Ivan Misner, Author at Dr. Ivan Misner®
choices

Work Hard and Make Better Choices

Working hard is only the first part of success.  Making good choices is the second part.  It truly takes both to achieve success at whatever you do.

I knew someone who was constantly lamenting her “bad luck”.  She wasn’t happy with the various jobs that she had over the years, her personal life was a shambles, she was almost thirty, hadn’t completed college, and constantly had money problems.  She often blamed situations or other people for the various predicaments that she was in.  However, the glaringly obvious truth was that although she worked fairly hard, she continually made horrible choices.  One day she would complain about money and then the next day she’d buy something totally extravagant and completely unnecessary.  The next week she’d complain about not being able to get a good job while showing up to work an hour late for personal reasons (which happened regularly).

From time to time she’d talk to me about her issues and I’d point out the choices she made that led to the current problem at hand.  Each time she’d pay lip service to acknowledge the connection, but the truth is she never took ownership for the real problem – her choices.  She once lamented “why me, why me, I deserve better!”  I didn’t offer my opinion on this question, but what I wanted to tell her was that “everyone feels like they ‘deserve better’ at some point in their life – get over it, stop complaining and start really doing something about it.  Work hard and make better choices!”

I’ve had the opportunity during my career to work with thousands of people who have experienced varying degrees of success in their lives.  Success is not an entitlement. One of the recurring themes I see with these people is that they plan their work and work their plan. That is, they think through their choices, make the best ones they can with the information they have, and then work hard to carry those choices out.

The Secret to My Luck

Not long ago I was talking to someone I’ve known for years about the growth of my business and some other personal goals I’ve recently met and he said, “Man you’re lucky.  It must be nice.”

I responded to him by saying “Yea, I’m lucky, let me tell you the secret to my luck…”

“First, I went to college for ten years.  During that time, I started my own business and worked really long hours for two decades.  Along the way, I mortgaged my house a couple of times for the business and I wrote five books.  You too can have this kind of luck.  All you need to do is apply this kind of effort to whatever you do and you can be just as lucky.”

He laughed and said, “Okay, Okay, I get it!!”  Did he really get it?  I don’t think so, because he hasn’t changed his behavior or started making different choices.  If being successful was easy – everyone would have the success they think they deserve.

Working hard is only the first part of success. Making good choices is the second part.  It truly takes both to achieve success at whatever you do.

success

Success Is Not An Entitlement

Everyone wants some degree of success.  They might want it in different forms, but I’ve never met anyone who didn’t want to be successful in or at something important in their lives.  This is good because I believe that everyone’s entitled to pursue success; but, success itself is not an entitlement.

It is largely determined by our hard work and our choices.  I know many people who work hard but make bad choices.  It’s amazing how many of them think they deserve to be more successful because they feel like they’ve worked so hard.  On the other hand, I don’t know very many, if any, successful people who have made good choices but didn’t work hard.

Working hard is only the first part of success.  Making good choices is the second part.  It truly takes both to achieve success at whatever you do.

When I was the CEO for BNI, I knew that the choices I made were important to the business.  The decisions I made impacted hundreds of employees, franchise owners, and associates as well as hundreds of thousands of BNI members around the world.  I remember back then talking to a good friend and mentor about some tough decisions I had to make and my concerns about them.  He gave me some great advice.  He said, “Not every decision you make has to be a good one.  Just make sure that you make more good ones than bad ones and when you make a bad one – minimize the impact by fixing it quick.”

Wow!  This was great advice.  It’s advice that squarely hits the point about working hard and making good choices.  Not every choice you make has to be on the mark.  However, enough of them do in order for you to get the kind of results you want.  Some of my biggest lessons in business have come from my losses, not my successes.  Generally, neither had much to do with luck but instead, with the choices I made or the commitment I gave to the project.

It is not being lucky

For most of the 30 plus years of running BNI, I didn’t feel very lucky or incredibly successful.  It took time, effort, hard work, and fairly decent choices before I felt any modicum of success.  The problem is that many people want to go from point A to point Z and bypass all the challenges in between.  They work hard, therefore “deserve” the success they want.

Success is not an entitlement.   It’s not a “right” or a “claim” that we should have.  Oh, people have the right to “pursue” success – but that’s it.  Success is most often earned. It is not handed over because you are entitled.

I remember years ago when my son was nine years old I asked him, “Trey, what’s the secret to success?”  He said, in a young boy’s slightly bored sing-song tone – “the secret to success without hard work and good choices is still a secret, Dad.  Can I go out and play now?”

Scorched Earth Networker

The Scorched Earth Networker

Over the years, I have noticed different styles of networking.  One of these styles results in the ground smoking wherever these networkers tread.  I call this “Scorched Earth Networking”.  It is very important to AVOID this type of networking. Here are the five hallmarks of a Scorched Earth Networker.

Constantly Moves Groups

They are dissatisfied with the referrals received.  The Scorched Earth Networker does not stay in one place long enough to build the type of relationships it takes to really capitalize on networking.  It’s like planting a tree in one spot. When the growth isn’t happening fast enough, it’s uprooted again and replanted.  Each time that tree is uprooted, it takes longer to build itself back up to even where it was before being moved.   A serious networker understands that in order for that tree to thrive, it needs to stay where it is.

Talks More Than Listens

Have you met someone who talks on and on about their services and does not seem genuinely interested in your business? You met a Scorched Earth Networker!   A serious networker will want to learn all about you and your business, and how they can help you accomplish your goals.

Does Not “Honor The Event”

They network at inappropriate events.  You’ve seen the Scorched Earth Networker wanting to do business and passing out business cards at a church function, funeral or other inappropriate events.  The key to networking at all times is to do it in a way that is appropriate.  While it can be entirely appropriate to begin a relationship at an event, such as a wedding or funeral, going around looking for an opportunity to pass out business cards is not the right way to do that!

Thinks That Being Highly Visible Is Enough

The more you are seen in the business community (visibility), the more you become known and trusted (credible).  The problem with the Scorched Earth Networker is that they believe that anything that makes them visible is beneficial.  Wrong!  As people begin to trust you, they begin to refer you to others. This is when you will see more business referrals (profitability).

Expects Others To Be Consistently Referring Them.

The Scorched Earth Networker expects a source of dependable and constant referrals.  This view of networking is a transaction, NOT a relationship.  There is a law of reciprocity and synergy that cannot be denied when you focuses on giving referrals to those around you.

The Scorched Earth Networker Will Fail

Building your business through word-of-mouth is about cultivating relationships with people who get to know you and trust you. People do business with people they have confidence in. It’s not what you know, or who you know, it’s how well you know them that counts. If you go into this process understanding Scorched Earth Networking, you will have a better opportunity to build your business through word-of-mouth.

When you are networking, are you creating relationships by building your social capital or are you leaving a scorched earth behind you?

Honor the Event

Honor the Event

Networking is a lifestyle you need to incorporate into everything that you do. However, I also believe that you must HONOR THE EVENT. For example, networking at a chamber mixer is one thing, while networking at a church social is completely different.

What is Networking

I believe that networking is part of the process of developing your social capital. Building your social capital hinges on the development of meaningful relationships with other people. Since one should always be working on building meaningful relationships with other people, they should always be networking. However, that doesn’t mean someone should always be trying to “sell” something to someone, because that rarely facilitates the development of meaningful relationships. Herein lies the misinterpretation of the practice of networking. Some people think that networking means to be constantly “selling” your products or services.

To me, networking means that you should be constantly building relationships. The best way to build relationships is to help someone whenever possible. A good networker has two ears and one mouth and should be using them proportionately. Hence, if you understand networking to be the process that one uses to develop relationships and build one’s social capital – then it makes sense that someone should be networking everywhere – including the Church social. They key is that you must “honor the event”.

Honor the Event

Your networking must be different in a chamber meeting compared to a social event. In both cases you want to be making contacts, putting people together, helping others and building relationships. However, you should NOT be actively promoting your business in one of those two groups (hint – it’s not the Chamber). Instead, you want to focus on putting people together and helping others portion of the process.

Let me give you an example of what I mean:

Last year, I had the opportunity to attend a formal dinner put on by the “Friendly Sons of St. Patrick.” This was a black-tie social event, NOT a business networking dinner. Yet, I was able to make a great contact that ended up being immensely successful for me (and, I hope, for one of the people I met there!). At my table were seated a prominent senior partner to a major international law firm, a former member of the Beach Boys, and Buzz Aldrin. He was part of the first mission to set foot on the moon and now an entrepreneur as the founder of the ShareSpace Program! During the course of the evening, I mentioned to Dr. Aldrin that I was working on my book, Masters of Success. He’s certainly attained a well-known level of success and has some very strong feelings about the future of the space program so I thought he might be interested in sharing his thoughts in this new book. After getting to know each other better, I asked him if he would be interested in contributing a chapter to the book. He was! Consequently, he was one of the prominent contributing authors to the book.

So you can see that it is desirable to keep your networking goals in sight at all events and opportunities, without becoming a networking vulture, or someone that everyone else runs from when they see you coming! Honor the event; tailor your networking strategies so that you fit in without being tuned out.

Mr. Romero

Ivan’s Why

There has probably been someone in your life—a coach, grandparent, teacher, aunt, or spiritual mentor—who’s made a difference for you. It may have been when you were young (it generally is) Or it may have been recently. It may have been a positive experience, or it may have been very negative. Either way, it is your “why” for what you are passionate about.

I’ve certainly had people who have made a significant difference in my life. One of those people was my freshman high school teacher, Mr. Romero, at Gladstone High School in southern California. Mr. Romero taught history, and that class was the one that selected the student council representative for the freshmen. I had run for student council numerous times in junior high school and was soundly defeated each time. The elections weren’t even remotely close. In fact, I came in dead last every time. Each election was a humiliating experience that left an indelible impression on me. So, by the time high school rolled around, I had no intention of running for student council again. Ever!

Welcome to Gladstone High School

The first week of freshman history class, our teacher, Mr. Romero, asked all the students, “Because we pick the freshman student council representative from this year’s history class, are there any volunteers for the position? Who would like to do it?” Nobody volunteered. Finally one of the prettiest, most popular girls in the class said, “Oh, Mr. Romero, you know, I would do it, but I’m just so busy! I don’t have the time to do something like that.”

Mr. Romero replied, “That’s OK, you don’t have to do it. But if no one’s interested in volunteering, as the teacher, I get to pick. Are you OK with that?”

The students came back with cheers: “Yeah, yeah, yeah—you go ahead and pick!” So the teacher looked around the class, paused his gaze at me, and, looking me straight in the eyes, he said, “Ivan, I’ll bet you would love to do this, wouldn’t you?”

I replied, “Well, um, well, yeah, I kind of would, Mr. Romero.” My momentary elation was immediately squashed when the entire class, almost in unison, moaned, “Oh, no. Not Ivan!” Even the too-busy popular girl stood up and said, “No, no, Mr. Romero. You know what—I’m actually not that busy. If you’re going to pick Ivan, I can do it after all!” Of course, while she was saying all this, I was thinking, Hello. You all see me sitting here, right?” But I couldn’t actually open my mouth to speak. I just sat there, quiet and embarrassed, holding my breath. Have you ever had a moment like this? When you felt so small you just wanted to slip underneath the carpet? That was how I felt at that moment.

It’s important to put this experience in context. Today, I’m an author, speaker, and fairly successful businessman with franchises on every populated continent of the world. But remember, this was happening to me as a young thirteen-year-old boy. I lacked confidence, I felt like I didn’t fit in at all, and I couldn’t get a chance to prove myself at something I really wanted to do. Just imagine, for a moment, how humiliating this was for me. I didn’t have the advantage of peeking into the future to know where I would end up. I have to tell you, it was a raw, exposed moment.

Somehow, Mr. Romero understood that, and he gave the ever-popular girl a withering look and said, “No, you had your chance to volunteer, and you didn’t take it. So I’m empowered to pick a representative, and I pick Ivan. He’s the student representative! Now, open your books and turn to chapter two.”

Student Council

Despite the grumbles rolling through the classroom, Mr. Romero’s decision was final. I was the Student Council Representative. My teacher believed that I could do a good job. I took a deep breath in and knew I would work hard—really hard—to prove him right. When the year-end Student Council elections came around for the following year, I decided to do something I had vowed to never do again: I ran for Student Council. That same class who loudly protested my appointment voted me in for another year, by a landslide! As a matter of fact, I won every election in high school after that—Student Council, Activities Director, Student Body President—every single one. It all started with Mr. Romero seeing something in me that I had not been able to see in myself. His giving me that chance allowed me to prove myself. This infused confidence in me, and that made a huge difference in my life. I gained leadership skills and learned responsibility by being involved in those school projects that I had to take from the beginning to the end. Mr. Romero positively influenced my life by giving me the opportunity to succeed. He didn’t do the hard work for me, but he opened the door for me. He gave me a chance to excel, to succeed, and to show what I was capable of doing.

The Man I Am Today

Years later, I knew this was an important experience in my life, but I never realized how seminal it truly was to the man that I would become. It wasn’t until a few years ago at an Asentiv seminar that I came to realize that my entire life’s work was in fact, a reflection of what Mr. Romero did for me as a young man. We were all studying our Emotionally Charged Connections (ECCs) to understand why we do what we do,

Every book I’ve written or business I’ve started has been an attempt to give other people an opportunity to succeed, to excel, and to accomplish what they want to accomplish in life. I can’t “make” someone successful. Only they can do that. I can, however, provide the system, the process, and the opportunity for them to achieve their dreams. I have been continuously reliving what Mr. Romero did for me, and I never even knew it—until I looked deeply into my “why.”

Your “why” is the most important thing you can figure out right now. It is the reason you do the things you are passionate about. If you don’t know that, you can never come full circle to completely fulfill your dreams.

Open vs. Closed Networking

When a brand new networker goes to a mixer or other informal gathering, their first glimpse of the room may be daunting. They’ll be confronted with a room full of strangers busily involved in conversations. They’ll notice clusters of two, three, four, or more people. As a stranger, they may feel that if they try to join any of the clusters, it will be intruding. It’s an awkward moment, and they may not know quite what to do or where to start. Be aware of Open vs. Closed Networking.

The way the groups are configured can tell you a lot about how you will be received if you approach them. Notice for instance that some of the groups are “closed”, and no matter which direction you approach from, their backs are turned to you. Therefore, unless you like awkward pauses or hostile glares, don’t try to force yourself in.

Other groups are “open”, and have left an open side from which you can approach them face to face. This orientation is a welcoming configuration; it signals that their conversation is not private and that you would be welcome to join them and introduce yourself.

 

Think about these configurations, next time you attend a networking event. Are you in an “open” group that has a welcoming feel? If you notice you’re in a “closed” group, make sure to position yourself in such a way that any networker, new or experienced, feels at ease.

Transformational Leader Podcast

I was recently interviewed on this topic of “Open vs. Closed Networking” on the Transformational Leader Podcast, sponsored By Paul Martinelli and the John Maxwell Team. This show is designed to help leaders, influencers, and high achievers transform the world through positive influence. BNI has a strategic relationship with John Maxwell Team and I personally recommend their program.

I invite you to listen in to episode #13  of my interview on The Transformational Leader Podcast about “Open vs. Closed Networking”.

Leaders, the way your people are configured in groups during your events can tell your visitors a lot about how they will be received.

It’s important to train people to keep “open” groups: an open side from which visitors can approach others face-to-face. This orientation is a welcoming configuration; it signals that their conversation is not private and that visitors would be welcome to join them and introduce themselves.

The John Maxwell Team Leadership, Coaching, Speaking, and Training Development Program will take your leadership and life to the next level.  They have a great series of podcasts. I recommend you listen to their podcasts at  https://johnmaxwellteam.com/podcast/

Summer Networking

Summer Networking Tips

The temperature is rising and so are your summer networking opportunities!

Every once in a while I hear a BNI member say that their chapter slows down during the summer months. I also know of many chapters that flourish in the summer with new members and referral growth! So why are some up and some down? It is a matter of gearing towards the season by refocusing on referrals during your networking activities? Build your business while traveling on vacation too.

What summertime networking activities are you attending? These may not seem like networking activities, however, you should still always be prepared.

  • BBQ
  • Block Parties
  • Pool parties
  • Picnics
  • Ball games or sporting events
  • Music Festivals
  • Reunions
  • Parades
  • Or just some summertime fun:
    Golf, Boating, Traveling, Fishing, Hiking, Tennis, Sailing, Camping or Gardening?

Barbecue / Block Party Networking!

Whether headed to a holiday block party blowout or a more intimate birthday celebration for a colleague, barbecues are a great chance to meet friends of friends and expand your professional network.

Make the most of your family barbecue. Bring a few sample products to the barbecue to give out to family and friends. Who better to help spread the word for you? If you are so inclined, ask attendees to bring a new friend with them to the event. More than likely, some family members will show up with uninvited guests anyway. The more the merrier, right? Use these opportunities to get to know people and share what you are looking for. You never know who they know! But don’t break out in a sales pitch at a barbecue. Ever. People are there to have fun, relax and enjoy.

Pool Party  / Picnic Networking:

Remember that a good networker has two ears and one mouth and uses them proportionately! Listen to what everyone is saying at your summertime activities. What topics are they mentioning?

Are they complaining about their business? 
Invite them to visit your BNI chapter.

Are they excited about a wedding?
Share about those members in your chapter that are good referrals for them.

Do they talk about their home being too hot in the summer and it costs too much to cool?
Talk about your HVAC or solar member.

Do they want to remodel their home or need to move homes?
It’s Referral time!

Ball Game / Sporting Event Networking:

A great networking strategy is to get tickets to a local ball game or sporting event and invite BNI members and potential referral partners you know to introduce to each other. Whether your team wins or loses, great connections can be made!

Music Festival Networking:

The hills are alive with the sound of networking. Music brings people from all different types of professional backgrounds together networking through all of the music and dancing at a music festival will be a challenge, but it can prove to be invaluable. While each attendee might have a different background, many will have the same overall goal– utilizing networking to make meaningful connections and build their businesses. Every personal encounter is a potential opportunity for networking, so don’t overlook anyone.

Networking at Reunions:

Summertime is the time for both family reunions and class reunions. These are essentially a gathering of (potentially) dozens of people who, despite the fact that they took various different professional paths, automatically have a great deal in common and genuinely want to see one another succeed. So if you’re looking for a job, a career change, industry advice or even if you’re just hoping to network within your field, attending your reunion could be just the ticket. The question is not whether you should attend your reunion, but how you will network effectively at the reunion.

The FOUR hour “one to one” Networking Foursome!

If you are a golfer, find a fellow BNI Member who also plays golf. Set up a round of golf and you each bring a favorite golf playing client to introduce to each other as a referral source for the other BNI member. What a great way to solidify a top referral source and score a ‘hole in one” referral yourself with someone else!

If you do not play golf? Is there a summertime activity that you do that you and a fellow member can invite clients to attend? (Boating, Fishing, Hiking, Tennis, Sailing, Camping,  or Gardening)

The GOAL?

Any place you go with family, friends or strangers is a networking opportunity!

  • Bring Your Business Cards! Bring your fellow BNI members’ business cards with you to all your summertime events!
  • Remember Your Fellow Members and make a goal for one referral per event you attend!
  • Who have you met at these summertime events that you can invite to your chapter as a visitor?

Here’s to a GREAT summer in the Northern Hemisphere filled with lots of referrals! Those BNI Members south of the Equator can wait to use these tips in December or try to network on the ski slopes.

Mentor

One Time, One Meeting

My daughter, Cassie (AKA Dorian Prin – professional name), is a graphic designer and she’s working on the cover of my next book: The Networking Mentor.  I’m including a “sneak peek” of the working graphic for the cover of the book here in this article.

I was talking to Dorian about the paragraph below which is excerpted from the book:

We’ve all had mentors who are in “our story.” When we talk about how our life has changed through our experiences with them, they are part of that story. However, there is something even more important: The real question is not who’s in our story but whose story are we in? Whose life have we made a difference in? That’s what creates a meaningful life, and that’s why this book is for both mentees and mentors.

In our conversation I mentioned that sometimes you might meet someone only once but that meeting is so profound, it can have an influence on you for the rest of your life.

一期一会

Dorian spent some time in Japan and can speak the language.  She said the Japanese have a saying that relates to this concept.  She said the Japanese phrase is: 一期一会 (ichi go ichi e).  Its direct translation is “one time, one meeting” but it probably can be translated more accurately as “once in a lifetime meeting” and is about the cultural concept of the importance of the unrepeatable nature of connections between people who meet. It is a Buddhist concept specifically tied to the tea ceremony and was the topic of contemplation for the tea ceremony she once participated in during one of her visits to Japan.

The lesson here is that you never know how the things you say may influence someone else.  Even if you only meet them once.  An off-handed comment can have a profound effect (either good or bad) on the person you are talking to.

So, I have a question for you.  What has someone said to you that profoundly affected you in business OR in life?  Share your story here on my blog.  I’d really like to hear it.  Post it below in the comments.

Wallflowers

Always Get to Know the Wallflowers

I was recently talking about networking with a good friend of mine, Dr. Mark Goulston. Mark is a psychiatrist and consultant, and he said something that intrigued me.  “People should always introduce themselves to the wallflowers in the room. Nobody attends a networking event wanting to stay in a corner and be left alone. They’re in that corner because the most technically skilled people are often socially shy.”

“You never know when you’ll meet the next Bill Gates”.

This comment really resonated with me, and it reminded me of a time a few years ago. I was at a party put on by Virgin Galactic relating to the testing of White Knight Two and SpaceShip Two. I walked outside the party and looked over in the corner by the pool where I saw a man standing by himself. He was looking uncomfortable and very much out of his element. Then I noticed who it was. It was Burt Rutan, the founder of the aerospace company Scaled Composites and designer of the SpaceShip Two. He was by himself at a party with hundreds of people celebrating the work of the company he founded, as well as Virgin Galactic.

I said to him, “It must be incredible to see this amazing, long-term vision come to fruition.”  He replied, “This isn’t my long-term vision of what the company can do.”

I’m sure I was visibly surprised, so I asked him, “What’s your long-term vision?”  He said, “Well, I believe the company can push forward past sub-orbital flights and expand to allow space tourists to do orbital flights around the earth.”  I naively said, “That’s an amazing long-term vision.” He replied, “That’s not my long-term vision.” I was really surprised and said, “Okay, what’s your long-term vision?” He replied that he felt “the company could provide orbital flights to passengers who could then stay at a hotel in space for a short period of time.”

At this point, I’m completely blown away, and I once again said, “That’s an amazing, long-term vision,” and, yet again, he said, “That’s not my long-term vision.”  At this point, I’m all in, and I’m completely fascinated with this visionary, so I again asked, “What’s your long-term vision?” He replied, “I believe we can launch flights into orbit, stay at a hotel in space, and then take flights around the moon and back. That’s my long-term vision.”

Burt was probably in his late sixties when we had this conversation, and I asked him one final question, “When do you think that vision can become a reality?” And he replied, “I think it can be done in my lifetime.”

Gobsmacked

The British have a term for what I felt at that moment, “gobsmacked.”  I was utterly astounded by this man’s vision, and I was incredibly honored to have had this opportunity to talk with him.

I founded the largest referral networking organization in the world, and I’ve met tens of thousands of people during my tenure in BNI. I can easily say that this was one of the most interesting conversations I ever had with someone at a party or networking event. Burt Rutan’s and, of course, Richard Branson’s,  vision of what can be done through their entrepreneurial efforts have left an indelible mark on me.

The important lesson here relates to Dr. Goulston’s belief that we should always look for the “wallflowers” in the room. Not every one of them will be a Burt Rutan, but I’ve found that most of them are interesting and well worth the conversation.  Just every now and then, you might meet a Bill Gates or a Burt Rutan, and that makes the effort of finding those wallflowers worth it.

Not Taught

WARNING! This is Not Taught in Schools or Colleges

I once suggested to the dean of a large university that the business curriculum should include courses in networking. His response, “My professors would never teach that material here. It’s all soft science. This is not taught in schools or colleges.”

I shouldn’t have been surprised. I’ve run into this attitude many times. We give people bachelor’s degrees in business, but we teach them little to nothing about the one subject that virtually every entrepreneur says is critical — networking and social capital. Why don’t business schools teach this subject? I think it’s because most are made up of professors who’ve never owned a business. Almost everything they know about running a business they learned from books and consulting.

The science of networking is not taught

Can you imagine a law course taught by someone who’s not an attorney? What about an accounting course taught by anyone with no direct accounting experience? Yet we put business professors in colleges with little or no firsthand experience in the field. It’s no wonder that a subject so critically important to business people would be so completely missed by business schools.

The science of networking is finally being codified and structured. Business schools around the world need to wake up and start teaching this curriculum. Schools with vision, foresight, and the ability to act swiftly (the way business professors say businesses should act) will be positioning themselves as leaders in education by truly understanding and responding to the needs of today’s businesses.

At the end of our conversation, I asked the dean, “How are courses on leadership any less a soft science than networking?” He didn’t have an answer.

Successful entrepreneurs understand the importance of a strong network. They are willing to put in the time it takes to develop fruitful connections. If any of these misconceptions are holding you back, it’s time to correct it with the tips provided — and watch your business grow.

Disruption

Lead the Disruption or Become Disrupted

In my lifetime there have been many companies that have been crushed by disruption. The irony is that they could have actually led the disruption. The fact that they were crushed by other companies was because they chose not to lead. They chose to either ignore it or fear it. And leading with fear is a bad strategy. These three businesses are prime examples of what not to do.

Sears

Sears was once America’s largest retailer. They began as a mail order catalog company using the postal service to deliver virtually anything, to anyone, almost anywhere, and it dominated its competition for many, many decades.  Sears was Amazon more than 100 years before Amazon.

In its day, Sears was the 800-pound gorilla that could, and did, decimate smaller retailers.  Unfortunately, Sears was so entrenched in their brick and mortar stores that when the world-wide web was introduced in 1991, they did not have the foresight to lead the way and make the transition.

In fact, just the opposite happened.  Their reaction was to actually shut down their catalog two years later in 1993.  Amazon.com was founded the very next year in 1994.

Kodak

A friend of mine who retired from Kodak many years ago told me that he felt there were few corporate blunders as staggering as Kodak’s decision to ignore the digital camera market. This is especially true since Kodak invented the digital camera in 1973, and it went on to be issued a patent for digital cameras in 1978.

Why, then, would the company that invented the digital camera not pursue this incredible opportunity? The answer, to them, was obvious. They did not want to interfere with their highly lucrative film processing business, and they did not believe that people would be interested in looking at photos on a computer. Wrong on both counts.

Blockbuster

When the winds of change swept through the video industry, Blockbuster was more of a brick than a weather vane.

In 2000, Netflix approached Blockbuster with a request for Blockbuster to buy them out for roughly $50 million dollars. Blockbuster turned them down more than once.

Jim Keyes, the CEO of Blockbuster said in 2008: “Neither Redbox nor Netflix are even on the radar screen in terms of competition.” By the time Blockbuster saw the success of the new Netflix model, they made several attempts to copy it.  However, they were too late.

Today, Blockbuster is bankrupt, and Netflix is worth over $100 billion.

I hate change. I really do.

People like the comfort and contentment that comes with a successful status quo. The problem is that a successful status quo is the present, built upon a strong past. Unfortunately, the present is not etched in stone for the future. Whether I like it or not — the future involves change, and the change is, by nature, disruptive.

Social scientists refer to this as the “threshold model of collective behavior.” For decades I have called this “concept recognition model.” When I was young, people didn’t think they needed answering machines — until enough people thought they did, and then they were everywhere, used by virtually everyone.  Later, people didn’t see the need, nor the value, for fax machines. Until enough people did — and then everyone had one.

In the 90’s I met many people that had no intention of ever using email.  Now, I can count on one hand the number of people I know who don’t have an email address — and they are all over 70.

Before people adopt a new concept, early adopters embrace the new process or equipment.  Later the resistant population joins in, and, under the right conditions, there is a viral cascade of change. Changing the world is always disruptive.

The only thing I hate more than change is failure.

Failure is what happens when you’re left in the dust when the change crushes our “present.” Today, more than ever, we need to choose to change before we are forced to change. By the time a business is forced to change, it is probably too late.

In today’s changing world, we will either manage the status quo which will eventually result in failure, or we can lead the disruption which is likely to lead to the reinvention of our business, and potentially the industry as a whole. So you must decide: be disrupted, or be the disruption.  I vote to be the disruption.

Addition By Subtraction

Addition By Subtraction

Sometimes, the best thing you can do is let go. My wife, Beth Misner, explained to me years ago that the way to grow healthy rose bushes is to prune them back. You will receive additional beautiful blooms on new growth stems by subtracting the number of old growth stems. So, how does this relate to BNI?  The way to grow a healthy BNI chapter is to get rid of the members who don’t show up or don’t participate. BNI thrives on accountability. Therefore, one must also believe in addition by subtraction in order to get new growth in your chapter.

Like I said–sometimes, the best thing you can do is let go.

Let’s say you’re in a networking group and you have hit a plateau. You can remember a time when your group was on fire. When you all had passion and excitement and you couldn’t get to your meeting fast enough. Now, you all seem to have lost steam, and things just aren’t what they used to be. The referrals aren’t being generated, the 1-2-1’s are happening, and the group seems to groan a little every time the meeting begins. You want to regain the passion and help your network grow, but how?

If you want to add value to your group, you need to take away the things–or people–that are making it dysfunctional. It sounds counterintuitive, but if you want your network to grow, you may have to cut it back. Like I said–sometimes, the best thing you can do is let go.

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