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Trimming the Fat

January 9, 2011 15 comments

There are hundreds of blog posts written on the value of networking, but people don’t talk as much about the downside of networking; like spreading yourself too thin. The past two years have been transformative for me all around, but the best thing I learned was how to “trim the fat”. To cut out anyone in my life that does not add value, does not help me to grow, learn, and does not treat me as I treat others – I treat everyone as if they’re my most important client. When I wrote “30 things I’ve Learned in Thirty Years”, the most commented on item was,

Cut the fat. In your personal life, cut out people who don’t add value. In your professional life, do the same. No one should ride your wave unless they’ve helped to create it.

In my professional life, I made this black and white. I developed a list of traits that people I associated with in business needed to have. Those that didn’t encompass that ‘criteria’ were slowly moved to more of an acquaintance. Those that met the criteria below were and are the people I surround myself with. I suggest you look over this criteria and engage in the introspective process of developing your own. It will likely be very different from mine; but sort through your business relationships and ask yourself – do these associates fulfill me? My criteria is as follows:

1. Must be brutally honest (notice the word “brutal”). I want to know when I do something wrong and I don’t want to “corporate/politically correct” statement, I want the hard truth. Tough Love is crucial for me to move forward.

2. Must be able to ‘look in the mirror’ honestly. I want people who know themselves, their strengths, and weaknesses, and most importantly – “know what they don’t know” and not be afraid to admit it and ask for help.

3. Must hold themselves and those around them accountable. I’ve been in many situations where people ‘move up the corporate ladder’ by playing the game; not necessarily contributing to the bottom line of the company. Results oriented with an understanding of process is what I need.

4. Must not “work to live”, but “live to work” or at least be individuals that work because they love it, not because it’s forced on them.

5. Must have an understanding of the importance of communication skills and ‘treat everyone as if they’re the most important client’. Nothing irks me more than people not showing up for meetings, phone calls, etc. If you’re unable to attend, it happens – but communicate as soon as you realize.

6. Set Expectations

7. Be real – be the same person personally and professionally. One thing that I’ve found constant is people’s values and ethics. If someone is phenomenal professionally, but cheats on their spouse ( for example ), how could that person ever be loyal to you?

8. Push others to better themselves. The smarter and more ambitious those around you are, the better you will be. Bring out the best in one another.

I had always done a decent job of doing this in my professional life, but not in my personal life. I’m an extrovert and dive head first into conversations, meetings, and new friendships with the mindset that everyone can add something to my life; we can learn from each person you meet. I also committed to myself that I would be an open book; what you see is what you get. What that turned into was hundreds, maybe thousands of people who were ‘friends’ or people who expected me to keep in touch with them on a regular basis. A couple years ago I realized – I would have to make changes. It was okay to have a lot of acquaintances, but not a lot of “friends” as inevitably the ones that really DID matter to me – my closest friends – were not receiving the treatment I wanted solely for them; not for everyone else. I was too busy.

So I trimmed the fat. I looked over my group of friends and I asked myself, “who could I not live without?” It sounds a bit dramatic, but when I look over the people I surround myself with, my life wouldn’t be the same without them. This doesn’t mean I speak with them everyday – some I do, some I don’t – depending on how we’ve communicated to one another how we expect our friendships to work; but bottom line – I DO treat them as if they’re my most important client.

So ask yourself – are you spread too thin? Or are you able to treat the people who are most important the way you would want to be treated. If you’re not, take a moment and decide; who is worth the time and how do you trim the fat of your friendships and business relationships.

What If You Feel like “No one wants you”

April 5, 2010 Leave a comment

To add onto my prior posting about mentors, there are always going to be situations in which you’d like to be one’s protege and they are either 1) Too busy 2) Too Concerned about their own career 3) Maybe they simply don’t like you or think you will be a “star”.

To numbers 1 and 2; FORGET THEM! Any great leader will tell you, the sign of a great manager is that they not only hire the “right” people, but they train and work with their team as the goal is always to REPLACE YOURSELF so you can move up. Even if not to replace oneself, perhaps they are fearful of losing their own job. I don’t want a mentor who has ANY fear. In this economy, it is the innovators who are prevailing. As Seth Godin’s Linchpin tells us, we need to make ourselves indepsepnsible…and in order to do so, we certainly do not want to mirror someone who is not confident they are indispensable, right?

That doesn’t mean that everyone will be able to find someone to mentor them, however it is 2010. A “mentor” does not have to be someone that you work with anymore. A “mentor” doesn’t even need to be in the same state, country, or continent as you. Social Media has allowed those of us who are ambitious to “connect”. We need to use and embrace those connections. If you find a blog you like, comment on it, follow it, retweet it, create a blog of your own and link to this blog. This individual WILL notice you.

As technology and our world changes, so do our relationships and types of relationships. If a “mentor” is someone you trust to learn from, and you are seeking one (or 2 or 3 or 4) out, there is no better time to ‘connect’. We are in the midst of a social media KABOOM! The more connections you have online, the wider your pool is of people to work with, network, learn from, and be a protege to…hence, the higher your chances of finding someone you connect with are.

As with anything in business, life, relationships, etc. Don’t give up. You will find people out there to connect with and I hypothesize that 10 years from now, these connections are going to be far more than they are today.

Transaction vs. relationship

January 21, 2010 1 comment

A transaction can be defined as an ‘exchange’. In business, many times it’s thought of as a “one time deal”…There are more one time deals than relatioships, unfortunately – but think of the TIME and energy that would be saved if you had 4 or 5 stong business relationships that could produce the same amount of business or revenue as 70 transactional deals. Let’s take an example from the ‘real business world’…AND what industry is better or easier for me to use than higher education? So…let’s take one of the MAJOR universities like University of Pheonix or Kaplan, etc. They have numerous marketing and business strategies in place, BUT most are transactional. So, each month, these schools pay millions of dollars for leads that have been purchased from one of any 100 lead aggregators. These lead aggregators have purchased their leads from one of any other lead aggregators, publishers, affiliates, etc. Now – how can any of these leads convert? AND how can any of them even be thought of as exclusive? They CANT and they arent. Hence, the conversion rate on these leads is about 1-2%, which has become industry standard. Now let’s take a different approach. Let’s approach our business (or school in this case) and say “we are only allowed to use relationships to drive our business”. How would I go about that? First, I would take my products (degree programs, in this case) and see what types of businesses I can partner with. So, if we are looking at distributing business degrees, I would want to partner with major companies OR small organizations that can endorse my product. You always want to test different types of relationships because while there may be a larger ausince with a bigger company…there may also be a more personal feel and more attention given to you from a smaller organization or business. Both partnerships can be profitable, drive revenue, and increase your brand awareness. Once I have my ‘list’ of potential partners to prospect, I would review the long term business relationships I have had in the past. Am I still connected with these businessmen? What are they doing now? Are there any synergies between our two businesses? How can we help one another? Does this businessman have any possible connections or other relationships that can help me? It always helps to start with a previously nurtured relationship for a few reasons: 1) the trust factor is there 2) A recommendation from a company will always be responded to more quickly than a ‘cold call’. 3) Implied credibility. So to go back to our example at hand; you are selling BS in Business degrees and want to partner with 2 businesses for testing purposes. You find that from prior connections, you have potential recommendations to American Airlines and the Miami Business Association. American Airlines has over 100K employees / potential revenue generators and the Miami Business Association has 5K members. You then GOOGLE these companies to find out what types of propoerties (websites) they own, what the mission of their company is, HOW YOU can help achieve this company’s objectives, and equally important; how can they meet yours? So, with American Airlines you find that they have thousands of websites, including an intranet for employees. You find that they have an employee assistance program and a page for employee benefits. TBC….

How did I get here? And why do I think I know about business relationships?

January 21, 2010 2 comments

Many times I read a blog and I think to myself, “who does this guy think he is?” or “what makes him an expert?”. When it comes to business relationships, am I an expert? Well, probably not. Seeing that I am “gen y” (29 though – on the cusp), older generations may be roling their eyes…that being said, every piece of data shows that HAVING gen y’s in the workplace and learning to work with them WILL help your business grow more quickly… Anyways, off on a tangent…so – why do I think I know what I’m talking about? Well, to start; I’ve made millions of business mistakes and mistakes in relationships in general. Having managed sales and marketing for 2 successful start up ventures, I quickly learned the best way to MOVE UP is to 1) Take accountability if you make a mistake 2) LEARN from it. So, having made millions of dollars worth of business mistakes AND writing down learnings (yes, I am a nerd) from most of them, I have grown into quite the ‘relationship’ guru. Most important asset to have when wanting to work on business relationships, marketing, sales, biz dev, etc. YOU NEED TO GENUINELY ENJOY PEOPLE! And when I say, “enjoy people”, I don’t mean – you like to look at them, you like to hear them speak, etc. What I mean is; you need to appreciate that every person you come in contact with will teach you something new. You need to become a master at the art of human interaction. In my experience, this is tpyically a trait that is innate; Simlar to being an ‘extrovert’ or ‘introvert’ on the Meyers Brigs. Now, how do you know if you GENUINLEY enjoy people? Start by asking yourself, “Do I like conversing with others?”, “Do I employ the 80/20 rule (listen 80%, speak 20%)”, “When I so speak with someone, am I only interested in them for business purposes or am I interested in knowing more about THEM, their surroundings, their family, etc”. If you ONLY want to talk to people FOR money or people who can make you money, you may be a very good salesman or businessman, but you will not be a relationship builder. Millions of people make hundreds of thousands of dollars every year being a “good” business man, there is nothing wrong with that. But a relationship infers a “give” and “take”. It is something that you hope is longer term. My goal is always to leave a lasting, positive impression on someone, so if at any time in the future my partner needs something, they feel comfortable reaching out to me. The mistake that most businessmen make is to treat deals as ‘transactional’ versus taking the time to outline an entire strategy. To be explained in the next post…

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