Doing Business When Your Heart Is Breaking


How do we go on when our hearts are breaking?

Wednesday evening in Charleston was a horror. Thursday morning found most of my colleagues in shock. Collectively we are all reeling from the heinousness of the crime committed by one monster. Yet on Thursday, June 18, 2015, the phone kept ringing, clients still needed help, and all the while, our hearts were broken. Our eyes wet with tears.

As a small office, ours has the luxury of organizing our time to fit our schedules. However, we cannot turn the world off in times of crisis. Nor can we hide perpetually from being sad.

During calls and conversations yesterday and today, I’ve been open with people about my feelings; my shock; my horror. My colleagues have responded in kind, sharing their grief and their hurt at the murder of nine innocents and the savaging of a community.

Being open

And why wouldn’t we want to be open? Why wouldn’t we want to be frank about our hurts? This is the time to connect and bond with one another. We cannot wipe this stain from the heart and continue unaffected.

For me, being real means being open about what affects me and how my entire self is involved in how I serve my clients, how I’m friends, and how I want to be perceived. This is a core value for me. And it’s how I do business.

I hope you are feeling the caring and concern from those with whom you encounter as you transact your daily business. If not, perhaps you can take a moment and discuss your feelings before you begin your next sales call, or discuss the next marketing plan, or the sales objectives for August.

Honest hearts

Your heart and soul will be better for talking about your feelings and I expect your professional associates will feel better too, and you’ll create greater human bonds. And at the end of the day, we are in business person to person, not website to website, press release to outlet. We are all people with hearts and souls. Let’s embrace that.

Blue Sky Thinking and Innovation

blue-sky thinking: noun .  1. creative ideas that are not limited by current thinking or beliefs[1]

At the beginning of the great housing apocalypse I suggested to several home builder clients that they offer an opportunity for people to experience life in one the builder’s homes by allowing potential buyers to spend a night in a model home. I called it “sleep with a model.” When I suggested this — to a person —every one of the home builders said, “We can’t do this.” or “Our insurance will allow it.” and even “They’ll tear up the house!”

I also recommended to a Realtor client that she develop an alliance with home renovations contractors so she could provide buyers with immediate access to trusted vendors. I also advocated to the same client that she arrange value loss insurance, soothing buyers’ greatest fears: losing money. Such innovations would distinguish the Realtor’s brand in the crowded market and set her apart for the customer-focused benefits she could provide.

In both situations, there was extreme resistance and objections about why these things could not be done. Not one person stopped to consider how these things could be done.

Innovation is rare

True innovation comes along very rarely. And in (almost) every instance, real innovation is met with extreme resistance. Everyone thinks of all the reasons why something cannot be done. Given the amount of resistance when it comes to innovation, you would think that innovation is against the natural order.

Companies that prosper are those which give power to customers, — providing consumers with their most desired choices and options. Think things that make it easy on the customer. And therefore help you gain more business.

Technology related firms generally make the greatest leaps these days providing people the innovations they want to smooth daily life.

Taco Bell New App

In recent news, innovation is coming from the food and beverage sector. USA Today reports,

“Taco Bell will unveil an advanced mobile app that lets folks order and pay on their smartphones and then walk or drive in and pick up their food.”

The new app is being spotlighted by taking the entire Taco Bell website dark October 28, 2014. How much resistance do you think was heard around the office when this was proposed? You can imagine the conversations: “What if they pay and we don’t get their order?” “How will we deal with incorrect orders?” And on and on. But clearly somebody overcame those issues and designed the new smartphone app.

Also reported by USA Today, another sacred cow, the wait line at Outback, is being conquered by new tech with the launch of their mobile app allowing diners to see real-time estimated waiting times and to add their names to the wait list.

“It’s more important than rolling out a new steak,” says John Schaufelberger, chief marketing officer, in a phone interview.

Nurturing blue sky thinking

Innovation comes from blue sky thinking. Unhindered, unfettered consideration of ground-breaking options which lead to new procedures, new products and ease of use.

When was the last time you did some of your own blue sky thinking? Did you censor yourself? OR did you just let the ideas flow? Is your culture one of encouraging innovation? Do you listen to employees who have ideas of how to streamline production? In a classic model, U.S. auto producers changed production lines in the 1970s to complete with Japanese automakers, with a great many of their ideas arising from those who actually worked on production lines.

Censoring your creativity and wild ideas will keep you exactly where you are. Want to grow? Want to be talked about? Be different.

Blue sky thinking cultivation:

  1. Talk to your customers. Ask them what is their most difficult issue or problem. Ask them what they most need. Then figure out how to do it.
  2. Keep a notebook. Whether digital, or hand-written, capture arcane ideas or transient thoughts. This is why writers and engineers keep notebooks at their bedside so they awaken from dreams to record their nocturnal imaginings.
  3. Observe. Watch people. Watch your customers. Note how they actually do things, not how you’d like them to do things.
  4. Have a blue sky session. Include everyone. Customers. Owners. Stakeholders. Don’t censor. Record. Process later.
  5. Examine common problems. Apple’s iPad evolved from a desire to provide portable, lightweight, powerful devices with multiple capacities. The tablet computer they created revolutionized the market and created a new category.

How have you created innovation in your firm? Tell us how you’ve encouraged blue sky thinking and innovation.

[1] blue-sky thinking. Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers. thinking (accessed: October 28, 2014).

Why I Do Not Go to Networking Events

I hate networking events

I’m going to risk the ire of every business blogger and entrepreneur I know (and probably lots I don’t know but might just come to know because of this post.)

I hate networking events, organizations and gatherings that tout networking as a benefit or sole reason for their existence.

My name is trouble at networking events

Now, I do not hate people, quite conversely, I enjoy people. One of the best hours one can spend is interacting with another human being, learning how they view life and how they have gotten where they are. Just hearing their story.

Networking events and all the advice on how to prepare for one, how to participate in them and how to follow up after them are just bunk.

Events where the focus is networking are fake

Take a bunch of business people and toss them in a room, give them a plastic glass of sweet tea or wine, and a cube of cheese and a HELLO MY NAME IS stick-on name tag and you’ve got a networking event. People are there (no matter how much they prepare) to get your business card and give you theirs. They rarely want to have substantial conversation or tell you their story, and if you do start in on an in-depth conversation, you get interrupted by someone else who wants to hand you their business card. And then what do you do with all those 3.5 x 2 inch pieces of paper anyway?

When what you crave is the backstory of someone’s life, motivations and worldview, networking events don’t cut it.

Making connections

Host a celebration for friends and you’ve got a party, which is actually a networking event, but centered around fun, not networking. Volunteer to teach a class, cook soup in the soup kitchen or serve on a board of an organization and you’ll have new connections.

A few months ago a friend had a few of her new friends over to her house for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. While there, I met several people and learned how they came to choose Charleston as their home. In several cases, there were business intersections and in the natural course of conversation, we shared business cards. And discussed opportunities to work together. And none of it happened with a nametag or a fake intent to network.

If you want to make real connections which lead to an opportunity to do business together, be social. Go to parties, concerts, plays, art openings. Meet people. But for heaven’s sake don’t go to networking events.