Archive for February, 2011

Pride in customer service.

Recently, I had the pleasure of taking a private tour of the Zappos headquarters in Las Vegas and gaining insight from their team leaders. I had not personally used Zappos’ services (my wife does enough damage in the shoe shopping department), but I knew they were renowned for their customer service. During my visit, I realized that it was way more than customer service for this company, but a true desire to connect with its clientele. One tale described how a Zappos representative spent nearly six hours on the phone with a customer, carefully understanding and addressing her needs to find the perfect shoe for an upcoming occasion. That’s serious care, but one of many examples of the company living up to its mission of providing the best customer service possible. Making it even more astounding is that Zappos is internet-based.

The experience reinforced for me that it’s not simply about customer service, but employee service. Mission statements and core values aren’t created because they sound good to investors – they are meant to be enlivened. This includes a core focus on your company’s most important assets: the people. As with any asset, you must invest in them:

*    Training: People do well when they feel confident. Whether new hires or teaching existing personnel new tasks, allot extra time for in-depth training that covers your company culture, job specifics and a variety of other scenarios in and outside their formal job scope. My employees undergo as much as 90 days in training, but I assure you, the added experience ensures them success from the moment they hit the ground.

*    Education: Training shouldn’t end at orientation. Provide ongoing education via seminars, workshops and industry conferences. Demonstrate that you are interested in their professional growth by offering promising employees opportunities to attend management/leadership programs. Daily, never pass up an opportunity to reinforce the company values – hold morning meetings to set the tone for the day and provide positive reinforcement.

*    Empowerment: You’ve spent the time and money training and educating your employees, now it’s time to let them thrive. When people are allowed to make their own decisions, they are more invested. Your employees are the front-line to your customers: you need them to come up with quick and relevant solutions tailored to the individual client. 99% of the time, they’ll make the right decision, and in those rare instances they do not, don’t get upset or strip them of their empowerment, but work with them to understand alternative solutions.

*    Interest: I can’t say it enough – business is personal. Take a genuine interest in the development of your employees. They know your business as well as you, and in some ways more. Find out what’s working and find out what’s challenging them in achieving optimal job performance. Demonstrate your loyalty and your employees will do the same.

Indeed, customer service is easier boasted than delivered, but reflect back to Zappos. If a company entrenched in an impersonal industry can touch its clients, so can any organization…You just have to touch your employees first..

Love what you do, success takes passion!

Valentine’s Day is just two weeks away… and so commences the frantic search for the perfect floral arrangement and accompanying dinner reservation. This opportunity to celebrate our significant other (or for some, a reminder of their lack of) is quite polarizing. But whether you embrace the holiday or cringe at its romantic gooeyness, the notion of love has something to teach us all professionally.

Simply put, love compels. It instills in us a passion, a spark. Think about it – when you love someone, suddenly you’re willing to move mountains. Whether similar or complete opposite, somehow as a couple you’re compatible. You simply can’t get enough of that special person. And if the relationship becomes threatened, you fight for it.

Translating this passion into your business is easy – just love what you do. It begins with aligning yourself with a position that matches your talents, hence compatibility. If you are good at what you do, chances are you’ll enjoy it more. Work claims approximately one third of our time (and for some of us, significantly more). Why simply endure these hours?… thrive in them! Furthermore, if you’re passionate about what you do, you’re most apt to meet your goals – and even move a few of those mountains. Setbacks won’t destroy you, but resolve you to come up with creative solutions to combat business challenges. No doubt, hard work and talent is a solid duo for success, but combined with love, both your business and personal development can be taken to new heights.

From this perspective, love really does conquer all. This Valentine’s Day, celebrate who you love, but also the ability to do what you love. I hope that each of you have already found your ideal “work mate.” If not, I encourage you to use the Chamber as your cupid to help match you with the right people and opportunities as you pursue what you really want. Our passion is to help you. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a florist to call and a dinner reservation to make.

At your service,
Jason Loeb
Chairman, Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce.

On the Up & Up

Housing prices, exchange rates, income… We’ve lost a lot of value in the past two years. Forecasts predict that we’re on the up-and-up, but there is still a long way to go before we see the same prosperity we enjoyed before. In response, we’ve been forced to view value in a different way – we can no longer look at it as simply monetary worth, but instead worth in terms of importance or impact our purchases will bring about.

We should have the same outlook when it comes to our business. Do our products and services bring enough value to our customers for them to justify the buy? Furthermore, are we translating our business expenses into investments? Sure, you can take out an ad or run a promotion – and if carefully selected and crafted, they can bring about significant return-on-investment. But when the newspaper is tossed out or the promotion expires, so does the much of the buzz and you’re onto generating the next big idea. Indeed, the most impacting and sustainable investment we can make is in our relationships.

Here’s where the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce comes in. Our roster consists of diverse, dynamic individuals, who all share a passion for growing their companies. Our facilities, high-tech and centrally located, are ideal venues in which to conduct business. However, our true value lies in our ability to open the doors for ongoing collaboration, as well as initiatives that support member and community endeavors. In return, you get out of these opportunities what you put into them. By now, I hope you’ve personally experienced “the power of membership” with the organization. Put in the time and sincerity into your existing and newly-found relationships, and I assure you a network of ambassadors ready to champion your business for life. Now that’s priceless.

At your service,
Jason Loeb
Chairman, Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce.

New Year, New Commitments

According to social researchers, we are in the midst of Gloomsday. The exact date varies from today, January 17th, or the 21st, with either of these Mondays predicted to be the saddest days of the year. The holiday cheer has worn away as workplace stresses resume, bills deflate our wallets and uncanny winter weather nips at our spirits (albeit, we South Floridians have a reprieve from the latter). It is also by now that the resolutions we so enthusiastically proclaimed on New Year’s Eve are now broken: “Next year for sure,” we bargain with ourselves.

I plan on combating these January blues. My secret weapon? Commitment. I can’t make the holidays return any sooner, squash the bills nor hold off the cold fronts, but I can commit to making 2011 the best year possible. I plan on being one of the 20% who actually fulfill their resolutions. And I invite you to join me!

This year, the Miami Beach Chamber is resolved to look after your best interest. We’re committed to building you and building your business. You can look forward to several exciting initiatives and networking opportunities to capture new contacts, as well as our unrelenting support of your endeavors. As you create your goals, keep the following things in mind:

*    Be Specific – What’s challenging, yet realistic? Most importantly, is it measurable?

*    Take Control – Goals aren’t going to fulfill themselves. It’s up to you to put in the necessary energy and attitude.

*    Garner Support – Find influential figures with whom to share your challenges and successes. In return, be a support system for others.

Help reinforce your commitment by staying involved with the Chamber. It’s not easy, but consider the organization your champion, backing you each step of the way with opportunities to make a difference. No more putting off our aspirations until next year: this is the year to make our resolutions happen. And be sure to share your good news with us…Hey, suddenly today doesn’t seem so glum after all.

At your service,
Jason Loeb
Chairman, Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Your Social Network

I have 1,276 friends…on Facebook that is. No one can question the website’s influence. It’s a great way to catch up with old friends, form relationships with new ones and stay on top of what’s going on with loved ones. Many, myself included, also find it a promising tool to help promote their business and instigate conversations amongst constituents within seconds. However, sometimes I have to ask myself if this social network is truly social.

All these new gadgets and communication tools enable us to stay better connected, but just how deep is this new connection? We know updates and statuses, but do we really know what’s going on with our contacts? Do we know their needs, do they know ours and, most importantly, do we really know how to help one another? The goal of business is to bring value, yet we can’t deliver that unless we place value on our relationships first.

Indeed, social networking is certainly a piece of the puzzle to keeping ourselves and our companies top-of-mind, but it can’t replace the impact of traditional networking. Oh, we post, Tweet and e-vite here at the Miami Beach Chamber, but our most important initiative is creating events and initiatives that bring people together face-to-face. It’s about making quality introductions to your next customer, your next supplier, your next advocate. I encourage you to become more involved, not as merely a Miami Beach Chamber member, but as a partner. Join one of the many councils, committees or activities, all of which offer numerous opportunities for collaboration and a common ground for community building. Attend the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce New Members Orientation, or simply bond over good food and beverage at one of the luncheons or cocktail hours. I assure you that replacing some of your typeface communication with face-to-face interaction will prove to be your greatest business investment. So, what are you waiting for…friend me!

At your service,
Jason Loeb
Chairman of the Board, Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Human Spirit

As the Andy Williams song goes, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Ok, turkey dinners, excessive parties and presents aside, the best thing about the holiday season is the human spirit. It’s about giving thanks and giving back.

When I first started Sudsies more than 15 years ago, I sought out the Chamber as an effort to boost my business. And it did. But my new-found success wasn’t just in the new business contacts I made, but in the guidance provided by key leaders in the organization. I credit a lot of people in the Chamber for their support, but was perhaps most touched by Michael Milberg, fellow Chamber member and executive director of the Mount Sinai Medical Center Foundation.

“It is always about the organization. Do the right thing and you will always be successful.” Michael said this to me more than 10 years ago, and the statement has resounded with me ever since. At the time, Michael was Chairman of the Chamber and a very influential figure to me. Luckily, I seemed to capture his attention as well and he appointed me to the Board. He followed up on these words of advice with many more, and his interest and leadership-by-example taught me that it’s not just about promoting your business, but being a genuine part of the community.

I hope that you too have had similar figures in your life – the person, or people, to whom you can credit your personal development and ultimate success. And if you don’t have a mentor, please consider the Chamber your support system, for it’s our mission to see that each member grows from their experience with organization. And what better time to play a mentorship role yourself? Pass on the guidance you received, along with your own experiences, to a budding professional. No matter how seasoned you are, you’ll most likely end up learning from them as well.
If I can give you anything this season, I hope it’s the following advice: Business is very much personal. It’s about bringing quality to a relationship, enhancing success by working together and giving back so that the cycle can continue. These words aren’t as glamorous as a new high-tech gadget or as fancy as designer duds, but I assure you that, if followed with sincerity, they’ll never lose their novelty.

Happy Holidays,

Jason Loeb
Chairman of the Board, Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Welcome Note

“A rising tide lifts all boats” has always been a favorite mantra of mine. John F. Kennedy coined the phrase in a 1963 speech, and the proverb has echoed ever since as we’ve endured waves of thriving and challenging economies. While its various interpretations have been praised by some and criticized by others, I believe the key to individual success indeed lies in a balanced, supportive community.

We’re all business people, but we’re also residents striving for a work-life balance. As professionals, we aim to provide our customers a superior product and experience. In turn, we expect the same in our own daily life events. A desirable society relies upon a cohesive collaboration of organizations, from grocery store trips to tourism offerings. The Chamber is about bringing companies together to meet one another, but to also work together in creating opportunities and experiences unique to this community. Miami Beach boasts a glamourous history and remains high on the local, national and international radar, in part because it’s always evolving. Most recently, this island hotspot has transformed into a well-rounded business, entertainment and cultural mecca with its landmark structures like the Miami Beach Convention Center, New World Symphony Hall and Mount Sinai Medical Center, as well as key events such as Art Basel Miami Beach, Miami Beach International Fashion Week and (fittingly) Miami International Boat Show. Each has grown in great magnitude and prestige, fulfilling what a well-heeled traveler values in a global destination and what a resident enjoys in their own backyard.

This is all not without relationships. As Miami Beach Chamber members, we have access to a great network and can build upon each other’s achievements. Take advantage of meeting opportunities and value your networking contacts as partners. Uncover their needs and goals. Some you may be able to help with, some not, but make your relationship an active one – successful people believe in their business, but champion their peers as well. In turn, voice what you have to offer this community and what you need from it to grow. You’d be surprised at who may hold the key to helping you achieve your goals. Finally, along with professional and personal duties, we have a social responsibility. Identify a cause close to your heart and fight for it with direct involvement.

I choose to embody the proverb above by offering my support to each of you. Through every ebb and flow, remember your advocates. Let them support you, but more importantly, offer your support to them. Smooth sailing.

At your service,
Jason Loeb
Chairman of the Board, Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce.