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What’s Your Fish?

Waiting for seperation
Creative Commons License photo credit: hapal

Unless you’ve been living under a fish, you’ve heard the saying “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime.

While it also might remind you of a childish South Park episode (and maybe that’s a little redundant) about fish sticks, think about how you do business – particularly if you are a consultant, coach or service provider.

Are you offering your clients more than just a plain old fish?

If you feed that client for a day with your services (fish), are they any better than they were yesterday?

Or is it just a case of their tummy being full for a little while?

5 years from now, do you give them the same fish? If so, have you really contributed to their growth as a client?

If that’s what you do services-wise, it sounds more like you’ve turned into a shipper of fish, rather than a helper of customers.

Seems to me that if all you sell is fish, it’d be awfully easy to replace you with someone who ships fish overnight or for a lower price.

On the other hand, if after 5 years your client requires a four course meal instead of an uncleaned, just caught fish – then maybe you’ve really accomplished something special.

Something with serious value that keeps clients coming back for more.

What’s your fish?

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Are you a natural?

Creative Commons License photo credit: hilectric

Today’s guest post is from and is about a question from @starbucker

What is so natural to you that it is like breathing?

What aspect of yourself, which behavior, skill, activity, talent, is so part of you that you could not imagine yourself without it?

Thatâ??s the key, itâ??s not just what you are good at, or what people expect of you – what do you do automatically, easily, and would do regardless?

Spend some time thinking about that and how it relates to your business. You may find a new product line, service or perhaps a whole ‘nother business inside yourself.

You might learn a few other things as well. Challenge yourself, don’t just go through the motions.

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The one thing that can transform your business?

Over the weekend, I asked the folks on Twitter “What are you doing some of the time that would transform your business if you did it all of the time?

A few of the responses…


Great question Mark. It would be more one on one conversations. SO effective and “social”. I love business with social people.

From @DagnysPromise:

“Face to Face PR. I don’t spend nearly enough time and the results are incredible.”

Others indicated they needed to think about it, but I suspect they know what it is for their business. 🙂

One of them, @AmericanCanvas, asked me:

You still have me thinking about what works in business that I should do daily, thanks for this nugget! What is it for you?

Everything and every task in its place

For me, it’s staying organized.

Staying organized keeps me focused, which produces more *and* better results, which naturally leads to transformational accomplishment.

So I’ll ask YOU…

What are you doing SOME of the time that would TRANSFORM YOUR BUSINESS if you did it ALL of the time?

I encourage you to make note of that transformational thing in the comments here. If nothing else, putting it in writing will force a form of accountability on you, even if you post anonymously.

Me? I have it printed in a very large face font and taped to the wall right behind my monitor as a constant reminder of what makes THE difference when it is top of mind.

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Small business invades the Ukraine

Despite the fact that you can obtain the same thing anywhere in the world, a client of mine does a fine job of selling their high-end, custom version of this product in many countries.

We were talking yesterday during a telephone coaching session about return policies for online sales.

One thing led to another, and it came up that an order problem occurred with a client in the Ukraine, forcing them to issue their first refund.

The product shipment was refused entry to the Ukraine.

While the refund still needs to be issued, I suggested that this episode, while not a big deal, should be blown up into something as big as they can manage.

  • Call the State Department to lodge a complaint.
  • Write your Senator and Representative.
  • Write your state’s international trade board requesting help.
  • Write your national industry’s representation demanding a resolution.
  • Go on YouTube to talk about the injustice of it all.
  • Issue a press release to the local media about the refusal to let your products enter the Ukraine. If they just happen to stick you on the TV news, or even the morning show, so be it.
  • Send a press release to PRWeb or a similar service and see if the national morning shows or NPR pick it up.
  • Send a package with that item in it to the Ukraine Embassy in Washington and ask them to forward it to the buyer’s address in the Ukraine. Include a few samples for the embassy staff, you know, just in case they want a bribe:)

One of their comments during this discussion was, half-seriously, “What if we cause an international incident?”

My reply was something along the lines of: “Yeah, wouldn’t that be great!” – And I was dead serious.

You just can’t beat the story line: “Small U.S. retailer stopped at the Ukraine border, invasion fails”

But that isn’t all.

  • Why not stick a map of the Ukraine on the wall of your store? Or a global map showing where the products do ship in the world, and make a big deal out of fencing off the Ukraine.
  • Follow the Ukraine in the Olympics and celebrate either their failures or successes, or both.
  • Create an Exiled product line to make a little fun of the situation.
  • A whole line of “Banned in the Ukraine” promotions, PR blitzes and product offers are possible.
  • Have a “Save the Ukraine Day” at the store, serve native foods, have native dress and so on.
  • Invite all local people with roots in the Ukraine to come by the store and let them experience what their countrymen cannot.

Or, just give the money back and forget the whole thing.

You couldn’t possibly use this event to have a little fun, much less for marketing and publicity purposes, could you?

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Fundamental excuses for Memphis and your business

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photo credit: *sean

Runner up Memphis Tigers lost last night’s NCAA men’s basketball championship game to Kansas, 75-68 in overtime.

Because of a single free throw.

All season long, Memphis head coach John Calipari has been making excuses about his team’s poor free throw shooting. All season long, Calipari appeared to discount, if not blow off, the importance of the fundamental flaw in the Tigers’ basketball weaponry, saying things like “We find other ways to win” and “We would always come through when the stakes were highest.”

But they didn’t.

Memphis’ performance in shooting free throws – what anyone would consider a fundamental basketball achievement of a good team, much less a championship team, ranked them 339th out of 341 NCAA teams by making only 59% of their free throws.

In that category they aren’t second in the nation. They are SECOND TO LAST in the nation.

And that’s why Kansas coach Bill Self had them foul the crud out of Memphis in the final two minutes – because he knew that their fundamental weakness was the ability to make free throws. Any coach in the same position would have done what Self did. Force the opponent to their weakest position.

After the loss in the championship final, Memphis’ star freshman guard Derrick Rose echoed his coach’s excuse, saying that if they had done other things prior to the end of the game, they would have won anyhow. Yet Rose’s team had done those things already – they had a 9 point lead with 2 minutes remaining.

Noting of course, that Rose’s missed free throw at the end of the game allowed Kansas’ Mario Chalmers to tie the game with 2 seconds left on a dramatic 3-pointer. Rose’s spectacular 2nd half performance is what had them up by 9 in the second half, but he clearly is drinking the coach’s Kool-Aid about the theory that free throw shooting isn’t important to them. He still doesn’t get it.

Free throws are one of those “other things” that champions do to win. Part of being in the top 2% of any group is doing the things that no one else does.


“It will probably hit me like a ton of bricks tomorrow, that we had it in our grasp,” Calipari said after the game.

What would hit your business like a ton of bricks?

What fundamentals do you discount? Where does your strongest competitor lack excellence in fundamentals? What fundamental skill can you pay more attention to and raise the performance of yourself and your company?

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Does practice pay off for a small business owner?

Yesterday, I was speaking with a music teacher about how she teaches high school kids to play faster pieces of music than they are used to playing.

It’s really a simple technique and it revolves around fundamentals.

They start playing the fast piece very slowly, a measure at a time, breaking it down note by note, then playing it repeatedly. As they perfect it at one tempo, they speed up. This process repeats until they nail it at the tempo that will be used during the performance. The more advanced the group is, the more quickly they learn the piece and accelerate the tempo.

Your business isn’t much different. Most small business people start out as technicians of some kind. They know tires, baking, sewing, programming or landscaping. They might have taken years as an employee to develop and perfect their skill or craft and become an expert.

At some point, they get the bug and go out on their own and became an entrepreneur.

But…they might not have been an expert at running a business, or marketing, or management, or finance. It’s difficult to be an expert at 4000 things, but that is sorely tempting to the entrepreneur.

Instead of practicing a short list of business fundamentals, creating the equivalent of the athlete’s muscle memory, you feel obligated to dabble in a little of everything, remaining an expert at nothing except for your technician skills.

Wouldn’t it make sense to practice a short list of fundamental skills and become competent at them rather than try and perfect 4000 different skills?

5 time martial arts (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, among others) world champion Lloyd Irvin comes to mind. He told me last April that he doesn’t bother learning a bunch of new trick moves “guaranteed” to defeat an opponent, but instead practices the fundamental moves of his art until they are instinctive. His reasoning is that when being attacked, or panicked, you will forget the trick moves and fall back to fundamentals. If you are the master of fundamentals as compared to your opponent, then you will likely come out the winner (and in his case, that’s exactly what happened).

So how do you apply that to your business? Practice fundamentals. Training yourself and your staff so the “muscle memory” in your mind is as good as the muscle memory that Tiger Woods develops by hitting 2000 drives a day.

If you run your business by the seat of your pants, and don’t practice and train to perfect the skills needed to perform at your best, who do you think will win when the Tiger Woods of your industry comes along?

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If Tiger Woods takes advice on golf…


Some have told me that I “seem to enjoy giving out advice”. Yeah, I think that might be the case:)

But…What you don’t see is that I spend a lot of time and money taking it as well, from people, books and other sources.

Even Tiger Woods takes advice. Do you?

In 2006, Tiger Woods proved he was the best in the world 8 times. Yet, he hired a coach because he knew he could be better.

Tiger’s path to greatness is partly about never thinking he was “good enough”. He is always trying to improve his game, his conditioning, his mental toughness.

If you’ve read this blog for very long, you’ve noticed that from time to time I include short reviews for books that Ive read. You may notice that I rarely have anything bad to say about the books there. That is mostly because the books I review are referred to me the majority of the time.

One such book is called “The Simple Truths of Service” and is primarily about a young man with what used to be called Down’s Syndrome. His name is “Johnny the bagger”.

Another book by the same company is called “212, the extra degree”, which talks about that extra little bit of effort (like that which Tiger is looking for). It discusses a concept of the slight edge, which Ive discussed here before.

The point is that the slight edge is often the ONE thing (there’s that number again) that separates the champion from the rest of the field, whether its in sports or business.

Finding and using that slight edge, and repeating that process is what makes all the difference in the world in your success. This is why Tiger hired a coach.

Let me give you some examples from the book “212 – The Extra Degree” by Sam Parker and Mac Anderson (which you can get at ) :

#1: In four major golf tournaments (U.S. Open, British Open, PGA Championship and The Masters), the margin of victory for the last 25 years in all four majors combined was less than 3 strokes.

That’s 18 holes played over a four-day period (72 holes total in 25 years), the slight edge that produced victory was only 3. The winners took home 76% more in prize dollars than 2nd place!

#2: In the 2004 Summer Olympic Games, the margins of victory were razor-thin in some events, and pretty close in others.

  • Men’s 200 meter freestyle (swimming) 1.42 seconds
  • Women’s 200 meter freestyle (swimming) 0.59 seconds
  • Men’s 800 meter (running) 0.71 seconds
  • Women’s 800 meter (running) 0.13 seconds
  • Men’s long jump 28 centimeters (a little more than a foot)
  • Women’s long jump 11 centimeters (less than 6 inches).

#3: In horse racing, the Triple Crown (winner of Kentucky Derby, Preakness and the Belmont Stakes in the same racing season) is held by 11 horses in history. The slight edge that produced victory in races between 1998 and 2002 over each of the Triple Crown races combined (15 races in all) was less than 2.5 lengths. Six races were won by less than one horse length!

Quite often, not much separates the champion from 2nd place, and the better you get, the closer the margin becomes between you and your competition. Every edge is critical. Its why swimmers shave all the body hair before big meets (or wear full body suits, or both).

This is why the most successful people (in sports or in business) have a mentor, participate in a mastermind group, and hire a trusted adviser and coach (and some have all 3). They know the value of the slight edge.

What’s a slight edge worth to you? Think about it, and then take action.