March 20, 2013
Today’s Wednesday Work Wisdom is an interview between me and Theo Androus where he asked me about the business model of my speaking business. We discussed the concepts of gamification and leverage and how they are important for creating a successful business (of any kind).
This recording was part of the “Voices of Experience” CD that is included with Speaker magazine – a magazine given to all members of the National Speakers Association (NSA). If you are a professional speaker (or want to be one), I strongly encourage you to check out NSA.
You have two ways to enjoy this interview:
- Listen to the audio (streaming):
- Download the audio (mp3) (right click to save to your computer)
March 13, 2013
Today’s Wednesday Work Wisdom…
I recently attended a training class where the instructor was telling professional speakers how they could leverage their content as a way of making money in their sleep. The reality is, the focus was really on how to make products, not how to make money. Let’s face it, at the end of the day, the goal of a business is to make money, not to make products.
What I found interesting is the use of the word “leverage.” This individual was actually using the word leverage to mean reuse. For example, if I have a blog entry, I can convert it into a book, which can be adapted into articles, which in turn could be made into audio recordings and more.
From my perspective this is not leverage; this is just repurposing.
All too often, I will hear consultants use the word leverage in this manner. They might ask, “How might we leverage our assets?” Again, this is typically about reuse.
Leverage comes from the word lever. A lever is something that allows you to get the greatest results with the least amount of force.
In the word of business and innovation, leverage is about figuring out what are the things you can do that will unleash the greatest value.
The teacher of the class suggested that people should take their content and create a lot of different products (e.g., ebooks, mp3s, webinars) as a way of creating leverage in order to make passive income. She suggested that these various items would allow someone to make money in their sleep, and therefore they should not give them away for free.
This is a mistake!
Many speakers in the group were relatively new to the business. Their mailing lists are very small. Even if they made a bunch of these low cost items, the odds are they would never make more than a few hundred or maybe a few thousand dollars. This would hardly justify the effort involved in creating the products in the first place.
When thinking in terms of leverage, they should ask, “How do I use my content to most efficiently create the greatest ultimate return?”
I think a better use of their time would be to figure out the best way of creating a huge following so that when they decide to create a product, they have a market.
I could charge for a webinar that I market to my list. Maybe I would get a handful of buyers to pay me a couple hundred dollars each to attend. Maybe I would make a few thousand dollars doing this. But there is no leverage in this.
Instead, I choose to give away my webinars. I do free webinars for various organizations that have access to the people I want to attract. For example, I am doing a webinar for Soundview Business Book Summaries. Anyone interested in business book summaries is probably in my target market. I am doing a webinar for a major website where many people in the innovation space gather.
These webinars always generate leads for speaking. In addition, these free webinars add more people to my list; people that may not otherwise know about me. Each becomes a prospective buyer in the long run. The lifetime value of one free webinar to the right audience can be many times that of a webinar done only to my list for a fee. This is leverage.
When assessing your business strategy, be sure to look at what will increase your access to your buyers.
There is a big difference between making products and making money. Leverage is not about repurposing in order to create something new that might provide incremental value. Leverage is about creating exponential returns.
October 11, 2012
The 4-Hour Workweek (by Tim Ferris) is the ultimate book title. Who doesn’t want to work only 4 hours a week?*
I was hooked by the title, but disappointed by the premise.
In a nutshell, the book suggests that if you work 50 hours a week, you should outsource 46 hours, leaving only 4 hours of work for you. He suggests that you should find people in India or the Philippines who can do your dirty work for very little money. (I am admittedly oversimplifying, but this is not far off)
To me this is the wrong strategy.
This approach assumes that the 50 hours you are working are all worth doing. This is rarely the case. Why would you get someone to do the tasks that you should not be doing in the first place?
Don’t just do what you are doing today better, faster and cheaper. Instead, question everything.
Find the 4-hours of work that will unleash massive value. The key is leverage. Where can you invest your time that will have the greatest impact?
When working on anything in your business, ask yourself how much value is being created. It will typically fall into 3 categories (I know I discussed this in a previous blog entry, but some things are worth repeating):
- Adding no value (or even detracting from what you need to do).
- Adds a linear amount of value – one hour of work generates one hour of value
- Adds exponential value – one hour of work generates 100 hours of value
Whenever I am doing something, I ask myself, “Is this creating exponential value?”
Interestingly, in most cases, there is little that I can do on my own that will create exponential value. Leverage (or scale) typically happens through partnerships and relationships.
I have created several partnerships with organizations who have massive distribution, and large development/deliver capabilities. I invest a significant amount of time and money researching potential partners and exploring those relationships. By tapping into their reach and resources, I can generate exponential impact on my business.
Here are some simple questions/actions that will help you focus your energies:
- Who has access to the markets I want to tap into? Partner with them.
- Where are the people in my target market gathering? Go to them.
- What is it that these individuals and organizations want/need most? Deliver this instead of what I have to offer.
- Who needs something similar to what I offer? See if I can modify my product/service to meet this untapped need.
Generate your own questions. Anything to shift your thinking.
The more leverage I get from a particular activity, the more time (and emotional energy) I want to invest. Because I know that the more I invest in activities with leverage, the less time I will have to invest in the long-run.
How much value does your current 50 hours of workweek generate? 50 hours? 40? 4? Outsourcing tasks that create linear value is fine. But what if you partnered with people on tasks that generate exponential value. And what if the 4 hours you choose to work only focused on activities that creates exponential value? 50 hours of work could generate 5,000 hours of value.
No more linear thinking!
* I don’t really think that I want to work only 4 hours a week. I love the intellectual stimulation of work and the contribution I get to make. So working that little is not really a goal for me.
August 23, 2012
“Work smarter not harder.”
This dreadfully overused phrase is meant to address the apparent lack of time, money and resources we experience in our work and personal lives. But how do we translate these words into something actionable? Here are three methods I have used in my business to accomplish this:
1. Focus on what matters. Over the years, I have studied numerous organizations and have found that only about 30 percent of the typical day is spent on activities that directly create value. For example, sales representatives devote on average only one-third of their day with prospects. The remainder is allocated to administration, travel, meetings, and other less valuable activities. The same is true for almost every other “knowledge worker” in an organization.
To get more done, focus on the critical tasks while eliminating, delegating, outsourcing, or automating less important activities. I have seen many individuals go from 30 percent to 50 or 60 percent with little effort using this method.
While working at a major computer manufacturer many years ago, I was able to cut my 80-hour a week workload to less than 20 hours simply by using this strategy. It took only a weekend of analysis and implementation. This allowed me to focus my energies on activities that really matter, while helping others find time saving strategies.
2. Leverage sales channels. The ultimate goal is to maximize results with the least amount of effort. You can accomplish this through leverage: generating disproportionately large returns with a minimal investment.
Let’s look at selling again. Traditionally, to sell more, you identify prospects, create sales collateral, develop marketing materials, and then directly solicit potential buyers. This is a linear strategy. If you make a sale, it is one sale.
To create exponential growth, consider working with businesses that already have the relationships you want to build. One partnership with the right distribution channel can lead to hundreds or thousands of sales, without any extra effort on your part…
August 22, 2012
If necessity is the mother of invention, then laziness is sometimes its father.*
Some of the greatest innovations were developed by people who were too lazy to do a particular task.
Professor John Atanasoff, along with graduate student Clifford Berry, built the world’s first electronic-digital computer back in the late 1930′s. Why did he do this? He said, “I was too lazy to calculate and so I invented the computer.”
A number of years back while working for a computer manufacturer, the department head dubbed me the “Chief Laziness Officer.” He meant that as a compliment. I was constantly finding ways to reduce my workload. I got so good at it that in my spare time I helped others do the same. (you can read more about this in an earlier blog entry)
Laziness drives innovations that improve productivity. It comes from saying, “There must be a better way.”
Laziness does not mean sitting on your butt watching Jerry Springer and eating bon bons. The process of simplifying takes a lot of effort. But when you develop a new innovation once, you get to leverage it over and over again. So in the long run, you are ahead.
Leverage is the key word. Laziness often involves the creation of something that results in exponential returns. The development of the computer certainly did this.
Although it is not considered to be a positive trait, sometimes it is useful to tap into your inner laziness.
* This reminds me of when I worked with Dr. Michael Hammer many years back. I once introduced him at a conference and said that he was the father of reengineering. When he took the stage he said, “Every time my wife hears that I am the father of reengineering, she wants to know who the mother is.” Classic.