Your Business Has a Time-Confidence Curvestring(41) "Your Business Has a Time-Confidence Curve"

I have previously talked about the Time-Confidence Curve, which is also in my book Networking Like a Pro 2nd Edition. The Time-Confidence Curve illustrates the way that your fellow networkers must gain enough confidence in you to know that referring people to you will not hurt their own reputations.

That confidence is built in the time spent at your networking meetings such as BNI® and at other professional events where you interact with fellow members and share information about your services and products.

Similarly, your business also has a Time-Confidence Curve. It goes beyond the confidence that someone has in you personally; they must have confidence in your business to give you referrals.

Small Details Make a Big Difference

People are constantly judging us and judging how we act in our business. Small details can make a big difference in people’s impression of, and confidence in, your business.

VOICEMAIL
Keep it up-to-date and available.

Is your outgoing message friendly and helpful to the caller? A welcoming voice message, along with a prompt return call, help to build confidence.

Beware of the full mailbox. If a potential client calls your company and is unable to leave a message, it is unlikely that they will call again. If your out-of-office message says “I’ll be back from vacation on March 3rd“, answer all the messages as soon as you get back. If you wait until April to return the calls, the opportunity will be gone.

Additionally, if I’m calling someone in April and I hear the March 3rd vacation message, I think “Well, if they can’t bother to change their auto reply message, will they follow up with me and my problem?”

SOCIAL MEDIA
Keep politics and profanity out of business social media.

A few years ago, I counseled a BNI Member about the profanity they regularly used on their social media. I asked, “What are you thinking by using that type of language?” to which they replied, “What? It’s just my Facebook page.”
They also posted a lot of political stuff, which is a neutral negative. That means people are either not going to care or they are going to be upset that you said those things.

Potential clients often do research on companies, and on people they are interested in doing business with. Seeing extreme language or political views on social media may change their mind about doing business with someone.

EMPLOYEES AND STAFF
The people who represent your company have an impact on your business’s credibility.

If you have employees, their behavior can affect your referability. If a potential customer goes to a store or office and the staff is rude, short-tempered, or even ignores them, that reflects on the owner AND on the company. Help your staff understand what good customer service means in your business, then show them what it looks like by consistently setting the example.

Train employees how to take an effective message if someone calls for you while you’re out. Then return the call promptly.

Feedback is Your Friend

Whether it is good or bad, feedback can be helpful. Ask people who have used your company for their feedback. What did they like? What would have made the experience even better for them? Use that information to make thoughtful and positive changes in your organization.

Call your own phone to hear your voicemail message. If you have employees, call from a number they don’t know and see what the response is. If you have a building that is open to the public, walk in the front door and look around as though it is your first time. Experience your business in the same way potential clients will experience it.

It is not only what you do at networking meetings that affects your referability. Your behavior in every arena impacts your credibility with referral partners and prospective new customers. It takes time for both you and your business to gain the confidence that people need to refer new customers to you.

Business Growth During Economic Challengesstring(42) "Business Growth During Economic Challenges"

When the economy is slow, new business is harder to get. What can I do to build my business in a challenging economy?

I’ve heard this question many times over the years. The fact is that every economy goes through cycles, and business slows down for some people. My recommendation is – don’t join the ranks of miserable complainers. Use the time to improve your networking skills.

If you want to do well and have business growth during economic challenges, understand that is does absolutely no good to complain to people about how tough things are. When you complain about how bad business is, half the people that you tell don’t care, and the other half are glad you are worse off than they are.

Six Ways to Improve Networking Skills

  1.   Diversify your business network. If your network is a mile wide but only an inch deep, it is too shallow. You need to have networks that are broad and deep. Business networking groups such as BNI® are the deep part of that; they are where you build strong, mutually beneficial business relationships. You also want to participate in your local Chamber of Commerce & Industry, as well as in other professional organizations.
  2.   Refuse to be a cave-dweller. Get out there and meet people at business events, especially during a slow economy. Go to networking events with a positive attitude and decide that you refuse to participate in a recession or in any negativity. Learn how to work the network meetings that you attend and put forth the effort to do so. It is not called net-sit or net-eat. It is called network.
  3.   Learn networking systems and techniques that apply to the different organizations to which you belong. Focus your efforts on educating others about our business rather than trying to make a sale. Have a Givers Gain® attitude by asking how you can help others before asking them for referrals.  
  4.   Be prepared. Before a meeting, prepare effective introductions and presentations to share with your fellow members. Find ways to use whatever is going on in the economy as a way of marketing. Make it positive for your business, not negative.
  5.   Develop your contact spheres. A group of business professionals who have a symbiotic, noncompetitive business relationship with you are more important than ever. A referral to one person in the group is often a referral to many because each member of the contact sphere has products or services that the client can benefit from.
  6.   Establish a goal and reverse-engineer it. Know what you want to accomplish and share your goal with your networking group. Do the G.A.I.N.S. exchange with your referral partners. G.A.I.N.S. is from my book Business by Referral; it stands for Goals, Accomplishments, Interests, Networks and Skills.  

Your Network is Your Advantage

When you are part of a trusted network that you have established over time, and consistently participate in a positive way, you develop a huge advantage over the competition. You are building your business through networking, through referrals, through word-of-mouth. Your competition is just going to have to rely on increased advertising, while you have a powerful network to draw upon. If the times are tough around you, look for opportunities to market and use your network as the vehicle to do that. Be creative about working with your business network.

I have seen thousands of businesspeople grow and prosper during economic challenges because they developed their networking skills and learned to build their business through word-of-mouth marketing.

Don’t let a slow economy be your excuse for failure. Instead, make it an opportunity to succeed. It is not what you know or who you know. It’s how well you know them that really counts. In a tough economy, it is your social capital that has value. Make good use of it. While others may struggle, you can thrive.

You can’t control the economy. You can’t control the competition. You CAN control your response to any situation. Referrals can keep your business alive and strong, even during economic challenges.

Building an Effective Knowledge Networkstring(39) "Building an Effective Knowledge Network"

As a business professional, you need a constant supply of information to achieve success. It is important to stay aware of issues and trends, and to keep up with technological and economic changes, all of which help you stay competitive. Perhaps you have already discovered that it is nearly impossible to keep up with all this information on your own. There is simply too much of it.

Your “knowledge network”, which is what I call the information component of your network, is made up of your most knowledgeable sources. These are the people who can provide you with the knowledge and expertise for success and business growth.

Fortunately, the knowledge you may lack is always someone else’s specialty, allowing you to turn to others for the help you need. That is why you want to set up your network’s information component with a group of contacts who know and understand what you must do to achieve success in your business, AND who have the experience to help you achieve your goals.

Categorize Your Knowledge Network Members

It is paramount to know in advance whom to contact and where to go to get the information you need. Here are suggestions for the types of people to include in your information network:

  • People like you: There are some distinct advantages to seeking out people who have the same goals and interests as you, and who are also striving to achieve the same thing you want to achieve. They are collecting the type of information you need, and vice versa. Partnering with them can help you both get the information faster by sharing the research efforts.

  • People who ARE in your profession: As a rule, your best information sources will be people who are successfully doing what you want to do (perhaps in a different location or serving a different clientele). They will know about the trends and issues in your field and may have experienced some of the challenges you are now facing. They will have current directories, and information about upcoming events related to your profession, as well as relationships with vendors you may need to hire.

  • People who WERE in your profession: Find out why they are no longer in that field. What happened to their business? What are they doing now? Did they make the right decision to leave the profession? Talk with those who were successful and those who were not. This information may be valuable in helping your future business planning.
     
  • Authors: People who write or produce books, articles, audio, and video about your profession are key subject experts. They usually have broad and deep knowledge about procedures, systems, technologies, tactics, and developments in your field. A few tips from these individuals could save you money and time.

  • Regulators: People who regulate, audit, or monitor professionals in your field can certainly tell you stories about the legal, procedural, and operational pitfalls that you might run into. Additionally, they probably know how to survive those pitfalls. You may even discover legal loopholes that can make life and business easier.

  • Trainers: The wonderful thing about trainers is that they specialize in imparting knowledge. They help people understand the basics; they introduce new technologies, procedures, and techniques. It is beneficial to gain access to their training materials; if necessary, sign up for training sessions.

  • Consultants: Business professionals use advisors and consultants to help them solve problems that they find difficult to handle alone. Some consultants are generalists, while others are specialists. Most are skilled in assessing problems.

  • Members of professional organizations: People who are active members of trade, business, and professional groups are prolific sources of information. Their membership gives them access to directories, newsletters, seminars, presentations, calendars of events and more. By networking, they stay in touch with current developments in their industry. Spending time with them will help you discover new ways to do things.

Identify Your Knowledge Network Members

Begin by writing the names of people that you know, or that you know of, who fit into each of these eight categories. List as many names as you can think of before you do anything else. Aim to identify at least three people in each category.

If necessary, you can use a name in more than one category, but it’s better to come up with as many individuals as possible. Remember, it is information that you want from your knowledge network, more people = more information. Once you have as many names as you can think of for each category, go back and fill in the contact information for each one.

When you have a full list of people in each of the categories, start connecting with these people to enhance and improve your knowledge network. Connect with them on social media platforms. Attend the same networking and business meetings that they do so you can make an introduction and start a conversation with them. Begin the process to build a professional relationship. AVOID selling to them and asking for help before you establish the relationship.

You can build an effective knowledge network, your own ‘think tank’, by following these steps and using your existing contacts, along with making new ones. By doing so, your network and the information you need to build your business will expand and grow.

Symptoms of a Good Referralstring(27) "Symptoms of a Good Referral"

As a professional, do you want to get more referrals? Of course, everyone says YES. Here is a technique that you can use now that will directly lead to generating more word-of-mouth business for you.

Educate people on the “symptoms” of a good referral so when they’re out in the field and with other people, they will immediately know what to look for in a potential ideal client for you.

Identify the Problem to Get Relief

Think about it this way. If someone went to a medical professional and told them that they had a headache, sore throat, and were sneezing all the time, the doctor would probably ask if they spent a lot of time outdoors. If so, they might prescribe an anti-allergen treatment because, based on the symptoms, it sounds like the patient has seasonal allergies.

Notice that the description of the problem, the symptoms, came first and then came the plan for relief.

What if that could happen in your business?

Make it “Top of Mind”

Callan Rush, author of Wealth Through Workshops, refers to the “top-of-mind” problems of your prospective clients. Ask yourself: What is the greatest challenge that my customers face on a regular basis? What need does my target market have that my products or services can fill?

When you identify those problems, you can effectively share them when you are talking to others and include them in your marketing materials.

Share the Trigger Points

Think about the trigger points, an event or scenario, that happen in someone’s life which triggers that person to have a new need. For example, instead of a realtor saying, “If you know someone looking to buy or sell a home, let me know”, they can be more specific with the circumstances surrounding the target market before a future home buyer needs a real estate agent.

If first-time home buyers are the target market, the realtor can educate their network on some potential triggers leading up to the transaction of buying a house.

These triggers may include:

  • People who are recently engaged or getting married and need a place to live.
  • Couples who are expecting, or just had, a new baby and their place is too small.
  • Parents of college-age children who have left home, and their place is now too big.
    Or they want to buy a house for the college student rather than paying rent.

These are all symptoms of a good referral because they are related to activities that usually result in buying or selling a home. Coach your referral partners on how to spot the symptoms associated with people who need your produce or service as opposed to just saying “If you run into someone looking for a ____(fill in your industry), that would be a great referral.”

When you educate the people in your network about the specific symptoms or conditions that your business can solve, it becomes easier for them to give referrals to you.

I’d love to hear your comments about how you use this technique in your business.

Around the World People Want Referrals

Around the World – People Want Referralsstring(42) "Around the World – People Want Referrals"

The idea of growing your business through referral marketing is a concept that crosses cultural, ethnic, and political boundaries.

Years ago, I determined that the common denominator is because people want referrals! The public wants referrals, the business community wants referrals, it seems that everyone wants referrals. Becoming part of an organized, professional networking group is an effective way to get those referrals.

Is Business Networking Really Different?

During the time that BNI was first expanding to many countries around the world, I was frequently told that this type of networking wouldn’t work in other places. Ironically, the first time I heard “this won’t work here, we’re different” was from someone is Southern California talking about people who were 25 miles away in another part of Southern California!

I later realized that this person just didn’t want to do the necessary work to build their referral business. Rather than say, “I don’t want to do that”, it was easier to say, “we’re different here”. I was amazed that some people refused to follow the tried-and-true fundamentals that were proven to create referrals.

Building a Personal Network of Trust

You need to invest the time to gain trust and credibility within your network to generate the referrals you seek. Here are some networking tips for building relationships with foreign – and local – businesses.

  • As part of a network, keep a positive attitude and leave a good impression.
  • Maintain and cultivate your network by keeping in touch with them.
  • Do what you say you are going to do and do it when you say you will do it.
  • When asking your network for business advice, let them know that by helping you, they are also helping someone else (your customers).
  • Be cross-culturally aware. Do some research about best business practices before contacting someone in another area.

The value of having your personal network of trust applies wherever you do business.

Business is Business

My experience has shown that people in any entrepreneurial economy can use a networking system to improve their business. If this system is done within the cultural context, the networking concepts and techniques are also completely transferable from one country to another. The truth is that business is business when it comes to relationship marketing, regardless of culture, ethnicity, or political persuasion. Most entrepreneurs want to conduct business more effectively to get results.

Building business relationships through networking to get referrals is an idea that works. It resonates with businesspeople all over the world. It resonates in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Different people – different places, different countries – different cultures, different races – different religions, we all speak the language of referrals.

your business card

What to Do When Someone Refuses to Take Your Business Cardstring(58) "What to Do When Someone Refuses to Take Your Business Card"

Imagine handing your business card to someone at a networking event and having it handed back to you with, “Thanks, but I don’t need your card.”  How would you respond in this situation?

Business Card Etiquette 

  • I do not recommend giving someone your business card right away when you first meet them. I would wait until after you have had a good conversation with them. Listen to them talk about their business. Ask questions about how you could help them. Then, ask yourself if you believe that you have made a good connection.  Think about if you can help their business, or if they can help you with your business.  Decide if you are willing to build a strong relationship with them. If yes, I recommend asking the person if they would like to receive your business card because unsolicited cards are rarely kept.
  • A business card is a tacit invitation to make a future connection.  How you handle that connection afterward will determine how responsive your new contact will be.  So be respectful with what you do after someone gives you their card. Set a date to follow up with them. Find their preferred method to be contacted, then use it.
  • You should always have plenty of business cards with you when networking.  It still amazes me that people go to networking events and knowingly don’t bring cards with them. Bring business cards.  It is a “networking” event.
  • Just passing out your cards and collecting cards from others at a networking event is not networking — it’s card collecting — which is not a profitable way to build your business. Networking is about having conversations with people and making good enough connections that you can actually follow up with people. If you don’t make a meaningful connection, you might as well still be cold calling, no matter how many business cards you collect.
  • It is good manners to ask permission to add someone’s email to your distribution list. Unsolicited emails are rarely kept and can quickly lead to your email address being registered as spam. If you did not request the email newsletter, then reply with a request to be unsubscribed from their distribution list. If they ignore your request, use your spam filter. I use it regularly with unwanted emails.

Refusing to take someone’s offered card is just plain bad manners. What do you do if this happens to you?  Realize that some people just have little or no people skills and move on to someone who does.

Business Networking Diversity

Business Networking Diversitystring(29) "Business Networking Diversity"

I believe that it is important to build a diverse network of professional contacts that include people with different interests and backgrounds.  The only thing that they should have in common with you is that they should be really good at what they do.  Create a personal network like that, and you’ll have a network that can help you succeed at anything.

It is human nature to build friendships with people that are like us.  The problem with surrounding ourselves with similar people is that they also tend to have similar contacts and know the same people as us.  When networking, it may be difficult to make connections with new people or companies with whom we desire to do business. In running a large business networking organization for over the past three decades, I often speak to people who tell me they want to network exclusively business professionals who have similar clients.  Although it is good to include these people in your personal network, networking with them exclusively would be a tremendous mistake. When it comes to business networking diversity, you never know who people know.  One of the important keys to being successful at building a powerful personal network is diversity.

A diverse personal network enables you to increase the possibility of including connectors or “linchpins” in your network.  Linchpins are people who in some way cross over between two or more clusters or groups of individuals; this allows them to link groups of people together easily.  The best way to increase the number of possible connections in your network is to develop a diverse network. The strongest networking groups I have seen over the years are generally the groups that are diverse.  I believe that one of the problems in understanding this concept is a somewhat built-in bias that many people have about networking with individuals that are outside their normal frame of reference.  Let me share a story:

An incredible voice, an incredible connection from networking diversity.

Patti, a BNI Director, arrived a little early to a BNI meeting that met in a private meeting room and noticed an older gentleman setting up coffee mugs in preparation for the meeting.  She struck up a conversation with the man while waiting for the BNI members to arrive.  In talking to him, she was really taken by the amazing tenor of his voice.  She mentioned to him that he had an incredible voice and asked what he did before this.  The gentleman informed her that he used to be a commentator for CNN!  He went on to share with Patti that in his later years, he wanted to work in a less hectic job as well as live closer to his daughter.  He decided to take on the job of managing these private meeting rooms because it gave him an opportunity to be close to his family while having a less hectic career later in life.

Later during the meeting, one of the BNI members, Don, mentioned in his featured presentation that his goal is to host a radio talk show someday. He was looking for some contacts that could help him pursue this dream.  After the meeting, Patti asked Don… “Do you see that guy over there (pointing to the ex-CNN commentator)?  Have you seen him before?”  “Yea,” said Don, “he’s the guy who sets up the coffee for our meeting.”  Patti said to Don, “Did you know that he used to be a broadcaster for CNN?”  Don said, “I had no idea!!!”  Patti suggested that Don introduce himself. Don had seen the man on many occasions but had not struck up a conversation with him because he felt that they had little, if anything, in common.  The truth is when it comes to networking – not having a lot in common with someone may mean that they can be a connector for you to a whole world of people that you might not otherwise be able to meet. This resulted in creating an incredible connection for Don in the broadcasting industry. Don now hosts a local radio talk show.

Diversity in your network is the smart thing and the right thing to do.

Tips From Santa

Business Coaching Tips From Santa Clausstring(39) "Business Coaching Tips From Santa Claus"

In 2019, I had the pleasure to tap into Santa’s wisdom and learn a few tips from Santa from his 300 years of running a successful global overnight package delivery business.

For over 300 years his business has continued to thrive, survive and even flourish, despite the effects of distribution challenges, advances in technology, Global warming shrinking the size of the north pole, growing competition, staff downsizing, elf labor unions, reindeer red-nose discrimination, fluctuating World economy, and a hit-and-run incident with a Grandma.

Could your business survive such challenges? Santa shared with me his powerful knowledge and experiences as the principal of his global overnight delivery service. In the spirit of Givers Gain, he wanted me to share with you the challenges of his business from legal altercations to temperamental reports from all those elves on the shelf:

Business Tips by Santa Claus

C = Create Big Dreams
H = Have Passion and a Plan for Achieving Your Dreams
R = Really know what Your Customers Want
I = Investigate Your Competition
S = Schedule Everything and Stay on Time
T = Train Your Team to Have Your Vision Too
M = Make Sure You Protect Your Brand
A = Attitude is Everything – Have Fun!
S = Select an Outstanding Business Coach

You and your business will benefit by incorporating Santa’s wisdom and experience. As a result of putting these tips into practice, you can develop an outstanding business next year.

Business Travel

Business Travel Tips for Busy Entrepreneursstring(43) "Business Travel Tips for Busy Entrepreneurs"

Today’s entrepreneur will spend time traveling for business meetings, trade shows, or industry conventions.  Business Travel has become a key part of the job description. Here are some tips for a successful business trip.

Things to do before business travel:

  1. Research your destination:  Look up online the general layout of the area plus the local culture, lifestyle, and customs. Read the local news and be informed regarding any events that could cause delays during your trip.
  2. Exchange Currency: You can get better rates by ordering foreign currency from your local bank or credit union a week before leaving. Research the visa requirements as some counties have a minimum currency requirement to enter their country.  It is the “zloty” in Poland.
  3. Passport: Allow plenty of time before your trip to apply for a passport; processing normally takes 4 to 6 weeks (3 weeks for expedited service). All visitors to Poland are required to hold a passport that is valid for at least 6 months beyond the date of entry into the country.
  4. Visa: Passport holders from the U.S., Canada, and Australia can enter Poland without a visa and stay for 90 days. Passport holders from EU member countries, including the U.K., do not need a visa. Make sure to carry the minimum currency requirement to enter their country.
  5. Medical Requirements: There are no unusual health concerns for visiting Poland, and visitors are not required to get any special inoculations or show medical documents to enter the country. However, getting your annual flu shot is always a good idea when traveling abroad.
  6. Cellphones: Contact your service provider to sign up for an international travel plan that will allow for international roaming. Polish cellphones operate on a GSM band of 900/1800MHz. This is the same standard in use throughout Europe but different from the one used in the United States. U.S. mobiles will work here, provided they are tri-band phones (not all phones are tri-band) Keep calls to a minimum, however, since roaming charges can be steep.
  7. Weather. The weather forecast (as of 10/27/19) for Warsaw Poland for November 3-10 is for cloudy skies with temperatures ranging from 1°C to 11°C/ 34°F to 52°  F

Remember to pack these for business travel…

Please read my blog article, “My Must-Remember Items When Packing for a Business Trip“, published last year on my website with a list of items to pack that can certainly come in handy on a business trip. There are certainly more items to include, but these can certainly make or break an important business trip. So you definitely do not want to forget them. Here are some additional items to remember.

  1. Laptop Computer: Besides checking your email while abroad, your laptop will allow you to upload photos from your camera. Plus you can share photos and stories from your trip on your social media pages.
  2. Phone battery power bank. It is amazing how much power banks cost at an airport. Bring a power bank that will allow you to recharge your phone remotely when electricity is not available.
  3. Power adapter/converter. Wall outlets in the Republic of Poland are Type C (CEE 7/16 Europlug) and Type E (CEE 7/5 Schuko) and supply electricity at 230 volts AC / 50 Hz frequency.
  4. Batteries:  Bring a spare package of AA and AAA batteries for your devices.
  5. Energy Bars: Pack a box of protein meal bars to give you a boost of energy and when feeling hungry. Those attending from the USA will be experiencing a 6-9 hour time zone difference. Therefore, Sleep and mealtime schedules will need to be adjusted. Plus hydrate as much as possible.

I’m extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel extensively for both business and pleasure. Over the years, Bob and I have accumulated numerous tips to help aid overseas business travel. It is also important to know the role that cultural differences play in global networking and how understanding those differences becomes very important as we do business around the world.

 

Elevator Pitch

Seven Rules for an Elevator Pitchstring(33) "Seven Rules for an Elevator Pitch"

I used to hate the expression “elevator pitch.” It just drove me crazy. But now that everybody’s using it all over the world, I officially give up and am going to go with it. The metaphor developed out of the hypothetical that you are literally in an elevator with one minute or less to say who you are and what you do. What would you say? I want you to keep in mind that this is not a sales pitch; it is a creative and succinct way to generate interest in the listener.

With that in mind, here are my seven rules for creating an engaging elevator pitch:

Don’t do your elevator pitch in an actual elevator.

An unsolicited pitch in an elevator is basically face-to-face cold calling. I’ve been a victim. Don’t be a perpetrator. Unless someone asks what you do, just say “good day” to them. The elevator pitch is meant to be taken out of the elevator and into the right environment.

Make it tight.  

It needs to be short. This is a quick pitch, not a reading from War and Peace. Your pitch should be more like a work of art than a science project. It should be succinct and expressive, something you practice carefully and present cohesively and professionally. You also need to be natural. You want to rehearse, but not sound rehearsed, and avoid sounding staged and canned.

K.I.S.S.

Keep it simple. Don’t try to explain everything you do in the short amount of time you have. It will either be too much information (breaking rule number two) or too vague to be of any value. By keeping your elevator pitch simple, you have more of a chance to catch the listener’s attention, engage them with your creativity and create interest in your product or service.

Don’t use jargon.

If at any point someone has to say, “What does that mean?” you have officially lost them. Push the button for the next floor and exit now. (I know, you’re not really on an elevator, but you have really lost them.)

Share your USP.

A USP is your Unique Selling Proposition. One example of how to craft a pithy USP is to alter a bland, general statement such as, “I’m a coach and consultant” to something like, “I help people work less, make more and create referrals for life” instead. This is short, powerful and informative, i.e. the perfect combination for part of an effective elevator pitch.

Consider starting out with precisely how your listener will benefit.

My friend, communications expert Andy Bounds, calls this “the afters.” For your elevator pitch, this could be something as simple as, “I help people increase their sales by 33 percent, improve their closing ratio to 80 percent or double the number of new clients they take on per month.” In other words, focus on the “after” effect of the product or service you provide.

Pass the eyebrow test.

Another good friend, Sam Horn, author of Someday is Not a Day of the Week, writes about the “eyebrow test.” If what you say in your elevator pitch causes the listener’s eyebrows to go up, you’ve got ’em! You’ve left the listener wanting more, and that’s precisely what you want to accomplish. On the other hand, if the listener’s eyebrows scrunch down, you’ve just confused them. Find a new pitch.

Keeping these seven rules in mind when you create an elevator pitch will set you apart from the crowd. Now it’s time to press “Open Door.”

Disruption

Lead the Disruption or Become Disruptedstring(39) "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.

Brigadier General

What a Brigadier General Taught Me About Businessstring(49) "What a Brigadier General Taught Me About Business"

When I was a young man just starting my doctoral degree at USC, I had the opportunity to study under a retired Brigadier General from the army. In retrospect, he was one of the best professors that I had during my tenure. In that course, he told me a story that has stayed with me for many decades.

The General told me this story in the early 1980’s. He said that when he was a young first lieutenant (which was decades before that) he was stationed in Britain. As a lieutenent, he was tasked to do a “time and motion study” of a British artillery division. My professor went to the unit and carefully watched as the men prepared to fire the guns. He said he watched as they prepared the weapons to fire. When they were ready, one man marched confidently to the left and stood at attention with his hands behind his back and nodded to the artillery men. They then, proceeded to fire the guns.

The general (then a lieutenant), asked the man why he marched to the left and stood at attention before they fired the weapons? The soldier told him that was the way he was trained to do the procedure. The lieutenant asked the soldier who trained him. The soldier replied that the sergeant trained him. Consequently, the lieutenant went to the sergeant and asked him why he trained the men to march to the left and hold their hands behind their back before they motioned for the weapons to be fired? The sergeant replied that the master sergeant had trained him to do it that way. So, the lieutenant went to the master sergeant and asked him why he trained the sergeants to train the men to fire the weapons that way. The master sergeant said “that’s the way we’ve always done it in this man’s army sir.” He had no further insight as to why it was done that way.

The leaky bucket…

So, my professor (then a lieutenant), went off to produce his report regarding the process. One evening he decided to take a break and went to a local pub frequented by many military personnel. While there, he found himself sitting next to a very elderly retired sergeant major from the army.

Now you have to understand that I met the retired general in the early 1980’s and he spoke to this sergeant major when he was a very young first lieutenant. He said this retired soldier was involved in the military back in the old “cavalry” days.

My professor told the retired soldier that he was very perplexed by this artillery process and he asked him if he had any idea why the men would march to the left and hold their hands behind their back. When my professor asked his question, the old sergeant major said, “why lad… they’re holding the horses of course.”

The general, now my professor, said that it had been decades since the military had to hold the horses before the men fired the guns. Yet, there were still men holding these non-existent horses! He also had another great story about communication.

1 2 3 34