Connection Pinball

Scanning my usual set of columns in Hootsuite this morning, I wondered, “Is there a blog post here – just looking  at these people?”

In my DM column I saw Liz Marshall and Terry Starbucker. Yep, there was a story.

You see, I met Terry in our early days of blogging – probably 2008, at the famous Blogger Social ’08. Our friendship had little to do with my business at the time (which was and still is focused on pharma), but we were both blogging on marketing and business topics, and we hit it off.

In 2009, I made my only appearance at SXSW, mainly to chaperone my oldest son, who was interested in film (and, hey, what’s not to like about a father-son adventure to Austin?). Being disillusioned with a lot of the panels, I spent a fair amount of time in the Blogger Lounge, where, serendipitously, I ended up at the same table with Liz Strauss. We hit it off, too.

Terry and Liz insisted that I come to this rather small conference in Chicago called SOBCon the next year. It wasn’t in my pharma sweet spot, but I was still trying to find my place in the marketing/social media/entrepreneur world as well, and I liked the idea of a more intimate gathering of status-quo-breakers. So I went.

There I met Lisa Petrilli, also visible in my HootSuite columns today. And, Anthony Iannarino, Danielle Smith, Sean McGinnis, Angela Maiers – all visible front-and-center this morning on Twtiter, all met for the first time at a SOBCon event (2010 or 2011). Because LeadershipChat was born out of a collaboration between Lisa Petrilli and me that started at SOBCon, a whole other fleet of close connections has also been developed. And as I expand out of pharma into a new endeavor, it’s people like Carol Roth and Greg Hartle and Lou Imbriano and Jeannie Waters and Liz Marshall and Sara Goodman and Jesse Petersen and Becky McCray and Alli Worthington and Fred McClimans and Brandie McCallum and Sam Fiorella and Meghan Biro and Patty Azarello and Jeff Shuey and Phil Gerbyshak and many others who are my supporters, and cheerleaders, and brain trust.

All of this grew out of LeadershipChat and SOBCon.

Which grew out of becoming friends with Liz and Terry.

Which leads to the moral of the story. Make great quality connections, cultivate those relationships, and be ready.

It may seem a bit like a pinball game at times, but you cannot and will not lose when you make friends with great people!

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Be Narrow-Minded

>> Seeing 20/20 in 3-D

Is Your Sky Blue?

Why is the Dilbert comic strip so popular? One reason is because there seems to be a thousand kill switches on awesome in workplace (go ahead, click on the link. I’ll wait…).

It’s very likely that you have some major awesome locked up in your mind and heart and character and abilities – and, if you’re like most people in the workforce, it’s being inhibited more than expressed.

That, and the general economic instability, has forced many more people to look at traditional work within traditional organizations and ask, “Why am I doing this?”

Why, indeed! I came to that crossroads almost 6 years ago and decided to venture out on my dream of creating a business built around my awesome. Which is being the Connection Agent.

When I sit down in counselor mode with other entrepreneurs, small business leaders, or people in the midst of career change, I pretty quickly turn the conversation to my 2 “blue sky” questions. Because they reveal what is really going on in the DNA of the person, regardless of past titles and roles.

“What have you done that made you feel like you were right in your sweet spot?” and, “If you could do absolutely anything for a career, that lined up with your abilities and desires, what would it be?”

Often, there is a long pause – as if we struggle with permission to answer such questions! We’re not supposed to be able to pursue our ideals, right? That’s for the 0.001%. The rest of us need to just settle for what we get and make the best of it.

That’s a crock, people.

You gaze at the blue sky because it’s your mirror. And once you have a clear idea of who you really are and where you want to go, that’s when you make the most important decision of your professional life – to take control and begin moving in that direction. Your direction.

Not having a blue sky in front of you is like driving your car with no destination. The best GPS system in the world can’t get you to a non-existent end point.

Much of my work is with the pharmaceutical industry, where layoffs have been relentless for the past handful of years. While it’s painful to see, I am also convinced that a massive amount of undeveloped talent is being unleashed. I talk to a lot of these folks, and when the corporate shackles begin to fall away, a new freedom arises – the permission to dream. The end point is allowed to shift from the next rung of the corporate ladder, to something much more important.

I’m no naive idealist – I know that it can take years to turn blue sky visions into reality (I’ll tell you my story sometime). But here’s the memo – no-one else is going to do it for you. You can work for someone else’s agenda, or you can pursue your own direction – that direction where you can make your unique contribution to the world. It may be inside a company, it maybe building your own company, it may be on your own – the barriers to entry have never been lower and the tools for business-building have never been greater.

There’s a reason I go to conferences like SOBCon and, this year, Blissdom*. The people that organize these events are blue-sky dreamers and practical builders, who attract other like-minded souls into supportive communities. Entrepreneurs – doers – good people – gather, and blue sky together, and make things happen. If you want to map out your own future, you need to be around others who will inspire and support you along the way.

*(I’m just hoping I can survive the hormonal imbalance at Blissdom – the XY chromosome delegates will apparently be vastly outnumbered!)

Hope to see you soon – maybe with a cup of coffee and a blue sky overhead!

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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?

>> Are You Having A Nice Conflict?

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Maxim-izing Your Leadership

There are some books that you pick up, and you realize after 5 pages that it’s going to be a sacrificial labor of love to get through it.

Others, you sense immediately that your brainwaves are in sync with the author.

So it was (the latter) when I began reading One Piece of Paper by Mike Figliuolo (our guest host on LeadershipChat this week). Mike is the founder of thoughtLeaders and a prolific blogger on leadership topics.

Instead of giving a traditional book review (overview), I thought I’d share some immediate outputs. Mike begins the book by encouraging readers to identify their leadership maxims. Here is how he defines this foundational concept (p. 7):

A maxim by definition is a principle or rule of conduct…it is a short, personally meaningful, and easily explained statement that reflects one of your beliefs about leadership…your maxims will become your leadership conscience…maxims must be emotionally meaningful, so you need to delve into your personal experiences to find those phrases, images, and stories that stir you to your core.

Now, I will tell you that anyone that talks about distilled, clear, foundational principles is immediately my friend! Mike’s thesis is that an effective leader must define these personal maxims, and possess them top-of-mind so that they can guide behaviors (for you and your team) in the day-to-day process of leading.

Eschewing the use of buzzwords to define one’s purpose (note: another way to be my friend!), Mike writes that you must “find your passion and turn it into a leadership maxim by crafting a phrase or drawing on an image that evokes fulfillment and satisfaction.” His personal example: light bulbs – creating that moment of understanding in others. As he put it, “turning light bulbs on for people is why I am excited to go to work every day.”

At this point in the book, I decided to see if I could come up with something pithy and meaningful that pretty much was the reason to get up every day. And for me, it boils to down to three words:

Distill – Define – Connect

That is my passion, my maxim of purpose. Help others by distilling a mass of information, defining the core need or message, and connecting to the best resources. These verbs are, in fact, the foundational activities of my consulting practice. I’m a Connection Agent.

Now, there’s a whole lot more valuable stuff in this book, but this is your starting line. I’d encourage you to take 5-10 minutes, with one piece of paper, and just begin there – can you express the core motivators that drive you? Mike gives (p. 37) four helpful questions to get you rolling:

- Why do you get out of bed every morning?

- Why are you excited to go to work?

- When people ask you what you love to do, what is your response?

- What do you tell people you are really great at doing?

Come up with  your maxim (or at least start!), and share your results with us as we interact with Mike during #LeadershipChat on Twitter, Tuesday November 15th, 8 pm ET. And be sure to read the blog post of my lovely co-host, Lisa Petrilli, with her take on Mike’s book (How to Discover and Live your Leadership Philosophy). We’re looking forward to another lively discussion at the LeadershipChat table!

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

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Follow Your Lead? WIIFM??

>> Feeling Like a Leader

Getting Off the Elevator (Pitch)

I’ve been thinking a lot about the elevator pitch/speech lately. And I have two major issues with it.

  1. It’s a pitch. You’re selling.
  2. It’s too long.

I get the principle, but I’d like to challenge you to have a clear message that is 10 words or less – the totally distilled, core message of who you are and what value you offer.

The kind of statement you can make before the elevator door even closes.

Can you fill in this blank?  I/we want to be the go-to person/company for ________________. That’s one of the questions that gets you started toward the 10-word summary.

Why is this important?

  • YOU need to be totally clear on your core identity and message. In a way that could fit easily into one tweet.
  • You may not have 2-3 minutes to get to the point.
  • Not every situation is a sales situation. Can you explain what you do to a neighbor in 15 seconds?
  • Your message needs to be packaged so others can transmit it for you. I often (spontaneously) ask clients who know me to introduce me in a group setting, to see if I’ve enabled them to truly grasp my identity.

An elevator pitch is a mug of beer. A 10-word-or-less distilled summary is a fine single malt whiskey, served neat. 100 proof memorable goodness.

Here’s how Ravenswood Winery does it: No Wimpy Wines. Three words of branding perfection!

By all means, have an extended version of your message for when you know you’ll have some time. But, in my opinion, one of our biggest marketing challenges isn’t designing an elevator pitch – it’s gaining clarity first about our market purpose, direction, and message.

I’m regularly astounded at how rarely this is in place – distilled message clarity woven throughout the company and its marketing. And that is why I offer Clarity Therapy sessions for (mostly) small companies who want to program their marketing GPS for clear direction (brazen commercial for my consulting services – because I’m quite good at this!).

What are my summary statements? I have two, depending on if the need is for consulting, or for business referral connections:

- I help clients gain clarity in their direction and message (analogy: clarity therapist)

- I pro-actively make beneficial business referrals via my trust network (analogy: eHarmony)

And, yes, part of the Clarity Therapy outcome is finding that key business analogy that will help clients picture your service in their minds, so they can remember it and explain it to others. This (along with a compelling story and a differentiating offering) is a crucial element to an effective go-to-market message!

If you’re feeling like you need to stand out more clearly in a very noisy marketplace, contact me about a Clarity Therapy session. Don’t waste time and money being just another face in the marketplace.

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Twitter: @ConnectionAgent | @swoodruff

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DNA Interview: Shannon Whitley

This week, we’re getting to know my friend and collaborator Shannon Whitley (@swhitley on Twitter) – interviewing him to discover a bit more about his professional DNA.

Shannon could easily be labeled “The API Guy” – if there’s an API for a social or enterprise platform, he’s probably integrated with it! He also develops great social tools, such as Contax.io and ChatTagged (see the video for more on those).

Need to gain understanding of your personal or company DNA? Contact me about Brand Therapy – you’re only a few hours away from a professional epiphany!

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Turning the Corner

At a tweetup in NYC this week, I had the joy of talking to a fellow entrepreneur about how her business had finally turned the corner and begun to really take off. She and I had talked late last year and she was right on that borderline at the 3-year mark – “will this make it? Or do I need to get another job?” I knew she both needed and wanted to make it on her own.

Five years into my business adventure, I’ve been right on the edge of that bubble, too – more than once. Really wondering if this Impactiviti/Connection Agent business was going to fly. Now, as more and more business comes through the accumulated time and effort of network-building, it’s amazing to look at that corner – in the rear-view mirror!

My mission is to help entrepreneurs. And one of the biggest difficulties we all face is getting to, and around, that corner of steady work and profitability. Have you gotten there? Can you give hope to others by sharing your success, and perhaps a vital lesson or two you learned getting there? You could do so in the comments; but even better, perhaps – write it up on your blog, send me the link, and I’ll post it here.

It can be a lonely path. Let’s help kindle the hope and confidence of our fellow entrepreneurs, in the best way we can. There’s nothing better than a success story!

UPDATE: Here is a great video story from Carrie Wilkerson, The Barefoot Executive

Great perspective here from Anthony Iannarino, on the role of client acquisition in turning the corner.

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DNA Interview: Sean McGinnis

I love sitting down with folks and finding out more about what makes them tick – their professional DNA.

Today’s Skype video interview is with my friend Sean McGinnis (@seanmcginnis on Twitter), principal of 312 Digital and well-known Chicago networker.

Sean’s mission is to help clients with Digital Customer Acquisition and Loyalty. Listen in as we chat for a few minutes… (please pardon the slight video pixelation…)

Need to gain understanding of your personal or company DNA? Contact me about Brand Therapy – you’re only a few hours away from clarity!

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First Twitter Chat M&A Activity Announced!

The on-line rumor mill is buzzing with the news that #LeadershipChat has made an unsolicited (but friendly) bid to acquire #TChat (TalentCulture Chat) for a sum equaling a 3.5x annual revenue multiple, plus a hashtag to be named later.

“For months, we’ve been eyeballing #TChat’s growing audience, which occupies the same time slot (8 pm ET Tuesday) during which we convene,” stated Steve Woodruff doppelganger Connection Agent, co-founder of #LeadershipChat. “In fact, many participants were attempting to participate in both chats simultaneously, leading to hashtag distortion fields and chaotic chat neutrino interference. For that reason, we figured we’d better just absorb #TChat, which also gives us Meghan Biro and a couple of minor-league avatar draft choices.”

According to Lisa Petrilli, acknowledged as the real brains behind #LeadershipChat, “Our M&A advisors at J.P. Morgan figured that #TChat was worth at least one large platter of cannolis plus a pair of fiery red stilettos, but we figured we’d base our offer on revenue, which was a much simpler calculation. Competing as two separate chats was clearly a zero-sum game. Turns out that combining was as well!”

Response from the two chat communities was mostly positive. Lurker Mack Collier, founder of #BlogChat, figures any arrangement that dilutes the influence of Steve Woodruff has to be positive. “I can never understand half the stuff he rails on about anyway. Meghan and Lisa, I get. This can only expand the audience of people who aren’t interested in seeing metaphysical concepts reduced into 140-character soundbites.”

Meghan Biro was not available for comment due to a confidentiality clause in the agreement, but according to DMs brought to the surface from her hacked Twitter account, she was preparing to launch her next venture, tentatively called #WhatWereTheyThinking?Chat. Negotiations were well underway to feature a NY congressman as the first guest host of the new chat.

===> Um…OK, the above is a spoof. But, in fact, #LeadershipChat and #TChat ARE having our first joint chat on Tuesday night, June 14th, at 8 pm ET. Please join us as we discuss the topic together: How Magnetic Leadership Attracts the Best Talent. Please use both hashtags (#LeadershipChat #TChat) as you participate!

And, to make your chat experience even more enjoyable, try out ChatTagged, a custom-made Twitter client for helping manage your on-line chat interactions!

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“People Should Pay Me To…”

Just got done with a Brand Therapy breakfast meeting with a long-standing friend, now looking for new avenues of work. He’s got a ton of talent, but just needed some definition of his professional DNA, and direction on how to create new opportunities.

I love those sessions.

It occurred to me, on the drive home, that we often default to the wrong thought process when looking for new work. Regularly, we think like this:

“I need someone to offer me a job to….”

Ugh. For a moment, put the entire legacy corporate structure out of your mind. No position, no title, no company, no job.

Instead, we should be saying this:

“People should pay me to…”

The first focuses on you, the worker dependent on others. The task-doer and title-holder. The second focuses on you, the giver of value who should be given money in return for services you alone (or best) can render.

Don’t simply look for a job. Identify and promote your unique value that leads to income.

Now that I think about it, adapt the words slightly and this mindset also goes for companies promoting themselves.

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Do Me a Favor at SOBCon

Later this week, I’m planning on enjoying a few happy days of networking at the annual SOBCon gathering in Chicago. And, if you’re attending, I want to ask you a favor.

But first, a funny story from last week…

I walked into an agency for a brainstorming session, and one of the folks there was surprised at my appearance. I mean, he knew I was coming, but he’d been following me on Twitter for a while, and for some odd reason, he thought I was some kind of intimidating 6’5″ behemoth. Maybe it’s that Steve 3-D avatar which does have a certain Terminator quality to it, but really – I pretty much look like a regular guy! Intimidating? Nah….

And no matter how I come across publicly or on-line, when in large groups, I’m actually the one who feels a bit intimidated. The shy gene never fully disappears, I guess.

So, do me a favor. As Carol Roth did last year (and I never forgot her for it), if you want to meet me, just come up and introduce yourself. I want to make the most of every moment in Chicago, which means talking to you, not drifting self-consciously in the crowd.

Oh, and fair warning on three things:

1. If there’s actually time to talk, I’ll cut through the fluff pretty quickly and really get to know you.

2. You’ll understand me if you have a sense of humor.

3. I do hugs. Despite my New England upbringing.

See you in Chicago!

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Brand Therapy

I have a confession. I love every aspect of the work I do, but there is one thing that gives me the most immediate gratification and sense of accomplishment – sitting down with entrepreneurs and doing a brand therapy session. Distilling down a small business brand to the Core Four – its differentiating offering, its one-sentence summary, its compelling brand story, and its key marketplace analogy – is one of my favorite exercises. There’s a certain magic that occurs when you can help re-define a company in a few hours.

Recently I was in the midst of this process with a talented and successful digital agency in the Northeast. As I queried them about their core strengths, they kept coming back with nice-sounding (and true) phrases, none of which really distinguished them. So I scribbled J.A.D.A. on a piece of paper and pushed it across the table.

They sounded like Just Another Digital Agency. A commodity.

Now, in fact, they weren’t, and I knew it, but they hadn’t boiled their message down to a unique, differentiating identity. It was there, but it took some more pointed questions to finally bring it to the surface. They had revenue, they pleased their varied customers, but they were on a treadmill. Commodity brand positioning does that to you.

Why do companies need a brand therapist? It’s simple, really – we’re all too close to our own work. We get so immersed in our companies and offerings, that we can no longer see clearly who we really are. I serve as a brand therapist for others – but, I realize that I also need an outside voice for my own company. Because I’m too caught up in my own work to be objective!

I see this brand identity murkiness all the time – and the lack of definition even leads to taking on the wrong kind of work. It seems to be  unavoidable – ironically, even marketing/branding companies regularly suffer from the syndrome – but it’s certainly curable.

You may be coming across as J.A.S.P. (Just Another Service Provider), or J.A.T.C.  (Just Another Training Company) – or, fill in the blank for your offering. Sometimes an outside perspective – a therapist who can ask the right questions and guide you to a clearer vision – is just what you need when you’re at that point of doing a lot of work, but suffering from a lack of focus and direction.

Lots of big-time companies will suck you dry of time and dollars for a branding exercise, but my brand therapy sessions typically take about a day of focused time. We get to the Core Four, and if you need help in execution and campaigns beyond that, I have some wonderful resources in my network (yes, including digital agencies, marketing consultants, and loads of other talented providers!) Give me a call at 973-947-7429 and let’s set aside a day for some brand therapy. If, like me, you have eyesight that needs correction, you can look forward to that feeling you get when you put on a brand new pair of prescription glasses!

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Burning Initiative

Glancing over at my Tweetdeck columns right now, I see the faces of many friends and professional colleagues. There’s an astonishing diversity in this group of digital networkers, but when I think about the common ground among those to whom I feel closest, there is definitely one thing each possesses.

Burning initiative.

Great ideas are a dime a dozen. Knowledge is easily obtained, and superficial appeal is a make-up kit and sound-bite away.

My people make things happen. They’re not into the status quo. They see what is, dream what ought to be, and take action.

I see, on my screen, Tom Martin, who is constantly pushing the marketing/social media envelope, and who works as a solopreneur and change agent. I see Lisa Petrilli, who could easily land a job in a big corporation, but who is pursuing her own, more revolutionary, vision. There’s Jason Falls, and there’s Jay Baer – two thinkers and doers who are not afraid to try out new things and push, over months and years, to make a difference.

I spot Dave deBronkart in my Twitter stream – ePatientDave who took the bull by the horns when he was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. My pharma co-conspirator Sally Church, who takes the arcane world of clinical research and brings it into the social world. And Geoff Livingston, who will puncture the balloon of just about any status quo, and continually seeks to do something about it.

I could go on and on, but the point is – no matter how smart you are, or what title you’ve been granted, 90% of the game is initiative. Preferably burning initiative, hot and steady, over the long haul.

It might be a thrill to be called a guru, or to be a best-selling author, or to put “award-winning” as your first name. Maybe none of that is so bad, but to be a catalyst, to be someone who makes the pie bigger for everyone, to be a change agent in a positive direction – isn’t that what matters most? Or am I just an idealistic dreamer?

We’ve all been called many names (only some of which can be reproduced on a public blog!). I mostly gravitate toward people with the title Catalyst, Initiator, or Revolutionary. If you’ve got the fire, let it burn and take some initiative!

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Introvert Networking: Start Here

My good friend and LeadershipChat co-host Lisa Petrilli has a valuable series going on her blog about Introverts Guide to Business and Leadership – she and I share a common bond over this topic since we are both professionals who seek to both leverage, and transcend, our native tendency toward introversion in our professional efforts.

Her post this morning (The Introvert’s Guide to Getting Noticed in Business) sparked a thought about how introverts can successfully build a deep and strong network.

Here’s your starting point: Make Your Own Rules. Specifically, use social networking tools and approaches to change the game to your favor.

You know the standard “rules” that come to mind when you see the word “networking,” right?

  • Walking into a crowded room and wondering how to fit in, and who to talk to…
  • Trying to join in to or strike up a conversation with people you’re not sure about…
  • Exchanging business cards without really knowing why…
  • Lather, rinse, repeat.

There are crowded social parties, artificial networking meetings, noisy industry conventions; and you, as an introvert, look at each of these with some level of trepidation. Because the networking “rules” you’ve operated under – the outgoing are the winners, casual chatter is how bridges are built, the more contacts you make the better – none of that fits you. No wonder it doesn’t feel natural.

So – change the rules. Here’s how:

Use digital social networks to “pre-meet” people. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other networks give you the opportunity to build bridges and engage in one-on-one small talk without those crowded environments so that the beginnings of a relationship are already put in place. Then, find a format to meet that person one-on-one – either over coffee, or during a larger gathering.

How did an initial core group driving pharma social media – who have since, with many others, become great friends – find each other? Twitter and blogs, opening the door to live meetings and collaborations. —>

(hey, Brad, we’re overdue for lunch…)

Introverts tend to prefer a more intimate, in-depth, “safe” environment to get to know people. As Lisa states in her post, we prefer to go deep with a smaller number of people. Using social networks, you can meet new people, AND build deeper ongoing relationships, through the relatively safe and controlled environment of exchanged on-line messages. And, you can be far more targeted and strategic than walking into a big room and hoping you find someone with whom you have common ground.

Digital social networks allow you to find common ground right now, without uncomfortable events, and to start to build a relationship that can later blossom in an ongoing way. Everything you need to find the right people in a targeted way is available through these amazing digital platforms.

And here’s the not-so-secret secret – most people really want to have someone who knows them as an individual. People respond to the introvert way – deeper communication, one-on-one caring, thoughtful planning. Plus, if you take the time and trouble to “feed” the people in your network (something many introverts do quite naturally) with information and connections you discover – you’re golden.

The fact is – introverts have a tremendous advantage. Just toss out the old rules and make your own. Take it from me, the naturally-introverted Connection Agent. If you network your way, you win!

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Do We Need to Put Up with This?

>> Business is increasingly being encumbered with regulations, processes, lawyers, and fears. Do we* need to put up with this?

>> The cost of business development/sales is huge. Do we need to put up this?

>> The landscape of providers is littered with the unscrupulous and incompetent. Do we need to put up with this?

>> The best people are scattered about in a patchwork quilt with only the loosest of ties. Do we need to put up with this?

>> Talent-stifling, hierarchical organizations/corporations dominate how business gets done. Do we need to put up with this?

I say NO. It’s time for the connection agents to band together. Stay tuned…

* = competent, trustworthy, reputable professionals of good will

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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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Marketing Profs Digital Forum Re-cap

It was a cold week in Austin, TX. But there was plenty enough warmth among the attendees at the Marketing Profs Digital Forum, where a bunch of smart people (they let me in, too) gathered to think together about the future of digital marketing.

Or, actually, the present of digital marketing.

I won’t attempt to give a full overview, but instead, just put a spotlight on a few things that were exceptional.

Organization - the Marketing Profs staff did it right. And, they were all friendly and fun to talk to. You know what? That matters. Special kudos to Megan Leap who did a lot of the pre-event and on-site orchestration. And there was some scrambling that had to occur, with weather-related postponements and what not.

The Now RevolutionJay Baer and Amber Naslund kicked off the promotional tour for their new book, The Now Revolution. And – no surprise here – their presentation rocked. Especially their use of simple slide design as adjuncts to tell the story. Yes, slide design matters.

Content did Rule – Many of the presentations were quite meaty. Some of these conferences can get fluffy, but not here. Plus, and C.C. Chapman and Ann Handley (whom I consider a dear friend) gave a nice talk about the main thoughts in their recently-released book, Content Rules. Both are solid presenters (and, I finally got to meet C.C. for the first time).

Mobile - one of the best talks for me was Christina Kerley (CK)’s overview of why mobile is huge and getting huger. I’ve known CK for years but had not seen her present before. Fabulous. And I walked out totally convinced about the importance of developing for mobile RIGHT NOW.

Anthropology – huh? Yep, one of the highlights was a talk by an anthropologist, Michael Wesch, who gave a breathtaking 300,000 foot view of how media shapes and reflects culture. Many of us felt stunned at the end. It was also another example of using background slides to help tell a story rather than impart a content outline. Yes, storytelling matters.

Tom Martin – I’ve been hankering to meet Tom for years. We’ve talked and collaborated on-line; finally we got to hang out. Not only were our discussions fun and fruitful, but he gave a great talk on his Mardi Gras marketing initiative. Good times.

BBQ – Yes, one minor (but not unimportant!) reason for going to Austin was to have some great barbecue. And Tim Hayden helped orchestrate a very fun outing at the County Line, where the food was plentiful and delicious, and there was time to be with fine folks like Jason Falls, Frank Eliason, Aaron Strout, Tom Webster, Tamsen McMahon, Matt Ridings, and many more (yes, I know I’m forgetting names…can I get away with it by blaming age, the cold, or something else that avoids culpability??)

For me, this conference was about face time with people. I went to share vision and thoughts with folks I respect in the field, and I was not disappointed. It was also about having fun with semi-crazy folks like DJ Waldow, who along with CC Chapman and Matt Ridings helped produce an ad-hoc series of Ann Handley Day videos. Thanks to the Marketing Profs folks for putting on the event (despite all weather-related dampeners!), and I look forward to future events!

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The Pace of Success

All of my marketing instincts perpetually whisper in my ear – “go wide, go loud, build big!” Create an audience. Reach as many as fast as you can.

Yet everything I’ve learned whispers in the other ear – “go deep, go slow, build quality!” Create a tribe. Build a vision and a direction that will reach plenty of people over time.

I’m slowly learning to decrease the volume on the first, and listen more closely to the second. Remind me if I forget. Subduing old instincts that are constantly reinforced by our marketplace is not so easy!

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Steve Recommends: Negotiation Training

Steve Woodruff is the Connection Agent, and he has lined up top-quality recommended providers for a whole range of corporate training, marketing, and communications needs.

One of our Connection Agency partners does an exceptional job with training sales professionals/account managers in Negotiation Skills. Live workshops, custom and off-the-shelf programs, follow-up e-reinforcement – this group has always come through for my clients (they also have a great “Selling Higher” program for moving up the executive chain).

This well-established partner serves not only healthcare, but other industries as well! And since they are being recommended by the Connection Agent, here’s what you can expect: customer focus, quality deliverables, and proven integrity.

Download this introductory info sheet, ConnectionAgent_Negotiation, and let us know how we can be of assistance!

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Steve Woodruff is the Connection Agent, a client-vendor matchmaker often called the walking eHarmony of the industry. The Connection Agency is restoring trust and efficiency to the marketplace through the growth of a top-notch network of recommended clients and providers.

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Twitter: @ConnectionAgent | @swoodruff

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