Big Things Can Start Small

It's easy, when making plans for goals, to get caught up in the lofty. Well, let me be more specific...lofty goals are fine. It's just been my experience that the lofty goals are reached in incremental small steps. By breaking it down, important things can be achieved.

So I eagerly turned to Bill Cummings' new book, "Starting Small and Making It Big". Most people in the greater Boston area are familiar with the many real estate holdings that fall under Cummings Properties. Bill's companies have come to define the real estate landscape in Boston. Working at Endicott College, we are near one of Bill's flagship properties, the Cummings Center which is located in Beverly, MA. Bill had the idea of turning a long-shuttered shoe factory on a massive parcel of land into a multi-use commercial property. Fast forward to today and the Cummings Center speaks loudly to his persistence, well-articulated vision and ability to execute.

Many know that Bill and his wife Joyce are now billionaires who have taken the Giving Pledge begun by Warren Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates. That is no doubt a lofty goal. Yet when it was announced in the local Boston papers about their intended philanthropy, many very close to Bill and Joyce, while knowing that they were well off, didn't know exactly how well off they were...certainly they didn't know that Bill and Joyce were billionaires.

In reading Bill's book, his story is like many others. He came from a humble home as did Joyce. Their families did not harken back to the Mayflower but, relatively speaking, had recent roots in America. Bill began work at a young age and discovered he had an entrepreneurial flair. Then, little by little, through grit and determination and quite a bit of that "vision thing", he began to have more and more business success. Bill is quick to admit that Joyce was a big part of supporting his ability to go after that business success. Did they both know that they would end up as billionaires? No. However, through the grit of always moving forward, in incremental steps, that goal was reached.

I love reading business books; in particular, I find leadership books fascinating. Some are excellent but many are written in a fashion that make leadership seem more surreal than real. Bill's book falls into the excellent category. His narrative isn't a slick Silicon Valley story; nor is it a story of someone born into a family with wealth and prestige. It is a story of Everyman and Everywoman. And that is most inspiring of all.

So what small step can you take right now, in this moment, toward your own lofty goal?

If you are interested, here is a link to learn more:

(this review is provided purely for educational purposes and no compensation was received by the author).

Think About the Payback

We've been thinking a lot lately about where our time is being spent.  Time is democratic, in that we are all given 168 hours every week to get things done.  Yet, all too often, we hear "I don't have time".  And, the truth is, we are guilty of saying the very same thing, too.  A great exercise we like to challenge others with (and ourselves!) is adding up where the hours go in a week.  Almost always, we come up short of the 168 hours which means there actually is spare time.

Sleep for 8 hours a day?  There's 56 hours in a week.  Do you work 40 hours a week?  Now you are up to 96 hours.  Commute an hour each way to work?  There's another 10.  You are still only up to only 106 hours.  Let's say eating takes up 2 hours every day.  There's 14 hours in a week.  One of those special people who works out an hour, 5 days a week?  That and your eating still only gets you to 125 hours.  You still have 43 hours unaccounted for in one week.  Let's put dressing and showering at one hour every day.   36 hours are still left!

Now for the big question? How much time do you spend each day on social media - FB, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram - an hour a day?  Two hours? 

Yet what is that payback for that time invested? 

We get that staying in touch with friends and family is fun...yet are any of those social media apps going to result in an internship or job offer for you?  Now how much time do you spend on LinkedIn where time spent could actually result in one of those two things?  Imagine if you invested just one hour, once a week, on writing recommendations, beefing up your profile, posting a blog or following a user group that mattered to you?  

Hmmm...that's an investment worth of your time, don't you think?

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It's Not About the Food

The interviewing process can be harrowing.  It doesn't matter whether you are a college graduate going for your first real job or you are, ahem, a person of a certain age who has been downsized and now find yourself back in the job market...interviews are hard.

Just to add a layer of complexity on to a nerve-laden process is the...wait for it...interview over a shared meal.  Now what to do?

I'm asked, frequently, by interviewees of all ages...what's the right approach?  It seems that (rightly so) the interview lunch or dinner is seen as a more likely chance to get things wrong.

It doesn't have to be!

The first thing I suggest to someone who is stressed out over such an interview is to remember the first cardinal rule.

It is never about the food.

That doesn't mean that you can't enjoy what you are eating.  What it does mean is that you need to keep your eyes on the ball.  That "ball" is the person or persons sitting across from you.  They have chosen this opportunity to get to know you better and there is no better way to do that than over a shared meal.  Therefore, you will want to leave plenty of opportunity to engage them as keep it simple so your attention is on them, and not what is on your dish.

Now for the next question...what about drinks (assuming all parties are over 21)?

Call me old-school but its best to keep it simple here as well.  Order a club soda with a splash of cranberry if you want to be is not the time to order the $20 glass of wine.  For an interview, you want your full wits (because half-wits rarely get the dream jobs).  

This middle-of-the-road approach toward food and drink shows two things.  Firstly, you are taking the interview meal seriously (you can be relaxed and still take something seriously) AND it shows your prospective employer you value their resources.

And when the offer letter comes to can crack open the champagne then!

Don't Outsource A Sale

Recently, I contacted someone who I had worked with a while ago about a business engagement I had for him. He had started a consulting business exactly in the area of specialty I needed. The stars seemed to align. I needed someone with whom I was familiar and who could hit the ground running. This engagement would help him also build additional credibility for his rising business. It appeared, at least on paper, to be a win-win.

I connected via email with him and suggested we nail down the specifics. Time was of the essence! Working together would be exciting! The job could be his...isn't that music to any entrepreneur's ears!

And then he did what any salesperson should never do. He outsourced the sale. How? By simply stating that his "assistant" would contact me to set something up to discuss further. You guessed it...I never heard from the assistant. And yet I had already pre-qualified myself as a sales lead and was ready to issue a purchase order. That is the definition of "low-hanging fruit'.

What happened? I don't know and, frankly, didn't have the time to care. By not following up with me (in whatever fashion), the lesson spoke volumes. With a delivery date for myself looming large, I gave the business to another service provider (always have a Plan B) who worked hard to understand my needs and gave quality quick turn-arounds. That company performed remarkably throughout the project and will likely get other engagements.

It's easy in our harried and frenetic world to delegate stuff to other people, to the reminder app on our phones or to a piece of paper. Just remember: don't delegate sales. They are the lifeblood of your business!

It's Not Just About the Auto Pilot

Much is being written about electric cars these days.  

Perhaps the best known of this category is Tesla.  Elon Musk is one of the category's strongest and best known advocates.  Having seen him speak about a year ago about the technology being put into his Tesla cars, I have no doubt he is pushing the a good way.

One of the features built into his cars, and others like it, is the "auto-pilot" features.  Harkening back to the Jetsons, this feature lets cars navigate the roads themselves.

This blog is not about how that will work.  That is a future column.  No, this blog is about how one technology, a self-driving car, may be a major disruptor...just not in the way you think.

Think about this.   A major point of driverless cars is supposedly fewer accidents.  Work with me here and let's say that is exactly the outcome.  We all have fewer accidents.  Who stands to be disrupted by that?  A major segment that will be disrupted are insurance companies.  Fewer accidents means lower premiums.  And lower premiums means insurance companies will have a smaller float pool to invest.



It All Starts With A Story

Recently, we were with a group of really smart entrepreneurs, technologists really, who were anxious to get their business off and running.  

Their passion was evident for their creation.  Before long, we knew about every widget, screw and microprocessor that was in the product. 

One thing was missing.  The story.  

They had fallen prey to something so simple, it has somehow become complex.  They had forgotten that beyond the shine, the snazz and the jubilation about Their Great Invention that there needed to be a narrative.  Long after customers forgot about fast microprocessors, elegant code or the shine on the new car, they will remember the story they were told that compelled them to buy in the first place.  

Stories don't come easy all the time.  You may be special and nail what your narrative will be on the very first telling.  But just like those stories told around the Thanksgiving table about when Uncle Henry forgot the cranberry sauce for the sixth time or when Spencer the Wonder Terrier got into the stuffing, stories get better with lots of telling.  And the only way your story of your product or service can get better is with lots and lots of telling to lots of people.  

Weave in how great the product will be in improving their lives or how much trouble it will save them over the long honest, sincere and, remember to take a breath.  

You never taking a breath, you may be giving the customer a chance to place an order.  And that would be a very, very good thing.