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    Blog Index
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    The Sweet Spot of Growth

    I’ve been involved with thousands of companies, organizations, and entities in my career. The vibrant, successful, and growing organizations have a certain feel. The stagnant, rudderless, and shrinking organizations also have a feel. Often the people inside organizations that are not growing are aware of what’s happening, but often they are not. Sometimes a lack of growth and a lack of the ingredients for growth can be seen in the attitudes, energy, and pace of the people. But you must know what to look for and pay attention to. That is one of the first things I look at when I try to help an organization become more successful; “Is there anyone engaged in the sweet spot of business growth?” Can this organization win?

    The sweet spot, a term often used in sports, is where the ball is most effectively hit. It is where the cleanest shots occur – the center of the bat or a racquet that creates the greatest impact when it meets the ball. Businesses have to find the sweet spot in their markets. That is where the organization’s capabilities, talent, and approach meet outside opportunities and then exciting things happen. You might think of the business as a bat, and the opportunity as a ball. In baseball for example if you hit the ball at the right moment, on the right section of the bat, with the right speed and strength, and angled in the right direction, you get a homerun, or as they say, you “hit it out of the park.”

    Getting to the sweet spot requires that you step up to bat, and that you swing. No swing. No hit. And one of the first things I look at is whether an organization is consistently swinging or whether most of its team members are spectators looking for someone else to step up to the plate. In business swinging means sales, marketing, and business development; with clear targets, focused and determined effort, and relentless proactivity.

    You find the sweet spot only with lots of experience in live selling situations where the stakes are high. You find this spot when you have to deliver, and you have to combine your training, conditioning, savvy, and mental toughness to get a result that you need to reward clients (in sports these are fans and sponsors) and advance. To grow as an organization, you need people who work hard enough and diligently enough on the right things to score. Without this, you will certainly lose.


    Powerful Moneymaking Strategy: Barter

    Barter is a powerful tool for entrepreneurs and growing businesses, but I’ve found most people in business have no idea how to develop a barter relationship, or how to leverage it after getting into one. The enormous value in barter is trading something of value, for something else of value, that you might be unwilling, or unable to pay for. It’s a tool to gain something now, that you might have to wait to get or accomplish when you have the capital, talent, or time. Barter might mean gaining access to something that you’d never have the ability to have – but is available to you right now, if you see the opportunity and act on it.

    I’ve always looked for barter relationships in my business-building. It’s part of my bootstrapping nature. I’ve negotiated office space, technology, creative services, travel, and much more. I’ve found many companies and entrepreneurs eager to barter to get started in a new endeavor, to have a reference, or to learn the ropes as they build their capabilities. In return I’ve offered coaching, consulting, sales efforts, marketing work, client work, introductions, etc. Barter relationships are achievable but there are important issues to remember:  

    Parity: Most people perceive what they are giving, as being more valuable than what they are getting. This is ultimately where many barter relationships go wrong. You can try to put a value on the exchange but then you get into retail price vs. wholesale price, the cost to you of delivering what you barter, and if it’s a service, the market value of your brand. To avoid parity issues, I recommend that you value more what you are getting, rather than what you are giving.

    Strategy: If you begin by valuing what you are getting more, than it stands to reason that you should have a strategy to use what you are getting effectively. This is where many go wrong because they don’t know what to ask for, or how to build upon what they are getting. Let me say the best thing to leverage always are introductions and relationships to whomever your barter partner can introduce you to. No matter what you’re bartering your focus should be on telling the world that the person in the deal is a client or friend, and leverage that into more and potentially bigger relationships. This is the biggest lift you can get from barter – more exposure and credibility amongst a larger network.

    Deliverables: Make sure you approach your barter deliverables in the same way you approach performing for a top-shelf client. While this may seem difficult or impractical, if you are serious about exchanging benefits, you must make bartering a great deal for your counterparty. If you provide substandard, poorly executed, low value or late returns in your barter relationship, you will not engender goodwill and certainly will not get more than this in return. The way to approach deliverables is to surprise your barter partner with more in return. That will open the door to them giving you more.

    Make your barter relationship a fixed term or based on fixed milestones, and then formally renew the relationship if you want to continue. Providing a window where you can exit, no questions asked, will prevent you from harboring resentment about a relationship you want to get out of. What is most important is that you make sure you enter barter relationships where the upside is clear for both parties and you never forget that upside as you work together. Barter is not about depleting your resources and energy, it is a moneymaking strategy that will attract greater resources and energy to your business, but only if you see it that way, and behave that way.


    ‘Build On Your Strengths,’ is Nice But You’d Better Become Aware of Your Weaknesses Too

    In the last decade, the trendy messaging in personal development is, “Build on Your Strengths.” The idea is that you shouldn’t focus on your weaknesses – only your strengths, but there’s something about this that misses the mark, in my opinion. We need to be self-aware and that includes being aware of our shortcomings –not just our strengths.

    Everyone wants to make it easy for us – I get it. Being self-aware may not be as easy as it sounds. If you asked someone if they’re a self-aware person they would probably say, “yes.” Most people would say they are in command of their personality, emotions, and affairs in life. However, there are many things about us, habits, patterns, and points of view that we never question, don’t take stock of, and frankly, don’t want to know too much about, because it might be difficult for us to confront the truth. Others who observe us and are astute may notice revealing signs that expose us, but we may not. However, sharpening our self-awareness is crucial to making substantive changes in our lives and careers. That is, if we really want, what we say we want.

    Of course, that’s the key issue. Many people do not really want what they say they want. They like the idea of it. They like talking about it, but they don’t like the work involved. Others have difficulty facing and dealing with the gulf between where they are and where they’d like to be. I think that’s the reason why many in my profession found it easy to simply say, “Don’t look at your weaknesses.” It’s easier to try to convince ourselves and others that we’re taking steps to get there or there’s a substantive reason why getting there is delayed or not possible.

    The truth however, is that you cannot become excellent without having clarity about what you should be working on – and then going to work on it. Masters at their craft do not stay in the dark about where they need to grow. You can talk about maximizing your strengths all you want, but if you have a weakness that prevents you from rising to optimal performance you have to address it by working at it, or by working around it. That mean improving yourself, or modifying your goals or your approach so that improvement in that particular area doesn’t matter.

    Do you want to learn that you’re not good at what you think you’re good at? Do you want to know that your point of view is counterproductive to the aims you’ve stated in life or business? Do you really want to know that you’re not fooling anybody? Do you want to hear that the case you assertively make to explain whatever it is about yourself, your work, your life, your situation, that you’re explaining is not believed by any of the people you’re spewing it to – and the only person you’re fooling is your 12-year old son – and you’re not even fooling him?

    If you really want to know what’s going on in your world, so you can address it, then self-awareness is a quality you need to cultivate. I hate to tell you but that begins by confronting your weaknesses and deciding if you’re going to work on them. Becoming aware of your weaknesses could be your roadmap to a better and more fulfilling life. Don’t let them scare you.


    Your Worst Times May Be Your Best Times

    Someone asked me what things have occurred in my life and career that have had the most impact, and without question, it has been things that seemed like bad decisions, bad moves, and bad situations. It’s not that I enjoy pain, but I’ve been more motivated, hungrier, and more driven when I’m pulling myself out of difficult situations, than when everything seems rosy.

    For some people, challenging times and missteps might seem like terrible experiences but I’ve learned more about what works, my inner ambition, and raised my skill level during the worst of times. On the business side my door-to-door selling at eight didn’t turn out well. I was bitten by a big dog. My mail order business at fifteen had little sales and gobbled up all the funds I had saved. The business plan I was writing in my late teens was destroyed in a home fire. My weekend seminar business, created at twenty-three tanked after I ran out of money and ideas to promote it. This certainly sounds like a string of losses, but in each case I learned a ton, and was able to apply the lessons learned to later business successes, including launching a sports media company that capitalized on the emergence of the Internet, and invented an industry-changing tool for sports teams.

    Not only have the difficult times been great times of learning, the most important lessons seem to come to light long after the experience. For example, I can advise other entrepreneurs in many areas today because of missteps I’ve made, and things I’ve learned, but it isn’t always obvious to me how significant these insights might be until I hear what decision another entrepreneur is making. This is why I challenge you to not judge your circumstances too soon. It may take a while to see the best thing about the worst predicaments.


    Does Your Organization Remember?

    I often tell my audiences that we all must be more aware of current trends and practices, shifting tastes and preferences of clients, and partners, and become more relevant to younger audiences. No matter how “classic” we believe our offerings to be, we must find a way to make them appealing to a new generation of buyers. That said, we must also strive to keep our organizations sufficiently connected to the past so that our work, decisions, and strategies have a context from which we can move forward.

    I think of this as I watch the current crop of digital companies, entrepreneurs, and leaders and see the decisions being made in terms of product development, content, and marketing. I can truthfully say, that not much has changed in my thirty-seven-year career in business, despite the appearance of everything changing. But we now operate in a different context and the advent of new technology – and more important the widespread adoption of technology and its relatively low cost, and high impact, means old ideas have greater impact on us all.

    For example, back in the 1980s I worked in a media organization that struggled to keep pace with the need for comprehensive daily reporting (feeding the beast, as it is known in media circles), serving a fickle audience, and trying to make money doing so. Our most popular Internet/media companies struggle with the same problem today. Think, Yahoo and Twitter.

    This week I heard a person, widely viewed as an Internet “guru” (a term, I hate) talk about the relevance of audio because of Apple’s decision to invest more heavily in Siri-driven, in-home sound systems. He noted that podcasts now enable people to save time by listening to ideas and more people will “discover” that.

    I was struck by the “old-is-new” aspect of this guru’s comments. I discovered audio in the 1970s as a learning tool. (The first major audio learning was released in the 1950s by authors like Napoleon Hill and Earl Nightingale.) Struck by the impact listening to ideas had on me, I’ve personally been recording audios since the 1980s and have many audio learning programs, and audiobooks in circulation. Fifteen years ago, there was a surge in audiobooks on CDs, and in the 2000s, Audible, a company that had struggled for many years, began to find its way when the iPod and iTunes, began to revolutionize how we listen. What’s different today is that consumers can instantly buy audios, or subscribe to an audio podcast using a mobile device – which means they’re perhaps more inclined to. My human, industry, and organizational memory has kept me investing in audio as a key component of my strategy. How about you?

    What do you remember that can be more valuable to your organization in these times?

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