All posts by donald_mcmichael

The World That Was and Is No More

What if I said that as humans our behaviors tend to gravitate around comfortable rhythms which often leads to dramatic chaos?

Not only that, but what if I also said that it has a way of limiting our business success and at times seeding its downfall.

Why would I say such a thing?
Getting into a rhythm in of itself isn’t bad, there’s the Sunday morning routine, how we interact with family & friends, and the way we approach work tasks. In fact, it allows us to function quite efficiently in a settled environment.

The danger from a business perspective is that we tend to blow past the last point – “in a settled environment”.

Here’s why
Economies always had and will continue to have plateaus of calm. In fact, substantial periods of clam have allowed humans to build the economic platform that powers our organizations to this day. We’ve grow accustom to this trend.

What we shouldn’t lose sight of, however, is the fact that things do not, and in some cases, should not remain unchanged. Looking at it from a generational timespan (about 30 years) and our economic pattern looks like a singular smooth arching line. Step forward and it looks entirely different; certainly the past few years with it various economic cliffs have shown this to be true. At this operating level you will see that what appeared to be singular and smooth is in reality multiple trends that unsymmetrically oscillate around each other. Even more revealing is the fact that the cycle between relative calm and uncertainty in contracting.

That’s right the rate of change is accelerating exponentially, it has become so quick that it is tough to even make short-term predictions accurately. In other words, don’t expect long periods of calm for constant change is the new normal.

You already feel this in your business. Competitors pop-up out of nowhere, successful methodologies have begun to fall flat, and you can’t seem to put your finger on what’s wrong but you know all is not right.

So, what must you do?
Here are three insights to help jump start your vision quest.

  1. Get liberated. Break connections to make room for your new ideas.
  2. Take a walkabout. Go discover new perspectives by talking to customers and industry insiders, and then challenge their unspoken assumptions. Develop a clearer understanding of the future drivers and constraints that will shape your market.
  3. Be comfortable with multiple realities. There is no one right. Pick a path to traverse and don’t be afraid of having to take a detour, being proven right, or hitting a dead-end being.

I’m not going to pretend that this is going to be comfortable, stressless, or pretty. But you’ll certainly come out the other side in better shape.

And, after all that’s what really counts.

Donald McMichacel teaches BE 261 – Starting a Small Business.
Follow him on Twitter at @DonaldMcMichael or Google+ at +Donald McMichael


Grow Your Business During the Summer: the Pre-Flight Checklist

Pop quiz: Does business growth activity slow to a crawl in the summer? In particular the development of strategic alliance initiatives.

If you said “yes” then you have plenty of company.

Summer is almost universally loved. Lazy warm days in the park, making family memories with see the world vacations, and with the plethora of festivals what’s not to love. It seems that everyone’s mind is distracted from business. So, it’s not hard to see why this feeling of ‘shut it down for summer’ is so prevalent.

The reality is that summer is the best time to structure sustainable relationships. Not only do you have less business noise to cut through there are more avenues to have personable discussions.

With that in mind here are three strategic business development tips:

Disclose the right information early in the dialogue
If you want to earn respect, move the dialogue forward quickly and gain power, then share the right information early in the discussion.  Many of us have the misconception that disclosing information creates weakness—not true.  It creates trust and an understanding of the other person’s position.  Summer is fleeting, don’t waste their time because if you do it will lead to distrust and disappointment. The goal of is not to lengthen the process but to complete it as soon as possible, saving time, money and other things you value most.

Block unreasonable demands (but don’t reject them)
Don’t automatically argue against an unreasonable demand. Instead, set your desired benefits (price, timing, etc.) such that it exactly mirrors the demand. Doing so shows the other side that your condition(s) is a corollary of its demand – a blocking tactic.
Once blocked seize the initiative with a realistic proposal.  Take the time to walk through your thinking asking for input as you go. A much more open and relaxed exchange that fits right into a summer mindset.

Agree (be sure to have clarity)
Be sure to agree on what is actually agreed upon, because it’s much easier to clear up ambiguities at this time than later when both parties are in the midst of selling the concept internally.

And, how is this done? By:

  • Confirming the agreement in an acceptable form (I favor a formal letter.)
  • Ensuring that everyone is comfortable with the terms and is ready to put it into practice.
  • Avoiding deal creep, by jointly developing a balanced and detailed summary that doesn’t leave anything up for interpretation; ambiguous language or understanding is a big killer.

Try it and let us know how it works. Most importantly have a great and productive summer.

Donald McMichacel teaches BE 261 – Starting a Small Business.
Follow him on Twitter at @DonaldMcMichael or Google+ at +Donald McMichael

How to Verify Profitable Hunches Like a Professional Reporter

In business the most valuable tool you possess is the ability to gather information. You’re constantly on the lookout for insights on industry trends, competitor actions, economic forces, key supplier grumblings, and most importantly what job(s) your idea customer needs done.

Good insights are worth their weight in gold, but bad information can be deadly. Actions predicated on it waste not only money (salaries, prototype expenses, misdirected marketing efforts, etc.) but more importantly can tank professional relationships and your business’ reputation.;

But how do you avoid being burned from unreliable information?

Think like a reporter.

They aren’t compensated for finding the story but for verifying to the best of their ability all sources and ensuring that the information they’re using to weave the full story is authentic before it hits the light of day. Unfortunately for most, but great for those who excel at it, evaluating the reliability of information is an art as well as work – much of which is detective work.

Here are three ways that you can find key data/proof points that support your primary research.

Climb to the mountaintop. Confirm your information with a 3rd party. Seek out 2 to 3 experts to cross verify the information. These could be individuals who are deeply familiar with an area like the targeted market, industry economics, or the particular company.

Dig for details. Ask pointed follow-up questions, not only to your source but also to the world. Tap into the knowledge of the collective by utilize tools such as Twitter and LinkedIn to push a specific question to a knowledgeable sub-set of your connections. Granted individual data that comes from ‘crowdsourcing’ has its own creditability issues, but widespread beliefs can verify trends and core issues.

Extrapolate upon existing creditable sources. Utilize sources of secondary information, the main providers of which are governments, trade associations, academic institutions, research houses, and national & international institutions.

Do you agree? What other methods can you add to our knowledgebase?

Donald McMichacel teaches BE 261 – Starting a Small Business.
Follow him on Twitter at @DonaldMcMichael or Google+ at +Donald McMichael