I Am Joe’s Goals

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moleskin black

I Am Joe’s Goals

It’s my favorite time of year!  I miss Joe.  It’s been a while.

This year is gonna be a great one I can tell.  A Moleskin notebook baby, it’s Moleskin!   Joe actually went to Barnes & Noble (like really walked in a brick and mortar store) and purchased this here fancy schmancy,  jet black paper journal to write me down in.  

There I am all smilin’ and stuff – that’s me right here on the first page ready to go!

                                                                      “My Goals 2014”

Here we go!

Um.  He stepped away for a minute I guess…

While I got ya – let me tell you about last couple of years – what a ride!  Last year I was on his IPad.  That was pretty awesome slipping and sliding all over the place getting blown up and then minimized like a 5 times a day (at least in the beginning).  But by February zoom!; he’d swipe my butt every time he’d see me and I’d go screeching off to my right like at 100 mph into darkness again, again and again.    After a while I was buried in a sea of other Apps.  Not fun.  I was not front and center like this Moleskin journal.  This book is all for me baby, nobody but me.

The year before the IPad thing I was on some yellow legal paper he bought and that was cool. But I got confused when he started carrying me around to meetings.  At first I thought it was good cuz’ it seemed like he was looking at me a lot (like he should) but then he started like writing loads of stupid meeting notes under me ( that he never looked at again mind you) and then started writing numbers down just below our 5 goals for the year that had nothing to do with the goals!  The last thing I remember was he drew this flower thing right through our goals that became a dragon that became a wizard with a dog or something and then I heard this massive tearing sound and I just blacked out and started tumbling and tumbling and then…but here he comes… that’s a story for another day….

OK here we go…he’s starting to write me down for 2014! 

“Be a better father”

“Earn more money”

“Lose 25 pounds”

Oh poo.  What the heck are those?

Joe!  Joe! Joe!  Will you never learn?   My Goal friends at Club Dead (It’s where Goals go to die) tell me the great stories about the Goals that don’t come back starving and looking for some late year bloomers to pick them up in February.  They say they hang on because their original owners because they write down “why” they want to be a better father, why they want make more money and why they want to lose weight in great detail!  AND that you have to write out the real steps and timelines you want to achieve to reach each of these goals.  AND that you have to look at these every day, set a target to achieve something each day towards each of these goals and mark your progress.  

I’m guessing Joe; if you don’t do these things the same results are going to happen to us which has been for the last few years at least, mostly “nada” for our goals. There is so much room here in the journal; you’ve got to take the time to do it!

Shoot, he just closed that cover on me.  I hope he heard me.  I like the promise of this journal but if he doesn’t get better at writing me out – I’m heading back to Club Dead.  Again.    

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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Amp It Up: Prefacing Questions

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Amp It Up: Prefacing

Asking questions in sales, service or support is important.  There are a million theories, books and articles on what questions to ask. 

I don’t care about any of that today.

I’m going to give you 3 powerful tips however that will amp up the results of your questions and they take all of less than 3 seconds in a tactic I call Prefacing.

Each of these is additive in that if you apply just one tip, you’ll get better results than you do today with your normal questions  but  if you do all three – watch out, you’ll see amazing results immediately.

Preface #1: “I always ask…” Begin with “I always ask..” as a preface to your question of the customer or prospect.  Let’s pretend you are on software sales –   “I always ask business leaders if you see enough data on a daily basis to measure the health of the business…” Or let’s say you sell online marketing “I always ask owners where they think the best social media place to be to drive business.” Whatever your purpose is in asking the question is fine.  But prefacing it with “I always ask” makes you sound like you’ve been there before; that you have experience, that this is not your first rodeo.  In less than a second you’ve built some credibility in the minds of the listener and that psychologically will result in a more thoughtful answer by the recipient. 

Preface #2:  Add an Affiliation:  Remember this is additive – so for example “I always ask the CFO’s of Consumer Financial organizations if they see enough data… Or “ I always ask my HVAC folks where they think….”;  This addition is incredibly powerful – not only are you credible already by adding  “I always ask” but now you’ve imparted in just one more second,  that you know something, have talked to, have hung out with people like them in their world or in their industry.   You’ve talked with CFO’s (and even better talked with CFO’s in financial orgs) or you’ve talked with HVAC owners and understand what is happening.  Immensely powerful – your questions now have an even better chance of getting thoughtful and deep answers which translates into better sales service and meaningful conversations.

Preface #3:  Put a Number on the Questions:  This too is additive so in our examples let’s take it to the 3rd level, “I always ask the CFO’s of Consumer Financial organizations these 3 questions about visibility….”  Or “I always ask my HVAC folks these 2 questions about where they think the best place is…”  The theory is simple and powerful.  Placing a number on the questions helps lower time tension.  People are busy.  When you articulate the number of questions you are going to ask in a particular space then the listener knows when it will be over and in essence will stay focused for those questions and give you great information.   Not articulating a number can lead to that self-talk of “When will this be over?” or other distractions.  Prefacing with the number of questions needn’t be limiting.  You can easily move on to other subjects with for example “I always also ask 2 questions of HVAC folks about how hard it is to get paid quickly….”

Are the types of questions you ask important?  You bet.  Does everybody forget or not even think about the value of Prefacing a question?  Without a doubt.   In my opinion prefacing is as important as any aspect of questioning.

Here’s the beauty of today’s post.  It’s easy.  It’s less than 3 seconds of your time.  If you are in sales, service or support as a pro or perhaps a leader, or you are a business owner, consultant or entrepreneur looking to get better conversations and more business; print this thing, spend a few minutes wrapping your head around and go to it – you’ll be amazed at what you get in return.

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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Plan Ahead (and Behind)

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Plan Ahead ( and Behind) 

It’s always a risk to see my mug on video first thing in the morning – but here are two short ones to jump start your day with messages about planning.

The first one can help you like, today.. 

This next one can help you like, forever…

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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Important Sells

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Important Sells

  • Isn’t a meal more important when it is perceived to be a means towards losing weight or is it when it is consumed because you are hungry?

 

  •  Isn’t a car more important when you plan on passing it on to your teenage kid or is it when you just need to get from A to B?

 

  • Isn’t a business card more important when it helps you rebrand yourself or your business or is it when you just need to leave something behind so they can reach you?

 

  • Isn’t a website more important when you need to stop the competition from stealing your customers or is it when everyone keeps saying you should have one?

 

It’s always the former, not that latter.

If you sell meals, cars, business cards, websites or anything else for that matter, you’ll sell more of them when you get at how those products can help a person achieve something bigger.  When that happens, those products and you become more important.

Get at it.  Most people and businesses are not shallow.  There’s some dream, some pursuit they are after.  Tie your products and services to that dream or a goal and your stuff becomes more important.

Important sells. 

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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No Wins, Not Quite

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No Wins, Not Quite

This High School football team didn’t win a single game this year.  Not one. 

But you’d never know it looking at the faces of the kids and everyone else I saw at the season-ending banquet on Saturday.  

I didn’t get to see many Varsity games this year with the kickoff times being mostly held at 4pm on Friday nights.   But I know that what had to be tough games to watch, would likely carry over into a somewhat depressed pall cast over the season ending banquet. How could there not be, having gone this year without a single win and having just one win last year.

But what I saw was a room full of cheering parents, proud young men and a half a dozen coaches who spoke of their players as if they were their very own kids.

I saw a Head Coach who talked glowingly and positively about every player from Freshman to Senior as they were introduced.  It wasn’t what you think; time flew.  He found something unique and great to say about each.   He found affirmative things to say about their work ethic, their progress, their spirit, their unselfish willingness to help each other and refreshingly for many, their outstanding grades. 

My son didn’t play a down this year having suffered a pre –season injury requiring surgery but he had his name called and was acknowledged for his commitment to supporting the team throughout the year.  He wore not only a tie (that was as required for all players) but a broad smile shaking the hands of coaches and teammates as he walked onto the floor.

There was continued talk of overcoming more injuries and obstacles, of learning new positions and new offenses, of learning a new culture and of responsibility and accountability.  There was talk about the honorable values and the unique contributions of team captions, assistant coaches and supporters all around. 

There was talk of shunning the individual accomplishment and focusing on bonding as a team, in a concerted effort with a common focus.   There was talk about reaching out to each other and encouraging each other to work together not just during football season but all year round.  And finally, there was talk that in the end of all this important stuff, one of many great results, (but not nearly the only one), will be some games to be won.

It’s trite of course, but these games are not the lead story – at least for the gatherings of these young men who yearn to push a ball across a goal line just a bit more than their competitor.  My guess is that if there were two seasons of winning records already under his belt, this Head Coach would have talked about the same things.  

I sat there thinking how wonderful these presentations and speeches were and asked myself how different are they than what the gatherings of families, groups or even companies in good times or in bad should be hearing?   These messages are the ones that we and not just our sons benefit from.   These messages are at the root of what is valuable, at the root of what drives achievement across a wide swath of life.  

Thanks for the pep talk Coach.   Thanks for the shot in the arm of prioritization and principles.  Better luck next year in that win / loss thing but regardless, there’s no doubt you’ll truly win. 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

Real Small Biz – Good News

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Real Small Biz – Good News

Go golfing when you want.  Play with the kids more.  Coach a team.  Be around so I can act in a play.  Get a new truck.  Sleep late when I want to.  Don’t want to be told what to do.   I like my life now.   I can change it up every couple of years.  I could always do it better anyway.  Leave an impression.  Make my wife proud.  I can fire my clients.  Work from home.  Help my brothers and their kids.  Be the boss.  Take control.  Have some fun.  Challenge myself. 

“What is the good news about having your own business?” was the question.

These are the real answers by real small business people.  I know because I’ve heard them say it first hand.    And these answers aren’t so unique or rare.  These are, when you really get down to it, what real people who own businesses say. 

And now that you know that, what the heck do you have to offer that helps these people keep rolling in this good news?   

Yeah, you’ve got some thinking and reworking to do.   Have at it. 

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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The DIFM Kid

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The DIFM Kid

I gave up.   January 1st was the day that I was done.

I gotta just focus on what I do well and maybe do that better.

Now I pay a 14 year old whiz kid (a friend of my son),  to just do technology stuff for me now.  “The DIFM Kid” (Do It For Me) is what I call him. (He is pictured here as rendered by my wife)  I don’t pay him a lot.  But the ROI is unbelievable.

Let him set up the Netflix on the Wii, let him set up my wife’s new Facebook Business Page, let him figure out how to connect the piano keyboard to the PC so we can record some of my son’s music.  Let him figure out why the wifi sync doesn’t work or why we need two Routers now because of all the stuff using whatever it is they use.

I’m not stupid.  Some people (and this is hilarious) think I might be a little on the  “techie” side of the ledger.   ( LOL- that’s called Acting man) but it is getting harder out there.  I don’t have the time,  but I have the need.

I just realized no matter how many manuals and instructions I read, or how many tutorials or videos I watch, I’m not going to get it.  Or I am not going to get it done fast enough.   Or sometimes I am going to make it even worse.   And maybe I need to focus on what I do well already and quit wasting time on stuff I don’t.

And now word has spread about “The DIFM Kid” and me using him.  Now everybody in the extended family is asking for him.  He disappears on Sundays 3 towns over at brother in-law’s house to go set up a new TV or to fix a slow laptop or to connect a transmitter to an outside thermometer.    There’s a darn waiting list for him and texts asking “When is “The DIFM Kid” gonna be around? ”  Things are looking great for him.

There are a lot of us out there feeling that way, consumers and small businesses alike.

You don’t have to look that far to see that Do It For Me services are going to explode not just in my family but in the marketplace too.  I see them every day grow stronger and stronger where I work.    They’ve been around forever,  but now the speed in which new becomes old, or good becomes just OK or keeping up becomes “What the hell just happened?”  is accelerating at a pace where DIY ( Do It Yourself) might soon feel so yesterday

That smacks of opportunity.  Be ready- The next DIFM Kid could ( or maybe should) be you. 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

What I Learned Acting In Star Trek

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What I Learned Acting In Star Trek

This last weekend we again watched the recent J.J. Abrams Star Trek film from a couple years back.   Awesome movie.

I thought back to when I was an actor in Star Trek from the original series.   Working with the other actors on set was life changing for me.

But let’s talk about this latest movie version of the series for a minute.  It is a look back to the beginning of Star Trek – a “prequel” view at how the original characters, (i.e. the likes of Shatner, Nimoy and Deforest Kelly) all started out; how they formed their relationships and beliefs.  About why and how they go about “boldly going” so to speak. 

It made me think about my original days involved in Star Trek and what influence it had and has on my life today.  My experience acting in Star Trek was huge.  Those days on the “Trek” set shaped some very important things about me and how I act today. 

Maybe you could learn from it too.

Star Trek wasn’t much of a hit when it originally aired late in the 60’s, but in syndication all through the 1970’s, it rocked. 

I have 3 brothers and we were all growing up in the 70’s.  

William Shatner and his crew had nothing on us; truth was, we were Star Trek.

I was Capt James T. Kirk.  My first officer Spock (played by my older, sci-fi book loving, overtly logical brother Kevin), was incessantly harangued by Dr. “Bones” McCoy played by Brother Paul.   Paul and Kevin kind of had that relationship off set at times, so it was a good fit.  My littlest brother James played the role that offers the focal lesson for today.

James always played (he had no choice) …… “The Guard ….Who Went Bad

You gotta have a bad guy sometimes.  It makes it more fun.   It gives you a purpose.  It gives you a “mission”; a mission to succeed, to win and sometimes, to save the world.

Baby brother James had a rough time of it when you think about it.  He always started out as part of the “crew” (which he liked) but only for a while (which he didn’t).   His role, being about 7 years old, was always to guard the ship and crew as he slowly moved from room to room.   (One bedroom was the “Bridge”, the other was “SickBay” and the rest of the little house was whatever dangerous planet we beamed down to).  

Suddenly James (aka “The Guard…Who Went Bad”) was forced to “snap” and turn on the crew, putting our mission at risk.  Racing through the house we would chase James, tackle him,  and even though we had only set our phasers to “stun”,  we somehow always killed him – his body blown to bits all over the living room ( somehow that was better than the “disappearing thing” that happened with the phasers on TV.)   Good Times.

Gotta have a bad guy sometimes.   That sticks with me.   I have to have a purpose occasionally, to defeat something.   My guess is you might too.

Maybe you work hard everyday to beat down this Guard Gone Bad sketchy economy thing.   Maybe you strategize, work weekends and nights to knock this thing out and grow the business despite what seems like an incredibly hard mission.

Maybe you work up a sweat by3 o’clock pounding out calls and working hard to have conversations with your customers  because you are fighting this Guard Gone Bad enemy that is someone’s false perception that you “can’t” do something.  Take that Guard Gone Bad; don’t tell me I can’t do something. 

Maybe the Guard Gone Bad for you is the competition.  You won’t let “these other guys” take your market share, take your sales or take your future away from you.  Nope; skip the phaser, give me the photon torpedo.

Maybe the Guard Gone Bad for you is a demon you are battling inside yourself.  And it would be so easy to give up and check into Sick Bay but ain’t no way that is going to happen.  

So maybe ( no assuredly),   there is something good to be said about finding a foil, about finding that enemy to defeat and about creating and/or finding that Guard Gone Bad.  

Thanks to my cast mates in the original series produced in Norwood, MA in late 70’s and especially to James.  Sorry you got killed so many times bro, but at least it wasn’t in vain. 

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

3 Frogs

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3 Frogs

I had (and have) other posts ready to go for the New Year -all with of course the usual focus on helping you and me “grow the business”. 

But I am stealing shamelessly from the message my local Parish Priest gave yesterday at church services cuz’ his message was frankly better than anything I could have written for today.

“There’s an old adage about three frogs” he said.   “Three Frogs sat on a log and one decided he would jump.  How many frogs are left on the log?”

Some answered “Two!” but most mumbled or said nothing.

“The answer of course, is three.” Father Paul said.

I had never heard of this 3 frog adage but the message was both obvious and stunning to me.  Father Paul filled in the blanks in his short sermon.  Decision is not action.  All of your dreams and goals and resolutions and lists we make this time of year aren’t worth much if we really don’t act upon them.

I’m guilty of this.  For 10 years, I’ve written and kept my New Year’s resolutions and goals and plans and lists nearby me at all times.  I look at them often.  I’ve achieved many.  Ok, some.    I looked at them all in fact this last week just to prepare for setting this year’s goals.

Last year I made the decision to limit my 2011 goals to 3 actionable things versus carrying about 10 each year in which I strived.  Each of these three things was important.  If I am honest with myself though,  I got just one achieved and partially one of another so I batted about .400.  Pretty sad for a whole year and only 3 big dreams.

I’m not going to be that unmoving frog this year.   And I’m not going to pat myself on the back for just “deciding” to do exciting and different things this year and that I was able to write it down and look at it. 

 Nope, I’m jumping this time. 

 Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark.

SMILE Goals

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I think I’m done with S.M.A.R.T. Goals. 

It’s the time of year now when so many of us are in a frenzy over setting and writing annual goals for ourselves or our staffs.

You remember those SMART goals don’t you?  Goals that you set, according to the formula,  should be;

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

 

Yeah OK; got it.

It’s not that there is something terribly wrong with SMART goals; the tenets are solid.   It’s more that I’m not sure SMART goals go far enough in reflecting what drives real people and real business anymore.  It’s more that SMART goals may not be so..um…smart anymore.

For 30 years (yep, in 1981 this formula first appeared) SMART Goals have served us well.  But it’s time for a needed upgrade.  The world is in a different place.  And people are in a different place.  

So before you put those final touches on the SMART goal setting sheets you have proliferating your desks and email boxes, have a look at what I think is a better way.  

S.M.I.L.E Goals  

Strength Focused:  No one person will ever be perfect.  And no one person typically has as many weaknesses as strengths, yet much of our goal setting is often focused on goals  that “fix” a problem or weak area.   But what if all of your annual goals were focused on taking your greatest strengths and either applying them more or making them stronger? Where would we be?  Let’s say you are great at networking.  Set a SMILE goal to build a seminar on that topic where you are required to teach others. What if you are great at floor coaching?  Set a Smart goal that has you delegate many of your other tasks to staff or colleagues so you can do significantly more floor coaching.    Strength Focused goals get you to do more of what you do well.  That’s smart.

Modifiable:  This tenet is the acknowledgement of the age old “elephant in the room” in that many goals written at the beginning of the year are often by the end of the year, ridiculously irrelevant.  Every December from my staff, I usually get two lists; one list that is all the evidence and data to support the SMART goals we set on paper a year before and the other list is called “Accomplishments”.  Rarely do the two match.  Sad.  You could say that that reflects on poor goal setting on my part but often you would be very wrong.  Stuff happens.  Stuff changes.  Business happens.   Business changes.  In the space of a week or a month, your initiatives and priorities could be yesterday’s news.   Often your SMART goals set in February are meaningless by June because you are working on things completely different, more needed or more important.   Modifiable allows you to edit, amplify or delete.  That’s smart.

Inspectable: There’s a difference between measurable and inspect-able.   Measurable is measurable.  Inspect-able is measurable but transparent.  You have stakeholders be they your customers, your boss, your team or your shareholders and inspect-able brings a higher level of trust when it comes to measuring.  Trust I contend, is far more important today in business, than it was in 1981.  Post your goal metrics on the shop wall, in your cubicle or at your desk.  SMILE goals should be ones that don’t require 4 hours of data collection each quarter and a 1 our meeting with your boss to see how you are progressing “so far”.  Inspectable makes it easy to see how you are doing.  Inspectable goals show you have nothing to hide.  That’s smart.

Learning Focused:  If you are not learning you are dying.  Goals to achieve are fine. Goals to achieve that don’t reflect learning or growth are not.  You can do both.  You must do both.  More than ever, landscapes in business change at speeds that make even the hardest working the brightest folks cringe.  It’s hard to keep up, but we must.  In fact, keeping up is just table stakes now and keeping ahead is what is truly needed.  Achieve those numbers yes, but SMILE goals must have an aspect that force you to continuously and consciously learn from that achievement and position you for more success in an ever more complex business world.  Learning focused gives goal setting a leading edge.   That’s smart.

Enduring:  If I had a dollar for every time I forgot what my SMART goals were for the year I’d be rich.  If I had a dollar for every time I and my staff forgot what their individual SMART goals were I’d be filthy rich.   You know it’s true.  Goals are often either “the same every year” (hit forecasted quota plan of….), or “breathtakingly boring” (manage expenses within a budget of….).  Take the expected stuff out of the goal setting and do it the SMILE way.  Create goals that endure, that people remember and that will stick:  “Land face to face meetings with 2 fortune 500 companies by the end of Q2…”, “Create a video campaign that generates viral buzz with 5 digit visits and link backs from 2 of these 15 influential bloggers..” or “Make the pain of the customers from brand ABC as they transition to brand XYZ go away by the end of Q1…”.  You get the idea.  Enduring makes it easier to remember, easier to focus and easier to succeed.  That’s smart.

S.M.I.L.E goals reflect a truer reality of the human and business condition; i.e. what drives people and what really happens (and is needed) in the business world.   SMART goals aren’t something I’d necessarily throw away.   They are a decent formula but my advice is you should use them only if you start with a SMILE.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark