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!

Intermediation Biz Opportunity: Curation

In this introductory post, I opened up the idea of potential business opportunities that exist by thinking of The New Intermediation.

Briefly, we need to see that there are huge needs at the intersection of loads of “stuff,” which need to be translated into strategic business directions and deliverables. Graphically pictured:

Intermediary1

Now, let’s consider one of those new intermediation roles: Curation.

In this case, the Big Pool is information. We live in an age of information overload (getting exponentially worse), and no-one in an important business role has the time to keep up with it; let alone know how to filter, process, and assemble it into a strategic roadmap.

Enter the curator. Filter, process, assemble, deliver/present.

IntermediationCurator

In the early days of social media and blogging, first-movers got into the curation business by assembling information resources and making money by advertising, or by selling subscriptions. Nowadays, there’s a ton of on-line noise (including information-assemblers), but there are still many opportunities to add value by curating targeted business information for an audience that needs it, and is willing to pay for it.

A curator may make money directly by selling the information, or, by selling some other valued service that becomes known because a free (or low-cost) curation service drives awareness and credibility. This latter approach is one I followed in establishing my pharmaceutical consulting practice.

In ancient times, Reader’s Digest was an example of curation. In more recent days, Marketing Profs is a great example of an on-line version. But this role can also be adopted by a solopreneur with deep domain knowledge and experience. If you know where to find things in the deep pool, AND you are aware of the related business intelligence needs, you can become a valued intermediary. Opportunity knocks!

What are some other examples of curation intermediaries (people or businesses) that you know of or rely on?

The Business Opportunities of The New Intermediation

{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 consulting with a company that has a tremendous opportunity to grow through the differentiation of its offering. They stand between a huge pool of unstructured “stuff,” and a business need to make that stuff intuitively useful (even beautiful). This type of creativity is a rare gift.

Many companies and people have lost work due to the internet-driven trend of disintermediation (the removal of no-longer necessary “layers” in the business chain – think about what Amazon has done to entire swaths of the publishing/book-selling business). But there are whole new business models on the other side of that coin – people and companies who can step in between two parties/needs and provide value.

These are The New Intermediaries. And, for an entrepreneur, this is a model ripe with opportunity.

A new intermediary provides value by creatively translating “stuff” into strategic business value. <<–(click to tweet this)

For example – the client I described above specializes in creating intuitive visual design. Now, if you can look into a vast sea of poorly-structured information and create an information design presentation that advances business goals, you have added tremendous value as a specialized intermediary. How many of us have experienced corporate on-boarding that was slipshod and poorly structured/designed?

This business problem needs a specialized intermediary (apologies, in advance, for the Ugly Graphic!):

IntermediaryDesign

The above is one particular expression of a generalized New Intermediation structure, which we can generically portray this way:

Intermediary1

The new intermediary has enough of a foot into the big pool to understand the possibilities and extract the core value (think of an experienced digital marketer who can talk to programming geeks), but also has a foot in the strategic business world and can see the market application (that same marketer discussing potential applications with the CMO). This intermediary is a filter and a translator and an interpreter between two worlds.

What is an on-line curator of information? Exactly – a new intermediary. The internet (and social media) has created an explosion of “stuff,” but also there are tremendous opportunities that come with the enhanced ability to build and cultivate networks. Social networking can be a mechanism to enable business intermediation.

In fact, I launched my Impactiviti business 6+ years ago based on this concept, though I wasn’t really thinking so much about the generalized potential of the model. I create partnerships with the best outsource vendors for training and marketing development (out of a vast pool of providers), and then I “matchmake” my pharma clients with the optimal providers – helping clients more efficiently choose vendors, while helping vendors more efficiently gain targeted business opportunities.

IntermediaryImpactiviti

A major enabler of this business model, from the get-go, was digital technology for networking and communication.

The intermediary has to have solid domain expertise and a trusted reputation to be effective. Bingo – only the top people and companies can do this. And, hey, isn’t that what we want – business growth opportunities for those who have earned differentiation through competence and trust? When I do Clarity Therapy with professionals looking to gain a clear direction for their future, it’s surprising how often we quickly identify a potential opportunity involving new intermediation.

I’ve scribbled down some other applications of this model somewhere in this vast pool that is my desk – I’ll dig it up this week and post a few other suggested ways people can carve out this role for themselves. I’m thinking that a lot of people in their 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s who have built up a strong base of knowledge and credibility can find themselves a nice niche as new intermediaries and role their own. What do you think?

De-Fragmenting Your Business

As I talk in-depth to small business people (including consultants), I am seeing a pattern over and over again. I think it may actually be endemic for most businesses. Fragmentation.

(apologies, in advance, for the Ugly Graphic!)

What do I mean? Well, over time, offerings become more diverse or less focused (sometimes in response to a rapidly-evolving marketplace), and messages get muddled. Soon, customers are really not sure what we do anymore – instead of being the default “go-to” for some very specific service or product, we’re…a supplier of something, broadly speaking.

In fact, this fragmentation subtly leads us into the habit of broadly speaking, instead of having a precise message. And, like a hard drive with too much scattered data, our messaging becomes inefficient. Hence, the need for regular de-fragmentation.

I see this in larger settings as well, such as pharmaceutical training departments. Courses, programs, workshops – they get added over time to address specific needs, and where once there may have been a strategically-designed curriculum, now there is fragmentation – particularly in a fast-evolving setting.

In fact, this is common among individuals – people who reach a point in their career where they’ve done a bunch of things, but are no longer clear on what their true core competencies and their ideal direction really are. Personal/professional fragmentation.

Have you experienced this? What have you done to de-frag your business and get back to a clear focus?

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Is your professional direction and message CLEAR? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

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Four Reasons Why I Bought a Ford This Weekend

This weekend, I did something I don’t believe I’ve ever done before.

I went to a Ford dealer and bought a Ford automobile.

We tried getting by with our two cars but, with 2 high-school age kids and the ever-growing list of places-to-go and people-to-see, we finally had to make an addition. The odd fact is, that I never even bothered seriously considering another make of car this time around. This, from someone whose last few business cars were all Mazdas and whose family van is currently a Toyota.

Why? Let me give you four simple reasons:

1. Quality. I don’t care what the item is, or what the argument for domestic production is, if you’re not high-quality, you don’t earn my business. Ford has been making great strides in this area, enough that they slowly but surely edged back onto my radar screen. When my 18-year old and I took a test drive in a gently used 2010 Fusion, we were quite impressed (at the top of his list: the sound system, and the cool blue vanity lighting in the cupholders!)

2. Scott Monty. Scott is Ford’s social media guru, though I became acquainted with him back in 2007 or 2008, before his tenure with Ford. Scott has done a great job putting a more human face on a venerable American institution, and that goodwill (earned over time) translated into, not only consideration, but strong leaning, when it was time to make a purchase. It pays to hire good people. If you’re keeping score, President and CEO Alan Mulally: +1, Scott Monty.

3. Principle. Ford had the guts to refuse the government bailout years ago. While Chrysler and General Motors decided to become state-run institutions (or facsimiles thereof), Ford held to free-market principles. Thousands of us Americans never forgot that, and when it was time to make a purchase this weekend, guess which two companies were not even in the running? Granted, Ford is not some perfect company filled with angelic beings, nor are the employees of GM and Chrysler the spawn of evil. I reserve the right to re-consider GM products in the future, of course – but only if and when they are no longer a ward of the federal government. It’s not personal – it’s principle.

4. Referral. My entire solopreneur business model is based on trusted referrals. When I reached out on Facebook about my upcoming decision, a good friend (thanks, Janice!) recommended that I deal with Tommy Garcia over at Wayne (NJ) Ford. They also said that the General Manager (Troy Mol) was great. I reached out on-line and got an immediate and friendly response from Milca Irizarry, and meeting each of them over at the dealership was a pleasure. Purchasing cars can be a dreadful experience. My time at Wayne Ford has, without a doubt, helped advance my view of the Ford brand. If you’re keeping score, Mr. Mulally: +3, Wayne Ford.

I am not going to change the world of business by one little car purchase, or through any of my social media rants about it (e.g., here and here). But this entire experience simply reinforces the power of what should be obvious, in any business. Make great stuff. Do the right thing. Hire the right people. Treat customers right. And the end result will be the vein of gold that every business seeks – enthusiastic referrals. And sometimes, very public commendations…

(lest there be fuel for cynics, so let me say up-front that I have received no financial or other consideration for writing this post. I just believe in telling it like it is – and that includes the good stuff when it is earned!)

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Is your professional direction and message CLEAR? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

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In Six Words, Some of the Best Business Advice Ever

I don’t remember who said it to me first, many years ago, but the advice has always stuck with me:

Not all business is good business.

What does this mean? Simply this: there is business you can take on that will likely hurt, not help you.

We are all tempted to take on certain clients and projects because of one overriding factor: Revenue. I’d like to suggest that you make each of those decisions based on a different factor: Purpose.

Here are examples of business that may NOT be good business:

  • Taking on a project with a client who is hard-nosed, and/or cheap, and/or indecisive. There is such a thing as a bad client. Avoid – let some less wise competitor suffer.
  • Taking on a project that has very poor definition, and in which you cannot seem to get more information. This will become a moving target of scope creep that will frustrate you for months on end – guaranteed.
  • Taking on a project that is a good bit out of your sweet spot, with an existing client. Don’t endanger the relationship with a high-risk-of-failure attempt to keep all the client’s dollars to yourself. Short-term gain often equals long-term loss.
  • Taking on a project or client that moves your company and its resources into a direction that you really don’t need to pursue. Rabbit trails waylay any kind of focused growth and dilute your message.
  • Taking on a project or client despite warning bells of good judgment and conscience. Don’t let dollars delude you into ignoring your better instincts.
  • Trying to compete in an area where you are just one of many potential suppliers, and your offering cannot rise above a commodity level. Find a more narrow niche that you can dominate.

Over and over again, as I’ve counseled small business owners and consultants, I’ve heard the tales of woe that result from pursuing or taking on not-good business. The best way to avoid this trap: have a clearly-defined purpose and highly-focused offering (including the clients you wish to pursue) so that you have a solid basis on which to say no. Otherwise, you’ll dilute your efforts by chasing (ultimately) unprofitable revenue. And that’s a game at which nobody can win.

What would you add to the list? Put your lessons in the comments!

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Do you need a clearer purpose and message? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

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Re-Imagination

I was totally impressed yesterday afternoon at the Apple store when replacing a damaged iPhone with a new one.

I’ve been through the experience several times over the years to upgrade to new models, and each time, it’s abundantly clear that Apple is continuing to re-make the retail experience.

An associate greeted us at the front entrance. Plugged a couple minimum bits of information into the (very slick and well-designed) software on his iPhone, and managed the entire transaction from the palm of his hand. All nearly instantaneous, digital, mobile, seamless.

I even signed the receipt with my finger on his iPhone screen.

The thing is, this is Apple’s secret sauce. They re-imagine an existing experience, then build the new approach.

The software interface. The publishing process. The portable music experience. The on-line method of buying digital assets. The phone. The tablet. Distributed app development. And on and on.

Re-imagination is not enough to create a business – you also need superb execution. But without re-imagination, you’re left with incremental improvements or marginal efficiency gains as a business model.

Perhaps we need to train our next generation of business people to continually ask two questions:

Why this?

And why not that?

Ha! This post by Dan Pallotta just showed up in my tweetstream, published yesterday at Harvard Business Review on-line. Talk about mind-meld!!

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How’s your message? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

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Top 5 Ways to Define Yourself – NOT!

Companies and consultants can be remarkably good at vague and unfocused market positioning. Here are five recommended statement-types to help you get a head start on becoming a forgettable commodity:

5. “We are an enterprise-level solutions provider helping customers align their business processes with strategic goals.”

- Ahh, the old high-brow business-speak fog machine. In other words, you charge big companies big money to do something undefined that sounds impressive. But since the snake oil is delivered via a Powerpoint deck (with flowcharts!), that apparently means you leverage industry-wide best practices.

4. “A globally-responsible business partner.”

- And exactly what does this mean, tangibly speaking? And, while we’re at it, how does it affect my bottom line? Maybe you have a recycling bin in the cafeteria and use new-fangled light bulbs, but no WIIFM = no big deal.

3. “Before hanging out my own shingle, I moved from junior associate to VP of my division more quickly than anyone before me.”

- Great yearbook fodder, but that helps me how? The world is full of ambitious ladder-climbers. Enough about you…what about me?

2. “We help you with your marketing, communications, marketing communications, digital media, social media, sales, sales training, train reservations, dinner reservations, recruiting, and global commodities investing.”

- Oh, you’ll work for food. Great niche! Sigh….

1. “Our people are our greatest asset, and it shows in our J.D. Power award-winning customer service scores for the last 3 centuries. We mean business!”

- I’m sorry – what do you do?

You’ve got only a few seconds to make a lasting impression, and to stick in the minds of your customers. People will put you in a bucket, and it is up to you to define that bucket and make it memorable.

You might be exactly what they need – but if you’re shooting low-quality arrows randomly into the air, you’re not likely to hit the target. You either have a clear offering summed up in some high-impact, well-chosen words – or, you’re background noise. And we certainly don’t need any more of that to distract us!

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Sound like your challenge? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

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You’re FIRED (5 times)!

Don’t take just Donald Trump’s word for it!!

Three Types of People to Fire Immediately (from Business Week, by By G. Michael Maddock and Raphael Louis Vitón)

Overboard: Dealing with Those who Refuse to Pull the Oars (by Anthony Iannarino)

12 Most Humane Incentives to Fire Your Employees (from 12 Most, by Mila Araujo)

The Art of Leadership when Letting Employees Go (by Lisa Petrilli)

How the Exit Door can Improve Results (by Steve Woodruff)

Sometimes, multiplied success comes by subtraction.

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Hire Steve Woodruff as your Brand Therapist

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Role Your Own

Manager. Associate Director. Senior Director. Vice President. The business world is full of titles, all nicely arranged for you in various hierarchies.

All waiting for you – compelling you – to fit in.

Architect. Engineer. Doctor. Writer. Teacher. Pre-packaged job descriptions, with pre-ordained responsibilities.

Pick one. That becomes your identity.

The legacy business world waits for you, with already-defined boxes and labels and roles. The structures are all there, if you want to sell your soul to fit into someone else’s plan for your life. Just step right up, into the machine.

Or, you can call a timeout. Who says this is your destiny? Do you HAVE to run someone else’s race? Can you define your own role?

Yes, you can.

We often operate under the false assumption that the work world, as historically understood, and as presented to us, is some immutable and fixed rule. Nobody consulted you when all these structures were built. And it’s likely they won’t ask for your input to change them. Organizations exist for themselves and their own goals, not for yours.

It may well be that, for a time, as your skills develop and your business acumen grows, you will find your career path inside a pre-existing organization with its titles and hierarchies and roles. I certainly did, and most of us do. But after a while, you realize that you’re a cog in a machine. If your work is to be built around you, then only one person can make that happen.

You.

Here’s the first step: stand back and question what you see. Realize that every organization, every role, was created and defined for some past need. It may not be appropriate for present (let alone future) needs, and it may not be designed to fulfill you and maximize your effectiveness.

Disengage your mind from every assumed work structure around you and say, “Maybe this or that is good. Or maybe it’s not. For me.”

Don’t start with the past. Don’t start with someone else’s present boxes. All of those assumed structures, titles, hierarchies, definitions, career tracks – they didn’t come from you, did they? They weren’t expressly designed for you, were they?

Start with your own declaration of independence. I’m going to role my own. Even if I have to work in someone else’s company for a season, I’m going to design my professional career around me, what I believe, and what I have to offer. Whatever that means.

Now the adventure can begin…!

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

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Twitter: @swoodruff

Are You Having A Nice Conflict?

For a long while, I held off buying a much-desired iPad2 – I finally gave in over the Christmas holidays and bought one. I also held off on becoming an e-reader until that time – and now, I’m glad to say, I have finally read my first book cover-to-cover on a tablet! What can I say – sometimes I break with the past slowwwwly…

The book: Have A Nice Conflict, put out by Jossey-Bass. Disclosure: this group has also stepped up to be a sponsor for LeadershipChat last week, in our chat with Angela Maiers, and also this coming Tuesday, when the smart team of HANC thinkers will be our guest hosts.

The book is a relatively quick read. It is of the business parable genre, where a story unfolds with various fictional characters to explain and illustrate the themes. Now, business parables are not my favorite writing mode, but this one is reasonably well-written. It’s just a wee bit slow out of the blocks, but once you arrive on the stage with Mac and the Red, Green, and Blue lights – well, things start to really fall into place. I won’t say that the lights come on, because that would be a bad pun. So I won’t say it. But they do.

One big plus – toward the back of the book, once the parable is over, you get a nice overview of the academic foundations of the theory.

The thesis of Have A Nice Conflict – and a component of the SDI (Strength Deployment Inventory), which is a related assessment – is that we have different motivational “styles”, if you will, that come into play when we approach (or experience) conflict. After taking the SDI and reading the book, I can definitely affirm that there’s some solid stuff here (I’m a “Hub,” by the way, if you’re interested).

Conflict is a huge, somewhat hidden cost to businesses everywhere, and a major challenge for leaders. So we’re going to discuss it this coming Tuesday night (February 14th) on #LeadershipChat. Valentine’s Day is a great time to learn to avoid or manage conflict, right? :>}

Join me, my co-host Lisa Petrilli, the HANC team, and a bunch of other smarties worldwide at 8 pm ET for an enlightening Twitter chat. Just use the hashtag #LeadershipChat (you’ll also see the hashtag #NiceConflict because our guests are also our sponsors this coming week).

Also, be sure to follow LeadershipChat on Facebook!

Additional disclosure: Personal Strengths is a recommendation partner of mine. If you use their assessment/consulting services as a direct result of my personal business matchmaking recommendation, they gladly pay me a referral fee. I receive no affiliate payments for book sales.

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

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>> Who Are Your Influencers?

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

Twitter: @swoodruff

Just Bring Great People Together

I was having a lively phone conversation yesterday with Alli Worthington, the force-of-nature behind Blissdom and too many other things to list.

Her philosophy behind the Blissdom conference? To paraphrase: We just bring great people together and see what happens. Not that there isn’t structure and clear direction – there is – but there’s also an existential element of anticipated goodness that can’t be predefined.

Huh. In fact, it’s a business model I seek to practice, but I never quite heard it put that way before. It doesn’t sound like a business model, does it? But what it is is creating an opportunity-generating and entrepreneur-encouraging environment. And there’s a lot of potential business in that!

Then, for LeadershipChat last night, we enjoyed having Carrie Wilkerson (The Barefoot Executive) as our guest host (<—book review at link). Carrie, who encourages people to start their own businesses (the best job security we’ll know!), was giving a lot of helpful advice to the people who gather at the Tuesday night LeadershipChat – which gathering, it struck me afresh, has a very similar philosophy. We just bring great people together and see what happens.

So, as you think about your own business, and your opportunities, I have a fresh line of thought for you. Can you be a tribe-builder? Can you bring great people together and help create a fertile environment for business growth? Can you look past the idea of some company providing a growth vector for you, and begin to till your own land in order to make new things happen for you and others?

I sure plan to live that way!

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

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Who Are Your Influencers?

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

Twitter: @swoodruff

Be Your Own Boss, Barefoot-style!

For quite some time, I’ve interacted with Carrie Wilkerson (The Barefoot Executive) on-line, and it’s our privilege to welcome Carrie this week as a guest host on LeadershipChat (did you know that LeadershipChat is now on Facebook? <—Join us there to extend the conversation!).

Carrie has recently released a book called, not surprisingly, The Barefoot Executive (Amazon link), and it’s a winner. Of course, part of the reason I loved this book so much is that we’re both on the same wavelength, desiring to see more people find professional fulfillment by starting a business and becoming their own boss.

Another thing that I appreciate about this book is its straightforward simplicity. The chapters are brief, to the point, and include practical examples (plus transcripts of video lessons that are also available on-line). Carrie has a cheerleader personality, and her encouragement shines through in the book, but there is also a very realistic, step-by-step approach being advocated. Nice combination.

My video review of The Barefoot Executive is below:

Carrie has plenty to share with us on Tuesday night, January 10 (8 pm ET) – just hop onto Twitter and follow the #LeadershipChat hashtag (hint: it’s easier when you use a chat client like Tweetchat.com). Join me,  my lovely and talented co-host Lisa Petrilli, and a whole host of smart and engaging people as we discuss the topic of Being Your Own Boss. Look forward to seeing you then!

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

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Who Are Your Influencers?

>> Not All Business is Good Business

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

Twitter: @swoodruff

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)

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>> Social Business is Not Enough

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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

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

Choose Your Lane

I have a confession to make: I have problems staying in my lane.

You know those views of a bunch of runners, all lined up for the 100 meter dash, the only thing separating them being the little white lines that show which lane is which? While I’m 24 meters into the race in Lane 4, I am itching to jump over to Lane 6. And then 7.

It’s not a winning strategy.

Focus. One race at a time. I have the speed and the drive to win, but am afflicted with Entrepreneur ADHD.

My core business – “matchmaking” pharma clients with optimal vendor/partners (plus some related consulting) – provides virtually all of my revenue. But I have dreams and goals that I can see and almost touch in those other lanes, and keep wandering outside the line. To change the analogy slightly, I see the 100-meter finish line, but figure I can also run a 220, a 440, and a marathon all at the same time.

Or, take the example of social networking. I’ve built pretty strong lanes in LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, but when Google+ came along, I was pretty intrigued like many others. In fact, however, G+ right now is of no help whatsoever in creating short-term business impact. It’s a distraction. Great platform, but not productive for the time being.

So, I’m scaling back in some areas of endeavor. Letting some things be more hobby-status while I run in the lane that matters most. Yes, I have these other dreams and ideals, and I trust that they will develop organically, in due time. But let’s run THIS race and then let nature take its course.

No-one wins running 3 races at the same time.

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

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Selling You

>> ROI in Context of Business Value

Business Love

Who ever created the dividing love between the business and the personal?

I get it, of course – the two realms aren’t the same – but I’m not sure we can completely maintain hard and fast distinctions on every level.

Because in our families, our communities, our companies, and everywhere else in the world, we’re rubbing shoulders with…people.

If people in the business realm exist to be used – if they are a means to profitable ends – then, of course, we can limit our caring. And, let’s face it – we work and do business to make money. When I network and present and consult and write and connect others, long-term and short-term business goals and strategies are woven throughout all of it. I’m not in the least embarrassed to admit it. Ultimately, whatever else I may earn in the business realm, I have to earn revenue primarily.

Or, to put it another way, it’s not about the Klout – it’s about the Ka-ching.

But this other, more personal drive keeps weaving itself in, dis-allowing me to treat people as business objects. And I see this drive in many others as well. When we interact face-to-face, there is a caring that goes beyond some anticipated short-term revenue gain.

It’s that pesky, inconvenient, hard-to-suppress, human, real, and amazing thing called love. You know – caring about others on a personal level that goes beyond today’s subscriber numbers and tomorrow’s paycheck.

I’m not talking about the whirl of romantic emotions or the carnal pleasure-seeking of one-night stands, or mere emotional sentimentalism. Love is an instinct to care about others – never fully pure, of course, but there nonetheless. Something we’re taught to suppress in that realm called “work”.

In the midst of our transition from a nation of farms and smaller businesses to the depersonalized landscape of huge companies where people are cogs in a great machine, we have tended to lose the connection of love and business. We’ve drawn a line between the realms, perhaps because it is so easy to be hurt in the world where getting ahead and winning are Job 1.

But now we are re-entering an era of entrepreneurship, where, as Mike Henry, Sr. put it in a phone call yesterday with Lisa Petrilli and me, we each have a factory on our desks. And lo and behold, love seems to be sneaking back into business.

Because we are what we always were – people. Maybe the machine robbed us of something important in our work. Maybe some of this dehumanization was a defense mechanism that we can and should outgrow.

Maybe – just maybe – love and business can be woven together.

I don’t fully understand how it all works, but I’m determined to explore it. Who’s with me?

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

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Breaking Free of Powerpoint

>> Trend Currents in Social Media

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

Twitter: @swoodruff | @ConnectionAgent

What a Deal, New Jersey!

If you currently own a home in New Jersey, this is for you. If you don’t – maybe you know someone who does!

I was not at all looking to re-finance my home mortgage – our rate from 10 years ago seemed pretty good. Until a boutique bank that I’ve known about for years here in NJ, Atlantic Stewardship, came out with a no-cost re-finance offer for any NJ homeowner.

Yes, you heard me. No cost. No points. Re-finance to under 4% fixed? Done! (rates vary day-to-day – you know the drill…). Money will probably never be this cheap again.

I have no financial interest in promoting this – just sharing a really good offer and hoping a bunch of my friends can also benefit.

Nick Latora is your guy – contact him if your mortgage/HELOC could use an adjustment (tell him Steve Woodruff sent you – let’s see what social media word-of-mouth can do!) Deals like this don’t show up too often!

Know Your Verbs!

As a professional, here is the view I like. —>

A fallow field.

If it’s already built, if the framework is designed and the system is in place, I don’t belong.

I need to create new things. I used to wonder about serial entrepreneurs, before recognizing that, in fact, I am one. Ooops.

Others would never flourish in the face of the unstructured environment that excites me. And that’s fine, because we need people across the entire range of skills, from pure creativity to repetitive tasks, and everything in between.

That’s why you need to know your verbs. What are those actions that describe you at your peak of effectiveness?

For me: Analyze, Envision, Create, Connect, Communicate. Operational stuff? – ugh. Number-crunching? – umm, no. Toll-taking? – kill me now.

I want to look at what isn’t, and figure out how to create something new. Give me the fallow field.

Now, I’ve done plenty of work in the past that was outside of my ideal verb zone. And I highly value those with a whole different suite of verbs than mine – if we were all like me, there’d always be something new – and nothing else would get done!

So, what are your verbs? Can you narrow it down to, say, 3-5? Feel free to share them in the comments. Those verbs may well provide the clue to your future professional path!

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From the Mouths of Children…

9-year old Seth: “Dad, what does ‘cultivate’ mean?”

Me: “Well, with plants, it means to prepare the soil, and water, and do the work to make things grow.”

Seth: “Oh, like you do with business?”

Smart boy.

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Let’s Kill Some Giants

I recently had the opportunity to read through Stephen Denny‘s new book (pre-release copy), Killing Giants, which takes up the theme of effectively designing your business and marketing to take on the “big boys” in your marketplace.

Stephen is an experienced marketer who spent over 20 years working with major brands before launching out on his own. I ran into him several years ago on Twitter and have always enjoyed his thoughts. He has been a regular contributor to LeadershipChat and he will be talking about his ideas on leadership with us this week (see below).

This book’s a keeper. And not only because I am a fellow entrepreneur and status-quo rattler, but also because the format of the book makes it easy to digest. See ordering information for Killing Giants at the bottom of this post. In the meantime, here’s my video review:

Stephen will be our guest this week on LeadershipChat, where we will discuss Leadership and Decision-Making (Tuesday, March 29, 8 pm ET, #LeadershipChat on Twitter). Please be sure to read the preparatory post written by my talented co-host, Lisa Petrilli (To Kill a Giant: Leading David against Goliath)

Want to know more about those 10 Strategies? I thought so. Here’s a sneak peek at the Table of Contents:

Order Killing Giants: 10 Strategies to Topple the Goliath in Your Industry wherever you buy books:

In the US: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BAM! | Borders | Indi Bound | 800 CEO READ

In the UK: Amazon | Waterstones

In Australia: QBD | Emporium Books | Angus & Robertson | Big W Entertainment | Boomerang Books | Booktopia

In New Zealand: Mighty Ape

In South Africa: Loot

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Being a Guilt-Free Solopreneur

Sorry, Inc. Magazine, but I don’t feel at all bad about having no employees. Not. At. All.

From the above-linked article:

Carl Schramm, president and CEO of the Kauffman Foundation, said in a statement, “Far too many founders are choosing jobless entrepreneurship, preferring to remain self-employed or to avoid assuming the economic responsibility of hiring employees. This trend, if it continues, could have both short- and long-term impacts on economic growth and job creation.”

Why shouldn’t people avoid the economic “responsibility” of hiring employees when our governmental system of burdensome business bureaucracy provides every disincentive to do so?

It is my stalwart intention to remain a solopreneur. And here’s the point missed in the Inc. article – in these days of networked communications, it is so easy to automate certain tasks and outsource others, that often there is simply no NEED to hire employees.

On the other hand, my purpose in the role as Connection Agent is to facilitate MORE employment by MORE people who can become solopreneurs based on their best abilities, through the multiplying power of trusted referrals.

I don’t want to manage people. I want to help them succeed through organic networks.

We should welcome this development, and encourage guilt-free solopreneurship. Self-employment is a liberating trend, not an economic negative!

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Revolution – Now!

The Beatles put it this way when talking about revolution:

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out
Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
all right, all right

Sorry, but you really don’t want to count yourself out of The Now Revolution. Jay Baer and Amber Naslund have done us a service by writing an excellent volume on how social networking is impacting business. Instead of the usual summary review of content (you can find that all over the place), I’m going to give a video recap of the highlights for me, then just extract some juicy quotes so that you’ll be enticed to buy this book. Because you most probably should!

“This book is about a business culture that has changed more in the past 3 years than in the prior 30 and what you must do as a consequence of that change.” (p. ix)

“Real-time business…is almost entirely a public spectacle. There are no insignificant transactions any longer.” (p. xiii)

“Adopting social media and real-time business means a shift in mind-set.” (p. 11)

“Hire first for a fit with your company culture and values, with an eye toward those who have a passion for their work. Skills are much easier to teach than mind-set.” (p. 27)

“There’s a point at which we’re going to stop talking about social media and online communications as a specialty…and instead start viewing it for what it really is: a series of pipes, tubes, tools, and media that can help us communicate more relevantly and urgently with customers.” (p. 53)

I only have two thumbs. If I could clone one of them, then I’d give The Now Revolution three thumbs up!

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Twitter: @ConnectionAgent | @swoodruff

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Book Review: The New Small

I’ve been reading through Phil Simon‘s latest book, The New Small, and it’s a keeper.

There’s a revolution going on in small businesses these days, and it is being enabled by low-cost, high impact new technologies (note: I have built my business on the approaches Phil outlines, so this is not just theory!). Phil outlines the Five Enablers in this volume, and gives a series of case studies showing how progressive and nimble businesses have employed things like cloud computing and social networks to advance their goals quickly.

Here is my video review of The New Small:

Learn more about Phil, and The New Small, here at his website (www.philsimonsystems.com). I met the guy for lunch, where he handed me the book – he’s a high-energy, engaging, likable fellow with some important perspectives.

For two weeks, I struggled to identify the stylistic difficulty I was having with the book. I’d read a chapter, put it down feeling a bit overloaded, stymied at every attempt to put into words why that was so. Concept, message, author – liked them all. Content – solid. Finally, it came to me – the book felt overstuffed, like a suitcase that had 30% too many items of clothing in it (ever done that?). It was packed very tight, and didn’t have an easy flow for this reader. This is purely an editing and writing style issue – and, it may be more of a personal reflection than anything else (plus, I’d rather get a book that had too much to say than too little!)

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