Do you have a long list of things you want to do, and never enough time to get them all done? Take your time!
No, I don't mean slowing down, although that can be helpful if you use the time to plan, prioritize, and jettison unhelpful commitments. I'm talking about making sure you take the time back, that others want to take from you. That unwieldy list of meetings? Ask for an agenda, and figure out whether there is something you need to learn or contribute. If your presence is simply to be another "warm body" in the room, you may be better off using your time and talent elsewhere. And what about those well-meaning colleagues, neighbours, or friends, who just want "a couple of minutes", when you've scheduled time to work on an important project, or study, or follow through on some other commitment you've made to yourself or others? This is truly a time when you need to take [back] your time. Make sure you have a polite response ready, such as "I've made a commitment to work on something right now. Can I call/email you when I'm done?" or "i'm working to a deadline at the moment - let me put some time in my calendar for you for when I'm finished, so I can give you my full attention."
Your time is valuable, as are your commitments to yourself and others. You owe it to yourself to take the time you've allocated. Remember: someone else's lack of planning doesn't need to be your emergency.
Too often, business owners and entrepreneurs forego educational opportunities and occasions to learn because they cost money. Oh, they'll spend money on advertising, or sales collateral, or even a new point-of-sale system. But when it comes to researching customers to serve them better, or worse yet, adding new skills to their own personal toolkit, they try to only use the "free" option. This is wrong-headed thinking, in our opinion. Why do we think that?
We believe spending money to learn is an investment. Investing in customer research can help you target more effectively, or move into more productive markets. Investing in tools or skills that make you more productive and a better seller will pay dividends to your business in short order. Thinking of either of these things as "spending" is a little like saving for retirement by putting your money in a sock under your mattress.
Of course you can't invest your money everywhere - so just like that retirement fund, you'll need to do some research to find what works best for you. And also like your other investments, you may have trouble figuring out just what that is. If that's the case, find yourself a coach who can help you evaluate your options.
There's a new skill or new information out there that will help your business grow. Start looking for your next investment, today.
What does a spider have to do with understanding your customers? No, it's not a metaphor for entangling them in a sticky web and holding them captive while you make a meal of them. But there is a metaphor involved. Let me explain!
We like to use metaphor-based serious games like Innovation Games® to help teams become more customer-centric. It's a fun way to reinforce this important perspective, when your team may have had a nice relaxing summer, and now, in a panic to get sales back on track, they're focusing too much on features, and not enough on the people the features are for. Or, they may be thinking too much about the competition, and not enough about those same customers. We're experts at the Innovation Game Spider Web, and we love using it as a tool to get teams back in touch with the thing that should be at the centre of their world. (Hint: it's not your product). With the customer at the centre of the web, we guide your team in an in-depth exploration of
If you'd like to connect with us about a custom workshop for your team, we'd love to hear from you. To hear more about the ways we're helping our customers to see everything and make better decisions, why not sign up for our newsletter?
You've got a great team of mentors who have helped you get this far, there's no way they could be holding you back, is there?
If you have ever taken lessons in a sport, or music, or some other area of your life where you did really well and it seemed to come naturally, you may have also experienced a time when you had to move on to a different teacher, at a higher level. You can have a certain need for support and interaction, and someone can be exactly the right teacher or confidante for that time and place. But as you grow, your needs may change. The good teacher will recognize this, and encourage you to move on. Someone who wants you to stay at the same level, may have their own challenges to work on – and you will need to work on gaining the wisdom to know the difference. This is your job to manage.
As you become faster, fitter, stronger, or whatever goal you have set for yourself, you also need to be looking for those around you who will help you keep up the challenge. At the gym, when the set of weights become easy to lift, experts at fitness know that it’s time to try something heavier or harder. The same is true with your career. Otherwise you are possibly just playing it safe, and coasting. You don’t have to be constantly dissatisfied with your progress, that’s not the point. It’s that by pushing to the next stage, you will begin to build your confidence in just how far you have come - and how far you can go in the future. People who have lost significant amounts of weight say things like, “I can’t believe how much I used to eat”, or “Wow, I would never drink so much on the weekends now, it seems so unhealthy”. Each new challenge is an opportunity for you to build your confidence, and knowing when or whether you need a new teacher is also part of your growth.
If you feel like you're not progressing, it may be time to look for the next teacher to appear. If you believe you're ready, you are.
When you think of startup founders, what do you think of? Do they look something like this?
There seems to be a perception lately that "startups" are only:
1. Tech companies
2. Mostly young men
3. Looking to scale exponentially and strike it rich.
In fact, this couldn't be further from the truth, and if you're over 50, an immigrant, or a woman, the next business to launch in Canada might be yours. In 2016, over 6.6 million Canadians over age 50 were in the labour force - about a third, and the number of self-employed persons of all ages was about 2.7 million. If a third of those are self-employed, that's 900,000 over-fifty entrepreneurs. A 2012 CIBC study noted that over-50s were the fastest-growing segment of the start-up market. While women don't make up the lion's share of business starts, their share is consistently growing. Immigrants, too, are finding that if they are struggling to find employment for others, building a business lets them create a job for themselves, and for others. So why not you?
As for the money, there's nothing to say you won't strike it rich. There are some late bloomers who went on to have very successful enterprises. Entrepreneurs also identify many other reasons, such as values alignment, more purposeful work, providing necessary but "missing" services in their communities, and employing others in their communities.
There are tremendous advantages to being an entrepreneur when you've already logged some career and life experience. Among these, you may have assets you can leverage for start-up capital, so you don't have to hand over part of your business to venture capitalists, but can retain control for yourself. You've also had lots of time to observe a wide variety of business models that work (and don't), and you've built valuable skills that can form the basis of your new enterprise.
Given the high number of workers over age 50, and yet an increasing youth bias in the workplace, there are plenty of mature workers who are (in the words of one columnist we read recently) "disappearing" themselves - doing everything they can to disguise or hide their age. Wouldn't you think that at age 50 you had finally earned the right to be yourself? So if you've reached the half-century mark, we'd like to encourage you to consider the "platinum pivot© " - think now about how you're going to take ownership of your career and rely on your own talents for your next 20, 30 or more years of your work life. Sure, there are plenty of youthful startups out there, but they'll all get older eventually, if they survive. You've just got a head start.
For a one-on-one consultation on how to figure out the business model that's right for you, get in touch. We can help.
We've been reading a great book from our friend Dr. Rick Nason of Dalhousie University, called It's Not Complicated: The Art and Science of Complexity for Business Success. It's definitely on our "read and recommended list for all our clients. When Megann met with Rick recently, they were discussing analogies for complex versus complicated things, such as: "Complex is like mayonnaise - once you make it, it can't be separated back into eggs, oil, and lemon juice". She shared her favourite description of companies who expect to be able to use complicated thinking for complex problems, like the way customers make decisions:
"It's as though they think customers can be handled like the cakes in an Easy Bake (TM) oven. If they just apply all the same tactics the same way, all the consumer behaviours will pop out the same way at the other end of the machine."
Hopefully you haven't been managing your customers like inputs in an Easy Bake oven, but if you have, and you'd like to work on building your team's complexity thinking, we can help. Why don't you give us a call, and we can get started with an introductory conversation about how to use the right thinking tools at the right time.
We see startups and "stay ups" all the time, reaching a point where their costs are escalating as they work to get their product or service to market. Sometimes the issue is insufficient validation at the early stages. Other times, it can be that new information comes to light that wasn't previously available - and it is a complete game-changer. The trouble arises when there has already been significant investment in taking the current route. Those sunk costs make it incredibly expensive reverse the engines or take a new tack.
At times like that, it's helpful to think of the current way forward as a metaphorical sinking ship. No matter how much you've invested, you're better to get out with your life (and that of your product or service), than to hang on because of your sunk costs.
If you've sunk a lot of time and effort into your business, and evidence is making the way forward less evident, rather than clearer, we're here to help.
When was the last time you sat down and had a long talk with your oatmeal?
To those who’ve been around a while, this might remind them of a John Prine song…
But the point I’m trying to get at is: “What is the job your oatmeal is doing for you?”
If it’s a cold day, your oatmeal is warming you for the long day ahead.
If you had a too fun, late night, your oatmeal is settling your stomach, so you can reset your head.
Maybe oatmeal reminds you of those carefree mornings in the kitchen with your Grandmother.
Or perhaps it’s helping you lower your cholesterol so you can increase the chances that you’ll meet your own grandchildren.
So if a simple product such as oatmeal can do all these jobs, and more…what jobs do people need your product to do? And how can you use that understanding to develop long-term, profitable, customer relationships?
We’d like to help, and maybe even give you a legal smile!
Kudos to Clayton Christensen for introducing me to the concept of jobs your products do in his book: "The Innovator's Dilemma"
Crowdsourcing is a fantastic way to get ideas, feedback, information, and synergistic thinking. As long as you're hanging with the right crowd.
Thinking carefully about who needs to be in the room for your sprint, who should be invited to respond to your survey, or whose opinion will really make a difference when you are interviewing experts for a report, has never been more important.
If you need help deciding who to ask, poll, invite, or share your concept with, just ask. We do that.
Last week was jam-packed with events! We had a great time at one of them, watching startups, students, facilitators and generally-interested folks collaborate to come up with new ideas to help a young business grow and flourish. Everything was going swimmingly, until we heard this:
"The first iteration of our product has had a great response and excellent feedback. With release 2 we hope to find out who our target market is."
SCREEEEEEEEECH! What's wrong with this picture? We love to work with growing companies, helping them develop and build their business model and validate their canvas. Getting them to ship their MVP (minimum viable product) instead of adding every possible feature all at once is exciting! Can you imagine our disappointment when we hear words that mean, "We came up with a solution to a problem, or helped a customer do a job that needs doing...but we don't know who that customer is"?
If you've got a product or a prototype, and you haven't yet validated that there are customers, and who those customers are, you're investing an awful lot of effort in something that may never fly. Wouldn't you rather have a product that really does "sell itself", because it:
Megann and Steve, Partners in PANOPTIKA, are working for our clients every day to help them See Everything. Here are some of the things we see.