Dallas Business Consultant Elijah ClarkDallas Business Consultant Elijah Clark

Entrepreneurship and Leadership

Taxonomy of Leadership

By serving and supporting employees, you can create a positive and productive business environment. As a business owner, your leadership style plays a significant role in the success of your business and your employees’ perceptions of the business. By satisfying employees through listening to their needs, adapting to their situations, creating a positive exchange, and building trust, you will have the support needed to create and innovate within your business which is helpful in motivating employees and generating positive customer relationships.

Entrepreneurship

The elements of entrepreneurship include an appetite for risk and the ability to spot opportunities. The propensity to take financial and career oriented risks are often attributed to entrepreneurs. However, while entrepreneurs generally take risk involving business opportunities, they must also be innovators and willing to continually take risks that challenge the status quo.

As a business owner, you must be both an entrepreneur and an innovator to remain relevant within your industry. An innovative entrepreneur is more likely to challenge assumptions due to what is known as creative intelligence which enables discovery by engaging both sides of the brain. While your entrepreneur side may know what decisions need to be made, the innovator in you understands how to make them work for a purpose. If you don’t produce or motivate innovation within your business, you will eventually fall prey to businesses that do.

Management

Managing your business effectively involves more than meaning well and supporting popular causes. The functions of being a manager are planning, organizing, leading, and controlling. As a manager, your role is to cope with complexity and bring a degree of order and consistency to the business at hand. Exhibiting leadership traits means not only influencing others but also doing so in a manner that enables your business to attain its goals.

Leadership and management are two distinctive, yet complementary, systems of action. Each has its own function and characteristics, and both are necessary for success in an increasingly complex and volatile business environment. Of course, not everyone can be good at both leading and managing. Some people have the capacity to become excellent managers, but not strong leaders. Others have great leadership potential but have great difficulty becoming strong managers.

Business Ethics

Research has found that 75% of employees do not desire to work for businesses with poor organizational ethics.[1] Beginning in 2003, many businesses created a new staff position titled Ethics Officer to satisfy work ethics, increase awareness of positive ethics in business, and safeguard the company’s position in the marketplace. Ethical considerations within businesses are largely overlooked, and most business ethics research is susceptible to interaction biases.

Organizational Ethics. Organizational ethics is the study and evaluation of decision-making processes by business leaders according to moral concepts and judgments. An ethical theory is a system that provides rules that guide individuals in making decisions. Organizational ethics are determined by the standards, principles, and moral intentions by which a business operates. Ethical behavior provides a foundation for understanding what constitutes a moral human being. Unethical behavior is regarded as an act which violates accepted moral norms of behavior.

Make certain that your business has implemented codes of ethics and that your employees are aware of these policies. It is your responsibility as a business leader to inform and educate your employees about your policies, considering that you will be held accountable when ethics are not satisfied. Many business professionals believe that ethics are unimportant in the field of business. They further believe that the only obligation they have to their business is to maximize profits. By not implementing and satisfying organizational ethics, it could cost your business financial loss, risk your positive reputation, and increase external pressures.

Ethical Dilemma. In a multi-part federal investigation of an American Express subsidiary in Utah, American Express was found to have violated customer protection laws from every stage of the customer experience from marketing to debt collecting. Several American Express companies were found to have violated protection laws provided for customers. The illegal activities were discovered during a routine examination of an American Express subsidiary by The Federal Deposit Corporation and the Utah Department of Financial Institutions. American Express was found to have violated federal law in billing, debt collection practices, and marketing. In the same year, the Customer Financial Protection Bureau enforced actions against Capital One and Discover Financial over sales tactics.

So, what happened? American Express, along with Discover and Capital One failed to monitor their third-party vendors. The activity had occurred at the American Express Centurion Bank, the American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc., and American Express Bank, FSB. The violations included deception, unlawful late fee charges, age discrimination, failure to report customer disputes to reporting agencies, and misleading customers about debt collection. In 2012, American Express was required to refund $85 million dollars to customers for illegal card practices that took place between 2002 and spring 2012. Though the act was unethical, American Express leaders fully cooperated with authorities and began their own investigation into the matter. They eventually found and reported additional fraud and violations. American Express agreed to end the illegal practices of their subsidiaries, fully refund approximately 250,000 customers who were affected, implement new compliance procedures, and pay a civil monetary penalty of $27.5 million. Court orders also required American Express to change their business practices so that a similar situation would be avoided in the future.

As the Chief Executive Officer of American Express since 2001, Kenneth Chenault stated in an interview that, no matter how strong or ethical a company is they are going to experience some difficulty. He further noted that leadership was paramount during these difficult times. Chenault stated that if leaders could not be ethical in times of crisis, they would lose credibility and followership. As a leader, ethics determine what is done in decision-making situations. Ethical leaders are concerned about justice, fairness, and treating subordinates equally. Additionally, leaders with an ethical identity are likely to affect the self-concepts, beliefs, and attitudes of their followers.

Chenault’s belief is that if leaders are not focused on moral ethics and integrity, they will not be successful. He further explained that to create ethics within an organization, it begins with leadership. The best-run companies are those that encourage employees to raise issues based on their ethics.

When responding to an unethical situation of its subsidiaries, American Express acted ethically by cooperating and coming forward with valuable information that could help the investigation, and ensure that the customer would be fully refunded. American Express corrected the matter by putting together plans to correct each of the violations and worked to strengthen its internal compliance processes. By correcting the matter and admitting to its faults, American Express may have maintained their brand reliability and business’s ethical standards. Had the situation not been resolved, American Express may have tarnished their brand’s reputation, trust, status, and lost customers because of their unethical tactics.

Businesses are often focused on the pursuit of self-interest, and it is human nature not to ask questions about why things are going well. Situations such as the one with American Express place pressure on organizations and their leaders to behave ethically at all times. It was the responsibility of American Express to hold their subsidiaries accountable for their lack of ethics. To resolve unethical situations in your business, you should implement ethical standards that align with your industry, the law, and your personal beliefs. Additionally, ethics officers can assist your business in developing codes of ethics and enforcing ethical codes as needed.

 

[1] Chekwa, C., Ouhirra, L., Thomas, E., & Chukwuanu, M. (2014). An examination of the effects of leadership on business ethics: Empirical study. International Journal Of Business & Public Administration, 11(1), 48-65.

Complaint Repairing Strategy

When responding to a customer complaint, your business should have one main goal, to defend your brand. The first step in the process is to check the information to figure out who wrote the complaint and why they wrote it. This information can likely be found by analyzing the complaint to find hints of information about the author. Normally, those who leave complaints don’t leave their true identity or contact information. Once you find who wrote the complaint, you should put together a response. The complaint response should be well written, should answer the complainant somewhat directly, and should come directly from a respected position within the business with high authority.

The department that worked with the customer should write the response, and it should be edited and signed by the company’s CEO. This will allow for a filtering of the response that will rid it of any emotional attachments. In addition to putting together a response, your company should also check the damage of the complaint. You may also want to check other complaint boards for additional reviews and the search engine rank of the complaint to see how much damage it has or can do to your reputation. If the complaint has initiated a series of additional complaints, your company should look to respond promptly to the complaint. To assess the true spread of the complaint, you can use search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing. With these search engines, you can search the name of your business and see which complaints show up and respond to them from highest to lowest rankings. The goal of the response is for your business to confront the mistake and seek a resolution.

In addition, your company should project a positive image of the business and include alternative methods for complainants to report any issues in the future. This alternative method should include either the website’s testimonial or rating section, using the contact form on the company website, or information for contacting the company CEO. The goal of providing links and email addresses to these in-house sources is to prevent future complaints on third-party websites. The most reliable solution to a complaint is gained through direct contact with the complainant to solve the issue at hand. Once they are satisfied with the results, you should ask the customer if they would be polite enough to remove, edit, or request removal of the complaint. Simply listening to the customer’s concern and coming to a mutual understanding can easily resolve most complaints.

Social Media Reviews

Online networking is a gathering of internet-based applications built on the foundation of ideology and technical specifications of web 2.0, which allows for the development and exchange of user-generated content. Social media is a critical area of enthusiasm for marketing managers and practitioners seeking to evaluate and influence customers’ perceptions. Researchers found that 88% of marketers used social media and spent over $60 billion per year consistently on social media marketing. The most valuable social media tools for gathering marketing data are LinkedIn®, Twitter, Facebook, and online blogging.[1] The essential marketing applications of social media include content marketing, market research, and business networking.

Your business should use social media for presenting marketing endeavors and building relationships with customers. Having an influential social presence is critical to propelling your marketing and brand development strategies. Increasing knowledge, implementing social media strategies, and brand showcasing can benefit your business by exploiting the opportunities that social networks present. In conducting a study consisting of 236 social media users’ online interactions to evaluate predictors relating to social media sites, it was found that online networking had a significant effect on customers’ perceptions of online marketing and advertisements.[2]

In a large-scale field experiment comprising of 45,000 participants of an online mall, researchers found that both financial and value incentives were significant forces in generating brand awareness through social members.[3] If you grasp how to capitalize from online discussions, you can develop strategies that enhance your business’s reputation, profits, and brand awareness. Social influence is characterized as a propensity to accept data as evidence about reality. For instance, with online movie ratings, customers frequently rate movies based on previous ratings by other customers. This happens because customers using social media have a significant influence on the actions and suppositions of their peer groups.

The advantage of using social media for your business is to connect with those customers who can decidedly influence your brand’s notoriety and awareness. For an individual to be influential on social media, they need to present relevant substance within their reviews and have a reasonable social following. You could gain influential power by identifying, reaching, and bargaining with customers online. To develop these relationships of power, you should solicit influential customers and provide product samples and ask that they share their evaluations and feedback on social networks.

 

[1] Whiting, A., & Williams, D. (2013). Why people use social media: A uses and gratifications approach. Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, 16, 362-369. doi:10.1108/qmr-06-2013-0041

[2] Vinerean, S., Cetina, I., Dumitrescu, L., & Tichindelean, M. (2013). The effects of social media marketing on online consumer behavior. International Journal of Business and Management, 8, 66. doi:10.5539/ijbm.v8n14p66

[3] Ahrens, J., Coyle, J. R., & Strahilevitz, M. A. (2013). Electronic word of mouth: The effects of incentives on e-referrals by senders and receivers. European Journal of Marketing, 47, 1034-1051. doi:10.1108/03090561311324192

Reputation Management

Customer feedback and reviews are influential and can affect how your customers engage with your businesses. The influence of a review is dependent on the value the reader of the review places on the individual who posted the review. Additionally, potential customers use reviews to pre-qualify your business by gaining insight into the ethics, products, and services your business offers. For reviews to be influential, the review must be honest, credible, and written by actual customers and not your business’s marketing department. However, the effect of influencer marketing is decreasing as customers have come to realize that businesses can influence the selection of reviews as a marketing tactic.

Your business should utilize product reviews as a means to improve sales and validate successful experiences and problem areas with current and potential customers. When developing marketing strategies, you should make an effort to take note of reviewer demographics and characteristics. A survey by comScore, an internet marketing and advertising company, found that 24% of online customers thoughtfully considered online reviews prior to making a purchase.[1] By examining the influence of reviews and eventual product sales in relation to commonalities between products and customers, marketing managers seeking to gain insight into the shopping and purchasing behaviors of customers can use these reviews as a method of obtaining information.

The value of customer reviews depends on the quality of the review and its substance, the credibility of the reviewer, and the nature of the review in addition to the number of reviews in total, the average review score, and the overall consensus of the reviewers. The internet provides numerous venues for customers and marketing managers to share and receive product knowledge through the sharing of experiences and insights. Customer-generated reviews were considered more trustworthy and credible than any other form of correspondence. Moreover, using the internet permitted customers to purchase products effortlessly and conveniently through websites including Amazon.com and eBay.com which permitted customers to search and compare products, brands, and reviews. In addition to the value of products, customers consider reviews, seller notoriety, and promotional product photos to be the most influential elements that contribute to making final purchasing decisions.

Some of your customers will be fundamentally influenced by information posted by previous customers and will consider those reviews most credible and trustworthy. Content style, source, and peripheral credibility cues in social reviews influence customer beliefs. It’s often difficult to discern the credibility of customer reviews, and your customers’ perception of reviews is a distinguishing factor in purchasing intentions. Therefore, expert reviews provide more credibility and trustworthiness, while guest reviewers, new reviewers, and reviewers with a low number of posts tend to lack credibility.

Online customer reviews constitute a focal point for evaluating customer decision making in terms of online purchases. The quality of customer reviews has a significant effect on the credibility, trustworthiness, and as a result, the perception of your business. Customers use reviews to help determine the trustworthiness of your business based on the ratings and quality of reviews. In using a web-based experiment to examine the quality and effect of product reviews on study participants’ decisions, research found that customers rated reviews based on the quality and the extent of the reviews. High-quality reviews were adequately detailed and generated positive evaluations. In a study of 577 participants, researchers concluded that expert opinions had a significant influence on the perception of reviews, as did visual presentations of reviews. Furthermore, observable characteristics of products had a notable effect on product perception and reviews.[2]

Reviews encourage purchases by helping to avoid confusion and limiting choice overload. Customer reviews and word-of-mouth have always played significant roles in marketing campaigns in that they help to increase product sales, reduce price sensitivity, and increase customer knowledge which helps to reduce the uncertainty of purchasing and increases customer satisfaction. After testing a sample of 203 customer review community participants on OpenRice.com, researchers determined that 69% of the participants shared reviews and rated the quality of those reviews based on various factors including reputation, sense of belonging, and the joy of helping others.[3]

 

[1] Ritchie, J., Lewis, J., Nicholls, C. M., & Ormston, R. (Eds.). (2013). Qualitative research

practice: A guide for social science students and researchers (2nd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.

[2] Situmeang, F. B., Leenders, M. A., & Wijnberg, N. M. (2014). History matters: The impact of reviews and sales of earlier versions of a product on consumer and expert reviews of new editions. European Management Journal, 32, 73-83. doi:10.1016/j.emj.2013.11.001

[3] Cheung, C. M., & Lee, M. K. (2012). What drives consumers to spread electronic word of mouth in online consumer-opinion platforms. Decision Support Systems, 53, 218-225. doi:10.1016/j.dss.2012.01.015

Viral Marketing

Social media marketing (SMM) is a form of internet marketing which is used to help achieve branding and marketing communication goals through participation on social media. SMM is a great way to better market your business online. Having a social networking presence for your business and interacting with potential customers is a great way to expand your brand name and awareness.

The benefit of a viral SMM plan is the ability to create a video that focuses on entertaining the customer while providing valuable information about your brand and what it offers. The video should provide information on the benefits of the business. The concept of the video should be informative and is intended to encourage viewers to share the video via social media and on websites where they are a member. After watching the video, the customer should be inspired to visit your company, call, visit your website, and share the viral marketing video and the information about your company to their friends. A viral marketing plan should be distributed via video and social networking sites such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and by using other multimedia embedding networks and websites. A viral marketing plan can easily create a positive image for your brand while also providing valuable promotional content to users.

Network Communication

Major trends in technology that could impact communication within your business include; voice over internet protocol (VOIP), web 2.0, and virtual networks. Unlike virtual networks, face-to-face (F2F) meetings provide limited support for global projects and establishments. Within virtual networks, a powerful infrastructure and high-speed data services are required from both network users to help prevent interruption of communication, which is likely on slower connections. Technologies used throughout virtual networks include; email, chat, phone, video conference, group calendars, and other electronic meeting systems. F2F meetings can be good to set the stage for a growing relationship. However, technological communication presents an opportunity for the relationship to continually develop.

Trust has been connected to the success of virtual software communication, and F2F communication is often beneficial in helping to establish trust and social ties. Trust is a requirement when working to build social ties and relationships, but difficult to build at a distance. Consequently, virtual teams have a difficult time establishing relationships and are often more prone to conflict. For global projects, individuals should be acquainted with one another prior to joining in virtual communication considering the original meeting builds trust. Considering most organizations have upgraded their structure to utilize technology and information processing systems, allowing local employees to work and communicate virtually can increase your business’s productivity by lowering delays in communication.

Disruptive Technology

Disruptive Technology (DT) is a powerful means of broadening and developing new markets and providing new functionality, which, in turn, may disrupt existing market linkages. DT is when a new technology upsets the way that things have been. An example of DT is the radio replacing the newspaper, or the television replacing the radio as a source of news. DT is not when a single event occurs that disrupts things. It is when a process plays out over time that causes new technology to either replace or reduce the use of an older method.

DT can be beneficial to your business considering it offers more opportunity or options to your customers and influences product innovation. By not adopting DT, your business could potentially miss opportunities for a financial gain and powerful tools that could make your business more productive. A concern with DT is that it often takes away from you or your employee having to think for yourself. An example would be a calculator replacing the deep analysis of problem-solving, or digital navigation systems causing its users to not have to remember directions, or a cell phone contact list that makes it so that you don’t have to remember a phone number. With so much dependent upon these technologies that we rely on to help us in our day-to-day, we can become lost without the benefits that DT has created.

DT is not always used as a method to remove or replace traditional methods; it can also create an alternative to the way things are done. It creates typically simpler, more convenient, and less expensive ways of doing things. DT is usually a result of the desire to make things easier, faster, and more convenient. Hence, landline telephones and traditional mail services are now second to cell phones and email.

Not everyone has or will adapt to DT. Just as cell phones have not fully replaced the landline, DT ultimately could have a major impact on an existing market without totally displacing it. Not everyone uses the internet or a mobile device in place of reading a book, looking through a map, or earning a degree. Many individuals still select to drive a car, take a train, or travel by boat to get to their destination.

There are, however, ways in which DT has caused those unwilling to adopt it, to make sacrifices. Video streaming services Redbox and Netflix have caused brick-and-mortar businesses such as Blockbuster to close shop because of Blockbusters inability to create or adapt to DT. Digital photography caused film to become practically obsolete. DT introduces threats to existing methods, but also opportunities for new sources of competitive advantages. The benefits of DT go to the risk takers. Without being willing to take risks, the individual or business would never accept DT. Risk taking, however, can have negative impacts if it is not executed properly and with a strategic plan. For DT to be successful, small businesses and individuals must weigh the benefits. Without proper knowledge and training of why DT is needed or how to use it for success, the transition will likely fail and DT will negatively disrupt your business.

Internet and Social Trends

The development of the internet has shifted businesses from paper-based and people-intensive purchasing frameworks toward electronic frameworks. In 2016, U.S. electronic commerce transactions accounted for $394.86 billion (11.7%) of total retail sales.[1] Online sales have seen a significant growth because of the internet. The progression of the internet and technology will continually add value to business and customer relationships and provide material for future marketing research.

Customers are moving toward the internet to develop knowledge, business insights, and for other personal reasons. Research has shown that businesses that utilize traditional marketing techniques and advertising methods have seen a decrease in revenue because consumers are moving online to search for businesses and make purchases. Considering the exceptional growth of the internet, businesses without a viable marketing strategy embracing the internet witnessed a lack of marketing effectiveness, product sales, and brand awareness. To counter the effects of the interpersonal communication that the internet presents, your business should obviously develop strategic marketing communication for targeting internet-based customers.

Using the internet to gather information aids in collecting pertinent data for better comprehending the perceptions of your customers toward your business. Given the development of the internet, you can utilize technology for storing and accumulating customer information. Likewise, because of the significant influence of the internet, you can also use the internet to help with establishing relationships with business partners and customers.

The internet affects individuals in their daily lives and can produce challenges for your business due to the accessibility of social media. Online networking has revealed an entryway for customers to express their concerns directly to your business, and this method of correspondence encourages interaction between your business and your customers. Subsequently, customers appreciate having their sentiments validated. However, the immediate and open forum of communication could present challenges for your business if you are not prepared to manage and grow with the online trend.

Customers have a significant influence on the brand awareness of your business as the opinions of customers can propel your brand reputation. For instance, inquiries, comments, and reactions on discussion boards often affect brand loyalty, social following, and purchasing habits. Given the internet, you have to carefully monitor your brand, public activities, and reputation if you want to stay ahead of customer concerns and problems that could impact your sales and business growth.

 

[1] https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/2017/02/17/us-e-commerce-sales-grow-156-2016/

Customer Service

These days, technology connects us in a way that we could have never imagined. And while this increased connectivity makes it easy for us to stay in touch, it’s important that we don’t let it stand in the way of real, personal engagement with customers. Think about a time when you called into a customer service line. You probably sat through a series of long, drawn-out automated messages, pressed a couple buttons, and after much frustration, breathed a sigh of relief when you were finally connected with an actual representative, right?

At the end of the day, people want to do business with other people — not machines and auto sequenced emails. By making a conscious effort to infuse more human interactions into your day-to-day communication with customers, it will be easier to build trust and deepen the relationship. Satisfying the needs of your customers ensures the survival of your business. A periodic check is required to discern the level of performance related to the current quality of services and products, followed by a plan to upgrade or enhance those services or products as necessary to build a quality relationship with your customers. In order to fulfill this goal, you must have a set of rules to measure and improve this quality.

Delivering quality services to customers is considered the most effective way to ensure that your business stands out from your competitors. The main ingredients involved in a quality relationship between your business and your customers are trust and commitment. Trust means confidence and security in the relationship you have with customers and can be treated as the biggest investment in building long term relationships. Lack of trust, on the other hand, weakens the relationship’s foundation.

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