The Tennessee Chapter of the National Speakers Association held a meeting recently in Nashville. The speaker was former National Speakers Association president, Mark LeBlanc, author of what has been called “the little blue book,” Growing Your Business!
Mark’s audience is comprised of small business owners and those in professional practices, or a group of businesses generally smaller than the target audience of this blog. However, his session was nevertheless interesting and motivating. He said a number of very worthwhile things that are motivating and of general interest. I comment below from his presentation and Growing Your Business!
Thinking Outside the Box
You have undoubtedly heard the expression, “thinking outside the box.” It is an expression designed to focus on creative thinking. Mark’s perspective on this expression is interesting:
One day it dawned on me the reason most people cannot think outside the box is the simple fact they don’t have a box to begin with.
Mark was talking about the need for small businesses and professionals to create their own workable business models. For those of us who may be a bit older and in somewhat larger businesses, the message seems to be to think about the “models” by which we conduct business personally. I’m not talking about the strategic plan of your business, but of the manner in which we personally engage in marketing, sales, and participation in the financial goals that we can personally impact in our businesses.
Many business owners are, of course, busy, but don’t necessarily have a model for personal work. The message for business owners is this: think about how you conduct your business on a daily basis. I’m not talking about what the dozens or hundreds or thousands of other employees there might be in your company. I’m talking about what you (and I) do each day.
Mark’s point is that if we create the box, or identify the particular things that we personally need to accomplish that can be measured, then it will be easier, having defined that box, to think outside it.
Mark was challenging those of in the seminar to think about how we do things and to embrace the potential for new and better ways. “We’ve always done it that way” is not a very compelling rationale. He provides an interesting perspective on considering new ideas with this question:
What is the greater likelihood that this idea might work for me versus the same old way I have been approaching this in my business?
I found this question to be intriguing. Rather than looking at a new idea and simply waving it away because “we’ve always done it this way,” ask the question: What is the greater likelihood that this new idea will work better? I think that the question is a good tool to help evaluate ideas or initiatives in business.
Tangents Disguised as Opportunities
My favorite term from Mark’s session was that of “tangents disguised as opportunities.” If you are like me, you have been distracted by many tangential ideas that seemed, for a brief while, to have promise of great opportunity. His suggestion is that if you have a model about how you will conduct your personal business, or that which you personally do for your business, it will be easier to recognize such tangents as unworkable in advance. If you are like me, you’ll jump at some of them. Then the recognition will perhaps come quicker that you are running down a bunny trail. And you can get back to doing what you know you need to do.
The allure of the “new” can be almost irresistible for many. The “new” always seems like it will be more fun and productive. Unfortunately, the allure of the “new” takes us away from the basic things that contribute to success and the success of our businesses. Now I’m not saying that everything “new” is bad. That would fall into the trap of “we’ve always done things this way.” I’m just suggesting that we can all think about the “new” in new ways.
The carpenter’s mantra is “measure twice and cut once.” If we take the time to measure many “new” ideas twice before cutting, chances are that at least some of them will be disregarded and we can stay better focused.
If It Matters Then Benchmark It
Every business has financial, operational and other metrics that are measured, or benchmarked. I’ve said many times that there are a few key numbers to watch in every business. If you watch the key numbers in your business and your team takes action when they move adversely, or continues action that move them favorably, things get better.
Rather than focusing on your company’s total sales, however, my thinking of Growing Your Business! relates to what I (and, perhaps, you) do personally to impact sales and other important aspects of our businesses. Depending on your business those impacts may be direct or they might be indirect.
I’ve learned one thing in my personal life. It is far too easy to ignore the indirect things that I can do to influence future sales. This is because there is no direct impact! But are indirect activities important? Of course. Over time, they may be more important than direct efforts if they build the future momentum of a business. For many business owners, indirect activities likely provide the greatest portion of their impacts on their businesses.
So Mark suggests that we set up benchmarks for what we need to do personally for our businesses and then, personally for ourselves. The book suggests developing one or two benchmarks that relate to the following activities:
Then he suggests considering those benchmarks on a daily and monthly basis. Otherwise they are no better than typical New Years’ Resolutions, most of which fall by the wayside for many of us long before January is over each year. If you miss an activity one day, it is easy to recognize that and to be sure to do it the next.
As result of attending Mark LeBlanc’s session I have developed a set of internal, personal benchmarks for activities that I know are important for me and our company. I’m hopeful that they last beyond the end of the month! I think they will. What is written is harder to ignore than what is merely thought.
Mark LeBlanc’s Growing Your Business! is a good, quick read – about an hour or so. The book in 4×7 format, which means it will slip into a jacket or hip pocket or purse easily. It is less than 100 pages in length and it is thought-provoking.
Mark sells the book for $7.95, and offers quantity discounts. The book is available on his website.