Leaders Just Do It

fastslowmotion_doitArt Williams got it right back in 1986.  Check out a snippet from his famous “Do It” speech below.

It’s one month into 2015 and I’m sure you had a lot of resolutions and plans to start the year.  Have you already given up on the resolutions you set just a few days ago?

Keep fighting.  Keep getting better.  Keep building your company.  Keep starting new companies.  Keep selling.  Keep delivering.  Keep mentoring.  Keep leading.  Keep striving for excellence.  Just do it!  It’s worth it! (more…)

The Secret Sauce to Business Success


Waiter holding empty silver tray over gray background

I’ve always felt that anyone can build a successful business if they just focused on one thing – serving others.  I believe it more today than ever before.  I know it sounds simple and somewhat cheesy.  However, if you will focus on serving your customers, employees, partners, investors, and family – everything else will to take care of itself over the long-term.

Yes, you can get lucky and stumble upon the right market or product.  Or, you can work hard, do the right thing, and focus on serving others.  I vote for option two.  I can control it, I can repeat it, and it’s much more fulfilling.

Servant leadership is the hard route.  You have to humble yourself daily and make wise, long-term decisions.  You treat others like you would want to be treated.  You don’t base your response on circumstances or how someone else treated you.  It’s hard – really hard.

Want to beat your competition?  Out serve them.  Call the customer back faster.  Do the right thing when you mess up.  Invest in your employees.  Do what you say you are going to do.  I don’t care if you’re selling the most commoditized widget in the world, a company that serves others will be successful.  Serving others is the true secret sauce to long-term business success.

WANTED: People Who Speak Business and Technology Fluently

wantedMost businesses are in desperate need of employees and consultants that can speak both business and technology fluently. There are tremendous opportunities for people who understand technology and can apply it to the business the right way. At CTS, we used to call these people “Triathletes,” as they were technical gurus, had great business acumen, and possessed excellent communication skills. Since technology is now mission critical to all businesses, it’s key for businesses to start focusing on acquiring talent that are skilled technology liaisons. Businesses don’t need super technical resources – they can partner with firms that have this level of talent. Instead, businesses need people that can make solid technology decisions that align with the business and are able to manage technology projects and initiatives effectively.  We’ll always be able to find cheaper, better technology solutions (and resources). The hard part is choosing the right solutions,  implementing them properly, and dealing with all the tough business decisions.

Here are a few tips to make the transition from technology guru to technology liaison.

  • Learn to thrive in the gray areas.  In the business world, you have to make hard decisions with limited information.  It’s okay to be wrong.  Learn to fail fast and minimize risks.
  • Talk less, listen more.  Deliver the right level of information.  Understand your audience.  Don’t tell them how the watch was built when they ask what time it is.
  • Communicate the way the business communicates.  Speak their language and stop using technical speak.
  • Be an advocate – offer solutions.  Be a problem solver.  It’s okay to play devil’s advocate.  However, your job is not to kill every idea or project.  Instead, ensure everyone understands the risks and develop solutions to mitigate as many risks as possible.  Change your mentality from “why” to “why not.”
  • Be proactive.  Don’t let the business run red lights.  Don’t let the business fail so you can be right.  Nobody wins when this happens.  Instead, help the business navigate around difficult issues and keep the business leaders from making major mistakes.  Pick your battles – win the war not every battle.  It’s not about being right.  It’s not about you.
  • Make sure the entire business is properly aligned both strategically and operationally.  Your job is to make sure the business is setup to win.  Make sure technology and operations are setup to deliver the value proposition of the business.
  • Spend most of your time building relationships with the business and your team.  Being a liaison is hard work.  You must focus a lot of your time building strong relationships with both the business and your team.  Most technologists hate doing this, but it’s so critical.  Promote and advertise your value.
  • Over communicate.  No response is bad news.  You have to repeat yourself over and over again.  Be consistent with your communication and try to keep it as simple as possible.
  • Make deposits.  Be the most reliable resource in the company.  At some point, you’ll need to make some withdrawals because something will go wrong.  Make sure you are making a lot of deposits so you have a lot of relational equity built up to withdraw from.
  • Learn the business better than the business, but remember to stay humble.  As technologists, we are used to learning new things all of the time.  Use this skill to your advantage.  Invest time in really learning and understanding the business.  Put yourself in other people’s shoes.  Business is hard.  However, the more you know about the business, the more value you will add.
  • Study emotional intelligence.  This is the touchy feely stuff most technologists hate.  However, it’s not just about your IQ anymore.  You need to learn how to relate to others and build relational equity.  Learn to manage the individual.  This isn’t about being fake.  It’s about being genuine and real, but learning that humans are emotional and you need to relate to people the right way.
  • Always deliver.  Never miss a deadline.  Under promise and over deliver.  Be known as someone who always gets the job done the right way and on time.  Learn how to manage expectations and projects.
  • Learn to delegate and outsource.  Yes, you can do it better than someone else.  However, you need to learn to multiply and scale yourself.  You have to learn to delegate and manage other people.  Likewise, you need to learn to outsource to other firms.  If you don’t learn this, the business will go around you and do it themselves.  Position yourself as the expert in outsourcing.

Business leaders are sick of having to deal with technologists that are difficult to manage, don’t communicate, and demand high salaries.  Become a technology liaison.  Learn to speak both business and technology fluently.

Choosing Software – Don’t Go All In Preflop

allin_400I love the strategy and skill behind poker – especially Texas Hold’em.  I love how great poker players can read people, assess available information quickly, and make bold, timely, yet wise decisions.  This post isn’t about poker, but I’d like to use a poker analogy to make a point.  In Texas Hold’em, the first round of betting takes place before the flop (the flop is when the dealer lays out three cards for the entire table to see).  Preflop betting is all about your position, the value of the cards in your hand, and your ability to read the competition.  You have very little information at this point and the only way to learn more is to bet.  Occasionally, you see players go all in preflop.  This either means they have a really strong hand or they are desperate (or both).  You risk losing it all with little to no information.  It’s a risky proposition.

In business, as with poker, information is power.  The more information you have, the better decisions you’ll make.  Just like in poker, the only way to get information is to pay for it.  You spend time, money, and other resources to build your business, invest in employees, and learn about the market.  Why is it then that businesses regularly make bad decisions when it comes to selecting the right software solutions?  Many businesses make tremendous investments in software without investing resources to make sure it’s the right fit or implemented properly.  It’s like going all in preflop in poker.  Businesses buy the latest and greatest software solution thinking it’s going to auto-magically solve all their problems.

I think a lot of this is human nature.  Most executives are scared of technology and just want the problem solved.  The marketing pitches of the software companies make it sound like their solution will solve all of the company’s problems.  Unfortunately, there is not a panacea and there’s never a quick fix.  It always takes hard work and the proper investment of time and money to implement a solution the right way.

Software and technology are beautiful things – when purchased and implemented the right way.  However, don’t just buy a piece of software and think it’ll solve all of your problems.  Instead, invest time and resources upfront to map out your business processes, evaluate and test multiple solutions, garner support and buy-in from the team members that will be using the solution, and make sure you understand the total cost of ownership.  Go through a process of picking the right solution for your business.  You can buy the greatest tool in the world, but it won’t work for your business if it’s not the right fit.  Just like buying the best book on poker isn’t going to make me a great poker player, buying software without doing the work upfront to ensure it’s the right fit and it’s implemented the right way won’t make you successful.

Next time, go through a process.  Spend a little time and money upfront making sure you pick the right solution.  Use a phased approach and make sure you are learning along the way.  Your business will not only reap the benefits, you’ll save a lot of time and money.  Worst case, if the product isn’t a good fit, at least you’ll find out quickly and only spend minimal resources.  As they say in the poker world, you’ll live to see another hand and make up for it down the road.