Data is Important for Your Business – 7 Reasons Why


The notion of clean sanitation in London was generally non-existent in the urban setting in 1854. There was no such thing as running water; people had to get their water supply daily from a local street hand pump. As a result, pests and disease spread quickly, which was the case with a cholera outbreak in London’s Soho district at the time.

Focus on the Problem

At first, no one could quite figure how cholera was infecting people, and the common thought blamed vapors or people’s breathing. John Snow, a doctor already well established in London circles and practice, focused on a hypothesis that cholera was spread by shared water. However, many of the other doctors and officials thought a water-borne disease idea was a silly concept.

Because the authorities at the time needed convincing with greater evidence and the local cholera epidemic was spreading and killing more and more, Snow devised the idea of taking already known data and combining it with a local map. He already knew from public health records who had become sick with cholera and died as well as their home addresses. Snow mapped their locations in relation to local water supplies.

Interpret the Results

By creating the spatial relationship, Snow was objectively able to display that the cluster of cholera infections in 1854 was within close proximity to one water source – the Broad Street Water Pump. Using this information, Snow then convinced the local city authorities to remove the pump handle, making it inoperative. With the source gone, the cholera infections soon died down, and Snow’s hypothesis was supported.

Business Lessons You Can Glean

So how does John Snow’s smart use of existing data teach us valuable lessons about managing a business? There are 7 gems to glean from his example:

  1. Business data is all around us and can be used for far more than just one purpose if we open our eyes to see how it can be used.
  2. Data behaves in trends and patterns which, frequently, can help make solid business predictions about what is to come.
  3. A company needs both access to its data regularly as well as the right tools to make the information valuable and useful. Too often businesses have one or the other but miss their opportunities because no one has connected the dots so to speak.
  4. Staff need to be trained to think outside the box. The reason Snow was successful was due to the fact that he didn’t follow traditional convention. He asked “why.”
  5. Management has to be willing to listen to alternative options based on good data. London city authorities were locked up in old-fashioned ideas about cholera until Snow showed them obvious connections of disease spread.
  6. Data comes in lots of different shapes and forms. Standardization is key to allowing useful data to be pulled across different operations. Snow had to combine public death records, maps, stories, and authority information in one combined grid to make it useful.
  7. Keep it simple, stupid. Snow didn’t transform his data into an archaic medical thesis. He produced useful information on a simply everyday map that everyone could understand quickly and easily.

Existing business data can be a gold mine for marketing and business strategy if companies are willing to actively take advantage of what they have. That requires an open mind, good skillsets in data interpretation, and a management team that can act quickly on opportunities as they become apparent. We would like to help you manage your next project. Call 410-574-0780.


You Should Lead by Example


When you lead, the people you supervise watch your every move. To gain their confidence and trust you must provide an example they will want to follow. You could lead via a system of punishments and coercion, of course, if accelerating turnover is your hobby. But motivating them positively is a much better way to go.

To that end, here are 6 examples you can use to become the type of leader that people want to follow.

1. Do not think of your people as workers only.

It’s important to keep in mind that the people working under you have bills to pay, troubles to cope with, and possibly a personal tragedy or two in their lives. Approach them with respect and be kind, knowing that they may be going through hard times.

2. Take the time to make them feel special.

It may seem corny, but try keeping notes on the people working under you, just one fact about each of them. It could be something you overhear in the hallway- perhaps a hobby, a favorite musician, a peculiar interest. You can use this information at opportune times to let them you take a real interest in them.

3. Listen to emotions.

This can be hard for some, but with effort, even the most stoic of us can discern emotions. Listen to what employees say and take a moment to mentally tag their statements with an emotion. Just say to yourself, ‘Mark feels frustrated,’ or ‘Sally is disappointed.’ Even if the emotion is irrelevant to the situation, just take a moment to recognize it without judgment. Make a habit of this and in a short amount of time you will begin to behave in a more empathetic way, and they are certain to pick up on that.

4. Don’t fight every battle.

For diligent, hardworking, and logical people, it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to right every wrong. But there’s a fine line between being a problem solver, and being belligerent. Remember, your internal resources are limited, as are those of the people around you. Trying to squash every small discrepancy will drain your resolve, and it will squash morale.

5. Always let them save face.

‘Praise in public and censure in private’ is the golden rule of leadership. When someone has made a mistake and you must have a word with them, help them avoid the scrutiny of their coworkers. Don’t force them to take the walk of shame into your office after announcing over the P.A. that they are being summoned. They will appreciate it immensely.

6. Display solidarity

Your job is important, and no one would expect you to get into the trenches every day- however, there’s no better way to establish respect and to understand the day-to-day realities of the work your employees do than to occasionally step into their role. It’s not enough to have done it before. You must demonstrate the willingness to do it again. Remember, this isn’t your chance to show them up by outdoing them. It’s a way to develop solidarity and to understand the challenges they face each and every day.

Some of these tips may sound overly soft-handed. But if you apply a little imagination and find a way to maintain your proper station and dignity while following these guidelines, you can transform yourself from a competent manager into an inspiring leader.

Relationships with a Red Feather


Red feathers in a sea of contacts. Conference organizers work hard to stage successful events, helping worldwide professionals network in meaningful ways, with long-lasting benefits. One international conference intentionally introduced certain attendees online before their event. But there was a problem. How would this cohort take their connection offline in a sea of 8,000+ people?

Perhaps a simple, visible strategy would work: these participants placed a single red feather in their name badge. Red feather attendees committed to seek each other out in friendly, approachable, non-threatening ways. By the close of the conference, curiosity and goodwill drove hundreds of new people to request a red feather and to join this informal circle of friends. Why? Because everyone needs a great network to lean on!

Collect Relationships, Not Just Business Cards

Networking is important! A recent LinkedIn study revealed that 70 percent of people in 2016 were hired at a company where they had a previous connection. But while 80 percent of professionals consider networking to be important to career success, 38 percent said they find it hard to stay connected to (or in touch with) their network.

How can you grow or maintain your personal networking tree beyond online networks like LinkedIn or Meetup? It doesn’t have to be difficult! Even simple steps like participating in webinars, attending conferences, volunteering your time locally, or actively following and commenting on your alumni newsletters can forge and strengthen connections. As one Cornell MBA reflects, “the concept is to stay connected even when you don’t need to, so when the time comes for that extra spark, your network will be able to ignite you on your path.”

Beyond the enjoyment networks bring, a web of professional relationships can be leveraged for great gain. As you strengthen bonds with a specific pool of people, you can enhance the quality of your services, increase customer retention, and gain important contacts and sales opportunities that you might never have accessed otherwise.

While many of us dread the idea of traditional networking, we often forget that building alliances is about collecting friends, not business cards. Remember, your goal is to come to know and enjoy people. If you’ve chosen relationships wisely, it should be fun to learn from others, gain management ideas and advice, and to spur on another’s profit and performance. As you and your colleagues update and encourage one another, the hope is that, ultimately, you’ll become each other’s salespeople!

Local Business Networks Bring Life

Another natural way to overcome networking barriers is to intentionally sow into local business relationships. Local business networks are a refreshing antidote to the isolation we often experience in today’s culture. A thriving local business community helps each of us because it empowers us to grow in our goals, to access important relationships, to collaborate on custom solutions, and to bring inspiration or motivation on the days we need it most.

Employee Benefits to be Happy


“Quality is much better than quantity.
One home run is much better than two doubles.”
– Steve Jobs

The Best Employee Benefit

Work is life, and life is work. Most people wouldn’t say work defines them, employment certainly influences the pleasure or pain we experience. The average individual will spend more than 90,000 hours working in their lifetime. But we’re not necessarily enjoying it. Up to 80% of people are dissatisfied and 40% of people say their job is “very or extremely stressful.” Since work is a fundamental part of our existence, shouldn’t we seek to enjoy it more?

Millennials seem to think so; in fact, 60% of 2015 grads would rather work for a company with a positive social atmosphere even if it meant a lower paycheck. People are recognizing that today’s best jobs include not only great salaries and benefits but also a positive experience of fun and fulfillment. When employees are energized and engaged, they produce higher quality work. Keep in mind that over 80% of employees in Fortune 100’s “Best Companies to Work For” said they work in a fun environment!

Bring Your Joy to the Job

A recent experiment by the University of Warwick tested the effect of fun on workplace productivity. Organizers randomly selected 700 individuals and showed them a series of 10-minute comedy clips or provided them with refreshments. After verifying that these opportunities brought a feeling of “happiness,” employee productivity was tracked through various tasks. For those with happiness triggers, productivity increased by an average of 12 percent. In some cases, it rose as high as 20 percent! For a business to thrive, an enjoyable workplace is essential, so how can we bring more joy to the job?

“Customers will never love a company until its employees love it first.”
–Simon Sinek, author of “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action”

The physical environment is a critical component. An Arcadis study of 2016 Trends in the Workplace found that “staying well at work” was a primary focus of companies seeking to keep their employees happy and healthy. This included prioritizing work areas that were physically safe, aesthetically pleasing, psychologically nourishing, with several fascinating tips on how to craft well-designed workspaces which have a positive effect on mood, well-being, and productivity.

From birthday bashes to walking meetings and break-time trivia competitions, employers are also injecting more fun into each day. Manisha Priyadarshan, from Sparks experiential marketing, said employees should look forward to coming each day, so one of their core company values is, “work should be fun.” Here’s what that looks like at Sparks:

  • “We run a program called “Mix & Mingle”: employees selected from different departments have lunch and get to know each other. We also run a program called “Food4Thought”, where employees can learn more about Sparks over lunch by hearing presentations from people in each department.”
  • “HR runs a program called “TedEd”: an hour-long live session including a screening of a Sparks-relevant Ted Talk followed by a round-table discussion.”
  • “We have bimonthly “Flash Contests” to inspire people to think about our company’s codes, i.e. send a story of a time when “the client’s problem was your opportunity.”
  • “We’ve hosted a number of fun events: Chili Cook-off, Halloween Party, Holiday Party, Valentine’s Cupcake decorating, Mini March Madness, Earth Day, and Summer BBQs.”
  • “We have recently implemented a Bring Your Dog to Work committee, where a select panel of dog owners and dog lovers will help decide which employees’ pets would make great workday partners by spending a day at the office.”

Looking for more ideas on employee recognition or workplace rewards? 410-574-0780.

Next Steps to Take After a Bad First Impression


First impressions, right? In a recent social psychology article, Heidi Grant Halvorson shared the story of her friend Gordon and his job interview at a prestigious university:

Gordon, on his first campus visit was dining with a senior faculty member named Bob. As they ate, Bob commented on the quality of his lunch. “You know, this is great,” Bob said. “You should try this!” Wary of offending, Gordon cautiously complied, reaching over for a bite. While the interview seemed successful, the job was given to another person. Years later, Gordon found the real reason for the rebuff was this: When Bob said, “You should try this,” he meant, “You should try this sometime,” not, “you should eat off my plate.” Bad manners left a sour taste of lasting consequence.

Knee Jerk Reaction or “Real Jerk” Response?

Humans naturally make snap judgments, and impressions are much harder to undo than to create. “First impressions are very sticky,” says Grant Halvorson, author of “No One Understands You and What To Do About It.”

First impressions are rooted in us and continue growing stronger, influencing future interpretations and causing “confirmation bias” to sway us in the initial direction. Grant gives this example:

“Once we have an understanding of something, we interpret everything that comes after from the vantage point of the knowledge we already have. Let’s say I think you’re a jerk, and the next day you realize ‘Hey, I acted like a jerk,’ so you bring me coffee. That seems unambiguously nice, but that action can be interpreted in a number of ways, and if I think you’re a jerk, I’m most likely to see it as an attempt to manipulate me.”

How to Restart and Rebuild

So what happens if you get off on the wrong foot? Is there any way to overcome awkward introductions? The answering is a conditional yes. We all have graceless moments, but not everyone knows how to repair the damage. Here are a few tips to help you rebuild after a clumsy misstep:

  1. Talk to people individually. Show genuine interest and seek to find common interests. Look for informal opportunities to build facetime, ask questions, and encourage others.
  2. Restart and rebuild. Apologize and move forward by offering evidence of your sincerity. If you’ve been rude, show extra kindness in the next ten conversations. If you’ve been sloppy, make your next twenty projects immaculate. Follow up immediately and consistently, in the opposite spirit of your initial mistake.
  3. Poke fun at your own blunder. Call attention to the big elephant so you can say sorry and laugh! Transparency gives people a chance to empathize and relate rather than judge or criticize.
  4. Offer to help. Figure out what is important to people and use your skills to collaborate or lighten their load. Halvorson says sometimes this takes strategic positioning:

    “The best way is to try to create a circumstance in which they need to deal with you, ideally where they need you in order to get what they want . . . It’s not the most awesome sounding advice because what it means is that, if you have a colleague who doesn’t think that highly of you, what you need to do is get your boss to assign you to work together on something, which is not what people want to hear, (but) when you can help them achieve their goals, then suddenly you are worth paying attention to.”

Are you ready to go ahead with a good first impression? Consider business cards, unique promotional products, fun hanging tags, and more. Give Patti a call to talk options. 410-574-0780.

Don’t Fear Your Competitors. You Should Learn From Them.



The truth in most industries, there are days where it probably seems like every time you turn around you’ve got some new competitor to deal with. Your market space was already a tight one – now you’ve got to worry just as much about the companies that are vying for the same market as you do about the market itself.

For as frustrating as this can be, however, it also represents a fantastic opportunity that is just waiting to be taken advantage of if you really know what you’re doing.

You shouldn’t actually fear your competitors at all. You should see them as a source of education and inspiration.

Study your audience

One big reason why you should try to learn from your competitors instead of fear them has to do with the fact that you’re trying to accomplish the same goal. You just have two completely different approaches about how to best do that. You’re still operating in the same industry, and you’re still trying to reach the same basic audience. From a marketing perspective alone, this is much more exciting than you probably realize.

Remember that success in marketing comes down to knowing as much about your audience as possible to get the right message in front of the right people at the right time. When your closest competitor launches a particularly successful marketing campaign, sit back and ask yourself “why?” Dive deep into exactly what they did and how they did it. What language choices did they make? What print avenues did they explore? What part of their timing played a roll in their success? Did they do anything particularly noteworthy in terms of font or other design selection?

The same is true when your competitor’s campaigns fail, too. Why did your competitor’s campaign fail to strike a chord with your audience? What mistake did they make? What incorrect information were they working from? How can you avoid this problem yourself?

From a certain point of view, it’s almost like you get to naturally A/B test every campaign that you run without spending additional money because you’ve always got someone trying to hit targets that are very similar to yours. Pay attention to what they’re doing and see what works and what doesn’t. Then, figure out how to adapt this information to your own efforts. Rest assured, they’re probably looking at you in the same way.

You are in this Together

An even more important reason why you shouldn’t fear your competitors is also a simple one: you’re truly all in this together. Think about it like this: the audience that you’re trying to serve and the audience that your closest competitors are trying to serve are one in the same. You’ve both pledged to make the lives of these people better through your products and services. Make no mistake, this is a terrific situation to be in for everyone involved.

For starters, competition is healthy. Every time your closest competitor hits a home run with a new product launch or marketing campaign, it shouldn’t make you depressed – it should make you want to wake up tomorrow morning and try that much harder.

Your audience will absolutely benefit from this healthy sense of competition and that is an incredibly important position to be in for all of you.

Why You Should STOP Checking Your Email First Thing in the Morning


Everyone has smartphones and other types of mobile devices, we’re more connected and consumed to the world around us than ever before. This certainly has both its advantages and disadvantages.

It’s never been easier to get more done while on-the-go. You can be just as productive in your office as you can be halfway across the globe on vacation.

This can lead to a definite feeling that “switching off” is impossible – especially when you consider that according to one recent study, 61% of people check their phones within five minutes of waking up in the morning.

From a certain perspective, this makes a bit of sense – after all, if you want to get as much done in a day as possible it stands to reason that you should check those emails that piled up overnight as soon as you can, right? Well, not necessarily. There are some compelling reasons why you should STOP checking your email first thing in the morning, especially if you’re concerned about productivity.

You’re Doing More Harm Than Good

The main reason why you should stop checking your emails right when you wake up in the morning is that you’re doing a lot more harm than you are good. According to one study, 66% of people say that the first thing they do in the morning is either A) check their email, or B) listen to their voicemail. So don’t worry – you are hardly the only person out there making this mistake.

To understand why this is such a problem, consider the fact that according to Forbes the average person checks their email roughly 15 times per day. When people limited their checking to just three times per day, however, their productivity increased, and their stress levels decreased. Part of the problem is that when you check your email, you’re at the total will of whatever messages you find. Everything else gets moved to the back burner. It’s also particularly stressful if you’re waiting for a reply to an important email that hasn’t arrived yet.

So why, exactly, would you want to cause yourself that level of stress in the morning?

By both limiting the number of times that you check your email throughout the day AND by making sure that it isn’t the first thing you do in the morning, you’re in a much better position to get your day off on the right foot. You’re beginning your day in the most stress-free way possible, giving yourself a little breathing room to contextualize your priorities and lay out the day ahead without distraction.

In the End

These are just a few of the many reasons why you should STOP checking your email first thing in the morning. Yes, the instinct to try to get as much done in a day is a strong one – especially for a career-driven professional such as yourself. But you need to understand that you are quickly reaching a breaking point – “diminishing returns” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Minimize the number of times that you check email throughout the day and pick your spots very carefully. Your productivity levels, not to mention your stress levels, will thank you for it.