Trust, But Verify

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If you want to grow your business, you have to have good people to delegate functional work to. Otherwise, you become the bottleneck and risk making customers unhappy.

Many years ago, I remember learning the lesson of delegation early while working an engineering project. I had a designer working on new revisions for drawings of a machine assembly I was engineering. We talked about what changes needed to be made. I repeated and reviewed the specific changes with him.

Well, I thought by talking through those modifications that professionals get their job done because that is inherent. I had not learned to trust, but verify.

A few weeks later, after we went to prototype and fabricate of the parts, the assembly did not fit together. I was perplexed. I frantically measured all the components and to my dismay, I found that we produced parts from old drawings. There was a mix-up in what was communicated to the toolmaker.

I thought the designer had handled the updates, but that was an assumption. It was a very expensive retooling because the revisions were not communicated to our manufacturing partner.

We had many other revisions that were managed fine previously. This happened to be one of those that did not get communicated, though the work was done.

My business education benefitted though the project budget ballooned from my mistake. I learned a very hard lesson to trust, but verify. When you have teams or disinterested parties, the risk is high for a bad handoff or miscommunication.

Trust, but verify is risk management. We need it because, despite good intentions, humans are fallible. We are terrible at executing consistently. When there’s a handoff, I like to:

  1. Explain what I need
  2. Have the person let me know they understand by explaining back
  3. Documenting it with an email
  4. Reviewing if we met the spec/requirements of the handoff
  5. Provide praise and gratitude for a job well done

I think that last point of gratitude is important because it makes working together easier the next time based on trust. Also, I like letting people know what they did well. We all need encouragement and honesty as feedback.

You may have heard the phrase, “Trust, but verify.” Usually, people learn this lesson from pain. Hopefully, you can create your own approach that consistently makes handoffs and delegations a core, robust way you grow your business through delegation.

The Lucky Fool and Reality

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“It manifests itself in the shape of the lucky fool, defined as a person who benefited from a disproportionate share of luck but attributes his success to some other, generally very precise, reason.” – Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Fooled by Randomness

If you haven’t read Taleb’s book, he does a masterful job of pointing out how our perceptions fool us, especially from the rare, high impact events we experience. We have biases that are hard to overcome. In the case of the lucky fool, we lean towards taking credit for the good luck that happens to us, and we blame outside forces and people for the bad things that happen. Tragically, our human nature distorts our perception of reality.

The Simple Dollar wrote a great essay on tips for increasing your good luck and decreasing your bad luck. It’s practical advice assuming you can overcome your own bias towards the luck that flows through your life. As the essay states, “We are all the lucky fool.”

There are opportunities galore that are there for the taking for those that are ready for luck. You have to be prepared, optimistic, open and competent to see and act on deals that are timely. Here are some weekly and daily practices to make luck bend your way and protect your downside from bad luck:

  • Treat all people with kindness and respect. Noone has to deal with you otherwise. And you need people to deal with you for luck to happen.
  • Be a person of value. Observe needs and work to help people.
  • Increase your value every day by what you know and who you know.
  • Make a daily habit of doing mindful self-care for your mental, spiritual, physical and emotional self. Pick something in each category and do it every day – read, work out, pray, and enjoy good people, for example.
  • Sow and reap. What you want, give more of. It’s the law of attraction you put to work.
  • Be a funnel of good ideas. You have to be learning, capturing and sharing. Connect your ideas or things you find helpful with the people you care about in specific, helpful ways. You need a good system for this.

I try to practice these habits to keep my probabilities of good flow high and reduce the probability of downside things happening in my life. I want luck, but not be the lucky fool as life and opportunities happen each day.

How do you increase your luck?

Reduce the Handoffs to Increase Efficiency

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Every handoff in your business is a failure point. When one person is handling information and moving execution to the next step, often you can get things done without many mistakes or delays.

When you have to hand off a lead, support call, requirements, or project task, it’s risk. What if the information is not correct? Is there nuance and clarity that have to be transferred?

Many projects need teams to deliver. But often, when we are growing businesses, we simply get fat and waste can build up. There are often unnecessary handoffs where it can be faster with less errors by cutting out steps, people or information.

With this season of downtime, what if you took inventory and got rid of handoffs that no longer make sense?

Look at when a customer starts their engagement with your company. How much work do they have to do before they get contacted? Can you automate the first touches?

Here are some other ideas to drive throughput by eliminating or reducing handoffs:

  1. Where does a request get bottlenecked? Consolidate the work with one person or automate the task using software.
  2. Set the expected response time for team tasks. Track this for 30 days. If you get a 3 day average response for something that should take 1 day, get the responsible parties involved and set up a new incentive to meet the customer expectation.
  3. Map out your steps. See if you can cut out steps that do not add value.
  4. For work that needs to be highly responsive, hire a support vendor or get a virtual assistant. It will force you to define what has to be done and you can manage accountability.
  5. Cut out any middlemen and replace it with direct service or engagement.

Handoffs usually develop because we hope to get some kind of efficiency, but we don’t revisit whether we have failure in speed or unnecessary mistakes. Take it back to simplicity, and care about your customer by removing the waste that simply happens because of unexamined workflow.

As the New Year is commencing, you can tighten your workflow up by looking at all those handoffs which create problems and bottlenecks.

Where are you finding handoff issues?

Dealmaking Is Slow then Fast

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I love dealmaking. I agree with Robert Ringer’s observation about dealmaking:

“There are no statistics to prove it, but after years of experience, I’m absolutely convinced that dealmaking is the highest-paid profession in the world.”

I think the creative pieces and bringing ambiguous, and often disparate parties and value together, is exhilarating. Great deals help everyone to win and get what they want.

Designing those deals requires insight and many cycles to drive a win and agreement. It’s why I often tell business partners that dealmaking is about going slow. Then fast.

The slow part of deal making is the art of the deal. Building rapport and relationships. Establishing trust. Putting the ideas forth that might take root. These are the building blocks that go faster with established relationships and much activity, but in the beginning of new ventures and relationships, they are slow to put forth and germinate. Often times, you have to push hard.

Fortunately, deals are everywhere. They need leadership, vision and management to develop. If you sell a known product, then your dealmaking has a lot of the components already set up.

If you have a custom, creative dealmaking offering, then there is a lot of time collaborating, designing and creating something from nothing.

I think that one of the best strategies is to be ready. Mise en Place. Anticipate that new conversations, opportunities, relationships and timing will come in the next weeks and months. Being ready by doing your homework, studying, gathering insights, having fast, efficient systems, and getting smarter are required to support the slow part.

If you have done the work then the fast part tends to take care of itself. The convergence of the details, negotiating, having solid agreements and delivering value transitions the dealmaking over to keeping your commitments.

You can always get better at the fast part. The slow part is where the payoff is if you pay attention to your approach, preparation and cadence. Where can you improve?

The Only Answer is Repetition

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At some point, there’s nothing more to change or create. You know what to do and only dogged determination and repetition with accountability will work. This is the part of scaling that moves the ball inches at a time and is quite painful.

Repeating what everyone has agreed to can seem tedious, but it is critical. Articulating your core values until everyone buys in is indispensable. Reviewing what steps need to be taken to make customers happy cannot be compromised. These rituals are relentless and are daily mantras that are part of execution.

Repetition is an age-old habit that gets groups moving in the same direction. While I wish that people could simply download instructions once and execute perfectly thereafter, that is not the case when it comes to scaling. You have to say what you want many times and do it repeatedly until a task, process or habit sticks.

Our temptation is to go back to what we know or did before. Growing is hard and we resist it because our old embedded habits have a grip on us.

The new tasks or habits are there for the taking. We are not necessarily fighting an information misunderstanding. We are fighting ourselves. We have anchors that have been established and something new is a disruptor.

If you are in the business of growing, you undoubtedly will run into the reality of execution. You have to do what you have agreed upon is the new way. And that kind of implementation will come down to saying it and doing it over and over until you see what needs to happen materialize consistently and become the new normal.

What are you trying to execute repeatedly?

Selling By Being Organized

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Most people can’t manage everything coming at them.

IBM used to train their salespeople with the BANT method:

Budget

Authority

Need

Timing

It’s still an excellent framework to ensure you are selling to people that can say, “Yes!”

However, that last item, “timing,” is a big variable today. We work within much more chaos and the vast majority of businesspeople are disorganized. Their inboxes are flowing with thousands of emails. They may or may not respond to texts or voicemails.

Most people are better at reacting than leading. The FIFO – first in, first out – approach is the typical behavior to people who are buried under a mountain of open loops, information and options.

So, try this selling strategy. It’s easier than trying to change the world:

  1. Observe a day of the week when people seem to be paying attention.
  2. Schedule in your follow-up activities within your calendar those optimal times.
  3. Ping people via email and texts during these times.
  4. Call on your next ideal follow-up times.
  5. Keep observing the best timing that makes sense.

Showing up at the right times with frequency is tactical, for sure. But it’s the way of the world.

It may be a long while before we have efficient, productive people. The greater outcome may be that those that can’t respond or act with decisiveness will likely fall out of play in the new economy.

In the mean time, it’s better to get deals done by appreciating that fact that the vast majority accepts being in chaos and respond best when you are the squeaky wheel at the right time.

What timing do you use in your sales follow-up?

You Have All You Need to Start Something

We live in an unprecedented time in history. It used to be hard to start something. You needed infrastructure, people, permission, etc. That was how the industrial economy worked. The mass forced us to push with enough weight of force behind us.

But now, you can put the pieces together yourself. The only thing limiting you is your ideas and your hard work.

Oh, and you have to be ok with failure. Embracing failure means you like learning. That is how we learn when there are a massive amount of unknowns.

But, you can always get started and test.

Need talent? Get on upwork.com and hire a freelancer.

Need funding? Put an ad out on kickstarter.com.

Need systems? Find a cloud computing solution and start a low-cost subscription.

Need to know how to build a business and make money? Call me!

I doubt there is much stopping you from doubling your income or changing the world. The obstacles and costs have been ridiculously lowered and you have access to what you need.

But the scarcity is still around leadership to make it happen. You have to make that part of your modus operandi.

The world is moving at a relentless pace as you see people squeezed out of the middle class, middle management and middle thinking. It’s because everyone can compete now. And they are.

Take some time to think about how you can make a person happy. Think what you could do. Think about a plan to put the pieces together to make them happy. Then find another person. Refine your process.

If you do it enough times and see feedback from the world, you can scale and build on your innovation. But it does start with the desire and leadership to put all the pieces together and make what’s in your head and heart play out in reality.

What’s holding you back?

 

Build Change Into Your Workday

I try to mix things up and change the routes I drive, places I work, people I meet and even houses I live in. Constantly experimenting and finding what is possible or what may work keeps a certain freshness to how I can approach work or do deals.

There’s a lot of value in having habits. I don’t necessarily want to rethink how to make my bed or do laundry or keep my house in order. Being efficient and turning off my brain and letting my habits simply guide me has its own rewards.

But in business, I always want to be pushing on my creativity. I think it’s easy to get stuck and being solely functional. The bigger opportunities get missed this way. And it’s easy to happen if I glue myself to an office or a crowd of people or seeing the same ideas over and over.

While I was out hiking at the end of my workday, I was thinking about how I wandered around Breckenridge, CO where we are living for a bit and worked in 4 different places today. I had many conversations – some sitting and others with headphones and walking miles around the area.

I was getting to know people, hash out ideas and explore deals to see how they might work for me and other people.

A lot of my business coaching works becomes about productivity and getting things done. That’s a convergent approach to work.

Moving and changing the form factor continually helps me diverge. I can think broader and take in inspiration as well as imagine solutions and opportunities. It’s really great to have that kind of flexibility and flow in a work day. When I get clarity on what’s possible, it’s easy for me to drive on making ideas happen.

Changing up how you work lends itself to staying fresh by continually experimenting.

What if you changed things up more? Can you mix it up more to keep yourself fresh?

Meet New People Every Day

It is intriguing when you meet a new person, hear their backstory and discover how they contribute. At the end of the day, business is people. Life is people.

We can get so wrapped up in our work and routines that we limit ourselves by not experiencing what is new. Your next opportunities, enjoyments and horizons can be greatly expanded if you incorporate intentionality and process for yourself. Here are a few tips as you think about your own routines:

  • Put yourself out there first. Let the world know what you are about and what you are going after. Put that message out on your blog, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Invite engagement.
  • Approach people based on interest. Our families, hobbies and pursuits align us instantly with something in common. Start a conversation by social media, email or in-person. Find what is similar. Great game to play and discover. You will have something for every person you meet. With some people it is evident. With others, you may have to dig.
  • Play. I like to play tennis, hike, run, snowboard and play basketball. I have done this with new friends and met new people along the way. So many new worlds have opened up because I invite people to play or hang out. If all you do is work, you miss out on the fun where people are enjoying life.
  • Find a way to help. People are not static. Their lives have some kind of next need or next step. Usually it involves their money, their kids or their health. If you pay attention, you can introduce them to someone you know that can help or share some information. Or you can simply be with them emotionally through struggle. You have to choose to get involved. It’s wonderful if you can take time and be human by caring enough.

We are around people all the time. But we can miss opportunities to make something happen. It’s people that make things happen. And it is part of our work if we want to grow personally and in our businesses.

Have you met someone by simply being intentional?

There Is No Magic Pill

Looking for that perfect pill is elusive and deceptive.

If there were a magic pill for getting more business, someone would have found it, shared it and everyone would be taking it. The truth is that there is no magic pill. Getting new customers is hard work and a continual moving target. You might be tempted to enlist the gimmicks of SEO companies or social media spammers. It’s not worth it. Gimmicks have costs eventually.

Just recently, there was an outcry with the Google search engine algorithm change with Google Panda. The sites out there that were low in quality and merely focused on backlinking to artificially manipulate search rankings were filtered out. Those sites intent on providing value and substance rose in prominence. The gimmicks were completely sidelined.

Do The Real Work

The truth is that you do not create something and it just works to get found, convert leads and increase revenue. It is a continual process of refinement, management and hard work. To separate yourself in a world of noise and reach your audience, there is continual, relentless work that has to be done regularly. Here are some of the continuous activities:

  • Creating valuable content. Your content has to connect and become increasingly relevant. People are searching for answers. You must become that trusted and accessible resource to get found.
  • Implementing systems. Your process flow and systems for how a buyer experiences your brand and moves through an integrated experience has to be continually refined. The touchpoints, offers and timing need to be engineered with precision.
  • Analyzing data. Seeing what works and what does not has to come from specific, real-time metrics that reveal how you are found and what people do on your systems. There is a feedback loop that needs to manage your next campaigns. The work never ends.
  • Connecting with your audience. What happened a week ago becomes increasingly irrelevant. We live in a real-time world. Your audience’s attention is on the present. You have to continually connect with what matters to them and helps them to achieve continual success.

Process and continuous improvement is the focus of organizations that stand out and connect. If you are a mere static picture in today’s dynamic world, then the traffic and engagement your competitors who pay the true price of continual engagement will be costly.

Stop looking for a magic pill and do the work or hire a team that gets it done over the long term. There are no shortcuts.