When you’re making a buying decision – any kind of buying decision – whether it’s choosing a restaurant, an electrician, a realtor, a painter, an attorney or a bank, do you care about the why? I do. In fact, I’ve become obsessed with the why. If I’m going to choose your services I want to know what drives you, I want to know that you’re passionate about what you do, I want you to be able to tell me why you do this every single day. Take my bank, for example. They won me over because every teller at every branch is so friendly. They exude enthusiasm. They love working there and it shows. I figure that If you love what you do every day then you’re going to do it well and I’m going to get your best.
Beyond the What and How
If companies are eager to tell you what they do – and they should be – they’re even more eager to tell you how they do it. They want you to know about their latest technology and groundbreaking techniques, how they’ve invested in education, how they’re on the cutting edge. This is all good stuff. But does any of that set them apart from every other company in their industry? Does it make you want to do business with them? Does it make you feel good about choosing them? Maybe. But for me it’s more about the why and less about the what and how. This is not a new idea. Simon Sinek has built a following by advising us to start with the why. He uses the example of Apple as a company that starts with why and explains how their commitment to innovation and user satisfaction has created a legion of Apple evangelists.
Try Asking Why
In my initial meetings I use a questionnaire to gather important information about my client’s business. A few weeks ago I added the following question to the top of the list, “Why do you do what you do?” The results have been extraordinary. Some clients answer the question immediately and with great enthusiasm. Some have difficulty answering it at all. The point is this. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. (I didn’t make that up. I wish I did). Let your passion show. Let people know why you do what you do. They will connect with you in a visceral way. In a way that goes beyond intellect. In a way that gets them to choose you because it feels right. And isn’t that what you want?
And Now Back to You
How much have you thought about the why of your business? Is it a question you can answer easily or do you have to think about it? When you’re choosing a company to do business with, do you care about what drives them? Share your thoughts with me in the comment box below. I’d love to hear from you.
The doldrums – that dreaded atmospheric condition that in previous centuries drove sailors mad. Here is how wikipedia defines it:
The doldrums are noted for calm periods when the winds disappear altogether, trapping sail-powered boats for periods of days or weeks. The term appears to have arisen in the 18th century – when cross-Equator sailing voyages became more common. Colloquially, the “doldrums” are a state of inactivity, mild depression, listlessness or stagnation.
Make no mistake. We are smack dab in the middle of the summer doldrums – colloquially speaking that is.
Know the Symptoms
I see the signs all around me. In my weekly business meeting absenteeism is up dramatically. Clients can’t be bothered returning emails or phone calls. When they do respond they give the stock answer.
“Call me in September.”
I get it. I’m feeling a little listless myself. After all, here in New England the summer is gone in the blink of an eye and we want to make sure we soak it in before we get back to shoveling snow. But when it comes to your website, the “wait until September” strategy is a mistake.
Do it Now
If you want your website to be fresh in September, don’t wait until September. Work on it now. Why? Because if you wait until September to turn your attention to it, it will be October before it actually gets done. You will have lost your chance to get your updates out there before your competition. But more importantly, you’ll be too busy yourself in September and you’ll end up cutting corners just to get your site updated. The result could be mediocre content, or worse. That’s not really what you want is it? Here are a few things you can do to protect your website from the summer doldrums:
Review your website’s content – Is it still current? Does it accurately reflect your business now?
Contact information – has anything changed, i.e. your phone number, address. If you don’t already have one, consider adding a google map to your contact page.
Mobile Optimization – is your website optimized for proper display on mobile devices? If it’s not, fix the problem now so you’ll be positioned to take advantage of the increasing number of users who access the internet via their cell phones and tablets.
Blogging – are you blogging? I know – you don’t have the time. Maybe that’s true but you should at least think about it. Blogging is a great way to establish your expertise and authority in your field.
Don’t Be That Guy/Gal
You know, the one who says “I haven’t updated my website in [fill in the blanks, weeks, months, or god forbid, years]. There’s no reason you can’t be thinking about this stuff while you’re sipping an umbrella drink or working on your tan. The point is this. A little bit of thought now while you have some free time will put you again of the curve when September hits and you get jammed. Don’t let your website fall victim to the doldrums.
And Now Back to You
Are you waiting until September before putting some serious thought into your website? Be honest. I won’t judge you. If you are, consider spending just a little bit of time thinking about it this summer.
Photo credit: edited from Calm, by Gary Felton. Used with permission.
About four years ago I decided to memorize the first two paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence. I know – a pretty nerdy thing to do. Now, every year around the middle of June, I start reciting it – mostly to myself. I recite it while I’m walking the dogs (they’re not impressed), while I’m lying in bed dozing off to sleep, while I’m in the car heading to an appointment and sometimes when I’m on hold waiting to speak to a customer service person who I know will only make me irritated. “Why would I do that,” you may ask. For a few reasons. I’m an American history buff, for one thing. But mostly because I find the document so inspiring.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
According to Wikipedia, this has been called “one of the best-known sentences in the English language”, containing “the most potent and consequential words in American history”. Apparently I’m not the only one who finds the document inspiring. Its influence on the French Revolution is well documented. Again according to Wikipedia, some other countries that used the Declaration as inspiration or directly copied sections from it is the Haitian declaration of January 1, 1804 from the Haitian Revolution, the Argentine Declaration of Independence in 1816, the Chilean Declaration of Independence in 1818, Mexico in 1821, California Republic in November, 1836, Hungarian Declaration of Independence in 1849 and the Declaration of the Independence of New Zealand in 1835.
2. It Reminds Us Who We Are and Who We Aspire To Be
Every country has what might be called a national character. Ours can be found in the Declaration of Independence. As a nation we spend a lot of time criticizing ourselves. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. We believe that Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration’s principal author, would be shocked to see what has become of America. That may be. But that is exactly why we need to go back to our country’s founding document and read it again. Every great achievement starts with an idea. The Declaration of Independence is the expression of the idea of America. And reacquainting ourselves with that idea helps us regain our national perspective by reminding us who we are and who we aspire to be.
3. It’s America’s Birth Certificate
We all keep our birth certificate somewhere in our files. It’s our essential identification document. Among other things, it lists our date and place of birth. What your birth certificate is to you as an individual, the Declaration of Independence is to us as a nation. It legitimizes us by declaring to the world, “This is when we born, July 4, 1776.”
Bonus – Some July 4 Fun Facts
Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on July 4, 1826 within hours of each other. At the time of their death they were the last living signatories to the Declaration of Independence. Adams lived long enough to see his son elected the sixth President of the United States in 1825.
Why do we celebrate with fireworks? – According to slate.com, because John Adams wanted us to. Before the Declaration of Independence was even signed, he envisioned fireworks as a part of the festivities. In a letter to Abigail Adams on July 3, 1776, he wrote that the occasion should be commemorated “with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”
And Now Back to You
Have you read the Declaration of Independence? If you have, what are your thoughts about the document? If you were alive in 1776 would you have been part of the one third that favored the revolt against the British Crown?, the one third that remained loyal to the Crown? or the one third that simply didn’t care?
My son was born on the 5th of May 35 years ago. Our family has been celebrating the Cinco de Mayo (the 5th of May) ever since. But for years, Americans have been celebrating the day for other reasons that have something to do with the day’s significance in Mexican history. As it turns out, the day that we here in the States observe with Margaritas, Mariachi music and Sombreros is not all that important a day in Mexico. It’s not a federal holiday so offices, banks and stores remain open. More interestingly though, the revelers that I questioned didn’t even know why Cinco de Mayo is significant at all. In fact, those that responded all got it wrong!
Cinco de Mayo—or the fifth of May—commemorates the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War (1861-1867). A relatively minor holiday in Mexico, in the United States Cinco de Mayo has evolved into a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage, particularly in areas with large Mexican-American populations. Cinco de Mayo traditions include parades, mariachi music performances and street festivals in cities and towns across Mexico and the United States.
The day does not commemorate Mexico’s independence from Spain, as most of those I questioned believe. That occurred some 50 years earlier. The holiday gained prominence in the United States in the 1960s largely due to Chicano activists who identified with the victory of indigenous Mexicans over European invaders during the Battle of Puebla. In Mexico today, the celebration is largely confined to the state of Puebla where the battle occurred.
Another Margarita Please
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for celebrating the Cinco de Mayo. After all, what can be bad with Margaritas, Mariachi music and Sombreros. And there is a lot right with celebrating Mexican culture and heritage. But celebrations are much more meaningful when I know what I’m celebrating. Don’t you agree?
Now Back to You
Do you celebrate the Cinco de Mayo? Do you know its significance? Be honest now. If you don’t you’re not alone. I didn’t either until I started feeling a little queasy every time someone asked me what I was actually celebrating.
Irecently had a disturbing conversation with an old friend. His 24 year old daughter quit her job in Los Angeles and moved back home to Massachusetts. Nothing unusual there. It happens all the time. She liked LA but missed her friends. So home she came hoping to save a little money, make a dent in the student loans, find a new job, get her own apartment and get on with her life. Not so easy…. for my friend, his wife or their daughter. To quote Philip Rosenthal, writer, director and creator of the Everybody Loves Raymond television show, “it’s not that we don’t love you honey, it’s just that….well it’s just that we were planning to put a hot tub in your bedroom.”
What’s That Thing Attached to Your Body?
“What frustrates you the most about her being back home with you?” I asked him. His answer surprised me. “It’s not the clumps of hair in the drain, the permanently unmade bed (which she doesn’t vacate till 11am), the permanently plugged in hair dryer, the lights that get turned on and never get turned off, the greasy frying pan left for someone else to scrub or the look of disdain on her face when we ask her to do something.” “What, then?” “It’s the cell phone. The damn cellphone,” he said. “What do you mean?” I replied. “Well,” he said, “it seems to be attached to her body. I’ve never seen her without it. She’s always texting. Always. Everywhere, anywhere, all the time. It’s as though she can’t focus on anything for more than ten seconds before she’s back to texting. Texting from her bed before going to sleep, texting from her bed when she wakes up (which she doesn’t do till 11am – oops did I already mention that?), texting while she’s talking to us, texting while we’re talking to her, texting at dinner in a restaurant, texting at dinner at home, texting from the bathroom getting ready to go out, texting while using the hair dryer (which never gets unplugged – oops, did I already mention that?). We assumed it was her best friend she was “talking” to but that theory was blown to bits when her friend was over the house recently. There they were, the two of them sitting on the couch not more than 3 feet from each other both of them gazing intently at their cellphones …. texting! Not talking to each other, texting.” I thought for a long moment before asking the question I knew would not have a simple answer. “What is it about her texting that bothers you so much?”
Is it an Old Guy Complaining, the New Normal or Just Plain Rude?
“Well for one thing, she’s not a teenager anymore. She’s a 24 year old woman and there’s something…. I don’t know, disappointing about her not being able to engage in the moment. When we’re having a conversation at dinner, for example, it’s insulting to see her texting while we’re talking. She might as well tell us we’re boring. I don’t know, am I just out of touch with reality? Is this the new communication model where nobody pays attention to anybody and “conversation” is just a series of fleeting snippets, grab what you can grab and keep moving. The whole texting thing is like somebody is chasing you and you can’t slow down for too long or you’ll get run over. Are we going to eventually evolve into creatures with no mouths and large thumbs?” Instead of answering my question, he raised a few new ones. Is he an old guy complaining, is this texting thing the new normal or is it, as I suspect, just plain rude?
And Now Back to You
I didn’t know what to say to him. What would you tell him? Has this addictive texting behavior shown up in your life? Do we have to get used to it or is there still hope that conversation – real conversation where we look each other in the eye when we speak; where we are truly interested in what the other person has to say – won’t die.
Jason Ludwig – writer, illustrator, artist, car salesman
Jason Ludwig sells cars. But he’s no ordinary car salesman. When he invited my wife and I into his office to begin the excruciating game of “offer, counter offer, let me talk to my manager and see what we can do, what will it take to put you behind the wheel of this car today”, it took all of two minutes for him to utterly demolish the negative stereotype of the pushy car salesman. How? He listened more than he talked. Imagine that. He asked questions and listened to the answers. That impressed me. While he was going over some details with my wife, my mind wandered. It does that. I looked around and noticed the pictures on the wall next to his chair. . . his wife and new baby, a few motivational phrases pinned to the wall and on his desk two stacks of business cards.
Two Stacks of Business Cards?
I grabbed one from each stack. I put his car salesman business card in my pocket and began to read the other one (shown here on the right). While he talked to my wife about moon roofs, Bluetooth, power this and power that, I pulled out my iPhone, accepted the invitation on his card and logged onto his Facebook profile. Jason Ludwig, it seems, has another life. . . a life full of creativity, imagination, and an almost otherworldly talent for illustration and storytelling.
A Most Unusual Test Drive
With my wife at the wheel, we pulled out of the dealership and onto the highway for a test drive. When we were safely out of traffic I turned to Jason in the back seat and said “tell me about your other life.” By the look on his face I figured he didn’t get asked that a lot. So during a most unusual test drive, here’s what I learned about a most unusual car salesman. Jason studied at the Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, Massachusetts. I won’t attempt to describe his illustrations with words. See for yourself:
See what I mean ? Can your car salesman do that?
Reality Comes Calling
Jason Ludwig burning the midnight oil.
Jason Ludwig is firmly rooted in reality – rare for someone with such finely tuned artistic sensibilities. He wanted to be an illustrator, and could have been a great one, but when the only response to his resume came from an auto dealership, instead of getting angry, he got busy. He has been selling cars for the past six years. He’s very good at it. But what’s really impressive is the ease and grace with which he accepted the dictates of reality and simply did what he had to do. No whining, no complaining. And here’s the best part. Despite the hours he spends at the dealership, he has managed, somehow, to find time for his other great love and remarkable talent – writing. How fortunate for us!
Move Over Tolkien and Rowling
Jason wrote a book (Kindle only at the moment) called A Viakov’s Tale, which he promises will be the first in a trilogy. The tale follows the adventures of Abnayrn, a young member of the Viakov, the black bearfolk of Nith. You know that feeling you get when you’ve found a book that grabs you? I’m there. Though he is a first time author, you would never know it. He has been steeped in fantasy since his introduction to Dungeons and Dragons at four years old. I’m not a book reviewer but I know when I’m reading a book I can’t wait to get back to once I’ve put it down. Here are two 5 star reviews from Amazon.com:
An amazing read! Captivating from the very first line. A very smart and often intense journey into the lives of characters I find myself deeply caring about.
What an excellent adventure. The characters are well written and developed. You quickly feel for the young would be defender. I look forward to great things from this author.
And so do I!
And Now Back to You
If you could write about someone you think we all should know, who would it be and why? Have you ever thought about that. Why not post a comment and let us know who it is.