A View from Blue Grotto

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Recipe for success

I was looking for something to blog about during the year-end holiday weeks. The days when most people tend to check out from the routines of business and spend time with colleagues, family and friends relaxing and celebrating.

I found my inspiration in the mail today when I received the holiday greeting from the Rider Bennett Law office in Minneapolis. Instead of the typical card on glossy stock with an impersonal inside imprint of “From your friends at Rider Bennett Law,” I opened a darling six inch by six inch cookbook. With a table of contents and total of 44 recipes, this cookbook called on the employees and clients of Rider Bennett to contribute a favorite recipe – along with a little anecdote about the origin of the recipe, why it’s their favorite, etc.

Not only are the recipes mouth-watering, the narratives that accompany them are genuine and personal: on the Crabby Deviled Eggs, “I’m required to bring these to all family gatherings – but a dozen or two usually aren’t enough!” I read through every page, becoming more hungry by the minute, and thinking to myself that this is, by far, the nicest holiday greeting I have received from any vendor or client.

Though the novelty of the cookbook-as-greeting-card is impressive, even more so is the tie to Rider Bennett’s commitment to community service and their values by making a donation to the Second Harvest Heartland Food Shelf “on behalf of the clients, friends and attorneys of Rider Bennett LLP.”

The typical cards on that glossy stock with that impersonal imprint will hit the trash before the new year. But I will likely attempt more than one of the recipes from the cookbook. And you can bet that I will think of Rider Bennett each time I use it.

Email me with examples of clever marketing projects, especially those that tie in with your company’s values or history. And feel free to ring up Rider Bennett, LLP to request a copy of that cookbook.

Yvonne Hundshamer
President, Blue Grotto Inc.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Stories illustrate values

Recently, I came across a podcast series - Stanford’s Educators Corner, a weekly seminar - Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders with presentations by some of Southern California’s preeminent business influencers, including Scott Kriens, CEO of Juniper Networks, and Joe Liemandt, founder and CEO of Trilogy.

Each podcast is nearly an hour long and is an audio of an actual college seminar. Rick Wallace, CEO of KLA-Tencor, shared the tenets of the company’s philosophies in a presentation published Wednesday, October 18, 2006. It was fascinating to hear first-hand commentary on some of the challenges and resolve of three decades of development at KLA-Tencor.

Of the 57-minute presentation, I found two points of particular interest: KLA-Tencor’s current strategies and philosophies are reflective of the company’s past leaders and history, and the challenges of managing the company’s culture when growing through acquisition.

Wallace stressed the understanding and communication of his company’s values. His examples illustrated the challenge of staying true to your values in an incredibly competitive market. One anecdote Wallace gave was when founder, Ken Levy, instructed KLA representatives to walk away from a deal with IBM - a key tenet of the company: be willing to turn away business in order to not compromise your own model.

And the importance of managing a company’s culture was evident in the merging of two major competitors, KLA and Tencor. Today, KLA-Tencor is mindful of their values when seeking out partnerships and acquisitions.

At Blue Grotto, we emphasize capturing and communicating the essence of what has made a company successful and the values that guide operations. Most companies enjoy long-time customer relationships as well as a loyal base of employees and vendors. Thoughtful communication of values and history is a chance to deliver a renewed sense of commitment to stakeholders while articulating the vision of today’s leadership.

Organizations that reach milestones, celebrate successes, plan for transition or embark on new initiatives generally have important stories to share. These stories have the power to inspire, excite and support those vital to your company’s purpose. It is stories like Ken Levy’s risk of walking out on a major customer like IBM that become a part of company lore, but more importantly become the vehicle to communicating the best practices that will serve as a road map for the future.

Email me with examples of how you capture – and communicate – the values and history of your organization. As Fred Talbot, former writer for Saturday Night Live, and communications professor at Owen Graduate School of Management/Vanderbilt (two diametrically different professional lives?) said: “All leaders have to be great storytellers.”

Yvonne Hundshamer
President, Blue Grotto Inc.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Giving money away

“Giving away money effectively is almost as hard as earning it in the first place.” Bill Gates, quoted in the Economist in 1997

I would be willing to bet that statement still rings true today, for Mr. Gates as well as many people who are approached regularly, even daily, with philanthropic requests. Just this year, Warren Buffet joined philanthropic forces with Mr. Gates in an effort to streamline his own planned giving.

The 2006 Minnesota Council of Nonprofits directory lists 4,500 organizations, so folks have thousands of options for spending their time, money and resources. And today’s donors are a savvy group; they are approached frequently and in a variety of ways. Individuals as well as foundations are looking for stewards of not only their money, but stewards of the values and beliefs most important to them. In announcing the gift to their foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates commented on the “generosity and trust” of Mr. Buffet, crediting Mr. Buffet’s influence as their own inspiration for philanthropy. Could there be a higher compliment paid?

The most savvy nonprofits have learned the important lesson that successful development efforts rely on clearly communicating the organization’s values when raising friends and funds in a highly competitive market. Values-based development gives an organization a distinct advantage. It can bring about a stronger and more sustained relationship. Developing resource relationships based on shared values requires a thoughtful examination of just what an organization is and why it does what it does.

Every nonprofit has a carefully thought-out mission statement, and every nonprofit exists for a specific purpose. But there are likely several organizations that serve the same purpose. So how does an organization set itself apart? How does a nonprofit recruit and, more importantly, retain resources - donors, volunteers, staff and board members? How do the most successful nonprofits encourage long-term relationships?

Values-based resource development requires that a nonprofit examine and articulate its values as reflected in the philosophies of service, strategic planning, and stewardship that have driven and sustained it through many years. Taking an inventory of how those values have changed, or remained the same, is an important part the process.

We at Blue Grotto have helped many nonprofits to more effectively communicate their values, and more importantly, to illustrate those values – through the narrative process – to connect with donors of all shapes and sizes, from the average holiday giver, to family foundations, to corporate community relations offices. I am interested to hear how your organization is working to connect with donors. Email me with your own examples of making it easier for people to give their money away.

Yvonne Hundshamer
President, Blue Grotto Inc.