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When we started Trizzy, we wanted everything to be perfect. Perfect offices. Perfect people. Perfect processes. Perfect services. Perfect business bling. As it turns out, having that perfectionist attitude led us toward the inevitable: procrastination. When you're trying to perfect everything, your mind stalls you from doing anything. It's as if you're waiting for the "perfect time" to do your perfect thing.

Perfectionism Sucks

We grasped the flaws of the "perfectionist" attitude. We saw perfection as impossible to attain; instead, we saw perfection as a guiding star for us to reach. (Deep and cheesy, eh?) We saw faults and flaws as good things. Embracing imperfection rocks. It helps you start things quicker, knowing that you'll be okay if you hit bumps along the road. Those bumps help you steer toward the right direction; in other words, you want those bumps to use as guiding posts. Says David Peck of Leadership Unleashed:

Surprisingly, many who describe themselves as perfectionists find themselves procrastinating, sometimes on important projects or to-do list items. That's because when we set a standard of perfection for ourselves or others, the result can often be demotivating. Normally we are motivated by the prospect of meeting or exceeding our goals, and since meeting a standard of perfection is unlikely at best, it causes many people to stop trying altogether.

"What if I want to build the most kick-ass business?"

Amazingly enough, you can build a kick-ass business only if you embrace imperfection as the vital ingredient to your success.

Posted on July 09

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In Hollywood, movie execs accept 1% of screenwriting pitches. In Silicon Valley -- to get venture funding -- the percentage becomes much lower. How then in the name of Jermaine-LaJaune-Jackson-Muhammad-Abdul-Aziz do you sell your idea?

Consider John A and Sally B:

John A: "Dudes, my idea is the bomb. I'll build a super-crazy web application that houses a million functions, lets business users choose which functions are applicable to them to increase their profits -- and we'll all be super-rich. Fund me." Sally B: "Dudes, my idea is almost the bomb. I'll build a super-crazy web application that houses a million functions, lets business users choose which functions are applicable to them to increase their profits -- but first, I'll need your input to improve this sucker."

Drumrooooll: Sally B. Receives Coveted Funding!

We all get so caught up in having the greatest, shiniest, most beautiful idea -- all thought out. Yet, the best ideas--ironically (and stupid), as it may seem--aren't all thought out. (Note: No idea -- no matter how "great" it may seem -- is all thought out. Now you know why the bestselling software, non-fiction books, luxury cars, fast airplanes, cruise line ships, etc., etc., etc., still go through version changes). Instead, ideas that win invite collaboration on the person receiving the pitch (a.k.a. "the catcher"). Psychologically, people run with ideas that they come up with themselves. Your job then is to make your idea "our" idea.

From the Prof

Says management professor, Kimberly Elsbach:

These pitchers exude passion for their ideas and find ways to give catchers (i.e. those being pitched) a chance to shine. By doing so, they induce the catchers to judge them as likable collaborators. Oscar-winning writer, director, and producer Oliver Stone told me that the invitation to collaborate on an idea is a "seduction."

What's the Moral?

Use the following as a template for your pitch, which you can surely customize to your liking: "I have this super-sweet idea. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. But first, we'd love to collaborate with you to refine the idea." Use it. Share it. Love it. (We'll get off our high-horse now.)

Posted on July 08

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What's the worst crime that kills a business?

Politics.

"Please make your way to the brown coffin."

Exhibit: Business built-up for 6 years. Founders and employees used blood and sweat to keep it afloat. Stayed up a thousand nights in a row to debug their million-dollar-venture-backed web application. Dead on arrival. Cause of death: diva-like-drama. It's sad; but if you've ever been around dot-com folks, it happens more than it needs to happen. (Example B.) Politics. Sucks. Arse. When it comes down to it:

Politics results from a lack of communication.

To avoid this, psychology legend and expert Carl R. Rogers tells us to stop being our biggest cheerleader (which we all always seem to be, subconsciously):

We can achieve real communication and avoid this evaluative tendency when we listen with understanding. This means seeing the expressed idea and attitude from the other person's point of view, sensing how it feels to the person, achieving his or her frame of reference about the subject being discussed.

"This may sound absurdly simple, but it is not."

In fact, it is an extremely potent approach in psychotherapy. It is the most effective way we've found to alter a person's basic personality structure and to improve the person's relationships and communications with others. If I can listen to what a person can tell me and really understand how she hates her father or hates the company or hates conservatives, or if I can catch the essence of her fear of insanity or fear of nuclear bombs, I will be better able to help her alter those hatreds and fears and establish realistic and harmonious relationships with the people and situations that roused such emotions. We know from research that such empathic understanding - understanding with a person, not about her - is so effective that it can bring about significant changes in personality.

"So you want me to be Mr/Ms "B!tch"?

Switching your perspective to your "worst enemy" is probably the last thing you'd want to do. But, and we come from experience, that's better than watching your business tumble to the ground. Word.

Posted on July 07

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Johnny Fintel: "Dude, my product has 1,000,000,000,000,000 transistors." Blue Lightner: "Nah dawg. My product owns yours. It has a trillion LCD lights." Ricky Flicky Flinux: "Nope, biatches. I win. My idea is pimped out with two thousand AJAX features -- and that's just on the homepage." Mrs. Sane: "Well, my product just helps people have clean floors." Leave it to Mrs. Sane to clean up the mess. Cheesy pun intended. Most marketing efforts suck because of one major mistake: they highlight features over solutions. They tout attributes of the "trillion-dollar ideas," instead of the jobs that they do. Ask this:

  1. What do you do?

  2. Why do customers need it?

  3. And, why do customers need that?

  4. But, why do customers need that?

Once you answer the above questions in sequence, you'll have a much better idea of the solutions you provide to your customers. Once you know what job your business does, embrace it. Love it. Share it.

Product features won't win you customers.

Passionate solutions will. Says the legendary Clayton M. Christensen, Scott Cook, and Taddy Hall: "When people find themselves needing to get a job done, they essentially hire products to do that job for them. The marketer's task is therefore to understand what jobs periodically arise in customers' lives for which they might hire products the company could make." Consultant Don Moyer advises: "Sellers, take note: Stop chattering about the attributes of the product. Instead, be utterly clear about what it does for those who buy it." Word from our man, Moyer.

Posted on July 05

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Selling is tough, many entrepreneurs say."I'm not the gung-ho type." "I can't hype my product as well." "You could never picture me in Boiler Room." That's what I had thought when we first started Trizzy back in the day. I knew I loved helping people, but I also knew I couldn't sell if my life had depended on it. Well, luckily I made my first sell by doing what I love: helping people. Adding value. Solving their problems. Providing solutions. It's the whole "me-second" attitude we talked about this week. As it turns out, the best salespeople aren't the aggressive, stereotypical Type-A personalities; the highest performers in any business are the sincere, introverted, solution providers. So, the best salespeople love helping others? Karma at its finest, no? With that in mind, here's why you shouldn't hard-sell somebody.

  1. You eliminate people's attraction to "buying."

    People love to make choices. When you make choices for them, they hate that. When you're "selling" somebody, they put their guard up. Yet, when you provide them with a choice to buy, usually you'll open them up to doing business with you.
  2. You lose credibility.

    Try lying to a customer. Sure, let's say Bob generates 9 consecutive orders based on deceit (which, or course, never will happen in real life). On his tenth order, the customer finds out. His business is screwed. Instead of deceit, go for sincerity. If you can't provide a solution to their needs, tell them. That builds your credibility. And, if you can't help them now, that act of sincerity will build you a stream of customers through word of mouth.
  3. You lose morale.

    Ever been around car salesman? Yeah, some of them were the most depressed people I've ever been around. They're good people, placed in an environment that encourages deceit. That's why the turnover rate in the car industry is astronomically high. If you want long-term success, start being honest.

So what's the result of hard-selling?

  • You lose 10,000 customers. (Actually, more.)

    Let's be conservative for a moment: Christine has 10 business associates. 10 of those business associates has 10 each. Then 100 of those associates has 10 more. And of those, each has 10 more. That's a sweet 10,000 potential targets. You lose one, you lose ten-thousand.

Hard-selling sucks. It kills your business, your profits, and your morale. The solution? Start adding value to people's lives. Even an ounce will go a long way toward boosting your sales efforts.

Posted on July 04

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Independence within a framework releases your people's inner potential. No, we're not talking about creating a total ararchy within your organization. We're talking about creating a culture of freedom within a framework.

In basketball, it's simple: win the game.

Players aren't hand-held to every movement, every shot, every stance. They may be guided, yes, but not micro-managed. They're given freedom within a framework (i.e. win the game). Imagine then a basketball team without that freedom. Imagine a team that's micro-managed. Imagine a team with players whose potential is constrained to what the boss thinks works best.

Folks, that never works.

Unfortunately, most managers run their organizations that way. Instead, understand ultimately what you want your team to do. Is it achieving a certain ROI, achieving 99% positive customer satisfaction scores, or reach a certain sales number? Then, that's your boundary. It servers as your framework. Once you have that boundary, get out of the way; that, folks, is how you release your people's potential.

They'll amaze you with what they'll do.

Word.

Posted on July 03

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Start with three. People tend to forget 10 items. (That's why reader comprehension goes way down after three bullet points.) Here are three marketing tips to market your business -- off the top of our heads, of course:

  1. Forget the Masses. Start Small.

    Let's face it: As entrepreneurs, we can't market to the mass population, and expect overnight success. The mass market is attracted by who else is buying. It's the whole herd phenomenon: because other people are buying it, it must be good, right? If it starts with that, then how do we get initial customers? Capture those who are leaders: elite athletes, celebrities, business leaders, etc--who will, in turn, influence others. Of course, you might not know them on a national level; but, more than likely, they exist at your local level.
  2. Forget Uniqueness. Be the Best.

    "Have a unique selling proposition?" "Find a niche?" "Be different?" Blah. Blah. "Blah?" Blah. The whole uniqueness concept is the worst advice we've probably ever received. Businesses don't become great because they seek uniqueness. They excel because they seek greatness in areas they know they will murder the competition. You probably won't emulate Michael Jordan. But, you can be better than him at something, can't you? Unless you're an all-world talent, don't aim for the NBA; instead, aim for a destination where the world (or your a particular industry) can herald your heroics.
  3. Forget Selling. Pitch Solutions.

    As business-builders and entrepreneurs, we usually fail at capturing customer hearts (cheesy, eh?) because of one thing: we seek the me-first solution. We wonder what we can get from a customer. We wonder how many referrals we can get from somebody. Yet, when we switch our focus to a me-second attitude, a dramatic thing happens: what we want for us will come around much faster, and in higher quantity.

As in everything, marketing your business and attracting customers takes time. Overnight success never works. Instead, be consistent. Achieve small and positive results, consistently. Companies that win in the long-run are those that keep on persisting. Peace.

Posted on July 02

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Should you work this weekend? Five easy, common, simple, sweet points to guide you to the answer:

  1. "I've worked the last six days. Blah. Should I stop?"

    You might know the answer already, but just in case: If you've been working the last six days, seek some rest. Recovery helps you re-build your energy reserves. Without recovery, you're running a constant marathon that leads to burnouts--that leads to insanity--that leads to being like Britney Spears. Take it from Jim Loehr, who trains corporate executives to use the mindset of a world-class athlete:
    All great athletes understand the importance of "work-rest" ratios - the systematic balancing of energy expenditure with energy recovery. Unfortunately in business people are often measured by how relentlessly they push themselves. Taking time to rest and recover is viewed as a sign of weakness. In fact, full engagement depends on periodic disengagement. It is only when we fully shut down our energy systems that real healing, regeneration and renewal can occur. Without strategic disengagement, we eventually become energy bankrupt. This may show up as physical fatigue, negative emotions, poor focus and even lack of commitment. Overuse it, in short, and you lose it.
    Michael Jordan never played basketball 12 months of the year. You probably won't have the same access to his recovery time, but you can build the same mindset as the world's greatest athlete (That's what we Americans call him, anyway): sprint, recover, sprint, recover, sprint, recover, etc. Simple, easy, sweet, and Angelina-Jolie-sexy, no?
  2. "I spend all my time at my desk. I have no balance. I haven't seen my kids in 3 months."

    Balance rocks. You get to work, AND see your kids. Impossible, you say? Not really. It's actually quite simple: You know the "sprint, recover" process we described above? Well, during that recovery process, guess what: you can see your kids. Or, watch a movie. Or, hang out with your buddies. Or, read a novel. Recovering from your work helps you build energy reserves. When you recover, you're building more energy reserves, and storing it to use when you do finally work. Isn't life grand? Yeah, we think so too.
  3. Right now, at this moment: do you, absolutely-without-a-freakin doubt, enjoy what you do?

    Life has a weird way of helping us understand what it's really about. If you enjoy your work, you're more productive. If you enjoy working with your clients, your clients love you. When you enjoy being around your friends, they buy you drinks. When you enjoy a sport, you excel at it. When you enjoy an exercise, you do more of it. When you enjoy going on dates, you're more charismatic. If you're not having fun, something's wrong.
  4. But what if I love working this weekend?

    If you love it, then by all means, work this weekend! But, human nature says we're not robots (duh, you might be saying). Human nature says if we do something for too long, we get bored and want to do something else. Human nature yearns for breaks. If you've been working for a long time, take a break. If, on the other hand, you want to work, then we encourage you to do so.
  5. But how do I know what to do?

    When in doubt, listen to what your mind/body/soul/[enter something-cheesy-here] wants you to do.

Life should be fun. Make it that way. p.s. Random tidbit: World Cup soccer rules. p.p.s. Word.

Posted on July 01

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In celebration of Theodore Levitt's life, here's a highlight of one of his sweetest teachings:

The Visceral Feel of Greatness. Obviously, the company has to do what survival demands. It has to adapt to the requirements of the market, and it has to do it sooner rather than later. But mere survival is a so-so aspiration. Anybody can survive in some way or other, even the skid row bum. The trick is to survive gallantly, to feel the surging impulse of commercial mastery: not just to experience the sweet smell of success but to have the visceral feel of entrepreneurial greatness. No organization can achieve greatness without a vigorous leader who is driven onward by a pulsating will to succeed. A leader has to have a vision of grandeur, a vision that can produce eager followers in vast numbers. In business, the followers are the customers.

How do you create followers among customers?

In order to produce these customers, the entire corporation must be viewed as a customer-creating and customer-satisfying organism. Management must think of itself not as producing products but as providing customer-creating value satisfactions. It must push this idea (and everything it means and requires) into every nook and cranny of the organization. It has to do this continuously and with the kind of flair that excites and stimulates the people in it. Otherwise, the company will be merely a series of pigeonholed parts, with no consolidating sense of purpose or direction.
Posted on June 30

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We just learned Theodore Levitt--a business star, and influential business author--passed away this morning at his Massachusetts home. Yet, as they say, his legacy lives. Levitt popularized the notion of seeking a higher purpose beyond what you sell--because, hey, what if the wares you sell today become obsolete? What will you do then?

Do you really know what you sell?

His famous HBR article in 1960, entitled "Marketing Myopia", encouraged businesses to switch their focus from selling to meeting customer needs. He asked an important question to the railroad industry: What business are you really in? Railroads or transportation? Unfortunately, most companies that once thrived in the railroad industry preferred the latter term. And, preferring that led to extinction among most of those companies as cars soon swept people's lives. The question, "What business are you really in?", continues to be relevant today as it was almost 50 years ago.

Who today must learn from Levitt?

Just ask the struggling newspaper industry: Are you in the newspaper business, or are you in the information business? Most, as the railroad companies once did, will tell you they're the latter. The same notion applies to the airline, car, computer companies, and wherever else you see a dying industry. To succeed, your business must not focus on selling, but on providing solutions to your customers. When you focus on providing solutions, something awesome happens: your business product offerings will never become obsolete. Instead, they'll thrive toward meeting customer needs--no matter the era. Levitt taught us that. And, we thank him.

Posted on June 29

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