I love a good story. Truth be told, I am all into mysteries, but not just any mysteries, Agatha Christie and Paul Temple are my favorite. Why? They require you to think. You are forced to really figure out who the guy is, and perhaps, the motivation behind their murder.
What does that have to do with your business? Quite a bit. I want a story where I am rooting for you, not one of "come to my business because we have the cheapest price." I want a story that tells me you put some thought into the service or solution you are providing. I want you to beat the odds.
One of my favorite business stories is The Kenneth Cole Story:
"I had an idea.
I called a friend in the trucking business and asked to borrow one of his trucks to park in Midtown Manhattan. He said sure, but good luck getting permission. I went to the Mayor’s office, Koch at the time, and asked how one gets permission to park a 40 foot trailer truck in Midtown Manhattan. He said one doesn’t. The only people the city gives parking permits to are production companies shooting full length motion pictures and utility companies like Con Ed or AT&T. So that day I went to the stationery store and changed our company letterhead from Kenneth Cole, Inc. to Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc. and the next day I applied for a permit to shoot a full length film entitled “The Birth of a Shoe Company.”
With Kenneth Cole Productions painted on the side of the truck, we parked at 1370 6th Avenue, across from the New York Hilton, the day of shoe show. We opened for business with a fully furnished 40 ft trailer, a director (Sometimes there was film in the camera, sometimes there wasn’t), models as actresses, and two of New York’s finest, compliments of Mayor Koch, as our doormen. We sold 40 thousand pairs of shoes in two and a half days (the entire available production) and we were off and running.
To this day the company is still named Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc. and serves as a reminder to the importance of resourcefulness and innovative problem solving.”
The innovative beginnings of Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc. was driven by the determination to become resourceful when confronted with NO."
How can you not want to reward that creativity and innovation with a purchase? You want Kenneth Cole to win, because they went above and beyond to stand out, when it was probably cheaper to blend in. They could have taken the shortcut route, but instead sold the consumer through this story that they not only spoke to their creativity, but also to the quality of the work. I mean, would Walmart do that for shoes they sell for $19.99? I doubt it since there is nothing special about them.
What's more impressive about this story is that I have remembered it over 15 years, and share it quite often.
So, again, what's your story? Why would I, as a consumer, being hoping you win the battle for business?
A few weeks ago, I happened up selling on Amazon, in this case, used books. What's the difference? Quite a bit. First off, let's just Admit Amazon takes a hell of a lot in either case. However, with this way, I felt like I have more control. I know who the customer is, and where they live which is sort of empowering.
Of course, Amazon has rules in place to discourage you from dealing with that customer aside from the sale, but it is still helpful to have a name to go with a product being sold. Aside from the name, there is the text message alerting you to the sale, followed by an email. Then you pack and ship. The difference with this is it makes selling tangible. Withe the passive income, it is easy to forget that a person bought something from you since you only see the name of the book, how many copies it old, and what you made from it.
So, while selling tangible items on Amazon may be more work, there is a huge plus for actually feeling like you are really in business, which passive income does not provide.
Silicon Valley has a problem with hating women. Hate means "to dislike intensely or passionately; feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward; detest." Over the last couple of days I have seen example after example with techies doing all manner of things to degrade, harass, and sexually objectify women.
Sarah Parmenter of "You Know Who" wrote a blog post about her experience where an unknown person put up faked porn pictures of women who LOOKED similar to her, and proceeded to send links of the photos to high profile people she knew in order to ruin her credibility. You can read that here
Whitney Hess tells her story of harrassment here. She knows who the individuals are, but has allowed the ones who have harassed her publicly on her blog, twitter, etc to go unchallenged which has brought some benefits (new clients), and loss (friends distancing themselves from her).
Dr. Lesie Jensen-Inman discusses a physically threatening situation from a conference attendee. And how the attendees were too busy discussing her physical attributes and clothing on Twitter to be concerned with what she was speaking on.
Here's what these all have in common:
- All these women were afraid or ashamed to tell their story until time passed. In the case with Sarah, the person who did it was never caught.
- The women were mainly subjected to the harassment at conferences where they were speaking, by men who did not like the idea of a WOMAN speaking.
- Considering the average age of an employee in Silicon Valley is less than 35, this attitude towards women is being taught and re-enforced in the tech industry itself, and not necessarily through American culture where it is the norm for women to work, speak in public, and be the top in their field (i.e., Hillary Clinton).
Silicon Valley is supposed to be innovative, disrupting stuff, and creating things we want to buy, but how can the men of Silicon Valley have any idea what women want or need when they refuse to listen to those within their industry?. How can tech grow when there is a blatant attempt to silence women?
Forget about the laws being broken and potential lawsuits, and focus on the real issue; sexism and misogyny is just plain wrong. In order for it to stop, the good men are going to have to take the lead. Unlike the women who were fearful of disclosing their harassment but did it anyway, too many influential men in the technology industry have done something far worse, they ignored it.
In this time where businesses are being gobbled up or acquired, sometimes we overlook the people who won't be part of the million dollar payout...the employees.
Over the last couple of months I have watched as one company took over another. The fallout was not pretty, but that is for another blog post. But he is one of the main things I have seen, the new place inherited a culture. What do I mean by that? The way the staff was under the old management, the new management got.
It seems like all chocolate and roses when you get a group of people already trained in their job, but that is only if they were trained correctly in the first place. And, second, how these people respond to each other. Oh, and third, do the clients you serve respect them. Hmmm.
Lets talk about the problems just for a moment, and then we will turn it around. The main problem the new company acquired was a group of people the clients did not trust or respect, and the staff did not trust or respect each other. The previous management had incited them to become backbiters (snitches), they then used that information to turn them against each other.
How do you turn it around? In some cases, you have to get rid of the root. I am on record for saying gossips and snitches should be fired first, but since the management encouraged the behavior we have to undo the damage.
- Fire or move those employees who seem to have the biggest problem with letting go of the old way of doing things.
- Disrespecting each other is not an option, and it is disrespectful to backbite and/or to use each other in a manner that is inconsistent with the mission. Also precludes, sex with each other or clients. A few broken relationships or just a whisper about who is sleeping with whom can destroy a place's morale.
- Make expectations clear. You can't hold people accountable for what they don't know.
On the plus side, inheriting a staff saves a lot of time with hiring and training. They know who can or will do what, and what the result will be. Over time, as in this case, some weeded themselves out (quit or fired). It will take some time to undo some of the old ways, but those willing and able may then become your biggest assets.
Inheriting a staff can be a mixed bag, but with a clear mission and communication, it can work out for your good.
No where is this "not doing it for the money" thinking so apparent then in writing circles. Yes, I get it, it's your passion, blah, blah, blah. However, if you REALLY did not want to get paid for said writing, you wouldn't submit it to places to get paid. There are these things called blogs. So, now that we have eliminated that first lie, lets move on.
Two, if you have put all your eggs (writing income) in one basket which has changed their payout and you just lap it up like a dog, you are not a business person. Over the last two years the online writing world has changed significantly, but it is clear some think they are being the "good guy" to just roll with the punches and not adjust.
At some point, if a person is doing something for pay where they have to consider the return on investment (ROI). Meaning, if you are spending two hours writing a researched article for $5, which no one reads, that's a waste of time and effort. It might help get other opportunities, but it depends on the credibility of the outlet. For example, If you wrote for Forbes for free vs a content farm, there is a HUGE difference in how an author will be viewed.
There are lots of writing outlets which have moved to payment based on views. This really only works for credible outlets (Forbes) and writers who have an audience and know how to market their work through social media avenues. If you don't have one or the other, the odds are that you will never see a payout since no one will be reading your work.
The bottom line is write for outlets which help you get to where you want to be. If you want to be considered an expert then choose an outlet where there is a built in audience and they are respected. You could do your own blog of course, but it takes time to make it profitable (ROI).
Wanting to write for your passion is noble, but if you need that income to live, then be wise and write for outlets who are willing to pay for your work or have an audience large enough where you will gain exposure which you can leverage.
It's sort of like a paint-by-number business model. The reason for this is usually because they took the idea of someone else or read books and articles on what the newest get rich quick scheme is.
In order for your business to stand out, you have to be doing something someone else is not doing. It is about providing a solution to a problem. Standing out may be as simple as simplifying a difficult process. Another issue is that the online business audience has zero clue who their audience is. They seem to go with the throw it against the wall and whatever sticks is your audience.
One thing I have learned is there are three primary audiences, you early adopters, masses, and laggards. The approach to each audience is difference. Why they buy is different, so it's up to the business owner to find out who they want to serve.
Standing out is not hard as long as the idea is yours. If you are just copying an idea to get "rich" then you will not put in the real work to do what's necessary.
So, some questions to help you think:
1. What problem are you solving?
2. Who is the audience you are targeting?
3. Have they ever paid for this type of product before?
4. What are they willing to pay?
5. If you have competitors, how are you different from them?