The Arland Group is a boutique creative agency. We want to ask you an important question. Would you rather work with people who want to work with you? Or, would you rather work with people, who work for people, who make them work with you?

Reflecting on Travel Blunders in the New Year

by Deb Andrychuk

10 January, 2014

Keep CalmJanuary. For most of us in sales, January is the month of rebirth. After spending Q4 jumping through fiery hoops to get contracts negotiated and executed, most of us sales folks spend the end of December either in an aura of elation or a state of gloom. It can be an exhilarating high for those who close all of his or her deals in time or a depressing, nail biter until the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31 for those who don’t make his or her sales goals. Fortunately for all around us, we have January to quietly level us out. For some, the first month of the year is a time to strategize, get refocused on his or her pipelines and to start making calls. For me, it’s a moment to open a good bottle of wine, pour a huge glass for myself and then laugh at all of the dumb things I have done during the year, particularly while traveling. Let me share some of my biggest travel blunders of 2013 with you.

#1 Iron 5, Deb 0

I can’t tell you how many times in my years of traveling I have thought I would outsmart the hotel iron only to be put in my place. I am embarrassed to admit that earlier this year I had yet another massive failure with this utility from hell. Back in the spring, I tried to iron a crease out of the bottom of a 100 percent synthetic camisole with a nuclear hot iron. Not only did a ruin my blouse, but I’m sure I pissed off the maid who had to deal with this black blob of goo on the mini clothes dragon. Now, the downside was this horrible, incessant yearning to scratch my stomach all day. The upside was recognizing I have enormous willpower to endure an unbearably itchy and crispy triangle of material under my suit jacket during a six-hour meeting. Oh, did I mention it was about a zillion degrees in the conference room we met in? I thought I might lose my mind!

#2 Never, EVER Pull the Thread

One of my customers bought me lunch in their corporate cafeteria. Standing at the grilled food station, waiting to order, I was introduced to the CEO of the company. Giddy like a school girl at a Justin Bieber concert, I exchanged niceties with this down to earth fellow. In the midst of chatting, I felt something tickling my leg but I ignored it. As Mr. CEO continued talking and turned to receive his grilled chicken sandwich from the line cook, I took the opportunity to stealthily grab at whatever was dangling on my knee. I gave the found dangling thread a swift yank, not realizing it was attached to my clothing. Unwittingly, I had unraveled the entire hem of my skirt and was standing with a few feet of black thread in my hand and my pencil skirt was now two inches longer than when I arrived. Mr. CEO glanced down at my disaster and then at my face, suppressing a laugh the entire time. Flustered, but trying to maintain my cool, I did the only thing I could think of—I pretended like it never happened and stuffed the thread in my pocket. Goober.

#3 Medication Experimentation

My good friends know that I have chronic sinus issues. Back in the summer, my ENT decided that I should try a different antibiotic because I had a really bad sinus infection. He wrote the script late in the day, I stopped to get it filled on the ride home and then popped one before I went to bed late that night. The next morning, I had to get up at 3:30 a.m. to make my 6 a.m. flight to Kansas City, where I would make my connection to Houston. When I got to the airport, I groggily caught my reflection in a mirror and thought to myself, “Wow, you look a little puffy” and I chalked it up to no sleep. I grabbed a coffee and popped another antibiotic before boarding my flight. By the time I got to KC, I realized something was wrong because my eyelids were twice their normal size and I was starting to feel itchy. A few hours later when my connecting flight landed in Houston, I was in serious trouble. I had angry red hives the size of quarters all over my body including my face and now everything was puffed up. My throat was dry and starting to close. After a trip to the emergency room, some steroids, antihistamines and a nap, I didn’t itch anymore, but still looked like a freak. It was one of the worst days of my life—I had to go to my meeting/dinner looking like I had a horrible disease and my customers were wary of touching me or breathing the same air. It was agony.

#4 Travel Toiletry Twins

Like many frequent travelers, I have tried to quit buying mini toiletries just to throw out more plastic into the environment. On a trip to Cleveland I washed and conditioned my hair and then styled it using some newly filled toiletry bottles. As I blow-dried my hair, I started to realize that something was just not quite right with my wig. My hair wasn’t shiny and bouncy like it normally was but instead looked like it had dust on it and it was stringy and slightly greasy. Normally, I would have started over and rewashed my hair, but on this day I was running late. So unfortunately for my clients, I attended three meetings with what I discovered later was Nivea Body Lotion in my hair. Note to self: styling lotion and body lotion look and smell the same at 5 a.m.

So, there’s my list of PG-rated travel gaffes I have committed. There are some HR folks I know who might mention a tasty cheeseburger accident in the halls of the Hard Rock Vegas, but that’s another blog post. How about you? Any travel mistakes you want to share?

Wishing you a blooper-less 2014!

When Losing Business is a Winning Move

by Keith Seiz

2 December, 2013

I lost. In my almost eight years of pitching, selling and telling people about The Arland Group, I’ve compiled a pretty solid record. Put me, or me and Deb in front of a potential new client, and most likely, we’ll win the business.

But I lost one last week. Made it to the final three of a brand redesign project for a West Coast company and failed to bring home the goods. It’s never fun to lose, but looking back, I’m really glad I didn’t win this business.

I lost because the potential client was a bit afraid that we would take the brand redesign a bit too far out of their comfort level. They were a conservative company in the financial industry, and they were looking for a “brand refresh.” I don’t believe in refreshing a brand. It’s an impossible task designed to placate timid clients, but not something that’s going to make an impact on the growth of a client’s business.

You don’t “refresh” brands. You tear them down and rebuild them. Sure, you sometimes arrive at a point that is very similar to the existing brand, but you have to burn the house down before you can build something new and improved.

There cannot be rules in a branding redesign project. Everything has to be at least considered in the first round of creative. It’s part of the process. A client has to allow you to bring them ideas that they never considered before. Even if they don’t make it past the first round of creative, it’s imperative to think about new approaches.

The last thing I want to hear when refreshing a company’s brand or logo is, “we can’t change the color” or “we really like the font.” Right there, you have already put my creative team in handcuffs and predetermined the brand based off of fear of change.

The creative process has to happen organically. If we rebrand a company, and its identity ends up being a minor, natural evolution, I will be completely satisfied with the finished product as long as the creative process is allowed to occur. As long, as someone is open to new ideas, I know the finished product will work, even if it’s not a significant change.

But when rules are put in place before a single idea is hatched, I know the project is not right for The Arland Group. We’re creative people and we have to be able to be creative in order to execute a finished product that makes an impact.

I don’t think the business I just lost would have allowed us be creative. They wanted a refresh, and we wanted a redesign. May seem similar, but there are vast differences in those words.

By losing the business, we won by not taking on a project that would have drained our creative team and stressed our client.

My Glass Isn’t Just Half Full, It’s Broken

by Deb Andrychuk

3 February, 2012

Years ago, I had a prospect that I had been pursuing for several months, with zero success.  I couldn’t sell them a thing. I had used all of my awesome sales training (Selling to VITO, Spin Selling, Give ‘Em the Pickle and more) to no avail. The client had expressed their pains, and I had listened attentively and then diligently worked alongside of them to fashion a solution that they agreed would solve their problems and certainly make their lives easier.  The stumbling block was neither my contact nor his boss would take the risk and pull the trigger.  Why? Because, in their eyes, change meant running the risk of making a huge mistake in front of peers or senior executives.  Their fear of failure paralyzed and wedded them forever to their existing solution which was an admitted failure.

After disclosing in a tense pipeline review that another month would pass without this account closing, my manager sat me down.  He had disappointment in his eyes and said these words I will never forget:  ”It’s time you change up your approach- you’re growing stale.  You need to get serious and break some glass or you will never get your customers to break it!”  I was super frustrated and confused (break the glass?  What in the world was he talking about?!)  I wondered if my manager could tell that I wanted to throw everything in my cubicle including him.  Then being sensitive to criticism, I felt my neck grow hot, embarrassed and shocked that someone actually thought my approach had gotten old.  I mean, seriously, who the heck was he talking to?  I had been told by clients that I was like an entire cheer squad, or a cute puppy with a severe case of ADD, but never had I been called stale.  It took me a long time to get over that horrible moment in my cube…Looking back now; I understand what he was trying to do.  He was giving me the big shove I needed to take a different approach and ruffle some feathers to get my point across.

Today, I speak to talent acquisition leaders daily and some of them are managing recruiting programs that are seriously flat lining. Sadly, some are incorporating recruiting methodologies and processes that were used 10-15 years ago and they are genuinely disturbed and saddened that the old “post and pray” isn’t effective anymore.  Unfortunately, this is what happens when no one questions “the method behind your madness” or no one cares to challenge the status quo or when HR can’t get support from the rest of the business and they are relegated to being just a huge cost center.  And, let’s face it, recruiting is not an easy gig right now and there is certainly no silver bullet.  It is much easier to just sit back and keep riding the same old recruiting train.  We can kick back and make stops here and there to lay blame:  job boards don’t work, social media is unsafe and unproven, we lack resources or budget, or our website sucks, the economy blows, my recruiters are lazy, and the list goes on and on and on…

Personally, I made a vow to myself at the beginning of the year to find ways to start chipping away at the legacy glassware that has become the accepted and the norm.  I am pushing myself to have frank, honest and sometimes uncomfortable discussions with my clients and hope that they don’t get their feelings hurt or throw me out of their offices.  The questions aren’t that crazy, but you never know when you are knocking someone’s baby.  ”Do you know who you are and why anyone would want to work for you?”, “Do you believe that your (fill in the blank with-process/job postings/ careersite/ branding) is effective?” or “Why do your current employees stay/leave?” Oh, and by the way, if you do know the answers to these questions, then why in the heck aren’t you sharing your story and/or fixing the issues?   It might be a little uncomfortable, but not asking would be a disservice to our clients.  I am going to help who I can that will listen and divert my attention from those that continue to don their 1999 recruiting earmuffs.  I know that I might emerge at the end of 2012 with a few cuts and bruises, but I’m sticking to the plan because I can’t let myself or my customers get stale.

Final thought:  I don’t recommend going in Rambo style and shattering everything in sight, but my mantra is “Take out your velvet hammer and start tapping, kids!”  Life is better when the glass is half full and a bit broken.

Living On Deadline

by Erin Canetta

25 April, 2011

Sometimes I wonder if I’m a insane to have chosen a career of perpetual deadline. Every time it’s the same—a magazine’s ad sales close and then the baton is handed to me and from there it’s a mad dash to the printer.

Every story taunts me to create something amazing in record speed. I get myself good and nervous about all the work that has to happen in a short period of time.  Then find a moment’s pause and start to read the stories, waiting for something to jump out of the text and trigger an idea. And you know what, it always does.

Fortunately for me, I work with an incredible group of editors and their words inspire my creativity. Their words become visual in my head and I become their interpreter. It’s an intricate relationship between editor and designer. They do their research, conduct their interviews and write something they hope someone takes the time to read AND it’s my job to make sure most people do.

When that bond takes place something interesting happens—the advertisers start to respond. They want to be in a story that is compelling, and most of all, something their customers want to read. NOW editorial, sales and design are all working together in complete harmony and we have created something that benefits an industry and makes an impact.

It’s this relationship that I remind myself of when I’m on deadline and want to pull my hair out. To be a part of something where everyone has their chance at a center-stage, yet we all work together, is extremely fulfilling. But the ultimate reward is to hold that completed piece in your hands and know you had a major roll in making it happen. Not everyone can say they have a rewarding job but I can. Even if it drives me to the brink of insanity sometimes, I’d rather live on deadline than never again create another magazine.

Stop the Deletions

by Deb Andrychuk

10 June, 2010

I was talking to my boss earlier in the week and he was reviewing my prospective new business report. Discouraged by the lack of new appointments, he sighed and mumbled something sarcastic like, “I could get 10 meetings a week when I was in your shoes.” At first I felt embarrassed and somewhat defensive and then it occurred to me that he was right. 10 years ago, HR or talent acquisition wasn’t the cold calling target they are today, and get this: HR would not only take your calls, but they would dutifully listen to your entire voicemail, sometimes taking notes and writing down your contact information and then actually return your phone calls, regardless of whether they were interested in working with you or not. Amazed by the thoughts of this Happy Land where caller and client are evenly paired? Well, it doesn’t exist today, so time to wake up and face the new reality. Remember that before the advent of job boards, job aggregators, applicant tracking systems; CRM’s and social media solutions, vendor to client ratios were not so wildly disproportionate as they are now. And even though current HR behavior may seem downright rude or insensitive at times, it’s obvious that these poor souls are drowning in the sea of incessant calls received from sales people hawking their wares on a daily basis. So, it makes sense that as a vendor, if you can’t find a way to stand out amongst the gazillion people leaving a message with a given prospect, you run the risk of getting deleted before you can even begin to share your value proposition. So, how do you prevent your prospect from hitting “*D” on their phone and sending you into vendor purgatory?

Here is a day in the life at Arland: I will be diligently looking for fresh opportunities to network and make new business calls, when without fail, I get the call. It’s someone in my industry- the recruitment advertising world, calling to complain about the injustices bestowed upon them by HR Directors, VP’s and recruiters alike. To hear Mr. Yukkity-yuk talk, you would believe that the HR community owed him something for his poorly constructed elevator speeches and equally dismal deliveries of said messages. UGH! It’s during these moments I wish I could just slap a giant pause button and say to my newly muted friend, “If you think about all of the technology that has been developed over the course of the last decade, you’re CUH-RAZY if you haven’t noticed that your prospect is now the target for an unprecedented number of vendor calls and emails, and the quantity of these marketing calls continue to escalate every day! “

So, how do you deliver your message to your target audience without getting discarded before you have stated your purpose? Mike Grennier who heads up talent acquisition in North America for Wal-Mart might have the answer. He recently tweeted, “Dear Vendors: Voice mails longer than 30 seconds will NOT be returned. Think twitter-length. Thank you.” Hhhmm might seem a little harsh, but seriously, maybe Mr. Grennier is on to something here. Maybe we should all take his advice…if your message is longer than a typical Facebook status update or is more than 140 characters, trash it and start again. Besides condensing your message, I think we should all think about emailing our clients first. If you were in your prospect’s shoes, wouldn’t you rather have the option to answer an email at your convenience versus feeling obligated to return a voicemail? And, I think we vendors should all receive harsh jolts of electricity every time we leave messages with trite sayings like “saves you time, money and will increase your ROI.” We can do better than that, can’t we? I for one am going to apply what I know about social media to the development of my new and improved voicemails. I pledge to keep it concise, keep it real and honest, provide true value to the recipient and I will be polite. Above all, I will strive to keep it memorable and unique. I remember a top sales person at a previous employer of mine who used to tell mini-jokes on voicemail when he couldn’t get in touch with a decision maker. He would say something like, “Wow, sorry to hear about your broken arm” to someone who he had never met before. He would then chuckle and continue with, “I’m assuming it’s broken because you won’t call me back!” Believe it or not, this unusual approach worked more times than not, probably because it was unique and he used humor to his advantage. This sales person was smart enough to realize that no one really cared about his credentials, his product differentiators, or the slick article written about his company in Fortune Magazine last month. But he knew if he could make a personal connection with his prospect he might have a shot at getting a meeting and a potential sale.
So, in true Twitter fashion, I leave you with this final thought: Dear Vendor, craft a unique message that is concise, useful, engaging and honest. Email first, call second.
PS Call me in a week and I will let you know this works for me, that is, if I don’t delete your message first…

What is a Black Hole?

by Sharon Lynch

1 June, 2010

What is a black hole? Some may say it’s a “region of space from which nothing, including light, can escape. …” or some may say “that’s where my sales rep went after the contract was signed.”

At The Arland Group (TAG), our Talent Acquisition group guarantees that the media partners included in your recruitment media plan will not disappear into a black hole but rather, become stars and shine their knowledge even more brightly after the sale. To this point, we recently setup three media partners to appear at our customer Ministry Health Care within six weeks of the 2010 Media Plan contract being signed.

We firmly believe in helping our customers truly get the very most for their investment. At The Arland Group, our “account management actions” meant that we invited three vendors who are key partners in the 2010 Media Recruitment Plan to cover best practices, competitive benchmarking, time-saving tips, etc.  Monster, Simply Hired and Healthecareers came to our customer’s headquarters in Milwaukee where they had 15 people, primarily recruiters/end users who came eager to listen, learn and brainstorm about how they can best utilize specific products to fill their job openings.  Each media partner brings a distinct strength to the media plan, and in this group setting, by pulling the entire recruitment team together, also allowed for our customer to pro-actively at the onset of the contract term, establish their own internal best practices.

Mike Schmidt, Director of Recruitment at Ministry Health Care, said his recruiters considered this Vendor Summit as “one of the best meetings we’ve ever had.” With the introduction of many new tools available outside of the traditional job postings and resume search, having direct contact between media partners and end users/recruiters is invaluable to help them best use new products.

This post-sale support and “product on-boarding” are even more critical as new products are introduced with the advent of Web 2.0 and trends developing around social media. Monster’s Media Specialist, Dennis Stevens, said having the entire recruiting team assembled to discuss new products now in their mix will help ensure that one of Monster’s unique and most successful products, Career Ad Network, will garner the best possible results.

Healthecareer’s strategy involves developing partnerships with industry-specific associations to help drive job seekers to their site so they had Jennifer Badding, Senior Manager, Association and Partner Development, in attendance to speak directly with the Ministry recruiting team about associations that were meaningful to them and their specific job openings.

Meanwhile, Simply Hired in the job search engine space, will help Ministry reach job seekers in new places and help them connect with seekers who are searching solely by location and industry/job title.

Now that a baseline has been established, and expectations established externally with media partners and internally among recruiters, Quarterly Reviews will be more significant and informative. It also makes a contract more than a contract; it turns a piece of paper into a true partnership. If you’d like to learn more about how to keep your media sales reps out of the black holes and keep them as stars, you can reach me directly at slynch@thearlandgroup.com .