Growthink Blog

4 Crucial Presidential Leadership Lessons


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With the 2012 presidential election wrapped up, and January's inauguration looming on the horizon, life is getting (somewhat) back to normal in the United States. But the past few months have been filled with stories of great presidents, leadership and change, and tales of how those have impacted America's direction over the course of the past few centuries.

A few good presidential examples can be used to guide a business toward success, as well. Business owners would do well to follow a few of the examples set by Abraham Lincoln, long considered one of the most respected presidents in American history. His reputation is not an accident; instead, he carefully crafted an expert team, sought leadership from multiple subordinates and cabinet members, and turned debate into his best chance for success.

And while it's true that business owners won't be fighting any wars, Lincoln's policies of leadership and discussion are a powerful way for entrepreneurs to get ahead and maintain strong footing in their industry.

You CAN Hire Others Who Disagree with You

One of the most notorious aspects of Lincoln's administration was that it was largely comprised of his rivals. One of the best examples of this is Lincoln's choice for Secretary of the Treasury. The job is typically reserved for those who agree with the president's policies, and have a strong desire to remain above the political fray while ensuring the nation's fiscal sanity.

Lincoln saw it quite differently, instead believing that the Treasury -- and every other department -- should be run by someone who was highly capable of the job, regardless of their ambitions, political viewpoints, or personal relationships with the president.

Lincoln boldly appointed Samuel Chase to the lead the United States Treasury. Lincoln did this despite Chase's well-known political ambitions, and his thinly-veiled efforts to undermine Lincoln for his own political gain.

The same pattern can be seen in Lincoln's appointment to what was then known as the War Department. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton rarely saw eye-to-eye with Lincoln on policy matters. He was the best man for the job, however, and that was good enough for Lincoln.

At every turn, Lincoln followed a basic business philosophy: hiring capability, regardless of ideology. Business owners could learn from this example, as we often expect the ideal worker or partner to look or think a certain pre-conceived way, which blinds us to possibilities.

Rather than leading without any debate or argument, and rather than picking those who merely agree with everything we, the business owners, believe, pick a team full of rivals and strong-minded professionals who will set the business up for success. All ideas will be properly debated, vetted, and implemented -- but only if they're the best ones for the business.

A business that enjoys healthy debate among its employees and leaders is one that makes the best decisions for the entire company, rather than the best decisions for the company's owner. Out of a brief ideological struggle, a commitment to sound leadership and decision-making can emerge.

Shoulder the Blame and Share the Credit

Abraham Lincoln was well-known as the type of leader who preferred to share credit with his expert cabinet members, while also shouldering the blame of the administration's failings. In fact, he often shouldered the blame for issues that weren't entirely of his own creation.

That type of compassion and leadership is often missing in business, and it creates an adversarial environment that can be damaging to the growth of the enterprise.

Small businesses need to work as a team. That team can debate (sometimes for days on end), but they must work to create goodwill at the end of the day (and individual team members cannot be blamed for problems). When everyone feels good about their coworkers, and about how their ideas are being integrated into the growing company's policies, they're more motivated to do the best job they can.

Additionally, happy employees and executives are more loyal in their positions -- preferring to stick with a business through the good and bad times, as opposed to jumping ship to a competitor or starting their own company.

Be Prepared

It was Abraham Lincoln who said, "Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four hours sharpening the axe."

Lincoln knew that before you can achieve success, you must prepare. You must know where you want to go and what you want to achieve, and then create the plan to achieve it.

Have a Commitment to Leadership

Above all else, what Abraham Lincoln showed during his time in office was a commitment to excellent leadership. It takes a very strong individual, and a very capable manager, to hire a team of rivals. After all, a lesser man or woman would find themselves overwhelmed and entirely too stressed by constant debate over company policies.

Lincoln, however, thrived on the discussion. Discussing his views was something he enjoyed; conflicting ideas helped him moderate his own views and policies, allowing him to best enact policies for the majority of a war-torn nation.

In today's business climate, it's all too easy to get wrapped up in a self-centered drive for success, especially for small business owners working mostly alone. But when that motivation is expanded to a larger team, and their conflicting viewpoints are brought in as part of the company's policies, the whole organization stands a better chance of making sound decisions.

With shared credit, proper planning, the right employees (who don't always agree with you), and an understanding leader (You!), your business can grow carefully and strategically, making strong tactical moves that set it up for more sales and profits, and continuous growth.


Is Your Business Giving You the Results You Want?


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Take this short quiz to find out:

Are your revenues growing month after month without fail?

Are your profits rising, and allowing you to pay yourself enough money to spend freely on the things you want?

Do you have plenty of customers, with no need to get more?

Do your employees care as much about the success of your organization as you do?

Do you have enough cash flow to radically grow your company?

Would your business thrive if you took the next month off?

Are other companies regularly approaching you to buy your company?

... If you answered NO to one or more of these questions, then your business is NOT giving you the results you want or deserve.

And unfortunately, you’re not alone.

In fact, millions of other entrepreneurs and business owners are struggling.

As you may know, Inc. Magazine found that 80% of businesses fail within the first 5 years, and Dun & Bradstreet research showed that 91% of businesses fail within 10 years.


And according to the United States Census, only 3.9% of businesses make it to $1 million in sales, and only 0.6% of businesses make it to $5 million. And with the slow-down in the economy since 2008, many businesses have been struggling...

with no growth and declining profits.

That’s just depressing.  But there IS a solution...

...and I am so committed to helping you find it that I am offering free copies of Dave Lavinsky's new book so you too can discover what it is.

To learn more, click here: http://startattheendbook.com/free-offer


Why Most Entrepreneurs Behave Like Drug Addicts


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What is the goal of New York Giants or any football team?

The answer should be easy. This team's goal each and every year is to win the Super Bowl.

There's no question about this. Every player shows up for pre-season training with that goal in mind. Every practice drill is performed with that goal in mind. And every game is played to win, because each win will put the team one step closer to the Super Bowl.

So, what is your company's end goal? Can you answer this question without missing a beat? Do you clearly know and understand what your organization has set out to achieve? And, just as important: does every employee in your organization know what this goal is?

And most importantly, do you know precisely what you need to do this month, this week, and today, to make significant progress towards this end goal?

If not, then THAT is the real reason why your business is "stuck."

If you don't know precisely what you need to do beyond today, then you're thinking like a drug addict.
Let me explain. The most successful entrepreneurs in the world focus on the long-term. Sir Richard Branson. Donald Trump. Bill Gates. Steve Jobs. And many more -- they all had BIG long-term visions, even when they were just starting out.

In fact, ALL successful people think long-term. These are individuals who build trees under which their grandchildren will sit.

On the other side of the spectrum are drug addicts. Drug addicts don't think at all about tomorrow. They spend all their time today looking for their next quick fix. Their only plans are to figure out how to immediately get more drugs. As a result, they never achieve success. But rather, they fall deeper and deeper into despair.

So, how do you run your business? Do you act like a drug addict and focus each day on trying to increase today's revenues and profits?

Or, do you operate like a successful entrepreneur, with a methodical plan that will BOTH build revenues and profits today AND create the necessary infrastructure for your long-term growth, several years from now?

Answer honestly.

The key is to start by creating the long-term vision of where you want to go, and then reverse engineer it.
You see, if I asked where you'd like your business to be in 5 years, or 1825 days, you'd probably be able to answer fairly easily.

But how about if I asked you where you'd like to be in 1824 days? Or 1823 days?

And what about 987 days from now?

Or 481 days from now?

Or 84 days from now?

The fact is that you COULD answer these questions for every single day from now until 5 years from now, all the way back to the present day.

And if you did that, you'd know exactly what you'd have to do tomorrow to be on the right trajectory to meet your 30 day, 365 day and even 5 year (1825-day) goals and vision!

Now, in reality, setting goals for each of the next 1825 days is not practical. Not only would it take too much time to complete, but your business and strategy needs to evolve over time. No business operates in a vacuum, and you must be flexible and willing to change.

But, you can figure out where you need to be in the next year, and figure out what you need to accomplish this month to allow you to get there. And then you could plan your days to ensure that progress is continually made.

In summary, to succeed as an entrepreneur, you need to have a clear goal and vision of what you want to achieve. Then you need to create a step-by-step game plan to get there. Because you can't go from A to Z without achieving B, C, D and so on. The key being that you must plan out and execute on the smaller periodic goals (e.g., weekly, monthly, annual goals) that you must accomplish to achieve your end goal.

For my proven methodology on how to create a step-by-step plan to build your ideal company, pick up a free copy of my book, Start At The End: How Companies Can Grow Bigger And Faster By Reversing Their Business Plan.


The Starting Point to ALL Success


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The REAL Reason Businesses Fail to Achieve Success

Soon after entrepreneurs and business owners start businesses, they tend to become trapped in the day-to-day, week-to-week, and month-to-month struggles...

At some point, virtually all of us become 100% focused on the short-term and lose sight of our long-term visions. As a result, we begin to wander, and never achieve the initial vision we had when we first started or bought our companies.

Specifically, we set short-term goals and create short-term plans (if any plans at all). And as the United States Small Business Administration found after numerous studies, the #1 reason business owners fail to achieve success is lack of formal business planning.

That's right, you must have BOTH 1) a long-term vision and business plan, AND 2) a short-term vision and business plan that puts you on the right trajectory towards achieving the success you want.

So how do you do this?
 
The Solution is to Forget About Today And 'Start At The End'


"If you don't know where you're going, you probably won't get there."

Yogi Berra

This quote from Yogi Berra is so simple, yet so true. If you don't know where you want to go, you'll never get there. It's like driving in a foreign country without a map or GPS system.

And it's the same with your business. If you don't know where you want to take your business, how can you possibly get there? You can't.

In business, as in everything else, you need to have a clear vision of where you want to go. Then, and only then, can you create a plan to get you there. The key is to "Start At The End." Figure out where you want to go. And then reverse engineer the path to get there.

So, oddly enough, the starting point to all success is actually at the end! Now, the reverse engineering process of getting to the end is all about figuring out short-term goals.

Specifically, once you figure out what you want to accomplish by the end, you can estimate what you need to accomplish in the next year to put you on the right trajectory towards meeting your ultimate goals.

And then you can figure out what you need to complete this quarter to get on the path to your annual goals. Further, you can determine what you need to achieve this month to reach your quarterly goals. Likewise, you can figure out what you need to accomplish this week to meet your monthly goals. And lastly, you can figure out what you need to do today to accomplish your weekly goals.

Success really is this easy; it's simply constantly breaking down your ultimate vision into smaller pieces, and then focusing on completing those pieces (rather than getting distracted as most of us do).

For specific tips and strategies to envision the company you'd like to build and to reverse engineer that vision into a step-by-step plan you can follow to achieve it, pick up a free copy of my book, Start At The End: How Companies Can Grow Bigger And Faster By Reversing Their Business Plan.


49 Days and Counting


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If you haven’t yet registered for my Wednesday webinar, this is your last chance.

Webinar: “How to Make 2013 Your Best Business Year Ever!”
Date: Wednesday, November 14th
Time: 8 pm EST / 5 pm PST
Registration Link: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/459943082

The fact is this: successful people figure out what they need to do BEFORE they do it.

For example, a winning football coach always comes up with a game plan BEFORE the game. Then he’ll go over the plan with his team and practice BEFORE the game. So when the game starts, the team is ready and able to execute on the plan.

The same is true in your business. And if you want 2013 to be your best business year ever, you need to start planning NOW (2013 is only 49 days away).

That’s why I’m hosting a complimentary webinar on Wednesday, November 14th at 8pm Eastern / 5 pm Pacific.

The webinar is called “How to Make 2013 Your Best Business Year Ever!”

REGISTER HERE*
https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/459943082

On the webinar you will learn:

•    How to significantly increase your business’s 2013 sales and profits
•    The precise way to figure out the best 2013 opportunities for your business to pursue
•    How to set attainable 2013 goals that lead to long-term success
•    My #1 tactic for ensuring sustained success in 2013 and beyond
•    And much, much more!

You can expect to hear a positive, motivating message loaded with actionable intelligence to make 2013 the best year of your business life.


Why I Wrote It (And Why You Should Too)


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This week, I am really excited to release my new book, Start At The End, published by John Wiley & Sons.

I wrote the book for two core reasons.

1. To help entrepreneurs and business owners succeed


For the past 15 years, I've been helping businesses grow. And, in doing so, I started to get really frustrated and upset by so many entrepreneurs and business owners making the same mistake.

Which is this -- they focus all of their energy solving today's problems. And doing this never gets these businesses to where they want to go. Yes, many of them will survive using this strategy. But these businesses never get where they want to go, and the business owners aren't happy; they work too hard, take too little time off, and don't get the results they want.

The solution I have found that works over and over again is to start at the end (catchy book title, huh). That is, to figure out where you'd like your business to end up. Then you create a plan that allows you to both solve today's problems and make big strides towards reaching your eventual goal.

2. To get the word out about the importance of planning

The release of my book will educate thousands, if not tens of thousands (or hopefully more) of entrepreneurs and business owners as to why they need a business plan and how to create one.

This knowledge will make them more successful. At the same time, the book will help establish myself and Growthink as the go-to firm for developing business and growth plans for businesses.

Certainly writing a book has great PR value in that it gets your name and the name of your company out to the masses. A book also increases your authority and credibility. Specifically, if the average entrepreneur was choosing between two firms to develop their business plan, all other things being equal, they would generally choose the firm who has published a book on the topic.

So, to summarize so far, writing a book is a great marketing tool. It spreads the message about you and your company, while increasing your authority and credibility. And, publishing a book gives you great opportunities for PR. The media likes talking about and interviewing authors, which allows them to further spread the word about themselves and their companies.

The "bad" news is that the heavy lifting starts now


While creating a book is a ton of work, that's pretty much the easy part. The hard part is selling it. As I mentioned in a recent article, a successful writer isn't labeled a best-writing author. Rather, he or she is called a best-selling author.

Because even if my book is great (I think it is, and hope you do too), if people don't buy it, it doesn't matter. In fact, there is a very interesting dynamic that takes place in book marketing. That is this: the more people that buy the book, the more likely it is to get to a best-seller list on Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, the New York Times, and others. And, if and when a book gets on these lists, it gets more and more publicity and more and more people buy it.

So, the key is getting on these lists. Personally, my goal is to get on the New York Times best-seller list. This achievement has been on my list of personal goals for some time, and being able to cross it off and say "I did it" would be a very proud moment for me.

I hope you learned some lessons here about how writing a book could help you and your business. And note that even if your book is self-published, you get many of these benefits.

In the coming days, I will be speaking more about the book: including giving unique opportunities to get a copy, and teaching some of the lessons included in it; mainly proven strategies that have allowed clients of mine to achieve phenomenal growth; which is what I want for you too!

Thanks for reading this; I hope you will soon read my book and grow the business of your dreams.


The 7 Easiest Ways To Boost Sales & Profits


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Are you looking to boost your sales and profits?

I hope you are, because any business owner or entrepreneur who isn't looking to grow, will surely start to decline.

So, since you ARE ready to grow, here are seven easy ways to do so:

1. Find or build the right product or service

Without the right product or service, you're going to have a hard time growing your business. The right product or service serves the customer segment(s) you want, and solves a real need of theirs. Also, the size of the customer segment must be large enough to make your business profitable.

In addition, the ideal product or service is a consumable item that needs to be replaced on a regular basis, or a product or service that will have recurring sales. If you don't have a product or service with recurring sales, figure out how to create one.

By having a customer base that comes back to you over and over again, you can introduce related products, as satisfied customers will be open to recommendations.

If you don't have the resources to build a new product yourself, consider partnering with another business that already makes the product you want to sell. You can often get them to create a variation of their product and private label it as your own.

2. Learn to sell better

Having the right product or service doesn't help if no one is aware it exists. Someone once observed that a successful writer isn't labeled a best-writing author - he or she is called a best-selling author!

A marvelous product could collect on the shelves if not promoted or distributed. That's where selling comes in. The number one piece of advice for new business owners is, before you learn to build, learn to sell.

3. Improve your unique selling proposition (USP)

Having a strong unique selling proposition (USP) is one of the most important elements of your marketing plan. Your USP separates your product or service from your competitors. It makes your product or service a "unique, must have" item.

In fact, the USP of Domino's Pizza: "Fresh hot pizza delivered to your door in thirty minutes or less, guaranteed," has widely been credited as the reason for the company's success in a highly competitive and fairly commoditized business.

Ideally you can come up with a great USP for your company like Domino's did. But at the very least, you need to be able to clearly articulate reasons why customers should buy from you instead of your competitors.

4. Raise your prices


Entrepreneurs who start a business often think they should charge less, mistakenly assuming that customers will flock to them if they see a low price.

In fact, the opposite is more likely to be true; low price often denotes low quality. When you have a great product or service you'll discover that people will pay more for it and you will earn more. And if your profit margins are too low, that's another sign to increase your prices right away.

5. Do a better job of cross-selling and up-selling


It's said that McDonald's doubled its profits when its cashiers started asking "would you like fries with that?" This simple cross-sell request results in tons of new sales that the company otherwise wouldn't have generated.

Likewise, McDonalds added "would you like to supersize that?" later which is a classic up-sell. This too dramatically increased the company's sales and profits.

Importantly, when you cross-sell and up-sell, you are not only generating more revenues and profits for yourself, but you are better satisfying your customers.

For example, if you owned a hardware store and a customer was purchasing a hammer, you would be doing them a service to offer them the right nails for the job, and a better hammer, or an offer to buy a second hammer at a discount in case they ever lost the first one.

6. Establish yourself as an "authority"


Make sure everyone knows you as an authority and recognizes your expertise. We all know what a "xerox" is, right? In 1959, Xerox introduced its first plain paper photocopier; by 1961, the company had almost $50 million in revenue, by 1965 its revenues were $500 million, and the rest is history - revenues were $22 billion last year!

What was first a company name and then a trademark, in popular vernacular became a noun of common usage, although Xerox fought this use of its name. Do the same with your product. Make sure everyone has a mental picture of a great product or service when they say your company name.

7. Figure out how to gain economies of scale


The key to making a great profit is scale. If you can't produce and sell a product on scale, then you won't generate a lot of profit.

Some ideas may be moderately profitable on a small scale, but can you sell 1,000 units with the same precision and scalability as 10 units? The most important consideration when choosing a product for a business is scalability - the ability to replicate one sale with many sales.

If your current product or service isn't very scalable, figure out how to make it more scalable. Generally, by implementing the right systems, you can accomplish this.

Follow these 7 tips (and see many more here) to maximize your revenues and profits, and keep your business thriving!


This Happens in Just 56 Days


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2013 is just 56 days away.

And if you want to make 2013 your best year ever, you need to start planning now.

To help you succeed, I’m hosting a complimentary webinar next Wednesday, November 14th at 8pm EST / 5 pm PST.

The webinar is called “How to Make 2013 Your Best Business Year Ever!”

REGISTER HERE (note, to allow for quality audience interaction, we are limiting attendance to the 1st 40 registrants):
  https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/459943082

On the webinar you will learn:

•    How to significantly increase your business’ 2013 sales and profits
•    The precise way to figure out the best 2013 opportunities for your business to pursue
•    How to set attainable 2013 goals that lead to long-term success
•    My #1 tactic for ensuring sustained success in 2013 and beyond
•    And much, much more!

You can expect to hear a positive, motivating message loaded with actionable intelligence to make 2013 the best year of your business life.

REGISTER HERE (there's limited space for this free webinar):
 https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/459943082

P.S. Whenever Growthink hosts a webinar, we get a lot of requests asking if there will be a replay or a recording of the call.  Right now we don’t have any plans to do a replay nor to record the call -- so my advice is to be on the webinar LIVE!

REGISTER HERE (there's limited space for this free webinar):
 https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/459943082


Using Systems to Grow Your Business


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In many franchise businesses you can see the same hamburger or service turn out the same carefully-designed way, regardless of location or the employees doing the work.

The reason why these often big businesses are able to perform an operation consistently and at a massive scale is because they use and follow systems and work processes. This means that they do the right things, in the right way.

Why Small Companies Can't Handle Growth

Unfortunately, most small businesses and entrepreneurs do the opposite. That is, they fail to create systems and business processes that coordinate routine work in a standardized way. Their style of small business management pretty much boils down to just asking their employees to come on time, and then to watch them and hope their products and services are promoted and fulfilled correctly.

Well, what does "correctly" even mean?

This is a mistake that happens all the time; most entrepreneurs think they don't need to set systems and work processes, or that it has to be done all at once in some monumental undertaking to make an employee handbook as thick as McDonald's.

Because the average small business operates with less than a few dozen employees, their managers generally believe (incorrectly) that since the business only has few people, creating and applying business systems would be a waste of time and money.

It's like saying that you don't need a system to organize your CD collection because you only have a few CDs at present. This might work in the beginning, but the problem comes when it's time for the business to grow. Then you may have 10 times the work going on, and things get chaotic. Quality goes down, morale goes down...it's a confusing mess!

Same goes for when your business has to change employees (even satisfied employees change jobs, move, or otherwise stop working for you). With no systems in place, the new employee will have a tough time doing the task correctly because "correctly" has not been defined for them or demonstrated.

The Process Determines the Results

Another reason why small businesses often lack proper processes is because their management only cares about results, rather than the processes that created them. They don't care how their employees get the job done, as long as the finished burger meets the standards.

Of course we should all be results-oriented. But sometimes having your team do something a specific way will lead to better results, higher quality, faster work, less waste, etc. In these cases, you definitely want to spell out the process for them.

When buying hamburgers from a franchise, for example, people expect it to be perfect or to at least be identical to the previous ones that the burger joint sold. If you didn't have a system or a process for making burgers (how long to freeze, how long to cook, what the toppings are and in what order to stack them, etc.) then keeping the quality up to your standards would be tough. One employee would do it one way; another employee would do it another. You would not get consistent results.

How a Systems-Run Business Looks

We've covered the disadvantages of not having small business management systems and processes, but now let's delve into what may actually happen when you do have them.

When talking about the advantages, we just have to reverse the scenarios we talked about earlier.

Imagine a business with only a handful of employees. But also imagine them following a system and doing what they were supposed to do, and doing it the right way. Costs would go down. Product and service quality would go up. Profits would soar. And your business would be simple to run. As a result, you would spend your time growing vs. simply operating your business. And tons of other businesses would want to purchase yours for a big premium.

Now imagine one employee quitting for whatever reason. The new employee wouldn't have a problem taking the old employee's place; because there would be a process to follow that everyone knows. It would have become the way you do it here.

Now that you know that systems and business processes are important, how do actually create them?

Make A Few Simple Systems Of Your Own

To create systems, it is best that you start looking at the business processes that take place in your business. Make a quick list of everything your business does, from accounting to sales.

Once you have a list, take one at a time (in order of impact to your business; the most potential impact first) and start writing down a simple checklist of actions that make it happen. Start with the beginning of the process (e.g., customer places order), then imagine the ideal outcome (customer receives perfect result), and then write down each step that should occur in between. Then write in who is responsible to do what, and estimate the costs of each step in hours and dollars. You should then have in one hand a brief write-up of how to perform the system and what it will take to do so.

Once you've designed your system, test it out once or twice before officially implementing it. Make sure your systems and processes do what they are supposed to do and nothing short of that. Perform the work yourself or watch someone closely, and pay attention to every step.

Whether it's from not knowing about systems or not making the time for it, most small business managers do not make and improve their business processes over time. But that's manager's main job -- to keep the right people running the right systems, so the company's desired results can be achieved.

If the system doesn't work...change it. If an employee will not or cannot work the system...change employees. Because once you systematize your business, it will run smoothly and it will run itself. You can then focus your efforts on growing the business, and reap the rewards of a fully systematized company.

If you want to learn more about systematizing your business, I will present a full session on this topic at the upcoming Business Blueprint Live event.


Should You Play a New Game or Just Keep on Keeping On?


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Dave Allen, author of the great productivity best seller "Getting Things Done," has developed an almost cult-like following for his ideas, structures, and best practices around to-do list management, prioritization, and metrics and schematics that define what an effective work day should be.


Without question, there are great benefits to his methods, and I especially like his best practice of always ending a meeting, conversation, or work on an open-ended project with the simple question "What is the Next Action?"

This discipline alone can greatly improve daily and meeting productivity, and perhaps more importantly reduce that sometime suffocating sense of anxiety common to knowledge and entrepreneurial work that there is always way more that must be done than there are hours in the day.

 

But a focus on simple to do list management, in the modern world, is far from sufficient.

You see, the dirty little secret that all of the self-help masters, all of the highly paid management consultants fail to tell you is that in our incredibly fast-moving, changing, competition from everywhere modern economy it is virtually impossible to design a plan or strategy that is in any way close to being assured of success.

The reason why is simple. Plans and strategies, by their nature, are speculative and assumptive.

They require the planner to survey the current market and competitive landscape along with assessing the current strengths and assets of their enterprise.

And then, from those assessments, forecast how a course of specific decisions or investments will be received by the market, by current or perspective customers, and responded to by the competition.

 

When stated this way, it becomes obvious that there is a very high likelihood that a plan as designed will not work.

It really doesn't matter if that plan is to introduce a new product or service offering, a new marketing or advertising campaign, a website re-launch, or an internal re-organization.

So, does this mean that planning is worthless? Of course not

But it does point to a pair of strategic best practices:

1.    Before commencing any planning process, first reflect deeply and document extensively what is working now.

These could be the practices and habits of a top sales person, a pay-per-click advertising campaign with positive ROI, an invoice collections best practice, a particularly profitable partner or affiliate.

Or, on a personal level, an exercise or diet or spiritual regimen.

Now to do more of these things that work, productivity and accountability best practices as outlined by the Dave Allens of the world are incredibly valuable and should be incorporated aggressively into the daily work habits and disciplines of the modern professional.

2.    But for everything else that falls outside of this realm, the right mindset is one of testing and exploration, of brainstorming, of speculation and possibility. Of open-ended questions.

AND it should be noted extremely well that it is usually in this mode that the big outlier, “black swan” ideas and strategies and relationships are usually discovered.

As for the question as to how much of #1, or playing more of the existing game better, versus #2, playing a new game, should be incorporated into your daily work flow and planning processes, well that is a decision that the best managers, the best consultants and the most renowned self-help masters are paid a lot of money to answer.

My answer is - no surprise here if you've ever met me at a party - is to have my cake and eat it too.

Strictly schedule times, deadlines, to-dos and accountabilities to accomplish more of the stuff that you know works and leave plenty of open space - on the calendar and in one's mind and spirit - to step out of the safe harbor and into the big sea and dream more than just a little bit.

And when you balance doing and dreaming like this - and sprinkle in a little luck, a little bit of being at the right place at the right time - your dirty little secret will soon be how much money you are making.

Or even better, how much difference for the better you are making in the world every day in every way.


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Jay Turo

Dave Lavinsky