When you or your business get stuck, what do you do to get unstuck?
As you probably know, getting stuck is normal. It happens to everyone and every organization. Even the best leaders and the best companies get stuck from time to time. So, what do you do when that inevitable plateau hits?
If you’re like most people you do one of three things
You get flustered (and/or possibly depressed) because “nothing” seems to be working
You double down and work harder doing more of what got you stuck in the first place (which of course doesn’t solve the problem that got you stuck)
You give up and hope that “something” will happen that will turn this around
Unfortunately none of those strategies work, which is why so many people and businesses stay stuck for so long.
So, if none of those strategies work, what other options are there for you to get unstuck? Glad you asked. Here are several ideas to help you and/or your business get unstuck.
I. Channel Your Inner Spock
While emotions are the fuel of life, they’re usually pretty terrible when it comes to problem solving. Being frustrated or angry or depressed or stressed rarely allows any of us to function at our best. When life isn’t working according to plan, the last thing we need to lead us forward is our emotions.
What we need is to be objective and logical. We need to remove emotion from the equation so we can see clearly what’s really causing our stuck-ness. If you’ve ever watched Star Trek, you know that Spock was just that person. Though he had a human mother, he fought to keep his emotions under control so that the Vulcan part, the logical part, could see what others couldn’t. It was the logical part of him that made him so valuable during conflict.
The same is true of you. When life or business isn’t working according to plan, that’s when you need to channel your inner Spock and put your emotions at bay so you can see clearly what’s actually in front of you.
You need to be able to remove all preconceived notions about you, your people, your products, your customers etc. and look at them objectively, as if you were that proverbial fly on a wall observing everything in front of you.
For some of us, this is easier to do than others. For example, in Myers Briggs, I’m a total T (thinker). I have no F (feeling) in me. It’s one of the reasons why I’m so good at solving problems (note: having no feelings leads to other problems, but that’s for another day :-). On the other hand, for others of you, where feelings dominate, this will be harder.
However, preferences are just that … preferences. They’re not meant to be excuses. Anyone can learn to be more objective. And when you’re stuck, that’s one of those times where you need to learn to act outside of your natural preferences and channel your inner Spock. If you don’t do that, it becomes infinitely more difficult to get unstuck and do what follows.
II. Start With You
In any organization, everything flows south of the leader. That’s one of the reasons why several college football coaches have already been fired this year and why more will be gone before the end of December. Everything flows south of the leader.
That’s why when you’re stuck, your first option should always be to ask, “What part of this do I own?” Note: if you haven’t channeled your inner Spock first, this will be harder to do. Why? Because by nature we’re all inclined toward self-preservation and interest. After Adam ate the fruit from the forbidden tree, what was his first response? Exactly. To blame others (in his case, his wife, as well as God “the woman you gave me”). Truly a class act moment, eh?
Left to ourselves, most of us will have a hard time seeing how we’ve contributed to our stuck-ness. The problem is almost always … out there. It’s an employee problem or a marketing problem or a customer problem or a product problem or a competitor problem, etc. It’s always out there.
However, as a leader, the problems that lead to stuck-ness almost always start with us—which is why your default should always be to start with you.
I remember several years ago, it was around year six of my former church, where we had been growing at over 30% per year when one spring we flatlined. That bothered me so I started investigating it. I asked questions. I looked at our marketing. Our series. Our services. Our members. What was going on in our community, etc. and nothing was shouting out, “This is the problem.”
So one day in our staff meeting, I asked my team, “So what do you think is causing us to be flatlined here this Spring?” I recounted all of the things I’d investigated and how they lead me to a null answer. Finally one of my staff members spoke up and said, “I think the problem might be you.”
I said, “Why do you think that?” Note: never be defensive when someone says you might be the problem. He said, “You’ve been burned out for the past month of so and I think you underestimate how much the rest of us draw our energy from you.”
I never would have seen that alone but he was right. That was the day I realized that as a leader, I could never be “down” when I was with my people. They needed me to be up because I infused them with the energy and morale they needed to work at their peak. Once I realized that, I changed and guess what, we got back on a growth curve. I was the problem.
So, what part of your stuck-ness do you own?
III. Challenge Assumptions
Whenever something isn’t working out right, it’s frequently caused because some assumption you’ve made in the past, isn’t as valid today. The common vernacular for that is, “What got you here won’t get you there.”
What got you your first hundred customers probably won’t get you your next hundred customers
What allowed you to lead a team of five probably won’t allow you to lead a team of twenty-five
The ad campaign that worked last year that brought in a drove of new customers probably won’t work as well this year
Every problem (including stuck-ness) has a set of assumptions underneath it. Now that you’re channeling your inner Spock and you’ve already owned up to your part of the problem, you should be able to see more clearly as to what the assumptions might be.
For example, maybe you’ve been doing most of the selling for your business and you just don’t have any more time available. The assumption is that you’re the best salesperson and no one else can sell your products/services as well as you can. Well, those two things could be true, but they might not be. Moreover, the assumption that the best salesperson is the “only” one who can sell your product/service is probably not valid. Three people who can close 80% of your prospects are better than one person who can close 100%.
Over the years I’ve worked with a lot of service professionals. The vast majority of them assume that almost all new business is best generated by referrals. And they’re right. In the professional services business, most new business is driven by referrals. However, referrals aren’t very scalable (vs. paid advertising, for example).
And more importantly, most stats aren’t great predictors of what should be done, only what people are currently doing (since the vast majority of service professionals only do two things for new clients, referrals and networking, the stats would bear that out—which says nothing about them being the best way to attract new prospects, only what people are doing).
Back in my old pastoral days, we drove a lot of our growth through direct mail. However, if you looked at most church surveys, 90+% of church growth was driven by referrals. Why? Was it because only referrals worked? No. It was because that’s all most churches did.
Remember that old line, “Foolishness is continuing to do what you’ve always done and expecting a different result.” Well, to get a different result, you need to engage in different behaviors. And to get a significantly different result, you need to engage in significantly different behaviors.
That will never happen if you don’t challenge your assumptions. One of my favorite games to play is the “Who says?” game. Who says this has to be done this way? Where stands it written that this activity must be done this way? Who says?
So, what assumptions underlie what’s holding you back? Remember, what got you to where you are probably won’t get you to the next level.
IV. Focus on Your Biggest Constraints
If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know I’m a huge fan of constraint theory. But there’s also a practical reason for believing this. When you’re stuck and feeling overwhelmed, trying to solve too many problems all at once tends to be self-defeating. In other words, focusing on the few items (one to three) that can make the biggest impact, makes solving your stuck-ness infinitely more attainable.
In constraint theory, you’re looking at a system and realizing that while there are multiple problems hindering the flow through that system, there’s one constraint, more than any other constraint, that’s hindering the flow through that system. While you could devote your time, energy and resources toward attacking any of the hinderances, logically, it makes the most sense to focus on the one constraint that hinders the most flow through the system before attacking any of the other hindrances.
So, as you take a look at your stuck-ness, what are the biggest hindrances/constraints? Once you create a list, order that list from the biggest hindrances to the smallest.
Then, depending on who’s available to help solve/fix these issues, choose anywhere from one to three to attack this month. Once you do that, you’ll want to …
V. Create a 30-Day Sprint
If you haven’t picked up my guide on how to run a 30-Day Challenge, make sure you do so here >>. As you know, I’m a huge fan of sprints. They get everyone focused on the same project. They create energy and movement. And they get stuff done faster.
Using some of the issues we’ve discussed in this post, let’s assume your business is flatlined because you don’t have enough leads coming into your business. Historically, you’ve depended on referrals to generate new business because you’ve assumed that’s just the way people in your industry get new clients. And your biggest constraint is that you’re the single point of failure for generating new business though the goodwill of your past clients referring new clients to you. What could you do in this scenario.
Well here are a couple of options
You could create a 30-day sprint to book local speaking engagements, which could lead to an offer for a free something
You could create a 30-day sprint to advertise in Linkedin
You could create a 30-day sprint to advertise through FB ads (or Google PPC ads)
You could create a 30-day sprint to book webinar engagements (or create your own webinar series)
You could create a 30-day sprint to engage in a direct mail campaign to potential best buyers, etc.
You get the idea. The most important problem to solve here is that you have a lead flow problem. Everything else is secondary. Don’t worry about those issues right now. To grow, you need lead flow. And you need that lead flow to come from more than you. Once you determine what you strategy is, you simply need to create a 30-day sprint to make sure you attack your biggest constraint with everything you’ve got.
Don’t try to solve every problem, just the biggest one you can with focused attention and a massive amount of effort. But remember, all of this action is based on challenging an assumption that’s been keeping you stuck.
So, what are you going to create your 30-day sprint around?
To recap, if you or your business are stuck (and you want to get unstuck), here are five things you can do starting this week to turn that around and get back on a growth curve.
Channel your inner Spock
Start with you
Focus on your biggest constraints
Create a 30-day sprint
If you do those five things right away, you have a high probability of getting unstuck and back on a growth curve. So, what are you waiting for?
Few things hinder day-to-day progress more than conflict. Any time you put two or more people together, conflict is rarely far away.
Sometimes that conflict is with business partners. Sometimes it’s with employees. Sometimes it’s with customers. And sometimes it’s with family members and/or friends.
But regardless of who that conflict is with—there’s a price to be paid for that conflict.
However, the good news is that you can avoid a significant percentage of those conflicts by simply doing three things.
So, if you’d like to avoid paying that price, in order that you can focus most of your time and energy on things that matter, make sure you watch today’s video on “How to Eliminate Most Conflict Before It Begins.
Ever get frustrated that you’re not getting the kind of response you’d like to see from your marketing efforts?
Or ever get disappointed that you’re not seeing the kind of lead flow or ideal prospects in your lead flow that you’d like to see?
Well, if either of those are true for you, you’re not alone. Most business owners and entrepreneurs get frustrated and disappointed by the marketing efforts of their companies.
Sometimes it’s because their marketing team just isn’t sharp enough. Sometimes it’s because they “dumped” their marketing efforts on an outside firm to do their marketing. And sometimes it’s because there are no clear objectives and metrics to measure success.
However, frequently, their marketing efforts are less than optimal because they’ve missed one critical issue. In fact, you may have missed this issue as well.
But, what if you could literally change all your marketing efforts with one simple tweak, would you be interested?
If all you and your marketing team had to do was to make one simple adjustment to your marketing efforts and you could immediately see an uptick in qualified leads, would you be interested?
If you are, continue reading.
Note: as the business owner/entrepreneur of your business, you shouldn’t be doing all of your marketing on your own. However, if you don’t know how to charge your people or you don’t know how to critique their efforts, then you can’t lead them well. So, as you read this post, don’t think about what you have to do to improve your marketing. Think about how you can better lead your team (internal or external) to generate better high quality leads for your business.
So, what is that one simple tweak?
I. Focus On The Transformation, Not Your Offer
The single most common mistake I see in almost all the marketing efforts and copy I come across is that they’re way too focused on the company and/or their products and services, instead of their prospects’ needs, wants and interests. Even when I explain this to people and then see their marketing copy, they still get it wrong. It’s almost like they’re hard-wired to get this one wrong.
Customers/clients/patients/members all come to you and your business for one thing and one thing only, to get a result that matters to them Something isn’t working and they’re coming to you to get that problem solved. In other words, they’re coming for a transformation. They want to move “from” something “to” something better. That’s it.
It doesn’t matter what your business is, it’s a transformation that your best/ideal customers want from you. Think about it. Why do you make a value exchange with anyone for anything?
Why do you go to see a hair stylist?
Why do you buy a new piece of software?
Why do you use an accountant?
Why do you sign up for a coaching program?
Why do you go out to eat?
Why do you sign up for a gym membership?
Why do you go to church (or other religious organization)?
Why do you read books?
Why do you go on vacation? Etc.
You spend money, just like your prospects and customers, because you want to move from something to something better.
What’s important to realize here is that no matter how good your “thing” is, no one really wants that thing. They want what that thing will do for them (which is, a transformation). Using that old marketing metaphor,
“No one wants a drill. Everyone wants a hole.”
It’s not the thing. It’s the result of your thing that really matters. That’s what customers really want.
So, the first step in immediately improving the quality of your marketing is found in this … STOP talking about your products and services, or your company and START talking about the transformation your ideal prospects want. In other words
STOP: We’re the number one value added reseller in this industry (all about you)
START: Ready to Increase the Efficiencies of Your Internal Workflows by 37% or more (all about the transformation they want)
STOP: We Have 10 Attorneys Listed in the Best Of XYZ City Rankings (all about you)
START: Looking for a Highly Rated Attorney Who Can Protect You From Someone Stealing Your IP (all about the transformation they want)
II. Create a From/To List
Once you own the idea that people want a transformation, then you simply need to get clear on what the transformation is (both in its before and after states).
I find the easiest way to do this is to take out a sheet of paper and a pen, and then to draw two columns (i.e. draw one line down the middle). My second favorite way to do this is to open a MS Word document and then create a two-column table.
In the first column, you want to list out where your prospects are starting out in relationship to what you offer. This is your “From” column and it should be a list of the problems, frustrations, fears, worries, obstacles, needs, wants, aspirations, of your target market.
For example, here’s some of the wording I use in my own “From List” for my target market (which is made up of business owners/entrepreneurs who have between 2-29 employees and $500K-$5M in revenue). In general, they’re frustrated because …
Their business isn’t growing (or is growing slowly)
They feel overwhelmed
They’re cash strapped
They’re too engaged in the day-to-day operations of the business
They’re stuck in the “Feast or Famine” cycle
They have too many employees who are C and D players
Too much of the business depends upon them
They’re not generating enough leads
They’re not closing enough deals
They don’t feel good about a number of the roles they have to fill (for example, strategy, hiring, firing, accounting, leadership, management, sales, etc.)
They feel that their products/services are pretty ordinary/undifferentiated
They feel the the business “owns” them, not the reverse
They feel stuck and aren’t sure what to do next,
They don’t feel like they’re making enough based on how hard they’re working, etc.
Note: Not all of these are true of everyone who’s a small business owner/entrepreneur—but several of these are usually true for one particular business owner/entrepreneur.
Once you create your “FROM” list, it’s easy to create your “TO” list (i.e. what’s the opposite). For example, in my case, here’s my list.
Their business is growing fast
They feel in control
They’re flush with cash
They spend the majority of their time working on the business instead of in it
They have consistent, predictable cash flow
They only have A and B players on their team
None of the business depends upon them anymore
They’re generating a ton of leads
They’re breaking sales records
They feel confident in their role as the business owner/CEO
They have remarkable products and services which are clearly differentiated
They once again own the business
They feel unstuck and have clarity about what to do next
They’re making more than enough to fuel their lifestyle and enjoy the fruits of the entrepreneurial life
See how powerful this process is?
It’s far more powerful than listing all the features of what you offer. No one really cares about features. What they really care about is the “After,” the transformation.
Note: some people will care about the features because they’ll often think, “Am I getting my money’s worth?” But that’s frequently foolish thinking. Who cares how many features something has if you can get the result with fewer features? I mean, would you rather watch a course with 100 videos, 50 assignments, 87 mp3s and 23 quizzes or a course with one video that actually got you the result you wanted in 60 mins or less?
So, have you created your From/To list yet?
III. Immediately Deploy Your From/To List In All Your Marketing Copy
Once you have clarity on where your prospects are starting from, that should directly impact all of your marketing copy, as well as sales scripts. You want to be able to immediately connect with the conversation going on inside their heads.
For example, as some of you were reading my From list above, you were probably thinking, “That sounds like me.” I know that from experience because when I’ve shared this list with other business owners/entrepreneurs they frequently say, “That sounds like me.” Exactly.
But even more important than connecting with the From list, you want to focus your copy and words on the To list. Why? Because most healthy people don’t want to remain stuck.They want the transformation. For example, as a business owner/entrepreneur, don’t you want
To feel in control
To be flush with cash
To spend the majority of your time working on your business rather than in it
To have consistent, predictable cash flow
To have a team composed only of A and B players
To have a system that’s generating a ton of high quality leads
To be breaking sales records regularly
Of course. And your customers and prospects feel the same. They want the result/the promise/the goal/the “To.”
So, the moment you change all of your marketing efforts from you to them and from your features to the transformation they want, that’s when all of your marketing efforts will take off.
Since the beginning of humanity, we’ve all been infected with a primary drive for self-interest. So, whenever a business connects with our self-interest rather than theirs, they have a much higher probability of generating positive results.
So, if you want to make one simple tweak this week that can immediately impact all your marketing efforts, follow these three simple steps.
Focus on the transformation, not your offer
Create a From/To List
Immediately deploy your From/To List in all your marketing copy
If you do, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.
If there was a simple tactic that you could easily employ that could generate more referrals in the next thirty days than what you normally generate in a quarter (or possibly a year), would you be interested?
Or if there was a simple practice that you and your team could engage in that could rapidly generate significantly more new business in the next thirty days than normal, would you be interested?
Even better, what if I told you that this simple tactic that could make this much difference wouldn’t even cost you any money, would you be interested?
Now that you are, here’s the tactic. Note: you’re about to be totally underwhelmed by what I’m about to share. But if you’ll hang with me for a moment, you’ll appreciate why I’m sharing it.
The tactic is … touch base with your current and past customers. I know, totally underwhelming. And yet, think about it, when was the last time you touched base with a past customer? Or even a current one?
I recently had one of my clients finally decide to use this tactic (yes, I mentioned it to him months ago) and, not only was his past customer happy he checked in with them, they wrote him a big check afterwards for new business (all for simply reaching out).
I. Remember That Most Businesses Never Stay In Touch
Instead of thinking about you and your business, think about all of the businesses you use. How many of them have followed up with you and stayed in touch over the years? My guess is, not many.
Think through some of the businesses you use (or have used frequently). When was the last time one of these companies followed up with you (with more than an online coupon, which doesn’t count)?
Restaurants you’ve eaten at (in my case, virtually none have ever reached out again)
Home repair companies (HVAC, Plumbers, Carpenters, Pest Control, Painters, Electricians, Pool care, Landscapers, etc.)
Medical personnel (Chiropractors, Dentists, Optometrists, Family Physicians, Surgeons, Specialists, etc.)
You get the idea. If your life is at all like mine, the answer to all of the above is … VIRTUALLY NEVER. Occasionally I’ll get a reminder notice (It’s time to get your teeth cleaned) but that’s a clear call for me to spend more money.
No, what I’m talking about is an honest to goodness human contact. When was the last time your insurance salesperson (who’s still getting paid for a conversation they had with you ten years ago) called to say, “How are you doing?” In my case, never.
Listen, just because something seems obvious and a no-brainer, doesn’t mean it’s common practice. “Everyone” is always looking for a new idea or new tactic (the shiny object syndrome), when, frequently, the answer is right in front of them. Pick up the phone and talk with a human being.
II. Let Go of The “Length of Time” Issue
Typically when I talk with clients about this tactic they almost always wrestle with the fact that they haven’t stayed in touch for so long that it feels “awkward” to get back in touch. If you’re feeling that way, let it go. It’s all in your head.
If you’ve done a great job for your clients (present and/or old), they’ll be happy to talk with you … even if it’s been ten years. In your mind, it feels awkward. But for them, it’s no big deal. For example, it’s been ten years since I had my rotator cuff surgery on my left shoulder. If my surgeon (who was phenomenal by the way) were to call me and ask, “How are you doing?” I would be thrilled to talk with him (and shocked he called). Or if my insurance guy called me, I’d be happy to talk with him, as well as any of the restauranteurs or retail stores or software vendors or … that I’ve used over the years. Unfortunately, virtually none of them do.
However, in your case, as long as you’ve done a great job, you still have a stock pile of good will with your customers. They’re not worried about the length of time. Only you are. So, let it go.
Now, I know that’s easier said than done. I had one client several years ago where I had to talk him through the emotional part of getting back in touch with people he hadn’t talked with for years—for several months. Then, one day I finally said, “Listen, trust me on this. Just call up five people who you really loved serving and simply have a conversation with them.” He finally did and guess what, not one of them said, “Why are you calling me now? I haven’t heard from you in five years!” Not one! This is all in your head. Let it go. Time is irrelevant.
III. Start With an Apology
So, here’s what I’d encourage you to do. Create a list of all your current and past customers. I don’t care if that’s 30 or 300 or 3,000. Then create a grid for deciding who you’re going to contact first.
Next, you have three options. Option a, you call them. Option b, you email them then call them. Or c, you call them and if they don’t pick up, you email them. It’s your choice.
Personally, my favorite is c. Why? Because it feels more personal.
So, here’s the simple script.
“Hi, Bob, Bruce Johnson here. How are you doing? [Small talk] Hey, the reason I’m calling is because I was just thinking about you and realized that I haven’t touched base with you in the past three years and that’s just wrong. That’s not how I want to do business. So, I just wanted to call and apologize. I promise to do better moving forward.”
Can you do that? Absolutely.
Note: you can always say, “I was just thinking about you,” because you were just thinking about the person you contacted before you called or emailed them. Therefore, it’s always a truthful statement.
IV. Don’t Try To Do Any Business On Your First Call
This is one of the issues that hinders a lot of business owners and entrepreneurs from making this kind of call (thinking their job is to get business from someone they haven’t talked to in X number of years). That is not the objective of this first call. The whole objective of this first call is to reconnect and that’s it.
Trying to do business with someone you haven’t talked with for years (or for some length of time) is a poor choice. So, don’t make that your goal. Make your goal, reconnection.
And here’s what I’d say if they asked, “Why the call?” after you’ve engaged in some conversation.
“I just want to reconnect. I’m not trying to sell anything or get anything from you I just realized, as I mentioned earlier, that I hadn’t talked with you in three years and I wanted to apologize for that, as well as hear how you’re doing. Nothing more.”
This will totally shock most people. A, they virtually never hear from any business they’ve used in the past and b, when they do, it’s almost always to ask for something more (which is almost always more money).
You, on the other hand, are simply touching base to further the relationship. In other words, you’re a breath of fresh air.
V. Don’t Be Surprised At What Happens From That First Call
Remember your goal on the first call is to simply to reconnect. But their goal might be to help you.
As I mentioned earlier, I have a client who recently went to talk with a client of his whom he hadn’t talked with for years. He went to see them and did the apology part and then did something else I suggested. He gave them options.
“So, moving forward, I want to do better at staying in touch. So, you tell me, would you prefer for me to touch base with you quarterly, semi-annually or annually?”
His contact said that twice a year would be perfect and that the best months for those calls would be X and Y because those months would allow them to talk before their budget cycle was completed (or money had to be used before the end of the fiscal year). Isn’t that cool? His client literally told him, “If you want more money, we’d like to give it to you. Contact us here and here for the best shot at that.” Even better, his client sent him a check the following week for a new project without even sending a proposal. All because he simply touched base, apologized and didn’t ask for anything.
The other client I mentioned above, when he finally did contact those first five people, discovered that they were all happy he called, “It’s so good to hear from you.” And several of them even said, “Hey, I’ve been thinking about …” or “Hey, I have a friend I want to refer you to …” even though he, meaning my client, didn’t ask for any business or referrals because this was the first call.
In other words, don’t be surprised when good things start happening to you when you just pick up the phone (or email) and stay in touch. Never underestimate the power of simple things.
VI. Set Up a Regular System for Asking
If you were wondering when to ask for business or referrals, the answer would, “From the second phone call on (in a random pattern).”
The first call (or meet up or coffee) is just to reconnect and value the relationship (and to see where you can add some value to them and their lives). For example, you could solve a problem for them. Or if you’re a realtor and they have a problem with a leak in their roof, you could offer them two names of roofers. Or if you’re an accountant and they mention a business problem, you could refer them to a business coach. If you’re a TV or movie addict, and you know they like movies or TV, you could suggest a new movie or TV show you’ve watched recently. The goal is just to reconnect and add value.
However, the second meeting/call/coffee/meet up, that’s when it’s fair game to ask for a referral or to probe for a potential problem you could solve with your product or service..
The one thing you want to avoid here is being predictable. If every other time you connect you ask for a referral or new business, they’ll doubt the sincerity of you reaching out. So, randomize your system of asking. Maybe you ask on the 2nd, 5th and 9th times. Whatever works for you, works. Just don’t make it too predictable.
At the same time, don’t be afraid to ask. Too many business owners and entrepreneurs have companies that could be much larger if they’d simply ask more often. So, don’t be one of them. Ask often. Just don’t ask all the time.
Oh, and one last thing, make sure you keep track of their hobbies and families and send them short notes from time to time. For example, if you knew I went to the University of Wisconsin and you noticed this week that UW-Madison just moved up the AP and USA Coaches rankings to #5, you could shoot me a short email, “Hey Bruce, Congrats! Just saw your Badgers moved up in the rankings to #5! Hope they make the playoffs, George.”
That took all of 15 seconds. But your customers/clients would never forget the one business that remembered and took the time to reach out.
So, there you go. The simplest, easiest, and fastest way to generate more referrals and business in the next ninety days is— touching base with your customers/clients more frequently.
Remember that most businesses never stay in touch
Let go of the “length of time” issue
Start with an apology
Don’t try to do any business on your first call
Don’t be surprised at what happens from that first call
Set up a regular schedule of asking
Depending on the size of your business, I’d suggest you shoot for five contacts per day or per week as a good place to start. If you simply do that, I have a feeling you’ll be surprised 90 days from now at how many more referrals and new business opportunities you have.
Strategic planning is one of those tasks that every business owner/entrepreneur/CEO knows they’re supposed to do, but few take the time to actually learn how to do well—which, of course, leads to the result that most “strategic plans” aren’t very strategic, they don’t produce much growth and they tend to be created hastily, at the last moment.
So, if you’d like to avoid all three of those bad outcomes and actually develop a strategic plan this year that can drive significant growth, can differentiate you from your competitors and can make your business more effective and efficient, make sure you watch this week’s video post on “How to Design a Killer Strategic Planning Process for Your Business.”
You’ll be glad you did.
To your accelerated success!
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How often do you catch yourself thinking, “I just don’t have enough time to work on my business!”?
Or how often do you say to yourself, “I could get a whole lot more work done if people would just stop interrupting me all day long!”?
Probably more times that you care to admit. I remember back in my old pastoral days I would frequently say to my wife, “I’d love this job if I just didn’t have to deal with people all the time!” My wife, of course, would have to remind me they were the reason I had a job.
That said, people and interruptions are a major problem that every business owner, entrepreneur and leader has to figure out how to overcome because every minute we spend interrupted means we’ve lost a minute we could have been engaged in doing something that could actually grow our business or organization.
In fact, this past Friday, during one of my coaching club days, we were working on personal development and productivity because the leader of any organization is both the primary driver and the primary bottleneck of that organization. The obvious conclusion from that truism is that the more you grow the leader, the faster you can grow the organization (in this case, a business).
When I asked them, “What do you think are your major time wasters?” Their number two response was (after email), “Distractions.”
So, if you’re like them and find yourself constantly distracted by people (internal or external), here are five tactics that you can use to significantly decrease the number of distractions you have to deal with every day so you can spend more time working on your business.
I. Get Out of the Office
This is by far my number one recommendation. Back in my old pastoral days, both staff and church members used to think they could just drop in on me anytime and ask for help. After wrestling with how to solve this, including placing a gatekeeper between me and them, I finally concluded that the best option was to take that option out of their hands by getting out of the office.
So, on most days, I’d get to the office early, set everything up for the day, including whatever I needed my admin to work on that day—and then I’d leave for the next three or four hours and work at Panera Bread. Or, on those days when I had to be in the office in the morning, I’d head out for a three-hour lunch. There was a great Chinese restaurant right around the corner. It would take ten minutes to eat lunch and I’d have two hours and fifty minutes of interruption-free time to work on my business.
There are a number of reasons why we were able to grow by 30.5% per year for over a decade but this was one of them. I physically removed myself from being interrupted by people so I could actually work on the strategic part of my job.
Note: another variation on this theme would be, if you can’t leave your building, to move your office location. In fact, I have a friend who moved his office to the other side of his company’s building so he would be interrupted less.
Note 2: This doesn’t mean you’re not available to your people. If you work a typical 8-12 hour day, being out of the office for 2-4 hours doesn’t mean you’re unavailable. It simply means that for 2-4 hours, you’re unavailable.
So, how can you create some safe space for you, away from interruptions, by carving out time away from your office (however you define “office” which could be a field or a construction site or a gym or a …)?
II. Train Your People To Not Interrupt You
Dysfunction always requires two parties. In this case, if your people are interrupting you all the time, you need to own that you’ve allowed that behavior to exist and to continue. Think about it, when have you trained your people to not interrupt you?
On the contrary, we often fuel the problem because we like being helpful. When someone on our team has a problem, they know that the fastest (and easiest) way to solve their problem is to come to us, lay out the problem and trust that we, like the Wizard of Oz, will proclaim a solution that will magically solve their problem.
This seems like a win-win. They get their problem solved quickly and we get a quick hit of endorphins because once again, we’ve proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are, in fact, the real Wizard of Oz.
Unfortunately, this cycle is killing our productivity and stifling our staff members’ problem-solving capabilities.
The solution then is to train your staff members to not interrupt you. You start this on day one, during their onboarding. You talk about it regularly. You train them in how to solve problems. You train them to never come to you with a problem apart from at least one solution. And, this is key, when they do try to interrupt you, you send them away politely with a simple phrase
“I’m sorry. I don’t have time to be interrupted right now.”
This is critical. Just as with parenting, you have to be vigilant and consistent with following this new policy. If you give in once, they’ll assume that you’ll give in again. Don’t. Train them to not interrupt and then don’t allow them to interrupt. You are in charge. You get to set the rules.
So, how and when can you train your people to not interrupt you?
Note: another great training technique is to encourage them to ask you when the two of you can meet. “I have two questions I need to get your input on and would like to know when would be a good time to meet to discuss them?”
III. Schedule “Got a Minute” Meeting Time Each Day
I still think that one of the best ideas from Chet Holmes’ classic, “The Ultimate Sales Machine,” was his “Got a Minute” pads and sign-ups. At the time, Chet was running several companies for Charlie Munger (Warren Buffet’s #2). All day long he was being interrupted by people asking, “Hey, Chet, got a minute.” And it was killing him. He knew he was in reactive mode and couldn’t achieve his objectives that way.
So his solution was to practice number two above. He trained his people not to interrupt him. But then he added a twist. He gave them pads of paper with the words, “With Chet” at the top. Personally, I’d create more generic notes with something like, “Got a Minute for ________” (so you can use this pad for anyone).
He then did two things. One was he asked them to hold all of their questions until the weekly meeting. And second, if their “Got a Minute” question couldn’t wait, he scheduled time each day for people to sign up for a slot to talk with him in 10-minute increments. Brilliant!
I love the sign up for a slot option. But even if you don’t have your people sign up, at a minimum, take back control and decide when they can interrupt you. For example, M/W/F 10 a.m. – noon and T/R 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. or M-F 11:00 a.m. to noon and 3:00-4:00 p.m.
So, when can your people schedule their “Got a Minute” meetings?
IV. Limit Their Distraction Time
As you probably know, Parkinson’s Law states that work fills the amount of time allocated to it. In other words, if you don’t set start and stop times, virtually every task takes longer to complete. This same principle applies to interruptions. If you don’t set a stop time, the interruption will take longer and you’ll lose hours every day.
So, instead of allowing wide open interruption times, why not limit them by setting a stop time right up front? Why not say something like this, in response to the Got a Minute interruption,
“I’m swamped right now. I only have five minutes max for this. Can we solve your question in under five minutes or less?”
If not, schedule a time to talk during an open block. Note: did you notice how Chet did this with setting 10 minute Got a Minute meetings?
Once again, as the owner/leader of your business, you need to/get to set the rules. Why allow yourself to be constantly interrupted for wide open amounts of time? Why not limit them.
So, how can you begin to limit the amount of time your people can interrupt you for?
V. Refuse to Be Complicit
I mentioned this idea above (in tactic #2 about training) but it’s so important I thought I’d end with it because I don’t want you to miss the principle within the principle.
In order for you to be interrupted, you have to allow others to interrupt you. The easiest image I can think of is a parent and a child. I’m sure you’ve observed that there are some parents you meet whose kids interrupt them all the time and others whose kids don’t (and when they try, the parent usually says something like, “Johnny, I’m talking with Mr. Johnson. You know better than to interrupt me when I’m talking with someone else”).
In order for you to be interrupted, you have to allow that behavior to exist, which makes you complicit.
Maybe you haven’t trained your people correctly
Maybe you get too much juice from being Oz
Maybe you’re afraid of conflict
Maybe you want to be liked
Maybe you fear your own irrelevance
Maybe you’ve never seen a leader put their foot down and not allow interruptions
Maybe you have a belief that “Good leaders are always available”
Maybe you’ve preached for the year that you “always have an open door” Etc.
Whatever the reason, you’ve been complicit … up until now. Today is the day you take back control and say, “I’m no longer going to be complicit in allowing people to interrupt me!”
So, are you ready to take back control and no longer be complicit in allowing others to interrupt you whenever they see fit?
I hope so. Why? Because the only way you’re ever going to build a truly great and scalable company is if you have the time to work on those projects and strategies that can deliver the kind of growth you desire. In order to get there, you need to create systems that will minimize the number and length of interruptions that enter your day and life. The following are a great start.
Get out of the office
Train your people to not interrupt you
Create “Got a Minute” meeting space each day
Limit their distraction time
Refuse to be complicit
If you regularly engage in these five tactics—and have the discipline to stick with them—you’ll radically reduce the number and length of interruptions you experience everyday, which will, in turn, allow you to invest more and more of your time in building a more scalable version of your business.
Since you make hundreds of decisions every day, chances are few things seem more obvious and innate than decision-making. Think about it. Over the past several decades, you’ve probably made hundreds of thousands of decisions about virtually everything. You should be a decision-making virtuoso.
However, when does doing something a lot make someone great at it? It doesn’t. Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. If you or I do something imperfectly over and over again, we simply get more and more imperfect results.
The reason this matters so much is because you and your business are the sum total of the decisions you and your team have made over the years. For good or for bad, every decision you’ve made has had an impact on the company you’ve built and the person you’ve become.
So, it just seems to reason, that if you want to scale your business and become a major player in your industry, you’ve got to study and keep improving the decisions you’re making. From strategy to marketing, from hiring to firing, from sales to customer service, from time management to financial management, from innovation to optimization, etc. You have to get better and better at making the best decisions possible for you and your company.
As the saying goes, “What got you here, won’t get you there.” To get to the next level, you can’t keep thinking or deciding at the same level that got you to where you are. You have to raise your game. And one of those game raising skill sets for any leader is increasing their decision-making capabilities.
So, how can you make better decisions as the leader of your business? Well, here are four keys that will help you improve your decision-making.
I. Remove All Emotion
I was having lunch with a friend the other day when he said, “I have a problem I’d like to discuss with you. I need the ‘Bruce Johnson, totally unemotional, detached, and fully rational perspective.” We both laughed. But his point was well taken. He knew he was too close to the situation (plus, he’s a more fully-developed human being with a heart as opposed to me … :-).
The challenge for most leaders, when it comes to decision-making, is that they get too emotionally connected to the problem. Sometimes it’s because it’s something they’re passionate about. Sometimes it’s because the issue strikes deep at the core of who they are. Sometimes it’s because the issue is a challenge to them. Sometimes it’s because it’s a relational conflict. Sometimes it’s because it’s an ego issue. Etc. Regardless of the origin, when emotion gets engaged, it’s infinitely harder to step back and see a problem clearly.
When an employee has done something wrong and it’s cost you time and money (and you warned them not to do X), it’s easy to lose perspective and want to make a rash decision. However, that’s not how great leaders made decisions.
Great leaders are able to separate themselves and their emotions from their decision-making. They’re able to step back, remove their personal emotions and think rationally, “What’s the best decision to make here for the company as a whole?”
There’s nothing wrong with being passionate and emotional. In fact, they’re critical if you want to be a great leader. The problem is when you combine them with decision-making, that’s when something bad usually happens.
So, how are you at removing your emotions from your decision-making?
II. Make Sure You’ve Identified the Real Problem
This is another one of the classic mistakes that most business owners and entrepreneurs make. They tend to assume that whatever the presenting problem is is the real problem, which is often not the case.
For example, let’s say Angela is a problem employee. She’s been with the company for the past two years. She’s a C-player at best. She doesn’t follow directions well. She’s usually late. Her work usually needs a fair amount of correction, etc. So, what’s the problem?
Well, most business owners and entrepreneurs would say, “Duh, the problem is Angela. Fire her.” But not so fast. Is Angela the real problem? I can immediately think of several potential real problems that ought to be addressed.
Is the real problem the hiring process (i.e. how did Angela get through the hiring process in the first place)?
Is the real problem that Angela didn’t go through any screening tests?
Is the real problem that the on-boarding process needs an overhaul (or that there isn’t one in the first place)?
Is the real problem that Angela’s boss hasn’t been managing her (i.e how has this gone on for two years)?
Is the real problem that Angela’s job description doesn’t have clear expectations? Or maybe what she was hired for and what she’s supposed to be doing right now are two different things?
Is the real problem that there’s an institutional failure because there’s no culture of accountability?
Is the real problem that there’s no personal development or training process in place? Etc.
In other words, just because a problem presents itself as a problem does not mean that’s the real problem that needs to be solved. Frequently, there’s another problem that needs to be addressed.
So, when you’re working on solving a problem, do you ever stop and ask, “Have I correctly identified the real problem or not?”
Note: the above has nothing to do with whether or not Angela should be fired. The answer is, “Yes. She should be fired. She shouldn’t have been hired in the first place. A C-player who doesn’t follow directions, shows up late and produces poor work should be fired.” That’s the easy decision. The hard one is figuring out what the real issue is that you should be investing your time fixing.
III. Clarify The Result You Actually Want
Again, if you’ve identified the wrong problem, you’ll probably be shooting for the wrong goal. But even when you’ve identified the real problem, most business owners and entrepreneurs don’t stop long enough to ask the question, “What’s the real objective here? What result do I really want?”
For example, let’s say your revenues aren’t growing aren’t growing as fast as you’d like. I know, imaginary problem. You’ve identified that the real problem isn’t a revenue problem, the real problem is a lack of enough qualified leads to generate the kind of revenue you’d like to see. Good call.
The natural conclusion for most business owners and entrepreneurs I know is, “Well, the solution is we need a better marketing campaign or marketing system.” Fair enough, but there are 150 different ways to solve that problem. You need a little more detail because, at the end of the day, you don’t really care what system you use, you want a result from that system.
In other words, if you want 10 qualified leads per month or 100 qualified leads per month or 1,000 qualified leads per month, those are the results you want. And each of those numbers requires a radically different marketing approach.
Moreover, you probably don’t just want any lead, you probably want a very narrowly defined lead. “Someone who has money,” is probably not a good lead. If your niche is professional service firms, you probably still have some additional criteria for what a qualified lead looks like. For example, you might want to say,
“We need 25 qualified leads per month of owners or managing partners of accounting firms, law firms, consulting firms and/or architectural firms that have between 10-50 employees, are generating north of $2M per year and are located in South Carolina, North Carolina or Georgia.”
Based on your closing ratio and average transactional value, along with your capacity to actually serve that many new clients per month, that is the result you’re after.
In other words, if you want to become better at decision-making, don’t stop at the presenting problem. Always look deeper for the real problem and then clarify the actual result you really want (which will then help you select the right option for solving it).
So, how do you do at taking the time to clarify the result you actually want when you’re trying to make a decision?
IV. Challenge Your Assumptions
This fourth and final key for today is one of my all-time favorites. Why? Because sometimes we’re wrong.
I don’t know if you know who Ray Dalio is but he’s the founder of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund. He recently came out with a book entitled, Principles, which was originally a document he wrote internally about lessons he’s learned over the years. One of his classic lines is,
“One of the biggest problems of mankind is that people get attached to the opinions in their head and don’t properly stress test them so they end up making bad decisions.”
I love that! As owners and CEOs, we tend to trust our guts. If we think a thought, we tend to assume it must be right because, well, we thought it and our track record is pretty good compared to other people who haven’t been as successful as we are.
But that’s not a great advertisement for decision-making, is it? And frequently, because we all have preference bias and blinders (as well as we all lack full information), we can often miss something.
A better idea to ponder is, “How do I know I’m right?” Or “How do I know if the assumptions I’m making are correct?” For example, you may assume that the revenue problem is related to lead generation, but what if that’s not the real problem?
What if the real problem is your lead conversion?
Or what if the real problem is your training program?
Or what if the real program is your copy?
Or what if the real problem is a strategic one, like you’re going after the wrong market or the wrong segment of your market?
If you get the assumption wrong, you’ll probably get the solution wrong as well.
Just because you’ve assumed something to be true does not, in fact, make it true. That’s why great decision-makers train themselves to always challenge their assumptions. And the larger your business, the more important this skill is. Why? Because the impact of the decisions you have to make is always larger. That’s why you have to become great at this.
So, how often do you challenge your own assumptions?
Well, there you have it. Four keys to making better decisions every day.
Remove all emotion
Make sure you’ve identified the real problem
Clarify the results you actually want
Challenge your assumptions
If you make these four keys the foundation of your decision-making process, you’ll be way ahead of your peers. And you’ll have a much higher probability of building a great scalable business.
The good news is you want to grow. The bad news is your prospects don’t seem to know that you and your business are all that different from your competitors.
I call it, “The Chinese Restaurant Problem.” Most owners of Chinese restaurants think their business is different from other Chinese restaurants. The problem is most Americans don’t know that. For most Americans, a Chinese restaurant is a Chinese restaurant is a Chinese restaurant.
The challenge is to figure out how to differentiate what you offer from what your competitors offer. In essence, you want to figure out how to position your business in such a way that your ideal prospects not only know how you’re different but eagerly want you because of that difference.
As you know, we live in a pretty divided time in our country (for those of us who live in the US).
Note: since most Americans don’t think about and/or know much about our history (or for that matter, the rest of the world), many tend to think that we’re now living in the “worst of times.” We’re far from that. The advent of 24/7 news coverage, the need for click bait to drive ad revenue, the ubiquitous internet, social media, and the major news media outlets in the US (on both sides of the aisle) moving more toward opinion than fact, it can appear that the “sky is falling.” But we are far from this being the “worst of times.” Just open a history book.
So, let’s take a step back, breathe deeply and ask the strategic level question, “Should your business take a political stance or not?”
As I’m writing this post, we’re in the midst of another battle between the left and the right, “Is it okay for a professional football player to take a knee and choose to NOT stand for the flag and our national anthem?”
Regardless of which side of the aisle you personally stand on, I’m asking the business question because, after all, this is a website about how to scale your business. So, on a business level, is it a good business decision to take a political stance or not?
No matter what you may or may not think about American football, or what your stance is on standing or kneeling (pro or con), football is a business—which means this question should be asked and answered on a business level.
Likewise, with your business, you should ask and answer this question on a business level because how you answer it may affect your ability to grow your business and its revenues … which is what makes it a question worth asking.
Now, in order to help you think through how you should answer it, here are four questions worth pondering.
Q.1 – What’s The Purpose of a Business?
Hang with me for a moment. While individual football players may like to think that the game is all about them, the reality is that it’s not. They’re employees hired to produce a result. They’re not the purpose of the business, nor is winning the Super Bowl the purpose of their business.
The purpose of their business, like every other business on the planet, is to solve a problem for a group of people at a positive value exchange.
In the case of football, the problem they solve is one of entertainment. Which means that the job of any professional football organization (or any executive team) should be to ensure that purpose is fulfilled through a positive value exchange (i.e. that fans feel like they got a great deal of entertainment value and in exchange were/are willing to pay X amount for that value in such a way that the value of all those transactions (tickets, food, trinkets, TV royalties, etc.) exceed expenses (and the bigger the gap between the two, the better)).
This is just as true for you and your business. You have a target market of people, a universe of people, for whom you’ve identified a problem. Maybe you create workflows that increase efficiencies that they can’t solve on their own. Or maybe you create legally binding documents that allow business owners to sell their businesses for a decent multiple. Or maybe you help people who are experiencing back pain in their SI joint and need to find relief quickly.
But whatever form your solution takes, it’s always in response to a problem a group of someones have where they’re looking to find a solution that either they can’t solve on their own or you can solve better, faster, cheaper, more efficiently or effectively or with a higher ROI, etc. than they could on their own (or your competitors could).
And, when you think strategically as a good business leader, you want to solve that problem at a positive value exchange. In other words, it makes no sense to do all that work and lose money. If your business’ expenses equal $2.6M per year, you need to generate, on average, more than $50,000 per week to make sure you end up with a profit at the end of the year (and the more you average above $50K per week, the better).
While you and I want to take good care of our employees, they are not the business—nor are we the business. Our businesses are entities separate from us and our employees, as well as our opinions. They exist to solve a problem and to do so at a positive value exchange—and the bigger the profit margin the better.
Q.2 – Will Taking a Stand Negatively Or Positively Affect Our Purpose?
Realizing that our employees (or contractual agents, like football players, despite their wages) are not the business, the business level question is, “Will taking a stand negatively or positively affect your purpose?”
In the case of the NFL, judging by the responses I’ve seen, the answer has been, “Yes.” There are probably some who decided to watch this past week’s games to support those players who took a knee, but I’d venture a guess that far more chose either NOT to watch or lost some respect for those players/teams who took a knee (which could lead to a negative impact on their purpose) and clearly, it took a negative impact on the problem they solve, that of entertainment.
Note: In full disclosure, if you haven’t picked up my preference yet, let me be clear. When I see our American flag and listen/sing our national anthem I tear up every time because, for me, this is about our nation and I can’t help but think of the men and women (Democrat and Republican, White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Male, Female, Rich, Poor, Old, Young, etc.) who serve (or have served, who survived or who died) for our nation and do/did things I would never do so that people like me (and you, if you live in the US) get to enjoy our freedoms, including the right of free speech.
That said, based on the purpose of a business, do you think it was a good BUSINESS decision to
Let players kneel if they wanted to
Stand, arm in arm, in solidarity while the national anthem played
Stay inside during the playing of the national anthem so no kneeling or standing would be observed
Make a statement about kneeling
You decide. But it is a business decision. And it should be made at a business level. Do you think that taking a stand will have a positive or negative effect on your business’ purpose or not?
If the answer is, “It’ll probably negatively affect our purpose,” then it’s probably worth not taking a stand.
Q.3 – Will Taking A Stand Hinder Our Future Ability To Attract and/or Retain Customers?
Again, I’m looking at this question at a strategic business level, not a personal preference or moral level. Will taking a stand negatively affect us moving forward from attracting more prospects and keeping more of the people who’ve already bought from us in the past?
Remember, good business decisions are rarely made in the heat of the moment. The wise business leader is usually the one willing to step back and consider, “What are the possible risks, both positive and negative, as well as short-term and long-term, to making this decision?
From my perspective, I’m forever telling business owners and entrepreneurs, “Why would you want to create a smaller circle?” Note: this has nothing to do with niching. I’m assuming you’ve already figured out your niche. My question is,
“Why would you ever want to needlessly tick off people who are your ideal customers?”
There’s nothing wrong with ticking off some people. Every business has to decide, “Who do we want and who do we not want as customers?” But I’m asking the question, “Why needlessly tick off people who are your ideal prospects or customers?” Why take the chance at losing revenue and customers over something that’s not your core?
Now, to help you see this clearly, let me share a story with you from back in the early 1990’s that forever shaped my thinking on this subject. At the time, I was leading a small church outside of Washington, DC. Bill Clinton was the President of the US and there was a phrase that was used in the media frequently during that time, “Pull a Clinton,” which meant, “You don’t tell the truth.”
I was in a series on integrity and even though I normally stayed true to my written text for some reason, in the heat of the moment, on that particular Sunday, knowing I’d get a good laugh, I added that simple phrase to one sentence, “You know, you never want to pull a Clinton. You want to be known as a person of integrity, someone whose word can be counted on.” That week, we lost several church members.
When I asked them why, they said, “Because you said, “Pull a Clinton.” I said, “I’m sorry. It wasn’t part of my notes. It was an unwise, spur of the moment decision that popped into my head that I thought would get a laugh, but I shouldn’t have said it. I’m sorry.” They said. “Too little. Too late. It’s clear that you’re a Republican and that this is a Republican Church so we’re going to find another church.”
Now, whether or not their actions were correct (I don’t think they were), the reality is that just three words in the middle of a 40-minute talk caused several “ideal prospects/customers” to leave and never return. And guess what, I didn’t need to say those three words. They didn’t add anything to my message. I could have eliminated those three words and nothing would have changed. I’ve never forgotten that lesson. Why needlessly tick off people when you don’t have to?
Politics is bad for business. In a country where we’re 50/50 on most issues, why needlessly tick off 50% of the people—when taking a stance has nothing to do with your purpose?
Actors and actresses have no idea how many people no longer watch their movies or TV shows because of their overt political overtones
News networks have no idea how many people who used to watch them no longer do because of their overt political overtones
Sports franchises have no idea how many people who used to watch them no longer do so because of their overt political overtones
So, my question to you is, will taking a political stance help you attract or retain customers over the long haul? If not, avoid taking a stance. Why needlessly tick off people whom you could serve?
Note: an hour after writing this section I was talking with a friend (on a different topic) who said he went to turn on a football game this past Sunday and his wife walked by and said, “What are you doing? Turn that off. If they’re going to disrespect our flag we shouldn’t be watching.” Trust me. I’m not making this up.
Note 2: Not only were TV ratings down for most networks, but “former” team fans have taken to social media literally burning their favorite team’s jerseys and equipment over this issue. Again, not the kinds of actions you usually want as a business owner from long-term customers.
Q.4 – Does This Issue Rise to The Level of a Core Issue?
In case you’ve been wondering, “But when do we take a stand?” Or “Is it ever okay to take a political stand?” The answer is, “Yes.” In spite of all of the above advice, which is probably true 95%+ of the time, there does come a time when as a business, you have to take a stand. The question is, “When? And then, “How?”
Since this is a business blog, I’m not going to try to tell you when an issue rises to a core level because that’s a business decision you and only you can make. What is core to one business, isn’t to another. For Hobby Lobby, paying for certain medical procedures was a core issue, for most other businesses, it wasn’t. You, and only you, can answer, “Is this core?”
But this much I can say, far less is core than we think. The core ought to be a handful of issues, not every issue. The rest are preferences. And good people have a right to disagree on preferences. But to determine what constitutes a core vs. a preference, you have to be willing to step back, remove emotion, and ask the question, “Is this truly a core issue worth losing customers or potential customers over or not?” That’s the kind of question that can’t be asked and answered in a moment or even a day. For most businesses, that’s the kind of question that’s looked at, discussed and debated over time.
Sometimes the answer will be yes. For example, in America, a yes answer would be, “Should all people, regardless of skin color, be allowed to be customers and use the same facilities as anyone else with a different skin tone?” As Americans, equality, regardless of skin color, is a core issue. Equal protection under the law, is a core issue. Freedom of speech and the practice of religion are both yeses.
But most of the issues of our day, aren’t core, they’re preferences. I’m a conservative. My parents are liberals (I know, they’re disappointed as well.) . We see most issues radically differently but that’s okay because we see the core issues the same. We’re Americans first and we agree to disagree.
So the first issue you have to decide is whether or not something is a core issue worth losing customers over or not (or is it just a preference?). But even if you decide that something is a core issue, the second issue you have to decide is, “What’s the best way to address that issue?”
Realizing that taking a political stance can negatively impact business growth and continuity, is the best way to deal with that issue (for your business, not you personally)
Speaking out publicly on that issue
Writing an op-ed
Working quietly behind the scenes
Supporting an organization whose focus is that issue
Lobbying a politician (or politicians) for that cause
Tweeting or posting about it
Raising money for it
Marching for it
Organizing a political action group
Or something else
Only you can decide what’s core and what’s not. And then, once you decide if something is, how you should support that cause. But what I’d encourage you to do is to make sure you don’t rush into supporting a political position without first stepping back and asking some business level questions.
What is the purpose of a business?
Will taking a stand negatively or positively affect our purpose?
Will taking a stand hinder our future ability to attract and retain customers?
Does this issue rise to the level of a core issue? And if so, how should we respond?
There’s nothing wrong with taking a stand. And there’s nothing wrong with agreeing to disagree. It’s at the heart of our republic. But what an individual wants to do on their own time and what they get to do as an employee are two different things. If, as the owner/CEO of your company, you decide that from a strategic business level you want your organization to take a stand and you’re willing to take the risk of ticking off 40-60% of your prospects/customers, then take your stand.
But at no point should you ever let an individual employee (or group of employees) make a political stand that has business level implications for you and your business—that you haven’t decided. That’s not their job. You’re the one in charge. And in the NFL, that’s not even a coach’s choice. That’s an owner’s choice.
So, should your business take a political stance or not? It’s up to you. Sometimes the answer will be “Yes.” But, my guess is, most of the time it’ll be “No.” Why? Because people on both sides of most issues have a problem that you can solve for them. Why let anything needlessly hinder your ability to help as many of them as possible?
I think that’s a question worth asking.
To your accelerated success!
P.S. Note: this post says nothing about what you (or your employees) can or should do on your personal time. My comments are simply designed to help you as a business owner/entrepreneur/CEO stay focused on building a scalable business (and to help you stay in control of your business and not let any employee (or group of employees) reverse their roles and yours). Personally, I’m standing with you!
Have you ever struggled to define your brand? Or even to define what a brand is or isn’t?
Or have you ever wrestled with how you could attract more and more of your ideal clients/customers vs. just anyone?
Well if you’ve ever wanted to solve those questions, you’ll want to watch this week’s video. Why? Because once you’re clear on what your brand is and then you start marketing the heck out of it, you can literally determine who you’ll be attracting to your business.
So, don’t waste any time. Go ahead and watch this week’s video on how to define your brand so you can attract your ideal clients/customers. Then set aside some time this week to implement what you’re about to learn.
Note: In trying to keep this video short I left something out that I should have mentioned. Part of defining the reputation you want should also be defining how you’re different than the other options in your market space. You don’t want your brand to sound like all the other options in your market space. That would be self-defeating.
To your accelerated success!
P.S. If you haven’t subscribed yet to my new YouTube channel, make sure you click on the subscribe button in the lower righthand corner of the video so you never miss an episode. You won’t be disappointed.