A To-Do List For Uncertain Times

Day one today of the World Business Forum #WBF10 kicked off with a bang with Jim Collins, author of Good to Great.

Unlike recent past years where there has been a bit of doom and gloom, I found the session to be uplifting. With messages of hope and beating the odds by staying true to your personal values.

Jim’s message? Don’t give up.

We all suffer staggering defeats in our lives. It’s okay to go through setbacks, but it’s critical to not give up on values and aspirations that make the struggle worthwhile.

Collins next book will be on how companies persevere and even thrive in difficult times. He believes we are in a new normal where change and struggle will be constant.

Here’s his  list of Ten “To Do’s” to start on the path for Surviving and Thriving:

#1 Do your diagnostics (free Good to Great diagnostic on his website).

#2 Don’t focus on career – focus on building pockets of greatness.

#3 Get the right people on the bus. How many key seats are filled on your bus, what are your plans for filling them with the right people?

#4 Double your questions to statements ratio in the next year.

#5 Focus on what really matters. How is our world changing and what are the brutal facts?

Let’s Make Money Like There is a Tomorrow

It’s Earth Day and I am speaking at Bentley Time Leadership Forum on the topic of  Accountable Leadership and the business of healing our world.

This is the first time I’ve spoken explicitly on the topic of Virgin and Accountability and it coincides nicely with the publication of Virgin Group’s Corporate Sustainability and Social Responsibility Report.

In case you are not in Waltham today, here are the highlights of my talk. I’m looking forward to some healthy debate on the topic.

Big Caveat… I am not a sustainability expert (and was not intimately involved in writing the Virgin report), so I am attacking this from more of a branding/marketing angle. If you are looking to discuss carbon footprint, greenhouse gasses and the benefits of local vs. global sourcing… you may want to move on.

If you are curious about what guides Virgin’s approach and could be applicable to other brands looking to build, beef up or benchmark their efforts in this area of “green,” please read on.

The Pet Rock and other Favorite 70’s Brands

Today is my birthday.

Rather than focus on the fact that I am another year older, and freaking out about the passage of time etc. – I’ve decided to focus on the brands of my youth- some of which I miss.

As a child growing up in the 70’s, I remember a lot of iconic brands- many of which are no longer with us.

Check out Retroland.com and search under the 70’s in case you miss some of them too.

I have distinct images of myself in front of the bathroom mirror singing into my hair brush or accepting my academy award (thanking my mother of course).

I probably also thanked product sponsors and gave them a shout out for for making me look so beautiful and glamorous.

Top on my list were:

“Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific” Shampoo (the best name ever)

Herbal Essences (who could forget that green bottle and distinct smell?)

Elf on the Shelf

Have you heard about this newest Christmas sensation and budding tradition? elf

It’s called Elf on the Shelf.

I think it’s been around a few years, it seems to be really gaining momentum with parents this season.

My understanding is the Elf watches the children to see if they’ve been naughty or nice. Every night he returns to the North Pole. And every morning he re-appears at a different location in the child’s house.

This last bit is what I think is so clever. By a simple act of moving the Elf, he is then rendered interactive.

Not in the wii or Nintendo DS Way, but in a much simpler and perhaps more powerful way through a combination of parental love and effort and childhood imagination.

What Your Holiday Card Says About Your Brand

‘Ti’s the season to send tidings of comfort and joy.

Many companies engage in the practice of sending holiday greetings (print or increasingly emails) to colleagues, clients, partners and prospects.

But what does your holiday card really say about your brand?

After all, it’s not just a card – it’s a communication vehicle.

And whether you intend it to or not, chances are the greeting you send and even how you send it are communicating more about your brand than you originally intended.

One year, while I was working at Virgin management, we decided to do electronic cards (in line with our desire to do right by the planet when we can) and to re-direct the saved postage as a donation to the Branson School of Economics in South Africa.

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We included a bit of a cheeky message on the front of the card (again on brand) but overall we felt the best way to celebrate the real spirit of the holidays during what was a particularly difficult year for many, was to help others.

I am not saying this is the right solution for everyone.  I’m just illustrating that we spent some time thinking about our messaging and treated the card as a piece of branded communication – which ultimately it is.

Here are two other examples of cards that made a brand impression:

The first was from a friend of mine who runs a PR and Communications company called Fraiche.

Her brand is all about fresh ideas and approaches. Her primary color on her website and marketing materials is a bright and vibrant green – a color which supports her can-do personality and that of her company.

Her holiday card really supported her brand point of view.