Thursday, January 31, 2008

 

Importance vs. Urgency


What would happen if you spent less than 10% of your work time next week in quadrant III?

What if you could spend 80% of your time in quadrants I and II?

I bet your productivity, job satisfaction, work/life balance and peace of mind would improve significantly.

 

10 reasons why I don't like Facebook

I've tried for more than a year to figure out Facebook's value in my life, and am finally ready to throw in the towel.

For many, Facebook is an obsession and a major part of their lives. It's a source of incredible entertainment and social interactivity. I take nothing away from them and their enjoyment of the service.

It's also a powerful advertising and brand-building channel, given its wide audience and deep usage patterns.

I just don't like it, and don't use it.

Here are ten reasons why.

10. It's a huge time-suck
I get dizzy just visiting my Facebook page, and I haven't even bothered adding that many friends or applications. There's so much going on, and so much to do. If I start engaging with a fraction of what I see, I've wasted long periods of time with little return. It's completely non-productive time for me.

9. It's incredibly distracting
Just as bad as email. If you want to stay active with Facebook, and have a lot of friends, you have to visit multiple times a day. It will interrupt any prolonged period of productivity or focus on something more important - either at work or elsewhere.

8. It's become non-differentiated
Everyone's doing it, exchanging the same stuff, buying each other the same $1 gifts, giving virtual high-fives and more. When everyone's doing the same things, and interacting the same way with each other, nobody's unique. Nobody's being remarkable. Facebook allows for very little individuality.

7. It's mostly irrelevant
Facebook lets me virtually "drunk dial" a friend. It lets me send them a pixel of a flower. It lets me send someone a digital sucker-punch. It's...irrelevant. Pointless. Maybe I'm too old, and apparently a curmudgeon too. But I don't get the value of these exchanges.

6. I spend enough time online for work
Time on Facebook for me is a lose-lose. I'm either wasting time at work, spending time on Facebook, or spending even more time on the computer when at home. I'm in front of the computer all day as it is, when I'm home, and not working, I want an offline experience - not more hours stuck to a screen.

5. It keeps people from getting out and talking/meeting live
I love the Web as a networking and communication tool. But as a social playground, I think it often goes too far. I'd far prefer to meet friends in the real world, which provides for a much richer, more meaningful interaction and experience. Sure, it takes more time and isn't nearly as efficient. But that misses the point.

4. It's all fake
I worry that too many of our social interactions with each other are now virtual, with very little tangible evidence or momentos. Call me old-school, but my wife and I greatly enjoy the printed photos we have of family gatherings, friends getting together, etc. Not only are they physical reminders of those good times, they're reminders of times we got together offline to enjoy each other's company.

3. It's not very meaningful
There's a quality vs. quantity exchange going on in Facebook that, in my opinion, is taking us in the wrong direction. While it's great that I can "play" with dozens of my friends at once, the quality of those interactions is greatly diminished online. The multi-faceted, rich nature of in-person interactions is completely lost. The memories and impact of those online interactions is incredibly shallow, compared to the richness of being together.

2. It's not at all inclusive
Some of my best friends are not (gasp!) obsessed with the Internet. One of my good friends doesn't even check email very often (can you imagine?!). If I'm relying on Facebook to drive my friendships and social interactions, what happens to these offline friends? Are they left out? Do they not count? Do they diminish in value or importance to me?

1. It will be over soon
I remember when we all had pages on GeoCities. Then we moved on to our blogs. Then MySpace, now Twitter and Facebook. We will move onto something else. And what will we have to show for it?

 

A model of customer service and operational effectiveness

I hold the team at 1-800-Got-Junk in very high esteem, and their fantastic write-up in today's Wall Street Journal is a further validation of their success.

Said Jane Hodges, the "Cranky Consumer" columnist for the Journal, 1-800-Got-Junk's performance when she tested them:

"Online booking was easy; calling customer service to tweak the pick-up time was also straighforward. The job was speedy."

This is a company on the rise, with a laser-focus on customer service and an incredible operational system internally. They're devotees of Verne Harnish's Rockefeller Habits, which helps them focus the entire company on what's most important to fuel growth.

Learn more about their operational best practices here.

Congratulations guys, keep up the great work.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

 

The Lazy Guide to Productivity

Hard-working doesn't always translate to productive & successful. Sometimes, laziness is the best path to progress and achievement.

Sound contradictory? For years, productivity and executive impact experts have encouraged us to focus on what's important, not just what's urgent. No less than Peter Drucker, in The Effective Executive, was among the first to note that much of our time as knowledge workers will naturally be pulled into a variety of urgent but not necessarily important time sucks, and that only careful consideration of what's most important in our work - then focusing intently on getting those few things done - is the best path to productivity and success.

So, as Leo points out this week, focusing on just three things each day (rather than the pages and pages of to-do's that most of us carry around) can have an effect both on our productivity and our peace of mind.

Call it lazy if you want, but knowing the night before exactly what needs to get done the next day (just 2-3 important things), then focusing early in the day on getting those things done can have an incredible impact. Give it a try for a week and see what happens.

More on being productive and lazy at the same time from Leo here.


Photo Credit: The Lazy Environmentalist

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

 

Value Exchange (What are you selling?)

Today Howard took on the idea, as well as the pros and cons, of free syndicated content. If a publisher offers to promote your white paper for free online, for example, there must be a catch.

That publisher may want to sell you the leads generated from that white paper later, or you may be sacrificing value and ROI from your other lead generation efforts (lower response rates and higher costs from search ads, for example) when prospects find out they can get your information elsewhere without having to register.

But depending on your objectives, that might be OK. Especially with a non-customer and prospect audience, it all comes down to value - what value are you providing, what do they have to give up (if anything) to get it, and what value do you get in exchange for getting that information or service out there.

The first part of that value equation is the simplest. If you don't produce something that others want, you've missed the entire point. Whether you sell it, give it in exchange for a registration, or simply give it away - people have to want it.

Whether or not your audience is willing to give something up (their personal information, an email address, or even money) depends on how much value you've created, and how badly they want it. Some of this is surely in how well you market your offer, but most of the value is baked into the offer itself.

Whether or not you choose to require something from your audience in exchange for that value is entirely up to your end-game. Are you publishing a white paper in order to develop thought leadership, extend awareness of your business, or build credibility for a new product? If that's the case, then you want the white paper in as many hands as possible. Registration, therefore, is probably a bad strategy.

There's no uniform answer to this value exchange. But it is important to fully understand what you want out of the exchange, and whether what you're offering can support that objective. It may not be cut and dry, but lacking clear objectives and success metrics up front will only create greater ambiguity and confusion down the road.

Hat-tip to Howard for the inspiration.

Monday, January 28, 2008

 

What do you do on a snow day?

Today in Seattle, a thin blanket of snow and ice covered many of the streets. Local schools were closed, and driving to work was somewhat hazardous.

A year ago, similar conditions swept Seattle, and I wrote about the two-sided opportunity snow days represent for many of us.

The analogy is in obstacles to success we face every day. Sometimes it's a patch of ice between us and the office. Other times it's a new competitor. Or slow market conditions. Or bad press.

How do you react? Are these obstacles used as an excuse, or leveraged as an opportunity?

Read more here.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

 

How a recession could stifle innovation

Innovation is inherently based on taking risks. It typically requires stepping out from what's known, what's comfortable, and instead trying something that very likely could (or will) fail.

The most innovative companies in the world - 3M and Google among others - fail a LOT. They foster an environment with a fundamental understanding that failure is a part of the creative and innovation process.

How could a recession stifle innovation? By creating fear.

Fear that diverting from what's known and comfortable will accentuate the possibility of sinking profits and lost market share. Fear that failure in one's job could lead to layoffs.

Fear can cause people to simply stick to what they know, what's comfortable, what they already understand will generate success - vs. trying something completely different that could result in a breakthrough for themselves, their companies and their customers.

The mere threat of a prolonged economic downturn could cause companies to hunker down, brands to stick to what has always worked in the past (even if it doesn't work anymore), and individuals to stifle their own creativity for fear of sticking out, demonstrating less initial progress, and therefore putting their jobs at risk.

I hope I'm overthinking this, but I've seen it before. Even in the midst of robust economic conditions, companies and brands in vertical industries find themselves in chasms between growth periods, and those chasms too often foster fear, uncertainty and stagnation.

In these conditions, it can be difficult to turn fear into courage. But in our businesses and as individuals within them, that's what we need to do.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

 

Craftsman tools at Wal-Mart?

I was fascinated to read a couple days ago about the possible split between Sears and their Craftsman tool brand. According to the story, Sears may reorganize into several separate companies, which could include splitting out the Craftsman and Die-Hard brands.

For decades, Craftsman has been synonymous with Sears as a well-regarded line of tools. It's been a steady traffic-driver to a store that has lost significant market share in other departments to "new" brands such as Wal-Mart, Target and others.

I'm very curious to see how this separation will manifest itself for Sears and for the individual brands, and what it will mean to both collective and individual sales. For example:

- Will we see Craftsman tools at Wal-Mart? Will that help sales volume and/or hurt the brand image?
- Will Sears sell other brands? If so, how does that differentiate Sears from Home Depot? Will they compete on price?

Lots of possible angles here.

What do you think - is a separation between Sears and Craftsman a good thing? How will it impact each brand?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

 

The problem with slides

Yesterday afternoon, I gave a presentation with minimal slides. In fact, I used just one slide. I might as well have used too many.

Let me qualify.

I'm a fan of eliminating copy-heavy slides from presentations. Too many words, and they're reading - not listening. You might as well hand out a transcript and give them their 20 minutes back.

I've even started wondering just how important PowerPoint is to a presentation in the first place. Why not have great content, delivered in a dynamic way, without any slides, to get the point across? Isn't that what happened before PowerPoint? Didn't people simply orate in a fantastic, memorable way?

That can work. But so can good slides. Not word-filled slides, but example-filled slides.

I gave several examples of work in progress in my presentation yesterday. I talked about them, anyway.

I should have showed samples of this work in the presentation. Not words describing it on the slide, but screen grabs and snapshots of the work itself. Something to bring my words to life, make it pop for the audio and visual learners in the room.

I discussed several anecdotes and metaphorical case study examples from across the Web to prove several points. I used my words to paint a picture, when dynamic visuals of what I was describing could have been more compelling, more attention-grabbing.

I think the presentation went well, but it didn't go great. I went too far in my attempt to avoid the PowerPoint pitfalls that are all to common in corporate presentations these days.

What I learned, ironically, is essentially the same lesson - just from the other end.

Slides with too many words are a distraction. They don't help you tell a story. Presentations with no visuals can sometimes work, but visuals that augment the story, and really bring it to life, can make a good presentation great.

I'm addressing this same group again on tomorrow, and am making significant changes to my visual presentation. We'll see how it goes.

Monday, January 21, 2008

 

Congratulations Leo

I've been a big fan of the ZenHabits blog for some time. Recently, its author fulfilled a long-held dream by quitting his day job and embarking on a career as a full-time writer.

Flip through his well-written blog and you'll see why this was a very good idea. Leo offers a refreshing voice that combines productivity and work-life balance best practices together in a highly-accessible, practical format.

I also highly-recommend his new eBook, Zen to Done. Well worth the token investment.

 

Capturing ideas when wet

I've gotten in the habit of having pen and paper with me nearly everywhere I go, to better capture the ideas that aren't always thoughtful enough to show up when I can do something about them. When I'm mobile and writing something down isn't easy (or safe), I use Jott.com.

Neither are very helpful when exercising. Last weekend, I had a number of good ideas during a great morning run. Unfortunately, I had no way of recording them, so most were lost.

Yesterday, on the same run, I took a small digital voice recorder with me. Merely pressed a button when I had something to say or remember.

I came home with 14 short recordings, some incredibly tactical and some more long-term valuable.

I'd recommend this approach at the gym as well, especially if it's noisy enough that people won't think you're talking to yourself like a crazy person. On the contrary, they just might admire the fact that you're capturing all of the ideas that they routinely lose right back into the Stairmaster.

Still haven't figured out the shower. I think my wife would draw the line at the waterproof whiteboard...

 

Always On

When Steve Jobs gets on stage to introduce the latest innovations from Apple, the presentation you see is very well rehearsed. Jobs and his team fully understand just how critical Jobs himself is to the Apple brand, and they correctly take that very seriously.

Apple's understanding of that brand, and the means by which they grow and cultivate its cult status, makes last week's run-in with a "casual fan" on the Macworld floor all the more perplexing. Jobs, of all people, should know that his brand isn't allowed to take a public break.

If this encounter had truly been with a random fan, the damage likely could have been contained. Unfortunately, Jobs blew off a very prominent blogger, steps away from one of the tech world's most popular bloggers who happened to have a video camera at the ready.

The result? A story well out of proportion with the news itself, but incredibly damaging to Jobs and Apple nonetheless.

Jobs has a reputation for occasional cantankerousness, which is too bad. Small moments can irreparably damage a carefully-crafted, well-considered brand. It's a good reminder for all of us - for ourselves, our employees and our own brands.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

 

Giving Twitter a try...

I'm clearly going to be quite late to the Twitter game, but here goes. Click here if you want to follow me.

My initial fear and apprehension about Twitter was purely time-based. I can see Twitter sucking up a LOT of time, without the level of ROI I would hope for.

That said, I've seen Twitter evolve into a more interesting means of active and relevant social networking, beyond the high-frequency-posting early adopters and into a group of business network associates that simply want to stay in touch, share information, and occasionally ask each other questions.

We'll see.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

 

Outsource your reading

Want to read more, but just don't have the time? Let someone else read for you!

It's not crazy. There are a number of tools, most online and many for free, where basically someone else does the "heavy lifting" of reading everything, summarizing what's most important and prescient for you.

In just a few minutes, you can read five daily newspapers.

In just four pages, you can read and entire business book.

In a single screen, you can consume a week's worth of a dozen blogs.

Don't believe me?

- Today's Papers: This feature of Slate has been around for years, but is still among my favorites. Every morning, seven days a week, a Slate staffer reads the five top daily newspapers (Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today, Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times) and then summarizes what those papers consider news for the day. The column is chock full of links to allow you to read full articles if you want. But this feature alone is the single more valuable tool I've found to keep myself abreast of national, political and world news - all in just a couple minutes each morning.

- The Wall Street Journal's Morning Brief email: Available for subscribers only, this morning email (every day except Sunday) gives a real-time, morning-of summary of what's become news since the print edition went to press the night before. Even more interesting is the bottom-half of the email, which summaries (and links to) news stories from a wide, wide variety of other publications. It's a great way to catch up on interesting news from corners of the publishing world I rarely get to personally, and it takes less than a minute to scan each day.

- ExecuBooks: For just over a dollar a week, this service offers an archive of hundreds of popular business books covering a wide range of topics, all summarized down to 3-4 pages. Most good business books are based on a handful of strong ideas, then fill pages of copy with examples, analysis, the author's further opinion, etc. There's on reason why you can't capture that one strong idea in a couple summarized pages, then move on. Each week, ExecuBooks (a feature of a service called aheadSpace) adds another new release to their library. Summaries are available in various formats for easy reading on the go, or print-outs via PDF for your commute.

- "Best of the Best" Summaries from Blogs: Many blogs feature regular "links" posts, which summaries their take on great related blogging from across the blogosphere. I regularly count on these bloggers to do the heavy-lifting and deep-reading for me, then just scan their summaries for stories I might want to read more about. Blogs in general are a great way to allow other people (with more time) to do your reading for you, but these "best of" posts are like a lightning-round. Some blogs with particularly good summaries are MicroPersuasion (for media/marketing/PR news), LifeHacker (for productivity best practices) and WiseBread (for great personal finance advice).

What have I missed? What services and tools do you count on to summarize news and important information for you? Please share your ideas and suggestions in the comments!

Friday, January 18, 2008

 

Marketing as theater

About four years ago, a vacant lot in northeast Bellevue, Washington was turned into a new Whole Foods. This, for better or worse, was a stone's throw away from the building in which I was working at the time.

Very quickly, Whole Foods became a lunch destination almost every day. Never mind that we quickly dubbed it "whole paycheck" for it's crazy prices (sandwich and soup for $14 wasn't unusual). We went anyway.

Jackie wrote yesterday about her week-long experience at Whole Foods, and described how much of the experience is more than just shopping for groceries.

It's theater. It's fun. It's Disneyland for foodies.

Gotta tell ya, I don't go to Safeway just to "look around." But I've done that at Whole Foods.

Their sense of theater isn't just in what's actively happening around you, either. Stand at the end of their meat department and you'll know what I mean. The miles of meat, game, fish and other protein-rich delights - it's just mesmerizing to look at. Throughout the store, their sense of theater is as much in the merchandising and presentation as anything else.

For each of our businesses and brands, there's functional and theatrical potential alike. Most of us live in the functional world - our product does this, it gives you X benefit, etc.

But how do you bring that same product to life? How do you make your customers and prospects want to be closer to it - to touch it, feel it, experience it?

Whole Foods is, essentially, selling the same products and services as Safeway and a variety of other "functional" supermarkets. Yet the experience is 180-degrees different.

Why can't the same happen for you?

 

You've got to start somewhere

For the past couple years, Advertising Age has ranked the top 150 marketing blogs from across the world. What I didn't know until this morning is that they actually rank 539 marketing blogs each year, based on a range of criteria related to the blog's estimated readership, inbound-outbound links, etc.

So, apparently, at least according to Advertising Age, this blog is currently ranked #441 in the world.

Think we can crack the top 400? Maybe I should worry about the top 440 first. Here's the immediate competition (currently ranked #440).

Not sure any of this means anything, but thank you for reading regardless. I never could have made it to 441st place without you.

In all seriousness, check out the very top of the Power 150 here. Some truly fantastic insights, served up free and daily.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

 

How to Green Your Media Plan

The folks over at Sustainable Life Media have been gracious enough to let me write about green marketing best practices from time to time. This month's column focuses on several ways to make your media campaigns more environmentally-friendly, from start to finish.

Special thanks to Mark Jones and Hydrogen Advertising for their help with this.

Next month I'll tackle the idea of green product labels, and how the opportunity to align your products with a demanding "green" consumer is a double-edged sword.

 

"Good Green" with William Brent

The perils of misleading consumers into thinking your product or service is green (when it's not) are well-documented. It seems the rise in popularity of green products and environmentally-friendly marketing has been paralleled with growing consumer skepticism, and a distrust of green claims by mainstream and emerging companies alike.

Navigating that minefield is no easy task, but William Brent appears up for the challenge. Brent is senior vice president of Weber Shandwick's CleanTech practice, based in Seattle, where he manages a portfolio of clients focused on lessening the impact we have on the world around us.

I asked William to talk about green marketing, what it really means, and what lessons we've learned so far about how to do it well.

How would you define “green marketing?”
It depends how you mean it. The most literal interpretation would be as greening the processes of your company’s marketing activities, such as making your direct mail more green (i.e. using recycled paper products, or reducing the size of marketing collateral to use less resources). Or doing a calculation on how much electricity your online ads use and offsetting them.

The other, probably more generally understood way to look at it would be - to put a green spin on your products when marketing them. But that’s a recipe for disaster if your products aren’t actually green. The worst thing a marketer can do is push a product as green when its not.

Ultimately, just as with any marketing, your position has to be defensible and your business and products have to deliver on whatever you’re promising. It’s not reinventing the wheel and many of the general rules of marketing apply.


How do green marketing strategies differ from traditional marketing? What's its value, and how do you measure it?
I would argue that the strategies don’t differ considerably. Because its an area that tends to bring out strong emotional responses, and therefore increased scrutiny, the only area of strategy that’s different, if you can call it that, is the need to be even more sure that you have thought through the entire supply chain/life cycle of the product and your business.

So in that sense, your marketing has to be reflected in your overall business operational processes, which makes green marketing different because it has to be fundamentally aligned to business practices.


How would you describe consumer interest in sustainability right now? Have consumers, in general, moved from awareness to action? If not, what will drive that?
There is a palette of green in the consumer world. You have the “dark green” consumer, all the way to the “light green” consumer, and every shade in between.

You also have the “green curious”, who are still not quite green but interested in learning. Awareness is growing across the spectrum, but there has been a lack of good information about how consumers can easily do something meaningful and not disrupt their lives too much.

Gratefully there are a lot of things that consumers can do today that have a big impact but don’t cause huge behavioral changes (the kiss of death). In part I think there is a generational gap and geographical gap when talking about drivers. I see a lot of bottom up change when it comes to generations. Kids influencing their parents, and parents in turn influencing their parents.

Then there’s the usual dynamic of the two coasts leading, and then acting as a vice grip that squeezes the central part of the country. Ultimately, the recipe for success to create consumer action is providing monetary value (cost savings) without an increase in cost and without requiring a too fundamental change in behavior.


Can brands execute green marketing without making sustainable changes to their products and business practices, and get away with it?
Nope. Certainly, not beyond the short-term.

It wouldn’t look very good if a forestry company was reducing its internal paper use, or putting solar panels on the roof of its headquarters while still clear-cutting old growth forest. As someone worked or lived in China for 15 years, I still love to bring out the occasional idiom. As the Chinese say, a butcher does not want to be caught “Hanging a lamb’s head but selling dog meat”.


A new client comes to you and wants to “green” their marketing. What do you recommend?
First, if you haven’t done an audit on your corporate marketing practices and identified ways to make them more green, I would recommend doing that.

Second, if you want to market brand, product, service or whatever as green, make sure they live up to the hype. If they don’t meet an acceptable level on the green meter, and you’re serious, you will have to retool, in which case you are not talking about marketing, but operation and then it’s the CEO/COO, not the CMO. Having a reputable third party to assist in this transition is critical for success, both internally and externally.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

 

Xobni is an email killer app

I've been a Xobni beta user for just a week, but the new service has already saved me a considerable amount of time, and accelerated my productivity.

In a nutshell, it's a social networking tool and search engine specifically for your email. Based on seven days of use, the best feature by far is its ability to extract every attachment from individual email contacts into a simple sidebar.

Ever search aimlessly through archives and folders in Outlook, looking for a particular document draft, report or other attachment? With Xobni, those searches no longer exist.

I waited a couple months to be invited as a beta user, but you can sign up to join Xobni as well here.

 

Big goals and little goals

I've set a goal of drinking eight glasses of water a day. Most days I don't quite get there, but instead end up somewhere between 4-6 glasses. But that's a lot more than I averaged last year.

I've also set a goal of reading through the entire Wall Street Journal every day. Most days I don't quite get there, or just skip over certain sections, or some days don't have time to read it at all. But by setting the goal, I'm reading the Journal far more frequently and deeply than I have in the past.

My point is this. Big, audacious goals don't really mean much unless you can break them down into meaningful, actionable, accessible, "little" goals.

This year, I have set goals of reaching and maintaining an ideal body weight, and running a marathon. There are several micro-habits I've chosen to help me achieve each, and drinking more water is one of them.

I also have specific but very aggressive professional goals for this year. Encouraging myself to do the little things, like more consistent reading of key publications, will help me get there.

What's your audacious goal this year, and what are the "little things" you're committed to to get there?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

 

Unleashing your fast-growth company

If you asked me to boil down two keys to a successful company, it would be discipline and communication. Each of these functions have multiple applications, but the successful leverage of each is critical to creating and maintaining momentum and growth in any business.

Few people understand this better than Verne Harnish, author of Mastering the Rockefeller Habits and coach to some of the nation's fastest-growth companies. His book, seminars and coaching tools help companies narrow in on the few, critically important things that will fuel exponential growth, empowering those companies with a set of operational tools to achieve success.

If you're new to the Rockefeller Habits, start with my interview with Verne below. If you're thirsty for more, check out his Web site and read the book. Well worth the investment.



You have a 20-second elevator ride to describe The Rockefeller Habits. What are they?
A set of ageless disciplines for keeping everyone aligned, informed, and focused in growing a business. The results of using the habits are dramatic increases in revenue, profit, valuation, while decreasing the time it takes to manage the business so a leader can do more market facing activities.

What do successful, fast-growth companies have in common?
The right people in all functional areas; a focused and differentiated strategy, with a way to block competitors; a disciplined and mistake-free execution process; and they don’t run out of cash!!

Why do many fast-growth companies stall in the middle of the hockey stick?
The business, industry, and/or market outgrows the executives running the business – they simply fail to “keep up” via learning and coaching – the best, including the likes of Goldman Sachs executives, receive extensive education and coaching.

How much of success is about execution, vs. strategy & opportunity? Will the right strategy direct itself, or do executives need to focus on tactics as well?
The right strategy can make up for average people and sloppy execution – and if that strategy also has a “catalytic mechanism” as Jim Collins describes in his Harvard Business Review article, then, yes, the strategy will direct itself in a way


You talk a lot about communication and meeting rhythm. Why is that so important?
If you want to move faster, you have to pulse faster. An effective daily meeting rhythm facilitates quicker learning and response. And as human beings, we need talk time to more fully engage our grey matter.

Who else has inspired you as a management guru?
Just look at the extensive faculty we’ve hosted for our Summits – its why we host them – it takes a village of gurus to educate executives of growth firms – Jim Collins, Seth Godin, Geoffrey Moore, Fred Reichheld, Robert Cialdini, Pat Lencioni, Neil Rackham, Jack Stack, Bob Bloom, Jim Gilmore, etc.

In addition to your book, what should fast-growth company executives be reading?
I have a top list of books, listed by function, on our My Gazelles section of our website – www.gazelles.com – and there are a half dozen key articles listed as well.

Monday, January 14, 2008

 

Face Time

Never underestimate the power of face-to-face meetings.

Firing off an email is fast, easy, free and painless. Picking up the phone takes a bit more work, and gumption depending on the circumstances, but implies a level of commitment and closeness that is oftentimes worth it.

Videoconferencing will be far more prevalent in the coming years, and for good reason. It's increasingly effective as the technology improves, cuts down on costly travel, and is a far richer communication experience than a conference call.

Thanks for advances in technology, meeting face-to-face to do business isn't nearly as necessary as it once was.

But that doesn't mean face-to-face meetings have lost an ounce of power. Whether you're in sales, business development, marketing or any job function, taking the time and effort to have a conversation in-person can be a powerful relationship builder, deal accelerator, and driver of more efficient, successful, profitable business for years to come.

Yes, it takes more time. Yes, it can be inconvenient. Yes, it takes much more effort - especially when easier channels are available that, technically, accomplish the same task.

Short-term, they may get you what you're after. Long-term, it's night and day different.

Friday, January 11, 2008

 

The everyday offsite

There's a reason why offsites work.

On a normal day, we sit in our offices, cubicles or other work environment with the same walls, photos and surroundings to inspire us. That same workplace typically offers us very similar stimuli on a regular basis - the same sights, sounds, distractions, etc.

The opportunity for inspiration is minimized.

But put yourself in a new surrounding, with new experiences, sights and sounds, and you end up subtly engaging different parts of your brain. Things you experience spark different parts of your subconscious, reminding you of a wide new variety of experiences and insights from your past that may inspire you today.

Ever notice how many ideas you get while traveling? Visiting a new city? Attending a conference or seminar? It's not just the content, and it's not even just the surroundings. It's also the opportunity to stop thinking about work in the way you normally do, a change of pace that can often generate some of our most productive, creative, new thinking.

Those same opportunities exist close to home as well. One of the best things I've done recently is take up woodworking. Given that I spend most days in an office close to a computer, building a chest of drawers in the evening and weekends is a dynamic change of environment, not to mention engagement of a very different part of my brain.

When I'm in my wood shop, I have a pad of paper closeby. I might be in the middle of measuring out a cut when inspiration for my job strikes. Not because I was thinking about work, but precisely because I wasn't thinking about work.

Creativity and inspiration oftentimes requires space. Give yourself that space on a more regular basis, close to home, and you'll be surprised and quite happy with the professional productivity and inspiration that results.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

 

Treat your resolutions like a boss

Most of our New Year's Resolutions fade away by mid to late January. We don't stay focused, and ultimately give up and/or go back to our bad habits. By February 1st, we can't even remember where we left the list.

But what if you thought of your New Year's Resolutions like a boss? What if you had a weekly 1:1 meeting with your Resolutions to keep you accountable?

If you want your resolutions this year to stick, make an appointment with yourself every week and do a progress report. All you need is 10-15 minutes, maybe less, but put it on the calendar. Do it on a Sunday night or Monday morning, so that you have the entire week in front of you to get rolling and/or recommitted.

This way, those resolutions you cared so much about on January 1st will stare you in the face again, week after week, until you address and accomplish them. Even if you temporarily fall off the wagon, these weekly touch-base meetings with yourself are an excellent opportunity to readdress, recalibrate and stay on track.

It's a simple, fast, effective way to stay focused.

Monday, January 07, 2008

 

An MBA for the price of a library card

Are you succeeding in business without an MBA? Moving up the management ladder without a formal business education?

If so, join the club (it's a BIG club). Despite the myriad advantages of investing the time and money in a formal, post-graduate business management education, for the rest of us there are far more resources available - many for free - to help you blend your current, real-world education with a more academic approach.

I, for example, graduated from the University of Washington with a political science and journalism degree. No business classes, no MBA. Everything I've learned about business, marketing and management has been either on the job, or through active networking and voracious, constant reading.

In addition to the wide variety of fantastic blogs out there, I've recently discovered and highly recommend the Personal MBA program.

At it's core, the program is a list of 69 well-organized, tested and recommended books on a thoughtful variety of business topics. Many books you'll have heard of, and most are available for free at your local library.

I discovered this program late last year, and of the 69 books I've already read about six of them. So I've created my own four-year MBA program. I've got 63 books to go, and will tackle approximately 15 every year. If I read faster than that, great. But with a day job and family life also competing for my time (not to mention mixing in a few novels here and there), one book approximately every three weeks sounds about right.

If nothing else, read the Personal MBA Manifesto and take a look through the program and reading list, and discover some books you need to make a priority in your self-education this year. The site makes it quite easy to buy a copy of every book from Amazon with a single click, but your tax dollars already paid for copies of these books at the library. Might as well start there first.

Jan 8 Update: Fortuitously timed post on LifeHack.org today with several examples of how to consume more books this year.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

 

Going green to make green

I wrote this morning in iMediaConnection about ways companies big and small can "green" their brands. The core idea behind the column was that all of us - no matter the product, service industry or audience - can do things throughout our companies to lessen our impact on the world we live in.

What's interesting to me is the debate this story has generated about global warming - specifically whether or not it's happen, and whether or not we caused it (and therefore should do things to reverse that impact).

To me, the idea of greening our companies and brands is indifferent to that conversation. Whether or not you believe in global warming and our role in causing it doesn't actually matter.

The idea of greening your business and brand simply makes business sense. Short-term, there's no reason why companies can't leverage consumer interest in sustainability to focus on authentic, meaningful business practices that align with those consumer interests. As long as the initiatives created and promoted are pure and authentic, then it represents no more than a company or brand aligning its product and marketing strategy with what their customers also care about.

Long-term, however, the current froth about "being green" will subside. What will likely remain is an organic (no pun intended) interest in lessening our footprint and impact on the world around us, and in doing so save ourselves (and our businesses) money by changing our business practices.

Green business practices that end up costing a company money won't be around very long. Practices that reduce a company's footprint and either make it more money, or save it money on the bottom line, will themselves be sustainable.

Read more here (and, as always, thank you to iMedia for the opportunity).

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