It’s Moving Day – Find Me Now at SteveWoodruff.com

This will be the final post here at Connection Agent (I think!). As I announced earlier this week, I’ve decided to launch an entirely new site: SteveWoodruff.com

The theme: Discover Your Fit. Because that’s what I do – help businesses and individuals discover their purpose, set new direction, refine their offerings, and craft a clear message.

To say I’m excited about the new direction my business has taken in the last few years is an understatement. It’s really not just a business to me – it’s a mission.

If  you’re a subscriber to Connection Agent, just click here to subscribe to the new feed. Bonus – you can also sign up at the same time for my astonishingly brief and occasionally brilliant e-newsletter, Clarity Blend.

Double Bonus - when you sign up, you’ll get a free download of my brand-spanking-new e-book, Make Yourself Clear: Six Steps to De-fogging Your Direction and Your Message.

Discover Your Fit: The new website for Connection Agent is SteveWoodruff.com

Discover Your Fit: The new website for Connection Agent is SteveWoodruff.com

This book not only contains a distillation of my thinking, developed over many years, but includes many of my go-to people such as Ann Handley, CC Chapman, John Jantsch, Carrie Wilkerson, Dave Kerpen, Tom Martin, Carol Roth, Greg Hartle, Lisa Petrilli, Anthony Iannarino, Phil Gerbyshak, Chris Brogan, Tom Clifford, Dan Rockwell, Jay Baer, Chris Westfall, Susan Cain, Charles H Green, Lou Imbriano, Seth Godin, Peter Shankman, Brian Moran, Michael Port, Alli Worthington, Les McKeown, Bob Burg, Ellen Cagnassola, Mack Collier, Drew McLellan, and Chris Guillebeau. Links to blog posts, Twitter profiles, books – it’s a resource bonanza!

I thank you for being part of my network of readers and collaborators, and look forward to many more years exploring and growing together.

Now…let’s go brew up some Clarity!

Be Clear with Clarity Therapy!

My Second-to-Last Post at Connection Agent Blog

Connection Agent is going away? Yes. And, no.

This week, I’ll be launching a new website at SteveWoodruff.com, which will be the new home for all my writings about marketing (my pharma biz, Impactiviti, retains its own separate identity and site).

So this blog, and the Clarity Therapy blog, will be superseded by a professionally designed and hosted site. The overarching theme will be the message that has been at the core of my work for many years: Discovering Your Fit.

(sneak peek – not quite live yet!)

For a long time here at Connection Agent, I’ve blogged about marketing – and leadership – and network-building – and branding – and blogging/social media – and entrepreneurial business. Since October of 2006, in fact, where my very first post, How to Waste 10,000 Billboards (critiquing UPS’s marketing), still resonates today.

However, over a thousand posts later, I’ve sometimes wondered if I’ve been wasting everyone’s time. Because, truth be told, I often felt a bit like an impostor.

Why? Well, I wasn’t quite sure where my passions about these topics was heading. And there were lots of people with deeper expertise in all those areas.

Lesson for entrepreneurs: keep at something long enough, and the market will tell you what you should be doing. <—(tweet this)

Turns out that my strong suit all along was helping people figure out their purpose, and then set a new direction and distill a compelling message. Really quickly. It took years of just doing it – intuitively – before my mission became clear.

There’s no job description for that, so I made it up (Clarity Therapy). And, it encompasses pretty much everything that I’ve been writing about all along.

I’m still the Connection Agent, and still committed to building opportunity networks that will help businesses and individuals find ideal work. But it’s time to step up and take on the challenge of seeing new generations of talented people find their optimal role in life.

I believe deeply that when we Discover Our Fit, we stand the best chance of changing the world of work, and fulfilling our purpose.

So…let’s do this!

Assuming that all the Internet plumbing does its work*, I’ll see you later this week, over at SteveWoodruff.com (and for some of you, I’ll see you in Chicago at the SOBCon conference)!

*in my final post, I’ll put up all the links to move your feeds and subscriptions over to the new site. There is also a free e-book you’ll be able to download, titled Make Yourself Clear! – Six Steps to De-Fogging Your Direction and Your Message.

Why I Love Being an Introvert

{Note: I am now blogging at my brand-spanking-new site, SteveWoodruff.com. Just click here to subscribe to the new feedBonus – you can also sign up at the same time for my astonishingly brief  yet brilliant e-newsletter, Clarity Blend (see sample), and when you sign up, you’ll get a free download of my helpful new e-book, Make Yourself Clear: Six Steps to De-fogging Your Direction and Your Message.}

I didn’t always enjoy the fact that my wiring is definitely on the introvert side of the fence. Since our culture tends to value extrovert tendencies and behaviors, we who are quieter, who are more inclined to think before speaking, and who are energized more by alone time than by crowds can often feel marginalized or inferior.

Over time, I’ve shaken free of that perspective. I was born with this wiring, and though I’ve become much more outgoing and confident with people (some people now mistake me for an extrovert), I remain a thorough-going introvert.

OstrichvertAnd I love it. Yeah, I said it. I love being an introvert.

In a world filled with chatty and superficial crowds exchanging pleasantries and (often) little else of substance, I can sit down with people one-on-one or in intimate groups and really dive deep. To that place where minds and lives are changed. I love that.

While others desperately seek their inner fuel by surrounding themselves with others in social settings, I can enjoy alone time to think. In fact, I crave it – I’m energized by a combination of solitude and people time. And in those quieter times of reflection, insights arrive. I love that.

My inward-focused mind is always seeking to analyze and make sense of the world; and often, can be harnessed to help others make sense of their world. I love that.

I may not be the most glib person in a crowd – certainly not the life of the party – but I can write, and make presentations, and reach many more people that way, than pretending to be chatty Charlie. I love that, too.

In a world that often feels a compulsion to consume and consume and consume, introverts take time to digest. Life, for us, is not an endless carousel of coming-from-the-outside sensory stimulation. We regularly gain our strength from within – we’re more self-contained. And I love that.

No, the opposite of being extroverted is not being neurotic, as this poorly-conceived article implies. Extroverts have gifts and abilities and strengths. Introverts have gifts and abilities and strengths. And introverts have a lot to contribute to the world.

I love being an introvert. If you share that wiring, there’s no cause for shame or a sense of inferiority – we have our fit in this world, too; and it’s a rich place. Embrace who you are. Manage it. And make waves in your own way!

Defeating Mis-Matches in Business

Interview with Steve Woodruff, Clarity Therapist

Interview with Steve Woodruff, Clarity Therapist

{Note: I am now blogging at my brand-spanking-new site, SteveWoodruff.com. Just click here to subscribe to the new feedBonus – you can also sign up at the same time for my astonishingly brief  yet brilliant e-newsletter, Clarity Blend (see sample), and when you sign up, you’ll get a free download of my helpful new e-book, Make Yourself Clear: Six Steps to De-fogging Your Direction and Your Message.}

The goal of Clarity Therapy is to “defeat mis-matches – the wrong people in the wrong job; small companies pursuing the wrong types of business; or large companies partnering with the wrong vendors. A lack of clarity leads to tremendous inefficiencies in the business world.”

More? Click to biggify (interview with New Jersey Business magazine). —>

Want to understand what I’m all about? There it is, in a nutshell. Avoiding mis-matches by discovering your fit.

Don’t merely think about finding work. Find your fit.

Solopreneur Isolation Syndrome

{Note: I am now blogging at my brand-spanking-new site, SteveWoodruff.com. Just click here to subscribe to the new feed. Bonus – you can also sign up at the same time for my astonishingly brief  yet brilliant e-newsletter, Clarity Blend (see sample), and when you sign up, you’ll get a free download of my helpful new e-book, Make Yourself Clear: Six Steps to De-fogging Your Direction and Your Message.}

I was speaking with a fellow consultant earlier this month, and the subject wandered over to one of the difficulties of being a solopreneur/small business owner.

AloneIsolation. Ever feel alone out there, hacking your way through the weeds? Yeah – join the club.

Now, neither of us would go back to working for others, and we’ve freely chosen the paths we’ve taken. So this is not a lament. It’s just a fact of life. It can get pretty lonely out there when you’re not part of a (localized, physically present) team.

As a solopreneur, I love my alone time, and I also get energized by meetings with clients and partners. I enjoy the intellectual and social stimulation of the occasional conference. I remain in active contact with many colleagues and friends via social networks.

But, I think the issue is more than just physical isolation. From what I see, it’s the continuous weight of having everything on your shoulders – alone.

It’s. All. Up. To. You. 

In a larger company, you can fulfill a certain role while others fulfill theirs. There is concentration and distribution of effort. Shared effort, shared resources, shared direction; and lots of things get done without you driving them or even knowing about them.

For the solopreneur, it’s all up to you. Apart from some things you can outsource, this plane goes nowhere unless you are the pilot, flight attendant, baggage handler, fueler, ticket agent, and air traffic controller. Every day. All day. That gets wearisome. And sometimes, you feel so overwhelmed that you just want to crawl under the covers and take a nap – right?

“Hmmm…I think the dog needs another walk.” “I wonder what’s new on Facebook?” “Time for another Starbucks run!” It may look like a form of escape, and…well, truth be told, it often is. Because building a business in isolation is a heavy load.

And for the small business owner who has some employees but often has no peers to talk to, there is a similar kind of loneliness – plus all the dynamics of supporting and driving a team (one reason why I plan to remain solo!) As I talk to a growing number of folks in that category, my eyes have opened to the need for coaching and peer support. We each carry a lot of weight that family, friends, employees, and clients often cannot understand.

And then there’s the paperwork. Don’t get me started on that topic! (by the way, you might want to check out what MBO Partners has to offer on that front).

I really wonder  how many promising businesses we lose to isolation burnout.

So, what’s the solution?

I’m not sure there’s a single solution, but the starting point is this: just as cash flow is vital to your ongoing success, so is (peer) relational flow. Whether you find your support network locally, virtually, or by a combination of the two, make it a priority to de-isolate. Independence is a good thing, but cultivating a level of interdependence may be the key to remaining sane. We all need fuel, and we all need to fuel others. Periodic breakfasts with people like Brian Moran; regular lunches with some of my pharma clients/partners; brainstorming meetings with Joe Cascio; Skype sessions with far-flung people in my network – these are all ways that help keep me energized. Doing the work I love fulfills me – but in the downtimes, in the business development efforts, in the reversals – it can get discouraging.

But maybe there’s something else that we can get better at doing. Let’s look at our twitter-streams, and see the many connections that we know are solo – maybe we need to more purposefully reach out and ask folks how they’re doing. How they’re REALLY doing. We tend to assume that everyone else is doing just great – but if you’re ready to throw in the towel today because of loneliness and isolation, then it’s a safe bet that 5 other people you know are just trying to keep up a brave front (while crumbling inside), too.

I’m happy to be a solopreneur. I love the freedom to chart my own course. But let’s not be in denial – there can be a downside as well.

So – how are you doing? Really doing? Let’s keep each other company on the journey!

photo credit: Brian Auer via photopin cc

 

One-Sentence Marketing Advice from a Physics Genius

Einstein Clarity

It takes clarity of thought and expression to be a brilliant physicist. No less so to be an effective marketer (and/or business owner).

If Einstein were a marketer, I think he’d advise you to De-Fog Your Business!

(image source)

When Your Market Says to Pivot

pivot roadI’m all for a well-thought-out go-to-market strategy. But I’ve often advised consultants and other small businesses to leave your directional map at about 80% – and let the market inform you about the remaining 20%.

Why? Because you WILL pivot, to some extent – and your customers will show you where and how.

A recent example from my experience – I’ve been doing Clarity Therapy sessions for a variety of individuals and companies for a couple of years now. Typically, these are one-day intensive sessions, with a few months of minor follow-up.

I did not, however, anticipate performing any kind of ongoing business coaching. I saw Clarity Therapy as an event, not a long-term process. Until clients starting asking for more. A lot more. And a wealth of helpful lessons from past experience began to come to the surface.

Turns out that being an outside voice giving perspective on overall business structure, specific creative offerings, client account management, and staffing (plus identifying resources via networking) is a much bigger need than I realized.

The most interesting revelation of all: how lonely it is to be a small business owner or solo consultant. I mean, I knew that, right? I AM one. But it didn’t really occur to me how important it is for us to have an outlet, a peer, a mentor, a friend – who can come alongside for the long-term and help get a business to a new level. There are short-term and one-shot needs, but clients are saying to also think about the deeper, longer haul. Bonus: that approach actually suits me quite well. I prefer those kind of business relationships.

Truth is, there’s a lot of stuff we just can’t say to customers, employees, colleagues, even family members. It’s frustrating, and the lack of a healthy outlet and fresh perspective clogs our mind and heart.

So, I now find myself offering business coaching for people and businesses seeking to grow and needing outside advice and encouragement. It’s not really a change of direction, just a natural extension that I didn’t anticipate.

How about you? How have your customers caused you to pivot? I’ve seen a number of my social media people evolve over time and it’s pretty fascinating. What’s your story?

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The One Indispensable Ingredient for Success

Initiative.

Show me a person with limited abilities and experience, but the willingness and drive to take prolonged action, and I’ll show you an eventual success.

On the other hand, show me someone with immense talent, stellar education, and little initiative, and I’ll show you a coulda-been.

Initiative is the great un-equalizer.

Initiative isn’t the only thing you need. But without it, you’re adrift.

Make it happen.

One Great Idea

small_4728884645All you need is one great idea.

Well, maybe that’s not ALL you need. You need to be able to execute on that idea. And, you need a network of resources and supporters to help you along the way.

But, if you want to be a successful entrepreneur, it starts with a great idea. A way to meet an unaddressed need. A product nobody’s produced yet. A role as a new intermediary.

And you don’t have to be a fountain of dozens of business ideas. You just need one.

An idea + courage + a great network is a wonderful formula for success.

What’s your idea?

photo credit: diegodiazphotography via photopin cc

Meaningless Marketing

{Note: I am now blogging at my brand-spanking-new site, SteveWoodruff.com. Just click here to subscribe to the new feed. Bonus – you can also sign up at the same time for my astonishingly brief  yet brilliant e-newsletter, Clarity Blend (see sample), and when you sign up, you’ll get a free download of my helpful new e-book, Make Yourself Clear: Six Steps to De-fogging Your Direction and Your Message.}

If your company name and tagline could mean a whole bunch of different things to a whole bunch of different people, it’s meaningless.

  • Global Technical Solutions – Where Technology Drives Customer Value. Meaningless.
  • Dwilgoq – It’s on!! Meaningless.
  • The Robert Higgins Group – We mean business. Meaningless.

In the FogTake a stand! You can’t do everything for everyone, so define your niche and project a clear message. Get out of the fog.

I do realize that it is a challenge in this URL-crowded era to find a unique name. But at least try to have a descriptor – a verbal business card – that tells us what you’re about.

I interacted this week with Marc Pitman. His title: The Fundraising Coach. The summary he gives of himself on Google+: Committed to making it ridiculously easy for people to find fundraising training.

Bingo. I know EXACTLY where to put Marc in the universe of suppliers. But if, instead, his title was: The Business Coach - well, then I’d be unable to place him in memory. If his verbal business card was: I help people find what they need to succeed – despite the cute rhyme, he’d be another MBE (meaningless business entity).

It may help you in business to have your MBA. But if you’re working on your MBE, you’re making life far more difficult than it should be – for your customers, and ultimately, for you. You need to Claim Your Market[place].

If you think you’ve got a case of MBE, let’s talk. Maybe a dose of Clarity Therapy is just what you need to get more meaningful.

Ping me at: steve at stevewoodruff dot com.

photo credit: VinothChandar via photopin cc

ROS – Return on SOBCon

I’ll be Chicago again this May to attend my fourth SOBCon conference. If you haven’t gone before, and if you’re a high-quality, collaborative, smart, pay-it-forward person, I hope you’ll join us.

Why the italics above? Because that’s what I think about when I contemplate SOBCon. The incredible people I’ve met – people who’ve become long-term friends and collaborators.

People like:

  • Lisa Petrilli – with whom I co-launched LeadershipChat after we met at SOBCon and began our years of brainstorming and collaborating. She is a dear friend.
  • Sean McGinnis – with whom I had lunch and immediately built a deep bond that continues to this day.
  • Justin McCullough – a spur-of-the-moment branding discussion (including Drew McLellan) during a SOBCon social gathering led to valuable ongoing back-and-forth over recent years.
  • Carol Roth - who greeted me with a bright smile at the evening event kicking off the meeting and has remained a valued colleague ever since (& congrats on the big news this week, Carol!)
  • Anthony Iannarino – a rock of friendship and encouragement since the day we met in the room at SOBCon several years back.

Yes, the content and discussions at SOBCon are valuable. But what stands out to me is the people who come together to learn, and grow, and challenge one another. People I now interact with on a regular basis, such as Lisa DiomedeBecky McCraySheila ScarboroughShashi BellamkondaAmber ClevelandMolly Cantrell-KraigMarla SchulmanJustin LevyDarrell DeRochierPhil GerbyshakLiz MarshallSarah RobinsonBrian MoranJesse PetersenChris Brogan, Jon Swanson, Alli Worthington, Angela Maiers, Lou Imbriano, Judy Martin, Geoff Livingston, Tim Sanders, Darrell Derochier, Fred McClimans, Danielle Smith, Chris Garrett … and undoubtedly others I’m failing to bring to mind at the moment.

Special thanks, of course, to Terry “Starbucker” St. Marie and Liz Strauss for putting on this labor of love each year. They are the heart and soul of SOBCon.

You want return on investment? Just look a the list above. All high-quality, collaborative, smart, pay-it-forward people.

SOBCon is not merely a conference. It’s like a family of networking professionals. If you’ve not had a chance to go – put it on your calendar!

The Lazy Social Networker

AppleOrchard

{Note: I am now blogging at my brand-spanking-new site, SteveWoodruff.com. Just click here to subscribe to the new feed. Bonus – you can also sign up at the same time for my astonishingly brief  yet brilliant e-newsletter, Clarity Blend (see sample), and when you sign up, you’ll get a free download of my helpful new e-book, Make Yourself Clear: Six Steps to De-fogging Your Direction and Your Message.}

The lazy social networker opens a Twitter account, throws up a few inspirational tweets and a bunch of RTs, and expects the world to roll out a red carpet and hand over an Oscar for Best Performance. This year.

The lazy social networker buys into the notion that more hashtags will mean more followers, which will mean a bigger reputation, which will somehow lead to more fame and riches. Quickly.

The lazy social networker follows all the advice about writing blogs with Top 10 lists and newsjacking topics, contributing to the tsunami of noise without producing any valuable signal.

The lazy social networker then gives up when it doesn’t “work.” Little effort did not produce the anticipated big return.

Be prepared to spread a lot of useful seed, in the form of thoughtful content. Be prepared to water that effort with purposeful and caring relationship-cultivation. Be prepared to rinse and repeat for the long haul, and experience the outflow of a lot of effort with, perhaps, a good bit less return than you ever anticipated.

In other words, be prepared to work. Just like every other worthy endeavor. There may be a lot of effort with little return – for a season.

That’s how agriculture works. That’s how business works. That’s how life works.

The lazy social networker will fade off. As for you, be in it for the long haul. You’re building relationships and adding value, not grasping at some cheap short-term applause.

You’re growing an orchard, not inflating a balloon. The fruit comes in abundance — over time.

The Now and the Not Yet

One of the great mysteries in this drama called life is the tension between the Now and the Not Yet.

There are times when we need to act now, and delay means a loss of opportunity. It may even display cowardice. Yet there are other aspects of our life that are on long simmer – we’re made for this, but…not yet.

It’s tricky, on a given day, month, year, or decade, to know what is now, and what is not yet. When do we seize the day, and when do we need more seasoning in our own character and experience?

As parents, we yearn for our kids to get their act together and be gold-medal human beings by the time they reach 20. But people – especially young people – don’t often seem to follow our script. The long haul of the not yet is the constant (sometimes painful) companion of everyone who joins the adventure of shaping a new generation.

Several things are coalescing in my life right now that lead me to believe that it’s time. For instance, I’ve known since my late teens that I was destined to write books. Yet only now, in my 50’s, do I feel like I’ve developed the message and the “voice” and the direction and the platform to start long-form writing. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking and writing and learning all along – I have – but there was a not-yet doorstop in my soul for decades as I slowly developed.

Some, however, end up successfully launching businesses or books or speaking careers or multimedia fame in their 20’s. The now came early. How can you program (or predict) all that?

You can’t. But sometimes we can help other people decide between the now and the not yet by providing an objective voice. Don’t underestimate the importance of a pointed encouragement forward, or a cautious word of wisdom to wait.

I’ve got no answers – just that we have to be ready for now each day, and be patient about the not yet even when it seems to make no sense to wait.

How do you live with this tension?

Training to Communicate

Anyone that knows me well knows that I have a passion for writing – in fact, it’s really a passion for all things communication (including speaking, video, social media, etc.). As a blogger, I traffic in a lot of written material. Much of what I see is, quite frankly, pretty amateurish.

ID-10087526Writing clearly and succinctly is crucial to work effectiveness. And it’s a rarely-trained skill. It doesn’t matter what position people occupy in their profession. Everyone from the newly-hired salesperson to the CEO needs to sharpen communication skills, if they want to be viewed as professionals (see this recent post by Dave Kerpen).

If people are spending an average of 28% of their time dealing with e-mail – then just improving that one area of business writing can return a lot of potential productivity gains!

In the past month, I’ve sat down with a couple of great providers who do corporate training on communications/writing skills. I found myself nodding so vigorously during discussions that it’s a wonder I didn’t end up at the chiropractor’s office! As I underscore in my Vendor/Project Success workshops, the basic principles of project and vendor management will be used in all future career areas – just like learning to drive a car, it’s an “evergreen” skill set. Writing and communicating clearly? –even more so.

Clear communications lead to clear actions. Foggy communications lead to misunderstandings, back-and-forth clarifications, and frustration.

Let’s train ourselves and our people how to effectively move thoughts to the keyboard and beyond (and if you need a communications training vendor/provider recommendation, just let me know – steve [at] connectionagent dot com). It can never be wrong to sharpen this skill!

10 steps to successful business writing jack e-appleman-paperback-cover-artAlso, here’s a book recommendation for you. 10 Steps to Successful Business Writing* (by Jack Appleman) is a compact, simple-to-absorb volume that gives practical, step-by-step advice on how to write more clearly.

The opening paragraph in the introduction says it all:

Successful business writing starts with simplicity. The beauty of simplicity is that it can produce results faster.

With chapters like Know Where You’re Taking Your Readers; Be Explicit, Clear, and Concise; Grab Your Readers’ Attention; and Master The Documents You Use Most Often; this book dives immediately into straightforward advice with plenty of practical application.

I’ve spent a good bit of time with Jack lately (we have a common bond in the realms of clarity and training!), and he has shared with me how he can also partner with corporations and provide valuable training for employees. If you’re interested in Jack’s services, let me know and I’ll make the connection.

*Amazon affiliate link

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Postscript: Just saw this nice summary about how to write effective e-mails that people won’t ignore, by Bryan Garner via HBR blog.

Your Internal Wiring: Strategic, or Tactical?

I’ve been theorizing here at Connection Agent about how our internal “wiring” shapes our workstyle. I do believe that we all have a level of malleability – that is, we can learn new skills outside of our comfort zone. But I’m thinking that also have baked-in orientations, or preferences, that shape how we best work.

So far, we’ve looked at the following ideas on the workstyle spectrum:

Introversion – – vs  – – Extroversion

Me-working – – vs – – Team-working

Now let’s take a look at another (proposed) scale: Strategic thinking vs Tactical thinking

StrategicTactical Scale

Someone with a more Tactical orientation really just wants to get it done – their mindset is less on the big picture, and more on the short-term execution. They prefer to implement, not plan.

On the other hand, those with a Strategic orientation always tend to see the bigger picture – how the pieces fit into a larger plan, and how to go about the work with a longer-term blueprint.

This isn’t a matter of intelligence or performance. It’s simply an orientation. And someone with a strategic mindset who is stuck in a tactical job will quickly become dissatisfied – do you agree?

However, I confess to being a little bit torn on this scale, because I wonder if it shouldn’t be three fold: Tactical—-Strategic—-Visionary. Is visionary a workstyle? Or is it a leadership style? Not sure about that. I know that my mentality is very much on the visionary/strategic level – I can do implementation, but I prefer not to be in the weeds of details. Where do you see yourself?

So – do you think this a valid distinction as proposed, or should the labels be something different? I know there’s truth here, but I’m not entirely sure I’ve got the labels of the spectrum nailed accurately.

>> And just what is the purpose of this whole exercise, anyway? Actually, it is part of a big-picture approach I’m working on – how to help people find their best professional “fit” as far as job/role. I believe that we have wired orientations, and that by becoming aware of our preferred workstyles, we can make much more intelligent career choices. My vision is seeing thousands of people and companies doing far more effective work because they start with a “you-based business” approach.

The New Intermediation: Specialized Domains

If you have been in a business domain for a long time, acquiring a deep knowledge and broad network, you may well have an opportunity to carve out a unique (you-based) business role for your future. Of all people, you can be one of the new intermediaries.

In an introductory post, I opened up the idea of potential business opportunities that exist by thinking about The New Intermediation. The Ugly Graphic below depicts how this works:

Intermediary1

Just yesterday, I was handed a brand-new business card by someone I’d spent a few hours with several weeks back. This experienced professional was being laid off – there are always ups and downs in the pharma/biotech realm, and some great folks lose positions regularly because of factors having nothing to do with their performance.

Anyway, this person had a deep area of domain expertise, able to fill an information and business-building need that few could touch. I encouraged them to launch a consultancy (they did), and yesterday, I got the news that their first client had signed up for a 6-month engagement!

How awesome is that? From corporate dependence to carving out your own path – isn’t that what so many should be doing right now?

Another friend is steadily positioning himself for a unique intermediary role in his industry (agriculture-related) due to his immense knowledge and hard-won reputation as a very knowledgeable guide for both growers and producers. Make no mistake, however – his reputation as a value-creator is based on incredibly hard work in a specialized domain. This role is not for kids fresh out of college.

Just saw this post by Rohit Bhargava, who is taking on the role of a Marketing Concierge. What is that? An expert who comes alongside the client, and makes relationships and workflow better with their agencies. Read the post and you’ll see why he can do this – deep domain experience. He’s a new intermediary. My friend Tom Martin serves as a digital adviser for higher-level marketers, who cannot possibly keep up with all the digital ferment. Tom is immersed in digital AND knows what agencies/marketers need. He’s a new intermediary.

In each case, people pay their dues for years working for others (building up domain knowledge and reputation), then get to a position when it’s time to be an intermediary. If you’re in your 40’s and 50’s and wondering if you’re being bypassed – if you’re all washed up – think again. This is prime time to be a value-creator by having a foot firmly planted in two realms.

I find that people with this type of depth and track record generally need a gentle push – a little outside permission-giving. “This is your sweet spot. You’re ready now. No-one else can do this like you can. Here’s your market[place]. Go!

Think beyond the next job title in someone else’s hierarchy. Build toward your unique place of adding value “in the middle.” Maybe you should be one of the new intermediaries!

Previous Connection Agent posts on The New Intermediation:

The New Intermediation in Publishing

The New Intermediation: Curation

The New Intermediation: Matchmaking

The Business Opportunities of The New Intermediation

On Being a Fraud

{Note: I am now blogging at my brand-spanking-new site, SteveWoodruff.com. Just click here to subscribe to the new feed. Bonus – you can also sign up at the same time for my astonishingly brief  yet brilliant e-newsletter, Clarity Blend (see sample), and when you sign up, you’ll get a free download of my helpful new e-book, Make Yourself Clear: Six Steps to De-fogging Your Direction and Your Message.}

I’ve had several discussions of the past week about Impostor Syndrome – which, by the way, I always manage to misspell the first time (imposter) until spell-check reminds me of my transgression.

In short, Impostor Syndrome (let’s just call it IS) is experienced by people who have difficulty internalizing their accomplishments. Folks who are afflicted with it regularly feel like frauds, with a fear that it’s just a matter of time before they are exposed for being something far less than others think they are.

Competent people feeling perpetually incompetent – that’s Impostor Syndrome<–(click to tweet this)

I think IS can often be a psychological/emotional issue, especially experienced by those who are insecure (hand raised) and perfectionistic (both hands raised). Those who struggle with accepting basic human realities of step-by-step growth and evolution will tend to feel grossly inadequate for every role they step into – no matter how they perform. I can look back at my professional timeline and see many places where I experienced this cognitive dissonance. Although, I must say, the most profound place where I feel it is in my role as a parent.

But, I’d like to suggest another angle on this. I wonder if some of our experience of IS comes down to working in a mis-matched role. In other words, we really are outside the primary zone of our competencies, and we can’t measure up to what we know we should because – well, we can’t.

For instance, I labored for many years in a sales role. I actually succeeded in growing business and helping customers. But I am really not wired for sales – I’m not hyper-competitive, driven by numbers and short-term goals, schmoozey, quickly empathetic, hungry to “close” – I just want to figure stuff out and help people. Turns out you can actually do sales that way, but in one company where I was VP of Biz Dev, we hired a natural and skilled salesperson, and as I watched her operate, I finally came to the realization – that’s a salesperson in her sweet spot. I’m a consultant – not (natively) a salesperson. All that time I tried to force myself into a role that wasn’t a great “fit” for me.

And all that time I felt like an impostor. Not because I was insincere, or even ineffective – but I was outside my sweet spot.

Looking back at many of the roles I’ve sought to fulfill, here’s how it sorts out in my case:

Imposter Zone

As the old saying goes, you can’t put in what God left out. Working in the red zone generally means we’re going to feel like failures.

For 18 months, Lisa Petrilli and I co-hosted a weekly Twitter gathering called LeadershipChat. By all accounts, it was a big success. But many people will be surprised to hear my confession that I felt somewhat like an impostor the entire time. Not because of the community management and social media aspects of it – Lisa and I were both strong there. Nor because of the vision and effort we put into it. But the fact is, leadership “stuff” is not in my core. I’m quite interested in it, I can write about it and discuss it – but the topic was much more in Lisa’s wheelhouse than mine. Plus, I’d never worked/led in a larger corporate environment. Therefore, I often felt somewhat out of my primary competency zone.

Here’s the thing - We all want to look in the mirror and feel competent and authoritative there first and foremost. Then Impostor Syndrome has much less room to take root.

So, to sum up – could it be that much of what we experience with Impostor Syndrome may actually stem from working outside of our sweet spot? I know that the more I concentrate on my unique areas of ability, the less like a fraud I feel. What’s your experience?

BONUS: Dr. Valerie Smith has a blog (and a book) on this subject – also this quick video. Thanks to Craig DeLarge for pointing it out!

Recently on Connection Agent:

Claim Your Market[place]

De-Fogging Your Business

10 Things Meteor Strikes and Asteroid Near-Misses Teach us About Social Networks

meteor russian

1. Interplanetary

2. Collisions

3. Or

4. Fly-bys

5. Teach

6. You

7. Nothing

8. About

9. Social

10. Media

…except maybe that shallow link-bait blog post headlines really miss the mark.

OK, now on to a more substantive post, about floundering Carnival cruise ships and Facebook branding.

Signal vs Noise

I remember, back 6-7 years ago, the joy of discovering new people on blogs and on Twitter.

The earlier adopters of social media, by and large, “meant it.” It was mostly signal, with very little noise. A lot more networking, a lot less spewing.

Now I see the various social streams cluttered with a bunch of formulaic efforts to build numbers – whether it’s putting up a stream of inspirational quotes, or posting on the 8 Indispensable Ways to Fake Authenticity on Twitter, or doing endless RTs – there’s way too much noise.

signalBut, still, there’s signal.

That’s why I still tune in to many of the “old” voices – people who always had something original to say, and who have thoughtfully evolved over time. People like Amber Naslund, and Geoff Livingston, and Ann Handley, and Brad Pendergraph. And that’s why I sift through all the static to find other original thinkers; folks like Jon Swanson, and Sarah Robinson, and Brian Moran.

It’s also why I attend the SOBCon conference, where a lot of the innovative “signal-makers” gather each year to brainstorm new ideas and build beneficial networks.

Yes, it’s become noisy in the networking world, discouragingly so at times. But the quality people are still out there. Don’t worry about having a follower count of 100,000. That’s going to just surround you with noise. Find 50 great thinkers and networkers and focus there.

Tune in to signal and let the noise pass by.

The New Intermediation in Publishing

This week, I attended the O’Reilly Media Tools of Change for Publishing conference in NYC (well, specifically, the Author [R]evolution Day on Tuesday). It was well-attended and the buzz was palpable.

Clearly, the industry is being thoroughly disrupted by technology. Publishing is undergoing rapid disintermediation, AND rapid new intermediation. <—(click to tweet this)

ARday tweets

Self-publishing, and assisted publishing without the help of traditional publishers, is flourishing, and we’re in the anarchy phase of it – a ferment of new ideas, platforms, and approaches, with old standards and procedures falling by the wayside while new rules are being written on the fly. It’s exhilarating and confusing.

As a relative outsider to the industry, but someone who is committed this year to pursuing long-form (book) writing, I came to the conference to see what the various options are. What I came away with was a resounding reinforcement of my message about the new intermediation.

In an introductory post on the topic I opened up the idea of the many potential business opportunities that exist by thinking about The New Intermediation. My Ugly Graphic below depicts how this works:

Intermediary1

In a second post, we discussed the opportunity of Curation (filtering and delivering information) in the networked world; and then we also glanced at another manifestation of the new intermediation: Matchmaking. Those are general opportunities; now let’s turn to see how this is working in the specific sector of authoring and publishing. Instead of being forced to take the traditional route of the legacy gatekeepers (publishing houses), there is a flourishing new set of alternatives evolving:

  • Assisted, rapid self-publishing: SlimBooks has an interesting approach to this.
  • A la carte, author-controlled selection of services and revenue-sharing: The crew at NetMinds (including the dynamic Tim Sanders) is doing a fabulous job pioneering this approach.
  • Re-defining the role of the agent into a publishing sherpa: We heard a great talk by Jason Ashlock on this subject. He even used the term “radical intermediator”!
  • Iterative, progressive writing: I really like what Peter Armstrong and the Lean Pub team has come up with, and am strongly considering using this platform (I am a big fan of iterative thought development).
  • Crowdfunding emerging authors: some have used the Kickstarter platform for this, but Pubslush is a focused platform for authors.
  • On-line story sharing: Wattpad gets 14 million visitors every month.
  • Analytics that authors can tap: Bookigee, led by Kristen McLean, is breaking new ground.

So, let’s take the drawing above and adapt it for one instance –  an author looking into alternative ways to get a book to market:

Intermediary Publishing

(the above is not an either-or intermediary approach – could easily be both-and). I’m sure you can see other examples – for instance, intermediaries between authors and Big Data (Bookigee); between readers and authors (Wattpad), etc.

Amazon has been the classic case study of a disintermediating technology/business force, but many others are evolving. These are exciting days, with loads of new opportunities for both authors and new intermediaries. What other entrepreneurial services can you envision that would serve this community? And what tools/platforms/approaches do you recommend for others to consider?

Additional resources:

O’Reilly Media’s Best of Tools of Change collection of articles (free download)

NetMinds’ article on Choosing Between Traditional and Alternative Publishing

Guy Kawasaki’s new book, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book (Amazon affiliate link)

—–

Recently on Connection Agent blog:

De-fogging Your Business (or Career)

Claim Your Market[place]

Claim Your Market[place]

There are millions of companies out there providing something-or-other, and millions of people doing some-job-or-other.

Don’t be one of them. Claim your market[place].

MarketplaceYou have a unique sweet spot as a company, an offering that sets you apart. That’s your [place] in the market.

As an individual, you are developing skills and competencies that are shaping you for a particularly “fitting” role. That’s your [place] in the market of work (whether working for others, or self-employed).

Your primary job, right now, isn’t winning the next project, or grabbing the next available job opening up the ladder. It’s knowing and defining your market[place].

The best way to find your niche, your sweet spot, is by asking for the honest input of trusted others (including clients and co-workers). Generally speaking, they will see more clearly than you do where you fit. You can also get outside help by way of an assessment and professional counsel.

But either way, don’t bounce from place to place based on circumstance. Claim your market[place]. And grow from there. <—(tweet this)

De-Fogging Your Business (or Career)

{Note: I am now blogging at my brand-spanking-new site, SteveWoodruff.com. Just click here to subscribe to the new feed. Bonus – you can also sign up at the same time for my astonishingly brief  yet brilliant e-newsletter, Clarity Blend (see sample), and when you sign up, you’ll get a free download of my helpful new e-book, Make Yourself Clear: Six Steps to De-fogging Your Direction and Your Message.}

I’ve been doing a lot of Clarity Therapy lately.

What is Clarity Therapy? It’s an intensive one-on-one time where we dig deep to uncover your professional DNA, and come up with your unique direction, story, and message.

Clarity Therapy is like de-fogging the mirror and the windshield. When we see ourselves and our purpose clearly, we move forward with confidence. <—(click to tweet this).

Clarity Therapy for businesses – a half-day or full-day session – brings us to a 20/20 view of the following:

ClarityONBiz

Clarity Therapy for careers – a half-day session for individuals in transition – gets us here:

ClarityONCareer

Our goal: defining a you-based business or role. AND – we use M&Ms for props. Because gaining insight should be delicious!

If you’d like to learn more, contact me (steve at stevewoodruff.com). I can forward you all the details, and about as many testimonials as you’d ever like to see (from people just like you who wanted an objective “therapist” to help clear the fog).

And, yes, we can do these sessions over Skype.

You want one huge bonus? Here it is – the clearer your message, the easier it is for people to connect and refer you. Including me, the Connection Agent.

Intermediation Biz Opportunity: Matchmaking

{Note: I am now blogging at my brand-spanking-new site, SteveWoodruff.com. Just click here to subscribe to the new feed. Bonus – you can also sign up at the same time for my astonishingly brief  yet brilliant e-newsletter, Clarity Blend (see sample), and when you sign up, you’ll get a free download of my helpful new e-book, Make Yourself Clear: Six Steps to De-fogging Your Direction and Your Message.}

Let’s talk about arranged marriages. OK, not quite – but have you ever thought about how matchmaking can apply to business? Read on…

In an introductory post, I opened up the idea of potential business opportunities that exist by thinking about The New Intermediation. The Ugly Graphic below depicts how this works:

Intermediary1

In a second post, we discussed the opportunity of Curation (filtering and delivering information) in the world of new intermediation. Today, let’s look at another manifestation of the new intermediation: Matchmaking.

A matchmaker is a key individual, platform, or company that has deep connections with a pool of people/providers, and then brings the right (targeted) resource to a client with a business or personal need.

Think of what recruiters (headhunters) do. It’s that kind of intermediation, but scaled in new ways and applied to other business problems beyond staffing.

My Impactiviti business (identifying optimal outsource vendors for my pharma clients looking for training/marketing suppliers) is one example of business matchmaking (see graphic here).

In Kansas City, my friend George Weyrauch has launched Rock Creative to provide a very similar service for creative types.

Another example familiar to many is HARO (Help A Reporter Out), the news/resource matching service launched by Peter Shankman. Reporters have always had a need to find subject matter experts. Many people who could be valuable resources are invisible to media types. So, HARO was born – a daily e-mail service where journalists looking for sources post what they need, and targeted individuals respond. Simple, brilliant matchmaking. And Peter is smarter than me, because HARO is fed-by-both-sides e-model that was able to be increasingly automated. I’m not jealous. I’m really not. OK, I’m jealous.

IntermediationHARO

(on a side note, HARO was bought by Vocus a year or two back. Creating a winning intermediation service can have quite a significant ROI!)

Our world of business has always run smoother because of intermediaries. There are bridges that need to be built – today, and tomorrow. Gaps are everywhere. Intermediaries see them, and create beneficial connections<<–(click to tweet this)

Many roles, of course, have been disintermediated through technology advancements. But other, digitally-fueled models have arisen. Sometimes, they are ePlatforms, like Match.com and eHarmony (where “matchmaking” is not a metaphor, but is the whole point!) Do you know of other matchmaking business approaches that you’ve seen recently enabled in our networked world? Do share in the comments!

Clarity ON: Redhead Writing

ClarityOn

This morning, I came across the newly-relaunched website for Erika Napoletano, aka Redhead Writing.

Boom. Love at first sight.

Hmmm…let me backtrack a bit here. No, I don’t actually know Erika; and yes, I am profoundly in love with my wife (who is a brunette, by the way).

But when it comes to the branding/messaging – I was all-in within moments.

ErikaNapoletano

Bright simplicity of design. Superb use of colors and white space. Engaging picture. Clear navigation. And, above all, an exemplary message of clarity: I Get People UNstuck.

Attitude? Check. Compelling video? Check. Simple and memorable message? Check. Call to action? Check.

I got totally drawn in to the site. And I’ve been around the internet block for enough years to have pretty strong filters. Color me hard to impress.

While everyone else is arguing over who won the Super Bowl marketing wars on Sunday, I’m telling you right now who wins the Internet today. Erika Napoletano. No Clydesdales required.

Color me impressed.

(oh, and I stole the basic idea of the Clarity ON graphic above from Erika’s Twitter page. Which also rocks!)

Why You Want to be at SOBCon (even if you didn’t know it)

SOBCon2013Those of us who have attended a SOBCon gathering (the think tank for forward-looking business people) don’t need much convincing – when you’ve gotten together with 150 smart, creative, action-oriented professionals who are restless to shape their futures through smart networking and ideation, you view it as an annual pilgrimage.

I’ve been to three SOBCon get-togethers in Chicago – and I’ll be back this May. Past reviews on my blog are here and here and here.

SOBCon is not like a typical conference, where you get talked at endlessly, and mill around in large herds hoping to find someone interesting to talk to.

SOBCon is where you brainstorm in small groups, network with a distilled 100-proof group of high-quality people, and come away with fresh ideas for your business. And people who are happy to hold you accountable to get it done, and encourage you along the way.

If you want to pose and pretend, SOBCon isn’t for you.

If you want to be real and make progress and challenge your own status quo, you need to go. It’s the kind of place where you make lifelong friends and find unexpected collaborators.

SOBCon happens May 3-5. Sign up today (January 31) and save $200. See you in Chicago!

 

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