Just read: ‘Iceland’s Haarde Is First Leader Indicted Over Crisis’ at BusinessWeek

Wow. This is crazy! Iceland’s former Prime Minister Geir Haarde (who served as Finance Minister from 1998 to 2005 and then as Prime Minister from 2006 to 2009) has been indicted for economic mismanagement that led up to the economic collapse of that country in 2008.

Iceland’s Haarde Is First Leader Indicted Over Crisis – BusinessWeek.

Update: BusinessWeek dropped the article a couple of years later so I found a similar article over at Bloomberg: Iceland’s Haardd Indicted by lawmakers over role in crisis.

This is fascinating! As the article points out, political leaders have been indicted for war crimes in the past but they’ve never been indicted for economic mismanagement… until now. The assertion by the lawmakers is that Haarde had been negligent in allowing the finances of the country’s banks to get out of hand and thus broke the law of ministerial responsibility.

Here are my thoughts: Haarde is being held up as a scapegoat for (what I believe is) a populist agenda. Current leaders are conveniently placing blame on the shoulders of former leaders. Yes, politicians should be held accountable for their conduct and misconduct. Yes, politicians need to work with the country’s best interests in mind. Yes, the laws of the land prevail even over politicians.

But, Haarde as the country’s former figurehead and as the former finance minister should not be the only one held to this degree of accountability. This indictment seems singularly focused on Haarde alone. However, he did not work alone to create this situation. Not only is the economic situation the result of a myriad of factors, it also didn’t just take place while he was in office. The economic structure that led up to this collapse was developed well before 1998 (when Haarde started as Finance Minister). So was the desire for banks to accept debt and take an increasing amount of risk. So was the need for people to pay with debt instead of cash. So was the willingness of businesses to accept more debt-based payment options.

Icelandic lawmakers might feel better by pointing an accusing finger at one person and saying that he was responsible for the entire economic collapse of the country but it doesn’t place blame appropriately. If they are truly looking for someone to blame, they need to blame banks, lenders, currency traders, politicians, businesses, consumers, and other countries.

The global economic situation (of which Iceland was an unfortunate, participating victim) is part of the natural ebb and flow of economics. It can be controlled slightly but it is never going to be completely avoidable and indicting one person for a country’s financial woes is unreasonable.

13 ways Realtors can use Twitter to grow their business

Real estate professionals are always looking for new ways to grow their business — to increase their list of potential sellers and buyers. Twitter gives them access to a huge group of people, and allows Realtors to focus in on people who want to sell or buy a home in a specific city, town, or neighborhood. Here are 13 ways that Realtors can use Twitter to attract and engage an audience.

  1. Tweet individual listings of houses. Link to MLS listings with short URLs that you can measure. Keep track of the most popular ones and retweet those.
  2. Search for keywords like “sell house” + “[your city]” or “house hunting” + “[your city]” on http://search.twitter.com.
  3. Tweet community news and information: “Baseball sign-ups start this week in [neighborhood]”.
  4. Any time you post anything on the web – something new on your blog, website, Facebook page, or YouTube channel, for example – tweet about it.
  5. Always add your city’s hashtag at the end of your tweets (#miami, #lax, #nyc). IF applicable, add a neighborhood hashtag.
  6. Tweet your favorite things about a particular neighborhood. Do a rotation through all of the neighborhoods you serve. (For example, write 10 tweets on Monday about your favorite things about one neighborhood and then 10 tweets on Tuesday about your favorite things in another neighborhood).
  7. Tweet regularly about tips people can use to get more money when selling their home.
  8. Follow everyone you know… and follow everyone THEY know… then become their biggest fans. Engage with them, retweet things they say, talk to them… don’t blatantly promote your service.
  9. Tweet about elements that people look for in homes: “I have 2 homes with BIG kitchens, perfect for BIG families”, etc.
  10. Become a central hub of community information. (This will give people a reason to follow you and read your tweets even if they aren’t yet looking for a house).
  11. Cross-promote other organizations in your community. Got a favorite accountant? Got a favorite stockbroker? Got a favorite lawyer. Recommend them. Generously promote them on #FollowFriday.
  12. Link to positive stories about your city or community. For example, link to newspaper articles about the employment increases, crime decreases, and more.
  13. Hold contests and giveaways to your followers. For example, hold a draw to a local restaurant for your top retweeters in a month.

Want a competitive advantage? Offer the same products as everyone else!

I was reading Alan Weiss’ book Million Dollar Consulting. It’s a pretty good book (although I like his Ultimate Consultant Series better). In the Million Dollar Consultant he mentioned something that I thought was a valuable way to look at gaining a competitive advantage:

Weiss suggested that there were 3 “levels” of value on which you compete: At the competitive level, in which your offerings are similar to your competitors; at the unique level, in which your offerings are – obviously! – the only ones on the market; and at the breakthrough level, in which your offerings are so insanely valuable and insightful that the others aren’t even in the same league.

That makes sense and I think most entrepreneurs would agree that these are the three levels of value a business’ offerings should have if the business is going to survive.

But here is where Weiss takes a surprising turn: He says that your products should be competitive, your services should be unique, and your relationship with your customer should be at the breakthrough level.

Weiss suggests that it is expensive to implement breakthrough characteristics across all three offerings (products, services, and relationships), and that products and even services can easily be copied by competitors. So instead, he says, your products should only be at the level equivalent to compete with your competitors… the real difference is in the relationship, which should be astonishingly value-added.

I’ve spent some time thinking about Weiss’ ideas and am building on them with my own ideas below:

HERE’S WHY THIS IS GOOD NEWS FOR EVERY BUSINESS

  • Existing businesses spend a lot of money on product innovation while their relationship-building remains lackluster at best. Investing even half of the money spent on adding innovating product value into adding relationship value can have a huge impact on customer retention and word of mouth.
  • Some businesses – especially smaller home-based businesses (Tupperware, Norwex, Avon) and businesses where there is no product differentiation (real estate, investment firms, accounting firms, dentists, freelancers) – simply CAN’T innovate their products or services. So relationship value is going to be the key differentiator.
  • It costs money to innovate products (and often services). It doesn’t cost as much money to innovate relationships. Rather, it costs time.
  • Start-ups that have a simple product and not a lot of money can still compete in the big leagues with unparalleled relationship building.

HERE’S WHY BUSINESSES WON’T FOLLOW THIS MODEL

  • Product innovation is sexy and gets way more funding in budgets than relationship-building
  • Linking sales to products is much easier than linking sales to relationships – and when you innovate your product and see sales go up, it’s easier to make the connection between product innovation and sales.

WHAT CAN YOUR BUSINESS DO TO ACHIEVE BREAKTHROUGH RELATIONSHIP BUILDING VALUE?

  • Start by analyzing your sales funnel to understand how you market, sell, and build relationships. Understand how specific activities in your sales funnel move contacts forward.
  • Implement a CRM system. In other words, stop leaving customer names on sticky notes on your office wall. Tie your CRM system to your sales funnel.
  • Keep diligent notes on your clients.
  • Market your ass off to load up your list of prospects and build relationships with those contacts. Sales will happen if you do that.
  • During a sale, keep your customer informed at every step. Don’t ever let them wonder about what the next step is or whether you’ve forgotten about them. (Note to self: I’m definitely guilty of this).
  • Find out what your competitors are doing and go an extra mile. No, wait. Go an extra ten miles. Call your customers more (without bugging them). Email them. Follow them on various social media. Participate in their conversations.
  • After the sale, remember that you have a relationship with them. Don’t ignore them. Don’t treat them like a prospect. Build an entire system around the post-sale customer. Send them valuable things (not just coupons for another product, but information that you think they’ll find valuable). Take a personal interest in them. Figure out what they need in their business and connect them with people and information that can help them… even if it means no additional revenue for you.