Growth comes from experiencing moments that are larger than you are. Or at least appear larger than you believe you are.
The humility that naturally emerges from walking into situations where you are the underdog hardens us, strengthens us and makes us aspire to be that which we have not yet realized.
A quote from Mark Zuckerberg at the Web 2.0 Summit when commenting on the current dogma of online turf wars.
“Your map is wrong. The biggest part of the map has to be uncharted territory — this map makes it seem like it’s zero-sum, but it’s not. We’re building value, not just taking it away from someone else.”
And that folks, is the difference between creating new and disruptive markets vs. just arm wrestling for market share. Brilliantly said Mark.
The Speaker of the House is not only one of the most influential positions in our country, but also one of the most polarizing. It is also a position that is not directly elected by the American People.
The Speaker of House is put in place by the majority party and derives his or her power from the institution of the House, the House Rules if you will. You can guess who makes the rules.
Early in my life I adopted the belief that there are no problems, only solutions. This fundamental belief guided not only my life, but also how I managed and led teams.
When your focus is solely on a problem, you approach the world from a victim mindset. Your situation becomes something that’s happened to you or somehow isn’t of your making or responsibility. However, when you look at a situation with a solutions mindset, you are automatically empowered.
Yesterday marked the three year anniversary of closing the Cisco/Latigent acquisition, and I thought it a good time to address one of the questions I am constantly asked by those such aspired (as I once was).
“How do I get bought by Google, or Cisco, or Oracle, or…”
People approach this question as if there is some secret mythical wisdom that can be imparted on them, yet I think the answer is pretty straight forward.
“You won’t, because you’re asking the wrong questions and are focused on the wrong goal.”
Let’s establish a common truth. Companies like Cisco, Google, Oracle, etc. typically don’t buy companies just to buy companies. They acquire companies that: solve needed problems, that can accelerate innovation or development in a certain market, and whose technology and people compliment their existing products in ways that make financial sense. Trying to build products that meet these objectives for companies that you don’t know much about, or who don’t know much about you is a bit like shopping for a mail-order bride. And it will get you nowhere but out of business.
My advice then, is rather simple. Solve real problems for your customers. And solve those problems better than anyone else. If you focus on developing your core differentiated assets and growing your company into something that adds value for people, then you will inevitably find yourself on the radar of the big dogs. Not only will you get their attention, but you will have built a strong viable business that demands a higher valuation than merely having to liquidate your “assets” because you failed to create anything meaningful along the way.
Latigent addressed an age old problem in new and innovative ways. We essentially fixed the ‘reporting problem’ for call centers. This was an iterative process over several years with one goal in mind “profitably increase the consumption of our product”. Achieving this meant listening to our customers and adapting our software to meet their needs. It didn’t mean constantly trying to guess what a company like Cisco would want to acquire (although, admittedly there was a little of that that went on from time to time). This strategy translated to more users for us, more customers and ultimately a product and business that Cisco saw value in. The rest, shall we say, is history…
World Poverty and Human Rights Online has published an article I wrote earlier this year on restructuring corporations’ profit incentives to align with society’s best interests. Click here to check it out.
One reason I love the Call Center world is that it breeds into you a passion for goal attainment. Everyday when you walk in the door you have a clearly defined set of short-term and long range objectives that must be met. You come in every morning, review your plan over a cup of coffee, then lock and load for the day ahead. Come snow storms, flu outbreaks, hurricanes, surprise mail drops or infomercials, fiber cuts, or product defects… you pro-act to react day-in and day-out to hit your numbers. It’s exhilarating. Really.
Hitting goals such as: Service Level, Average Handle Time, Average Speed of Answer and Agent Utilization are so core to call center operations that companies invest millions of dollars a year into technology and people with the sole purpose of attaining them. It’s also how people get paid. I can’t tell you how many compensation plans I’ve seen that reward people for hitting these types of “performance goals.”
The problem though, as I’ve come to realize it, is that they’re always the same goals. Day after day you are striving to be only as good as you were the day before. Secondarily, the goals are designed in such a way that they would be silly to try and do any better, ex. hitting an 81% Service Level for a day is really no better than hitting 80%. This means you are endlessly tweaking the machine to only achieve the same level of results everyday. In addition, the process is making you only as good as your competitors, not better than… This is sort of like endlessly adjusting your sails while at sea with the purpose being not to actually go anywhere, but rather just to avoid capsizing the boat. Isn’t the point of “goaling” to make you better? Perhaps make you more competitive or more profitable? So why then do we call these things “goals”? Aren’t they really just achieving the status quo?
Here’s an exercise to drive the point home: go through all of your reports, employee evaluations, and executive presentations and change the word “Goal” to “Status Quo”. Now start circulating these amongst the team and see what conversations come about. My guess is that once people realize the amount of money and resources going into efforts that do nothing to actually acquire or retain customers then priorities will start to change.
Setting and achieving goals is one of the most misunderstood and undervalued practices in the world. Most people confuse goals with wishes. Goals have passion and motivation as their impetus and force you to develop a strategy to achieve them. A wish is simply a desire to have or do something, but you put no real skin in the game.
Anyone can say “I want to lose 10 pounds” or “I want that promotion” or “I want to retire early” or “I want to get out of debt” or…But how many people actually develop a plan of attainment and put actions behind their words? The answer, sadly, is very few; and thus what most people claim as their goals remain indefinitely on their wish list.
Here’s how to tell the difference: If you sit down to review your “goals” and don’t have the realization that you have a hell of a lot of work to do, then either:
1) These aren’t goals. They’re wishes and you’ll never achieve them until you actually develop your plan too.
2) You’ve set the bar too low. Anyone can go without eating McDonalds for a day, but can you sustainably change your eating habits for the rest of your life?
3) You’re in delusion about what it will truly take to achieve them and thus, most likely never will.(see bullet #1)
Here’s an exercise that drove this point home to me. Every year on your birthday sit down and look back at what you’ve accomplished the previous year. Then compare it to what you wanted to accomplish and where you thought you would be at this time. What’s that picture look like? If you’ve achieved or moved yourself toward your goals then celebrate and replicate. If not, then you’re another year behind… Have the tough conversation with yourself and make sure next year the situation is different.
Lastly, sometimes you sit down to develop your plan and realize you have no idea what you need to do or even where to start. Well, that means you’re at the beginning of something truly amazing. Stick with it and enjoy the ride…