C-Suite Network™

Human Resources Management Marketing Personal Development Women In Business

What Does Your Personal Brand Sound Like?

I just read a great article from Entrepreneur, as shared here, called “7 Signs Your Personal Brand Needs Work.” All seven signs, and the suggestions offered to resolve each, are insightful and important – read them for yourself. But as is common in such analyses, there is one critical factor for establishing your ideal personal brand that is once again missing from the discussion.

It’s one thing to have consistent branding when you’re writing a blog, Facebook update or tweet, but what happens to that brand messaging when you’re talking to someone, real-time, maybe even face to face? On a very literal level, what does it sound like when you share your idea, insight and suggestion? Is it as compelling to hear as it is to read?

So many people have terrific ideas and masterful skill sets, but their ability to persuade, compel, and inspire someone just by talking with them simply falls flat. There’s something “missing” in the delivery, which can translate to something missing from their personal brand

This is the foundation of what I call alignment. Your words and your delivery must be equally strong and compelling, because your words convey your content, and your delivery conveys your intent behind the message. When both parts are reinforcing the same message at the same time, there is credibility to the whole message, and as a result, the credibility reflects back to you.

Lots of people claim that they can speak well when they have to give a big presentation or are otherwise in the spotlight, and this shows what they are capable of when they believe the stakes are high enough to warrant that kind of focus and effort. But as far as I’m concerned, your reputation is what happens in the moments when you’re NOT trying; all those little moments when you’re not in the spotlight.

For example, when you look at your own participation in generic weekly meetings, what does your participation soundlike? Ask yourself the following:

  • Do you always speak loudly enough to ensure that all people can hear?
  • Do you inflect lots of up-speak when you talk where it sounds like you’re constantly implying lots of questions and requests for validation into your speech even when you’re not?
  • Do you speak so quickly that you tend to slur some words together or mumble, making people have to ask you to repeat what you’ve said?
  • Do you give and receive constructive feedback in an antagonistic or defensive manner, or shy away from it completely?
  • Do you speak in an unnecessarily low voice without enough breath support so that your voice sounds gravelly or creaky, and you seem disinterested, tired, or not confident?

The challenge is that most of us are painfully unaware of our default speech style. We may know how we think we come across, but often the brand and reputation that we think we are building for ourselves is very different from the reality of the brand reputation we’re becoming known for.

This is why it’s critical to gain an awareness of what your “default” speech style is like in these contexts: because for the most part, that’s what people will remember and what they’ll use to form their evaluation of your credibility and leadership, not what you can do in the rare instances when you absolutely have to. After all, what’s more likely: that they frame their opinions based on the exception, or the “rule”?

When in doubt, remember: That “rule” is at the foundation of your brand.


Do you have questions or comments about the issues in today’s post, want to know how to apply them, or how to help others with them? If so, contact me at laura@vocalimpactproductions.com or click here to schedule a 20-minute focus call to discuss them with me personally!

Best Practices Growth Management Skills

Motivation and Alignment


In the previous article on motivation we explored how to motivate your team. This article takes you deeper on the topic of alignment, which is aligning the people on your team with their gifts, contributions, and brilliance.

We have discussed internal vs. external motivators and how people are motivated in the long-term intrinsically, from within. In this article we are going to look at how you can help your employees tap into their intrinsic motivations for better results and higher performance.

To do this you will start by learning who your team members are so you can help them contribute in a way that is meaningful for them. One of the topics I discuss with clients is identifying your unique brilliance and the brilliance of each person on your team. When you know your brilliance and theirs it becomes much easier to align each team member with the tasks and projects where they will have the most impact and provide the best results.

For example (a simple example), do you have a team member who loves working on complex problems? Don’t ask them to do simple spreadsheet work or have them finalize the PowerPoint deck or at least don’t ask them to do it for very long. You want to find the team member who thrives on repetitive tasks and processes to pick up the phone and make cold calls or format the spreadsheet.

Of course it goes much deeper than that and there are lots of ways to learn about who your people are. The easiest way to start is to spend time talking to people and asking them what lights them up, but there are also some terrific assessments you can use. I use the Core Values Index (CVI) Assessment by Taylor Protocols with my clients in addition to discussing their unique brilliance with them through an exercise I’ve developed on this topic, creatively named the Unique Brilliance tool.

The reason I also use the CVI assessment is because it easy to use, quick to take, and the insights each individual receives along with the discussion on what lights them up provides invaluable information on how they prefer to contribute.

If you want a copy of the Unique Brilliance tool you can find it along with other resources at www.c-suiteresults.com and you can also email me at sharon@c-suiteresults.com and ask for a copy. It’s important for you to not only understand your gifts and brilliance, but also help your team understand theirs. You can also take the CVI for free from the C-Suite Results Website to get a glimpse of the type of information it provides.

Once you truly know who is on your team and how they are motivated to contribute you can align more of their tasks and responsibilities with the way they are wired to contribute. Of course no one can always do the fun tasks and avoid the boring or difficult ones, but the more you can provide your team with opportunities to truly contribute in a meaningful way, the more they will go above and beyond and really show you how they shine.

This is a key step in creating high performance teams, reducing turnover, and getting better results.  I encourage you to start exploring this idea on your own or with help from others. If I can be of assistance you can reach me via email at sharon@c-suiteresults.com


Growth Human Resources Leadership Personal Development

3 Methods for Lasting Change We Can Learn from Jesus

3 Methods for Lasting Change We Can Learn from Jesus

There are many things we can learn from Jesus even if we are not Christian. One important lesson is how to be a change agent for our teams, organizations, or communities.

The ability to lead change is a key competency of any leader and that is especially true today with the speed and frequency of change.  According to Fortune Magazine, only 12% of the Fortune 500 companies in 1955 are still on the list today.  Why? One reason is the inability to adapt to change.

There are three methods we can all use to facilitate change.  I chose the word facilitate carefully because it is not about controlling.  It is about offering options which provide the greatest benefits and which will generate the best results.  A facilitator makes things clear and shows the way. It is up to others to make the choice to follow.

Method 1: Identify a Small Group of Committed People

Don’t try to change everyone.  Find a small group of committed, well connected, and credible people who can help you communicate your very clear and compelling message of change.  This idea was clearly articulated in the book the Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell. (Gladwell, 2000) Jesus did this with his 12 apostles.  Even Jesus couldn’t save everyone because we all have free will.  Judas didn’t make it even though he had a seat in the C-Suite.

Method 2: Offer Evidence and Understanding to Those Who Doubt

I find the “four stage model” for change useful.  The four stages in a change process are:

  1. First, we start out in comfort with how things are.  There is no need for change.
  2. The second stage is denial.  This is where everything that is not working is someone else’s fault.  “There is no need for me to change because the conditions just don’t justify it.”
  3. The third stage is anxiety.  This is where we know we need to change but we are unsure if it is possible. We may feel shame or embarrassment that we messed up and we can feel depression.  Sometimes we avoid feeling depressed and stay in denial.  It is normal to move back and forth between denial and anxiety especially if the change we are being asked to make is a big one.
  4. The final stage is insight.  This is where we try something new to address the desired change and it works. This gives us hope that we CAN make the change and it is working. This is the positive feedback stage.

Providing those who are in denial and anxiety with empathy, understanding (love) and data helps them to get the insights they need to make the changes.

Jesus had big advantages with the miracles performed.  We don’t necessarily need miracles to help people move through the four stages (although it would help).  We need empathy, clearly articulated benefits, clearly articulated consequences, and data for all those in denial and anxiety.   Thomas doubted Jesus’s appearance to the apostles after the resurrection.   Thomas wanted data and Jesus provided it.

If we can support those who are doubtful and give them an opportunity to demonstrate the new behaviors, they are more willing to make the change.  It requires data, support, fortitude, and emotional intelligence to make the change work.

Method 3: Create a Ritual

Jesus created the ritual of the bread and wine to help everyone remember him and His word. To help people remember the clear messages and the benefits we need a ritual.  Find one, create it and stick with it. I encourage clients to use morning huddles to reinforce the values of the organization.  This frequency of reinforcement is like a ritual that reminds everyone they made a choice, it is working, and it is benefiting them personally.

Other rituals that reinforce positive change include:

  • Consistently facilitating agreements with people instead of telling them what to do.
  • Looking for processes that need improvement and delegate the “fix” to the staff instead of doing it yourself.
  • Hold more frequent huddles and communicate how organization is doing, express appreciation for all the excellent work, and tie the results to the change initiative.
  • Jesus was an excellent change agent.  If we can apply his methods, we can become profound change agents too.

Wally Hauck, PhD has a cure for the “deadly disease” known as the typical performance appraisal.  Wally holds a doctorate in organizational leadership from Warren National University, a Master of Business Administration in finance from Iona College, and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania.   Wally is a Certified Speaking Professional or CSP.  Wally has a passion for helping leaders let go of the old and embrace new thinking to improve leadership skills, employee engagement, and performance.

Gladwell, M. (2000). The Tipping Point. Malcom Gladwell.

Best Practices Growth Management Personal Development Technology

Is Your Marketing a Business or a Religion?

That might seem like an odd question to pose, but I have run into one too many B2B clients lately who have convinced themselves over the years that marketing is just a waste of money. Often, these executives cut their teeth in the 1980s and 1990s when B2B Marketing was truly not terribly important. No B2B companies had CMOs back then because there was nothing C-level about the job. It doesn’t take a high executive to decide what the brochure should say that we bring to our booth at the trade show. And that’s all that B2B marketing was.

Fast forward to today. Those same executives that grew up in the era of unimportant B2B marketing have not realized that times have changed. Digital marketing has made B2B marketing expenditures hugely important. Prospects don’t even have you on the list if they can’t find you. And even if you were referred to them, they check out your website before they even call.

But I have run into a spate of B2B execs over the last few weeks that look me in the eye and say, “Yeah, well. I just don’t believe that more marketing will bring us any more sales.” Folks, that is a religious statement. Nobody is asking you to believe. We’re asking you to experiment. We’re asking you to give it a try. Make a bet. See what happens. We’re asking you to treat marketing the same way you treat every other decision. You don’t invest in new products because you believe in them. You know that most of them will fail. You invest in them because you know you have no choice because you won’t find the ones that work if you don’t invest in all of them. That’s business, not religion.

 The problem is that you can’t teach anyone something that they think they already know. And if you take the attitude that you already know that marketing is a waste of money, then you can’t learn how digital marketing is a new way to play. So, you can stick to your religion and operate like it’s still the 1980s. Or you can recognize that the browser on your computer and the phone in your pocket and the iPad by your bed are the new way to reach your audience in an efficient and effective way, and if you are missing in action, they will just find your competitors.

You don’t need to believe in it. You just have to give it a chance to prove it to you. Just like you do with the rest of your business.

Best Practices Entrepreneurship Leadership Personal Development

How to LEAP Into Extreme Leadership

The world is full of people who call themselves leaders, but woefully short of Extreme Leaders. Perhaps you think that’s OK. Extreme Leaders, you might reason, are only needed for extreme circumstances – a soldier taking fellow troops into battle, a Sherpa guiding climbers up Mount Everest, or a quarterback directing a potential game-winning drive in the Super Bowl. Everyday life, you might say, requires only everyday leaders.

But here’s the reality: Everyday leaders who aren’t also Extreme Leaders aren’t taking anyone anywhere worth going. They risk very little and gain very little. Soon the only reason anyone follows them is out of the obligation that comes with a paycheck.

Extreme Leaders, meanwhile, love their work and the people associated with it so much that they embrace and inspire audacious decisions. They attack their work with a contagious energy. And they display an unwavering commitment to get things done. In other words, they willingly put themselves on the line to change their world for the better.

That’s leadership worth following. And you don’t have to be a soldier, a Sherpa, or an NFL quarterback to be an Extreme Leader. You just have to lead with Love, Energy, Audacity, and Proof – otherwise known as LEAP.

Interested? Here are a few ways to LEAP immediately into Extreme Leadership:

Cultivate Love – Do what you love in the service of people who love what you do.

Extreme Leaders find ways to genuinely love their work and every individual who touches their business. Then they act from that level of motivation. Thus, they pay nearly obsessive attention to the needs, desires, hopes, and aspirations of their customers and co-workers. So here’s the go-do: Identify at least two people who love what you do, one inside your organization (e.g., a co-worker) and one outside (e.g., a client). Tell each of them why you love your work and provide a specific way you plan to serve their needs over the next 60 days.

Generate Energy – Generate more energy when you walk into a room than when you walk out.

You don’t have to watch TV or movies to see zombies in action. Just walk through the typical office in corporate America. But not yours, because you aspire to Extreme Leadership. A couple of ways you can generate energy include passionately sharing a purposeful vision with others and actively expressing gratitude to others. So pick out five people in your work atmosphere and do at least one of those two things for them in the next 24 hours.

Inspire Audacity – Make a connection between the work you do and its potential impact on the entire world.

Extreme Leaders demonstrate a bold and blatant disregard for normal constraints. Not in an impudent manner, but in a courageous I-want-to-change-the-world way. In three sentences or less, explain how you plan to change the world through your work.

Provide Proof – Prove yourself through significant, observable, daily actions.

It’s easy to talk a good game, but Extreme Leaders back up their talk with their behaviors. Write down three ways you are “proving” that you love your work, team and/or customers; three ways the people around you see your energy; and three audacious things you are doing to change the world.

Extreme Leaders put their skin in the game and make a difference in the world, no matter what the environment. Nothing is too mundane or too routine that it can’t become part of something bigger and better. So don’t be content with everyday leadership and everyday results.

Marketing Personal Development Women In Business

The Hokey Pokey for CEOS

Remember the days when we played games with abandon?

Put your right hand in, put your right hand out, put your right hand in, and you shake it all about…

No fear of looking or sounding silly, just unabashed joy at fully engaging in whatever was at hand.

You do the Hokey Pokey and you turn yourself around, that’s what it’s all about!

That is what it’s all about — putting at least some part of yourself in the arena —

Put your left hand in, put your left hand out, etc…

But somewhere along the way we forget to play the game the way it’s meant to be played. In many cases, we just flat out become afraid of being our true, complete selves. That annoying little voice in our heads keeps asking “what will they think if they know this about me?”

Here’s a better question to ask ourselves: “What if I were to bring all of who I am to every situation?”

Put your whole self in, put your whole self out…Put your whole self in, and you shake it all about…

What would that mean to my business success?

You do the Hokey Pokey and you turn yourself around, that’s what it’s all about!

For Carla Harris, Vice Chairman, Wealth Management at Morgan Stanley, it’s all about being her authentic self, and winning new business along the way. I recently heard Harris speak at a conference in Houston and a story she told stuck with me.

She was competing for a huge piece of business with other Wall Street firms. Of course, there was a formal presentation, but it was an informal encounter with a key player that made the difference.

You see, Carla is not just a powerhouse in her industry; she is also an author, a speaker, a leader, a mother and one helluva gospel singer! I mean, really — if you’ve performed at Carnegie Hall not once, but FIVE times, why on earth would you keep that to yourself?! It’s not like Carla was planning to burst into song, but when a right moment presented itself during that informal conversation, she did, with complete joy and abandon. That one, impromptu act struck a chord with the right person — and Carla walked away with the business.

I walked away from that conference determined to do two things: 1) be ALL of who I am in every situation, regardless of that annoying little voice in my head urging me not to start salsa dancing at the drop of a hat; and 2) help my clients in the C-Suite understand the value of being their authentic selves and sharing their stories when presenting to an audience, no matter how much they might resist.

It’s really okay. Be your total, complete self. Nobody can do you, like you. And when you start to feel a little self conscious, just flash back to how good it felt to put your whole self in and shake it all about. Go ahead — do the Hokey Pokey, CEO style, and show us all what you’re about.

If you would like more information or to schedule Linda as a keynote speaker, please email info@lorellemedia.com or call 713-247-9600.


About the Author: Linda Lorelle is best known as an Emmy and Gracie Award- winning journalist who anchored the evening news for nearly 17 years at Houston’s NBC affiliate, KPRC-TV. The Stanford graduate is now an entrepreneur, using the art of storytelling to create compelling, original video content for clients who understand the value of owning their story. C-Suite executives who want to brush up on their presentation skills also call upon Linda to share her expertise in public speaking and help them feel more at ease.

Linda is a highly skilled emcee and panel moderator who is able to seamlessly guide a conversation around any subject matter. She also enjoys engaging with audiences on a variety of topics as a keynote speaker. The next time Linda delivers her speech, “Don’t Ever Underestimate the Heart of a Champion: A Journalist’s Journey of Loss and Transformation”, don’t be surprised if she pulls a “Carla Harris” and breaks out into a ballroom dance!

Best Practices Growth Leadership Personal Development

Boy, If You Don’t Stop


Aubrey “DRAKE” Graham is a Grammy-Award winning R&B/Hip-Hop artist. His unique style of soft rap that deals with difficult subjects has propelled him on Billboard charts. Recently his work was rewarded when he received 13 awards at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards. This is the greatest number of accolades ever given to an artist in a single year at this event.

Thirteen awards means giving thirteen acceptance speeches. The one that stands out is the second one. After giving shout-outs of appreciation to Vanessa Hudgens, Nicki Minaj and Ludacris, Drake gave a shout-out to his father, Dennis Graham.

Drake’s dad, a drummer who worked with Jerry Lee Lewis, attended the event wearing a purple suit and purple shoes. He looked exceptional. Drake yelled out to his father, “Boy, if you don’t stop!” That started a frenzy of comments because of the phrase.

“Boy, if you don’t stop” was something not heard before. It set off a surge of comments. Moreover, it set off a controversy. Drake made the comment as a compliment to his father. It was referring to how his dad looked in the purple suit and shoes. In essence, Drake was saying his father rocked the suit and looked fantastic.

Some people took, “Boy, if you don’t stop” as a criticism.  Their thought was there’s a conflict between father and son that was being revealed. People wondered what had caused such a disagreement that Drake would take that moment to expose it. Consequently, they went about spreading their meaning to anyone who would listen.

How can a simple statement like, “Boy, if you don’t stop” be interpreted in opposite ways. It goes back to the problem we are having today with communication. Those hearing the message are not listening, they are interpreting. Instead of figuring out what the speaker said they are coming up with their own message.

Communication is the interchange of words. The purpose is to share knowledge, opinions, and facts. The value of this interchange is only as good as the receiver understanding what the speaker is saying. Otherwise communication did not occur.

Today people put in their own meaning as to what someone is saying. They aren’t listening. They do not try to capture what the speaker is saying. The point of communication is to impart what one person knows to another. If someone walks away from a conversation with what they thought instead of what was said there was no interchange. No message was delivered. No communication took place.

When involved in a conversation, listen to attain what is being shared. It doesn’t make sense to put in your own thoughts about what a person says. You are just listening to yourself. You haven’t learned anything. Why did you even get in a conversation with someone if you weren’t going to listen to them?

Listen, not interpret. Even if you disagree with them there is always something you can learn. If you don’t understand what they are saying, ask them. If you are unable to ask them then look at the context they said it in. The words surrounding the part you are questioning will give you a clue to what the speaker meant. Just like with Drake. Right before he gave a shout-out to his dad, he was complementing Vanessa Hudgens and Nicki Minaj. Drake was complementing his father and he did it in a big way. “Boy, if you don’t stop!”

Growth Human Resources Leadership Personal Development

Frequent Performance Feedback: What’s the Point?

A client called to discuss an employee’s poor performance.  Although the basic work was getting done, there were behaviors the manager (and others) wanted to see improved.  It seems the employee would often disappear.  The department employees being available (or reachable) always was essential to serve colleagues (internal customers) who often had urgent questions.  These questions need to be answered or internal projects would screech to a halt and cost the organization significant loss of revenue and productivity.  My client was uncomfortable and was asking for guidance.


The client asked me, “How do I get my employee to be at his desk when he is needed?” The typical manager would likely make specific demands and/or make threats such as insist on frequent meetings to assure compliance with the demands.  Or, he/she might threaten to possibly hold a negative performance review rating.  What’s the point of these?  Control?  Control techniques are often outdated and ineffective in our knowledge economy. Employees can always find ways around the arbitrary rules.  My client knew this and thus the reason for his call.


Many, if not most of the firms transforming their performance management processes are recommending more frequent and informal feedback in place of formal performance review meetings.  PwC, a major consulting firm, found that up to 60% of employees (especially millennials) want feedback either weekly or daily. Virtually all performance management consulting companies recommend more frequent feedback now (in place of annual reviews) because they claim it improves employee engagement.


This all sounds seductive but what’s the point?  Managers are not very skilled at delivering feedback and they claim to have no time to deliver feedback more frequently.  These are barriers, but the bigger reason to be cautious before jumping on the “more frequent” bandwagon is the dysfunction caused by a flawed context. If organizations shifted their context from control to self-management it would make an enormous positive difference in performance while requiring less time for managers.


Delivering feedback more frequently, and less formally, in a dysfunctional context will not make things better.  In a control context, the typical manager will make specific demands and then attempt to catch the employee either doing something right or doing it wrong.  This strategy creates a context of mistrust and sends this message to the employee, “You are incapable of managing your own performance without me watching you.”


I recommended a different approach to my client: facilitate a set of agreements with the employee.  An agreement is a specific, measurable, and time sensitive task that is delivered with a predictable process.  I recommended my client facilitate agreements around being available.  I suggested he reinforce the importance of being available.  He then asked the employee, “What agreement(s) are you willing to make to be sure you are available always for our internal customers?”


Instead of making demands to follow a process that the manager created, the manager shifted the responsibility for creating a process to the employee to keep his agreement.  This shift (in context) allows more effective feedback without the demand for forced frequency.  If the employee can be more available, the process the employee created worked.  There is no need for feedback from the manager.  If it doesn’t work, then feedback is appropriate.  The feedback will be either about the process needing improvement about the broken agreement. Either way, the feedback is needed and can be immediate.


In this context, the purpose (the point) of feedback is 3 fold: First, to discuss when and if agreements are broken; Second, discuss when a process must be improved:  Third, when appreciation can be expressed for a job well done.


In this context feedback is not dependent upon a calendar.  Instead, it is delivered when everyone can learn something. Either we learn how to better keep our agreements, we learn how to improve a process, or we learn when we did something extraordinarily positive and want it repeated.


Forcing more frequent feedback without a good context (the point), will not deliver the desired results.  Managers and employees will likely get tired of meeting so frequently.  The arbitrary calendar demand to give frequent feedback will likely not deliver enough learning.  By asking, “What agreement(s) are you willing to make to self-manage?”  the context changes to self-management and away from manager dependency.  This puts the responsibility where it really belongs, on the employee and not on the manager.  Frequency is great but what’s the point?  Learning is the point.


Wally Hauck, PhD has a cure for the “deadly disease” known as the typical performance appraisal.  Wally holds a doctorate in organizational leadership from Warren National University, a Master of Business Administration in finance from Iona College, and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania.   Wally is a Certified Speaking Professional or CSP.  Wally has a passion for helping leaders let go of the old and embrace new thinking to improve leadership skills, employee engagement, and performance.

Entrepreneurship Management Personal Development Women In Business

Are You an Irreplaceable CEO?



There are tons of articles out there that talk about what makes a great leader. I read one today that hit me where I live because of one word: Story.

The CEO featured in the article is a renowned, beloved leader in his company for many reasons — his integrity, his approachability, his transparency, his work ethic, etc. But what stood out to me was his being described as a “masterful storyteller”.

High Five! Fist Bump!! Yes!!! A CEO who not only understands the power of story, but finds a way to engage his employees so that they get it, too. Each time he addresses a room, he insists that a different employee introduce him every time. And forget about reading a boring bio — the employee has to come up with a story about the big boss. As the article says, “it’s part of the lesson.”

When I work with CEOs on presentation skills, media training or a video project, story is always at the heart of our work.

Why? Because story is the best way to connect one human being to another. At the end of the day, business is about finding a way to connect with a current or potential client so that they’ll do what you want them to do — buy your product or service. But far too often, we focus more on what we do than on who we are and what drives our passion. We focus more on the message than the story, not realizing that the best way to get our message across is to share our story. And the more personal, the better.

Now, I’m not advocating that you cross the line of good taste, but I am advocating that you allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to share some part of yourself. That’s what will make an impression. That’s what will break through the clutter. That’s what people will remember. And that’s why the author of the article I’m referencing calls GE Chairman and CEO, Jeff Immelt, “irreplaceable.”

“He’s a model of vulnerability, self-study and reflection,” she writes, “a masterful storyteller who articulates his success and failures with equal parts humor and passion.”

When you’re ready to retire, what will your employees write about you? What will be your legacy? It starts with your story.

About the Author: Linda Lorelle is best known as an Emmy and Gracie Award- winning journalist who anchored the evening news for nearly 17 years at Houston’s NBC affiliate, KPRC- TV. The Stanford graduate is now an entrepreneur, using the art of storytelling to create compelling, original video content for clients who understand the value of owning their story. C-Suite executives who want to brush up on their presentation skills also call upon Linda to share her expertise in public speaking and help them feel more at ease.


Linda is a highly skilled emcee and panel moderator who is able to seamlessly guide a conversation around any subject matter. She also enjoys engaging with audiences on a variety of topics as a keynote speaker, including her most recent theme: “Don’t Ever Underestimate the Heart of a Champion: A Journalist’s Journey of Loss and Transformation”.

Marketing Operations Personal Development

Six Strategies to Set Your Business Apart

It takes customer service and more for a small company to compete in today’s world of big box stores, and the same business strategies that will set a small company apart are valuable tools for a company of any size.

It is a business situation that has been repeated in towns across the country – a “big box” store comes to town and the local businesses get nervous. How can they compete with the larger inventory and lower prices of a store like Costco or Home Depot? The big stores seem to have more tools at their disposal – buying power, national advertising, etc. Local business owners can list a myriad of concerns, and while there is some truth to their fears, it is really just making excuses. There are ways small business owners can keep their customers – even attract new ones – and flourish, when a larger competitor moves into town.

The reality is that any business must consciously implement effective strategies to address competition from any new business that moves into the same market. This is true for any type of business or industry, no matter whether the established business or the newcomer is small, large, a deep discounter, whatever … the strategies are the same. And some don’t cost a thing.

Here are some low- and no-cost ideas that can help you compete:

  • Make it about more than the merchandise. You sell the same product or service as your competitor, and the competitor happens to be a “big box” store with the buying power to offer a lower price. Is it still possible to keep the customers coming through your doors? Yes! This is where customer service becomes the strategy of choice. Offering a better customer experience adds value to the product and can set you apart from the competition and free you from the commodity trap.


  • Or, do make it about the merchandise – the merchandise that the competitor doesn’t have. One small hardware store that happens to be just down the street from a Home Depot has found a way to flourish. They figured out what Home Depot doesn’t sell and then made sure to offer those items. Now Home Depot even sends customers their way for the products that have been so thoughtfully and purposefully stocked.


  • Know your strengths – and let customers know, too. Hopefully, you are known for offering good customer service, but what else sets your business apart? Why should someone do business with you instead of the competition? Figure out your advantages and then let others know.


  • Make it about more than the business. Lend your name to other causes in the community, be it the local, national or even international community. The company’s market will define the scope of your “community.” For many small businesses, this means taking an active role in the local community by being visible – sponsor a sports team, let a local charity hold a bake sale outside your store on a Saturday, etc. Show the community that you care.


  • Let your loyal customers lend a hand. Keep in touch with your customer base through a variety of ways – social media, mail, and so on – and build an army of evangelists. Engaging with them will encourage them to promote your business.


  • Consider a formal loyalty program. Airlines, hotels, restaurants and more use loyalty programs to offer incentives for continued business. Would such a program work in your business?


Whether you choose to institute any or all of the strategies mentioned here – or dozens of other options – there is one ever-present way to compete in any market. Simply stated, just deliver amazing customer service that makes the customer feel so special that he/she wouldn’t consider doing business with anyone else.


Shep Hyken is a customer experience expert and the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations. He is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author and has been inducted into the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame for lifetime achievement in the speaking profession. Shep works with companies and organizations who want to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. For more articles on customer service and business go to http://www.hyken.com.

Copyright © MMXIV Shep Hyken – Used with permission.