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Monthly Archives: September 2013

Why Business Leaders With a Higher Purpose Have More Engaged Employees


engage employees-304H.R. Strategist Shares 3 Tips for Firing Up Your Workplace

How many employees roll their eyes during meetings to discuss new initiatives?

How often do they scramble to complete a task not because they love it, but because they’re afraid of the consequences if they don’t?

How many mutter “not in my job description” when asked to assume a new responsibility?

“These are examples of people whose work is providing them with nothing more than a paycheck,” says Trevor Wilson, human resources strategist, CEO of TWI Inc., and author of “The Human Equity Advantage,” (www.twiinc.com).

“And even though that’s ostensibly why we go to work, it’s not what gets us excited and enthusiastic about what we do.”

The solution, he says starts with business leaders and managers. If their work is not fulfilling any higher purpose for them than making money, they’re lacking one of the essential qualities necessary for helping their employees become engaged – and for keeping engaged employees enthusiastic.

“You need to step back and assess your own situation,” Wilson says. “Are you driven more by your fears – of not being able to pay your bills, of losing your job, of failing? Or are you driven by the knowledge that you, like every one of us, have the capacity to do amazing things?”

Business leaders who are striving to create something that will leave the world a better place are not only more engaged themselves, they’re more likely to do the things that help their employees engage, Wilson says.

“Our search for happiness is our search for our purpose, and we achieve both by bringing all of our skills and talents – our human equity – to the job,” he says.

He offers these tips for fostering a culture in which employees are actively engaged:

• Use performance evaluations to learn more about your employees’ strengths, interests and goals. Each employee has strengths and talents that often go unrecognized — and untapped — in the workplace. Helping them to identify these and use them at work contributes to their feeling that their work has purpose and results in more engaged, productive employees. “People want to bring all their talents to what they’re doing – we’re happiest when we’re doing what we’re good at it,” Wilson says. “In order to know what those skills, talents, even personality traits are, managers must get to know their individual employees.”

• Do not treat all employees equally. All employees are not equal and treating them as if they were leaves engaged, enthusiastic employees feeling shortchanged and disengaged employees feeling entitled, Wilson says. “Acknowledge and reward employees who are going the extra mile and point out the ways they’re contributing that may not be quantifiable or part of their ‘job description.’ The successful salesman who routinely coaches less successful colleagues is displaying a strength that won’t show up on his sales sheet but is, nonetheless, a valuable contribution to the company.”

• Recognize and reward employees’ demonstration of strong values. Values are part of the human equity that all of us bring to work in varying degrees. Honesty, integrity, compassion, work ethic – our best employees usually have these and other strong, positive values.  Business leaders may unconsciously recognize them, for instance, by giving a very honest employee their trust, but they should make a point of acknowledging them publicly as well. “Our values are the foundation of our purpose and an expression of our true selves,” Wilson says. “Employees who are both able to demonstrate their values at work, and rewarded for doing so, having a greater sense of purpose.”

About Trevor Wilson

Trevor Wilson is the CEO of TWI Inc. and creator of the human equity management model. He is the global diversity, inclusion and human equity strategist who regularly speaks at corporate functions. TWI’s clients include some of the most progressive global employers in the world, including Coca-Cola, Ernst & Young, BNP Paribas and Home Depot. TWI’s trademarked human equity approach was instrumental in catapulting Coca-Cola’s South Africa division to the top performing division worldwide.

 

 

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The Dynamic Duo: Why SEO And PPC Are The Perfect Bedfellows

UntitledImage by Danard Vincente

The Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Pay Per Click (PPC) marketing strategies have traditionally pitted themselves against one another. Proponents of each have argued that their approach is better than the other. However, opinions are now beginning to change, with many companies noting the benefits of using both SEO and PPC in harmony.

SEO vs PPC

SEO involves increasing the visibility of a website or specific web page within search engine results, which is perfect for promoting your brand. For more information on SEO, click here. With successful SEO the chosen website will appear more prominently in the ‘organic’, or natural, search results and therefore receive more visitors.

By contrast, with PPC, advertisers (you) pay the search engines or content sites when their advertisement is clicked. This article is a good starting point for PPC beginners. Typically, the prices are fixed for content sites but users have to bid for key phrases on search engines. PPC drives in even more traffic, so employing it alongside SEO can really benefit your business.

Identifying The Best Keywords

Firstly, through the use of PPC, you will be able to see which keywords drive customers to your website. Once the most useful terms have been identified, these can be incorporated into SEO strategies. SEO tends to be a longer-term process. So, using the quick results provided by PPC can help you concentrate your efforts in the most important areas and not waste any time.

If PPC shows certain keywords are providing a lot of traffic, you can then ensure the landing page contains relevant persuasive information on these areas. Creating the best possible landing page will increase both your overall PPC quality score and the number of results you receive through organic SEO.

Identifying Gaps in The Market

Through PPC, you will be able to track which pages your advert is shown on. If it is consistently used on a certain website, a good strategy would be to examine that site’s content. If it includes something relevant to your business which is not incorporated into your own web pages, then you will have found a gap in your marketing. Addressing this issue by writing your own similar content may lead to more traffic and reduce your dependency on advertisements.

This method will be particularly useful for new websites or web pages. New content is unlikely to get the same amount of traffic as established sites. Therefore, PPC advertising could be invaluable. It will bring attention to recent developments, providing the company with keywords to include and ways to expand SEO.

Being Consistent

To ensure that what you have learned from PPC benefits your organic SEO, you need to be consistent with both disciplines. Occasionally, companies introduce better offers on PPC adverts than appear in the organic search results. If you offer a 50 per cent discount in an advertisement, but only 30 per cent off in the organic search, very few people will click on the latter. This will lead to spending more money on PPC as well as reducing the effectiveness of your SEO.

Alternatively, results received through organic SEO may provide some surprising keywords or phrases that can be incorporated into your PPC scheme. This demonstrates the advantages of using them simultaneously.

Investigate Conversions

In order to test whether your marketing strategies are working effectively together, you can investigate the conversion pathways. Instead of simply recording the final advertisement viewed before the conversion, all stages of the marketing funnel are logged. This will show all aspects of marketing, such as email links, different PPC adverts and organic searches, which assisted in driving traffic to your site. Analysing the conversion pathways will allow you to determine the use of each strategy and optimising your marketing.

When employing search engine marketing, it is important to recognise the relationship between different areas and strategies. This is what using PPC alongside SEO provides. PPC allows you to constantly test and develop your website and marketing techniques. This holistic approach will provide stronger results and help you get the most from your internet marketing

Bio:  Rhosanna Jenkins is a committed writer, with a variety of interests, including the rise the online marketing revolution.

Have you using both PPC and SEO in combination for your business? Share your thoughts and comments below.

 

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Improving Leadership through the Brain-to- Belly Nerve


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Business Execs Should Embrace Mind-Body-Business
Connection

You’ve heard the expressions: “He lost his nerve;” “He doesn’t have the stomach for it;” “No guts.”

“As it turns out, those expressions are anatomically accurate,” says Dr. Stephen Josephs. “The nerve that you lose when you’re afraid is the vagus nerve, which runs from the belly to the brain. It transmits messages about whether the world is a safe or dangerous place. What we now know about the functioning of this nerve has direct applications making leaders more effective and all of us happier and more courageous.”

Josephs, author of the new book, “Dragons at Work,” (www.DragonsAtWork.com), teaches executives how to reliably create states of optimal performance by achieving control of the vagus nerve. When making decisions about resources, leading teams or talking with the board of directors, courage and poise in the face of rapidly changing business environments are essential for a leader.

“Rather than losing your nerve, you can strengthen it. Courage is a skill you can learn and a capacity you can systematically build. The vagus nerve has been linked to everything from digestion issues to stress and depression,” he says. “A benefit of inner body balance includes the projection of true poise; authentic confidence from a leader is what can create a business culture that breeds financial success because employees and clients trust the person in charge to make important decisions from a stable perspective.”

Using specific techniques from martial arts, meditation and other mind-body disciplines, Dr. Josephs guides executives to build resourcefulness and courage as a habitual response to challenge.

He offers tips for business executives to promote a healthy, vagus nerve-friendly environment:

• When angry or afraid, take a high quality breath: People might tell an agitated person to “take a breath,” but it’s the quality of the breath that makes all the difference. For someone who has practiced breathing has wired in an automatic relaxation response, one breath immediately begins to calm them. To practice do this when you’re not under stress: As you inhale, relax your belly and the muscles of your torso, and soften your muscles on the inhale. On the exhale become still. Widen your peripheral vision – take in more of the room, and rest in a more wide open awareness. At this point, your vagus nerve will be sending you messages that the world is a safe place and your ability to respond intelligently will be greatly enhanced.

• Move forward with a relaxed vagus nerve. Now, in a calmer, more resourceful and masterful state, you can apply a saner perspective to a variety of tasks: connect with employees; complete the agenda; let good ideas emerge from employees, with less pressure from management, so they affirm their own competencies. Acknowledge what’s already working well by giving individuals and teams credit. Enjoy your work, knowing that whatever emerges, you can handle it.

• Get over thyself and lighten up: See how much you can accomplish with the least amount of force. And drop self-importance. Remember, unless you’re Donald Trump or Miss Piggy and self-aggrandizement is part of your brand identity, it’s bad for business. It introduces unnecessary noise into the system and distorts communication. Drop self-importance and you’ll hear critical bad news faster, and people will trust that you can handle it.

About Dr. Stephen Josephs

With more than 30 years experience as an executive coach and consultant, Stephen Josephs, Ed. D, helps leaders build vitality and focus to make their companies profitable – and great places to work. His doctorate at the University of Massachusetts focused on Aesthetics in Education: how to teach anything through art, music, drama and movement. Josephs is particularly interested in the intersection of business performance, psychology and mind/body disciplines. His new novel, “Dragons at Work,” tells the story of a tightly wound executive – a fictionalized case study of coaching that produces fundamental changes in a leader. Josephs has also co-authored “Leadership Agility: Five Levels of Mastery in Anticipating and Initiating Change” (Jossey-Bass, 2006) with Bill Joiner, which shows how certain stages of psychological development affect leadership.

 

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You can’t protect children by lying to them – the truth will hurt less

Parents try to protect children from distressing realities, such as illness, death or divorce. But if you don’t talk to them about the difficult stuff, they worry alone …

Meg Rosoff and daughter

Meg Rosoff and her daughter, Gloria. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

About a decade ago, a friend I knew and cared about deeply told me that she was having an affair with her child’s best friend’s father. “My God,” I said, swallowing hard. “That’s complicated.”

It was complicated all right. The families lived practically next door and were in and out of each other’s houses all the time. But neither marriage was good. And my friend swore that this was the real thing.

The problem was her daughter. She worshipped her mum, watched her like a hawk. And though she was only six, she was one of those strange, precocious children who gets inside adult heads and roams around, looking for stuff. Like the fact that her mother was madly in love with someone other than her dad.

“You can’t keep lying to her,” I said.

“No, no,” she assured me. “It’s not a problem. She doesn’t suspect a thing.”

I looked at her. “She knows. She doesn’t know what she knows, but she knows.”

And she did. If ever a child knew something was wrong with her family, it was Evie. She had developed a heartbreaking look of puzzlement in the company of her mother, searching her face for answers.

I notice those children now, the ones people lie to. Like all children, they are studying the world, struggling to learn the rules of engagement. Except that, for them, life doesn’t make sense because their instincts are negated. So they begin to twist in an attempt to accommodate a world full of half-truths.

An American woman visiting friends in London a few days after the school massacre in December 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut, asked the friend’s family (two adults, three teenagers) not to refer to Newtown for the duration of their visit and not to turn on the news in case her children might overhear distressing stories. “We’re going to talk to them about it when we feel they can handle it,” she said. Her children were 13 and nine.

I know about lies because at an important juncture in my own family life, my husband and I did not tell our daughter the whole truth, with difficult and enduring consequences.

I had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, a disease that killed my youngest sister and for which my middle sister had just finished treatment. My daughter, Gloria, was seven. “I have cancer. But don’t worry, it’ll be fine,” we told her, failing to take into account her presence at my sister’s funeral a few years earlier. My husband and I didn’t say much more. Gloria didn’t ask any questions. To be honest, we were relieved. It was not at all definite that I would survive, and that’s not a conversation you want to have with a child. I didn’t even have it with my husband.

I went to hospital. And my daughter observed quietly when I returned, post-surgery, with a drain, stitches and bloody bandages, unable to lift my arm more than a few inches.

A week later, there was a second operation, followed by chemotherapy. I looked and felt awful.

It was about six months later that I realised two things. First, that although we’d been all jolly and casual at home about my illness, the other people in her life – her teachers and friends’ parents – were, quite innocently, showing nakedly shocked faces. “I hear your mother has cancer,” they whispered in voices that expressed to a sentient seven-year-old that something very awful indeed was going on. In addition, by not explaining the situation properly, we somehow neglected to make it clear that I was so ill because of the treatment rather than the disease. That was enormous.

Think about it. She heard I had cancer. Within days I was hospitalised. I went bald, lost weight, looked sick and exhausted, my right arm was covered with streaky bruises from the intravenous infusions. She had seen my sister in a similar condition a few months before she died.

Gloria, logically, thought that I was dying.

My husband and I didn’t set out to lie, but we certainly didn’t tell the whole truth. We didn’t tell because she didn’t ask. She didn’t ask because she sensed that it was a difficult subject.

Yet “protecting her” from what was going on turned out to be a gross underestimation of our child’s ability to measure atmosphere, to absorb pain and doubt and worry and convert it into a perfectly reasonable (but wrong) explanation.

Over the next decade, I learned that lies of omission can have consequences as devastating as “real” lies, the ones where you decide not to tell a child he’s adopted or that her sister is really her mother.

During those years, my bold, confident daughter became fearful. She began to experience night terrors, strange waking states in which she’d seem unable to connect and I’d be unable to console her. She became frightened of the dark, frightened of going to sleep, terrified of being the last person awake in the house.

Nowadays, as a writer of books for children and teenagers, I meet a lot of kids between 12 and 18 when I go into schools to talk about books. In those sessions, I started asking what frightened them. Spiders, they said, or death. Or someone close dying. “What about being the last person awake in the house?” I asked. And the reaction of the majority astonished me.

“That’s really scary,” they said.

It’s scary, I discovered, because it means you’re responsible. There’s no adult to help if a burglar comes in, or a monster; if there’s an emergency. It resonates with a bigger fear, the fear that adults won’t always be around to protect you. That your parents will die. That you, someday, will die.

I have no hard evidence that Gloria suffered so badly, and for so long, because of our failure to be more open with her about my cancer. But she remembers being very frightened when I went to hospital, not knowing if I’d come back. And she kept the terror to herself.

There are nights at the theatre you never forget, and one of them was a production of Ibsen’s Ghosts at the National with a then unknown (to me) actor called Simon Russell Beale. He played Oswald, whose father has died of syphilis after a life of alcoholism and debauchery. In the play, his mother sends Oswald away so he won’t ever know the truth about his father, and, particularly, so that he won’t ever follow the same path.

And yet he does. Ghosts always reads to me as a play about the futility of attempting to suppress difficult truths – how it does the opposite of rendering them powerless. The unsaid festers and grows until it infects everyone with poison, or in the case of Oswald and his father, syphilis.

I asked a counsellor who works at Great Ormond Street hospital with young transplant patients how he handles talking to very ill children and traumatised families.

“There are parents who can’t even bear to tell a child he’ll be operated on the next day,” he said. “And that’s really damaging. They think they’re protecting the child, but what they’re really doing is protecting themselves from their own appalling fear of loss.”

Parental fear underlies a great deal of the dishonesty perpetrated in the name of protecting children. I couldn’t survive if something happened to you so I must protect you at all costs, parents think. That’s not about the child, it’s about the parent.

I once wrote about teen suicide, and a lovely, articulate teenage girl emailed in response, saying she understood what it felt like to self harm and attempt suicide. She did both on a regular basis. “Have you talked to your parents?” I asked.

“I tried to tell my mother,” she said, “but she started to cry. She’s been under a lot of pressure with my depression and I don’t want to upset her more.”

 

Lies lead to more lies. The child who senses that the parent can’t cope with her vulnerability will hide the truth. Which leads to a situation in which communication shuts down altogether. Not that the pain of children can always be solved. It can’t. Any more than it can for adults. But the cases that chill me to the marrow are the “happy, well-adjusted” children who suddenly hang themselves, leaving desperate messages behind. What’s hidden will grow into a monster.

There is a theory that children’s literature should uphold the idyll of childhood, offering charming scenarios and happy endings to protect the innocent from life’s harsh realities. But children have extraordinary antennae for the things no one will explain. If a child has enough imagination to conjure dragons and monsters under the bed, he has enough imagination to figure out that something adults won’t talk about must be truly terrifying. Sex, for instance, divorce or death. And that’s where literature can help – by exploring the scary stuff with insight and, on a good day, wisdom.

Gloria’s wonderful primary school headteacher once told me that at about age seven to nine, kids start to change, emotionally. They start to separate from their parents, start thinking about death, worrying about being grown up. When I was about that age, I lay in bed, night after night, frozen with terror at the concept of eternal nothingness. I told no one, so no one told me that it’s possible to combat the fear of death with a life well-lived, that death can be a relief and a release, not just a terrifying conclusion.

If you don’t talk to kids about the difficult stuff, they worry alone.

I wish we’d talked to my daughter about my cancer. She was young, but she wasn’t stupid. It took a very long time for her to lose her fear of the dark, of being awake when all the grownups are asleep. Sixteen now, she’s wonderfully independent, funny, thoughtful and brave. Do you ever think about me having cancer? I ask her now. Does it ever worry you? “Not really,” she says. “But I worry about getting cancer myself.” That, given our family history, is perfectly reasonable.

And what about Evie and her mother? My friend came out with the truth soon after we spoke. Both couples have since divorced, both sets of children travel between the various families and everyone involved seems to have reconciled with reasonable equanimity to the change.

Give a child an unpalatable truth and she will figure out a way to process it. But “protect” her and the ghosts will whisper in her ear.

 

 

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Do You Have a Written Income Plan for Retirement?


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Think You Have Your Golden Years Covered? – Get it in
Writing! 

“Age 85 is a bad time to go broke,” says expert retirement planner Jeff Gorton.  Personal savings, various investments and, yes, Social Security may prove to be short of what you’d expected.

“Budgeting how you spend money before retirement can often be a misleading measurement of how you’ll actually spend it during retirement,” says Gorton, a veteran Certified Public Accountant and Certified Financial Planner™, and head of Gorton Financial Group (www.gortonfinancialgroup.com).

“Spending 40 hours a week at work not only earns you a paycheck, it also keeps you from spending money on more vacations, matinee screenings at the movie theater, extra trips to the mall or shopping online. You need to be exceedingly realistic in your planning, and the five years before retirement are actually the most crucial in solidifying post-employment stability.”

To prevent a rude awakening during retirement, Gorton makes certain his clients start with a written income plan (WIP). He reviews the benefits and importance of this “living document”:

• A comprehensive list of life expenses paints a clearer picture. For a 65-year-old married couple today, there is a 72 percent chance that at least one spouse will live to age 85; a 45 percent chance that one will live to age 90, and an 18 percent chance that one will reach age 95, according a recent study from the CDC National Center for Health Statistics. You may not think of listing things like pet care, yard maintenance, and regular visits to salons or spas. But if you enjoy those services now, you may want them during retirement, and you might find that you underestimated the real cost of maintaining your desired lifestyle. And, that’s not including gifts to children and grandchildren!

• The forecast of a two-legged stool. A WIP helps you appreciate the reliability of retirement income. What sources of income do you anticipate having? Traditionally, retirement funding has been viewed as a “three-legged stool,” implying a balance between Social Security, retirement plans and savings/investments. As the baby boom generation ages, Social Security benefits may decrease — and the age at which an individual can collect benefits may increase. Changes in employment may affect retirement plans. As a result, the third leg of the stool, savings/investments, may become even more important.

• Who is authoring your WIP? As with all written documents, you must always consider the source. What you may not realize is that a financial planner is liable to have a stake in selling you a financial product. Just like a retailer may have an incentive to move certain brands of products, many planners are incentivized to have you invest in specific financial vehicles from major institutions. What plan works best for you? Seek advice from an expert who isn’t trying to sell you something, such as an independent firm.

“If you don’t have a written income plan, then you’re just hoping things will work out,” Gorton says.

About Jeff Gorton, CPA, CFP®

Jeff Gorton is a Certified Public Accountant and a Certified Financial Planner™ specializing in individual tax and retirement planning. He is also an Investment Advisor Representative under Alphastar Capital Management, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor, and has a life and health insurance license. Gorton works with individuals and their families to create and protect their financial legacies. He specializes in working with retirees in the areas of tax planning, benefits, retirement planning, estate planning and safe money techniques. He received his BBA in Accounting from the University of Oklahoma. Gorton previously worked for 10 years as the Chief Financial Officer for a large retail organization, overseeing their accounting, benefits and 401(k) retirement plans.

 

The History of the Trapper Keeper. Really, this thing exists? Wow!!!

by Erin McCarthy –

IMAGE CREDIT:

In the fall of 1981, second grader Mike Ryan was walking through the halls of his new school when he realized something terrible: He was the only kid without a Trapper Keeper. “I’m sure there were others,” he says now. “But I certainly didn’t notice them because they weren’t worth noticing because they didn’t have a Trapper Keeper.” After school, he told his parents his tale of woe, and his father picked one up—but it was the wrong thing, a rip-off made of what appeared to be denim. To Ryan’s horror, everyone noticed. “Trapper Keeper? That looks more like a Trapper Jeansper,” one kid sneered.

“It was that weird thing where having a knockoff was worse than having nothing at all,” Ryan, now a senior writer at the Huffington Post, says. “Being the new kid, this was strangely devastating.” He would eventually get the real thing—bright red, with red, green, and blue folders. “It didn’t make me cool, but at least I felt like I was conforming. Which, at that point, is all I had hoped for.”

Launched in 1978 by the Mead Corporation (which was acquired by ACCO Brands in 2012),Trapper Keeper notebooks are brightly colored three-ring binders that hold folders called Trappers and close with a flap. From the start, they were an enormous success: For several years after their nationwide release, Mead sold over $100 million of the folders and notebooks a year. To date, some 75 million Trapper Keepers have flown off store shelves.

“The Trapper Keeper is one of the most recognized school brands of all time,” says Jessica Hodges, Director of School Marketing for ACCO Brands. It’s also a prominent pop culture touchstone: Trapper Keepers have been featured on Family GuyDawson’s CreekSouth ParkFull House, and Napoleon Dynamite. They were transformed into a Trivial Pursuit game piece. John Mayer called Trapper Keepers “the genesis of OCD for my generation.”

These organizational devices would come to define childhoods across North America, and adults who had them remember their Trapper Keepers fondly. (And those who didn’t have them often remember exactly which one they wanted.) Joshua Fruhlinger at Engadget called it “the greatest three-ring binder ever created … Trapper Keepers—the way they combined all of one’s desktop tools—were an early incarnation of the smartphone.” There is robust business in vintage Trapper Keepers on eBay, where unused binders can go for $50 or more.

But in the late 1970s, the people at Mead couldn’t have known that their product would eventually garner such cultural significance. In fact, Trapper Keeper inventor E. Bryant Crutchfield was just looking for the next back-to-school item, and he did it the old fashioned way—through market research. “[The Trapper Keeper] was no accident,” he tellsmental_floss. “It was the most scientific and pragmatically planned product ever in that industry.”

SITUATION ANALYSIS

As director of New Ventures at Mead, part of Crutchfield’s job was to identify trends in the marketplace. In 1972, Crutchfield’s analysis, conducted with someone at Harvard, showed there would be more students per classroom in the coming years. Those students were taking more classes, and had smaller lockers.

Fast forward a few years, when Crutchfield’s analysis revealed that sales of portfolios, or folders, were increasing at 30 percent a year. Thinking back to that Harvard report, a lightbulb went off. “You can’t take six 150-page notebooks around with you, and you can’t interchange them,” Crutchfield says. “People were using more portfolios, so I wanted to make a notebook that would hold portfolios, and they could take that to six classes.”

Crutchfield was speaking with his West Coast sales representative about what he planned to do when another piece fell into place. Portfolios in notebooks were a great idea, the rep said, but why not make the pockets vertical instead of horizontal?

PeeChee folders. Image courtesy of Mead.

Folders with vertical pockets, called PeeChees (as in, peachy keen), had been around since the 1940s and were sold on the West Coast, but they had never made the leap across the Rockies—so Crutchfield was doubtful. “I said, ‘They only sell on the West coast, and what’s the real benefit of a vertical pocket?’” Crutchfield remembers. “[The rep] said, ‘When you close it up, the papers are trapped inside—they can’t fall out. If you’ve got a horizontal pocket portfolio, you turn it upside down, and zap! [The papers] fall out.’”

Crutchfield was convinced and got to work. First, he took sketches of the portfolios and notebooks to a group of teachers to find out if there was truly a need for that kind of thing. The group said that student organization was a major problem, and the teachers would welcome any product that would help in that regard.

Next, Crutchfield created a physical mock-up. Unlike the PeeChee—which had straight up-and-down vertical pockets—Crutchfield’s portfolios had angled pockets, with multiplication tables, weight conversions, and rulers on them. “It was like a textbook inside,” he said. Then he designed a three-ring binder that held those portfolios and closed with a flap. Students could drop the notebook, and the contents would stay securely in place.

Trapper portfolios. Image courtesy of ACCO Brands.

So Crutchfield had a mock-up of his product, but he still didn’t have a name. That came from his research and development manager, Jon Wyant. “I said, ‘I need a name for this damn thing. Have you got any ideas?’” Crutchfield remembers. The next day, they were drinking a martini with lunch when Wyant said, “Let’s call the portfolio the Trapper.”

“What are we going to call the notebook?” Crutchfield asked. “The Trapper Keeper,” Wyant replied.

“Bang!” Crutchfield says. “It made sense!” And that was that.

TESTING THE MARKET

The prototype Trapper Keepers—one with the logo, one without. Photo courtesy of E. Bryant Crutchfield.

With his product named, and a prototype created (the “Trapper Keeper” logo stuck on in press-on-type, and the design—soccer players—held on with tape), Crutchfield went to the next step: more focus group testing. He and other Mead representatives went to schools with the Trappers and Trapper Keeper, talking to students and teachers to get feedback. He also looked for input a little closer to home, from his 13-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son: “I had access to what they were doing in school,” he says, “and I saw their lockers and talked to their teachers.”

For about a year, Crutchfield conducted interviews and focus groups, tweaking the design of the Trapper Keeper along the way. “There were probably five or six iterations,” he says. And once he was happy with the result—a PVC binder with plastic, pinchless rings (they slid open to the side instead of snapping open), a clip that held a pad and a pencil, and flap held firmly closed by a snap—it was time to run a test market, which would help them determine if the product was truly viable.

Patents on two key Trapper Keeper features: The combination pencil holder/notepad clip and the pinchless plastic binder rings. Images courtesy of Google Patents.

Prior to the test, Crutchfield wrote a commercial and flew from Dayton, Ohio—where Mead (and now ACCO) was based—to Manhattan, where he hired three actors and filmed the clip for a mere $5,000 in just three hours. He was short on cash, so it had to get done—but getting it done wasn’t easy. One actor in particular was having a tough time. “It was very straightforward—the kid had a notebook in his arms, and his papers fell out [when a cute girl came over],” Crutchfield says. “We were about 20 minutes away from when the camera goes off [when] he finally got it. I said ‘Wrap!’ and that was it.”

Courtesy of ACCO Brands

The chosen test market was Wichita, Kansas. In August 1978, Mead aired the commercial there and rolled out its Trapper portfolios and Trapper Keepers. What happened next was unexpected: “It sold out completely,” Crutchfield says.

Inside each Trapper Keeper (which came with a few Trapper folders) was a feedback card; if kids sent it in, Mead would send them a free notebook. Approximately 1500 cards were returned. Under “Why did you purchase the Trapper Keeper rather than another type binder?” kids said things like:

“I heard it was good. My girlfriend had one.”
“So when kids in my class throw it, the papers won’t fly all over.”
“My mother got it by mistake but I’d seen it on TV, so I decided to keep it.”
“Instead of taking the whole thing you can take only one part home.”
“Because they keep your papers where they belong. They’re really great—everybody has one.”

But Crutchfield’s favorite comment—and the one that got the biggest laughs at the sales meeting—came from a 14-year-old named Fred. Fred had seen the commercial, and bought the Trapper Keeper rather than another binder to “keep all my shit, like papers and notes.”

Fred’s response card. Courtesy of E. Bryant Crutchfield.

“Kids that age are very open and honest,” Crutchfield chuckles.

The response cards also revealed that it wasn’t just kids buying the Trapper Keepers: Adults were buying it for record and recipe keeping, Crutchfield says.

After reviewing the test market results, it was clear that Mead had a hit on its hands. Crutchfield told Bob Crandall, the regional sales manager, “This just might be the most fantastic product we’ve ever launched. I think it’s really going to shake up the school supplies market.”

GOING NATIONAL

The company decided to roll out Trappers and Trapper Keepers nationally in the summer of 1981. To prep, Mead created a prime-time network television campaign—a pretty unusual thing for a school supply. They also ran ads in print featuring Mrs. Willard, a 9th grade teacher from Wellington, Kansas, who had recommended the Trapper Keeper to her students during the product’s run in the test market. In the ad, she summed up the benefits of using the Trapper Keeper:

“Most students keep the Trapper Keeper in their locker. Then, they just change Trappers from class to class. With no large notebooks to carry around, they travel light and easy. After school, they take the Trapper Keeper home with all the Trappers inside.”

The folders came in three colors (red, blue, and green) and kids had six Trapper Keeper options: three solid colors and three designs—soccer, dog and cat, and Oregon coast, which were stock photos that Crutchfield bought from an agency. The Trappers had a suggested retail price of 29 cents each, while the Trapper Keepers had a suggested retail price of $4.85.

“We rolled it out, and it was just like a rocket,” Crutchfield says. “It was the biggest thing we’d ever done. I saw kids fight over designs in retail.”

GROWING AND CHANGING

In its third year on store shelves, Trapper Keeper sales were still going strong. It was at that point that Mead made a design change, replacing the metal snap with Velcro. Crutchfield created a prototype for that, too, and pulled it out of his attic for his conversation withmental_floss. “The only difference is that it’s got Velcro stuck on there, and it’s dusty!” he says. The cover design was a waterfall—a photo Crutchfield had snapped himself in the mountains of North Carolina.

Even though Velcro was a hot new material at the time, replacing the snap with it made sense for a lot of reasons beyond that, Crutchfield remembers. One was the fact that “people had trouble finding the center of the snap to snap it,” he says. The other had to do with manufacturing. “Snaps were a lot harder—you have to put [the binder] through a machine twice to put the snap in there. Velcro was a lot easier to apply.”

Though the Trapper folders remained virtually unchanged through the years, the Trapper Keeper evolved as student needs evolved. “Additional designs were introduced annually and were reflective of what was relevant in the eyes of our student consumers—unicorns, cool cars, video games,” Hodges says.

Mead employees working on art for the Trapper Keeper designer series. Photo courtesy of ACCO Brands.

In 1988, Mead introduced the Trapper Keeper designer series—fashionable, funky, and sometimes psychedelic designs on the binders and folders that ran until 1995. “Mead employed a large amount of local illustrators to provide early artwork,” Peter Bartlett, director of Product Innovation at ACCO Brands, tells mental_floss. The company also made a deal with Lisa Frank and put her designs on Trappers and Trapper Keepers, and licensed iconic characters like Garfield and Sonic the Hedgehog for the binders. Even Lamborghini got in on the action, granting its blessing to put some of its cars on the Trapper Keeper.

Image Courtesy Cam Hughes

Of course, anything as popular as the Trapper Keeper will almost inevitably face a backlash—but in this case, the backlash didn’t come from students. Crutchfield remembers that some teachers complained about the multiplication and conversion tables, which they said could help students cheat. “It was a controversy at one time,” he says. “One teacher said, ‘Hell, we can take the portfolios away from them while they’re doing their tests.’ Most of the teachers were very honest and said, ‘Anything that helps me pound it in their head is good.'”

Mention Trapper Keepers to your friends, and you’ll inevitably hear from someone who desperately wanted one, but couldn’t have it because it was banned by their school. “The Trapper Keeper started to show up on some class lists as a ‘do not purchase’ because [teachers] didn’t like the noise of that Velcro,” Bartlett says. “[So] we switched from Velcro back to a snap.”

But in some cases, what the binders that schools were calling Trapper Keepers and banning weren’t actually Trapper Keepers. “Our research has shown that what they’re calling Trapper Keepers, [are actually] these big sewn binders that are three to four inches thick and can’t fit into a small school desk,” Bartlett says. “That’s the reason they’re on the list. When you show [the teachers] a real Trapper Keeper, with a very slim, one-inch ring fixture, it’s like, ‘Oh no, that’s not what I’m talking about. I don’t have any problem with that!’”

Though it became less popular after the mid-1990s, the Trapper Keeper has remained an important part of Mead’s back-to-school line of products—though it has undergone some modifications. “The main change is that we went away from PVC, as most health-conscious companies are trying to do,” Bartlett says. “So it looks slightly different because it’s made out of polypropylene and sewn fabric, but the function is essentially the same.” One line, which was introduced in 2007 and available for a year, was even customizable. “They had a clear piece of plastic in the front,” says Richard Harris, the program manager of industrial design at ACCO. “There was a printed pattern behind it, but then you could put whatever you wanted in that clear sleeve in the front.”

But the cool, psychedelic designs of the early 1990s aren’t as big a focus in the Trapper Keeper line these days. “Trapper has evolved a little bit to relying strongly on a color coding system of organization for students,” Bartlett says.

THE FUTURE OF THE TRAPPER KEEPER

Mead and ACCO have big things in store for the Trapper Keeper, although Harris and Bartlett won’t say what. “We’ve been really excited to look at the icon of the Trapper Keeper and see how we can bring it back to its heyday,” Bartlett says.

The Trapper conference room at ACCO Brand’s Dayton, Ohio office. Photo courtesy of ACCO Brands.

What they will comment on is why they think people still love the Trapper Keeper, many decades after they last had one. “It was fun to be able to show your personality through the binder that you had,” Bartlett says. “You don’t really remember a notebook or the pens and pencils you used. But maybe you remember your [Trapper Keeper].” Harris says that the binder “wasn’t a regular school product. When you got it, it was almost like a Christmas present. You were excited to have it.”

Ryan agrees. “It’s the first time it was possible to have ‘cool school supplies,'” he says. “It made something that most children dreaded—school supply shopping—into something that at least bordered on fun.”

But even the man who invented it all can only guess at why his product became more than just a school supply to a generation of kids. “When I first went to work, all school products were drab and boring,” Crutchfield says. “[Trapper Keepers were] more functional and more attractive, with oodles of choices—therefore fun to have. And I had a lot of fun making them fun!”

Read the full text here: http://mentalfloss.com/article/52726/history-trapper-keeper#ixzz2fS1b87OO
–brought to you by mental_floss!

 

 

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Unreasonable clients: Who gets your best work?

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by Seth Godin –

If you reserve your best effort for the irritable boss, the never-pleased client and the bully of a customer, then you’ve bought into a system that rewards the very people who are driving you nuts. It’s no wonder you have clients like that–they get your best work.

On the other hand, when you make it clear (and then deliver) on the promise that your best work goes to those that are clear, respectful and patient, you become a specialist in having customers just like that.

One of the largest turning points of my career was firing the client who accounted for a third of my company’s work. We were becoming really good at tolerating the stress that came from this engagement, and it became clear to me that we were about to sign up for a lifetime of clients like that.

Set free to work for those that we believed deserved our best work, we replaced the lost business in less than six months.

Years ago, I heard the story of a large retail financial services company that did the math and discovered that fewer than 5% of their customers were accounting for more than 80% of their customer service calls–and less than 1% of their profit. They sent these customers a nice note, let them know that they wouldn’t be able to service them properly going forward, and offered to help them transfer their accounts to a competitor. With the time freed up, they could then have their customer service people double down on the customers that actually mattered to them… grease, but without the squeaky wheel part.

No, you can’t always fire those that are imperious or bullies. But yes, you can figure out how to dig even deeper for those that aren’t. That means you won’t take advantage of their good nature, or settle for giving them merely what they will accept. Instead, you treat the good guys with even more effort and care and grace than you ever would have exerted for the tyrants.

The word will spread.

[The other alternative is a fine one, if you’re up for it… specialize in the worst possible clients and bosses, the least gratifying assignments. You’ll stand out in an uncrowded field! The mistake is thinking you’re doing one and actually doing neither by doing both.]

 

 

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