Sunday, July 25, 2010

How to change someone's behavior in one second

Impossible? As I talked about in my last blog, I'm currently reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. One of the chapters in the book talks about changing someone's point of view. The author, Stephen Covey, uses a story as an allegory for this shift. Here is a brief recap.

Stephen Covey talks about a time that he was riding on the subway. He was sitting reading when a gentleman got on the train with three small children. The new man sat down, stared blankly forward, and didn't say a word. His children, however, weren't so peaceful. They began running up and down the subway car, hooting and hollering like mad banshees.

At first he tried to ignore the situation, but eventually it became too much for him to bear. The children were bumping into other riders, knocking over briefcases, and causing all kinds of chaos.

Finally he had enough, he said to the man, "Sir, you have to do something about these kids. They're way out of control!"

The man seemed to snap out of a daze. He looked over at the children running rampant, and then back at Stephen Covey. "Yes", he said, "I'm so sorry about that. See, their mother, my wife, just passed away last night. We are heading back home. I guess they don't know how to handle what has happened, and to be honest with you, neither do I".


Feel like a total jerk? So did I.

So what changed? The children were still acting in a distracting way. The father was still doing nothing to rein them in. So what changed? Your perspective changed. The insight that you now had as to what this man was going through changed. In a split second your entire outlook on this man was forever altered. I've heard it said that: To know all, is to forgive all.

How to put this into effect? This past spring I coached my son's flag football team. It was a 10-12 league, and we sadly had almost all 10 year olds. Two years when you're talking that age really matters, so we didn't do all that well in the win/loss aspect of the game.

They also weren't terribly interested in football as well, which proved to be frustrating. By the end of the season I had all but given up. Sure I could get them to learn the basics of a few plays, but I could not get them to grasp the concepts of why we were doing what we were doing. I was probably expecting too much from them.

I had one child in particular that I had a hard time keeping involved. If I wasn't on him the entire practice his gaze would stray and he'd begin to focus on anything other than what we were doing. It was most troublesome because he was actually one of the most talented kids! So as the season was winding down I completely changed my strategy.

I stopped trying to rein them in. I stopped trying to keep them focused on the practice. Guess what happened? My space cadet turned into a drill instructor! He couldn't stand the madness that started swirling around him. He started barking orders, demanding that everyone get their head's in the game. I had tried all season to get a response like this, and what had it taken for me to get what I wanted? I had to stop trying to get what I wanted.

The moral? It's easier to change someone's perspective than it is to change them. Someone not following orders? Put them in charge. Someone not pulling their weight? Take it away from them and see what they do.

If your only tool is a hammer, all your problems are going to start looking like nails. That is just not how it works with people. Different people require different management approaches. Best to familiarize yourself with several different kinds so that you can scroll through them to see what gets you the best response.

In the long run it will save you time and headache. And isn't that the point?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Don't kill your Golden Goose

A monkeyI'm currently reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It's a fantastic book, and several things have already caught my eye. I intend to write about a few independently, and then I will do an overall review of the book. One of the sections in the book that most intrigued me deals with the moral behind the Aesop story of the golden goose. It's one of Aesop's best know fables. It's a short story, here it is in its entirety.

A man and his wife had the good fortune to possess a goose which laid a golden egg every day. Lucky though they were, they soon began to think they were not getting rich fast enough, and, imagining the bird must be made of gold inside, they decided to kill it. Then, they thought, they could obtain the whole store of precious metal at once; however, upon cutting the goose open, they found its innards to be like that of any other goose.

The writer of 7 Habits, Stephen R. Covey, relates this to business in a story he tells in the book. He talks about a seafood restaurant on the east coast that he use to frequent. They had the best clam chowder around. People would stand in line for an hour to get some of their delicious soup. Business was booming.

The restaurant was then sold to someone else. They kept the name and menu the same, so no one on the outside was aware of the change.

The new owners loved the business they were getting, but they were upset to learn the high cost involved in making their prized soup.

It used all the best ingredients, and the best is always costly. So the new owners got a 'bright' idea and decided to use cheaper products in their soup. They thinned it out, watered it down.

Bingo! Now not only was business booming, but their income was shooting through the roof! They were making the soup for a fraction of the cost, and for the first couple weeks no one was the wiser. They of course noticed that the soup was now mediocre at best, but they just attributed it to a natural bad batch. They had come here for a long time, they loved the soup.

But after two or three trips back, after inevitable word of mouth, slowly people stopped coming back. There was nothing to come back for.

In the short term the new owners had doubled, even tripled their profits. In the long run they had torpedoed their own business. They had killed their golden goose.

If you are trading short term success for long term hardship, you are engaged in bad business. Treat your golden goose like the asset that it is. Care for it, nurture it. Instead of bleeding it dry, once you have found a moneymaker go back out and search for another one. If you want ten golden eggs a day, find ten consistent assets. Don't try and get all ten from that one. It will tax and ultimately destroy your cash flow.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Raising the Bar Book Review

Looking for the best business books to get me started led to many different results. Books, like anything else, are highly subjective. I've yet to find a book on starting a business that is universally loved.

Raising the Bar is the story of Gary Erickson, the founder of Clif Bar. Hence the play on words in the title, Raising the Bar. A+ job on the title, all in all it might be my favorite thing about that book. Highly clever.

His book showed up on numerous lists. I actually got this audio book from the local library, and I chose it because Think and Grow Rich and Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies were not available. Just the truth people.

The first part of the book chronicles the birth of Clif Bar. How he came up with the idea, what his initial start up was, and how he went about getting the company off the ground. I found this part to be extremely interesting. He comes across as sincere and presents the story warts and all.

His company became successful quickly and before he knew it his partner decided they needed to sell the business. She was sure they wouldn't be able to compete with the big boys. He reluctantly agreed, and just like that he was staring down a $120 million dollar sale to a large company. That was $60 million bucks in his pocket, all he had to do was sign the papers...

He couldn't though. He couldn't walk away from his company, it meant too much to him. His partner however refused to budge. She demanded he buy her out or she would let the company dissolve. He ultimately bought her out and was able to obtain 100% ownership of his business. Which apparently is quite the rare feat when you are talking about a business worth that much. From what I have read, staying private is not easy when you get into that rare air.

This part of the book was great. It really brought the idea home that you needed to be very careful when it comes to choosing your business partners. Once the partnership is formed, it is hard to undo. If you vision of the company grows apart, if there can be no agreed upon compromise, you really face dissolution or buying your partner(s) out.

I also related to the love he talked about in regards to his company. Just a few months into our business quest and I already think of our company as my third child. It's not even technically born yet, but myself and my business partner are doing all the prenatal care to make for a smooth delivery. I was on vacation a week ago, and while lounging on the beach I found myself missing the company. Missing the work I was doing to bring it to life. Make no mistake, it is hard work that makes me crazy at times, but it is also extremely fulfilling work. When I finish a video, a flash program, a webpage, a banner, it is very gratifying. Once it is done, it's done forever. Hopefully to be enjoyed by the world...although my Google Analytics suggests it is mostly me at this point.

The rest of the book sadly does not follow the same theme as the start. The author instead moves into talking about his bike adventures in Europe, his rock climbing, his music playing, and he talks ad nauseum about his company's environmental work. Don't get me wrong, I love the ozone layer and polar bears as much as the next guy, but not when I'm trying to learn about business.

I understand that he is trying to use his stories as an allegory for his business views and practices, but it comes off as a little self serving. He seems smugly pleased with himself, and at some points it becomes a little much. I respect his environmental awareness and sustainability efforts, but it just does not apply to where I am at now in my company building. And because of that, it became hard to get through.

A great opening set a high bar, no pun intended, for the rest of the book to follow. In my opinion it couldn't keep the pace and it changed from a business book into a biography. A biography of a guy whose interests include: bike riding, rock climbing, and trumpet playing. Not one of those things interest me.

Saying that, I still am glad that I read this book. The love he shows for his company was inspiring. His experience with his partners was eye opening. His words on running a company your own way struck a chord with me. I just wish I would have stopped about half way through the book so I could have read something else about business as opposed to things about recreational activities that I don't care about.

If you like bike riding and rock climbing AND you are interested in reading a business book at the same time, then this will probably be the greatest book you have ever read. If not, hit your local library and just read the first half. It was definitely worth that.

Monday, July 5, 2010

How I increased my Google keywords

In a past blog I talked about the problems I had inserting probable keyword searches for the website I built for my mother-in-law. She runs a pet sitting business, and while I had numerous pet sitter/sitting keywords scattered throughout, I had virtually no area keywords that someone looking for a pet sitter would type into a search engine to find one.

Building a website is complicated work. It takes a lot of structural planning. Trying to go back through and randomly stick cities into your pages to boost your keywords is not easy. Junks up the pages, looks very forced.

Solution I came up with?

Testimonials and pictures! Yes sir, I had about half a dozen testimonials and a handful of pictures that were already on the site. I went back through and added the location of the person writing the review/where the pet was from on the pages. I've been able to triple my area keywords since my last crawl. I'm still getting more pictures to put up, I think at this rate I'll be able to increase my area keywords ten fold when all is said and done. Not too shabby, and I didn't have to butcher the site to get them in.

Keywords are vital, finding creative ways to get the important ones in there to appeal to search engines is crucial in building a website. Keep this in mind before you start building, it's easier to plan ahead than it is to try and rearrange the entire site after your first Google crawl.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Gone for a week, and why Fedor lost

Vacation in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Back in a week, I know this will be quite hard on my two followers. Try to maintain guys!

Btw, holy crap Fedor lost. After he pulled out of that first armbar attempt he was trying to pass around to the side and he got stuck on the cage. I don't think he trains with a cage, and because of that Werdum was able to suck him back in with that triangle. When Abu Dhabi champions lock in triangles, you tap out. Fedor or not. What most depressed me was now I don't get to see him fight Overeem. Booo.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Book review of How to Win Friends and Influence People

Many people will tell you that this is the best self help book ever written. Others would say that it is the best relationship book ever written. Some will even say that this is the best business book ever written. Just the fact that it can fall into so many categories shows the magnitude of scope Dale Carnegie was able to craft with this work.

This book is over 60 years old, yet the insights Carnegie shares seem so self evident that it reads like it could have been published yesterday. This is a timeless work, a masterpiece in every aspect.

Carnegie delves into the lives of political, spiritual, historical, and even business figures to examine why they were able to command such a loving respect from their followers.

This book is a quote lover's dream. There are dozens of wonderful lines taken from some of the most influential people of all time. From the Buddha to Abraham Lincoln. Carnegie blends them all together in a way that tells a story about how to apply them into your everyday life.

I will focus this blog on the part that most struck me. That being the 6 things you can do to make people like you.

1. Be interested in people.

Every man I meet is in some way my superior; and in that I can learn of him. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you hate people, any relationship book isn't for you. You might instead want to look inward and figure out why you have so much undirected anger. To the others, what is not to be interested with in people? They're fascinating!

People do all kinds of crazy crap. From acts of true kindness to deeds of pure evil, all of it enthralls me. Get interested in people and you will never be bored again. There's just too much material. Whether you're reading The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin or trying to figure out why your co-workers are so strange, get yourself interested in people.

Interested is interesting. No one wants to associate with those that would just assume that the world population disappear tomorrow.

2. Smile.

A smile is a curve that sets everything straight. -Phyllis Diller

A smile says, "I like you." People want to be liked, and a smile is a clear sign that someone has brightened your day. It is disarming; smiles radiate warmth.

More than just smiling, be positive and happy. Do you like hanging out with miserable people? Of course not, and if you mope around glumly all day no one will like being around you either. People have enough doom and gloom without having to deal with Debbie Downer being the fun governor on everyone's day.

Smile, it's free. And who knows, maybe if you pretend to be happy and positive long enough you might just trick yourself into believing it. How awful to be happy all the time, huh?

Boethius said, "So nothing is miserable except when you think it so, and vice versa, all luck is good luck to the man who bears it with equanimity."

Which Shakespeare turned into, "Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so."

To which Lincoln summed up precisely as, "Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be."

Wise men, wise words.

3. Remember people's names.

Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name! -John Proctor, The Crucible

I hear all the time people say, "I'm horrible at remembering names!" Well then put more effort into it. The next time someone introduces themself to you, focus more on their name than on trying to think up something to say to make you seem interesting. Stop worrying about yourself, everyone is doing the same thing, so it's ok for you to stop. No one will notice, I promise.

Instead when you meet someone, look them in the eye, and say, "Nice to meet you (Insert their name here)." Saying a name ingrains it in your mind. When they walk away, tell yourself, "That was this person, and they like this this and this." Anytime you get a chance, greet them with their name.

There is no sweeter sound in the world than a person's own name. Repetition leads to memorization, use names.

4. Be a good listener, encourage others to talk about themselves.

Nothing interests me more than me. -Me

No one wants to hear your stories more than they want to tell their stories. That's just a fact. Ask a question, laugh at their jokes, enjoy the experience of them opening up to you. It is a gift, don't take it for granted. Once you're fast friends you can share your stories. It's bullish to try and dominate a conversation. Listen and ask first.

I talked for an hour the other day to someone at a BBQ about his stain glass hobby. It was interesting to hear about what he had to say even though I knew nothing of the particular subject. I asked questions, nodded in approval, smiled when he said something amusing. When we left he couldn't stop talking about how great of a conversationalist I am. I had barely said a word.

Let others talk, it is easier and more likely to make people enjoy your company.

5. Talk in terms that interest the other person.

It is vain to talk of the interest of the community, without understanding what is the interest of the individual. -Jeremy Bentham

I love mixed martial arts. I do jiu jitsu, box a little, and work out weekly. No one outside of those who share my interests want to hear about that. They'd much rather talk about the things that interest them.

You need to lead conversations in directions that flow to the interests of those you are conversing with. It will make them feel more comfortable and get them to open up It will make them like you.

6. Make other people feel important.

bout twenty years ago, when our married daughters were in elementary school, they had a bicycle accident. Jo Ellen, our oldest, lost control of her bike and ran into her sister, Amanda, who was standing right in her path. Suddenly the front fender of the bike slid rather abruptly between Amanda’s fingers, and left a sizable gash that required several stitches.

The thing I remember most about the incident took place after we returned from the doctor. Amanda stood in our den, held up her bandaged fingers and, with absolute innocence and candor, declared, “Now I finally have something important to talk about!” -The Importance of Feeling Important. by Terry L. Sumerlin

From climbing mountains to writing symphonies, people perform grandiose acts every day with the sole desire to feel important. No drug is so addictive as that of needing to be valued. When people talk to you, give them your true attention. Looking over their shoulder to see if there is someone better for you to be talking to is no way to endear yourself to someone.

Anyone you talk to has done something important, whether it be big or small. Find what that is, ask them about it, and then let them know how important you think that action was. They will like you, because you made them feel important.

"You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you." -Dale Carnegie

Sound like one big ass kiss? Then you missed the whole point. The point is to genuinely like and enjoy people. If you do, these things will not be acts you have to put on, they'll be sincere actions you perform.

Find the positive in a person and focus a laser of praise and attention on that and they will open up to you like a flower welcoming the sun. Be a bright force in the world, build up, don't tear down. There's enough negativity out there, do your best to consciously not add to it.

Do I practice what I preach? No way, but I sure try to. Some days it doesn't work, some people just piss you off. But being aware that you're really trying to make an effort to improve yourself is an investment that will always pay hearty dividends. In the long run it will make you a happier person, and that should always be a goal in life.

If you give this book a chance it will change your life. I just recently re-read it, and once again I was instantly treating people kinder. In the end, I'm treating people in a way that I wish to be treated.

I think someone made a rule about that somewhere.

Monday, June 21, 2010

"I've never heard that question before." --The Anonymous Salesman

I've never heard that question before.

As a consumer, have you ever had a salesman say that to you? Surprising how many times we hear it, considering that it is the first time they've ever heard it, huh? Why would that be?

It's because that is a stock salesman line, that's why. It's designed to cut off your line of questioning, make you feel foolish for asking it.

I remember on my honeymoon when I was hoodwinked into listening to a timeshare sales pitch. There was no way I was ever going to buy a timeshare, but the nice guy at my cabana who always called me "my new friend" convinced me to give them a chance. What can I say, I'm a sucker for new friends. I even told the timeshare guy up front, "look, there's zero chance I'm going to buy this today." He laughed, "of course not, but I get paid just to do the process, so just humor me please!"

An hour later I was getting the hard sell. Wasn't this too good of a deal to pass up? It was a good deal, a great deal even, but here was the rub: I had no idea if they were being on the level with me. I told them flat out, "I'm not going to buy anything this expensive without doing my due diligence in research. I'm just not that guy." "But why not", they said, "you agree it's a great deal." "Yes, but it's your deal", I told them, "and I intend to make sure you're telling me the truth."

His reply? "Wow, I've never heard that one before." Sure.

Skip ahead to last year, time to buy my wife a new car. Researched the msrp, checked consumer reports, prepared my bargaining chips. Working with the dealer for the best price, I asked them about the dealer holdback money. How about throwing some of that my way to sweeten the deal? His response? "Well I've never heard that one before". Go figure, I have. The next two dealership I went to tossed me some of the holdback. I wouldn't have minded being told no. I didn't appreciate them acting like I was demanding a free hot tub with my car.

Fast forward to just recently. It's time for me to replace the windows in my home. Being in Michigan we get hot in the summer, and real cold in the winter. My house has 30 year old windows with aluminum frames. So winter or summer, my house is bleeding energy money.

First guy shows up for a free estimate, he's the guy who is going to convince me that fiberglass is the way to go. Vinyl is crap, wood is a pain, fiberglass is 50 years of window bliss. Afterall, it expands and contracts just like glass, and you can customize it! Sounds great, I'll give him credit for having a good pitch.

So let's talk reality, what is the damage here? 11 windows in my house, cost to replace all? $15,000. That's a tad, read: an obscene amount, higher than I'm going to pay. But don't worry, there's a special! (When isn't there a special?) I can get 25% off, and if I buy today I can get another 10% off. And get this, he'll do me a solid and knock a couple grand more off, and he'll pay my sales tax! (Love that pitch, how about you just knock the money off and I'll pay less tax, how about that?) Now my price is $11,000. That's a thousand dollars a window, still over what I'm going to pay. Unless the windows are going to mow my yard and take out my garbage, I'm not paying that.

So I tell him he's still high, and he becomes obstinate. Didn't his windows sound great? Was a 50 year warranty a great deal? "Sure", I told him, "but it's your deal and you're here to sell me your product. Of course you told me fiberglass was the only way to go, it's the only thing you have to sell me. I was going to have to research this, see if fiberglass was really worth the extra money." "Maybe it was", I told him, "but until had done my homework I wasn't going to buy anything. No matter what he told me."

He then stopped me and let me know that he didn't think that he needed to do this, but he had literature to back up what he had said. To prove his point. "Yes, but it's your literature to sell your product", I told him. "Oh no", he said. "It's not my literature!"

"Look", I said, "It's not mine, so since there are only two of us here it has to be yours." I decided to make the conclusion that it didn't belong to either of my two dogs.

Now he was flummoxed. How could I not believe him. He had never heard this one before! Jackpot. 22 years he had been doing this, and he had never heard this before. Funny, because I hear that line all the time from salesmen. They tell it to me to try and make me feel stupid for asking a question they can't answer. How can you ask that! No one asks that!

And with that, it was time for him to go. Because I have heard that before, and once I hear it, the gloves are off. I told him I had his offer and would look into it. To improve on his already fantastic job of selling me, he then packed up his stuff and told me, "I guess I won't tell you the lower price I was going to offer, you're just not interested."

Really? So now it turns out the price I was quoted before as his best price was just a ruse, huh? Not exactly the way to get a call back sale. He also mentioned that a relative of mine that had gotten fiberglass windows from them was probably over charged. Another nice bit of information, thanks.

So he left, I researched, his $1,000 a window price was high. I'm sure he would've come down, and I still might have to barter with him, but he didn't do himself any favors with his demeanor. When a potential customer disagrees with you, the only way to pull them back in is to agree with them. This is Dale Carnegie 101. If he had said, "Of course you're right! Who in their right mind would make a purchase this size without researching it!" He could've kept working me and building my appetite for his product. All the time improving his chance on me buying from him. Instead, he chose to go with the "I've never heard that question before!" approach, and he's probably out of a sale because of it. And definitely out a positive experience and any kind of potential word of mouth advertising.

In my next blog I'll discuss some more Carnegie 101 with a review of How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Talk soon!