Posts Tagged ‘Recession’

Why we all need to think like Steve Jobs

December 14, 2010
Steve Jobs - We need to think like him!

Steve Jobs - We need to think like him!

When we think about innovation we normally conjure up images of scientists in laboratories working on breakthrough experiments and we think of people like Steve Jobs at Apple launching great new iconic products like the iPad.

While this type of innovation is “in lights” we need to embrace some form of change and innovation in the way we have been doing things for all of us to survive.

In Fuzion we are lucky in that during the course of our work we meet “innovators” on a regular basis as part of our work, people trying to launch new products and services. For example recently we had a guy who owns a company operating in the construction sector who has just developed a new product, which he is looking to launch in the marketplace. He explained to us how excited he is at the moment and how he is now actually enjoying the new challenges that the current environment has thrown at him.

This attitude is great and shows the resolve of people who are not sitting back and innovating, mainly forced due to circumstances. This is all about doing something new but I feel innovation can come in many other ways.

I write this on the Sunday, 28th November, 2010 when the IMF bailout agreement has been put in place with Ireland (and to add insult to injury Liverpool surrendered a good performance and lead and ended up losing to Spurs!). Everyone is up in arms, protesting and venting their fury through angry conversations, online on twitter, with angry editorial in our media and yes..it is awful.

We are now paying for terrible excess, lousy governance and mismanagement in “our” country but we need to take responsibility and we desperately need to start doing things in new ways and different from the past.

What kind of innovation is needed from us?

We need to find new ways of running our country efficiently, at a much lower cost and more importantly provide new opportunities for those displaced. There is an opportunity to really sort out the excesses in the Public Sector, which must be embraced.

We need to take a new and responsible approach as to who we vote into power next time round.

We need a new system of government that promotes standards and expertise and not local favours.

We need a new tax system that incentivises risk, investment in expansion and new employment.

We need new approaches to deal with the excess in commercial and residential property in the country. There are solutions that will help here that have largely been ignored. New conditions need new solutions.

We need new approaches to red tape legislation and regulation and adopt a genuine agenda of making things happen instead of “you can’t do that because”. How about “If you do this it will be fine”?

We need a new, but fair welfare system that cares for those who genuinely are unable to work or those who cannot find work but does not reward those who choose to take an easy option.

We need new and honest attitudes towards cheating in this country.

We need new attitudes towards buying products and services from Irish suppliers.

We need new messages about Ireland and start talking up how great this country is to anyone abroad.

We need to be creative and take new approaches to finding work including “try before you buy” and this needs to be genuinely supported by our welfare systems. People who take a risk get rewarded.

We need to start having new conversations about positive things. I can’t take any more of this doom and gloom. It has us all in a very deep hole, which isn’t helping our country.

No one owes us a living, but we owe it to ourselves to reinvent ourselves as true innovators, start adopting new attitudes and new ways of doing things in Ireland.

Ok, it’s not exactly like Steve Jobs this is real innovation that we can all adopt and really need to at this stage.

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion Communications

Another Crazy Christmas! – Some Tips for Retailers

December 10, 2010
Tips for Retail at Christmas

Tips for Retail for Christmas

Writing a piece about retailing at Christmas should be quite straight forward you would imagine, but writing a piece that it is really helpful for retailers that have been through so many of them at this stage is a little daunting I must admit!

With a backdrop of recession and cutbacks, getting customers parting with their hard earned cash will be more challenging than ever but presents must be bought so let’s roll up our sleeves.

As part of the preparation for this article I decided I should ask my good buddy Mr Google for a little help and see what extra nuggets I could find that would definitely impress the experienced retailers out there.

If you Google “Tips for retailing at Christmas” you will be quite surprised with what you will find! My search actually took me to a website called www.christmastipsforretailers.com – can you imagine a website designated to just that topic!

In a way it’s not at all surprising seeing as the Christmas period accounts for a huge % of peoples revenue as well as a huge % of footfall. Even more important the festive period will bring a large number of “new” visitors who could well be trying out your store for the first time – what an incredible opportunity if you really think about it.

I will look at the tips under four broad headings:

Attract the customers into your store

Customer loyalty is as a result of the good work you have done throughout the year and will determine where customers will do their shopping when it comes to Christmas. However you have to do your utmost to attract them in and compete for their attention.

Database Promotions – this is where you use your databases, your invite lists, and your Facebook page for special offers, special customer nights and even Christmas cards as gentle reminders that you are open for business.

Wow Window displays – Christmas windows are really special and if possible push the boat out and really build attractive displays that grab customer attention. (I always get blown away by the window displays in London at this time)

While having an attractive window display is critical, remember that people need complete “solutions” with either their outfits or their gifts – be sure to put your best foot forward at all times with your most attractive and available stock.

Fresh – Have new merchandise arrive throughout the whole festive period keeping your store fresh and if not refresh and rotate the key displays so that the store feels new and vibrant.

Offers – Make sure your promotions are well displayed but in a tasteful way and in keeping with the overall store look and feel.

Clean and tidy store – Allow extra staff time each evening for cleaning, tidying and rearranging so that the store is looking the best as much as possible.

 

Look after the customer really well when they get there

Research has shown that at Christmas 60% of purchasing decisions are made within the store – once they come in your door make sure that happens.

Christmas is a Floor Show – One of the sites I visited referred to retailing at Christmas as being a “Floor Show”. The game is won and lost on the sales floor and this is where the staff and managers should be spending their time looking after customers, making sure that the part time staff knows what they are doing, spotting trends and sorting out issues – plenty time for the office work in the New Year!

Happy Team – Keep your team motivated and upbeat. Christmas is a happy time and cheery staff are vital for the business. It is your responsibility to keep them happy, plan a Christmas party, bring them coffee and treats and make sure you rotate them so that they don’t get too jaded as this will result in lost business.

Happy Customers – Make sure there is a good atmosphere in the store with nice scents and festive but not “too” typical music. Offering a festive drink or some sweets or treats can put the shopper in a very good mood.

 

Give yourself every chance of selling to customers and as much as possible

Once you have done the hard job of attracting people into your store you want them to do a lot more than browse and say thank you!

Make it easy – Shoppers want to maximise their time and minimise their decision making so make it easy for them by bundling and coordinating products, labelling them clearly and having relevant accessories within easy access.

Have a Top 10 or Favourites rail – Display the popular lines prominently making it easy for the customer to purchase with confidence.

Show people what to buy – Create displays with the specific solutions in mind such as mother’s gifts, party wear etc

The right staff – You need the right quantity of good staff to maximise your income at this time. Bring part-time staff in during the lead up to Christmas in plenty of time so they are sufficiently up to speed for the rush.

Speedy Gonzales – Have your quickest people on the tills and on wrapping duty – remember Rowan Atkinson (Mr Bean) in the store in the movie Love Actually!

Exchange policy and vouchers – make it as easy as possible for customers to buy by removing obstacles such as “What if they don’t like it?” objections.

Gift wrap – for the guys this is an absolute must as long as it doesn’t take too long and interferes with sales. Pre-wrap fast selling items where possible.

 

Entice them to return in the New Year

This is the one area that for some reason wasn’t covered in any of the websites, which really surprised me.

Accepting that many new customers visit your store in the Christmas period and many of the other shoppers may just be customers for special occasions, give them a special reason for returning earlier than expected.

New Year Initiatives such as invitations to a special VIP Customer “sale day” or a unique voucher that can be redeemed with purchases in the New Year might achieve this. Brainstorm ideas with your staff to encourage early New Year visits for customers.

Running competitions can be another clever way of building a fresh customer database at this time as long as it doesn’t create delays at the till!

I hope the Christmas tips have been helpful and serve you well into 2011 when we have to do it all over again, Merry Christmas!

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion Communications

 

 

We need a NEW Green “Irish” Agenda

November 2, 2010
Irish Flag

Irish Flag

To be honest I’m not too concerned about the Green agenda as we know it.

Of course I care about the environment but at the moment I care a lot more about our country, the economy, our people, our children and our attitude towards ourselves’ and where we live.

I feel we are in danger of losing sight of the good things about Ireland or at least forgetting what we have and how it is such a special country.
At the moment it feels like we are all working in a company that is going into liquidation, we have to get on with our work but we know the place could fold any day. As regards being forward looking, what’s the point as who knows if the place will even be open next week?

We urgently need a NEW Green Agenda for Ireland.

As is the case in business with any objective for this to work everyone must be clear about the goal, we must understand it and we must play our part in achieving it.

All of this sounds wonderful but I believe it can be achieved if we do following four things:

Adopt a Make it Happen Approach

We have to get more Irish people working and Ireland making money again and this will happen if everyone in whatever role they have adopts a genuine “Make It Happen” approach.

If regulators, fire officers, planning officials, politicians, bankers, health & safety officials, ESB, phone and broadband installers, approach their jobs with a “Make it Happen” approach then more businesses would open and more events and activities would be possible. I am not saying allow bad practices but approach the problem with a solution mindset instead of a “Can’t do that” one and watch the difference.

Liquidators, bankers, NAMA, regulators – there is an insatiable appetite now to shut people and businesses down (and this does include builders). Work to the Green Agenda – keep business open, keep people who want to continue, open, instead of shutting them down. If this was a genuine objective, then better solutions would be found than those we are seeing currently.

We are haemorrhaging money in the public service and we just can’t afford this anymore. Let’s provide for our people who are sick, let’s give our children the best possible education and let’s provide financial support for those misfortunate enough not to have work. However, don’t rip Ireland (us) off with unnecessary bureaucracy, claiming welfare and other benefits illegally and not working at full capacity. Be honest, have a Green agenda, it’s our country, let’s protect it.

Initiate Real Positive Initiatives

The budget, the budget ..Ok, this will take money out of the system, which is going to affect everyone.

A few things here – If we adopt a Make it Happen approach the fall will not be as hard, if we take the opportunity to squeeze out excess and inefficiency in the public service it will be a great days work, which should have been done a long time ago, if we use the taxation mechanisms to encourage the better utilisation of assets and encourage people who are sitting on Celtic Tiger wealth to start investing then it won’t be so bad.
I’m ok with taking some bad tasting medicine as long as there is an equal package of Real Positive Initiatives. I’m talking initiatives to encourage new business, to encourage investment in capital, incentives to do something with our vast property portfolio, training and investment initiatives as encouragement for new business and real taxation incentives for people who are willing to Make It Happen. (Since the recession has kicked in I have seen virtually no Real Positive Initiatives)

Encourage a Spend Ireland Campaign

We have to encourage people to spend money on Irish products and Irish services, proactively keeping money circulating in the country.
I’m talking a lot more that consumers looking out for Irish products when they are doing their shopping. I am talking about purchasing managers deliberately choosing Irish products and services and retailers making this a priority and giving the Irish products pride of place on the shelves. This isn’t a cop out for Irish suppliers, who have to manage their businesses to the extent that they can compete with foreign alternatives. Besides products we need to choose Irish service providers – have a genuine buy Irish agenda. This money will come back to you somewhere along the way.

As part of this initiative I would encourage all companies to keep as many people working as possible. Not a time for making a few quid extra by outsourcing to India.

Work hard on “Ireland PR”

Finally and most importantly we need to get back to celebrating our fabulous country and start talking it up. It is a great place to live and we need to stop knocking it. In everything we do we need to be conscious of our Irishness and do everything to project the right image. This includes all of us including even Brian Cowen! We should continue and encourage events and activities that showcase Ireland abroad. Quite simply we need to start “Talking Ireland Up”.

Maybe all of this is a little Utopian but I do feel that collectively we need to lift our heads, pull together in the same direction and grasp a NEW Green Agenda, an Irish agenda.

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion Communications

Bill Clinton – Understanding bread to avoid making toast!

October 5, 2010

Bill Clinton and the Irish Toast

Bill Clinton and the Irish Toast

Bill Clinton made a huge impression in Ireland last week during his visit and scored huge credibility points with his straight talk and in particular his comment that “Ireland needed to get a handle on the Economy and its Finances or else it would be toast

This speech came at the same time as we announced even bigger banking deficits and serious noises about four year austerity budgets. Doom and Gloom in mega portions. Would you like some despair with that?

Bill was quickly compared by the media to our own leaders and we all fell into a hole of depression as we know we are seriously lacking in credible and inspirational leadership that we can genuinely believe in. Bill did say we could take the tough medicine IF we believed in the results that would follow.

He is right – we need to get a handle on our economy before we are all toast.

The big issue is that no one seems to have a clue about bread and how to avoid our bread (or lack of it!) turning into toast – it just isn’t understood. I am getting no sense from anyone that there is anything close to a solution, a definite and a clear believable plan.

I had a meeting this morning with an accountant friend of mine and the subject of Irish toast came up.

Quite simply my friend made a statement “As accountants, both of us we know that you just can’t take any more money out of this economy. People are on their knees so this is an impossible situation.” The elephant in the room was let out! Of course you can’t get blood from a stone, that is so obvious.

There is a tricky dynamic between confidence, spending, investment, disposable income, indirect taxes and direct taxes, which has us barely hanging in there. Without confidence we have not been spending, which has impacted on tax take and look what’s happened.

The feeling and atmosphere I witnessed since last week reminds me of the terror and fear that gripped everyone and resulted in choking the life out of the economy at the start of 2009.

Without a huge package of Real Positive Initiatives (RPI and not RIP!) that help to generate spending and job creation in the economy, some of which we heard about from Grant Thornton last week on Newstalk (for example in Australia 100% Capital allowances were introduced to encourage spending and investment) to go with some necessary cutbacks, where there is still serious excess we will in serious bother.

Do we need to understand about making bread if we want to avoid being toast?

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion Communications

Bill Gates and his last dollar

July 4, 2010

 

Bill Gates

“If I was down to my last dollar I would spend it on PR” was the famous quote that Bill Gates made and one that many of us in the PR industry use when we are trying to draw attention to the importance of our services.

Ironically many of us are nearly down to our last dollars, or Euros and you might question does this piece of advice really hold water, how applicable is it and is this really what Bill Gates meant when he made the comment?  Was he ever down to his last dollar? – I wonder..

Does he really suggest that when a business is really tight that it spends its income in such a way?

When the recession kicked in how did you react in your business? What overheads got the chop? I’m suspecting that Marketing & PR budgets were given the scissors treatment – was this the right thing to do? How did this affect your business and the attitude of those working there?

Positive Attitude, Positive Activity and Positive Spend

Not knowing Bill I can only guess but this is my interpretation of what he meant ..

PR is as much an attitude, a process, a set of beliefs, a way of behaving positively as much as it is about Press Releases and actually employing a PR resource.

PR or Public Relations is all about Managing your Reputation– protecting, maintaining, building and managing your reputation. Even if you are down to your last dollar you need to keep investing or doing this.

There is nothing more valuable as a good reputation and this is about a lot more than employing PR companies or about issuing press releases. Your reputation is every single aspect of how your business relates to the outside world, your customers, your prospects, the general public and the media. This applies equally to a self employed candlestick maker as it does to a large multinational.

Ok, how about 16 Tips for improving and managing your Reputation (PR) for €1

1.    Answer the phones politely and helpfully
2.    Return missed calls promptly
3.    Return email enquiries quickly
4.    Deliver a good service to customers
5.    Handle complaints fairly and efficiently
6.    Deliver products and services on time
7.    Ensure your billing is correct
8.    Be polite, fair and efficient with your suppliers and staff
9.    Keep customers and prospects up to date with new products, features and services
10.    Treat your suppliers fairly
11.    Treat your customers with respect (even if they are experiencing difficulty and are under financial pressure)
12.    Ensure that all correspondence is well laid out, with correct English, is easily understood, professional and properly reflects your business
13.    Ensure your premises and vehicles are kept neat and tidy
14.    Ensure the attire of your staff is in keeping with the standards of your business
15.    Ensure your staff always talk up your company and do not air grievances outside of the four walls with external people – make a pact to sort things out internally
16.    Talk up the achievements of your company and the staff working there – their talents, skills and achievements

This is not an exhaustive list – have a think about it and add another 5/10/20 points to improve your reputation even more. Even better get your team to help you with this task.

Ok, all of this is good for your business reputation, it didn’t require the intervention of third party consultants and oh yeah, it didn’t really cost a shilling – you still have your €1 left!

So far we have looked at some housekeeping reputation issues.

Positive Attitude

As we mentioned PR is in essence a positive attitude – first and foremost you need to declare war on this recession and ensure that you and everyone in your business understands the importance of your reputation and a Positive Attitude towards your business. You will thrive in this environment and if you are alert you will not only survive but you will be in a position to seize on unique opportunities that may arise.

Back to the job of spending our last €1..

Communicate that you are going to invest in positive activity for your business – You have been in Retreat mode and now you want to invest funds in forward mode – you want to “Storm” this recession. Your staff must understand that every €1 is vital, that you want maximum return from it and challenge them to achieve this. Show and positively display the faith that you have in the business and communicate that you and your team are adopting “attack” mode!

This positive mind shift is essential for the business.

Where do we spend our €1?

–    Refresh your Website – review and refresh the text, besides being new and positive it helps your Search Engine ranking
–    Optimise your Website (do a Google search on this and you will learn find how to do it for free)
–    Update the News items on the website – announce new customers, products or services
–    Set up a Facebook business page, it’s free – take the time and build a following for your business online. Ask customers to sign up, email them, ring them, tell them..
–    Start using the other social media sites such as Twitter or LinkedIn to build your contacts and spread awareness for your business, products and service. If you’re not sure how to do this – Google it .. there are plenty of articles and tips available online
–    Prepare Press Releases about your company or services . Do you have anything interesting or new happening in the business? – let the press know.
–    Advertising: maybe you have an advertising campaign running with the local papers or a trade publication – negotiate that you get some free editorial to support these adverts (keep it interesting, they won’t print boring stuff!)

All of this is positive – have you ever noticed that you like being around positive people? In business we are no different and we like dealing with positive, successful businesses. Behave like one of them.

Build your reputation, shout it from the rooftops and make this a clearly understood activity in your business.

Big problem… we still haven’t spent that €1

Print a few posters and put them around your business “We are Storming the Recession”

If you have more than €1 to spend feel free to give Fuzion a call and we will help you achieve the maximum from your Marketing & PR budget.

Bill, thanks for the PR thumbs up ..

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion Communications

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April 10, 2010

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Businesses Still Opening despite the odds ..

March 29, 2010
Karizma - Turkish Barbers

Karizma - Turkish Barbers

Despite the odds new businesses are still opening up in the middle of this economic climate.

What is this due to ?

Is this an entrepreneurial spirit that just cannot be crushed? – unique individuals, who despite bucket loads of advice not to do so, struggles to raise finance from powerless and frightened bankers,  little incentive to even bother trying and poor support from any government bodies – and they still decide to risk their money without a safety net and take the ultimate plunge and open up a “new business”.

Thank God – the landlords, the shop fitters, the signage guys, the staff, the local councils and the revenue all benefit & maybe the odd Marketing & PR Company!

I absolutely celebrate inside when I pass these new stores/businesses.

Long live the entrepreneurial spirit, it won’t be broken!

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion Communications

What would Darwin think of Nama?

February 9, 2010

Charles Darwin the English scientist who passed away in 1882 had a very famous quote “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change

What would he make of our property industry? In the muck for the best part of two years and no new initiatives, besides reducing prices and passing the buck from the developers to the banks to Nama. Is this the best that we can do?

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion Communications

It will get better when we stop saying it will get worse.

November 30, 2009

Brian Cowen - Fianna Fail

Getting Better

It will get worse before it gets better!

What was he thinking when he said this?

I am talking about Brian Cowen of course, the leader of our government, the leader of our country.   I consider myself to be one of the very lucky ones in the last week with the floods. Except for a leaky roof in our office and a lack of running water, no floods and pretty much business as usual.

It is difficult to empathise with people who have had their houses flooded and their livelihoods effectively ended or at least seriously threatened due to the floods. What is it like to be exhausted after days of battling with flood water, struggling with no water to drink or wash, trying to clean up and rescue what you can from the debris? I can only imagine.

In that position I imagine I want to hear things like: “Don’t worry, you will be looked after”, “We will have it all sorted really soon”, not “It will get worse before it gets better” – that must make your hole seem ever deeper. Hope or despair?

Come on Brian, have some cop on will you? Bring people hope not despair. Besides managing how about leading for a change?

You made the same comments after the last budget – why do you think most of the country is half petrified about the economy and their livelihoods. Confidence and positivity will bring optimism, will loosen the purse strings and assist recovery not “It will get worse before it gets better”

It will only get better when we stop talking about it getting worse..

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion Communications, Dublin & Cork

Getting Past the Menu

October 4, 2009

Getting past the menu

How can searching for the perfect meal in a really nice restaurant teach us valuable lessons about our own business?

I am sure like myself most of you absolutely love dining out!

After all enjoying a good meal in a good restaurant is one of life’s greatest pleasures and a bad meal is a huge disappointment and feels like a wasted opportunity and will leave you totally disgruntled.

Have you noticed with restaurant reviews that they talk about the food in intimate detail, examining each dish, discussing each flavour and the textures of the food – mouth watering stuff indeed!

I find it really interesting that most of the reviewers rarely talk about all the complicated steps that come before the food, which I find are often as important as the meal itself.

Ok, where am I going with this argument?

On holidays I always look forward to meals out – for me it is one of the very best parts of the holiday. In particular if you are in a place that you are not familiar with there is a fabulous sense of discovery and adventure as you search for the ‘perfect meal’.

Now this is where the difficulty lies – how to negotiate your way through the choices on offer and finally get past the menu and find the perfect meal?

If you have had the time to do your research in advance you may have been able to get your hands on some reviews, searched for restaurants on the web (how many restaurants have websites?) and then maybe visitors on Trip Advisor may give you a clue as to where to go.

Maybe some friends have been there before and can make a recommendation. No doubt they will have been through the same tricky process in trying to discover the perfect meal.

You may just wait till you arrive at your destination, study the local guide books and adverts or then again it might just be a case of hoping for the best and heading out and leaving it to your eyes and ears to decide where you will find the perfect meal.

If you are anything like me you will probably end up walking the streets and judging places by how the look. Very scientific!

What does the building look like, does it look clean on the outside, what kind of food are they serving, have a peep inside – busy or quiet, what do the staff look like – smart, casual or too casual, have a peep at the menu outside, what is your overall impression?

No doubt at this stage you will have looked at too many places, probably walked too much and starvation starts to kick in.

Eventually if you are lucky you will find a place that you are happy with or if you have been searching for too long you might just settle for a place that looks ok.

You are one step closer to the perfect meal.

And now for the closer look – the greeting, the cleanliness, the cutlery and the napkins, the toilets and the menu?

The menu – Besides the actual contents, is it clean, do the pages stick together with bits from previous meals, is it battered from overuse, are there pieces of paper covering over prices or menu items that have changed, are the menu items spelt properly? – chickne (I am not kidding!). How many times have you sat there and realised that you have probably made a mistake? – Get up and leave embarrassed or just give in and order and hope for the best?

It is your chance to have a perfect meal and you shouldn’t blow it!

We recently experienced the ‘sticky menu’  did just that, admittedly having ordered a starter and some wine, consumed them quickly and moved on. The food may have been superb but we weren’t going to risk it. Eventually we settled on another restaurant and a not-so-bad meal was had by all but the holy grail of the perfect meal was never found.

When you get it right it is fabulous, when all the parts come then you do tend to tell everyone how great a meal you had.

Eating out can be tricky and very frustrating – maybe that is why we end up going to the same restaurant over and over, where we pretty much know what to expect. The low risk strategy!

So how does all of this relate to you?

In your business, whatever that may be, do your prospective customers get past your menu?

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion PR, Marketing and Graphic Design, with offices in Dublin and Cork