Wednesday, January 5, 2011

My blog has moved

Hello loyal readers:


Thanks for following me the last few years as I got my "feet wet".

My blogging has moved to:


http://www.JoshRichardsConsulting.com


The topics I primarily focus on are Business, Technology, and Professional Success Strategies (and some other good stuff). I encourage you to check it out (and subscribe in your favorite reader if you wish to be kept in the loop).


If you happen to be an independent IT professional, you might also enjoy my other site (where I also blog regularly):
http://www.ITConsultingLessons.com


-jr

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The 54 Business Answers (& Then Some) You Need to Know

I shared this with some of my fellow entrepreneurs, consultants, and small-medium business owners earlier today and figured I ought to post it here too in case I missed some folks.

This one is long, but PLEASE don't let that scare you off. I was super excited as I wrote this e-mail and just had to get it all out there to make sure you had the best chance possible of grasping this.

Jay and Rich's conversation, which much of this is drawn from, went on for a while. Jay talks a lot anyhow (thankfully it's usually quite informative) and he was clearly pretty excited about this new program too.

This is one of those rare programs where I'll be very proud about every single person that I got to take advantage of a program like this because of the people that are involved.

Before you think this is a sales pitch: this stuff is all FREE. Zero cost. Not even a credit card is needed. Really, so keep reading before you shake your head at me. :)

I figure the best way to encourage you to take as much interest in it as I have would be to share with you some of the background about why I think it's so impressive and important.

I'm going to share with you a little bit of the vision -- as I understand it -- and what they've done to make it so appealing and special for you.

The other reason this email is longer than it maybe needs to be is because the program sign-up (again free, no credit card needed) starts this afternoon... and they have, unfortunately, limited how many free guests they are allowing.

Just so we're clear, the concept behind this is that these guys have created this unprecedented superstar expert interview panel series to die for. They are experts of a class and a magnitude and a level or international renown in the business arena that are really amazing and they are not the normal sphere of people who, gurus and the like, that are normally made available to people online. No knocking any of them, it's just that they have been blessed and fortunate enough to be able to attract a rarified group of people whose prestige, whose reputation, whose success stories -- it's just really -- they're unparalleled.

I'm going to do my best, because I want to make sure I really convey to you how unique and valuable and impressive and important this is for all of us and also for your business.

I implore you to take advantage of this. It's a no-cost, 6-week, unprecedented guest membership to this organization called The League of Extraordinary Minds. Think about it as the ultimate business brain trust -- a collection of mammoth thinkers in the business community that just have pieces of the puzzle that nobody has ever collected together.

I've been allowed to make this available to you, to buy you a 6-week, 9 panel interview experience for nothing. Zero. They have, on average, 2 to 2 1/2 hours worth of pure content, rich amazing expert interviews that you will experience. Nine of them in all.

You will get this for nothing. You don't even have to put a credit card down to do it. :-)

You can find the link at the end which goes live at 3 PM EST (Noon Pacific) today (Thursday, October 15th).

The reason they're doing it is that Rich and Jay (the two organizers) and all of the experts are taking the position of being the ultimate champions of the growing, struggling, beleaguered, high-performing entrepreneurs, start-ups, and employed people who have impact in their business and who want to invest in their growth right now.

All of the experts involved are equally committed. All of them got involved, not to sell anything, they are selling nothing. They got involved to direct, contribute, and re-define their expertise in a way that entrepreneurs, small-medium business owners, start-ups, and people wanting to start a business could benefit massively. So, it's a wonderful undertaking.

Jay Abraham has been one of my long-time mentors. He, along with Rich Schefren who I do not know as well but trust he's savvy since Jay agreed to partner up with him, are the guys who have put this together.

Jay has put together incredible panels of experts before, but not on a sustaining basis and so accessible online like this, and brought five or six world class people together on the same subject and asked them the same provocative question one after another after another and it brings
out an incredible dynamic...

First of all, you get a broad sweep of ideas from a lot of different experiential bases but second, they all try to "one-up" each other so the dynamic is incredible and the concentrated expertise that comes out of it is really amazing. It is to die for, as Jay seems fond of saying. :-)

Jay loves doing it but never did it with regularity. He would do it for special teleconference promotions or at a seminar when he wanted to do something really cool, etc.

He and rich were talking about how neat it would be at this time in the state of the economy if they could create an actual ongoing program like that.

Basically bring together expert panels -- brain trust panels of very focused experts in one or two critical areas of distinction -- that would help the entrepreneur just really catapult their business. Jay says: "Things that they wouldn't know; from vantage points that they wouldn't know that will shorten the process, fast track it, reduce the loss, the time, the struggle, all that stuff. So we started with that [vision]."

Then they made a list -- a dream list -- of who they would love to have involved. Jay explains: "And then we realize that, those of you that know me, I have a very strong reputation in the entrepreneurial community. I am very well-known and I'm in the sixth degree of separation. I know a lot of people that know a lot of people but I don't really know a lot of the top echelon
experts because they're operating in the corporate arena. They really are working with the Microsoft's, the Google's, the Cisco's, and the big corporations. They're really earning honest to goodness the seven figures and they are really not focused on the entrepreneurs. So we had to figure a way to immediately and highly impactfully get their trust, their respect, and their willingness to embrace this project for us. We're talking really stratospheric people, really bright people and actually wonderfully people and surprisingly brilliant people who have the capacity to help entrepreneurs in ways that they never realized they could."

"We went out to people that knew us and trusted us but that these academic, these corporate, these high-powered experts would trust and we got people like Stephen Covey to tell them to work with us. We got the former publisher of SUCCESS magazine to say he had never met anybody who understood business in the entrepreneur's plight as well and we got letters
and credibility and people calling these people. I started an avalanche. It is really incredible. We got like 200 people that are all expert status that wanted to be part of this program. We couldn't even accept them all for the first stage, for the free trial guest membership part."

"So we picked out what we thought were the really most powerful collection that we could organize in the best nine panels and we made that the grouping we were going to use for the free six week experience."

"It took us an enormous amount of time. It took us an enormous amount of interaction with them just because they said yes. Then we had to figure out universal questions that were so clarifying, powerful but would stimulate and evoke and gain from any expert in a category a meaningful, actionable answer, tactical or strategic response that the entrepreneur could do something with. That took Rich and me an enormous amount of time and we did it. We came up
with some killer questions that are universal and we asked the same question one after another, after another of each one of these experts on the panels. The panels average five to seven experts a piece. It is about a two to two and a half hour panel interview. The questions are to die for. The answers are extraordinarily fresh and very powerful and very provocative and there is not one iota of selling on any of them."

So they got the experts that they wanted...

Rich elaborates:

"It is not only the expertise but it is also their expertise applied to the current situation that entrepreneurs face right now whether they be online or offline. For example, we have Robert Cialdini talking about the triggers that are actually the most effective right now online and offline. We have Dan Ariely who wrote the book, "Predictably Irrational". He is a professor at MIT and he is talking about the one single obstacle that you have to overcome if you want to maximize your sales, what you have to overcome and the way that you need to overcome it. We have in that same panel because this one panel is fresh in my mind because I was just looking at it; we have Christophe Morin who was one of the originators of neuromarketing where they basically have broken down through brain scans the part of the brain that triggers the buying response. He walks you through six different critical elements that you need to leverage to activate the buying response. In the same panel is Ori Brafman who wrote a book by the name of "Sway". That is also about behavioral economics and he walks you through what aspects of behavioral economics you can leverage today to increase your sales. That is just one of the panels. There are a few more experts on that one panel but I think that gives a scope of what we're talking about."

The cool thing about this is that these panels take these very provocative and very high leverage subjects and they reduce them down to simplified understanding and then distill, define, interpret, and explain how exactly that best applies to the entrepreneurial situation whether it be ads, emails, websites, your sales, sales force, or whatever business you consider yourself
to be in. Jay says "It is an incredible funnel of distillation that brings it right down to the actionable element form."

Without being all hype-y (even if it sounds that way), the stature of these people, if you check them out online, you're going to blow your mind. They are incomparable to the caliber and the typical people that are available to us entrepreneurs, small-medium business owners, and the like.

I'm been on a lot of LOUSY, time sucking teleconferences and webinars, participated in some not very informative "free trials", downloaded sales pitches disguised (poorly) as eBooks and special reports, etc. I'm promised these are not infomercials in any way and I have every reason to believe them. Jay promises:

"It is very important that we clarify and delineate every one of these panels are honest to goodness, concentrated, solid gold; we're not trying to be hyperbolic. There is not one iota of self-serving selling on it. We allow them to give their websites at the end but it is very benign. Every minute of every hour of every session, every question, it is all content rich, it is all focused on extracting and directing very actionable questions for entrepreneurs."

Rich added:

"So there are nine panels of these world class experts. What we've done because we really wanted to make sure that not only are these experts ideas and strategies and tactics and methodologies shared but we want to make sure that we help every single entrepreneur that participates in this program the easiest, fastest and most result certain ways to apply all this great knowledge."

"As Jay said, we'll do a summary at the end of every call where we'll give the overarching theme of what developed because what's interesting is that even though all these experts come at it from a different angle, what happens is that there is an overall theme to each panel and then there are tactics underlying each of those themes. We will be doing a quick recap of that at the end of each call and then the following day, what we've done is we've recruited some of the
top social media players online today and they are going to do a follow-up panel where they dissect everything that the expert said and then walk everyone through the exact steps to apply what the expert suggested online through the filter of their experience, through the filter of what has worked for them, what they've seen worked for others, what hasn't worked for them, what hasn't worked for others so that at the end of each of these double panels, so to speak, you not only get the ideas, concepts, strategies but then you get the boiled down, specific tactics to
apply to the situation in the fastest, most result certain way. When you add those panels in, it becomes a total of 18 panels each about two hours in length."

(I'm told that by "social media" they mean that these follow-on panels will be blog based and dissect the expert panels into actionable items).

Jay and Rich get the key to getting people excited and to stay excited -- so that they take action -- is helping them figure out what to do with the ideas. That doesn't mean that everyone who listens will do anything with it but when people really see what to do with new ideas, they're more likely to take action.

Jay and Rich are going to gift this very valuable, very incomparable direct access to a level of world class business expertise that you've probably never had and probably never will have available to you again in your life except here.

Whether you decide to keep going after the 6-week guest membership, the experience that you're going to can only be an extraordinary and enriching one. There is really no downside I can see. Jay says: "There is only upside, enrichment, expansion, illumination, enlightenments, and epiphanies. There is no downside to you because the panels are that content rich, that impressive and there is absolutely no selling attached to the panels."

Yes, at the end I'm told there will be an opportunity offered to have you continue if you really dug the program and at several points in between the panels you will have other opportunities to expand your involvement. But knowing Jay I'm confident it will be done with integrity, transparency, and without any bait and switch.

Along those lines, here is exactly what Jay stated:

"We're not going to try to subtly get them to commit and them not know that they've done it. We're not going to try to get them to manipulate upward to a one-time offer and have them not appreciate that they don't have to do it. There is total integrity to everything that we do but we believe that with that integrity there is total motivation for them to take us up on every step forward because we're respecting their intelligence in a way that most people don't do."

"For example, when they upgrade to the one-time offer, first of all we explain to them very clearly why they don't have to but we explain to them why we encourage them to do it. Then we explain to them what it is going to give them. Then we explain why it is going to increase their success outcome by 800 percent. Then we explain to them that if it doesn't we don't want or deserve to keep their very modest upgrade fee. We wouldn't so we would give it back to them. We don't want them to even think about it. We want them to get the most out of the six weeks because our goal is to get them to subscribe forever. That's just an example."

"When they get the upgrade, we buy them the first month, paid. They know it. We tell them that we'll bill them afterwards if they stay in but if they don't, there is an immensely, an amazingly exciting package that goes along with that upgrade that they get automatically, instantaneously and it is their to keep even if they don't. We're putting a lot of trust on them. We're putting an enormously different positioning to this I think that is normal. We believe with all truthfulness it is going to result in just droves and droves and tons of people availing themselves of the offer."

"We apply a huge portion of their upgrade fee to the paid session so they're really going to end up getting the one-time upgrade for close to nothing if they keep and for nothing if they ask for it back. Then again, it is a no-brainer. Once they go into paid status it is always month to month. There is no long-term obligation. It is always and intentionally a 100 percent of the performance responsibility and obligation rests squarely on Rich and me, it doesn't rest on them. The promotions are always done outside of the interviews to protect the integrity and the quality of
the service itself and to make it really something we can all be very proud to make available."

"Again, what we're offering is not promotional rhetoric. With all truth and no exceptions every one of the experts that we've recruited and every one of the experts- Rich, we've got Spencer Johnson who did "Who Moved my Cheese", we got Stephen M.R. Covey who did the most successful business book on that. We've got Jack Trout and Al Reese who are two of the most prominent - we've got so many people I can't even remember them but they're all people that are greatly respected and whose perspective is very, very impressive. It will always be of the ilk, we will never compromise, we will never sell out the service, we will never make it anything
but a pure world-class level of expertise and always focused on what entrepreneur can do immediately to use it to make their business more money, more profitable, and grow more."

This expert panel interview is truly something invaluable that, even if you aren't convinced about, you should at least try out on the no-cost six-week trial basis.

Here's the link:

http://www.ITConsultingLessons.com/go/loem

P.S. Go now! :)

-jr

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Josh's Top 26 Reasons Why Your Business Sucks

What gives me the right to talk about these? Because I've made (and learned) from all of 'em. We're all works in progress. It's what we do next that counts.

  1. You aren't really in "business". You're a freelancer/specialist who still operates with an employee mindset... Stuck between two worlds: lacking the benefits of employment as well as the benefits of being a self-employed business owner.
  2. You think marketing and sales are "icky" and about advertising, being impersonal, and manipulation.
  3. Your product/service isn't all that great
  4. Your product/service isn't compelling or differentiated.
  5. You are afraid of failing so you're just copying what others are doing.
  6. You take advice without considering its origin carefully.
  7. You built a product/service instead of finding an attractive market and figuring out what they want, need, despise, desire, and wish for.
  8. Your product/service is wonderful but you're trying to sell it to the wrong folks, at the wrong price, in the wrong way, and at the wrong time.
  9. You're stuck telling prospects why they should buy your product/services instead of finding out why they will (and do) buy your product/services... or haven't (and won't) buy similar, competing, or related products/services.
  10. You don't actually like business (or don't think you do). You just like your product/service.
  11. It's not your business... it's someone else's.
  12. You don't desire success enough... including a willingness to fail often, incremental improve, learn every day, have an open mind, and the confidence and energy to put up with in-your-face uncertainty.
  13. You work too hard on the wrong things and not had enough on the right things. Working hard on the wrong things is admirable but also stupid. If stuck or losing faith, stand back and make sure you're on a (likely) right path. Strategy before tactics. Insight before planning. Planning before implementation.
  14. You talk about yourself and your product/service before you talk about your customer, prospect, and the outcome they desire, wish for, need, and will get.
  15. You are selling before informing.
  16. You are advertising your "name" and your "brand" (a focus on yourself that the prospect cannot even yet relate to or trust) before you've drawn the prospect in by focusing on their issues, problems, concerns, context, pains, needs, hopes, and wishes.
  17. You more often than not go with the "safe" (failure avoiding) choices. You also give up too soon. Even though you learn from failures and getting outside your comfort zone. And, other than self-inflicted stress from worry, the majority of "failures" are non-fatal, temporary, and (ironically) incremental steps toward success.
  18. You are unfocused, scattered, and have an endless "To Do" list. In part, that's okay. There are always opportunities to improve, get better, grow more, etc. That's the upside of having an endless "To Do" list (and idea lists, resources for outside advice, etc.). The downside is that we can let it keep us scattered constantly and never completing key initiatives supporting critical objectives. Accept the endless lists (they're a good thing - call them "opportunities" if it'll help your mindset). Narrow down your daily, weekly, quarterly, and yearly projects to the fewest necessary and practical that will move you closer towards your objectives. You can always update plans... but do so intentionally, carefully, and boldly.
  19. You stopped pro-actively learning and improving your capabilities in business, marketing, sales, communication, listening, planning, and strategic thinking.
  20. You don't write down and place in an obvious undeniable spot your top objectives and supporting initiatives (and only them).
  21. You aren't clear and specific about why you do what you do, why achieving your objectives is important, and what doing so would truly mean to you.
  22. You mistake learning from what others are doing, even successfully, with justification to mimic them, not be yourself, not put your own slant on it, lose your own voice in the shuffle, etc.
  23. You seek perfection over success.
  24. You want (and need) help but aren't certain it'll work out.
  25. You jumped in too soon and now are afraid to admit it... so you can move on and get past it.
  26. You think your line of business is unique, your customers are not open to doing things differently, and you're unwilling to adapt ideas from entirely different industries, businesses, and markets to your own.
Add your own below, or perhaps a story that matches up with one of the above, in the comments.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Counter-Intuitive Differentiation By Selling Heart Attacks, Not Health Food

Last week I wrote about using Terrible Service as a Differentiator. Today I was reminded about another interesting example of counter-intuitive differentiation, a restaurant called the Heart Attack Grill (wikipedia).

The 12 Big Reasons Why Independent IT Pros Fail to Prosper

Being an independent IT professional, at least if one wishes to be in it for the long-haul and happy with their level of achievement, is a complex undertaking. The level of success, gratification, and income can vary widely.

Many who undertake it fail to grow their level of business to the size they'd like. Still others find themselves unhappy with their lifestyle, even those who achieve attractive income levels.

It is quite common for many to fail to survive beyond a few months to a couple of years. Yes, some do hang on, but often are unhappy with themselves and their businesses.

Or, as some have found recently, they had viable but weak businesses. When low hanging fruit disappeared (clients that fell into their lap by chance rather than through a well developed system for attracting and cultivating new business), income dried up.

In my observation and study of independent IT professionals, non-IT professional services firms, and even other industries, as well as my own experiences, I've concluded that there are a number of common factors why IT professionals, and business owners in general, fail to achieve the level of success they hope for:

  1. Lack of time
  2. Lack of interest in "business issues"
  3. Misconceptions about what marketing is/isn't
  4. Lack of reliable systems (for attracting clients, cultivating relationships, growing income)
  5. Lack of strategy
  6. Lack of understanding what clients value and that not all prospects are the same
  7. Underestimation of their self-worth
  8. Lack of understanding how self-worth intersects with finding the right clients for them
  9. Lack of awareness about distinctions among freelancers (hired help), service providers, advisors, consultants, coaches, implementers, etc. Each of these are very different businesses.
  10. Assuming that conventional wisdom and popular strategies and tactics, which are easily discovered by watching others, are well known and practiced because they "work"
  11. A failure to shift from employee-->business owner mentality
  12. Assuming that outside experts in things like PR, marketing, and sales nearly always know what they're doing and have exactly the same concerns as they do. These specialists are no different than many of the IT consultants we all like to shake our heads at. They not only give untested and ineffective advice, but they sell (or earn commissions for) things that are overkill, unnecessary, or otherwise not entirely in the client's interest.
With persistence, but not simply that, these obstacles can be overcome. There are many paths so I'd be disingenuous if I suggested one solution here. I do believe it is fair to say, however, that the key is to be deliberate - in your strategy, goals, and positioning. Just watching others passively and copying them -- or worse, doing nothing -- is not going to get you there.

I will provide a few suggestions based on my own experiences and mistakes:
  • Observe others... and, in time, learning who to pay attention to and who to ignore, is a good first step. It's not always who you may think...
  • Look at already successful leaders who are NOT in the IT and consulting businesses. Their ideas are more valuable to you because they are more likely to be things that others (read: your competition) aren't doing.
  • Develop a vision for where you want to be (even if you aren't sure how you'll get there). Re-visit and refine it regularly. It's okay to evolve this over time too. It's inevitable.
  • Constant learn, by reading, attending seminars, talking to (more) successful peers, borrowing ideas from other industries/businesses, applying creativity, experimenting (failures are excellent learning opportunities, fail often)
  • Stop reading and listening to others for periods of time -- in order to implement (take action) on what you've picked up thus far. If you don't do this, you will become more addicted to the learning than to the doing.
My own wrong turns are why I started www.ITConsultingLessons.com. It is a community where I share the best resources I come across, my experiments, current thinking, etc. If you're an independent IT professional, know one, or are an aspiring one, I suggest you take a look at the site and join me.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Terrible Service as COMPELLING Differentiation

I was recently pondering how effective an attempt at differentiation like this would work:

"You should choose us because we aren't like everybody else: we have terrible customer service."

Hey, at least there's an attempt to create a compelling differentiation in that statement. It certainly has a greater impact on the prospect then: "We're different because we have excellent quality and superb customer service." Oh really?

This problem, an inability to have a compelling message for the prospect, is rampant throughout the business world.

Here's an example from Dan McNicholl, CIO of General Motors, referring to IT VARs:

Don't attempt to offer every kind of solution to his organization or sound like any other solution provider, McNicholl says. Like most other CIOs, McNicholl says he's heard the same lines time and again. "We have the most innovative people; we have the most dependable methodologies; we have the most competitive prices. It's like a record after a while," he says. "None of them have created a reason, other than price, for me to choose them. Pick a dimension you want to compete on, and build your brand and focus on it. Otherwise, I'm going to pick you on price."

P.S. While my opener was meant as tongue-in-cheek, there is a restaurant, which sadly I can't track down the name of at the moment (yes, even via Google), that I recall reading about a bit back and is known for good food and absolutely horrendous service. It has turned the latter into their badge of honor (and which inspires word-of-mouth I'm sure). They intentionally make the service as horrible as possible because customers actually come to see if the stories are true (to be treated poorly). Customers would actually be disappointed if they didn't leave with a waiter telling them to "piss off", etc.

The point: The important part is that, whatever your compelling differentiation is, it ought not be half-ass or you risk diluting (and maybe even destroying) its effectiveness. It also needs to be congruent with what you actually are (and are not). It matters less what it actually is and more that it is real, noticeable, and intriguing.

-jr

"I already knew that."

Ran across this quote from Mary Schmidt, a marketing consultant, today. I thought it was great:

"I already knew that."

I sometimes hear this when asked for free advice. I'm tempted to reply, "Well, great! Then why aren't you doing it?" A good consultant can help you test assumptions, focus on key activities and help get "it" done, whatever "it" is -- launching a new product, reorganizing HR, and so on.

Also reminds me of the theme of one of my current reads-in-progress: Strategy and the Fat Smoker: Doing What's Obvious But Not Easy by David Maister.