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It’s been a great week – first, speaking in NJ to business leaders on the topic of security awareness.  NWN, along with Cisco, McAfee, and HP sponsored this event in an effort to educate managers on the trends we are seeing in cyber crime and data loss.  Then off to Virgina to speak to home schooling families on the subject of entrepreneurship; a topic I have focused on this year, not just with families, but with anyone building a business in this unstable economy.  This includes sales people, business owners, resellers, vars, and smaller high-tech firms, as well as those going into business with new ideas.  A couple of points worth reiterating:

Your competition isn’t as smart as you think

Competition – most are competing on price!  If you sell high-tech solutions in a high-involvement sales model, you don’t want to compete on price.  Especially if you resell technology!  There’s just not enough margin in it.  As I told students in VA this weekend, people stop learning when they graduate.  I’m not sure why that is, and it’s not universal, but it is common.  People have stopped reading meaningful books and have largely turned to their friends for counsel.  When someone hears negative comments, they tend to dismiss them rather than looking for the truth in it. The world is full of time wasters and mediocre performers.  Study, seek out wise counsel, learn from others mistakes, read great books, take notes, and use your discretionary time wisely.  Then schedule free time to relax, goof off, and enjoy the weather.  When it’s scheduled, it makes sense; when it’s part of the daily routine, it leads to ruin.

Come up with Bad Ideas

I love what Seth Godin says about ideas in Linchpin; People don’t have good ideas, but they don’t have bad ideas either – they just don’t have any ideas (I’m paraphrasing here).  You can’t come up with great ideas if you don’t come up with ideas…most of them will be bad ideas, but that’s okay.  Just start coming up with ideas.  Take time to think, brainstorm, collaborate.  Interview people, watch people, think on what you hear and observe, and start writing about it.   As you write and think, you come up with ideas.  Look for the good ones and execute.

Focus on Your People Group

People Groups – This is a powerful concept.  I used the example of a lemonade stand in my talk this weekend.  Let’s say you decided to start a lemonade stand.  You might sell to anyone…but suppose you begin to realize that most of your customers are bike riders on long rides, passing your house on weekends.  You might decide to expand your business, carrying snacks – maybe Twinkies! But bike riders don’t really need Twinkies – instead they might like Goo or Power Bars.  Later, you might even start to stock bike parts.  Suddenly, it’s not about food, but rather, meeting the needs of bike riders.

In another discussion I was talking with someone who raises bees, sells honey, and provides equipment and expertise.  “Is it about the honey, health, or beekeepers?” I asked…If it’s about your own bees, you won’t be successful.  If you aim to help people with health, you may find your adjacent markets take you into all kinds of health areas including supplements or organic farming.  If it’s about helping beekeepers, selling bees, and supplies, etc, your adjacent markets look much different.

The point is, you need to know who your people group is.  From there, you should be studying their specific needs in order to solve the problems typical among your people group.  Once you have that – you must become the best person to meet those needs; suddenly price is not the issue.

Your Hand on the Pulse

What would Google do?  I mentioned Jeff Jarvis’ book before, What would Google Do?  It’s worth a read – the market is changing.  Sun UNIX workstations used to be a highly profitable business, Novell was at one time the go-to NOS company, and perhaps everyone will be sporting iPads in place of laptops if things continue to go well for Apple.  I spoke with one young man in the real-estate business.  How will real estate change –  how is the Internet taking over some of the value agents used to provide?  This sames question must be asked by every company, especially by those of us in the high-tech market.

© 2011, David Stelzl

Speak the C-Language

October 19, 2010 — 2 Comments

In a coaching call I had yesterday I was asked,”How do we communicate more effectively with business owners and executives?  We’re constantly being sent back down to IT.”  This is a common question and one worth commenting on.  Language has a lot to do with it…

(I know, it’s the second gun picture this month…and yes, I do have one of these)  If I meet a fellow handgun enthusiast,but I’m dressed in business attire, neither one of us knows the other’s interest. If the topic comes up and I throw out some keywords such as Kel-tec 380, NRA, or double action/single action (and actually know what that means when speaking of handguns), that person immediately recognizes me as a peer in that particular area of interest.  It allows us to build a relationship around that area, especially if that person senses I know more about it and might have insight into their next purchase.  Notice this purchase is not something they will likely delegate to their spouse or children.

In the same way, when I meet an executive or business owner, if I am reading the same books, the same papers, and understand the pressures and factors involved in running a business or business unit, they will pick it up by the words I use and the sound bites I provide.  The questions I ask will be different, and my approach to meeting their need will be in line with their business needs.  If I demonstrate a particular understanding in areas of risk or security, related to their data, I earn the right to advise them on liability and protection.  On the other hand, if I talk about the features and functions at the level they look to IT for,  I  sound like IT’s peer, or worse, less knowledgeable than their IT person, positioning myself as a possible vendor.

So what are you reading to be relevant to business leaders?  I read The Wall Street Journal almost every day, I study the trends of cybercrime rather than the features of products, I know who is stealing, from who, and with what.  I know who is losing, who is winning, and the names of the ring leaders.  I don’t know how to set up router security (except in theory), and to be honest, I don’t care.  Your comments on books that are hot right now would be helpful to readers of this blog, so feel free to comment here!  To get us started, I found my recent reading of, What Would Google Do? to be thought provoking, business relevant, and interesting to those I speak with.

© 2010, David Stelzl