Question One: Please introduce yourself, including what you do.
My name is Les Stern. For the last 19 years I have run an independent marketing and market research consultancy – L. Stern & Associates. Our emphasis is healthcare, but that is not exclusive. I have more than 35 years of marketing and market research expertise. Before that, I was a newspaper reporter. I have a BJ (journalism) degree from the University of Missouri, and an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Question Two: Is the economy moving in the right or wrong direction?
That is really hard to say. There is so much good and so much bad. On the bad side, there is still discrimination. There is still price gouging. There is still sexual harassment. There is still a quest for profit at all costs. I am a free market person. I do not believe in wage or price controls. But I do believe you need to treat people humanely. I am very disappointed that the corporate tax cuts did little to spur employment or an increase in real wages. One time payouts do not accomplish anything long term. Sad to see so much of that money going into stock buybacks. ON the other hand, there is a lot of good. They are becoming customer focused and are spending a lot of money determining what customers want and coming up with innovative ways to do that. Innovative companies like Amazon and Apple are successful because they understand the customer. That also applies to companies like Starbucks. There are also a lot of progressive companies that are making sure there is equity in the workplace. On the whole I am an optimist, so I am hoping the positives eventually will win out. I am counting on the millennials to do that.
Question Three: What are your top 3 tips for successful business development?
1. One of my favorite quotes is from Samuel Goldwyn, who said: “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” So tip #1 is work hard. My best example. More than 10 years ago I drove from Northbrook downtown to a luncheon I really did not want to go to. However, there I ran into a former colleague who introduced me to someone who, if I did a flowchart tracking my sources of revenue, would be my #1 source of business.
2. Understand your customers. Sitting in your home office and assuming you know your customers want is a recipe for disaster. I have experienced it at other organizations. You need to talk with your customers.
3. Don’t try to grab every nickel on the table. The best way to ensure long-term financial success is to sacrifice a little in the short-term. And it is OK to tell clients or customers you did not charge them for something.