Intelligent Businesses Use Echolocation!

In an environment driven by speed and dominated by growing uncertainties, businesses are expressing more and more difficulties to sustain and improve their competitive position. Mighty companies such as IBM, Apple, Yahoo, Microsoft or Nokia do know that business success is never an “acquis” and that any long-time leadership position can now get eroded within weeks and even days in some sectors.

Just some weeks ago, rumours were circulating about the collapse of the giant Eastman Kodak Company. The 131-year-old icon that brought photography to the mass and launched the first digital camera is forced to face tough realities of the new business world.

The K-brand company is another clear example that there are no definite winning rules in business; any competitive environment can be disrupted anytime. Rules of business games can now be reinvented and imposed by new entrants. It is no longer the privilege of the big or the mighty.

In this ever-changing playground, it is essential for companies willing to survive and thrive to understand their environment, track their competitors, critically review their position and never ever fall in the trap of complacency: this is the very concept of business intelligence.

A quick Google search pulls out millions of internet pages on business intelligence. Many of them associate this concept to information technology (IT). Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, defines business intelligence as “computer-based techniques used in identifying, extracting and analysing business data”. On the website searchdatamanagement.com, one can read “business intelligence is a broad category of applications and technologies for gathering, storing, analysing and providing access to data to help enterprise users make better business decisions.”

These definitions are wrong. Yes, IT is at the heart of business intelligence. No, business intelligence is not IT as some might claim. IT is just an enabler!

To define business intelligence and illustrate its importance for companies, a simple and natural technique used by bats (Yes Bats!) can be referred to. Bats emit, in the dark, high-frequency vocalisations through their mouths and noses as they fly. These vocalisations then bounce back to them as echoes, which enables them to form images of their surroundings in their brains. If their ears get injured or clogged, they are unable to receive any echoes and therefore lose their ability to locate themselves and move accordingly. This continuous process known as echo-location is a sine qua non for the survival of bats as it allows them to scan their environment, track their prey, devise their future movements and eventually feed themselves.

Business intelligence is echolocation for businesses. With the new dynamics of business games, it is vital for companies to echolocate themselves on a constant basis, to critically assess their position and adapt their strategic movements accordingly.

Entrepreneurs and business managers claiming that business intelligence is useless and that their flair and experience are enough to ensure their path to success are living out of this world. Sure, flair and experience help but without a proper understanding of their business environment and analysis of their competitive position, businesses are condemned to failure.

For those who want to succeed, keep this in mind: Intelligent Businesses use Echolocation!

Is Your Business Model Snuffing Out Your Message?

I often talk to coaches, consultants, freelancers, small business owners, authors, speakers… etc. who feel stuck.

Well, screw the label, that’s not important. They’re the “do their own thing, do something meaningful” kind of people.

They’ve done the professional training, bought the marketing program, and even built a business or two.

But they rarely go back to square one and question whether they have structured their business to amplify their vision and message.

Oh, you’re certified as a “coach” – so there’s what a coaching business model looks like: a 1:1 program, a group program, an online course, and an info product. Or, a 1-month, 3-month, and 6-month package. The end.

When people are starting out, a business model is a godsend. It gives you something to build upon and the visibility of “where the money is coming from.”

But as you evolve and refine your skills and message, it’s easy to get on autopilot and take the business model as a given.

What used to work when you needed training wheels may not work now that you’ve figured out what the heck you’re doing.

Have you revisited and validated your business model lately?

Is the suite of offerings in alignment with your message?

Are they giving you the best venue to serve your ideal clients?

Are the programs/products/services tapping into your strengths?

Are the creating the most value for your clients?

Are the formats of delivery amplifying your message… or are they snuffing out its essence?

When we try to squeeze our message into some predetermined format… due to habit, laziness, fear, unawareness, inertia, or good intention (because the gurus say so)… we may not be doing it justice.

Product-Centric vs. Client-Centric

If you start with a business model (which is essentially a collection of products, services, and pricing) instead of your message and its expression, you’re putting the cart in front of the horse.

Leading with a business model is a product-centric mindset. It’s an old-school approach and doesn’t do well when we’re evolving quickly as a society (think Kodak and film.)

Leading with an audience is a client/customer-centric mindset. It helps you stay relevant even when “the thing that people want” changes (think Netflix and entertainment.)

Leading with your message grounds your business in your Truth, connects you with the work you do, and anchors you in the community that you serve.

Have you asked your message what it wants to be when it grows up?

Are you connected with your message in such a way that you can let its expression come through without overthinking it or mucking it up with your ego?

Pop the bubble. Leave the echo chamber.

Don’t limit your message to “what a _______ business is supposed to be like.”

(If you keep digging, you may realize that your business isn’t about ________. What if you’re something else?)

Life Is an Echo: The Extraordinary Zig Ziglar

He lived well…

I came across a quote by Zig Ziglar today which led me to Life is an Echo. It’s an excerpt from See You at the Top. It was rejected by 30 different publishers before it was ever printed. The publishers weren’t impressed with this humble salesman. Before today, I knew so little of the history of this self-made man. I’m so blessed by taking some time to learn more. I hope you will feel the same.

Zig Ziglar was born…

in the tiny Alabama town of Enterprise in 1926. It’s one so small that you really have to be looking to find. Blink and you’ve missed it. It’s the land of cotton, soy beans and corn. It’s most known for a Boll Weevil Monument and peanuts. Moreover, Dale County is the Peanut Capitol of the World. It’s as Americana as it gets. I’ve passed through Enterprise a hundred times over the years, always on my way to somewhere else. You’d think I would have seen the sign saying “birthplace of our most famous son.” But this is where Zig lived his first five years. I can’t help but think of the influence this land had on him.

When I read Life is an Echo today, Enterprise ran through my mind. See You at the Top is about kindness and striving to do the right thing. It’s about treating people the way you’d like to be treated. It’s about HOPE. It’s about anticipating good things from people. If you know of Zig, then you know this is his theme song. Zig had a strong belief-system that started back in the red, Alabama clay.

Reap what you sow

Zig’s dad was a farmer. It makes me think of my relative who farm’s a few miles from his birthplace. I have learned so much from him. He is very wise. He can repair and build anything. In fact, he could have been any number of things. He loved that red clay he was born on and chose to be farmer. I’ve seen him throw on a suit, meet with a banker in town, and finance next year’s crops despite a “very bad year.” He made me realize farming is hard work. I know that farming is a lot like life. “You reap what you sow” has true meaning to both farmers and life. Tending. Patching. Watching. Waiting. Praying. Repairing. Studying. Resting. Adjusting. Testing. Crying. Rejoicing. Working. Working. Working.

Less than 2 years after the start of the great depression, Zig’s father relocated the family to Mississippi. He moved them so he could manage another farm in very bad times. A year later, when he was just 6 years old, his father died of pneumonia. Two days later, his little sister died. He was one of 12 children then raised by a single mom in a slow-recovering country. Can you imagine the pain for that little guy? And yet, he accomplished so much. If anyone had a reason to live a negative life, it might as well be him.

Black Monday

I know this story well. My grandfather died exactly 2 months after “Black Monday.” At 27, he left a young widow with 3 small children at the worst possible time. The oldest was my 5-year-old mother. She and her siblings were all separated and forced to live with relatives. My grandma returned to her parents’ home for several years. She made and sold queen-sized, hand-pieced, heirloom quilts for $2 each to survive. (I’m blessed to have 3 of her quilts. They are each works of perfection.)

My mother told endless stories. People who didn’t farm were starving. Mom learned to cook complete meals and do difficult farm work while her mom worked the farm. At 5, she could kill, clean, cut up, and cook a chicken by herself! I know how this impacted my reality: I was raised by two depression babies. Knowing all this, Zig’s positive nature intrigues me even more.

I’m including Life is an Echo below. Read it. Reflect on the countless masses of men and women Zig Ziglar helped over the years. He was the college drop-out who became the world’s most famous salesman. Life is an Echo was more than his “swan song.” As you read it, think about his simple beginnings during the worst financial time America has ever seen. Here’s my takeaway: DO YOU have a good reason why you can’t succeed THIS year?

Zig Ziglar, Life is an Echo

Life is an echo. What you send out comes back. What you sow you reap. What you give you get. What you see in others exists in you. Regardless of who you are or what you do, if you are looking for the best way to reap the most reward in all areas of life, you should look for the good in every person and in every situation and adopt the golden rule as a way of life.

It’s a universal truth that you treat people exactly like you see them. It’s also true that all you have to do to find “good” or “ability” in a person is to look for it. Once you find that “good” or “ability” in the other person, you treat him better and he performs better. So it’s good “business” and good “humanness” to be a “good finder.”

Well said, Zig.

Are you struggling to succeed in a sluggish economy? If so, share some of your stories or tips that keep you motivated and positive like Zig. Just leave a comment below.