Avoid Being Distracted by Shiny Pennies

iStock_000014402814_ExtraSmallA common challenge for business owners and executives is to avoid “tripping over shiny pennies.” What does that mean? It is the attraction and distraction of the newest, latest, greatest shiny object in our path.

We all seem to have a trained eye to spot the bright copper commodity at our feet, no matter where we are headed. The shine is overwhelming. We stop. We pick it up. We put it in our pocket. Then we declare our latest “find” to be lucky. A sign of great fortunes to come.

Shiny pennies reflect a fiery glow that is hard to avoid. Old pennies lack the shine and sleekness that keep our attention. They seem drab. They are tried and have traveled far, gathering dirt and grime along the way. They often find homes in jars, drawers and bottles. New pennies have power. We have willed the new penny with charm, a source of inspiration, as we traverse along the pathway of possibilities.

The penny is representative of all the ideas and opportunities that land in front of us, one right after the other. Every time we stop to evaluate a new idea, we are taking our attention away from our current plan of action. Navigating through the countless opportunities, or shiny pennies, requires determined focus and unbridled commitment to a planned strategy. Unfortunately, in business the sparkling object we stop and pick up is often worth exactly the minted value – ONE CENT. Consuming ourselves by the possibilities of what the perceived lucky penny might bring can actually cost a business many pennies, if not fortunes.

New is not to be avoided. New keeps us innovating and trying to do more. However, the overwhelming desire to continually focus on the new penny in our pocket, can be a big distraction from working on the current business plan. Shiny pennies have a time and place. Some will need proper evaluation and careful consideration. If you are feeling consumed by all the shiny pennies, set a time in your day or week to focus on these new ideas. Plan for “new” and budget accordingly. Use a defined process in your calculation of the promise and upside.

Apply the “penny test” in your course of evaluation.  What is the real cost associated to adding this penny to your jar of other shiny pennies?  Will you spend more in product development, sales and marketing?  Is it technically feasible? How will it change your business model? Is there an impact in supply chain and distribution?  How will customers respond?  Every new penny that you stop to pick up needs thorough testing and vetting with an effective cost-benefit analysis. The amount of work to evaluate the penny is expensive, so not every penny is worthy of your valuable attention.

Be cautious of the allure of the sleek and sparkly new penny. After all, it is just one cent – shiny or not.  If you are always tripping over pennies, you might fail to see the dollars falling from the sky.

“If had a penny for every strange look I’ve gotten from strangers on the street I’d have about 10 to 15 dollars, which is a lot when you’re dealing with pennies.” – Andy Samberg 

Jamie Glass, President and CMO at Artful Thinkers

Think with Yes in Mind

iStock_000020490072_ExtraSmallOne of the biggest challenges business leaders and entrepreneurs face is to keep an open mind to new ideas and other people’s suggestions. Employees, advisers and sales people all seem to have a new and improved way for growing, building, doing or fixing something.

Emails flood your inbox while proposals stack high on your desk. The company suggestion box stays filled with endless brainstorms.  You solve one problem and then there are dozens of better, faster, cheaper ways you could solve the next.  You can not ignore the influx.  Nor should you.

Great leaders thrive on contributions of others, no matter the format or context.  There is always the opportunity that one recommendation could save or make the company millions of dollars.  A customer satisfaction survey could help you enhance your product.  An employee recommendation could help you reduce cost on your next infrastructure project.  A shareholder could enlighten you about a rewarding strategic partner opportunity.

Staying in a “yes” state of mind requires great skill and discipline.  It requires you to be approachable, literally operating with an open door for easy access to anyone and everyone.  You have to be focused and an expert listener.  The presentation of a suggestion may be masked within a complaint or shared by someone that doesn’t regularly get an audience with the ultimate decision maker.  You have to be able to decipher the hidden meaning.  You have to be thinking yes this idea or information could make a difference.

When approached, if you are thinking yes you are open to possibilities.  If you are thinking no, you are closed to suggestions and in the mindset of  impossibilities.  It is a dangerous position for the person at the helm to be closed to new approaches and ways of doing business.  You will soon be on an island as others are discouraged from sharing information or guidance.  You eliminate contact with those that can help you the most.

How do we get into thinking no all the time?  It requires time to be in a “yes” mindset.  Time is a precious commodity for leaders. We also have been trained to say no before we say yes.  In fact, good salespeople are trained to overcome your no.  Showing resistance when you are approached by a sales person is only a challenge.  Sales people learn early in their careers that it is often seven no’s to get to the yes.  Saying no only makes them more persistent.  It is far easier to say yes!  Yes, send me some information.  Yes, tell me why you would recommend we adopt this idea.

Always thinking yes before no does not mean that you implement every suggestion.  In fact, with being so open and approachable, it will be easier to discern what should be put on the list of possibilities.

Never limit what you can accomplish by thinking no before you think yes.  Maybe, just maybe, it will change how you and your business accomplishes all your goals and objectives in the coming year.

Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” ― Gandhi

Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Talk is Not Cheap for Entrepreneurs

Planning, Strategizing, Ready to Change the World!

Countless CEO’s and leaders surround themselves with trusted advisers for counsel on a variety of business topics. Plunkett Research estimates $366 billion will have been spent in 2011 on global consulting, including HR, IT, strategy, operations management and business advisory services.

These billions are spent to generate new ideas, validate existing plans and provide strategic vision on solving problems and growing markets.  Most consultants dream of the engagement that is purely focused on strategy, 100% of the time creatively brainstorming on ways to be more, do more and get more.

Whiteboards filled with plans of grandeur, detailed reports, heart-thumping counseling sessions with these hired experts are alluring, especially to an entrepreneur hungry to take their business to the next level.  More revenue!  Less costs!  Decreases in human capital! Increases in productivity!

We have all seen the movie, hand-in-hand the strategist and business leader announce they have a better way. Bring in the team!  With the plan baked, the leader announces to his company, “I have a new idea and you will be responsible for the outcomes.”  The room is silent.

Why? A plan with little or no buy-in from the team sets off alarms.  The people who do the work know that every time they have to implement something new there are great costs.  Time. People. More time.  Did anyone ask for input from the doers?  Who is going to execute this new plan?  Who is going to be accountable?  It is probably not the consultant.

The first step to being a great strategic consultant is to build consensus within an organization.  Identify the problem, interview, validate, analyze and then present recommendations.  Buy-in is critical to achieve the best results. The most important person in every business is the person that actually does the work.  It is easier to get those that don’t do the work to agree with your plan.  What about the people who have to actually implement the program or new revolutionary way of doing business?  Consideration and respect for the doer’s role is essential.

When entrepreneurs take on counsel for one or more advisers, the amount of work that can be created for an organization and the doers can be overwhelming.  In fact, it can result in chaos, lost productivity, decreases in morale and lack of confidence in leadership.  You see, talk is not cheap.  Whiteboard ideas that go from chatter to “let’s do this” have a big cost to an organization.

Every time a consultant sells you on an idea, take the estimated “savings” and reduce by 75% and the estimated “costs” and double it.  It is not the intent of a strategic adviser to mislead his or her client, it is simply a factor of unknowns and assumptions made in the planning.

Leaders need to be able to evaluate every idea, every strategy and every problem solving plan that comes from outside consultants with great care and consideration to those that do the work.  Create consensus.  Ask the team to identify the risks and potential rewards.  Understand buy-in takes time and capital.

Business strategy consultants may be a very wise investment to spark innovation, challenge a new idea or share experiences to avoid pitfalls.  Define accountability in execution.  Too much time on strategy can actually be detrimental to any business. It is tactics that move the needle. Tactics are completed by doers. The “labor pool” gets the job done.

So, the next time a consultant sells you a “great idea”, remember talk is NOT cheap.  Be cautious, measure your tactics and define your outcomes.  Get buy in from your team before you “buy the plan” and know your costs, which are always far more than the just the consultant’s fee.