Going the Distance


You decide how much you want to improve by choosing how many roadblocks to remove so economy improves past a certain threshold – one where you’re suddenly performing your best at any age.  – Philip Maffetone; The Endurance Handbook

While training for a triathlon I came across the above quote.  Philip Maffetone is a world-renowned medical Dr. and trainer of high-performing endurance athletes.  His patients include Olympic and World champions across several endurance sports including, marathon, ultra-marathon, Ironman and the Eco-Challenge adventure races. 

Much of what Dr. Maffetone teaches centers around the importance of nutrition, rest and long-slow endurance training that builds up muscular resilience and trains your body to use its natural fat content for fuel over long distances.  When he talks about removing roadblocks he is mostly talking about changes to behaviour and mindset that allow his patients to think differently about themselves and the training process in order to go to the next level. 

Life, especially the life of an entrepreneur, is an endurance sport. 

The more I get involved in the triathlon world the more I recognize the similarities between disciplines involved in endurance training and those involved in business and entrepreneurship.  Here are just a few that I have observed so far.

  1. Nutrition

Eating right reaps benefits across a broad range of activities.  Carbs and simple sugars are responsible for most weight gain and general fatigue.  The easiest way to lose those love handles and increase your energy is to cut out the carbs.  Foods heavy in wheat and potatoes like bread, and chips are the most obvious culprits but don’t forget pastas and cereals too.  Just stopping the late-night bag of potato chips for me was worth at least five pounds.  I’ve since virtually eliminated breads and most potato products from my diet and I’ve never felt better, both physically and mentally.

       2. Sleep

A close second to eating right is getting enough sleep.  Your body needs time to recover and repair itself after a long day and hard training.  Nothing provides that time better than a good night’s sleep.  Your brain needs it too.  Falling into a rem state allows your brain to sort through all the sensory data it received throughout the day and never had time to process.  Chronic fatigue leads to mental stresses and physical aliments with some studies even linking a lack of sleep to heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.  Consistently getting eight hours of sleep during the week might not be practical in our hyper connected and high-octane world but a modest goal should be at least 6.5 – 7 hours from Sunday to Thursday with time to catch a few extra hours on Friday and Saturday nights.  I even like to go for a catnap of 20 minutes or so on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons, for me there is nothing better than the feeling I get from catching a few extra zees when I come home from church on a Sunday afternoon. 

        3. Take it slow

Endurance training isn’t about knocking out your personal best every day.  Incremental improvements come by consistently working toward a better time, but you are also training your body physically and mentally to handle the demands of the event.  That means slowing down enough to listen to your body and allow your brain to communicate with your muscles.  Once they know how to talk to each other, then you can push for a better time but that only comes after you’ve developed a solid understanding of what your body needs. 

The same is true in business.    You’re not going to sign the big deal every day.  Especially in a planning-based business like mine, you need to be comfortable and confident enough in your process to take it slow and let the client’s needs and understanding evolve over time.  Slow and incremental development leads to a plan that the client both understands and takes strong ownership in.  Without that ownership your client could move with the whims of the market.  The more your client takes ownership in the process, the less likely they are to leave you when times get tough.

        4. Go Far

Endurance racing is all about the distance covered.  Tell just about anyone that you ran a marathon and they won’t care about your time so much as they will be impressed that you finished at all.  People who have never stuck with something that is hard long enough to see it through will usually look at you with a combination envy and adoration. 

In business, going the distance means setting a lofty goal and then working tirelessly to achieve it, sometimes for years.  When talk about the fact I was involved in 3 Juno award winning projects (Canada’s Grammys) during my days in the music business people are impressed.  But nobody cares about the 12 years of late nights in the studio, smoke fills bars, hundreds of thousands of miles on the road, long days working the phones and endless rejection that preceded that first win.  Or the second win.  Or the third win.  They only care that I was part of something amazing. 

If it takes you 5, 10 or even 20 years to achieve your goal, so be it.  Hard things take time, but they’re worth it.

        5. Repeat

In just about any endeavor, once you know what to do to achieve success, all you need to do is break it down into a repeatable process and just keep doing the same things over again.  The first Juno took 12 years, we won the second one four years later, and the third just two years after that.  It didn’t get any easier, we had just learned the process of recording, manufacturing, promotion and sales that would lead to success and were able to repeat the steps without wasting time on things that didn’t work. The same is true of everything worth doing, learn the process, cut out the redundancies, and repeat what works.

I am sure there are more parallels that I could draw between endurance training and business.  Life is journey, not a destination.  The journey is long.  Eat right, get enough rest, take your time, go the distance and repeat the process and you will find success.  That’s a promise.

 

Branding 101


5 Steps to Cultivating and Promoting Your Personal Brand

“We are all CEOs of our own companies:  Me Inc.  To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.” – Tom Peters

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about personal branding.  In today’s business world, with so much happening on-line, effective communication of our brand is the only thing we take with us into every meeting and send out into the world ahead of us through our advertising and on-line presence.

When I transitioned from the music business into the world of personal finance I started to hear a lot about personal branding.  Having cut my teeth in the early 90s and developed a brand and processes in the old world of rolodexes and face to face networking, I didn’t quite get it at first.  I thought branding was just another word for marketing, I thought it was all logo design and catchy slogans.  That is until I heard Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos give his definition of branding:

“Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

It’s the impression you leave on people.  The first thing they think about when they hear your name.  It’s the trail of bread crumbs you leave behind in every interaction that either resonates with people, or it doesn’t.  Most importantly, it’s the reputation that both follows and proceeds you everywhere you go.

In today’s business world, so profoundly driven by social media, your brand is your life.  Cultivate a good one and your success is all but assured before you even enter the room.  Neglect your brand or let it get tarnished and you’ll be fighting an up-hill battle against unseen forces and opinions that you can’t control.

So here are the five steps I’ve discovered to cultivating and promoting your personal brand.

Step One –  Pick a compelling word or short phrase that you want people to remember about you after you leave the room.

Like Jeff Bezos says, what people say about you when you aren’t there is your brand. While you can’t control what people think you can plant seeds through your words and actions that will help people come to the desired conclusions about you that will form your brand.

For me, that phrase is Next Level Customer Service.  Everything I do and say is carefully considered in terms of how it will reflect my commitment to serve my customers.  I know that there are people in my business who are smarter than me, have better pricing that I do and have better systems that are easier to use than mine.  My goal therefore, in every interaction is to convince you that no one will service your needs better than I will.

Step Two – Develop a brand statement.

When I first started in business everyone talked about the need to have a “30 second commercial” or “Elevator Pitch”.  This is a description of who you are and how you service customers that can be delivered in 30 seconds or less, or in the time it takes to ride up a couple of floors in an elevator.  In the old world of face to face networking that’s what worked.  But in today’s world, you don’t have 30 seconds.

Now-a-days your brand statement needs to be tweetable, even hashtagable.  Something that you can drop into a conversation, a text message or facebook comment in 140 characters or less.  And it needs to be fluid, so that you can adapt it to each unique situation.

My current brand statement goes something like this: I am committed to providing “Next Level” Customer Service to help my clients achieve their financial goals and dreams.  If I have room I might add a hashtag or two, #nextlevel, #customerservice, #levelup.

The brand statement needs to say three things; who you are, what you do, and who you serve.  Who am I?  I am committed, and a person who is defined by this commitment.  What do I do?  I provide extreme customer service beyond anything you’ve ever experienced from a financial advisor before.  Who do I serve?  I serve my clients who are probably just like you, trying to achieve some financial goal.

Step Three – Super charge your brand with a great story (or several).

Think of a few stories that tell who you are, where you came from and how you came to be this way.

Depending on the context I tell stories that describe how much I hate bad service, like the time I walked out of a jewellery store after being ignored by two clerks that seemed more interested in catching up on each other’s weekend plans than helping me buy a watch battery.  Or I’ll tell stories about how hard I work to serve my clients, like the time I drove clear across town, in rush hour, to meet an injured client who couldn’t make it to our meeting.

To really drive the point home though I will then ask people to tell me stories of their customer service frustrations and relate stories back to them of how I have handled similar situations differently.  By doing this I make it real and help them see what Next Level Customer Service could look like for them.

Step Four –  Distribute your brand.

Repeat your statement and tell your stories every chance you get.  Make it part of your LinkedIn headline, your Twitter, Facebook and Instagram bios.  Comment on other people’s social media feeds in the context of your brand.  Blog about it like I’m doing now.

Be constantly talking about the things that matter to your brand to the people who need hear it (your target audience).  As my friend Tim Day once said, you need to become a one note song.  If you aren’t talking about your brand people will talk about something else and that something else will become your brand.

Step Five – Reinforce your brand.

You’ve got to live it.  Imagine yourself as a walking billboard for your brand.  Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, you are your brand.  If you let people form a different opinion about you that will become your brand in their minds so even when you aren’t “working” you are still branding.

I think constantly about how Next Level Customer Service projects itself in every situation.  How I dress, how I walk into a room, how I speak to people, even how I walk through the grocery store on a Saturday morning.  Next Level Customer Service dresses neatly, but not flashy, holds the door open for others, speaks with respect and helps little old ladies get things off the top shelf, because that’s my brand – twenty-four hours a day.

 

So, there you have it, five steps to cultivating and promoting your personal brand.  Robert Kiyosaki, the author and founder of The Rich Dad Company, says it this way:

If you’re not a brand, you’re a commodity.

Nobody wants to be a commodity.  Commodities are bottom feeders that can only compete on price.  Being a commodity is a race to the bottom.  Next Level Customer Service is not the cheapest option, but if you care about customer service, it’s the only option.

Do you have a personal brand?  (Trick question, you already know that you do.)  The real question is, did you cultivate it, or did you just let it happen?  Tell me about it in the comments below and if you feel comfortable doing so, send me your personal branding statement, I’d love to read it.

Quick Tip #23 – The Value of Planning Ahead


When you own your own business, you want to cover the risks that come with it and build employee loyalty. A financial security advisor can advise you on the right business and tax-efficient strategies, including the right benefits plan, future capital gains considerations and coverage for key individuals.

Book Yourself Solid – Book Review


book yourself solid

According to the reviews on Goodreads.com people either love Michael Port’s client building system or they hate it. It isn’t very often that you see words like “genius” and “charlatan” in the same comment stream.

A lot of what Mr. Port writes may seem obvious. His style is delivered with a level of confidence and self promotion that many people see as arrogant and self-serving. But it is presented in a clear, systematic way that makes the advice relevant and actionable in a way that is all too rare in business books today. As a result I give the book four stars. He’s not a genius, he was just able to distill multitudes of business advice into and easily understood format and he’s certainly not a charlatan, people who think that are likely just unable to accept the fact that this stuff isn’t easy, you will still have to work at it.

For me two pieces of advice stand out.

1 – Position yourself as a lifelong advisor.

When you think in terms of solutions and problems solved, clients will beg to work with you. You are a consultant, a lifelong advisor. When you have fundamental solutions and a desire to help others, it becomes your moral imperative to show and tell as many people as possible. You are changing lives! – Michael Port; Book Yourself Solid, The Fastest, Easiest, and Most Reliable System for Getting More Clients Than You Can Handle Even if You Hate Marketing and Selling

A colleague of mine once said that the financial services industry is a generational business. If you stay close and relevant to your clients they will come back to you time and time again as their needs evolve. The type of business you do for them changes about every ten to twenty years. The key is to say in their lives long enough and consistently enough to get a chance to do it all.

2 – Always be ready to tell people what you do.

If you don’t make an offer to your potential clients, how will they know you can help them? If you aren’t doing everything you can to serve the people who need your help, it’s just short of criminal. Seriously, I believe you have an obligation to offer your services to those who need them and to those whom you know you can help in a meaningful and connected way. – Michael Port; Book Yourself Solid, The Fastest, Easiest, and Most Reliable System for Getting More Clients Than You Can Handle Even if You Hate Marketing and Selling

It’s become a cliché but Wayne Gretzky once said that you miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take. And that is so true. Self promotion or not, if you don’t tell people about your offering who will? Maybe calling it criminal is a bit of hyperbole but it makes an unmistakable point. You are your own biggest fan and number one sales person, tell the world!

Read this book if you are looking for actionable advice on getting over your fear of self-promotion. Don’t read this book if you think self-promotion is somehow dishonest or you don’t want to be in sales.

It’s that simple.

For more information on The Meekonomics Project and how to live debt free, build wealth and leave a legacy, in other words how to inherit the earth write to: themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com

“It’s Only Business”


Don’t be afraid, it’s only business
The alien prophet sighed [Roger Waters]

whatgodwants

I bought my first CD player in the fall of 1993. The first CD I bought was Roger Waters, Amused to Death. It’s still without a doubt my number one favourite album of all time.

I’m an audiophile, not only was the production quality of Amused to Death light-years ahead of anything I had ever heard before or since, but this is Waters, former front man of Pink Floyd at his poetic, prophetic best.   In the era of 24 hour cable news, political scandal, economic turmoil, war and terrorism the socio-political commentary made has stood up remarkably well for over 20 years. I don’t want this blog entry to be a review of my favourite album however. Go get a copy of if you’re interested, you won’t regret it, but I want to talk about the sentiment that Waters brings out in a track called “What God Wants, Part III”.

It’s not personal it’s only business, is a cliché spoken by just about everyone in business at least once in their career. But they usually say that after they have hurt someone or been hurt personally by a business decision they or someone else made. Mario Puzo wrote The Godfather at one point the hero of the story, Don Corleone says; “It’s all personal, every bit of business. Every piece of shit every man has to eat every day of his life is personal. They call it business. OK. But it’s personal as hell.” When I first started in business I heard an A&R (Artists and Repertoire) executive at a major record company say that the music business was a simple business about selling plastics discs containing audio recordings that are pleasing to the ear, but it gets complicated because there are people behind it all, people with dreams, obligations and egos. International sales trainer Brian Tracy says that “All Business is People Business.”

I hurt someone yesterday. I hurt them because, as much as the decision I made was a business decision, it was a decision the effected them personally. The decision was made to protect one person from paying too much for something they could get for less money elsewhere but it affected the bottom line of the other person trying to sell the higher priced product.

“It’s only business”, I sighed. But I know it’s a lot more than that, maybe it means the difference between hiring someone or not. At the end of the day it’s always personal to someone. I only hope the pain is temporary.

Have you ever made a business decision that hurt someone personally?

Book Review – EntreLeadership, Dave Ramsey


11306337

Dave Ramsey is one of those guys you either love or you hate.

I can see why. He has an ego the size of Texas, which is all the more impressive when you consider he’s from Tennessee. But if you can get past that and ignore the politics (he’s about as right-wing as Wayne Gretzky) Ramsey has some really important things to say about building the culture of your business.

The story of how he chartered a jet to bring a team member home after his wife was killed in a car accident speaks volumes about the character of the man and the integrity with which he runs his business. Yes, Ramsey us abrasive and a bit arrogant but I’d rather take advise from someone who’s done it (and failed too) than a freshly minted MBA born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

EntreLeadership is generally an okay read but there is no real ground breaking information here. He borrows a lot from other authors like Tom Peters and Seth Godin and even a little Steven Covey for good measure. But if you haven’t read those guys already or you’re just looking for some practical know how and can stomach a bit of “raw, raw, look at how awesome I am” this book fits the bill and is well worth the read.