Very Models of Bad Business Behavior

Old school, new school – we see it all. Luckily we can learn something as we watch others use new tools and tactics to make the same old mistakes.

Trickle down leadership.

Employee relations is about more than getting your company listed as a ‘great place to work’ and the ‘suit-n-tie office types’ vanity mentions in the business paper. Bottom lines are key; ignoring those that get you there – the front line – is a huge mistake. Success starts on the front line, not in the executive lounge.

HR is sometimes thisclose to PR says Leon Noone; your employees often ARE your brand. How will you hire or retain any employees worth a damn if you don’t effectively recruit, motivate and train them?

Lesson: Communications; if you don’t know what your USP or elevator pitch is, you can bet your employees won’t either. Train your employees. Make sure those on the front lines – with customers, vendors, investors, other employees – are empowered to do their jobs, know they have a voice in making positive changes.

Duck and cover. Run and hide.

Ignore your competition and critics. When ‘no comment’ is rarely an effective communications strategy, you stick your head in the sand. You don’t answer the frickin’ phone because really, there’s nothing anyone likes more than talking to machines. Oy.

One of the biggest customer service mistakes ever – ignore the negative feedback and the opportunities they can bring. Firms charge big money for marketing research. Your naysayers on Yelp and your blog are working for FREE; zap the trolls and can spam for sure but don’t dismiss their constructive criticism.

Lesson: Step up and face the firing squad. Make things right, reshape your story; learn something that can help grow your business. I still think about how well the Red Cross handled a mistweet; they admitted it, apologize, accepted responsibility – sans panic – and moved on; would that more companies would do the same.

Follow the leader.

The other day I was at Lenox Square (Atlanta mall) and I actually shook my head all ‘tsk, tsk’ as I passed by the look-alike Microsoft store. I cannot think of a worst message to send than “if they can do it better, we can follow and do it our own, crappy way.”

It’s quite sad that one of the wealthiest, most successful companies on the planet is copying a company who was once just nipping at their heels. Hell Apple still only has a small (but growing) share of the PC market. They managed to pull ahead by creating new industries – portable music made easy, the mobile-app world made easy – by looking ahead, by driving what consumers will want.

Lesson: One way to beat the competition, stop trying to be them; be you, only better.

Do less, Cost more, Live in the past.

So Facebook changed their rules. Again. Some more.

Facebook isn’t betraying your business; you are if you don’t find ways to adapt to those changes, make them work in your favor. Manage the tools, don’t let them manage you.

Someone else found out how to make/sell what you do 1) better 2) faster 3) cheaper and with 4) better service. You can complain about ‘big chain’ this or ‘bad economy’ that when the reality is: the way you’ve always done it ain’t working anymore. You lost.

Lesson: Improvise, adapt, overcome. When was the last time you updated your independent store, made it brighter, cleaner? Offered something the ‘big box’ didn’t? Created a loyalty program? You play the Game of Thrones to win or you die.

Mistakes happen; hopefully, we learn something.

 Photo credit: Despair really gets business… and earns mine all the time.

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12 thoughts on “Very Models of Bad Business Behavior

  1. LURKER! I knew it. You lurk Davina 8)

    This is a great comment thread. I agree with you both. No one forces anyone to use any tool for marketing or communication or doodle dallying at work instead of working.

    1. LURKER – dude, you don’t know the half of it! I can dilly dally w/ the best of them. 🙂 There is no force – it’s opt in, do it right, be better – or be gone. Thanks!

  2. “They managed to pull ahead…by looking ahead, by driving what consumers will want.” I like the will in this sentence. We tend to roll our eyes when folks go, “This is the _____ of the FUTURE,” but depending on who you’re talking to (i.e. whether they’ve worked hard enough researching not only technology options but what’s driving the desires of the market), it’s not necessarily so crazy. I was just looking at Google’s HUD glasses this morning, and wondering, because I tend to look at them as a cross between Willy Wonka and HAL (not that I’ve read 1984 yet), and that’s not a favorable cross in my eyes, even though I love Willy Wonka. But their ideas may not be as nuts as we like to poke fun at.
    Shakirah Dawud recently posted..Do You Just Happen To Write Items That Matter?

    1. How much fun did people make of the iPad? Not just the name, but the concept: an in-between device? Wikipedia is another commonly used example. Crowd-sourced encyclopedia that’s given away for free – a business model that was supposed to never work; instead it’s changed the game totally. Then there’s creative destruction, new industries like digital destroy old ones and Kodak files for bankruptcy. But PR types like me get calls b/c the boss wants her name in the business paper … which none of her customers read. Oy.

      As to predicting the future Shakirah.. I won’t try. I swear the reason social networks exploded is because of mobile, because of 3G and Wifi enabled smartphones; AND vice versa. They needed each other. Who knows when the next microchip or web technology will roll out, change the game, where lightning will strike next? Even looking ahead 5 years is tough; and it’s the companies that have that vision, take those chances – think they’ll be the ones we’ll be writing about. FWIW.

  3. Thanks for including my post in yours, Davina! Very thorough job covering the bases here. What strikes me most about this post and several others lately is that so many folks are trying desperately to keep up, but doing very little to stay solid and present their business the best way THEY can. In their effort to keep up, they lose what makes them unique and do a pitiful job of even keeping up or mastering what tools are before them. Common sense should prevail. Good business sense should be the norm. Social media and our online vigilante system seem to highlight the lack of that and hold many a confused business owner hostage.

    Forget what everyone else is doing and do what you do – only better, for goodness sake!
    “Lesson: Improvise, adapt, overcome.”
    Erica Allison recently posted..Want Creativity and Success? Facilitate Collaboration!

    1. You’re welcome Erica.. it’s part of my collection as one day I’ll write a complete anthology of “YOU DO NOT DELETE NEGATIVE COMMENTS and this is why” post. It’s one of my biggest peeves these days.

      Sadly, I don’t think this covers the bases – these are but a few of the many mistakes I see. Why treat employees like incompetent children? Why oh why keep up with someone else, if it’s not your strength?! Why do you let yourself be held hostage by the ‘gotta have a FB page’ if your customers aren’t there?! Sigh, if only sense were truly common.

      Apple creates stuff people – not PC users, not Apple users, non tech types – ‘people’ want; they don’t try to be Microsoft or Dell or anyone else. BTW I predicted the iPhone; I told my sister I was holding out for a real cell phone/iPod combo like Apple would make.. if only I could afford one. I think that was about a year before the first iPhone rumors. 😉

  4. Nice post Davina, and my gosh, Gini, I see you EVERYWHERE!

    Not too long ago, we had a little crisis at work. Some quick work quelled it before it grew and we got fix the root cause. At any rate, my boss looked at me and the team assembled after it was all over and he asked one simple question, “What did we learn?”

    Two things stood out for me in that remark:

    1. He used “we” not “you” or “you all” – though the error at cause was tactical and he didn’t see it, he took ownership.

    2. He realized that experience, even by trial and error, is actually an investment. People learn, grown and put that back into the company.

    1. Perfect story Frank. Reminds me of almost every manager/client I’ve never had. 😉

      It is telling that your boss didn’t go with finger pointing. The process didn’t involve hunting down who messed up, playing the blame game. It was about finding what went wrong, how as a group to stop it – and then taking a closer look, seeing what could be learned.

      Just commented over at Marcus Sheridan’s blog – the ridiculous idea of perfection, anything less is dubbed failure. So no one risks learning as they go, no one takes chances on trials by error – then they don’t get any happy accidents either. Thinking the culture of fear is one of the most crippling. Thanks.

  5. “Facebook isn’t betraying your business.”


    A little off-topic, but it’s like when I have business leaders tell me they block social media use at work because they’re afraid people will spend all day on it. Um, that’s not a social media problem. That’s an operations (and trust) problem.

    You’re right – the way we’ve always done things no longer works. It’s time to evolve.
    Gini Dietrich recently posted..PR Crisis for Skittles In Wake of Controversial Teen Shooting

    1. I objected strongly to Jay’s post; social media provides opportunities for FREE to businesses. If they make the mistake of putting all their eggs in someone else’s basket instead of investing in their own business, THEIR CHOICE.

      And it’s not off-topic Gini; people have work to do. If they don’t do it – for any reason be it family drama or incompetence or ‘playing’ on social media – there’s a solution for that: it’s called a Pink Slip. It’s a ‘time-clock’ mentality, a lot like not trusting work done by employees at home, just because you don’t see them in their offices toiling away. Absolutely time to evolve – or go the way of the dinosaurs.

      Nice to see you around here.. seems I’m always behind over on Spin Sucks, just can’t keep up. 🙂

        1. It’s weird – I read, I comment, I share and yet it feels like I do nothing but lurk, just no way to keep up with it ALL. And I only blog once/twice a week. 🙂

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