Archive for 'Being Relevant'

Don’t Be Blind to Opportunity

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Some say they never know when an opportunity is going to arise.  That is true. But, you do have the ability to be in control of your opportunities – even the unexpected ones.  I say one of the best things a business leader can do is to be in a constant sense of awareness.  Be open to the things around you that you might now know about.  One of my favorite sayings is, “I don’t know what I don’t know” so by being in a sense of awareness I am willing to be a beginner and open to all kinds of possibilities.

Opportunities will not always come with the presence of a video camera and microphone.  Don’t miss an opportunity just because you are blinded by the array of opportunities.  The Internet today brings an array of different ways to increase your visibility.  But, don’t get ahead of yourself! I always say “crawl, walk, run”.  Start off in places that you feel comfortable and then get a move on to those that challenge you.

I choose to make myself available to opportunity.  If there is an interview opportunity, I take it.  If someone wants to have breakfast, I go. Who doesn’t like to eat? I also initiate opportunities when there is no opportunity.  If there aren’t any, I ask “why?”, and make sure there is never a shortage of opportunities again.

Sometimes successful business owners think they are really big stuff.  I have always found out there is someone bigger out there.  No matter who you are.  I am constantly reminded of that— while at SES, I had someone reach out to me about wanting to meet, he flew in from another country.  He mentioned they were a very small startup and I was thinking, “why waste my time?” but then I heard that voice that said, “you were small once and just starting out so meet”— I mean its only a breakfast.  Well, he turned out to be part of a bigger, much bigger , with 100s of millions in revenue — billions actually from various operations.  We hit it off and he called his CEO who flew in from Germany then next day, I met him on the way to the airport and we are going to do a lot o business together.

Opportunities come to you in all packages and at all times—-  be open to them … I mean its only a breakfast and you have to eat right?

Always be ready to seal the deal. You never know when the perfect opportunity will present itself. For me, all I need are my cowboy boots and I am ready.

Figure out what it is that drives you to be ready.






A Dream is Just a Dream

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A dream is just a dream. A goal is a dream with a plan and a deadline.

-Harvey Mackay

Passion is not a substitute for planning. It’s not. I’ve met hundreds of passionate people who, without a clear plan of action, watch their dreams fall by the wayside. I’ve also sat relatively still while someone presented me a 30 page PowerPoint presentation only to find that at the conclusion, I was still left wondering what it is they do.

Enter the 118 pitch! This concept is quickly becoming one of the most popular concepts of my bestselling book, The Mirror Test.  The 118 is the 21st century version of what some people still call the elevator pitch, an out-of-date name for the worthy idea that you need to sell what your company offers (and you) in the span of an elevator ride. Technology has not only made things (including elevators) move faster but also has increased the need for speed and immediate relevance in pitching. It comes from the 118 seconds you actually have to pitch: 8 seconds to hook me (the average attention span of an adult) and up to 110 seconds (the average elevator ride in New York)  to drive it home – less than two minutes with only seconds to spare.

This January, we put out a challenge. Create, upload and share your 118 pitch with the world and have a chance to win 46K in prizes! Entries with the highest number of votes were judged by a star-studded panel: Daymond John, Mari Smith, Gerhard Gschwandtner, Mark Malkoff and Paula Shugart. The contest was a great success as businesses, school programs and non-profits detailed their passion for what it is they do, in 118 seconds. They grabbed our attention. They conveyed who they were. They described what their business offered and they explained the promises they would deliver. Well, at least the winners did J Kudos to our Grand Prize winner, Chris Westfall

You can view the winners videos here:

Grand Prize – Chris Westfall     Virtual keynote & Consult – The Hayzlett Group          

2nd Prize – Michelle Lubow     Brand audit and consultation     

3rd Prize – Josh Pies      Itracks  Subscription               

4th Prize – Gretchen Pattullo     OmNovia  Subscription    

5th Prize –  Stamford Academy        Alan Campbell/Westley Associates logo

6th Prize – Nathan Heinart       Owlish Communications LinkedIn Profile

Overall there were some great entries, engagement, networking and a whole lot of fun!. We will definitely repeat this contest so keep refining your 118! Think about what it is that sets your business apart from all others and then use it to develop a strong, articulate 118 pitch, so that when opportunity knocks, you can open the door.



What Makes A Brand

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What makes a brand? Is it the name?  Identifying characteristics such as a logo? What people think and remember?

It could be all and maybe so much more.  Every year the Interbrand Report comes out and ranks the top brands. They use a lot of methodology to come up with the best global brands. But, as long as I can remember, Coca-Cola has always been the number one ranking brand. And, it was again this year.

Now, let’s take a look at the 97th ranking brand – Starbuck’s. Last year they were 90. Starbuck’s has been around 40 years. And, in the 40 years, Starbucks has made quite a name for themselves.

Starbucks announced recently they were going to change their logo to express what Starbucks represents to their partners and customers.  Along with business expansion must come a change to stay fit to what is true to the company, as well as what it will become in the future.

As part of a test, Itracks, a leading online research company conducted some research to determine what consumers were saying about the logo change.

The research was done in three phases:

1. We listen (Social Media Monitoring)

2. We ask (USA Talk Now)

3. We receive feedback (iMarkIt)

Overall, the response was very favorable for Starbucks.  Those who were not in favor of the new logo were normally not avid Starbucks enthusiasts.

For more information on the Itracks study, click here:

If you were to change your logo, would you go through this exercise? I think it’s invaluable.

Changing a brand logo has risks. Gap possibly could have diverted a lot of criticism if they would have asked consumers about their proposed new logo first. Lesson learned.

Take pride in your brand. It speaks volumes about who you are and what you represent.


Pheasant Fiasco

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Passion for something can sometimes blind you and can teach you very valuable lessons when you have bad things happen.  They call them learning experiences.

Hold a mirror up to a pheasant and it’ll likely crap all over it.

I had never invested more money in anything in my life, but it was a no-brainer to me.  And that’s literally what it was:  all passion, no brains – the pheasants and me.

Early in my career (but not so early that I shouldn’t have known better), I thought pheasant farming was the most fabulous idea ever. After all, I love everything about pheasants. I love to watch them; to see them run & fly free. I love to hunt them and most of all, I love to eat  them! When I took people with me, they loved it too. And when I served guests those beautiful birds soaked in my special marinade of buttermilk and hot sauce, they devoured them with delight.

My passion fueled my desire and my business plan.  I reached out to a bunch of friends and associates and sold them on the idea.  Many of us invested all we had.  We moved quickly to capitalize on the market and never questioned, researched or were aware of the lack of competition.  We became consumed with the idea.  We saw money everywhere.  We were pioneers. Our plan; to set up giant outdoor pens on the prairies where the pheasants could fly and run free as if in the wild. It would be a thing of beauty. We’d then process the pheasants or sell them live to hunting operations. It was perfect. We found a farm and a recently bankrupt (should have been our first hint) slaughtering facility. Soon hundreds of pheasants were living and flying free within our giant netted pens on the South Dakota prairie.  Our passion grew as we watched them. Soon in our minds we were going to sell fresh and smoked pheasants to chefs, restaurants and stores worldwide. Visions of gift baskets with smoked pheasants state and nationwide danced in our heads.

And then, it happened. One prairie thunderstorm and hundreds of pheasants grouped together, looked toward the sky, and drowned. We ended up losing everything.

What happens when you hit rock bottom like that? When you’re done crying there’s nothing left to do but realistically look at the wreckage and honestly confront what you’ve done. I let dreams of money and passion for the product carry me away. Passion is not a substitute for planning.

It’s fine to want to corner the market on something – own it top to bottom – but do your research. Find out if there IS a market. Pay attention. Find out what the customer is saying (because you know they are always right!) Every business, every person must ask themselves the hard questions, and first, start with Why.

I call it your 118. The 118 comes from the 118 seconds you actually have to pitch: 8 seconds to hook me and up to 110 seconds to drive it home – less than two minutes with only seconds to spare. The 118 is the 21st century version of what some people still call the elevator pitch, an out-of-date name for the worthy idea that you need to sell what your company offers (and you) in the span of an elevator ride. Constructing your 118 pitch will help you answer the “why.”

Take a good hard look at your business practices and thoughtfully-yet-aggressively evaluate, deconstruct, and then reconstruct your business idea.

I’m all for passion but let it push you straight ahead into a plan. Take that enthusiasm for your dream, evaluate, put legs on it, and allow it to walk you into your future business; one that’s breathing strong every day.


So Many Women!

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What are you doing to help other people?  Now, how are you doing it?  I think that Oprah put it best in her speech at the 2010 Women’s Conference, when she said, “…none of us do the work we do to receive recognition, but it feels really good.”  She was one of five Minerva Award winners, which recognizes women and the work they are doing for others.  (Click here for videos of speeches, and other information

In order to be successful in the work you are doing for others, you have to be successful in the work that you are doing for yourself.  Having a network of support can aid you in that process.  Not often do we hear the words, “men’s conference”, but the words “women’s conference” bear more familiarity.  People enjoy doing this, they like to talk in groups and tell each other what they are doing, and then join in with others that share the same interests.

When I was CMO at Kodak, we had quite a few networking and support groups, just like any other large corporation.  I just happened to be the corporate sponsor of the Women’s Forum, and carried the name “Women’s Champion” around the Kodak offices.  Because about 75-percent of the people reporting to me were women, I was around them quite often.  I was able to help each woman look at herself and grow as a leader.

The growth was accomplished through openness.  Open questioning, open thoughts; these were conversations and ideas that didn’t happen throughout the everyday work processes.  Leaders were brought in to meet with the Women’s Forum for breakfast or lunch.  A couple of these leaders were Linda Sawyer, CEO of Deutsch Advertising, and Jackie Hernandez, COO of Telemundo.  As established leaders, these women would answer questions, and lead the group toward their internal and external growth.

Use the resources that you already have to accomplish your goals.  These goals can include simple day-to-day tasks, or even a Minerva Award at the next Women’s Conference.  You already have a network, so use that natural network to expand your business development and make a high impact on your personal leadership.

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