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The Way We Park and Drive is Challenged at ITS World Congress in Detroit

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As the largest ITS World Congress in the U.S. to date begins this week; the one thing that remains constant is change. Automakers are changing and it is a refreshing reality, full of hope and excitement for the future of automotive. In his keynote speech on Monday morning, Ford Motor Company executive chairman and founding partner of Fontinalis Partners, Bill Ford said “Traditionally our industry has not worked well with smaller companies.” This year’s ITS World Congress is proving that this notion is a thing of the past.

One notable partnership is between smart parking leader Parkmobile and German automaker BMW. On Monday morning the announcement, as described in their press release, was made that a substantial investment by the BMW Group was being made in Parkmobile. Parkmobile’s app allows drivers to pay for parking via their smart phone, eliminating the need to search for change for parking meters. BMW also is integrating “Parkmobile’s on-demand mobile payment solution,” with ParkNow to allow drivers to pre-pay for parking before they arrive. This simplified parking solution is being made available not just for BMW connected vehicles, but for all automakers.

“The integration between Parkmobile’s on-demand and ParkNow’s prepaid system provides consumers with a superior mobile payment experience for on- and off-street parking,” said Cherie Fuzzell, CEO of Parkmobile USA, Inc. “At the same time, the strategic investment of the BMW Group clearly demonstrates Parkmobile’s expanding leadership in the mobile payment and connected vehicle space.”

The next generation in mobility is certainly upon us. In the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Summit, Dr. Ahmad Bahai, CTO, Texas Instruments, explained that “In the next couple of years there will be around 24 million connected cars on the road.” It was also explained…

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3 Simple Steps to Increasing the Positivity in Your Workplace

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As a leader in business, you understand that someone who is happy and feels valued will work harder. The challenge is achieving that state of positivity. What’s the best way to do that, you ask? You gave them more money already. They have the title that befits them. What more do they need? It’s a little more complicated than that, but the solution is simple really.

Positivity breeds positivity. Positivity must be engrained into the core of your organization. Not sure how to do that? Read on. Here are three simple steps to increase positivity in your workplace:

  1. Lead by example. When I said “Positivity breeds positivity,” I meant it. This doesn’t mean skirting by the facts. Be open and honest with your staff, even behind closed doors. Depending on the hierarchy or your organization, one manager could feel threatened or defeated by your way of speaking behind closed doors. If that manager feels uninspired, how do you think the team members in the weeds will feel? It is important to find the positive of the situation. If sales are lower than projected, do you think the team would perform better if you harped on them for missing projections or if you inspired them to develop a solution?
  2. Find brand advocates. Internal brand advocates can bring massive benefits to an organization. Sometimes brand advocates are…

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5 Tips in Telling Stories for Business Success

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Nearly everyone on this planet has one thing in common – the love of a good story. As staples at bedtime and in board rooms alike, what makes a “good” story is highly debatable. Actual good stories last years, decades, centuries and even millennia. Businesses that aren’t telling stories are simply losing out on engagement with new audiences. Here are five key tips in telling stories for success in any business:

1.Keep it simple: Simplicity is bliss. Once consumers have to start trying to figure out where you’re going or remember random facts they will likely give up. Don’t overcomplicate the story. Sometimes it takes an outside person to see the full picture and edit your story down. Certain facts that may be relevant for you don’t matter to the end user.

2.Success lies in truth: Making up stories may work in advertising but never in an actual news item or business pitch. Get your facts ironed out and straight first. Assuming makes an… well you know.

3.Make it relevant: Relevancy means that when telling a story it may not be

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The Future of High Tech Automotive

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Recently, I had the opportunity to attend Matt Roush’s monthly Technology Report event series discussing high-tech automotive trends at Lawrence Technological University. Joining Roush was a panel of four esteemed guests: Andrew Pontius, Chief Engineering Technical Officer, NAO, Faurecia Emissions Control Technologies; Tom Apostolos, President, Ricardo USA Inc.; Jeff Gilbert, Automotive Reporter, WWJ Newsradio 950; and; Jerry Klarr, Director of Innovation and Strategy, AVL.

Pontius started off the morning’s festivities with an intriguing discussion on the current state of future of the automotive emissions industry. With Faurecia being the sixth largest automotive supplier in the world, Andrew offered an expanse of insight. The audience was shocked to hear that with emissions as they are today, a V6 Toyota Camry today is just as fast as a classic Chevrolet Camaro IROC. For the automotive emissions industry, Pontius sees one of the major shifts is the downsizing of engines – predicting that the industry is headed for two liter turbo engines for everyone.

“Engines overall are operating at lower speeds with less cylinders,” said Pontius. The main problem with this is increased noise. Cars are trending towards less space and less weight, but still need to somehow remain quieter than their predecessors. Pontius predicts we are moving towards cylinder deactivation and silencing volume. Contributing to this, Faurecia has begun a new, innovative lightweight initiative and has already built an exhaust system that is 40 percent lighter than its competitors.

“We are coming to the age with the digitization of exhaust sound,” stated Pontius. “We cancel out the current sound and produce another.” His focus on the acoustics and dynamics of exhaust compelled the audience. “The next thing to focus on is energy recovery,” said Pontius. He concluded with the fact that 30 percent of fuel energy is lost through the tailpipe. The future of auto emissions also will focus on harnessing that energy to make it useable.

Automotive panel discussion

At the completion of Andrew Pontius’s presentation, Matt Roush and audience members posed questions to the panel. What is the most interesting automotive tech today? Jerry Klarr stepped in stating that the most interesting piece of automotive tech to him is… Read my entire article on Airfoil Group’s company blog at:

Lessons on Winning from Maurice Greene, Rocky III, and Bieber-stein

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Maurice Greene

Maurice Greene

Maurice Greene, for those of you that do not know him, is one of the fastest men in the world. He has won numerous gold medals and has proven himself to be the best time and again. Preparing for an Olympic track and field event is no walk in the park. It takes years of dedication, training and perseverance. Maurice Greene said the following, now famous, words in regards to his focus on winning:

To be number one, you must train like you are number two.

Let me back up. I was sitting in church on Sunday looking around. My people-watching illness got the best of me, and I noticed this teenage boy who looked like he was barely old enough to have a driver’s permit. His hair looked like a mix between early Justin Bieber and Bride of Frankenstein. He was wearing plaid shorts and a wrinkled t-shirt. The traditionalist in me was disgusted because of his lack of respect for church, then I noticed what the shirt said. It had this quote from Greene.

As I am reading this quote for the first time, I thought it was just a little motivation for a school football team or something. Then I read it again. And again. And again. Soon enough I could not stop thinking about this quote. This is a key to winning in any business.

If you are truly great and find your giant pumpkin (thanks Michalowicz!), you can make it to number one. Once you hit number one you have a couple problems that did not exist before:

  1. Maintaining your number one status
  2. Minimizing your arrogance

Once you are number one, you are now that target of many more companies or people than you even realized were competitors. They will constantly be biting at your heals waiting for you to fall. Minimizing arrogance and keeping the entrepreneurial spirit alive is highly important. Brands in all eras of history have made it to the top and simply started thinking they could not be touched. Some say, this is happening to Apple right now. Companies need to stay hungry to stay in the fight. Number one is great, but you need to treat yourself and your business as if you are number two to keep moving forward.

My best example of this concept comes from Rocky III with Sly Stallone. No, it is not a joke. “Rock” made it to the top. At the start he was hungry. He punched a lot of meat. He trained day and night. Nobody thought the “Italian Stallion” could beat Apollo Creed, but he did. In the movies that followed, Rocky began to enjoy his wealth and get comfortable as the champ. Enter, Mr. T as up-and-comer Clubber Lang. It was a new era, and he was hungry too, just like Rocky was when he first started. Mick, played by Burgess Meredith, realized this and came to Rocky to try to talk some sense into him. Rocky does not listen. Lang defeats Rocky and kills his longtime trainer, Mick. Rocky was devastated, and had forgotten what it was like to be hungry. Re-enter Apollo Creed. Soon, Rocky was training hard again and re-igniting that hunger. At the end of Rocky III, the Italian Stallion became champ again and the status quo was restored.


Rocky’s story in the third installment of the classic movie series is a great one. However, it is unlikely many times for large number one giants of industry to regain the old momentum.  Do you remember the Kodak moment? It is now an iPhone moment. I have to thank Bieber-stein for that very wise lesson in church (Sorry Father) and my Dad for the thousands of times we watched Rocky together over the years. It is amazing where you learn very specific lessons.

What will you do to keep the hunger alive in your business pursuits?

Step Up and Make Change

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changeIn a flight back from Washington-Dulles airport the other day I realized one very important thing that many employees today do not – the power to make change. Between my snoring neighbor and two pre-teen brothers fighting beside me, I caught myself daydreaming.

What happened was I read article in the Harvard Business Review entitled “Influence: How to Get It; How to Use It.” The article reminded me of my strengths and the relationship I have built with senior leadership in my current organization. While day dreaming, it dawned on me that the average employee at our company does not feel as if they are able to talk and influence them as I have previously been successful doing. Couple this with internal issues that some of our employees are experiencing and it makes for one interesting daydream.

Many individuals in corporate America do not realize that they themselves have the power to make change. Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm) in Mad Men says his iconic line “If you don’t like what they’re saying, change the conversation.” While that is the fictional advertising world it rings true today in real life. The trouble is, most colleagues are waiting for someone to ask them or tell them before change happens. Usually the ultimate change occurs; they move on to a competitor. I knew it was time to step up and make change.

While on that flight I put my mind to work with one question and one answer on my mind – “Why? Because someone has to do it.” As soon as I made it back to the office I had an impromptu meeting with a Project Manager (PM). This PM is one that I personally feel is well-respected and has a very keen sense of judgement. We spoke about an idea to develop a company program where employees feel empowered and can be part of the change. Currently we are writing out a clear purpose, methodology and follow-up policy for the group. We plan to gain senior management buy-in throughout the coming weeks.

This entrepreneurial spirit can live, thrive and survive in your organization. Sometimes you have to step up and set up a system to allow employees to be part of the change, and sometimes they take charge and do it themselves. What can you do to be part of the change in your organization?

How Sharp is Your Axe?

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abraham_lincolnAbraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

Reading that tells us that preparing for the ‘big moment’ is two thirds of the battle. So many people focus only on the moment without sharpening their axe. Look at this in terms of presenting to a potential client. If you go into the presentation room the day of the meeting and you have not done your homework you have already lost your chance of winning. If this were a test you would only be able to get a 33% as a top score if you nailed it. Looking at it in this manner you start to realize that homework is what is most important.

The homework starts with background research. Background research is key in developing the idea behind a great advertising campaign. Great ideas are hard enough to develop on their own, but without background research? Forget it. Your point will not translate well and the idea will be lost in a sea of other bad ideas. So what do you do? Start sharpening that axe. Find out everything you can about the demographic you are trying to reach. Learn how the market has reacted to new product launches. Delve into books of key industry-specific decision makers. Find out who went to prom with your competitor’s CEO. Do whatever you have to do. Take that full two-thirds of the time to make that axe so sharp that you could shave with it. Then, and only then, are you ready to fully develop the idea.

Once your homework is done and you have your idea formed, it’s time to prepare for the pitch. Preparing the pitch is almost more important than developing the idea. Lot of great ideas are lost in poor presentation. In The Art of The Pitch by Peter Coughter, he says “Don’t focus on the deck, focus on the story.” Think about how many times you have presented something. What is the first thing you do? You open a PowerPoint and start filling it out. You make sure you have enough material for a full hour presentation. This is exactly what the Coughter says should be the last thing that happens. Create your notes first and then make a stunning presentation after. You should not think of it like you are trying to fill up the time. Tell your story. Get your point across. Then give them time back. Just because a presentation is long does not make it good.

How does a presentation become stunning and how does this pertain to doing your homework? Easy; it needs to be well-rehearsed. Do not rely on practicing what you are going to say on the drive over or, dare I say, not practice at all. Your final homework before a presenting an idea is practicing and even presenting it to a few colleagues or friends first. If you are worried about leaking the idea, videotape yourself and watch it back. Whatever you do, practice. You will change things. You will make it flow better. You will win more often.

After the homework you are effectively positioned for the pitch. This can be applied not only to a pitch but to many other things in life, such as making home improvements, a change of jobs, or even a softball game. In each way, for the best results you must practice, learn, grow, and have your homework done before you dive into it head first. If Lincoln did it 150 years ago you can too. Redirecting focus on you, I ask, “How sharp is your axe?”

Article originally published on the Talent Zoo blog Beyond Madison Avenue at: