Hack your work day

February 21, 2018

hackWhether you own your own business, run someone else’s, are responsible for an entire department or just have to pack 60 hours of work into a 40ish hour work week – I feel your pain.  Don’t you wish there was a hack for that?

No matter what industry you’re in, my guess is that your workday is a little like mine. There’s never enough time and no matter how carefully you plan – unexpected fires end up dominating your day. Combine that reality with the pressures of demonstrating ROI faster and probably with fewer people and a stagnant budget; it is even more daunting.

But that’s not even the greatest source of pressure. I’ve been in business for almost 30 years and the pace of change just keeps getting faster and more disruptive. We’re moving so fast that I don’t even think we realize how dramatic the change is. Facebook has only been around since 2006. The first iPhone made its debut in 2007. Forget all of the other changes we’ve experienced. How have just those two introductions influenced your work and your life?

And guess what – it’s only going to get more disruptive and faster.

Let’s review. You’re doing more. You’re being interrupted more. You’re expected to deliver more ROI and faster, please. Oh yeah, and the world is spinning faster and faster while you try to do all of that.

If you want to have any chance of winning the game, you need to change the rules. I know I’ve had to do that to juggle running a couple of companies, serving 100 clients and producing as much content as I need to do. Here are some ways to hack your work day that help me and my team make it all happen.

Claim YOUR day: One of the best changes that have come with this work evolution is the recognition that there is no such thing as 9-5, and everyone has an optimal work window. At MMG, we have people who start at 7 am and people who roll in closer to 9:30 am. We all know when we’re at our best, and we’ve figured out how to allow everyone to work at their peak times and still honor all of the collaboration we need to do every day.

Know your cycle: You don’t have the luxury of not doing your best and most important work when you’re at your best. So you need to know when that is. And odds are, you have different ideal zones for different types of work. You need to take into account two distinct factors. When is your output at the highest level and when are you the most efficient with the work?

Make a list of the top 5-8 tasks you perform on a regular basis. Email, meetings, ideation, writing, etc. Then, spend a couple of weeks trying to do those tasks at different times of the day. Monitor/record your outputs in terms of both quality and speed. Look for patterns and then build a grid that shows when you should ideally do what. You won’t be able to honor it every day. But if you can three days out of five, you’ll be stunned at the increase in the volume and the value of your work.

Shape your schedule: If you don’t allocate and protect your thinking time, your trend tracking time and your vision creation time – it will never happen. You’ll never have a day without a fire. You’ll never have a day without too many emails. Whether it’s a full day a month or blocks of time every week – put it on your calendar now and protect it.

If you want to be at the top of your game, you’re going to have to give yourself an edge. Give these hacks a try and let me know if they’ve helped.



The best use of your time

February 7, 2018

timeNow that we are a month into 2018, are you still looking for ways you can kick-start your business successes, sales and marketing wins?  One of the best ways is by really being intentional about where you spend your time. I truly believe in Jim Rohn’s “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” philosophy and we’ll dig into that next week but for this week, I want to step out a little further and think about the events we attend.

When you think about it, for most of us, the most finite professional resource we have is time. So being smart about where we spend that resource just makes good business sense.

My mom always used the phrase “chat, chat, love your hat” to describe events where everyone air kissed or shook hands and then had conversations that stayed on the surface with people they didn’t know very well. Think the neighborhood barbeque or typical mixer events for business.

The truth is, for us professionally, there are a ton of “chat, chat, love your hat” kinds of events that are available to us as marketers, business owners, and business leaders. Some of them have an educational component, like a professional association monthly gathering with a speaker. Some are business development driven, like a networking event or rotary type gathering and others are really more of a see and be seen sort of opportunity. Every one of them can be valuable. But you also need to dole yourself out judiciously or else you won’t have enough time and energy to actually accomplish what you need to get done.

Like most marketing tactics, these events yield far better results if you do a little pre-planning. As you decide which ones to attend, ask yourself these questions:

What three things am I looking to walk away with from this event? This could be a new connection, new insights or spending time with someone you already know. But if you’re going to spend an hour or two, shouldn’t you know there’s something specific in it for you?

What can I offer the other attendees? How can you add value to the other people who attend the event? Have you recently read something that you can refer them to? If it’s an event or a gathering you know well, can you go out of your way to make introductions for the newcomers? Can you go and ask better questions that really get beyond the small talk?

Who can I take with me who would also benefit from the event? There’s something to be said about tag teaming these sorts of gatherings. Is it a mentoring situation? Could you bring someone who is new to the community? Or an old sage who hasn’t been as active lately and everyone would love to re-connect with?

Can I go and be completely present? Are you going to be distracted by your phone, texts, emails, or have something pressing on your mind? Can you leave your phone in your pocket and really tend to the people you meet, the content being presented and the opportunities that may present themselves? If not, maybe it’s not a good use of your time.

What’s your capacity to follow up? You always meet or re-connect with someone at these events. But ideally, that’s not the end — it’s just the beginning. Do you have time to reach back out and take the next step?

You’re going to have to pick and choose where you invest your time. When it comes to these sorts of events, be sure you choose wisely and make the most out of every time investment.


One thing

October 11, 2017

one thingIn the wake of what we’ve been talking about over the last couple weeks, I’ve received a lot of emails asking about this idea of how to define who your organization is, who you best serve and what you do for them. Ironically, this all boils down to doing less, to focusing on just one thing. It’s so counter-intuitive that most business owners and leaders reject the idea. I get it – you want to offer as much as possible to your potential customers and surely more potential customers means more revenue, right?

Actually, no. Our world today is about specialization. In most cases, people have a specific need. I need someone to tune up my BMW not just I want an auto mechanic. I need someone to come to the house to tune my piano not just I need a piano store. I need long-term disability insurance for my company of 43 employees not I need someone who sells every kind of insurance under the sun.

We get it when we are the consumer. We want someone who has a depth of knowledge so we can be confident that they will not only understand my need but they’ve met my specific need many times for customers who have gone before me. But when it comes to the selling side of our world, we somehow forget the value of this distinction and want to sell a little something to everyone.

Here’s why that’s a flawed premise:

Your most profitable sale is the repeat sale: You know the least profitable of all sales is the first one. The sales cycle is longer. The concessions are often greater and the risk of a client mismatch or dissatisfaction is greater. But when you delight someone and meet their need to such a degree that they buy again – there’s hardly any sales cycle, they are happy to pay your price because they’ve already seen the value and they know they’re going to be happy.

You don’t need that many: I think one of the reasons businesses take the generalist route is because they haven’t done the math. If you could secure new customers that were going to be repeat buyers and great referral sources – how many do you really need? The truth is, you can only handle so many new clients. So why not narrow your focus so you only secure the best possible new clients?  Why not focus on the one thing?

Generalists are commodities: If you sell everything to everyone, you become the dollar store of your industry. You have to be less expensive because you are a generalist and generalists have to compete with everyone out there. So it becomes a price issue. Is that really where you want to be?

It diminishes the experience for your team: Being pretty good at a lot of things does not feel the same as being incredible at a few things. Everyone wants to take pride in their work. Everyone wants to be perceived as being best in class. Everyone wants to be appreciated for adding incredible value. With today’s shrinking workforce – you want to offer your team the luxury of being a rock star, not a garage band so that you can attract and retain the best talent out there.

Part of your work in defining your company’s values, mission and vision should be focused on the question “where can we truly over deliver that will add tremendous value to our clients?” Odds are the answer will not be everywhere. What is our one thing? Define the playing field where you have the shot at winning almost every game and refuse to play anywhere else. That sort of discipline is difficult but the short and long-term rewards are worth the effort.

Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Be indispensable to a few who will help you attract more just like them.



What’s your mission?

October 4, 2017

MissionLast week we explored how critical it is for a business to have a clear idea of who they are and what they’re all about –  mission, vision and values. My worry is that few owners have ever taken the time to actually articulate what their business is all about or made the effort to weave it into the fabric of the company.

Hopefully you invested some time last week to really define your core values and are ready to dig into the mission and vision portion of defining your organization’s core.

Many people confuse mission and vision. Here’s how we define them.

Mission — what you do best every day

Vision – what the future is like because you do what you do best every day

No matter what you sell, from legal services to multi-million dollar medical devices – someone else sells what you sell. Yours might be a little better, a little faster or it might last a little longer but it’s got lots of decent competition. Our best clients don’t love us for what we sell but how or why we do it. That’s where our mission and vision come in.

Why would you invest the energy? First, we have to acknowledge that there are no bad customers. But there are definitely bad customers for us. Every dollar is not earned equally. We’ve all suffered from a wrong fit client. Because we’re not in alignment with them – it’s harder to make them happy. We end up investing a ton of time and energy trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. That hardly ever works. We expend an incredible amount of time, money and energy trying to meet their needs when the truth is – we weren’t the best fit for them.

That’s the beautiful thing about really understanding why your business exists and what matters most to you. That clarity will attract right fit customers to you and it will also repel the wrong ones.

Another big benefit of that clarity is that when you define your why, as Simon Sinek encouraged us to do in his book, Start With Why, it also helps you find employees who share those beliefs and will stand along side you as you delight your right fit customers.

So how do you figure out what your mission and vision are? The key to doing this well is not settling for a superficial answer. Remember that your mission statement is what you do best every day. This statement should be from your customer’s point of view.

Why do you work so hard? How are you changing your sliver of the world?

If you’re having trouble articulating what you do best, try this. You know that feeling you get every once in awhile when everything falls into place and deep in your soul you think — THIS is why I do what I do? Figure out what triggers that feeling and odds are it’s a pretty good clue to your organization’s mission.

Unlike the mission, the vision is from your company’s point of view. Why are you putting in the effort? What are you trying to accomplish? What will be true for your organization if you deliver on your mission every day?

The trick to doing this well is pushing past the expected. If most of your competitors could claim your mission or vision – you haven’t dug deep enough. It needs to be uniquely yours, so keep pushing until you get to that level.

When you do this well, it’s evergreen. Just like our personal values and purpose rarely change – the same should be true of your company’s mission, vision and values.

Invest the time to do this well and then reap the benefits of knowing exactly who you are and who you are not.



Mission, vision and values

September 27, 2017

mission, vision, valuesIt’s vital to every business that they have a clear idea of who they are and what they’re all about. Few owners have taken the time to distill it down or made the effort to weave it into the fabric of the company. What do the mission, vision and values for your business look like?

Many people confuse mission and vision. Here’s how we define them.

Mission — what you do best every day

Vision – what the future is like because you do what you do best every day

And the values that your company are built on is what influences your mission and vision. Each of these is critical. If you believe you’ve already sorted these out for your organization– revisit them to make sure they’re still on target and meet the following criteria:

  • Are your mission and vision statements a single sentence?
  • Are your values short enough that everyone on your team could memorize and recite them?
  • Are all three components written in common, easy to understand language?
  • Are they unique to you? Could any other business claim the exact same set?
  • Are they all from the client’s/an outside perspective? Remember this is how you want others to see you.

This kind of work looks simple enough, but the truth is, it’s incredibly difficult to dig deep enough to get to answers that fit all of the criteria.

If you’ve never developed a mission, vision or defined your company’s values, it’s long overdue. Let’s start with your values.

Go someplace that inspires you to clear your head and really do some deeper thinking. For some, this will be a quiet place like sitting by a lake or in an art gallery. For others, it will be putting on some headphones in a coffee shop and immersing yourself in the energy. Hopefully you know what kind of an environment triggers your best thinking.

Most people find it’s easiest to tackle the values first. Make a list of all of the values that you want your company to have. At this stage, don’t edit or censor. Just brainstorm the list and capture every thought.

Now, pick the 5-6 that are most important to you. These are the values you are not willing to compromise on, for love or money. These should not be aspirational. These need to be foundational to your business – you should already be using them as a guide, whether you’ve articulated them before or not.

The finalists should get a yes answer to the following questions (borrowed from Jim Collins in Good to Great):

  • If you were to start a new business, would you build it around this core value regardless of the industry?
  • Would you want your company to continue to stand for this core value 100 years into the future?
  • Would you want your business to hold this core value, even if at some point in time it became a competitive disadvantage?
  • Do you believe that those who do not share this core value—those who breach it consistently – do not belong in your organization?
  • Would you change jobs before giving up this core value?
  • If you awoke tomorrow with more than enough money to retire comfortably for the rest of your life, would you continue to apply this core value to your productive activities?

Rank them in terms of importance. Why does this matter? Because sometimes values are in conflict with one another and you need to know which ones trump the others.

Now, that you have the values defined, are you happy with the words you’ve chosen to communicate each one? This is your opportunity to wordsmith them. After you’ve done that – you’re done with step one. Next week we’ll dig into your mission.



LinkedIn Strategies

September 20, 2017

LinkedInOne of the most under-utilized social networks, from a business and marketing perspective, is LinkedIn. Despite boasting over 396 million users, the truth is that most of the users have no idea what to do with their LinkedIn account besides collecting connections in a random fashion. It’s actually a very robust business tool that you should be using to grow your brand, your network and your social credibility.

I only have space to dig into a couple of the main ways you should be using the tool but even doing these will put you leaps and bounds ahead of most.

It’s difficult to deny the importance of having a great list these days. Most organizations are using digital communication tools to deliver some of their marketing messages. But one of your largest list sources, your LinkedIn database, is missing out on all of those communications unless you have those connections in whatever email marketing tool you are using.

On the flip side, you have many contacts that you’ve made through the years that are not part of your LinkedIn profile. The reason that’s so vital is that some of those people may well be connected to someone you’re trying to reach. If they’re not a part of your LinkedIn network, you can’t leverage those connections to your advantage.

Here are the step-by-step instructions on how to easily get both done.

Import your email list into LinkedIn and send connection requests

  • Log into LinkedIn
  • Roll over the “Connections” from the LinkedIn menu and click Add Connections
  • From here, you can enter the password to your email address and LinkedIn will go into your email account and match all of your contacts up with their membership directory. LinkedIn will ask you if you want to send a connection request to all of the people who match up with their directory. The first time you follow this process, you’ll likely add hundreds of new LinkedIn connections to your profile.

Why is this important? As I said earlier, the more connections you have in your database, the better you can truly network and ask for introductions, etc. But beyond that, your ability to see leads in LinkedIn’s advanced lead builder is dependent on the number of people in your network (1st, 2nd and 3rd degree connections). If you expand your network, you will increase the number of prospects you are allowed to see.

Once you have imported your email list, remember to communicate with your connections regularly. You should start sharing articles, your company’s Facebook posts, etc. on LinkedIn. Remember, the more people that you have in your network, the more people who will see and potentially share your content.

Export your LinkedIn connection list and import them into your email list

LinkedIn is the only social media platform that allows you to export the email addresses of your connections. By adding them to your database – you can better lead, score and communicate through enewsletters, etc.

  • Click on “Connections”
  • Click on the gear icon in the upper right corner of the screen
  • Click on the Export LinkedIn Connections link under the Advanced Settings option
  • Click on the blue Export button and you will be able to download a CSV file with all of your connections’ data
  • You should then upload the CSV file to your marketing automation software or email tool of choice

Neither of these action items are a once and done type of a thing. You are adding people to both databases on a regular basis so you need to repeat both the export and import strategies at least quarterly to keep both sides of the system as updated as possible.