Date: 3/30/2015 1:00 PM UTC

“Nothing changes if nothing changes.” – Unknown

We talk a lot in this space about change & how hard it is for us to change, both individually and organizationally. I had an interesting conversation recently about a different aspect of change – how do you get others to change?

More specifically, how do you convince a potential customer to choose you when they already have an existing relationship with a vendor/supplier/provider? If you’ve ever been involved in sales or marketing, even at a superficial level, you’ve learned that it can be incredibly difficult for people to make that change. They can agree that you provide more value, that your product is better, that your product is cheaper, whatever it is they care about – and yet they won’t switch.

Our conversation went a hundred different places, but here were our 2 conclusions:

First, regardless of product or service comparisons, the actual change itself requires work. If I switch to you, then I have to do something (or at least I perceive I do). So make it as easy as possible. Think about all the things new customers would have to do to switch to you – and then eliminate as many of them as possible. What can’t be eliminated, make it as simple and non-time consuming as you can. Sometimes the reasons people give for not selecting you are just easy excuses. Take the easy excuses away. They still may not switch, but at least they’ll have to give you an honest reason why.

Second, at some point, let it go. At any given time only 10% of the people are in buying mode. If you make it easy, and they still won’t do it, stop spending so much time on them. Keep them in your contact program – someday they’ll be in that 10% and then you have a chance. But quit beating your head against a wall. In the world we live in today the entire planet is your potential customer. Somewhere in the 7.3 billion people on earth are people who are ready for you right now. Go spend time with them.

Changing ourselves is hard. Changing others is just as hard. Spend your time wisely.

Posted by Matt Heemstra | Post a Comment

Date: 3/23/2015 1:00 PM UTC

“If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” – George Patton

Not that long ago I was visiting with a local business owner, one we’ve been fortunate enough to work with over the years. Eventually our conversation ended up on the topic of his management team. He got really excited talking about how great they were, how long they’ve been together, how much success they’ve had, etc. What he was most excited about, though, was how after all these years, they never have any arguments because they all think alike.

For starters, it’s debatable how much success his business has had, but that’s not really the point. The point is, I don’t think you can classify any group as successful just because they agree on everything. In fact, when it comes to measuring the performance of a management group, I think agreement on everything probably leads to less success.

How does your team function? Does everybody think similarly about every issue? If they do, I think you have a problem. I’m not suggesting that every issue that comes up should be turning into a fistfight (although that’s really a conflict management problem, not a strategy development problem). What I’m suggesting is that if your management team sessions always go smoothly without a lot of debate, something’s wrong in your business.

Think about your management team. Do you have diverse personalities? We’re all generally more comfortable with people who look and think and act like we do. Have you let that comfort dictate membership on the team? If you’re the leader, and everybody on your management team is alike, and there isn’t much healthy conflict, then you need to rethink how people end up on the management team.

Or maybe the problem is you. The way you as a leader handle disagreement has a big impact on how much people are willing to disagree. Are you a dictator? Do you push aside/insult/criticize ideas that don’t match up with yours? Don’t mistake “We’re afraid to fight” for “We agree”. Sometimes people have learned over time that advancing dissenting opinions is just not worth it.

Give some thought to your team members. Are they all alike? If they are, and if they don’t have anything unique to offer, then why are they there? Are there others in your organization who look at the world a little differently who might bring a spark? Make sure that the group that’s responsible for setting the direction and strategy of your business isn’t limiting their options by their similarity. Make sure they’re not thinking alike.

Posted by Matt Heemstra | Post a Comment

Date: 3/16/2015 1:00 PM UTC

“Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.” – Winston Churchill

As leaders, a big part of our job is thinking about the future. Unfortunately, too often that thinking becomes worrying, complaining, stressing, obsessing, energy destroying – you get the picture. I’ve been involved way too many management team meetings where all I did was try to keep the meeting from flying off the rails and into the “ditch of despair” (yes, I just made that up).

We do not have enough time or energy in our lives for that kind of stuff. We have to be more effective with what we do. And I think one place that can happen is in how we think about the future.

The next time you or your team are thinking about the future, don’t just bring up issues and talk about whether they might happen or what their (usually) horrible impact might be. For starters, ask yourself: Is this really critical? There are some things we see on the horizon that might not be pleasant, but in the grand scheme of things they really aren’t all that relevant.

Ask yourself this, too: How likely is this to happen? Too many conversations about the future end up deteriorating into a discussion of what things would look like if every possible scenario played out to its absolute worst conclusion. Fortunately, absolute worst conclusions rarely happen. Focus on what is most likely to occur.

I’d also suggest that if you are fairly certain that you’re going to have to deal with something unpleasant, don’t leave the meeting or end your thinking without doing some brainstorming. See if you can come up with at least two or three potential solutions. Maybe you can’t solve the problem that day, but from an energy & morale standpoint, knowing that there are possibilities is a big deal. Very few things steal our energy like the feeling that bad things are coming and there’s nothing we can do about it. Even if your solutions aren’t totally fleshed out, at least come up with something.

It probably goes without saying, but the same thing is true in our personal lives. We all see things coming at us (financial, family, health, whatever) that look like they might be unpleasant, and we allow those things to take over our minds and our energy. The same suggestions you read 30 seconds ago apply to you personally.

Don’t allow yourself to wallow in anticipated misery. Business & life are challenging enough without knowingly sacrificing two of our most limited resources – time & energy. Don’t spend time worrying about the future. Spend time planning for it.

Posted by Matt Heemstra | Post a Comment

Date: 3/9/2015 1:00 PM UTC

“There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.” – John F. Kennedy

I was going to start this week’s post talking about a client of ours who struggles to “do” anything. They talk and talk without it ever amounting to any action. There’s always too much uncertainty, nobody knows for sure what’s going to happen, they’re all afraid to take a risk, so everybody agrees not to commit to anything.

As I thought about it though, I realized it wouldn’t be fair to single them out. The reality is that nearly all of us do that to some degree. We think we’re pretty good at what we’re doing right now (even if the data suggests otherwise), we’re not sure we’d ever be able to do anything else successfully, so we just stay in our comfort zones. And very little in our businesses (and our lives) ever really changes.

The problem is the world changes. For example, just because you’ve always marketed your products and services a certain way doesn’t mean that’s the only way to do it – in fact, in today’s world if you’re marketing what you do the same way you always have, you’re probably ten years behind (at least). I look at the way some businesses go about finding talent. They complain about their people, then when they want to hire people they look in the same places and follow the same processes that led them to hire the people they’re complaining about in the first place.

No, you’ll never have absolute certainty about the changes you need to make. Nobody has a crystal ball that says that if you just make this change, everything will work out perfectly. Sometimes when you make change it doesn’t work out at all. There is always some risk.

But you can’t let that stop you. You can’t let the possibility that it might not work out keep you from trying to move forward. In fact, I think the healthiest organizations are regularly doing things that don’t work out. If you don’t ever fail, if you don’t ever try something that doesn’t work, then chances are you’re not trying to make enough change.

Take time to think about what needs to change in your organization. Do the research you need to do, make sure it’s strategically sound, etc. But then do it already. The world is not going to wait for you to get everything lined up perfectly. You can’t just sit there. Move!

Posted by Matt Heemstra | Post a Comment

Date: 3/2/2015 2:00 PM UTC

“Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I feel like I’ve written about belief a lot lately. If you’re sick of it, my apologies. Unfortunately, I keep running into situations where it’s obviously an issue. I’m not sure why I didn’t notice this for the first 30+ years of my life, but now I notice it right away.

Negative beliefs = no success. Guaranteed. If you think positively about your situation, about your abilities, about your ability to change the world around you, then you have a chance. It’s not necessarily going to be easy, but you have a chance. If you think there really isn’t much hope and you have no control over what happens in your life or your business, then it’s all over.

I spoke with a very intelligent, hard-working, experienced group of businesspeople last week. I did most of the talking for 20 minutes or so, and then we gradually had more and more discussion (around the idea of strategy development and implementation). Within 5 minutes of discussion getting started I could tell immediately whose business had a chance and whose would not be around much longer.

The sad part is that so many people sabotage themselves with their negative beliefs without even realizing it. Saying & thinking negative things is such an everyday occurrence/habit for them that I don’t think they even know they’re doing it. And I’m positive they don’t understand the impact it has.

The group member who sticks out in my mind works for a business that’s been around for over a hundred years, but is in a rapidly consolidating industry. Certainly their industry is facing challenges. But others in that industry have managed to grow and thrive, while he’s convinced it’s just not possible. The problem with thinking growth isn’t possible is that even if you “try to grow”, you really don’t try that hard. Your heart’s just not in it because you don’t think it’s going to work. Self-sabotage.

For all the blogs we’ve done about strategy or planning or change or whatever, for all the speaking engagements and workshops, of all the topics we cover, if there’s only one thing I could convince you to do, it’s to believe. Believe that you are able to impact the world around you. Believe that you can make changes to your business – or your personal life. Believe that the only way you’re certain to fail is to believe you can’t succeed. If you do that one thing, everything else will open up. If you don’t, then the doors are already closed.

Posted by Matt Heemstra | Post a Comment

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