Optionality

When you have so much uncertainty in your projects, relationships and dealmaking, the fear of loss or desire for perfection can be inhibiting. I find it best to create optionality. Pick the path with the most options and keeping your choices open.

This is especially true when it comes to creating opportunities. Choose projects that develop skills which can be valuable and useful for the long haul.

For example, I don’t mind taking on projects where I can grow a network to meet people that could become enjoyable friendships or deals later. The outcomes may not be clear or immediate, but the relationships, skills and access from such opportunities can unfold over time. It’s worth showing up for.

I have chosen to live in places and open up the options for adventure, friendship and personal growth.

I have embarked on projects to develop technical skills and deep work ability in areas that interest me.

Perhaps, you have a lot of choices and can’t seem to commit. Pick the ones that will provide optionality and skills you can collect. This way, you can remain open, observant and free while adding to your capabilities. You become more valuable while waiting to take action on the best opportunities.

What skills can you collect and keep your options open?

You Only Have to be Right Once

ace playing cards on brown textile
Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

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

writing ideas, taking notes and doing the right things

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?

Find Businesses That Already Have Demand

waitnginline.jpg
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.

Take Risk and Give

rohan-makhecha-jw3GOzxiSkw-unsplash.jpg

I like businesses where the need is obvious. People line up because they need a solution. Dentists, divorce attorneys, grocery stores and gas stations will always have demand. We have a problem and they are a known solution. The challenge for them is to meet the known demand with delightful service and care. That’s a known way to stand out.

But if your offering is less than obvious for having built-in demand, a strategy to apply is to take give generously. Share insights and content that is valuable. Give real answers to real problems. This may feel like you are giving a lot away or taking uncomfortable risk.

But, the world is filled with a lot of generic, safe information online. If you have real answers that stand out and work, you get through the noise. Teasers, generalizations and saying a bunch of platitudes will not create engagement.

Truly helping people with strategies and insights that work will do far more than creating some kind of funnel manipulation.

Can you solve my problem? Can you articulate my problem?

Take the risk of being overt and generous to see what opportunities might open up that would otherwise never arise. It’s your chance to be helpful, contribute and a person of great value.

You Need Strategy

blurry .jpg

Many times when we are working in the grind we get so busy that we can’t see the forest from the trees. You may be working hard, but your hard work may be on things that don’t contribute to the bigger priorities.

It’s why having a regular and focused time for strategy keeps you from wasting energy on the wrong things.

If you are growing a business, you can’t afford to be unclear. It becomes costly quickly.

And if you have had much experience in business, you realize that there are not any shortcuts. The reality is that two things matter: strategy and hard work.

Knowing what to do and doing it consistently moves the needle. There’s no gimmick, magic or back door that hands you success on a platter.

You have to work just as hard at clarity as you do the actual work. And clarity is not free. It comes with thinking through the competing priorities, opportunities and constraints that are part of your mix.

Has the work you have been putting forth the last month mattered?

How can you make space for strategy regularly?

Most People are Almost Fits at Best

almost fit heads.jpg

Business problems are largely people problems. And, in the same vein, business is people.

Yes, you can automate. That’s easier than dealing with people. Machines, software and automation follows rules, logic and functionality.

But people don’t fit what the job usually requires. They are almost fits at best. They don’t come in the specific shape, size, function and consistency your jobs require.

This is why it is critical to gauge a person’s preferences and strengths. At least you will start with an understanding of the likely behaviors and bents that you can come to expect to see.

If your business has critical roles to fill and a lot of risk for non-performance, then evaluating a person’s inclinations is a small investment. It’s costly to discover the nature in a person further down the road and realize the almost fit you were hoping for is not even a fit at all.

I am not sure people change much. Most people are characteristic. When you talk about your friends, you don’t see them becoming a 180 of themselves. They behave consistently. So it is with the talent you recruit and manage. There’s a latitude to their growth and change, but not something dramatic altogether.

When it comes to getting work done – sales made, projects out the door, ideas that stick, etc. – you can lose a lot of money and time if your team members don’t fit what’s required.

It’s painful. And it’s real. I’ve heard the story repeatedly from business owners.

Expect most people are almost fits at best. But test to see how misaligned they are for the requirements you objectively have for your business. Hope is a poor strategy. A little foresight, process and quantitative evaluation can go a long way towards seeing if you have a close enough fit vs. someone far off the mark.

Can you be a better hirer of talent?

Be a Person of Great Value

rescuing and helping.jpg

How many caller id calls have you ignored? How many emails simply go unanswered?

We are all suffering from attention deficit and most people have to keep the noise out and focus just to survive and get what they think is important done.

If you are not a person of value in someone’s busy workday or life, then you are wasting their time and attention. And we have many ways to simply ignore what does not compel us to pay attention.

Deals get done with a lot of the important ingredients we know, but have to remain disciplined and focused on creating:

  • Attention. You have to matter.
  • Pain. What is it that your customer wants to improve or get rid of? What is it specifically?
  • Solutions. How do you make the pain go away or get resolved?
  • Conversations. Buying is largely done with human beings connecting and creating understanding and agreement. How many of these interactions are you having a day?
  • Value. You have to pay attention carefully and help people get what they want. Everyone’s different. Some people have kids. Others have health problems. Still others need a great networking connection.

Being a person of value means you are valuable. And you become valuable by continually growing personally. You know things that others can use. You apply your knowledge. You also know people that can help. You connect the dots and you proactively make connections.

When you start your days, say, “I will be a person of great value.”

Commit to being someone who gives continually.

And if you want to stay consistent, be sure to review the resource I share on using Gmail as a simple CRM. It can make your commitment happen day in and day out consistently with the people you want to be valuable towards.