Be remarkable. PERIOD!

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If you want to stand out you’ve got to be different. Right? Well that depends. Sometimes being different is good. But sometimes, being different can generate bad results. It depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.

We learn at an early age to conform. Be like others, dress like others, act like others. Doing these things allows us to “fit in” to society. It makes us feel safe. But at the same time it makes us invisible. We desperately want to be one the pack, one of the herd so to speak.

In business we’re taught early in our career to play it safe. Keep our ideas to ourselves, agree with our boss no matter what, and never challenge your peer group. Doing those things will provide safety and job security. It also produces mediocre results. So what do you want to be known for? Results that produce “me-too” outcomes or work that’s viewed as thought provoking and innovative? If you want the latter you’ve got to be remarkable – there’s no other way.

In Seth Godin’s book, Purple Cow, he talks about the power of being remarkable. Being a me-too leads to being invisible…not seen…not considered. Being remarkable means the complete opposite. You’re seen, you’re heard, you’re felt…you’re present. All the things most folks want in life. These are the things that fulfill most human beings. Yet to be remarkable carries risk. It requires us to be more than different, to stand out, to be talked about.

If you still fear standing out consider these examples of me-too solutions…and how they are viewed:
1. Microsoft’s launch of Zune – an average MP3 player
2. Dell, HP, Compaq, Gateway…all me-too solutions to desktops and technology
3. McDonalds, Burger King and Wendy’s – typical, predictable burger places
4. Kroger’s, Winn Dixie, Tops Supermarkets…sterile environments to shop in

Now look at some examples of remarkable:
1. Apple with it’s iPods, iPads, iPhones…with $156 billion in cash in the bank
2. Five Guys Burgers, In-N-Out Burgers, and Smashburger…all 3 growing at stratospheric rates
3. Wegman’s and Publix supermarkets. They made grocery shopping an experience

Okay, so those are some example of remarkable companies. But what about people. Can people be remarkable? NO DOUBT! To show a list of “unremarkable” people would be impossible and more importantly offensive. But look at this list of remarkable people and think about what sets them apart:
1. Walt Disney
2. Steve Jobs
3. Gandhi
4. Peyton Manning
5. Fred Smith

What do all these people have in common that make them remarkable? Vision, courage, discipline, focus, and above all an unshakeable conviction in their beliefs. That’s it. So start there. Look inside. What’s your opinion, what’s your point of view? Form it, shape it, define it….then live it and soon you’ll see how remarkable you really are.

Let me know what you think.  Like if this helped.  Thanks!

5 Best Practices for Maintaining Intense Focus

5 Best Practices for Maintaining Intense Focus.

5 Best Practices for Maintaining Intense Focus

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You just got into the office. You sit down and get ready to tackle a number of critical items that you MUST get done by the end of the day. You’ve got 10 hours to work with, so no biggie…you’ll get them done. Two performance reviews, an RFP response from a potential vendor you must look over, that report that needs to go to your leadership team on ROI, and don’t forget the dreaded meeting with your boss…the infamous one-on-one.

You sit back at your desk and look out the window, it’s 8:00 am. Your mind races to all the things that could go wrong. A bad meeting with your boss, a run-in with HR over those darn reviews, or a call from Finance that your numbers won’t be ready until Wednesday, delaying yet again your report on ROI. You look up and it’s 9:30! What happened. Where did 90 minutes go? Panic sets in. You’ve got 10 things to do and you haven’t even started one! You’re already beginning to slip into a funk and drift…it’s almost like you’re losing consciousness. Actually, you’ve lost your focus.

Becoming focused and staying focused is one of the most difficult things we are faced with each and every day. It’s not something you only do once. To accomplish, achieve, or succeed in anything you do requires focus.

Here are some best practices to help you find your focus and maintain it:

  1. Make a list. At the end of each day, make a list of your top priorities that need to be completed the next day. Place them in order of importance from a completion standpoint and go further by assigning a completion time. Example: #1 Joe’s Review to be completed by 10:30 am. Having a list, and knowing the timeframe of each deliverable will help you focus on each critical item to complete.  Print out your list or, as I do, write each item on a white board if you have one in your office.  Having these deliverables staring you in the face all day is a constant reminder of your priorities for that day.
  2. Office hours. Steal a common behavior from your doctor. Build blocked-time into each day. Blocked-time is time during your day that nothing gets scheduled. It’s protected. Having this protected time allows you to create your own cushion or safety net should you encounter unexpected demands during your day. Having some flexible hours or even minutes will help you stay focused.
  3. Sleep. No, not on the job! Sleep at night when you’re supposed to. One of the biggest reasons for loss of focus is sleep deprivation. Focus, like concentration requires huge amounts of energy. When you have no fuel in your tank you won’t be able to maintain your focus to accomplish the tasks that are in your priority bucket. Everyone requires a different amount of sleep so I won’t bother to advise on how many hours you need but suffice it to say you should determine how big your “fuel tank” is and how much it will take to fill it.
  4.  Eat right. Try to stay away from too much caffeine or sugar. They may provide for a great rush but they’re not sustainable and soon you’ll find yourself heading downward. Fruits, vegetables, or the occasional energy bar may be good snacks to keep you going. Stay away from heavy carbs as they will tend to make you lethargic and slow your thinking. The goal is to be alert.
  5. Walk.  Sitting in your office all day is one of the worst things you can do when trying to stay focused.  The human brain needs stimulation to recharge its batteries…not to mention fresh air helps too.  At least once ever 90 minutes get up and walk around.  Move.  Breath.  Do some neck stretches.  This motion and activity will help renew your energy and provide improved perspective as you head back to dealing with your list.

Doing these 5 things each and every day will help you master control of your own personal focus.  This control will give you a better ROF – Return on Focus – as you will be accomplishing what you need to, when you need to, with the highest quality possible.

Let me know what you think.  Click the Like button if you found these tips helpful.

Success’ Secret Recipe

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How is it that some people never really advance in life? On the job, or off the job improvements seem to allude them. No promotions. No weight lost. Audition after audition that never amount to getting a place in the band or a spot on the team. They keep trying, but continue to come up empty handed. But why? Growing up we were taught to stay focused, work hard, and to never give up. We’re doing all those things now, but still…

The secret sauce to success differs slightly for each person. However, after years of working with some incredibly talented and successful people, and observing traits that are common amongst them all, I’ve found the one ingredient that stands out and changes the game. This ingredient cannot stand on its own to ensure success. It can’t take the place of hard work, discipline, focus, and the other necessary traits that most successful people seem to possess. However I have seen many talented people who seem to have all the right characteristics but simply “never make it”. So again, I ask why? I would propose it is because they’re missing the most powerful ingredient to their own secret sauce for success…self-awareness.

Successful people are self-aware. They have an intimate knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses, or as I call them “blind spots”.

Blind spots are those areas that we can’t see. They are the weaknesses, or the things we may think are okay but are far from it. Blind spots can be hidden from sight or can be smack-dab in front of your face. Being self-aware helps eliminate blind spots that can limit success.  But is it possible to eliminate your blind spots?  The answer is absolutely yes!  The first step is to identify your blind spots and then immediately move to address them.  If you don’t eliminate your blind spots after you’ve identified them you’re simply in denial…and for most people success is not possible when in a state of denial.

3 things successful people do, and you should do, to eliminate blind spots:
1. Read. Read as much as you can. Read broadly. Books on leadership, business, biographies of great leaders, and history provide great insights and perspective on traits and characteristics necessary to achieve success.  I have found some of my best “ah-ha” moments reading American History, specifically in the area of Presidential biographies or autobiographies.
2. Ask. Create a list of 5 people you can count on to give you the honest-to-goodness truth. These may not be the people you think of immediately. Your closest friends may actually not be the best source of feedback. You may need to turn to someone you have a good relationship with as a close associate but not a close friend. Associates in your network often times provide the best, most honest advice.
3. Listen. Many people struggle to be good listeners. The act of listening is an intentional one. Hearing takes no intention. As I write this blog I have Dave Matthews playing in the back ground. I hear it, but I couldn’t tell you the lyrics, and most of the time when I’m deep in work I might not know the song that’s playing. Listening requires a person to open their mind and concentrate on what’s being said and the words being spoken. Only through effective listening is it possible to understand the feedback being given. Point being, when you are receiving feedback make sure there is no other noise or distractions…don’t just hear it…listen.

Being self-aware is the one ingredient that can help you achieve game-changing success.  Expand your knowledge, ask for input, and most of all open your mind and listen.  If you can do these 3 things you’re on your way to being able to accomplish your greatest dreams and goals.

As always, I’m interested in your comments and feedback so keep them coming!

Confidence, what confidence?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s July 24th report, home sales are on the rise along with prices.  The unemployment rate in July saw a slight decrease from 7.6% to 7.4% adding more than 160,000 jobs to the economy.  The market has been on a tear, up nearly 9,000 points from its low.  And what about GDP?  Well the latest numbers published by the Bureau of Economic Analysis suggest a 1.7% increase in the second quarter.  Sounds good right?  So what’s the problem?

The fact is that even with all this positive data these is still an overwhelming sense of discomfort, uncertainty, and general lack of confidence in the world around us.  People are skeptical of government action (or inaction in certain areas), turmoil overseas, the real unemployment rate (includes those under-employed, marginally attached, and those who have simply fallen off the unemployment claims list), and the ongoing list of scandals that seem to plague our society.

But are these issues really creating a lack of confidence?  Consider these facts:

  1. Gold prices nearing $1,400 an ounce.  In the last 5 years, gold has literally doubled in price.  Typically viewed as a safe-haven for worried investors, an increase in the price of this precious commodity suggests confidence problems abound.
  2. Consumer Confidence as reported by the Conference Board drops 2 points in July.  This decrease was “precipitated by a weakening in consumers’ economic and job expectations.”  This point drop tracks back to the real impact of the current unemployment numbers.
  3. Small business confidence as reported by both NSBA and the NFIB showed a slight month over month improvement in their respective July reports.  However, the small uptick in confidence didn’t translate into hiring more workers.  Less than two-thirds of small businesses are able to obtain adequate financing to run their business.  Tight credit markets are typically a sign of low confidence.  And, if businesses don’t feel confident in the availability of credit they most certainly will not extend themselves into growth-driven initiatives such as hiring or expansion.
  4. The recent market pullback may not be a sign of low confidence as much as it may be a normal correction.  The last two weeks has seen the markets end on down notes (unless something miraculous happens today).   This drop has still only resulted in a 5% pullback.  Not considered a major correction by any means but still worth watching.
  5. Consumer spending has decreased quarter over quarter this year as American’s pull back their spending due to concerns over their jobs, and the overall economy.
  6. And what about George Soros‘ bet this week buying millions in Put Options...a hedge against a drop in the market.  Said simply…Soros believes the market is going down and has taken action to protect his investments by purchasing Put options.  He bet against the market once before in 2008 and was right.

Trying to read the tea leaves continues to be difficult.  With all the fairly positive data floating around you would think there would be more confidence among consumers and businesses.  But the realities facing the market from tight credit, to low hiring, to major shifts from full-time employment to part-time suggest we’ve got a long way to go until confidence makes its return to our great country.

3 simple steps to get started with Small Business Marketing

Small business owners often ask “Do I really need Marketing?”  The answer of course is absolutely yes!  In fact, as a small business owner you need to market yourself more than the bigger brands that have already established awareness and familiarity with their products and services.  But how do you do this on a tight budget?  When do you find the time to market your business when you’re doing inventory, payroll, selling and servicing?  Take a breath and relax.  It’s not complicated and it won’t break the bank either.  You will need to spend some time getting started, but once you do you’ll find the positive results to be energizing and encouraging.  And when you begin to see favorable results based on your early efforts, this momentum will make adding an additional Marketing tactic here or there so much easier.  So what can you do to get started Marketing your business?

Here are 3 simple steps to introduce some basic Marketing tactics for your business.

  1. Set up a LinkedIn profile for yourself.  Set aside 30 minutes to get started.  You’ll need to write a short summary of what you do and what makes you special.  It’s important to highlight your “specialty”.  If you deliver outstanding service before, during, and after the sale explain how you do it in a brief statement or two.  Be bold but don’t mislead.  Be clear, concise and to the point.  Say what you mean and mean what you say.  Make sure to also include your photo on your LinkedIn profile.  This is an absolute MUST regardless of how much you dislike pictures of yourself.  Get over it.  It’s been proven that people are more likely to read, click, or pursue an interest when there is a personal picture accompanying the profile.
  2. Recognize customer milestones.  Most small businesses really know their customers.  Use that knowledge to your advantage.  Recognize birthdays, anniversary’s and key milestones.  Word of mouth is the best advertising you’ve got and paying that extra bit of attention to your customers will help create strong advocates for your business.  People spend an average of 3.2 hours per day on social media, and with 1.1 billion Facebook users it’s likely you’re getting talked about already.  Make sure you’re included in that conversation.  Satisfied customers will talk, and the power of social media will only expedite your message getting out to new prospective customers.
  3. Networking.  Most people associate networking with Sales but it’s really a Marketing function.  What’s the difference?  Think of Marketing as all the activities required to create the opportunity to sell.  It’s all the front end work.  Studying your market, knowing your competition, pricing correctly, creating a strong and compelling value proposition.  Sales is just that…taking that lead that’s been created from your Marketing efforts and turning it into a revenue generating customer.  So think of networking as an outbound Marketing effort.  You need to identify which functions to attend, who to talk to, what to say, how to follow up.  Networking is critical for small business owners.

These are 3 simple steps to get started Marketing your business.  I will dive deeper into each of these steps in future blogs.  In the mean time, check out the Small Business Administration website for some additional Marketing tactics.

Healthcare Reform…Trick or Treat??

The closer we get to 2014 the more scary things look for healthcare reform.  We’re about to walk through the cracked doorway of a dark room not knowing what’s inside.  The music is building, the suspense reaching new heights.  Just like in the movies we don’t yet know what’s in that dark room.  It could be nothing, it could be something that imposes a greater fear than we ever expected.  Think of the first time you saw Michael Myers in Halloween.  Before anything bad ever happened in the movie you were left with an eerie and unsettled feeling that there was an impending doom on its way.

Regardless if you own your own business, work for a small company with less than 50 employees, or work for a colossal employer with tens of thousands of employees, the Affordable Care Act will have an effect on you and your family.  The type of policy you have, the premiums you pay, the contributions made on your behalf by your employer most likely will change.  The reality is that we just don’t know how much will change.  It is this not-knowing that creates the same anxiety we feel as we watched The Shape appear behind Jamie Lee Curtis‘ character Laurie for the first time in Halloween.  While we didn’t know for sure what would happen next we knew that whatever it was wouldn’t be good.  And we were right.

Many people believe that all of Healthcare Reform has been postponed until 2015.  This is incorrect.  What’s been postponed is a piece of the Act that mandates businesses with more than 50 full time equivalent employees to provide health coverage if they don’t currently offer it.  This roller coaster ride between the current Obama Administration and GOP-led House raise concerns, questions, and anxiety levels, while diminishing overall trust in the U.S. Government.  Republican or Democrat, Congress’ approval rating sits at an all-time low of 17%.  CBS News has gone as far as labeling this 113th Congress as being the “least productive in history”.

Just like Laurie in Halloween we’re left wondering what we will encounter when we get through that door.  The questions still on the table include:

  1. How much more will insurance cost me and my family once all the pieces of the Affordable Care Act go into place?
  2. Will my employer stop offering coverage entirely and pay the fine because it’s cheaper than providing insurance coverage?
  3. What happens to the quality of my healthcare as we layer on another 35 – 45 million people to the current health system infrastructure?
  4. Will there be doctor shortages in the U.S. as seen in many European countries?

In a previous presentation put on by the NFIB stated that every business owner would need to have an accountant, broker, and attorney to help them sort through what the Affordable Care Act meant for their specific business.  Given the vastness of this Act, and the number of different areas affected by this legislation, it’s perhaps impossible for any one person or adviser to know everything.

To give yourself some peace of mind I’d suggest finding a few trusted partners who can assess your specific situation and provide feedback and guidance tailored to your specific circumstance.  Be wary of those dispensing a general prescription for your business relative to Healthcare Reform.  Remember every business is different as are their employees.  Add to that the fact that every business has been handling health coverage differently making their specific employee situations just as different.  A one-size fits all approach will not work and may even lead to significant business failures.

Invest the time you need to educate yourself.  Turn the lights on before going into that room, as it may make things less scary when you finally encounter them.  And finally surround yourself with trusted advisors that can provide guidance and confidence as you make these important decisions that will most certainly affect you, your business, your employees, and their families.  This is one of those rare moments in history when we’re faced with one piece of legislation that will impact everyone in so many different ways.