When Your Market Says to Pivot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The New Intermediation: Specialized Domains

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

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

Intermediary1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previous Connection Agent posts on The New Intermediation:

The New Intermediation in Publishing

The New Intermediation: Curation

The New Intermediation: Matchmaking

The Business Opportunities of The New Intermediation

Claim Your Market[place]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are You a Jack of All Trades?

Well, then, you get to be a Master of None. Congratulations!

Imagine that title on your business card: Master of None.

Instead (as an individual and as a business), specialize. Differentiate. Be narrow-minded.

A jack of all trades has no unique identity. A JOAT is never a top-of-mind go-to resource.

“Jack of all trades” is not a compliment. Instead, Find Your Two Things. Or, even better, be the Master of One.

(very similar themes in the blogosphere this morning: John Jantsch and Christopher Penn)

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I help people and businesses become narrow-minded with my Clarity Therapy process <—learn more

Go With Door #2

There are two ways of looking at the world.

Behind Door #1 is everything that has been pre-built, pre-defined, and pre-established by others in the past. You are invited to fit in.

Most people fall into the trap of planning their career using Door #1. Why is this a trap?

Because it was built by someone else, not by you. It was built for someone else’s purposes, not for yours. It was built to meet past needs, not necessarily future opportunities.

It’s not always the best deal.

Behind Door #2 is a blank screen, waiting for you to project yourself upon it.

Your skills. Your direction. Your goals. The opportunities you see.

Door #1 is the default choice. Door #2 is for the courageous.

Go with Door #2.

Does Your Resume Have A Missing Narrative?

I’m reviewing a resume for a friend, and it’s got a lot of great stuff. Solid and multi-faceted experience, a diversity of roles, evidence of solid talent.

But it’s missing something – something crucial that most resumes and LinkedIn profiles seem to lack.

An overall narrative.

A conversation this week with a solo consultant also brought this issue to the surface. He’s been doing a lot of different projects since being out on his own, but there’s really no storyline to tie it together. Current work, past roles, future direction – they don’t paint a clear picture.

We humans are hard-wired for stories. We want things to fit into an overall progression, showing steps toward a destination and the evolution of the main character. Other people relate to us through our narratives.

Our careers – our lives – have a narrative. Our challenge is to tie it all together and trace the story.

For most of us, the story is not all fairy-tale and unicorns. That’s OK. No-one can relate to that kind of faux narrative anyway. But your many experiences as a professional always have an interesting story to tell (hint: the plot is always progress, through finding your core strengths and progressively succeeding).

Resumes with lists and bullet points are forgettable commodities. Your story, however, is unique. And no-one can tell it better than you!

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