Before You Can Multiply, You Must First Learn to Divide

July 30, 2008

divide multiplydivide multiplyWhile in Asia, I heard a great expression, “Before You Can Multiply, You Must First Learn to Divide.”  I now find myself using this saying nearly every day.

The idea is that if you want to grow your business, you must learn to partner with others – and give them a slice.  This means you take a smaller slice of a bigger pie.

I have been doing this for a while now with my agent.  He takes a percentage of my business in exchange for handling everything from negotiating, contracting, logistics, travel, invoicing, etc.  I am convinced I make more money through this arrangement…and work less.

I recently had a conversation with a guy who runs a seminar business.  When big name American speakers come to his country, he hosts a public seminar.  His biggest challenge is getting butts in seats.  When I looked at his business model, it was flawed.  He has a lot of fixed costs, like advertising, printing (brochures) and postage.  His customer acquisition cost is ridiculously high, and was often hit or miss.  He could spend $5,000 on a newspaper advertisement and get only three customers paying $300 each.  Even with 50 paying customers, he is still paying a 33% customer acquisition cost – assuming no discounts.  My suggestion was to create a model where others make money only when he makes money.  One example is to set up an affiliate program where he gives a large commission to people who get him paying customers.  This moves his costs from fixed to variable.  This removes his risk while encouraging others to take a vested interest in his success.

Yesterday I was at a board meeting for my local National Speakers Association chapter (I was the President last year and am still on the board).  Over the last two years we spent a lot of time and money on something we call the “Visibility Initiative.”  The idea was to get visibility for our members in order to help them get more gigs.  We spent thousands on website development and marketing.  If we use the “divide before multiply” concept, it would make more sense to get someone to do all of these activities for us.  Speakers bureaus sell speakers to event planners.  They already have the connections and already have websites.  This is their business.  Therefore, if we partner with a bureau (or two), they get their commission for every gig booked and we get greater results with less effort.

When I was on the Donny Deutsch show, a caller asked, “I am the owner of a business.  How do I retain my top talent?”  Donny asked what percentage of the business he owned.  The caller said 100%.  Donny’s response was (paraphrasing), “Wrong.  As of today you own 80%.  Go into the office of your top 10 people and tell them that they are now partners in the business.  Give them 2% each.  They will have a greater sense of ownership.  Besides, this is probably the amount you would have given them as a bonus anyway.” 

Where can you multiply by first dividing?  Where can you give a slice of your business to someone else?  How can you grow your business while creating more income for others?

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7 Things You Can Do To Save Your Job… Or Create a New One

July 25, 2008


Last night I was on “The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch” on CNBC.  I was there to discuss how to save your job during a down economy.  I had a number of tips prepared, but due to limited time, I was only able to give 2. 

Here are my 7 “big ideas” for saving your job or creating a new job.

1. BE LAZY – Most people spend 60% – 75% of their time work on activities that do NOT create value for the business. Don’t! Be lazy and stop doing what you don’t need to do. Rethink all of your work and focus on the important activities. You’ll make yourself more valuable to the company and you will work less.

2. SEEK OUT OVERSEAS OPPORTUNITIES – Given the weak dollar, US products and services are bargains in other countries. Volunteer for an ex-pat job. Take on a sales job overseas. I will be spending more time overseas this year than I had over the previous 6 years combined.

3. ACT LIKE AN OWNER OF THE BUSINESS – If you think like the CEO rather than (fill in your job here), you will think more strategically. You will make smarter business decisions. Instead of just focusing on “what” you do, ask yourself “why” are you doing it. This will certainly impress your boss.

4. USE PERSONAL CONTACT RATHER THAN EMAIL – Deciding who to layoff is often more emotional than logical. Therefore, it is critical that you maintain a personal relationship with fellow employees and bosses. Email is impersonal. To help you break the habit, take my 30 day challenge.

5. PLAN FOR YOUR PINK SLIP – Assume that you will eventually lose your job or choose to leave. Therefore, be sure to build your resume, build your brand, and build your network of contacts outside of the company. Your career is your responsibility.

6. SOLVE PAINS – During tight economic times, people are more willing to invest in products/services that eliminate pains. Problem solvers are in big demand…always. My speeches on recession proofing businesses are more popular than those focused on innovation.

7. CHARGE MORE – Oscar Wilde once said, “A cynic knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.” People equate value with price. Charge more and you will be valued more. Reducing prices makes you a commodity. Increasing prices makes you a luxury. Luxury items tend to do better in tough economic times.

P.S. If you want to see the complete list of 10 tips I had prepared for the show, go to the CNBC website.  They also republished my article on “6 Ways Innovation Can Recession-Proof Your Business.”  You can also check out the complete list of guests from the show

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The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch

July 24, 2008

I just arrived back from Asia at 1am yesterday morning. My first stop while in the states?

“The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch” on CNBC.

In 2 hours we start taping the show that is scheduled to air tonight at 10pm.

Set your TiVo. Buy your popcorn. And get ready for the fastest-paced show on TV.

[Read more]

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Picture from My Bangkok Workshop

July 13, 2008

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Freedom in Bangkok

July 11, 2008

I am here in Bangkok and loving it. The people are so nice. The food is great. And the massages (legit ones!) are cheap.

I check email once, maybe twice a day. And I only respond to the urgent ones (like requests from TV stations and magazines here in Bangkok who want to interview me). I’m getting more work done in less time, because I can stay focused on the task at hand, rather than reading and responding to emails every 5 seconds.

I bought a cheap mobile phone and have both Malaysian and Thai phone numbers so that I can make local calls. But I don’t even carry the phone with me when I am out. It is for emergencies primarily.

This is freedom.

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The 30 Day Challenge

July 8, 2008

How are you doing with the 30 day challenge?  For me, the first few days were tough.  What made it even more difficult was that my hotel does not have internet access in the rooms.  So whenever I want to access email, I need to go to the hotel lobby. 

I’m on day 4, and as predicted, I am no longer stressed about checking my email.  I set up an autoresponder that gives people my agent’s contact information if they need a response that is time sensitive. 

I’m off to Bangkok in a few hours…

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CrackBerry Addiction

July 5, 2008

It has been nearly 24 hours without my BlackBerry.  It’s funny.  When dieting, all you can think about is food.  When your BlackBerry is stolen, all you can think about is your Blackberry. 

How much time do we waste as individuals – and organizations – thinking about, and playing with our toys?

I just read David Zinczenko’s “From the Editor” column in this month’s “Men’s Health” magazine.  While in South Africa, he did not have data service, so his BlackBerry did not work.  Here’s what he wrote:

“For the first 24 hours, I was a mess.  I was begging the concierge to open the business center at 3 a.m., so I could keep tabs on what was happening 17 in-flight hours away in New York. I was driving the hotel staff, and myself, a little bit nuts.

“Then something happened on day 4 of my stay. I was shaking out my beach towel – the sun was starting to edge down, my hunger was beginning to rise up, a lobster bake was going on somewhere – and as the grains of sand flew out onto the beach, I realized I had forgotten something.  I had forgotten to check my e-mail.  Indeed, I had forgotten about e-mail entirely for nearly the whole day.  And here’s the funny thing: It was on this vacation that my life changed, in many wonderful ways.  Not the least of which is this: I learned that taking a break from the stress of daily life gives you the resources to better handle it when you return.”

Here’s my 30 day challenge to you:

  1. Lock your BlackBerry away.  Or, if it also serves as your phone, turn off the “data services” so that you can no longer receive email.
  2. Turn off “automatic send/receive” in Outlook.  This way you won’t be notified every time you have email.
  3. Check your email only 3 times a day.  Choose a schedule that works for you.  I do first thing in the morning, lunch time, and end of work day.  If people have been trained to expect instantaneous responses, use an auto-responder to let them know that you are checking email infrequently and that they should call you if it is urgent.
  4. Use the phone to communicate rather than email.  Make personal contact.

This should improve your productivity, increase your ability to stay focused, enhance your relationships, and reduce your stress. 

Well, maybe it will reduce your stress on day 4, when you stop thinking about email.

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Stay Connected by Disconnecting

July 5, 2008

While here Malaysia, my BlackBerry was stolen.  It reminded me of something I wrote in my book Goal-Free Living:

Every day we are presented with numerous opportunities, but they often pass us by without our even noticing. In order to find these hidden opportunities, you must be sensitive to the environment around you. Sometimes this means disconnecting to stay connected.

Technology can be a wonderful boon to humankind, but sometimes we abuse it in ways that prevent us from really participating in life. For example, I have a BlackBerry phone. My original thinking was that this would free me from my computer and allow me to stay connected. Yes, it does allow me to stay connected electronically, but it also makes me disconnected from what I should really be doing—being present.

I once was having lunch with a colleague. Although my BlackBerry was sitting on the table with the ringer off, based on the color of a flashing LED I could tell if I had any new e-mails. I was waiting for an important message, so I was constantly glancing at the flashing light to see if it turned red. I received an e-mail every few minutes from someone—either a real person or spam. I did not receive the e-mail I was so eager to get until hours later. In the meantime I was completely detached from the person I was having lunch with, missing an opportunity to really be connected. This is how staying connected can interfere with being connected.

I wrote that in 2005.  Unfortunately, my CrackBerry addiction has actually worsened since then.

Now I am being put to the ultimate test.  My BlackBerry is missing and there no cost effective way for me to replace it until I return to the states in 3 weeks. I was able to buy an inexpensive “regular” phone with a local Malaysian number.  But my US mobile number will remain in suspended animation until I return.  No one will be able to send me text messages or leave me voicemails.  I will only be able to check email from my computer.  No more checking email every 30 seconds like I did with the BlackBerry.

I feel my withdrawal symptoms kicking in already.  It takes 30 days to break a habit.  Maybe this is my chance to break my CrackBerry addiction.  Maybe this is a chance for me to “stay connected by disconnecting.”

In addition to my other speeches in Asia, I will also be speaking tomorrow at the MPH bookstore in the Mid Valley Megamall in Kuala Lumpur.

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What Can You Give Away for Free?

July 2, 2008

Today I leave for Asia and will be gone for 3 weeks. Before I go, I want to throw out an idea I have been playing with. It’s rough, and I will write more about it soon. The concept is probably most relevant to those in the “intellectual property” business – speakers, trainers, advisers, coaches, and consultants.

I was speaking with a friend who owns a training business. She described a frustration of hers. After doing a day-long training session for a company, she discovered that they were using her materials to train other employees – without paying her any extra money. From her perspective, this was not permitted unless they licensed her content. She also discovered that outside trainers (i.e., competitors) were getting access to her training materials.

This got me thinking about my recent blog entries on companies that are giving away their intellectual property as part of their innovation strategy. GlaxoSmithKline is giving away their cancer cell research, and Nokia is giving away free software.

So, I asked her, “What if you gave away your intellectual property? How would you need to re-invent your business?”

I then drew the following chart to stimulate some conversation. I used getting publicity (PR) as an example during our discussion (written from the viewpoint of the buyer – not the service provider).

The framework depicts three levels of services/products: tell me, enable me, do it for me.

Tell me: These products/services tell you how to do something. If you want PR, you could read a book, take a class, or listen to CDs on the topic. Coaching and traditional advisory-type consulting also fall into this group.

Enable me: These products/services go beyond advice and give you the tools to make things happen. Pricing may be a one-time fee, a subscription, or a pay-as-you-use. [my Innovation Personality Poker is a simple “enable me” tool]. As an example, if you want PR, you could…

  • buy a press release writer, software that asks simple questions and spits out a professional press release with hypnotic marketing words embedded.  Maybe it could even automatically submit it to or
  • buy/license an article submitter that sends your articles out to a pre-determined list of article websites.
  • subscribe to, a subscription service that sends you daily requests from journalists who are looking for experts.

Do it for me: Here the work is actually done for you. You could hire a PR firm to get publicity and you could pay them on retainer (a monthly fee) or better yet, you could pay them on results (they get paid when you get placed).

What is interesting about this model is that as you go to higher levels, the value delivered increases, while the offerings become more difficult to replicate.

I believe that the sweet spot is the “enable me” level. Not only do you increase the value delivered and reduce the replicability, but you also gain leverage because you can build it once and sell it many times.

What if you gave away your intellectual property? What if you gave away your “tell me” content and used it as marketing material? What if your greatest assets were converted into “enable me” products? How would you need to re-invent YOUR business?

Well, I’m off to Asia. In the meantime, I welcome any thoughts or comments on this idea.  And if you are in Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, or Singapore, I hope you will attend one of my presentations.

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Mind Mapping Manifesto

July 2, 2008

Chuck Frey, the creator of, recently put together his Mind Mapping Manifesto.  This 50+ page eBook has focuses on two main areas: application of mind mapping and the selection of mind mapping software.  For less than $20, this is a great investment for anyone who suffers from information overload or who wants to capture and organize their thoughts in a more creative way.

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