Quote of the Day

"We don’t want to be the ‘best of the best.’  We want to be the only ones who do what we do."

Jerry Garcia
The Grateful Dead

Sometimes good business advice comes from the most unlikely places.

Supreme Court Sides With Employees in Discrimination Case

Last Thursday the U.S.Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Tennessee railroad worker who claimed that her employer, Burlington Northern Railroad, had discriminated against her after she made a complaint of sexual harassment. 

The intent of the ruling appears to be to standardize the definition of retaliation.  In the past, the various circuit courts have applied different standards.  Some have ruled that only termination and demotion constituted retaliation while others have used a broader definition.  The Supreme Court ruling seems to favor the latter.

Obviously, the best way to avoid problems is to never allow discrimination in the workplace.  That goes without saying.  But, if someone does file a complaint, don’t take it lightly.  Get your attorney involved right away and follow his/her advice carefully.  Be especially careful that nothing you do has even the appearance of retaliation.  The future of your business could depend on it.

House Votes to Reduce Estate Taxes

Last Thursday the House of Representatives passed a bill (H.R. 5638) that would drastically reduce estate taxes.  Under the new bill estates valued at less than $5 million for an individual or $10 million for a couple would be permanently exempt from estate taxes after 2010.  Estates up to $25 million would be taxed at 15%, the same rate as capital gains.  Under current law the estate tax would be phased out by 2010, but return to a 55% rate in 2011.

The Senate is expected to take up the measure this week.  Inc.com has more details.

Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005

On May 17, President Bush signed into law the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005.  The new law extends some tax provisions that were set to expire and creates some new tax breaks.  The provisions apply to both individuals and businesses.  You can read about the new law here and here.

Of course, when in doubt, speak to your accountant or tax professional.

The New Influencers

Karl Long writes today in MarketingProfs: Daily Fix on the subject of influence in the age of social media and new marketing.  A web site, Heat.Eat.Review offers reviews of microwave heat & eat meals.  It’s just one
example of how third-party reviewers can influence potential customers.  For instance, the reviewer says Star
Kist Lunch to-Go
smells like cat food.  Ouch!  Sorry Charlie.

In the "good old days" we knew who the influencers were and acted
accordingly.  Some years back, one of our dealers here in St.
Louis sold some ceiling fans to a local TV anchorman.  He had a
problem with one of them.  The dealer moved heaven and earth to
make sure the guy was happy.  Everything worked out ok. 

Whether a celebrity deserves any better treatment than anyone else
is open to debate, but the point is, today everybody has
influence.  Anyone with an internet connection can set up a blog
or post to any number of on-line consumer sites.  We have the
technology to spread the word, both good and bad, instantaneously
around the world, not just to our limited circle of acquaintances.

Where a TV personality in a medium-sized market like St. Louis can
influence thousands of people, a kid with a computer has the potential
to influence millions.  Scary, isn’t it?

To protect our reputations and our businesses in the twenty-first century, there are two things we must do:

1.  Treat every customer as if they could make or break our business, because they can.

2.  Take the time to find out what people are saying about us. 

To expand on number two, when was the last time you Googled
yourself?  Enter your business name, enclosed in quotation marks,
into the one or more of the major search engines, like Google or Yahoo.  Do the same for your major product lines.  If you
find anything, take care of it!  Don’t forget to search Google News and Google Groups.  Do the same with one or more of the major blog search engines like technorati
or feedster.  Again, if you get any hits, follow up on
them.  Your reputation is too important to leave it up to

By the way, I like  Lunch  To-Go.

Your Elevator Speech

Have you heard the expression "elevator speech."  In case you haven’t, it’s a brief explanation of what you do for a living, or what your company does, given in the time it takes for an elevator ride.  Preparing an elevator speech forces you to really think about what you do that’s different from your competitors, and to distill it down into a short statement.  The goal of a good elevator speech is to get the listener to ask you for more information.

While you may not spend a lot of time in elevators, you certainly meet people all the time who ask you what you do.  It’s a perfect opportunity to plant the seeds for future business and referrals. "I sell widgets"  isn’t likely to make much of an impression but  "I’m in the business of saving homeowners hundreds of dollars each year on their energy bills" is sure to invite the question, "How do you do that?"

John Jantsch, in his "Duct Tape Marketing Newsletter" calls it a "personal marketing message" or a "talking logo".  He offers the following formula: 

" Here’s the pattern: Action verb, (I show, I teach, I help) target
market, (business owners, homeowners, teachers, divorced women, Fortune
500 companies) how to xxxx = solve a problem or meet a need that you
know your marketing has.


Now ask yourself, "Who wouldn’t want to know more when you heard a
talking logo that spoke directly to you?" Communicating a powerful
message like this will get you referral appointments too."

As Jantsch points out, the next step is to be prepared to answer the "How do you do that?" question.  Once you’re asked for more information, that’s your invitation to explain how you can help THEM.  Try it.  It works.  And the best part, it costs absolutely nothing!

No More Bad News

My wife had a bad customer service experience over the weekend.  So did my son.  Both experiences involved the same transaction, which was a Fathers’ Day gift for me.  My wife had a problem buying the item and my son had trouble picking it up.  Both swear that they’ll never return to the store in question.

When I heard their stories, my first thought was, "Aha!  A good topic for a blog post."  But, I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of hearing about bad customer service.  It’s so much the rule, rather than the exception, that it isn’t news anymore. 

It seems so simple.  If you want to stand out from the crowd, treat people the way you would like to be treated.  It’s not new.  It’s not revolutionary.  It’s just common sense.  It’s a shame that so few people do it anymore, but that gives us an opportunity to distance ourselves from the competition. 

So, from now on, if you want to read about bad service, you’ll have to look somewhere else.  Bad service stories aren’t worth our time.

Have a great day!Smiley