Archive for October, 2012

9 things L.L. Bean taught me

I spent nearly 15 years of my career at L.L. Bean, and consider myself fortunate to have worked a good chunk of my career at such a terrific organization. I began to reminisce on a recent visit to its Freeport, Me., campus, and decided to pen the top lessons I learned during my days as a “Beaner.”

Customer Focus
The company has many stakeholder groups, from employees to vendors, but the customer comes first. Leon Leonwood Bean’s customer service philosophy begins, “A customer is the most important person ever in this company – in person or by mail.”

Stand behind your products
L.L.’s guarantee, established in 1912, remains the gold standard today. Few companies support their products or services so strongly. Customers notice.

Do the right thing
I can’t count the number of times I heard a leader say “We’re doing this because it’s the right thing to do. Integrity was part of the Bean way well before it became vogue. And when leaders model the behavior, employees notice. Soon it becomes part of the culture.

Offer quality and value
You can buy lesser quality merchandise for the lowest price — and that works for many people. While L.L. Bean products may cost more than others, customers know they’ll last longer. L.L.’s Golden Rule: “Sell good merchandise at a reasonable profit, treat your customers like human beings and they will always come back for more.”

Be humble
Despite its long history of success, the company culture remained humble. Boasting was frowned upon, and success was shared. Good work was recognized by others, and teamwork was a way of doing business.

Embrace change, but be thoughtful about it
The company was very thoughtful about course changes, whether that meant a new product line or store expansion. Leaders understood the importance of prioritization and tackling the most important items first.

Everyone chips in
During a long-ago visit to the Flagship Store, I spotted the store’s director on the floor, sorting hats into the correct size bin. A busy customer day had left the display a bit messy, and he wanted it right.

Treat employees well
Happy employees tend to be better employees. It seems obvious, but I think a lot of companies miss this one. As an employee, I enjoyed good benefits and a generous discount. Plus, treating people well is the right thing to do (see number 3).

Be a good neighbor
Bean gives back to its community in many ways, ranging from free summer concerts and fireworks on Independence Day, to a Road Race and countless sponsorship, particularly when it comes to the environment.



Who’s coming to dinner?

You’re having a dinner party and can invite anyone you’d like — living or dead. Who would you pick?

Here’s my list:

Bill Cosby
He’s been a favorite in my family for decades. He’s smart (earned a Ph.D. in Education) and of course, very, very funny.

Winston Churchill
One of the most important statesmen of the last century, Churchill held the British together through World War II. He also received the Nobel Prize in Literature, and was the first person to be made an Honorary Citizen of the United States. I bet he’d give a terrific toast.

Arnold Schwarzenegger
He’s reached the top in three careers — bodybuilding, acting, and politics — and I’d love to ask him about his keys to success.

Helen Keller
Blind, deaf, and mute, she graduated from college (with honors), and became an author and humanitarian, as well as a role model for those overcoming adversity.

Edward Bernays
The father of modern Public Relations. It would be interesting to hear his thoughts on the evolution of our profession. Plus, I could call the dinner a professional development opportunity, and write the cost off.

Missy Franklin
The next great Olympian, and by all accounts, humble and down-to-earth.

Annie Leibovitz
One of the greatest portrait photographers of our time. I could spend hours asking about her craft.

Your turn …. who’s on your list?


7 ways that social media has changed our lives

Author and educator Marshall McLuhan wrote in 1967 that we should look at how the introduction of communication mediums, such as radio and television, impact our world. His work focused on how television, for example, changed our lives, rather the programs that aired on your TV.

McLuhan’s words ring even more true 45 years later, as we look at how social media has changed our lives:

Faster than a speeding bullet
Information reaches us faster than ever. When US Airways Flight 1549 made an emergency landing on the Hudson River in January 2009, witnesses shared their observations via Twitter and other social networks. The world knew the story within minutes of the landing.

Short and sweet
By design, social media communications are short and to the point, a practice most writing experts suggest we must now adopt to stay relevant.

LinkedIn has become the new Rolodex, a depository of contact names, job titles, addresses, and phone numbers. Even better than its paper predecessor, your contacts update their profile and you have the most current information at your fingertips. Simple and easy.

Haven’t seen a classmate in years? No problem. Thanks to Facebook, you can keep in touch with your entire class from the comfort of your computer. No need to pick up the phone. Type in a status update and dozens or hundreds of friends know where you took the kids today.

Everyone has a voice
Gone are the days when you needed contacts or access to media to share your thoughts with the masses. Anyone can start a blog, Tweet, pin photos, etc. If you’re good, and a little creative, you’ll find a following.

Advice at your fingertips
Can’t decide which wine to serve with dinner? Post a question to your friends and followers. LinkedIn, for example, has user groups that can answer questions from where to travel in France to which lens is best for photographing sports.

We won’t be ignored
Big brother may be watching, but he’s not in charge. The introduction of the web and social media has taken ownership of communications away from those traditionally in positions of authority. Gone are the days when a company can issue a statement without fear of repercussions. Every half-truth, every misstep can bring a barrage of tweets and posts from angry followers. Bottom line, social media is going a long way to encourage honesty, integrity, and transparency.

Marshall McLuhan died in 1980, but I’m sure the impact of social media would bring a smile to his face, knowing he was right when he penned the phrase, The medium is the message.

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