With Ken Jenkins

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Culture: The Art of Being There…or Not

Most businesses face two constant truths: their success hinges on great customer service, and their owners can’t be everywhere at once.

Our last few articles looked at just how crucial customer service can be. Without us even knowing, a single poor experience can lose a customer – perhaps forever. On the flipside, I believe delivering the right customer experience will make lifelong, loyal customers.

But how does one consistently deliver the right customer experience, especially as your business grows and you cannot always be the face the customer sees? The answer: by developing a strong company culture that reinforces your values. Those things that set your company apart from your competition.

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Why be a Servant-Leader?

Want to be a better leader? Check your ego at the door.

The most successful leaders focus on the needs of others before themselves. While this is especially true in regards to your employees, it’s also an important trait to maintain with your customers, friends, family and people in general.

As a business leader, your job is addressing the needs of your team and customers while providing leadership to fulfill them. This is an art, but the humble commitment to your team, customers and others—listening and responding to their needs— makes for solid leadership and ultimately drives innovation and success.

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Get Social

I’m a strong believer in social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like. And few in the lumber and building materials industry would suggest they don’t need to have a presence on it.

But too often I see this new digital frontier being treated as a one-off effort. Like any worthwhile project, social media requires a long-term approach to build and maintain; it’s not a one-and-done, fire-and-forget endeavour.

Social media can be an extremely valuable marketing and branding tool for lumber and building material dealers who take the time to understand the opportunity, and devote the time and resources to make the most of it.

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Today’s Consumers are Smarter, but are They More Rational?

There’s no question that today’s consumers are smarter and better informed. They have access to the Internet for everything. Online reviews from friends and family confirm whether or not a product is worthy of your attention.

Studies show that nearly 9 in 10 consumers read online reviews to determine the quality of a local business or product, and almost 4 in 10 do it on a regular basis.1 This trend is predicted to grow.

But, as consumers, are we more rational? Evidence suggests that this is more myth than fact.

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Hard Work or Talent: What Does it Take to Succeed?

If you love sports like I do—whether it’s baseball, basketball, football, hockey, golf, or tuning into the Olympics—you probably marvel at the phenomenal ability of the athletes involved. You have to wonder what makes them so talented, so gifted, that they can perform at such a high level, day, after day.

These talented athletes make plays we mere mortals can only dream about. Where does that extraordinary ability come from? Is greatness a genetic gift that these athletes are born with?

Is the same true in business? Are successful entrepreneurs born with a business gene? We often refer to it as the Midas touch: whatever they touch turns to gold. Or, can anyone be great at what they do?

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Where Have All the Tradespeople Gone?

The bigger question is: where are all the tradespeople going to come from?

In Canada we may see a shortfall of one million workers by 2020 due primarily to an aging population and declining birth rates. As Baby Boomers gear up for retirement, there simply aren’t enough of the next generation to fill those vacant jobs.

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What’s at the Root of Most Business Problems?

When communication breaks down, businesses break down. To be successful, we must keep communications simple (and, as direct as possible). The more complicated the communication process, the more likely there is to be miscommunication, confusion and, ultimately, mistakes.

In the 1960s the U.S. Navy developed an acronym (KISS) for the design principle suggesting that most systems work best if kept simple rather than made complicated.

Back then even the Navy recognized we made things more complex than they needed to be. In business, it’s a real detriment.

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2016: The Year of Acquisitions

Just look at the headlines any given week and you see numerous merger and acquisition (M&A) news. Like it or not, consolidation is a given in all industries, and it looks like 2016 will be a banner year for them in Canada.

Consolidation can often be great for companies, consumers and the market in general. Successful mergers should create operational, financial and managerial synergies, which become a boon to the supply chain and consumers alike; however, not all mergers and acquisitions are successful. In fact, a KPMG study suggested that 83% failed to produce any benefits for shareholders and more than half actually destroyed value.

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Is Our Educational System Meeting the Needs of Future Entrepreneurs?

I wrote recently about how small businesses and entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of our country’s success, but are we doing enough to provide entrepreneurs with the skills they need to succeed?

I’m not so sure. Too often the education system defines success in terms of academic recognition—the ability to memorize, write exams, to score well on aptitude tests. These are great skills to have, but do they ultimately lead to careers? Just ask any millennial how their university degree is serving them in their job search. (Hint: one in four university-graduating millennials are employed in jobs that don’t need their degrees, and Canadians under the age of 30 have struggled in recent years to find work1.)

More important, are they the skills needed for entrepreneurial success? Continue reading

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