Friday, December 29, 2006

Success Books - Konrath: "Selling to Big Companies"

In a previous career my company was a minnow selling services to whales. It was an amazing experience. If you solved the right problems for your clients, it could lead to years of extremely profitable work. But often, it was literally impossible to get a “foot in the door”. For years at a time you might not get past voicemail. But if you did…you might “break the bank”.

Jill Konrath has clearly “been there/done that”, and she is offering two free chapters of her recent book Selling to Big Companies on her website. It is obvious from these chapters that she has intimate knowledge of the delicious rewards and frustrating roadblocks involved with selling to corporate behemoths.

A few points in these tantalizing chapters remind me of some of the tricks I shared in my post " "When Do Clients Change Suppliers?". As she puts it:

Your best opportunity may come when the client has an urgent and pressing need. It may be a “loss leader” project for you; it may seem “beneath you” or even be a huge drain on your time and resources. But it is “a way in” and could lead to huge profits in the future.

Take the crumbs. No job is too small or unimportant fot that first entrée.

Make it easy to buy. Don’t try to sign them up for a lifetime of work. One segment of one project may be all you need.

I have not read Ms Konrath’s entire book, but it is clear she has created a masterful guidebook for entering, and profiting from the corporate labyrinth.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Success Tools - Web 2.0 Watch

The world of Web 2.0 is overflowing with a torrent of applications that might have relevance to personal and business success. Here are a few of my favorites, culled from about 100 pages of TechCrunch:

Wengo Visio
Audio and video chat you can build into your blog.

User-created product reviews.

A click-to-call widget you can embed in blogs, emails, and wbsites. This is looking really cool. It allows people to call you anonymously and free, even internationally. Could be a great way to build traffic.


This application will allow you to create your own streaming “channel” (voice, video, text, whatever you want) and embed it wherever you want: you blog, website, etc.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Success Secrets: Sergey Brin Video

An interesting video featuring Google co-founder Segey Brin. He makes a couple of very important points.

Technology, by its scalability is the “great democratizer”. As a corollary, technological tools will often tend to migrate to large numbers of users. I would also add that the tighter the margins, the more people the techies are going to have to grab as users. In other words, the only reason one can make any money off of an ad that pays $1.00 is from the enormous mass scale of delivery of that ad. Technology, by its very nature, is required to keep more and more of us empowered, and in the loop.

He also mentions that, at the formation of Google, he noticed there was little downside in trying to create his search engine. This pivotal fact is even more true now than it was at Google’s birth in the 90’s. Authoring software and plunging costs of computer power are cutting development costs by factors of 100+. This virtual elimination of downside risk is enabling a huge flood of new applications as any fan of TechCrunch knows.

I would also add, this seems to be a “virtuous spiral”, enabling more benefits to more users as each cycle of software and hardware rolls on. These are good times indeed for entrepreneurs.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Success Secrets - Jamie Dimon Video

Great video of Jamie Dimon, currently CEO of J.P. Morgan Chase. A video like this one is one of the huge advantages of the Internet Age. The opportunity to listen, for an hour, to a dynamic and capable CEO telling us exactly what he does and how he does it, is probably unparalleled in history. Similarly, I recently linked to an extended video of Warren Buffet. These videos are pure gold. Endless food for thought. Most of us will never sit in a room with these giants, and yet we can get a sense of the essence of their success, and certainly we can apply much of what we learn from them. Dimon, incidentally, was a protégé of Sandy Weill, whose recent book I reviewed here.

Lessons from the Jamie Dimon interview:

Running a company is a hard job. Days, nights, weekends, even on vacation. This is a common precept of successful people. “Balance” is not something generally practiced at the highest levels of success.

Acquire deep knowledge from all sources, including print sources and “people” sources. Quantity matters. Expect to read virtually every important periodical in your field virtually every day. Have drinks with anyone who might possibly have important knowledge about your chosen field. Think in terms of dozens of people.

Bad companies are bad for obvious reasons. Dirty stores. Redundant systems. Suppliers who rip them off. “Good old boy” networks of inferior managers.

Compared to execution, strategy is near-total B.S.

Be relentless. Battles are not won in a day. Costs are not slashed in a day.Have the energy to fight the important battles over and over and over.

There’s a lot more in this magnificent video. Well worth taking notes.

Related Links:

Jack Welch Video

Jack Welch: “Winning: The Answers”

Warren Buffet Video

John Chambers Video

Sandy Weill: “The Real Deal”

Friday, December 22, 2006

Success Books - Sandy Weill "The Real Deal" Part 3

This is Part 3 of my review of Sandy Weill’s autobiography The Real Deal: My Life in Business and Philanthropy Part 1 is here and part 2 is here Sandy Weill came from undistinguished beginnings to rise to a midlife peak when he sold his business to American Express. He then “crashed” (going from a hugely prestigious post to virtual anonymity) and then came back again in a magnificent “Act 2” to acquire company after company, ultimately merging his company with Citbank, to create Citigroup, the world’s leading financial services firm.

The last part of the book deals with the Citibank acquisition and also contains Sandy Weil’s own views of some of his success factors. Here are a few:

Repeatedly, Weill describes his optimistic attitude: his belief that “setbacks don’t last long”. This is a true “talisman”, a master skill that drives other skills. If one develops the habit of believing things will work out, that the solution is “out there”, that “I generally win in the end”, it removes a huge impediment, for , imagining the opposite, it is hard to initiate any action at all!

Play “Your Game”
Sandy Weill had a particular leadership style, and learned to surround himself with those who could work productively in that style. This does not mean “yes men”. It means that everyone, leader and staff, was able to “buy in” to how Sandy wanted to do things. In any organization, the difference between those who buy in and those who don’t is pretty obvious. One can choose to have an uphill battle every day, or smooth sailing. It depends on who the leader chooses to have around him or her. I am guessing that the resultant outputs would be exponentially better with a group who harmonized with the leader’s style.

Get lots of data. In real time
Sandy Weill knew his “back office” inside and out. The nuts and bolts. And he got lots of data, on a daily basis, from each business unit. A lot of disasters can be averted by getting real-time information. It’s a lot harder to let things get out of hand. You have to love the data, and be comfortable acting on it fast.

In conclusion, the book can be used as almost a “management companion”. It is hard to argue with sound fundamentals: get people around you who harmonize, know the business inside out; be on top of the data on a daily basis, and stay optimistic: believe that setbacks don’t last forever.

It is also hard to argue with Sandy Weill’s unprecedented success.

Go to Part 1

Go to Part 2

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Success Podcasts - "Killer Innovations" for Dec 19th

The December 19th podcast of Phil McKinney's "Killer Innovations" is a treasure-trove of solutions to creativity block. I have been a long-time subscriber to this podcast, but this episode is a real keeper. McKinney is a high-ranking technology manager and innovation is his business.

Many of the techniques he mentions remind me of some of Edward DeBono's example: imagine of you are trying to accomplish the opposite of your current task...a great way to "short circuit" your brain into some new answers.

To come up with solutions I often try Brian Tracy's "20-Idea List" method, but Phil's many provocative methods are going to be useful additions in the pursuit of creative problem-solving.

Success Secrets - John Chambers Video

John Chambers gives a "tour de force" lecture at M.I.T . For all intents and purposes a master class in running a high-tech company. It’s all here: how he innovates (way in advance, at times of transition), how he measures (he measure everything, including teamwork), how (and why) he partners, even where on your person your company goals are stored (on your belt, apparently). Many of his success factors are equally important for personal success:

Measurement: if you don’t measure (weight, cholesterol, net worth, exercise reps, etc) you have no idea of how you are doing.

Looking ahead: As the saying goes, “failure to plan is planning to fail”.

Partnering: Very little productive work in today’s world is accomplished alone.

This video is compelling, energizing, and a true gift from this magnificent CEO at the top of his form.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Success Books - Sandy Weill "The Real Deal" Part 2

I am still reading Sandy Weill’s autobiography The Real Deal: My Life in Business and Philanthropyand it makes for an extraordinary textbooks on critical success factors. I mentioned some in Part 1. Here are a few more:

Workaholic mentality
When refurbishing a recent takeover, Commercial credit, Sandy and his team would fly from New York to Baltimore Monday mornings (or sometimes Sundays) at 6:30 am, work in Baltimore till Friday, work in new York all day Friday, and work most days Saturdays out of his house in Greenwich Connecticut. In any endeavor I have been a part of, there was no such thing as “life balance”. If you want to succeed, plan on 12+ - hour days and 6-day+ weeks.

Buy Value
Sandy found opportunities during panics, at “fire sale” prices, and/or looked to pay a relatively low price for the businesses he bought.

Strong Balance Sheet
Over and over again, the passion to keep costs down, while driving efficient business processes, resulted in a strong balance sheet which nets out to creditworthiness for future acquisitions. This is as true in our personal lives as in business. While no one can predict the future, the more solid your finances, overall, the safer you will be in life, and the more flexibility you will have.

“Don’t cut off your nose…revisited”
I mentioned this characteristic earlier in Part 1 but I noticed it again when Sandy recounts his purchases of Primerica from financier Gerald Tsai. Tsai had awarded $100 million dollars of “golden parachutes” to himself and his staff, which irked Weill, but to make a 1.5 billion dollar deal, Weill subdued his emotions, and allowed the deal to progress.

This book continues to impress me as a masterful presentation of lessons for success in any field.

Go to Part 1

Go to Part 3

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Success Tools - Compound Interest

Compound interest is one of our greatest wealthbuilding tools. It should not be underestimated or ignored. Combined with tax-free retirement plans, the potential results of even modest returns compounded over long periods, can be staggering. One of the best sets of compound interest calculators I've seen is here at SmartMoney.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Success Books - "High Visibility" Part 3

This is Part 3 of my review of Rein and Kotler’s High Visibility: Transforming Your Personal and Professional Brand. Part 1 is available here and Part 2 here. In reflecting on the entire book, I would say that this book should be viewed more as a textbook rather than an instructional manual for attaining visibility. It is exhaustive, and replete with excellent examples, but there is no real “How To” section. It appears aimed at being a textbook for marketing anf media courses.

The latter third of the book deals with:

Brand Transformation
The actual changes required of the “aspirant” to meet the needs of the market. What is the “target market”? How large? How old? How crowded with other “aspirants”? Is there room?

What “character” should the aspirant play? Tough Guy? Vixen? Brainiac?

What kind of coaching do they need? Speaking? Interviewing? Dress? Walk? Body Shaping?

Delivering the brand
What “channels” are appropriate for attaining visibility?
Old media? New media? Small audiences? Large audiences? Niche audiences?

There is a great section on why the media needs your story: they are hungry for stories that fit certain archetypes: personal struggle, leading-edge of trends, gossip, etc.

There is also an exhaustive section on the “black art” of PR (i.e. public relations). Few of us know that a huge majority of stories we see on TV “news” are actually created, not by newspeople, but by PR people. Very informative.

Sustaining the brand
Most “stars”, be they business, sports, or entertainment, go into decline eventually . Good management of one’s career, after the zenith is over, can contribute immeasurably to long-term income. A typical example is from sports star to TV commentator, but the book has many others.

In conclusion, the book makes some excellent points:

1. High visibility carries a huge income premium and is worth pursuing
2. There are many areas outside of sports, entertainment and politics in which an “aspirant” can earn that premium. Many walks of lidfe are open to high visibility
3. To be a “brand”, a person must be willing to be flexible enough to “transform” into what the market is looking for.
4. There are legions of professionals to help him/her do this.

For anyone aspiring to be visible, or perhaps participate in any of the related “visibility industries”, High Visibility is a must-read. Be prepared, however: this is a major text, and no “walk in the park”.

Go to Part 1

Go to Part 2

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Success Books - Sandy Weill "The Real Deal" Part 1

Sandy Weill, former chairman of Citigroup, the word’s largest bank, is one of the foremost businessmen of our age. I am in the early part of his autobiography The Real Deal: My Life in Business and Philanthropy. Here are some of the success factors Sandy demonstrates:

Be disciplined or become disciplined

Sandy was an excellent young tennis player and also spent some years in a military academy. Many successful people acquire discipline through sports, or through an experience int he military . Discipline helps you look past nearby obstacles towards the success of the mission, and teaches you to stay motivated during setbacks. Often, in sports and life, a concentration on “fundamentals” yields more than more “fancy” ideas.

Be where the action is

In other success books such as “How to Attract Good Luck” and "High Visibility" it is shown again and again that to be successful you need to go where the “action” is in your field. If you want to do movies, you need to be in Hollywood. If you want to be in brokerage (like Sandy Weil) you have to be on Wall Street.

Be in an expanding field

Sandy Weil noted how busy the brokerage office looked as he passed it on the street. If your field is expanding, you have the “wind at your back”. If the field you are in doesn’t “look busy” there will be more difficulty making a success. For instance, now might not be a very good time to go into making photographic film, or Apple II-e expansion boards .

Conservation of Capital = Opportunity

Again and again, whether it be Warren Buffet or Wal-Mart, the great businessmen know how to conserve capital. Whether at home or on business, when Sandy Weil started out, he knew it was more beneficial to be tough on expenses. By keeping his balance sheet conservative, his ability to pursue opportunities was expanded. If you have no capital, or if you have bad cash flow, you are never going to be able to: buy a home, buy a business, quit your job, expand your operations, etc.

Don’t cut off your nose….

Early in his career, Weil was faced with the possible departure of several of his best employees. He knew he was a lot better off with them than without them so he found a way to meet some of their demands. Don’t be too proud to keep your best people!!!

Part 2 of this review

Part 3 of this review

You might also enjoy these posts:

Jamie Dimon

Jack Welch

Warren Buffett

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Success Secrets: A "twist" on Journaling

Like many of us interested in personal development, I keep a Journal. My main inspiration for this is Jim Rohn, although my rather unusual “categories” (Good vibes, Giving, Reasons For Optimism, and Insights) are based on Tony Robbins. I want to review positive things in my life, and focus on the good.

Rohn has recommended regular review of one’s journal. I review weekly, but also (and here is the “twist”), I write a “monthly highlights” document for each month. I find this particularly helpful, for it allows me to go back over really large amounts of time and review those periods very quickly.

In the back of my journal ( a three-ring binder), I keep the “highlights”, one page for each month. It doesn’t take long to write it, and it is a breeze to glance through. For instance, I can leaf through my “highlights” pages and instantly review:

What books I liked

Habits I am trying to adopt

Examples where particular ideas, habits, or courses of action are actually working

What (on review) seemed to be a silly “tangent” that I can discard

Small moments of truth or beauty that I might have forgotten

The "highlights" pages also allow me to see the longer threads of my life. The flowing currents, the longer-term progress (or challenges), the peak experiences. The lessons I learn are less fleeting, bigger, and possibly more valid, since they are etched into the relief of months and years rather than days.

I am particularly drawn to the people that appear and re-appear in significant ways. Relationshps that seem to be blossuming and growing befor emy eyes, while others flicker out, gone from the page after a short time.

This is the tapestry of our lives. Painted by us. It is worthwhile stepping back and looking at the canvas from a distance, from time to time.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

My Picks for Holiday Giving

Success Secrets: Find Experts

Almost everyone I know who has tried to “reinvent the wheel” has failed. I have seen salesmen tragically fail because they have never read a sales book or taken a day of training. I have seen very competent professionals fail because they have never learned to market themselves in a disciplined manner. I have seen investors fail because they never read a book about investing. These are all preventable tragedies: there is such a huge amount of information available today on nearly every conceivable subject, that success is really possible in any field where you have an aptitude and are willing to consistently learn from the best and most successful in your field.

Would you try to build a laser by yourself? A refrigerator? A home? Even if you could, why on earth would you want to do so, except as a hobby? Success is built on “platforms”….huge depositories of previous skills ands knowledge. Why not use such platforms to your advantage?

It is said that expertise in any field, even for the best people in that field, requires at least 10 years. Can you afford to be lousy in every field you deal with (finances fitness, health, relationships) for the next 10 years?

Also, many new advances are unobvious, even to the talented or observant. How would you discover that walking is better than bike-riding in the prevention of memory loss? Or that almonds help fight cholesterol? Just how would you go about testing and verifying such claims? How would one discover, on your own, that asset allocation is more important than stock-picking in your portfolio? Or that paying down debt is the equivalent of a successful, high-interest investment? Huge amounts of research have verified many claims that we could never test and verify. There are armies of thousands working in our behalf if we only choose to benefit from their labors.

Certainly, we all have aptitudes, and if those aptitudes are productive, and we are leaders in our fields, there is no reason not to make use of our talents. But, if even Tiger Woods has a golf coach, which of us can be said to have such innate skills that they don’t need to take in knowledge of high quality and at high frequency, even in their primary field, not to mention the other areas of their life?

Look around you. Why are good networkers often so successful? Because they seek out the best people, and their networks prosper because they make use of the individual strengths of each member.

In our age, each branch and sub-branch of knowledge is expanding at a high rate. Also, today, the ability to obtain detailed and specific knowledge is greater than ever before in history. We can be sure that, even if we do not take advantage of these conditions, many many others are doing so every moment. Just standing still is a guaranteed loss.

I have profited from the expertise of many professionals in my life. I would say my biggest setbacks were caused by an unwillingness to listen, and by my certainty that I had all the answers. My setbacks were also caused by an unwillingness to network well, and a generally low aptitude in “people skills”. This prevented me from gaining huge quantities of knowledge that were very difficult to gain using other methods.

Find experts. Honor them. Profit from them. Don’t re-invent the wheel.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Success Books - "High Visibility" Part 2

This is Part 2 of my review of Rein and Kotler’s High Visibility: Transforming Your Personal and Professional Brand. In Part 1 , I examined the book’s explanations of the purpose and rewards of high visibility aw well as the current “state of the art” of the Visibility Industry.

Further into the book, the authors examine:

Visibility measurement. For instance, the “intensity curve” of audiences, from the barely-interested to the “ensnared”. They examine various methods of determining how visibility is measured (via various market research techniques)

They also cover methods by which the “audience bond” is created. Just what story does the celebrity have to tell? The authors reiterate that the “branding” is not just due to a strong ability: it could start from many other points including closeness to a historic event, a strategic marriage or relationship, or a triumph over a life of hardship.

The authors next cover “launching strategies”, and the delicate subject of how much the visibility “aspirant” has to “stretch” to meet the needs of the market they want to enter. In fact just picking exactly what market segment you want to enter can be a crucial decision. The age of the target audience, for instance, can be crucial.

One of my favorite sections of the book is the section entitled: “Misconceptions of Brand Building”, in which the authors critique a series of brand-building “myths” such as “Talent” and “Charisma”. Their breakdown of the nature of charisma to it’s roots in the audience and not totally in the star is a fascinating insight.

I will have more to say about this remarkable book. It is in fact a valuable and exhaustive textbook that anyone aspiring to be more visible in business should own.

Go to Part 1

Go to Part 3

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