Go With Your Gut Feel

I recently read an article in an industry newsletter about key factors in getting a buy-sell deal done and it struck me it was applicable to most, if not all, of our businesses.

The statement catching my attention was,

“If you ever get a knot in your stomach during the negotiations that is the time to throw in the towel….”

So true, so true. I have told (buy-sell) clients for years that if their gut tells them something’s wrong it’s time to get away, no matter how good a match the other appears to be on the surface.

Headline: THIS APPLIES TO ALL BUSINESS AND LIFE SITUATIONS

When you feel something isn’t clicking, you’re going off kilter, or there’s a basic uneasiness, then it’s time to get out. Doesn’t matter if it’s (on paper) a great business to buy, (on paper) a great buyer for your business, a seemingly great customer, or anything else – go with your gut feel.

A buyer client told me recently he didn’t trust a business broker/intermediary. I told him to forget it, move on and work with the other ones. I’ve not pursued clients because the feeling wasn’t right. As Alan Weiss says, “You can always make another dollar but you can’t make more time.” And a bad client or customer sucks time (and energy).

God gave us the intuition to sense what’s right and wrong. Don’t ignore it based on the superficial.

“Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.” Aldous Huxley

The personal touch wins

I recently had the pleasure of needing tech support a couple times. In my opinion, an online chat is the worst way to get help (for the customer). For the company, it may be the best because, it seems, each support person can handle multiple people at the same time, versus only one via telephone.

But I think it’s a waste of resources. I will bet the old, “Dollars to donuts” it takes more time to bounce between customers and their issues than to concentrate on one at a time. I now realize it’s best to call and talk to someone, especially since most firms allow you to enter your phone number for a call back while keeping your place in the queue. (I feel this way despite the fact that in our changing times many people prefer technology over the phone, a great example being recent studies showing 86% of millennials prefer to do job interviews by text.)

It’s why we must balance our client/customer load. One of my favorite questions to ask audiences is, “What’s worse, having the capacity to make one million widgets a year and only selling 250,000 (other than having the capacity to make two million)?” The answer is, selling one million and only having the capacity to make 250,000.

John Naisbett was right, the more we get high tech the more we’ll need high touch. At some point a sale has to be made, and we all can’t sell like Amazon because we don’t have simple products, we have value.

“If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” George S. Patton

Complicated Doesn’t Get Customers

Computers get faster, more powerful, more streamlined, and at the same time the programs get more complicated, meaning they more and more become resource hogs. I can’t figure out why, after all these years, Microsoft Office has about one gigabyte of updates every couple weeks.

I guess it’s why Moore’s Law about how technology and its transistors double (in speed and capacity) every two years makes sense – it has to. Software programs keep gumming up the machines.

There’s a lesson here and that lesson is don’t fall into the complication trap. There’s a reason salespeople have been taught for decades (maybe a century or more?) to KISS, Keep It Simple Stupid.

I don’t care if you give advice, make, distribute, or retail a product, or provide a hands-on service, make it as simple and easy as possible for your customers. The easier it is for your customers or clients to understand the value you can provide the better.

We all have value propositions, or what marketing people call a USP, unique selling proposition. When you convey it in the fewest words you win. Don’t make your prospects have to think too much, or they (we) will find reasons not to buy.

Boring but Effective

We were relaxing on a Sunday night after a busy weekend and watching the end of Sunday Night Baseball. It was an exciting game, the visitors had a one run lead in the bottom of the ninth, runner on first, two outs, and the pitcher kept throwing over to first to keep the runner close, as he had previously attempted to steal on a pitch fouled off. Of course, the home town fans booed with every toss to first and the boos got louder with every throw.

Sure enough, the runner took off, the catcher fired a bullet to second, runner out, and game over. The announcers quickly pounced on the runner’s poor lead and jump, because of all the throws to first.

Throwing to first is a baseball basic when the runner is a threat to steal, and sometimes even when he’s not. Not popular when the opponent does it, very smart when your team does it.

The basics in running a business can get pretty boring and some employees may not like doing them, but they work.

  • Make enough calls and sales happen.
  • Put in the time to have accurate financial statements and management reports and you’ll know where you stand.
  • Put in the time on new products and you grow.
  • Delegate to your employees, they’ll grow and be more productive.

The basics of getting ready to exit can also seem boring, like repeated throws to first, but they pay off. It’s why I’ve made the process simple in If They Can Sell Pet Rocks Why Can’t You Sell Your Business (For What You Want)?)

If you’d like a complimentary copy for yourself or a client let me know.

“Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten.” B.F. Skinner

 

Common Sense Isn’t All That Common

The Fourth of July is a day when seemingly normal people lose their common sense and blow off fingers, damage eyes, and do other mayhem to their bodies (and homes) for the thrill of setting off explosive devices.

But it’s not restricted to fireworks, it’s common in all forms of life including business. Just look at the recent escapades at Uber. Smart people, a dynamic idea (which disrupted the heck out of the taxi and shuttle industries), and no common sense when it came to company culture.

Riding so high on their idea, I’m sure given all the money (investors money) they had in spite of consistent losses let many of their people feel they could do no wrong. But obviously, they did a lot wrong in the office, especially with their treatment of women.

As many smart people have proclaimed over the centuries, common sense isn’t all that common. The above are just two examples and good warnings about how we need to ask ourselves, “Does this make sense?” when faced with a decision on something new. It could be a growth strategy, buying a business, selling one, or something personal (look at all the homebuyers these days who waive inspections so they can outbid the 37 other buyers for a house).

If you’re a business owner or have clients who own a business some of the best common sense advice to those thinking of selling in the next few years is to do the things necessary to increase the company’s value and make it more attractive to buyers (hint, the best common sense advice is for them to read my book If They Can Sell Pet Rocks Why Can’t You Sell Your Business (For What You Want)?)

Above all, have common sense and keep all your fingers intact every July 4.

“That which distinguishes this day from all others is that then both orators and artillerymen shoot blank cartridges.” John Burroughs

 

 

 

Do More in Less Time

I recently read an excerpt from the book, “Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less (by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. Copyright © 2016), shared it with a client group for discussion, and I’m now reading the book. BTW, my clients really identified with the topic and had positive feedback.

The title of the excerpt is: “Darwin Was a Slacker and You Should Be Too – Many famous scientists have something in common—they didn’t work long hours.

In simple terms, the book (and article) explain why some of the most productive people ever to set foot on the planet only “worked” (or work if they’re still alive) about four hours a day. The opening of the book is about the science behind this (proving it) and is a bit deep as the author describes the various brain tests and similar.

Charles Darwin is a perfect example of this as he put in three intense 90-minute segments a day of work. The rest of his day was filled with correspondence (email to us), walking, napping, family, etc. During this time, and on this schedule, he wrote 19 books including the famous, “The Origin of Species.”

Other interesting tidbits:

  • Studies have shown there’s an “M” curve of productivity, which peaks at between 10 and 20 hours of work per week. After that, it’s lower productivity. In fact, 60-hour per week researchers were the least productive of all.
  • Great performers (music, dance, sports) didn’t practice more than the average but they practiced more deliberately. This means, “engaging with full concentration in a special activity to improve one’s performance.” It’s more than repetition, it’s focused, structured, and has clear goals and feedback.
  • The biggest factor was rest. The best scientists, musicians, dancers, and athletes, made sure they got enough rest, sleeping an average of one hour more per day than those not as good.

Interestingly, a few weeks ago I returned on Tuesday from a long weekend of fishing and other things, got in my office Wednesday morning about 8:00, at 10:00 I took my first break, realized how much I had accomplished, and noted I needed a break. It hit me how subconsciously I was doing as described in the book.

“I’m at the point where naps are a necessity not a luxury.” My best friend’s dad to my dad when both were in their 70’s

Pace Yourself with Urgency

The Seattle Mariners, like quite a few teams, started their 2017 season very slowly, going 2-8 at one point. The press and the casual fans started to panic, then they won 4 games in a row.

You see, the baseball season is like a life, it’s long and has many ups and downs. A baseball team with a 50-50 record at the All-Star break has plenty of time, there’s still a lot of season left.

By contrast, football is like a year of life. There’s 10% of the games (in football versus baseball), and a bad few games, like a bad few months in life or business, can wreck your season/year. A football team that is 5-5 at the same 5/8 point of the season better go at least 5-1 the rest of the way or they’re in trouble.

It’s why, in life and business, we need a balance between the short and long term. We can’t panic every time we lose a deal and we can’t get overly excited when we do get a deal. Our focus should be on what we need to do every day to keep a steady stream of customers coming in our door, which means long term strategy implementation.

However, we can’t lose urgency. Some things need be done now. You can’t put off phone calls for a month and expect potential customers to still be there. I can’t miss three weeks of this memo and then have four come out in one week.

For years I’ve told all my clients (buy-sell, coaching, mentoring, etc.) if they keep doing the things they are supposed to do, good things will happen. Of course, it usually takes someone who knows what the heck they’re doing to make sure the things they’re doing are the right things being done the right way.

“Status quo, you know, is Latin for ‘the mess we’re in’.” Ronald Reagan

 

Leverage Our Instant Communication World

We live in the age of instant communication. We also live in the age of someone with a microphone just about everywhere. Mitt Romney found it out in 2012 and recently in the Seattle ares two fire district commissioners got in hot water when they made comments about controlling the budget by hiring Mexican firefighters because they can pay them less.

What we can learn from this is any communication can travel fast. I recently posted an article on LinkedIn and within an hour I had a call and an email about it (and more later).

It shows that even though there is so much information out there, if it’s of value it gets noticed. Why so many newsletters, like this one? Because people get them, read them, like them, etc. Why a lot of comments on LinkedIn posts (and especially Facebook posts, even the inane ones)? Same answer.

You sustain this by providing value. Posting someone else’s catchy saying or inspirational message online takes nothing more than perusing the Internet and doing some copy and paste. Taking the time to offer value makes people realize you know what the heck you’re doing.

Whether you provide advice as I do, sell an industrial product, or provide a service, stand out in a noisy world by giving people worthwhile information. It’s worth the little bit of extra time versus copying someone else’s work.

“Diplomacy is the art of telling plain truths without giving offense.” Winston Churchill

 

Let Your Employees Handle the Trophy

The front page of the Seattle Times sports section on March 20, 2017 had a picture of Seattle Sounders co-owner Drew Carey carrying the MLS Championship Cup as fans and he marched to the game. On the radio that day I heard a discussion that included:

  • How one of the announces was at the game and pre-game march and said the trophy was passed around amongst the fans.
  • One of the other announcers comparing this to when the Seahawks Super Bowl trophy was and is on display there’s a “guard,” he was the only one allowed to handle it, and he only touched it while wearing white gloves.

Think about this as you create policies for your employees. Is your company one where the owner is involved in everything (being the guard)? Is the owner a bottleneck because everything goes across his or her desk? (This also applies to any department head and his or her reports.)

Or is your firm one where the employees get to handle the trophy? Meaning, the employees get responsibility, the ability to make decisions, and the ability to learn from those decisions.

I’m going to state how it’s better policy to have the employees involved versus a bottleneck, which we also call a dependency. Whether you believe me on this or not realize if it’s ever time to sell your company the buyer will be interested in this. They want a competent management team and employees who can get things done without babysitting.

If you’re skeptical about this, here’s a short example. A client owns a firm in the trades, is looking to buy a smaller firm, and we found what appeared to be a good target. However, one of the supposedly experienced tradesperson can’t be sent to a job on his own. The owner must take him to the job, go over the job with him, and then he’s okay. This was a deal killer as my client doesn’t have the time or inclination to babysit like this. Let your employees “handle the trophy.”

“If I don’t go into work a little scared, I don’t have any interest in it.” Mary Tyler Moore

Estimates and Misclassifying Will Hurt You

It’s March and that means college basketball tournaments aka, March Madness. It’s your typical tournament in that all the number one and two seeds won their first games and by the end of the second round a number one, two number twos, and a number three had been upset. Also, the “experts” proclaimed some teams had been seeded lower than they should have been and therefore got games too tough too early.

Recently I wrote a very well received post about how projections are mostly meaningless. The same applies here but we should give credit to those seeding these teams as 75% of the “Sweet Sixteen” are where they’re supposed to be. Of course, even the experts brackets were busted by these and other upsets.

Those teams upsetting the much higher seeds got hot at the right time and these factors the same in our day-to-day businesses. Think about how often a “for sure” client doesn’t become a client. Or how the longshot customer buys from you without (what you perceive to be) too much effort.

We all misclassify the likelihood of someone doing business with us (both ways) and every so often we get “hot” at the right time, say the right thing, etc. That’s life, and it’s part of what makes life and business interesting. Of course, if, like sports teams, we practice what we do (and practice correctly), we reduce the chances of upsets and increase the chances of getting hot.

“The man who says his wife can’t take a joke forgets that she took him.” Oscar Wilde