Saturday, December 1, 2012

Interaction, Leadership, and Learning Styles

I think it is very important to identify how I work with others and understand the various ways others people work with one another. Acknowledging other learning styles is critical because not everyone thinks the same way and it is important to identify the learning styles of the people I am working with so that we can communicate more easily and be more efficient with the task at hand. Supervisors or other people in leadership roles should also be aware of their employees learning styles so they can work accordingly.

After taking the learning styles quiz from week 11 lecture notes, the test confirmed that I am a visual learner. This doesn’t surprise me because I’ve always thought of myself as a visual learner. However, being an engineer I would think a little part of me is a kinesthetic learner, depending on the subject. I like touching the material I am working with because I think this is how I learn most effectively. For example, when I am assembling a piece of equipment, I am definitely a visual learner because I like to read the instructions. However, in my leisure time I like playing sports and doing DIY projects. I think this kinesthetic side of me is the creative side that does not want to follow word-for-word instructions.

At 25 years old, I prefer reading instructions when I am assembling a piece of equipment, however I did not have this kind of attention span at a young age. The same applied for me while in grade school. I was interested in the topics we were learning about, but reading a few chapters in a text book was not the way I wanted to learn about them. This is why in addition to my coursework, my Mom took my brother and I to museums and other educational attractions that related to our current studies. This allowed my brother and me a more “hands on” experience than just flipping each page in a reading assignment. We were so much more interested and enthusiastic about touching old dinosaur bones than just reading about them. It made everything seem real and not just a virtual subject. I think this experience allowed me to understand at a young age that there are various learning styles. These days, I am quick to understand what types of learners my co-workers are so that we can bring out the best work in each other.

I become a leader through leading by example. I am very diligent, enthusiastic, easy to approach, and like to help everyone on a team. In one of my first leadership roles as the captain of my NCAA ice hockey team, I found it rather easy to motivate others and designate work (which included designating work to me as well). I never put myself on a pedestal and promised the team from the start that they are not working for me, I am working with them. This allowed two-way communication for completing tasks and also to resolve any issues. In addition to the business side of things, I also made certain “unattractive” tasks fun. For example, most of our games were in upstate New York in January, which required long bus trips with varying weather every weekend.  To try to make the ride a little more enjoyable, I made “themed” bus trips that included an 80’s trip where everyone could wear the best (and worst) 80’s clothes and we could vote on the 80’s movies to bring on the trip. Another way I tried to make bus trips more enjoyable was deciding where we could stop along the way. As silly as this sounds, why stop at Denny’s when there is a Dave&Buster’s at the next exit? Or let’s see if we can break up the ride by using another school’s rink and getting on the ice for an hour. When we played SUNY-Cortland in Corning, NY, l organized a time for our team to check out the Corning Museum of Glass. Why? Because we we’re stuck there for 2 days in between games, so why not? All of these ideas took a lot of coordination and work with our team’s budget, but with fundraising during the off-season, this was possible, and made for a little more fun on the long bus trips. I think this really enhanced the team spirit because it wasn’t just “working hard”, we had fun and this really helped with the team bonding as well. This allowed me to gain a lot of respect from my teammates because they could see all of the effort I was putting in to make this happen.  

One of the difficulties that I had in this position was the ability for me to listen to a situation fully without interrupting. Sometimes I found myself so eager to help and would blurt out suggestions before the person was finished explaining a situation. If I had just listened a little longer without interrupting, I would find out why that person could not use my suggestion. Fortunately, I found this out because I had an anonymous box that players could put comments/suggestions in throughout this season. This allowed me to recognize this weakness and improve on it. I welcome constructive criticism because it will only help me to become in the end. At the same time, it is important to note that I cannot please everyone. This is a lesson that unfortunately, many of us have to learn the hard way.  

At a young age I was able to understand that there are various learning styles. In order to communicate with others, whether it was on the ice or at work, I had to recognize my teammates’ learning style and adjust the way I was communicating to work with them and become an effective leader.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Dress fit for a Queen

My work Christmas party is in two weeks and between working overtime, commuting an hour to and from my job, as well as taking grad courses, I’ve had no time to shop for a dress, or even know what type of dress to purchase for this social event. Even if I find an hour of time to run out to the store, I have been so busy that I don’t even know what is popular these days.  The work Christmas party is held at the Weston Country Club and is a formal sit down dinner. I need a dress that expresses my femininity yet maintains my business reputation. I could just settle for a basic black dress, but I wore that last year and feel that it’s a fashion faux pas to wear the same dress to the work Christmas party two years in a row.  I’d really like to just pick an outfit that has been recently worn by a celebrity whose fashion I admire. Specifically, I’d like the wear the dress that Kate Middleton is wearing in the photo below where she and Prince William were meeting the President of the U.S. and the First Lady.


If I only had a website that could tell me who she is wearing, I could then search for it on Google and to find the dress, or a knockoff depending on the price. This would allow me to have a sophisticated style and eliminate my fashion crisis for the company Christmas party in 2 weeks. With this in mind, TVtoWear is a website that’s provides a URL link that connects its customers to the outfits they are searching for. This company would allow people like me to type in Kate Middleton’s name into the database and filter on occasions so I can find this dress and be provided with a link to the designer’s website so I can then purchase the dress.  

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Estimating Market Size

To refresh everyone’s memory, TVtoWear is a service that provides customers the information on clothing worn by celebrities so they can just click on a link and purchase a complete outfit, or accessories of the outfit.

In estimating the market size for our “TVtoWear” business”, we gathered data for the demand of our service, identified the addressable market, determined realistic opportunities vs. competition, and found our “winnable” market opportunities through a variety of resources.

The demand for this service is out there. As Jose Maria Castellano, CEO of Inditex states: “The fashion world is in constant flux and is driven not by supply buy by customer demand.”So many people see the wardrobes of celebrities and want the outfits, whether it’s for work, casual wear, or a party. As many of us know, it’s not easy to just walk in a store and put the pieces together for an outfit. I’ll use myself as an example. Between working full time as an engineer, and taking graduate courses full time, I barely have a moment to eat let alone piece together outfits to make myself look presentable and professional at work. This service would provide me the opportunity to go onto the internet, and select an outfit that my favorite style/celebrity has worn. This basically allows me to have the stylist of Kate Middleton for free! Speaking of Kate Middleton, she is a great example for the “supply and demand”, because as soon as the first photos were released of her engagement ring, and her wedding dress, companies began making “knock-offs immediately to meet the customers’ demands of these products. The “knock offs” range from a $37.00 cubic zirconia to a real 12.5 carat sapphire stone surrounded by 22 diamonds at a price of $10,500.00.

In order to determine the addressable market, the department of commerce website provided a table with the estimated monthly sales for retail and food services, by type of business. This revealed that online shopping revenues were four times greater than in store revenues during August of 2012. This provides support that our business can thrive with online shoppers.

In addition to the Department of Commerce website, the University of Arkansas at Jonesboro conducted a study which revealed that women between the ages of 45 and 54 spend the most amount of money on clothing and also represent the largest market potential. In turn, women aged 25 to 34 represent the second largest market potential, even though this age category is the third highest spender, behind the 45-54 year olds, and also 55-64 year olds. This younger age range represents a demographic that would be great TVtoWear customers, as they grew up with the internet at their fingertips, and also follow the latest fashion trends and follow celebrities closely. This narrows down the addressable market to a specific age range. The same study also identified that the greatest market potential is for household incomes of over 100k.

Now since TVtoWear will obtain the clothes on its websites from popular television shows, it is important to identify the television shows watched by the target market we described above. TV week revealed 76% of women make up the audience of the “Style” network. The shows commonly watched on Style include “America’s Next Top Model, “Sex and the City”, and “Project Runway”, which are shows that wrap themselves around the fashion industry. By identifying the addressable market to a specific age range, as well as determining the most popular shows for TVtoWear to focus on, our winnable market becomes clearer.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Effects of Inbound and Outbound Marketing on Businesses Today

Inbound marketing consists of businesses that are found by customers and are advertised through word of mouth.

The role of outbound marketing is finding customers by building brand awareness through advertising and promotions.

I think a majority of companies need both inbound and outbound marketing in order to be successful. Although it may seem like businesses such as Facebook or Youtube solely rely on inbound marketing, these companies still depend on other companies that use outbound marketing in order to make money. For example, just the other day I saw a southwest airlines advertisement on the side of my Facebook news feed. Now as I just mentioned, Facebook does not spend money on advertising, however Facebook’s revenue is through other companies who do spend money to advertise on their websites, in this case it was Southwest Airlines.

The percentages of inbound/outbound marketing for each business varies but insurance companies come to mind when it comes to outbound marketing because although some friends may reference me to a good insurance company due to their lower rates, these types of businesses spend a lot of money on advertising. I always see commercials on TV or the radio for State Farm and Gieco.

Another industry that comes to mind is restaurants. As we just learned from our innovator presentations, Five Guys became popular through word of mouth. However, other restaurants such as McDonalds constantly advertise new items on the menu and the latest prices and deals.

Before this post I always thought social media and other websites such as Facebook are primarily inbound businesses, but after analyzing the strategies of these companies I realized they still rely on other outbound-based companies.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Why Big Companies Can't Innovate

This is by far my favorite reading (and post), so far in the course. I am very interested in the allowance and time provided by companies to let employees be creative in the workplace. I am an engineer by trade and typically, we try to make things better or more efficient in some way. Sometimes this involves innovating, but most of the time we are trained to think a certain way and perform tasks a certain way, that we are too far involved to really think outside the box to develop a better idea. The Gerber example in the article is a prime example of this. It actually makes me wonder how many other companies never launched "good ideas" because they were just too concerned about using the efficiency in the process. Maybe we should stop trying to make the current project "better", and just start from scratch. Like the article suggested, if Gerber wanted to make food for adults, it did not need a "Geber" label because Odwalla did not make the adult food look ANYTHING like Gerber. The issue here was that the employees were so far involved within Gerber, that the idea could not be completed successfully because the idea was actually valid.

One company that comes to mind with disruptive innovations includes Pfizer. Pfizer developed a drug (now known as Viagra) to help angina, a heart condition. However, the side-effects of the drug showed a promising treatment for impotency. This disruptive innovation led to a new market, replacing the experiments for angina.

I think many companies (not just the "Big Companies") do not provide time for the employees to innovate. Maybe if the scientists at Pfizer had time to explore special projects like Google's employees do using the 20% Time Program, this innovation would have developed sooner, or other developments would be revealed. Google created an new idea to allow its own employees to be innovators and many of Google’s products started because of this program. I think many corporations, but especially larger corporations shouldn't let the new employees be entrained in routine of the company because it limits creative thinking. Xerox proved that it "pays off" to provide employees some time to think outside the box.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Persona Pain-Gain Map assists in developing the pros and cons of a specific business idea. When applying this tool to the customer segment of the TvtoWear business model, it revealed the customers concerns and desires.

TVtoWear is for any woman who has coveted the clothing or accessories she sees on TV while watching shows like Sex and the City, TVtoWear is a website that will put that outfit in your shopping basket with just a few clicks of the mouse. Unlike other clothing websites like Amazon or department store sites, TVtoWear will connect you directly with only those fashions you are interested in as seen on the actresses such as Sarah Jessica Parker.

The Persona Pain-Gain Map identified that most customers want to be at the top of the social ladder. These customers measure success in the amount of compliments they receive on an outfit. Some of the customer concerns would be if they can't afford the outfit that they want or cannot find a knockoff they are looking for. Once the customer obtained a knockoff, the customer would be afraid that the knock-off might look cheap and not look authentic. Another concern that the customer might have is for an event or special occasion. For these types of gatherings, a customer needs to have the outfit by a specific date. The obstacles that stand in the way of a customer are the chances that someone else will have the same outfit.

Although these are minor concerns in life, these are the customers thoughts that have been revealed when I applied the Persona Pain-Gain Map. This tool is basiaclly putting on the customers shoes (no pun intended).

Monday, September 24, 2012

Toyota's A3s

Toyota's A3s is a tool that company mangers use to not only countermeasure (not just develop solutions to problems), but also to share a deeper method of thinking. As I mentioned, this tool is not just a problem solver, it's a tool that analyzes a situation from start to finish, and provokes thought for the future.

An A3 consists of seven steps that each has their own box. The steps are below:

1. Establish the business context and importance of a specific problem or issue

2. Describe the current conditions of the problem

3. Identify the desired outcome

4. Analyze the situation to establish causality

5. Propose countermeasures

6. Prescribe an action plan for getting it done

7. Map out the follow-up process

This tool allows workers to learn by experience (through mistakes), and teaches the author how to analyze a situation to develop a countermeasure. A3 uses the term "countermeasure" instead of "solution" because countermeasure refers to the way that proposed actions are addressed to the issue, where as a solutions can create new problems. The point is that once a countermeasure is in place, it will create a new situation, which has its own set of problems which requires their own countermeasures. I think this is a key tactic that separates the A3 tool from other problem solving tools. It recognizes that no solution is perfect and helps the author identify the other problems that may arise, and how to actively address them.

Not only are Toyota managers using this tool, but I think I will use it daily at work. So many times I get caught up finding a problem and then thinking "now what". As an engineer was I want to just fix it, but I need to be careful at times because if I rush into something too quickly, I'm bound to find mistakes; if I take too long to analyze a situation, then I'm just wasting time. I frequently place myself into the "analysis paralysis" category, so this would be an efficient way to "countermeasure" any issues that I may face.