Posts Tagged ‘Opportunity’

Where are you going?

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” Lewis Carroll

Imagine you’re sitting in an airplane. The captain gets on the intercom and says: “Folks, we’re 2nd in line for takeoff. Where would you like to go?”

If your perfect life is the destination, don’t you want to get there as quickly, easily and cheaply as possible? Maybe you can do so without creating a business plan, but I can’t imagine how.  A plan will help you make better and faster decisions, decide how you spend your money or time and track your progress.

Start now.


“A good plan executed today is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” General George S. Patton

Complete your annual plan by November so that you can relax and sit on your plan for a month or so before executing it.  Review (and revise if needed) your progress quarterly.  This is not a New Year’s resolution to be enacted in January and discarded by February.  This is an action plan that will get you to your biggest life goals.

It’s time to focus your energy onto your goals and dreams. Find a place with trees and fresh air where you can concentrate on your future.

There are myriad ways to create your plan and they all start with a vision.


“I love it when a plan comes together.” Hannibal Smith-The A-Team

What do you want to do, be or have in 2-5 years?

What motivates you to jump out of bed in the morning, or work late into the night?

Your vision must be:

Specific- What will it look like once you’ve reached your goal? Where will you live? What will you do each day? Who will your friends, neighbors or co-workers be?

Vivid- Realism is the key to visualization so use all of your senses when describing your goal.  The goal is to make your mind believe your future outcome is happening now.  With consistent visualization, your mind accepts the image of success and suddenly you’re seeing inspiration and opportunity everywhere.

Compelling-How will your life (or the lives of your family members) improve once you’ve achieved your goal?

Desirable-Is this your dream or only something you think you should want?  The more you want the outcome, the more likely it is you’ll achieve it. If your goal isn’t compelling, you’ll quit at the first sign of trouble.

Realistic-Do you have enough time, energy and support to reach your goal? Have others done it before? If it’s been done, there’s a proven strategy to do it, you just have to find it.

Focused- Instead of creating a to-do list, concentrate your energy on accomplishing up to 3 bigger goals.

Flexible-There are lots of ways to get to your outcome.  If your goal is to provide your son with an Ivy League education instead of concentrating on just one way to get there (saving lots of money), brainstorm all the ways you could make it happen (scholarships, part-time work, etc.)

Easy to communicate- Can you describe your end result concisely in terms anyone can understand?

Close your eyes and imagine your future.

Having trouble visualizing?

Look for someone who’s already achieved your goal.  What does that person’s life look like?  Draw, paint a picture, or write a story as if you’re reporting on your future self.  Then distill that scene, picture or story into your vision statement.

Once you’ve articulated your vision, make it real.

Step 1:  Writing your goal down makes it tangible and on those days when you’re frustrated or unfocused, you can look at what you’ve written and get back on track.

The more accountable you are, the more likely it is you’ll achieve your goal. Find an accountability partner who’s committed to her own goals. Better yet, find someone who already attained your goal.  Tell that person your goals and ask for help in keeping your commitments.

Step 2: Determine what it will take to get there. What skills, knowledge and resources will you need?

If you want to live in France, you’ll need to learn French (skill), find a place to live (knowledge) and save money (resources.)

Step 3: Break each task down into short-term goals you can accomplish in 1,2 or 3 months.


“Set your goals high and don't stop until you get there” Bo Jackson

Write down your top 5 values in order. If your goal conflicts with your values, you’ll never achieve it.

If you’re not sure what constitutes a value, this list can help. When you commit to your values and have written goals, choosing between competing demands gets easier. As does making decisions.

Sally’s top value is family, followed by financial independence.  A single mother with 2 kids, she’s been offered a job that doubles her salary but requires her to leave town every weekend. She has to either decline the job, or rerank her values.

Acknowledging your values, prioritize your short-term goals.  Your goals should have a deadline as well as a tangible, measurable end-result.  Set goals that are tough but realistic to achieve.

In On Writing, Stephen King compares writing to telepathy. Even though he writes every novel, short story, and magazine article in a certain place and at a certain time, you can be miles and decades away and still receive his communication clearly.

If writing is telepathy, planning and envisioning are clairvoyance. Planning your tomorrow today will bring your vision of the future to fruition.

What to learn more?

Join me on Wednesday, November 3rd at The New Orleans Marriott.

Get details and register here.


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Your customer doesn’t care what title is on your business card, what school you went to or what your grade point average was.  He wants one thing:

His problem solved.

It sounds so simple, yet most companies can’t do it.

So often, we tell customers what we think they should want instead of listening to them.

How to succeed in 3 easy steps:

1) Understand exactly what your customer’s problem is:

Mr. & Mrs. Smith want to buy a restored 1965 blue Mustang convertible for  $35,000.

2) Honestly assess if you can solve it:

Tom Dealer has connections with rare auto dealers across the nation and can find the best vintage cars at the lowest prices.

3) Determine if you’re willing to – and if you can do it quickly, cheaply, and/or with the best service:

The Smiths and Tom Dealer seem compatible. But if Tom doesn’t act, the Smiths will find someone who can.

This is a variation of finding the job no one wants and excelling at it.

Anyone can say she’s going to solve the problem.
Be different: actually do it.

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Avis and 7UP each parlayed their secondary status into successful advertising campaigns. Mine that Bird beat 50-1 odds to win the Kentucky Derby.

The story of the underdog is endemic to American culture, which probably stems from our national story. We started as a dependency of the world’s greatest power, only to eventually assume that mantle for ourselves. Tap into this mythos, and you can create tremendous opportunities for yourself and your company.

Here are the top 5 rules for underdogs:

The wheel is always turning.
If you’re already tops in your field, congratulations.  This post is not for you.

For whomever’s on top today, someone else wants to dethrone them. Historically unassailable IBM lost its prominence to Microsoft, a company founded by a college dropout tinkering in his garage.

If you’re the Bill Gates in that analogy, you’re not bogged down by bureaucracy and inertia. By being speedy and nimble, you can ultimately be unique and memorable.

A great story is worth more than a Super Bowl ad.
Susan Boyle became a sensation thanks to an unorthodox background coupled with a phenomenal voice.

What’s your story?  Find a compelling way to share it with your potential customers but:

*Keep it optimistic.  Victimhood is great for reality TV and Democratic conventions, but it weakens your brand.  Your customers need to know you can solve your problems before they’ll give you the chance to solve theirs.

*Stay grounded. Customers want to do business with people they like and who are like them. Get your customers to buy into your story and they’ll become your biggest fans.

*Be honest. Embellishment is one thing. Recreating a history is something else.  As your success grows, your competitors will work to discredit you.  Don’t give them ammunition.

Forge your own rules.
Malcolm Gladwell wrote in The New Yorker about how playing by conventional rules of warfare gives a huge advantage to the favorite.  He explains why the underdog should abandon conventional wisdom and instead play to its strengths.

For decades, every airline assigned you a seat and served you food. There were no law to that effect, that’s just how everyone did it. Until upstart Southwest Airlines realized they could just let people sit where they wanted and bring their own food.

By rejecting conventional wisdom, Southwest could prep its planes more quickly between flights.  Less downtime meant more flights and more revenue.

Where is the gap in the services your competition offers?  How can you fill it in a unique, profitable way?  Imagine that your industry doesn’t exist, and you’re about to become the first company to deliver your product/service.  What would you do differently?

Be passionate and inspire.
The Los Angeles Lakers might be a better team than the Orlando Magic, but I’d rather play for Magic coach Stan Van Gundy than the Lakers’ Phil Jackson. The latter is the embodiment of cool reservation, while Van Gundy is loud, enthusiastic and slightly erratic.  He’s the pugnacious underdog who refuses to let go.

Your employees and customers need you to sustain and to translate your vision to solve their problems.  To maintain your equilibrium, you need a clear written mission and vision statement.  Brainstorm with other entrepreneurs, mentors and your employees to stay connected and energized.

Never give up.
“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”
-Winston Churchill

Churchill maintained his optimism in the face of unspeakable evil.  After defeating that evil, the British people rewarded him by voting him out of office. If one of history’s strongest leaders can withstand that, you can persevere whatever it is you’re enduring.

Every time you try something new, assess its effectiveness.  Set a reasonable time and a realistic outcome, then act.  Review your progress.  If it’s negative, try something else.  Repeat until success.

The goal is not to be the biggest, but to maintain your vision while serving your customers and employees.  Make a life, not just a living.

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Living in a buyer's market
How do you capitalize on the current environment of too much inventory and too few buyers?

By knowing when to be ruthless and when to be realistic. How does this translate in the real world of real estate, work & business?

Real Estate

If you’re buying:

Look for troubled properties in good areas. Most buyers can’t see beyond the ugly carpet & dead lawn; if you can, you’ll reap the benefits at a reduced price. You’re on the right track when the property’s been for sale longer than its neighbors. With your agent’s help, figure out what similar properties are selling for. Add the cost of repairs, then offer 25% less. Buy at 20% under market price. Don’t get emotionally involved in the property or the outcome. If one property falls through, go to the next similar one.

You’re not a buyer at the bank. Loans require great credit (credit score >650), hefty down payments (15-20%) & patience. For this you’ll get a fixed rate of 5% for 30 years.

If you’re selling:

Unless the lender’s going to foreclose, don’t sell. If you can’t afford the payment, and you’ve economized as much as you can, rent a cheaper place and lease out your home until the market stabilizes.

If you absolutely have to sell, you’ll be competing with bank-owned properties. A smart buyer doesn’t care if your home is in better shape than the bank-owned properties; he’s looking for the best deal.

Can’t make the payments? Contact the lender to arrange a deed in lieu of foreclosure or short sale.

Job Market

If you’re hiring:

Now is the time to hire the staff of your dreams. The market is flooded with competent people looking for stability. Post an ad that specifies what you’re looking for and watch the résumés pour in. If you don’t want to pay too much, offer benefits like insurance or vacation days. Or set the base salary low and tie increases into company profitability. Applicants who want guarantees & demand high salaries and benefits are ignoring the new rules.

If you’re applying:
Look at compensation differently. Prioritize what you want, starting with salary but including health insurance, stock options, paid vacations, etc. First get hired, then make yourself indispensable. Look for ways you can transition from employee to consultant.

Goods & Services

If you’re buying:

It’s the perfect time to get that car, sofa or phone; as long as you really need it. Don’t buy just because it’s a great deal and buy nothing on a credit plan. Shop around, ask for discounts and don’t buy it if it’s not on sale. You shouldn’t pay retail for anything.

Many retailers will offer 0% financing (or 3, 4 or 6 months same as cash) on expensive items like big screens & appliances. Do it, but obviously, pay off the balance before they start charging interest. Have the money in a money market account the day you buy.

Car dealers are offering everything from company stock to 0% financing. Still, watch out for extended warranties, undercoat protection, security systems, etc. Buy with as few options as possible – add them later if you want. The easiest way for a dealer to upsell you is by “not having” a basic car on the lot. Tell him that’s okay, you want to order a car. Then watch the discounts fly. The one thing a dealer wants least is another car in his inventory.

If you have to sell a car, calculate the loss into the price of the new vehicle. And of course, don’t trade your old car in. Sell it on eBay Motors, Cars.com or Craig’s List.

If you’re in long-term contracts for services (cell phone, long distance, cable), renegotiate. Tell your provider you might have to cancel if you can’t reduce your expenses by 10-15%. While you’re at it, do you really need 87 channels of HBO?

When aren’t you a buyer? Health insurance premiums rise as coverage shrinks. Shop around and change carriers annually if it means keeping your premiums low.

If you’re a seller:

You don’t have to be the cheapest if you’re the best. We’ve all experienced bad service, so much so that when we’re treated with respect it stands out.

Do you have to pay Nordstrom & Ritz-Carlton prices to get exceptional service? Good service doesn’t have to be expensive, just personal. The most common customer service complaints are:

1) Being placed on terminal hold, being transferred to too many people who can’t solve the problem, never getting to speak to a live person, never getting a call returned.

2) Inconvenient appointments, cancellations with little or no notice, being kept waiting.

Solve these issues and you’ll see repeat and referral business. If you can’t pinpoint your weakness, create a customer feedback system.

When a problem does happen, prove your commitment:
-Address the problem immediately
-Take responsibility to fix it
-Tell the truth even if it makes you look bad
-Fix the problem quickly even if it costs you money or time
-Keep the customer in the loop

Position yourself. It won’t be a buyer’s market forever.

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Have you ever looked at someone and thought: “I’m smarter than that guy; why is he more successful than me?”

Being smart is not the only factor for success, nor is it the primary one.

Desire is the path to success.

If that sentence has you stumped, it’s time to read (or re-read) Think & Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.

Hill’s basic premise (passed on to him by Andrew Carnegie) is this: Focus on your outcome to the exclusion of everything else.  Be willing to do anything to achieve your goal.  Your craving for the result drives everything you do everyday.

A great example of this is demonstrated by the character of Susan Walker in Miracle on 34th Street*. The 1947 movie featured single career woman Doris Walker and her daughter Susan.  Despite Mom’s insistence on indoctrinating Susan into a life of working for the man and accepting her lot, Susan believes things can change-if she wants them to badly enough.  Susan prevails, with the help of Kris Kringle, when she draws a picture of herself, her mom and her future stepdad in their dream home a drawing that comes to life.

If your goal doesn’t make you yearn for it-you have the wrong goal.

Take a look at your overall success goal.  What is the object of your desire?

Write it down-say it out loud and write down your reaction.

Did you get excited or scared?

Did you smile when you said it or frown?

Did you say it out loud but heard a voice in your heard scoff at ever attaining it?

Did you hear someone else’s voice?

Each successful person has the following 3 characteristics (in descending order of importance):

*a crystal clear goal

* An overwhelming desire matched with a willingness to do anything to achieve that goal

* The talent/knowledge/skills to achieve the goal

Look for coincidence & inspiration. Your subconscious creates these events to keep you moving in the right direction. When you’re on the right path, working with your talents instead of against them, you know what to do.  Obstacles appear but you find solutions.

One way to speed up the process is to meditate.  Spending quiet, purposeful, contemplative time will let you hear all that you need to know.

Don’t wait any longer.  Start creating your perfect life today.

*I bet you thought I was going to use Ralphie and his quest for a Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle from A Christmas Story or maybe Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything.

Movies make great examples because they’re written to follow a straight line from want to attain with some obstacles thrown in between for dramatic tension. It’s called escapism because the story rarely reflects reality. Forget the movies; make your own happy ending.

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“As a general rule the most successful man in life is the man who has the best information.”

Benjamin Disraeli

Harvey Mackay, bestselling author and CEO of MackayMitchell Envelope Company, knows customer service.  He believes you must build a long term, intimate relationship with your customers and to that end he created the Mackay 66: a form on which you list 66 things you must know about your customer.

The Mackay 66 is too detailed, but still helpful.

The Mackay 66 doesn’t substitute for talking to your clients and being sincere in your desire to help them succeed.

How much information do you really need to know about your clients?

Let’s start with the basics:

How do I contact you?

**Phone number

** Email

**Which do they prefer

How do I get paid?

**Mailing address

** Physical address if different

How do I send you business?


**Company overview/goals

I’d like to get to know you better


**Spouse & kids information


Once you’ve got these facts, organize them.  You’ll collect them while talking to your customer, so decide in advance which method is easier and less distracting:

Paper: Use an index card for each contact.  If you don’t have an assistant, hire someone to input everything into your contact management software.

Make sure all the information is individually searchable (e.g. birthday, address, goals, etc.)

Electronic: Input the information as you get it into the contact management program. This is quicker but can distract both of you.

Although it sounds like the focus of the call is on the information, it’s not.  You’re using your database as an excuse to connect with your client so use your judgment here.

Keep the information current and use a program that automatically tracks birthday reminders, callbacks and tasks.

Both Outlook and Google will track birthdays and tasks plus you can customize the contact fields.  They synchronize to most smart phones, and can be shared with other users.

Thinking you can get this done more efficiently with a blast email to all your clients? The point of the exercise is to create positive energy by talking to clients, asking them how you can help them succeed in the coming year.  You can always follow-up with an email after you’ve had the initial conversation.

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It’s time to pick up the phone and call your clients-what do you say?

The first rule: No smarmy salesman-speak.

Be yourself

Be honest

Ask for the order

Yes, it’s that simple.

Remember, these people already like you. Keep it that way.

I’m not going to give you a script, because you should stay natural. Here are the points you need to cover:

Wish them a happy ______________( New Year, birthday, Flag Day, etc.)

Ask how things are going. Commiserate on the state of the economy or business in general, keeping positive (e.g. ”business is down a little, but that means I have more time to spend on each client”)

Ask how you can do a better job for them.

Ask how you can get more of their business.

Ask what their #1 goal and how you can help them achieve it.*

Confirm/update their contact information

Before ending the conversation, recap what you learned about their #1 goal and how you can help them achieve it.

That’s it. Start dialing.

*This is the real reason for your call and the most important piece of information you will ever get. The answer doesn’t have to be related to your business. In fact, it probably won’t be. At first, it might seem like you have no resources or information to help this client, but trust me; do this on every call and watch what happens. You’re creating a web of connections between your clients.

And you’re the hub.

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