Are You at Risk of Being “Uberized”?

If you’re like many Business Owners and Leaders you probably feel pretty good about the position you hold in your market… so did the taxi cab companies and drivers before Uber became a reality. Now they are scrambling and trying to find a way to survive… even to the point of trying to get political help in different cities to stay afloat.

Disruption and Commoditization have impacted virtually every industry today. There probably isn’t a single industry that hasn’t been impacted by a disruptive organization entering their market and stealing some of their market share. Uber is an excellent example but there are many others that have been equally disruptive. Companies such as LegalZoom have taken billions of dollars away from attorneys over the past several years. They captured and disrupted a document and transaction-based business and turned it into a commodity by substantially lowering the pricing of document preparation… impacting attorneys all over the country.

Amazon was an early disruptor to the entire book business… taking significant market share away from Barnes and Noble and Borders who were recognized giants in the book industry. And we certainly can’t forget about Blockbuster’s demise when Netflix entered the market. They were the unquestioned dominant leader in video rental and were virtually replaced overnight by an unknown company with a new disruptive business model that matched the needs of customers at substantial savings.

Even though these examples are in completely different industries there is one common thread that runs through all of them… they didn’t believe anyone could disrupt their dominance in their market. While it’s awesome to believe in your product or service, it’s dangerous to think there isn’t someone waiting in the wings to take away your position. Unlike any other time in history, we are now seeing new companies coming into traditional industries from many unrelated areas and establishing a disruptive model and capturing significant market share. This trend is only going to continue now that it has shown massive success over the past few years. So what can you do, as the leader of your business, to either avoid or minimize the impact of this potential disruption?

While commoditization is difficult to combat with products and services over a long period of time, there is at least one alternative that appears to withstand the test of time and delivers differentiation in the market… your CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

It is difficult to continually come up with new products and services to satisfy the ravenous appetite customers have today. Just when you think you have the best and leading edge product or newest service, someone comes in and “one-ups” you and takes away the leading spot. While you might remain there for some period of time, it is difficult to remain at the top for extended periods of time. Apple is one of the few that has been successful at this… but it took them many years of living in the shadow of Microsoft and others before they became the dominant leader. Today, Microsoft is in this unenviable position and trying to fight their way back to the top… especially in the race for the Cloud.

But these are behemoth companies… not the SMB market. They can throw billions of dollars at innovation and products and hope they find a winner. The small and mid-sized business (SMB) can’t be this frivolous with their cash and making too many product/service mistakes can wipe out a business before anything comes to fruition. The proven alternative to this madness is to focus on the ONE THING that is completely in their control to design and deliver… their CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

Customer Experience has both short and long term advantages. It is something that can be created and implemented within the year but last for many decades to come when implemented properly. And by properly I’m not talking about telling all your employees they need to be nicer to the customer… that never works for the long term… every company can be nice to their customers if they try. This isn’t the answer… this isn’t the differentiator… but it’s on the right track.

Creating a customized CUSTOMER JOURNEY that is built upon a very well defined Customer Experience Process (something we call Customer Experience Mapping) is what allows companies to reap these rewards for many years into the future. Think Disney… they created “the happiest place on earth” and continue to deliver this experience year after year after year. This didn’t happen by holding a meeting and telling all their employees and characters to be nicer to their guests… it happened because they have a very well defined Customer Journey that is built on a foundation of a well-designed and executed Customer Experience.

Nordstrom did the same thing many decades ago. They started selling shoes… then clothing… all at high prices. But they started with a very distinct process inside the organization for delivering an incredible customer experience day in and day out. Zappos followed this same model… sold shoes… one of the ultimate commodities in the clothing industry… and they dominate today. They don’t give discounts and silly things like “one day only” sales (every day)… they simply deliver a remarkable Customer Experience to every customer every day… and their customers love to buy from Zappos. And it has worked out pretty well when you consider they went from zero to over $1 Billion in revenues in less than 10 years and were sold to Amazon for more than a billion dollars. Not a bad model if you ask me.

One way to avoid being COMMODITIZED and losing customers is to design something even new entrants can’t copy… the experience you offer. If your Customer Experience is so incredibly amazing and remarkable… WOW… every single day with every interaction, this creates immediate differentiation and a long tail of success. It is the ultimate weapon against commoditization or even new entrants into a market. For a new disruptive entrant to take away market share they would need to be so much better and cheaper than anything you offered… which is difficult to do today. And for those of you that are saying to yourself right now, “Yea but we’re different, we do a good quality job and treat our customers well so we aren’t at risk,” I would offer you some instant advice… take the blinders off and get real with looking at your business. This is living in a fantasy world… this isn’t looking at your company from the eyes of your customer… they are seeing something very different. And if someone came into your market today and offered a completely different (and awesome) experience to your customers at or below your price they would be gone in a heartbeat.

Achieving long-term dominance doesn’t happen by “being nicer to your customers” and thinking you have created differentiation… you haven’t. Being CUSTOMER OBSESSED and creating a process based CUSTOMER JOURNEY that has a well laid out and documented CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE PROCESS at the heart of it is what will help you avoid being “Uberized.” This strategy gives you differentiation, uniqueness, and a special place in your customers heart and mind… it gives you the “long tail” of success.

I would strongly and passionately encourage you to learn more about why and how this is completely different than what you are probably doing today. If there was ONE THING TO FOCUS ON IN 2017 it would be to create a strategy based around a well-planned Customer Journey which incorporated an incredibly awesome Customer Experience by Mapping out all the experiences your customer will receive when they interact with your business (there are usually over 20 for most companies in the SMB market). If this is of interest and you want to learn more, let’s grab coffee and I can share how some of the best companies in the world have followed this path… for decades… and still dominate in their industries. I think you will find it a fascinating discussion…

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Six Tech Trends to Know Heading Into the New Year

As we look back at 2016 and gear up for a new year, it’s smart to brush up on new trends in the legal industry. By new trends, I mean new technology, because the terms have become almost synonymous.

Technology has impacted our profession dramatically in recent years, and it continues to do so at an accelerating pace. If you’re not on the technology bandwagon, you and your firm will have a hard time staying afloat.

This fact isn’t a revelation. We’ve known for decades that success in most industries comes down to adopting new technology. But doing so in the legal profession comes with its set of challenges.

First, regulations make change difficult. Second, sometimes it’s hard to know which new products and approaches in the legal industry have value, and which are just hype.

Those challenges aside, firms that don’t embrace technology will have trouble attracting the best new legal talent. The revenue at law firms clinging to old school ways will drop off as a new generation of clients takes their business to new-school, tech-savvy companies.

What does it take to join the ranks of the new-school? There are six major trends to be aware of going into 2017.

Social networks

Social networking is the cornerstone of legal industry marketing. This fact shouldn’t be a surprise. Rainmaking has always been about networking, relationship building and word of mouth. It still is; these techniques in their offline form still build practices. But if you’re not working the online component, too, you’re at a catastrophic disadvantage. Social media has become a factor in how clients choose attorneys, according to a survey taken this year by FindLaw. In 2017, take steps to ramp up your social presence on your website and blog, on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Doing so will maximize your online presence and help you grow relationships over time.

Your clients, prospects, and leads are online and checking social media regularly. Being part of the social media landscape isn’t hard, but there are right and wrong ways to go about it. Invest in expert help this year. Set a goal to get your social marketing plan up and running in 2017.

Virtual Law Firms

These are firms that can operate anywhere: A lawyer’s home, a satellite office, even from inside a Starbucks. Many lawyers have closed their downtown offices and work remotely. Technology lets them do this without hurting service or quality. Remote work can reduce overhead and travel time while increasing flexibility and improving work/life balance. Plus, you have the option to rent offices or meeting rooms as needed.

The leap to virtual doesn’t have to happen overnight. Experiment by working remotely one day a week and see how it impacts your productivity and revenue. It may very well provide the edge your firm needs to succeed in 2017.

E-discovery

Electronically stored information (ESI) is now considered discoverable in court. ESI includes e-mails, texts, instant messages, voicemails and other electronically stored information. What you need to know: This technological reality has changed the face of litigation. Lawyers can (and should) use digital services to access all types of records. And we need to remind our clients that their deleted texts and e-mails are retrievable.

Legal process outsourcing

Outsourcing legal work to a vendor, law firm or overseas resource has become an increasingly favorable trend for law firms. Streamlined by new technology, LPO continues to cut expenses and reduce workload overflow. It can be a huge factor in scaling your business and managing workflow. LPO technology firms that market to the legal industry are on the rise. They’ll be coming after you in 2017 to present their case. When they do, listen.

Reviews and testimonials

Adding positive reviews to Google+, Yelp and Avvo is critical to growing your business and managing your reputation. 72 percent of consumers said they trusted companies more when they have positive customer reviews, according to a BrightLocal survey in 2014. The number of people reading online reviews is increasing, so take steps to post reviews in 2017. If you can’t get customers to go on record, that’s OK. According to the data, consumer trust increases even when the reviews are anonymous.

Cloud-based online document repositories provide secure, on-demand access to records for you, your clients, and your team members. You can store, organize, view, and change files.

More customers want instant gratification and access to their documents and records. It’s relatively easy to set up, makes for a better consumer experience, and can save you time from fielding emails and sending attachments. Make sure your clients have this access in 2017!

So there you have it. Six new trends that aren’t entirely new, per se, but are increasingly important as our industry ventures forth into the brave new world of 2017.

Lawyers like to err on the side of caution. Many of us are slow to embrace new technology or rock the boat. Historically, we get hung up asking ourselves whether we can afford to take such risks.

But what we need to be asking is: Can we afford not to?

At the end of 2016, the answer is a resounding no.

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3 Affordable Cars for College Graduates and Young Students Living in Philly

Philadelphia, nicknamed Philly, is the fifth-most populous city of America. One of the main reasons of the city’s high population is the large number of students residing in Philly. It has the third-largest student concentration on the East Coast of America. It is home to more than 120,000 students who are enrolled in different universities around the city. There are more than 80 universities, colleges and schools in the region. Also, several young people are enrolled in the oldest university of America, University of Pennsylvania.

Buying a Car with a Limited Budget

As a student studying in Philadelphia, you must think that you should not spend your money on luxurious items. But, it doesn’t mean that you cannot buy a car to make your daily commute comfortable. Also, do not think that you will end up with an old, dilapidated car only. It is a fact that your limited budget will not permit you to buy a luxurious brand new car. But, if you research thoroughly, you will find several new car models that will fit your lifestyle and budget easily. Here are a few affordable car models that a student should consider buying in Philly:

· Nissan Versa

If you want to invest money in a good, reliable and sturdy car, you can consider buying Nissan’s Versa Sedan car. It is ranked as one of the cheapest cars in Philly. Nissan ensures that you become a proud new car owner for around $10,000. It means you can buy a car with the help of your limited budget. It is a great bargain because several new cars are priced around $30,000. The cheapest Versa S version of the car has a powerful engine with 109 horsepower. Its unique halogen headlights provide maximum visibility at night and make sure that you reach home safe.

Before visiting a dealership in Philly, make sure that you register as a Nissan College Grad on the company’s official website. Once you finish the registration process, print the Nissan College Grad Certificate and show it to the dealer for obtaining discounts.

· Hyundai Accent

Critics consider the car as a perennial best seller. You can buy the new Hyundai Accent for $14,745. However, you will be able to reduce the price of the car with the help of Hyundai College Grad Program. The auto manufacturer offers a student incentive program to college graduates and young students of Philly. Hyundai offers a $400 bonus for buying a car in Philly. The dealer will consider the bonus as a part of the down payment amount for buying the car.

Hyundai Accent will quench your thirst for a powerful car because it has a 137 horsepower, 1.6 liter four-cylinder engine. Also, you can make a choice between six-speed manual and six-speed automatic transmissions. The car is a joyful ride for the young generation because it provides a great audio system with six speakers, tilt-steering wheels, dual vanity mirrors and exterior temperature display.

· Kia Rio

Kia Rio is a favorite car among the young generation of America. It is because it offers spacious cabin space and cheaper maintenance costs. The 2017 model was unveiled at the 2016 Paris Auto Show. And, since then, it has captured the attention of car lovers across America. The South Korean manufacturer has packed several features for the tech-savvy students of Philly. It provides rear-camera display to help you park properly at your college. Also, its connection-on-command service UVO will provide you with driving directions and access your favorite apps to help you improve your driving skills. Similar to Hyundai, Kia Motors also offers a student incentive program in Philly. It provides a $400 discount along with other incentives to college graduates and young students.

Buying a new car signifies your entry to adult life. It is an important decision that will have immense consequences on your financial situation. So, do not make a hasty decision. Spend time in finding a car model that suits you. Do not forget to consider different incentive programs that auto manufacturers offer to college graduates and young students of Philly. It will make the car buying process affordable for you.

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LYFT Driverless Car Network

Not so long ago in the past and to be more specific, it has been just 4 years since the announcement of LYFT as a large competitor for Uber. Today the company has grown in size and popularity and is definitely making waves in terms of pricing along with coverage. This company was first thought of as a fly by night company to be hauled away in the next big growth of Uber. However, this has been a far thought for LYFT. This company has been silently building itself and engulfing its efforts in technology. Their most recently talked about innovation to be brought online will be a Driverless Car Network.

Now many have bogged at the idea of Driverless cars, but they are becoming more and more trendy as time moves on. Innovators such as Mercedes has put self-driving capabilities in many of its models, followed by General Motors Nissan, Toyota, Audi, Volvo, and Tesla. Self-driving cars are no longer a talk of possibility; they are now here to stay. For that reason, GM has jumped on the forefront to invest $500 million in LYFT’s initiative for their Driverless Car Network. This effort essentially will change the way how we commute and reduce the risks associated with impaired drivers or drivers which are inebriated. As opposed to going out in the car yourself to make a pickup of a friend or parents, a simple call or selection in the LYFT app will send a Driverless LYFT vehicle to the pickup aid of the designated person and taking them safely to their next location without incident. This means that the 94% of road accidents which are caused by human error will be drastically dropped due to the car being driven by Artificial Intelligence. Roadways will be more accessible with less vehicles cluttering the highways as more accessibility for carpools and more ability to work while riding effortlessly to work or to school. Many traffic jams are accounted by accidents which occur during morning or evening rush hour. Imagine not having to deal with such delays and being able to effortlessly get home while finishing up a project for work, school, or leisure. This is the future the LYFT is in the process of unveiling to the world in 2017. As far as designs for the Driverless Car Network that LYFT will unveil in 2017, its all just speculations as LYFT along with General Motors has managed to keep talks or leaks about the designs under heavy guard. At the moment these companies stand at the cusp of changing the way how we all use our vehicles and LYFT is the company that is driving the helm.

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National League Teams Already Have DH, So Why Wait?

After nearly fifty years, the experiment will finally be recognized as a success. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred has hinted that the designated hitter, which the New York Times once called a “gimmick,” will be used in the National League.

It was in 1973 that teams in the Junior Circuit elected to have another player hit for the pitcher, a concept that most considered a short term effort to increase offense. History was made that spring when Ron Bloomberg stepped to the plate for the Yankees to become the first DH ever.

The DH quickly became a valuable tool for American League clubs, who went on to win five of the next seven World Series. Although the DH was not used during the Fall Classic, one must admit that it certainly proved advantageous in several respects during the season.

Because they did not have to bat, the American League pitchers were better rested with fewer bumps and bruises than their National League counterparts. The A.L. managers had happier players, since each team had nine starters and thus increased playing time for everybody.

Now that the Commissioner has broached the idea of the DH across the board, players on the National League teams can look forward to similar happiness. Manfred declared that the DH in the National League could come as early as the 2017 season. bolder move would be to institute the DH this year, an idea which would intensify the season as well as increase what has been an embarrassing lack of offense over the past half decade. This would be particularly welcome now, since almost half of the teams in the N.L. find themselves in complete rebuilding mode.

Not only would using the DH help these clubs compete, but it would also increase fan interest during the rebuild. Most clubs already have players who fit the DH mold perfectly, and here is the list of those sluggers.

Braves: Nick Swisher

The veteran has been a clutch hitter with decent power and pop throughout his career, but he currently has no spot in Atlanta’s regular lineup.

Brewers: Jonathan Lucroy and Chris Carter

Having Lucroy in the lineup without having to catch every day would certainly increase his production and career. He has already had experience at first, so he could occasionally allow Carter to get a defensive rest without losing his turn in the order.

Cardinals: Matt Adams

Adams would be the perfect DH, especially against right handers. A bonus for St. Louis would be using Yadier Molina as the DH against lefties, thereby preserving his health for a postseason run.

Cubs: Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler

Schwarber’s struggles in left were apparent in the playoffs last year, as he had been catcher for most of his career. With the DH in play, he could still catch on occasion and allow Soler to rest defensively.

Diamondbacks: Yasmany Tomas

The International free agent still has no true defensive home after an entire year in Arizona. He would be the perfect fit as DH, almost the Big Papi of the N.L.

Dodgers: Andre Ethier

Instead of trying to trade Ethier, as they have done for the past few winters, Los Angeles could have his quality bat in the lineup every day.

Giants: Buster Posey and Brandon Belt

The former Most Valuable Player and star catcher has already suffered several significant injuries behind the plate, so he has been used occasionally at first. Providing San Francisco with the option of the DH would help Posey’s production and lengthen his career, while allowing Belt more opportunities to spell the outfielders.

Marlins: Ichiro Suzuki

Another former M.V.P., Suzuki is still one of the most exciting players around. Seeing him bat every day would be a good reason for Miami fans to start coming to games. Mets: Wilmer Flores

Currently the fan favorite has no regular position, and he has enough power to warrant a role as the club’s DH.

Nationals: Clint Robinson

He is too good of a hitter to be a backup outfielder/first baseman, so Washington could really benefit from the implementation of the DH.

Padres: John Jay

He was acquired over the winter to be a backup outfielder, but a DH role could allow Jay to be a good veteran presence as San Diego undergoes a rebuilding year.

Phillies: Darrin Ruff

There is already controversy about Ruf taking playing time away from veteran All-Star Ryan Howard, a problem which the N.L. DH would immediately quell.

Pirates: Michael Morse

Had the DH come last year, the Pirates would probably have kept Pedro Alvarez. Nevertheless, Morse could fill a similar role in 2016.

Reds: Devan Mesoraco

Any doubt whether the catcher can fully recover from surgery to be an effective backstop, a situation that would leave Cincinnati without the All-Star’s valuable bat.

Rockies: Mark Reynolds

Reynolds, even though listed as a corner infielder, has always been the N.L.’s version of a DH. An edict from Manfred would simply make it official.

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