Archive for the ‘Transparency’ Category

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EMERGING TRANSPARENCY TRENDS

October 9, 2009

Four months ago my life changed again, as I activated my fall-back position at Creative Events to tide me over as I began a search for a better fit professionally in the work arena. I was immediately blessed with a flood of opportunities and on day two of being a “Displaced Worker”, I had two contracts to deliver event services. Between reviews of Job Boards, networking, an interview or two, and simply juggling the real work on my desk, I have hardly had time for friends or family, and certainly have not had time to decide if I continue this search for one more “new life”, or happily return to an old one and get on with developing some marketing materials and a business card to celebrate the rebirth of Creative Events by Kranz..

I did set a goal though, of trying to make that decision by the end of the year so that if I remain an independent, I can market in the first quarter and be ready to go with paying clients by second quarter. And now with October flying by, I am beginning to feel the pressure to make up my mind.

Today, I may have moved one step closer to clarity. Cleaning up my mail boxes, I stumbled on the September Trend Briefing dealing with Transparency.

We’ve all come to understand that customers make choices based on product reviews and price comparisons as transparency became a new buzz word. As an advocate for transparency in pricing, I do not think clients should expect to pay a premium for services that are provided by my vendors and not by me directly. So pricing transparency is not a concern- I charge a fair price for my expertise and time and I pass on all costs from partners without a surcharge for me. Nor are product reviews an issue as I strive to deliver the best I can to exceed client expectations, with a solid track-record, references, and awards to back me up. So the emerging transparency trend was not top priority on my “learn-more-list”.

But today I discovered product and price cover only the basics. The “whole” picture will matter to our customers, who, when looking for the best of the best, take into account not just price or superior quality, but eco, health, social and ethical concerns as well. Of course, I thought to myself, that makes sense.

As I evaluate new job opportunities, most of those additional influencers are fairly easy to ferret out – but the most important of those, to me, is ethics and truthfulness. And by its very nature, one tends to assess that by experience, not research. I am not sure I want to risk judging that attribute incorrectly again as I look for a new work home that allows me to be who I am.

We all have experienced how painful it is to learn you have somehow “misjudged” and now need to extricate yourself from a bad situation. For most of my career, I have done well, but I’ve also experienced one or two mis-steps. So I want to avoid that kind of pain again-at least in my work life. I need to stand tall on my reputation of these many years of doing the “right” thing.

So thanks to the broadening elements of transparency, I am beginning to see that coming home to Creative Events may be in my best interest long term–at least until all the meetings/events world catches up with our customers in terms of the “whole” transparency trend.

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OUR ECONOMIC VALUES

October 2, 2009

The morning paper today was filled with economic discussions– from the announcement of Michael Moore’s CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY opening in theatres today; to the Business Section lead story of “Saint Nick-o-Less” and a re-evaluation of gift-giving based on need and necessity; to reports of stock markets falling and financial legal suits; to an opinion column David Brooks wrote for the New York Times which hit home to me.

Because yesterday, I received a general announcement to all card-holders of the credit card company I use-explaining the latest new interest rate increase. My immediate reaction was USURY!

So I was especially interested to learn what Brooks had to say about our economic values. I found I was nodding in agreement through the entire column, as he described our economic values slide and advocated for a restoration of those values with a “goal to make the US again a producer economy, not a consumer economy.” http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/29/opinion/29brooks.html?_r=1

As I entered my office, my usury complaint about the credit card company, and Brooks’ column merged together. I wondered why I react negatively to a rate increase that impacts me, and yet I try to show tolerance for those in our industry that utilize a pricing policy that is equally usurious.

A small part of me, says good for them if they can continue to win business while doing that, and a larger part of me waits for them to be impacted as our customers demand more pricing transparency AND accountability and realize how much more message value they would receive if expertise pricing from vendors was reasonable.

Some meeting/event companies have taken three separate pricing strategies of the past and combined them; assessing charges for employee time, commissions from hotels, venues, and other vendors AS WELL AS a 20-40% profit made from the work of others-without whom we could not deliver integrated services. In fact, recently I heard of one example where a company does not even want to be involved in concept or production at all. Taking advantage of the recession’s impact on our business, they hope to hire the entire team from the independent free lance pool and expend no internal time or expense. Do they expect profit with no investment and recognition and industry awards, with no sweat or financial equity?

I don’t profess to be the expert that knows WHICH pricing methodology is the best; I just know I want it simple. In my past professional life, I have often spent more time discussing our pricing strategy vs. that of the competitors’ than is spent on understanding the client’s needs and brainstorming ways to meet them. So as I started CEK, I chose to establish a price for my expertise. Almost 20 years later, I still believe customers are willing to pay well for expertise they do not have internally; they just are not willing to pay a premium to get a service from us they could purchase for less dollars if they went direct.

But the real question in this discussion is: WHY are those triple-charging event companies often the ones that run into financial trouble – go into bankruptcy, or have one reorganization after another- without any change in the product or level of service?

I used to think it was weak leadership and lack of business acumen, but perhaps there is a lesson here that we can take from financial institutions. Do we need showy offices, a new car every year or two, weekly golf outings, out of sync bonuses and other perks we have grown to feel we are entitled to? Are we charging more than we are worth simply to maintain our sense of ballooning entitlement as reflected in all that we “have”? Are clients impressed with what we have or do they return to us for assistance because of what we DO for them?

This may be a topic to think more about as I expect there is not an easy answer.