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Take yourself seriously first

Private moment. In public.
Creative Commons License photo credit: skedonk

Today’s guest post from AJ Leon is about getting serious about your ideas and goals.

Dan Kennedy talks about “massive action” more times than you can imagine. That’s all about getting serious.

Do you take yourself seriously? If not, how can you expect anyone else to?

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Bill and Leo’s Spiral of Habits

It started with Bill Gates and MS-DOS.

It ends with Leo from ZenHabits.com.

Quite the odd couple, you’d think.

Until you read what they have in common.

Maybe then it will continue with you.

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Execution, Ideas and why “I need a programmer”

Design Is
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Every programmer, much less anyone who does something that startups need, has had these discussions.

However, that isn’t why it’s today’s guest post.

The thought process from idea to creation. The value of execution.

That’s why it’s a worthwhile read.

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A gut or a 6-pack?

against the day
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Jim Rohn’s story about the Girl Scout who came to his door is hard to fathom on one hand (after getting to know him), and heartwrenching on the other, but I’m sure that if I could ask Jim right now, he’d be glad she came to the door.

I had a similar moment recently. I took a “Me Day”, something I almost never do – and should do more often. I slept a little later than normal, had a couple coffees, showered, went to breakfast and started writing in my favorite Kalispell coffee joint.

About 1pm, it felt like time to eat, and with no scheduled appointments, I decided to go to Five Guys.

I’ve been there only once before and shared a meal (supposedly intended for one) with my wife.

Today I didn’t even begin to finish it and sat there reading for a while. They have bottomless drinks, so I can sit there and swill Diet Coke all day, or for as long as I can stand the atmosphere – which is ok for a place like that but not much for getting the creative juices flowing.

“Well, duh” says the crowd

I looked up from my book and glanced around the room.

There wasn’t a skinny person in the building. Some folks were bigger than others, but every single person there was “large and in charge”.

But it hit me right then that environment was a big factor. Bigger than I ever considered. We choose our environments and from what I could see, this place was a choice that skinny people weren’t making. Duh, you’re saying.

Closed my book, got up, refilled my Diet Coke and left. Never again.

Crunches for your biz

Business habits are the same way. What change can you make today (not tomorrow, not a month from now) to start to turn your business around?

What habits and environments keep your business from being fit and in shape?

Good habits include reading, education, seeking out training, following up, taking in the right kind of speakers (either in person or via podcasts etc), constantly working to improve and being incessant about a focus on the customer.

Does your business have a gut or a 6 pack?

What change in environment and habits could start to turn that around?

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Taken For Granted

This photo wasn’t taken in Chernobyl or in some abandoned ghost town.

It’s in downtown Detroit, a few blocks from shining skyscrapers.

Every mayor and business owner in the US should look at photos like the one above and imagine what this place once was.

The meltdown of the US economy has many looks.

Is industry/business/culture in your area taken for granted? Have you thought about the risks your business, your local economy faces?

Here at home

In my area, the collapse of real estate cascaded into the construction trades and to those who supply the tradesmen with raw materials like lumber.

Those troubles spread to truckers, accountants and others. The interconnections were no longer subtle as the economic virus spread.

Regardless of cause, one market’s problem cascaded through numerous business sectors.

It’s easy to look back now and ask why construction and real estate folks didn’t work toward additional revenue streams in businesses that were a bit more state of the economy proof.

It’s also easy to ask the truckers, accountants and others from all walks of life if their customers were too concentrated in one line of work, leaving them too open to a single market’s collapse.

The Hard Question

The question you should be asking yourself is “What did you learn from that and what are you doing to prevent a reoccurrence?”

We talked last week about some inexpensive little things that can damage a reputation and cause the loss of a customer.

In comments I got from that story, folks asked if I spoke to the owner or the manager. My visit was not irrelevant to me, but what I did that night is irrelevant in the big picture because it ignores the way most people deal with bad customer experiences.

Unless the problem is dangerous, blatant or just over the top terrible, most people will pay their bill without saying a word.

They’ll just leave.

Starting a conflict with a business’ manager while their family is there isn’t on their agenda. It’s easier to just leave.

And never return.

Whether they come back or not, they’ll relay their experience to others. Studies have repeatedly shown that people will tell three to five others when they have a great experience and ten or more when they have a poor one.

Even if those numbers are off by a factor of two, how many customers can you afford to lose this week?

Guaranteed

There’s a small town in Pennsylvania that has been fighting for its life. It’s an old steel mill town called Braddock.

There’s no good reason for that town to be fighting for its life – except that it depended too much on a single business. The steel business.

There’s nothing wrong with the steel business or any other distressed industry until business owners, government officials and employees take the status quo for granted.

“No one” ever thought that the steel business would change.

Prior to Henry Ford, “no one” thought the car business would ever change. Robotics fixed that.

After robotics, surely the car business wouldn’t change AGAIN. But it did.

Programmers felt the same way, multiple times. The end of the (widespread) mainframe era, the dot com boom (and bust) years of the internet, the expansion of open source, the rise of India, and the iPhone. Change.

Then China and other countries started taking jobs from India, and so on.

Change is guaranteed.

What could change in your market and weaken – or destroy – your ability to retain your current market position?

And what are you doing to protect yourself if that happens?

Think back 10, 20 or 30 years…or even as recently as the boom times of 2006.

As GM goes

People once said “As GM goes, so goes the United States.”

Every business owner, every mayor, every county commissioner who takes the current situation for granted – no matter how good or bad – risks making a mistake that creates their own version of Detroit.

Look at these photos of Detroit. Beautiful, yet haunting.

Take nothing for granted.

Not a tax break. Not a government contract. Not a sweet 10 year deal. Not the supply of electricity, water, lumber, or programmers. Not a single customer.

And certainly not the next interaction you have with a customer.

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What’s on your plate?

Imagen de Hola Gourmets 2009
Creative Commons License photo credit: jlastras

As I spent the last month mulling over my strategic plan for this year, I started by looking at what I was doing operationally as if I was my own client.

In the software business, it’s called “eating our own dogfood“. In other words, a vendor using their own software for the task it was designed to perform.

But it isn’t limited to software.

From a day-to-day operations perspective, that process quickly tossed a few things in my face.

I thought I’d mention some of the higher level things in case they happen to spark a ToDo item for you.

Technology

I need to automate WordPress updates across several dozen sites (some mine, some not). It was semi-automated, after today, I have it down to one button, right down to opening the site WordPress admin page to make sure I know whether I need to hit the “Database upgrade” button in the WP admin interface. No, I don’t use the built-in update process because I’d have to manually go all over the place to make that happen. Old school.

The upside of systematically handling this critical task is that I can finally hand this task off to an intern because there’s a system in place to make the work happen. Can you say “E-Myth”? Yes, I thought you could.

Last year, I moved all my web and other development work (including marketing/strategic client documents and even blog posts) to source-controlled environments after a few fits and starts in the past. This year, the software projects will get further screw-tightening by adding automated build and test processes.

Accountability

I’ve had some trouble with getting consistent action out of some folks this past year. Dan says I shouldn’t care because I can’t control the actions of others, but it isn’t about control. It’s about encouragement. Worse yet, client results reflect on me and I don’t like seeing folks failing to take advantage of my best efforts. I think I’ve found a way to solve the problem. We’ll see.

As for me, I need to lean on the calendar even more than I have in the past, especially on projects important to me.

The result of pondering this is that…

  • I’ve already chosen my charitable time commitments for the year.
  • I’m actively seeking a new mentor. Yes, pretty much everyone who is getting anything done has a mentor. Even Dan Kennedy has a mentor. Think about that for a minute.
  • I have to be more demanding of my marketing clients in 2011. You may have figured out that I have a certain level of expectation of my clients after creating a strategy, tools and other materials for them. When they don’t get used (regardless of the reason), that hurts them and me (eventually). That level of accountability will rise markedly later this month as I complete a few tasks that will help me “enforce” it. Those who are willing to take their business seriously will be glad I’ve done this. The rest will probably end up working with someone else, if they do anything at all.
  • Because I had to more or less ignore the needs of several prospective clients in 2010, I will be narrowing the clients I personally serve in 2011 while expanding the number of clients that can get my personal help. Yes, I know that sounds like opposite directions. Stay tuned, it’ll make sense as I roll it out. Planet Dan folks – think “ladder”.

Focus

John Haydon mentioned the other day on Twitter that his boss was a jerk. Of course, John works for himself. The hardest person to manage is yourself.

Focus comes up because a few personal projects slid last year. This was mostly due to an abundance of customer work. While I’m grateful for the work, I’ll be more demanding of myself in the selection of projects this year because these other things MUST GET DONE.

That’s already being corrected, partly via the accountability change noted above, partly via the mentor thing, partly via kowtowing even more to the calendar and via a few other steps I’ve taken. Like Jim Rohn said, when you say yes to one thing, you’re saying no to something else.

My existing clients will get even more attention this year. If you aren’t a client now and you’ve been thinking about it, now would be a good time to make a decision.

Writing

My writing (in the blog) has suffered immensely the last two years. I think it’s gotten better, but the frequency has really fallen off due to my workload.

The upside of this is that it’s given me time to think more about what I write and how you guys consume it and take action on it. That has resulted in the BIP book taking a few turns strategically. Now that I’ve finally, really (no kidding) figured out what I want to do with it, well, it’s moving along much better now.

I’ve also waded most of the way through an editorial calendar for the blog for the year, something I’ve never taken the time to do before. I suspect that’s pretty obvious to long time (it’s been 6 years this week) readers.

Bottom Line

One of the things that stood out in my mildly-freaky conversation with myself was that I need to put even more effort into doing for me what I do best for others. Imagine that.

Oh yeah, by now you should be asking me why you should care. “Boy, doesn’t that seem all about you and not at all about your readers?”

Yes, except that most of what I talked about is…for my readers/clients. And I hope it has made you reflect on what your plans are.

Do your clients know where you’re going? Does your staff?

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Leaping into 2011

Ready to start kicking 2011’s butt right now?

Start here: Tim hits the nail on the head.

Your 2011 is up to you. Not the President. Not the Governor. Not your mom. Not your dad. Not your neighbor. Not “the economy”.

No matter how it goes, the credit or the blame go to…

You.

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Do you need a Groundhog Day?

Today’s guest post from Paul Hannam does a nice job of using the movie Groundhog Day to illustrate a point about personal change.

Changing from your worst day to your best day (his example), changing your business, even changing you.

It’s a good read.

Check it out it here.

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Innovation breeds profit? Who knew?

New corsair
Creative Commons License photo credit: psiaki

Profit is an evil word in many circles these days, but I used it anyway.

Are you the innovation leader in your market?

It seems to work for Apple.

Think back to your last real innovation. Yes, that one.

Remember that product or service that made customers and prospects flock to your office, store, website, trade show booth or reseller displays?

Once you got to that point, business sure did seem easy, didn’t it?

Think a little farther back. How’d you get there?

Follow the thought process that made you decide to reach out a bit more than normal.

Isn’t it worth being your market’s or even your industry’s thought leader again?

Sure makes those trips to the bank a lot more fun.

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What Jack said.

Recently, I’ve been having an ongoing discussion with a business owner who is finding cracks in their business.

A lot of what we’ve been talking about is foundational.

Not because the business owner isn’t smart, but because it makes no sense to talk about the complexities of a bottom of the ninth inning squeeze bunt if you’re struggling to get to first base.

A few of those foundational thoughts:

  • Every business owner is good at something. Likewise, every business owner is bad at something. Be sure to delegate the latter, focusing on your strengths.
  • from former General Electric CEO Jack Welch – “Pick a general direction and then implement like hell.”
  • Take a look at the fat part of the bell curve of your market. How is your business serving that market right now? Honestly.
  • From 2002-2007, a rapidly expanding economy allowed businesses to rest on their laurels or “Just show up”. In 2008, we paid dearly for our sloth (and a few other things). For many, 2009 was like a long night spent hugging the porcelain. 2010-2019 are in no mood for “just showing up”. So don’t just show up. What Jack said (above).
  • My dad told me forever (and repeatedly), “Be a good listener”, a lesson that took a long time for me to fully understand. Tom Peters talks about how doctors listen for an average of 18 seconds before interrupting the patient. Don’t be a doctor, at least in that respect, they can even get sued by The Medical Negligence Experts because of these actions. Listen.
  • Call 2 customers a day and ask them what you could do to make your business more valuable to them.
  • A last minute comment from today’s GapingVoid cartoon, where Hugh nails it with this: “If you want to be more successful, you have to take a leadership position on something that matters.”

Finally, none of this matters without execution. Get off your duff and make something happen. Like Jack said.