A lot of people wonder whether it's wiser to hire an agency (for the expertise) vs hiring full-time staff (for the commitment). I've been on both sides of this question. I've spent the last 15 years as an agency/freelancer, and I'll tell you, it's not all roses and kittens.Read More
I've never been more afraid as the moments before a fight starts.
But I have never been more calm and at peace as when I am locked in a ring with another dude and we're trying to do as much physical harm to each other as possible.Read More
The thing about Muay Thai, and all combat sports really, is that it's so purely human. There's nothing but glove and sweat between you and your opponent. There are no tricks, no weapons, it's skin against skin alone.Read More
People are always trying to make themselves feel important by telling me the "best" way to do what I'm trying to do.
My experience?Read More
Ever woke up in the morning and thought:
Hmmm...my nose hairs are out of control, I wonder if there's enough gas in the chainsaw for a trim?Read More
This is a video about BUSINESS, shot in an extremely UNBUSINESS setting. Sometimes the best way forward is actually to turn around and reset.Read More
Exclusivity is More Valuable than Inclusivity
Nobody wants to be left out of the "cool kids" club. When your prospects understand that you don't take everyone's business, there is an immediate, subconscious desire to overcome whatever obstacles you've prepared for them. If you started your next sales pitch with something like, "Before I tell you what we do, I want you to know that we don't work with everyone," you immediately transform your business into one of those clubs that have bouncers with clipboards and very, very long lines of people eager to get in. Why are those people eager to get in? It has nothing to do with the quality of what's inside. In fact, I'd venture to guess that there is very little real difference between a club with a bouncer and a club without one, except for the bouncer and the long lines.
This concept is not new by any means. It's just really hard to bring yourself to say those words at the very beginning of your sales pitch. You're thinking, "I'm trying to attract as much business as possible, not scare it away." That is the great irony – exclusivity attracts more business than it turns away, and the business that it attracts tends to be better clientele anyway. You want more, better business? Say "no" more often (or at least make people believe that you could say no).
Personality is More Valuable than Universal Charm
You won't make it big without ruffling a few feathers. You don't become king without making a few enemies. You and your message will not please everyone; in fact it will upset a few people. The key is to be ok with that.
Many business owners are so petrified of offending their prospects that it holds them back from being themselves in their marketing, messaging, and delivery. And yet those business owners that are truly successful are those that don't really care who they upset, because they have a vision and they are hell-bent on making it come to life. What would Apple be today if Steve Jobs cared so much about pleasing everyone that he was always trying not to offend anyone? It probably bankrupt, if we're being real. Steve Jobs knew what he was going to do, and he went for it. If people didn't like him, they could go buy a PC for all he cared. He had a vision, and he saw it through.
Don't let the irrational fear of losing future business keep you from being who you are.
Sometimes Scaling Down is More Valuable than Scaling up
37 Signals, the company that brought you such productivity platforms as Basecamp, Highrise, and Campfire, recently made some changes that seemed to go against all conventional wisdom. They scaled their products down. They have some of the best minds in programing and productivity, and instead of using that to add features to their product, they used it to take many of those features away. They scaled Basecamp back to its barest state, and have been slowly rebuilding it (emphasis on slowly). Most people (myself included) thought they were crazy to pull that much functionality out of their product. What happened, though, was pretty amazing.
Not only did the process of getting at the deepest core of the product make the product infinitely better, it allowed 37 Signals as a company to become a trusted authority on productivity in general. Just as Steve Jobs' obsession with design not only improved his product, but made him a benchmark of design, 37 Signals solidified themselves as a company that not only makes amazing productivity software, but one that deeply understands productivity itself.
Sometimes getting the product right is better than making the product bigger. And getting the product right almost always requires scaling it way down.
Confidence in Self is Infinitely More Valuable than Respect (read fear) of Prospect and Customer
Have you ever been to a trade show, talking to a prospective customer, and found yourself fearfully defending your prices, afraid that you might have to give a discount in order to win that business? If you provide an excellent product or service, you should never be apologizing to your prospects or customers about pricing, delivery, methods, any of that. You need to be confident in yourself, and by extension your business. Don't give discounts as a means to win business. Don't throw in pointless bonuses because you are afraid of your own prices. There is nothing wrong with discounting or value added bonuses, but you can't hide behind them as a justification for your pricing.
Part of this comes because you are afraid that you need your customers more than they need you. Therefore, you bend over backwards to satisfy them, and you end up getting taken advantage of. But neither you nor your prospects actually need for you to do that. As soon as your prospects realize that they need you more than you need them, they will flock to you. Your job should be to help them realize that, but you have to be confident in that fact first.
Steve Jobs knew that the world needed his genius way more than he needed any of us. And he was right.
Don't be afraid to say "no" to potential business.
If you have any kind of customer service arm to your business (which should be all of you) it can be very easy to let your ego get in the way of what your customer really needs. I've worked in the service business my whole career, and I've noticed a trend where the service provider pushes very hard to assimilate the customer into their culture and system. Most of the time I would actually support this practice, in fact would say that the large majority of the time, it is very important to assimilate your customers into your way of thinking and doing things. It makes selling them more stuff down the line that much easier. However, there are instances when we can let that principle take over and forget that ultimately, what matters is the customer's success. But how do you know if you should be pushing for assimilation or not? Here are some tips that should help:
If you find yourself struggling with how long it's taking for your customers to adopt your practices and thought-processes, that is a pretty good indication that you are trying to move them too fast. It can be very frustrating, because most customers tend to pick it up fairly quickly. That creates an expectation of quick assimilation, and so when someone is taking longer to get there, we almost want to push them harder to get there faster because we have trained ourselves to not have patience for outliers.
Explain More, Do Less
Sometimes your customers won't really understand why you are trying to get them to change the way they do things. It's hard for them to be on board with fast implementation of principles that they don't agree with. It helps to slow down and educate them a little bit on why your way is better, and why they need to make the switch. This can be aggravating as well, because again, most of your customers won't need all of that extra education, so the one customer that does need it can seem like a problem customer.
What Do They Need? vs. What Do They Need Now?
This is probably the hardest principle to understand as a services company. We've worked with hundreds or thousands of customers, so we know what our customers really need. For the sake of getting them to what they really need, we tend to de-emphasize the intermediate steps to get there and over-emphasize the end goal. We want to get them from A to Z so badly (and for good reason, too) that we tend to gloss over steps B-Y. Sometimes what your customer needs now is more important than what they need eventually. Sometimes, for the sake of the customer, you have to stop focusing on getting them to Z and start by getting them to B.
Check Your Ego at the Door
Your experience has taught you a lot about your industry and your particular niche. You could (and probably should) consider yourself an expert in your field. Don't let that expertise blind you to what your customers actually need. Just because fast-tracking a customer from A to Z was the best thing for 100 business doesn't mean that it is going to be the best thing for the 101st. You can't let your experience or your ego get in the way of what is best for the customer. At the end of the day, only the customer matters.
I want to start by saying I've worked with a LOT of business owners whose right-hand man (or woman) was their husband (or wife), and I can count on 2 fingers the number of times it's worked really well. Here are some tips to make it work better. A lot of these principles apply when working with other family members or even old friends.
Technicolor Type A
The first thing you need to realize is that you are probably both pretty strong-willed and want to be in charge. You both have a vested interest in the success of the business, and therefore are both going to push very hard for what you think is the right thing to do. You both want it to succeed, and you're both driven to make it happen. Just understanding this won't avert every possible problem that you might face, but it's like that saying: knowing is half the battle.
Probably the hardest thing for spouses to get over in a business setting is the natural and essential pecking order. In fact, some business owners that work with spouses avoid setting that chain of command on purpose. This is a devastating mistake! Here is the plain truth – if you're going to be successful in the marketplace, you have to have a clear leader and a clear follower, and you both have to be on the same page always! That doesn't mean you always have to agree, but one of you has to be in charge in the workplace and the other needs to respect that and get in line when necessary.
In business, personal feelings come second. It's important to treat your employees (including spouses) right, but that doesn't mean you don't bring up important stuff just because you might hurt your spouse's feelings. You need to be able to be perfectly blunt and honest with your spouse, and they need to be able to take it and process it effectively – otherwise it simply won't work. I can't tell you how many couple-business partners I've worked with that are constantly apologizing to each other for what they need to say. You wouldn't apologize like that to the college student that you hired as an intern; don't do it to your spouse either.
See Your Spouse as an Employee (or Boss)
That brings me to my last point – in the context of the business, you must be able to see your spouse as an employee (or boss), and treat them as such. If you can't do that, or if your spouse will resent you for it, one of you needs to go. And I beg you, for the sake of your marriage, don't let the business come between you. It is not worth it!
The Hardest Pill to Swallow
Humility. It's hard enough to be humble, but for some reason it's that much harder when you're in close proximity to your spouse at work. Whether you're in charge or an employee in the business, being humble with your spouse can seem nigh unto impossible. Here's the kicker – most of the time the reason why it's so hard to be humble with your spouse is your own insecurity. Ask yourself the hard question – are you insecure and afraid to be vulnerable to your spouse at work? Do you find yourself getting really defensive and argumentative in meetings, and sometimes at home? If so, you should not be working together.
I think it's possible to work with family members and make it work wonderfully. I've worked directly with family members most of my life, and aside from a few hiccups here and there it has worked out great. It's definitely not easy, but it is possible. It just takes more work J
Probably the most important principle in business is learning to set expectations. Between employees, non-employee resources, customers, prospects, and family members, a business owner has a lot of expectations to manage. It's crucial that all of those expectations get set and maintained correctly for any business to function. Everyone needs to know what is expected of them and what to expect from you, and that can be overwhelming. That is why most small business owners tend to avoid setting expectations and just pray that they don't end up with a customer or employee that eats up all of their time and resources because of poorly set expectations. Newsflash: you can't afford to not take this head on.
Here are a few tips to help you get started with this:
It all starts at home
Your family and your business will always be fighting for your attention. It's very important that each of them understand clearly not only when you will be there, but also when you won't be. Your family deserves your full attention when you're there, and your business deserves (and demands) your full attention when you're there. If you're going to give your full attention to both business and family, you have to have time designated just for work and time designated just for family, and work needs to know to leave you alone when you're with family, and family needs to know to leave you alone when you're at work.
Set boundaries for both family and work, and make sure everyone understands those boundaries very clearly.
Use your words
Contracts don't really help anything if the important details aren't made clear before the work starts. All that fine print doesn't help you avoid the headache of the misunderstanding. Just open your mouth and explain the expectations. Have a face-to-face with your family, employees, and even customers and tell them what to expect.
The best defense is a good offense
You will be much happier if you avoid the problems that arise from miscommunicated expectations. If you can preempt those problems by setting the expectations well before any work is actually done, you will save yourself countless hours and stress in the long run.
Don't be afraid
"Setting expectations" in the business sense basically means telling people that you're going to say no to them in the future about something. Don't be afraid of this. If you've warned them well beforehand that it's going to happen, they'll be expecting it, so they won't be upset about it. If you don't warn them, then it will come as a surprise. Can you think of anyone in your life that would be happy to receive an unexpected "No" from you? I seriously doubt it.