Today’s quote comes from American professional golfer James Dent and it’s a quote about summertime:
“A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken.”
“The secret to getting ahead is getting started.”
In 1999, Seth Godin popularized the concept of Permission Marketing. It was a very common sensical approach to something we – as consumers and business people – had been feeling for several years or perhaps several decades!
The “feeling” was that we don’t want to be bombarded by advertisements that are irrelevant, boring or aggressive. The idea with permission marketing is to “hit a chord” with specific people – people that are interested in our product/service – by grabbing their attention and using it well – do develop a brand, a following, a community, a fan base, a business…
In the connection economy, businesses can get closer to their customers (or potential customers) and really understand what they want and how they want to be communicated to. The potential for permission marketing has exploded with social media and engagement – listening to customers and interacting with them as a business and a brand. CRM (Customer Relationship Management) can also support organizations in permission marketing.
In Seth Godin’s own words:
Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.
So my thoughts on permission marketing are these:
1) humility is key to business – if you have a huge ego, you may not have the time/sense/ability to listen to what people are saying about you or telling you how you can serve them better;
2) attention counts- you may want to think about a teacher analogy here – if you don’t have their attention they will not respond and if you abuse their attention you are at risk at creating a negative response in the future;
3) know thyself – you must know your product or service and the “why” behind your business in order to be able to sell it to customers. You must know what solution you provide and be able to articulate who will benefit from it – present and future.
In this post I’m going to talk about something that is near and dear to my heart. It’s called forgiveness.
Forgiveness is an important concept– even in business. While venting about an issue at work may help you “let off steam”, forgiveness – and being able to put a disappointment or an injustice behind you – is an incredibly powerful factor in both personal and organizational effectiveness because it restores relationships, it validates communication and it has innumerable health benefits such as lowering your body’s stress levels. There is some great work being done in this field; if you are interested, check out Stanford University’s Project Compassion publications in the Huffington Post.
I think we need to look beyond the limits that we set on the traditional concept of forgiveness; let’s stretch the notion that forgiveness is “personal” or “emotional” or that it weakens us or that it is something to be feared. I think we need to make forgiveness a mainstream concept so that it can be used to build healthier communities, families and organizations (including businesses).
Have you ever thought about how little we use the word “forgive” and what it might mean to our relationships if we reintroduce the age old concept of forgiveness? My wish is to restore the word forgive to our vocabulary and to our lives.
“ Opportunity is the best captain of all endeavor. ”
An advisory board is easy to set up, fun to manage and can be valuable to you and your business: attracting expertise, innovation and credibility to your venture while providing a break from the isolation that sometimes comes from running your own business.
So what is an advisory board and how does it differ from a board of directors?
A board of directors is a group of seven to twelve individuals whose decisions and advice are legally binding and their participation in the business is formal and, in the case of for-profit businesses, financially compensated. An advisory board, on the other hand, is a group of two to five mentors who have been selected by a business owner to help them with business issues and to lend advice; advisors do not have the authority to vote or make decisions on behalf of the owner(s).
Is your business too small to have an advisory board?
Even a sole proprietorship can benefit from the insights and expertise of business mentors. Small businesses are especially well suited to having an advisory board because they help owners – who are passionate and driven to see their business and ideas succeed – access knowledge in areas they are less familiar with; whether it be financing, supplier relationships, marketing etc. Other benefits include:
1) Introductions to people who can help your business – a few timely introductions can benefit your business enormously and expand your professional network;
2) Credibility– from an outside perspective, your business gains credibility when you have reputable experts on board who are seen as guiding and helping you reach your business goals;
3) Objective analysis – whether it be advice on succession planning or an honest opinion on your financial projections, advisors can help you see the forest from the trees- or the trees in the forest!
Creating an Advisory Board
The key to creating an effective advisory board, both for you and for your advisors, is keeping it simple, balanced and transparent.
You can start by thinking of your business objectives and by writing down challenges you see in reaching those objectives. You can then turn the challenging areas into the short term objectives of the advisory board. This exercise can help you identify the type of advisors you need to meet your objectives.
There are a number of articles available online that tell you how to choose an advisor. It comes down to you and your business. Choose people that you know and trust and that complement your skill set. This doesn’t necessarily mean another designer or people in the design business. Sometimes the best advisors are those who have different industry expertise but can assist with specific business advice or experience in an area you might want to explore. You should consider inviting people whose opinion you can depend upon and who are not afraid to challenge you.
It’s important to be open and transparent at the beginning; describe your needs and the short term objectives of the advisory board. Set expectations regarding their time, how you will compensate them and the duration of their term as advisor to your business (twelve to twenty four months is common). You can find specific information from your local business association about these items but, in general terms, an advisor should be willing to help you out for free, meet with you a few times a year and should expect the reward of seeing you and your business succeed. Tackling these details at the beginning will ensure you and your advisors are expecting the same things; you can then minimize organizational details and maximize the relationship and expertise of your board advisor.
Advisory board meeting schedules are up to you and your advisors. Being that it is not a formal structure like a corporate board of directors, you can meet as a group or individually and when and where you want. Regardless of your meeting schedule, it is useful to keep in touch with your advisors regularly because this ensures that you don’t fall off their radar screens and you are able to benefit from timely expertise when you need it (even if you didn’t know you needed it!).
Be Open to Challenges
Small businesses are based on vision and entrepreneurial drive; they are about seeing an opportunity to create something valuable and useful for your clients. As entrepreneurs, you may agree with what I’m going to say about innovation; innovation is unexpected connections between things and advisory boards can make businesses more innovative. How? They create spaces for dialogue and support different points of view and diverse ways of doing things.
Having an advisory board means you are open to innovation in your business and to challenges that may include expanding your network, the product or service you offer, or even how people pay you. An advisory board lends you support as a person and as a business.
After experiencing the benefits of an advisory board, your next challenge may very well be joining an advisory board as a mentor in order to encourage innovation or help another business owner reach their full potential.
Small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises.
NOTE: Forbes Mexico recently published my article “Demasiado amable para liderar” and this is an early English version of this article. Enjoy!
We have heard the phrase “too big to fail” in the context of companies that are so big and so tied to the economy of a country that their failure would have disastrous national consequences. Some of these companies do fail, making the phrase a tongue-in-cheek epitaph and also a severe lesson for many on the transient nature of business.
My partner always reminds me that no one or no business is irreplaceable. What gives a person or organization value in the world of business is being able to solve a problem in a way that their competitor cannot.
So what does niceness have to do with this notion of failure and the transient nature of business? Can someone be “too nice to lead” or is this a construct that should be challenged just as business as usual was challenged by the most recent social entrepreneur and conscious capitalism movements in the last decade?
When I was a child, I used to think about business leaders in much the same way as they are portrayed in the Mary Poppins movie – male bankers who live in fancy concrete buildings, care about ROI and are not too pleased with seeing money spent on “feeding the birds”. But I also had a secret desire to see a business person flying a kite! The key then and now is humanizing business and showing that the people leading the business understand human dreams and challenges and use business to help develop or solve those things their stakeholders care about. Can leaders do this successfully without empathy, without compassion and without “niceness”?
Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education has published articles on the link between business and forgiveness as well as business and compassion. Niceness is a positive trait in leaders because it creates a sense of engagement, helps build personal and corporate brands and fosters loyalty amongst employees, clients and stakeholders. Niceness is a negative trait, on the other hand, if it undermines other values in the workplace such fairness , productivity and value creation; it’s negative if it stops leaders from breaking down social structures to make the organization work better or encourage innovation.
Niceness therefore is a positive leadership trait when it humanizes the leader, makes him or her memorable but does not compromise what is best for stakeholders and the business. As we move towards customization across various industries it follows that leaders – and the brands they represent – need to be more in touch with their stakeholders and the world around them. If success means creating and maintaining a strong connection with people in and around your business and appealing to the very basic and simple human principles of dignity and of understanding, then “too nice to lead” may just be an obsolete reason not to let the nice people finish first.
Measurement is fabulous. Unless you’re busy measuring what’s easy to measure as opposed to what’s important.