Friday, April 3, 2015

Telling a customer "You're Fired"

Having customers is way overrated.  Inevitably, the more customers you have, the more headaches, complaints, and problems you have to deal with. It's a fact of business life.

It really is not worth it.  So, I wholeheartedly recommend firing them all.

But before you trip down that path of financial ruin... I first recommend that you replace them with clients.

Here’s the difference:

Customer: –noun: a person who purchases goods or services from another; buyer; patron.

Client: –noun: a person or group that is under the care, watch, and protection of a professional.

Customers are ordinary.  Every business has customers. But...only professionals have clients.  So be a damned professional!

Your clients should feel as if you are always watching out for their best interest – and you should be.

It means you won’t sell a product/service to a client just because they think it’s the best solution to their problem.  No, remember they are under your care, watch, and protection, so you must advise them on what really is the best product/service based on their “real” problem.

The shift from customers to clients is really about trust.  Getting your customers to transition to clients isn’t difficult, but it takes time.  If you’ve been treating them as customers, then of course they are acting like customers.

So, what can you do?  I’m glad you asked.  There are three steps to help you lead your customers through the transition:

1.) Become Second – remember, it’s about clients, not about you.  Rather like a marriage...your purpose and passion should be to serve your clients.  Remind yourself of this before, during, and after interactions with clients.

2.) Build Trust – put your clients’ true needs first.  Don’t sell them something they don’t need just because you can.  Discover their needs and offer solutions based on those needs.

3.) Begin a Relationship – make the interaction more of a two-way street.  Express sincere interest in your clients and their needs, desires and goals.  Provide them with ideas, tools, resources, products, and services to help them solve their problems and reach their goals.

Now, if you do this right, you will hopefully end up with fewer clients that you ever had customers. But these fewer clients make it easier to take care of their needs, and as a result, they take car of your needs (i.e. revenue!).

“A merchant who approaches business with the idea of serving the public well has nothing to fear from the competition.“ James Cash Penney – Founder of JC Penney (tell that to Ron Johnson).

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Making Hay While the Sun Shines...

Growing up in the Deep South, one is keenly aware of the agricultural language bandied about in conversation. "...til the cows come home" or "come home to roost" or my personal favorite "...happier than a dead pig in the sunshine" all bring to mind a bucolic connection to the land.

But the one that is most appropriate, at least now, is "make hay while the sun shines." For farmers, when the hay was dry and there was no forecast for rain, it was everyone to the fields to cut, bale and store hay. If it got wet in the process, the bale would mold, and the cows and horses would either refuse it, or eat it and get sick. Neither was desirable.

For us, here at the bastion of laziness known as Smoke Alarm Media, we have been given a robust crop and a few sunny days. So everyone is scurrying to get things done. It's rather exciting. Interestingly, it hasn't been mentioned to anyone that we need to do this. Something is just stirring in the blood. Packages sent, contracts signed and projects started...the pace is almost frightening. But we are seeing the fruits of the labour, and perhaps a sea change is taking place. Even I am personally forgoing my morning Bloody Mary to spend that time on pressing matters o' business. Don't fear, I am uncorking a lovely Pinot Grigio for lunch...thank you for your concern.

Back to the fields, dear friends...

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Only Damn Thing You Need to be a Success.


You have to want it.
You have to desperately crave to be successful.
Like a person who is drowning, you have to flail and fight and exert every ounce of effort within your control to get to where you wanna be.

There are a lot of skills that you need in order to be successful.
No matter what you think of as success — sports, politics, business, math, or science — there are things that you will need to adapt your lifestyle around in order to rise to the top and become a champion.

But one thing you can't learn from a book, a seminar, or a leadership guru, is the will to win.

And it's the most important difference between winners and losers.

Winners want to WIN.

It's the driving force that consumes their entire being.
They want to win. It is all they think about.

Just like a drowning man so desperately wants one more final gulp of oxygen, winners are consumed with an inner rage to achieve their goals.

It's not something that is nice to have or a recommended option.

It's the most important part of the fight.

It's what determines the final outcome.
There are a lot of people who can tell you how to be successful. They can repeat to you the exact textbook explanation for becoming a champion in whatever goal you set for yourself.

But there's a difference between knowing and doing and craving and struggling.

You need the will to win more than you do any other set of skills.

You need passion more than you do intellectual power.

You have to want it. Deep down in your bones.
It can't be bought or taught or borrowed.

It has to be something that's deep inside you, driving you to do what no one else is willing to do.

Do you want it?

Thank you, Dan Waldschmidt


Monday, July 28, 2014

Avoid Becoming a Cannibal

I was recently reading an article concerning Cannabalism in the Jamestown colony. Yes, our forefathers apparently feasted on each other during a terrible winter of the colony (mmmm…fava beans). But what I found intriguing, enough so to write an article about, was WHY they ended up there. No, not because they were hungry and that recently deceased daughter looked sumptuous. It was because they were bad businessmen.  

The colony has initially made “friends” with the native Powhatan tribe. But due to drought and general lack of knowledge of farming, food supplies were scarce going into winter. So what do newly-arrived Europeans do when times get tough? They raid their Powhatan neighbors for food. You can imagine this pissed off quite a few folks. So the Powhatan retreated back with a knowledge that they would be just fine (having lived there for, oh hundreds of years) with a general attitude of “No Soup For YOU!”.

Enter the “unthinkable”. Actually, not quite unthinkable, as they did it, as have several others before and since in a bid to survive. And while I applaud their resolve to see their venture be successful by any means necessary, hindsight provides some clear lessons that are as applicable today as they were then, for business or colonizing a foreign land.

1) Think the Unthinkable. Plan for contingencies. Like bad weather. Or drought. Or loss of income. Granted, charbroiled thigh perhaps shouldn’t make the list, but damn well have a Plan B and C.

2) Listen to Experts. Like the Powhatan. Or the folks down the road that have been doing this day in and day out. Don’t get caught up in your own arrogance or belief that what you are doing is a game-changer. Even the game-changers have limited life spans (witness any technological breakthrough in the last 100 years).

3) Don’t Piss Off Your Suppliers. You need them. They don’t need you. And when you do piss them off, they will sit back and watch you suffer. 

4) Do What It Takes To Survive. So you’ve screwed up the situation, a real FUBAR. Buckle down. Batten the hatches, and do whatever it takes, even if it distasteful, or against your beliefs. Even in our enlightened age, Cannibalism is NOT illegal. (Look it up; I did)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Call In Sick If You Want To Fail...


Dave Sobocinski, a co-worker years ago at Bell Oaks, gave me a tacit piece of advice. We were driving up West Paces Ferry from a client visit, and looking at the mega-mansions there in Buckhead. He made the comment about calling in sick. "You going to feel like crap at home or at work," he said in his rough urban tongue, "but you might as well be at work, getting sh*t done."

A lot of life comes down to doing hard things when you least feel like it. If you are going to be successful over the long run, you’re going to have to do things that hurt on days when you already hurt, which seems to defy logic.

If you’re already not at peak performance, it might seem like a better option to recuperate and then go back into the battle. It’s what we’ve been taught since we were children.

If you’re not feeling well you don’t have to go to school. If you get hurt, you should “take it easy” for a while. It is only natural that you might think that you can be successful while living life on easy terms.

And not just “easy” terms. Your terms.

The reality of success is that to get what you want from life, you are going to have to gut it out. At work, in relationships, leading your business — there are days when it is not so easy to do the right thing.

And somehow we try to justify doing the wrong thing by explaining that we’ll start doing better when we feel better. When the terms for success are better.

But anyone can play the game and do pretty well when the odds aren’t stacked against them. Anyone can conquer when the opponent doesn’t have a weapon.

The harder challenge is to do what is hard and fair and noble even when you don’t feel like it at all, when you are “sick and tired” and tired and sick.

Every day matters. Every minute matters.

You are sadly mistaken if you think you can be successful only when you feel like it. That has never been the secret to domination.

Think about this: the only thing that separates you and your dream from success is a battle. If you aren’t fighting, you just aren’t getting any closer to success. You aren’t.

That’s why every day matters. Why today matters.

There are no sick days. So get that out of your head, grab your sword, and start swinging.

Thank you, Dave, for that advice, and to Dan from Edgy Conversations, for this nugget o' wisdom.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Place to Call Your Own

You might not realize, but we do NOT maintain a regular office. I prefer to work out of bars, where I can sip a tasty beverage whilst planning to conquer the world. And it occurred to me to figure out WHY this works so well. The camaraderie, the comfort...whatever it is that feeds your inner Hemingway. Fetching bartenders and tasty nibbles don't hurt, either...

Here’s a few tips:
Choose the right place.  It needs to be close to your house and somewhere you enjoy.  Otherwise you won’t go often enough.  Also, make sure its small and been around long enough to have a staff that’s worked there for a while.  You want to make sure you’re not lost in the shuffle. Having internet and power is a must.
How Often?  At least once a week.  At first you want to pick a weekday until they get to know you.  Also, try to avoid a happy hour place.  You don’t want to compete with after-work douchebags for the waitress’ attention.
Choose the right time.  You want to go early or late.  Never at rush hour.  At least until you’ve gained a regular status.  Best way to do this is to get a beer solo around 5:00.  The staff will have already prepped for dinner and usually have time to chat.  This is where you want to strike up a conversation.  Learn their name and repeat it a few times.  Don’t be offended if they don’t learn yours right away.  This takes time.
Order right.  If you order your steak well done, no one will talk to you.  If you order something weird on the menu, they’ll be eager to know what you think.  Remember, a good chef is an artist.  Send the dish back and you’ll crush him.  Be honest, give constructive criticism, and he’ll love you.
Tip generously.  Tipping might be the strangest part of our culture and it’s hard to get right.  If this is somewhere you want to become a regular at you’ve got to set a precedent and stick with it.  I go 25% always.  That’s a good tip but not outrageous.  No waiter will turn down money but they also don’t want to be power played.  And yes, you do tip on drinks and tax.
Dress well.  A good manager knows that the look of the clientele is a part of the decor.  They want to attract young, good looking people.  So make sure you dress the part.  No sandals.  No hats.  No tank tops.  You don’t need to wear a suit (unless the dress code calls for it) but be respectful.
Get to know the other regulars.  It’s just as important as knowing the staff.  View the other regulars as gate keepers.  If you’ve got your head down, playing on your phone all evening, they’ll never let you in.  So jump in on their conversation and offer to buy them a drink.  You’ll be accepted in no time.
Now You’re Getting Somewhere.  So the staff is starting to recognize you.  It’s time to exercise some of the benefits.  Pick a table and asked to be seated there always.  When you call to make a reservation, mention your name and ask something about the hostess.  “Chrissy, it’s John Smith.  How’s your sick dog doing?  I was hoping you had my table open around 9:00 tonight.”  That makes it personal and gives them something to remember about you.
The Buy Back.  At some point you’ll be given a desert or drink on the house.  Be over the top grateful.  Tip like the item was part of the bill.  I know this goes against what I said about tipping, but this is different.  Also, don’t be afraid to reciprocate.  If you stay until closing, buy the kitchen a round of beers from the bar.  Trust me, they’ll remember.

There’s a place a block down the street from where I live that’s been around since the 1920’s.  It’s an institution with lots of regulars to compete with.  But when it changed hands last year and the new owner’s were looking for some press, I offered to help.  I asked a local newspaper if I could write a review.  Boom.  Regular status achieved.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Learn to Give Up on Your Dreams...


In the last six months, I’ve learned to give up. I mean just walk the hell away from my goals. To quit. And it is working beautifully!

Using this one basic idea, I’ve made consistent progress on my goals every single week — without incredible doses of willpower or remarkable motivation. I want to share how I use this strategy and how you can apply it to your own life to improve your health and your work.

The Problem with How We Usually Set Goals
If you’re anything like the typical human, then you have dreams and goals in your life. In fact, there are probably many things — large and small — that you would like to accomplish. But there is one common mistake we often make when it comes to setting goals. (I know I’ve committed this error many times myself.)
The problem is this: we set a deadline, but not a schedule.
We focus on the end goal that we want to achieve and the deadline we want to do it by. We say things like, “I want to lose 20 pounds by the summer” or “I want to add 50 pounds to my bench press in the next 12 weeks.”
The problem is that if we don’t magically hit the arbitrary timeline that we set in the beginning, then we feel like a failure — even if we are better off than we were at the start. The end result, sadly, is that we often give up if we don’t reach our goal by the initial deadline.
Here’s the good news: there’s a better way and it’s simple.

The Power of Setting a Schedule, Not a Deadline 
In my experience, a better way to approach your goals is to set a schedule to operate by rather than a deadline to perform by.
Instead of giving yourself a deadline to accomplish a particular goal and then feeling like a failure if you don’t achieve it, you should choose a goal that is important to you and then set a schedule to work towards it consistently. That might not sound like a big shift, but it is.

Productive and successful people practice the things that are important to them on a consistent basis. The best weightlifters are in the gym at the same time every week. The best writers are sitting down at the keyboard every day. And this same principle applies to the best leaders, parents, managers, musicians, and doctors.
The strange thing is that for top performers, it’s not about the performance, it’s about the continual practice. The focus is on doing the action, not on achieving X goal by a certain date.
The schedule is your friend. You can’t predict when you’ll have a stroke of genius and write a moving story, paint a beautiful portrait, or make an incredible picture, but the schedule can make sure that you’re working when that stroke of genius happens. You can’t predict when your body feels like setting a new personal record, but the schedule can make sure that you’re in the gym whether you feel like it or not.
It’s about practicing the craft, not performing at a certain level. (We’re talking about practice. Not a game, not a game. Practice.)
If you want to be the type of person who accomplishes things on a consistent basis, then give yourself a schedule to follow, not a deadline to race towards.

Head nod to www.JamesClear.com