Vol. 11, No. 11 – August 8, 2011

August 8, 2011


The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information
for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

1. Lessons Learned As An Entrepreneur

Twenty-five years ago, Rhonda Abrams said goodbye to her last boss, and launched a small business. Since then, she has owned four businesses, going through booms and busts, and has distilled what she has learned into these lessons for USA Today:

  • Embrace change and be flexible: Successful entrepreneurs understand that change is going to come whether they want it or not. So don’t create a static business plan. Build change into that plan — and, more importantly, into your outlook. Prepare to re-invent yourself, while understanding your core competency.
  • Be positive: Your attitude affects your ability to respond to opportunities and challenges. It also affects your employees. So even when times are tough — especially when times are tough — always look for ways to make the best of it.
  • Treat your employees well: “Your employees are your company, especially in a small business,” she declares. “Hire well and then pay them fairly; give them respect and authority.”
  • Reduce dependency: Don’t be overly dependent on one customer, product, or channel for selling. In 2007, her primary distributor went bankrupt; fortunately a few years earlier she had become paranoid about having so much income dependent on that one channel and had started to diversify.
  • Talk to your vendors: Your vendors can be partners in your growth, offering better terms and prices, and helping to develop new products. But that will only happen if they see you as working with them. Share your business plans.

2. How To Fascinate?

Marketing consultant Sally Hogshead says some of the top companies she has worked with like Target, Aflac insurance, and Capital One bank don’t try to sell or market. Instead, they fascinate. “In a competitive environment, the most fascinating option always wins. Always. With products, with companies, with people, with messages, with ideas,” she says.

In a series of videos on YouTube, she notes that fascination is a shortcut to persuasion. She outlines seven triggers that allow you to create a spell:

  • Power: Take command of your environment, like Google does in the online world.
  • Passion: Use emotion to entice, provoke, or capture.
  • Mystique: Arouse curiosity. Like the television show Lost, we want to fill in the blanks. Let us.
  • Prestige: Increase respect for your product or your brand. “It’s aspirational. Prestige elevates,” she says. People want to attain what you are suggesting.
  • Alarm: This is about urgency. FedEx uses it successfully. In another way, using threat of legal penalties, the tax authorities do too.
  • Rebellion: Be a game changer in your field and deviate from the norm. This is the trigger for creativity. When Groupon re-invented coupons, they were embracing this trigger.
  • Trust: Loyalty is built through trust. It comes through consistency and stability. The Boy Scouts, Brooks Brothers, and Johnson & Johnson all evoke trust.

3. Strategy On One Page

Strategy can be complex. But effective strategy is also simple, and clear. On Harvard Business Review blogs, venture capitalist Anthony Tjan spells out a Strategy Tree approach that allows you to show your strategy on one page, in a series of adjacent circles, after you answer four questions and consider the linkages between them:

  • Why does your company have a right to exist, and what purpose is it trying to achieve?
  • What is your value proposition, supported by capabilities and assets, that distinguishes you from the competition?
  • Who are you trying to serve? On this, you must be as specific as possible.
  • How do you know you are winning? Put down the key customer and financial metrics that you need to achieve for success.

“This is hardly a novel concept, but it falls into that category of common sense that is not so commonly done,” he observes.

4. Self-Selecting Yourself For Leadership?

Leaders aren’t appointed or selected, so much as they are simply acknowledged, according to consultant Roy H. Williams.

“The myth of a ‘big break’ is what keeps the average person from becoming successful. They keep waiting on someone else to do something instead of simply selecting themselves and taking action,” he writes in his Monday Morning Memo.

Self-selected people work hard to prepare themselves. When Willie Nelson was asked what it felt like to be an overnight success, he replied: “Overnight success feels great after playing 10 years in honky-tonks behind chicken wire.”

“What do you want to see happen in your life? Are you willing to select yourself for it?” Williams concludes.

5. Zingers

  • E-mail is more effective when you precede it with a telephone call. If you first discuss the matter at hand on the phone, and then send an e-mail to confirm or flesh out details, there will be greater clarity and alignment. (Source: Information-overload.nzeldes.com)
  • If you own your own business, set up a peace-of-mind fund, career coach Robin Sharma suggests. Build a reserve fund to cover at least 12 months and ideally 24 months of operating expenses. You’ll sleep better knowing that your business can run even if revenue slows to a trickle. (Source: Wisdom Newsletter)
  • Nobody likes to wait. But if you’re a manager, consultant Lisa Haneberg points out, people are often waiting on you. It’s important to recognize the anguish or stress that can cause. Take the initiative this week to reach out to the folks who are waiting on you, and help team members who are waiting for people in other departments. (Source: ManagementCraft.com)
  • Personal branding specialist Dan Schawbel predicts that LinkedIn will replace resumes and job boards, given the principle that networking is the best way to find jobs. Your professional and personal lives will converge, as so much about you becomes known online. The recruiting process will also involve mandatory online reference checks. (Source: BrazenCareerist.com)
  • Email etiquette writer Judith Kallos recommends keeping your signature line to no more than five to six lines, so you won’t be viewed as egocentric. Limit the signature to your web site link, company name, and slogan/offer or phone number. (Source: The Sideroad.com)

6. Q&A with 8020Info:
Dealing With Distractions

Question: I seem to waste a lot of time every day. I don’t think I’m bored; I feel as energized as ever. But distractions seem to overwhelm me.?

8020Info Associate Harvey Schachter replies:

If this distractibility and lack of productivity dates back awhile, you need to examine what the causes might be. Has something turned you off about your work? Can you reconnect to the sense of purpose you once had for your work?

Sometimes distractibility involves nothing deeper than temptations being available. These days, the Internet has become one big distraction. It’s easy to get caught up online, following some whim or train of thought that has little to do with work.

Online Distractions:
This is so common that technology is being used to counter technology. KeepMeOut, for example, is a web site that allows you to set limits on how many times you can visit a web site in a given length of time. If you have a favourite site that is drawing you away from work, go to KeepMeOut.com, enter the name of that site, and create a special bookmark that you then drag to your browser. If you try to visit the site when you’re over the limit you specified for the time period, you will be blocked (unless you cheat and use another bookmark for entry).

It’s actually a nice compromise: It keeps you out of your pet news site or blog for a reasonable period of time for such a check — but if something major has happened, you can still work around your self-imposed barriers. There are other tools for blocking web sites, but setting them up generally requires a greater degree of technological expertise.

Distractions come in the form of people as well. People — and relationships — are important to success, so we need to be open to their interruptions. But perhaps you are more welcoming than you should be and need to, more frequently, indicate you are busy and would prefer not being interrupted for non-urgent matters.

Some workplaces are moving towards the notion of individual office hours, as in universities, where a professor announces when he or she can be bugged. Other offices are using signalling devices — red, orange, and green signs on entrances to offices, for example, or traffic cones placed at a cubicle entranceway.

Many people are also trying out the Pomodoro Technique, a time management method that uses a timer to break down periods of work into 25-minute intervals of uninterrupted work, separated by breaks. You might take five minute breaks after each of your first two 25-minute sessions of flat-out work, and then a longer one after the next session or two, depending on your own stamina and psychological preference. There are even online timers to help — if you dare to brave online distractions to check them.

7. News From Our Water Cooler:
The Sesame Street Effect

Repeated communication during a time of transition and change has something in common with children watching Sesame Street: they may watch an episode over and over again, but each time they get something different out of it.

Managers typically tire of repeating their message during a change project, but their staff and others affected may hear it differently each time: One time they may listen at a high level to learn what’s going to happen and when. Next time, as the message starts to sink in, they may wonder why or question the decision. Later they will start to consider, “How will this affect me?”

They may return to a set of communications many times – sparked by a chance comment by a colleague, rising concern as the change date looms near, as they worry about training or imagine, from different perspectives, the future impacts they will face.

It’s important to ensure your key messages about change are repeated and accessible to your audience at different times, through different channels, and at different levels of detail. Even if it feels like playing the Sesame Street over and over again.

8020Info helps teams develop, communicate and implement their marketing communications, research and strategic plans more effectively. We would be pleased to discuss your needs and welcome enquiries at (613) 542-8020, or by email at watercooler@8020info.com

8. Closing Thought                                                                 Top

“A boss creates fear, a leader confidence. A boss fixes blame, a leader corrects mistakes. A boss knows all, a leader asks questions. A boss makes work drudgery, a leader makes it interesting. A boss is interested in himself of herself, a leader is interested in the group.”

— Russell H. Ewing