarkable” in the book:

AARP

American College of Cardiology

American Dental Association

Associated General Contractors of America

Girl Scouts of the USA

National Associations of Counties

Ohio Society of CPAs

Radiological Society of North America

Society for Human Resource Management

 

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Anatomy of a Failed Economic Development Project

(June 28, 2016)
This is the story of a failed economic development project. The names and locations have been changed to protect the guilty. It is a lesson for economic developers and community leaders seeking to recruit large projects to their areas.

A large retailer operating in a dozen states in the southeastern part of the United States was seeking to expand. Headquartered in a major metropolitan area, its sales were increasing and its market area was growing. Its analysts recommended opening a new distribution center to improved logistics and increase sales even more. They hired a site selector who recommended two sites in a certain area.

The company was family-owned, having been founded 30 years ago by a man and wife who began their business with a dress shop managed by her and a men’s clothing store managed by him. Their joint business expanded to household items and more. Their sons took over day-to-day management of the business with the goal of doubling in size in 10 years.

The area under consideration was located at the intersection of two large U.S. highways. It had a steady increase in population, and was projected to grow at even faster rate in the coming decade. Growth was occurring at a faster rate in the suburban area, which is located outside the city limits of the central city. Average income was higher than the state average and the unemployment rate was lower than the national average.

The central city had a well-established industrial park. There was only one vacant building, which was formerly used by a trucking company that went out of business. It met the needs of the company, with only slight modifications and could be ready in less than 90 days. A second option for the expanding company was to construct a new facility in the county. Although it would be slightly more efficient it would mean a construction period of at least nine months. The company decided that both options were equal. It sent its in-house real estate vice president to meet with local officials in the city and the county.

Recently, there had been increasing animosity between the chambers of commerce in the suburban areas and the one in the central city. A year ago, county leaders formed an economic development organization and hired its first economic developer, a 31-year-old male with previous experience as the assistant economic developer in a suburban county in the Atlanta area. His hiring was somewhat contentious from the beginning. A search committee put forth two candidates, one from the local area who was well-known and respected and one from outside the area. One faction of county leaders felt that a certain local candidate would be the best choice because the position required someone who knew the local “lay of the land.” Another group felt that the best choice would be someone from a growing suburban county from another state. Eventually, the board chose the economic developer from the other state.

On the appointed day, the real estate vice president met with the city economic developer in the morning and the county economic developer in the afternoon. As is now customary in the economic development world, there were discussions of incentives that would be offered to the company. Each economic development official was informed that two sites were under consideration and were asked why the company should choose their respective site. The central city economic developer pointed out the reasons that the city site met the needs of the company. The county economic developer did the same, but then chose to talk about the reasons that the city site was a bad choice. He pointed out that suburbia was where distribution companies were locating. He then handed the prospect a sheet that compared the city and county. The facts presented were about crime, schools, infrastructure, government officials and future growth. The county economic developer concluded his presentation by saying, in effect, “… choose that other site and it will get burglarized, your drivers will get mugged and it will be difficult to recruit employees who have children in school.”

The real estate vice president went back to headquarters and reported the details of his visit. It did not take long for the company management to choose the city site. The CEO of the company remarked if the county economic developer talked that way about his competition then he probably talks that way about other things. Today, the company is still in its distribution center in the city and the county economic developer was fired a long time ago.

The primary lesson in this story is that one should not disparage their competition, but should instead sell the benefits of their own assets. As this writer’s grandfather was fond of saying, “Never talk bad about someone else because when you do you’re really taking bad about yourself.”

A secondary lesson in this story is that sooner or later the city and county will be marketing itself as a region. Talking negatively about a neighbor will not be tolerated. When prospective clients see a divided region it raises the proverbial red flag. All one has to do is look at the most successful economic development projects in Mississippi to conclude that regions that work together get the best projects.

Friendly competition and pride in one’s community is a healthy thing. Attempting to sell a community by telling why a prospect should not move to a neighboring community is a disease that needs treatment.

The Benefits of Sharing a Meal

Collaboration among community leaders is one of the keys to success in moving an area forward. But what if leaders don’t seem to want to collaborate? What if they are more concerned with their own territory than the community as a whole? What can be done to get them together? One good place to begin is the dinner table.

One of the reasons that community leaders don’t work together is that they don’t respect each other. They may see each other as unequals or even adversaries. The reason they don’t respect each other is that they don’t understand each other. And one of the reasons that they don’t understand each other is that they don’t listen to each other. One of the best ways to begin to listen to each other is to have a meal together. And not the kind of meal that they usually attend together, i.e. the civic club luncheons, the public/private partnership meetings, the board meetings, etc. The meal should be one-on-one or better yet one-on-one in each other’s homes.

Dining in each other’s homes is not as common as it used to be. Nowadays, friends and business acquaintances are more likely to go out to dine at a restaurant. That was not always the case. This writer recalls the time some 20-plus years ago when he was summoned to jury duty at the federal courthouse. At the beginning of the jury selection process, the judge asked prospective jurors if any of them were personal friends of any of the attorneys. One person raised his hand, saying he knew one of the attorneys. The judge then began probing into how well the juror was acquainted with the attorney. He asked the usual questions, and then he asked, “Have you ever had dinner in his home or has he ever had dinner in your home?” The prospective juror replied in the negative, whereupon the judge said that the man did not know the attorney well enough to be excused from jury duty.

Sharing a meal with someone else, and not having an agenda other than to get to know each other better can be the beginning of a joint effort to improve the community. Once upon a time, there was a community in Mississippi where there were three main influencers. One was the mayor, one was the president of the county board of supervisors and one was the chief executive of the largest employer in the area. The only time they dealt with each other was in public meetings where many other people were usually present. The community was not growing and no new businesses of significance were opening. An outside consultant evaluated the situation, recognized the dysfunction and recommended that the three leaders have a monthly meal together. Before long, they began to understand each other, respect each other and work together. Today, that community is on the move.

History is filled with leaders having meals together to get to know each other better, to resolve their issues and to plan the future. Let us begin with some noteworthy World War II meals. In 1942, Winston Churchill met Stalin for the first time. The purpose of their meeting was to generally discuss the end of the war and who would get what. They had dinner at the Kremlin. At the WW2History.com website History Professor David Williams gives his impression of the dinner and the meeting as Churchill would have perceived it:
“There’s a man here who I can deal with. Okay, so we had a bad day yesterday, but today is a good day, we’ve had dinner, we’ve had a booze, we’ve talked about families and things, this is human stuff. And given how remote Stalin was before, that’s progress. Churchill always hangs onto this, he always feels that if he could get round the table with Stalin things could be sorted out.”

There were many more dinner meetings in which Churchill, Stalin and others, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt would attend. There was the Tehran Conference in November 1943 and the Yalta Conference in February 1945.
In American history, there is probably no more famous meal than that which occurred in 1621 between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians. It is not known exactly what was consumed at this meal, but turkey was probably one of the dishes. Governor William Bradford wrote about the food situation of the autumn of 1621, saying that “there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many.” Although this meal was probably a harvest celebration, there is no doubt that the participants got to know each other better.

Leaders of all stripes use luncheons and dinners to meet with those who oppose them and those who support them to discuss issues. In February of this year, President Obama met with House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in a private lunch session to discuss ways they could work together. Not really sure how that has worked out.

Without a doubt, the most famous meal would be that known as The Last Supper, in which Jesus Christ foretold coming events and instructed his disciples on what to do when he was gone.

As this writer observes current political events in Mississippi it is hoped that leaders from different sides of the issues would simply take the time to have a meal together and get to know each other on a more personal basis. Who knows what might happen?

What was your best customer service experience last year?

April 8, 2016

What was your best customer service experience last year?

That’s the question I asked 31 participants at a recent workshop I was facilitating. The responses were enlightening, entertaining and had something in common. In almost every case an employee with the company or organization had gone beyond their regular job duties to make sure that the customer was more than satisfied, indeed received something that they had not expected.

Amazon.com was the company mentioned several times. In one case, one of the participants from Mississippi told of how she lost a cellphone power cord during a visit to a family member in North Carolina. To her amazement, she received a package a few days later from Amazon.com that contained her power cord. She wondered how such a thing could have happened. It turned out that while on her visit to North Carolina she had returned a pair of shoes to Amazon.com. It seems that the power cord had somehow dropped into the shoe box. When the Amazon.com employee opened the returned shoes they found the power cord, packaged it and sent it to the customer in Mississippi.

Another participant told about her experience with a Target store. She had left her purse in a shopping cart in the parking lot because she had been attending to her young grandchildren. In addition to the usual credit cards, there was several hundred dollars in cash in the purse. When she arrived at home there was a message on her home telephone informing her that her purse had been found and could be picked up at the store. She went back to the Target store and learned that the employee whose job it was to collect the shopping carts from the parking lot had found her purse and turned it in. He told her that he did so because someone had done it to a member of his family and he felt that he should do the same.

Two participants related stories of how an employee paid their bills because they had forgotten to update their expired credit cards. Although the amounts were relatively small there was certainly no requirement for an employee to take their own money to pay a customer’s bill. And yes, the customers returned to the stores and repaid the employees.

And then there was the case of the participant who went on a Carnival cruise with her friend. The friend had a certain eating disorder that required a certain type of meal. At dinner on the first evening of the cruise the server was informed of the condition, to which he replied that there was no problem because the kitchen was prepared. When the meal arrived it had to be sent back because it did not meet what had been ordered. When the replacement meal arrived it too was unsatisfactory. The diner/customer did not eat it and apparently displayed a bit of displeasure on her face. The dining room manager noticed the situation, apologized and had a private table for them with the appropriate food for the remainder of the cruise.

In another case, a customer called a state agency that needed some information from the customer’s income tax return. The employee at the state agency took the time to go line-by-line to help the customer fill out the form and help provide the information. When a fellow employee asked why that was done when it was not necessary, the helpful employee stated, “I treat everyone who calls here just like I would want my mother to be treated.”

The stories served to remind me that there was still plenty to celebrate in the customer service world. I also discovered that there is an organization, the American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) that researches and surveys this topic. Each quarter it publishes a report on overall U.S. customer satisfaction. The index is on a scale of 1 – 100. ACSI’s latest results reveal that overall consumer satisfaction is dropping slightly. In the 4th quarter of 2015 the Index stood at 73.4. That compares to 75.2 in the same quarter in 2014 and 76.3 at the same time in 2013. By the way, the 2013 score was the highest 4th quarter mark in over 30 years. You can see much more details reports of various industries and companies at http://www.theacsi.org.

Below are the ASCI 2015 scores by industry, followed by the score for federal departments.
Manufacturing/Durable Goods …………79
Accommodation & Food Services ……..78
Manufacturing/Nondurable goods …..77
Retail trade ……………………………….…..77
Health care & Social Assistance …….…75
Finance & Insurance ……………………….75
Energy Utilities ………………………………74
Transportation ………………………………74
Information …………………………………..69
Local Government ………………….……..64
Federal Government …………….……….64

Here are the 2015 scores for federal departments:
Interior ……………………………………..75
State ………………………………………….71
Defense …………………………………….70
Homeland Security ………………….…67
Commerce …………………………………66
Social Security Administration ……66
Agriculture ………………………………..63
Health & Human Services ………….62
Transportation ………………………….61
Education ………………………………….61
Veterans Affairs ……………………..….60
Justice ………………………………………59
Treasury …………………………….……..55

Phil Hardwick’s Strategy Letter, January 2016

January 2016

Greetings:

As I was planning and strategizing about the coming year I had the idea that perhaps I wanted to set a goal of being the best professional development trainer in the state. That’s because one of the things I’m doing more of is training for various state agencies, school districts, nonprofits and businesses.

Right in the middle of my processing this idea and how I would measure such a goal I interrupted my thoughts by opening my weekly email Star Thrower Clip of the Week. After watching it, I began thinking of my goals and strategies in a different way. The presenter suggested that instead of thinking about Being the best IN the world versus being the best FOR the world. Hmm. So instead of being the best professional development trainer in Mississippi I should be the best professional development trainer FOR Mississippi.

Imagine what would happen, especially in the world of politics for example, if our elected officials changed their thinking like that. Instead of your statewide official striving not to be the best elected official in the state, but being the best elected official for the state. And what if your member of Congress – oh heck, I won’t even go there.

Carry this thought over to business and community leaders – or anybody for that matter. What if your goal was to be the best __________ (fill in the blank) FOR the state rather than being the best in the state? I think it would make a difference. Indeed, I suspect it would change a lot of strategies.

And this does not apply just to the state. What if you were the best person for your organization?

The video clip mentioned above is only five minutes. It opens with a famous photographer discussing this idea and then introduces us to a lady in Scotland. That’s enough of a teaser. Here’s the link:

http://www.starthrower.com/t-clip-of-the-week.aspx#clip=1428786&time=0
Until next time,

Phil

AN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PRIMER FOR SMALL TOWN MAYORS

November 12, 2015

My latest column as printed in the Mississippi Business Journal

AN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PRIMER FOR SMALL TOWN MAYORS

They come in all sizes and shapes and from a wide variety of backgrounds. Almost all of them are serving in their posts in a part-time capacity. Many, if not most, have had little training in the fundamentals and nuances of economic development. They are the mayors of small towns in Mississippi and other states across America.

In spite of their lack of formal preparation for the duties of their offices there are quite a few opportunities and resources to them once they take their oaths. The Mississippi Municipal League offers a wide variety of training options and resource materials. Universities, community colleges, state agencies and nonprofit organizations are available for technical assistance and advice.

The following is a basic economic development primer for mayors of small towns. It is actually an outline. Each of these 26 topics are themselves worthy of full-blown seminars. The purpose here is to give the reader a taste of what its like to deal with some of the subjects that small town mayors encounter on a regular basis. Note that it is presented in second person.

A is for Asset-based economic development. Identify the assets in your community that you can capitalize on.

B is for Plan B. The best leaders are the ones who can manage Plan B. Although planning is important, things do not always go as planned.

C is for CDBG, the Community Development Block Grant program.

D is for Decisions, which tend to be data-driven or values-driven.

E is for Economy. What drives your town’s economy?

F is for Followers. You are the leader; who’s following you – and what do they want?

G is for Goals, the mileposts along the highway to achieving the vision. Goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound.

H is for Heroes. Who is going to step forward when you need it the most?

I is for Incentives. Economic development prospects are driven by location, workforce and incentives.

J is for Jobs. Economic development is the process of increasing the wealth in your town through creation, recruitment and retention of jobs.

K is for Keystone, the central, topmost stone of an arch (an essential part).

L is for Legacy. A lifetime of achievement is often reduced to one incident or program. What will be your legacy?

M is for Meetings, especially productive meetings – with your board, with citizens, with developers and with prospects. The importance of the agenda.

N is for Numbers, or measurements, that will quantify your town’s progress. Data should be determined early in your administration and tracked on a regular basis.

O is for Observation. Stop looking for the answers you expect to find. As Yogi Berra said, “You can learn a lot by watching.”

P is for People, or demographics. Know and understand your people.

Q is for Quality. If anything is worth doing, it is worth doing well.

R is for Responsibility. Most strategic plans fail because there is no accountability or responsibility. Hold people accountable.

S is for Story. What is your town’s story, and how can you capitalize on it?

T is for Taxes, especially tax incentives.

U is for Unique. What makes your town unique?

V is for Vision – your vision and your town’s vision.

W is for World View. How does globalization affect your town?

X is for X-Ray. Have some outside expert look “into” you town.

Y is for Youth, the future of your town. What do they think about the future? Do you have a Mayor’s Youth Council?

Z is for Zeal, the synonym for passion. One big difference in towns that succeed and those that do not is passionate leadership.

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Phil Hardwick is a regular Mississippi Business Journal columnist and owner of Hardwick & Associates, LLC, which provides strategic planning facilitation and leadership training services. His email is phil@philhardwick. com and he’s on the web at http://www.philhardwick.com.

The most important clause in a real estate contract.

October 15, 2015

The typical real estate contract has tens, sometimes dozens, of clauses. Each is important, but there is one clause that is generally considered the most important clause in a real estate contract, and in all contracts for that matter.
If you had to guess, which of the following would you say is the most important clause in a real estate contract:

a. the price to be paid
b. the amount of earnest money
c. the legal description of the property
d. the remedies for breach of the contract

The most correct answer is “d,” the clause that provides the remedies for breach of the contract. Simply put, the remedies for breach clause is the one that states what happens if one of the parties defaults on the contract. Although it is true that if there were no description of the property or the price to be paid there would not even be a contract because there would not be a meeting of the minds, and therefore no contract. However, the question as stated assumes that there is already a contract.

For example, most residential real estate contracts have a clause stating that the buyer has deposited a sum of money known as earnest money with the real estate broker. Earnest money is often called “good faith” money because it shows that the buyer is serious about going through with the transaction and that he or she has something to lose if they back out of the contract. Because most residential real estate purchases are financed there is usually a contingency clause that states that if the buyer is not able to obtain financing at a certain rate by a certain date then the contract is void and the earnest money will be refunded. But what if the buyer simply backs out of the transaction and states, “I’m not going through with this deal?” That’s when the remedies for breach kick in. The clause may state that the party can go to court and sue for damages, pay a certain amount for damages, etc.

Let us move to other types of contracts. One of the more common remedies for breach clauses in business contracts nowadays states that in the event of a dispute the parties will arbitrate the matter instead of going to court. For example, a certain telecommunications company has this clause in its contract with users, “You agree that, by entering into this Agreement, you and (the company) are each waiving the right to a trial by jury or to participate in a class action.” This type clause is getting a lot of attention these days because some consumer advocacy organizations are challenging arbitration clauses.
Many Democrats in Congress are urging the federal agency that regulates consumer finance to ban mandatory arbitration clauses altogether. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act required that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) study arbitration agreements and provide a report to Congress of its findings. The report was submitted to Congress in March 2015. It is 728 pages in length, and can be found on the CFPB website. It mostly applies to banks, credit card companies and other types of lenders.

In today’s Internet and digital world there is a form of contract known as an End User License Agreement (EULA). These are those agreements that users of computer programs, applications and various software pop up before downloading. Most users probably never take the time to read what they are agreeing to. I suspect that it is because the agreements tend to be lengthy and that the user believes the benefits outweigh the risk of such agreements. Also, many of these agreements contain a clause such as:
“(The provider) reserves the right to update and change, from time to time, this Software License and all documents incorporated by reference. (The provider) … may change this Software License by posting a new version without notice to you. Use of the … Software after such change constitutes acceptance of such changes.”

Is there really a contract if one of the parties agrees that the other party can change the agreement without notice?

Finally, full disclosure. This columnist is not an attorney, and this information should not be considered legal advice. The intent to show the importance and use of contracts in daily life. And even though it is not practical to call an attorney every time a person or business enters into a contract, it is important to know that for certain contracts an attorney should always be contacted. Common sense is a good guide.