VISION OVER CUSTOMERS

Are you placing a higher value on listening to your customers over creating a vision of how business and products can be done differently? If this is you, as Mark Cuban would say, “You need to have your ass kicked.”

Customers aren’t always the smartest person in the room, so stop building your organization around them. I’m not saying you shouldn’t conduct focus groups and customer insights (these are super important), I’m just saying you shouldn’t build your entire organization around them.

Talking with lots of companies and entrepreneurs, I’ve learned that one of the biggest mistakes you can make is asking your customers what features or services they want to see – this isn’t always the case, just the majority of the time.

Instead of asking your customers what they want, come up with a vision of how business can be done differently, how the game can be changed. Customers don’t always see the value or need until they are slapped in the face with it. And when they try it, they love it and tell their friends!

It’s not the job of your customers to know what they want or need. That is your job. It is your job to study, predict, and create the future. Be a futurist, a visionary, a Steve Jobs.

When you think of customers, you think of people who work a full time job, run their kids around, go to school, along with several other things all wrapped into their day. They don’t have the time to do your job too.

It is your job as the entrepreneur to invent the future and stay ahead of the curve. Look high and low, around corners, inside the box (I will blog about this later), whatever it takes.

Now, go make your customers happy, take care of their needs, and listen to them. Just don’t build your entire company around them.

 

GUIDE TO A GAME CHANGERS LIFE

Do you want to be a game changer? Are you already a game changer? Either way, we need more game changers in the world today. We need people just like you to step outside the tent and do something so big, so impactful that it literally changes the landscape.

There isn’t nearly enough game changers in the world today. Let me rephrase that, there aren’t nearly enough people stepping outside their comfy tent to activate their game changer. Everyone has it inside of them they just need to activate it. I am writing this to help you activate your game changer – that is if you are serious about being a game changer.

No rehashing of old outdated ideas. I am talking to game changers: people who want to come up with something new, something brilliant, something game changing. A game changer doesn’t maintain the status quo, they blow stuff up and get excited about the outcome.

If your sitting at your desk reading this right now thinking, why can I not be a game changer. You can, and I am going to show you how. It’s not nearly as hard as you think. In fact, I’ll let you in on a little secret, it’s simple. All it takes to be a game changer is determination, insanity, and faith that you can do the impossible.

I’ve put together a guide for those of you who want to be a game changer. I only want people who are serious. If you’re not serious, please move along and don’t wast anyone’s time.

Now, if you are serious you can Click here to download the Guide to a Game Changers Life.

After you’ve downloaded the document, read through each question, and fill in your answers in the space provided. Simple. After you’ve filled out the doc, and you 100% believe in what you’ve placed there, it’s time to post it everywhere.

Post it on your bathroom mirror, on your dash board in your car, and anywhere else you look everyday. If you truly want to be a game changer you need to keep your game changing guide in front of you. It is also a god idea to read through your game changers guide each week to make sure that you are on track and holding yourself accountable.

Game changers do the things that others aren’t willing to do. Go and be a game changer.

 

SOCIAL TRENDS FOR 2012

Every year, people predict trends in social media for the upcoming year. Some people are dead on while others…let’s just say they don’t have a clue – not that I do either, really!

This year, I decided that I would take a stab at it and throw in my two cents – this is after spending about 2 hours a day for the last couple of years reading about social media.

So what do I got for you? Here are my top 7:

Collective Intelligence. Watch as more and more people realize that they are not near as smart as a large group of people on social media and they can be leveraged to solve business problems, think up innovation, and get more done…faster.

Crowdfunding. With entrepreneurship on the rise and more and more people trying to start companies and innovate, they need access to capital. You have already seen what Kickstarter‘s been able to do to fund cool projects and initiatives. Also, maybe you’ve seen the crowdsourcing platform called Quirky that lets the best product ideas rise to the top and then helps them get produced and sold while the “inventor” takes a cut. This will not stop here, brilliant people are already working on new ways to leverage the crowd and gain funding for great projects.

Social will further integrate with real world experiences. Think of Coca cola and what they did in 2010. They created an amusement park where participants could swipe their RFID wristbands at Kiosks, which then posted to their Facebook account – it said what they were doing and where. This will continue to grow with companies building fully integrated online and offline experiences that will continue to define social.

Social Influence is on the rise. Companies will continue to build reward systems for those who produce quality content and have the greatest social influence. One of the companies playing in this space is Klout and now a new company called Wahooly who allows you to invest in startup companies based around your influence. It will be cool to see all the creative ways people start to be rewarded for their social influence. For 2012, the influence will become less and less about consumer plays like Klout and more about the tools and techniques used to score digital influence and actually harness, scale and measure the results of it.

Game on baby. I’m not talking about video games, rather game-like qualities within a number of social apps that reside either in your browser or mobile device. You will see levels, leaderboards, badges (Ford is already jumping into this arena), points, rewards, and everything in between that are tied to participation and competition.

Social Media Sharing. People will continue to share everything and as people become more and more comfortable sharing, you will see them sharing everything; Ideas, opinions, media, status updates, etc. Companies and brands will further integrate sharing buttons in and around their content and the love will spread. Also, watch as social sharing is more closely aligned with e-commerce or web transactions.

TV Gets more and more social. TV is about to become more and more social in which every show will be tied to social media interaction. Watch as people will be able to tweet in, ask questions, vote, etc, making the overall TV watching experience much more engaged. Parts of this have already been integrated on a few shows like the X Factor and the Charlie Sheen Roast. Something else that is cool is a network called Get Glue. Get Glue allows people to check-in to their favorite shows, collect stickers, and tell the world what programs they care about.

This is what I have for you this morning. I’m sure there are more emerging trends that we will see – social media seems to change by the second.

——-

What social trends do you see for 2012? Go. 

 

STOP WAITING FOR A RAISE: 10 TIPS TO GET YOU STARTED ON YOUR OWN

Sitting at home on the couch complaining about your worthless job? Is it time to step out on your own? I took the time to put together 10 tips to get you started.

1. Create a business model canvas: Research, design, and build one if you want your idea to work. Having a business model is one of the fundamental building blocks of any start-up and necessary to protect your idea, invention and proprietary information.

2. Know Your Market like the back of your hand: Who does your product appeal to and are they willing to buy? Do you appeal to several different customer segments in the market? Are you solving any major problems?

3. You need an idea – What is the idea?:  Have a well designed plan that is executable. It is okay to think big (I prefer you think big), but how are you going to get there, one step at a time?

4. Research and list all Competitors and competitive advantages (Be honest with yourself too): Taking the time to do a competitive assessment can take time, however the time spent here will be well worth it – this is vital to your success. Also, while looking at your competitors define where you sit and how you are going to be different.

5. Financing and budgeting is critical: You need to know what you personally have to spend (Without hurting you and your family), how much you need, where are you going to locate the capital, and how is your idea going to scale – this means revenue streams and a smart business model.

6. Have an exit strategy in mind: Are you planning to sell your company and move onto the next thing? Are you going to pass it on to your kids? Or are you going to try and position your company for an IPO? Think about it.

7. Pick a course and run with it:  Picking a course is always better than swimming around in a circle like an idiot.

8. Protect Yourself before you wreck yourself: How are you going to protect your idea, invention and your proprietary information. Can your idea or product benefit from a patent? If you have the right projection, it can give you an edge in the marketplace.

9. Process makes perfection:  A company without the systems in place to fulfill what it’s selling or producing is preparing itself for a fall – believe me I’ve been there.

10. How is your company structured?:  Think about whether you want to be a shared corporation or a limited liability company. Also, think about where your company is going to operate and where you want to incorporate. What are your future plans for the company?  How do you intend to raise capital?  What is the exit strategy?

Now have fun and get after it. What are you waiting for….a raise? You could be waiting forever.

 

SOCIAL MEDIA: IT’S NATURAL TO SCREW UP

What social media mistakes are you making? I’ve made a ton by the way – it’s natural to screw up, we all make mistakes.

We all know social media is an effective marketing strategy but if done incorrectly can end up damaging your business’s reputation and chances for success – you don’t want that.

After at least a couple of years now working with companies, startups, and people on their social media strategy, I’ve put together a list of common mistakes.

Here are the common mistakes that companies make:

1. No plan, plan to fail.

Everything needs to begin with some strategic planning. Take the time to mobilize a diverse team within your company to discuss goals, resources, and anything else necessary to execute. Building a plan is a great way to create a foundation for which everything else is structured.

Once your team is mobilized, here are some questions to get you started:

  1. Do we know are primary and secondary audiences?
  2. Do we have a plan for how to communicate with them?
  3. Do we understand how our social media strategy ties to our business strategy?
  4. Is our social media strategy embraced by everyone in the company?
  5. How does our social strategy tie into our marketing plan?
  6. Who is going to staff the efforts? Are they trained?
  7. How will we measure success beyond likes and followers?

2. Bad timing

Timing is always an issue. Take the time to understand where your customers are, which time zones they are in, and when your sweet spot is. Don’t mess up by assuming you know when your customers are spending time online – do your research and know for sure.

3. Have some Manners

People are horrible with manners and this applies in the social world as well. Don’t be rude, be nice and follow some simple rules.

  1. Start conversations by asking questions.
  2. Don’t follow someone on Twitter, and then unfollow them when the follow you. Only follow people you want to be connected to or you appreciate.
  3. Don’t be selfish. Promote other people as well as your own brand. For every personal social media mention you should mention another person or business five times.
  4. Put some focus to your world or you wont be adding value at all. Try to focus on four or fewer networks at a time.

4. Measure your success

Yeah, it’s hard to measure something like a conversation. However, you can measure things like total community size, the number of mentions of your brand across all channels, and the traffic referred to your website. Don’t be lazy and just track the number of likes and followers…unless you ultimately want to fail.

5. Competitive Benchmarking

It’s important to know who your competitors are, what they’re doing, and how you can one up them.

To keep an eye on your competitors you should be doing the following:

  1. Keep a close watch of their website
  2. Like their page
  3. Follow them on twitter
  4. Sign-up for Google Alerts for their brand
  5. Sign up for their newsletter
  6. Anything else you can think of

It’s just as important to see what their fans and followers are saying and use those reactions to adjust and improve your strategy.

If you have a well designed social media strategy, and avoid the above mistakes, you will be rewarded with more social media love than you can bear.

Do it right and get to it.

————

What about you?

What mistakes are you making?

 

 

BUSINESS EXERCISE: THE SILLY COW

Are you in need of getting your team’s juices flowing about a new idea, business model, or startup? If you are, you should try out an ideation session with a silly, fun warm-up such as the Silly Cow exercise from the book Business Model Generation. It’s a great exercise to get you thinking beyond the typical constraints of old, outdated ideas that honestly..suck.

Here’s how it works:

Instruct participants to sketch out three different business models using a cow. Ask them to first define some characteristics of a cow (produces milk, eats all day, makes a mooing sound, etc.). Tell them to use those characteristics to come up with an innovative business model based on a cow. Give them three minutes.

Keep in mind that this exercise can backfire, as it is indeed quite silly. But it has been tested with senior executives, accountants, risk managers, and entrepreneurs, and usually is a great success. The goal is to take people out of their day-to-day business routines and show them how readily they can generate ideas by disconnecting from orthodoxies and letting their creative juices flow.

I have found the silly cow exercise to be a huge hit and it’s always a good time too. If I were to guess why it works so great, I would say that it challenges you to look at things in a different light. The other cool thing, it even works with serious business people like accountants and attorneys!

Try it out with your teams and let me know how it works.

 

ITS TIME TO PERSEVERE

It’s time to persevere, and there is no better time than now. Why? Well, let me quick tell you why. The new year is just around the corner and it’s time that we rid all challenges, difficulties, and any past failures and move forward with a positive attitude and outlook on the future.

Today, around the world there are thousands if not millions of innovative leaders that are struggling to do good, meaningful work in a time of overbearing bureaucracy, horrible leadership,  and non stop failing solutions.

If you look around, you will see that everyone is working harder, and in most cases, in greater isolation than ever before.

Between the fast pace of work and life, family, balance, and the fear and anxiety, it is becoming almost impossible to have the energy and enthusiasm to keep going. However, this also means that everyone must stand up, brush off the years of good efforts that have been taken away by events beyond our control, and lets continue our efforts to do and achieve great things despite all difficulties, and failures.

What do you say? Let’s go!

 

PAINFULLY OBVIOUS CONCLUSION

Over the years, I’ve learned a painfully obvious conclusion – and this is after God and the people who love me were speaking to me the whole time. What I’ve learned, and maybe you can relate, is that when I try to make things happen on my own, my accomplishments end up being nothing more than insignificant.

Tip and fact: Self made people don’t make much of an impact.

If you want to be a great leader and make an impact while you’re here – for the short time that we are, be sure to surround yourself with amazing people who lift you up and help you be successful. You could be the most talented person in the world, however without the help of others your success is limited.

Whatever you believe, your influence springs from an awareness of your dependence and a willingness to express thanks to those who help you rise up and do great things.

For me, my visions are much larger than my ability, which leaves me two options: give up or go find help – I choose to go find help and go after my visions. More and more each day, I learn how important and thankful I am to have such amazing people in my life that allow me to do incredible things. And without these people I would be nothing. For this I thank all of these people for helping make my dreams a reality.

——–

What about you?

Are you trying to be self made?

 

 

WHAT WILL YOU DO IF SOMETHING HAPPENS TO YOUR STAR?

Is your company operating on a lone star model? Do you understand the consequences of building a company around this model?

This happens more often than you think – companies that are built around one person and when he or she leaves everything tends to slowly fall apart. Think Apple years ago – there are several others too. You do not want this. Take the time to discover and nurture talent in every area of your organization.

It doesn’t matter how good a strategy or value prop you have, at the end of the day, you will need a well crafted organization filled with talent if you want to execute and build a successful organization.

In today’s knowledge economy, team building is one of the most important risks you need to manage – building a strong team can be difficult too, but possible when made a priority. Are you making it a priority?

Note: A strong team is not one where a single person disproportionally influences the team’s results.

Everyone seems to cherish the company champ, but if you want constant business growth, you better have organizational structures in place to ensure that the other team members are ready to take the lead when something happens to the champ.

What about you?

How are you building your organization?