Analytics Have Their Place…It’s People That Matter

Analytics feel so good because you can measure them. Peter Drucker is purported to have said, “If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it.” EXCEPT, he never said it. The point continues to be that DeathCare is overmanaged and underled. The recent trend towards analytics is, in fact, a positive one. It’s danger (and this is happening) is that it mistakenly supplants the role of Leader with the role of Shop Foreman.

This post from the Drucker Institute elegantly opens a better perspective:

Screen Shot 2013-07-16 at 10.39.12 AMBut for all that, Drucker also knew that not everything could be held to this standard. “Your first role . . . is the personal one,” Drucker told Bob Buford, a consulting client then running a cable TV business, in 1990. “It is the relationship with people, the development of mutual confidence, the identification of people, the creation of a community. This is something only you can do.” Drucker went on: “It cannot be measured or easily defined. But it is not only a key function. It is one only you can perform.”…More at Measurement Myopia – The Drucker Exchange – The Drucker Institute

At the end of the day, developing, caring for, caring about, nurturing people is what gives meaning, texture and purpose to life…maybe especially our work lives.

Tips For Turning Around Your Funeral Home

It has been my lot in life to be in leadership roles in a number of business turnarounds from banks to print shops, flower shops to funeral this article hits the top 4 needs (ignoring cash) I especially like 3 and 4.

Screen Shot 2013-07-12 at 3.32.50 PM However, according to Bennigan’s current president and CEO Paul Mangiamele — the man at the helm of the franchise’s resurgence – consumers didn’t abandon Bennigan’s, the brand was brought down by what Mangiamele describes as “brand drift.”

“Brand drift is an insidious disease that happens to many brands when the brand moves away from the many elements that made it successful in the first place,” says Mangiamele. “You need to constantly reinvent yourself so you don’t lose relevance.”

Read more: Fox Small Business

Family Business Infighting

Current literature abounds with research revealing that, despite added issues, family businesses tend to be sustainable longer than non family businesses.  Why is that?

hbrIt’s one of life’s sad ironies that folks who love one another can end up having far more acrimonious business relations than people who are unrelated.

And yet in our experience, conflict actually occurs less frequently in family businesses than non-family businesses. It’s just that when it does break out, the fighting tends to be more intense.

Why is that? The answer is devilishly simple. Fights in family businesses break out because they can. In non-family businesses, there are barriers to keep things from escalating. Owning the business removes many of these barriers. Once a conflict starts, it can easily spiral out of control.

It isn’t that the causes of conflict are any different in family and non-family businesses. In all types of companies, people disagree about issues related to strategy, money, status, and authority. No organization is immune to narcissistic leaders or difficult relationships between employees. But there is a fundamental difference in the two types of companies in what stops conflicts. The difference, in a word, is boundaries.

More Reading

What we can learn from the recent JC Penney Debacle


What happens when plans go terribly awry as they recently did with the venerable JC Penney “strategy.”  We can learn some valuable lessons here. Especially the one about the “Retail Drug” the non-strategy “Low Price Strategy.
hbrJCP doesn’t need someone who can “execute” successfully, get back to basics, or any such thing. Just as it needed two, five or ten years ago, JCP needs a strategy. It needs to decide where it is going to play — with what set of shoppers, in what range of merchandise, through what physical and digital spaces. And it needs to decide how is it
going to provide a superior value proposition to competitive alternatives in that chosen space. This is a tough task. The department store business is a brutal one. This is not a business in which half-witted strategies can be profitable.
But if JCP doesn’t figure out an answer to these questions, it will revert entirely to the retailing drug — the “low-price strategy.” This is actually a non-strategy. There is a real strategy called “low-cost,” which can facilitate more attractive prices than competitors. But low prices unaccompanied by low costs is an approach to liquidation — which is where
JCP will be if it doesn’t start to think intelligently about strategy.

The Sunk Cost Fallacy

You have heard the phrase “don’t throw good money after bad.” Why do we do it?

When we commit to something that costs significant money and it doesn’t work out most people are unwilling to pull the plug. So, good money continues to go toward a loser. Not long ago a senior executive called me and asked if I knew anyone in the pet cremation business who was making meaningful money. I told him I didn’t know anyone who was making ANY money much less meaningful money including the guy who started it. But I do know a lot of people who have created some really innovative excuses for keeping it going. He responded that he couldn’t find anyone either and that were considering shutting down their efforts. Yet, that effort had gone on for a long time and, for all I know, still is.


Screen shot 2012-07-02 at 8.03.03 PMThis sunk costs situation happens much too often in business.  We insist on getting value out of the money we’ve already spent.  We become determined NOT to lose money.  We can’t — we won’t — let go.

However, by not letting go when something isn’t working, we can end up losing a lot more.  We keep pouring money, time and effort into something that has no chance of working or would lead to a poor result at best.  The project or initiative  keeps costing more and more.  Instead of cutting our losses, we compound them by hanging on.  We make our losses worse….More at What Are Sunk Costs? – Small Business Trends

My opinion? I admire people who can admit mistakes and move on. Don’t you? It’s far more embarrassing to keep betting on a loser.

Leadership Lessons From The Boy Scouts

Here 12 leadership concepts that stand the test of time.


Screen shot 2012-07-02 at 8.03.03 PMSurveys show that over 70 percent of consumers in America and Europe distrust businesses as a whole. But for the brands that they do trust, consumer loyalty is fierce. I’ve personally found that one of the easiest ways to instill trust is to mirror the 12 values found in the Scout Law:

A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.

Whether you incorporate these values into the way you personally conduct business or into the way your brand operates as a whole, I think you’ll find that consumers will be excited to work with you time and time again. So let’s get down to business and analyze the Scout’s Law….More at 12 Business Leadership Lessons From Scout Law

Marketing Segmentation: not what you were hoping for

Like you, I have sat through too many powerpoint presentations about market segmentation. Somehow it didn’t ring true to me. Or, at least, if it is true, I find it almost insurmountable logic to believe that you can be quite as granular as you think you can.

There was a time when the air force thought it could win all future wars and infantry was obsolete. It took a while for them to realize that they needed the “boots-on-the-ground.” So it is with hard and fast “solve it all” “magic bullet” answers.  Life is hard work.

This blog post has a new slant on segmentation you might find interesting.


hbrHer confession was blurted out in the midst of our first conversation about the new digital marketing strategy which we would eventually advise them on: “You know, I don’t think I believe in segmentation anymore.” She said it fast and softly, almost in hope that the sounds around us would make it inaudible. But we did hear it, and responded, “Well, we don’t either….”

…Once the taboo was lifted in our minds and in our conversation, our client, a senior marketing executive in the telco sector, with decades of operational experience, explained that in some of the countries she managed, her marketing teams were simply shelving the results of the segmentations they felt obligated to perform out of routine, or because they felt it was expected of them as serious marketers. They just ignored them. In others, marketers were still adamant that segmentation was the only way to go, but couldn’t explain its benefits. Voodoo indeed.

We agreed to work on a new kind of segmentation based the combinations of jobs that customers need to get done. Here’s how the “jobs done” segmentation works:More Reading

My thoughts:

I can remember almost 30 years ago being shown the results of what may have been the first market segmentation in funeral service. All I can remember were “station-wagon moms” I guess they have been succeeded by soccer moms. Anyway I have noticed something about the results and the reality. Virtually every study indicated the majority of people don’t want to talk to a funeral director BEFORE there was an actual body. On the other hand experience has shown me that when there is an actual body they don’t want to talk to anybody BUT a funeral director. I like the thought process in this article. It makes more sense than putting people in slots.


Video: Business Modeling Made Simple

Getting small business owners to “think” about their business is a real challenge for several reasons. First, they are so busy “doing” it’s hard to stop and reflect. Second, they are rarely trained to think in a comprehensively analytical way and, third, most of the time it bores them.

This is a great and simple way to think about the pieces of your business and how they interact on one piece of paper that will help you make fun out of an otherwise frustrating exercise. Who knows you might have an epiphany.

hbrThe business model canvas — as opposed to the traditional, intricate business plan — helps organizations conduct structured, tangible, and strategic conversations around new businesses or existing ones. Leading global companies like GE, P&G, and Nestlé use the canvas to manage strategy or create new growth engines, while start-ups use it in their search for the right business model. The canvas’s main objective is to help companies move beyond product-centric thinking and towards business model thinking.More Reading

Are You The Real Reason Your Company Is Stuck?

I hope you are as tired and bored as I am of chasing after rainbows and false starts.  DeathCare is undergoing a radical transformation.  And for those of you struggling with making that move here is excellent advice:

Screen shot 2012-07-02 at 8.03.03 PMAs small business owners we spend too much time: Learning to accept the fact that we need a team. Putting a team together. Don’t just let it fall apart because we can’t capture an idea and ride that horse until we break it in. There’s something to be said for tenacity and focus. In fact, you don’t have to be a great idea man (or woman) to be a game changer.  A single great concept that’s well executed holds more power than 25 unused proposals. Ideas Carry Potential, Which Is Why They’re So Attractive  But like children, if the idea is worth something, then it has be guided into maturity.  Action carries outcome. If you’re serious about doing something new, there are three sets of questions that should follow every brainstorming session:...More at Ideas Carry Potential: Action Carries Outcome | InnovationHeat

What I would do:

Absolutely read the article linked within this referenced article by Anita Campbell.

But, MOST IMPORTANT, i would screen every hot idea I get at a convention or trade article through the questions at the end of this article.  DeathCare is chasing too many imaginary rabbits down too many rabbit trails.

One last point that I will continue to hammer for owners who spend more time working “on” your business than you do working “in” your business.  If you are stuck and the needle is not moving take some time for introspection.  


There’s A Reason They Just Sit There

The myth of American business is the lone hero leader. The Lee Iacocca’s and Jack Welch’s who single handled rescue ailing businesses from certain disaster.

Funeral directors often self identify themselves as rescuers. It turns out that this is exactly the opposite of the best way to lead people…ESPECIALLY knowledge workers like funeral directors who respond in a predictably passive aggressive way to “command and control” style leadership.

hbrIt turns out there is a scientific reason why employees are less effective when tasks are dictated. Amy Arnsten, a neuroscience professor at Yale University, studies the importance of feeling in control. Her studies can be applied to employee autonomy in managing a team. In an interview at her Yale Laboratory, Arnsten explained that when people lose their sense of control, such as when tasks are dictated to them, the brain’s emotional response center can actually cause a decrease in cognitive functioning. This perception of not being in control, whether real or imagined, would presumably lead to a drop in productivity. If a manager describes the long-term outcome he wants, rather than dictating specific actions, the employee can decide how to arrive there and preserve his perceived sense of control, cognitive function, and ultimately improve his productivity….More at Stop Telling Your Employees What to Do – Harvard Business Review

What I would do:

The next time an employee comes to you for a solution ask them to make a recommendation. Assuming it won’t start the building on fire or land you or them in jail, act on it. You might surprise everyone. No matter what happens the look of shock will be worth the momentary panic you might experience.