Friday, June 12, 2009

How Believing in Evolution Can Bolster Your Business in a Bitter Economy

During the Q & A portion of a recent workshop, one of my participants asked a question that TOTALLY stumped me:

“Scott, in the past few years, I’ve watched the way you’ve evolved your business as a writer, speaker and coach ...

...Can you share some insight into how you’ve done that so well?”


And I believe my exact words were, “Um … uh … well, you see, what happened was ... I mean … I think that I…”

Nice.

After about thirty seconds of stalling, circling and stammering, I finally came up with a coherent answer. The questioner was satisfied. My butt was saved. And yet, I still wasn’t happy with my response.

So, I took three immediate actions...

FIRST, I gave the guy an autographed copy of my new book as a thank-you for stumping me. As a recovering know-it-all, I admit this (does) happen from time to time. And as a Thought Leader, I’m always indebted to those who challenge my brain.

SECOND, went out to lunch at Culpepper’s to ponder that question over an order of wings. I’m not sure why, but there’s something about hot sauce that really gets my hamster wheel spinning. Must be a St. Louis thing.

THIRD, wrote out a master list of lessons learned that other entrepreneurs could apply to their own businesses. I asked myself questions like, “How did I evolve?” “What questions did I ask myself?” “What steps did I take?” “What mistakes did I make?” and “What epiphanies paved the way?”

I’d like to share (part of) that list with you now. Also, along with each example, I’ve offered a “Sticky Note Suggestion.” Use these to remind yourself of your entrepreneurial evolution. Post them on your desk, computer, car or, if you’re so inclined, forehead.

So, as you read these strategies, I’m going to challenge you to plug yourself into the same equation. I’m going to challenge you to ask the crucial entrepreneurial equation: “How are you evolving YOUR business?”

Because in a tough economy, growth isn’t an option – it’s an obligation.

1. Be on a constant search for new ideas. They’re everywhere, as long as you (1) Actively seek them out, (2) Listen closely, (3) Learn to freeze situations, (4) Look for parallels, and (5) Write them down.

And probably the best source of these new ideas is your existing customers. When asked the right question in a respectful, curious way, the innovations your customers initiate will blow your hair back.

For example, ask your customers, “What would you LOVE to have from us next?” But only ask if you’re willing listen. Why are you waiting to be inspired?

STICKY NOTE SUGGESTION: Inspiration is available. Inspiration is free. Inspiration is lightning.

2. Decide if you should be charging for this. Although I don’t know what your specific situation is, my guess is going to be, “Yes, you should be charging for this.”

Here’s why: (1) You’re worth it, (2) You need money and (3) When people don’t pay you, people don’t hear you. Now all you have to do is decide how much. What (aren’t) you charging for that you probably should be?

STICKY NOTE SUGGESTION: Sell price before value.

3. Duplicate YOU. Forget the sheep; I’m an advocate for HUMAN cloning. Especially for entrepreneurs, who can do so through teaching others. I suggest giving your fans a portable, junior, take-home, or alternate version of you.

Now, sure. That might mean giving up (some) control in exchange for being able to grow and expand more quickly. And as entrepreneurs, this is one of the hardest things in the world. Because we’re all a bunch of control freaks who HAVE to do everything ourselves, right? Is there anybody else who could deliver your information?

STICKY NOTE SUGGESTION: Blogging works brilliantly. Video work awesomely. Seminars work fantastically. Whitepapers work perfectly.

4. Engage in assignments, projects or clients that ENABLE you. To command higher fees than before. To learn new skills. To leverage more than in the past. To expose you to an important future opportunity. To increase (not just sustain) an existing relationship.

To do future work with the same organization. To lead you into a new industry. To grow in new directions. To work with new, cool clients that represent long-term business potential. What is your current work enabling you to do and be?

STICKY NOTE SUGGESTION: Enable gentle revolutions. Enable shared power. Enable the process. Enable yourself daily.

5. Engage in regular, private time with a coach or consultant. Ideally, someone who has (actually) DONE something and (actually) grown in the way you hope to grow.

Not someone who’s listened to a bunch of Nightingale Connant audiotapes and (actually) thinks that makes them some kind of expert. SO annoying. Look. Expertise comes from DOING. Find someone who’s DONE stuff. Who’s helping you evolve toward your true self?

STICKY NOTE SUGGESTION: Action changes everything. Action conquers fear. Action develops courage. Action solidifies credibility. Action builds confidence. Action strengthens reputation.

6. Find out if anybody else is doing this right now. If not, that might be a great reason to plunge forward. That way you can be the first. The Only. The One. The Guy. And the best part is, if you do it first, you get to name it.

Then: When you name something, you gain power over that something. And you can do something about that something. And you can talk interact with that something. And you can begin exploration and working with that something. And eventually, you can get people to start talking about that something. If you do this, will you become the best?

STICKY NOTE SUGGESTION: Origin, not echo.

7. Honestly assess in what ways you are currently obsolete. Still using a landline? Still advertising in The Yellow Pages? Still using AOL for your email account? Still using a PC? Still listening to a CD player?

Still using that Glamour Shots picture you got taken 1993 as your professional headshot? Zoinks. What are you thinking? It’s 2009. Get with the program. What year are you still trapped in?

STICKY NOTE SUGGESTION: Upgrade your life. Upgrade your technology. Upgrade your approach. Upgrade your style. Upgrade your attitude.

8. Honestly confront the ideas you’re in love with that are preventing you from seeing clearly. I know you love your new company name and tagline. I know it’s cute and funny and makes your husband happy.

But it doesn’t matter what YOU like; it matters what CUSTOMERS remember. Premature cognitive commitment isn’t only dangerous; it’s also expensive. What ideas are you dangerously in love with?

STICKY NOTE SUGGESTION: The Beatles were wrong. Love isn’t enough. Ideas aren’t enough. Preference isn’t enough.

9. Stop typecasting yourself. You’re not a one trick pony. You’re not a one-product company. You’re not a one-idea entrepreneur. You’re not a one-book author. You’re not a one-anything anyone. You’re a lotta. A bunch. A crap ton. A fountain of possibility.

Not a jack-of-all-trades. Just an evolving professional whose unique expertise slowly casts a wider net. Always out-doing and challenging yourself to break the veil of one-hit-wonderness for the sake of never going stale.

So, remember what the master of evolution, George Carlin, used to say, “Continue to call on yourself a little more. And keep kicking people in the crotch.” What are you doing to prepare for the next phase?

STICKY NOTE SUGGESTION: Update your brand. Upgrade your expertise. Reinvent yourself regularly.

10. Use writing to exponentially increase growth in this experience. Writing is the basis of all wealth. For several reasons.

First, writing is the great clarifier. Second, writing makes everything you do better and easier. Third, writing triples the learning of any experience, because if you don’t write it down, it never happened. What did you write today?

STICKY NOTE SUGGESTION: Writing changes everything. Writing “rights” things. Writing brings clarity. Writing intensifies impact. Writing metabolizes life. Writing teaches everyone. Writing transforms pain. Writing untangles threads.

Take that, Darwin!

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
What are you unwilling to change that’s preventing your business form evolving successfully?

LET ME SUGGEST THIS…
For the (full) list called, “45 Recession-Friendly Strategies for Entrepreneurial Evolution,” send an email to me, and I’ll send you the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

Ready for YOUR business to evolve?

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