To build a successful business make more friends first.

I recently was introduced to the CEO of a really fun business in Milwaukee. A mutual friend introduced us via email. And in the quick hellos and thanks-for-the-introduction exchange that followed the CEO invited me to his office for a pow-wow.

When we met in person a week later we talked and developed a quick friendship. Despite the fact that we had just met it was clear that we were on the same wavelength. Our mutual friend, who I will call Erin, because that is her name, must have detected that too.

The two of us began talking about his business. I loved the conversation. I am a big fan of his company. Like one of those Big Ass Fans you see in a warehouse. I noted the remarkable quality of the product his team creates. I shared my enthusiasm for his brand and the great potential for growth, expansion and domination.

Then something interesting and unexpected happened. The CEO paused and said, ‘Adam, every agency in town has come to me wanting my business. They all talk about what they can do for us. And they share their vision for our brand. But you are the only one who has shared MY vision for the brand.’

At that point the conversation changed from 2 guys getting to know each other to two business leaders collaborating and working through problems and opportunities together. Which is what I love most about business.

I didn’t think of our conversation as a sales call. I didn’t think I was pitching him on working with me and my business. I was just excited to meet a new friend. I’m like a puppy in that way. And in the process of developing a friendship we talked about his business, the same way we talked about his family, the places he has lived and what he likes to do in his free time.

Make Friends. Not Sales.

But sales is not what most people think it is. So much of business development is simply developing friendships and rapport. It is showing a genuine interest in getting to know others. It is about helping and providing value. It is not about asking for business.

I always focus on friendship first. I was genuinely interested in this baller of a CEO first. I was not about to ask for a shot at his business. Perhaps that was part of the appeal.

As the sales expert Jeffry Gitomer says, people hate to be sold, but they love to buy. That is why I always let people buy into me instead of asking for the sale.

Does it work? Well, I now have a meeting scheduled with my new friend and his leadership team next week.

6 Key Takeaways From This Experience

  1. A good introduction from a trusted mutual friend creates a great start to a new relationship.
  2. Make friends. Not sales calls.
  3. Add value first, last, and always.
  4. Think bigger.
  5. Paint a picture others want to buy into.
  6. Let your enthusiasm, energy and passion show.

Follow Up:

Between the time I first wrote this post and published it a lot has happened. We had a great meeting with the executive leadership team. We were asked for a proposal. The proposal was signed last Friday afternoon. We kicked off our official relationship with a 3-hour meeting (Gilligan’s Island-Style) on Monday afternoon. We will present ideas next week. And we will have new ads live for the holidays.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message please share it with them.

It’s time to find new ways to meet new people.

Business development is a vital function of any healthy business. And it is dependent on interactions with non-customers. This is why trade shows exist. They are like massive dates for people with problems and people with solutions. They are the male and female counterparts that make business work. #Bowchickabowbow Lots of business opportunities are created at trade shows. Because people get to meet, mingle and leave non-single.

Trade No-Shows

Right now, thanks to the Covid-19 curveball, in-person trade shows are simply off the table. As are most in-person networking events. Which creates a major impact on new business prospects for most companies. This is a significant problem to solve. And a significant business opportunity.

Calling It Off

New sales calls are challenged right now too. You can’t simply ask if you can swing by someone’s office to show off your cart of potions and elixirs. Because the people you want to meet with are not there. In fact, most of my clients at The Weaponry have not been in the office for 7 months. Some of them have even moved far from the city they work in, because it doesn’t matter where people live when no one goes into the office.

With all of the Zooming that is happening now, it isn’t easy to get prospects to jump on yet another video conference either. Especially since video conferencing today means inviting people into your home, where families are hosting a 3-ringed circus of work, school and personal life.

Where Do We Grow From Here?

This means that to continue growing your network and your new business prospects you have to find new ways to interact with people. So it’s time to adopt new approaches. Or act like Chubby Checker and put new twists on old ideas.

What I Have Been Doing

Over the past 2 months here is what I have done to expand my network during a time of social contraction:

  • I spoke to the quarterly gathering of Spearity clients. Spearity is a great management consulting organization. This introduced me to 40 impressive people I didn’t know.
  • I gave an in-person speech at a country club to a group of 70 people participating in a fundraiser for Chapman Basketball Academy.
  • I did 3 virtual workshops on leadership during a crisis for University of Wisconsin student athletes and staff.
  • I guest-lectured on creativity to a Marquette University marketing class via video conference.
  • I guest lectured on creativity to a Carroll University marketing class via video conference.
  • I was a guest on The Positive Polarity Podcast with Dave Molenda: You can listen to the episode or read the transcript here.
  • I was a guest on the Sport Coats Podcast with Will Jurgensen. (podcast coming soon to a podcast player near you)
  • I published 25 new blog posts.

The Results

As a result of these actions I have grown my LinkedIn network. I have received new introductions, I have had in-person, yet comically-physically-distanced meetings. I have developed great new relationships. In fact, it looks as if I will have developed at least 4 new clients as a direct result of these activities.

I didn’t make a single cold call. I didn’t ask anyone for their business. I simply gave away my time, knowledge and expertise. I gave value first. And as a result I got even more value return. Anyone can do this. Even today.

Key Takeaway

Remember it is not who you know. It is who knows you. During these unusual times you have to make sure more people know who you are in order to grow your network and improve your long term prospects, opportunities and sales. Provide value first. And good things will come your way. Even in 2020.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

How to improve your natural ranking among humans.

There is a natural order among all humans. Put any collection of people into a room and that order will be revealed. It happens in businesses, schools and volunteer organizations. It happens in clubs and meetups. It happens in families and fraternities. It happens in the military and in mall food courts.

Like wolves in a pack or lions in a pride, we naturally sort and arrange ourselves. It’s as natural as the separation of oil and water. Yet our natural hierarchy is not arranged by height or weight. It’s not alphabetical order. It’s not by the color of your hair, eyes, skin or teeth. Actually, the color of your teeth may play a role. #keepbrushing.

Humans are sorted into their natural order by other humans based on their character and skills. This intuitive ranking system is as old as time. And it is baked into our DNA.

There are only 2 things that matter: character and skill. And maybe how you lean on wood.

You are valued and appraised for the content of your character. And for the quantity and quality of the skills you bring to the table. Even if there is no table. If you want to change your position within any group, focus on improving your character, and strengthening your valued skills, McGill.

To push yourself to the highest levels surround yourself with those who outrank you on both measures. There is little value in seeking out those with less character and skills than you. It is far better to sit at the bottom of the best collection of humans. Their character will strengthen you. Their skills will sharpen you. Just as iron sharpens iron, nothing improves humans like time spent with better humans.

Key Takeaway

To improve your standing in the world focus on your character and skills. Seek out those you admire. Spend time with the most capable and the most respected. They are the greatest teachers. They are the greatest guides. They hold the greatest influence. Not because they want influence. But because they have earned it, through their character and skills.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

The best thing you can invest in right now is friendships.

I like to create friends and allies everywhere I go. It’s the way I am wired. If you asked me what my number one hobby is I would say befriending. Or turning strangers into friends. Like Courtney Cox and David Schwimmer.

I develop strong friendships quickly. And my friends are like snowflakes. Meaning they are special, not cold and icy. They are all different. And they all add to my life in unique ways. Like human seasoning. #MrsDash

Non-networking-networking

We are repeatedly told that to be successful in our careers and in our lives we need to network. But I don’t think of networking as networking. It isn’t shallow and transactional for me. Instead, I spend real time befriending people. I don’t expect to get anything in return, other than an additional friend. I wrote about my approach to befriending in the post, Why I hate networking, and what I do instead.

But a funny thing happens when you develop a lot of friends. You develop a lot of allies. People who look out for you, who advocate for you. People who alert you to opportunities. And people who invite you to things.

New Business Opportunities

When I am not making friends, road-tripping out west with my family, or writing blog posts, I own an advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry. Last week I had two new business meetings, both of which arose because friends of mine submitted my name for interesting opportunities I wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

The first came from a neighbor of mine in Atlanta who introduced me to a friend of hers who was looking for marketing help. (Thanks Jennifer!)

The second came from a friend of mine who knew that his organization in Chicago was looking for advertising help, and thought we might be a great fit. (Thanks Arun!)

Through those new business calls, I feel like I befriended 3 new people that I really liked. Even if we don’t do work together (which I hope we do), I already profited by adding to my friend collection.

The Library

However, the benefits of befriending others goes far beyond business and career success. Yesterday I had to return an audiobook to the library. I hadn’t had it very long, but I got a notice that I couldn’t renew it.

The book is called Last Stand. It is not about the end of nightstands as we know them. It is about Custer, Sitting Bull and the Battle Of Little Big Horn. Following my recent road trip out west, that I wrote about in When was the last time you became a different person?, I have an exciting new geographical awareness to apply to this historic American tale.

Last stand
This is a great book that has nothing to do with REM’s song Stand.

I am about halfway through the book, and things are getting really good. Well, things are getting really good for me as the reader, and about to get really bad for General Custer. So when I stopped by the library I planned to ask if I could return the book and check it out immediately.

Luckily for me, my favorite librarian was working yesterday.  I will call her Page to protect her identity. Page is probably in her 60s, and looks like she knows her way around the Dewey Decimal System. I always joke around with Page. So I expect I stand apart from most people she deals with at the library. Plus, I usually wear flip flops, which creates a flagrant noise violation in the ‘Brary. Which gives me more to discuss with the staff.

I told Page that I was loving my book, like McDonald’s, but wasn’t quite done with it. So I was really hoping I could check it out again. I handed her the audiobook case and she looked it up in her Librarian machine. She then said, ‘Someone has a hold on this book, so you can’t renew it.’

I made a disappointed boo boo face by sticking out my bottom lip and pretending I was about to cry. I was obviously just trying to be funny. Page laughed. Then she paused a moment, and looked around to see if anyone was listening. They weren’t. So she leaned towards me and said in a quiet voice, ‘We aren’t collecting late fees right now. Why don’t you take this back and finish it…’ She flashed me a mischievous librarian smile, and she handed me the now illegally possessed, but secretly un-fined book. I whispered ‘thank you’, flashed her a big smile, and bolted for the door.

Key Takeaway

Make as many friends as you can. It makes the world smaller and more enjoyable. The rewards of friendship are the most meaningful and lasting perks you will find on this planet. You never know when you will need someone to talk to, an encouraging word, a good laugh, an introduction, a kidney, or extended hours with a good book. And like Dionne and friends said, that’s what friends are for.

*If you liked this post, consider sharing it with a friend.

Need a job? 14 tips for interviewing in crazy times.

It’s that time of year again. College seniors should be triumphantly crossing the stage and grabbing their pricey diplomas to the proud applause of their relieved families. Only this year things are different. Thanks to the COVID-19 crisis, graduating seniors haven’t seen their classmates in months. Graduation ceremonies are on a laptop. And students are stumbling out of college to find nearly 40 million adults out of work and willing to stab them with a fork to get the same entry-level jobs.  

Under these conditions the smiles, pride, and sense of accomplishment of the college grad are short-lived. The student loans are coming like the Educational Grim Reaper.  Empty-nesting parents’ once again have birds in the nest. And everyone needs worms.

Find A Job Like It’s Your Job

Whether you are a new graduate or newly unemployed, it’s time to find a job. Except now, because there are many more candidates than there are jobs, you need to bring your A-Game. If you are anything like I was when I graduated from college you don’t have a clue how to land that first job. I have learned a lot since then. Here they are in a particular order.

12 keys to successful job hunting.

portrait of a man in corporate attire
Looking good is always a good idea.

1. Request an informational interview.

This is the single best advice I can offer. It’s a free audition for you and the employer. And if the person you are calling won’t take the time to help out a young prospect, or an experienced candidate who needs a hand, you don’t want to work for that selfish bastard or bastardette anyway.

2. Research the company you want to talk to.

If you really want to talk to an employer you should know something about them and their company. To impress, show up with as much knowledge as you can find on the business you’re interested in, and its clients. A great tool I recommend using to do your research is the internet. Because it has all the information ever accumulated by mankind. #noexcuses

3. Work Your Network.

Use Linkedin to see if you have a connection to someone who works where you want to work. Do your research to see if you know someone who can introduce you to someone at that organization. Having an insider vouch for you is like cutting to the front of the line. Ivy Leaguge kids know to do this. You need to too.

4. Make connections.

I’m not just talking about people networking. Make connections between the organization’s needs and your own areas of knowledge and expertise. I got my first job because I knew a lot about farming. And the advertising agency I called for an informational interview had a new client that manufactured farm equipment. The agency seemed to know nothing about agriculture. So to them, I was like Doogie Howser in flannel.

5. Write down your talking points and questions ahead of time. 

If you don’t have any questions for your interviewer you suck at interviewing. Because it indicates that you aren’t thinking, or are not interested. Both make you easy to move to the reject pile.  Yet it can be hard for humans to come up with a good question when you are asked if you have any questions. So script you questions before the interview. You’ll get extra points if you tie your question to some research you did on the company. One of the great things about video conference interviews is that you can keep you written prompts handy for reference at all times. Heck, you can stick Post-It notes all over your interview space if you want. This is like legal cheating. Do it. It helps.

man taking notes in front of his computer
Come prepared with talking points. Because it is hard to think on your feet when you are sitting down.

6. Show up with a pen and paper.

If your interview is in person make sure you bring a pen and notebook and demonstrate that you have them. It shows that you are prepared. That you are gathering information and taking tips and advice. It is a sign of respect to the interviewer. It says, ‘I would like to capture the pearls of wisdom you are sure to drop.’ Employers assume anyone who would show up to an interview without a pen and paper will forget to do other things too. Like zip their fly, wash their hands, and bring their corporate credit card when they are taking a client to lunch. Demonstrating that you have the pad and paper says more than you realize. Even if you never use them.

7. Show up a little early.

Don’t get carried away here. There is a proper amount of early. Too early and you look socially awkward. And late is the kiss of death. This is also true for a video conference interview. Log on a few minutes early to demonstrate your timeliness. Just being there when the interviewer logs on will make a good first impression. As long as you are clothed. For tips on how to look good on camera see this post I wrote about looking good on camera for a TV interview from home via Zoom.

8. Dress professionally.

Determine what that means in your world. For my first interviews out of school I borrowed a suit from my college buddy, Greg Gill Jr. Greg is now a judge and wears a black dress to work. I have never worn a tie to work since. But I made good first impressions. And I got job offers. Remember, it is always better to be overdressed than underdressed. And you are never fully dressed without a smile.

9. Practive telling your story.

You have an interesting story to tell about what you know, what you have done and what makes you a great addition to any organization that would hire you. Practice telling that story. Make it concise, funny and interesting. It should get better every time you tell it. Like a standup comedy routine. People love stories. Telling a great one will give you an unfair advantage over others you are competing with for the job you want. Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn. It’s how great candidates get noticed.

10. Lose the like.

If there is one thing that reminds me that you’re still a kid it’s using like the word like like way too like much. While on the topic of language, I would also like you to stop saying, ‘to be honest…’ or ‘to tell you the truth…’ Those indicate that the rest of what you said may not be fully honest or truthful. Also, avoid pairing kinda or sorta with really. Those words are opposites, and they negate each other. It’s like putting a humidifier and a dehumidifier in the same room.

confident young woman sitting on office chair in old aged artist workshop
Don’t dress like this. Unless you are interviewing to be a belly button model. 

11. Prove direction.

It’s great to be open to various possibilities. But I want to hire someone who knows what she or he wants. So know your skills. Know what interests you. Have a vision. And don’t get lost on the way to or from the bathroom.

12.  Don’t drink at the interview.

Interviews in some industries, like advertising agencies, can be tricky. Especially if you show up late in the afternoon or on a Friday. The beer is often available and encouraged (this is starting to sound like an ad for advertising). Don’t play along. The dangers outweigh the risks in this case. Demonstrate your self-restraint. Ad people are really good at drinking (see Mad Men). And there are always plenty of permanent markers around and artists who know how to use them on your face.

13. Talk about how you and your friends never use Facebook or Instagram.

Even if you are on Facebook all day every day say that you can’t stand it. Businesses are always trying to spot the next trend they know nothing about. Kids, this is the ace up your sleeve. Tell them about the cool new things you are into and how you are rejecting all previously embraced media. Your stock will rise. Trust me. For the experienced unemployed, make sure you know about TikTok, Snapchat and Dingle. Okay, I may have made one of those up. You should know which one.

14.  Follow up.

After the interview, send a note thanking the people you met for their time.  This is important in several ways. It shows that you are considerate. It shows that you follow through. And it ensures that the people you talked to have your contact information. Send a note in the mail or by email. Both work. Email makes it easy for them to reply to you. A mailed note always feels special. And retro. Here’s the story of a great follow up note I received after an interview.

 

Key Takeaway

A good interview, whether in person, on the phone, or online is all about being prepared. Do your homework. Know the company and the people you are meeting with. Prepare your talking points and your questions ahead of time. Bring a pen and paper. Don’t drink. Where clothes. Smile. And follow up. Good luck!

*If you know someone who needs a job right now, please share this post with them. Let’s give them every advantage they can get.

When was the last time you saw your people?

On Monday morning I woke up in Orlando, Florida. Most people would be thrilled to be in Florida in February. But before the sun came up I was at the airport, leaving sunny  Florida to head back to Wisconsin. And I was thrilled. Because I had a very interesting afternoon planned.

MKE

I landed at Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport at 11:30am. I was eager to get off the plane. But the universe had other plans. In fact, I was kept on the plane for at least 30 minutes, at the gate, while police were summoned to deal with some human shenanigans that unfolded on the flight.

Deplane! Deplane!

Once I finally got off the plane I hurried to the parking garage and jumped in my car. I sped off towards the Illinois border, just 30 miles to the south. I had 3 meetings planned that afternoon. I hadn’t prepared at all. I did no research. No competitive analysis. No powerpoint presentation. Because on a random Monday afternoon in February, I simply made plans to see 3 old friends.

Hello Kenosha!

My interesting afternoon started with lunch at the Waterfront Warehouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin. If you are ever looking for a great place to meet someone for lunch midway between Milwaukee and Chicago, this is the place.

My seat had a great view of Lake Michigan. But what was really fun was having lunch with my friend Bryan Specht. Bryan lives in Chicago. I live in Milwaukee. So we decided to meet in the middle, like Maren Morris said.

IMG_0834 2

Bryan is a rockstar marketer. We first met when his former agency, Olson, was considering buying my former agency, Engauge. Bryan and I got to know each other through that process, and I really liked him. So we stayed in touch. But we hadn’t seen each other for 7 years.

As we ate we talked about life, and business. We talked about entrepreneurship, private equity firms, acquisitions, and earn-outs. We talked about the challenges of organizational integration. We talked about the people we knew in common. And Steve McQueen. And Monaco watches. (Bryan has the one I want.) We sounded like adult business people who have a lot of knowledge and experience. Which apparently we do.

Bryan and I are the same age. We were both college athletes. Our last names both end in ‘echt’. And he recently started his own marketing consultancy called Salient Group Ventures.  I started my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, 4 years ago. So it was great to spend time with someone I had do much in common with. We were both eager for more time together. So we’ve committed to making Kenosha Konversations a regular thing. (We didn’t actually kall them Kenosha Konversations.  That’s just a kute name I made up for this story).

Mark Dahms

After my lunch with Bryan I drove 15 miles north to a spot in Racine, Wisconsin called Route 20.  There, I met with my college track and field teammate at The University of Wisconsin, Mark Dahms.

Mark is wicked Smart. He was the valedictorian of his senior class at Waukesha Catholic Memorial High School. He was a great student at Wisconsin, and went on to get his MBA at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. I always thought that was where you went to study cereal. But apparently it’s like, a good school, for smart people.

IMG_0837
Try to guess which one of us works in finance at SC Johnson, and which one works at an ad agency called The Weaponry. I’ll give you two guesses.

Mark has been with SC Johnson since he graduated from college. But don’t think Mark hasn’t gotten around. He worked for SCJ in England, where he met his wife, who was working for SCJ. #RaisedEyebrow  They also lived in Australia. And apparently, when you clean a mirror with Windex south of the equator, you should wipe it counter clockwise. (I may have just made that up.)

I had not seen Mark in 14  years. So we caught up on life, work and family. I learned that a traditional Polish Christmas celebration may involve keeping a carp in your bathtub. And I was reminded that if you were really tall in college, you are probably still going to be really tall 24 years after your graduate. Did I mention that Mark once made a bet that he could eat 6 giant fudge brownies for dessert at our college training table. That didn’t turn out well for anyone.

A Symphonic Ending

My 3rd meeting of the day was with my friend Camela Langendorf. Camela and I met our freshman year of college at the University of Wisconsin. We met in Symphony class. Which is way harder than it sounds. (I still got an A.)

Camela was always funny and smart and fun to be around. Today, she is a great photographer, and owns her own business called Varitay Studios. The company name comes from the fact that Cam is not just a little bit tay. Or even regular tay.

Before we got together on Monday, Camela and I had not seen each other since… 1995.  That’s right, it had been 25 years since we last saw each other in person! Yet it was like we had seen each other yesterday.

IMG_1296

We talked about life and family and careers. We talked about college and friends and the pursuit of happiness.

We also talked about photography and entrepreneurship. We dug into profitability and business development and the power of great employees. We talked about great books. And we talked about how we should get together again soon.

Why Do This?

So why did I schedule time on a Monday afternoon to see friends who I haven’t seen for 7, 14 and 25 years? Because life is short. And our human relations are extremely valuable. At the end of our days, the only thing that will really matter is the impact we have on each other. So I make staying in touch with my people a priority. It’s one of my best habits (along with smiling first thing when I open my eyes in the morning).

The Question

Who haven’t you seen lately that you should? A friend? A family member? A business associate?  Your waxer? This week I challenge you to make time to reconnect with someone you haven’t seen in years. Maybe even decades. We have a limited amount of time on this planet. You never know when that time will run out. So make plans to see your people now.

Key Takeaway

See your people in real life.

*If you know someone who could benefit form this story, please share it with them.

Why you should get comfortable starting over at zero.

I grew up in the small town of Norwich, Vermont. There were about 3,500 people in town. I knew many of those 3,500. And many of them knew me. After graduating from high school I left Norwich for the University of Wisconsin. The student population was 43,000. That is nearly 40,000 more people than lived in my hometown. Heck, it was more people than lived in the biggest city in my home state. #BurlingtonIsNotBurly

Alone

On my first day of school I moved from class to class within a massive sea of students. Between classes the sidewalks on campus in Madison were as packed as the sidewalks in Manhattan. And as I hustled my bustle through the crowds, I didn’t see a single face I knew. It was really weird.

On the 3rd day of classes, walking across campus from Bascom Hall to the chemistry building I saw someone I knew. One familiar face among the 10s of thousands crisscrossing campus (making you jump, jump). I was so excited that I remember telling people about it that night back at the dorms.

The next day I saw 3 people I knew while walking around campus. It was amazing. The day after that I saw 5 people. I was so excited. The day after that I stopped counting.

The Shift

Within the first month of school I saw people I knew everywhere I went. By my sophomore year I felt like I knew everyone on campus. And by my junior year I felt like 43,000 students were not enough.

The Gym

I was reminded of this story yesterday morning when I went to the health club that my family belongs to. We joined when we first moved to Milwaukee from Atlanta. The first day I worked out there I didn’t know anyone. In fact, I did’t talk to anyone at the club for the first 2 months. Despite the fact that I wore both normal clothes and deodorant.

But yesterday club-goers stopped to talk to me before I got to the locker room. I saw friends on the way to the weight room. Other people I knew stopped by to say hi when I was on the elliptical trainer. And while I was lifting weights. And on the way back to the locker room. What a difference that was from my first 2 months.

Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship works the same way. You have to be willing to start over at zero. With no clients. No employees. And none of the stuff you took for granted before. But when those clients or customers finally show up you value them more than you could ever imagine.

I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry in 2016. Today we have 19 clients. And I couldn’t appreciate them more. Because I remember when I had no clients at all.

Key Takeaway

Don’t be afraid to start over at zero. Don’t be afraid to move, or join a new club, class, church or volunteer organization where you don’t know anyone. Don’t be afraid of that new town, new job or new career. Knowing no one is not the end of the world. It is the beginning of a new one. Starting at zero is the start of something exciting. And nothing makes you value what you have more than starting again at zero.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.

To be an entrepreneur you need to know where clients come from.

2019 has been a very good year for my business. Lately, The Weaponry, the advertising and idea agency I started in 2016, has felt like the prettiest girl at the ball. Despite the fact that I am not wearing any makeup and haven’t had my hair permed in months.

Reflecting

As I reflect on this great year, I have been thinking a lot about our clients. Because the key to success as an entrepreneur is your ability to attract, maintain and grow clients. If you are considering starting your own business you need to start thinking more about finding clients than finding Nemo.

Daddy, Where do clients come from?

Clients don’t come from a client factory. You can’t buy them at a store like ClientMart or Clients R’ Us. The don’t grow at a pick-your-own client orchard. And they don’t fall from the sky on clienty days. So where do they come from?

My Client Roster Evaluation

Understanding where clients really come from is critical for aspiring entrepreneurs, startups, or any business who has forgotten how to grow. That’s why I decided to evaluate our client roster to determine where each of our clients actually came from. The following is a list of how we found each of our 19 clients (N-n-n-n-nineteen, nineteen).

How We Met Our Current Clients

  1. I was introduced to the Client by a mutual friend.
  2. The Client is a former co-worker I have stayed in touch with.
  3. The Client is a former Client who I have stayed in touch with.
  4. The Client is a former Client who I have stayed in touch with.
  5. The Client found us through my speaking engagement.
  6. The Client came to us because of one of my co-worker’s relationships.
  7. The Client is an old friend of mine.
  8. The Client is a new friend of mine.
  9. The Client is a former Client who I have stayed in touch with.
  10. The Client is a former Client who I have stayed in touch with.
  11. The Client is a former Client who I have stayed in touch with.
  12. The Client came through a friend’s recommendation.
  13. The Client came through one of our other Client’s Recommendations
  14. The Client is an Old Friend
  15. One of our business partners recommended us to the Client.
  16. A former coworker recommended us to the Client.
  17. The Client is a former Client who I have stayed in touch with.
  18. The Client is a former Client who I have stayed in touch with.
  19. The Client is a New Friend.

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My good friend, former client, current client, and amazing tennis player, Marc-Andre Dubois and I have known each other nearly 20 years. 

Key Takeaway

Clients come through relationships. Maintaining and growing your personal and professional relationships is key to business success. When I first launched my business I quickly realized that much of the hardest work of entrepreneurship, which is developing and maintaining genuine relationships, I had begun decades earlier. If you want to start your own business, side-hustle, or simply help your current business grow, start by focusing on your own relationships. Because that’s where all the best things in business and life begin.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them. 

The best way to connect with your people this holiday season.

I am good at staying in touch with people. In fact, I make a sport of it. I like to see how many friends, family and professional connections I can interact with each year. Because like volcanoes, an active relationship is more interesting than a dormant one. And the recency of your last interaction has a major impact on both the real and perceived value of a relationship.

Social Media

Social media makes it easy to stay in touch. Likes, hearts and thumbs-up offer us a way to say, ‘I see you baby…’ But they are not really staying in touch. They are kind of like making eye contact and waving at a party. There is very little social investment, and little long-term value.

Next Level Interactions

As we barrel into Christmas and Hanukkah with our noses glowing, one of the greatest gifts we can give one another is the gift of human interactions. Making time for coffee meet-ups, lunches, dinners and drop-bys are great. But they are hard to do this time of year. Those in-person interactions are also limited by geography, and hard to scale (meaning hard to do in large numbers, not hard to put on a scale, or to remove the scales from the body).

My Secret Social Weapon

But there is one social interaction tool that I really love. It is great at keeping people in touch. It works regardless of geography. It is infinitely scaleable. And it is always at your fingertips.

The Group Text

I love staying connected with groups texts. If you don’t know what a group text is, it is a text interaction with a group of 3 or more people. The French call it a Mobile A Trois. And it is an easy way to create your own micro-social networking platform.

My Groups

I have created an eclectic variety of social groups via texts. For example:

  • I have a group text with my parents and my 3 sisters. It enables my original homies and I to reconnect quickly from anywhere. Our group text conversations are like our conversations at the dinner table in my childhood home in Norwich, Vermont. Only now we can’t see each other snarf.
  • I have a group text with my high school football teammates. This group text is a little like the banter on a bus ride home after a road win, sans mooning. This text group includes people in Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, California, Colorado, Illinois and Wisconsin. But we can still huddle together anytime we text.
  • I have a group text with my neighbors from our Madison Hall subdivision in Atlanta. The interactions here are often about planning our next get-together, funny memories or pics from a past get-together, or theories about who called the police with a noise complaint (I always blame you Vickie).
  • I have a group text with the advertising creatives who I worked with at my first job out of college. These texts are so full of inside jokes that military communications seem less encrypted.

Creation

By creating a group text you can instantly reunite and rekindle a social group from the past. But you also have the power to create a totally new social group. You have the ability to huddle up a select group of people like a team, a club, a society or a telephonic gang. And that is a fun gift to give.

Text Me Maybe

We could all use more positive human connections. Especially this time of year. So between now and New Year’s Day I encourage you to create a new group text to help bring people together, or bring people back together again. Just remember, my mobile number is 614-256-2850.

Key Takeaway

It is important for us to invest in our relationships. Creating a group text is an easy way to stay in touch. But it also has the power to make other people feel special. Because being included in a group text means you are considered a member of a special group, team, family or community. It is easy to do. It’s fun. And there is someone in your network who needs it now more than you know.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them. Or maybe text it to them to start you own group.

 

Why requests to pick my brain hurt my head.

When I was a kid I collected baseball and football cards. Today I collect something far more valuable: knowledge. I add to my collection every day by reading, listening to audio books and podcasts, and talking to experts. I tap into my inner Oprah, and ask questions to try to expand my knowledge, my abilities and effectiveness. Which is why every night I go to bed a little wiser than I was when I woke up.

Pass It On

To return the favor to all those who have shared with me, I try to share what I know with others. That’s why I write this blog. It’s why I guest lecture to college students and why I try to make myself available to those who want to meet with me one-on-one, like Hall & Oates.

Johnny Requests

Because I have openly demonstrated a willingness to talk about the things I know, I get a steady stream of requests to discuss a wide variety of topics. I am happy to share what I know. However, there is one question I really dislike being asked when people want me to share my knowledge with them.

‘Can I pick your brain?’

Newsflash

No one wants to have their brain picked. The idea of brain picking conjures a variety of unpleasant images in my head, of my head. I see graphic depictions of ice picks to the cranium. And vultures picking at my lobes of squishy gray matter. I imagine someone picking my nose and really, really getting up there.

Brain picking makes me think of picking at zits and picking scabs. In other words, asking to pick my brain is not an intellectually enticing pick up line.

Reframe In The Membrane

Brain picking is really focused on the person trying to extract value. Not the person offering the value. Which makes it sound like a selfish request. So let’s not use this phrase anymore.

Pick Your Pick-Your-Brain Substitute.

The next time you want to pick up on someone else’s knowledge try one of the following pick up lines:

  • I would love to learn more about __________. And I don’t know anyone who knows more about it than you.
  • I would love to hear your philosophy on _________.
  • You are the smartest person I know when it comes to _______. Can I ask you some questions?
  • You are the Queen/King of ____________ and I would like to be your subject, of this subject.
  • If I bought you a Butterfinger would you drop some of your knowledge on me?
  • I am extremely impressed by how much you know about __________. Would you consider acting like Sonny, and share?
  • I want to learn how you _______________ because no one does it better. (Baby, your the best.)

Note: you are suppose to replace the ________ with the topic you want to discuss. So don’t actually say, ‘I would love to learn about line from you.’ Unless you want to learn about line dancing.

Key Takeaway

Think about what you are saying before you ask someone if you can pick their brain. There are much better ways to ask those you admire to share their knowledge, guidance and perspective. Including asking someone to share their valuable knowledge, guidance and perspective. Be empathetic. Put yourself in their shoes. Flatter, praise and respect those you would like to learn from. You will be sure to create a mutually beneficial exchange that leaves all brains better than ever. And potentially better than Ezra.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.