What Can You Learn from the Rapid Descent at Memphis International Airport?

By Jeff Beals

Nearly 11 million people passed through Memphis International Airport in 2008, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article. By 2014, the annual passenger count had plummeted to 3.9 million.

Memphis is a growing region with a healthy economy. It is home to FedEx and other major companies.  The city is a popular tourist attraction thanks to Graceland and the legendary Memphis-style BBQ restaurants. What on Earth could have caused such a shocking drop in airline passenger traffic in only four years in an otherwise prosperous city?

The answer is simple: it happened because of a decision made hundreds of miles away in a Delta Airlines office building.

Because of macro changes in the airline industry, Delta gradually shut down its hub at Memphis International. At one time, Memphis was one of America’s primary passenger hubs. Millions of travelers would layover in Memphis before catching a flight to their final destinations.  Being a hub meant that Memphis enjoyed non-stop flights to almost every major city in the United States. Now in 2015, Delta offers daily non-stop flights from Memphis to 64 fewer cities than it did a few years ago.  The number of weekly flights decreased 66 percent from 2008 to 2014.

But Memphis is not alone; Delta has reduced hub activity at Detroit and Cincinnati too.  United Airlines took hub status away from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport resulting in a 44.6 percent decrease. Milwaukee’s decline as a hub has resulted in a 45.2 percent decrease.

Local residents lose more than just non-stop destinations when an airline vacates a hub airport:

  • Sales tax revenues drop. Passengers with layovers have time to kill, meaning they spend money.  I almost always grab something to eat or drink when I have a layover.
  • The airport’s budget is directly affected. At one point, Memphis International Airport had 83 gates leased to airlines. Now it’s only 25 gates.
  • Economic development efforts are more difficult. Cities have to work hard to recruit and retain businesses and all the jobs and capital investment that come with them. Some businesses are not interested in operating in cities that do not offer a wide variety of flight options.
  • Prestige is eroded. I remember when St. Louis Lambert International Airport was a crazy-busy hub for Trans World Airlines. It was always so crowded. I was at that airport last year and had some extra time to take a walk. I walked through corridor after corridor of empty gates. It was eerily depressing.

Just think of the businesses that suffer when an airport suddenly shrinks.  If you own a retail or food-service business that leases space in such an airport, you’re probably going to have to shut down. If it’s the only location of your business, you might have to declare bankruptcy.

So, why do I share this downer of a story with you?

It’s to remind you that change is constant in our world.  We must keep up with it, and more importantly, we must try to anticipate it.  Change has a way of sneaking up on us.

When change comes, organizations and individuals need to be ready. The best option is to have a plan ready to go for a variety of scenarios. Sadly, many of the sudden changes that can affect you are entirely out of your control. That’s why it might be good to have an exit strategy in case an unforeseen change is too overwhelming for you to keep going.

I don’t believe we should live in fear of unforeseen changes. They are simply part of life.  Organizations and individuals have been surviving and overcoming changes for centuries.

Just be ready to adapt and either survive, or if it’s the best choice, exit.

Are you doing what it takes to prepare for what may await you?

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at info@jeffbeals.com or call us at (402) 637-9300.

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Rice Pilaf Gaffe Will Put Your Professional Worries to Rest

By Jeff Beals

Do you ever get nervous before a sales presentation or a job interview?  If so, this experience may help you out…

As a young professional in 1994, I landed the job interview I had been waiting for.  I found out about the interview while on a business trip to Boston.  Because my would-be boss was short-handed and overwhelmed with work, he wanted to fast-track the hiring processing, scheduling the interview as soon as possible.

I quickly altered my flight itinerary so I could do the interview right away. That led to a crazy patchwork schedule with flights that departed late one night and insanely early the next morning. For reasons I cannot remember, I had to fly to one city, spend the night and catch the first flight out the next day.  As I booked the flights, I knew that at best it was going to be a blurry-eyed journey.

As I left Boston for my cross-continental trip, my stomach started to hurt. By the time we stopped for a layover in Chicago, I was feeling downright sick. As luck would have it, severe weather over the southern plains backed-up air traffic nationwide, delaying my departure from Chicago by several hours.

By the time I landed at the sleep-over destination, it was after midnight, several hours later than my scheduled arrival. Not only was I sicker than a dog, my flight the next morning was scheduled to leave at 4:50 a.m.  Instead of sleeping, I spent most of the night throwing up.

Knowing what I know now, I simply would have rescheduled job interview, explaining that I was ill.  But back then I thought I could do anything. No illness would slow me down!

I forced myself into the shower at 3 a.m., managed to get back to the terminal and got on that plane. By the time I landed, I was even worse off and fought dizziness and nausea as I drove to the interview site.

The Show Must Go On

Upon arriving, the director greeted me and took me into a conference room for an interview with an eight-person committee.  As luck would have it, they seated me at the head of the table in front of a big window where the sun shone through, beating on my body like a radioactive beam of death.

At the very beginning of the interview, adrenaline allowed me to forget how sick I was. Unfortunately, I was soon reminded. It was so hot in there that drops of sweat started forming on my forehead and dripped down my face. After a few minutes, sweat was soaking through my shirt.

Then the nausea came back. As I was answering questions for this committee, I was physically forcing myself not to get sick. Committee members were looking at me with strange expressions – that mixture of pity and concern. At one point, I was debating in my head whether it would be worse to suddenly jump out of my seat and sprint to the bathroom or just throw up all over the conference table.

Somehow, I made it through the committee interview without getting sick. The director then told me another three or four people were scheduled to interview with me over lunch.

We walked to an exclusive restaurant, one of those clubs where you must have a membership to be admitted.  Problems continued at the lunch meeting. To reduce the risk of a very embarrassing situation, I made sure not to let any food actually enter my stomach. To make it seem less obvious, I played around with my food while I talked and answered questions.

Now, when I talk, I have a tendency to gesture quite a bit with my hands. I don’t know how exactly it happened, but apparently the tines of my fork were under the rice pilaf while the handle was hanging off my plate. Somehow, my hand hit the edge of the fork, converting it to a food catapult.

Rice pilaf flew up into the air like a fountain, covering everyone at the table. People were literally picking rice and bits of chopped veggies out of their hair and brushing it off their clothing. At the end of lunch, as we all stood up, rice pilaf fell from everyone’s laps. It was an unmitigated disaster. As he walked me out of the club, the would-be boss, told me, “We’ll be in touch.”

I left the interview, knowing I wouldn’t get the job.

The Day After

Sitting in my office a couple days later, my phone rang. It was the director who had interviewed me. “Jeff, we offered the job to someone else,” he said. “The committee just didn’t feel comfortable with you.”

I wanted to tell him that I didn’t feel too comfortable around them either!

Obviously, I was disappointed, but I didn’t stay depressed for long. A different job interview opportunity popped up later that week. In a delicious twist of irony, one of the interviewers embarrassed himself during that interview. As the vice president took a bite out of his sandwich, the turkey, lettuce and tomato squirted out onto the table.  I couldn’t help but smile, thinking “Thank God it was somebody else this time!”

Okay, do you feel better now?  No matter how nervous you may get before a job interview, a meeting with a client or a presentation to your investors, just think about me, the guy who showered people with rice pilaf and smile.  Chances are minuscule that you’ll ever screw up as badly as I did.

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at info@jeffbeals.com or call us at (402) 637-9300.

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Gather Intelligence to Survive the Occasionally Adversarial Buyer-Seller Interactions

By Jeff Beals

In a competitive selling situation, communication is
often not completely straightforward. Sellers and buyers
sometimes don’t see eye to eye, and while sellers are ideally
supposed to see themselves as “buyer coaches” and “purchase
facilitators,” sometimes, the two sides find themselves at
odds or in conflict.

In certain industries, sellers and buyers automatically
operate in an adversarial setting. Both sides hold their cards
close to the vest, not wanting to give up negotiation options.
Some buyers keep one potential vendor on the line as a backup
plan, a decoy or as a means of gathering information they
can use in negotiations with the real, preferred provider. To
make the playing field even more treacherous, one provider
may deliberately spread misinformation about another in
order to sabotage the competition and confuse the buyers.

Competitive marketplaces can become perilous because
there are so many moving parts, competing interests and
hidden agendas to monitor and manage. The situation is
somewhat analogous to the espionage, reconnaissance and
counter-intelligence in which nations engage.

If you are going to play such a game, borrow a page from
the Central Intelligence Agency. You better have your own
intelligence and counter-intelligence plans as well as the
intestinal fortitude to carry out those plans. Idealistic people,
especially those on the outside of a given industry, find such
behavior to be unseemly. Practical people realize that you
sometimes have to play rough to win highly contested battles.

Sometimes, you can gather intel by guessing what you
think might be happening with your prospect or competitor,
calling them up and asking a loaded question. Let’s say
you manage a shopping mall. You and the manager of a
competing mall tend to go head-to-head trying to attract the
same retail tenants. Although you have been trying to attract
Brooks Brothers to your mall, you have a hunch you’re losing
out to the competitor. You could always call the manager of
the other mall and say, “Congrats, I hear you landed Brooks
Brothers.” After saying that, wait and listen. What the other
manager says and how he or she reacts is a sneaky way to do
reconnaissance.

Although it is often in their best interest to remain silent,
most people can’t help themselves. It’s human nature to share
and communicate. It’s also human nature to brag, show
off and be the person in the know. If you manipulate that natural tendency to your advantage, you can be one of the
best-informed marketers or salespersons in your peer group.

Some people might not consider it ethical, but gathering
intelligence is a necessary fact of life in highly competitive
industries that operate in loud and crowded marketplaces.

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at info@jeffbeals.com or call us at (402) 637-9300.

Click here to subscribe to Jeff’s weekly articles!

Click here to see sample videos of Jeff speaking to live audiences!

Learn How Personal Branding Can Improve Your Sales & Marketing Abilities!Download this Complimentary eBook Today: “Self Marketing Power 101″ >>