All posts by Krisss

Kris Shenk is an Information Technology professional specializing in business process outsourcing for the Direct Selling industry.

I would like to thank the academy….

My first introduction to R+F was at a lunch meeting/interview in Salt Lake City with Lori Bush.  Lori described a horrible Jenkon implementation and described the painful circumstances in such articulate detail that I couldn’t do anything but be utterly fascinated.  I remember going home and telling Mike that the situation was a complete trainwreck.  He rolled his eyes and knew right away I was going to take the job.

So through the first year and a half we (IT) tortured the entire R+F staff (and the budget) through a painful conversion.  We ran a mile a minute, throwing in technology, replacing pieces, merging pieces, integrating pieces and tossing out some other pieces altogether.  At the end of the day, we had a fully integrated stand-alone and very solidly workable system.  There are still a few  missing pieces, but all of the heavy lifting is done.  I’m happy with the result and know that there are a lot of very smart people that can finish getting the system from here to there.

Those smart systems people (obviously) include Lacey, Joules, Jared and a more recent and somewhat surprising addition is Lori. I’ve always thought of her as a veritable genius, particularly in Marketing and the Direct Selling business in general, but over the last two weeks I’ve watched her become a technologist.  In just one day I’ve heard her discuss IT project portfolio management, describe what the Avaya phone switch will do, talk about reporting services, ad hoc queries and explain database elements. We may have to let Lori join “the club” and get her her own designer pocket protector.

My next R+F encounter was with Amnon who quickly became obvious as one of the most intelligent and supportive leaders I’ve had the opportunity to work with.  Not only is he a technology advocate but he has also consistently supported the IT junk food habit.  I’ll never forget a particularly frustrating day when Amnon came by and asked if cookies would make it better.  Off the top of my head, I said caramel apples would do the trick (thinking there was no way he could come up with that.)  A week later, a giant case of gourmet apples showed up and it was a party for three days as everyone sampled and enjoyed.

There’s a bonding that occurs over shared misfortune that’s hard to put into words. I’ll never forget the look on Susan’s face across the executive conference table on any number of occassions.  We were bonded in mutual misery (okay maybe “misery” is a little over-dramatic…but not by much).  Sales and/or Marketing would come up with that next “big idea” and it usually spelled nothing but pain and suffering (more drama for effect)  for our respective departments.  She would say “do you know how you are going to execute that?” “Nope” I would say. We would both roll our eyes and then we would go find Lacey.

Another significant moment in history was with Chris, watching the sales field turn from a group of confused unengaged retailers to much more independent and capable business people. I’ve see a lot of field dynamics in my career, but I have never had an opportunity to be in the room, as a witness to a pivotal moment in an organizations history like this one. I will never forget the collective and incredible “A HA!” that occurred at the January Leadership Event.  It was amazing to watch the subsequent change in sales and recruiting that occurred over the course of the following year.

My fabulous staff, Drew, Lacey, Nancy and Joules are some of the brightest most dedicated people and will be the ones to help take this company to the next level.  They know how much I love and appeciate them and that they will always be “my kids”.

Courtney is the business partner of a lifetime. I couldn’t ask for anyone better to work with who has an appreciation of what technology can and can’t do.  Probably more importantly as well,  is how she can motivate you to do things you absolutely don’t want to do!  I remember early on having a meeting with Courtney when she was still working as a part time contractor from SLC.  I met with her with the intention of hiring her as a project manager for the then languishing Pulse implementation.  I practically BEGGED her to help.  She articulated that she was looking to be an executive at the company rather than a PM.  I thought my prayers were answered and soon found out they were.

So thank you to everyone for allowing me to participate in this great R+F journey.  Know that I believe in you and know that I will always watch your continued growth and success.

And of course, I’m no more than an email, instant message, Facebook, Myspace, Linkedin, Twitter, Oovoo, Skype or phone call away. 😉

Best wishes and much success, 

Kris

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Mesmerizing….

….Thats how they described it on TV…. The 5-2 win of Team USA Hockey over home town favorites Team Canada.  Can’t say I can argue much.  It was pretty mesmerizing.  We watched a young team with no notable NHL superstars, skate circles around a team with all the big names like Crosby, Thornton, Nash and Iginla.   And that’s not to mention watching them out pass, out skate and out score my own personal favs like Perry, Getzlaf, Neidermeyer and Pronger.

I was having a horrible time reconciling the fact that my favorite NHL players were jumping ship to play for other countries.  Yeah, yeah….I get that they are all from other places and they want to play for their home country, but it still feels like dissertion and downright abandonment.  I pay their salaries here in the States.  There should be some loyalty!  (Mike continues to remind me that only girls think that way….There is no loyalty in professional sports.)

When I saw Corey Perry and then later Scott Neidermeyer take a cheap shot at one of the US players I was pissed off.  I’m still pissed off.  Listen up Team Canada….  you’re my NHL players….making a living playing for my team….living in my country….getting paid with money from my season seat fees….. You shouldn’t be swiping at the underdog-ish kids that stood up to defend their country (…the one you BAILED on).   And these are the kids the big boys play with every single game of their professional careers.  The kids that are on their own NHL team!   Okay…I know…I know….I’m being ridiculous.  There are no “manners” in Hockey much less in a rivalry like this.  I get it.  It still sucks. 

I didn’t have much hope for the US team actually.  (I shouldn’t say that out loud.)  I never believed that you could throw together a bunch of guys who have never played together and have it turn out the way you’d like.  Maybe it’s because I’ve watched the Ducks struggle with team synergy over the last two years and can barely complete a decent string of passes as a result.  So this time I have to eat my words.  I guess it speaks to Burkie’s amazing ability to assemble an unlikely group of kids that just work together brilliantly….  

But at the end of the day, it was some sort of divine retribution.  Watching Rafalski, Orpik, Parise, Langenbruner and little Bobby Ryan stand up my “old” favs at the blue line made me feel much (MUCH) better about the whole thing.  How well, hard and fast they played together surprised me and even better, it surprised the Canadians!  It was the best game I’ve seen since the Stanley Cup finals when the Ducks won.  I was on the edge of my seat with some of the best Hockey EVER. 

Who knows what will happen next week, but for now, I’ll take it and enjoy every bit of it.  😉

Ode to the road warrior…

Ode to the road warrior
Current mood:  depressed
Category: Travel and Places

It’s Sunday night.

The worst time of all for the road warrior.

The time when the electronic devices must be charged, a weeks worth of clothes must be selected and stuffed in a 22″ carry on, electronic tickets printed out, destinations checked for the weather  and alarm clocks set for 4 AM.

It’s the time of day when you realize most clearly that you have no life.

You have to make sure that everything that could possibly need doing during the week is done.  It becomes a massive juggling act to make sure you neglect all things in equal order.

You realize that what little life you do have runs in 4 day blocks of time.  More frustrating is that the 4 day blocks of time are at the whim of irritating clients.

That’s it….no time left….have to go finish packing.

 

Random Game Commentary by H0ck3yg1rl…

Random Game Commentary
Current mood:   relieved
Category: Sports

Game Play by Play….from H0ck3yg1rl…

1st Period

  1. Hey CP got a haircut….thank god….the last one was HIDEOUS!!!   Ouch… looks like he’s swollen and in a lot of pain….nice suit…..I bet he’s a BIG baby at home…wahhh…someone bring me some chocolate milk….with a straw….  I bet Francois didn’t ask for chocolate milk when he broke his jaw last year….
  2.  …Way to go little 11…. 37 seconds….my favorite time of the game…. (Schneider almost makes me forget about Andy…..I said ALMOST…..)
  3. 7?????     7???  Where did that come from…..Bergeron who……???
  4. Ebbett….   Here today….gone yesterday….
  5. How do you get a game misconduct for not having your sweater tied?  COME ON YOU SILLY ZEBRA’S…  THAT’s THE BEST YOU CAN COME UP WITH?????
  6. I love you Todd. …….BYEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE…..
  7. Prediction….Phaneuf gets….well…uh….how you say….pounded?
  8. OMG…Kiprusoff….award for best drama in a hockey game…
  9. Yes…yes…yes…. YESSSSSSSSSSSSSS!
  10. Why do Zebra’s continue to ignore Phaneuf…. ???
  11. Oops….spoke too soon….
  12. Yap….yap….yap….yo momma…..yap…yap…yap….
  13. Poor little Phaneuf…….bye-bye……(see 7)….  

End of the 1st

  • SOOOOOOOOO tired of the McMahon commercial….ugh

2nd Period

  1. Where has Iginla been….haven’t seen much of him today…
  2. Go Georgie…GO!!!!
  3. Oh….there he is…. (see 15)
  4. DAMMIT….where did Phaneuf come from….I thought he was tossed……
  5. I am continually reminded that I don’t understand all the rules of hockey, despite having read the rule book, have season seats and speak fluent Finnish.  (Okay…that last part was a lie.)
  6. PP….
  7. I’m missing Bertie.
  8. If Mike says “Calgary ain’t goin’ down easy” one more time I’m going to scream.
  9. Whoa…..two on one…….yes…yes…..nooooooo……

End of the 2nd

3rd Period

  1. What is wrong with Corey Perry today….
  2. Nice hit Getzlafffffffffffffffffffff!!!  Ouchie…..
  3. Brian Hayward is only 5’10″….how is THAT possible…..
  4. TURNOVER…GAH….
  5. Whoa….Giguere save on a beautiful one on one from Phaneuf.   Penalty in the process….I never saw that one.
  6. I can’t watch….
  7. 30 seconds…..29…..28……
  8. Phew……

End of the 3rd

Crazy.

Hot, hot, HOT!

Hello from Portola!!

We’re back in the house….cars unpacked….power on….computers up….

Here are some pics of our adventure…

This is the park across the street from our house.  The fire is on the north ridge of the canyon at 10 PM-ish on Monday night.  The fire crews moved in and shut the park down at around 11 as the fire came up the south ridge where everyone is standing.  There’s a fire line coming down that north face that you see in the picture and another fire line coming up from the west down in the canyon that you can’t see.

Here’s what it looked like when we evacuated at 1:30 AM.  The fire was up at the edge of the canyon and in the back yards of all the houses on the perimeter of the park.  The flames were shooting higher than the roof tops and the smoke was so thick you couldn’t breathe.  We were showered with embers (which was the real danger for us) and ash.  When you stepped out of the house you were hit with a wall of heat.  We watered down everything there was to water down and then jumped in the car.   Very creepy!

This was an interesting exercise in group dynamics or sociology (or something like that.)  Half the neighbors left early in the day packing the cars to the rooftops and then some.  Some neighbors even brought in trailers to put their precious items in.  The other half of the neighbors calmly put the important stuff in the car and then hung out in the street watching and waiting (and drinking!).  We were in that later half…we put our wine, pets, computers and season hockey tickets in the car (in that order.)!!  We felt pretty comfortable with our selections but kept thinking we must be doing something wrong if everyone else was frantically throwing stuff in the car. 

When we came back, the fire had moved up through the canyon to the hills behind the house….just North of Cook’s Corner.  We had to come up the back way and show ID to get home as the front hill on the West side was engulfed in flames.  The expensive houses on the front ridge did a great job clearing brush so even though the fire was in their backyards, there wasn’t much fuel.  We’re at the back of the hill, so the fire on the west side was no threat, but the smoke was a killer.

Later in the day this fire kept moving down the range and lit up the houses on the East side.    We kept an eye on this one and fortunately the wind stayed favorable to us…not so favorable to the folks along Santiago Canyon Road.

This fire jumped the street into Santiago and climbed up Saddleback and over the hills on the Riverside side.  I think this blaze being allowed to consume as much of the hills as it did is what got OC Fire Authority major criticism.  This is going to get political as the homes that were lost  were multi-million dollar homes and the expectation is that they could have been saved with more ground crews and air support.  Many people believe that the air support was all concentrated in Malibu and we were left to burn.  Who knows.

My favorite political commentary so far was Diane Feinstein saying that 1) global warming contributed to these fires and 2) that the government has a responsibility to not allow zoning for homes in the Santa Ana wind plains as a result of their hazardous potential.  Ha!!! 

Thanks everyone for your calls and offers of refuge!  We appreciate it greatly. 

Signing off from Portola Hills….Firestorm 2007!!  😉

Kris

Successful Implementation of Distributor Web Tools

 This article was created to support the integration of web tools in the direct selling environment.

Click here for the article.

Ensemble: all the parts of a thing taken together, so that each part is considered only in relation to the whole. (www.dictionary.com)

Distributor Web Tools.

If you want to be a successful direct selling organization, you have to have them, right? The field representatives certainly want them, and tools support the field reps in doing what they do best—recruiting and selling! But this article is not about Web tools technology or the features and functions of Web tools. This article is about what Integrated Management Services (IMS) calls the “ensemble.”

The “ensemble” project refers to all the activities on the periphery of an implementation. It’s the business rules, business processes, cross-functional teams and decision-making associated with the application features and technology. For a Web tools implementation to be successful, the ensemble pieces must be taken into consideration both during the planning phases and the project launch. They can make or break a technical project (and sometimes your career!). The ensemble is often neglected in the planning phases of Web tools project in favor of the technology alone.

A clear trend exists in which direct selling companies will spend money on the technology but certainly won’t spend the time or put in the human resources to make implementations successful. Ironic, considering how valuable implementation is in any business!

The most successful direct selling companies are providing Web-based tools to their field. The productivity of the salespeople is the lifeblood of the business, and no expense should be spared in delivering that support. Let’s take a look at some of the ensemble pieces:

Goals and Organizational Buy-In  

No project discussion is complete without mentioning the importance of assembling an effective project team. Web tools require effort from all aspects of the business, including marketing, sales, field support, graphic design, customer service, I.T. and management. To have a successful product launch you need that critical cross-functional team, which includes professional-level project management.

What’s the goal of your implementation? Ancillary revenue? Field support? Field training? Product sales?

Whatever your objectives, the features of the Web tools should line up with actions that drive the business (sales, recruiting, retention, growing managers and leaders), with the overall content and messaging in line with corporate objectives.

A significantly overlooked aspect is the importance of corporate buy-in that starts with and filters down from senior management. If the message isn’t clear or there is a lack of cohesion around a strategy, conflicts will show up in the product, leading to confusion in the field. The results are supportive tools that fail to make an impact on improving performance. Performance metrics should be put in place to track progress against goals and, if metrics dictate, adjustments should be made to a plan.   

Product Marketing and Content, Content, Content!

To keep the field engaged there must be targeted content…and lots of it! As we mentioned before, it must be content with a message that promotes the right field behaviors and supports the field in doing what they do best.

There has to be a very solid marketing strategy to keep the field interest up with a regular series of communications, e-mail, newsletters and training sessions keeping them excited and engaged. Promote the use of the tools with sales and marketing campaigns or other incentives. As a saleable product, have new features or reports lined up for each quarter and heavily advertise the benefits. The field will expect ongoing improvements and additional features such as new reports, Web page templates, e-newsletter templates or e-cards.

Field Steering Committee

A field steering committee is critical to the success of a Web tools implementation. Select a cross section of distributors who can provide feedback about the direction and the product offering. Make sure you get not only computer-savvy distributors, but include some who are not so computer-familiar. This will help flesh out areas of the tools that require additional training or online documentation. Also make sure that you have both leaders and nonleaders so you get the perspective of the various levels.

Communicate the business goals of the Web tools implementation to this steering committee, and let them help create a more effective plan for marketing. Cultivating a sense of ownership from this field group can create field advocates who will then help sell the product for you.

Field Training

Field training is critical to succeed with the not-so-technical folks. The greatest and most sophisticated system in the world is wonderful, but if the field doesn’t understand it you can lose them all. There should be plenty of online documentation, help files and FAQs. There should be some Web tools training sessions at all events as well as new-consultant training and new-leader training. There should also be monthly Webinars and conference calls to keep the distributors updated. Consider adding in basic word processing (Word), spreadsheet (Excel) and presentation (Powerpoint) software training also. Close the loop by making sure that your field support function is up to speed and can answer any additional questions that come up as a result of the training.

Data Management

Have your technical folks involved from Day One (even if they don’t want to be!). Nearly every Web tools feature requires an interchange of data from your internal distributor databases to the tools system. Creating a solid and scalable architecture up front is critical to success.

One of the key elements of the tools should be interactive reporting allowing the field to sort, filter and be alerted to changes in their key performance statistics and those of their downline. It is critical that the data used for the Web tools reporting is consistent with all other reporting, including commission reports and statements. These reports include personal volumes, group or unit volumes and earnings.

Product and Vendor Management

In some cases, businesses may build the Web tools application themselves using in-house resources. This is a pretty big and time consuming effort but affords the controls and flexibility you might not get otherwise. If you decide that software development is not your core competency, there are many vendors who can provide the desired application suite.

Field Support

Field support is a fairly straightforward matter but is often created as an afterthought or rolled into some other customer-service function. You need to have a reliable and effective support mechanism for the field to get fast and simple answers to the questions they can’t get online or from training. You will need to provide not only online help, but phone support and an e-mail box to drop questions into.

Wrap Up

The hard part about an implementation like this is usually not the technology. It’s the ensemble. And there are so many critical pieces to the ensemble that require just as much attention as getting the technology right does. Done correctly, company performance improves; done incorrectly, the field is in revolt. A bad product or product launch can destroy both field confidence and momentum. So are you confident in your plan for launching a Web tools initiative now? Let’s look at a final recommendation.

Consider these questions:

  • Do you have plenty of cross-functional and dedicated headcount to successfully launch this product?
  • Does this team have direct selling industry experience?
  • Do they know how to design, launch and market products for a volunteer army?
  • Do you have goals and a marketing plan to obtain your goals?
  • Do you have a field steering committee?

Web tools can bring amazing performance and financial benefits both to an organization and the field. The ensemble takes a lot of work, the right resources and the right capabilities. It’s important to focus the necessary attention on the implementation from the start and through the life of the product to get the benefits.

Kris Shenk is a Vice President of Business and Technology with Integrated Management Services Inc., a strategic business consulting firm specialized in helping direct selling companies with technology, operations and sales/marketing support. Kris has completed numerous Web tools implementations and is partnered with many of the major Web tools suppliers as an approved project manager and integrator. She can be contacted at kshenk@imsconsult.net.