Lucky's Blog

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Hitting A Bad Note

As many of my followers may know, I used to be a lead guitarist in a heavy metal band back in the eighties. When my son was much younger, he wanted to learn how to play the guitar, so I started showing him some basic chords and scales. What does this have to do with Business? Good question, but please humor me-it will all come together in the end. 

A good friend of mine, we will call him Scott for the purpose of this article is starting up his own electrical business and I have been mentoring him along the way. In the beginning, it was all about setting up his business plan, doing some market research, and coming up with a high-level marketing strategy. Scott is a great electrician, however, when it comes to the business side, he has the attention span of a mouse and doesn’t enjoy any of the duties required as a business owner. 

A few days ago we were in my kitchen talking about building new business. I referred him back to our marketing strategy that we developed in the beginning and told him we had to build an actual marketing plan for him to begin working on. Up to this point he has had several jobs to keep him busy, but they were all from friends and family, and he didn’t really have to do anything to gain the jobs he had landed. I was helping him to understand that in order to grow his business he needs to have a marketing plan, with a set goal of bids he needs to push out every week. In order to get the jobs he needs to bid each week, he has to market to local businesses and /or general contractors. This requires going to networking functions, cold calling, joining associations, and etcetera.

Scott didn’t want to hear any of what I was telling him. He kept telling me that he isn’t good at marketing, selling or talking with potential clients. I told him that if he was not going to handle the marketing himself, then he would have to hire someone to do it for him. Scott, of course, didn’t have the money to hire someone to market for him, so he kept complaining about how uncomfortable it makes him to just walk up and talk to someone. I explained to him that most people have a problem with that, but he needs to get over it, move outside his comfort zone, and learn how to be as good at marketing as he is at being an electrician.
I asked Scott when he first started the electrical trade, was he uncomfortable about being left alone, or doing a task he wasn’t confident in performing? He answered me with a “Duh, of course, I was!” I explained to Scott that as you learned more and became confident in that task, it didn’t bother you anymore. The same is true with marketing. The reason you don’t want to walk up to people is because you are not confident in what to say. Scott agreed with me and explained that in the electrical field he had someone to show him how to properly perform that task, but there isn’t anyone to show me how to market. So I told Scott, fine let's go right now and I will show you what to do and say. 

We went out for about four hours hitting several businesses. By the end of the four hours, Scott had several examples to learn from on how to solicit a new possible client. I explained to Scott that he didn’t have to remember what I said or how I acted, he just needed to take what I did and adapt it to his style. However, Scott was still reluctant to make any attempt to follow my lead and try the marketing himself.

Scott tried to explain to me that he was afraid of looking stupid or saying the wrong thing to a potential customer.

While we were talking my son, Randy was in the room, and he jumped into the conversation. To my surprise, Randy told Scott that “one of the best things my dad ever told me, was when I was learning how to play the guitar.” Randy told Scott that when he was learning how to play the guitar, he would get frustrated every time he hit a bad note. During one of my lessons with Randy, I apparently told him, not to worry about the bad notes but to just keep playing. In many cases, as you improve, few people would ever even know if you hit a bad note as long as you don’t show it in your face and keep playing. Also hitting bad notes is part of the learning process. You have to hit the bad notes to learn. Then Randy went on to apply that lesson to Scott. Randy told Scott, “don’t worry if you say something wrong, keep talking to the customer. Even more importantly, listen to the customer. Even if you look stupid, it will be a learning experience, it will be your bad note, and you have to hit those bad notes to learn how to market successfully.”

Scott, also being a musician, looked at Randy and said: “wow that is so true!” He then looked at me and said you have a pretty smart son! I told him “I know, Randy is quite amazing.” 

I find it funny sometimes, you never know what you say or do that will have such an impact on someone. Back when I was teaching my son to play guitar, I never thought about the deep meaning behind what I said about a bad note. I never knew it had such an impact on him, nor did I think it would be something that would be a guiding principle in Randy’s life. However, the way Randy took it was very profound and very accurate. In life, you are going to hit some bad notes. The key is not to let the bad note affect your ultimate goal and to just play on!

Friday, July 13, 2018

To Be Outstanding You Must Stand Out

Do you stand out from your competition? What is your market differentiator? Are you working outside your comfort zone? It has been my experience over the years, that when I ask people these questions I usually get the same answers.

Do you stand out from your competition? Everyone thinks they stand out from their competition. Usually it is because they think they have the best team, or they offer better quality than their competitors. But when put to the test, this is rarely the case, at least not to the point that it is a true market differentiator. Everyone wants their company to be outstanding, but to really be outstanding you must stand out. So ask yourself, what am I doing to make myself standout? What value do I bring to the customer that others do not? You should know the answer to this at any given time on any given day. You should also understand that the market is changing every day, so what might make you different today may not make you different tomorrow.

What is your market differentiator? As previously discussed, this is what makes you stand out and you need to have an answer to this and constantly be testing its viability. I have known many good people that lost rapid market share because they were not constantly monitoring what makes them different and what value they bring to their customers that others cannot. This takes a lot of deep thought and being honest with yourself, which some people have a very hard time doing. I have a sign in my office that says “Thinking is hard work, which is why so few do it!” This is as true a statement as there is since so many business owners don’t take the time to stop and think about where the market is, where is it going, and how will I position myself to be ahead of the changes?

Are you working outside your comfort zone? Without a doubt if you answer no to this question you are on your way to ruin. I just finished reading a book by Mark Cuban called “How to win at the sport of business.” This is an excellent book and I have already suggested it to many people who own, run, or are starting a business. It is a very short and succinct book that gets straight to the point. In one part of the book he talks about how at any given moment there are thousands of other companies who are trying to kill your business. I love that part of the book and this is why you need to live outside your comfort zone and constantly be thinking about what makes you stand out today. Over the years I have mentored many people who have started, rescued, or run businesses and one of the most common things I hear is, “when is this going to get easier?” The answer is never! You must be out there every day blowing your customers away, offering them value that others cannot give, and planning for the future. If there are always thousands of other companies that are trying to kill your business, or at least steal your market share, then you don’t have time to be in a comfort zone. Also, what about the effects of technology on your business? What effect will that have on your value stream and market differentiators?

I can remember not that long ago I knew a woman who had her own successful business. She transcribed doctor’s recordings to a word document. She ran this business, and was one of the top in her field for decades, making a very good living. However, all at once a computer could do this work, or at least to her it was all at once. Now she no longer has that business. Mainly because she spent too much time in the comfort zone and assumed that as long as she was good at her job she would continue to have her business. Technology killed her business and it was a hard lesson for her to learn.

Owning or running a business should never get easy. If it does get easier then you are not trying hard enough. Owning or operating a business isn’t a sprint, it is a career long marathon. Just because you hire people, train people, and build an amazing team you need to continue to push yourself to live outside that comfort zone to stay relevant. To be completely honest, I have never understood the reason for anyone wanting to live inside their comfort zone. If you stop to think about it, the most amazing things in life happen when you are outside your comfort zone, so the more time you spend there, the more amazing moments you will have in your life. Sure it isn’t easy, but no-one ever said it would be easy. Owning or running a business is one of the hardest things you will ever do. It will test you every day, it will consume your entire life, it will make you question your own abilities, but it will also be one of the most rewarding things you can ever do in life. You get to serve people, help people, and help your team live the American Dream! I have said in many articles how hard it is to be the best in anything, but in order to be the best, you have to live outside your comfort zone. In other words in order to be outstanding you must stand out!