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Scenario: "Dude, we gotta invest in this money now. Now. Now. Now! Every minute we're not investing the money we have, we're losing increased sales, market share, fat profits, and our future Bentleys. I don't care what you do today; just invest our excess cash! Now!" "Wait, sucker!" -- you'd say. "If we can't find concrete, solid, hard information on an investment's benefits -- we won't invest. Pass!" And, you'd be a smart, rockin', ridiculously-good-lookin' businessperson.

You = Better than 9 out of 10 entrepreneurs who close shop within 2 years.

Ever made a ridiculously bad investment, then learned why it sucked so badly? If you're like most of us, you probably knew diddly about the investment. Your friend Bucky told you he had hot stock picks, a restaurant business, and four condos for you to get rich. Just contribute whatever you can, and you'll be rich -- he said. So you gathered your entire life savings, and invested that chunk. What happened next? Kabooooooom! Investing clumsily = The primary reason why most entrepreneurs fail. Here's how it usually plays out:

Scenario B: Microcosm of how entrepreneurs fail.

10:00 a.m: Danny thinks using a Google AdWords campaign will bring him hundreds of clients. 10:30 a.m: A "fabulous marketing expert" -- who coincidentally made all his money selling his 15 "fabulous marketing books" -- advises Danny to invest 50% of his money in marketing because it's oh-so important. 1:00 p.m: So he puts 50% of his money in AdWords on advice from an additional e-book author (who, also coincidentally, makes his money selling only "How I made $205,889.32 using AdWords" - blah!). 3:00 p.m: He creates his ads, submits them, and hopes for those "hundreds of clients." 5 days later: He gets a notice from Google: "You owe us several thousand dollars. Pay up, buddy boy." 6 days later: Danny closes shop. Files for bankruptcy. (Sidenote: Then finally figures most self-described "experts" are bad, bad, bad people.)

"What do I do? What do I do?"

Be smart. Of course that's easier said that done. Three sweet tips for ya:

  1. Don't put all your eggs in one basket.

    Ask yourself: "If this investment fails, I you have money remaining to survive another day? How big of an impact would it be if that investment fails? Is it minimal?" Google, Walmart, HP, Apple, Dell, Yahoo, and MySpace had significant cash left over after their initial failures. The ones that failed that you don't hear about? Zero.
  2. Invest minimally at first.

    If one small investment falters, you'll be okay. But, if that small investment works out, things are looking good for you to invest some more. Google Labs has a number of different ongoing projects; if one shows signs of hope, the company starts pumping more resources into it. Remember:
  3. It takes patience.

    Yeah, we're sure you're tempted to just throw it all on the table, and see what you get. That's why some bad people exploit those get-rich-quick schemes. As with anything though, throwing all your eggs out there is a signal for eventual disaster. Your business crumbles if you falter just once.

Take it from our main man, Warren Buffet.

He's the best investor in the history of the universe and its mama -- who urges patient investing:

We have $16 billion in cash not because of any predictions [about a market decline], but because we can't find anything that makes us want to part with that cash. We're not positioning ourselves. We just try to do smart things every day, and if there's nothing smart, then we sit on cash.

The moral:

When in doubt, don't invest.

Posted on August 18

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Scenario A: Says the self-described business "expert" Johnny, who plugs his books any chance he gets: "You just gotta, hafta excite the customer! Tell the person you can serve them like you're a cracked-up Superman! Tell them they will suffer if they go to somebody else! You are the one and only solution! Yay! Buy my books! " Scenario B: Says the auto-mechanic dude on the corner lot, who actually manages a business: "Be truthful. If you have a flaw, admit it. Then tell them why that flaw works to your advantage. For example, when I was young, I would tell customers that though I was inexperienced, I was hungry to make my mark in the world."

BOO for the self-described "business experts" who prey on your hard-earned money!

How many times have you repeatedly bought from some dude (or dudette) with the typical rah-rah sales pitch? Now, compare that with how many times you've bought from somebody who genuinely, willingly, wanted to help you. (Think about those 100-year-old mom-and-pop shops.) Credibility, coincidentally, comes from be straight up to your potential customer. It's having integrity. It's admitting you don't know everything, but -- like a shooting star that you'll never reach -- you're always working to get there.

"So do I just admit that I seriously suck at providing my services?"

Not quite. We're definitely not encouraging you to run a 10 foot banner with just the the "We Suck" sign attached to your logo and business card. Most likely, you don't suck since there's always room for improvement; and, if you do suck and can't do anything about it, you're in the wrong line of business. Instead, describe how your bad stuff works to your advantage.

It says so in the nerdy study. (Ok, "nerdy cool.")

According to a research study by social psychologists, the best way to boost your credibility is to (1) admit a flaw, then (2) describe how that flaw helps you:
  1. In one study, Bohner and colleagues (2003) created three different versions of an advertisement for a restaurant. One message featured only positive product attributes of the restaurant (e.g., cozy atmosphere).
  2. A second message featured those positive attributes in addition to some negative product attributes that were unrelated to the positive attributes (e.g., the restaurant cannot offer dedicated parking to its clients).
  3. Finally, the third message featured the positive product attributes in addition to some negative product attributes that were related to the positive attributes (e.g., small restaurant, so there's little space).
Thus, participants who saw the third advertisement were able to make the connection between the negative aspects of the restaurant and the positive ones ("There's little space, but that's part of what makes the atmosphere cozy"). In short, although both types of two-sided message produced increases in the restaurant owner's perceived credibility, the evaluation of the restaurant itself was highest in the two-sided message in which the positive and negative attributes were related.
To get you started on the road to rock your business, the sample template for ya:

"Though we're behind Jimbo's Widgets-4-You in local market share, that excites us to provide a kick-ass service to you."

Posted on August 17

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Scenario: "Have you read ________'s new management book? It's awesome! It says we need to do ______, ______, and ______. Dude, we're going to rock our industry. Yay!" Good business books preach pretty cool things: systemize your business, confront employee dilemmas, incorporate healthy environments, unite a team toward a singular purpose, yadda, yadda, yadda.

We humans read, but...

Business management books all sound great; and, you'd think we'd be better off than 99.1231532% of businesses out there if we incorporated just one idea from every book we've read. Yet, what do most of us do after reading a rockin' business book (and we Trizlers are often guilty of this)? Diddly squat. Nothing. Nada. We read the good stuff like it's our drug of choice, but we rarely take it to heart.

Let's counter that apathy.

We present to you our (hopefully) fantabulous, rockin', pseudo-patent-pending 3-step process to uncover why most of us suck as managers -- and what we can do about it.

  1. The problem.

    • Customer Cassie: Can you take my little sister to school?
    • Employee Ernie: We'd like to build an employee recognition program.
    • Manager Matty: Not yet. I need to take the customer's little brother to school. Customers are always right. Remember that, mutha flucka.
    "Day-to-day activities." "What's needed now." "Pressures of the day." Blah. Most of us focus on fighting daily fires, constantly. Solely. The sad fact? Daily activities will continuously be there if we let it. Why do workaholics exist? As soon as workaholics finish a task, there's another one waiting for them. And another. And another. And another. Instead of systemizing our business processes, we take the "We just gotta do it today" short-term view. According to the Harvard studies, we're all pretty lousy managers:

    Study 1:

    A diary study of 160 British middle and top managers found that they worked without interruption for a half hour or more only about once every two days.

    Study 2:

    Half the activities engaged in by the five chief executives of my study lasted less than nine minutes, and only 10% exceeded one hour. A study of 56 U.S. foremen found that they averaged 583 activities per eight-hour shift, an average of 1 every 48 seconds.

    Study 3:

    Of the verbal contacts the chief executives in my study engaged in, 93% were arranged on an ad hoc basis. Only 1% of the executives' time was spent in open-ended observational tours. Only 1 out of 368 verbal contacts was unrelated to a specific issue and could therefore be called general planning.

    Study 4:

    Another researcher found that "in not one single case did a manager report obtaining important external information from a general conversation or other undirected personal communication."
    Yes, daily activities are important; but, if we consistently put those at the expense of rockin' our businesses for the future, we're in for a disastrous surprise.
  2. Why it hurts us.

    When we solely put our energy into accomplishing the day-to-day activities, we weaken our company's long-term stability. We cripple our company's foundation to maybe, hopefully, someday grow the sucker. Or, serve employees better. Or, delight customers. Or, market, manage, and lead like the superstars that we are. What are we doing?
    • Instead of improving our customer service response times, we're out fighting fires with customers.
    • Instead of building our innovation factory to make better products, we're out responding constantly to 24-hour support requests on our sucky products.
    • Instead of working on partnerships, we're out taking our customer's little brother to school.
    Solely managing daily activities is akin to blowing off investing in the business. It's like running a championship track meet without the required training. Or, it's like going on a long date Nicole Richie without eating beforehand. (Zing!) Sure, you can forget the long-term; but it'll probably kill your business. Holding onto your company by a thread sucks.
  3. The solution.

    Forget your day-to-day activities just for second. Slowly but surely take a "time-out-so-I-can-rock-this-business" study power session in your daily activities. If you take out just a small percentage of your day to do it, you'll be much better off in building your business like how you once imagined. Humans thrive on questions, so here are some to guide you (and these definitely aren't conclusive, so feel free to come up with your own):
    • How can I improve customer service such that 75% of people we meet will talk to their friends about us?
    • How can I speed up my orders so that customers won't think twice about using my services?
    • How can I excite employees to come in every morning, and passionately work on something?
    • What do I need to stop doing, so I can concentrate more on what I love doing?
    • And the cheesiest of 'em all: How can I love life more?
    (That last question keeps us in check to do things we thrive on doing; hopefully it'll help you, too.)

"But what if I don't have the time for it?!"

You do. To start, just place in one hour of "time-for-my-bad-self-to-reflect" into your schedule. Try it daily for three weeks, and improve on each day. Then see what happens.

Reflect, ponder, think, and build your bad-ass business like it ain't no thang but a chicken wing on a string.

Posted on August 16

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Tha Scenario: Wait...we're not there yet. It needs to be "perfect" before we do something. Indecision kills companies, and those from starting businesses.

"Why do most 'soon-to-be-entrepreneurs' suck?"

If you've been around the self-described "The Next Great Billionaire", you've noticed one common suckiness to them: They talk their butts off. Whether it's the "confidential" ideas they've been hawking the last 5 years, or how they'll smoke multi-billion-dollar companies, or why Dell and IBM sucks compared to their awesome-ness, or why they can do it so much more than what the world offers, the talkers can enlighten a room -- but they suck at providing the world value due to their indecisiveness. In the meantime, Google, Yahoo, IBM, Dell, and the actual next billionaires are all executing decisions.

What Separates Google from the Rest

Just that: Executing sweet decisions. "What's our next product? Who's our next hire? Where's our annual training? When's our conference?" Fortune 500 companies grew because they fattened the number of executed decisions, consistently. For instance, a typical small start-up can copy Dell's early business model; what then separates the typical start-up from the Texas-based behemoth? Simple: Dell's early ability to execute decisions. It's the one secret sauce that the super-duper powers use. And it's an easy mindset your company can adopt.

It's in the study.

Says Harvard's Ram Chiran:

Studies of successful companies often focus on their products, business models, or operational strengths: Microsoft's world-conquering Windows operating system, Dell's mass customization, Walmart's logistical prowess. Yet products and operational strengths aren't what really set the most successful organizations apart -- they can all be rented or imitated. What can't be easily duplicated are the decisive dialogues and robust operating mechanisms and their links to feedback and follow-through.

"What do I do?"

Start by counting the number of executed decisions you make per week. Then, start improving on that number consistently. For "The Next Great Billionaire":

"Shut up, and do something."

Posted on August 15

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We will start a business. We will have the greatest customer service in town. We will provide abundant compliments. That will be our highlight. Compliments. Lots of 'em. We will win.

That's what we said when we started Trizzy. As a computer company, we thought we'd just plow through Dell using our customer-oriented personality. It didn't work. We've talked to a number of entrepreneurs, and they felt similarly about customer service: "It's mostly just about complimenting the customers." Then sucky business authors add this gem: "It's NOT about just mostly complimenting the customers. It's about complimenting them, GENUINELY." Blaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh. Now you know why most haven't run a successful business. Folks, customer service just isn't about words, talk, making promises, compliments, blah, blah.

What customer service doesn't mean

It's not about: "You look great today! You have a fantastic business. I love your tie! Yay." Nor is it about: "Make the customer smile when you first greet them. Do it or your fired. Yay." Nor this jewel: "Let's distribute free golf lessons to customers! Yay!"

What customer service does mean

Sure, you could be best friends with your customers -- but, it's not that simple. Customers want something else. They want the basics of execution. Not just talk, but the intangibles: being on time, executing, fulfilling promises, helping decrease costs. It about the crazy-adorable quote: "Shut up, and do something!" Says Harvard's Benson Shapire and Kasturi Rangan, customers love businesses that execute: "What customers want is to have their orders handled quickly, accurately, and cost-effectively."

What kick-ass-customer-service means

Scene 431: Bob's biz just lost a big client because he was too slow. You come in, ask him what's wrong, study what went wrong, then show him how he can fix the problem. Shortly, he wins a humongous client. He loves you, then refers you to 90821047624124532 of his friends. Kick-ass-customer-service = You.

To take your customer-service up a notch, provide solutions to your beloved customers.

Forget the "seller" mindset, but adopt the "solution-provider" mindset. Unless you've viciously stalked a business client, you don't know the full story of your customer's situation. Once you listen, the client will provide you with a stream of ideas that, lucky for you, wants you to implement. It's the secret sauce that's propelled the likes of IBM, McKinsey, HP, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs. Listen first. Then, get answers from it. So easy. ('s a secret.)

So how do I know when my customer service is kick-ass?

What makes masses of web developers buy Apple? What makes college students buy $5 coffee at Starbucks? What makes soccer moms buy gallons of milk at Costco? Why do customers return, and bring along their 25 friends? When you're running your business, you'll know how kick-ass your customer service by a pretty sweet measure:

Your referral/repeat-purchase rate.

Scenario 1: If you've finished a transaction with Bob, Sally, and Joan, and you don't hear from them again: time to improve! Scenario 2: If Jane, Billy, and Bob purchase from you, and 2 weeks later, they comes back with their friends: you're kicking ass.

Kick ass. (You know you want to.)

Posted on August 14

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You should. Says USC's Psychiatrist Lenore Terr:
Play permits us emotional discharge without huge risk. Our cares, worries, sadness, secrets, are released. Our tensions are built into our play, but unlike the direct discharges produced in the sexual act or in battle, the release of play is a more prolonged, more subtle, less the sought-after, ultimate goal. Laughing, hitting a ball, pinching back spent flowers, moving our bodies around, moving our ideas around, gently teasing, playing a role -- these diversions create a series of shallow, slow releases that relax us and leave us satisfied, set for another day.

Why Our Brain Needs Fun

Our brains holds a fuel tank. When we're working, we're using up that fuel. To refuel, we need to get away from work. That is: relaxation, having fun, doing something aside from work -- that's our Chevron, Exxon, BP. Instead of refueling however, workaholics continue working -- on an empty tank. That, of course, leads to burnouts, unimaginative works, bad customer service, bad PR relations, etc., etc., etc. Ever worked/done-business with a workaholic? Hella bad. This weekend, keep this sucker mind:

Fun is hella good.

Posted on August 13

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"You suck. We wanted this and this and that and that, and you're too slow. You have a low GPA, bad SATs, graduated with a horrible major, and you just plain suck. You suck."

Employers don't say that, but that's how most applicants interpret their typical rejection letters/phone-calls/no-calls.

"Just give it straight up to them. They suck!"

If it were true, we'd probably agree. But it's not. Everybody has an inner Michael Jordan inside of them. Everybody. It's just that most people haven't found where they kick major ass. So what's the point of killing their journey by lowering their self-esteem?

Don't be like most businesses.

Take the right route. If applicants won't thrive at your company, tell them they'll thrive somewhere else. It's like rejecting football star Terrell Owens from an NBA team, so he can seek an NFL team. Doing anything else is criminal. The sweet rejection template for ya:

You'll thrive better here: _____________, because _____________.

Posted on August 12

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At the heart of a great company, lies great people. Common wisdom, then, says your company needs to seek superstars, recruit them, and watch them fatten your profits. Logical, it seems. Yet:

Common wisdom is wrong, yet again, and again, and again, and again.

Hiring superstars won't drive your company to become Wall Street's next angel. The reasons:

  1. Superstars = expensive.

    Seek a superstar, and expect to pay a bundle. Financially, and the other stuff: feelings of entitlement, benefits, environment necessities, yadda, yadda, yadda. Instead of recruiting ten up-and-comers, you're paying a bundle for one that probably won't net you the results you seek.
  2. Superstars' performance falls dramatically after they arrive.

    Familiar with any sport? When superstars arrive, their performance falls dramatically. It's happened to Shaquille O'neal, Michael Jordan, Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, among the several others. The reason? The people became superstars elsewhere because they thrived in the right environment; they became superstars because they had fit the mold, the structure, and the culture of their organization. Since your company won't have the same environment, superstars probably won't achieve the same results in your company. Harvard's Ashish Nanda and Nitin Nohria studied the effects of hiring star performers, explaining that superstars' performance suffers after arriving at a new company:
    Performance depends on both her personal competencies and the capabilities, such as systems and processes, of the organization she works for. When she leaves, she cannot take the firm-specific resources that contributed to her achievements. As a result, she is unable to repeat her performance in another company; at least, not until she learns to work the new system, which could take years.
  3. Superstars lack loyalty.

    It's like Bob cheating on Girlfriend Jane to get with Pretty Sally. If Bob meets Jessica Alba, Bob will dump Pretty Sally, and go for Jessica Alba. When you're hiring superstar employees, you're probably offering them a high compensation package to attract them. If money lures them, what will happen when your competitor offers them a higher salary or other benefits?
  4. You demotivate your current crop of talent.

    Jimmy's been working his butt off for your company. Instead of promoting him, you bring in a superstar -- give him power, authority, extra resources and benefits. What does that signal to Jimmy? Importantly, what does that signal to your other employees? When you bring in a superstar, you tell your company that performance doesn't matter. Entitlement does. If your company sends a signal that merit sucks, you'll watch your company's performance slowly deteriorate.

What should you do instead?

  • Forget superstars.

    They're expensive. Sure, a small percentage could very well help your company, but most won't. Instead, look to potential superstars. We affectionately call them Poperstars. They're hungry. They're wanting to change the world. And importantly, they'll work their butts off at a tenth of the price of a superstar.

Then once you get Poperstars, focus on growing that talent. Says Nanda and Nohria: "In business, the only viable strategy is to recruit good people, develop them, and retain as many of the stars as possible."

Poperstars rock.

Posted on August 11

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If businesses that win in the long-run focus on win/win solutions, how do you explain doing philanthropic jobs?

"Philanthropy? Won't that hurt our bottom line?"

Common sense says doing corporate philanthropy produces a win/lose situation. The client benefits, but the provider loses.

That is, they think doing philanthropic work:

  • drains time
  • drains money
  • drains brain power
  • drains resources
  • drains energy

"We need to focus on win/win solutions, so philanthropic works are out of the questions," they say.

That's why most businesses (especially startups and small businesses) steer clear of corporate philanthropy.

Yet, rock star businesses do something differently:

"We will do philanthropic work, and we will TOO benefit from doing the work."

  • It's not an OR question: "Either we grow our business, OR we do philanthropic work."
  • Inspired by Jim Collins's Built to Last, it's an AND question: "We will grow our business, AND we will do philanthropic work."

Rock star businesses know doing philanthropic work lets them:

  1. Builds a cool customer network.

    A philanthropy normally has an array of important contacts. You get in, and you'll be exposed to business leaders, directors, and of course: the organization's leaders.

    Do a rockin' job with your non-profit, and watch karma work its magic.

  2. Builds vast experience.

    Philanthropies aren't as demanding as most businesses, so it's perfectly okay if you mess up. Just pick yourself back up, and try again.

    Because of the leeway, you can start strengthening your capabilities, gradually. Simultaneously, and more importantly: you'll practice working with clients that size.

  3. Helps the freakin' world.

    We leave this point last, and we feel it's the most important. We write Trizoko because we find our greatest happiness lies not in what we can get from it, but what we can give through it. It's like Christmas day for us everyday, and it rocks.

    There's something about providing value to others, giving them some rockin' gear, or putting smiles on their faces that makes us all tingly inside. For us, it's what life's all about.

    We encourage you to experience working with philanthropies if you haven't already. It drives you to adopt the most important mindset in business: the "me-second" attitude.

You may be thinking after our cheesy drivel: "Hey, let's go to our nearest philanthropy and help out!"

Not quite! Good business know what they should do -- and more importantly, what they should ignore:

  • Take philanthropic jobs that fit with your company's strengths and goals.

    Where do you rock the ^^@^ out of your competitors? The philanthropic work that you'll do: will it inspire you? If it will, you're on the right track.

    Remember: You need win/win solutions, and a constant and consistent stream of win/win solutions drives you to affect the world like a ^@!$@!^ rock star.

Go rock the world.

(Like it ain't no thang, but a chicken wing on a string. Word.)

Posted on August 10

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"Of course they like the way I talk to them. I let them know I run the show here. We're doing great because of it. They love me. Yay for me."

Most mangers, leaders, CEOs, and whatever-owners-call-themselves think a little highly of their communication skills. So here's a "mini" (not-even-close-to-conclusive) checklist to make sure you're not like one of those people, provided by Psychologist Christina Ianzito's study of 159 people on appealing characteristics:

People like you if you have a(n):

  • rapid speech rate
  • eye contact
  • verbal fluency
  • choosing the head of the table
  • fluid gestures
  • well-moderated voice tone

And people dislike you if you have a(n):

  • loud voice
  • angry tone
  • pointing fingers
  • lowering eyebrows
  • stiff posture
  • forceful gestures
Some "duhs", some "what-the-hecks?"

Yet, all sweet ways to improve your communication.

In working with our clients, we've found the best managers have the "I-still-suck" attitude. That mindset drives them to improve their skills, constantly. When you're business becomes the next rock star company, gets on the cover of national magazines, and grows record earnings, remind yourself:

My communication still sucks.

Posted on August 09

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