Be an Ethical Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Business Builder

The Push on Netflix isn’t about psychological manipulation – It’s about Ethics

Why your business needs Core Values

Netflix recently released a new show called The Push hosted by Derren Brown. The premise is that, through psychological conditioning, what Brown refers to as social compliance, you can convince someone you just met to push someone else off a roof.

Wait what?

That’s right. Mr. Brown believes he can manipulate someone into believing the best course of action is to murder someone else.

No, normal person would do that, right?

First, you need to watch the show.

They open with an example of a person calling a busy coffee shop. The caller introduces himself as inspector general and asks the person answering the phone if he sees the lady pushing the stroller who just walked in.
“Yes.”
“She’s a known child abductor and I need your help. When she walks away from the stroller, casually walk over and push it outside so we can get the baby back.”
“Uh. Ok. I see her. She’s not looking.”
“Go now.”

And so the man “steals” a lady’s baby in broad daylight in the middle of a coffee shop.

Not only does he comply with that request from an unknown caller, no one else in the shop seems to care that a man just pushed out the stroller that moments earlier was just pushed in by a different person.

In the book, Pre-suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade, Robert Cialdini sheds some light. One factor that can influence behavior is authority. So when the caller introduced himself as “inspector general”, which, of course, was a lie, the authority of that name and position made the man who answered respect the request.

The people who were being tested to see if they would push another person off of a roof were put through hours of similar manipulation to lead them to the inevitable conclusion that by killing this one person, many, many more would be better off.

So did it work? Did the target push an innocent person to their death?

Spoiler Alert: They put several people through the experiment and 3 out of 4 did indeed push the target person off of the roof.

Insane, right!?

The host, explains that this is the power of psychological manipulation. With the right nudges and pulls in certain directions, you can get people to do all kinds of things.

There’s a whole underground “Pickup Artist” culture based on this concept.

However, is it as simple as saying we’re all subject to these manipulations?

In some ways, yes.
We can all be manipulated by these psychological quirks of human nature.

But the host leads us to believe that’s the MOST important thing – social conditioning.

He’s wrong.

Modern psychology is still largely based on the concept that our minds never forget. This is why an infant who isn’t held enough for the first 2 months of life, could then be cuddled, held, loved and cared for for decades and still be affected by that first 2 months.

Stephen Covey, in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, points out that many people accept the outdated Freudian concept that we are all simply responding to stimuli and so are programmed to react a certain way based on 3 things.

  1. Our Grandparents – I have an Irish temper. In other words, my genes make me this way.
  2. Our Parents – My parents didn’t love, coddle, support, or discipline me enough and so that’s why I’m the way I am.
  3. Our Environment – Because my boss, coworkers, spouse treat me this way, I respond as I do.

Thankfully, Freud was wrong.
Very, very wrong.

Yes, all of these things do play a role in who we are and how we respond however they aren’t the whole story – or even the most important part.

Victor Frankl was a psychiatrist, professor and prisoner in a Nazi internment camp. His entire family – wife, parents, siblings – save for one sister were all tortured and murdered in the camps. Covey writes:

“One day, naked and alone in a small room, he began to become aware of what he later called ‘the last of the human freedoms’ – the freedom his Nazi captors could not take away. They could control his entire environment, they could do what they wanted to his body, but Victor Frankl himself was a self-aware being who could look as an observer at his very involvement. His basic identity was intact. He could decided within himself how all of this was going to affect him. Between what happened to him, or the stimulus, and his response to it, was his freedom or power to choose that response.”

Between the degradation and tortures applied externally to him and how he reacted to them, he still had the ability to choose.

He could choose what his mind did with that information.

So Victor decided to start mentally reciting lectures for his students about the conditions of the camp and why Freud was wrong to suggest that we were just responding to the accumulation of stimuli in our life.

Amidst unspeakable suffering, Victor was free because he chose to be free.

And this is where the host for “The Push” leads us astray.

Though we’ve known for decades that we all still have the choice to respond to stimuli in the way we think is best, Brown ignores this most crucial point.

Unfortunately, so do many of us.

The core issue with why 3 out of 4 people will murder a stranger for the greater good is not solely because of psychological manipulation but is in large part because of ethics.

In the same way that Jedi mind tricks only work on the weak minded, immoral psychological tricks only work on the morally weak.

To be fair, none of us are perfect and so we all make poor moral choices from time-to-time.

Throughout the show they keep asking the person to commit greater and greater immoral acts.

From lying about vegetarian food that isn’t actually vegetarian.
To hiding the body of a “dead” man so as not to ruin the charity that is crucial to helping the lives of so many children.
To pretending to actually be the “dead” man and giving a speech as him.

The people participating in this experiment do not have a core ethical underpinning to tell them when something is a grey area and when something is flat out wrong – like kicking a dead body to make it look like it fell down the steps.

This, of course, is a result of our modern culture where the concept that doing something for the “greater good” is acceptable.

People of all religions, faiths and beliefs do unethical and immoral things. In fact, we all do at some point.

However, Catholic morality has taught for 2,000 years that it is NEVER acceptable to do something immoral for the greater good. (Again, many do not adhere to this.)

Let’s consider that the entire world was dying from an incurable disease and you found one child who was immune to the disease who could save us. But to share the immunity and save the world, we need to kill the child. Clearly it would be for the greater good to kill the child and save humanity.

But even in that most extreme of circumstances, it is a mortal sin (i.e. you’re going to hell) to harm an innocent person.

This is in stark contrast to a person voluntarily laying down their life to save another which Christianity defines as the greatest example of love.

The end NEVER justifies the means.
Though I learned this about Catholic morality, I imagine other belief systems share the same moral underpinning (please comment with references to similar moral systems).

Few of us have defined our morality and ethics so strongly.

So when someone asks us to lie to “help the children” like they do on “The Push” we convince ourselves that a lie isn’t a big deal. And then, disrespecting a corpse. And then abusing the corpse. And then, so as not to have to admit that we were wrong and acting immorally it’s better to just kill the witness – after all, it’s for the children.

You’ll have to watch “The Push” on Netflix to understand all the references in the paragraph above.

The truth is that if the participants in “The Push” had clearly and concretely defined their values to harm no innocent person (or their corpse), then the whole experiment would have repeatedly failed.

Why your business needs Core Values

Recently I heard a story of a small business being bought out and the new owner taking over and resetting everyones’ benefits to day 0. Everyone was a new employee of the new owner’s business (which, certainly was legally accurate) and none of their tenure working for the previous business was taken into account.

This was coming from a third party so it’s hard for me to believe this is true. However, if it is, what do you think the moral core of that business will be?

Under the new owner, do you think the employees will do the right thing and the ethical thing to each other and their customers? What if doing the right thing hurts their profits, bonuses, or revenue this month?

In the short term, the profits for the business may improve and sometimes even for years those profits will stay better.

But a business built to maximize profit first at the expense of everything else, will lead to Enron-style dishonesty and massive employee turnover.

For your business and your team you need core values so people know if lying for the greater good is acceptable.

Certainly in many businesses an unethical act for the greater good is acceptable or even encouraged.

Is it at yours?

At my digital agency, Optimized Marketing, we had an issue a few years ago where we sent Google Ads to the wrong URL. Hey, no one is perfect. We could still track a few conversions from those clicks but it wasn’t what we promised.

Though there was absolutely NO way our client would ever know this happened, we contacted him, let him know, and asked him how he’d like us to handle it. He requested a credit back which we promptly issued.

It cost us about $500 however, it “bought” us more trust with that client than he’d ever experienced with any other marketing company in his decades in business. He’s been a huge supporter and referred many people to us for years now.

More importantly, it concretely demonstrated for my team that we will do the right thing even at the short-term cost of profits.

If you’ve read my blog, you understand that I say short-term because I believe doing the right things improves profits in the long term as you retain your team and clients much longer. They become fiercely loyal when they know they can trust you as a leader to do the right thing.

In your personal life and your business, take the time to clearly define your values.

Otherwise, someday you may find yourself on international TV murdering an innocent person “for the children”. As scary as it sounds, it seems that many people would make “The Push”.

To establishing a strong moral foundation in business and life,
Bryan

Simon Sinek, I’m not your dad – Firing people is sometimes necessary

Open letter to Simon Sinek about your Mother’s Day Video.

Dear Simon,

You’re seriously awesome and one of my team’s favorite people to learn from.

Your Ted Talk on How Leaders Inspire Action is required viewing for my entire team and we’ve spent dozens of hours and discussions reviewing just about every video of yours we could find. Many of them I’ve watched several times.

You are clearly brilliant.

As to my credentials for giving you an honest critique:

  • Since Optimized Marketing‘s founding in 2011, my team’s primary Core Value is Love and Service.
  • In 2015, based on anonymous surveys my team was the Happiest Company in the World out of over 760 organizations and in 2016 the happiest in our industry.
  • The average tenure for a digital marketer is about 18 months. My team has 12 team members and no one has ever quit.

So when I offer my feedback it’s a sincere appeal from a huge fan of yours who has implemented and benefited from much of your message.

In other words, I’m not an armchair quarterback.
I live the values of Love and Service as does my team so I’m speaking from experience.

Your Mother’s Day video on your LinkedIn profile is a bit creepy.

In particular your statement that, “mom’s don’t get to choose their kids. They just get what they get and offer unconditional love. Great leaders do the same.”

Then when you go on to explain mom’s goal is to build up skills and let their children fail, the implication is, as I learned from Boss Baby (sorry, it’s my toddler’s favorite movie), you can’t be fired from your family and so shouldn’t be from your job. This seems to be taking your praise of Next Jump’s no firing policy in your TedTalk, “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe”, even further.

If I’m your Team Leader, it’s just weird to use the analogy, “I’m your dad and you are my children.”

The idea that a leader should treat her people like her children (maybe Marissa Mayer took that a bit too literally when she read a children’s book to everyone at Yahoo) is absurd.

But let’s get more practical.

Why is it unhealthy for a leader to treat his team members with unconditional love like they are his children?

  1. They’re not. If you hire someone who has a serious mental or emotional issue, it’s not the responsibility of the new boss to be his therapist and counselor and provide unconditional love like his mother would. And suggesting it is the new boss’ responsibility is extremely dangerous.
  2. Even your children have limits. Jordan Peterson likes to say, “Never let your children do anything that would make you hate them because a lot of parents hate their children.” Tough love is a real thing and spoiling your child, not holding them accountable, or enabling their addictions or laziness, is not healthy.
  3. Sometimes children are flat out wrong. If your child is accused of rape, you are probably going to hire him the best lawyer and help defend him. But if he actually committed the crime, then only a sociopathic parent would argue he doesn’t deserve full punishment for his actions.
  4. Your children love you. If you raised your children properly, they will also love you, as their parent, unconditionally. So are you suggesting the team member should also unconditionally love their leader? In other words, if you should never fire someone, should an employee also sign a contract saying they will never quit. (Have you read Atlas Shrugged? That style of employment doesn’t work out.)
  5. The data just doesn’t support a no-firing policy. Check out First, Break All the Rules, and everything else written by Marcus Buckingham. To summarize, if you, as a leader, are providing the environment in which your team can excel (based on their own feedback), don’t waste your time on the under-performers. You’ll get much more benefit in helping the top performers get even better. Moreover, an under-performer on one team can likely be a top performer on another. Not everyone excels in the same culture and environment so it’s important to let those people go so they can find the best environment in which to excel.

As another example, at some point, likely because the parents screwed up raising their child, it may be necessary to kick a child out of the house as an adult.

You can’t take advantage of and abuse your parents and expect them to enable that behavior.
It’s not healthy or loving.

The same is true in business.

If you are not a good fit for my business and we unfortunately didn’t catch that during our half-dozen interviews and tests during recruitment, then after considerable coaching and guidance, the best thing to do for both parties is to part ways.

Even the most well-funded, well-researched, data-driven organizations in the world get it wrong such as when Tom Brady was the 7th quarterback drafted and pick #199 overall in 2000.

No hiring team is perfect.

As a leader, you have a responsibility to all of your stakeholders – your entire team, your shareholders, your clients – and if one team member is putting them all at risk, the unconditional love of a mother is not the answer.

As a child whose parents are kicking you out so you’ll go get a job and grow up, it’s not always immediately apparent to the child that this is an act of love.

And to the team member who is let go because her culture, values, goals, or talents are misaligned with the company’s, it’s not immediately apparent that separation is the best for all parties.

But, in both instances, it doesn’t make it any less true.

So please clarify your video indicating leaders should unconditionally love their employees so we can go back to agreeing with basically everything else you’ve ever said. 🙂

To great, loving leaders,
Bryan

The 3 Videos Every Leader and Manager Must See!

Simon Sinek – Leaders Eat Last

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. There’s no harder challenge for leaders than to ignore their power and instead focus solely on serving their team. Simon is being interviewed by Glenn Beck and tells the best short story I’ve ever heard to help keep leaders grounded by the fact that they exist to serve not be served.


Dan Pink – Drive – The surprising truth about what motivates us

Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose – Every human being desires these 3 things and Dan breaks this down with unbelievable clarity. He also shares the downsides of commissions and incentives in many job positions.


Shawn Achor – The Happiness Advantage

Everything you know about success and happiness is wrong. You will NOT be happy once you are successful. The truth is, you will be more successful if you are first happy.

Easily give your Brand a Concrete definition and watch all of your Marketing explode

The Power of Branding Speedometer

To improve your marketing, define your Brand.

People seem to believe Direct Response marketers don’t like Brand marketing. That we’re somehow arch-enemies in the world of advertising.

That’s just not true.
We directs love great branding.

And there’s a simple reason for this.
It works.

Within a month or 2 of starting internet marketing for a new client, we can tell if a business has a strong local brand. The search volume relative to population, click-thru rates on those clicks, and even conversion rates of the website all give us clues to the strength of your business name in your local market.

Defining Branding

When you ask most people about branding they start thinking of broadcast media, logos, and slogans.

However…

Are your service trucks and the decals painted on them part of your branding?
Are your uniforms?
Is your website?
What about how you answer the phone?
Is the quality of your work?
Can your pricing be part of your brand?
How about your team culture?

Yes!
All of these are part of your brand.

So what is branding? Flint McLaughlin of MECLabs has the best definition around:

Brand is the aggregate experience of your value proposition.

I love branding because the data shows that it works. In other words, if you have a great business that delivers a truly unique product or service in a way that retains customers, then getting results from any form of advertising is a whole lot easier.

Recently a company came to my home to clean my carpets.

They cultivate their advertising by building up relationships with locally influential people, like my realtor friend who referred them to me. That’s great marketing.

They come to my home and about 45 minutes later I notice they are packing up so I go to check on things. They forgot about my area rugs that we discussed twice. They also never let me know they wouldn’t move anything. Not even the chair in my office (on wheels).

From my perspective as a marketer, their marketing DID work. I DID hire them, however their branding was very poor.

The worst part is, they did a great job, had a fair price and were very personable.

Just a few quick tweaks could transform this business…

Imagine how much more effective every dollar they spent on marketing would be if they:

  1. Introduce themselves and explain exactly what they are doing today and that they don’t want to move things that are valuable so if there is anything they need to clean under, please move those now.
  2. Double-check with you before wrapping up that everything is done to your satisfaction.
  3. Share a handout with their invoice that includes a list of all of their services. (I overheard them talking about a tile cleaning job, yet they never once offered to clean my tile.)

They did ask me how often I cleaned my carpets and then recommended I clean them every fall and spring.

Fat chance I’ll ever remember that.

Instead, they should have said, “You seem to be happy with your fresh, clean carpet and since you’re a new customer, in 6 months Bonnie in my office will give you a call, remind you it’s been 6 months and get you a 10% discount on your next cleaning. As long as we come out every 6 months you’ll always get your 10% discount.”

How many people get their carpets cleaned regularly every 6-months?

Imagine the impact on that business from offering this one service.

The lifetime value of each customer would sky-rocket which would allow the owner to spend more in marketing to acquire each new customer.

THAT is branding!

Branding is setting an expectation.
The strength of your brand is in how well you foster that expectation.

Branding cannot exist without a Value Proposition

Your Value Proposition

Great branding requires a unique value proposition.

If you want to improve your marketing and get better results, where do you start?

You could call me and I guarantee my team will get you better results online, however we will ask for your value proposition (also called a Unique Selling Proposition).

Most marketers will never ask you for this.
Most “brand experts” fail to understand that a brand cannot exist without a value proposition.

This is great news!

This means that 90% of your competitors are never going to define their value proposition and therefore will never be able to create a lasting brand.

MECLabs has developed a simple way to create your value proposition by answering 1 question:

If I’m your ideal customer, why I should do business with you rather than your competitors?

Can you answer that question?
If not, go to your calendar right now and schedule 2 hours this week to sit down, block out all interruptions, and figure that out.

Great Marketing Starts with a Great Brand

In the early 1900’s, legendary direct marketer and author of My Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertising, Claude Hopkins, took on Schlitz Brewery as a client.

Here’s what Claude had to say after visiting the brewery:

I saw plate-glass rooms where beer was dripping over pipes, and I asked the reason for them. They told me those rooms were filled with filtered air, so the beer could be cooled in purity. I saw great filters filled with white-wood pulp. They explained how that filtered the beer. They showed how they cleaned every pump and pipe, twice daily, to avoid contamination. How every bottle was cleaned four times by machinery.

I came back to the office amazed. I said: ‘Why don’t you tell people these things? Why do you merely try to cry louder than others that your beer is pure? Why don’t you tell the reasons?’ ‘Why,’ they said, ‘the processes we use are just the same as others use. No one can make good beer without them.’ ‘But,’ I replied, ‘others have never told this story. It amazes everyone who goes through your brewery. It will startle everyone in print.

So he put their story of quality control and purity in print and as a result they jumped from 5th to tied for 1st in market share.

Often your Value Proposition isn’t something completely unique. It’s just something that you communicate more clearly than your competitors.

Clarity always beats persuasion!

Branding isn’t fuzzy

I’m an engineer so I don’t do wishy-washy and touchy-feely very well.
Which is why I love great branding.

It’s precise.
It’s direct.
It’s crystal clear.
It’s measurable.
It can be tested.

When you understand that your brand is the aggregate experience of your value proposition and you have a great value proposition, you understand there are plenty of ways to test and measure the power of your value proposition.

It’s easy to measure the power of a value proposition in Google Adwords Click-Thru-Rates, A/B Split-tests on websites, email headline experiments and even in conversations with customers.

That, however, is the easy part.

The hard part is for your entire business to deliver on the expectation created by your advertising by living your brand.

To your branding success,
Bryan

Your “experience” is what’s holding your managers back and limiting your growth

If you hired the right managers, who are better than you in their areas of expertise, then the key to getting them to excel is simply to unleash them.

In other words, get out of his or her way!

You just need to let him make his own decisions, his own mistakes, and allow him to lead his own team. Once you realize that your “experience” and knowledge is actually holding your team back, then real growth can start.

If you’re doing ANY of the following, you’re holding your leaders back:

  1. Addressing issues with the team members who should report to him. This should be clearly defined in your organizational chart.
  2. Addressing issues from customers who should be talking to him. If your customers have been trained to go to you to get the best deal, then un-train them by making sure all pricing goes through your chosen leader.
  3. Vetoing ideas and making decisions in his department. Your job as the CEO, Owner, President or Team Leader is to explain why you think something will or will not work. Not to make the decision.
  4. Dictating that leader’s schedule. Sure you can ask him to take care of an issue or help you with something, but dictating a schedule without his approval is more like putting on a choke collar and then asking him to chase away the rabbits. He can try as hard as he wants but he’s never going to get the job done.
  5. Second-guessing or analyzing every decision. The details are not important to you, only the results are. Allow him to work out the details. (I explain below what to do if you think he’s going to implement a bad idea.)
  6. Holding regular meetings to ensure you ultimately get to make the “big” decisions. Quite often this is done indirectly. You might never come out and say, “It has to be done this way because I said so.” But saying, “You know, I really think that idea won’t work but it’s up to you,” is interpreted as “You better not try that!“, when it comes from most bosses.
  7. Ignoring mistakes that are made. This is a major misconception. Allowing people to make mistakes, in and of itself, is pretty worthless. Not addressing those mistakes is downright harmful to your business and the mistake maker. Mistakes should only be made once and the only way to ensure that your leader knows that it was a mistake, and has a way to prevent it from happening again, is to openly discuss mistakes. Biting your lip because you’re afraid to hurt his feelings by pointing out a mistake, is a sign that you still have him on a leash.

So how do you keep tabs on your newly free leaders?

  1. You need some “Rules of the Game” in the form of a written Vision, Mission and Culture. Think of these like your 10 Commandments of business. Everyone on your team doesn’t need to memorize them. However, your key leaders do need to know what’s expected of them and the clearest way to do that is in writing.
  2. You must have a Weekly Action SnapShot (WacSnap) so you can keep regular tabs on the key areas of your business. Depending on your function on the team, this may be included in a weekly meeting with your key leaders.
  3. You need Key Performance Indicators for each leader. For example:
    1. Service leaders need to demonstrate a profitable service department with minimal call-backs and customer complaints.
    2. Marketing leaders need a target acquisition cost, marketing ROI, number of leads, and conversion rate.
    3. Sales leaders also need to know conversion rate along with average dollar sale and lifetime value of a customer.
    4. Finance leaders need to know cash on hand, cash in receivables, and pending payables at all times. She also needs a target goal for savings and capital available for upcoming large purchases.
  4. At least twice a year you need to conduct a 12 Questions survey with each leader.

What if a leader is going to make a bad decision?

Have you ever made a bad decision? Since you’re reading this, then you somehow managed to survive it. Most poor decisions will fall on that side of the coin – They’re survivable. Keep that in mind.

  1. Ask him (don’t tell him) why he thinks X will work out well.
  2. Ask him if he knows of anyone else who has implemented it successfully. If not, and you have a resource for him to talk to on this topic, then offer it. You don’t have to pretend to be the expert on every topic. It’s much better to have a list of resources available.
  3. Let him know you’ve tried something similar to that before and ask if he’d like a few ideas.
  4. Find out how he plans to measure if the idea is successful or not. Every idea should have a measurement for success and just defining that allows most people to see the flaws in their own ideas.
  5. If he still thinks it’s a good idea, no one is going to die, the business isn’t going to go under, and an account worth more than 5% of your gross sales doesn’t have a highly likely chance of getting lost, back off and let him implement the idea.
  6. Once he realizes he’s made a mistake (which will be obvious if you did step #4), ask him what went wrong. Again, don’t just tell him. If you ever want him to think critically and figure out how to catch mistakes before they’re ever made, you have to stop spoon-feeding him all the answers. 
  7. If the idea does work, congratulate him on a job well done! Now go celebrate because allowing a leader to do something you didn’t think would work and being proven wrong, just helped you take a giant leap towards growing your business without it depending solely on you.

Won’t that take more time than me just making all the decisions?

Yes. At first.

You can only physically make so many decisions so your growth will be limited. Additionally, your freedom and ability to take vacations will also be limited.

More importantly, the ability for your team managers to be fully engaged and satisfied with their work will also be very limited.

One last thought…

For some people, “unleashing” your managers is going to be a BIG change. You’re not quite ready for it and they don’t quite believe you’re serious.

So during this transition, when someone comes to you to ask a question, don’t assume she wants your opinion. Chances are she doesn’t. She just doesn’t fully believe the decision is in her own hands and still doesn’t want to do something you won’t like.

Before you answer her question, you need to ask directly, “Are you looking for my approval or my opinion? If you want my approval, you have it. If you want my opinion, I’ll only give it to you if you treat it for what it is. Ultimately, it’s up to you to make the best decision for your team.

More importantly, when you say that, you better mean it!

To your success in unleashing the talents within your leaders, Bryan

Happiness leads to better Employee Productivity… Not the other way around! [VIDEO]

TED speeches are a secret obsession of mine. On any given week I’ll watch 2-4 of them. Out of the dozens and dozens of speeches I’ve watched, this speech by Shawn Achor is only the second I’ve ever shared on my blog. Why?

  1. It’s powerful and extremely effective.
  2. It’s simple to learn and easily IMPLEMENTED.
  3. It’s backed up by science.
  4. Few small business leaders have this concept on their radar.
  5. It’s actually quite entertaining.

[Read more…]

The #1 secret to being an effective business coach or consultant

There are things you need to have to be successful no matter what:

  1. Knowledge
  2. Experience
  3. Access to powerful resources
  4. A Plan or System to quickly evaluate businesses
  5. Strong Value Proposition and USP

But none of these are the most important thing…

[Read more…]

Set Business Goals for 2012 in under 60 minutes while munching on cookies

This is the most powerful thing you can do for your business this week or next.  A simple 1-2 page plan to cover your goals for the next 52 weeks is the best way to generate massive results this year and every year. And, yes, a useful, simple plan can be put together in under 60 minutes… While munching on cookies if you’re so inclined.

Here’s how…

  1. Write down your personal goals. Your business is a means to an end. If it’s not providing what you need personally then what’s the point? This goes for you whether you are an owner or team member. If your boss doesn’t understand your personal goals or you are the leader and you don’t understand the personal goals of your team members, you’ll never attain full engagement. These goals may be, “work only 40 hours per week“, “take off early in the fall to coach my son’s soccer team“, “take an extra week of vacation this year with my family“, “donate an extra $5,000 to charities this year.” Whatever your personal goals are, write them out.
  2. Write down your business goals. Now that you have your personal goals outlined, your business goals for 2012 need to be in-line with your personal goals. If they’re disconnected you won’t be nearly as motivated. Based on the examples above, if your goal is to only work 40 hours per week and you currently average 50 hours per week, your business goal becomes, “outsource, delegate, or kill 10 hours of work per week“. If your goal is tied to increased profits, such as having more money to donate to charity, then you need to figure out exactly what you will need to add to the bottom line and then work backwards from there. For instance, if you want to have an additional $5,000 for charity that would be $1250/quarter. If you convert half of your leads to sales, have an average dollar sale of $2,000, a net margin of 10%, and you average 45 sales per quarter, that means you need an additional 12.5 leads per quarter OR to increase your average sale to $2278 OR increase your margin to 11.4%. Do any one of those 3 things and you’ll have your extra $5,000 per year for charity. Better yet, target a smaller improvement in each one.
  3. Brainstorm ways to achieve your goals. Now that you have concrete personal and business goals, sit down and write out everything that comes to mind that might help you reach those goals. In most instances we know that we’re wasting 10 hours per week doing low-level work that someone else can do if we just provide them with a bit of training and a procedure or checklist. Or we know that to get a few extra leads we can develop our referral program or by focusing less on website traffic and more on website conversion. Whatever the ideas, just write them all out. Don’t cross anything off or ignore it at this point. Just get it on paper or into a document.
  4. Put each brainstorm item into the Business Triangle. To help us organize the ideas and start putting together a plan for how we’ll achieve each one and who on your team can help you, categorize each idea into one of the categories from the business triangle: Sales/Marketing, Service/Operation, Finance/Administration. If the idea doesn’t fit succinctly into one of those areas it probably fits into all 3. For instance if you need to improve your pay structure, performance reviews, or buy a faster server, any of those things will help all 3 areas of the triangle. For those items, I put them under the Multipliers/Leverage category since they can multiply or leverage your entire business.
  5. Prioritize each item according to the 80/20 rule. Now go back through your list that’s currently broken into those 4 categories and put the items that are most beneficial in each category at the top of the list and least beneficial at the bottom. Take into account how long each item will take. For instance if the one that will be most beneficial will take you 20 hours and require the help of 3 other team members but there are 4 others that can be accomplished with 2 hours of work each, you are probably better off accomplishing the 4 smaller tasks, enjoying the benefits of those, and getting a few wins under your belt to feel confident tackling the bigger project.

In 60 minutes, that’s about all you can accomplish. From here, the next part is actually the toughest. You need to break down the To-Do list into weekly, digestible action items. Whether those items are for you or for someone else they need to be in bite-size chunks so you can feel confident in tackling 1 each week.

This is where an experienced business coach, consultant, or small business engineer can be immensely powerful. Not only can he help you determine exactly where to improve your business to achieve your goals, he can provide resources and weekly actionable items to keep you on track. He’ll save you enough time and money along the way that his service should pay for itself.

As a matter of fact, I’ve developed a Leadership Action Checklist that includes over 50 actionable improvements I’ve seen small businesses make to improve their bottom line and rely less on the owner. That list alone would almost entirely cut out steps 3 and 4 above.

Here are a few more tips on writing out your goals…

When writing goals, they need to be specific, actionable, and time-constrained. For instance, here are a few examples of poorly written goals:

  • Make more money
  • Spend more time with my family
  • Take more vacation

Here are examples of how to make those goals more powerful:

  • Be able to increase my salary by $50/week by the second quarter of 2012
  • Attend 90% of my daughter’s cross-country meets (which require me to leave the office by 2:30 12 times in the fall)
  • Take 4 Fridays off this summer to take weekend trips with my family to A, B, C, and D and 1 Friday off in the spring for a trip with just my wife to E

The difference between the powerful goals and the “generic” ones is immense. Your mind can picture the second set of examples very clearly and it puts PRESSURE on you to get it done. The first set of goals can easily be pushed off or even “checked off” after achieving a fraction of what you originally intended by that goal.

To make the goals even more pressing, share them with your business partner, spouse, or business coach.

To your personal and business success in 2012, Bryan

P.S. I’m working from home this week surrounded by Christmas cookies so, though I intend to do my 2012 business plan while munching on cookies, and I highly recommend it, it’s not required.

Instantly Beef-up your Marketing Response AND Sales Conversion with a Rock-Solid Guarantee

Your typical “100% Satisfaction Guaranteed” is now roughly translated as, “blah, blah, blah.” We’ve seen it so many times that our eyes glide past these types of Guarantees without a second thought. It’s trite and meaningless for everyone except for the guy looking to take advantage of you. But there’s a better way…

So if “100% Satisfaction Guaranteed” is a weak guarantee, here are a few great guarantees I’ve come across:

We so firmly believe we can help you make a difference in your business that if we
cannot increase your gross profit by $1000 a month we will either refund your investment
back to you OR we will work with you at NO cost to you until your gross profit increases by
$1000 a month.” – Automotive Management Solutions

Lifetime Free Replacement Of Any Broken ASEPCO Tank Valve

– No Matter Who Broke It!

Top-Quality Product, or It’s Free!

Performance as Promised, or We Pay You!”

Asepco’s Unique Tank Valve Guarantee

If you want to get real creative, check out this guarantee that not only guarantees performance, it pays the consumer to report their results so the business can then use that “testimonial” in further marketing:

If you beat the best ad you’ve ever written, I’ll send you a $100 check and a congratulations letter.

If you can’t beat your best ad, I’ll send you a $100 check and an apology, plus a full refund of your $500 purchase price.” – Perry Marshall’s Marketing Swiss Army Knife

This last one is too long to copy onto my blog, but take a minute to read Reliance Home Comfort’s Guarantee.

So what do these guarantee’s do that our more anemic guarantee’s do not?

They improve  your marketing response and sales conversion, by doing 3 things:

  1. They are specific – One of the main powers of a guarantee is that people actually read them. So use that opportunity to guarantee the benefit/performance of your product or service. While your prospect is reading your list of guaranteed benefits, you are also conditioning them to experience those benefits. The placebo affect is alive and well. I’m not suggesting you should guarantee something “made-up”, I’m just using the placebo affect as an example of how a great guarantee can condition your customers to look for, appreciate, and tell their friends about all of the great benefits you have provided for them.
  2. They guarantee Benefits – In other words, your guarantee should include the advantages of your product or service to the consumer. All of the examples above guarantee the RESULT of using that company’s product or service. Don’t worry if your competitor’s product can offer the same results… Unless they guarantee it, you’ll be out-selling them in no time.
  3. “Risk-Free” – A great guarantee will help get the customer off the fence and prevent any buyer’s remorse. Why? Because if you don’t deliver on your written, specific, benefits-driven guarantee the customer should be able to get a replacement or refund.

After all that, there is one thing that all of these guarantee’s are screwing up.

Instead of writing a Guarantee, you should write a Promise. As you know I’m a big fan of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) so I’m not one to discount the power of a single word… And I must say, there is a massive difference in Guarantee vs. Promise.

Businesses offer Guarantees. Which means they are third-party, impersonal, and “profit-driven” because that’s how we naturally see a business.

In contrast, a Promise is highly and totally personal

You “Promise” yourself you will DO IT … whatever IT means.
You “Promise” your kid you will get him that baseball mitt.
You “Promise” your Mom you will be safe.

In other words, you, as the owner or leader in your business, are making a personal Promise to your customer that you will do what you say.

Can you feel how powerful that difference can be? I can sense the tingle in my spine as I extend my hand and look my valued customer squarely in the eyes to make this promise.

As I mentioned in my blog on Conversational Marketing, this personal touch is a HUGE advantage that we as small business owners can offer that major corporations can not. It may even be THE most powerful reason consumers choose small business so don’t ever waste your time doing marketing just to appear like your corporate competitor.

Think I’m getting too touchy, feely with this stuff?

Check out the book Emotion Marketing by Claire Brand. It’s backed up by decades of research done by some of the most respected national brands with the most loyal customers. One of these brands is Hallmark who has built the largest loyalty program in the world with over 12 million active members.

Hallmark determined that of all the ways you can measure customer loyalty, the best way to determine if your customer will be loyal is by how much they feel you care for them. Caring was twice as likely to predict future customer loyalty than any other factor they could measure.

If an organization with 5,000 locations in the US can make 12 million people feel that they care, isn’t it about time your small business focuses on doing the same thing.

To start showing that you care, write your Promise, today.

To your promised success, Bryan

P.S. As I was eating my yogurt this morning, I came across a personal Promise from Activa. “Love how you feel or your money back.” How’s that for promising a result?

How hippies created the New Rich while influencing your ideas of time and money

If you don’t know who the New Rich are keep reading because we’ll get to that… First, some history on how they were created… The history is important because it will explain a bit about your personal conflicts and struggles in balancing work and a career with your need for excitement and family.

Let’s start 3 generations ago… Think post World War 2 and the 1950’s – commonly known as the baby-boomers. These people viewed jobs, income, being rich and, quite frankly, a whole lot of things differently. Life for the average American was pretty straight-forward:

  1. Go to school
  2. Get a job
  3. Keep job for life
  4. Raise a family
  5. Go to church every Sunday
  6. Teach family athletics, manners, and respect
  7. Take vacation every year
  8. Get the entire family together for major holidays
  9. After 40 years retire with the money you saved, move south, golf and/or fish and spend time with the grand kids
  10. Being rich means having a nicer house, car, and boat than your neighbors.

Life was centered around family and work. Pay was based on a combination of:

  1. Education or Skill
  2. Experience
  3. Number of hours worked

In other words you put in your time in the form of schooling, work-experience, and a long work-week and you were paid well.

Then in the 1960’s and 70’s the hippies came along and decided they didn’t much like their parents out-dated, sheltered, closed-minded and limited view on the world. They questioned and reexamined everything they were taught and decided life was about new experiences more than family or a steady-income. Their lives were a bit different:

  1. They found new experiences in drugs, travel, music, sex, politics and just about anything else.
  2. They stopped going to church or at least as much.
  3. They stopped having large families.
  4. They stopped keeping the same job forever.
  5. “True” hippies tried not to work at all or just enough to fund their next adventure.
  6. Work was no longer a sense of pride but simply a means to an end. A job. Work became a 4-letter word.
  7. Retirement? Don’t you have to have a job to retire from first?
  8. Wealth is about having more experiences and a better understanding of yourself than your neighbors.

Sunset over Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park

However, even with their new ideas about the world, pay was still based on the 3 items listed above and all directly related to time input. Obviously not all members of the hippy generation decided to travel down the hippy highway. Quite a few followed in the footsteps of their parents and particularly the “work hard to get ahead” mantra stuck with them. However, they couldn’t fully escape the free-spirited influence of their friends.

Then comes along generations X (1962-81) and more particularly Y (1982-98). We are being raised by parents and in school systems that try to educate us to, “work hard to get ahead” and to “put in your time and it will all pay off.” While at the same time being taught to have balance in our lives. Don’t become a workaholic. Take time to see the world since travel is so cheap these days. And the advice I’ve personally heard about 1,000 times, “take the time to do all of those things while you’re young.” Apparently the solution to the conflicting worldviews of the hippies and the baby-boomers is to be a hippy while you’re young and enjoy all the great new experiences that you can handle and then “settle down” and follow the baby- boomers’ formula for success as an “adult.” If you’re Generation Y you know exactly what I’m talking about… Because you’ve heard it, too. If you’re early in Gen X or a baby-boomer, you’ve probably said it… 🙂

Come again? I’m supposed to see the world and race motorcycles and skip church and experiment in my 20’s so that I can “get it out of my system” and then somehow be content the rest of my life making the proper decisions, raising a family, working a steady job, and limiting travel to occasional vacations?

I promise you, that plan does not work. How do I know this? In August, I’ve failed to publish any new blogs because I took a 17 day, 5561 mile, 10 state, 9 national park motorcycle journey throughout the west. The following story has happened to me in some form dozens of times, but here’s one example of how that desire for freedom, expression and new experiences can never be satisfied once you’ve tasted it.

My bike outside of Death Valley NP. FYI: Don't ever ride thru Death Valley in August!

As I’m walking to my motorcycle from the shower facility in Yellowstone National Park I notice a minivan parked next to me with 2 cute little girls running about, both sliding doors and the rear hatch open, a wife running around doing motherly things, and the husband just standing there waiting for me… He’s literally looking straight at me as I walk toward my bike. My bike is fully stocked with saddle bags, camping gear, and everything you need for an extended vacation and this guy noticed… After some small talk while his wife gathers the necessary tools for their showers I ask him if he rides. He HAD been smiling. His wife immediately stops for the first time and with the-smile-that-says-a-thousand-words looks straight at him. He looks at her and I couldn’t help but remark, “Uh oh, your wife is listening to your response so you better get it right.” She doesn’t flinch or take her eyes off of him. He smiles and says, “Yeah, I ride dirt bikes now.” The Mrs. goes back to her motherly duties satisfied with his answer. I bet you can guess his advice to me… “Do it while you’re young.” That was the second or third time in 2 hours that I’d heard that advice. I’ve lost track of how often people tell me that.

Did you catch how he ended his sentence with, “now”? Yeah, me too. Granted this man had a beautiful wife, 2 super-cute little girls, and enough money to take a week long vacation with the family to one of the most awe-inspiring places on earth. He was living the baby-boomer dream… But if you could have seen his face and the way his eyes were transfixed on my motorcycle it would be immensely obvious that something was missing… He had tasted that freedom and adventure, which for him happened to be on a motorcycle, and he wasn’t fully satisfied with his new stable, predictable life. Would you be??? Or if you’re not there yet, will you be? Can you have both that stability and some freedom? Issues with your better half aside…

Along comes what Timothy Ferriss calls in The 4-Hour Workweek, the New Rich. Thanks primarily to the shrinking of the world due to increases in technology, people have started to realize that you can work from anywhere. For 2 years I worked out of the basement of my home for a software company 620 miles away. While taking pictures in Oceanside, OR last week a nice couple told me they moved there and out of the city because the husband “telecommutes” as a software engineer 700 miles away to San Francisco.

In addition, people have realized when you don’t have to deal with small talk at the water cooler or talk to your co-workers about last night’s episode of Survivor you can get a lot more done a lot more quickly. In other words, when working remotely, you can do so more efficiently. This is what the New Rich are all about. The ability to work from anywhere more efficiently than their co-workers sitting in an office.

There’s more to the story thanks to the hippies, though… As I mentioned earlier, the baby-boomers always thought you traded hours for dollars. More time equals more money. Over time you can save enough money in your nest egg to pay for the time where you won’t be making money in retirement. The New Rich don’t see it that way… As a matter of fact, that’s all wrong. Whereas conventional thought values a person’s wealth based solely on their bank account and possessions, the New Rich consider 2 things:

  1. Cashflow
  2. Timeflow (yeah, I just made that word up)

Cashflow – If you have a steady income, you don’t need a nest egg. In other words, if I have a business that makes me money every month, why do I need a million dollars to retire? Your answer to that should be – “Well you need to work in that business if it’s going to make you money and if you’re working you can’t do the things you want to in retirement.” Good answer. But you’re wrong. It is possible to have cashflow without giving up your life and all of your time. Besides, what good is having all the money in the world if you don’t have the time to enjoy it? Just as importantly, when you’re 68, will you be able to enjoy the same adventures as you can when you’re 28?

Timeflow – I’ll use an example to explain this concept. If you’re a lawyer and you make $208,000 per year and work 80 hours per week, your hourly income is $50/hour. You’re now one of the top income earners in the country and, with a reasonable savings and investment plan, will be rich in short order, right? What if, however, I make $52,000 per year, have no office, can work from a cafe in Jackson Hole, WY or a beach house on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and only need to work 5 hours per week? Only one hour per day. That translates to $200/hour.  More importantly, I have an extra 75 hours of time that I own, control, and is available to me every week. That control of your time is what I call, timeflow.

Now for the tough part, which is more valuable? Which is more important? This isn’t a trick question. One of them is truly more important and more valuable than the other.

It’s your timeflow for one simple reason: You can lose all of your money and get it back, but once you’ve given up your time, it’s lost forever.

That being the case, when was the last time you went into a performance review and asked for more vacation time instead of a raise? What about when negotiating for your job? Did you offer to give up a week or 2 worth of pay for additional time off? If your time is truly more valuable, what are you doing to improve your timeflow at work or in your business???

If you understand that concept, you understand what it’s like to be the New Rich. To become one of the elite members of the New Rich community you need to work on 3 things:

  1. Cashflow
  2. Timeflow
  3. Mobility

The best way to achieve these 3 things is to own your own business. That business can be a brick-and-mortar, main street style business as Brad Sugars suggests and I have owned. Or it can be an internet business that simply resells products as Timothy Ferriss suggests. Either way, the business has to be absentee-owned so, whether you’re there or not, it’s putting money into your bank account. If the business you’re looking to buy doesn’t allow for absentee ownership, don’t buy it. If the business you own doesn’t provide that option, sell it.

So how did the hippies create a group of people with such financial and business savvy? Well they didn’t do it on their own. The hippies simply taught us the importance of timeflow. They reminded us of the human-spirit’s desire for new experiences and to see new places. The baby-boomers taught us that, to enjoy those things, you still need money. The Generation X and Yers have put those together, wrapped it all up in the latest communications technology, and created this new breed of entrepreneur. Once you’re a member of the New Rich you can decide if you prefer the cars, motorcycles, and boats in the style of the baby-boomers or the travel and experiences in the style of the hippies… That’s the beauty of their lifestyles. They’ve created a way to do what they want to do when they want to do it. You can learn to do the same.

Whether you own a business or have a job, hopefully by understanding how the New Rich are finding balance in their lives amongst all the conflicting information they were taught by their parents and educators, you can better achieve a timeflow and cashflow balance in yours.

To your balanced success, Bryan

P.S. If this makes sense to you and you’re interested in learning how to go about acquiring your own business start with The Fundamentals. If you already own a business, you need to learn how to start improving your timeflow. If you’ve owned that business for any amount of time you may really need to consider moving on and buying one that can truly help you achieve your goals. You may also email me directly for more help.