Posts tagged ‘focus’

February 11, 2017

Playing to Win

No matter who you rooted for (unless you were rooting for Lady Gaga), what a thrilling Super Bowl it was last weekend, with New England coming from way behind to win in overtime. At one point, the young, upstart Atlanta team raced out to a 28-3 lead, but somehow did not score a single point after that.

There’s been plenty of analysis in the sports columns about how they lost, what the key plays were that turned the momentum, and which plays should or should not have been called. It’s easy to second-guess after the results are in. So I’ll add my own contribution to this debate, but from a completely different perspective.

As young as the Atlanta team is, I happen to think that there’s a possibility that two collective thoughts doomed the team in the third quarter when the score first reached 28-3: (1) “We’ve got this well in hand, everyone was saying we couldn’t do it,” and (2) “Don’t blow it now.”

Those thoughts together lead to a strategy of playing “not to lose”. If you have thoughts of playing not to lose, or playing not to make a mistake, then you generally stop doing whatever it was that got you to that point of success. And because you change your style of work, you often won’t get the same successful results.

I wonder if playing “not to lose” was indeed the beginning of the end of the game for the Falcons. What do you think?

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August 9, 2012

Motivation from the Olympics

The Olympics has offered many stories of athletes from all walks of life, all with the singular goal of leaving London with a medal. As different as all the stories are, I noticed yet again that there is one thing that stood out to me. Regardless of whether an athlete is favored to win or not, they all have their naysayers.

If the athlete is favored, there are people who will say that he or she is overrated. If an athlete is not favored, lots of people say that he or she has no chance, so why even bother. So, even athletes who are best in their own countries have to put up with this kind of talk from people who aren’t even athletes. Yet those athletes still go about their business, doing what they came to London to do.

Don’t let any naysayers in your business or personal life sidetrack you. Just go about doing what you’re supposed to be doing. That puts you in the same boat as Olympic athletes!

July 24, 2011

Even the Floor Guy Knows…

I recently had a new kitchen floor put in. The floor covering company through which I made this purchase is a local small business, one that’s been around for years. Their prices are a magnitude lower than their larger competitors, probably because the competitors have much larger showrooms and more employees. Since the appearance of the floor covering in my home is more important than the appearance of the showroom where I bought it, I enjoy doing business with this local company.

This firm has a small showroom, but other than that uses a virtual company model, with a minimum of permanent “W2” employees and use of outside contractors who are essentially self-employed. Clearly this helps keep costs to a minimum as well, and the owner passes the benefit along to his customers in the form of lower prices than the competition.

While the installer was at my house doing his thing, I had a chance to chat with him while he worked. Not too much — I didn’t want to distract or delay him — but enough to hear some of his perspectives. One of the things he mentioned was that he could work for other, higher-priced competitors, and probably make more per job. But he recognized right away that those higher-yielding jobs would be far fewer in number.

With the “Great Recession” a couple of years ago, and now the stubborn recovery, those higher-priced jobs became very scarce, as floor covering is typically a discretionary expense. The installer has worked with the floor covering firm for years, and stays loyal to the owner, because while he knows that he doesn’t make as much per job, he continues to get a steady stream of them.

And in his view, he’d rather have a steady stream of quarters than an occasional trickle of dollars. So, even the floor guy knows.

April 24, 2011

The “L” in IDEAL

And finally, the “L” in IDEAL stands for “loyalty”. This is the element that makes your business model tick; the ability for you to create a customer or client experience that keeps them coming back for more. Even more importantly, their customer experience with you is so awesome, they want other people they know to experience it too, so they refer you.

I like to say that this “L” results in two “R’s” — repeats and referrals. Repeat business is very valuable for you to have, because it doesn’t cost you very much to continue receiving this. And referrals are valuable too, because they drastically lower your cost of acquiring a new customer.

So keep the elements of my IDEAL business model in mind. It could lead you to fulfillment and prosperity in your business. It certainly has for me, for past and present businesses that I’ve owned.

April 15, 2011

The “A” in IDEAL

Getting back to my concept of the IDEAL business model, we come to “A”, which stands for “advantage”. Your products and/or services must have some sort of advantage over your competition, some of which may already have greater share of business than you do right now. Looking at it another way, there must be some advantage for your customers to do business with you, compared to whichever competitor they’re using now.

An advantage could come through price, features/benefits, having a patent on a new technology, or even just being repeatedly more dependable than any other supplier. Whatever the advantage, try to build one that is sustainable. A price advantage, for example, is mostly temporary — until your competitors drop their prices too. Building and demonstrating a sustainable competitive advantage is the ticket to gaining market share.

April 3, 2011

Beginning of Second Quarter

The first quarter of 2011 is already in the books. Where did the time go? Maybe it seemed faster with all the weird winter storms and such, but at the time it sure felt like it was going to be a long winter.

Did you get some or most of the things done that you planned on doing in the first quarter? Take whatever remaining items, prioritize them, and put them on your plan for Q2.

March 23, 2011

The “E” in IDEAL

“E” is for Economics – all of the numbers in your business. Prices, costs, expenses, size of market, potential sales, number of repeats, number of returns, demand … anything that relates to your business’s products and services. You should know your numbers, particularly what it costs you to be in business. Too many business owners I’ve read or heard about, are former owners because they didn’t realize the size of some of their numbers.

As a business owner, you should not delegate the knowledge of these numbers to someone else, like your accountant or your marketing director. You should know where you stand.

The “E” also includes economics from the customer perspective, too. What’s the value to the customer, to buy your products or services? What’s the magnitude of financial benefit your products bring to your customer, in terms of saving time, saving money, or some other measure?

March 18, 2011

The “D” in IDEAL

“D” represents “Differentiation”, in the IDEAL business model. Whatever you’re offering, whether they’re tangible products or services, needs to be different from whatever your competitors are offering. If you offer things that are largely the same, or what we call “me too” products, potential customers would more likely stick with competitors who have been around longer and who already have a track record.

Of course, if the competitor’s track record is a lousy one, you could offer the same offering and perhaps get away with it. But even then, since you’re an untested supplier of that product or service, you run the risk of the customer thinking that you might be no different than the lousy competitor.

So make something different: your offering needs to allow the customer to be better, faster, more productive, more relaxed, prettier, younger, stronger, slimmer, smarter, funnier, or whatever, than your competitors can do. Without this differentiation (the “D”), you’ll be viewed the same as the others, with no compelling reason to give you a try.

March 9, 2011

The “I” in IDEAL

I previously mentioned my concept of the “ideal” business model, with each letter of the word IDEAL signifying a quality that the business needs to have. In that vein, let’s talk about the “I”, which stands for Initiative.

I’ve met some people who think that entrepreneurship and starting a business is only about coming up with the idea. These folks think that just because they thought up a particular idea for something, they’re an entrepreneur. Never mind that they never did anything about the idea, they’re still an entrepreneurial thinker.

Then there are other folks who think that starting a business is about coming up with the idea, then applying not much more than positive thinking. Somehow, if they “want” it enough, or visualize it often enough, it’s magically going to happen.

If you look at Merriam-Webster’s definition of the word “initiative”, you’ll see that it means “the energy or aptitude displayed in initiation of action”. And that’s the key word … action. You can think up all the ideas you want, visualize all you want, want it all you want, but if you don’t have initiative to take cohesive action, you’ll just want, you won’t have.

That’s the brief story of the “I”.

February 10, 2011

What to Learn from the Super Bowl

Enough time has passed since Christina Aguilera flubbed a line in her rendition of the Star Spangled Banner at the start of last Sunday’s Super Bowl. Tens of thousands of opinions ranging from snarky to sheer outrage were expressed over the next few days. But Aguilera has moved on, as she should, issuing a short statement about it all.

A columnist/blogger for The Daily Beast, Clark Merrefield, asked himself the next logical question in his blog entry today. He wondered how many of those critics, or Americans in general for that matter, know the anthem and could do better? His purely random sample while standing on the streets of Portland, Oregon, yielded a surprising (or perhaps not so) result.

Of the 73 adults he asked, only 8 of them (less than 11%) could recite the Star Spangled Banner correctly. And that was just performing in front of him, an audience of one, never mind the hundreds of millions of people who were watching Aguilera.

What’s the takeaway? You’re going to make mistakes, though hopefully not in front of a hundred million people or more. But if it happens, just move on. Most of the vocal critics probably couldn’t do any better than you did, and likely would do a lot worse.