Don’t Lie About Who You Are

I don’t care if you call it your purpose, your “why” or your mission.

What I do care about is this:

1) That you don’t lie about who you are

This is human nature that fuels business nature. We lie about who we are because it is easier to think about an ideal that we see and/or admire. We often find ourselves wanting to be like someone we admire (Or at least an idealized version of someone we admire). And we do the same with our businesses. But your business, just like you, is unique. It has its own personality, quirks and mannerisms. The right people will be attracted to it for all of those unique traits and the wrong people will be turned away. Why would you want it any other way?

Want to have more fun running your business?  Let it be itself. Warts and all.

2) That you are wildly persistent about proving it.

If you can get straight about who you are then what you MUST do is figure out every possible way you can demonstrate and prove it to your staff, clients and the market. Writing it on a poster, in your brochure or on your web site is not proof.  I am talking about the ways you impact human beings with what makes you real and unique. The moments you create for people. As large a moment as when they use your product or service and as small as a note you put on your invoice. How many of these moments can you create?

If you are a funny group of people, write a joke book.

If you have insane technical expertise then create a seminar or write a book.

If a client does not know everything they should know then set up a lunch to change it. Even if that means an expensive plane trip.

The possibilities are as endless as your imagination and your guts to start trying new things.

Anybody can make a claim. Very few prove it.

The Man In The Glass

When you get what you want in your struggles for self
And the world makes you king for a day,
Just go to a mirror and look at yourself
And see what that man has to say.
For it isn’t your father or mother or wife
Whose judgment upon you must pass,
The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the one staring back from the glass.
Some people might think you’re a straight-shooting chum
And call you a wonderful guy.
But the man in the glass says you’re only a bum
If you can’t look him straight in the eye.
He’s the fellow to please, never mind all the rest
For he’s with you clear to the end
And you’ve passed your most dangerous test
If the guy in the glass is your friend.
You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years
And get pats on the back as you pass
But your final reward will be heartache and tears
If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.

– Author unknown

Life Is Too Short To Be A Boring Company

Spotted this on the blog of Dustin Curtis and thought it was a great find. Despite Groupon getting clobbered in the public markets, the sentiment and approach to how they think about their business and the purpose they want it to serve is terrific.  

From their S1 filing (Emphasis added is my own):

We want the time people spend with Groupon to be memorable. Life is too short to be a boring company. Whether it’s with a deal for something unusual, such as fire dancing classes, or a marketing campaign such as Grouspawn, we seek to create experiences for our customers that make today different enough from yesterday to justify getting out of bed. […]

We believe that when once-great companies fall, they don’t lose to competitors, they lose to themselves—and that happens when they stop focusing on making people happy. As such, we do not intend to be reactive to competitors. We will watch them, but we won’t distract ourselves with decisions that aren’t designed primarily to make our customers and merchants happy.

Innovating Around Your Customer Waiting Time?

I just finished re-reading Tom Kelley’s excellent book: “Ten Faces of Innovation.” It remains one of my favorite business reads. There is a section towards the end of the book that focuses on “the subject of waiting – an unavoidable element in most customer journeys- and I believe that the way you manage those critical wait times can make all the difference in how your company is perceived.

Too few consider that the entire time your current or potential customer is waiting for you they are interacting with your brand and your company.

Mr. Kelley points out a variety of strategies to keep people informed, as they wait, that mainly center around music/messages on hold and that friendly voice that tells you your expected wait time. These options are certainly better than dead air but they have existed for over 10 years. It’s simply old news and really doesn’t dramatically change the experience of waiting. If I am waiting for you, I am already inside YOUR customer experience. So… make it an experience! There simply has been too little innovation in customer waiting time.

And there is an opportunity for you to seize.

If you do not know where waiting is occurring within your customer experience then that is the first place to focus on. Find out and write them all down. Figure out what they are doing while they are waiting. Are they on hold? on a line? Are they lost in the dark while waiting for a delivery? You don’t need to put together a task force for this or have a bunch of meetings. Grab a pad, call 10 customers and ask them.

What information could you be giving them during this time that would make that time truly valuable and memorable? Implementing innovation in just this area will make an enormous impact. Make it a goal to implement just 1 new tactic In the next 30 days. Repeat as necessary.

The Mind Of A Leader

The mind of a leader must be free—a mind that can dream and imagine. All new things were born in dreams. A leader must have the courage to be a nonconformist, just like a scientist. He must dream, even if he dreams alone or if people laugh at him. He must not let his heart falter.

– Shimon Peres

Seek Defining Moments

“Instead of setting goals, seek defining moments. Those are the real tests, because you have to be willing to fail in a pressure situation in front of other people. That fear holds all of us back, and that’s the toughest thing about aging. With age, you see people fail more. You see yourself fail more. How do you keep that fearlessness of a kid? You keep going. Luckily, I’m not afraid to make a fool of myself.” – Hugh Jackman

Connected?

The longer (“Extended mix”) of the piece I wrote for Seth Godin’s ebook – “What Matters Now”

There are thousands (probably hundreds of thousands) of businesses making many millions a year in profits that have still never heard of twitter, a blog or facebook. Are they all wrong? Have they missed out or is the joke really on us? They go about doing business through personal relationships, by delivering great customer service and it is working for them. Big time. They are more successful, by any measure, than most of those spending hours pontificating about how you will lose if you miss out on social media and the latest wave. They are doing business. Not writing about it. Doing it.

They missed out on the last dot com bubble and bust. Maybe they will miss out on the next one. Are we so sure they are wrong?

Ironically, the online world is enthralled with the TV series Mad Men. It provides a captivating window back to when work was social in that old face to face way. Work looked sexy back then because it was. No bicycles in the office, no Foosball tables and empires were built without so much as a single tweet. Advertising is broken!… we all like to cheer. But is it broken because we are all too busy to be “interrupted” by it? And is that good? Or, just as it always has been, do we tune out bad advertising and, because good ads are so rarely engaging, we move on. I don’t remember loving every commercial growing up but I can tell you I remember a truck load more of those jingles than anything I could remember in the past 10-15 years.

I am continually amazed by the number of people on Twitter, the sheer number of blogs that now exist and the growth of people (and brands) on Facebook. But I also am amazed by how so many of of us are spending our time. The slaves we have become to our mobile devices and the glow of our screens. It used to be much more simple and, somewhere, simple turned into slow. It’s not. Simple works. Always has and always will. And yet we strive to make it harder for ourselves. We worry about twitter followers, blog subscribers and getting “Dugg.” Does it make us a dime? Really? Does it help us make a dent in the universe? For a very few, maybe it does and that makes us all chase after that small glimmer of gold. But for most of us it has put our heads in the digital sand. Is it possible that we are so busy managing our “friends” that the power of real friends is fading away? Does anybody pick up the phone anymore?

What would happen if you unplugged back to 2000? Just simple email that you dialed in to check a few times a day and a phone that tethered you to a chair for a while.

Why are we sending emails and direct messages to see when a good time to call might be? When did picking up the phone to quickly resolve an issue become inefficient?

For the person with 368,000 Twitter friends I ask, how connected to people do you truly feel?

I love the idea of all of these tools and am amazed at their possibilities. But I wonder how many are truly getting something more positive out of it than the alternative.

Are they actually improving interactions with brands or, as it always has, does your experience with a brand come down to how great or not great the person you had to call when something went wrong was in solving your problem? Layer on as much technology and social media icing as you want, for any brand, YOU are the product! My new iPod may be shiny but, if the Apple Genius is a jerk, then I am not liking the brand. My Audi salesman acted like a jerk when I decided to not lease a new Audi this time around. It changed the way I think about Audi in a small but important way. Social media cannot change that fact.

What happens to what it feels like to be part of a business that is doing something truly great if we are spending more time protecting our personal brand? What did business do to all of us that made building your personal brand more important than doing something great together?

The echo chamber we are building is getting larger and louder. More megaphones does not equal a better dialogue.

We are busier than ever before doing more disconnected activities than ever before. Multi-tasking has become a badge of honor. I want to know why.

We walk the streets with our heads down staring into 3 inch screens while the world whisks by doing the same. And yet we are convinced we are more connected to each other than ever before.

Don’t get me wrong, what we can do now is nothing short of spectacular. And yet the ability to generate real wonder and awe is fleeting. We no longer care how an airplane can fly us around the globe, we grouse about the food or the fact that you cannot check your email at 37,000 feet and 580 miles per hour. We rage against a short Twitter outage when it is a service that we get for free but shrug our shoulders and wait it out quietly when our paid electricity gets knocked out by a storm. When did we become so entitled to that which we don’t value enough to even pay for?

I don’t have all the answers to these questions but I find myself thinking about them more and more. In between tweets, blog posts and facebook updates.