I may or may not own a pinball machine… well ok, I do. I played this particular machine a lot in the year 1988 at the local pizza shop in Franklin, Indiana. A favorite past time of mine was to spend lots of quarters on this machine and try to get the high score, or in other words, have my name immortalized in the thrones of electronic data. I went to great lengths (and quarters) to getting the high score, only to leave college and move on. What ever happened to that machine? To my score?
Today I was blowing off some steam, trying to get the jackpot back up to over 4M before I attempt another run at the board… and then it hit me. Pinball is a lot like business…here are three examples. You have to know the field/rules. So often I have people want to play me on my machine. They think they can win. While I am not the greatest (I do hold 3 of the 4 top scores, damn you SKO), I understand how to score. Just like so many entrepreneurs today, they get into the game and think it’s easy. Watch some Shark Tank, or a little of the TV show The Profit, help a friend “run” their business… easy! Wrong. If you don’t know exactly what to expect when you get into the game, either game, you will get crushed by your competition that has experience on their side. You have to practice. I didn’t get the high score on my first try. I didn’t call my shots on the machine until I knew I could make them, or at least look like I knew what I was doing. I often just play to hit the Comet 6 times in a row on a double score clock. In business it is much the same, you have to read. You have to network. You have to try harder and work more if you want to be the best… it doesn’t come naturally.
There is a score… keep it. This doesn’t necessarily mean profit, but that’s nice. As a matter of fact, profit lets you do a lot in business. Help others, expand, employ more people, do greater work, etc. Can you imagine playing pinball without keeping score? What would be the point? Understand what score is important in your business, and keep it. Not only that, but month after month, year after year, understanding more, practicing often, I believe you will beat your old score and become a Pinball Wizard.
Ever had a rough day at the office? Sometimes do you say to yourself that now is the time to start that business and take a chance on that brilliant idea your friends all think is a home-run? Have thoughts swirled around your head about walking into your boss’s office in the morning and saying a few choice words, such as, “I QUIT!”?
Well let me give you some free advice… don’t. Becoming an entrepreneur sounds exciting in theory, but carving your own path, leaving that 9 to 5 job and being your own boss isn’t for everyone. I’d say stay put… and here are my top six reasons why.
1. It takes a long time to start making a profit.
The initial phase of starting your own business is extremely frustrating and demanding. It could take years for you to break even, much less make a profit. The level of uncertainty in creating your own business is extremely high, and it is never set in stone how quickly you will start making money, if ever.
2. You have to invest a lot of time.
Starting your own venture means hours upon hours of work. While a 9 to 5 job sounds stale, at least you know how many hours you will be working. With a new business, you’ll have to invest a lot more time, especially at the beginning. (You hate working 8 hours a day, let alone 14!)
3. Initial financing is difficult to attain.
A substantial investment is often required in opening your own businesses, and for some entrepreneurs this may be difficult to obtain. And since making a profit usually takes a while, it’ll be even harder to pay back your original loan. Don’t even get me started on the practice of how banks decide to whom they lend money.
4. There is a lack of benefits.
No longer working for a “normal” company means losing out on the benefits you receive with your current employer: 401k, health benefits, life insurance, etc. You do have the option of purchasing them, but usually at a higher price.
5. Guess who does everything? You.
Just because you’re the boss doesn’t mean you get to skip out on all the mundane, boring work required. Accounting, HR, Legal, Operations, Sales/Marketing, Customer Support are all areas that you are now responsible for, and while you could hire people to help you, that would bring a whole new paradigm to having a business…employees. Don’t get me started there.
6. Selling yourself is difficult.
Becoming a successful entrepreneur relies on your ability to sell your company, garner buzz and attract attention. If you’re even the least bit introverted, shy or lazy, you’ll find yourself at a big disadvantage when trying to vie for business against a seasoned, confident business owner.
How do you become a thought leader? Is it worth the time, effort and energy? Can I become a thought leader? Aren’t most thought leaders blowhards, fakes or phonies? These are the questions I think many people ask themselves, I know I do… especially after trolling around LinkedIn, listening to Podcasts and watching youTube. If you’re in a niche industry like I am, you see the usual suspects preaching to their minions about how great Pinterest is, how Twitter is really a great option for businesses and how SnapChat is going to replace Facebook… yawn.
I take a different approach. I love the quote by Benjamin Franklin, “Better well done, than well said.” It sings to my heart. I am not a prolific thinker. As a matter of fact, I have told many people that I am an abecedarian thinker. While I label myself the “king of analogies,” I have never been one to throw my hat in the arena of “thought leadership.” I liken myself to Ben’s quote, doing is better than talking. And while talking, or writing for that matter, is important, if you don’t have the first hand experience to back up what you are discussing, I think it diminishes your voice in the conversation.
So then, how do you become a thought leader? Well, be a leader and talk to others about it. Share your experiences, your successes and your failures. Mentor (that is code for free) others in your field. Consult (that is code for getting paid) with clients to share your knowledge to better their businesses. Write. It doesn’t have to be a book, but that helps. Talk. Into a recording device and have a podcast. Record into a camera and have a video blog. Don’t forget to share, promote and advertise. Pick a social medium platform and dive into it. Don’t make the mistake of trying to vomit content everywhere across the web and your city just because you can.
Lastly, don’t self proclaim to be something you’re not. Doing your best in the real world, documenting it and sharing it is what you should focus on. Let others label you a thought leader… having them place that title on you will mean much more.
Recently I was exposed to a process that, unbeknownst to me, I had been performing for a long while. In fact, I didn’t even know there was a name for it. Some smart people, probably funded by a big government grant, did some research on what they call “tapping.”
The short of the experiment is this: In 1990, a Ph.D. candidate named Elizabeth Newton designed a game in which subjects had one of two rolls: “tappers” or “listeners.” Tappers received a list of 25 well-known songs, like “Happy Birthday” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Each tapper was asked to pick a song and tap out the rhythm to a listener (by knocking on a table). The listener’s job was to guess the song based on the tappers tapping. Sounds easy, right?
The listener’s job in this test was challenging. During the course of the experiment, 120 songs were tapped out. Listeners guessed only 3 songs correctly or just a measly 2.5% success rate.
No surprise right? But what made this research worth recognition was the next point. Before the listeners guessed the name of the song, the tappers were asked to predict the listeners probability of guessing the song correctly. Overall, the tappers predicted the probability of listeners getting the right answer at 50%. Yes, you read that correctly. The tappers thought that the listener would guess their song right half the time; while in reality, the tappers communicated successfully only 1 in 40 times, but they thought they were communicating successfully 1 in 2 times.
Researchers call this “The Curse of Knowledge.” When a tapper taps, they hear the song in their head… meanwhile the listener hears someone knocking on a table. In the end, the tappers were frustrated at how hard the listeners were trying to guess the songs, to the extent the tappers thought the listeners where stupid for not guessing the song correctly. It’s hard to be a tapper, to have the knowledge and interact with people who aren’t getting it.
So the questions you have to ask yourself:
Are you or your salespeople “tapping” to your clients?
In your sales presentations, do you talk while your prospect just sits and nods?
Do you think your prospect would tell you if they didn’t understand what you were saying or just not purchase from you?
Is the content on your website just a lot of corporate speak that doesn’t clearly articulate your value?
Could that explain why your website doesn’t convert traffic well?
Next time you sit with someone just remember… the knowledge in your head might be harder for others to comprehend than you think.
So here is what happened. We, Fat Atom, did a Facebook fan page for one of our clients. The site took off like a rocket, hit almost 50,000 fans, and then we wake up one day to find Facebook had taken the page down. They sent no warning, had already validated our page, and offered no explanation later. We sent support requests to Facebook for almost 2 weeks, everyday, afterward, and they have yet to get back with us. Thousands of dollars were spent on this campaign, and now it was gone.. .all with no warning, cause or comment.
We think it is very irresponsible of Facebook, who is still young in the professional world, to treat paying customers like this. Facebook is a great place to grow your business online, but behavior like this is downright terrifying. Business need to have confidence that they are safe investing money in Facebook. Another reason why you have to consider growing a fan base on someone else’s network/platform.
Logic tells me sex does sell, or why else would advertisers use it? Focus groups can’t be wrong, can they? I believe viewers of advertising, at their core, want to be entertained, to be made to laugh. I think marketers know this so they make humorous advertisements. They also must know that men love sex… and love looking at attractive women (when was the last time you saw unattractive or overweight people in a commercial?) Advertisers are selling the ideal, the fantasy, not reality!
That brings me to beer. A lot of people purchase it and companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars to get people to buy more of it. So, does sex help them sell more beer? Specifically, do sexy women in the ads help them sell more beer? I recently saw this commercial on YouTube. What stuck out most to me was how tastefully done it was… see for yourself:
The Corona campaign does not have half naked models running around in it. Granted the people are far from unattractive, but they aren’t selling sex. I think Corona did a great job of selling relationships, time together, travel and relaxing, all while sipping on a beer. Hats off to them!
Yeah, that took a long time to get to the end. What was the beer brand? Exactly, you don’t remember, neither did I. So does it really help them sell more beer? I would have to say no. Probably a lot of 15 year old boys watching that video though, wanting their parents to take them to the beach next summer.
And lastly, I bring you this NSFW spot from Guinness, that shows you they must know exactly who drinks their beer. Watch only if you are not offended easily, and watch through to the end.
Wow. That was brave. I wonder if the marketing executive still has his job after that one. Did you read the comments under the video… some people were really offended. What does that do to their brand… do they even care?
So the question lingers… does sex sell? My conclusion, I don’t know, but I will keep researching to find out.
In the mist of another hectic week, I found a little time to do that one thing I believe we all should do more of… read. While surfing my RSS feeds, I came across a short article written by Jeff Haden. Jeff is a ghostwriter for some of the smartest business leaders in the country, and he wrote a great top ten list that expresses the thoughts I have accumulated since opening my first business in 1999. After reading his list, I sat in awe, reflecting that other business owners might have the same thoughts I do… I’m not alone! Below is my personal take on his list To see Jeff’s article in its entirety, click here – http://bit.ly/zF8rtg
11 Things I Wish My Employees Knew 1. I care about whether you like me. It’s hard for me to be “one of the guys,” but I really want to. I’m sure most people don’t want to “hang out” with their boss after hours, but I would like to… I count you as my friends.
2. I don’t think I know everything. Far from it. As a matter of fact, I love hiring smart people. Not only does it make my job as a business owner easier, I really like to be around people who are “thinkers” and can talk about more than the latest gossip.
3. I think it’s great when you’re having fun. Don’t stop on my account. I love to see people laughing, goofing off and having a fun time at work. It makes me feel like I have employees who are more than robots and feel comfortable being themselves.
4. I want to pay you more. I know you work hard and I want to reward you for it. As the business grows, please understand that I will pay you more… in benefits and salary. My goal isn’t to be uber rich and I want to have all my employees share in the success of the business… I’m not greedy.
5. I want you to work here forever. It’s unrealistic I know, but I do. When people leave, it hurts me. I have tried to create a “family” and when a person leaves I take it personally… even though I might not show it.
6. When you leave, it’s ok. Having said what I did above, you don’t owe me anything. Yes it hurts, but in the hurt kinda way when your daughter gets married or your son leaves for college. You are proud that they are moving on and sad, all at the same time.
7. Selling isn’t easy. When I sell a client, we don’t always know what we are getting into. Sometimes our clients suck… please understand that I know that. Other times we land clients that I know are going to be bad; I don’t say it aloud, but I’m taking them on to make payroll and keep the lights on. Thank you for doing your best with the good and the bad ones.
8. I love it when you take control. I have better things to do than your job and to worry about if you are doing a good job. I hire people to do the job they can do for the company, not to fulfill a job description written on a piece of paper. I want you to own your position and make it better.
9. I notice when others aren’t pulling their weight. I’m not blind; I can see when members of the team are not doing their jobs. And it’s not that I am not doing anything about it… I’m just not broadcasting it to everyone. I believe in giving everyone many chances to do their best… Someday you may need that same empathy.
10. There are some things I just can’t tell you. I hate the old fatherly adage, “because I said so,” but sometimes I either can’t or don’t have time to explain all my actions. When that happens, don’t think it is because I don’t trust you, just know that I believe I am doing what I think is best for you and the company.
11. I worry all the time. I love the fact that my employees can leave work and forget about it… but I can’t and don’t. I want everyone on staff outside of work time to forget about deadlines, meetings and their to do list… use non work time to recharge your battery and have a life… and leave the worrying to me.
If you live in a cave and haven’t heard, Alexander Rossi, a rookie, won the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. Not only is that a good story in and of itself, but it’s how he won that got me thinking.
With only 3 laps to go, the leaders of the race, Munoz and Newgarden, who had been battling back and forth for 10 laps or so, decided they needed fuel to complete the race. Rossi’s team decided he didn’t. Now, he did go into turn four at under 180mph and seemingly coasted across the victory bricks… but he did it before Munoz could catch him.
Rossi, who at one time in the race was in position 33, had to have this type of conversation with his crew chief.
Rossi – “I’m getting low on fuel, I don’t think I can finish without pitting.”
Crew Chief – “The leaders just pitted, if you come in, you have NO chance at all of winning. If you stay out, you have a chance… What do you want to do?”
Rossi – “Screw it, let’s win this thing!”
The rest they say is history. Just after crossing the finish line, Rossi’s car died in the back stretch and the first time winner had to be towed to victory lane. Anything can happen in professional sports!
If he would have pitted, he had NO chance to win. None. If he stays out on the track, it can go one of three ways.
He could run out of fuel. No matter, he wasn’t going to win anyway.
He could come in a place other than first.
He could win the race.
With that being said, why not stay out? You have to wonder, why did Munoz and Newgarden pit? If either one of them stays on the track, they might have been drinking milk and cashing a huge check… living in glory as the winner of the greatest spectacle in sports racing. But they did pit, and they did lose.
Here was my epiphany watching those events unfold on Sunday. Playing it safe isn’t always the best choice. If your situation is bleak, like Rossi’s was, the only way to win was to take a chance. Sure, it might backfire and you flame out, but what happens if it works? What happens if by some improbable chance you succeed… well, this happens.
“Pick yourself. Don’t wait for someone to pick you. The shift is that it doesn’t matter if you own a company. You can make an impact if you want to.” Seth Godin, from his book Linchpin
Hey, business owner, yeah you. Got a second? I just need to talk… just between us, doesn’t having employees suck? Babysitting a bunch of teenagers is was it feels like. They sit, staring at the clock, waiting for 5pm to come. Needing to take yet another personal day… for what? Annual raises and employee reviews, I could go on and on… what a pain in the ass. Ya see, that’s why I wanted to talk to you. I’m done. That’s right, done. I am going to let you in on a little secret. At a company meeting in the not to distant future, I am going to fire all my employees. Yep, I’m going to stand up and let them all go at the same time… going to rip the band-aid off with one pull. Goodbye, so long, go riddance.
You say I can’t have a business without them? You ask how will all the work get done? Great questions. After I fire all my employees, I’m going to hire any back who want to come to work with me as a stakeholder. Yes, I said stakeholder. You may say it is all semantics, but I say it isn’t. I have decided I want to only work with stakeholders from now on. What is a stakeholder you ask? Let me tell you:
First stakeholders are adults. They don’t need someone to babysit them and instruct them each step of their workday. They ask questions like “Why?” Most importantly, they don’t expect the company or other adults to take care of them.
Secondly they are owners. While they are not the same as stockholders, as they don’t physically own any of the company, they do at a minimum, own their work and the results it creates. They will own profit sharing, and may even go on to own stock or a piece of the company someday. They own their tasks, process and jobs, and they own how they work within the system.
Thirdly, stakeholders require leadership, not adult supervision. Stakeholders don’t need management. They need someone to give them a vision, the tools and training they need and then point them in the right direction.
There are many more characteristics of what a stakeholder is, but you get the picture, right? Did I come up with all this? No, I wish I was that smart. But it has been at my core as a business owner, and the culture we created has attracted mostly stakeholders to Fat Atom. Want to get excited about firing your employees and hiring stakeholders? Read, “Why Employees Are Always A Bad Idea” by Blakeman. If you let it, this book will change your business for the better.
While at a conference the other day, the speaker, CJ McClanahan, was discussing habits. We all have them, some good, some bad and some we don’t even know we have. It was a good talk, so I thought I would share my notes… hope they make sense to you.
1- Begin with the end in mind, the VERY end. Make decisions based on that and that alone. What do you want people to say about you at your funeral? Are your actions everyday leading up to that?
2 – Prioritize. Have you read “The One Thing” by Keller? If everything is important, then nothing is. There are five levels of commitment… did you know that? Level 1 – NO, Level 2 – Want to, Level 3 – Try (when you say this, you are saying “no”), Level 4 – I’m totally committed, unless something else comes up, Level 5 – 100% all in.
3. Take 100% responsibility. Don’t blame others… for anything, even if it is their fault. Don’t blame your staff, the economy or your “situation.”
4. Live in the moment. Spend no more than 4% of your time living in the past, 11% of your time living in the future. For you math majors, that leaves 85% of your time living in the NOW.
5. Constantly improve. Remember that nothing stays the same, it either gets better or worse. What are you doing on a daily basis go improve? What are you reading? Who are you meeting with?
6. Behave. If you wait until you feel in the mood, you will never do it. Successful people behave when they don’t feel like doing it. Boom goes the dynamite.
7. Exceed expectations. In business, you should set expectations and not allow your clients to set them. If you don’t set expectations, apologize profusely. Expectations and trust are built a little bit each day, set and exceed them.
8. Measure everything. Simply, you cannot improve what you don’t measure… you just can’t.
9. Re-think your thoughts. The average person has, drum roll, 30,000 thoughts a day. Put a rubber band on your wrist and when you begin to have negative thoughts, based on false beliefs, snap yourself (warning, this could be awkward).
10. Lastly, move on. You are going to make a mistake… maybe even two. Don’t dwell on them, there is NO value in dwelling. When you make a mistake, reflect on why/how it was made, learn from it, then move along… there will be more made.