November 30, 2011

Are You The Best in The World?

Make a Dollar

A year ago this week, my friend Mark Gallagher gave me a project. During one of our long deep and very helpful conversations he said that I should imagine a triangle with three equal sides. Side one features things I am best at the world at, side two is where I will make the most money and side three is what I'm most passionate about.

It's a challenging exercise because imagine for a moment that you can accomplish all three. Passion seems to be the easier one (for me) but most money and best in the world seem daunting.

Make a Name

I'm not sure who first coined the phrase but there is a theory that we are motivated by three things - to make money, to make a name for ourselves and to make a difference. Again, making a difference seems to be the most attainable and honorable. But you may feel different.

There is sound evidence that as we age, we seek more purpose and meaning. But the most difficult side of Mark's triangle is identifying what you are better at than anyone else on earth. This isn't meant to create a boastful ego but rather to make us strive to really be our best.

Make a Difference

Mark's triangle was in this order for a reason so it's up to each of us to figure it out for ourselves - our context. It's an interesting quandary. Many a dreamer has struggled and many who chase only the dollar get in too much trouble as well.

It's interesting that we want to get better but wait for opportunity to land in our lap. Our collective impatience can waste value time focusing on what's important. We search for how to be the best, make a living and realize passion but we often let life get in the way.

What's on Your Triangle?

Kneale Mann

image credit: istock | original: nov 2010

November 28, 2011

Leadership is Not a Title

I used to be one of those people who admired others who worked for themselves because of their perceived freedom. They could choose who they worked with and their hours were flexible. They had business expense write-offs and could take time off whenever they wanted. Of course, that was all too innocent of me.

Any  self-employed person will tell you that you don't know what it's like to work for yourself until you work for yourself. That doesn't let you off the hook if you work for someone or own a large enterprise.

Selling You is Hard Work

Developing your own brand, offering or services can be tough if you don’t have a team to lean on or a established company to back you up. Scaling your expertise can be as difficult as deciding what you will offer in the first place. But we need to remember we still have a team which comprises of our network of helpful humans. The business model is expanding far past any building walls.

One may think that selling a product is easier than a service and it’s not. There are millions of brilliant people developing necessary products who can confirm the hill is just as steep. I’m often asked “what do you do?” and I prefer to say “here’s how I can help”.

B2B + B2C = C2C

We portray a strong image through profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and more. The keyboard can make us brave but earning business is hard work. You not only have to prove you can provide the services you promise but you must give a prospect a reason to hire you and work with you.

If you work for yourself, be proud of your accomplishments. There are good, bad, scary and busy days. None of us escapes them, including those who started large enterprise. From Henry Ford to Carol Bartz, Oprah Winfrey to Michael Dell, they all had to start somewhere. We reside on both sides of the counter, so we all work for someone.

So How Can You Help?

Kneale Mann

image credit: freelanceswitch | original: jul 2011

November 25, 2011

Procrastination: The Business Strategy

I posted this list last year. Christmas is a month away.
Do any of these sound familiar?

• We want to make some changes, but we’ll talk about it after Christmas.

• Let’s reconvene after the Holidays.

• There’s no way we can get to that until the New Year.

• I doubt we’ll have time to give that much thought until January

• There are too many distractions this time of year.

• That is a great idea. Let’s table it for the first quarter.

• Let’s wait. It’s crazy right now and the Holidays are coming up.

• There’s no time to deal with that at this time of year.

• We don’t look at any new business in December.

• We're too busy for that now.

• How about we wait until we can have a good look at this after the break.

• Nothing happens this time of year.

• We can’t handle new business opportunities until after Christmas.

Is there an opportunity for you to get to it now?

Kneale Mann

image credit: simplyzesty | original: dec 2010

November 23, 2011

How Do You Lead Your Tribe?

We are a competitive species. We also have an inherent need to belong so we gather in groups or tribes to find security and strength for our collective abilities. But not every tribe is created equal. Some can be dangerous and destructive while others can change the world.

David Logan is a faculty member at USC, an author and a management consultant. In his TEDx Talk from 2009 he discusses tribes and more importantly the levels or differences between them. 

What level would you like?

Kneale Mann

visual credit: TED

November 21, 2011

The Tricky Art of Scaling Your Business

"Anything you build on a large scale or with intense passion invites chaos.Francis Ford Coppola

I seem to have several conversations daily surrounding the same topic – scaling. There are millions of bright talented experienced business owners who want to grow their companies save a couple of crucial issues – time and money. There is no concrete way to control the speed of scaling but often it feels like it's not happening fast enough. Some days it moves at a snail's pace.

You want to grow your revenue line and you know in order to do that you need extra help but you can’t afford the extra help because you are too busy working on the current revenue stream. And you can't seem to grow the revenue because of all the prospecting and meeting and selling and trying to get your current client work done.

Sound Familiar?

This is an issue that has faced business forever. Others with much less money or experience have solved what each of us faces which perhaps makes our concerns even more annoying. We love to hear stories of people born of meagre means to fight and claw their way to a successful career.

We know we can do it but its a mix of our impatience and some pedestrian items we need to corral. Scaling is a challenge for everyone from sole proprietors to c-level executives of corporations with a global footprint.

Here is a list of things to think about (I know I do) when you look at how to scale your business...

Find the Quiet
Anyone who knows me, knows I have a busy brain. That does not always mean I’m getting it all done, sometimes quite the opposite. Busy doesn’t mean progress. Find those moments where you can shut it all off, listen to some music, put your feet up and clear your mind.

Be Honest About Your Effort
We can usually find external fault in the slower pace of our business growth. The truth is, we need to look inside to ensure we are doing all we can. That’s usually where the slowdown is occurring.

Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
We all do it and it is a complete and utter waste of time. We can claim that numbers and stature and position don’t matter (they don’t) but we make them far more important that they are, stop shaking your head, you do so.

Ask Often and Always
This is where most businesses fall apart. I know I see my work slow down when I stop asking for business. We get timid, we don’t want to appear to be selling, but without sales there is no business. Find your way. No ask, no business.

Get Help
Small business, large corporation, c-level executive, sole proprietor, no one makes it on their own. No one. Ever. Surround yourself with a mastermind group of people from all walks of life with two purposes – to tell you the truth and to offer advice.

It’s Not Their Fault
When played properly, life is a team sport but we need to own our part.

Find the Decision Maker
How often have you had discussions with someone who can’t make the sale for you? Why would you try and sell to someone who isn’t in the position of buying? We've all done it far too often.

Be Clear About Your Offer
Elevator speech, website, social profile, in-person meeting, if you don’t believe what you are then no one will. Often companies get stuck or worse go backward when they begin to get unclear on their offer. Qualifying the sale is essential too. There's no sense talking to anyone - decision maker or not - if they're simply not interested.

Decimate the Naysayers
They are everywhere. Stay away from them. Delete them from your life. They will do absolutely nothing but derail you. Advice is fine, negativity is destructive.

Walk a Mile
This is not about comparing yourself to others but rather learning from others. Find people who have gone through what you’re going through. This is why some of the best hockey coaches are former hockey players. This is precisely why the most successful people have mentors.

Take it Offline
The online social networks are wonderful for finding like minded people along thought silos void of geographical limitations. Get on the phone, book a coffee or lunch, get out of the office and meet people in person or hear their voice. No social networking tool is more powerful than human interaction.

Be Sure You Want This
Follow your gut. Find the quiet. Get help. Listen to yourself and learn what you want.

Let's get back to work!

Kneale Mann

image credit: newmoon | original: mar 2011

November 18, 2011

Leadership and Inspiration

After more than twenty-five years in the workforce, I remain absolutely fascinated by the reasons why two seemingly similar companies can travel very different journeys. One could thrive and grow and expand while the other struggles. Could it be the products each offer? Perhaps. Is it the price? Maybe. But it’s something much deeper.

Leadership is not a job title but a mind space, an attitude, that ‘thing’ we can often not quite put our finger on. And great leaders not only inspire a company, they can inspire a generation. But let’s back up for a moment. You work hard and want to be a part of a sound company and do purposeful work.

Simon Sinek has written a book on it and in his TEDTalk outlines what sets apart those leaders who inspire and make profound differences in their work and the people around them.

It begins with one simple question

Kneale Mann

visual credit: TED

November 16, 2011

Make People Your Priority

Is it a midlife crisis? Is it an identity crisis? Some go through it several times. This is not about getting to an age where you buy a sports car to rekindle your youth or run off to join the circus. Though it could.

This is at your core and is suddenly right beside you with a two-by-four that smacks you right in the skull. The brave face masks our fear. We may fool others but we don't fool ourselves. The uneasiness fails to subside as we plow through on all the things we should do while we ignore what we want to do.

We humans are unique to any other species because we have the ability to reason and can analyze and solve problems. But that constantly gets us into trouble. Justification for not moving forward on an idea or embracing others' input on a project can always seem to be explained in our clever minds. And this logic infiltrates our businesses, our work spaces and our team environments.

Are We Superior? 

One could argue we create more than we solve. We are the only creatures that worry about what if, then and next. We are also the only beings that are concerned about having a purpose and regret.

We want a legacy, we want our lives to mean something yet we seek approval from everyone but ourselves. If we can’t see it, no amount of awards or money will be enough. Without that feeling in the gut, increasing revenue can only sustain us on its own for a short time.

What's Next?

Dogs do not concern themselves with that incident last July when they didn’t catch the ball on the first bounce. Cats waste no time worrying about your opinion of them. Birds fly void of any concern they’re doing it wrong. Yet we spend considerable amounts of our precious time worrying about what happened, what’s about to happen and what might happen. We spend far less time on what is happening right now.

We are not drones performing sufficient duties to deliver satisfactory results to the revenue line. We are people. We have hopes and fears and dreams and desires. And so do those working with us. This is not to suggest your company should be a place where everyone holds hands and talks about feelings all day. But treating your fellow stakeholders like machines will create an environment that will hurt you.

Forget being human and business will suffer

Kneale Mann

image credit: wallbest
original: Jan 2011

November 14, 2011

Business is Not an Overnight Success

Don't Wanna Wait

A large cheeseburger with condiments is approximately 600 calories. An hour of high impact aerobics for a 200lb man will burn about 600 calories. A slice of pumpkin pie is about 350 calories. An hour of ice skating for the same man will burn about 340 calories. We know we need to eat better, work out more and take better care of ourselves but (on average) we don’t do that. We eat the cheeseburgers and the pie then get acquainted with the couch.

Often companies will look at the success of a certain campaign or promotion to get a sense of customer reaction or appetite. This kind of strategy is both flawed and short-lived. Patience is a virtue but rarely a business plan.

Open for Business

Unless you have won the lottery, have rich parents or are independently wealthy, you need new business all the time. It’s admirable to see some who have as many customers as they will ever need but the rest of us need to constantly build our business. Not for a week, not once in a while, but every single day.

We want the customers now but can have trouble seeing the long term benefits of a sustained effort throughout the year. We wonder how these available channels can help us without realizing our contribution is critical to the equation. We want the quick wins to sustain our revenue line forever.

Downside of Now

As a business and marketing strategist, I am asked often if I can help companies improve and increase revenue. I can but I don't have magic dust to solve all their problems in an instant - no one does.

If you are in business, you have made some mistakes and enjoyed some victories but neither happened in a day or a week. It would be arrogant for anyone to claim they can help you improve in those areas in a short amount of time. You may want to find some quick wins but they are fleeting and impossible to scale.

We are not built for strategy or long-term thinking. If things are bad, we want them to be good, right now. If money is tight, we want money, right now. If someone promises that this campaign will help us get us out of this slide, we are happy to listen, right now. We want the burgers and the pie without the waistline.

Do you want wins or business growth?

Kneale Mann

image credit: directresponse
original: Mar 2011

November 12, 2011

Change is a Way of Life

You've heard the quote “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. Some say it was Einstein, some say it was Franklin. The point is the meaning behind it.

I have worked with business owners who have tried it the other way around. They narrowed the focus, found the niche, then measured success against the wide mainstream. They did different things expecting the same results.

What Change Feels Like

There are theories that we build our set of values by the age of five. After that, it’s all experience and execution. Marriages split after decades of partners trying to change each other. Elections are won by candidates promising change.

Change is not easy. Change requires energy and focus and sustained attention. Change is something that sounds good when someone else says it. Change can fight you. Change can be elusive. Change wears many disguises. Change starts from our core, not our minds. Change is freely available when we want to grab it.

Change is Right Here

I was speaking with a colleague who was commiserating about a client who says she wants change in her organization yet her actions prove the opposite. And I reminded him that most of us like the concept of change but we don’t have a clue what it feels like when it’s happening. Most of us don't realize how deep rooted our habits are which often block change. And those habits once represented change.

Change is awkward and unsure. The ground begins to move beneath us and we crave for things to return to "normal". We like to feel safe and comfortable. We may scan the menu but there are usually a handful of items we order each time.

Say Change vs Do Change

This is increasingly more difficult in an organization. The economy is still down in many areas of the world yet on the threat of their very survival, companies often fail to realize a necessary organizational shift. Often the people uttering the decree for change aren't willing to change themselves.

There are two significant issues going on – the sheer will of stakeholders to keep their status quo and the task of building inspirational leadership. Knowing when change is necessary then actually taking the necessary steps to create it, is the challenge.

How do you affect positive change?

Kneale Mann

image credit: catnross
original post: feb 2011

November 11, 2011

Let's Remember

We spend a lot of time discussing business and fretting over the economy. Let's take a moment to thank the brave women and men who fight and have fought for our freedom.

We remember so we never forget

Kneale Mann

image credit: blogto

November 9, 2011

Networking or Pitching?

Beyond the Threshold

Think about the last time you walked into a store and the clerk was on you from the second your foot crossed their front door. You probably quickly told them you were just looking because your personal space was crushed by someone trying to sell you something even though you were in their store.

Now imagine you're at a networking event and you meet John who shoves his card in your hand before you can say hello. You can feel yourself backing up and scanning the room for a few gulps of fresh air, a lifeline, a way out. Despite being at an event where you are trying to meet potential customers, clients or partners, John's approach is a bit much so you recoil. You quickly realize the room is full of two types of people - sellers and those who are too scared to sell.

Beyond the Elevator

Everyone tells you that you need to get out there and meet people, shake hands, let them know you’re looking and what you offer. Yet few people enjoy networking. It can be intimidating to try and 'sell yourself' in a room void of buyers. Most shun those who pitch their offer on the social web yet I'm unaware of anyone who can pay their bills with followers and a better Klout score.

Perhaps if I was painter, it would be easier to explain. My passion to provide business solutions to owners and managers who want to become better leaders and improve their people and revenue. The process isn't easy to define because it changes with each situation. When you look closer at your offer, you may say the same.

Beyond the Title

We need to know how best to explain what we stand for and how we help others. Even the painter does more than slap paint on a wall. She may enhance the feel of the office while it blends with the dark cherry desk and black leather chair.

So before walking in a room to sell your wares or greet new customers in your space, figure out how you can help them and the process may be smoother. And if you think this is an issue exclusive to service providers and small business owners, even large enterprise stumbles on this stuff.

Are Selling or Solving?

Kneale Mann

image credit: fooduncorked

November 6, 2011

Clocks Back • You Forward

In parts of the world, clocks fell back an hour this weekend. An extra hour of sleep we lost in the spring. Strange things happen around these two events each year. Some find autumn tougher while others think adding an hour of daylight in March messes them up. One thing to be thankful for is that most gadgets have a clock that automatically makes the change for us.

Great ideas often come from short bursts of inspiration. Companies have been born over a lunch. An hour can be spent on the couch or used to change the world. Thirty-six hundred seconds to accomplish anything we want, what are we going to do?

60 Ideas for 60 Minutes

• Update your resume
• Empty your in-box
• Say no
• Offer your time to a charity
• Call mom
• Make cookies
• Get rid of self-doubt
• Have coffee with someone new
• Write your business plan
• Listen without talking
• Go skydiving
• Tweet
• Write a proposal
• Ignore the naysayers
• Share an idea
• Start a business
• Call a sibling
• Gain some perspective
• Plan a trip
• Apply for your dream job
• Build a chair
• Learn euchre
• Do something that scares you
• Make soup
• Stop making excuses
• Find new websites
• Call a friend
• Go for a drive and get lost
• Ride a horse
• Invent a product
• Have a bath
• Go easy on yourself
• Prepare a meal
• Take a nap
• Start a graffiti wall
• Remove negative influences
• Make amends
• Say yes
• Update social profiles
• Have lunch with a friend
• Get off your ass and do it
• Paint a t-shirt
• Quit your whining
• Watch a webinar
• Learn to juggle
• Prepare a presentation
• Call dad
• Play squash
• Help a friend
• Clear your desk
• Contact a potential business associate
• Enjoy nature
• Go bowling
• Listen to a podcast
• Plant a tree
• Help someone with their list
• Prepare your will
• Go square dancing
• Write a chapter for your new book
• Lose the fear

What are you doing in the next hour?

Kneale Mann

image credit: istock

November 3, 2011

Reframing Ideas to Create Magic

I showed this video to a colleague last week. It is inspiration of creativity, imagination, ingenuity and our ability to see around a seemingly impossible problem to find an even better solution.

Our impatience can stop us from crushing the box and starting over. The pressures of making revenue numbers are often the very catalysts to decimate creativity. And as you look around to your team, your colleagues, your friends and your customers, you may be surprised how close the solution can be if you pay closer attention.

Will you take the escalator or the stairs?

Kneale Mann

visual credit: anca4vlad

November 1, 2011

Defining the Sales Process

Since we've been living on this big marble, the sales process has been a part of everyday life. There is no escaping it and very little moves forward without it.

Centuries ago, the currency may have been a bag of rice for a piece of furniture but the barter system is alive and well. The media may have been a local market or horse-drawn carriage, but business clicked along.

We tend to get caught up in gadgets and interfaces and think they are what drives business. As much as they may accelerate the process, give us the chance to find similar thinking people around the globe and open doors that would never otherwise be opened, the exchange of services or products for currency hasn’t differed.

Know What You're Selling

When I was a kid, my buddy Mark’s dad worked as a life insurance salesman. As he put it, he sold “peace of mind” to families. Now you can build a client list through customer relationship management (CRM), database marketing and social media but the offer hasn't changed all these years later. If you sell insurance, the theory stands that you are selling peace of mind.

It’s easy to point to an exchange of money for a product as a “sale”. But what has to happen before that exchange occurs? Does the company not have to let potential customers know about the product? Isn’t there a network or supply chain required?

Honing the Offer

I was having dinner a few weeks ago with a client who challenged the notion that we are all in sales because her definition is the point of exchange and not the myriad other things that need to happen to get there. Her 15 years as a commission sales rep was her experience in sales. She went through the process of finding prospects, calling on them, showing the benefits of what she offered and ending with a monetary exchange. Her point is that as much as we all 'sell ourselves', someone has to close the deal. My contention is that a lot has to happen to help that deal close from people throughout the enterprise.

I often see product and creative people scoff at sales people as a necessary evil. But when discussions of chickens and eggs come up, the tie breaker is that we are all in the product AND sales business because neither can survive without the other. What I like to do is help business owners and managers work ON their business when most of the effort is working IN their business. And I sell every day.

Are You in Sales?

Kneale Mann

image credit: mspmentor
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