Ask Key Questions for Change

question markLooking at your company from a different perspective is sometimes what is needed to make important changes that lead to moving forward. The problem with this is, it is hard to do. How can you put yourself in a perspective that will make decisions that will change everything? Rasmus Ankerson, who we are bringing to speak at the EO Argentina University in November, has an answer for that.

In a recent blog post, Rasmus discusses how one question can change everything. It is a question that helps to dig out and create some clarity in times of uncertainty and lack of direction. When Intel was evaluating the changes in the sales of memory chips, they were seeing a drop and in 1985 they had a big drop in memory chip sales. Founder Andy Groove was having a discussion with CEO Gordon Moore as they discussed this issue.

As Groove and Moore debated what to do, they discussed that if they messed up, the Board may replace them. So Groove asked Moore what a new CEO would do if they were replaced? Moore, without hesitation, said he would get out of chips and into microprocessors. So Groove said, let’s get up and walk out the door and then come back in and do it ourselves! That is exactly what they did, and we all know the story from there.

So when looking for a way to get real with your situation, ask what your successor might do if he was brought in and didn’t have the baggage of being stuck with all the decisions and dollars spent previously. Getting out of the quicksand of the past is tough, but maybe looking at it this way and asking this question is a way to do it.

As was discussed a few weeks back, the option of asking the question, “what is the job that our customer wants done,” is another way to look at prospects and to open up an untapped white space for opportunities.


Business Regret: What’s it All About?

regretsIf you listen to any of the successful leaders in business out there, you will hear them say over and over that it is about the people. In other words, to have a successful business, you must have the right people and they must be in the right positions, playing to their strengths. Then everything will be good.

Okay, sounds good, so let’s go get the right people and everything else will be great. Then we will not need to keep the wrong people and instead, we will need to grow those that have potential.  The problem with all this is that we are talking about people and when we do that, we have a lot of other factors that get in the way. Emotions are the big one, but also best intentions. You want to see the best in people, and you want to help others. These all have an influence in working to get the right team in place.

I have experienced this repeatedly, and have felt it in my gut when I knew I had the wrong person in the wrong seat and, given whatever circumstances, don’t make a change right away. I was reminded of this by a recent blog that was written by my friend, Stephen Lynch. Stephen has written a book, Business Execution for Results, that is a great step-by-step for getting the strategic plan, the alignment, the key decisions and the execution all down, so your business is spinning like a top.

The blog he sent me was called “The #1 Regret of Business Owners.” And guess what that one regret is? Hiring mistakes! As we just discussed, it’s all about the people.  Stephen says that sometimes it is good performers who don’t fit into your culture. Other times, it is taking too much time to fix performance issues with someone that fits in, but is not achieving the desired result. Then there are the times we just hire the first person with a pulse to get it out of the way.

There is no perfect way to find people because, as we said, we are dealing with the complexity of humans and boy oh boy, can we be filled with intricacies. At Efficience, we have had success with process called Topgrading.  It has helped us find good people, but sometimes we just have had them in the wrong seats. It may take some learning, as we have experienced, but we finally found two technical project managers that are knocking it out of the park! Thank you Chris and Sarah for great results in getting our projects done and making our clients happy!

Peter Drucker, in his very interesting book, Post-Capitalist Society, tells us why people are so important. The book is all about the societal transformation from capital, land and labor, to a knowledgeable society where individuals are central.

Drucker says, “Knowledge is not impersonal like money. Knowledge does not reside in a book, a database, a software program; they contain only information. Knowledge is always embodied in a person; carried by a person; created, augmented, or improved by a person; applied by a person; taught and passed on by a person; used or misused by a person. The shift to a knowledge society therefore puts the person in the center.”

We can see with this explanation from Drucker how important our people are, and getting the right ones on board and in the right seat is job number one for any leader!  Do you have the right people sitting in the right seats?

The Goal Is Antifragile

Some of you may remember the book, “The Black Swan,” that I have written quite a few blogs on in the past. The reason I have shared from Nassim Taleb often is his philosophical thinking about the world and investing is so insightful and unique that it makes for serious contemplation about the world in which we live.antifragile_the_book

Well, Taleb has done it again. He has written a new book that is just starting to sink in and open my eyes to the implications of his thinking. The book is “Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder.”  Here Taleb presents to us that things will get more stable and stronger when they have ongoing shock and turmoil, compared to things that are breakable or fragile. That the antifragility of some comes at the expense of the fragility of others.

This happens in the biological world where some parts of the inside, like within a cell, may need to be fragile for the large structure to be antifragile. Taleb uses the example of restaurants in the book, saying that each one is fragile in that they come and go – they compete and go out of business regularly. The local restaurant collective is antifragile with its system providing quality, whereas central control, Soviet-style cafeteria food would be the alternative.

Fragile type systems depend on everything be exact and a planned course. If you have deviations, they are more harmful, so this needs to be more predictive in its approach. The opposite holds true for antifragile, where you don’t worry about deviations and the possible different outcomes that may occur as you move forward.

When you see the world through this lens, it helps put perspective on what works and doesn’t work.  This would mean not bailing out on the things that don’t work, and not relying on permanent administrations and forecasting departments that think they can predict the future.

How do you help yourself to become more antifragile? You learn to love mistakes. When you make them a lot, but at a level that is small and reversible instead of large and destructive, you put yourself in a situation to evolve and stay alive. What you may consider is the random aspect of trial and error, is not so random if it is carried out in a rational approach, because the error is used as information.

For the entrepreneur out there, Taleb’s work has a lot of implications for your strategy and thinking in how you approach your competitors, market place and the world in which you live. I will get into that more in future blogs.

As I’m sure you have noticed, we have changed the blog over to a new format, so it will look a little different to you.  Thanks for reading.

Riding The Wheel Of Life

As I come back from an EO Insignia and Quantum Leap conference in Park City, Utah, I carry with me some great experiences.  This conference brings all the segregated forums together to have time to interact with each other and gain a personalized approach to the EO experience.  Insignia is for people with 7 years or more in EO, and Quantum Leap is for those with $15-million or more in revenue.  We get time with the large group as well as with our own forum, which includes a coach to take us through exercises.

Our coach, Phil Kristianson, incorporated some adjustments and tools worth sharing.  One, the Wheel of Life, allows you to look at the key areas of your life and rate them by how satisfied you are with that area.  These include family, significant other, health, career, finances, relationships, spirituality, and adventure or fun. See the form here and print it out and try it for yourself.

When you fill this out, you see the areas where you are lacking fulfillment in life and where you are fulfilled.   With that awareness and some introspection, you can create goals based around the areas you should be focusing on in order to better your life.  If you go around the circle and find it to be up and down like a roller coaster, your life may not be as balanced as you may optimally like.  Thus, an effort can be made to balance it out.

These types of exercises help us to understand one another in the forum.  We get to know each other and our areas of strength or weakness, so we can share experiences and changes to help one another in those areas.  This is a key aspect of forum:  to get help and see if you are being real with where you are and how you are getting where you are going.

How balanced are the areas of your life?  Do you have a peer or peer group helping you strive to improve?


Kick Start The New Year

As we start the New Year, so many of us reflect upon what it would be like to make this year a better one.  Instead, what if we think about how we can make it happen?  How does the reality changethat we want to see actually manifest?  It happens by first figuring out where you want to go and removing the obstacles that are stopping you from getting there.

When I was in Istanbul, Turkey I heard Matthew Kelly talking about getting to where you want to go and dreaming of the possibilities of what might be.  As a life and business coach, Matthew helps people and businesses focus on their greatest desires and dreams and then helps them get there.  He also wrote the best-selling book The Dream Manager.  Reading his latest blog post reminded me of some of the planning, focus, and what we should avoid in order to reach our greatest desires.

To kick start your life and make 2013 the best ever, ask yourself the same questions Matthew asks.  I will share the questions as well as provide one example from each to demonstrate changes I will make this coming year.

  1. If you could only accomplish three things next year, what would they be?
  1. What are you going to do to ensure you have more energy next year than you did      this year?
  1. What relationships do you want to improve?  How will you improve them?
  1. What new habit(s) are you going to adopt in 2013 to grow spiritually?
  1. What bad habits are you going to eliminate?
  1. What are you going to spend more time doing?
  1. What are you going to spend less time doing?

I will make it a key top priority to build successful mobile apps.  I will do P90X2 cardio workouts twice a week on top of the weight workouts to increase my energy.  I will improve the relationship with my team and the culture of our company, and I will do this by injecting a positive energy with all my interactions and eliminating any negative people or conversations that come up.  I will read a page each day from my spiritual books.  I will eliminate the habit of complaining about the small stuff.  I will spend more time reading books and material that have big ideas and positively change my thinking.  I will spend less time watching negative news stories that bring my vibrational energy down.

What about you?  What are a couple of big things that you are going to go after, and what will you eliminate to kick start your life to the big dreams that we are all after?

Communication Revolution

Back in 1995, when Robert Loest and I were telling the world about our new mutual fund IPS Millennium, we told a story explaining that, historically, change within a civilization first occurs at an inflection point and is followed by big change and then a long plateau period.

We shared how civilization started with hunter-gathers, and people maintained that lifestyle for over 100,000 years.  Then, we had an inflection point, learning to plant seeds and grow food.  This was the Agricultural Revolution of the Neolithic Era, and it went on for a few thousand years.  Then around 1439, Gutenberg invented the printing press, and the advent of real sustained knowledge accumulation and transfer took place.

Sharing information through books led to the invention of the Watt Steam Engine in the 1760s or 1770s, and this really kicked off the Industrial Revolution, which lasted about 100 years. The transistor was then invented around the 1940s, and the Information Age was born. This lasted for about 50 years.

Then in 1995, we entered the Wired Internet Age and dawn of connectivity in real time, all the time, which has lasted around 15 years.  Now, we have kicked off the Mobile Era and the dawn of wireless connectivity.

As you can see, the timing of our mutual fund and the start of this new era lined up perfectly.  Even though we proclaimed that investing in a connected world would create value, we were unaware of just how connected the Netscape browser was going to make us.

I am sure you noticed how each era has gotten shorter and shorter.  Change progressively occurs faster, and some of the issues for business today center around this disruption which happens when we hit a new inflection point, and the game suddenly changes for everyone.  However, this also creates massive opportunity for entrepreneurs!  Anyone listening . . . especially with the new inflection point of mobile?

I was reminded of that story we told when I read a blog by David Meerman Scott on what he calls the 2nd most important communication revolution in history.  When you step way back and, as David says, take a “view from the moon,” you see that the first communication revolution was bolstered by Gutenberg’s invention of mechanical movable type.  This allowed books to be mass produced and freed people to more easily share information around the world, so they could go out and invent things and build on one another’s ideas.  This changed the world, a world that had not changed much since the beginning of time.

We are now in what David calls the 2nd communication revolution, which started in 1995 with the invention of Netscape, allowing us to have easy web browsing capability.  We are living through this time and the major changes that are occurring.  We’ve gone from a few million online to billions in short time frame, and it continues to grow.

David explains how real time communication is vital in this new age and that “you are what you publish.”  So, are you putting content out there on the web in real time?  Check out his video.

Marketing and Leadership Speaker David Meerman Scott from David Meerman Scott on Vimeo.

I would like to thank David for inspiring me.  When we met about 4 years ago, he was the one who told me to start writing a blog.  It took a little while to sink in, but about 3 years ago, I started blogging sporadically, and shortly after I began posting a blog every week.  We are living in the times of sharing content.  Are you?

Offering Less to Be More

In business, we often strive to make all of our customers happy by being good at every feature or service we offer them.  The problem is that being good at a lot of things makes it difficult to be great at any one thing.  Why do we do this?  We think we can excel in any one area when the reality is we are just good or average in all areas.  Have you ever thought about trying to be bad at something you do so that you can grow your business and increase your market share?

less-is-more-logo-blackWhat if I was a bank and decided to offer the lowest rates on deposits in all my markets?  What if I did this, so I could be the best at customer service?  I could stay open 7 days a week and as late at 8:00pm on weekdays.  I would hire people based solely on attitude because hiring on both attitude and aptitude is too expensive.  I would do this knowing that not having aptitude, your people couldn’t offer 20 plus types of checking accounts and highly complex financial instruments.  Would you think my bank could even grow or see the stock price go up if I made those changes?

Well that is exactly what happened to Commerce Bank, which became the fastest growing retail bank in America.  They saw their stock price go up 2000% in the 1990s.  Commerce Bank made a key strategic decision to deal with a huge sticking point in the industry.  They talked to consumers and learned one major concern was that banking hours sucked.  They decided to open at 7:30am and not close until 8:00pm, and they kept the teller window open until midnight on Fridays.  They also maintained full service hours on the weekends.  While they did this, they sampled the marketplace to ensure they had the lowest deposit rates out there, and if they did not, they would lower them until they did.

Commerce Bank realized that in order to have the resources necessary to be really great at something, they needed to be bad at something else.  Why?  Because being good at everything takes resources, and to be great at something you need to redirect those resources to focus on the things that will make you great.  Commerce Bank understood that they money they saved on low deposits gave them the money to fund their longer hours of operations.  They discovered that to have the best customer service people and afford them, they needed to sacrifice on aptitude and reduce the complexity of their products, offering only limited financial products.

You can read more details from this example, along with others, in Frances Frei’s book “Uncommon Service.”  It shares many examples of companies that sacrificed in one area to be great in another.  This book is an important read for making strategic decisions that impact your features and benefits given the resources you have.  They discuss creating an Internal Attribute Map to figure this out.

We haven’t done this yet at Efficience, but I am adding it to the agenda for our annual meeting.  We need to discuss what we can take away, so we can prop up a key area that makes us stand out in the marketplace.

What you going to drop, reduce, or eliminate to make your offering or service excellent?