+ Winner

Everyone’s a Winner, Baby. 10 things I realized as Summer 2018 wraps up.

What a summer it’s been.

In the past six months, I relaunched my Digital Marketing Consultancy, started another company and took on a business partner.  Here are some things on my mind as I look towards 2019…not good, not bad, not right, not wrong…just an open stream of conscience 🙂

1. Everyone’s a winner.
I often listen to the song, “Every1’s a Winner,” by Hot Chocolate. When it comes on my playlist during a jog it always gives me an extra burst of energy.

It gets me thinking about people. We all have things we are really good at and things we aren’t. I don’t know if it’s a perception or how we are truly wired, but I find many people enjoy focusing on the negative aspects of a person or process. That’s not an issue for me anymore. It’s energy sapping and lately, I find myself complimenting even people I don’t like or respect in an effort to eat my own dog food. Give credit where credit is due.

I have lots of conversations with different types of people and often times I find them talking about what so and so isn’t good at. I always say, “Well yeah, that’s fine. They are the best in the business at this, though!” Put some effort into changing the conversation and helping someone be more understood. It will pay you back in so many ways and make you a better person.

2. There is a fine line between being hands on and being a micro manager.
I met with the former CEO of the first company I worked for (more on that later) and one of the things he stressed was that if I wanted to be a successful CEO or President that I would need to be hands on in many areas of the business. He also said there is a fine line between being hands on and just being a micro-manager. My experience has always been the latter.

Various times in the past, there were times I needed help. I found it didn’t come (even when I asked). In other instances, things I didn’t need help on I felt like I had the spotlight on me to the point where the work no longer felt like it was mine. I’m sure I didn’t help as I probably offended people with my assertions that I had things under control, so when I really needed them, they were like, “F*** that guy.”

At any rate, it’s on my mind. I’m not looking to sit up top in an ivory tower or corner office, so my involvement in various activities is warranted, but strategy and client/employee well-being are what’s most important to me. Knowing when to get involved and when not to is about to give me a taste of my own medicine. Finding the balance of it all will be the challenge.

3. Cutting your losses is different than learning new lessons.
I don’t mind admitting that things at my last employer didn’t end well. I felt I launched a Digital Marketing practice. We sold tons of deals, kicked off the work, the clients really liked us…and then we made no hires to support the workload, despite multiple recommendations. I was wearing so many hats and some things were going great and others needed help. We were always going to lose a few clients in order to focus on bigger ones or learn new lessons. I still have trouble making sense of it, especially because I believed I would ultimately be rewarded for my work. Starting my deflation, I had to force a meeting with the CEO (which I knew he wasn’t going to like) to discuss next steps, which he took via a video conference even though he was in the same office as me. I was given a choice to move into a sales role or basically quit. I chose the latter and it truly knocked the wind out of me. I’m not sure if I called their bluff or they just wanted to get rid of me, but downgrading to a sales role was never going to be accepted. I knew I’d still be performing the director level role for the indefinite future and it was my heart & soul for the 8 months I worked there. Moving into a sales role seemed like a step backwards. From what I’ve gathered, much of the momentum/buzz around marketing stopped after I left.  Seems like such a waste of everyone’s time.  The company has since been acquired.

What’s interesting to me is most people told me to either cut my losses (and never interact with them or think about them again) or to stay and collect my salary for as long as I could before forcing them to fire me. I wasn’t going to put myself through that mentally (or do that to my clients), so I swallowed my pride and got ready to move on. What about the lesson to be learned, though? I took that job to gain experience and learn how to scale a business and I feel like I received both one way or another. If my company grows significantly, I want to protect the brand, people and assets of it. Ego is a part of it, but I want to be around people. I want to help people. I can’t always describe where that comes from (or if it’s unhealthy), but it’s undeniably there. I want lasting partnerships with various stakeholders.

I’m convinced I’m better off for the experience and I want to carry it with me. My company will go from a two person shop, to a small business to a medium size business and beyond. I now have some better ideas of what to do once we get there.

^ I’m aware this is just my side of the story. There are some great people there and they do some great work and I definitely took on more than I could handle.

4. True love does exist.
If you’ve read my past blogs, I’ve shined a light into my frustrations with dating. I find it’s all mind games and people just wanting what they can’t have rather than focusing on what they could have (I’ve been guilty of it, too) with few people actually giving things a real chance. You find someone attractive or interesting? The expectation has become that you just have to add water and you’ll instantly be in an intimate relationship with that person. A courtship? No one has time for that in a world where you can have 100 matches at once. They want it now! I’ve never been good (or comfortable) at moving that fast.

I was recently the best man at my best friend’s wedding. Seeing the mix of nerves, the preparations, the partnership between he and his bride (for both the event and life in general), the celebration afterwards…and most importantly being allowed to be along for the ride for the past 5 years during which they dated. It just felt great and was easily one of the best weekends of the summer.  I found myself wondering what my wedding might be like someday (It would be whatever she wants, of course…)

Probably the most optimistic I’ve ever been about it all and now I’m back on all the dating apps with a refreshed profile and photos… and you know what? I’m willing to meet people where they are and move faster…

5. I don’t shine if you don’t shine.
I was fortunate enough to go to The Killers concert at the Fiserv Forum Grand Opening with a good friend of mine. Sam’s Town was my go to record in college and I used to pour money into every jukebox playing, “Read my Mind” over and over again.

There is a line in the song where Brandon Flowers belts out…

“She said I don’t mind if you don’t mind, cause I don’t shine if you don’t shine, put your back on me, put your back on me, put your back on me!”

…and it just made me think more about my business (and all my college friends). All I really care about is happy stakeholders. If I do my job, other people will do theirs, we’ll support each other, we’ll have happy clients and we’ll all be in it together, for better or worse. Sounds simple, right?

6. I’m becoming more extroverted again, and it feels right.
When I look back on the past 32 years, I feel I’ve gone in spurts of introversion and extroversion. From what I remember about grade school, I kept mostly to myself.  I hated sleepovers and was the occasional target of bullies (I was also one of the few to stand up to them)… In middle school, I came out of my shell and made a slew of new friends. In High School, I remember being so busy all the time and being involved in so much that I’d come across as moody at times, with people telling me I needed to smile more. By the time I got to college I was all the way out there. I loved going to class, going to bars, going to people’s houses, working late, heading up student programming, etc. I never turned down a good time and I’d strut into places knowing half the crowd loved me and the other half hated me simply because I was me… and that I dared to show up. Back then, I viewed it as their problem, not mine. I was as outgoing as I’d ever been and didn’t really have a care in the world.

This carried on until I was about 25. At that point, I decided I needed to clean up my act and wanted to focus on other things, which came much harder than I imagined. I think I spent the remainder of my 20’s more introverted than ever before. I enjoyed spending time in my head and trying to figure out why things were happening or why people were doing what they were doing. A Friday night dinner by myself at Chipotle and then cruising I-43 to Beloit and back with a good playlist didn’t seem like wasted time. It helped that my job was sending me around the world. I wouldn’t trade all of these things I’ve done at this point, as I think I’m a much better person than I was before, but at the same time there is no amount of money you could pay me to revisit my 20’s…

I feel a new energy now, though. I want to be out and about again. I want to meet new people. I want to talk to them about new ideas and things. I want to be moving around. I want to take risks. I want to go to more concerts.  I want to build things. It feels good.

7. I’m looking for a mentor.
If you’ve made it this far, you’ve probably gleaned a few recurring themes with me. What’s funny to me is I can generally help people with their problems, but to an extent, can only identify my own up to a certain point. I’ve never had to interact with me or know what’s its like to see me enter a room, give a speech, introduce myself, get mad, etc. I’ve only ever been able to see out of my own two eyes…

Hence, I know there are still rough edges to be smoothed over. The bigger problem is that with my high aspirations, I’m not looking for just anybody and furthermore, trusting them after I analyze their advice doesn’t come easy. My parents are key alleys, but that’s unconditional and different (and you know it).

I had lunch with the former CEO of the first company I worked for. He led a major company for 20+ years through good times and bad. He’s not perfect (which is appealing), but culture is important to him, he’s incredibly smart, well respected and he left the company in better shape then he found it. I found myself mostly silent during our lunch and ate up everything he said. You know how often that happens??? (almost never). I feel good about it and incredibly thankful for the time he spent with me. I hope it continues.

8. I might be a Feminist… but it’s not quite what you think.
I debated writing about this. As a 32 year old white male who has held VP and Director titles, I fall into a certain category for sure. Although, gay dudes tend to like me, so maybe I’m a bit feminine myself? 😉

Maybe it’s the industry I’m in, but I find women are generally smarter than men in regards to it. The men I’ve worked with can sell it, but they can’t execute it as detailed or with the amount of understanding that the women I’ve worked with can. When things go wrong (as they inevitably do at times) it’s usually a woman that I can talk the issue through with. The men often times get angry, engage in posturing, and bark orders, which always makes things worse.  Trying to forge understanding or agreements has generally been viewed as a weakness in my experience.

My business partner and lead social media consultant are both women and they are no exception. The compliments I receive from clients in regards to both of them is incredibly positive. I’ve also never found myself thinking I was better than them or needed to guide them along or knew what was best for them. I don’t know. Is this a generational thing? Maybe my parents just got really good at raising kids…

… and that’s not to say the gentlemen I’m working with aren’t great, too. Some of you are 🙂

9. I thought I had thick skin before…
There is an Indiana Jones quote where he says, “It’s not the years, it’s the mileage,” and I smile when I hear it. I’ve done so much over the past 10 years that at times, it feels like a lifetime. During that time, I’ve received so many compliments and been told how great I was (which fed my ego). I’ve also received a fair share of backlash and told I was basically a psychopath in the workplace (which kept me tossing and turning at night).

If 32 year old James met 22 year old Jimmy, I don’t think they would have alot in common. There isn’t much anyone can say or do to me that will crush my world or stop me in my tracks these days. I am who I am. I know my worth and I’m stronger than I’ve ever been.

My intentions may not always be perfect, but they are always good … and always backed up by action. I’ve toned down my introductions and tried hard to be accommodating, trustworthy and forthright. Still, not everyone will like me and I’ll try to convince them up to a certain point or leave them to their self/business.

10. I need to focus on making it rain.
Another piece of advice that was given to me was that I shouldn’t rely on anyone to bring in sales. It’s my vision. It’s my passion. If anyone is going to be able to sell it to its true potential, it’s me.

This makes me nervous. It’s long been assumed that I’m a natural salesman, but I’m not so sure. Breaking the ice has never come easy and I tend to either come on too strong or not at all in fear of doing so. When I’m brought into deals, I have a high close rate, but that won’t happen without introductions.

As the company becomes more formal and grows, 2019 will see me largely take on a much bigger sales role in addition to my Account Executive & Consulting duties. The future of the company depends on it (See – I’m taking the advice).


So there you have it.  The focus is on wrapping up 2018 as strong as possible and starting 2019 with a solid foundation under our feet.  Stay tuned … and thanks for reading!

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We’re not as sensitive as you think. So why does Culture matter so much to us?

Okay, so maybe we are, but it’s not quite what you think.

When I think of that word, sensitive, I find people associate it with weak individuals who are always sad or depressed or have a victim mentality. As I get older, though, I’ve come to despise that perception. I think it’s interesting that many employers tend to think because they are giving someone a place to work, a salary and other benefits that everything is good. You’re unhappy? Well you’re probably ungrateful, entitled, thin skinned, not a hard worker, etc.

What does being sensitive entail, anyways? A google search brings up two definitions:

  1. quick to detect or respond to slight changes, signals, or influences.
  2. (of a person or a person’s behavior) having or displaying a quick and delicate appreciation of others’ feelings.

These are things constantly on my mind as I build my businesses.  While I certainly appreciate number 2 (and have been working on that for years), I’m moreso referring to the first part of the definition. A sensitive person is indeed going to pick up on everything as it relates to their external stimuli. Every word said, action took (or not took) is going to be analyzed. They are going to connect it, see patterns and develop an over-all understanding. Add in worrying about how others are affected or feeling and it’s easy to see how a person like this could get overloaded or burn out. It can be downright exhausting at times (and they think it’s strange, too).

What’s funny to me (and getting a little out there I suppose), is that in this day and age, I don’t believe these types of people are in high abundance. There are indeed lots of entitled people out there in what I’ve come to know as the McDonalization of the world. Bright, Shiny objects are everywhere and everyone wants something quick and easy. You want a boyfriend/girlfriend? Go on Tinder. You have a problem? There’s probably a pill you can take. You have an idea for a business? You probably have an expectation that it’s going to be a success in a matter of months. The list goes on, but I find all of these situations aren’t built to last, because there is a lack of understanding or foundation for why something is happening. Things like these take time and include difficult challenges, which no one has time for anymore.

The foundation is the key… and you know what? Truly sensitive people are great at establishing that… and if you want to build a business, practice area, new service offering, go find one. The catch? You also need a great culture. These people are high in demand and they know it. They aren’t going to suffer through a roller coaster of successes/failures for the wrong reasons… which a great culture can prevent.

I’ve often said my goal from a business standpoint is to become a CEO or CMO of a major organization. I’d only worry about three things. Protecting the brand, the assets and people of the organization. When it comes to the employees, I find that many CEO’s are so egotistical that it’s the employees job to take care of him/her. You have to assure them everything is okay, let them know how much they are appreciated, etc. Are you kidding me? It should be the other way around and I’ll tell you why. You need employees to perform their specialty and to do so, they need to be in a great state of mind. They can’t do that if they are too busy taking care of you or worrying about you. The other thing these leaders have in common? They are intimidating. They walk into a room and people instantly become unsettled (and I personally think they enjoy it). Why am I mentioning this?

…because it’s the perfect storm of badness for sensitive people. They are likely leading major initiatives and they need to be in that right state of mind to be able to continue producing (especially creatives). They are resilient, too, so they will probably make it appear as if everything above the surface is just fine, but they are truly a duck on a pond. Start adding in unwanted stress and you’ve started a ticking time bomb. What a lot of people don’t understand is the internalization element. As things add up they take their toll mentally and physically. In the long run, no amount of money or promises are worth going down certain roads …

Some people reading are probably rolling their eyes, right now, but I’ve seen it time and time again. If you want someone invested in you, you need to invest in them and put in some effort to understand them. If they feel the last part, you’ll have an ally for life.

That’s the difference between a good culture and a bad one. That’s literally it.

Coming full circle, if you have a sensitive person on your staff…lucky you, as you’ve likely got a very passionate individual. Show some understanding and watch those energy levels rise to the max!

+ Marketing Automation Project Plan

5 Tips for creating a Marketing Automation Project Plan

Are you looking to create a Marketing Automation Project Plan for your organization? 

Before you create a Marketing Automation Project Plan, ask yourself this question.  How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
 
Marketing Automation is no different. Take your time when you’re starting out and make sure you have certain resources in place.  Here are five tips to consider:
 
1. CHOOSE A MARKETING AUTOMATION PLATFORM 
 
Understand you have many options for a platform. There are many third party Marketing Automation tools on the market (Over 150+). Most of these platforms all have the ability to store contacts, design/ send e-mails, design/manage landing pages and form activity, scoring mechanisms that rank your contacts likelihood to buy, and the rest of the tools you’ll need to set up the automation
 
2. PICK YOUR ADMINISTRATOR 
 
Identify at least one person who is technically savvy, with an interest in digital marketing. This person doesn’t have to have a degree in rocket science. Rather, a willingness to learn and explore will be far more valuable. The role of this individual will be to design marketing automation processes according to your objectives.
He or she will be at the center of all activities for the platform.  
 
3. PREPARE FOR THE LEARNING CURVE 
 
Mentally prepare yourself for some trial and error. Plan to turn on the platform and then send out some initial low risk campaigns like a newsletter. Also, identify a product category or brand that you will put through a Pilot program in the coming months. 
 
4. START THINKING ABOUT CONTENT 
 
What types of material do you want to send your readers? Think about content for the Pilot program, as well as generally-speaking. Most importantly: Include a strong callto-action on all e-mails and the follow-through strategy. For example, if your reader should click a hyperlink or button in the e-mail for a landing page, what are your goals and objectives for this person
 
5. SET TARGETS AND MEASURE 
 
Write down your TOP FIVE METRICS you’d like to achieve. It can be open/click rates or form conversions. Take it further and request close rates or opportunities won. Get this in the hands of your administrator who would, in turn, follow through to create a roadmap.

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Marketing Automation and Social Media | Stronger Together

Social media has become an integral part of our life, both personally and professionally.

This is especially true for business owners looking to connect with customers and potential customers.  Social Media and Marketing Automation are stronger together.  Having a strategy is important, so that’s the first step.  You should identify an objective for the project and ask yourself how it will benefit the organization.  Part of that should be determining how that fits into a greater marketing automation process.  Here are 5 ways to do that:

1 – Schedule posts
Platforms such as Pardot, Marketo, Hubspot and Salesforce Marketing Cloud all allow you to schedule social media posts in advance, which is a huge time saver.

When selecting a marketing automation platform consider that Pardot and Marketo have a more simple interface.  Hubspot and especially Salesforce Marketing Cloud have advanced features that go pretty in depth with their capabilities.

Don’t forget about the content, either.  You should be consistent with your schedule.  Perhaps every Monday is a new blog highlighting a service, new pictures uploaded for Throwback Thursday and Fridays reserved for highlighting the community or company culture.

2 – Score or rate your posts
The platforms give you a huge opportunity to take your social media efforts to the next level.  Pardot, Marketo and Hubspot come with a scoring model that allows you to rank your prospect’s activity, which includes social posts.  When you identify them through a form submit or an e-mail send, you can cookie them (which just means you’re tracking them).

You can place a higher emphasis on your business related posts and a lower emphasis on the more fun posts.  Include this in a greater scoring model that includes web forms, e-mail clicks, webpage visits, etc and you can start to tie back ROI to your social media efforts.

You’ll look like a rock star within your organization, too.

3 – Re-target on Facebook
Giving some much needed love to MailChimp.  Until recently, it was mostly known as an e-mail tool.  They’ve really upped their game by adding on some automation elements and the ability to re-target on Facebook.

When a person fills out a form on your website, they enter into a list in MailChimp, where you can track their activity and send e-mails.  Now, it will also put advertisements up on Facebook when that person logs on to the account, yet another way to touch them.

Hubspot and Marketo have similar features.  In both cases, you’ll still need to create the advertisements in Facebook.

4 – Include links on emails
Every platform has the ability to add social media icons to the bottom of your e-mail templates.  While this is very common on web pages, you’d be amazed at how many companies still don’t include them on e-mails.

It’s an easy way to get your existing contact database to also follow you on social media.  Also, you don’t have to pay anything for the likes and follows.

5 – Automate replies on social media
Salesforce Marketing Cloud reigns supreme in this last category.  Their social studio features allow you to monitor posts across all of your platforms.  In addition, you can do what’s known as social listening and search for key words or competitors that you want to track.

In both cases, you can create what is known as a macro that will automatically respond to posts.  Use it to handle critical PR issues immediately, thank people for their interest and attract people away from your competitors when they drop the ball.

Learn more about that here: https://www.salesforce.com/products/marketing-cloud/social-media-marketing/

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What is Marketing Automation?

Marketing Automation isn’t so much a tool as it is a set of different technologies and processes.

It started when companies were onboarding commercial processes through a CRM system. As a result, among the streamlined processes was filling sales people’s pipelines with leads. Before this, the number one request of Marketing Departments was “Give me leads! Any of them!” They were hungry. Now they are to a point where they are actually overwhelmed. They are now saying “Enough!” Only give me the best leads that are ready to buy”. The tension between Sales and Marketing lives on.

So what is Marketing Automation exactly? Many people think it’s a platform that sends emails out and tracks their open/click rates. Not quite.

It’s a collection of technologies that allows companies to streamline, automate and measure marketing tasks and workflows. Doing so increases operational efficiency and helps firms grow revenue faster. There are three components:

  1. A Central Marketing Database: A place for all of your marketing data (think of it as the brain). A place where you can score and rank the relevancies of each lead and put them into groups. A place where you can gather insights into the conversations that took place with them.
  2. An Engagement Engine: A canvas where you can interact with the database (think of it as the legs). A place to send information and relevant content to your contacts.
  3. An Advanced Internal Team: Not so much technology as it is automation of internal marketing processes and fuller understanding of what a platform can do (think of it as the heart). This increase’s marketer’s ability to deliver relevant content to relevant individuals and arrange their sales team’s leads based on priorities. It’s also the human element.

To get started, look at the following platforms such as, Eloqua, ExactTarget, Pardot, Marketo, Hubspot and others.

MAKE YOUR SALES TEAMS CHAMPIONS OF THE OPPORTUNITIES YOU GIVE THEM. (Cham-pi-on/CHampeen/verb 1. Support the cause of; fight for, defend)

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Did you just start a new business? 5 things to consider when you become an entrepreneur.

I’ve recently re-ignited my business entity… and I enjoy keeping the world updated on my thoughts and progress throughout.

This is my third stint, backed up by over 10 years of experience from the corporate world. The first time, frankly, I had no idea what I was doing. I did simple things like setup a bank account, create a website, create the service offering, do some basic marketing…but it was all disconnected and it was more of a hobby than anything else.

The second time I had seen up close and personal how other companies established new services or took themselves from small to medium sized. I built on all of those experiences and ended up securing over five clients.

This time, the focus is on scaling and turning it into a true business, rather than just me as an Independent Consultant. Here are things I’ve learned so far:

1 – Keep a strict routine
My second stint started in January of 2017. I found I loved my new found time to myself and how enjoyable it was to sip coffee on my couch through the morning while writing blogs and sending e-mails. One morning I woke up, though, realizing I was well rested and somewhat bored … and I started driving myself crazy without having my daily agenda’s defined. The past ten years I always had a time I needed to be at work, a To Do List to move me through the day and various activities that let me burn off energy. That was all gone and I found myself getting anxious sitting in my condo all day.

The solution was to develop a strict routine and follow it no matter what. These days, I wake up, eat breakfast (and I’m only allowed one cup of coffee) and shower before 8 am.  I am not allowed to be at home between the hours of 10 am – 4 pm and have to achieve at least 10,000 steps someway, somehow… Finally, I need to attend a non related work event or do something social at least three times per week.

I find it works, too. Once the engine is started, it’s easy to keep it running and somewhat enjoyable to shut it back down at the end of a long day.  Shutting it off and on, though at random isn’t… and is exhausting.

2 – Friends and family are everything
Being an entrepreneur can be lonely in the beginning. Luckily, that problem goes away once you sign enough clients to keep you busy.

Especially in the beginning, I found it’s imperative to keep a good support team. One thing I find fascinating about the corporate world is that it took up all my time. I worked around the clock and any free time I had was spent collecting myself so I could do it all over again. That goes away once you’re on your own.

At the same time, I’ve been catching up with friends from middle/high school, college and from when I first moved to Milwaukee. It’s always great to see them and I always leave with an extra boost in my step … It makes you remember your roots and who you really are. My best friend is getting married this year and I’m the best man. I find myself feeling fortunate I have time to actually be around and celebrate our friendship before he ties the knot…rather than just working all the time and making what otherwise would have been just a guest appearance at his wedding…

3 – Sales cures all
Being an entrepreneur can also bring uncertain times..at times. Cutting off your income and then spending your own money to generate business is very uncomfortable. It makes you question your confidence, general ability and sanity.

I find it funny, though. Last Friday (4/20) I sold a deal with a Law firm…and everything was immediately fine. No worries about anything whatsoever…all was right in the world…and then I took a nap.

4 – Get monkeys off your back
Truth be told, I never fully understood the phrase until now. Like anyone, there are tons of things that bother me and I find that my brain is at times wired to spend all of its time analyzing what it doesn’t like. This worked great in the corporate world, because companies had problems they were relying on me to solve and I was eager to dig in.

When you’re trying to build a business, though..it’s counter productive to spend time being mad about things that happened in the past. I find it’s more important than ever to get mad about it, get over it, try to solve it if possible and then move on.

Every week I write down something that bothers me and I keep it front and center where I can see it in my home. I refuse to be afraid of it or let it stop me from getting on with life. I do allow myself to try out various solutions and then I tell myself, “Okay so we know this bothers you…now what? What’s next?” and then I carry on.

I’d say I’m 50/50 right now. Some things I can solve, others I just have to fall on my sword or accept that I can’t change the situation, just learn from it. My dad told me something interesting the other week. Bringing up the failure or trying to solve something that isn’t solvable can also prevent the wound from healing on the other side, too. Sometimes you’ve got to just let it go or at least give it some time…

It’s not always easy, but it’s usually not that hard either… and I feel this is something I can become really good at.

5 – Appreciate what you’re doing
There are going to be so many errors and bumps when you first start out. Like anything in life, though, it’s all about the journey and racking up more wins than losses. If you’re lucky, even the initial losses will be viewed as wins in the long run and it’s the sort of thing you’ll be longing for after you’ve mastered the art of it.

Being an entrepreneur tests my will, my determination and my spirit. I worry constantly about those things..and then tell myself if I wasn’t worried, there would probably be a bigger problem :-).

It also allows you time to pursue other interests. For me, I had no idea that I enjoyed writing so much (hence blogs like this one). It’s something I want to continue to do more of.


James Pellizzi helps companies align the right people, processes and technology needed to enhance their marketing efforts. He loves meeting new people, networking and talking about new ideas. Please e-mail him at James.Pellizzi@strategicdigitalmkting.com or fill out this form if that also sounds like you.

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5 Reasons you need a Digital Transformation strategy.

As 2018 roars on, the idea of a Digital Transformation strategy isn’t one that needs convincing. Companies believe in the power of Marketing Automation.

A few years ago I would have wrote about the definitions of those and how to get started. Now? Not needed as much.

What companies are now hungry for is a strategy that ties those elements together. Components such as SEM, PPC, Email Marketing, Web Personalisation, Branding, etc.

I like military metaphors. In any type of operation, there will be various things available. Soldiers, Vehicles, Air Support and other equipment. It’s crucial for any operation, but you know what else is too? A strategy that enables those components at a tactical level. If they aren’t all combined for a common goal and interconnected, any military exercise will fail. When do the troops go in? Before or after air support? Are they travelling via the vehicles or foot? If the latter, why are there vehicles? What is their goal and how long will they be there? Do they have enough food for the duration? The list could go on…but there needs to be a strategy that gives direction for the why and how.

Digital Marketing is the same way. Here are Five reasons you need a Digital Marketing strategy:

1 – One to One Marketing is all the rage (and always will be).
The most powerful marketing is one to one marketing. If you can speak to someone direct, that will resonate more than anything else. You’ll receive some kind of partnership as a reward. To do that right, you need the various components described above.

2 – Companies have able bodies, but not Thought Leadership.
I find it interesting that at this point in time everyone is the next marketing genius (myself included..). Companies aren’t looking for bodies or to outsource for this kind of work. They are looking to train their resources. The people who know what they are doing in this space aren’t working at a private company. They are either on their own or at a marketing services agency, which is how the wheel spins for them. They give their experience and get more in the process, which keeps companies after them.

3 – If people don’t know the why, they won’t care about the how.
Goes back to my military example. Yes – your company likely has an email platform. It likely has some web personalization and someone that can generate content. Why are you doing it, though? Is there a roadmap that spells out a goal, as well as the items needed to have a chance at being successful? Do sales know what to do once a lead is ready? Disconnected elements do more harm then good and start competing with each other. Trust me…that’s a mess you don’t want to deal with.

4 – … because it doesn’t have to be only about demand gen.
I’ve spent a lot of time in B2B markets and the normal conversation is to use Digital Marketing to generate leads. I’m a big believer in it, but it doesn’t have to only be that. Companies should consider tracking their brand awareness, too.

Get creative with the why.

5 – Guts versus Glory.
The best professionals aren’t doing this for individual companies. They are a unique breed. The right strategy takes guts and bold risk taking. The roller coaster that comes with that (The glory aspect) isn’t something most people want to stomach. Who can blame them? You likely don’t have that person on staff, though (if you do, let them loose on idea generation!)

So there you have it. There is no better time to be in marketing than now! No longer are we viewed as tactical doer’s. We’re now the strategic dreamers that can move organization’s forward. How awesome is that?

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Disgust, Alcohol and Lunacy. Ten things I’ll be thinking about while I figure out what’s next…

Hello again.  It’s been a bit…About eight months ago, I wrote about my excitement taking on a new opportunity.

My goal was to get more experience … and I’m grateful I did.  That’s all over now and I’m back on my own.  Here’s what’s on my mind as I try to figure out what is next.  It’s in line with the whole, “not hiding behind anything good or bad” so if you’re not looking for TMI, stop right here!

The soundtrack for this go around is, “Crockett’s Theme,” by Jan Hammer.

1 – Disgust, Alcohol and Lunacy

I recently had lunch with the CEO of one of the former companies I worked for and he told me a great story.  One of the companies they acquired over the years stated that the reason they went into business was because of Disgust, Alcohol and Lunacy.  In other words, they were so disgusted with their current employers that they thought they would be able to do it better themselves.  Finding themselves at a pub, one of them said they either needed to put up or shut up with their complaints.  The other slammed his drink and said, “okay let’s do it, ” but not before some additional liquid courage.  Finally, they had to mortgage their houses and tighten their belts in order to finance their operations, something even they admitted was complete lunacy, given that they had young families and were leaving good paying jobs.

It resonated with me, as I ponder if I have what it takes to restart a small company and scale it.

2 – Approach is everything

I spent a week with my family in Orange Beach, Alabama taking some much needed time off.  It was nice to remember that the beach cures all.  More importantly, I was able to spend some time with my sibling’s young children and it was fascinating to watch them experience everything.  Things are so new and joyous for them all!  I started thinking about all the scars and disappointment we carry with us and this led to some introspection on what I had become … a person that at times, is unapproachable.  It wasn’t always the case.  At various times in middle and high school, college and my early career I was perceived as a very outgoing person and I did, indeed, enjoy being around people.  As time went on, though, disappointments with women, sales/marketing endeavors and just people in general led to frustration and withdrawing from various scenes.  Over time, I became equally known for my scowl and reservations…neither of which I attempted to hide.

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Orange Beach, Alabama

I’ve been back on track for the better part of two years, but my goal is for people to continue to feel I am someone they can reach out to, be comfortable around and generally enjoy being with.  The best part about the last entrepreneurial stint was that I felt I got back in touch with who I always was.  I’m looking forward to continue working on all of this.

3 – It’s time to change the conversation

I’ve always been one to take on more than what was asked of me…and while that needs to be tapered off, it won’t likely completely change.  I’ve found that it creates the same scenario over and over again.  I get hired to do 1 or 2 things and before I know it I’m responsible for 10 things.  8 out of 10 of those usually go great, but the two remaining usually need some help (okay a lot of help) or added horsepower, but that’s never how the conversation goes.  If 1 thing is bad, it must mean all things are bad!  I still am at a loss for words on how you launch businesses or practices if you can get to this point, but not hire resources to then help manage the load.

I admit I need to do a better job of saying no, but at the same time I’m still interested in putting a spotlight on all the really good things that are going on and happening.  I’m prepared to go to battle over it, too, as I find simply saying it or writing an email doesn’t get any traction.  You need a sledgehammer to get people’s attention or shake them out of stale, comfortable ways of thinking.

4 – WOMEN

A good friend of mine once said, “If you’re successful in your career, decent looking and single at age 30…there is something wrong with you.”  I’m 32 and I agree!

In some cases, it was assumed I was a ladies man, when in reality I was always more of a hopeless romantic (which needs to be managed in itself).  If I perfect this whole approach thing, that can be applied to more than one area of life … and I’d welcome that lightning bolt feeling of meeting someone intriguing.  If it happens again, I have a better idea of how to handle myself ;-).

… and I’m not taking it all so serious anymore, which has naturally added an element of fun to all of this that was previously absent.

5 – Culture eats strategy for lunch

I’ve known the saying for ten years, but I never appreciated it until now.  I’ve worked for companies who put a huge emphasis on it’s people and let them shine.  I’ve also worked for companies where it was one or two people calling the shots.  They say they understand people, they say they are looking out for them and that the success of the company is because of them…but no one actually believes they believe that.  I need to do a better job of managing ego’s (mine included).

Whatever I do next, whether it’s my own company or working for another company, the emphasis MUST be on the people and how they feel.  We spend the majority of our lives working…and I want to in some way foster (or help foster) an environment that people love being in and feel they are truly part of.

6 – I wish people would stop talking about Steve Jobs.  Be you for God’s sake.

Steve Jobs was an asshole.  He really was.  Apple was built by a huge collection of people, not one man.  If I come across anymore dorky, unapproachable Steve Jobs wannabes who think they are better and smarter than everyone else (and that’s the reason they are unrelatable), I’m running as fast as I can the other way.   I’m not suggesting people shouldn’t have role models or people they want to be like (see below), I’m just emphasizing that this particular person is not one that I am looking to emulate.

I love the saying, “You do you,” compliments of a good friend of mine. Come on people.  More of this!

It might not get you everyone’s approval and kinship, but it will get the right ones and weed out the wrong ones.

7 – It’s time for people to stop pretending they are so mystical

Empathy is such a buzz word these days.  For the record, I’m a huge fan of it and am in the business of pleasing people.  The only way I’ve ever known how to do that is by wondering what it is they want or what (and why) they are experiencing something (and I’m not suggesting I’m good at it, either!).  These days, though, I come across so many people that are so eager to tell you how empathetic they are and how, “Yeah yeah, they get it.”  I’ve always found that interesting, because the people who I always felt got it never had to say so…and the ones that cut me or others off always made me feel skeptical.  People shouldn’t be empathetic for attention, as it defeats the whole purpose..they should do so because it’s usually in the direction of the right thing to do.

8 – Sonny Crockett

DJ.jpgFor the record, I know Don Johnson in his mid 30’s was better looking than me..and no, I will never be a Vice Cop…but I really like what the character stands for.  He’s not a lone wolf by design, but his integrity, drive to do what is right, fight against corrupt forces even when he’s outnumbered and keep a sense of humor even when things are bad.. are just things I really love.  He always has his team’s back…and they have his and there are times where both truly need each other.  I find myself at ease whenever I’m watching the early seasons of Miami Vice and I can’t wait to revisit some of my favorite scenes with my newfound time off.

9 – David Bowie

I’m in the process of unveiling a refreshed brand for my LLC while I figure out what’s next and it’s inspired by David Bowie.  “Cat People,” has failed to get old and makes it on every playlist I put together and every cell in my body is on fire when I listen to it.  I love his ability to recreate himself and act out multiple personas.  I feel the best marketers have those same abilities…and it sure does make the work fun.  A good colleague of mine talks about how certain people are aliens because of how legendary and out there they become.  I loved it and totally agree.

10 – The Devil’s Playground

This is a big concern of mine at the moment.  I didn’t realize it the last time I was on my own, but it was the first time in ten years that I wasn’t working somewhere between 40-60 hours a week.  Any time off that I had was welcomed and I enjoyed recombobulating myself.  Once I was on my own, though, I had all the time in the world.  This initially sounded nice, but I didn’t take into account that my brain would still look for something to analyze or solve and without a steady stream of work, it found all sorts of irrational things to wonder about…and let me tell you…that was another problem all in itself.

Luckily this time around I’ve rented a small workspace and have some rules I’ve set to keep me on a new routine.  Either that or maybe I will head down to Miami and buy a go fast boat (see?!)


Stay tuned for that brand refresh.  I’ll be looking to keep you updated on my progress, but will be shifting gears to post about best practices for various Digital Marketing activities.  Sign up here if you want them delivered to your inbox!

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Happy New Year!.. 10 Things I realized over the course of 2017.

As the year wraps up, I’ve had some time to reflect on the past year…and my thoughts keep going back to, “What a year indeed!”

This article is filled with more contradictions and opinions, so you’ve been warned. Too much information? Absolutely!

I’m very much stuck on the idea of doing things in front of larger audiences. Not so much for the attention, but rather the liberation. Success doesn’t guarantee continued success, just like failure doesn’t have to last forever. Not hiding behind anything good or bad has generated a feeling I haven’t experienced before… It just is what it is.

Soundtrack: “Don’t take the Money,” by Bleachers.

Here are ten things I realized over the course of the last 12 months:

BEING UNDERSTOOD IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING.
Not right, not wrong, but understood. Many past posts of mine are around Emotional Intelligence, something I became very interested in this year. I realized that for most of my life, I spent more time trying to understand others without being understood myself. I admit, in my 20’s I secretly enjoyed the mystery that surrounded me. Now, not so much. I don’t want to be fawned over, come across as intimidating, smarter than I actually am, loved, hated or anything in between. I want people to see what my good friends and family see. A normal person who is ambitious in his career, works hard to understand people/things and wants to be nice.

How strange it must sound for someone to complain about receiving attention and opportunities…but that’s where I am at.

STICKING IT TO THE MAN ISN’T WORTH ANYONE’S TIME.
I started 2017 wrapping up my tenure as VP of Digital Marketing at a Milwaukee Ad Agency. I felt like I launched a budding practice (and it was one of the hardest things I ever did) and I felt it fell apart in a matter of one month and I found myself completely out of energy. I told myself I didn’t care, but I did… I’ve written in the past about how people’s problems are indeed THEIR problems. I can’t solve them. In this particular case, the company I was working for wasn’t owned by me, so my opinions were’t the ones that counted… and the owner was free to do whatever he wanted. The mix of my passive aggressive/spiteful behavior, helping other former colleagues get new jobs and general bitterness wasn’t worth anyone’s time. I’m still in business. They are still in business. The world is still spinning. And like always, I’m not necessarily right about any of it…

What’s interesting to me is how much I enjoyed some of it. What does that say about me? So much time was spent being angry, which could have been spent on much more positive work.

BEING AN ENTREPRENEUR IS INDEED LONELY.
The launch of the #10things blog series came from being an entrepreneur. I absolutely loved it and would consider giving it another go (Round 3). Although it was very lonely at times. What wasn’t a problem in mid winter proved to be too much for the hot summer & long days. I’d wake up by 7 am and by 10 am I was ready to not be at home. I’d go to coffee shops, I’d schedule onsite meetings, I’d network with people around downtown Milwaukee. I’d stay at the business lounge for an extra hour making cold calls. It just wasn’t enough and I’d still get home around 4 or 5 pm to a hot sun beaming through my windows. I was always restless and couldn’t shut my mind off with all that time on my hands. It’s the main reason I took my current job. I needed a more consistent routine and wanted to keep my digital marketing skills sharp.

OTHER PEOPLE’S SUCCESS IS AS IMPORTANT AS MINE AT THIS POINT.
I love that I can say this and mean it. In my early 20’s, competition was so high in our professional lives. Everyone was going to be a Director or President or Owner… and I wanted to beat them all. By my mid 20’s, I’d say 50-75 percent of people were no longer after those things and had settled into or accepted their career paths. By my late 20’s, after stints in Consulting and Advertising, I found most people five years ahead or behind me were burnt out after doing similar work…. and that’s when I began to realize. It wasn’t about beating others, it was about celebrating our collective success. You spent three years building a practice? You got your MBA while working a full time job and having a baby? You were promoted to Senior Manager or VP?

All those things are awesome achievements! Can you imagine what the individuals from the above examples could do if they teamed up? Michael Jordan said that back in his day he never would have imagined playing alongside Larry Bird or Magic Johnson. Those were the guys he wanted to beat and prove he was better than. I know I still have a healthy amount of that competitive drive in me, but with the number of individuals in Digital Marketing, I’m more interested in teaming up or hearing about others success in the space. I truly hope the people reading this progressed their careers in a major way this past year. Teach me what you’ve learned! We’ll all get to where we want to go, just at different times.

THE CLOCK IS FOREVER TICKING.
Over the Holiday season I had a very minor health scare. Ever since I was in elementary school, I’ve had occasional bouts of low blood sugar and low blood pressure, causing me to get light headed or faint when I stand up too quickly. It still happens to me about 3 or 4 times a year…and this time was in front of my parents.

It didn’t help that I spent the day before gorging on too much holiday food, including an abundance of appetizers, various meats, sugar cookies and beer. Mix that with no exercise (I usually run 5 miles a day), the first time I wasn’t stressed out in months and a skipped breakfast the following day… you had everything you needed for the right recipe for a blood sugar spike. Usually when it happens, it’s for a split second and then I feel back to normal, but occasionally I can’t shake the light headed feeling. I come across as confused, have trouble putting my thoughts together and can’t kick the flight or fight response. It’s very uncomfortable and lasts between 15-30 minutes.

Luckily, after eating some food and drinking fluids I got back to normal, but it really takes an odd toll on you for the remainder of the day. My immediate thought was, “Well I better make sure I’ve got a will prepared…” and then I told myself I was too young (at the ripe age of 31) to worry about stuff like that..but am I? It was a good reminder to take care of your health. Everything is always fine…until it isn’t and I imagine it will be a pretty instant switch. Another reminder for portion control, to stop smoking for good, limit booze, continue to exercise, make sleep a priority, etc… all stuff we’ve heard before.

I’M STILL A BACHELOR…AND PROBABLY WILL BE FOR AWHILE.
It’s something I never talk about. I’ve been single for the past 10 years, something no one can seem to understand. The thought that’s been on my mind lately is around whether or not being in a relationship with someone is a matter of both people pointing at one another and saying, “Yeah you’ll do…” I’ve been on lots of dates (and am probably offending lots of women with this), but always found it too offensive or rude to the other person to date them just for the sake of it.

Unfortunately for me, I’ve met a small handful of women that upon meeting them or seeing them for the first time, it was like a bolt of lightning hit me. It wasn’t just looks, it was the way they carried themselves I couldn’t get over. I had to know who they were and what they were like and I came on way too strong…and in other cases not at all in fear of doing so. I know that I was doing to others what I despise being done to me. I put these people on pedestals…but I really couldn’t help it. From what I’ve gathered, they are all now married and progressing with their lives. I find myself jealous and impressed. Why were they so willing to give things a try or make it work with others?… I need to get over myself and accept they just weren’t into me as they were given more than enough opportunities. My inability to convince these types of people to date me isn’t something I can easily let go of, and I just can’t stay the course if that feeling of intuition and intrigue isn’t screaming at me.

…and until I can accept that I’m likely wrong about all of this, I’ll probably continue to come across like a monk. All of this #metoo stuff isn’t helping either. I need a playbook to understand all the things I can and cannot do at this point to advance an intimate relationship.

I’M LOSING TOUCH WITH THE YOUNGER DEMOGRAPHIC.
I find this one funny. Again, at the ripe age of 31, I’m still considered to be in the demographic that is most marketed to in the world… but I find people that are ten or so years younger than me to be fascinating. I ended up going to a concert in Madison, WI at the Student Union with a good friend of mine. Mom jeans are back in full force? One piece swimsuits were being worn as shirts…

I was wearing jeans, Nike shoes and a henley T-Shirt…the same as I always wear. The same as I’ve been wearing for the past 10 years…the same I will be wearing in another 10 ye… Oh no. I realized that’s how it starts. I’ll be the 50 year old man wearing his college style jeans and sneakers. I was terrified of what I must have looked like among the crowd, sticking out like a sore thumb.

EXPERIENCE IS THE SECOND MOST IMPORTANT THING.
One of my old bosses once told me that, “No one is Steve Jobs…not even Steve Jobs.” At the time I disagreed with him. Why would you ever try to put a lid on innovation and great ideas? Fast forward five plus years and I couldn’t agree with him more. One of the biggest things I realized growing a practice and being on my own was that people only carry with them the memories of how they feel about things. Steve Jobs was known as an innovator but also just as a jerk. I think it will be interesting in 100 years how people like him and Larry Elison will be viewed compared to guys like Jeff Bezos and Marc Benioff.

To me, that’s what it’s all about. Making someone feel good. It may not happen right away and you may have to make them feel bad before you can make them feel good, but that’s how you grow relationships, businesses and make memories in life. Those are the experiences I’m referring to... and I want as many as I can get my hands on.

GOING WITH THE TIDE STILL DOESN’T EXIST FOR ME.
Another thing I found interesting about entrepreneurship was how easy it was to sit idle. In the winter time, I loved getting out of bed, pouring a big cup of coffee and just sitting on my couch writing blogs and sending emails. It actually became concerning and made me anxious. I realized how people become unmotivated and lazy. Even after I retooled my routine to get up earlier and get moving, the thought stayed with me, as if my couch was an evil force trying to persuade me otherwise.

I’m a big James Bond fan and in the movie Skyfall, his commanding officer, M, recites a line that has always stayed with me. Anytime I worry about becoming idle, I remember this phrase and realize that sitting around has never been my bag..and probably never will be (just the fact that I spent so much time worrying about it…).

She says, “And here today, I remember this, I think, from Tennyson: “We are not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are. One equal temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time and fate, but strong in will. To strive, to seek, to find, and *not* to yield.”

I’M CERTAIN THIS IS HOW IT WILL ALWAYS BE…AND I TAKE SOME COMFORT IN THAT.
I think like many people I thought I had all the answers in my 20s…and now in my 30s I’m hungry for more knowledge, more power, more experience, etc. I’m still grappling with many of the things that have always bothered me, though. I’ve gained clarity around my problems and in the process complicated them. Even ones that I solved have led to new ones…and I’m okay with that. How boring would it be if we all peaked and had no challenges to confront? I don’t want to sit around. I don’t want to be idle. I want this engine running on all cylinders and close to redline!

I remember being 16 years old thinking I needed a Pontiac GTO. My dad told me I could buy one with my own money when I was older and I remember thinking, “It just won’t be the same when I’m 30. I need it now!”…well 16 years later I’d still love to have a GTO and I’m sure that won’t change for quite awhile…

Happy new year, everyone! There are so many great things going on and I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings. I hope the new year brings you all good fortune and joy!

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6 ways to become more coachable in your career

I read a lot of articles about emotional intelligence… and I must say, I’ve very much bought into it.

I think it’s important in all facets of life to understand yourself and others … and have them understand you so that all parties can move forward.

At the moment, I am a Marketing Director at a Digital Technology company. I firmly believe I have achieved the level of Director (and perhaps have too much confidence regarding it). I can close deals, I manage a team of Digital Marketing professionals and I know how to execute what we sell. Although, my goal is to become a top level Marketing Executive… and I’m not there yet.

… and how does one achieve that, anyway? One way is through coaching and feedback from other Executives. I find it’s a nice thought, but they usually aren’t easy conversations to have.

I’ll share some takeaways from a recent example involving myself.


Takeaway 1: Hear the person out.
I was called into my bosses office where he gave me feedback on a recent client interaction and sales call. I’ve been here before and knew it wasn’t an easy conversation for him, either. It was important to me to let him share the feedback. Basic listening 101. The fact that I was getting feedback was important. You’re in trouble when those conversations cease to exist altogether…

Takeaway 2: Don’t rationalize.
Although, I admit that as I sat listening to him, immediately my mind started racing to justify my actions. I thought to myself, “Is this happening again?”  I’m managing more than a handful of clients, helping close deals, mentoring the team and working almost 60 hours a week. 18 out of 20 things are going great, why aren’t we talking about those instead of the 2 that aren’t? Then I realized I was just rationalizing. No one was saying things weren’t going good, they were just saying a few things needed improvement.

Takeaway 3: Get mad… and then get over it.
For the rest of the day I was annoyed, mostly with myself. I wrote out all of the justifications and stewed over it all night. Then I also realized that if I was this upset about it, they must have a point, which I began to feel great about. If I wasn’t upset, it really wouldn’t have meant anything, nor would I be moving forward… and then I fell asleep.

Takeaway 4: Perfection doesn’t exist, but you can strive for excellence
I tell clients on a regular basis. You don’t have to be perfect to get started, we just have to start. You can polish process later. I feel the same way about people in their careers. No one was attempting to take away from me my past experiences or level (that was my own insecurities speaking). I had gotten myself this far before the age of 30. I effectively got started on the path. They were helping me polish myself.

There is a story about Brett Favre in his early tenure with the Green Bay Packers. No one doubted his ability to win games or athleticism and he captured the hearts of an entire fanbase. Although, people did question his ability to win a Super Bowl … and his disastrous, prior stint in Atlanta was well known. I was at his retirement ceremony where Mike Holmgren talked about the challenges of coaching him. He recounted the moment he knew the Packers were on the cusp of greatness. He said Brett came over to him on a plane ride home and said he understood the value of being coached and placing his trust in him. He had a role to play and if he wanted to go to the next level, he needed help. Favre went on to win three MVPs and the Packers won the Super Bowl during the 1996 season.

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Takeaway 5: We are the masters of our domains
I also thought about what I was going to do with the feedback… and realized yet another thing. No one was necessarily right or wrong regarding the scenarios. I wasn’t being forced to do anything, I was being given suggestions. I think about US Presidents and all of the responsibility they have. There are tons of stories about how much feedback and advice they request regarding various decisions, but ultimately, they have to make a call on what they will and won’t do. The same applied here. I’ll likely take the majority of the feedback that was given to me and some of it I probably won’t based on what is and isn’t important to me… and I think that’s okay.

Takeaway 6: Know that what comes around, goes around
I’ve written in the past how we are all just in a race with ourselves to get where we want to go. Some of us are farther along, some farther behind, but we’ll all get to our destinations.

Interestingly enough, on the same week I had to give feedback of my own to a colleague… and I wanted to take some of my frustrations into account while giving it. In this example, this person was giving a demo for the first time to a client. I had to imagine this particular individual was nervous and I knew for a fact how much prep time went into it. Just the fact that this person was so willing to grow was very much appreciated by me…so I said so. I said how good I thought the presentation skills were (and meant it) and that this person had an ability to establish rapport with the client. Only after I led with the positive did I suggest some improvements to the actual pitch. I suppose I’ll never know for certain, but it wasn’t uncomfortable and I believe this person will continue to grow with some of my recommendations.

At the very least, hopefully they didn’t go home and over analyze the situation, but if they did they can at least read this blog ;-).


Until next time…

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4 ways to create and manage relationships in business

It doesn’t matter what type of business or industry you are in. In order to be successful, you will need to be able to create and manage relationships with all of your various partners.

Here are some ways to make the most of that effort:

1 – Take a chance … and show up
You’ve heard it before and it’s worth me saying. Half of everything is simply showing up. We all get nervous, excited, bored, comfortable (the list goes on) and it’s easy to sit idle because of any one of those. Those who are successful in meeting new people understand that in order to do so, you have to attend the party, go to the networking event, wander into the bar at the hotel, etc. Nothing ever comes from doing…well nothing.

There’s a line in the movie, “The American President,” where the President is dancing with his date at a State Dinner. His date comments that people are going to wonder who this lady is and why she was there. The President responds by saying her name and that she is there simply because she said yes. I always liked that.

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Said scene from the movie, “The American President.”

2 – Break the ice … and establish even ground
… so now that you’ve met a potential partner, it’s imperative you break the ice. Introverts have a high disdain for small talk and extroverts thrive on it, so strike a balance, because it serves a purpose. Meeting people or entering into a relationship of any kind is naturally a little uncomfortable at first. Small talk calms those nerves and gives people a chance to relax before diving headfirst into business… and for the introvert in all of us, it doesn’t have to be endless. Just enough to get the conversation flowing.

Furthermore, at times, an inability to do this can create a perception either by yourself or from the other person that you’re above the other in some way. Most of us aren’t celebrities, executives or politicians (yet) and if people are viewing you this way, whether it’s awe, disdain or something in between it’s going to prevent you from being able to connect… and one of you is bound to end up very uncomfortable. No one wants to be studied or stared at from across the room with no chance for a connection.

I found honesty works best. Stating your intentions or that you are indeed a little nervous or dealing with some travel fatigue or bringing up a past failure (and how you want to overcome it), etc. is usually enough to get started. Anything that will make you relatable in some way. It also establishes how the two entities can work together, as either person is going to be able to identify how they can help and what role they will play.

3 – Do the things you say you will do
Once the relationship begins, it’s time to maintain and enhance it. A big part of that (like any relationship) is built on trust. You don’t have to be perfect and you can make mistakes… as long as you keep your commitments. If you said you will do something for someone or a business, you must do that and eventually arrive at an end goal. That comes in the form of regular check ins, status updates, honest assessments of the status of the relationship/project/business. I’ve heard lots of stories about successful sales people being more than just a partner … they become trusted confidants. People who are called in the middle of the night for emergencies, who are invited to celebrate milestones, to vent, etc. That doesn’t happen by accident. It’s earned and treated with the highest regard… and if’s it not present, the relationship will likely not last.

I’m partly stealing this from the current CEO of the company I work for, but I’m amazed at the level of people who just don’t respond to partners and potential partners. In many cases, the company that wins the work is simply the one who responded and gave said company what they actually asked for. I know it sounds so obvious, but take a deeper look at how much this truly happens at your company.

4 – Don’t agonize over the rejection … and leave those people/companies alone.
Easier said than done. In all aspects of my life, I’ve dealt with rejection… and I truly hate it. I’ve been ignored, yelled at, whispered about and flat out told I’ve made people uncomfortable. I’ve talked about in the past that to put so much thought and effort into something and then not have it pan out, well, hurts.

I’m not telling you this in order to throw a pity party, but rather to overcome it. The only reason I’ve been successful in certain endeavors is because I’ve failed at them at one time… and it’s great fuel. If you spend your time agonizing over what didn’t happen, you’ll miss new opportunities to hone the first 3 skills in this blog. Sticking with the Politics theme, President Bill Clinton once spoke about how people have as many chances as they are willing to take. It’s not a one and done thing.

It’s also important to know when someone just flat out isn’t interested. It can be hard to know the mix between being persistent and just annoying. My general rule of thumb is to cease communication after reaching out 3 times with no response. We’ve all been on both sides of this… and it doesn’t make either party bad or evil … so stop wasting your time and energy.


So there you have it. As Digital Technology continues to change the way we interact, I think it’s important to remember that it shouldn’t replace humans…it should enhance our ability to connect with others. Try some of the above. I think you’ll find it rewarding.

Until next time.

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…Cheerio, Mate. 10 things I realized over the past 10 days in London

I had the good fortune to be sent to London for 10 days by my place of employment… and I must say. I had a wonderful time.

Between all the travel and mix of client pitches and onsite work, I had some time to ponder & appreciate what I was experiencing. I may or may not be exaggerating pieces of it..you’ll have to decide for yourself 😉

The soundtrack this time around? “Everything Now,” by Arcade Fire…



1 – Yep. The actual travel part still sucks.

I left on a Wednesday morning. It took 1.5 hours to get to Chicago O’Hare. I wanted to ensure I had ample time to get through security, so I got there three hours early. After making it through, I had 2.5 hours before my flight to walk around the terminal. By the time my plane took off, it was approximately 4:00 pm with a 7 hour journey ahead of me towards Dublin. Did I sleep? Of course not. Landed in Dublin at 5 am local time. A 2 hour layover before hopping another plane to London Heathrow, this time 1 hour.

Finally arrived in London a little past 8 am local time, but I wasn’t done yet. I hopped a train (It was only 15 minutes) to the nearest underground, and then took that for 30 minutes into the city of London and headed to the office. By now it was almost 10:30 am and I felt like a zombie. Good thing I had a full day ahead of me. Speaking of which…

2 – The Human Body really is amazing.
I made sure to eat regular meals and drink lots of fluids during what I described above, but one thing just wasn’t available. Sleep for 24 hours. I was warned by my colleagues (and mentally prepared myself as best I could) that the first day would be rough and just something I’d have to get through. I suppose on one hand, it’s scary how fragile we actually are. One night without sleep and I felt sluggish, foggy and may have been battling some slight vertigo. Nevertheless I made it through the day, which I found funny and fascinating. When I was around my colleagues, I wondered if they could tell how tired I was. Then I’d get pulled into a quick demo or client pitch and I’d get a burst of energy. I did this pretty much all day.

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One of the offices I worked in..

Before I left my workplace that evening, I said goodbye to my London colleagues and headed down the elevator to head to the hotel. I didn’t realize it until I walked out of the building that I left my backpack and the rest of my luggage in their office. Yeah, it was time to shut the engines down… I think the total log time was 35 hours. My head hit the pillow around 8 pm and I think it only took about 35 seconds before I was out cold…

3 – London isn’t really known for it’s food
I chatted off and on with friends and family when I was over…and they all wanted to know what kinds of foods I was eating. I never had a good answer, but when I asked one of my work colleagues, they replied that the city wasn’t known specifically for any one food, it was more of an international city. On one hand, I could have anything I wanted. On the other hand, there wasn’t anything special that I could ONLY get in London. I did enjoy the English breakfasts every morning, though (poached eggs, white toast, blood sausage, bacon and baked beans).

4 – Rain isn’t really a big deal
It rained almost every day I was there. On a few of those days, I was accompanied by colleagues … and at first I was like, “We’re walking over there in this weather?” I would get the same emotionless look and a reply of, “Yeah, Mate. It rains a lot. What can you do?” and then they’d be off.. They were right. I got used to being a little wet right before meetings.

5 – Apparently I’m from the moon…
I had an opportunity to spend three days onsite with a client and they were nice enough to bring in food for lunch each day. I picked at the sandwiches and fruit, but admittedly so, I was more focused on presenting and delivering value than I was with eating. At one point, one of the ladies asked me if I’d ever had pie before? Another one of the ladies shot back quickly, “Of course he has! He’s not from the moon!..” The look I gave very much affirmed that…or so we thought. I said, “Yes. Yes I’ve had pie before….” and put one on my plate. I wish I could have seen the look on my face when I bit into it and came up with a mouth full of meat. I was expecting dessert. We all got quite a laugh out of it.

Just afterwards, I was offered tea with milk (which isn’t that weird) but I was a little cautious about it. I had some, of course and everyday after one of the ladies would bring me a cup at approximately the same time… It was very enjoyable. Although…

6 – I take black coffee for granted
So the Brits love their tea…and we Americans love our coffee. I wish you luck over there… it was all expresso’s, flat whites, americano’s, cappuccinos, etc. I’m used to slowly sipping on my black coffee through the mid morning, not a shot of 150 mgs of caffeine all at once.

7 – Politics…was still just politics
Per usual, I’ll leave out my own personal beliefs, but I found it interesting how much the landscape was the same. Instead of reading a bunch of negative daily yahoo articles or newspapers about US leaders, I got used to reading a bunch of negative daily yahoo or newspaper articles about UK leaders. I found it slightly comforting and discouraging all at the same time… I guess you don’t get into politics if you want to be loved …

8 – Speaking English didn’t guarantee people understood me…nor I them.
So the Queen’s English is really a thing. I found it fascinating that multiple times a day, I would have to ask someone to repeat what they said to me. It wasn’t that I didn’t hear them, or understand the words…I just had no idea what they were asking. For any of my colleagues or clients that are reading this, you were all great, but I’d order food, or ask someone a question on the underground, or be in a cab, etc… and yeah. A few times we both just finally nodded our heads, smiled or gave a thumbs up and then stopped talking…

9 – The public transportation is amazing.
I’m sure New York City rivals it (and Chicago is pretty good, too) but I was heavily impressed by London’s public transportation. While I was a bit nervous taking the underground at first and figuring out the directions and changeovers, once I did I was unstoppable. I would take it multiple times a day to all different parts of the city without much concern of getting home. I felt pretty good about that.

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My final underground ride (this time anyway) to the airport..

10 – Apparently I look suspicious.
On my way home, I did more of the same travel routine. Hotel > Underground > Train > Train was out so I had to take a cab to Heathrow > Dublin > Chicago > Milwaukee. Needless to say, it was just something I was trying to get through. I knew it wasn’t going to be enjoyable. To add to that, though, right before I got on my flight to Chicago, I was asked by the gate to get out of line, where I was escorted back to security (where I’d just came from) for a full pat down and inspection of my luggage. I likely didn’t help matters because I was less than enthused and had been up since 4:30 am. I cooperated but continued to have a scowl on my face while they looked through my dirty laundry and patted me down. They brought me back to the plane and told me to have a nice flight. I forced a smile their way and walked to my seat… I couldn’t wait to get home. Either that or I was just randomly selected 😉


So there you have it. I’ve written in the past about the Euphoria associated with doing things that make you uncomfortable (and succeeding anyway) or just shaking up your normal routine. Walking back into my home in Milwaukee yesterday, that feeling was all mine.

Until next time…