Omnibus And Brief Update

I’ve blogged since LiveJournal was a thing. Most of the content I created has been deleted (or maybe is on Archive.Org).  Facebook changed it. I used to write a few paragraphs about what I was feeling, what was on my mind.  Then it became easier to forward memes.

But my business – the money I earned at Simplifilm – was born because of a blog and some hustle.

Because I connected with people and built a place to organize my thoughts.

What Was Lost, Post LiveJournal

Something was lost, a place where I’d benefit from working out my thoughts and feelings in a semi-public place. The “thinking-out-loud” aspect of what was happening changed.  I got out of the creating content idea, and I got into fiddling with widgets. Optimizing CTRs and I lost a sense of humanity.

Also, short posts went to Facebook where they get lost (by design).  The Context of No Context.

I’ve stalled out on blogging here – there is a lot to talk about – because this feels like it’s “for the record.”  Like it’s my everlasting statement.  And it’s not, it’s what I’m thinking in this moment.

I’ve left Facebook for a while (I’ll be back, I needed a breather).  I have a lot to say about:

  • How great my wife is.
  • How to rebuild a family from zero (or worse)
  • The direction of my job/vocation
  • Lessons I learned
  • Stuff I’ve read recently

I also want to talk through:

  • Life Management
  • Schedule
  • WordPress Themes
  • Recipes
  • Family

This is largely for me. Not to “build an audience.”  Not at this space.  It’s practice. This blog is just me working out my thoughts. People are welcome to follow, comment or not.

I’ll be dead and gone in 55 years or so. And I can have this for my kids, for whoever wants in my family.

Q1 2017

Happy 2017 instigators. Last year was a blur. So was 2014. But, the odd years have always been good to me. So it will be for 2017.

I am not a huge believer in yearly goals. Don’t get me wrong, direction is good, but a year is such a vast expanse of time that you can fritter away half of it and the urgency goes away.

I’ve had more success when I plan quarters instead. So I am planning a quarter. To be more specific, I’m planning a 12 week period of time.

“Winners build systems.”

1. I’ll sell, collect & deliver 16 Simplifilm projects.

This is 1.25 per week. This is about what I can do at any given time.

-2 low priced, -2 premium and 12 “normal” price.

To support this, I will need to have 36 proposals out there from people that sorta kinda want them.

I’ll have to generate 108 leads to make that work.

This will require me to prospect for 90 minutes every day, connecting with folks. I’ll double down and schedule another 60 minutes each day of focus Linked In time (7.5 hours of prospecting per week).

To further support it I will define all of our products and build sales pages that work for it (the sales pages are nearly built.).

To (finally) further support it I will send weekly emails to our prospects, inviting them to do business with us.

Total Time Commitment: 2.5 hours per day x 5 days a week x 12 weeks = 150 hours total.

This will generate roughly: $160,000 in gross revenue. Likely more with overage. My annual goal is a lot different than in years past. I’m getting the business to a sane scale for a solo founder.

2. I’ll lose 24 pounds of body fat.

My system will include:

DIET
EXERCISE
MONITORING

Specifically, I will do the following on the diet:

Focus on the weekdays: M-F.

Weekends are a little less restrictive, but apart from Friday Nights, I’ll eat Clean. Friday I can sorta binge.

1-8 intermittent fast (17 hours a day, first meal at 1pm).
Eat Clean during the week. Cheat day from Friday/Saturday).

Exercise:
20-minute workout each morning (1-mile jog w/balance of time in an AMRAP of pushups air squats Burpees & situps).

3. I’ll pay $24,000 in debt.

This measure is about DEBT not my balance sheet. And my ego makes it hard to write this sentence. “But I have assets,” it limply states. Yes, like Trump does, all burdened with debt and risk.

The gist is that every dollar of debt represents risk to me, and I have to get rid of it all eventually. Why not start now? Burn it up. I want to keep the assets, lose the debt.

This debt is on the personal side. The business side has debt, too, but the focus of Q1 isn’t about that.

$24,000 is about how much consumer debt I have and it’s leftover from moving and being cash poor in 2016.

I’ll do this by:

  1. Setting up YNAB to get a true and accurate measure on the personal side.
  2. Using cash for “blow money,” and not transactions.
  3. Applying austerity to the first 6 weeks (now-Feb 15th).

The point is to be good stewards. I’ve made a decent salary most years, but I’ve never been respectful of my money.

12 Week Goals

I have other goals to keep and sustain. Being on a schedule during the week (4:30 wake up, 1pm gym time). I’m not focused on this – I’m not likely to falter at this point.

The Schedule:

My schedule will look like this:

04:3: Wake up, complete Miracle Morning routine. Of course, this includes coffee. This will include a 20-minute workout, coffee, journaling, writing current goals down.

05:30 Write for at least 1 hour, focused on current writing project (not blogging/marketing/scripts).

6:45: wake kids. Do some email administration & look at schedule. Light work here as we get the kids going. Kids will workout just like me.

(1st opportunity to read is here.)

8:30 take kids to school. (20 minute round trip, when snowing. Generally, they walk, but not in 9-degree weather).

9:00 AM – M/Th staff meeting till 10:00 am.
T-W-F: Prospecting till 11:30 am. | Available for meetings 11:30-12:30
10-11 M-Th: Prospect till 12:30 pm. | Available for meetings 12:30..when no meetings work on list work.

1-2:30 gym. Strength, Cardio, LISS depending on what day we’re in and what our goals are. Religion. Available for meetings from 2:30-5pm.

2:30-4pm marketing writing (emails, etc).

4 pm: done with official work, read for 1 hour most days.

That’s it. That’s where I’m at, and I’ll stick to it

16 Things I Learned In 2016

2016 for me, will always be the year I restored my family.

At the end of 2015, I was certain to be the patriarch of a broken family. I was pretty much ready to throw it in.Heather and I had done all sorts of things to one another. Our bleak moments, failures had seemed insurmountable. That story isn’t mine alone to tell, so I can’t tell it here. But with fear and trembling and help from friends and others.

Heather and I had done all sorts of things to one another. Our bleak moments, failures had seemed insurmountable. That story isn’t mine alone to tell, so I can’t tell it here. But with fear and trembling and help from friends and others.

Somehow, something changed. I had time to think things through. I had time to think about what kind of life I wanted, what meant something. My delusions of becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg waned enough (but just enough) for me to let joy back in. And now? I would say that with wide swaths of areas that we need to claim, my marriage has never been stronger.

With that as a foundation, I want to go into 2017 with vigor and strength.

But first, a few things I learned this year (16 to be exact).

1. Self-Sabotage is a real thing. 

This is hard to write. But it’s true. There are a million different ways to self-sabotage. I have done them all.

I’ve been drawn into moronic conversations. I’ve flushed sales conversations down the drain because of one offhand remark someone makes. I’ve been drawn into political fights. It’s always tempting to take the toothpaste out of the tube.

It’s very easy to just give in to the lesser angels of our nature and screw things up. I self-sabotaged more than my share of sales calls after I proved I had the deal.

Most of the adversity is because of self-sabotage.  (And thanks to Kent Littlejohn for articulating that on a coaching call).

 

2. I’m Addicted To Risk

This is a problem for me – and absolutely a real one.  The thrill of “saving the day” or “nearly collapsing” drives me. It’s fun. The rush you get from making the amount of money that you can make, that can save the day, is better than any drug.  That addiction has to be cured for me to level up to where I want to be.

I’ll work on all of it this year, I’m putting it down here as a way of drawing a line in the sand and fixing it.

#2, the risk addiction, drives #1 for sure.  Being aware of it is the first step.

3. I’m addicted to squalor.

“Laying Low, Seeking out the places where the ragged people go/looking for the places only they will know.”
-Paul Simon

That quote could be my mantra. I have done it all my life. And I have to cure my curiosity about Bukowski type nights. In High School, I wanted to know what it would be like to push all the limits. To get beat up or kicked out of class. Because I had to experience it. None of those experiences mattered much, and they didn’t build any character.

Tom Wolfe said:  “Believe me, there is no insight to be gathered from the life of the working-class milieu…” and he wasn’t wrong.

I have a good life, but there was something romantic about Portland and its squalor. I’ve left Portland (more on that later) but the things you could do there, the seedy people and scumbags and transients that you could interact with gave me a thrill. I always felt like they were calling to me.  I tried to recreate it a little bit in the Tri-Cities (a wholesome haven), and yet…

4. We Are Not Our Darkest Moments

In my life, a litany of mistakes plays in my head way more often than it ought to. There are lies I’ve told, things I’ve done and words I’d love to take back. All told, these moments make up a small portion of my life, say about 40 minutes over 40 years. But it’s where my mind goes all the time.

The benefit of moments like this is that we’re reminded that things could, in fact, be worse.

5. Mental Health Is Fragile & Needs Maintenance

This is true. Before I read Charlie Hoehn’s “play it away” I thought I was in good shape, mentally, and that everything was fine. No, no, no.  I have to make sure that I treat my body right, treat my mind right, and work hard to stay sane.

When you’re a little off, it’s harder on everyone. You turn inward and become entitled, and you become a strange dude. This happened at various times as I was dealing with stressful stuff. Reading biographies, exercise, and other things help. But doing things to keep your sanity is the most important thing you can do for your productivity.

There are diminishing returns from working more, even in crisis.  So stay sane.

6. You Gotta Focus on What You Can Control

I put a lot of energy into the 2016 election. I didn’t like either of the candidates. And yet, I’m compulsively checking polls and sites like 538.  I’m checking prop betting sites. Why? I have no earthly idea. But the month of November was lost to me, lost to prospecting and growing my business.

7. Practice Matters

I did a lot of practice sales calls with a variety of people and I got better at them. More of them were in my control than ever.

And, having a practice partner works perfectly.  It’s tedious often, but on the other side of tedium lie vast riches.  James Altucher and Jeff Goins have different takes on this and they have influenced me quite a bit this year.

8. Relationships Matter

“But these days he don’t talk to me and he won’t tell me why. I miss him every time I say his name.”
-Greg Brown

I lost a number of relationships this year. Some my choice, some not. When you’re not totally sane, it’s hard to build anything. I’ve never been saner (though I think that Dunning-Krueger certainly applies).

The people I’ve met and the people I’ve helped me have always been underrated. In our mind, we delusionally think that we are the hero, the principle and the only person in the story.

There are a few skills involved in relationships:

  • Initiating
  • Sustaining
  • Renewing
  • Repairing

We’ll be talking about this as we go through our year.

9. Integrity In Small Things Matters

I let a mentor go because of a fairly minor billing issue, but I don’t have any regrets.

That billing issue led me to question their lives, their conduct and everything else about their business and teaching. I saw a shit-show type facebook fight that was unattractive and unseemly, so I moved on.

I was overbilled, I think 65, bucks on a bill of a couple hundred a month. Yet, it was never corrected. I couldn’t let it go. It was never refunded to me, and so I ended the relationship. Because it was a small thing, there was no motivation to track it down.I had to ask, I think 7-8 times and I don’t think it’s resolved yet, but it really soured me.

10. Sales Does NOT Cure All

In late 2015, I had some of the best quarters I ever had. It meant I had to hire fast to get the work done. I didn’t have the capacity, and it created a shitstorm that hurt my reputation, my company and my mental health. I’m still “digging out” from overselling my capacity.  I was optimistic to think I could grow all at once, but the company wasn’t ready to grow.

Operations matter.

Deliveries matter.

People matter.

None of those are improved by selling more.

11: Routines Matter

My best days this year were when I got up early, read, wrote, connected and exercised.  When I really started to move the needle and build something I was totally into my routine. In the days where it wandered, I was apart from my routine. Doing the hard work that it takes matters a great deal.

12. The Stories We Tell Ourselves Matter Most

How we frame things that happened, the things we say to ourselves matters quite a bit. In our own stories lies either excuses or inspiration. If we have a gap between our current and ideal self, and we focus on the reason we’re here (stressful year) we’re going to stay in the same place. If we tell ourselves a different story we have a shot at a different outcome.

13. Family Is Underrated

Family is hard. Because they remember every mistake you’ve made. They see you a certain way and pull you back to your familiar or present self all the time. That makes family difficult to relate to because if you’re in your head and aspiring for more, they are something to overcome.

But at its best, Family creates a support that makes everything work. You can sit on a foundation and take risks in business because you know you’ll always be loved. To do that, you have to cherish everything.

14. Delusion Stalks Everyone

Cultivating self-awareness is hard for all of us. Dunning-Kruger speaks to that. And our brains change the facts into a story that suits us, much to our dismay and much to our detriment. Fixing that is the stuff of life itself.  Fighting the tendency to spin a story into something else is the most important thing we can do.

15.  Systems Beat Goal Setting

If you’re doing the wrong thing it doesn’t matter how hard you work. However, if you create a working system, whatever you seek to accomplish becomes much easier. Focusing on building the system and measuring our days is the most important part of what we’re after.

16. Tidying Up Changes Your Life

I’ve spent most of the year with a fairly neat office, cleaning it more days than not. It takes a few moments but it’s made a big difference to me. I’ve got some distance to cover, but it’s done me good things.

Conclusion:

Whenever I go dark, I get “concern trolls” coming out of the woodwork. Don’t do that. You have the same thoughts and feelings.

Why You Should Warm Up Everyday

I spent a season of my life training at Aegis Team Crossfit. It benefited me a lot, and I recommend the coaches there.

The biggest lesson I learned was the lesson of the warm up.

The lesson of the warm up. Basically, at Crossfit they begin with a vigorous batch of 10 or so exercises that you know how to do. Some are fairly easy (like PVC Passthroughs). Some are more challenging, like plate overhead walking lunges.The point, though, was that we dial in. The 10 minutes or so of time we spent warming up leaves the outside world behind, and we move our head into what’s happening at the gym.

At the end of it, we went from self-congratulatory BS (hey, we’re here), to eagerness to pick up what’s next (what can we do.) That emotional journey works really well in either large or small groups. The work that the rest of the group is doing also helps a lot.

The lesson learned isn’t obvious. Warming up marks a deliberate spiritual journey from one place to another. That applies to your life.

Further Application

Hal Elrod’s book THE MIRACLE MORNING is the perfect way to warm up for your day. Issac Stegman shared this with me some time ago. I loved it when I read it but I “fell off the wagon,” after I got sick in March of this year.

I saw it before Issac recommended it, but I blew it off for whatever reason. I picked it back up a couple of months ago, and it’s worked wonders for me. I’ll give you the broad strokes of the process:

We control our days by controlling our time. We know we need to be at our best, and an entire day is made up of 16 waking hours. What if we spent one of those hours, preparing our minds, and our bodies to have a great day?

Before you “check email” or social media, you have a few moments to identify yourself and remind yourself who you are. To visualize what you’re going to get. To get a mini workout in & to dial in what you want to be when you grow up. To get out of your head and read a little bit.

Then you process your emotions – an underrated tactic – via journaling. That’s the gist of the warm up. I’ll respect Hal and not say too much because I want people reading this to buy the book.

The Benefits Of A Morning Warmup

First, I’m naturally a “scoffer”. It takes some doing to get me back into the miracle morning habit and discipline. My inner monologue sometimes trolls the world. I was – and am – skeptical.

But to be skeptical doesn’t mean anything bad. It just means we need proof it’s working.

So, this year, I had more adversity than ever. In the past, I’ve always covered everything with new sales, but I got to the point in my life where I had to create a better delivery system.  New sales wouldn’t help when our delivery system was broken.

The breakdowns in my business caused friction, broken relationships, and I was ultimately betrayed by a former friend. Loads of ugliness both financially and emotionally.

On the days that I did Miracle Morning (roughly half) I lived peacefully and I advanced the ball by doing my core tasks (prospecting, writing, proposing).  Those core tasks solve my problems. On the days that I didn’t, things fell apart.

I was centered and fluid and “in flow” on the days when I behaved correctly.

Habits Matter When You Have a Mountain To Climb

The biggest excuse we have for not beginning our healthy habit is that we have a mountain to climb. We’re behind, we’re about to miss quota. Something is wrong in our lives so we simply don’t have time for that.

We’ll get to “optimization” someday. Right now we have to worry about (whatever problem we have).  Except that, that’s a ruse. We won’t be effective in our dealing with (whatever problem we have) unless we control our days.

On the weeks that I did the Miracle Morning routine, I closed more, prospected more, and lived closer to flow. On the weeks when I didn’t, I usually simply fought to tread water.

It’s during my season of adversity – especially – when we need to be circumspect and we need to build good habits. When things are going well, it’s a simple matter to just roll on.

Warming up – spending an hour on your mind and body first thing – is a core habit we should build. It will allow you to act in a way that’s closer to the “right” version of who you are. If things are messed up, you’ll be able to get a 30,000-foot view and figure out how to fix it. A few minutes a day is meaningful because things didn’t get messed up in a day.

What about you?

Things I Learned In Kent Littlejohn’s High End Client Link

I’ve been following Kent Littlejohn for a little while now. I met him briefly while at Kevin Nations’ house sometime in 2015.

He was into LinkedIn.  He said it was like crack. That there was tons of money to be had there. Linked In? Really? The place where MLMers spam you and you put up your resume?

Not for me. I mean, I’d use it when I’d have to staff Simplifilm, and find good animation talent, but otherwise, it wasn’t for me at all.

But I watched him.  He told good stories on LinkedIn.  He hung out with classy people, and he was forever upbeat and encouraging. I spoke with him a few times, but the timing was off.

Bad Actors

Then I made a big mistake. Someone I met at a networking group was offering similar services. A “small business marketing coach.” Did a webinar, I didn’t connect but the stories were good. He made an offer to help me in a Facebook based group and to bring me on and help me make an offer and build a funnel.

This seemed low-risk. I would learn LinkedIn from this guy at a fraction of the price.

5 of 6 calls were either missed or rescheduled. There were, at last look, 9 total posts in Facebook, 4 of which were from other client victims looking for guidance that had been promised.

My time was wasted. The money was several hundred dollars, but the time was the bigger deal.

I then wanted to cancel, was told no, and even though the agreement was broken, told I’d not get a refund.  So I did my only chargeback of my life. The money was returned to me.

Kent’s Offer

I spent a year working on our process. Becoming impeccable. Making our company better. Money was coming in, and we had decided – on purpose to stay a small boutique. To do 3-5 projects a month at a higher fee ($12-15k) and eschew everything below $10k.

Then Kent made an awesome offer:

 

He offered to put a few people who take action through a Facebook group.

I’d been very embarrassed that I hired the other guy. But Kent was gracious and let me in.

Instantly amazing.

What I’ve Learned

Before this group, I’d sort of gone on “shutdown mode” for the rest of 2016. Pack it in for the year, it’s fall, and it’s time to call it good.

Now? Hell no. People are still taking meetings.

In the first week, I booked 6 appointments from LinkedIn. These are bonafide pipeline appointments from people that know me now because I reached out. There was work involved, I had to prepare a few questions and I had to grind through my 2041 contacts.

I got a sale.

So there is business on LinkedIn.

Then I learned that the same method that Kent teaches works on other places:

  • Email
  • Texting
  • Facebook
  • Twitter

The method works.

I also learned that when you generate business, you don’t have to be afraid or tolerate anything.

The other thing, prospecting works. When you focus on $/hour and not $/action, it works very well.

LinkedIn is a valuable, viable platform on which to prospect.

Concerns

There were 10 or so – out of 2,000 – people that didn’t like my outreach. I wound up blocking an angry guy that wanted me to drop everything and produce a project for free (I told him to ask me again in March, and that wasn’t good enough). Had I not reached out to everyone, I wouldn’t have had to have had that. I would have been spared his rudeness had I not been committed to reaching out to everyone, but I also would have missed out on earning a client.

So, when you have high-velocity efficient contacts, a couple people that are unhinged bubble up, and you encounter people you might not otherwise.

Conclusion

I learned more from the FREE stuff in Kent’s program than I did from an idiotic marketer’s PAID  program. Kent’s the real thing. His stuff works, but there’s a caveat.

You have to REALLY work. Not just sorta work, but do the deep, focused, intense work that moves the needle.

I’m a little more than halfway through the program. I know that in about 1 hour a day I’ll be able to mine $70,000 or so a month out of LinkedIn in gross revenue. The first few days get great results, and I know that as time passes this will continue to get easier, better and be more fun.

I know that I’ll gain efficiency, and I have gone from level “O” on linked In to level 2 has been a blast.

I’ll keep posting what’s happened in real time.

The Truth About “Legacy Issues”

I spent quite a bit of time on Autopsy HQ.  The more I read, the more I understood something was happening. Everyone blamed legacy issues.

  • They started without enough money/burn rate too high.
  • The customer acquisition cost was too high.
  • They started with some systemic disadvantage that they couldn’t overcome. (Legacy isuses)

And they’ll write 10,000 words around this. Hemming and hawing and making excuses and bullshitting themselves. They didn’t know why they failed, not really.

Later on, my friend Len Markidan mentioned the same issue here as part of a conversation with  Laura Roeder and Ryan Delk:

Ryan and Laura were tweeting back and forth:

What we see here is really the Dunning-Kruger effect.  From Wikipedia:

 a cognitive bias in which low-ability individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability as much higher than it really is.

More specifically, when you’re bad at a skill  you’ll be in a position where you won’t know how to measure aptitude. So you’ll rate yourself as better than you are.

Do We Even Know Why We’re Failing?

As I read through Autopsy.IO it became obvious: most of the founders have no earthly idea why they failed. The reasons that they cite are bedtime stories, not data driven analysis.  A lot of them were feel good excuses. It seemed – from the outside – that the were blaming one thing for another. They had reasons that they mentioned for sure, but they weren’t generally the same as why they failed.

Most of the reasons were  “outside of their control,” and you only had to be there to understand why that they failed.

But as you read these stories, the repetition becomes boring.

What If *You’re* The Clueless One?

I’ve blamed legacy issues for everything that ails my business. I made some mistakes which led me to say – over and over again:

If not for the legacy issues, we’d be rolling right now. 

That’s what I’ve told myself and that’s what I tell myself. But that’s an excuse, right? It’s nice to believe that the problems are confined to our past and that recently we’re on the right track. It’s also a delusion.

The mistakes are not in the past. We’ve made big mistakes and we failed to solve them. By that failure, that means our past mistakes persist to the present.

To construct a metaphor.

Let’s say you’re driving at 70 MPH down the highway. And let’s say you’re headed from New York to LA. But around Chicago, for whatever reason, you turned around and started heading east again.  And you continue to drive east saying “Yes, I made a mistake but that’s in the past, things are going great now.”

As long as you’re in the wrong direction, you’re still making the mistake. As long as the issue remains uncorrected, the mistake is sill killing you.  Going faster won’t help when you’re headed in the wrong direction.

Fixing It:

So it falls to us to fix it.

First, have a tool that assesses where you are. What direction are you heading?

If you’re working to overcome a mistake, let’s be sure we’re working in the right direction. Are we? How do we know?

Finally, make a sunset date for all the legacy issues to no longer be an excuse. Because as long as they are the mistake is still being made.

Minimum Viable Impeccability

Be Impeccable With Your Word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean.
-Don Miguel Ruiz

When companies make big promises, customers expect big things.  Those big promises draw us in, we want to see what it’s like to try that new amazing restaurant. Get the legendary service. Have that emotional experience. That’s what we’re after.

These big promises work because they connect us. They excite us and they speak to our deepest hopes. We want to be emotionally connected with every company that we work with. We want to be connected and inspired emotionally.

Except that when we make a promise like this, then we have to keep it.

And if we fail to live up to our standards, then we have to send the money back. All of it. Without being asked. Because that’s what we have to live up to.  When you make a promise -no matter what –  a start date, a delivery date, a result – you must keep it. When you make an error in delivery, you correct your systems.

If you break your word, you can’t keep their money.

Or else you are a fraud. Plain. Simple.

If we promise on time delivery, and we’re FedEx, then we’d have to give the money back the instant we knew that any order was a second late.  Before the customer complained, asked or engaged.

Second: You Are Responsible For the Actions of Your Vendors & Subcontractors

So many providers blame their vendors.

“It wasn’t my fault your site went down, there was an error with our DNS provider.”
(No. You failed to secure a backup.)

“Cover Oregon would have been great but Oracle screwed it up.
Except that Oracle has delivered for every other client.

“Your Amazon Prime Order is Late Because UPS Screwed it Up.”
Except that it was really predictable to know this before hand and you should have adjusted your systems to account for edge cases.

This is typical of a failure. Most providers select their vendors, then blame their vendors when anything goes wrong.

Anytime anyone does this, run.  (Instead: “Hey, the vendor we chose for you is having trouble. We’re working hard to support them so we can be back in integrity.”

When a vendor fails, and you’ve vouched for them, then you pony up.

Because otherwise, what good is your word?

So, What Is Minimum Viable Impeccability?

“When you hold yourself to a higher standard than anyone else can imagine, you always soar above the mark others have set for you.”

Anthony Iannarino, in The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need

Great question. Here’s what the baseline is.

Firstany time you make any promise, you’re saying to your customer: if we mess up any of these things, you’ll be offered a refund.

This includes (at a minimum)

  • Project Start Dates
  • Delivery Dates
  • Amount of interaction they’ll get
  • Amount of work they’ll have to do.
  • Promises you make that are specific to your industry, company or standards

There are many other elements to a good service. That’s one of them.

Second, never wait for the customer to ask for the refund. That’s making them beg for your honesty and beneath the standards of all but the most wretched charlatans.

If you break your word on anything under any circumstances…be unreasonable with yourself.

Initiate the request and give them the option of having their money back. That’s basic honesty, and it will create a situation where failure becomes impossible really quickly

If you break your word you can never keep their money. 

Third, continually increase your standards so that there is no possibility of failure. Create redundant systems when you make and keep promises.

That’s the kaizen philosophy. In the book The Lean Startup by Eric Reis, the most moving passage is when a new engineer made an error that cost lost productivity and server crashes . The reaction of the supervisors wasn’t shame on you for failing.

It was shame on us for allowing you to fail. They blamed the system, not the person. That must be your business.  Make promises, keep them and improve your system.

For a smaller business, this could mean investments in extra hands, this could mean saying no when you’re 99% sure that you’ll be successful.  But being impeccable in your word, as an owner is a core component of your own integrity.

Next Steps:

  1. What promises are you making to your customers?
  2. What implied promises exist?
  3. Are you currently impeccable?
  4. What are you doing to come into integrity in your own business?

Wasted Work

A minor detail that one person – or department – does poorly can screw up the work that the rest of the team does. Imagine going to a hotel. Everything is perfect. Dozens of people work in concert to provide clean rooms, a well lit interior and a great experience.

Except one person. A housekeeper leaves a bag of stinky trash in your room. Or one waiter is rude. The work, then, that the rest of the team did is ruined by this. It doesn’t matter, any more, that the bed was turned down or that there was a mint on the pillow. One person can ruin the work of dozens of other people. Of a whole institution.

5 minutes eating cheese sticks can undermine the results of an otherwise good day.

One press of the snooze button.

It’s so easy to multiply by zero.

Most of my mistakes are in this category. Undoing great stuff because something was a day late.

Preventing these mistakes would (and would have) make a bigger difference than most innovations.