Do you need to make a big project come to life quickly? Do you need to accomplish something that others say can’t be done? Do you need to turn around a situation that others say can’t be turned around? Well, if you do, I think you’ll enjoy today’s post.
But before I do that, let me first offer an apology for not writing any business growth ideas and tips for the past two and a half months. The reason why I haven’t been writing is because my wife and I were in the midst of a “miracle” summer. After 23 years of living in Germantown, MD (a suburb of DC), we decided to move down south to Mount Pleasant, SC (a suburb of Charleston, SC) at the end of August after our youngest went off for her last year of college.
Between preparing a house to sell, selling it, getting a job for my wife, buying a new house, packing a house, and setting up a new house, I knew something had to give—and blogging was one of those casualties of war. But, that said, I think what happened with our move can serve as a perfect example of how to create a “miracle” for any business.
Why? Because for most people, what we did as quickly as we did it, appeared like a miracle. We sold our home to the first couple that came through on the first day it was on the market (June 8th), we went to settlement on Friday, June 29th (with a 60 day rent back), got my wife a new job as a Labor and Delivery nurse at East Cooper Medical Center on July 3rd, put in an offer on a house two hours later, and had the offer accepted the next morning, July 4th, around 10:00 a.m.
In other words, in six days (including two weekend days which included travel days from DC to Ohio for a wedding on Saturday and from Ohio to Charleston on Sunday) we sold one home, got my wife a new job, and purchased a new home in a new city that we had only visited for one day previously (i.e. something that most of the people we know refer to as “a miracle”)!
So, what can you learn from that experience that can help you create more “miracles” for your business? Here are five lessons.
1. Find a Compelling Vision That Focuses You
One of the biggest mistakes that business owners and other leaders make when they’re creating plans is that they write down items they think should be on their plan (“We ought to do … ” or “We should do …”). But the problem with oughts and shoulds is that they’re not compelling (which is why the same ideas often end up on the same plans year after year). However, when you have a compelling vision that captures your heart, it’s amazing how focused you become.
In our case, the driving force behind our move came a little over a year ago when my family and I were vacationing in Hilton Head, SC at the Sea Pines Resort. I was on my daily morning bike ride when I thought, “Why are my wife and I working 50 weeks a year in DC so we can come down here and vacation in paradise for just two weeks. Why don’t we move down here and live in paradise 52 weeks a year?”
That was quickly followed up by the thought, “And why should we wait until we’re 70 to move to where we want to retire? Why don’t we move where we want to retire, now, when we’re 50 (now 51) so we can build relationships and get involved while we’re still young?”
To my surprise, when I approached my wife, Jacquie, who’s not a big change agent, she was open to it. Note: our timeline was stretched to the end of this summer because we wanted our youngest daughter to have her last summer in the same home she had grown up in.
But the compelling vision that drove all of the actions we’ve taken over the past year (including leaving our home town that we had lived in for 23 years, friends, family, a great job for my wife, all my contacts, etc.) was the vision of living in paradise and making that move now so we could build the kinds of friendships we’d like to take into our senior years, rather than waiting until we were in our 70’s.
That vision of living in paradise 52 weeks a year was compelling to us.
So, how about you? What’s your compelling vision at work? Does it get you out of bed? Does it excite you? Does it move you enough to give up what’s comfortable and enter a place of uncertainty? If not, go back and get a more compelling vision.
2. Make Sure Your Vision Drives Every Decision
Apart from a compelling vision, most people will make compromises to their “vision” for expediency’s sake. But when you have a compelling vision, that should drive everything. For example, the iPhone 5, was just announced yesterday. Do you have any doubt that what drove the design and engineering of the new iPhone 5 was vision? None at all! Jonathan Ivy and crew are driven by vision first, and then by executing that vision. Anything that didn’t fit with their vision of perfection was discarded (period).
In our case, it would have been easy to move down south in any number of locations, and we could have chosen any kind of home. But that wasn’t the vision, was it? The vision was about living in “paradise”.
Now, to be honest, there were some other sub-visions. For example, we wanted to live in a larger home somewhere near the ocean. We wanted to have a home that would be a “grandkid magnet” (future thinking since neither of our daughters is close to that stage). We wanted to be in a community with a mayor (if you don’t live in a county that’s county-run this may not make sense, but having lived in Montgomery County we wanted local government—enough said :-). We wanted to move to a smaller city with less traffic. We wanted to be part of an active tennis community, etc. All of those ideas helped form our idea of what living in paradise meant for us.
So, as we looked at areas from Virginia Beach to Savannah and from Atlanta to Charlotte, we ultimately decided that the area that best conformed to our view of paradise was Charleston, SC. And more specifically, a suburb called Mount Pleasant. And within Mount Pleasant, a beautiful gated golf course and tennis community called Dunes West (with gorgeous long tree-lined roads, with bike paths and water fountains along the streets, etc.).
Furthermore, as we evaluated each home, we kept asking, “Would this house (or neighborhood or community) feel like we were coming home to paradise?” Or, “Would this be a grandkid magnet?” Etc. In other words, the vision drove the entire process. Just as it does with Apple. And just as it does with any “miracle.”
So, how about you? Is your vision driving every decision? Is it clear what you will and won’t compromise on? Do you evaluate every decision against the vision of what you’re trying to create?
3.Be Clear On The ORDER of the Big Rocks
All business “miracles” are usually the result of great project management. In other words, nothing great happens by chance. But what creates so many problems for so many small business leaders is that they get mired down in things that don’t matter right now because they’re OUT OF ORDER. Step 7 doesn’t matter if steps 4, 5, and 6 aren’t complete. But this happens all the time.
In fact, what I tell my clients all the time is, “That [the thing that’s out-of-order] is IRRELEVANT. Until you take care of [the next thing in order] it’s a waste of your time to focus on [the thing that’s out-of-order].”
In our case, I was crystal clear that our move was going to be one long project management project. As such, I started the whole process by outlining the “Big Rocks” … and their order. In our case, they went like this.
- Upgrade our home for a quick sale and a high dollar transaction (i.e. change counter tops, repaint trim, upgrade old lighting fixtures, etc.)
- Stage our home for a quick sale (declutter, depersonalize, etc.)
- Sell our home in Germantown, MD
- Get Jacquie a job at East Cooper Medical Center in Labor and Delivery (or possibly at the Medical University of South Carolina)
- Buy a home in Mount Pleasant, SC (preferably in Dunes West)
- Pack up our home in MD
- Set up our home in SC
That order drove everything. Why travel to Charleston to look at property in May (step 5) when we hadn’t sold our home in Germantown (step 3). Or why worry about getting a job for Jacquie in Charleston when we still hadn’t upgraded our home?
In other words, the order of the big rocks drove everything. Buying a house BEFORE Jacquie got a job was a non-starter for me. It was a waste of time. It was irrelevant. It was simply a distraction.
And what I find with most small business leaders is that they get distracted by items that come further down the pike (often because they like doing them), rather than focusing on what needs to be done next and in the right order.
So, how about you? When you’re working on a project, do you get easily distracted—especially by items that come later in the process? If you do, stop doing that! Focus on the order and the next step—nothing more—and you’ll get farther down the field at a much faster pace.
4. Do Massive Research Behind the Scenes
One of the reasons we could move so fast when the time came was because I’m a data junkie (I’m sure that shocks some of you … LOL). Based on our timeline (daughter heading off to school) and the law (a max. of a 60-day rent back or our “home” would become an investment property), I knew that we’d have to make a lot of decisions quickly.
For example, we couldn’t get Jacquie a job in May if we were moving in late August. Or we couldn’t wait to buy a home in August with a September settlement because we’d have to be out of our home no later than the end of August. In other words, I knew a lot of decisions were going to have to be made very quickly in a four to six-week time frame.
So, in the case of finding our new home, I literally knew every home in Mount Pleasant that was for sale that fit our core criteria (thank you internet!). I had spreadsheets filled in with all kinds of data so I knew everything about them—from what neighborhood the house was in to how many square feet to how much it cost per square foot (for comparison) to how large a lot it was on to how much the HOA/POA fees were to what the property taxes were last year to the sales history, etc. Like I said, I like data.
However, while this may seem like overkill, it made making a decision very easy (and easy on our realtor :-). I told our realtor, here’s my number one pick. He said, as we were entering it, “Now, you need to see a lot of homes today. I’ve never had a client who their number one house online was the house they bought. What you see online and what you feel when you’re standing in a home are very different.” I said, “Well I may be your first!”
We went in several homes that day and guess what … we bought that number one home. Why? Because I had already done all the research ahead of time. I already knew it fit all our criteria and that it was undervalued. I didn’t need to spend days driving around town. I needed an hour to confirm what the data showed. Once Jacquie got her job offer, we just needed to meet with our realtor to write up the contract—something we couldn’t have done if I hadn’t done all the research ahead of time.
So how about you? Are you a data junkie? Do you love to do research? Or even if you don’t like doing research, do you do it anyway so that you have the data you need when you need it so you can make a “quick” decision? If you want to create more “miracles.” you’ll want to become a data junkie. It’s essential!
5. Be Totally Fixated On What The End-User Wants
I used “end-user” above in case your big project is internal, but if it’s external, the end-user is the customer/client. Again, this is where a lot of mistakes are made in big projects. Most small business leaders focus on what they want. But what you and I want is basically IRRELEVANT. All that matters is what the customer/client wants. Note: Yes, we do matter. For example, profit matters. But you know what I mean when I say that what we want is irrelevant.
In our case, I knew a couple of things about home buyers. First and foremost, they want a home that looks great, that wows them when they walk in, that is “move-in-ready.” So, Jacquie and I walked through our home, room by room, and decided, “What should we upgrade to get the best chance at a quick sale at a high dollar amount? What would WOW someone? Etc.” And over six months, we made a number of improvements. Some were low dollar amounts (like changing to updated lighting fixtures) while others were higher dollar amounts (like a new front door and a new kitchen counter top and sink), but the guiding criteria was what would someone who’s looking for a home really want.
Then, one month out, we began staging our home. I even created a six page document on staging from visiting staging sites on the internet. We then went room by room and staged them. We took down all our family photos (a massive number by the way :-). We scaled decorations down. We moved some furniture from one room to another and put other furniture in storage. We repainted some walls. We decluttered shelves, etc. Again, not because we wanted to, but because we were totally fixated on what a home buyer would want. Note: This is a common mistake when selling a home. You have to stop thinking that it’s your home and instead treat it like it’s a product to be sold.
The final thing I knew was that everyone likes a deal. So, when we went to price our home, I wasn’t fixated on what was the maximum price we could get (in this market, the people who are usually have their house on the market for six to twelve months and have to keep dropping the price until they end up getting less than they could have gotten if they’d just priced their house right in the first place). So, being clear on what our prospects would want, we positioned ourselves to be the best conditioned and staged home at a price point that a prospect would walk in and say, “Let’s write up a contract!”
And did they? Absolutely! The first couple through on the first day, just three hours after it went on the MLS, came through and put their offer in at full price! Which was also critical given the time line.
In addition, they also bought a number of pieces in our house. Why? Because I know that everyone loves a deal. So I gave them deals on everything. And they bought. On the other hand, the couple that we bought our home from offered us a couple of pieces of furniture—and we bought none of them. Why? Because they over-priced everything. In other words, they were thinking about them (what’s the most we can get?) while we were thinking of our buyers (how can we make them a deal that they can’t refuse—which may be a left over from my Italian background :-).
Bottom line, “Miracles” happen because the recipient of the action/product/service feels like this was designed for them, that they got a deal, that it moves them emotionally, etc. In other words, it’s all about them (not us).
So, how about you? When you’re trying to create a new profit explosion or launch a new product or service or drive a new revenue stream, are you totally fixated on the end-user/client/customer? Or are you too focused on you and what you want?
If you want to create more “miracles” for your business, I think these five key lessons will serve you well!
- Find a compelling vision which focuses you
- Make sure your vision drives every decision
- Be clear on the ORDER of the big rocks
- Do massive research behind the scenes
- Be totally fixated on what the end-user wants
If you follow these five keys, I’m confident you’ll see some “miracles” in your business over the next few months! And hopefully you, too, will be able to say, “In just six days we were able to …”
To your accelerated success!
P.S. I apologize for the length. I guess not writing for two and a half months has created some pent-up writing angst 🙂 But don’t worry, future posts will be shorter!