Don’t be self-defeating! Innovate.

Big companies need you, don’t let their presence prevent you from moving forward with your ideas, designs and inventions.

How many great ideas have been crushed by thoughts like, “What if I take my product public and a big competitor just replicates it, crushing me and my idea?

There was a good article in Entrepreneur magazine last month (Buy vs. build – Sam Hogg) that I want to summarize, in effort to promote progress rather than hesitation.

In short, big companies typically don’t build, they buy, they typically don’t innovate, rather they automate. Their shareholders demand guaranteed, successful growth, a requirement that start-up entrepreneurs can’t afford and also are not shackled by.

Innovation requires people (entrepreneurs) with wild ideas, solutions to problems and visions of a better future.

Large companies cannot afford the risk nor the time required to create something that may fail, it makes them look bad to their board and investors.

Entrepreneurs can make plans on a napkin and decisions over a couple of beers, large companies struggle to get a memo crafted in a day to call a meeting for next month.

Risk vs. reward…. it makes a lot more sense for a big business to buy a hot innovation than run the risk of trying to make it and failing, even if they have to pay a premium on the guarantee.

If you are thinking of innovation and afraid of getting stepped on, don’t be, just run faster and prove your success to a strategic partner or buyer (big business).

The brain at work or home (and play)

Lists are a big part of any plan for success.

As the saying goes, if you fail to plan then you are planning to fail.

For tasks at hand, things to remember and other knowledge that you want to recall quickly, I put them to a list written out on paper.

For the skeptics of the world, those that “remember everything” and have no need for lists, try this very simple example.

Below are a list of words. Read them all once, twice, even three times. Now, close your eyes and count to 20 then speak the names of your 5 closest friends.

With your eyes still closed, read back as many of the words on the list as you can in 10 seconds.

 

  1. Two
  2. Paris
  3. Elvis
  4. Galveston
  5. Sea-hawks
  6. Seventeen
  7. 1943
  8. Alan
  9. Nebraska
  10. Disney
  11. Lincoln
  12. Washington
  13. Wilson
  14. Wildcats
  15. Filthy
  16. Fifteen
  17. New
  18. Nine
  19. Twelve
  20. Eyes

Now, open your eyes and read off the list as many words as you can in 10 seconds.

 

I won’t ask how you did because even having written the list myself, I couldn’t get them all in 10 seconds if I wanted to.

From a sales perspective, those words are your customers and actions that need to be addressed today. Outside of work, those are all of the things you need to get done before winter. At play, those are all of the fun thing you have done with friends when next you wonder what to do.

One of the first things I do when trying to remember what I had planned for the day and what I should do next is to create a list, so I don’t have to think about it anymore.

Business Opportunity Follow-up

It’s not the girl or guy who’s number you got last night, it’s someone who wants to hear from you now.

No delays, no games, close the deal!

Having created and run multiple businesses in both the services industry as well as hard goods, I’ve come across a fair amount of opportunities and inquires. While there areĀ  many differences between these types of businesses, there are also some similarities, including the opportunity follow-up.

Answer immediately, particularly in the age of the internet, constant connectivity and instant response/gratification expectations. For us and many, our website is our storefront and any form completed to request information or follow-up communication is someone figuratively knocking on the door.

Just imagine if you had a brick and mortar business and your front door is locked at the moment. A customer shows up and knocks on your door to buy some goods or simply to ask a few questions. How many of these opportunities do you suppose you would close if you chose to answer your door a few hours or even a few days after the customer is knocking? Do you really think that they would just sit there waiting for you to answer the door?

When a customer completes a web form requesting information or contact, especially these days, they demand an answer immediately. If you choose to ignore the knocking on your door (or email on your smartphone) and wait any stretch of time to answer, you will lose nearly every time. They will go next door and find another seller, they will go to another website and submit a request and eventually, they will get an answer in a more prompt and professional manner.

No excuses!

Optimism vs Denial

Optimism and Denial are quite often one in the same?

Optimism (noun): A disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome.

Denial (noun): A psychological defense mechanism in which confrontation with a personal problem or with reality is avoided by denying the existence of the problem or reality.

Surely there are many times when the two are very different, here is an example when they are not.

 

In business as in life, especially as an entrepreneur, there are times when this really needs to be given a hard look to determine if what you are claiming to be optimism is really just denial. Maybe you came up with a great idea, developed it, tested it and take it to market but sales don’t come in like you anticipated. You throw more money at the marketing efforts, add features to make the product better, hire people to promote the product, redesign your collateral to make it more appealing and start hitting trade shows to promote the product. Hundreds of thousands of dollars later you are still losing money and the forecast isn’t predicting sunshine. You remain optimistic because you have employees who’s morale must be upheld. You remain optimistic because you have investors who’s confidence needs to be maintained. You remain optimistic because you put your house and nest-egg on the line and your wife and children will be worried if they sense failure or doubt (worried is an understatement). You remain optimistic because you know it is a good idea and it was just too early to market, it will take off soon.

That’s where a good slap upside the head might help.

You are no longer optimistic, you are truly in a serious state of denial. It may have started as optimism but in the end, the dark side has won and you need to cut your losses. Maybe it was a good idea, maybe you were early to market, it happens. Good football teams usually punt on fourth down, they can’t always “go for it”.

Has this ever happened to you?

Of course not!

Ok, maybe it has. Being a college drop out, I chalk it up to my version of student loans. I learned the hard way, many years ago.

If you are or you’re getting ready to become an entrepreneur, inventor, business owner of any sort, prepare yourself for this possible outcome. While it isn’t always and doesn’t have to be, for many with the eternally optimistic entrepreneurial spirit, it’s easy to head down this path.

 

The thing about apologizing

Apologizing and being sorry are quite different, yet used as if they were the same.

I make mistakes, lots of them. I do things that inconvenience others and things that are perceived as not nice words or actions. We all do.

There are lots of ways to respond these days (in person, email, phone, text) and there are generally two phrases used in setting the situation right in your mind.

I’ve seen both and have to say, there is a very notable difference (to me) when someone takes the time to say “I’m sorry” versus someone that says “I apologize”. Maybe I’m just being oversensitive to this one, but seriously, it is a lot harder to say that you are sorry and mean what you are saying than it is to “apologize”.

The delivery vehicle is just as important and highlights the good or bad of the words chosen.

Walking up to a person or calling them on the phone and saying to them “I’m sorry that what I did cause problems for you…” takes a lot more effort and sincerity than sending an email or text that reads, “My apologies for any inconvenience that causes…”.

Be mindful of your words and choice of delivery.

Most importantly, if you are not sorry, don’t apologize!