Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Most Important Thing I Learned This Year

Sometimes things that are very personal can also be important to a much wider sphere. Today is one of those things, I hope, and it’s a good one with which to end 2012.
As my brother lay dying a month or so ago, he said something that really stuck. He had a very rare form of cancer, one which even if it had been caught very early might not have been curable. While Mike was never one for much (if any) self-pity, on this occasion he indulged himself just a bit. What he had to say was a very important thing for your business life and that’s what I’d like to share.

“Why didn’t I take a day off and go to the doctor? Why didn’t I tell a client I can’t meet? Why did I keep going to the office?”

He knew – long before it was obvious to any of the rest of us – that something was wrong yet he felt a responsibility to his job and to his clients to put them first.  Obviously, I’m a big believer in that – I write often about a customer-centric focus.  However, what I learned this year was that if you’re going to serve your clients well you also need to be in sound enough shape physically and mentally to do so.  That requires that we take some time away.  Shut down the email, turn off the cellphone.  Go play a video game or golf or cook or read a non-business book.  Treat yourself as you would a client – they deserve some focused, uninterrupted time and so do you.

As I said, even if he had gone to the doctor the outcome might have been the same.  What might not have been, however, was how he used the time he had left and how he was treated to determine that time.  Mike’s lesson wasn’t exactly something I learned for the first time this year but this time it’s stuck.  I hope he can help it stick with you as well.

Enjoy a day or two off – on to a great 2013!

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Most Read Posts Of The Year – 3

Since it’s Foodie Friday I thought I’d add the most read food-related post to our list.  This one comes from the Friday before the Super Bowl and it’s not surprising that like most things Super Bowl it was widely viewed.  I’m not sure too many other writers put together food, business, and football but this was my take last February.

Many of you will be cooking something for Sunday’s big game and so this Foodie Friday we’ll think a little bit about what recipes to follow.  Actually, it’s more about how one follows any recipe, and what that has in common with business.

An example recipe, printed from the Wikibooks ...

Image via Wikipedia

As I think you might know, my feeling about cooking is that it’s more like jazz while baking is more Baroque music– far more structured and precise.  Given that, the way I see recipes might differ from how you see them and how that perspective carries into business.  Let’s see.

A recipe is a guide, not an edict.  I look at them as outlines of the dish, but it’s up to me as the cook to insert the flavors I want to present.  For example, if I’m making chili for Sunday’s game, I know that most of the folks who will be at the party enjoy fairly hot food so I might change the spice mix accordingly.  Cooking veal cutlets for 20 can be expensive but turkey cutlets in the same recipe can be just as tasty.  With a vegan and a vegetarian as members of the household here, I often modify recipes to accommodate their eating styles too.  I have a sense of the destination and the recipe is the map, but there are often many routes to get to where I’m trying to go.

Business is the same.  There are some basic road maps – take in more than you spend, treat customers and employees well – but every business is different.  Sticking to the recipe isn’t always possible, and sometimes the road we wish to take is closed, but with a good understanding of fundamental techniques and enough knowledge of the building blocks (ingredients), one can cope with changing market conditions and take advantage of opportunities (I was going to make snapper but look at the fresh grouper on sale!) that might arise.

So as you’re whipping up that pot of gumbo, maybe try thickening it with okra instead of your usual file powder.  If you’re not having much luck using SEM for online commerce, maybe social media can be more efficient.  It’s jazz – learn to improvise – oh, and Go Big Blue!


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Most Read Posts Of The Year – 2

One of the posts you all read and shard the most this year was a recent one from October.  It was a response to an article about how some charlatan was passing himself off as a social media consultant and taking his clients’ money while providing almost nothing in the way of value.  The screed was an extended invitation for he and those like him to go away.  It was called “Crappy Consultants” and is all about everything I certainly don’t want to be.

The screed today hits close to home since I want to throw a little sunlight on something going on in the consulting world.  While it’s been on my mind for a bit I read a piece this morning called How Social Media Consultants Dupe Their Corporate Clients from Dave Copeland of ReadWriteWeb that brought it front and center.  The piece talks about how a friend of Dave’s was underwhelmed by a consultant brought in to get the company up to speed with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and the rest.  Not only was the presentation the consultant made stunningly simplistic, but it may have been wrong.  As the article put it:

…the company has little digital expertise. That leaves it open to exploitation by so-called social media experts who take a one-size-fits-all approach to every client. These consultants often bill tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars before anyone realizes there is little or no return on the investment.

Amen.  As I’m out meeting with potential clients I often run into the work of some “consultant” who knows how to post on Facebook but doesn’t understand how Facebook is used as part of a business.  Forget knowing about the social graph – these folks don’t have a clue about asking the most important question – why social media in the first place?  After all, it’s not right for every business and there certainly is no standard implementation that’s going to work across the board.

I’ve had prospective clients hand me the “white paper” some other consultant did that was nothing more than a document grabbed off the web.  I’ve had another client think that someone had built them a solution when all they were doing was using a white-label provider and marking up the cost.  In each case the warning signs were there – the person they’d hired didn’t have a lot of business experience (it’s hard to claim a ton of social media experience – it’s s new medium!) and treated social as just another marketing megaphone.

It’s hard to convince anyone that there is an ROI to social, especially since it’s very resource intensive if done well.  It requires someone who can digest a 360 degree view of the business and align social with other marketing efforts, including the analytics to evaluate it all.  The charlatans identified in the article hurt clients.  They hurt folks like me who have to battle against their failures to get hired (usually to clean up a mess).  They hurt the industry.  I wish they’d go away – maybe a little sunlight will scare them off.

Have you had an experience with someone like this?

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