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Jeffrey Hayzlett: Here’s How to Be an Agent for Change #SESTO

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jeffrey-hayzlett-ses-toronto-2013Best-selling author and marketer Jeffrey Hayzlett, former CMO of Kodak, kicked off SES Toronto today with a conversation about making business better and how marketers can drive change and growth.

He opened the discussion talking about the fall of Kodak. What went wrong? They weren’t driving change. There were ideas there that could have transformed Kodak, but they went unexplored. And that became the theme of today’s talk: being an agent for change within your company.

Clock Changers

Hayzlett talked about something he did when he called his first meeting at Kodak: he moved the dial ahead on the clock 20 minutes. He found this would spark heated conversation about the clock – is it broken? Who should fix it? And this happened every meeting thereafter.

One day, during one of these conversations about how the clock needed to be fixed, one of his team members walked up to the clock, pulled up a chair, and changed the clock to the right time. He gave that team member a key role on his team.

Businesses need clock changers. People who are change agents. People who don’t mind making mistakes in order to offer solutions, instead of just complaining about problems.

5 Reason Businesses Fail

Hayzlett then discussed five reasons businesses fail:

  1. Fear: Embrace it.
  2. Tension: A healthy debate is good. Question everything – especially as marketers in your company.
  3. Radical transparency: Talk about the elephants in the room right away. Get to the point when you talk about things instead of just letting problems build over time.
  4. Risk: We fail because we fail to take risk. No one is going to die in business by taking risks.
  5. Promises: Keeping promises is the biggest breakdown in most companies. Make them and keep them. This is called mutual conditions of satisfaction.

Be an Agent of Change

Hayzlett challenged the audience to ask tough questions of themselves:

  1. Why are you in this game?
  2. Who are you? Perfect your pitch, said Hayzlett. He likes the “118 seconds” rule for how much time you have to give your elevator pitch.
  3. Are you passionate?
  4. What’s your brand? A brand is something we put on the side of a cow – that’s where it originated, said Hayzlett. It’s an iconic representation. A brand is also the delivery of your company’s promise.

Hayzlett said in order to get it right in business, we have to stand for something as brands and companies online and offline. Taking us back to the concept of creating tension, Hayzlett challenged the audience not to settle. This is an agent of change.

Try something different that still represents your brand, he said. Hayzlett talked about how he challenged the status quo in creating business books. Business books have a particular format, he said. They tend to be 10 chapters, 50,000 words.

He wanted to make it more engaging by creating “page turners”: 35 chapters that still added up to 50,000 words, short headlines and the integration of social elements. His book became a best seller.

Remember …

It’s very hard to change culture, said Hayzlett. It’s something that is built over many, many years. But you can change “mood” – how does your team, your department feel?

A final thought: You should never be scared about being an agent of change, said Hayzlett, if you’re in good company. Embrace the connections you have, talk about ideas for change and make the most of the opportunities that are ahead of you.


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