Based on a completely unreliable, unscientific set of observational data gleaned from #socialmedia, we've noticed (and heard during phone calls) that many people who are suddenly forced to work from home (or who are used to working from home, and have had partners or offspring thrust into the mix) are having trouble with focus.
Steve and I have been working with clients for nearly twenty years, helping them focus on what's important when they are surrounded by irrelevant data and daily distractions. Here are a few tips that will help you get some real work done:
Stay safe out there, people. Keep your distance. Don't touch me, and I won't touch you. If you need help with your business, or planning a new one, let me know. You can also find us on Twitter: Steve or Megann. We're also on LinkedIn or Facebook. Under the Products tab, you can join a MasterMind group or explore coaching with us. Or you can just wait for news to arrive in your inbox, on Friday afternoons. (Just in case you've lost track of what day it is).
The world is changing every day.
It's time to pay attention. Steve and I want to start this post with a plethora of gratitude to the selfless people who are risking themselves daily to be sure there is medical treatment, food, and medicines available to all of us. From first responders to front line grocery and pharmacy workers, thank you all, truly.
For the rest of us, it's time to hunker down at home. As a very small business, we know as well as anyone, the implication of not earning income. We also know that we would far rather be broke, than dead. (That said, Steve and I have a host of skills if you need paid help on a project).
This pandemic is nothing to be trifled with. So we ask that, if you're not working from home and can, please start. If you are well, watch out for your neighbours. Rediscover the telephone and reach out to people you know. Let them know you're thinking of them. This is going to be a long one.
Still, we're optimistic. We see incredible acts of kindness and selflessness every day (they're there if you look for them). Magical thinking solves nothing. Instead, step back. Take stock. Figure out what to to do build a little fortress, lay in supplies, and stay tuned. We'll still be sending updates once a week via our newsletter (subscribe below), and posting here.
Let me know what you need. I'm Megann Willson and for two decades I've been helping clients talk through their big hairy challenges. My number's on the contact tab, or you can find our company on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. We'll get through this, together!
With ever-increasing bad news, do you just want to pile the binders to everything, step back, and hide?
While that may feel good temporarily, if you're running a business, hitting the brakes and then heading for the hills is never the best policy. Instead, take a step back and then plunge into activities like these:
One of the most challenging things you may face with your customers or buyers, is when they push back and say they want to pay a different price, or have different delivery terms, or change what you were hoping to receive. In a business-to-business or account-based-selling environment, this can be a frequent occurrence, so it's useful to learn how to deal with it.
The difficulty, or risk, is that if you counter with another option, they may walk away. You might damage the relationship. So the first thing to consider, is the lifetime value of that customer. Are they likely to purchase again and again over time? If so, you need figure out how to be more accommodating, without "giving away the store". How can you do that?
If you're familiar with "how-might-we" thinking, you'll know that it is most often used in idea generation. But at its heart, the ideas you are trying to generate are solutions to problems. That means when you encounter other types of problems, you can use the same approach to excellent effect. Instead of thinking, "that customer is so demanding!", consider thinking, what can I offer them so they get some of what they want, and I get some of what I want?
Over time, if you exercise the how-might-we muscle to deal with challenging customer requests, you'll find it becomes easier, and you get better at preserving customer relationships while still feeling like there was plenty of pie for everyone (and there is). What can this help you tackle today?
I'm Megann Willson and I'm Partners with Steve Willson here at PANOPTIKA. We help our clients see everything they need to know (and realize what they don't need to know) to make #betterdecisions. You can find us here on our blog, and also on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Or you can sign up for weekly updates delivered direct to your inbox, by clicking the orange button below.
A recent Quora question got me thinking about this topic. Then, as often happens, the Baader Meinhof phenomenon kicked in. Suddenly opportunities to talk about the importance of this tool were everywhere.
So what is it, you ask? It's this: have a system. Whether you want more time for travel when you're a business owner, or you'd like more reliable sales results, or you want to be sure your research about customers is a reliable guide to your decisions, a systematic approach makes the difference. Systems are the reason franchises improve many business owners' success rate. Systems free you up to concentrate on your most important tasks. And systems let you see whether it's your research approach, or a change in your customers attitudes, that has resulted in a different response than usual.
Let me give you a couple of examples. The first has to do with the freedom to be working on your business, and not just in it. This is the freedom to travel more, to sell more, to do high-level thinking. The best system I know for doing this has two parts. Part A is to prioritize your work focus regularly, and don't take on anything that doesn't move you toward your over-arching goals for your life and business (those goals should be aligned, by the way). Part B is to invest in help if there is work that is important but can be done by others, more effectively or efficiently than by you. I learned Part B as the $10, $100 and $1000 tasks rule.
Every day, make a list of all the tasks you must take on, and then prioritize them. If they do not contribute to your goals at all, find someone else to help, or eliminate them altogether. (Reading random posts on Facebook when you're not a social media manager, or even when you are...gone). Secondly, figure out which tasks are both urgent and important. They should be at the top of your list. Which of these can be done only by you? (Selling to your best customers? Check. Making strategic decisions for the future of your business or career? Check.) Which of the jobs can be done by someone else, if you pay them? Look at those jobs, and as your first step, pay to get rid of any $10 tasks. Those are the tasks distract you from your most important, or $1000, jobs, like finding your next customer or finishing a project that will make your boss realize how valuable you are. You'd spend $10 (or even $100) to save or make $1000, wouldn't you? I knew you would.
Every business problem that seems like there isn't enough of something (cash flow, customers, sales, ideas, insights) can benefit from putting a system in place. Buy yourself some freedom. Establish a system today.
I'm Megann Willson, and I'm the CEO and one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. You can also find insights from us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. And for News you can Use directed right to your inbox, sign up using the orange button. Are you stuck and looking to make a career turnaround or start a business? Check out our Upcoming Event link at the top of the page.
Does that sound like an interesting discussion to you? Trust me, it was! Early this morning, I got into a conversation with two marketers I know only from social media (and that we have connections in common). It started with someone poking fun (nay, mocking) a marketing plan template. One aspect of that template was the SWOT analysis, and there was a lot of talk as to whether the SWOT was no longer relevant.
Now Steve and I are both fans of frameworks. They give teams a common language to approach an analysis, so you can stop disagreeing about how to look at what's going on, and simply look at what's going on. They also provide constraints: don't bother finding data that doesn't answer the questions required for that framework. (You can always use that data for a different framework. Just don't force-fit stuff where it doesn't belong).
On that note, we also had a sidebar on templates that are created by head office, your boss, or some other wise guy, that (a) requires data that isn't available in your branch-plant country, or (b) solves a problem that isn't relevant to your context, but rolls up to a bigger template that serves someone else, somewhere else. Don't do this to people. But if it's been done to you, the best way to come up with numbers for the missing links is to triangulate.
Anyway, I digress. I stood up in defense of the SWOT, not because I think it is always the best framework, but because I believe it is a mis-maligned framework, and that often what doesn't work about it are two things: (a) teams try to stog too much into their SWOT, and (b) they've been mis-taught how to use it best. So here goes:
SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It's meant to help you think about where you are now, and where you might go (and what could happen to you along the way). The first error teams make, is to mix up Strengths and Opportunities. Or Weaknesses and Threats. It's about looking through the right lens.
Strengths and Weaknesses are about you (and by that I mean your business, your product, your team). What strengths does your product have? What weaknesses? Are you with me so far? These are internal factors. Opportunities and Threats exist once you leave the safe harbour for open water (or open your front door and go outside). Opportunities are things you can achieve or places you can go. And threats don't come from inside, they come from the outside factors. Yes, if your culture is broken, you've got an issue. But that's something you need to fix within your own house, not something that's outside of your control or might impact you whether you want it to, or not. Got it? Excellent. I knew you would.
All this is to say, frameworks are one of the best ways to get people on the same page, fast, to make better decisions. They also can be one of the worst kind of hammers to wield when you've convinced yourself that everything is a nail. So proceed with caution. (And if you'd like to talk about which frameworks to use to answer your burning questions, let's talk).
I'm Megann Willson, and I'm one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We help our clients make #betterdecisions, sometimes using frameworks. You can find us on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter. And for insights delivered direct to your inbox on Fridays, you can sign up using the orange button, below.
Every day, we hear companies saying they love their customers. And how do they show it? They push them tons and tons of irrelevant content. They flood their inboxes. They try to sell them things they don't want or need. And here's what many of them don't do:
Try to find out what will really make them happy.
If you've been fortunate enough to be in a long-lasting relationship (like we have), you'll know that you're always looking for ways to delight the other person. To show them that you want to help them get what they want and need to feel like they are their best. Saying sorry when you're wrong. Asking their closest friends if there's something they've been dreaming of that they haven't told you. Not taking, taking, taking.
So today, on Valentine's Day, and every day, if you really love your customer:
To you: thanks for reading. We appreciate it. And thank you to all of you who refer others, endorse us on social media, and engage in conversations about how to find, understand, and engage customers.
I'm Megann Willson, and I'm one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. (The other is Steve Willson - Happy Valentine's Day!) You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, or through our weekly email news.
A little over a week ago, I was at a GATE (Gender and the Economy) event at Rotman. Here's a clip of Abigail Moriah talking about her experience. (If you can't see it, you can't be it).
Later in the event, Shirley Hoy talked about the importance of being able to zoom in, and zoom out, when approaching any issue. The next day, we were involved in a really spirited discussion with clients about something similar. Whether it's design thinking, or understanding customers, or working through a business challenge, the ability to take multiple perspectives is invaluable. It's where that old adage about not being able to see the forest for the trees comes from.
Why is this important to you? If you want to make #better decisions, by all means, look at the big picture. That's critical. Then take time to focus on a few details. And lastly, zoom back out again to see if what you saw at the beginning looks the same as it did when you first considered it.
My name is Megann Willson, and I'm one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. With my partner, Steve Willson, we work with our clients to find practical, usable solutions to their customer challenges. We can help you cut through complexity and ambiguity and zoom in on what's important. Find more insights on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Then click below to sign up for weekly news that will help you make better decisions for your business.
Groundhog Day has a reputation for being a day when the same inane scenario repeats itself, well, repeatedly. And Albert Einstein is widely credited with defining insanity as, “Doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”. There’s one situation where we at PANOPTIKA think Einstein was wrong, and you might want to be a bit more like the groundhog.
Most of the research we do for our clients is custom research, so naturally, it can be adapted to be different every time. Questions and lines of discovery, methodologies, and even target audiences, can be switched out or massaged to meet their varying objectives. But there’s still one kind of research that we recommend you do over, and over again with few changes – at least for three years running. Tracking studies, or longitudinal studies, or wave studies, involve taking measures of your key performance indicators. Those, you want to keep as static as you can.
Let me explain. Some of you may be fortunate enough to be in an industry that there is market data regularly released in syndicated reports, so you can check those numbers on an annual, or even quarterly, basis. Do that, if you’re able. Many of our clients are in highly sensitive industries, or very specialized verticals, and that means they need to source this kind of data by using primary research. In this case, we recommend they (and you, if this is your kind of company), undertake a standalone tracking study with as many levers as possible controlled, at least once annually.
This isn’t because we don’t want you to ask new questions or learn new things. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. This study should reveal if there are changes occurring over time. It will let you see whether the target audience (your core clients) are having an attitude shift. Or whether patterns are emerging that might present you with a new opportunity, or reveal an unanticipated risk. You’ll also be able to be more confident that you’re not getting different answers, just because you changed how you’re asking the questions.
Tracking studies can be helpful for your budget, as well. With custom studies, a big piece of your cost is developing the research methodology, working with you to determine the target, and so on – basically, setting the foundation. Just like marketing tactics or online education of your clients, if you then go to “rinse and repeat”, your costs should diminish somewhat. Partners like us will often provide you pricing in advance for additional waves of the study, so you can make a better estimate of next year’s costs.
So, while we won’t advise you approach insanity (by Einstein’s definition), as we approach this year’s Groundhog Day, call us to talk about whether a tracking study is right for you.
My name is Megann Willson, and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We work with you to see everything that will help you make better decisions for your business or career. You can also find us on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook. And if you sign up before Friday, you’ll get this week’s issue of news you can use delivered straight to your inbox. Just click the button below to register. (We don't need to ask you twice, right?)
Do you ever have one of those days where it seems like you're being sent the same message again and again? I've had one of those already today.
If you're like many business people, you may have started the year off with not only some personal resolutions, but some business ones, as well. We all have great plans when we're sitting on a comfy couch and the phone isn't ringing, our email isn't pinging, and we're not being bombarded by social media messages. Slowly, surely, though, we can slip. Even if we've been doing a great job, we can lose our vigilance and let distractions and habits creep in, that will move us away from where we intended to go. Unexpected events can break our concentration and mess up our plans.
You may find that you've been able to stick with your plan really closely (congratulations, well done!), or you might have something happen that has happened with a few of our connections this week. I took a fall this morning, shortly after crowing about how well my exercise plan has been going. (No worries, pride aside, I'm all good). The first thing I thought was, I need to remind people to get back up! You may have a personal event knock you for a loop, like one of our friends and colleagues, who had an unhappy loss completely break her usually unflappable stride. Or you might be like our friend Debbie Adams of PeopleCan consulting, who spent longer than planned in Halifax, with recent weather events in Newfoundland throwing a wrench in her travel arrangements, and her travel schedule skew her personal success practice just a little.
All of these things have something in common. Not one of us decided that because we'd had a slip or a slide, we should sit down and stop. Nope. We've all got enough experience that we knew what to do. Get up. Get up right away, and get going. (In fact Debbie had a great video teaching session this morning about falling off the wagon - and how the right response is to chase the wagon!)
Whether it's "great minds think alike", or as my father-in-law would say, "fools seldom differ", all of us have learned this lesson that I'm sharing with you today. As a quote I read on social media yesterday said, you're not starting over, you're starting from experience. Go get 'em.
I'm Megann Willson and I'm one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to help them see everything they need to know, to make better decisions for their career or their business. You can also find us on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, and if you sign up, we'll send news you can use (but not too much), direct to your inbox every Friday afternoon. We love to watch you grow.
Megann and Steve, Partners in PANOPTIKA, are working for our clients every day to help them see everything they need to know to make better decisions in their complex business environment.
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