How To Be The Catalyst Your World Needs

17 02 2014

bruce lee kick

“To hell with circumstances, I create opportunities.” – Bruce Lee

There are two kinds of people in this world – those that wait for things to happen, and those that make things happen. You know those people, the ones that make the party more fun, make the company more successful, make the team win – those people. Are you one of them? If so, you need to realize the responsibility in your hands. Without you, nothing happens. The world is a boring place without a catalyst.

Or perhaps you wish you were a mover and a shaker who built a reputation for taking action and achieving great results. Well, you can be. Here is a collection of advice to help you become the catalyst in your world, capable of creating your own opportunities:

  • “You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” Richard Branson. Reading books and blogs, attending classes and seminars, listening to speakers and watching videos are all good ways to educate yourself – but to be a catalyst and create change, you have to start walking.
  • “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.” Grace Hopper, US Navy. You may have heard this one before, and it’s one of my favorite pieces of advice. Catalysts don’t wait for approval. They do what they think is right regardless of their title, position, or status. Will you have some explaining to do if you’re wrong? Perhaps. But what if you’re right?
  • “So what do we do? Anything. Something. So long as we just don’t sit there. If we screw it up, start over. Try something else.” – Lee Iacocca. To be a catalyst in your world, just assume no one else will do anything. Lead the charge, encourage the people around you, and demand action.
  • “We don’t have a suggestion box.” – Chad Forrester, charity founder. I love this quote. It’s great to contribute with words, it’s more valuable to contribute with action. By allowing your colleagues to act on their ideas and passions, you get their best efforts. True catalysts empower other people to take action and help the cause.
  • “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”  Henry Ford. If you constantly respond to circumstances and requests, then you are limited in your ability to create. Look back at history – creating something truly new and impactful is the mark of achievement for the names we will remember most.
  • “I did not mind the public criticism. That sort of thing has not changed any program I thought was good.” Branch Rickey. When Mr. Rickey brought Jackie Robinson to Major League Baseball, he faced tremendous scrutiny and criticism. But he demolished the color barrier because it was the right thing to do, not because it was popular. Catalysts act with conviction, regardless of the potential public backlash.
jackie-robinson-and-branch-rickey

Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey

  • “To hell with circumstances, I create opportunities.” – Bruce Lee. Sure, there’s this problem.., that person.., their business.., this city.., etc. It is easy to justify your lack of action based on your situation. Catalysts view situational difficulties as challenges to overcome – not as excuses to remain stagnant.
  • “Move fast and break things.” – Mark Zuckerberg. True catalysts are some of the least patient people you will ever meet. If the speed of their action causes things to get smashed in the process, so what? Catalysts don’t intend to maintain the status quo, they intend to demolish it. They get started, get going, and take action!

So what are you waiting for?





The Tiger Within

2 08 2013

louietigerNever in my life have I been more excited to see an animal than I was at that moment.  It had been two months since I laid eyes on Louie, my little buddy – two months of worrying, searching, and calling his name.  We posted signs with his picture, we asked the neighbors to watch for him.  Not a trace.

Wondering what happened, my mind would invent terrible scenarios.  Was he hit by a car?  Was he hurt and alone?  Did the coyotes get him?  Painful thoughts, but I knew they couldn’t be true.  Louie was too smart, too tough, too wily.

During his first year of life he became increasingly interested in being outside.  He chased bugs, teased dogs, and visited the neighbors.  At night he would return home to snuggle the kids to sleep.  That last night though, he did not come home.  He ran out the door like he HAD to get outside!  And he was gone.

Two months later, as the sun was setting, I was outside watering the plants.  The pain of not knowing was stinging me.  I thought to myself, “If I could just know that he’s okay, if I could just see him one time.  He can be a wild cat if he wants, I just want to know that he’s alive.”  Within 5 seconds of completing that thought, I saw something move in the bushes.  Startled, I took a deeper gaze – and there he was.  He walked right out in plain view and stared at me.  “Louie?”  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  “Louie!”  He ran across the driveway.  I called his name again and he gave me a long look that said, “I know you want me to stay here, but I can’t.  I’m wild.  If I let you pet me, you’ll try to take me inside – and that’s not something I can do.”  So he jogged across the grass to the edge of the sidewalk and turned his head to look back at me one more time.  Then he ran toward the park, and disappeared into the night.

I felt like a parent whose kid had just left for college.  I thought of people that I’ve worked with in the past – the ones that departed to take a new job.  I thought of friends that got married and went to live in their wife’s hometown.  Gone.  Off on an adventure.  Just like Louie.  This was no meek kitty.  He was destined to be wild!  As I reflect on the time he spent with us, I realize that he had been preparing for this the whole time.  He practiced and trained just as any risk-taker should.  Whether you are on a quest for a new job, starting a company, going to college, joining the Navy, or moving to a strange town in search of opportunity – here is what you can learn from Louie:

  • Climb trees.  Louie would climb as high as the branches would hold him, not for the thrill of it, but to get a new viewpoint and a change of perspective.  If you are going to try new things, you have to be open to unfamiliar concepts and outside influences.  Seek and accept a perspective other than your own.
  • Form a gang.  I noticed that Louie would linger in the streets in the evening when the other neighborhood cats were out.  You might think they would fight, but they never did.  They ran away from cars together, and played their own version of hide-and-seek.  They bonded for strength, just as anyone out on an adventure should find partners to help their quest.
  • Practice confrontation.  As much as he was a cuddler, he was equally a bad-ass.  His “play-fighting” was a lot more fighting than play.  I feared for the neighborhood squirrels.  In a comfortable environment, he learned to handle confrontation.  If you are going on an adventure, expect adversity – learn how and when to stand your ground.
  • Eat lizards.  Sure we fed him delicious, nutritional cat food that he could eat whenever he wanted.  So why did I always find him hunkered down in the yard chewing on a lizard?  And now, as he roams the wooded areas around our house, I am sure he finds plenty of (gross) things to eat.  On your journey, understand that nothing comes easy or quick.  You better learn how to sustain yourself until you achieve your ultimate goal.

I miss Louie – he was a great cat.  I don’t begrudge him for seeking a life of thrill and independence.  As with so many people that give up comfort in search of adventure, I can only respect that desire to unleash the tiger within.

tiger





Public Speaking: Nervous? Or Nailin’ It!

21 09 2012

“I think I might barf on my Jimmy Choo’s,” she said in despair.  “This sucks!”

That’s what I heard when I picked up the phone a few weeks ago while a friend of mine was suffering from a good old fashioned case of Glossophobia – the fear of public speaking.   She talked nervously into the phone from outside her event, just about to go on stage, and I was glad she called me.  I certainly did not want her to vomit on her expensive designer shoes!

Due to my extroverted or loud-mouthed nature, it is possible that people assume I am naturally able to talk to crowds of people without nervousness or fear – that is certainly not true.  I do get nervous, sometimes even feel a little sick to my stomach, and my forehead sweats like crazy.  So how do I overcome that fear?  And what advice did I give to my troubled, borderline-nauseated friend as she prepared to deliver her big presentation?

It was crunch time and I wasn’t able to give her complete advice, so I told her these three main points that can help anyone overcome their nervousness and fear before delivering a public speech:

  1. Remember you are there for a reason.  The fear of speaking to an audience comes from the feeling that you are going to embarrass yourself or disappoint that audience.  Always, always remember that they specifically asked you to speak for a direct purpose.  If you were not capable of providing value then you never would have been requested as a speaker – so have confidence in yourself.
  2. Engage the audience.  Just as the audience is the reason you may feel nervous, they are also your best friend in helping you overcome your fear.  All you need is one person to start nodding their head to make you feel strong in your presentation.  The best way to get that response is with direct eye contact.  Look at members of the audience straight in the eye when you talk.  If they don’t start showing some body language, then look at someone else until you feel a connection.  And don’t be afraid to involve the audience by asking questions, or let them ask you questions if it’s appropriate in the presentation.
  3. Slow down.  If you ever watch a really good speaker you will notice they are taking their sweet time, soaking it all in, relaxed, poised, confident.  If someone is rushing through a presentation then they sound like a nervous person, they feel like a nervous person, and might end up looking bad.  This is my personal affliction when I am speaking to a crowd.  I combat this by writing “Slow Down!” on my hand or on a piece of paper in front of me.

If you have more time to prepare for your speech, consider these tips:

  • Use images to build a connection.  I’m a PowerPoint fan, and often open with a picture that is engaging, whether it reminds the audience of themselves, or is something they can emotionally relate to – like kittens, grandparents, children, or bacon.  Images are powerful connectors for your audience and they add color and life to your message.
  • Keep it simple.  People will not retain everything you say, so don’t try to cover a wide range of topics.  You will be more valuable to your audience if you go deeper to fully examine two or three main points – and it will be easier for you to present.
  • Don’t worry about mistakes.  The audience doesn’t know what you intended to say, and therefore, won’t notice if you forget a word or mess up a line – so don’t panic, just keep going.  Also consider speaking from bullet points instead of completely memorizing a string of words, so you have the freedom to roam around your subject.
  • You don’t need to be brilliant, just helpful for the audience.  I’ve seen it a thousand times, the “Let-me-show-you-how-smart-I-am” speech.  Guess what, we don’t care!  The audience is not there for you, they are there for themselves.  So consider the types of people listening, and make sure you provide content that is valuable to them specifically.
  • Say something different.  For the first few minutes of your speech, your audience is wondering if you will be any good – and they will lose interest if you are reporting old news.  If you want to win an audience quickly, say something they don’t expect.

Those are the basics.  I would also recommend watching speeches online to get a sense for how other people approach the craft.  Here is a wonderful example of someone doing it right.  This is my friend John Halcyon Styn, and he displays a perfect example of how to deliver a passionate, engaging speech.  He may have been nervous on the inside, but he planned, prepared, and definitely nailed it!

**SERIOUSLY – watch this video.  17 minutes of your life very well spent.

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Adam Yauch – Leaving a Legacy

11 05 2012

Flying down the highway, windows open, stereo on blast, Beastie Boys bumping – my teenage version of freedom.  The joy of good friends, weird adventures, and great music as the soundtrack to our youthful escapades.  If you were not in high school or college in the 80’s or 90’s then the Beastie Boys might not mean much to you, but you had your soundtrack too.  Yours might have been Springsteen or Elvis or the Beatles, but in my generation, we had the King Ad Rock, Mike D, and MCA.  The Beastie Boys meant rebellion, non-conformity, and pure unadulterated fun.

Last week I was saddened at the early passing of Adam (MCA) Yauch.  Always a shame when a life ends too soon, but in a moment of reflection my sadness quickly faded as I thought about that roadtrip, that party, that concert, those times in college – all those formative moments in my life colored by the sounds of Paul Revere, Sabatoge, Sure Shot, and Root Down.  I still know every single word of the album “Licensed to Ill” – a lot of people reading this do too.

So in that moment of sadness I found myself smiling.  I thought of a quote I’ve heard before:  “People will not remember what you said or what you did – they will remember how you make them feel.”  And that’s exactly what happens when you do something great, something risky, something that has a positive effect on other people’s lives.  You make them feel something – and that feeling never fades.

In that moment I began to reflect on my own life.  How will I be remembered?  How will you?  And beyond that, what did Adam Yauch do that was so special that his actions and his life impacted a generation?  What can we learn from MCA?

Speak your mind, don’t speak to everyone.  The music of the Beastie Boys is not for everyone – if it was, then it wouldn’t be genuine.  It had to be gritty, foul, raucous, and rebellious for certain people to relate to it.  If you speak softly to everyone then you speak powerfully to no one.

Find an uphill battle and start climbing.  How many times did the Beastie Boys hear “white guys can’t rap” or “rappers can’t play instruments” or “rap music won’t last”?  If you’ve got fans, you’ve got critics.  In his own words:  “They got a committee to get me off the block ‘cause I say my rhymes loud and I say ’em nonstop.”  In the path to greatness you will be met with naysayers, doubters, and skeptics.  Use it as fuel for your fire to accomplish something difficult.

Be true to yourself.  Early in their career, the Beasties might have been characterized as rude, crass, and juvenile.  In time, they used those rebellious attitudes to make statements for freedom and equality.  In either case, they pissed people off.  You don’t want to hear about kids partying and causing trouble?  Don’t listen.  You don’t want a rockstar to use their platform for pushing their beliefs?  Don’t follow.  It is the “do what I want” approach that turned these boys to men.  Be bold, be authentic, and celebrate it.

Party.  Speaking of celebration, I know we all are focused and driven and relentless and so on, but dammit, every now and then you gotta break the monotony and appreciate the fruits of your labors.  Sometimes you gotta turn it up and party like your parents are out of town to remind yourself why you work so hard.

Collaborate.  Not only were the Beastie Boys a group of guys that came together to make music – they literally finished each other’s sentences.  Their group approach to trading rhymes branded their style, gave them a unique sound, and changed the game.  Want to be successful?  Get some homies to help you achieve your vision.

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I watched the Beastie Boys on stage at Lollapalooza when I was in college.  I could not believe the way they moved the crowd.  I had never experienced thousands of people rapping in unison along with the artists on stage.  I had never heard bass that loud.  I remember what I was wearing, I remember what I drank, I remember the vibrations in the ground, I remember the friends who took that crazy journey with me.  And I will always, always remember how I felt.  Shout out to the Beasties for that feeling.  Shout out for the lifelong memories.  Shout out to MCA for the reminder to achieve something great.

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Handling Criticism (the Booger Effect)

2 03 2012

Back in my single days I once told a girl I was dating that her perfume smelled terrible.  She couldn’t believe I would say something so rude.  I couldn’t believe she didn’t appreciate that I was trying to help (I mean seriously, this perfume was rancid).  Instead of being mad at me for my honesty, she should have been mad at everyone else that let her walk around smelling like that.

I was reminded of this situation while I was watching American Idol (go ahead and make fun of me).  One of the most compelling elements of the show is the moment of utter shock and disbelief when a contested is kicked-off for lack of talent.  Their friends, mom, and co-workers all told them they were great, super, awesome, wonderful, etc. – because they didn’t have the guts to present the cold truth.  If they had been honest, then maybe the contestant would have practiced harder, gotten a coach, or focused on another talent.  But no, they let them walk around with a proverbial booger on their face for the whole world to see.

In business, this happens all the time.  We are so inclined to say “good job” because it feels nice for everyone involved.  But the truth is that we don’t always do a good job, we don’t evolve, we don’t make smart decisions – because we are convinced that we have it all figured out.  And that unmentioned booger on our faces keeps us in mediocrity, unable to reach full potential.

I have a good friend and associate that recently told me: “If I say it’s white, you’ll say it’s black – I think you do that just to mess with me.”  Untrue.  I do it because as salespeople, we are so good at convincing that we can convince ourselves that everything is fine, that we are on the right course, that we are taking smart actions – even if we’re not.  It is critical that we open ourselves to criticism and counter-intuitive thought if we want to grow.

Numerous times throughout my career I have been informed of a booger on my face by people that I respected, and I often reacted with anger or frustration.  In looking back I realize that those people, and their willingness to tell me the unpopular truth, have had a significant impact on my life.  It may have taken a day or a month or several years for me to accept the message and do something about it – or maybe I never agreed, so I fought to change their perception.  Either way I benefited from their courage to tell me something I didn’t want to hear.

I know it feels better to hear “good job” and I know we love the people that give us a positive perspective of ourselves, but if you really want to grow, then you must give serious credibility to the people that are willing to criticize.  You should thank them for not allowing you to walk around with a booger on your face.  If you believe their criticism is misguided, then let that be a motivator and work hard to prove them wrong.





The Apocalypse is Real (for some)

13 01 2012

I have to admit I am a little intrigued by the whole “2012-Mayan-calendar-end-of-the-world” thing.  Not that I think it will actually happen, but I do love bold predictions.  I would agree that life as we know it (or used to know it) is ending.  Along with changes in human behavior come the end of things we once considered crucial to our existence.  Here are some things you have become used to that will soon see their own apocalypse:

Cash.  Forget about the Benjamin’s – cash is dead.  Why?  If you lose your wallet you lose your cash; making change is slow; you’re a target for mugging; you frequently need to find an ATM.   Debit cards eliminate those inconveniences.  Aside from garage sales, stadium parking and babysitters – you can use cards anywhere.  Devices such as the “Square” card reader will make it easy for anyone to accept cards for payment.  Eventually a “card-swipe” slot will be built into your phone.

Remote Controls and Keyboards.  There is a significant increase in devices that provide some level of voice-controlled interaction.  Apple’s “Siri” is the latest push in that direction.  You no longer need to type on your smartphone with “talk to text.”  Why not your TV?  I can hear it now – “TV, please play season 2 of The Jefferson’s.”  Oh yeah, movin’ on up!

Driving.  Google received the first set of patents for the first self-driving car earlier this year.  Why Google?  Because they used self-driving cars when building Google maps.  Cars already parallel park themselves, and isn’t that really the hardest part of driving?  The government can ban cell phone use while driving, but it’s never going to stop.  With a self-driving car you can strap in, log on, and relax.  You will be delivered safe and sound to your destination without ever needing to look up from your screen.

DVD’s.  Subscription based entertainment services like Netflix and Hulu are leading the assault on the shiny discs we were so enamored with just a decade ago.  Physical disc rental seems silly when I can just click a button (or talk to) my TV and watch anything I want.  The only thing stopping internet-connected movie services from completely killing DVD’s is that the movie studios haven’t figured out how to get a big enough piece of the pie to release their entire collections to online availability.  That will change too when each studio offers their movies for rental on their own “channels.”

Wires.  WiFi is the unseen King of the digital age.  We connect to our devices and to each other without plugging in.  Soon our devices will follow our lead and connect to each other without wires, and without requiring any set up.  They will still need a power source (for now) – but your TV, computer, stereo, phone, speakers will talk to each other through the air.  Jambox wireless speakers are a great example.

Flat tires.  Bridgestone and Michelin are both releasing tube-free, air-free tires.  Once something like that hits the market, competitors will certainly imitate and attempt to improve the design.  Not good for gas stations charging to pump your tires, but great for motorists who can avoid dangerous and tedious situations on the road.

Battery Chargers.  My watch never needs a battery because it winds as I swing my arm.  Can someone please figure out how to do the same thing for my phone?  Thanks.

What is the driving force for these changes?  Is Necessity still the mother of invention?  Maybe – but Convenience, Efficiency, and Low-Cost are certainly the father, brother, and sister.  As business continues to evolve in this new world it is important to ask yourself, “does my business approach provide convenience, efficiency, and savings?”  If not, you might soon be as obsolete as a stone-carved calendar.





Business Lessons from the Cub Scouts

28 10 2011

When we decided to sign up for Cub Scouts, I thought it would be a great way for my son to make some friends, learn cool things, go camping, and maybe even get a pocket knife – sweet!  What I didn’t expect was a business lesson.

The Cub Scouts raise money for activities and uniforms by selling popcorn and coffee.  Their sales team of little tykes does the heavy lifting.  As my son and I prepared for popcorn duty, I noticed his reluctance.  Sell popcorn?  On a Saturday morning???  “Dad, can’t we go fishing?” he asked, hoping to convince me to change my mind.  I laughed as he tried to make his first sale of the day.  0 for 1.

We picked up our supplies from the Pack leader’s house – a table, a money box, a sign, and of course, a ton of popcorn.  We set up as instructed in front of the Cups & Cones ice cream shop on a hot summer day.  Not liking our odds, I gave him some instructions and we got started.  I watched his little mind slowly understand the process, and I could not help but notice the simple business lessons he was learning – lessons that could be applied to any business.

  • Be nice.  He didn’t open with a sales pitch – he opened the door for people and said “Good morning.”  Only after they exited did he approach them – already having started the relationship by contributing something positive.
  • Ask the right questions.  He asked “Would you like to support the Cub Scouts?” not “Would you like to buy some popcorn?”  A sale is made when an emotional connection is created.  Don’t sell features – ask questions that mean something.
  • Play the percentages.  No matter how cute you look in your little uniform, people are still going to say no.  He didn’t just approach the people that appeared interested, he talked to everyone.  If you want to be successful, multiply your efforts and broaden your audience.
  • Be transparent.  When he opened the door for people they recognized that he was warming them up – afterall, he was standing in front of a table full of popcorn and a sign with prices.  One lady asked if that’s why he opened the door for her.  He said yes.  On her way out, she bought a $16 bag, the biggest we had.  You can’t gain trust if you try to hide your intentions.
  • Motivate.  He sold $100 worth of popcorn that day.  I told him how proud I was, and the Pack mother said he did a great job.  He was excited to do it again.  If people are working hard to help you achieve your goals, then show your appreciation, offer incentives, and give praise for a job well done.
  • People, Products & Process.  He had success by being personable, selling a quality product, and following a simple, effective process.  You might have good people and good products but no process that drives results.  Or you might have good products and a good process but the wrong people.  You must have all three to be successful.

Thank you Cub Scouts for showing us such valuable lessons.

Now, when do we get that pocketknife?





The Worst Advice Ever

26 09 2011

I recently received an email from a good friend who wanted to discuss a sales concept that he read about.  The concept is that in order to generate client interest, you should call a prospect 10 times.  Before I give my opinion, I am going to pause for a deep breath so I don’t get heart palpitations from such a ridiculous and misguided approach to sales.

Okay.  Now, why do I hate this concept?  It is a band-aid on perpetually bleeding wound.  A proper approach to sales takes time and effort – and that effort should be spent on creating a system that gives you the best chance for success, not in pounding your head against a wall 10 times.  I am not saying that people should not be persistent – I am saying that the concept of calling a potential client 10 times is not realistic and not scalable.  Instead of making those 10 calls, consider these reasons your current approach is not successful:

  1. You have not defined your target audience.  I do enjoy the phrase “She could sell ice to an Eskimo,” as an explanation of sales prowess, but it is actually pretty stupid.  Do some research and find people that need ice.
  2. You don’t have a relationship.  We like to do business with people we trust, and it is hard to gain that trust when your approach is obviously some concocted sales pitch you learned at a seminar.  Building relationships takes time and it requires a genuine understanding of the people involved in the business.
  3. You have no clout.  If you are someone the client knows or respects, they will take your call.  If Mark Zuckerberg, Jay Z, or Tom Brady called you just one time you would take the call.  You don’t have to be world-famous to have clout – find a way to gain prominence in your industry.
  4. Your products and services don’t have real value.  Maybe you feel like you have to make 10 calls because the company you work for is not offering anything worth paying attention to.  Maybe you should contribute your knowledge to help improve the offering.
  5. You have not properly defined your value.  If your products or services do have real value, then it should not require 10 calls to demonstrate that value to a potential client.  Create a clear, concise way to describe the benefits of doing business with your company.
  6. You don’t ask good questions.  How can you claim to know what my business needs when you haven’t asked me any questions?  You’re too busy telling me about your company, products, and services.  Find out about your client’s specific need and then relate your services to that.
  7. You are not creating demand.  Any sales person will tell you that it’s much easier to answer the phone than it is to dial it.  Stop using social media as a way to keep tabs on your old boyfriend and start branding yourself.
  8. You are not focused on improving your approach.  Anyone that tells you “cold-calling is dead” is going to try to sell you their book – run away!  Cold-calling is fine IF you pay attention to what you’re doing, track your efforts, and make necessary adjustments to improve.
  9. You are calling the wrong person.  Find out who makes the decisions and stop bothering the receptionist.
  10. You are annoying.  Dude, if I told you “no” once, I am going to tell you “no” 9 more times, and I’m going to be more angry about it each time.  You would be better off calling 10 people once rather than calling one person 10 times.

Success in sales takes strategy, effort, and business acumen – not salesmanship.  If you don’t have the skill or patience, or if you work for a company that provides no real value, then by all means, call someone 10 times – just don’t call me!





Dealing with Disaster

9 09 2011

Gusting winds, dry plants, high temperatures – perfect condition for a wildfire, just add a spark.  First a single shrub, then a stack of brittle timber, then a field, then an acre, then a hillside, a forest, homes, lives – wildfires spread fast and devastate completely.

I cannot imagine the anguish felt by the people who lost everything.  I suspect the pain is intensified by the helpless inability to stop the disaster.  We spend our lives trying to be happy, trying to keep things “good,” and sometimes there are circumstances beyond our control that force us on a different path.  When tragedy strikes, it doesn’t care that you’re not ready.

I managed to remain unharmed by the blaze – nervous, unsettled, and inconvenienced – but unharmed.  I came this close to my personal catastrophe before being saved by a brave soul who fought for me when I could not.  That helpless feeling hung around my neck like a boulder throughout the ordeal.  Over and over in my mind, “What can I do?  What can I do?”  The more I considered the question, the more I gained clarity on the only thing I could do – learn.  What could I learn from this experience to apply to my life moving forward?  In order to be more prepared in the future, here is my plan:

Reduce stress

  • Know when to let go of your pride and ask for help.  Regular life is hard enough to deal with on your own – turbulent times are even tougher.  Forming a team is not a sign of individual weakness.
  • Get things done.  It really helps to ease your mind in tense situations if you don’t mentally compound the problem thinking of unfinished projects, unrealized dreams, and unspoken words.
  • Be prepared for emergencies.  Have a backup plan, learn CPR, search for local resources, know what things are important and worth saving, and communicate in advance with anyone that can help.

Feel better

  • Help somebody.  In any tragedy, you may struggle with your inability to help yourself, but you can redirect that desire and benefit someone else.
  • Proper communication and information are critical.  Even if you can’t do anything, you will feel better if you are informed.  News sources, websites, books, phone calls, groups, therapy are all available resources to help you understand the problem and find ways to deal with it.
  • Look for positives .  Tragic conditions can make it difficult to be optimistic, and sometimes it might be years or decades before you gain any positive perspective from the situation, but if you look hard and force the issue, you will find a way to unveil something useful in your life.

I would like to say thank you to all the firemen of this country – we are so much safer because of your selfless acts of heroism.  I wish you safety, strength, and comfort knowing your brave actions do not go unnoticed or unappreciated.  We are in your debt.

Austin fire department t-shirt

Got my back.





Summer Sun, Spending, and Service

26 08 2011

As the summer winds to a close, I look back on the season as an experience in entertainment, heavily wrapped in commerce and customer service.  We all spend money in the summer.  Trips, bicycles, cold beer, pool equipment, ice cream, and BBQ’s – the summer is about purchasing.  With each transaction there is an opportunity for vendors to turn seasonal customers into return visitors or year-round clients.  This relies heavily on customer experience and overall satisfaction.

Personally, I had one particular customer experience that is worth sharing.  This summer our family rented a boat with our friends from out of town.  We took the kids out on the lake for a day of boating, fishing, and swimming to cool the hot summer day.  We rented a shade-covered pontoon boat from Just for Fun Watercraft Rental in Austin, Texas.  We loaded up our gear and headed out onto the lake.  Docking in a private cove we did cannonballs off the side and caught fish after fish after fish.  It was awesome!  When we tried to start the boat to explore a different part of the lake, we had some mechanical difficulties.

“Why aren’t we moving?” asked the impatient kids, adding frustration to the problem.  After some creative engineering with tools from the fishing box, we were able to start the boat and continue the journey.  A few hours later, it happened again.  We still had a nice time and were able to return the boat after a fun day in the sun and on the water.  Regardless, I was a bit miffed at the stress caused by the equipment flaw, and I was not looking forward to the conversation I would inevitably have when I returned the boat.

The deckhand met us at the dock and asked if we had a good time.  “Yes and no,” I responded, not wanting to be a complainer, but feeling like I had a case for some compensation.  After explaining our trouble, he did the right thing immediately:  “Let me get the manager.”

I hopped off the boat and walked toward the office.  The deckhand was relaying the story to the manager.  As I approached, he walked toward me with a concerned look on his face and an extended hand.

“Mr. White – I hear you had a problem with your boat.”

“Yes, I did.”

“I’m really sorry about that.  We do our best to maintain our equipment, but sometimes things happen.”

“I understand,” I replied, waiting to see how he would resolve the issue.

“I would like to offer you some free time on your next rental.  We would love to have you back, and we want to make it up to you.”

Perfect.  As a guy that has managed sales people and spent much of his life serving customers, I truly appreciated his approach.  In order to give him proper credit for this story, his name is Ted Burger, and here is what he did right when solving the problem:

  • Lead with a relationship approach.  Ted did not try to hold firm in policy or blame me for the problem – he met me with hand outstretched, wanting to be friends first, business associates second.  Instantly, I softened my demeanor and was willing to listen.
  • Provide a quick solution.  I was not required to negotiate with Mr. Burger.  He initiated a resolution and did not force me into the uncomfortable position of fighting for my rights.
  • Generate future business.  Yes, I may have preferred a rebate on my rental.  But ultimately, even though there were mechanical issues, we did have a really good time on the lake – and certainly would love to go again.  Ted gave me a discount on my next rental, and we will definitely return to redeem it – and pay for additional time on the boat.  Ted encouraged future business for his company and transformed me from customer to client.

Three simple steps to good customer service that created an experience worth talking about.  Thank you Ted Burger and Just for Fun.  You accepted accountability, sympathized with our problem, and treated us with respect – we will definitely be back!





What We Can Learn from Sharks

29 07 2011

If the President, the Pope, the Dali Lama, and the Queen came to my house the first week of August, they would be offered a cold beverage, light snack, and a seat in front of the TV – as would any guest.  It’s time for Shark Week!!  7 glorious days of sharks, shark facts, shark species, shark ancestry, shark fighting, shark mating, shark migrating, shark jumping – and it’s all fascinating!  During Shark Week, everyone can learn something new.

Presented by the Discovery Channel, Shark Week fills and expands our brains with information and a new understanding for the beauty and intricacy of our natural world – yet I can’t help but think of the reaction you see in so many adults when a new concept is presented to them.  I’m always a bit shocked when I see a “grown-up” blatantly reject new information (admittedly, I have been guilty as well).

Do we grow to believe we know everything?  Are we offended by the implication that something exists that we don’t know?  The world around us is changing rapidly.  If we continue to reject new concepts and dismiss the developments that are shaping the future, then we risk becoming irrelevant or extinct.

My 6-year-old son is not only delighted by the information he soaks in during Shark Week, he is more than happy to share what he has learned at any time.  To break a silent moment, or in the middle of a completely different conversation, he might say:

  • “Hey dad, did you know that sharks can weigh as much as two tons?”
  • “Guess what – some shark fossils are 16 million years old.”
  • “Great Whites can jump out of the water to capture prey.”
  • “Bull Sharks can live in freshwater.” (He saves that for when we’re at the lake.)

You don’t have to be a kid to learn new things, but you must to be open to the possibility that you can learn.  Sharks are amazing creatures, examples of evolution at its finest.  Physically adapted over millions of years, sharks have survived and avoided extinction because they have evolved.  We must follow that example.

In honor of Shark Week, my son and I made this video about Great White Sharks.  Neither of us knew how to do this a year ago, but we believed we could learn.  Enjoy!





Dream Big – Quit Sleep

10 06 2011

“You can say what you want about me but I’ve made the most of my time.” Vokab Kompany

Wild dreams.  Impractical hopes.  Unreachable desires.  Impossible ambitions.  Crazy ideas.  You’ve had them.  I have too.  That idea that you just had to tell somebody about but never got the reaction you envisioned, the “can’t lose” business proposal, the vision of your life that you would love to see.  Are you making it happen?  Is it just too crazy?  Too risky?  Too unbelievable?

“I’m going to be a rapper,” he said to me during our weekly one-on-one sales meeting.

I asked the obvious question:  “You’re what??”

“I’m going to rap – I’m going to make music,” Robbie pronounced with conviction.

“Okay man.  Good luck with that.  Now go make some phone calls.”

As much as I appreciated his enthusiasm, I needed Robbie selling, not rhyming.  And he did.  He came to the office, made his sales, and generated revenue.  He put in time each day, and then he went to his second job.  In the studio – writing, collaborating, practicing – doing the work and producing.  He focused on the dream and put some sweat into it, not waiting for luck and circumstance.

When I was 6 years old I was convinced that I was going to be a professional baseball player.  At about 16, I liked my chances in life better with a job and a car than I did trying to be a professional athlete.  And *poof* – the end of a dream.  So when Robbie came into my office and declared his improbable desire for music stardom, I was surprised, confused, doubtful, amused – and positively rooting for him.

Flash forward to today.  Robbie Gallo and Vokab Kompany have released two money-making albums.  Garnering publicity and attention via their loyal fan-base and a growing support within the music community, Vokab Kompany have branded their unique, dance party, hard-rocking, slick rhyming, soul-singing, good times musical show.  They pack houses, they rip stages.

The dream started small – very small.  Robbie invited me to his first “show.”  Robbie stood on stage with a boom box behind him and spit rhymes to a curious and entertained crowd.  It was a gutsy maneuver, and a respectable effort for the first-timer.  But Robbie knew that his dream had to grow, so he formed a partnership with local roots-funk band “Native Root.”  The collaboration consists of singer Matt Burke’s highly stylized smoothed-out vocals, Robbie’s lyrical flow, and a full band with drummer Alvaro Nunez, bassist Aaron Cheatham, horn-player Jesse Molloy, Geoff Nigl on the keys, Karen Mills singing backup vocals, and Spencer Sharpe ripping the electric violin.  They are a full-boat of talented musicians, creators, artists, and entrepreneurs.

If you’re keeping score at home, the dream-seeker list goes like this:

  • Have idea you’re passionate about – check
  • Do the work, even if it means long hours and loss of sleep – check
  • Take risks and make yourself uncomfortable – check
  • Find partners to help you grow your vision – check

The Business

Watching over the past few years as Robbie built a musical platform as an artist and entertainer, I noticed the parallels between the production, distribution, and marketing of music and the same principles of any business.  A good idea is not enough – not even close.  Your idea is as good as your ability to deliver a finished product to your audience.  Music is an unpredictable and quirky business, and a tough way to earn a living.  Getting started, the band maintains their day jobs, upholds family commitments, and manages a steady load of travel – and the business becomes that much tougher.  But they push on through, hoping for stardom.  Robbie shared the Vokab Kompany approach with me, and these tips work for any business.

1.  Idea creation

“Creative thought can pop out at any time – the trick is to capture it.  Always good to have a pen and pad close to you.  A lot of people get a creative idea when they’re a few minutes from falling asleep.  You wanna make sure you have something close to you to write with or you may miss a good concept.”

2.  Marketing materials

“Whether that’s a shirt, sticker, or some other promo piece, you gotta get people to rock it – and you gotta give it out for free, but make sure you give it to the right people.  The ones that are in “the scene” or go out a lot, or know cool things to do.  Other people will ask questions and then you have your successful marketing piece.  You also gotta be just as creative with your merch as you do your music. It’s a huge part of your branding and you want people to wear it or use it and be proud to.”

3.  Finding partners

“We search and we follow up on every lead.  As we begin to grow our brand the labels, mangers and agents start to take notice.  They’re looking for good material too, and one of the main things I’ve noticed is they’re looking for artists that work really hard.”

4.  Work your talent

“The format has changed, it’s not just about talent and you get signed.  You gotta have a lot to offer – a good record, a great live show, and a hard work ethic.  Keep building these and I believe it’s only a matter of time.”

5.  Drive adoption

“You need to give people a little time to become familiar with the album.  Most importantly is not to ‘rush’ the product or you may miss something that could’ve made that song better.”

And the crowd bobs their heads.  Feet stomp, arms raise.  Mic on blast, energy blaze.  Earth shakes, bass pumps.  Passion builds, people jump.  Bright lights, electric sights, the flow, the rhyming, the quick steps on time and, the sound hits, the curtain lifts, the band stands, the beat drifts, take the stage, lay your claim, the fans rage, they chant your name!  Dreamlike, unbelievable – and the hard work pays off.

I have watched Robbie and Vokab as they plotted this course, did the work, made it happen.  I have heard the sounds of their team, each bringing their unique style to the art they create.  Sacrifices have been made in hopes of success.  Rest has been replaced with raging desire.  The path to glory is in the willingness to completely commit – the willingness to Quit Sleep.

More Vokab videos:  http://www.youtube.com/user/TheVokabKompany

Vokab Kompany on iTunes:  http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/vokab-kompany/id331619910

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Will You Be Obsolete?

8 04 2011

Toothless and Taking Over

At my house we love Spongebob Squarepants and we usually watch it through Roku, commercial-free.  For some reason last Saturday we were watching it on a regular TV broadcast when a commercial came on and interrupted the show.  My daughter looked up from her doll and said “What’s that?”

“What’s what?” I replied.

“That,” pointing to the TV.

“The commercial?” I asked, wondering if I knew what she was talking about.

“What’s a commercial?” she asked.

It struck me that a kid today doesn’t recognize what commercial is, even though she watches TV.  We have unlimited access to a surplus of entertainment choices, yet only see commercials if we are ignoring our technological advantages.  What does this mean for advertisers and entertainment companies?  How will this affect revenue streams as technology continues to advance at a rapid pace?

Later that day at the park, three little kids were swinging on the swings next to us.  A kid no older than 8 took out his iPhone and filmed a video of his friends on the swings.  He pressed a few buttons and then announced that he uploaded the video to his YouTube channel and posted the link on his Facebook page.  The whole process couldn’t have taken him more than two minutes.  I was blown away.  His actions were natural and almost automatic for him, easier than remembering to say “please” and “thank you.”  Does he realize that his personal life is accessible to billions of people?  Does he even know what a “billion” is?  Do we really understand how “social networking” affects our reputations and relationships?  How will all of this progress 5, 10, 20 years from now?

That night at bedtime, my son was practicing reading one of his favorite books.  His little fingers struggled to turn the page.  As we waited patiently for him to find a proper grip, he broke the silence by saying “Loading..,” equating the experience to a slow webpage.  This guy is not yet 6 years old, he is missing several teeth, and he is more comfortable on a computer than a lot of adults I know.  What will it mean when his generation enters the workplace?  What current jobs will be totally obsolete?  Will he study things in college that are outdated the day he graduates?

All of these circumstances are glimpses into the future, and commentary on the present.  The rate of advancement in technology, business, and healthcare in the last 20 years has been significant. Building on that foundation, the next 20 years will see more extreme change than this planet has ever known.  Change is not coming, it is here.  Keep up or be irrelevant.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” Charles Darwin





Believe or Be Lost

25 03 2011

I believe.  Every day I confirm that simple truth.  I believe that I control my own destiny.  I believe that I can be a better person.  I believe that good things happen when you open yourself to the possibility.  I believe that I don’t know everything – I believe that I can learn faster when I acknowledge this.  I believe that people are naturally good, although often misguided and confused.  I believe that people deserve a second chance.  I believe that you can show me how to live a better life.  I believe that smiling is so important.  I believe that positive energy is contagious.  I believe that teaching is the best way to learn.  I believe that we are all related to each other – I believe that some day we will accept this.  I believe that most people would be happier if they took some risks. I believe that all businesses are basically the same.  I believe that real entrepreneurs understand that partnership does not weaken their position or threaten their value.  I believe that mindset is everything.  I believe that “kids these days” are not any worse than we were – we just choose to remember the good stuff.  I believe that we often take each other for granted, and I believe we can change that if we learn to listen.

I believe that working hard will make you feel better about yourself than anything else you can do.  I believe that you can work harder than you are right now – I can too.  I believe that being trustworthy is the best thing you can offer your boss – in any job.  I believe my kids will accomplish things I never thought possible.  I believe that I am supposed to have a positive impact on people.  I believe that music is therapy, joy, and inspiration.  I believe some people think I’m slacking-off because I am always having fun – I believe they don’t know me very well.  I believe that celebrating is critical when you have success.  I believe that politics and government are not the same thing.  I believe that the words “cool” and “amazing” are misused.  I believe we are all our own worst enemy.  I believe that forgiveness is the highest form of nobility.

I believe that stereotypes are tools of the weak-minded.  I believe that transparency will earn you respect.  I believe that I will be successful if I focus and am relentless in my pursuit.  I believe that believing is step one, and that if you don’t believe in yourself no one else will.  I believe that confidence is misunderstood and that we are entirely too willing to allow ourselves to be meek.  I believe that we are all lucky to be here – that life is as great as it is tragic.  I believe that there is a negative and positive way to look at everything, and that your happiness relies on your perspective.  I believe that critics should spend more time creating.  I believe that paying someone a compliment can change their life.  I believe that “believers” do great things.  I believe that life is tough, and that it’s even tougher if you don’t believe in something.





What’s Next: The Greatest Thing Ever

18 03 2011

Walking the streets of Austin during South by Southwest (SXSW), I am startled by the difference since I first attended (and rocked) this event 12 years ago.  What with the tweets, and blogs, and webinars, oh my!  But even “Back in my day” this Interactive/Film/Music festival was alive with talk of the latest and greatest.   The video industry was changing at the widespread adoption of DVD’s:  “You mean I can just skip from scene-to-scene with the click of a button??”  There were no iPods back then, so bands were pushing CD’s.  Websites were trying to build and engage online community participation, but there was no Facebook or Twitter to help implement the strategy.  Speaking of communication, I remember waiting in line at the payphone my first SXSW.  What’s a payphone?  For that matter, what’s a cell phone?  They have been replaced by “mobile devices” capable of so much more than making calls – capable of changing the way we live.

So as we say goodbye to CD’s, DVD’s, phones and all the other antiqued technology of our recent past, I just want to say to everyone, especially to those in the younger generation – don’t get too attached to this next best thing – whatever it is.  Today’s latest innovation is tomorrow’s punchline.  Change happens fast in our relentless pursuit of “The Greatest Thing Ever.”

What truly is “The Greatest Thing Ever” is our ability to adapt, to let go of the things we value, and be open to the possibilities that something better will come along – because it always does.  Don’t fight it!   This generation – these kids filling the streets of Austin – they will be required to constantly adapt in a rapidly-advancing world, with a life of perpetual learning.  You can fight the change.  I see that mentality all the time from my senior peers – people that are hoping to retire or pass away before they ever have to learn anything new.  In today’s generation, those that are unwilling to embrace change will face a life of extreme disadvantage compared to the enabled believers.

From a marketing perspective, there certainly are changes to the way companies are spreading their message:

  • Companies paying to rename a bar for the week
  • People being sponsored to wear t-shirts and blast a message to the world
  • Conducting surveys with potential clients
  • Offering special deals through mobile devices
  • Encouraging fun interaction with company mascots/brand icons

I can’t wait to see how these methods will continue to evolve and impact the way companies interact with clients.  It’s a strange new world people – soak it in, but don’t get too attached.





Open Letter to Gov. Jerry Brown

28 02 2011

Dear Governor Brown,

Last week, in an attempt to ease California’s budget deficit, you ordered state agencies to stop using promotional products to as a means to market their programs and services.  I was born in California and lived there for 25 years – I certainly understand the mess the state is in.  What I don’t understand is why you chose to ban one form of marketing but not others.  I don’t understand why you specifically went after promotional products:

“Not a cent of taxpayer money should be spent on flashlights, ashtrays or other unnecessary items, most of which likely end up in landfills.”

Pardon my tone, but are you really qualified to determine what kind of marketing is effective?  Speaking of things ending up in landfills, did you know that 99% of all direct mail is thrown away?  Why didn’t you ban direct mail?  I know why – because that mail is delivered by government employees.  Why didn’t you ban TV ads?  Well, we all know that it’s not smart for politicians to upset folks in entertainment.  And why not get rid of billboard advertising?  Oh that’s right, billboard company CBS Outdoor donates money to your art school charity – not to public schools, but to your hand-chosen art schools – so you better not upset the billboard guys.

And what about the products you are banning?  The “plastic gewgaws” as you call them.  Things like buttons, mugs, bags, bumper stickers, and t-shirts.

If using logoed merchandise is not a good way to promote your message, then why did you use so much of it in your election campaign?  You remember the election, the one where you and Meg Whitman fought tooth and nail to see who could spend the most money?

Governor Brown, I have no problem with you cutting spending – it must be done.  But why are you picking on promotional products instead of all forms of marketing?  Clearly you believe this is an effective form of marketing or you would not have used it.  If you want to cut marketing spending then cut it all – TV, radio, mail, billboards – ban all of it, or LEGALIZE PROMO!!!

I welcome your comment.

Follow updates on Facebook:  Legalize Promo





Do It With Love

11 02 2011

There is a picture hanging on my  wall that I see every day, and every day it brings me a smooth mix of joy, sadness, and inspiration.  Few things get to me in this way.  So what is it about the man and this particular picture that stir such an emotional response?

It is strange to me that people don’t seem to know Sam Cooke.  We recently passed what would have been his 80th birthday.  They called him the “King of Soul.”  A pioneer, he brought soul music from church gospels to radio stations and concert halls.  He was cool of Elvis-proportions.  He defined the love song.  His music ranged from easy and free to haunting in passion and sorrow.  He endured segregation.  He stood up for his brothers and sisters.  His life was filled with accolades, fame, and wealth – but matched with sorrow, hardship, and tragedy.  His death was sudden, scandalous, and puzzling.

I can’t write the whole story here.  I highly recommend the book Dream Boogie by Peter Guralnik, especially if you are into music, American history, business, or mystery.

Personally, I am inspired by the man, and specifically this picture.  Posture relaxed, arms crossed, completely at ease and comfortable in his ability – yet, neck-strained, he gives it all he has, pouring his soul,  effort, and passion into his craft.  Sam was known as a perfectionist, obsessed with results – and it shows in his work.  He was also known for matching that effort with a fun-loving spirit, understanding that even in work there can be passion, optimism, and joy.

I look at this picture every day, and it always reminds me to work hard, have fun, and put some love into it!

________________________________________________________________________________________

“Bring It On Home To Me” is my favorite song.  Sam is teamed up with his good friend Lou Rawls.  You can hear the effort – and the passion builds as a new instrument joins each verse.  Turn it up!

And last but not least, can someone please make a movie about Sam’s life???  The Ray Charles and Johnny Cash movies were great – but neither of them have a story like Sam.  Universe, please give me a Sam Cooke movie.  Thank you.

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Sales and The Olde Sea Dog

27 01 2011

Before he had kids, my Dad was a pirate.  Not a bad pirate, no plundering or pillaging, but a pirate nonetheless.  He would sail the high seas for months at a time, he would battle gangs of evil seafaring scoundrels.  He boarded wooden ships under the cover of darkness.  He struck swords with treacherous criminals and angry villains.

My Dad fought tirelessly against the scallywags of the sea, but he never, ever won.  No, he was always captured, beaten, and forced to walk the plank!  Somehow he managed to escape and return home to my Mom.  Then every few months he had to go back to the ocean and continue the fight, for he never quite conquered his foes, he never completely bested his enemies – those scurvy dogs!

And so went the narratives every night after dinner.  My brothers and I finished our meals quickly so we could hear my Dad tell his tall tales.  We hung on his every word.  We listened intently as the old man would weave a web of fiction so thick you could touch it.  I don’t think I even realized the pirate chronicles weren’t true until I was about 10 years old.  And then it dawned on me – if the stories were made up, why not be the hero?  Why did he always lose in the end?  I mean really, it’s a fictional story you are telling to your kids – why not set yourself up as the swashbuckling version of Rambo and win night after night?

My Dad is a true Sales Professional, and not in the caricatured opinion of the buying public.  Dale White is not pushy and he is not slick.  He is a man that understands the value of hard work, honesty, integrity, and relationships.  He wakes up at the crack of dawn, straps on his tie, hits the pavement, and does it with consistency.  With that approach he has already differentiated himself from most of the so-called sales professionals.  Aside from all that, my Dad does the one thing that even the best sales people are often unable or unwilling to do – he leaves his ego at the door.

I know thousands of sales people, and I have heard all the excuses:

“Cold-calling is dead” they say,

“I need to do extensive research before I can act,” they procrastinate,

“My network will support me,” they fool themselves.

I have been guilty of it myself.  Not Dale White.  He is not too good to knock on strange doors.  He is not above calling someone he’s never spoken to.  When his father was in poor health, my Dad took a sales job that was far beneath his talent and experience level just so he could relocate to the small town where my Grandpa lived.  Did his ego prevent him from strapping it on every morning in that situation?  Absolutely not!

It is the same reason he never needed to proclaim victory in the pirate stories.  The goal was to entertain his sons, not to make himself out to be the hero – and we were certainly entertained.  The result is the only thing that matters.  Sales is not glamorous, it is not easy, and it is not about the sales person.  If you are not willing to storm the ship and get battered about by the power of the waves, then Sales is probably not for you.  But if this is the profession you choose, then follow the example of my humble father – don’t let your ego get in the way of your success.





Tips for Trade Show Exhibitors

17 01 2011

For over a decade I was an exhibitor at hundreds of trade shows.  The amount of details that led to the success or failure of an exhibitor’s trade show experience is staggering:

“Do we have enough samples?”
“Did we pack extra lightbulbs?”
“Where’s the extension cord?”
“Who ordered the badge scanner?”
“What happened to the tool-kit?”

If you have ever exhibited at a trade show then you panic a little at each of these questions – or at least you can tell a story of your own personal trade show fiasco.  There are so many little things that can go wrong.

Now that I am someone walking the aisles talking to exhibitors instead of being one, I wish I knew years ago all the things that I have learned since my perspective changed.  So, as the trade show season has kicked-off in all industries, here are my Top 10 Tips for Being a Successful Exhibitor:

1.  Set appointments. It is very easy for attendees to become distracted and completely miss large stretches of exhibits.  If there are clients that you must see, then set appointments with specific meeting times.

2.  Chill out with the catalogs. Seriously, if the only reason you came to the show was to hand me a catalog, then you should have done a mailing and stayed home.  Trade shows are about forming and expanding relationships.

3.  Stop talking to your coworkers. I appreciate that you like the people you work with, I really do.  But if you are talking to them then you are not talking to your customers.  Unless you plan on selling to your colleagues you should focus on the people in the aisle, not in the booth.

4.  Make noise. There were many booths I walked past without noticing, but it was hard to ignore booths playing music or having some kind of loud demonstration.

5.  Smile. Okay look, I completely understand that you have been standing in the same spot all day saying the same thing.  Get over it.  If you look sad, frustrated, or in any way unpleasant then you make yourself unapproachable.

6.  Have a goal. There is a significant difference between talking to an exhibitor that leads a conversation compared to one that is just making conversation.  Set goals before the show and focus your actions toward meeting them.

7.  Be different. Your competitors go to the same trade shows that you go to.  Take a hard look at your approach to differentiating your value.  Think about what you can do at a show to genuinely set yourself apart from competitors.  Don’t be scared to go against the grain.

8.  Burn the booth. No one notices if your lights break, if the table falls apart, or if the scanner stops working.  They will remember the interaction they have with YOU – they will remember how you make them FEEL – they will not remember if your sign has been duct-taped to the wall.

9.  Hang ‘Em High. Speaking of signs, those signs that hang from the rafters are a little pricey but they are worth every penny for exhibitors.  That is definitely the easiest way for your clients to find you.

10.  Follow-Up. How many exhibitors say they will contact you the week after the show?  How many actually will?  The first week after the show is your big chance to show potential clients that you are serious about moving your business relationship forward – especially if you told someone that you would do so.  After the first week it is awfully hard for your potential clients to remember you or the conversations you had at the show – so act fast!

Exhibitors, I feel your pain.  I know what it’s like to answer silly questions all day long.  I know how difficult it is to live on hot-dog lunches all week.  But you CAN have a good show if you build a strategy and focus your efforts.  Good luck!





Comfort Kills

3 12 2010

As this year winds to a close and we spend time with our loved ones and celebrate the season, I can’t help but think about the year ahead.  Call it a New Year’s resolution, call it a goal, call it a challenge – we are just a few short weeks away from the renewal of our annual cycle.  How will we approach it?  What will we change?  What will we accomplish in the coming year?

Each year represents a new challenge, and for me the challenge next year is huge.  So I do what I always do – I go in search of direction, inspiration, and resources.  This time the inspiration found me.  This week I have stumbled across 3 or 4 different articles about Richard Branson, and the timing could not be better.

Richard Branson founded Virgin Records and became a multi-millionaire.  A lot of people would have been satisfied with the success of their early endeavors.  Not Branson.  Did he get complacent, drink too many margaritas, and absolve himself of productivity?  Absolutely not.  Instead of basking in the warm glow of success, he throws himself on the fire.  He risks it all and starts an airline.  It too is successful.  Does he sit back and smile?  Maybe a little – and then he starts a mobile technology company.  Why stop there?  How about an innovative digital publication?  Still not satisfied??  Virgin Galactic – oh yeah – flights into space.

So why keep going?  What’s the point?  When will this insatiable Branson finally rest?!?!

There is a phrase that says something to the effect that “satisfaction is the death of desire.”  My paraphrased version is “comfort kills.”  The best musicians, artists, and poets are usually somehow tortured.  The best fighters are often the most hungry.  In a world where everyone works for a bigger piece of the pie, you must improve to compete.  You cannot become complacent, lazy, comfortable.  You must find a way to stay hungry.

I’m no Richard Branson – I do not own an airline, so I have a long way to go.  Therefore I am throwing myself on the fire.  The coming year will challenge me greatly.  I will be doubted and questioned – by others and by myself.  Announcements will be made, and I will be criticized as much as I will be applauded.  Discomfort will find me – and I will embrace it.  I will not look back and I will not apologize.  Great things come from chaos.  May we all find a way to make ourselves uncomfortable in the coming year.








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