The Four Energies

the four energies

Where’s your business focused?

For most of you following my blog you know that high-performance entrepreneurs fascinate me.  I am just as interested in the more obscure stuff as I am the specific tactical activities that drives performance.

When it comes to company culture, one of the key observations I’ve made over the years addresses FOUR ENERGIES where a company can place its attention.  

So, which one is best?   

Trick question. They’re all important.  What’s critical is that there is a state of balance.  Getting out of balance with these four is where companies begin to struggle.

ONE:  ENERGY FOCUSED ON ME

Out of Balance:  Thinking the business is there to serve YOU.  Feeling entitled with clients or the team, putting your needs first to the exclusion of others…OR trying to serve the business so much you let it run your life, deplete your energy, life force, and creativity.

Balanced:  Looking out for yourself by getting paid well, taking time off, remaining healthy and aligned with your greater purpose.  Operating in the business in accord with your personal Prime Function.

TWO:  ENERGY FOCUSED ON THE COMPETITION

Out of Balance:  Obsessing over the competition and placing so much emphasis on them that you are distracted from the real competition – your own limited focus and ability to execute.

Balanced:  Staying aware of who is in your space and what they offer.  Understanding how players in your space are communicating and how they out-sell your team when they do.  Not allowing the team to obsess.

THREE:  ENERGY FOCUSED ON THE CLIENTS

Out of Balance:  Either caring too much and then, like any co-dependent relationship - creating dysfunction OR neglecting their unique needs altogether and expecting them to remain loyal and active.

Balanced:  Respecting and enjoying your clients.  Serving them with passion and enthusiasm and yet holding the line on boundaries.

FOUR:  ENERGY FOCUSED ON THE TEAM

Out of Balance:  Becoming fearful of them, angry with them, or overly permissive with them.  The worse sin here – neglecting the team by abdicating the leadership role.

Balanced:  Supporting the team, looking out for their needs and creating value by eliminating obstacles and enriching their professional experience.  Driving their performance by igniting their passions.

Here’s the perfect balance of all FOUR ENERGIES as I’ve witnessed it:  A company where the clients are passionately served by a team who are supported and encouraged by a happy and enthusiastic entrepreneur who doesn’t sweat the competition.

How do you balance?

Execution Made Simple: Strategic and Tactical Planning

tactical planning

When it comes to planning, success starts with a distinction between Strategic and Tactical Planning.    While great leaders can often see the future they can fail at seeing a plan at a detailed enough level to execute effectively.  And while tacticians can get granular and follow plans, they sometimes fail to see the forest for the trees.  The best of the best collaborate with both teams to get goals accomplished.

Strategic:

The first and most important place to start is at a Strategic level.  Gaining some elevation and posing some vision questions is critical if our aim is to get outside the box.  Keep the naysayers out and paint the future first.  Here are our suggestions:

  1. Start with the big picture by building an executive team’s target vision.   We look at today, what we call State A and then we look at the future, what we call State B. Knowing where we want to end up is a powerful attraction and can galvanize a team and inspire others.  Get clarity here.
  2. Next, ask the team to describe the activities they would be doing once they execute the vision.  See it.  How would the company behave if the goals were reached?  What would be the scene and what are the emotions?
  3. Third, question all assumptions.  Nothing is sacred in a Strategic meeting.  Throw alternatives out, challenge basic underlying paradigms.  If ideas keep getting up, respect them.

Tactical:

Once a Strategic Plan is in place, the next tier of planning must be of a Tactical level in order to execute.  Not surprising, Tactical Planning is often not the strength of the first group.  Bring in the people who are accountable for seeing ideas through to completion and respect their opinions regarding time and expenses.

  1. Bring the project management people into the room and get them to see the vision.  Absent a strong buy in, they might get stuck with the obstacles.  And slow down! Give them time to process and don’t be dissuaded by obstacles and objections.  It’s how they buy in!
  2. Place all the main outcomes of the vision into hierarchies and plot a pathway through them considering a logical order of go and big milestone markers.  The big idea here is to allow for the plan to become linear in execution.
  3. Explode each milestone into a mind-map of ideas, resources, costs, timeframes, challenges ect.  Explore obstacles - don’t avoid them.  Allow the detail minds to have time to get into the weeds but don’t let them stay there too long!
  4. Have them create a Tactical Plan – a fully executable game plan that includes project rationales, order of go, timelines, accountabilities, and resources required to execute.  If the plan isn’t specific enough, send it back.

Moving the world with big ideas requires more than big ideas.  The combination of Strategic and Tactical planning is essential to take ideas and make them come to life in your business.  Embrace the differences between these teams and leverage their innate skill set to see your future realized.

Video Killed the Telephone Star

online-video proposals

5 Ways Online-Video Proposals Enable Sales

A long time ago the telephone was the primary sales technology.  Today it’s the computer – and for the early adopters, online video has become the primary channel to share, sell, instill confidence, and motivate prospects to close.  

You’ve probably seen the stats - they are impressive enough to repeat:  Over 6 billion hours of video is watched each month on YouTube alone.  More people watch video online than on all of the cable TV networks combined.  

So how are you using video in your sales proposals?  We use video to connect better with proposals and follow-ups using an online, sale-enablement software we created called Proposal App www.proposalapp.com.

Here’s an outline of the 5 big value propositions we discovered by bringing video into the sales process:

1.When selling the invisible – you can make it tangible

If you are selling something that no one can actually touch, like your ideas, your services or consulting, you can make it tangible with video.  Use video to show off your office, team, deliverables, your concepts at a whiteboard and of course, your confidence, charm and enthusiasm.

2. When selling a high ticket item – you can show off the features

Do you sell houses, cars or yachts?  Video is a great tool for showcasing the details.  Take the prospect for a tour, narrate through it and showcase what’s of value.

3. With a larger sales force – you can keep your message consistent

By creating an explainer video (a brief 1-2 minutes presentation about your firm or product), you can make sure your sales force has a consistent message about your firm and the confidence that you can audit their presentations anytime you like.

4. You can tap into and maintain your prospect’s enthusiasm

Nothing helps keep your audience excited more than your excitement.  Including a strong video of you can truly boost your prospect’s excitement.  If you’ve been making a living by motivating others to buy, then video is an unfair advantage for you.  Dig in.

5. You can sell the entire value proposition

Let’s face it.  There is a lot of competition out there.  If you can promote the entirety of your brand and the power of your ideas, team and products in any way, video will be it.  Have fun, hire a company to create an explainer or dive in with a great Do-It-Yourself version today.

Video is here to stay. Just like a silky telephone voice was a great asset to a life on the phone, being comfortable with video is a great advantage for selling in the digital age.  But only if you know how to use it well.  So, if you want to sell, communicate and make your point in a compelling way, start experimenting now.

Outfoxing the Microchip

outfoxing the microchip

Here’s an idea I’ve been working on for a while, a thesis I’ve been watching and tracking for a few years to see if it will bear out…And it has.  I see this idea showing up almost every week with the clients we serve.  And the idea is simple, relatively innocuous and deceptively intriguing:  in the face of all this technology we’ve started to exalt those things that make us uniquely human.  “Human” is, in fact, the killer app. for business value creation.

There’s “no use fighting city Hall” the old expression goes.   And as it pertains to trying to outperform technology, there is no competition.  It’s over.  We lost.  When it comes to computational ability, those damned computers have us beat every time.  You’ve heard the sound bite, “there is more technology in my watch than NASA needed to land a guy on the moon.”   We’ve known it for a long time but we’ve been in denial.  I can still remember that movie with Matthew Broderick, War Games from 1982.  The classic cautionary tale from the people who were saying “computers are scary”.  Remember?  They weren’t really right but the point was simple:  People need to be running the show.

It started with the promise of the industrial age.  We wanted to automate, we wanted to streamline and we wanted to mass-produce.  And America got really good at it.  So it’s no big surprise that we dominated in the technology boom both in innovation as well as mass production.  We rock when it comes to leveraging technology to accelerate results.  But it’s simply making people nuts trying to keep up in industries that have been directly or indirectly touched by the pace, precision and power of technology.

So if you are trying to sell more policies than a website, forget about it.  If you think you’ll EVER be faster or more accurate than an online ordering system you’re kidding yourself.  But there is great news, there’s room for something else.  What we’ve seen is a shift coming from the professional services folks that come to us to slow down the transacting of product to improve the quality of the relationship…and they are getting paid for it.

Top tier pro’s who have so much to lose trying to play the game of the “commoditized” are finding new arenas to compete and thrive...and it’s not about doing more, faster.  Their secret?  Exalt the human.  Accentuate the emotional, empathize, listen and employ connections with storytelling.  The secret is to be human in the face of all this technology.  The secret is to connect on a level that cannot ever be replaced with a screen or through an inhuman exchange of data.

Intellectual Capital as Your Sales Tool

intellectual property

So how does the wisdom inside your head become an asset?  How does your intellectual capital help advance your immediate sales and marketing needs?  You turn that wisdom of yours into a product.

For most of our clients WHAT they do from a 40,000 ft. view isn't so very different from anyone else.  But HOW they do it, and WHY they do it is TOTALLY unique and quite often is the "secret sauce" for all their success.  The genius of their business lives in the HOW and the WHY not the products or services themselves.  And if prodded, most of my clients will relate a very unique, hard-won perspective on the work the do, how to do it well, and how to create optimal results.  Sometimes they know it's powerful.  Sometimes they think it's common sense.

So let's agree that the wisdom, insight, and lessons learned in the trenches ARE the most important assets your company possess.  Want proof?  Try training a junior to do what you do without all the wisdom behind it and see how well they perform.  Well, if you can't scale since you can't train, then what you've built is a business that ends with you.

So don't stop selling the way you've been all these years to take on some new gimmick.  Instead, take what's working to a new level by naming it, explaining how it works with a graphic and outline how that unique worldview perspective you have (no matter what it is) communicates into a totally unique experience for clients.

The Time Traveler’s Trick

Carpe Diem  

Every once in a while, I hear a familiar song from my youth on the radio and find myself enjoying a guilty pleasure.  I take a little time and daydream about being able to go back in time to 1992.  That was 24 years ago and I was 20.  You've seen it in movies enough...you know the fantasy.

I imagine being my 40-year old self in a twenty year olds’ body back in San Diego where I grew up.   I think back on all the time I wasted on the wrong things, all the opportunities I wasted and all the moments that I wasn’t present for, thinking about the future or thinking about the past. I think about the risks I didn’t take, the imagination, confidence and courage I lacked and the adventures I didn’t say yes to.

So, I imagine going back in time, buying a crap load of Apple and Google stock and then goofing off in grand style.  I think of all the cool things I would do, the car I would buy, all the girls I’d hit on, and all the wild times I’d have.  I think about taking classes in painting, political science, art history, and anthropology, traveling to Italy, biking across the country and getting in better shape while my body was younger.  I imagine I’d spend more time with my Grampa Bill.  I’d apply myself even more in school.  I’d worry a lot less and enjoy a lot more.

Of course, in my little daydream everything seems so much simpler, manageable because I'd know the future.  So the world feels smaller, safer and like one I could dominate.  I would go meet Steve Jobs just to say I had, I’d see Kurt Cobain and talk him down, I’d head to Wall Street or Hollywood and make my mark because in the past I’d be like some sort of superhero knowing what I know about the future.

Then I come back to the present.  I remember I should probably not long for the past and I feel a little guilty for dwelling on it.  But there is a powerful lesson in this exercise and I’ve learned how to harvest the insights from this commonplace fantasy to turn it into a powerful life changing activity.  Here’s the insight that makes this exercise a useful one:

I remember that one day, many years from now, I’ll be 60 years old and if I’m not careful I’ll be thinking the same thing about being 40(“How could I have wasted my youth?  How could I have squandered so many opportunities?  Why wasn’t I MORE bold?”). So, I ask myself, what should I be doing NOW so that twenty years from now when I look back, I’ll admire myself even more instead of feeling any regret?

Step One:  Enjoy the daydream.  Think about all the things you’d do.

Step Two:  Make a list of activities and what needs they speak to (travel, love, risk, diligence, education, expression)

Step Three:  Imagine being 20 years older and looking back on your life now  - your conscience should tell you about what you know isn’t working or isn’t helpful.  You know what you need to fix, you just need to tell the truth.

Step Four:  Make a list of mountains to climb, people to fire or reconcile with, goals to chase or time to spend being present.

Make the commitment and allow yourself to get scared enough about the passage of time to get moving.  If you need an extra dose of reality, remember you might not even have twenty years.  gulp.

Here’s the point:  Carpe Diem.  Time’s-a-wasting, You know RIGHT NOW what you should be doing.  Life is short so go live the hell out of it.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. “

Theodore Roosevelt

Excerpt from the speech "Citizenship In A Republic"

Delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910

Stop Being a Vendor!

vendor  

My clients have to tolerate a surprising amount of cheekiness from me.  I tell them the truth as I see it and I am fairly consistent in my outspoken directness about what I see is happening with their practice, how their worldview is impacting their growth, what their options are and what I think they might consider to move things forward.  I’m not right all the time but I let er rip as best as I can.

And for all the terrifyingly candid moments that have made me prematurely grey in the head, my reward is that I am seldom treated like a vendor.  And so it’s worth it.

As I see it, a vendor does the job they were paid for.  A vendor doesn’t question the almighty client.  Especially if that client wants to spend money.  A vendor doesn’t set ROI objectives and doesn’t want to be held accountable.  A vendor is a guy standing on the side of the pool with a life preserver waiting to be asked to throw it in when someone is drowning.  And then they have the extraordinary audacity to wonder why they are treated like an outsider! It’s the appallingly ignorant, infuriating stupidity of people like this that has allowed us and our little company to create a solid following of clients and friends.

We like to think of ourselves as Advocates.  That means that I am always seeking ways to serve my clients.  Even if that means we fire them.  Even if that means we sell away.  Even if that means we tell them “THE BAD NEWS” whatever it is.  That their goal is too high or their logic is flawed.  Yes, I know we’re not supposed to be so mouthy but since I’ve owned this company and have hired several of my own “vendors” I’ve seen the vast distance between how “out there” we are and how stupid, irresponsible and lazy other people can be.  And to tell you the truth, I like it our way a whole lot.

Here’s a story:  I had a woman sit with me for a cup of coffee who works in my industry.  She explained that she loves it when clients are crazy and like to make all kinds of changes to their work – even if it’s not in their best interests.  “What do I care?” she laughed, “I charge them by the hour!  Be as crazy as you want!”

Well, I was appalled.  If I had a client that was so lost in the weeds I’d consider it our responsibility to smack some sense into them.  Out there?  Yep.  Risky?  Totally.  But when it comes to the battlefield of business do you need another lazy vendor taking your money and telling you whatever you want to hear instead of providing some real leadership and creativity?  Or do want to hire a real partner who cares about your success?  Of course!

So if we take it as a general assumption that being an advocate is the superior position, here’s the million dollar question:  How do you cross the line on behalf of the people you serve?  How will you get out of your comfort zone and serve?