Friday, July 07, 2006

LNB #014: Think Outside That Box, Then Burn It!

I'm wrapping up the business week here at Net Heads (, which is not your father's internet cafe (no high priced burnt coffee here!). Interesting people, snack-style foods (the manager reminded me that the geeks made the food - hmmm....) and bandwidth to burn. They also had B-Movie icon, Bruce Campbell (well-known for his starring role as Ash in the Evil Dead trilogy) here the other week (missed it, damn!).

What I really love about this place is that they created a business model that combined money and passion (internet gaming, chat, movies, business workers, learning) -- they knew that conventional wisdom about this business would put them in a box, and they happily snickered at it when they put this place together several years ago.

See, we all know that the chance of new business success is pretty dismal: one in nine. We know many of the key factors for business failure:

  • Lack of planning
  • Lack of adequate capital (cash reserves)
  • Poor marketing
  • Bad staffing (sometimes including having the owners running the business)
    and the list goes on.

But, there are those business endeavors that start out right: seemingly armed with all the necessary tools for success, but they still fail. What gives? The common human condition is that our thinking is more conventional than we know. The challenge of that reality is to stay ahead as the business landscape changes. Its what we think we know that gets in our way. We operate with a certain set of business and life "facts," forgetting that they're sometimes just a collection of most-used premises, and not set in concrete.

There's the story I tell about the matriarch who was known for great Sunday hams (I don't eat pork, but follow me anyway). She was also known for cutting off the ends of those hams before baking them and, to ensure success, each new generation of cooks followed her example. On her 80th birthday, they asked her why she cut off the ends of all those hams. They leaned in to hear her soft reply (like the drama?): "My pan was too small." They'd been following a formula for generations they neither needed nor understood.

Question is: Where are we "cutting off the ends of the hams?" It could be in the way we deal with our customers or with a belief that we have to have our website look a certain way.

Kelly, a technical writer, told me when we first met, that no one could make money as a coach. She wanted to hire me to help her build her business (a coaching business). But with that mindset, the only thing that was in the way for was her own belief that it couldn't happen. Truth was, the way she took on building her business was designed to prove her right. Her struggle was epic and very painful to watch.

Brian, an attorney, believed that he couldn't not answer a customer phone call, even when he was heading out the door for a court appointment. He couldn't see any other way to deal with phone calls and was increasingly late for court appointments. Challenging him that he could answer the phone and be on time, he created a system where he gathered up his court materials an hour before he had to leave and then transferred his desk phone to his cell phone. He could pick up the phone if he needed to without having to rush off to make his court date, satisfying both needs without sacrificing his customer relationship.

Getting outside the box is one thing: staying the hairy-heck out of it is quite another. Let me spin out some options – some free and other costing cash. You can

Duration: 20:58 File Size: 5.03 MB

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Yorkali said...

I just love it...this is the first podcast of yours I am listening to and all I can say is. I love it! You inspire me Lalita Amos, you really do. Keep up your passion. We need it!