Be Better at Relationships than Automation

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We live in a world where people have a hard time paying attention. Everyone is frazzled and overwhelmed to the point that their hands are on the delete key.

It’s a natural and understandable instinct. With more technology and convenience, we can use automation and transactional platforms to fill people’s inboxes to the brim.

Recipients have to figure out what is the signal and what is the noise. It’s a low ratio, thus, the natural survival skill is simply to ignore or delete most messaging that is not personal.

Automation can be lazy many times. Using triggers, templates and targeting scripts to save time can feel like a savings, however, if most of your automation is being ignored, then why create such waste? It doesn’t work as well.

Part of this is that you may not dial in the timing, nuanced message and process flow to be frictionless and natural. That takes a lot of focus, study and care.

The other part is that there’s a big difference in having a conversation one-on-one with someone and simply broadcasting sales messages, transactions and updates. In the former case, you have cost. You handle other people with care in your words, interactions and mannerisms and they respond in kind.

In the latter case, you can easily miss without the feedback natural relationship building entails.

There are organizations that do automation extremely well. They use AI and have armies of designers, coders and UX people studying how you interact with their store, brand and messaging.

If you are small, can you apply that much resource consistently?

The better strategy is to build and maintain trust through relationships. Don’t do mass. Make every touch count in your communications and way you do business. That stands out when there’s an inbox filled with hundreds of transactional and automation messages.

People respond to people and this is important to remember when we are out there making connections and seeking to do business. Applying automation in a flow that demands personal connection simply misses the opportunity.

How can you get more relational and selective with your interactions?

Space and Time


I rarely run into someone that is not frazzled. Because our technology and tools are so efficient, the amount of information hitting us is bewildering.

Get more customers, get more problems.

Get more emails, have more work to respond.

The signal to noise ratio is a real problem. When you do address the signals, you feel depleted of attention and energy.

Each day can feel like survival when it comes to squeezing out results that matter.

I find that taking space and time to think, relax and let go does wonders for staying engaged. I don’t want to be frazzled. I want to be in the moment and of the highest value to others. And those opportunities keep happening relentlessly regardless of our energy or emotions.

If your days are running into months, build in time for yourself regularly and daily. The investment and habit are not only necessary but nourishing.

The work keeps coming. The problems never stop. But, you don’t have to simply be a punching bag.

Simplifying Choices for Your Customers


Every bit of complexity can keep your customer from taking a next step with you in your engagements and work. We are inundated with choice and information. You can be both a welcome resource and helpful partner by taking stock and simplifying how you do business.

Here are some areas to consider streamlining to make it easy for your customer to commit, decide and act on deals and projects:

  • Clarifying. After calls and meetings, send a quick summary email on the decisions and actions. This is a record to reference as well as ensure alignment.
  • Speed. Send your proposals out within one day. After your sales meetings, the clock is ticking on attention and relevance. Aim for speed over perfection.
  • Email. For each email, seek to get one action or response. Long emails can get ignored because it feels like a lot of work.
  • Phone. Pick up the phone and have quick 2-5 minute conversations for decisions.
  • Pleasantness. Make someone’s day all the time. We have choices of who we want to work with and be with. All things being equal, your pleasantness and the ease of dealing with you becomes a preference.

We often act out of habit. And with the problem of being overwhelmed with work and information, you have the opportunity to be easy to do business with or add to the stress.

A few tweaks and practicing intentional interactions can make you welcome rather than one more stress in someone’s life.

Where can you simplify and make doing business easier in your customer interactions?

How to Simplify the Complexity of Projects


We are overwhelmed from the complexity and volume of information every day. Much of it comes from the ease of team members and customers having the convenience of being able to email and text us. In your given day, think about how much you read in your inbox. Pages and pages of content that has to be processed and deciphered.

On top of the vast amount of words that you will consume, everyone did not go through the same training on writing, leading or working. This creates a challenge as you seek to interpret what matters and what is simply noise.

Most information we get should support the work. That’s great when you need further clarity on how to get deliverables out. The process and groupthink that is often involved to drive clarity takes a lot of collaboration and repetition.

Ultimately, all the information that comes in has to move to lists. That ability to translate information into clear next steps is critical.

Pausing and simply asking, “What is the next step?” forces concreteness to a thread.

So, with the continuous onslaught of information you get every day, ask what the next step is. Then keep and maintain clean lists for each project. Start each action with a verb so you are clear on what to do next. Verbs such as “communicate,” “research,” “design,” and “set up” get your mind focused on what physically or mentally has to happen.

Then knock out each item one by one.

This is true for teams that share lists as well.

The review, reprioritizing and re-clarifying of agreements you make with yourself and others in project lists tames much of the chaos that will inevitably hit you in a day. So, again, use this process to simplify the complexity:

  1. Move information to action (Shift + T in Gmail)
  2. Update your lists – use verbs, reorder priorities, clean up what doesn’t matter)
  3. Do your tasks

Keep getting clear and keep moving things in and out of your lists based on the ever changing reality on the ground. And, when things don’t matter anymore, simplify by eliminating tasks and projects.

You Only Have to be Right Once

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Photo by Oleg Magni on

Most things don’t work out. And that is the raw reality of business and entrepreneurship. All those people who were excited and did not call you back are just part of the flow of dealmaking. All those promising projects that did not materialize or play out could have been affected by factors outside your control.

Dealing with human beings is tricky business. I am sure when you look back at the past year, there are some heartaches and disappointments.

However, I keep in mind what Mark Cuban has said, which is both encouraging and realistic about business opportunities, “You only have to be right once.” The asymmetry of effort and results works both ways. While most things don’t work out, the reward of being right on a great deal can more than pay off.

This is why getting better at doing the right things is so important.

Also, this is why persevering with more attempts is a great strategy to tilt the law of averages in your favor.

As the year closes, I hope you think about being right once. What does that look like?

What if you can sharpen the focus and get rid of the noise in the work you are putting out or the projects you are choosing to take on?

Maybe you have to change the game you are playing and the players you are interacting with. This could open up new kinds of opportunities and conversations.

Persevere and get smarter at the game you are choosing. Or change it altogether. If you have been trying something for a while, you can likely guess what will happen if you simply keep working harder. If your thinking can’t provide conviction that you will be right with a big reward, reevaluate. You’re looking for that lopsided reward for the effort.

Happy New Year!


Getting the Right Things Done

“I have come to learn that part of the business strategy is to solve the simplest, easiest, and most valuable problem. And actually, in fact, part of doing strategy is to solve the easiest problem, so part of the reason why you work on software and bits is that atoms [physical products] are actually very difficult. ~ Reid Hoffman

The 80/20 rule works. There is a choice you can make on what to work on next that has the biggest bang for the buck. However, it’s hard to pick that strategy to commit to when grinding in the onslaught of demands.

Break it down:

  1. What is simplest?
  2. What is easiest?
  3. What is the most valuable problem?

If you are simply stuck in your inbox, you are reacting to other people’s requests and demands. You are playing defense.

I don’t think pushing harder on mediocre activities is great business. It can look like hard work, when in actuality, it is a form of laziness. Thinking about what the next right thing to do is what matters to knowledge work. The hard thinking, rather than the hard working, moves the needle.

So, what is the next right thing to do?

Get Your Business Out of Your Head and Into a System

When your business is you, operating it is a cinch. How you do things is simply in your head. You can develop and rely on your habits to get customers and deliver your service. Make calls with your friendly approach, send a proposal the way you are used to, and work the projects with your communications and updates based on what you have seen personally work over the years. It can work well without much need for upgrade.

When you have more people in the mix, the network effect takes place. Complexity comes at an exponential rate. If you have five people, the complexity is not simply 5x; it’s 25x. Everyone has to communicate with each other and be on the same page.

This is part of the reason many businesses fail when they try to grow. Running a business in your head because you know the care, technicalities and craftsmanship does not require any sharing or transfer of knowledge.

Start adding people, even one, and now you have to work hard at being on the same page to get quality and efficiency for your customers.

This is why a knowledge base is so important to build. It’s the place to run your business from with other people. You get the philosophy of why you do things, the way you execute and the step-by-step approach for delivering internal and external outputs in writing for everyone to align with. It’s how you get your business out of your head and into a system.

It takes work. But it forces clarity. When someone can’t follow your steps, then you have an unclear handoff in instruction. Thus, it’s a convergence point to clarify how the business operates.

I like to see what people have been doing their job for a while write down and share. When you put it down in writing, you can see how they think. Clear writing reveals clear thinking. And, if we are always talking or working alone, there’s little to no way to judge if the process really scales.

When you have to explain what you do and ensure others can follow the instructions, you are creating a system.

And as E-Myth is popular for sharing, “Systems run businesses and people run systems.”

You can’t take the knowledge out of your business. The many processes and jobs that exist are because of the knowledge mix that has been tried, tested and proven.

But, if you simply have a bunch of silos working without knowledge sharing, then you can’t grow effectively.

What would happen if you start writing down how you do things?

Actions that Work

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Every week you have the opportunity to move the needle and get your business notching up a level. Not only do you have to get the necessary work you committed to others done in your projects and tasks, but you have to make space and time to work on your business in addition to in your business.

It’s why your weekly checklist needs to have the important stuff to get attention as well as the known urgent items.

So, if you want to move your business forward, here are actions that work and should be scheduled into your week to be able to execute:

  1. Read and think. Check out how Ramit Sethi made this a priority in his own business to develop new strategies, products and direction. He learned, “But at a certain point, you can’t just “hustle” your way bigger. You have to completely change your thinking, your strategy, and even your team. This is what separates constantly hustling entrepreneurs…from true CEOs.”
  2. Write on legal pads. I’ve been moving a lot of time to legal pads, not just for taking notes, but to think and have time for creativity. It has worked wonders to get back to the brain-paper connection and watch ideas flow freely. There’s science in the handwriting act and how it develops and clarifies thinking. I’ve come to learn the keyboard is for productivity and output; the legal pad and pen is for creativity.
  3. Enjoy action-oriented people. Getting out for times of fun, relaxation and conversation with people that like to move to action motivates me and opens up opportunities. When ideas are flowing and people actually want to entertain and explore something more, new projects emerge. I like taking action. And it’s more likely to happen when there are people that are focused on future opportunities. Talkers may be entertaining and social to hang out with. But, doers tend to make ideas happen quickly and decisively. Find those people and hang out more.
  4. Eliminate commitments. Most things don’t work out. And working on yesterday’s commitments, as we are constantly doing, needs continual re-evaluation. You can always be more busy. That’s not the point. It’s to do less, not more. Every week, eliminate a commitment or project. It makes space for the new. You just have to be clear and decisive. That’s what good executives do. And in our work, we must be good executives to avoid allowing second-rate options to overtake our time and energy.

I have integrated these habits into my weekly workflow because they get above the noise beyond the obligations I will already get done with my time. These regular actions get me thinking about the direction I am heading. Too often, we are simply reacting rather than taking action on what we have defined as important. That can be stressful and disorienting.

What do you think about using some of these strategies for your own work?

Start and Grow a Low Risk Business

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I heard from a friend that their big corporation just laid off hundreds of people. It could be from mismanagement, market downturns or simply another industrial age company ending their cash cow ride.

It’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. If people don’t want what you offer, then your business is going to simply go away. Businesses exist to meet demand. No demand, no business.

But, new businesses can also emerge simply from new demand. That’s great news for entrepreneurs that can notice what people want. And, for those that already have a security blanket – a job or a business – it’s easier than ever to start a new business with low risk.

There’s no such thing as no risk. You can only lower it in the face of competition, uncertainty, complexity and market dynamics. And it’s critical to manage risk when it comes to new ideas and ventures.

I’ve written a lot about managing downside and pursuing opportunity. You can check out my resource on productizing for creating options for yourself.

If you feel secure, then it can be a time to put energy into new opportunities for hedging your cash flow in case your gravy train runs out.

If you have had success and sold a business or had a payday, then you can open up a new game for yourself to see what opportunities might emerge.

If you don’t know what to do, there is nothing like action to help you get more clarity.

Being a sitting duck and waiting for something to happen can be a painful jolt when the shoe does finally fall.

While there are businesses that are shuttering up, the great news is there is a ridiculous amount of opportunity out there as well for those that are proactive, smart and eager.

How could your cash flow disappear? What’s holding you back from creating new business options?

Find Businesses That Already Have Demand

What do people already want to buy?

It’s far easier to meet demand than create demand.

I have been in businesses that are innovative and the proof of concept, go-to-market strategy and target customer all have to be identified. This approach takes a lot of commitment to discovery and gathering feedback. You have to see what sticks and makes sense to a person you are in conversation with.

If you simply identify and meet existing demand, you spend little time in R&D trying to figure out what people want. People already buy services like accounting, HVAC, furniture moving and marketing. You are helping people with what they are already wanting. Helping people is the focal point and doing it pleasantly, consistently and with excellence is enough to drive revenues.

If you have a new service, then see if you can tell the story in terms of what is known. If you have to spend a lot of time educating people, it can be expensive and frustrating. We buy things we know.

Perhaps your invention does a better job cleaning a room than vacuums and disinfectants. You can spend a lot of time educating people on why your invention is innovative or you can open up a cleaning service and sell monthly service plans.

The idea is to look for existing markets that your use case markedly performs better with. Maybe make your are offering a tool to use within the business rather than a product everyone has to understand.

Convincing people they need something they have a hard time understanding can drain your bank account fast. Leave that to the infrequent world changer that comes along.

We have a ridiculously crowded market place. People are buying things all the time. Simply give them what they want.