Focus on the Deal First, Then the Details

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I have done many types of deals over the years. I have sold services, created venture opportunities for myself and clients, partnered, started businesses, launched new products and have helped people along the way who needed a little more vision or strategy. I can see deals that others can’t see and can see the myriad of steps and obstacles along the way to make the deal happen. It’s been fun, and I look at the world as a giant playground of opportunities.

It does take great intentionality and vision to make deals happen. Putting deals together is unnatural. Human nature enjoys the status quo too much and rarely chooses to rise above the noise to create more for themselves. Why change anything, even if it is better, when what you are accustomed to has an illusion of safety from its perceived comfort and familiarity? Everything in life and reality is working against you.

That’s why deal making has to center around the ideas first. Focusing on the possibilities and opportunities. Help someone to see what you see. Do they align? Do they trust you and your conviction?

The details are second. Yes, there’s likely a ton of work, cost and failure once you get a deal done. And it’s good to sketch out some of those back-of-napkin style to enhance the communication and experience around the deal. But obsessing about details that may or may not happen can kill a deal. Quickly. To a lesser degree, bringing in the details can overwhelm customers or partners. You are setting up the other party to extend the buying cycle or to simply say no.

I like to focus on the deal first. The ideas, upside opportunity, and possibilities are what catalyze deals. It’s why I insist on “Deals first, then details.” Otherwise, you end up killing deals that don’t get to see the light of day.

Much of this is because the ramp up and overhead are so low today to be able to test an idea. You don’t often have to go and buy brick and mortar real estate or hire a bunch of people first. You can see if your idea has viability with experimentation. You can test the demand or even the business relationship to see if it will even work. That’s the creative part of deal making. Take out the risk and find the essence of whether the idea has legs by prototyping.

Most people are sitting around waiting for something to happen. A few people are out there making things happen. Focus on deal making. Details come second.

Asymmetry Can Bite You

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Have you ever assumed something about someone and been surprised? Assumptions can bite you in the butt pretty fast if you are not careful.

I like to be surprised all the time. And I don’t like to make assumptions.

One thing I do assume is that any person or opportunity I engage has asymmetry. There is information I do not have. Everyone can teach me something. Furthermore, I have a deficit coming into any new relationship or deal. It’s unknown territory. So, it’s best to remain open and relaxed.

When I have asymmetry working on my side, for example, in advising clients, I’m fully aware of the imbalance in knowledge or insight. And based on the deal we are in, I make it a goal to close the gap, so we can have a dialogue based on trust. Often, this means taking time, listening, and sharing information in a way that is easy to digest, and focusing on education.

I do this so I can build long-standing trust with people who are worthy or who have retained me.

I have seen players in the marketplace that try to maintain an advantage in asymmetry in information or power, and I don’t see that strategy working very well these days. When we have an immense sea of options that are readily available, you can build mistrust quickly by trying to maintain a power imbalance in your favor.

I don’t think there’s a cut and dry policy. You have to read the people and situations. Sometimes you have information thieves that devalue you quickly by insisting on free knowledge from you. I don’t think you have to necessarily relent and give away your value. You won’t feel great about such misplaced generosity. You’ll feel used.

But in the case where good deals have been made with people that you like, building trust becomes gold. Much of that comes from how you handle asymmetry and distribute your knowledge accordingly.

You know things others don’t. They know things you don’t. It happens in car buying, dating, entrepreneurship and all your dealings. It’s a great opportunity to lead and focus on how you build trust.

 

The Problem with Infrequency

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How do you know the price of something?

Ultimately, it’s an agreement between the seller and buyer. You don’t have to pay the price. You could go elsewhere and get what you want cheaper. Or you could forego what you want if it’s not a need.

Buyers are at a disadvantage on infrequent items. If you only buy a home every seven years, are you calibrated to the pricing and all the fees along the way? Something you do once every seven years compared to sellers along the way that do dozens or hundreds of deals a month makes them an expert and you an amateur.

The same goes for the infrequency of buying a car, college tuition, health care, and a number of items that we run across in life’s journey and demands.

On frequent items like gas, cell phone service and eggs, it’s easy to dial into the price. You see it, touch it and interact with the pricing so much that there is less of a debate between the buyer and the seller.

It’s interesting to watch people get more excited about a 20 cent raise in gas prices and miss the upswing of university rates. We pay attention to things we frequent more easily.

Perhaps being scarce in attention can help you lever up as a seller. Your service could morph or integrate with other offerings. Or you could work in an innovative, infrequent purchase area to have more pull on pricing.

You could also be a price-focused hustler lowering your operational and delivery costs so that the language of price becomes collaborative with your buyers while you move the cost needle down.

Infrequency has its rewards for sellers and finding a game where you can assign pricing based on that value and advantage might be worth exploring in this vast, hyper-competitive marketplace.

Forget Being Well-Rounded

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I see people every day in business lost on what they should or can do. The old rules where you were a good boy or girl and advanced up a ladder doesn’t play out much today. You can’t simply rest on your laurels and hope someone notices enough to develop a career path for you.

In addition, we have this amazing world of access. You can find out what opportunities exist, and get transparency into jobs far away with ventures of all sizes and shapes. And if you research, investigate and talk to people, you see less of a correlation between formal education and credentials to the jobs that they take on. People are continually reinventing themselves because of necessity.

One strategy for talent has been to be well-rounded. Learning and doing a lot without focusing too much in one area was a conventional approach.

The problem is that you are competing against the world now. Someone looking for talent can find that person who is sharp, not well- rounded.  Sharp skills in areas are desirable because we have the options to keep finding what we are looking for out there readily and we want execution.

We pay disproportionately for top golfers vs. mediocre talent. Same goes for executives that have a special skill or all that cream we see rising to the top.

I think in a flatter world that moves extremely fast, you should forget about being well-rounded. Its better to be sharp and be extremely good at those chosen areas where your competition can’t touch you. It’s a way of standing out and letting your beacon of talent distinguish you when people are looking for solutions that get results fast.

If you find the carpet pulled out from under your feet, or if you can anticipate your comfortable position changing in the next year or so, then how about getting sharper in an area?

  1. Take an inventory of all the things you like to do.
  2. Pick one to move your skills, knowledge and ability to the next level.
  3. Find projects and customers that will pay for this one talent now. Do the research where to find them and put your shingle out.
  4. Execute.
  5. Promote your work.

Get that reputation that you stand out and are sharp in an area.

I’m not sure people have much choice otherwise in a hypercompetitive, accessible world of options. It beats obscurity.

I Want to Grow Opportunities with Apps

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I saw this recent statistic to date for number of apps for my Apple devices at 2.2 million and 2.8 million for Google Play! It blows my mind how much technology is available for every average person out there with a thought and a click. We got here fast.

When you look at these numbers, do you think creating one more app will be much value? How would you get through all the noise to even be noticed? You might find a micro niche that has been undiscovered. Or you could try and unseat a current app leader in a category. Tough game either way to bet on, especially when the proposition of free or $0.99 apps are expected. We’re app snobs these days and want extreme power with no cost.

But you could take a look at the bigger picture. Much like electricity is a commodity that we don’t give much thought towards, apps have come to be a sort of utility. We use them for travel, productivity, banking, entertainment and many other uses.

How do you grow opportunities with all these apps, however? What if you want to produce rather than consume? The use case for this supercomputer in your pocket can surely go far beyond checking out or checking in.

If you want to grow opportunities with apps, here are some ideas and strategies that gets you thinking about the game of increase:

  1. Networking. If you extend your inbox to include participating in forums or Quora, you can play a game every day. Give a great idea or connection every day. See if you can be a matchmaker and make new friends by giving substantive value. Push your mind and creativity. See if that translates to deal making.
  2. Build teams. Start a project that has a money-making goal. Keep it small. Use an app to add people to the conversation and actions. Move the ball forward with leadership and project management. See if you can set the next steps forward using distributed talent around the globe. You’ll have picked up the skill of managing virtual teams. You might consider Basecamp, Slack or Upwork to drive this initiative and make an ROI the goal.
  3. Curate. If you keep tabs on trends, products, food, technology or other natural interests, find a way to make a daily post on a platform. See if you can turn that into a transaction. Work with those vendors you respect. Become a trusted, curated resource. Build relationships with your audience and your product vendors to find where the deal making lies.
  4. Encourage. Life is tough and most people are carrying around a lot of worries, concerns and problems. Use an app that would facilitate the process of encouragement. Find inspirations, apt quotes, solutions and answers that would help people. Make it easy for yourself to connect the encouragement with the person that needs it.

You are not going to have a million apps on your device. But you can think about what you are doing with your time and attention and think a bit bigger than mere consumption. What if you could turn that powerful middleware someone created and get resourceful to turn the tech into opportunity building? It starts with a purpose.

Creativity Not Productivity

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We had this age of efficiency and continuous improvement for a long time. When the Japanese were destroying us in the auto industry with better quality cars we buckled down and hyper focused on quality. It worked. ISO standards, Deming Cycles and Six Sigma drove quality to new standards, and we produced a generation of managers that ensured statistical quality for the masses.

There’s money to be made in efficiency for sure. I enjoyed conversations recently with an executive friend at UPS who shared the relentless focus UPS has on logistics and using unmanned vehicles and drones in their R&D. They are in the efficiency business, and both workforce productivity and the market demand for immediacy are driving their initiatives. We, as consumers, get to partake in what will be a surreal future of fulfillment based on our whimsical desires. The speed, precision and customization are being worked on while we consume from our mobile on-demand lives anytime, anywhere.

I think the business of productivity and efficiency fit well for enterprises that can move the needle in our lives from a mass perspective. They are productivity behemoths and get rewarded for consolidating around this value proposition.

However, there are many more slots to fill for customers that go beyond productivity. As humans, we still want to consume creativity. That boutique hotel experience or the out of the box retreat attracts us in a way that relieves our tired minds from consumerism, efficiency and boring.

If you are in the productivity business, keep pushing the bounds of faster, cheaper and efficient. That’s the value the market expects.

For all other endeavors, your creativity, not necessarily your productivity, will have a larger impact on selling and being relevant. The ideas you are able to generate and implement will be the differentiator in such a ridiculously competitive world.

I had a friend recently say, “Stay in the mess.” He was talking about the complexities of IT problems he is involved with that AI has not touched yet. We were talking about how that will likely change with deep learning technology that is continuously pushing the envelope.

Today’s mess is not necessarily going to remain hard or obscure.

And the challenge becomes looking for new messes using the efficiencies, tools and platforms that productivity has solved for our creative benefit.

I am not sure what the future beholds in business. But I do see, from the front lines, how those who are creative stand out. Getting in the mess where strategy, forward thinking and the ability to connect the dots tends to gain trust, respect and relationship gets rewarded.

Simply trying to make efficient things more efficient has marginal value.

If you are not productive at this point, you may be fighting an uphill battle. Give it up and do what you can. There’s already consolidated and large leverage players that accomplish productivity far better than you. Partner with them.

It’s a far better strategy to invest in creativity. Find a new angle. Straddle multiple industries and blend those ideas into a new approach. Take some time to get above the fray and see the forest from the trees. You’ll add a lot more value in today’s world being a creative resource that can make ideas happen quickly. Oh, and you don’t have to be frenetic. You just have to commit to being insightful, strategic and creative.

Use This Leadership To Get Things Done

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There are all these productivity systems out there, and I find this one thing is often underestimated. Speed.

We don’t live in a world where what comes in is controlled and steady. If you are like the typical knowledge worker, it is absolute chaos on a given business workday with calls, emails, meetings and requests.

That’s because it is so easy to move information around. When it was slow and awkward, we could react with a steadiness to our work.

Furthermore, large industrial companies had all these managers, specialists and workers silo’d in their limited roles and functions. That model was inspired by the assembly line and we could afford the daisy chain flow of work. It looks silly today from this vantage point because our tools and technology are ridiculously efficient and connected.

The average person carries a supercomputer in their pockets and can get what they want wherever and whenever.

That also means that a request becomes work for another person. It’s why workdays can feel overwhelming. You have to react to all these unknown and unanticipated requests.

It’s why I believe the key skill today is making meaning and moving to action. It is personal leadership. The faster and clearer you are then the more the chains move towards your goals. That is assuming you have your goals clear as well.

And here are a few strategies to make speed and clarity work for you in the daily trenches and get things done:

  1. Master email. Most knowledge work gets done by email. Your vendors, prospects, clients and teammates understand email. Keep it simple. It hasn’t died. It is rarely used well, however. Learn shortcuts, drive speed and move communications quickly.
  2. Make people react. Start your mornings with rituals. One of these is to get your requests out there. Again, send twenty emails out there. You typically need other people to get your tasks done. Simply get things out of your head and email the people you need. The hot potato is in their court and they have to react. It’s an easy way to drive tasks. I would encourage using this instead of task lists as well. Simply use emails to start the processes you need to get done with other people.
  3. Say No. When you are unclear or don’t have enthusiasm behind something, simply say, “No.” It’s the fastest way to get things off your plate and complete projects. In fact, start your task review this way. If you really miss an opportunity, or it’s that valuable, the request will come up again. Most things simply don’t matter.

Your goal each day is to clear your workload and push it onto others to react. You can lead from your world in this giant information ecosystem by staying simple, focused and decisive.

Then, use that freed up time and mind space to be creative. That’s what allows for further leadership and working on the things that matter to you. You may need training to make this happen. I would highly encourage the investment. You deal with this chaos every day and it makes an immense impact on your overall results.

Here’s How You Build Trust With Clients

It’s hard living in an imperfect world, especially with people that might expect perfectionism. Perfectionism is not realistic. There are too many variables, players on the field and unrealistic expectations to muddy the waters of doing good business.

But, being in the connected human economy affords us the opportunity to work with imperfection and even build trust through it all by simply communicating well.

If you want to build trust with clients, as a given, execute well. However, when you can’t deliver, communicate. It’s how I have built trust with clients for many years and it astounds me how poor most people are at communicating timely, honestly and with leadership. In the end, it does take leadership and guts.

Don’t hide. Don’t rationalize. Don’t wait for your client to dictate. Don’t be a coward.

I overcommunicate all the time.

I educate clients and ensure they are comfortable.

I listen carefully and dial into how clients like to be communicated with.

And it keeps things from building up into unnecessary crises. You can stay ahead of most things by addressing issues, being clear and being humble.

I can’t say it enough, when you can’t deliver, communicate. You will easily stand apart from other service providers and the many other options of people out there trying to deliver value. You will build trust by being transparent and leading.

Trust is hard to build and easy to lose. So, unless you want to churn through relationships, you can work on this specific skill and ensure your communications, whether in writing or verbally, always focuses on problem-solving, empathy and goals.

Trying to be perfect is not realistic. But trying to be more human and leading proactively with care can even turn problems into amazing opportunities for connection as you get on the same side of the table with those you serve. You get to go down the journey together with your clients this way.

A Little Strategy Please

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Any fool can muster up motivation and go for it. You may finally want to act on an idea or make your business work more efficiently in a moment of inspiration.

However, acting simply on emotion and motivation without thinking through options, strategies and ideas can get costly and wasteful. It’s a loser’s mindset.

Doing a bit of upfront thinking about the problems you want to solve – make more money, building stronger relationships, growing a team, being more efficient – can save you heartaches and headaches. Thinking, not hard work, has a lot of cost avoidance.

We have this immense advantage of living in a world where all the pieces are either already invented or able to be put together to solve our problems. We have too much, not too little.

And what you want out of life and business is all there for the taking. Nobody is going to hand you a solution, however. You have to think a little and get clear on:

  1. What you want
  2. Wanting it
  3. Designing the solution
  4. Working the design

A little strategy and thinking can keep you from working on the wrong solution or limiting yourself to an inferior option. There are so many options available.

So, are you hating your job like the 70% of other Americans out there? Yet there are millions of jobs and you merely have one. What about doing a bit of thinking and getting clear on what you want, overcome what is holding you back and find the options that fit you? Then act.

What about being stuck in your current business? Little to no growth year over year can be frustrating. What will happen this year? Same input and same output? How about thinking about what drives your sales engine and either magnify what works or pivot to something more creative. There’s always something more creative.

You need a plan that is well thought through to change the mundane and predictable way of business and life you have today.

Assume everything’s possible and all the resources are there to get what you want. It starts with a little strategy and clarity on your thinking to make anything meaningful happen.

Keep Score Everyday

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I don’t find games very engaging without keeping score. My kids are the same way. Once we inject some kind of scoring, it becomes much more fun, and the focus and intensity go up right away.

It’s natural.

We’ve had decades of socializing trying to tell us otherwise, but I don’t see that working much for desperate and scared adults who bought the lie. And those people who told them scores don’t matter, aren’t around anymore.

When you have to survive, meet goals, provide for others or make your vision happen, you have to keep score. How in the world would you know how you are doing if you left it to an ambiguous feeling of doing well?

If you are serious about success and getting results, you have to know your score every day.

Your brain is a problem solving machine. When it sees a void, it wants to fill it. When you compare your goal and your score today, there will be a gap. That’s ok. We are always walking around with the gap between our present reality and our future desire.

The important thing is that your mind is aware of where you are at today and simultaneously sees what you want down the road, so it can begin working on that gap.

Numbers are easy to see these days. You have a ridiculous amount of technology that feeds you information daily. Your:

  • Bank account balance
  • Current monthly sales
  • Pipeline of opportunities
  • Expenses and cash flow
  • Deals you are working

Every morning, look at these numbers. Automate your Google Chrome or browser to open separate tabs upon opening so you have to look at the score on each of these numbers. See where you are, and compare it to the number you are shooting for.

You can also build a Google Sheet to keep track over time by updating your numbers. When you keep score, you are focused on winning.

Yes, some days can be discouraging when you have a big gap. But it’s far better to know where you are at and where you want to be than not know.

Think about getting concrete and building your own scorecard. You can simply:

  1. Figure out where you want to be in three months or six months. Quantify every goal.
  2. Put those numbers in a Google Sheet.
  3. Every day, update your current numbers. Let the Sheet calculate your gap by percentage or amount.

This daily habit can take a few minutes every day. It gets your heart and mind focused on the game. And you are in a game. It’s called life.

I like getting my goals. I’ve seen plenty of unhappy people who insist they can be random and laissez faire. No thanks.

Reality has a way of keeping score whether we acknowledge it or not. If you care about yourself and getting results, keep score daily. You will be giving yourself a gift.