April 27, 2010

Flubs In A Seminar With A $500,000 Ticket

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We got an invitation to a dinner seminar from an investment advisor at one of the banks. Tiny fine print makes up the bulk of the message. As you know, the fine print taketh away.

The price of admission? At least $500,000 of investable assets.

Clients of the firm aren't invited, though they may want to switch advisors. Neither are clients of the advisor, though their testimonials could sway the undecided (universal principle of influence #5).

Here's a review of the invitation.

The Good

The basics are good. The location is a nice neighborhood restaurant with good food. The seminar is probably upstairs. The private room can accommodate about 8-12. Presentations become a problem because the room is long and narrow. Attendees stay in their dinner seats, which means the small screen is a bit difficult to see. That's common in this type of venue.

The invitation arrived the week before the event, which creates a sense of urgency to respond. The dinner is midweek --- a good choice. Dinner is at 7 PM which isn't too early or too late.

The Bad

The invitation is generic. The topic is the usual how-to-invest-in-tough-times that several advisors have already used in this same neighborhood. Yawn. There's no compelling reason to attend.

The advisor is the presenter. He has no credentials or testimonials. There's no biography to transform him from a name into a person. The advisor has made himself entirely replaceable.

There's no website for more details. There isn't even an email address. A web search shows the advisor is on LinkedIn … interested in job inquiries. No photo. No bio. No testimonials. No university. No designations. Nothing.

To book, you phone an assistant. Even $500,000 won’t get you this advisor's personal attention. Callers are probably asked questions to make sure they fit the admission criteria.

Who Needs Who?

The advisor needs the attendees much more than they need a dinner and sales pitch. Yet the advisor and the communications department at his firm have not created a compelling Twitter-length message.

Who would want to sit through a lengthy presentation and endure the follow-up calls?

Cost cutting

You get colour envelopes at this firm’s banking machines but the invitation card comes in an envelope with a black and white logo. How much does that save?

The invitation is addressed but stamped as junk mail. Why not use real stamps for a nice personal touch? With self-adhesive stamps, there's no licking involved.

The contents aren't a folded invitation card. There's only a single sided page on thick paper. No colour.

Based on the clues, how good do you think dinner will be? Do you think they'll have wine or desert?


Another advisor from the same firm held a dinner presentation in the same restaurant with a similar topic. You only needed $300,000 to attend that one. That event had a wedding-style invitation and a stamped return envelope. Perhaps that was too extravagant.

The new invitation is going to similar prospects but is less appealing in every way.

There's nothing wrong with saving money and taking short cuts unless you turn away the very people you want to attract.

Maybe the dinner presentation will be a mega success. Maybe there's an untapped demand for generic, invisible advisors.


April 20, 2010

Getting Past The Barriers to Entry

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While you're deciding whether to start something new, the barriers to entry are growing higher. When you do proceed, you need to meet those higher standards to be taken seriously.

If you're new to presentations, you might think clipart and standard templates are fine, but they're outdated.

You may be recording your first video, but now viewers expect good sound, editing and a clear picture (maybe even high definition).

If you're a pioneer, your audience is more forgiving. If you're a follower, you're seen as … a follower. Who's interested in another “me too”? To stand out, you'll need to be better than the current standard. That's tough without the experience that the pioneers got by making mistakes, fixing them and evolving.

So what happens? The higher barriers keep you out. Your competitors win. Don’t let them.

You don't need to be the first but early adopters get an advantages the copycats aren't likely to match.

Here's a simple example. I saw a Blu-Ray disc player from --- hold your breath --- Hewlett-Packard. Exhale. Do you think HP is going going to be a leader in this marketplace? Couldn't they use their resources better somewhere else?

Optical Illusions

The barriers may not be as high as they appear. For example, joining Linkedin today is fine if you set up a proper profile. You’ll look like you belonged for years. You may even look better than the earlier adopters.

This won’t always work, which is fair. For example, if you’re writing or posting video, visitors can easily see what you shipped and when you started.

When Late Is Early

Some businesses move faster than others. The tech industry experiments more than financial services. Youth are usually earlier adopters than 50-somethings.

This works to your advantage. Paying attention to what’s taking off in other industries or demographics, lets you bring ideas to your niche. You look like the leader when you’re really a follower. You then establish standards and barriers for your competition. Nice!

The Best Time To Start

The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today.  --- Chinese proverb
You may not be too late. Brian Tracy says that the way to get to the front of the line is to
  1. get in line
  2. stay in line
That simple advice empowers you to start. Granted, you’ll need to meet today’s minimum standards. Maybe that means practicing in private until you’re ready for your debut.


April 13, 2010

How To Delegate To Outsiders

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If you know that branding matters, you can't cheap out when hiring a designer.

If you know that quality matters, you can't cheap up out when printing your marketing material

If you know that time matters, you can't get involved in making small but time-consuming decisions.

What can you do?

The Better Way

Work with people as good at what they do as you are at what you do.

You delegate and rely on the judgment of your collaborators. Will you get exactly what you imagined?

Probably not. You might get stuck with something even better.


The Lesson From Experience

When I first started managing staff, I wanted them to do things the way I would. If you have a pet or child, you know that doesn’t work. I had neither and learned by experience.

You've got two choices:
  1. say what you want and let the other person figure out how (they use their talents and take responsibility for the results)
  2. say how you want something done (which makes them robot-like and you responsible for the outcome)
Either approach works, depending on the person, assignment and timeframe. Combining them flops.

Delegation won’t work if you’re a control freak. But are you really? Sometimes we get mired in trivia to avoid doing more important but less pleasant work. Unfortunately, busy is not the same as effective.

Best Results

When using external collaborators, you get the best results by trusting their abilities and judgment. And treating them as part of your team.

When you work in a corporation, you’re limited by the abilities and priorities of your salaried co-workers. That spells c-o-m-p-r-o-m-i-s-e. As an entrepreneur, you’ve got access to other independent high-calibre entrepreneurs eager and able to please.

You also pay them fairly --- like you want to be paid. That golden rule again. One of my collaborators fell far behind schedule because another project grew in scope. He offered to charge less but I declined. If he’s losing financially, so am I. Our joint success depends on his creativity.

When you care about others, they care about you. You all benefit now and in the future.


PS Collaborators bring diversity too

April 5, 2010

The Best Way To Capture Your Thoughts

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We have 50,000 ideas run through our minds daily. Ideas are like wet slippery fish. You got to get 'em when they show up or they will slip away never to be seen again
--- Earl Nightingale

How do you capture your thoughts?

Here are five possible places
  1. your mind
  2. your portable computer
  3. your smartphone
  4. a voice recorder
  5. on paper
Let’s explore the options.

Your Mind

Unless you have a photographic memory and an effective retrieval system, your mind makes a lousy storage place. That's the principle behind David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology.

Even if you have a mind like a … what's the name of that animal that never forgets? Even if you remember everything, how do you delegate without records?

Portable Computer

You can use your computer but it’s difficult to flip to the right page and to view multiple pages at the same time. If you’re already using your computer, you’ll need to an application that’s handy for taking notes. That might disrupt your thinking if your ideas are related to another window or web page you were viewing.

What about a tablet? The better ones let you use your handwriting, which is very convenient, but you still face the same issues as with a computer.


When ideas strike, you're more likely to have your smart phone than a computer or tablet. Adding content is slower your speed of thinking. The screen is small. You may be somewhere you can’t talk. What you say might get overheard.

Unlike paper, you can use your smartphone in the dark.

Voice Recorder

A voice recorder seems like a great idea. If you don't have one, your phone may have this function. In a pinch, you can leave yourself a voicemail.

What do you do with these recordings? Unless they're transcribed automatically, you spend time listening to them and transcribing them yourself. Delegation becomes a problem until you do. You can’t talk aloud everywhere, which limits usability.


It’s tough to beat paper. It’s portable. It’s cheap. It’s fast. It’s available widely. The same for pens and pencils.

Does filling an 8.5”x11” page intimidate you or use up too much space. Try smaller pages. A pad works better than a spiral bound notebook. A pad lets you reorganize your thoughts by rearranging the pages on your desk. I often use lined yellow 5" x 8" or unlined white 5.5" x 8.5" (cut an 8.5”x11” page in two).


What do you do with the paper? You probably want the content on your computer. Here’s what you can do.
If the content can stay in handwriting, just scan it. Here you’ll be glad that you used smaller paper because you’ll be able to read the whole page on the screen in either portrait or landscape. Try that with 8.5x11” paper.

If you want the content in your computer, you can type it but it’s probably faster to dictate with Dragon NaturallySpeaking and then edit.


PS Whatever you use, do catch those elusive slippery fish!