Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Got any stories?

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

One of Robroy’s favorite things to ask a CEO is, “Got any stories?”

After a couple of decades of listening to their replies, I’ve finally made an important distinction about story-tellers.  The good ones teach us something about themselves.  And the great ones teach us something about ourselves.

Imagine having the ability to do this with your clients and employees.  To help them learn more about themselves by the stories that you tell.  Imagine the bond of trust, appreciation and loyalty you’d develop.

“Does that really work?” you ask?  Well, let’s see what we can learn from five Baltimore CEOs who, by Robroy’s definition, are great story-tellers:

1. Greg Cangialosi, CEO of Blue Sky Factory, never was a sales guy, and yet sold his business for millions of dollars.

2. Bernie Dancel, CEO of AscendOne, realized that, unless he helped others, they would never be free.

3. Marty Mintz, CEO of Northern Pharmacy, withstood large, faceless competition to keep the corner drug store open for its 70th year.

4. Myra Norton, CEO of CommunityAnalytics, had to experience great sorrow before coming to trust her team.

… and, finally, a lesson from the past on what not to do:

5. Captain Isaac Emerson, CEO of Bromo Selzter, advertised a headache remedy for troubled marriages, while building monuments to his own failed marriage around Baltimore.

As for me, I’d say I learned that I am human.  I’m afraid of being misunderstood.  I’m afraid of losing business and losing love.  I’m afraid of having my loved ones die.

But I’m not afraid to go for it all, anyway.

How about you, boss.  Got any stories?

See Robroy LIVE!  http://bit.ly/qhmqek

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The grand tree

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Don’t know about you, but Robroy was getting all geared up for the Baltimore Grand Prix on the streets of downtown come Labor Day.  I loved the idea of cars blasting past my office windows at the speed of fighter jets.  I thought it would be fun looking down from the heights of the Bromo Seltzer Tower like a kid kneeling over a toy racetrack and shouting, “Cool!”

But no great thrill comes without a great moral dilemma.  In this case, what to do about the trees along the race route?  Cut them down?  These are beautiful, mature trees we’re talking about here.  Some of them are personal friends of mine.  But are they worth preserving if they block the grandstands and the chance to inject $250M into downtown’s businesses?

A spokesperson for the city’s landscape architecture firm was reported to say that the trees along the race route would be “uprooted, temporarily moved to other locations and then replanted in their original location.”  He said this effort would be repeated each year of the five-year commitment to the Grand Prix.

I liked it.  I have always said that trees don’t get enough exercise.  So I go for a stroll down Pratt Street to see my friends off, and what do I find?

Stumps.  Shorn-off tree stumps.

Ah, Baltimore.  The human race.  How can we win if we cut off our roots?

Your turn.  What do you stand to lose or gain from the Grand Prix?  Leave a comment below.

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A portrait of the writer as a young man

Friday, July 8th, 2011

At the Marketing Excellence Awards dinner last month, I met a rising senior from a local university who reminded me of me.  I’ll call him Ernie.

Ernie has no clue what he wants to do when he graduates. I asked what he’s passionate about, and he said writing short stories and falling in love. I asked why.

“To me, falling in love is like writing in dreams,” he said. “It’s so beautiful. It’s so true. Then you wake up, and it’s gone forever. And you realize you never really had it.”

I was impressed. When I was his age, I could not even have come to an event like this, due to the fact that my only tie still had ketchup on it from the last Valentine’s Day.

“Kid,” I said, “you should be a copywriter.”

“No way,” he said. “I only write from the heart.”

“That’s great,” I said. “Stay true to what you know. There’s no reason to give that up, ever. Keep writing from the heart, no matter what you’re writing.”

He said, “Right,” and looked away, bored.

Exactly as I would have done.

What about you?  What advice would you give a young person who reminded you of you?  Leave a comment below.

(And while you’re here, have another Robroy.)

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5 thoughts for thought-leaders

Friday, June 17th, 2011

“Every man is where he is by the law of his nature; his thoughts have brought him there.” James Allen, As a Man Thinketh

Robroy has read this quote dozens of times over the course of 20 years, and I still find fresh meaning.  Lately, in my work helping CEOs tell their stories, I’ve discovered it means that we can not only found companies with our thoughts, but grow them by leading the thoughts of others.

Here are some ways being a thought-leader helps you grow your company:

1. Attract talent

2. Stay top-of-mind with prospects

3. Differentiate yourself from competitors

4. Shorten your sales cycle

5. Generate referrals

The idea is, the more you make people think, the more they think of you.  Steve Jobs and Apple Computer might be the ultimate contemporary examples.  Apple comes out with a new product, and legions of followers are inspired to think in new ways.  Could this approach to leadership work for you?

It’s a thought.

(While you’re here, have another Robroy.)

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The experience lie

Friday, April 29th, 2011

It’s good to have experience.  The problem is, it takes persistence and time to develop it, and more persistence and time to be known for it.  So how do you position your expertise when you’re still new?

Unfortunately, some companies take a shortcut that Robroy calls “the experience lie.”

The experience lie is when they tell you a story about their background that cannot possibly be true.  For example, let’s say Delta, Claude and Eli have three, one and six years in the industry, respectively.  To promote their new company, Delta might say: “We have ten years of experience, combined.”

The experience lie.

Sure, the math works.  But what kind of logic is that?  It’s like saying: nine 2-year-olds can enlist in the US Marines because their combined age is 18.

As for you and Robroy, we will speak the truth.  Even if we can only say, “Ah-goo.”

(Read Robroy’s column in the Baltimore Business Journal)

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5 steps for guest bloggers

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

Every now and then, someone notices how passionate you are about your topic, and asks you to submit a guest post to their blog.

You graciously accept.  After all, there’s nothing you love better than sharing your passion with others.  But what is the best way to structure a blog post?

1. Start with the Problem: For example, in this post, the problem is that it’s hard to write a guest post.

2. Dwell on the Consequence: If you don’t, you won’t be able to share what you are passionate about as clearly.

3. Find the Turning Point: What does it take to turn the problem around?  You know what to do.  You’ve lived it.

4. Share the Vision: Here you create the possibilities you have been imagining, so that others can see what you see.

5. Reap the Reward: Wrap your post with something that gives readers a reason to dream.

Be a proper guest.  Apply the 5-point structure to your topic, and you will make an imprint on the world.

That’s all we ask.

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Bull!

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Have you ever had a dream that you were alone in the ring with a bull?  You flourish your cape.  The crowd cheers.  Fifty feet away, the bull leans toward you, absolutely intense.  Are you ready?

If you’re selling or marketing your company, you’d better be.


The bull is boom times, and Robroy has news for you.  This is no dream.  In Maryland, the bull strode cooly into the ring earlier this year, when the Baltimore Business Journal acknowledged “the end of the recession.”

The bull paused, straining his powerful neck and pawing the dirt as the Baltimore Sun reported more data on economic recovery: http://ow.ly/1DaVo.

What does the data say?

Businesses posted thousands of new jobs in sales (up 23%), marketing (up 8%) and customer service (up 26%) on CareerBuilder.com, the Sun’s online job board, recently.  The article says more companies are restocking their revenue producing roles.

How is this good for you?

Whether you have a company or a revenue producing role, you have a new purpose.  Get out there and warn your prospects and customers that companies are going agressively into growth mode.  Not only is it safe for them to invest in growth again — it’s dangerous not to.

Ole!

Maryland gets first crack at the bull.  What we do, win or lose, will create momentum for other states.  So let’s be true matadors and engage fearlessly.  Our time has come.

(Read Robroy’s column in today’s Baltimore Business Journal)

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Who else wants amnesia?

Friday, February 26th, 2010

(This post was first published on GoBeyondIT Blog on February 17, 2010)

Hi there.  The name’s Robroy.  You don’t know me, but – can I ask a personal question?  It’s about your medical history.

Have you ever had amnesia?

No?  Me neither.  In fact, I have never even met someone who had it.  And yet, rare as it is in real life, amnesia must be one of the most commonly dramatized illnesses in all of Hollywood.

Goldie Hawn lost her memory in Overboard.  Mickey Rourke lost his memory in Angel Heart.  So did Keanu Reeves in Johnny Mnemonic.  And Jim Carrey in … what was that one called … Spotless in Seattle?

Wouldn’t it be great if we had amnesia?  If more companies caught a little case of it?  Think of the benefits.  We could wipe out all of our old excuses.  Starting with the software and technology that runs and grows our business.  You’d take one look at our server racks and say, “Why are we hosting our stuff on company hardware, instead of in the cloud?”

You’d be absolutely right.  With cloud computing, we could get more computer power, instantly, on demand, at a fraction of the cost.

And nobody could say, “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it!”  Because we wouldn’t know that.  We’d have amnesia.

Right?  That Hitchcock classic, Spellbound.  Gregory Peck.  Can you remember any?  Let’s list a few in the comments below.  Who else had amnesia?

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Twenty-One Ways to Use Social Media to Grow Your Business

Friday, February 19th, 2010

As Twitter, blogs and the many forms of social media continue to dominate all conversations about sales and marketing, Robroy still hears from doubting CEOs.

“Who cares if I’m hauling out the trash or playing with my kids on a snowy day?” they scoff.  “Give me one good reason to take my company in this direction.”

Will you take twenty-one?  Because that’s at least the number of fundamental changes in the way the marketplace communicates today.  Here are some of the ways you can benefit from joining social media:

  1. Let people know who you are
  2. Reach people quickly
  3. Build company culture
  4. Give voice to the company’s personality
  5. Release new features and ideas
  6. Get the truth from the community, like a focus group
  7. Interact with users and fans with questions and comments
  8. Recruit talent
  9. Share company content
  10. Share customers’ content
  11. Generate Web traffic
  12. Get answers quickly
  13. Correct mistakes / improve products
  14. Stay informed on industry trends
  15. Get feedback on what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and what you should do next
  16. Make the company feel smaller and more cohesive
  17. Use as a sounding board
  18. Establish expertise
  19. Attract the media
  20. Humanize the company
  21. Build your brand

In the old days, no one expected to befriend a CEO, or know what he did with his personal time.  Social media changes that.  It makes everyone more accessible.  And if everyone is accessible, including your competition, my friend, do you need another reason?

(How are you using it?  Please comment below.)

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Listening

Friday, February 5th, 2010

Today we bring you news of something truly unexpected from a recent networking event.  Don’t worry, Robroy didn’t deck anybody.

It was a luncheon sponsored by the Baltimore Business Journal.  Managing editor Scott Graham was miked up and walking casually up and down between the rows of tables.  I had never met Scott, but I liked him instantly.  He frowned a lot.  I need that in a journalist.

“We care about our readers,” Scott said to the group of some 40 decision-makers.  “We want to know what you think.  Tell us what you want to see in your business journal.”

Sure.  I closed my good eye.  The old ask-your-customers-what-they-want routine.  He was starting to lose me.

A business owner seated nearby was less skeptical.  “I want to read more stories about social media in business.  You know.  What the power users are doing.”

Scott surprised me by taking notes.

I was even more surprised, one week later, to see the front page of the BBJ:  http://ow.ly/11Mmd.  A story about how power users at Baltimore banks are using Twitter to reach customers.

Impressive stuff, Mr. Graham.

(read more posts below)

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