Not All Business is Good Business

I don’t remember where or when I first heard it, but that phrase has stuck with me like white on rice: Not all business is good business.

Some projects that seem to promise high revenue may (in reality) equal low profit – or a loss. Some work is, if you step back and be objective (closing your ears to the siren song of the dollars), outside your sweet spot, or beyond your current capacity. And some clients aren’t worth the trouble – they create for more chaos than benefit. Been there?

Your company and that piece of business – it’s not always a match. Do you have the courage to say “not all business is good business” – and act on it?

During a recent Brand Therapy session, this truth came home in a big way. While one of the main outputs of Brand Therapy with Steve session is clarity on your Offering, your Message, your go-to-market Analogy, and your company Story, what we’re doing in the process is identifying your professional DNA. Inevitably, what that means is that, in the privacy of the therapy session, we open up the questions that usually cannot be asked publicly – questions about future direction, client successes and failures, aspirations, culture, staff makeup, revenue flow – those things that sometimes require an outside voice and perspective.

In this session, it quickly became clear that there was a certain type of target company – those of a particular size and corporate culture – that were a great fit for this provider’s services (and business approach). But there was this constant pressure to chase all kinds of potential clients, even when there was a grating sense that this business might not be worth the invested effort. You know that pressure, right?

It takes courage to say, “This is who we are, and therefore THAT kind of client/business is a mis-match. Instead, we’re going to pursue THIS.”

Let’s face it – every consultant and company feels the pressure of generating revenue and cash flow, and we are often tempted to take on work that we know, in our gut, isn’t really the best. Over time, our identity and message can become muddled and obscured – instead of bending our efforts to pursue GOOD business with a very clear and compelling identity and message, we become…serial offenders of our own professional DNA.

Not all business is good business. So – who ARE you, and what is good business for you? Let me know if you need a day of Brand Therapy with an expert who knows the right questions to ask!

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Social Business is Not Enough

>> Go With What You’ve Got

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

My Business Vision

My LeadershipChat co-host, Lisa Petrilli, has written a stirring and helpful blog post about gaining a vision for our personal and business lives (Three Steps to Create a Vision for 2012). And, this is our theme for the final #LeadershipChat of 2011 – Vision. Not goals, not resolution – but the inspiring picture of “what could be” that fuels purpose and feeds action.

I liked what Lisa wrote so much about the three steps that I decided, for my pre-chat blog post, to simply apply her principles and see if I could articulate my vision. Here goes:

I strive toward a future where talent and creativity are unleashed to produce remarkable lives and results. I see a workforce driven, not by time clocks and paychecks, but by the internal fires of desire and unique ability channeled into creating value for others.

I see a day dawning where trust networks of real people outstrip the legacy efficiencies of hierarchical corporations; where handshakes and proven character hold more sway than lawyers and regulations.

I long for the day when people choose their career direction because of inherent fit, and where the pathway to success is paved with character, responsibility, diligence, and readiness to provide value.

I look for a time when long-term commitment triumphs over the compromises of short-term thinking.

I am committed to kindling these fires by building networks and business models that are disruptive to the status quo of short-sighted inefficiency, liberating people of talent and ethical character to do their best work and live remarkable lives.

There’s the vision. It has taken shape over decades and is pretty well set in my mind and heart. When you’re in touch with your core beliefs and values (see this excellent post by John Jantsch), your vision begins to take shape.

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How does that look when you step forward to a mission statement? Something like this, I guess:

My mission is to be a Connection Agent.

I am connecting people and businesses with their true identity and message; with creative opportunities to grow and succeed; and with other people and resources to bring about increasing success.

I want to leave behind a network of people who are richer because of these connections, and who will follow that example by enriching others.

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And how does all that flow out into activity?

The manifestation, so far, is the creation of business referral networks; a self/brand awareness consulting practice (Clarity Therapy); and ongoing tribe-building (LeadershipChat is, in a very important respect, tribe-building). The first two are current sources of revenue; the latter is my long-term commitment to bring together people who want to revolutionize business and life through purposeful use of social networks.

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OK, so how about you? Can you take some time this week to go through a similar exercise? Perhaps invest an hour tonight (8 pm ET) on Twitter for #LeadershipChat in order to discuss Vision with some smart, like-minded folks as you look to a new year? Hope to see you there, and to see your vision spelled out in the coming days!

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Hire Steve Woodruff if your identity and message need clarity (Clarity Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Social Business is Not Enough

>> Go With What You’ve Got

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

Social Business is Not Enough

Many of us who use social networking platforms in the professional world know that it can be difficult to get “old school” leaders to understand the power of these approaches for business.

Say “social media,” and they think of Facebook and Twitter and YouTube (and all the baggage that goes with them). Let’s face it – those platforms weren’t designed for, nor did they take flight because of, business. Their roots are in personal publishing and sharing.

The new buzzword making the rounds is “social business,” and while this is an improvement, it still gives a very incomplete picture of the new world of connectivity we’re now part of.

Let’s take a step back and look at the entire mural. At the risk of over-simplification (bear with me, stories are best told in simple terms), we have seen develop, over the years, several “internets.”

The internet of media is what we think of when we look at the early (and current) web of URLs containing informational media.

The internet of commerce (business) is when the web matured to allow us to, more directly, buy and sell and conduct business transactions digitally.

The internet of people can be thought of us as the era of social media – making people connections more readily.

The internet of things, about to explode into far greater significance, is the soon-to-be-endless streams of data coming from objects (sensors, readers, etc.) that will be accessible over the web.

That’s how it looks conceptually. But in our digitally connected world, this is how it is increasingly looking:

Stay with me here, because you’re already guessed where we’re actually heading, haven’t you?

What we’re looking at is an inexorable and rapidly-growing cultural and technological movement toward full digital connectivity at every level. It’s not just social stuff, it’s not just media, it’s not just mobile, and it’s not just business. All of those things are subsets of something far greater, something every CEO needs to recognize. This is the era of real-time connectivity.

Sure, we want to help other professionals understand the revolution being brought on by digital networks. But by “selling” the big picture, we create buy-in for the pieces of it – the strategies and tactics of social media/networking/business as we now practice it (click to biggify ——> )

To further explain, let’s use a very relevant example, something that we all use: the architecture of the Internet. The internet was built as an expandable series of servers (nodes), each with an address (IP address numerically – we usually use the URL or web address). In this architecture, everything is connected in real-time – it doesn’t matter if one of the nodes is in Romania, and I’m accessing it from New Zealand. All (public) nodes are accessible:

Got it? Now, just expand the idea outward to include – well just about everything! Simply think of the nodes as consisting of people (and groups/communities) and servers and devices and supply chains and products – all connected in real-time. You remember years ago when you saw the first evidence of this – when UPS first rolled out those digital pads that tracked the delivery of packages to your door? That was just the start. Just today, when a Proflowers order I made was delivered to my mother’s door, I got an e-mail almost instantly telling me that the transaction has come full circle. And, if she wished, she could have shown them to me 1 minute later on Skype video.

Yes, we are rapidly moving toward a time when everything and everyone will be an IP address.

Real-time connectivity. Inside the office, behind the warehouse doors, back-and-forth with customers – it’s all becoming one universal digital web.

So – while there’s a place for talking about specific apps and platforms, we really need to escalate the conversation to the high-level drivers that are shaping all of global society – impacting everything from supply chains to PR to marketing to internal comms to location to data streams and much more. All of it is being incorporated into real-time connectivity, through a variety of always-on/always-present devices.

We need to step back and educate business people about the unstoppable trend currents that are re-shaping all that we do. It’s not merely about putting up a Facebook page, or even putting social approaches into every level of business. It’s about something much bigger. Something VPs and Presidents and CEOs cannot consider optional.

It’s not about “social” something. It’s about the reality of a real-time, universally-networked world.

I will be so bold as to predict that whole new business models are going to emerge, based on the principle of ubiquitous, every-level connectivity. Where these things all merge together, there will be an endless array of services needed to make sense of information and connections (and take advantage of opportunities).

What would it be like if new and existing businesses started with this perspective at the center – we MUST build (and re-build) everything we do around the real-time digital connectivity that will soon surround us at every level?

Guess what? Those will be the business that survive for the long haul. Because that’s the world we’ll be inhabiting. “Social business” is not enough. This revolution is far grander in scope, and we have the privilege of painting the entire picture. Let me know what you think we should call it…!

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Go With What You’ve Got

>> Finding Your DNA

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

Going Viral in Perspective (A 2011 Reflection)

This year, I had a blog post (quite unexpectedly) go viral. For a couple of days, it was a crazy ride, as people around the world reacted to LinkedIn’s quietly implemented policy of attaching names and pictures to third party advertising on the platform. The original post was no work of art – it was quickly written without any intention of being a big deal – but because of the sensitivity of the privacy issues involved, it became a big deal nonetheless.

And, in fact, two days later, LinkedIn announced a change in policy, due to the volume of the outcry. That was also unexpected – and quite gratifying, to be perfectly honest.

But what can we learn from a viral incident like this? Here are a few perspectives:

1. Viral happens. Slamming out this blog post early one morning was not some carefully-crafted effort at setting off a firestorm. It just happened to touch a nerve. This was personal – it was about US and OUR privacy. And the whole incident had storyline-drama built in – perceived betrayal, David vs. Goliath, LinkedIn stepping in the same pile Facebook did, etc. Even if the blog post itself was fast-food, the table was set.

2. Viral happens more readily in a pre-existing network. Five years of building a high-quality network meant that I had an engaged audience who spread this thing at light speed. And the global aspect of the reach was breathtaking.

3. Viral posts take on their own momentum. You can do some things to fan the flames (and, yes, I did) when you recognize that you have a tiger by the tail, but most of the spread of the LinkedIn fiasco happened organically.

4. Viral doesn’t necessarily mean business. What impact did all this kerfuffle have on my core revenue-generating business? Probably about zero. For some folks whose business model depends on eyeballs and clicks, the story may be different – but 15 minutes of fame on the Internet may have little to do with the success that pays the bills.

And that’s the main perspective I want to reinforce. The blogger’s dream is to put out posts that garner tons of views and comments. But one happy customer is worth far more than hundreds of comments and thousands of RTs. A close-knit, supportive inner circle of like-minded souls will be far more important in the long run than the passing applause of the crowd.

Be the best person you can be. Do the best work you can. Viral happens. And even if it doesn’t – just keeping adding value to your existing network. We can all do that.

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Go With What You’ve Got

>> Finding Your DNA

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

Go With What You’ve Got (A 2011 Reflection)

I freely admit that, in some areas, I am denser than an iceberg made of iron. In a few key respects, my mind runs with Olympic sprinter speed and dexterity – but in other ways, I learn at a glacial pace, only after so many crashes against the wall that I look like Rocky’s sparring partner on a very bad day.

But this year, I may have finally begun to turn the corner on one thing that I’ve believed (in my head) for many years, but failed to fully embrace (in heart and practice). When building business, Go With What You’ve Got.

You see, I often tell others that you really want build a small, high-quality, close-knit network – a tribe  in Godin-speak – instead of expending all your energy in amassing numbers. I don’t know how many blog posts I’ve written along these lines, and in many respects, I’ve practiced it – but, when it came to my primary revenue-generating pharma network (Impactiviti), I harbored a secret addiction to going wide instead of deep. There’s nothing inherently wrong with widespread recognition and messaging – but then I kept looking at where the revenue was truly coming from. And lo and behold (no surprise to any of you quicker learners out there), revenue was coming from a handful of long-standing customers/advocates. All the mass reach in the world, while good for the long-term, wasn’t really the driver. It was taking care of the people who already believed in me, and who talked me up to others. I finally started pro-actively investing much more time digging deeper than going wider.

Duh.

This simple insight, finally burrowing its way from mind to heart, re-shaped some of my social networking practice as well in 2011. I’ve always invested in the idea of cultivating a close “inner circle” of quality people, but it was difficult to set aside the broad reach model in practice. Somehow, the only thing that gets the applause lines is big numbers. Yet, I already had a wonderful circle of friends with whom I could cultivate deeper bonds. Did I really need to pour a bunch of energy into Google+, or worry about an influencer score, or be concerned about blog readership statistics? Not that any of those things are bad in themselves (well, maybe Klout…right, Sam Fiorella?), but I don’t really “need” mass numbers. I can barely cultivate deepening relationships with the wonderful people I already know.

Huh.

Finally, this “go with what you’ve got” lesson came home to me in a very unexpected new business direction. As many of you know, I have been building, behind the scenes, toward a grand vision I’ve had for years of a trusted referral network for building new business (Connection Agency). Yet, the very week I made this initiative public, an entirely different avenue of new business potential dropped into my lap – something that I already had been doing but didn’t really understand could be a business in itself. Doing Brand Therapy with individuals and companies has turned out to be the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done – yet it came to the fore only because I had some unanticipated extra time in Chicago pre-SOBCon and decided to do some free “therapy” sessions with people. Now, this practice has become a growing revenue stream in its own right, while Connection Agency has been on the slower development track.

Turns out the keys to success in 2011 were under my nose the whole time. As Thomas Carlyle put it so many years ago, “Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.”

Great advice for both business and leadership as we look ahead to 2012. What are the opportunities already at hand? What are you already bringing to the table? Who are the customers that make your business fly?

In fact, on Tuesday (Dec. 19th) at 8 pm ET on Twitter during LeadershipChat, we’ll be discussing our most important Leadership Lessons from 2011. Here’s one from my lovely co-host, Lisa Petrilli (My Most Life Opening Leadership Lesson of 2011). What’s yours? Feel free to write a blog post about it before, or after, the chat, and share your wisdom with other members of the community!

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Twitter Chats and Cocktail Parties

>> Finding Your DNA

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

Business As Usual. The End?

Tonight, on LeadershipChat, we welcome Brian Solis, author of multiple books (including his latest, The End of Business as Usual). We’ll be covering some themes from that book, including the idea of an adaptive organization.

While you’re gearing your mind up for the chat, be sure to read my talented and lovely co-host Lisa Petrilli‘s blog post (The End of Business Leadership as Usual).

Brian is clearly a smart guy, and a very effective presence in social networks. And if you want to gain a clear statement of how businesses must go beyond business as usual, here’s a juicy passage (p. 13):

In other words – connected consumers are now driving the revolution. Adapt or die.

But Mr. Solis also tends to make my head swirl, as I’ve read his writings over the years. Why? Well, I’m kind of a practical, plain-spoken guy. Brian’s thought process tends to be at another plane – shall we call it the Solisphere? – and his loquacious use of industry jargon is unparalleled. What do I mean? Well, here’s an extract from the book (p. 34):

Whew! With language like that, my guess is that this book will likely find its biggest appeal among the digerati – although the concepts are important for everyone in business.

As a fun experiment, I decided I would go through each chapter, and seek to extract one (or two) pinnacle statements that summarize the thought of that section – then string them together into a brief narrative and see if it presents an accurate overview of the main themes of the book (in Brian’s own words). Here goes:

- This book will introduce you to the connected consumer, and how they search for, discover, and share information, and ultimately, make decisions. In many significant ways, they’re not at all the consumer you know (Introduction)

- How people are connecting is setting the foundation for a powerful distribution network that rivals the greatest of news and broadcast networks (chapter 1)

- The democratization of information is connecting everyone, not just Millennials, distributing influence and making the role of the consumer and its impact on business more important than ever before (chapter 2)

- The medium is no longer just the message. Now, the medium is the platform and people now represent both the medium and the message (chapter 3)

- Researchers believe that the lure of social networks and the gadgets that link us to one another are rewiring our brains to constantly switch tasks. In the process, we lose our ability to preserve attention and focus (chapter 4)

- Businesses and media networks looking to attract connected consumers must earn every click by providing contextually relevant information and deliberate value. This changes the game for content production and engagement strategies (chapter 5)

- Many early adopters are betting on the importance of the connected consumer, investing in the cultivation of communities in areas where they don’t necessarily control, but as participants earn the privilege to steer experiences and interaction (chapter 6)

- At the center of the transformation of the audience is the ability for individuals to capture a moment through text, video, audio, or still images and share them in real time to the hundreds or thousands of individuals in their social and interest graphs…this is the dawn of an audience with an audience with audiences (my favorite expression in the book – SW)  (chapter 7)

- On the train to enlightenment, an important stop is at the convergence of media and human networks…TV is a shared experience and the Web is often a personal activity that connects people through shared experiences (chapter 8 )

- By understanding the dynamics of social capital and its relationship to influence, organizations learn how to identify connected individuals who reach ideal communities and offer the ability to amplify reach, build relationships, and drive beneficial outcomes (chapter 9)

- Reviews and experiences from trusted peers, experts, and influencers form the foundation of the network. The information that flows into the stream from multiple networks sparks conversation and triggers clicks, while shaping perception and steering decisions in the process. Social customers are highly connected and trust networks are affecting outcomes with or without the businesses the affect (chapter 10)

- Connected consumers purchase in public, and as such, they influence the decisions of others through the public stream (chapter 11)

- Retailers are bringing experiences to the connected consumer from virtual dressing rooms to cash registers, letting them shop, share, and pay on their own terms (chapter 12)

- In these interactive online colonies, brands are not only created, brand stature and strength are co-created. The new social landscape is rich with emotion (chapter 13)

- The decision-making cycle is evolving away from a linear process to an elliptical cycle that publicizes touchpoints for brand connection  (chapter 14)

- Connected customers are not cogs in the business machine, but they play an instrumental role in the progress of progress, the adaptation of business, and as such, become part of a new era of customer-centric business mechanics…the roles of the social consumer require different aspects of recognition and engagement and will eventually demand the complete socialization of your business (chapter 15)

- The adaptive business will weave customers into its culture, development, process, and story…businesses must design products and services that create meaningful and shareable experiences (chapter 16)

- Customer-centricity begins with a culture of change…introducing purpose into the business model and operating under a veil of transparency, customers and businesses collaborate in something bigger than they are  (chapter 17)

- Control was never there, however – at best, businesses possessed the semblance of control. In a connected global society, customers are in control of the brand experience and it didn’t take new media to bestow this power on them. That’s the gift of free thought. Opinions are universal, and now the ability to share them with the masses and affect the impressions and decisions of others is equally democratic (chapter 18)

- The future of business starts with change and ends with change management. Customers represent only one side of the equation, however, and for the adaptive business, engaged and empowered employees represent the balance (chapter 19)

- Becoming an adaptive business is not the final stage of evolution…the next level for companies is to become a predictive business. The essence of evolution and the ability to outpace digital Darwinism lie in the ability to embrace change and illustrate the attributes of those models that improve opportunities for relevance and leadership (chapter 20)

So – there’s a very condensed taste of how Brian sees the future.  Every book tells a story. This is the story of how digital connections are changing business as usual. And what it may take to lead business in the midst of a revolution.

How do you see it? Is this just so much social network Kool-Aid, or a glimpse into a future moving inexorably upon and within us? Join us for a lively discussion on Twitter during #LeadershipChat tonight, December 13, at 8 pm ET.

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Twitter Chats and Cocktail Parties

>> Finding Your DNA

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

Twitter Chats and Cocktail Parties

Probably my LEAST favorite social setting is a crowded, noisy, unstructured gathering. Such as a big cocktail party.

Speak before 1,000 people? No problem. Mill around in a crowd, flitting from person to person? I’ll do it if I must – like going to the dentist. My fondest hope in large gatherings is to find one or two like-minded souls, and a quiet corner in which to REALLY talk. The small-talk socializing to get to that point is pretty much a means to an end.

And that’s how I view Twitter chats, the on-line equivalent to cocktail parties.

In her recent e-book (The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership), my LeadershipChat co-host, Lisa Petrilli, describes how our friendship was deepened in just such a social setting. In fact, it was the meeting that week of two like-minded introverts that eventually led to the launch of LeadershipChat.

In the 14 months of co-leading LeadershipChats, I have come to realize that we, as participants, need to have a pretty modest expectation of the one-hour event itself. We’re dealing with the exchange of ideas in 140 characters (a real difficulty for semantics, qualifications, and complex ideas)! And, as in any cocktail party, there’s a lot of superficial chatter happening – even attempts to draw attention to oneself for the purpose of generating retweets. How human…

As for Lisa and me, our goals go way beyond the Tuesday 8-9 pm (ET) time slot. We want to create an environment where new connections are made, business (and personal) relationships are established, and ways of thinking (both old and new) are challenged and hashed out. A lot of that isn’t really going to happen, in-depth, during the hour. That’s where we’re mingling, kicking off dialogue, engaging in sidebars. The real valued outcome is the building of a community that rolls up its sleeves and collaborates during the other 167 hours of the week.

Or, as Kneale Mann often puts it toward the end of a chat, “now book a call with one or two people you’ve met here.” Right on.

Yes, I know that the sheer volume, and at times superficiality (@ZombieChatter BRILLIANT!! RT BillyBromide To lead, first you must live…) , of the tweetstream during a chat can be bothersome – just like it is in a cocktail party. But let’s keep our eye on the ball, and seek to encourage the development of a community of thinkers and doers.

To that end, I have one suggestion for LeadershipChat participants, that may further the dialogue and the learning. Just as Lisa and I write pre-chat posts giving our perspectives in the days before each chat, so I’d encourage any of you to write post-Tuesday-night posts on your blogs (or Facebook, or Google+…) that will expand on a point that is meaningful to you, or attack a deeper question, or express a disagreement with a guest host. Let’s move the dialogue to your sites, where there is more time to move into a quiet corner and really talk. Lisa and I love to comment on, and share, such LC-inspired posts.

Yes, I’m outside of my comfort zone every Tuesday from 8-9 pm. Even if it’s virtual, it’s a cocktail party. But when I consider the wonderful people I’ve had a chance to meet IRL this past year due to LeadershipChat, it’s worth the effort. Now, let’s all help the community reach its highest potential by going beyond the hour of chatter. Lead, by taking the discussion deeper!

P.S. please read Sam Fiorella’s comment below, and read the post he wrote on a very similar theme!

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Finding Your DNA

>> Life and Leadership as an Introvert

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

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