Friday, December 22, 2006

LNB #031: What Matters Most

"That which matters most must never be at the mercy of that which matters least."
-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

In business as in life, this quote signifies the importance of keeping your eye on the ball -- the real one, not the decoy. Having interviewed people over the past 30 days, here's the golden nuggest of those conversations.

Never confuse what you want in your business with what you'd be willing to settle for. If you want people to respect you and your business, don't settle for respect. Busy isn't a good substitute for effectiveness, either.

Further, be clear that your business exists to fully fund your life and interests -- not just to make money. Be clear what you want the money for, so you make certain that you pay due diligence to those things as well.

Special thanks for 2006:

  • John Weymouth ( and YorkAli Walters ( for insisting I podcast (blame them).
  • YorkAli for opening up the blogosphere for me.
  • Rodney Amos for helping me sort out the the audio issues.
  • Jim Horan, Lynne and Toni ( for a new world of planning execution.
  • Toni Nell ( for her support and friendship.
  • You listeners. Thanks for hanging in with me while I sorted our my podcast "voice."
  • My clients for their courage and commitment.

Listen Now: 19 minutes, 48 seconds

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Year that Was...

  • The planet-formerly-known-as Pluto (now affectionately designated 134340) got demoted from planet to, well, not-planet. So, the mnemonic for our solar system is now M-VEM-J-SUN (sans P). Don't I have enough to remember?

  • I, er we, got named Time Person the Year. Looking at the cheap mirrory-thingy they put on the cover and noting that, by squeezing the mag, I could turn my image into a kind of fun-house, horrible long, skinny me, I thought: "That's about right."
  • Big Brother arrived in all of his terrible glory. He can be seen sporting a cameraphone and its aimed at you, so behave (or at least dress nicely).

  • Ken Lay escaped falling over dead.

  • "Dead Eye" Dick Cheney shot his best friend in the face, casting a permanent pall on networking events forever. The golf outing: now a venue for certain death.
  • Dick Cheney's best friend apologized...for getting shot in the face.

  • President Bush, well, never mind.

  • Trans fats got the boot in NYC and elsewhere.

  • Foreign babies of color were all the rage. Angelina and Madonna sported these kids like new Prada bags. Now, if we can learn that our domestic, melanin-enriched, materially impoverished babes are mighty fine, too...

  • China, afraid, I'm sure that marauding packs of celebutants will soon descend on them looking to adopt, have instituted new policies to prevent adoption by fat, old, poor, stupid insane, single people (I'm not making this up).

  • Pervez Musharraf, President of Pakistan, is a funny guy. Sure made Jon Stewart giggle like a kindergartner. Who knew?

  • Michael Richards, poor baby, learned an important lesson: "Nigger," no matter what Generation Hip Hop says about "keeping it real" (rope, a tree and people shouting "nigger" was about as real as real gets) is never, ever (listen to me everybody), ever OK to say. Don't even think it.

  • The Midterm Elections shifted us due Left as people struggle to figure out if we're finally, really in a four-party system (the Dems, the GOP, the Liberal Party and the Conservative Cluster -- "party" is way to liberal a term for these good people).

  • An front-runner (George Allen) ran off the rails because of an, um, racial (?) slur and YouTube.

  • Jack Abramoff, though he claimed that God sent him 1,000's of hints that he was running afoul of the law, still landed lightly on his feet in the pen...and his friends are sure to follow.

  • After centuries of speculation on his identity, Hugo Chavez has finally determined the name and location of Satan: Bush, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I guess all of those burning viburnums should have been a hint.

  • Black Republicans stepped it up, telling us that our Civil Rights heroes were Republicans....and Black people didn't care.

  • We remain a nation at war: on terror, on drugs, on democracy, on principles, on religion, on the poor, on constitutional rights, on the Geneva convention, on habeus corpus, on environment, on good sense.
  • Saddam Hussein's getting ready to try on a new tie.
  • Pappa's Got a Brand New Bag -- in heaven (God save you if you don't know the reference).

  • and, worst of all, we lost Lou Rawls.

Now, it's your turn. What were your fave (or not so favorite) moments of 2006?

Friday, December 15, 2006

LNB #030: Get the Most of What's Left of '06

On a recent call with consultants from all over North America, we generated a list of things we could do to get the most of this waning year. Here are the highlights of our conversation (with my own offerings added for spice) and my invitation to try some of the things we're doing now to ramp up for 2007.

  1. Take someone new (or weird) out to breakfast or lunch.
  2. Send out information to begin lining up speaking gigs.
  3. Finalize my own One Page Business Plan. Done!
  4. Write out 3 things I won't do again in 2007. Oh, Lord -- just 3 things.
  5. Remember the power of "Thank You."
  6. Pick people to help shamelessly. I like this one.
  7. Finish that one project I've been procrastination on. Mine is a booklet on habits, thinking and business success.
  8. Build on successes from the past.
  9. Schedule two, 1-week vacations for 2007. For me, that means no tech.
  10. Write down three things that would make 2007 better.
  11. Do year-end check-in calls with clients (as Jim Horan of One Page Plan fame says, "leaving the sales hat off.").
  12. Attend holiday parties with a smile and a question.
  13. Call five non-clients I haven't spoken with in 6 months.
  14. Take the last week of 2006 off.

Listen Now: 14 minutes, 23 seconds

Decidedly Creepy.

Democratic Senator from South Dakota, Tim Johnson, suffered a life threatening brain bleed earlier this week, the result of a congenital condition, AVM, arteriovenous malformation. For those of us in the know, this is the malady that killed off Nate Fisher from Six Feet Under as well. Dropped the poor fellow like a stone and sent women (and many men, I'm sure) into a swoon. Oh, sorry, back to Senator Johnson. He fell ill while being interviewed, not being able to speak, and had to be rushed away (AOL offers up the audio of the interview: Symptoms Apparent During Interview).

Like ants on a dead rodent (should have thought that one to myself), the members of the news media raced to tell a panting public what was likely to happen if the good Senator was unable to serve. And while the family "is encouraged and optimistic," the rest of the folks in the political world are trying to figure out how to jockey for position...without looking like they're jockeying for position. Here's the scoop: If Johnson is unable to return to office, there'd be no run-off. His replacement would be named by South Dakota's Republican governor, Mike Rounds. That would create a 50-50 tie and they'd have to dust off Vice President "Dead-Eye Dick" Cheney for tie-breaking, efffectively moving the Senate due Right. On the other side, there's a long-standing tradition in the Senate of not removing ailing members (See US News for more info).

Regardless of partisan politics, I hope Senator Johnson makes a full recovery. I'm sure the GOP wouldn't want to gain back control, well, this way.

Oh, and think of this when you find yourself inwardly cheering the misfortune of a competitor.

(Cross-posted to the American Values Alliance)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Get the Most out of the Rest of 2006: I Ain't Doing THAT Again!

Some of the stuff we did in 2006 really worked. Some of it didn't. Tell the truth about your actions and results for 2006.

Generate a list of things that didn't work. Focus in root causes (the why behind the why). An example may be that you were chronically late to appointments. Why? Because you were afraid to let the phone ring over to voicemail even when you knew picking up the phone would make you late. Consider what it will take for you to either let it ring over or to make sure you can get your phone forwarded to your cellphone and your headset on so that you can answer without hurting your ability to arrive on time.

Here's how I've parsed out my list:

  • Satisfaction: getting these things out of my business and life would increase my satisfaction. Here's one for me: Taking on last-minute speaking engagements. I don't get to to the PR and I'm just there to fill in. Why do I do it? I'm concerned that I might have too few speaking engagements. What will I do to make sure I don't fall into an old trap? I'm going to the Encyclopedia of Associations to find an exhaustive list of organizations, generate a letter to the speaking coordinator and fill up my docket with people who are excited to have me.
  • Ease: Some of the items on my list may be relatively simple to get taken care of -- things that I don't want to suffer over anymore. I took care of this one yesterday: the caller-id tag and the white page listing for my home office looked too personal. I called the phone company yesterday and changed it.

Friday, December 08, 2006

LNB #029: One Page Proposals?

While on my "one page kick" I didn't want to leave out one of my favorites: The One-Page Proposal: How to Get Your Business Pitch onto One Persuasive Page. I found the book several years ago and have used the principles the author espouses religiously in my business with great success. I found that it allows me to give a prospect all of the key information they need to make a decision on my and my services without me having to give away the store in terms of specifics on my process or suggested approach. Several years ago I found myself competing with another consulting company on a project where the prospect asked for increasingly detailed information. Turns out they'd already decided to give the business to the other company...and they gifted that other consultancy with a copy of my proposal.


Here's the lowdown. After reading the book, you'll understand how to write the following sections:

  • Title and Subtitle, defining the entire proposal
  • Target and Secondary Targets, clarifying the goals of the project
  • Rationale, with information about the client's needs and why the project is needed
  • Financials, with info on what money is needed and how it will be spent
  • Status, showing where things stand now
  • Action, listing the next steps and what you need the prospect to do.
While this process isn't workable for all types of proposal opportunities (like the government or grant proposals), it can help introduce you and your thinking to a prospect and have them chomping at the bit for your detailed plan (expanding on the information in your One Page Proposal).

Listen Now: 20 minutes, 57 seconds

Here's another impact of globalization: Height

We know that people want to do business with, hire, promote, marry or otherwise hang with the attractive. Studies have raged through universities asking the question "What is 'good looking' and how do we know?"

This story from the New Zealand Herald showed that doctors in China are beginning to balk in huge numbers from requests to perform height surgery -- breaking the legs of their clients, affixing steel cages around the break point and keeping the gap between the two broken ends opened up while it heals and the bone fills in. This process can add up to 3 inches per can also leave them with horrible deformities or amputated limbs if the surgery goes badly. Patients say that the pain is excruciating (remember that scene from Gattaca?)

Why do they do it? Oddly, job ads have been including height requirements, particularly for candidates seeking customer interaction positions, especially for those working with customers from parts of the world where people are taller.

Seems a little extreme to me. However, African Americans and others have been altering their appearance to gain acceptance for decades. However now we're learning that acceptance is hinged more on their competence rather than countenance. Still rumors of skin bleaching and hair extension procedures on black actresses fill some with sadness. And black businesses can be notorious for refusing to hire someone who may appear "too ethnic."

I remember working as a branch marketing assistant for a large multinational corporation who's initials stand for "I've Been Moved." One of the reps handed me a copy of John T. Molloy's New Dress for Success and told me not to deviate from it. Hated that book.

I wonder what the impact will be long-term on business and professional relationships. Will the short find themselves backwatered into low wage jobs? And what will the country do about an increasing number of disabled and disfigured workers who endured failed surgeries?


Get the Most of of the Rest of 2006: Thank You

There are friends and business associates who have helped me immensely this past year-- people who've given me ideas, information and support. I'm in the process of contacting them and telling them that they've made a significant difference for me. I'm going to meet them with my "sales hat" off (as Jim Horan said in a conversation with other One Page Plan consultants). I'm just going to thank them and ask them how I can help them in 2007.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Get the Most of of the Rest of 2006: Plan

Review and finalize your business plan. Now, you've done the work to create your business plan, perhaps to get funding or to find partners, but now what? Be certain that you include measures and action plans. Otherwise, you've got a set of good ideas that may be difficult to operationalize.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Get the Most out of the Rest of 2006: Available-One Speaker

Organizations are in desperate need of speakers. Trust me. They'd be happy to find nicely dressed, well-spoken business people to come and read the telephone book. You can do so much more. Some tips:

  • Look up organizations you share an interest with. Your local library has a copy of the Encyclopedia of Associations you can refer to (call the research librarian -- he or she is a brilliant, underutilized, college-degreed professional who can find the Moses' mother's maiden name if you asked them to). Generate an exhaustive list and be sure to ask the speaker coordinator if they know of any other groups that regularly have speakers. Get contact information and ask them if they would be willing to drop that person a brief note letting them know you'll be calling.
  • Outline several talk topics the speaker coordinator can choose from.
  • Tell them what kind of PR you'll need. Listen: give them the run-down of everything you need. If they balk at something key for your success, don't play with them. Some coordinators think you shouldn't be allowed to solicit in any way. They're dreaming. Put the phone down gently. You don't want to wake them. Be sure to arrange for someone else to introduce you and give them your bio in advance (making sure its written so that it sounds like it's coming from them). Be sure that the organization sends out lots of advance information about speakers. Request a link to a key page on your website be listed on their site. You may even want to consider preparing a brief bit of "homework" for the participants so they come ready to get the most out of your talk.
  • Set up your apre-talk system: include a link for more information, a sign-up sheet to be added to your news-zine and for additional contact requests.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Get the Most out of the Rest of 2006: Take Someone to Lunch

Take somebody who's a little "out there" to breakfast or lunch. There are lots of innovative people out there that are interesting to talk with and important to know -- you just haven't made time for them yet. Consider this: before he made it big, people would walk right past Bill Gates and Ben and Jerry were two hippies talking about ice cream.

Now, I'm not talking about adopting a stray cat. I'm talking about people who are up to something or in the process of innovation -- people who leap out of bed in the morning because they love what they do or the people they get to work with. Go find them. They bring a certain energy to business dealings that will energize you and you may find an unexpected synergy with them.

Friday, December 01, 2006

LNB #028: Collaborative Business Ventures

OK, you've found an opportunity that's big and juicy and maybe a little bigger than you have the capacity and skills to accomplish. Consider bringing in others to help round out the gaps. However, as you're marshalling the troops, be sure to focus on the things that matter -- particularly before you start creating a business proposal for services.

Joint Ventures
What you need to know about a joint venture (JV) is that it is a business entity (partnership or corporation) that the members or member organizations create. Wikipedia lists these reasons to JV:

  • Internal reasons: spreading cost and risk; maximizing financial and other resources, creating economies of scale, accessing new tech and customers, leveraging innovative managerial and process practices.
  • Competitive goals: gaining the upper hand on the competition, generating velocity in market entry, increasing flexibility.
  • Strategic goals: use of synergies, improved technology and other skills, diversifying and broadening reach.
Collaborative Ventures
Here, several business owners or specialists join forces to gain market advantage. Things to consider, chiefly, are how you'll manage risk and cost -- items that are usually taken care of in a JV arrangement. You'll need to consider how you'll manage budget, communication, contracting among each participant (who'll be the prime contact and contractor and who'll be the subs), fees for each service offered/needed, which services are strategic and which ones are tactical and, of course, you'll need to ensure that everyone has the kinds of insurance and other protections in place.

Ever notice how we're more likely to talk with people about communicable maladies they might have before we swap spit with them and get emotionally entangled than we are to do the kinds of background checks on people we might become financially entangled with? Take the hint: do the background check on each participant. This way you can head off trouble in advance. Anyone who would be unwilling to be checked isn't someone you want to work with. If you're the one with questionable info, be sure you can truthfully and fully explain the circumstance. People can understand if you've fallen and gotten up. No one, however, likes surprises in a business deal.

CHIME IN: Do you have a "win" you want to share -- a time when you partnered successfully with another or several other businesses? Let us know what worked. Do you have a "loss" in your column? Well, that's still a solid opportunity for you to teach us. You can submit your comments anonymously.

Be generous.

Friday, November 17, 2006

LNB #027: Being Remarkable

Everybody says they provide great customer service and I do mean everybody. But most of what we call great customer service is merely more of the same ordinary stuff. Given the amount of noise there is out there, how can you be seen and heard over the roar?

Some considerations:
  • Remarkable will get you heard over the din.
  • Remarkable isn't what YOU think it is -- it's what your customers, vendors, suppliers and employees think it is.
  • Remarkable may be something small.
  • People may insist that your remarkable offering isn't feasible, necessary or possible.
  • Remarkable may develop over time and be imperceptible to you.

Now, getting an access to what makes you remarkable isn't as hard as you think. Ask the people who know, like, understand and trust you. They know. When I asked my circle of trust, they told me that they valued my forthrightness -- that I'd refuse an engagement with someone who I couldn't (or shouldn't help); they said my ability to connect people and ideas in new ways and my zest for exploration were invaluable. I'd thought those things were ordinary. I was wrong.

Read these books by Seth Godin:

Listen Now: 27 minutes, 13 seconds

Friday, November 03, 2006

Collaborate, Ya'll!

I listened today to the Tavis Smiley show. On it he had noted evolution biologist, Elisabet Sahtouris, author of Why I Remain an Optimist. She talks about how the world is getting hotter and the people are evolving. We're evolving from a competitive, aggressive world community to one that can spawn YouTube and MySpace.

Her prescription in the face of global warming and war? Collaboration! That makes her a goddess in my book.

Darwin's "Survival of the Fittest" mantra applied to business has gotten us Enron and host of other ills as business men and women strive to win at all costs. Sahtouris asserts that what's moved us out of the evolutionary "fight club" for survival is our ability to cooperate and collaborate.

Question is: What will it take for us to get it? In an increasingly global -- sometimes instantly -- market, we have to do more with each other to gain market share...not less.

LNB #026: Resistance is Futile!

OK. After chatting people up about their systems, strategies and plans, what's left? Their thinking, their habits and their behaviors. Chief among the things I'm seeing with biz owners and execs is resistance.

We're finding that resistance can be on one of two types: conscious ("I ain't can't make me") and the unconscious ("Whaddya mean I'm not with the program?") We spend lots of time dealing with the overt conscious resisters, but is there more?

Kurt Lewin's Model of Change:

  • Unfreeze: old systems comes back to conscious awareness and there's a commitment to change. Before trying to change the system, strategies or desired results, the behavior of the people in the company is "invisible."
  • Move: create and apply the new systems, strategies and plans. Here, it will take a concerted act of will coupled with supports to help people make the changes needed.
  • Re-Freeze: lock in new behaviors such that they become automatic

While you're changing, there are several types of resistance mindsets (Carol O'Connor)

  • Survivor (Covert/Unconscious): unaware that they're out of sync. Think they're operating from the new system
  • Zombie (Overt/Unconscious): seem unable to change and don't see their behaviors as resistance
  • Saboteur (Covert/Conscious): pretend to support the change, but inwardly hope the change will go away
  • Protector (Overt/Conscious): believe their refusal will help the company

Question: Which stage of change are you in in your business? Which resistance mindset are you in?

Listen Now: 26:30 minutes

Friday, October 27, 2006

Sometimes It's Not What You Think

I was listening to Tavis Smiley today. He had a great interview with Samuel L. Jackson (Snakes on a Plane). Aside from discussing Sammy L's amazing dreadth of work (I saw him first in Spike Lee's Jungle Fever as a jumpy crack addict), he mentioned that Mr. Jackson's the highest grossing actor in Hollywood.

Not Brad. Not Tom. Samuel L. Jackson.

Interesting thing is that Jackson was just released from addictions treatment when he started shooting Jungle Fever. Remember the song from the last post ("There's Hope," India.Arie)?

There's Hope

I got a call from a friend who's a biz buddy (or is it a biz bud who's become a friend) yesterday. I don't think I've heard him this -- flat. He's faced down things that would put anyone else under their car with a hose in the mouth. Still, he's pressing on with his business and his life. He was looking to take another incremental step up and over.

I'm so honored he called me.

Brother of mine, I didn't know what to say to you. Then, I heard this on the radio. I'm borrowing from India.Arie when I say...

There's hope.
It doesn't cost a thing to smile.
You don't have to pay to laugh.
You better thank God for that.

Stand up for your rights.
Keep shining your light.
And show the world your smile.

Brighter days, my friend.

As an aside, catch the NPR interview with India from earlier this summer. It includes a nice selection of music.

LNB #025: Objectives, Strategies and Actions (Biz Plans)

As the final part of this series on business planning, we cover Objectives, Strategies and Actions. These elements round out your business plan and will help clarify what you want to produce, the broad approaches and specific actions you'll take.

Useful Business Planning Resources:


Listen Now: 23:26

Saturday, October 14, 2006

You Know You Shouldn't

I'm on vacation. Right now, I'm on a veranda in Nashville, TN, watching the sun begin to set while I have a quiet moment. My brother, his wife, Amee, and their kids are off to the store and my grandmother is quietly watching a DVD (she's 80 and seeing her with the small player in her lap it just the best).

When my brother gets back, I'm going to be in trouble. I know I shouldn't do, but his kids are going to get some Diet Coke and Mentos and I'm going to give these home-schooled kids a science lesson. Now, I know I shouldn't do it, but this temptation (seeing them run screaming while diet coke jets up 8 feet) is one I'm just not going to resist.

See, I'm going to "own" that this will be messy and leave these kids wondering what else they can drop Mentos in (spaghetti sauce, chocolate milk), but I can live it with, as long as they're doing it at home.

Besides, what good is being their aunt if not to teach them things they will later torture their father with?

I'll bet you know some things you shouldn't have done at work. Maybe it was the deadline you agreed to, pretending you could make it work. Perhaps it was the employees you hired when you felt desperate -- the one that never worked out.

For me, telling the "stank, nekkid truth" (the truth beyond the pretty lies) is about the best thing I can do. It might not change my choices, but it sure gives me power over what comes next.

Until I return....

And Then They Sent Me a Survey!

OK, Im indulging in a little ranting. Ill admit it.

To recap: I contacted HP for a replacement non-skid rubber foot for my laptop (around which the angelic hosts circuit). I did get the 5 they promised; only they were attached to extra plastic doors for the bottom of my computer and cost a mint. Rather than using peel-n-stick to slap on one little rubber foot (the size of a bean), Ill need a Philips-head screwdriver and a magnifying glass to affix a new door on the bottom my computer (the size of your wallet).

Now, they sent me a survey. A customer satisfaction survey. Being the hopeful sort, I opened the link, pulled my tea close and settled in to respond. The survey was over 30 questions, none of which addressed my concern: I didnt get what I asked for and no one told me that I would have to rebuild my computer in the process. Oh, and did I say the survey was over 30 questions?

I feel better. Thanks.

Got a favorite customer service rant? Lets hear it.

Friday, October 13, 2006

LNB #024: Without Vision, the People Perish

Not having a clear vision and mission will add unnecessary complexity to your business. It will be harder to stay on track and to determine quickly whether a new opportunity is consistent with your business model. However, the concepts of Vision and Mission have become obscured with consultant-speak (yeah, we did it).

Here's a simple way to plan these two important factors into your business plan.

  • Vision: include your target market, niche, products/services, territory, scope, productivity level, and other key factors.
  • Mission: use as few words as possible to convey why you're building the company you're building.

Get these resources:
The One Page Business Plan for the Creative Entrepreneur
The One-Page Proposal: How to Get Your Business Pitch onto One Persuasive Page

Listen Now: 30:10

MP3 File

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Aargh! Just Gimme One Rubber Foot!

I saw the FedEx truck and was on my way to the door before I fully realized I was on the move. those trucks do that to me -- like a present under the tree, I just can't wait to see what's there. Anyway, when I finished my pleasantries (with the surliest driver ever), I went to open my package.

It was from HP. You guessed it: the rubber feet I ordered.

Here's what I got: Three different plastic "doors" for different compartments on the bottom of my computer, each of which had at least 1 rubber foot on it.

No instructions, just plastic doors with rubber feet.

Let me see what happens if I escalate this. More soon.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I Just Want ONE Rubber Foot!

Earlier this week, I noticed that one of the little, rubber feet was missing from the bottom of my notebook computer (the one that makes me as happy as a basket of kittens when I even think about it -- the one I decorated.....yeah, I need a hobby or a therapist). Garland, being the helpful sort, interjected that one rubber foot would be impossible for HP to replace -- I'd have to get a package of 5 for $17.50.

Jolly Joker.

So, I went directly to the HP website and IM'ed a nice lady, Patricia (who was probably a prisoner at Attica on an internal work release program). "She" got all of my information and set up a call from their order department.

So far, so good.

I wasn't out of their chat room 5 minutes when "Sam" called. It's weird to be talking with an Indian operating under an assumed "Euro-sounding" name, when I'm a Black American with a very Indian name (named for a goddess, by my Baptist mother). He took down my information and very professionally confirmed my particular needs: one rubber foot. When he gave me the total, I almost passed out: Not $17.50, but $41.29! (I liked Garland's price better).

I want one rubber foot -- these must be made of platinum!

I'm asking myself what I'm going to do with all of these extra-damned-rubber-damned-feet (wonder if they'll breed like Tribbles in my credenza). Here's my current thinking: I think I'm going to raffle them off on my podcast show! Any other suggestions (and be nice, I'm delicate).

Friday, October 06, 2006

LNB #023: What If Everything We've Been Told About Business Planning Is, Well, Wrong!

People know that the chief reason businesses fail is lack of planning, followed by lack of a system for implementation. Still, business owners don't create them and don't operate from them.

What gives?!

Here's what people are saying:

  • I put together a business plan for my company when I started it. It was a horrible process and I ain't doing that again.
  • I put one together. It cost me a mint and then the consultant wanted more to implement it.
  • I don't have time.
  • I don't have a business that needs a 70 page business plan.
  • My other managers are doing "stuff," but we're not all on the same page.

and more.

People are looking for a process that will allow them to have a business planning and implementation system that's nimble, simple and elegant.

Here are the key questions you need to answer with your planning:

  • What are we building?
  • Why does this business exist?
  • What results will we measure?
  • How will we build this business?
  • What's the work to be done?

Be looking for a 25 October 2007 webinar on business results. The webinar will be from 11 am - 12:30 pm ET (US). Check back often for additional information, including how you'll sign up for this complimentary webinar.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

On Bullshit -- a Great Book

There I was, hiding out at Books-a-Million (there was web stuff back at my office I just didn't want to do). My plausible excuse was that I was supposed to be in a Black Enterprise magazine article that explained coaching and the coaching industry and wanted to pick up the mag to read it. I couldn't wait to get my hands on it -- I've been in the professional coaching industry for over 15 years and from the view here at Babel Towers, this baby isn't getting any clearer.

With the magazine tucked under my arm, I walked up the center aisle to get a cuppa tea and I spotted this book along the way.

Yup. An entire book on the topic of bullshit (well, about 70 pages, anyway). On Bullshit was written by a retired philosophy professor and put out by the Princeton University Press. Pretty reputable, no?

I wondered to whom I could get this little book. I stood and read it and it was real and dear and sweet. A former professor of mine and his wife (THE philosophy power-couple at Purdue University) came to mind. Martin taught me to challenge what I thought was real (I took it as getting a handle on my own bullshit, which has served me well). Yeah, that'll do just fine.

Off to read and sip.

Oh, and there was not mention of me in the article. Just some of the usual and customary -- dare I say it...bullshit.

Monday, October 02, 2006

It's National Meetings Week -- Um, Yay?

Imagine: I'm sitting at my desk, furiously typing on a project with the NPR station playing softly in the background. I'm so totally in the zone, I can barely hear the murmur of the station, which had switched to BBC World News.

What had me stop typing wasn't the report about Congressman Foley and House-Page-Gate. It was the report that in Britain it was National Meetings Week.

Huh? An entire week devoted to events we would rather lie "I've got root canal that day" than attending. In fact, I can think of only one other commonly-accepted time waster -- the off-site --that starts eyes a-rolling.

Seems this annual event started in 2001 was formed to generate more business for, you guessed it, meeting organizers. Crafty.

There are ways to have your meetings be more effective. Chief among them is not having them. If you find you really must get a group together for planning of to discuss execution of a project or process, keep these things in mind:

  • Decide what results you want to achieve -- even before you consider anything else.
  • Decide whether this is a stategic meeting or a tactical meeting. Strategic meetings focus on high-level issues of planning, guidance and alignment with other capabilities -- the kinds of things you see at 30,00 feet. Tactical meetings focus on how things are getting done, focusing on the work -- what you see on the ground.
  • Then choose the people who can best help achieve these results.
  • Think about how much time you'll need. Here, you'll need to be thinking about the value of each person's time.
  • For the results desired, the people attending and the value of their time, think about whether the meeting needs to be held in-person or virtually. Many meetings are made up mostly of reporting (kill me!), which can be taken care of with a group email. You'd be surprised how many meetings can be cut in half with better communication.

Some other considerations:

  • Lunch or breakfast meetings are mostly about the food
  • Meetings after lunch are more sparsely attended (meaning: get 'em in early)
  • Crackberry addicts (I'm not bitter) will suck up a lot of your time checking emails instead of paying attention
  • The higher level the manager, the more late they'll be -- even if they called the meeting

Consider well, gentle Brits, Happy National Meetings Week!


Sunday, October 01, 2006

Make Your Own Ringtone? I'm All Over It!

OK, folks. Here it is -- another technological red herring for me to chase. As if I'm already time-strapped (marriage, grad school, business, life), I'm going to make my own cellphone ringtone.

Seems CNN's Techno File report says I can do it. As long as I have a legally-owned piece of music. More as this develops.

Friday, September 29, 2006

LNB #022: Great Wizard, I Just Want C-c-c-courage!

Funny how we're told to show courage and innovation, but we're not rewarded for having the kinds of key failures it takes to succeed like mad? Ever notice how, starting in elementary school, the teacher asks who knows the answer rather than asking who doesn't? The kids who know the answer don't provide much, when you come to think about it, but asking a kid who doesn't know the answer to come up to the board for help with by the teaching in figuring things out can provide much to the others -- including those who knew the answer, but, perhaps, couldn't tell you how they came up with answer if you held a snake to their heads.

I've been pondering several kinds of courage, trying to understand why we (that includes me, here) tend to show such bravado but balk when it comes to turning talk into action. Here's what I've come up with so far. Adrian Furnham talks about the courage to fail. He hints at the courage to innovate. I don't see being "fearless" here, though some might see if differently. Fearlessness, like color blindness, is evidence of a disability in a key adaptive area. People who claim to be fearless scare me, frankly. They pretend not to see threats, but seem to let others take the hits when things go awry. Color blindness, well, isn't something you can have and get a job printing 4-color materials.

Innovation comes when people can fail. Now, by failing, I mean flat-out didn't work, screwed the pooch, f-ing it up. There's nothing like trying to dry your travel mug by holding it out the window at 55 miles/hour and dropping that rascal that will teach you something very valuable. I figured out some really important things about who the right clients are by having worked with the wrong ones (slow pay, slow thinking, low risk tolerance, high fear, lots of excuses -- get it?). Now, I can spot the wrong ones, Name That Tune style, after just a couple of notes. That also means that I can find the right ones almost as quickly.

Furnham talks about interpersonal courage -- the kind of of state where you can be with a customer or employee's strong emotions and not get upset just because they are. This is the skill of the manager who doesn't try to shut up a crying woman employee who's complaining of harassment -- just because he can't stand seeing someone cry -- and risk landing the company in court when it goes to the hounds.

The last kind of courage here is interpersonal courage. When Furnham talked about this as the courage it takes to resist temptation, I thought of President Bill Clinton. No wonder he's considered the First Black President: Like so many brothers I know, he can't seem to pass by a sweet, available young thing. As much as the Republicans challenged his policies, they despised him for his moral failings. African and Russian business dealings dealings are long-storied quagmires of bribes and payola, choking much-neede economic development.

Question: Where in your business dealings are you having trouble showing courage? (If you're feeling a little timid, you can answer anonymously). It might be in sales, telling the plain unvarnished truth to your partners about the financial State of your Union, dealing with an employee or resisting the temptation of a delicious-looking married staffer.

Here's a treat: the audio of Bert Lahr (the Cowardly Lion's) Address: Audio mp3 of Address delivered by Bert Lahr where he declares

Cowardly Lion:
Courage. What makes a King out of a slave? Courage.
What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage.
What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist or the dusky dusk?
What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage.
What makes the Sphinx the 7th Wonder? Courage.
What makes the dawn come up like THUNDER?! Courage.
What makes the Hottentot so hot?
What puts the "ape" in ape-ricot?
Whatta they got that I ain't got?

All answer: Courage!

Lion: You can say that again!

At One Company, Email Gets Fridays Off

I sat at a coffee shop, trying to get some work done in a different location (you know, the geographical project relocation cure). It wasn't working -- too warm and sunny. I found my attention drawn to the other business types with their Treo-Berries.

Certainly, I was jealous. You know me: Inspector Gadget.

Then, I really started to watch. None of the people was alone; however, each of them put a finger up "hold on" style while they checked to see what the little buzzer what signifying. I wondered how important each of those messages was, whether they could have waited and what the impact was on the relationship with the person across the latte from them.

Listening to NPR (I'm a junkie, listening to NPR, the Daily Show, the Colbert Report...and Bill O'Reilly -- no clue on that last one), I head an article about a company, PBD Worldwide Fulfillment Services who, by edict of Scott Docktor, the CEO, has banned internal emails on Fridays. He spoke of the many unnecessary emails (the CYA's), the manners-zapping ones (a manager emailing during a meeting) and the silly ones (he and his assistant the building...just steps from each other.

Interestingly, he's found that Monday's inbox isn't as full as one would have thought, finding little to no impact. His verdict: more banned email days.

Listen to the NPR audio article.

Friday, September 15, 2006

LNB #021 - When Good Habits Go Bad

Change in your organization is made up of more than discussions of character or morals. Change requires shifting to new habits -- repeatable behaviors that become "automatic" and produce the same results over time.

Lewin's model
: Unfreezing the old habit, moving of transforming behavior, re-freezing an altered or new habit.

Prochaska & DiClemente's Model of Change
: Pre-contemplation (not now), Contemplation (someday, but not today), Preparation (someday soon), Action (now), Maintenance (locking it in).

Get some help. Your organizational and individual habits have staying power. The "buddy system", an advisory council, a Mastermind Group or individual coaching should help you to make the necessary shifts -- and keep you on track when your old systems and habits call

Email to discuss how coaching can help
you win.

Interested in the power of a facilitated Mastermind Group? Click here for more info and to register for an informational session.

Listen Now:

Friday, September 08, 2006

Victory from Defeat!

This was really good. A jilted bride who found out that her man was cheating only after the invites had been sent and the money was spent, turned what could have been a very sad and expensive day into an opportunity to make a difference. Get this: she turned her wedding reception into a charity event and took her mother on her "honeymoon" trip!

Sweet! I love that this woman, at such an upsetting time, had the presence of mind to find another way to think about her situation.

LNB #020 - Make it Simple, Cancel Complexity

Happy 40th Birthday, Star Trek! No one could ever predict that a cancelled television show could spawn 6 series, 10 moves, hundreds of books and an entire language. This ground-breaking program (featuring, among other things, the first televised interracial kiss) was considered a failure after only three seasons. It just didn't fit the mold.

Some Simple Ways to Cancel Complexity in Your Business:

Duration: 29:16 File Size: 7.03 MB

Listen Now:

Friday, September 01, 2006

LNB #019: What Were You THINKING!

One of the biggest challenge for business owners is what we think we know. It gets in the way of our being able to see things in new ways or explore new options.

When asked why an action was taken, most people can't come up with a really well thought-out reason: "Why is your business plan written this way?" Because someone else said to do it. "Why are you at that location?" Because other people who seem to be successful are there.

But, do you understand how you arrived at that decision? Many times our own thinking is a mystery to us.

Please visit my website for books and other materials to challenge your thinking.

Listen Now: 27:01

MP3 File

This is the End of Civilization as We Know It!

I love Shani, my husband's daughter. When I met her, we struck up a conversation in the ladies room at a restaurant. We were chatting very happily together for quite a while before we realized we were there to meet each otherl. We walked out of that ladies room like we'd known each other forever.

It's that a family comes together -- not how it comes together -- that matters.

So, when she called to ask us to watch her on the MTV Video Music Awards, of course I said "yes!". I promised to record it for her and, at 8 last night, settled down to watch (she was going to be one of about 20 dancers painted pink or yellow -- piece of cake).

I cut class to watch MTV's birth. I remember the first two videos -- "Video Killed the Radio Star" (huh?) and Pat Benetar (who I could listen to sing the names in the phone book). MTV has been just like that for me: a collection of hits and misses. Last night was no exception. Jack Black (who is famous for what exactly?) did his best "look-at-me-being arch" routine and was about as funny as tooth extraction with string and a slamming door.

So I waited for Shani's dance number with Busta Rhymes (whose stuff I generally like quite a bit). While I waited, I endured almost 3 hours of inconsistent performances (Justin - yay, OK Go - fine, Beyonce -nice, the Jackass guys - kill me, Al Gore talking about glaciers - what?...really, I mean WHAT!). The statuettes kept falling apart and so did the show.

Finally, there was Busta -- for about a minute. I'm going to have to scan frame by frame to find Shani, but it's worth it. She's perfectly wonderful.

In the end, I turned off the tv and stared at Garland. It was like having watched a traffic pile-up...from inside the pile.

At least I got to see my girl...kind of. Shani's been on SNL dancing with Nelly Furtado and on an Elephant Man video among others.

Keep calling, Shani. I'll be watching -- no matter what!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Kill Me Now!

OK. This one hurts.

Remember a few years ago when advertisers were convincing poor (silly) college students to walk around with logos and branding materials on their heads? Well, this goes quite a bit further down the road.

CBS is tattoing eggs with logo information...on eggs.


Here's a potent ad message, critical to the progress of civilization: "CBS Mondays - Leave the Yolks to Us."

Business innovation is being driven by design and creativity. However, we need to consider not just what we can do, but what's worthwhile. This falls into the "just because you can do it, doesn't mean that you should" category.

I fear for us all.

Read the article.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Dell Computers Burst into Flames?!

This is choice.

You know I've been on a computer jag for quite a while. From smoking, crackling computers to levitating Lenovos (keep reading this blog to figure out what the hairy-heck that one was about) to laptops that grow legs and run away -- it's getting dicey for us GOSSIPS (gadget obsessed, smugly superior, internet professionals). Now, they just catch fire.

Here's the scoop. Turns out that Dell computers equips some of their computers (about 4.1 million of 'em) with an additional, no-cost feature...a high-yield heating source, great for those chilly Midwestern winter nights. However, during these sultry summer days, it's not such a good thing.

Every evening Garland (hubby-fabulosa) and I retire upstairs to watch The Daily Show and tap out the last of our work for the night (actually, Garland's queuing-up tasks for the next day, and I'm learning something random from wikipedia -- tonight was about Cheddar, England and, yes, I need another hobby). Garland stepped away to get something from his office and, I sat there staring at his Dell computer, sitting there innocently on his side of the futon.

My brother in Hotlanta, told me that an FAA rep assured him, on a recent flight, that airplane fire retardants were sufficient to put out any computers that catch fire, particularly in the holds. His concern? That one catch fire on the tray table in back of his seat (no sense of adventure, that one).

I'm wondering why this is an issue now, particularly when, as it turns out, Dell can trace this pesky problem back to around July of 2004! For how long have they known, I wonder? The government has been on a tear about cigarette companies who, knowlingly promoted their deadly product. If they knew about the problem, it could run Dell afoul of the same laws that are plaguing cigarette manufacturers -- the RICO Act.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Ramsey Suspect Captured, But Who Else Might We be Killing?

Just weeks after Patsy lost her life to ovarian cancer, it appears the murderer of her six year old daughter, JonBenet, may have been captured.

The JonBenet Ramsey case is an unfortunate example of negative buzz -- the kind of "where there's smoke there's fire" thinking that spreads almost as fast as the hype around "Snakes on a Plane." The public immediately seized on the peculiar nature of the pageants that JonBenet participated in with her mother, another pageant winner and lifelong pageant enthusiast. Under a cloud of suspicion, Patsy Ramsey tried to live her life, raise her son and struggle with cancer while grieving a daughter that many thought she'd killed.

Let's face it: We're a nation of gossips. And I don't mean GOSSIP -- Gadget-Obsessed Socially Superior Independent Professional...those cats who have a blackberry, a personal and work cellphone and drink pricey, branded coffee even if the coffee's free at work. Our amusements are rife with reality programs that allow us to voyeuristically eavesdrop on people and then chat, IM, blog and talk about it the next day. But the line between what's real and what' spun is getting blurrier. One story can become a runaway train with little hope of turning or slowing when new facts come to light.

A couple of years ago, a local businessman was rumored to have hit his wife. It wasn't true, as it turned out, but people were talking about it. He was shunned, asked to step down from a public accountability and his business suffered. His wife, a chick with some substance, denied the rumors and even found the person that had started it -- a little self-aggrandizing that got out of control -- but it didn't matter.

For me, when I met with him shortly after this began to heat up, I felt a little ashamed of what I'd heard, so I told him what I knew and from whom I got it. Then, I went back to my "Don't talk about that with me or I'll squeal" policy that had been so useful years before.

One of the worst things I think we do in business is assume. We do it when we network, when we prospect, when we hire. We shortcut our thinking because, many times, it works....Except when it doesn't. Now, I'm not saying never assume. What I am asserting is that assuming without assumption-testing is worst than going off half-cocked. See if you're right about your assumptions.

Our most powerful weapon against false info: the question. So, be sure you ask.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Samuel L. Jackson Called My Husband

OK, fine! So it wasn't actually Samuel L. -- it was a recording of Samuel L. that called Garland. When he gathered the voicemails on Sunday, what did he hear? "I can't stand all these %@#!$#@%#@$ snakes on this %@#!$#@%#@$ plane!"


Now, I'm not entirely sure that this movie is my cup of tea. Yes, I enjoyed lots of slasher movies in my earlier years (Shu-shu-shu-shu-shu. Hah-hah-hah-hah-hah.*). However, I think I've grown significantly over the years.

Not really.

I had a point. Oh! The cool thing about the movie isn't the scene where a couple, trying to get into the Mile High Club buys the farm in the lave (evil laughter). It's the fact that Samuel L. solicited so much word of mouth to generate buzz for this flick. He listened to his fans and supported them, even when they suggested substantive changes to the movie. An army of fans rallied around the project, starting websites, selling t-shirts and other merchandise. They even pressured the studio to change the name of the film from Pacific Flight 121 to Snakes on a Plane, which the studio did.

This movie has achieved cult status -- and it isn't even out yet.

What does this have to do with your business?
The studio execs were surprised and Time magazine did an article on this "phenomenon." Though word of mouth is the least studied marketing method, it just happens to be the most effective...and the oldest.

There is an endless list of products that people have bought because someone else said it was the neatest thing since deep-fat fried turkey (I ate it only because I heard people raving about it --Eh!). Our customers know what they want and, for the most part, there's no amount of focus grouping or consumer psychology that will shake them once they've decided that a thing is cool.

The thing is: How to we more effectively dial-into WOM buzz? Companies are beginning to spring up to answer this question. Their magic bullet? Ask 'em. Customers will tell you what they want when we stop talking. They'll tell us what they want, how they want it, when they want it, what color they want it in and what they want you to call it.

We just need to do more listening than talking.
Like this movie, the fans decided that they "owned" the film. They were more than consumers. They were stakeholders of the highest order and they felt that their opinions counted. Luckily for them, Sam Jackson listens to fans. As he pointed out in a recent Time magazine interview, most directors only work on about a dozen films in their professional careers -- he has over 100 movies to his credit. In all that time, he's learned that his fans are smart about their entertainments and will vote with their feet if they don't get what they want.

Your customers, too, are voting every day about you and your product and services.

Have Samuel L. Jackson call a friend and tell them to see his movie...


* A reference to the Jason, Friday the 13th movies that dominated the 80's and 90's slash and dash movies.

Friday, August 11, 2006

LNB #018 - The 7 Deadly Sins of Marketing (Pt. 5)

Leighton Haynes, of Twin Phoenix Marketing, continues his marketing series with
Lalita, discussing the power of brand and customer sensitivity on business success. He urges

  • Not taking customer relationships for granted -- with both internal and external customers
  • Authorizing employees to take immediate action for customers with the tools needed to satisfy them, rather than passing it along to management.
  • Leading, or anticipating, customer needs -- not waiting for a complaint or a need
  • Measurement!

Leighton suggests the book, Primal Branding: Create Zealots for Your Brand, Your Company, and Your Future. Also, pick up must-read magazines Business 2.0 and Fast Company.

Contact Leighton, 202 203 7737

Duration: 27:25 File Size: 6.58 MB

Listen Now:

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Crazy -- Just Like Me!

There are a lot of places where I must be crazy. I started a business at the bottom of the Tech Bust. I'm in a marriage that I believe will last (just like the 60 or 70% of the others who've said the same thing -- right before filing for divorce). I think people in the Middle East want peace and I think there's a good alternative to fossil fuels hanging out out there.

Yup. I'm a nutter.

I play a lot of music at home, at work, in the car. Right now, I'm between songs (getting ready to turn on NPR's Ed Gordon to wind down the afternoon's work).

The song, below, is Crazy by Gnarles Barkley. He's done about 50 different versions of this song (and videos to match) -- in one, he's dressed up as Darth Vadar (the song is about being crazy). They're all good. I like the lyrics. Sounds a lot like the lives of the me and the people around me. Unsure about the world. Hopeful.

What music is playing for you right now?

Gnarls Barkley - Crazy EXCLUSIVE Slow Version LIVE!!

Lyrics to Crazy, by Gnarls Barkley

"I remember when, I remember, I remember when I lost my mind
There was something so pleasant about that place
Even your emotions had an echo and so much space
And when you're out there without care
Yeah I was out of touch
But it wasn't because I didn't know enough I just knew too much

"Does that make me Crazy
Does that make me Crazy
Does that make me Crazy

"And I hope that you are having the time of your life
But think twice, that's my only advice
Come on now who do you, who do you, who do you, who do you think you are,
ha ha ha bless your soul
you really think you're in control well

"I think you're Crazy
I think you're Crazy
I think you're Crazy
Just like me

"My heroes had the heart to lose their lives out on the limb
All I remember is thinking I want to be like them.
Ever since I was little, ever since I was little It looked like fun
And there's no coincidence I've come
And I can die when I'm done

"But Maybe I'm Crazy
Maybe you're Crazy
Maybe we're Crazy

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Mean People are Made to Pay!

Earlier I blogged about workplace bullying and mobbing (Mean People Suck!), a prevalent system of mistreatment that amounts to psychological abuse. This mistreatment can include exclusion from workplace information and resource networks, humiliation, gossip and rumoring (which has destroyed personal, as well as professional, relationships), threats and intimidation. It can be caused by one person acting alone or by a group, or mob. Bullying and mobbing steal productivity, cause rampant turnover and create a relatively dismal work environment. In the extreme, bullying is a precursor to workplace violence.

Still, companies see it happening and do very little of any substance to make it stop. Some attempts are half-hearted, leading to more entrenched behavior. Now, companies who don’t effectively settle these claims in their HR departments are settling them in the court systems.

The British courts have just awarded a former female employee of Deutsche Bank $1.5 million in what is the largest award ever for workplace bullying. She claimed that she was subjected to "offensive, abusive, intimidating, denigrating, bullying, humiliating, patronizing, infantile and insulting words and behavior" – that she was ignored and excluded, her authority undermined and, as a result, found herself increasingly stressed-out, to the point of illness. Beyond catty, the Deutsche Bank "Gang of Four" (four other female staffers) moved quickly from the petty and catty to derisive, relentless personal and professional commentary and attacks on her competence and humanity. They didn't stop, even when she had been admitted to the hospital on a suicide watch.

Maybe we’ll start getting point: Mean people really do suck…and now they’re being made to really pay.

Read "Mean People Suck" or the article on YahooNews!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

I Want One...Gimme!

As I mentioned before, I'm the short, Black Inspector Gadget. I've got it bad. I've got a gizmo for everything. By the by, the new breadmaker is in (the other one...melted). My husband (who has a fresh-baked bread "problem") is rolling in fresh, steamy bread (weird metaphor, to be sure) and I can send a loaf to everybody in Congress with more leftover.

My Kyocera 7135 smartphone, a lovely and dependable little gizmo is getting long in the tooth. It's 2 1/2 years old, which in high-tek years, is 175! While my heart is heavy, I'm planning for its replacement. I looked at the usual suspects: Treo 650/700 and the Crackberry, which (is it just me?) is ugly and a little too wide for my girl-sized paws.

On my radar screen is the Nokia E61. It comes with Bluetooth and can use VOIP over Wi-Fi. No camera (yay), which I just don't need (I'm counting on using Garland's -- which is, I got it for him last Christmas).

I'm still looking. But this does feel like petting trusty old Fifi on the head, while plotting for her replacement.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Off-Site and Out of Our Minds!

I can think of some pretty horrible things a boss could say to his or her employees: "We're downsizing and, although we appreciate your contributions".... "We've been bought out by the Lithuanians and, you're really going to think this is funny, but they've got this language requirement"...."We're instituting office sharing and you get Tuesdays and Thursdays".... "We think it might be SARS, but we've been assured that our new Ionic Breeze air cleaners will take care of it"...

Nothing, however strikes eye rolling and sighs of disgust as "Everybody. We're going on an off-site."

My last JFSEWB (job for someone else with benefits) was off-site-happy. We were lousy with "great ideas" to get away to think things over. We had the obligatory ropes course avec trust fall. Of course. We also had a strange gathering of managers with a Junguan analyst where we were treated to massage (I'm not kidding) and required to draft personal mission statements after walking out into the wilderness (of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin) until we found a place that "called to us." I"ve been camping and skiing. I've seen talking sticks (you can only speak while you're holding it -- a practical joke from our Native American brethren and sistren, to be sure) and colored hats, pebbles with adjectives on them (we were to speak from this adjective for the entire weekend) and a whole host of other trite attempts to be productive with forced togetherness.

When my clients ask me about off-sites, I sigh deeply and, trying valiantly to keep my opinions to myself (I fail here), I ask them why they think this would be a productive use of their time. It must be the tone of voice, coupled with the fact that my clients are superiorly clever, intuitive people (down to the last man and woman). They pause and contemplate, sensing their coach ready to pounce, then offer: "Because we can get a lot more done out of the office?"

Good answer. But, is it true? Consultants who study the effectiveness of training and planning interactions offer that off-sites, in the main, are only about 10% effective, wasting a lot of time with games and filler, while workers back at the office become increasingly incensed at having to hold down the fort. Companies with strained or superficial workplace relationships use off-sites in an attempt to cement relationships and wind up spending more time at this than in planning, brainstorming and focus-grouping (they try to wedge it in anyway).

When I work with my clients, they find that they need much less time in an off-site than they thought. I ask them to consider using long lunches to work on one problem at a time, rather than to try to get several things done at once. This way, they can build their off-site skills.

Questions to be answered can be:

  • What are our commitments? This could be the business goal or strategy we're involved with right now on this project? If we're doing strategic planning, this could be the creation of Mission (chief aim), Vision (the future for our business that provides us with a context from which to operate) and Values (what are we commited to not leaving out)
  • Where do we say we need to be on this project? With the company?
  • Are we there?
  • Why or why not? Is there something missing, the presence of which would make a difference?
  • If we don't know, how will we find out?
  • Relationship managemet: Whether we win or lose, does everyone feel valued and cared for? Blamed and deflated? What do you need (to re-energize yourselves)?
  • What possible actions can we take to get there?
  • How will be pick an action to develop and implement?
  • What are our next steps?

I think effective off-sites are cultural in a business. Meaning, that if a company hosts them frequently, tied to business strategy, and the results of the off-site can be seen in the organization, they make a difference.

Chime in: What are your best and worst off-site stories. Do share!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Apple of Death

I'm hanging with Garland at a bookstore. A perfect way to wind down a weekend. I found a great magazine, Mental Floss that aims to challenge our thinking. In it, they explain that eating apple and apricot seeds - something momma told us not to do will actually kill you.

I wonder what other tidbits of mother-wit we've discounted....that turn out to be true?

Friday, July 28, 2006

LNB #017 - Create Your Kitchen Cabinet (Advisory Boards)

Business advisory boards are tools for furthering your business interests, increasing your networks, generating new ideas and advancing projects -- all of this without the formal responsibilities of a Board of Directors.


  • Your business and personal goals

  • Who can best help you

  • What do you need them to do

  • How you will reward them

  • How to work with them

There's more information in the White Paper. Visit and follow th e link to E-Books/White Papers for more.

Duration: 33 minutes, 42 seconds File Size: 8.09 MB

Listen Now:

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Um, My President Just Felt Up the German Chancellor.

I'm going to send in a proposal to do sexual harassment training for the White House. I'll keep you posted.

Aside from the fact that this is surprising and a little sad, it brings home the fact that harassment and sexual harassment have so fallen off the radar that even the President can find himself touching inappropriately.

Question for you is: do you know what constitutes the kind of speech and touches that can get your company dropped into the soup? Having done this kind of training and coaching for a number of years, I'll bet the answer is "No."

Friday, July 21, 2006

LNB #016 - Are Incubators Hatching Sound Businesses?

Business incubators were started 40 years ago in Batavia, New York to address common concerns – that first-time entrepreneurs with good ideas weren’t getting the funding, resources and support they needed to succeed and great business ideas were being lost. They address issues of expertise, resources, and social capital with

  • Resources: supplying printing, clerical support, internet and telephone services as well as funding,
  • Expertise: with business consultants and mentors who can help draft and review business, marketing and operations strategies and plan and
  • Social capital: by offering networking opportunities and introductions to key business allies.

They are designed for 2-5 years of participation and the incubators charge either a monthly fee or a percentage of ownership (many times in the range of 20 – 50%).

There’s very little research and scant results to show the effectiveness of incubators. Few begin their incubator-incubatee relationship with measures, goals and timetables for success.

Conflict of interest when incubators are pushing decisions that support their investment but may not be good for the business’ hopes for long-term growth. Many incubators do not utilize the resources afforded to businesses in the new economy (cheap, fast internet; virtual offices, lean staffing, web delivery) and my offer too much structure, preventing business owners from developing fully as entrepreneurs.

Networking, coaching and mentoring are weak, with the client driving much of the interaction without the proper training to get the most out of these relationships. Also the “coaches” are often untrained consultants who have little skill in helping entrepreneurs challenge their thinking and reshape the personal and professional habits that may hinder business growth.

Good incubators are out there. However, business owners must have good insights regarding their needs and must be able to insist on a set of services that would best support them rather than taking a pre-determined set of services that may not fully support their specific development areas.

Further Reading:

Indy Nite Ride -- where one ne'er-do-well podcaster spent a Saturday night!

Duration: 29 minutes, 28 seconds File Size: 7.07 MB

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Go Back...Give Back

I'm standing at an online kiosk at Purdue University's Black Cultural Center, having just finished up lunch with the BCC's director, Renee Thomas. I had committed resources from my family back to Purdue and was meeting with her to see what she needed from me in terms of time, energy, money and/or effort. Her response: all of them (that's why she's got that job!).

We talked about how things used to be. We talked about how things are and we talked about her vision for students at Purdue and the impact of the BCC on their lives and futures. What, I think, makes Renee the powerhouse that she is, is that her vision, embraces everyone rather than focusing narrowly. She knows that we're interconnected and that the lives of the Black students she serves will impact the lives of the citizenry of the world. Great work, given that she heads one of the premier Black Cultural Centers on any college campus anywhere.

She reminded me of why I came to Purdue: to get a universal education.

I shared with her about a trip I took to Namibia, one of the countries under the apartheid regime. I'd traveled there shortly after liberation and found myself very surprised by the reception I'd gotten. Everyone who'd been to college anywhere in the world knew of Purdue University (sometimes called the "Harvard in the cornfields" -- sigh). Every university I visited offered me a faculty position.

I didn't know what I had.

In the book, The One Minute Millionaire (yeah, another of the "you, too, can be a millionaire series of books that proliferated the market a few years ago that only made millionaires of the authors), suggested that we "tithe where we're spiritually fed." I've found myself thinking about that one line in that book over and over in the past several years. I'm not a church-goer, so I had to challenge myself to find places that had fed me so I could "pony-up." I gave to the churches of my friends, I'm made anonymous donations to temples and other religious organizations. I gave money to charitable groups.

And then I remembered: Purdue, with all of the good (a world class education) and the not-so-good (an attempted cross burning my freshman year) was the place where I'd really been fed. I found my husband there. My best friend, Carol, I met at Purdue (she was holding a sledgehammer and tearing into some old sidewalk on a weekend student event). My mother and I were students there and graduated a semester apart. I'd learned to become so bold that I'd start my own company (OK, bold and crazy!) and travel the world.

It's not a lot by Warren Buffet's standards that I give. The point is that I do. What surprised me was the warmth of Purdue's embrace back to me. But that's not why I gave.

I gave back for that one person who would find their life's mate or study late into the night with a family member or travel and be proud of who they've become.

See what you can do... and then do it!