Video from my Son’s Wedding

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth 

Many of you have been kind enough to express your congratulations on my son’s wedding last month, so I thought I’d share a brief snippet of their wedding with you. I don’t often include my family on the blog, but since my son is a living example of what it means to be a great leader it is not only worthy, but apropos to include the video in today’s post. Here’s to my son and his new wife who are truly a  joy to our lives.   

The Impact of Trends on Business

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Are you sure you want to ride the wave?Today’s post was inspired by a witty piece authored by Wally Bock on the topic of fads. If you’re not familiar with Wally’s work, I’d recommend checking him out on a regular basis…When you looked beyond the humor, Wally made some great points about the impact (or lack thereof) of the latest fads, trends, business theories, gimmicks, concepts conveyed in business books, etc. Trends have a significant impact on business. Does your business exploit trends or do they exploit your business? What was the latest fad chased or trend adopted by your business? Why did your management team jump on the band wagon? Has the trend or fad generated an increase in revenue or gains in efficiency and/or productivity? In today’s blog post I’ll examine the impact trends can have on your business.

Let me also point out that trends and fads don’t necessarily constitute innovation. In fact most often the organizations that demonstrate a “heard mentality” when rushing to adopt the latest trends are the farthest thing away from being innovative. The result is that they will likely experience little more than yet another in a long line of great adventures that ended in frustration due to the time wasted and the investment squandered.  The reality is that many businesses are quick to recognize great ideas, but they often have no plan for how to successfully integrate them into their business model.

My advice to you is not to let your business get caught up in trends and fads, at least not without some initial analysis being conducted to determine the likelihood of success. Failed initiatives are costly at several levels. Aside from being costly, a flawed execution can cast doubt on management credibility, have a negative impact on morale, taint the brand, adversely affect external relationships and cause a variety of other problems for your business.

Every sound business initiative begins with a solid strategic plan. However while most anyone can cobble together a high level strategic plan, very few can author a strategy that can be successfully implemented. In order for your enterprise to turn a trend or fad into a monetizing and/or value creating event you should develop a strategic plan that attempts to measure the idea against the following 15 elements:

1. The trend or fad should be in alignment with the overall vision and mission of the enterprise.

2. If the initiative doesn’t provide a unique competitive advantage it should at least bring you closer to an even playing field.

3. Any new project should preferably add value to existing initiatives, and if not, it should show a significant enough return on investment to justify the dilutive effect of not keeping the main thing the main thing.

4. Put the idea through a risk/reward and cost/benefit analysis.

5. Whether the new initiative is intended for your organization, vendors, suppliers, partners or customers it must easy to use. Usability drives adoptability, and therefore it pays to keep things simple.

6. Just because an idea sounds good doesn’t mean it is You should endeavor to validate proof of concept based upon detailed, credible research.

7. Nothing is without risk, and when you think something is without risk that is when you’re most likely to end-up in trouble. All initiatives should include detailed risk management provisions.

8. Adopting a trend or fad should be based upon solid business logic that drives corresponding financial engineering and modeling. Be careful of high level, pie-in-the-sky projections.

9. Any new initiative should contain accountability provisions. Every task should be assigned and managed according to a plan and in the light of day.

10. Any trend being adopted must be measurable. Deliverables, benchmarks, deadlines, and success metrics must be incorporated into the plan.

11. It must be detailed and deliverable on a schedule. The initiative should have a beginning, middle and end.

12. Strategic initiatives must not be disparate systems, but integrated solutions that eliminate redundancies, and build in tactical leverage points.

13. It must contain a road-map for versioning and evolution that is in alignment with other strategic initiatives and the overall corporate mission.

14. A successful initiative cannot remain in a strategic planning state. It must be actionable through tactical implementation.

15. Senior leadership must champion any new initiative. If someone at the C-suite level is against the new initiative it will likely die on the cutting-room floor.

The bottom line is that new ideas are beautiful things. Properly implemented, capitalizing on trends can keep business from stagnating and cause growth and evolution. Just follow the 15 rules above and stay away from being an agent for change for the sake of change.

10 Things That Sell

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

10 Things that SellEach week I receive a tremendous volume of e-mail asking questions about a wide variety of business topics. I received one of these e-mails yesterday which peeked my curiosity as it was not only a great question, but it also challenged me to answer the question in a specific format. The question was: “Can you provide a list of 10 things that appeal to buyers, and explain why they appeal to buyers in simple English?” I’m always up for a challenge so in today’s post I give my opinion on the top things that sell regardless of the state of the current economy…

It’s important to note that I’m not typically one to put forth top 10 lists as I don’t always believe there is much value contained within many of the lists that you’ll read. That being said, I thought in this instance that by answering the question posed above there would be enough value to readers that it was worth the time and effort. So off we go (in no particular order of preference)…

  1. Credibility Sells: If you and/or your company are well branded, and well thought of, that sells…There is a strong difference between being viewed as a “me too” or “one of many” vendor versus being regarded as a true professional that is a subject matter expert or thought leader. People want to work with, and buy from, professionals that they trust and respect. Your image, reputation, and personal brand are critical to your success in the marketplace.
  2. New Sells: A new concept, idea, position, approach, piece of news or information, or virtually anything else that is new sells…Even if your company is an old-line established brand it pays to examine your products and services to determine whether or not a fresh approach is warranted. Curiosity is a strong motivator for driving inquiries/responses.
  3. Status Sells: Appealing to ego is a brilliant move; far more people than not want to be perceived as being in vogue, cool, important, select, etc. If your products and/or services cause people to feel as if they are part of an exclusive group, then you can not only command a pricing premium, but you can also expect people to beat a path to your door in pursuit of their newest status symbol.  
  4. Simple Sells: It is critical that your marketing hook is easily understood, so don’t overburden your concept with too many elements or distractions. I have witnessed far too many attempts at being TOO clever. Successful marketing campaigns limit the things that complicate the selling process. Work diligently at removing as many barriers and requirements as possible, making it easy to do business with you. Simple equals good; Complicated equals bad.
  5. Humor Sells: Nothing gets immediate traction faster than a good-old belly laugh. Good humor is fun, memorable, and something that people want to share. In fact if you look at the media that goes viral the most often, it is usually centered around humor. If you can have people laughing in their cubicles, you are well on your way to establishing a brand that will be well accepted by the masses.
  6. Sex Sells: This is an easy one, and in fact has become a safety net of sorts for agencies when their creativity is lacking. When all else fails, or nothing comes to mind, insert the scantily clad female with a bit of provocative innuendo and your off to the races. However please keep in mind that more likely than not this approach will not be appropriate for what you are trying to promote. I have witnessed many a company try and leverage the “naughty hotties in a hot tub’ concept only to fall flat on the faces. This play is not traditionally corporate, holds appeal to a very narrow demographic, and will likely offend more people than it will attract. This type of play is best left for the alcoholic beverage, fashion and entertainment sectors.
  7. Big Names Sell: Anything that leverages a credible third-party brand will add credibility to what you sell. Testimonials, references, associations, endorsements and other forms of linkage to a well-known company, person, place, or thing will be well received. This type of third part recognition works better because less explanation is required to understand what the concept is about, and the association with the known entity will strike a common chord with many people. 
  8. Topicality and Timeliness Sells: Understanding what’s hot and what’s not is important…If you are out of sink with the market and/or behind the times you will not be well received in the market. Anything that is “torn from today’s headlines” can give you a leg-up over the competition. Since everyone is already talking about the topic in the first place, the communication pump is already primed. Don’t be the company trying to sell mainframe computing in a nano-computing environment….Don’t be a newspaper be Twitter…you get the idea.
  9. Reality & Authenticity Sells: People are overwhelmed, and usually unimpressed, by what they perceive to be traditional advertising. What often works best in today’s market is unvarnished content generated by real people, or at least content made to look that way. User generated news, PR, Blog posts, Podcasts, viral video, crowd-sourcing, tweets, Facebook entries, Linkedin questions and other forms of “real” user generated content are not only very popular, but very effective. 
  10. Mystery Sells: I haven’t met too many people who don’t enjoy a good mystery. So any concept that keeps people guessing will only contribute to the buzz factor creating a sense of intrigue around your company, product or service. At some point in time, however, there must be a payoff and the mystery must be unveiled, otherwise you’ll really frustrate your audience having the opposite of the effect you were reaching for.
  11. Bonus: I saved the best two for last: Service Sells– there is truth in the old saying “keep your client happy or someone else will.” Outstanding service simply overcomes most obstacles. Examine any company and you’ll find a hallmark of their success to be providing truly outstanding service. Value Sells – put everything else aside, and if your product or service doesn’t create or add value it won’t sell. Provide significant value and your product or service will be in high demand.

Are there other things not contained in the list above that sell? Sure there are, but if you’ll recall I was limited to 10 items, and I blew that by two items as it was…I do need to give one last piece of advice on the subject matter at hand…Above all else, don’t try too hard. If you have even the slightest air of appearing desperate people will sniff it a mile away…A really compelling value proposition will stand on its own, and not only will your product and/or service be in high demand, but people will want to share it with others. Good luck and good selling.

Recent Industry Recognitions

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Thank you for the thumbs upPlease forgive the bit of self-promotion that follows, but a lesson I learned long ago was to always thank those who contribute to your success. So, what follows is a big thank you to my readers…The past few months has been kind with regard to industry recognition, and I am not so naive to think that it could have happened without the support of the loyalty from my family, friends, clients, and associates.  In the text that follows I’ll very briefly take the time to thank a few of those that have included me within their esteemed ranks. No need to read further unless your interested in yet another list of lists…I promise it will be back to business as usual on Monday…

So, following are a few of the lists that have recently recognized our work on contributions:

  1. World’s Top 25 Leadership Experts: This list includes some of the people that I respect most within the field of Leadership and I’m honored to be placed amongst the ranks of folks like John C. Maxwell, Tony Robbins, Tom Peters, Rudy Giulliani, Tony Dungy, Meg Whitman and other wonderful and talented leadership professionals.
  2. 100 Great Authors to follow on Twitter for Business Success: I was truly honored to be one of only 18 authors selected for inclusion in the Leadership/Management Category. Other authors mentioned in my category included: Jack Welch, Brian Tracy, Ken Blanchard, Harvey Mackay, John C. Maxwell, and Stephen R. Covey among others. I’m gratified to hear that my book “Leadership Matters…The CEO Survival Manual” continues to be well received by readers. Thanks again to NextVoice247 for placing me in good company…
  3. Alltop – Leadership Blogs: Alltop is Guy Kawasaki’s “online magazine rack” containing the best of the best of websites and blogs selected and listed by category. We are pleased to have been selected as one of the top Leadership blogs by Alltop.
  4. Daily Reviewer -100 Top Leadership Blogs: The daily reviewer has selected the N2growth Blog as one of its Top 100 Leadership Blogs.

Thanks for indulging this brief listing of some of our recent recognitions….Thanks again for your continued support and loyalty.

Strengths vs. Weaknesses

By Mike Myatt

Great Leaders Understand their strengths & weaknessesShould you play to your strengths or shore-up your weaknesses? If you pose this question to a group of professionals some will answer play to your strengths, some will answer shore-up weaknesses and others will answer both. The truth is that they are all correct to a degree…The real answer lies in understanding context, environment and priority of the situation to which the question is being posed. Continued professional growth, leading to increased performance over time, is what separates the good from the great. Rapidly evolving markets demand that successful business people have a fluidity in their approach to professional development. However many executives and entrepreneurs focus on the wrong areas, at the wrong times, and for the wrong reasons in their efforts to refine and improve their skill sets. In today’s post I’ll share insights on how to prioritize your professional development efforts…

Focus needs to be applied to areas that can have the greatest impact on your performance. It is nothing short of foolishness to waste time, energy or capital on improving weaknesses that don’t matter. Unless a weakness creates a barrier between you and the completion of your mission, adversely impacts relationships, or impedes you from utilizing your strengths, it is not really a weakness that needs to be addressed.

As an example, if you are a CEO with poor interpersonal communication skills which prohibit you from being able to articulately and persuasively sell the corporate vision, you should immediately go to work on improving your communication. By way of contrast, if you’re a CEO who has poor administrative skills, who cares? It is likely that as CEO you have unfettered access to administrative support to which you can delegate activities that are not highest and best use to begin with, so why worry about how fast you keyboard, filing nomenclature, naming conventions or how to work the scanner?

It is critical that you understand it takes much more dedication, determination and energy to go from poor to mediocre than it does to move from good to great. It is also important to check your motivation and interest level in determining which areas you desire to improve upon. If you’re not passionate about something it is difficult to be motivated, and without motivation it is virtually impossible to maintain any interest.  As a busy executive or entrepreneur you only have so much time in a day so don’t waste it on areas that do not improve relationships, add value or create leverage.

Those of you who are familiar with my philosophy understand the importance of focus. However as important as focus is, of equal or greater importance is what you choose to focus on. As mentioned above, focus needs to be brought to bear on issues that stand between where you are and where you want to go. Understanding how to identify barriers is mission critical to your ability to succeed in business. Barriers are best identified as things that can be removed though acquiring knowledge (training, continuing education, self-learning, etc.), improving skills (training, practice, focus), leveraging down or out (delegation, partnering or outsourcing), and gaining experience (broadening roles, more tenure, being mentored, etc.).

Bottom line…Focused professional development requires: 1) Motivation to improve; 2) the ability to identify barriers; 3) determining the proper method of removing the barrier by improving skill sets, acquiring knowledge, applying third party leverage, or gaining experience; 4) Conducting a cost/benefit and risk/reward assessment to determine whether the barrier needs to be addressed immediately, over the mid-range or the long-term, and; 5) remembering that discerning strengths and weaknesses are not always easy in that there is often strength in weakness and weakness is often found in strength, but that’s another post altogether.