Banging Your Head Through Your Own Four Walls

There was a time years ago when that saying about the “cobbler’s children have no shoes” was worn like a badge of honor for me. I was working so hard on other people’s stuff back then that I would neglect to make myself a client. That was common but dumb.

I’ve also worked for agencies that acted this way. I just took a look at one of them and lo and behold, it’s the same website it’s been for years – barely anything has changed, including anything in the portfolio. But there they probably go, “humblebragging” about how they just work so hard on their own clients that they never have enough time to work on their own stuff.

Stop doing that. Right now. Seriously. Knock. It. Off.

Get this through your head once and for all. Nobody is giving you medals or consolation prizes because you’re just “so busy” that you don’t work on your own website, business cards, brochure and whatever else. It’s to your detriment and you’re giving your own business the shaft. Including the people that work for you. The “I’m so busy” excuse is over. It’s done. Throw it in the garbage. Everybody’s busy.

To really kick your own ass, you may need two things:

1) Humility

2) Someone who has nothing to do with your business who’s really, really good at helping you clarify your vision and showing you how to execute on that vision, one step at a time. 

I’m getting that kind of help right now from someone who is coming at my business from a perspective I wouldn’t have thought of. She’s not afraid to tell me when an idea is good or when it sucks. The things we’re working on is going to take my career to an entirely different tier. I’m so excited about some of them that I’m going to burst – and while I can’t share them yet, I can say that she’s keeping me on the path.

Regularly, I set aside the time with her to develop the client that is Me. That’s not self-help, new age talk. It’s real. For if I am to propel myself to the goals I want, I need to invest the time to make it happen. Goal setting is OK. Tactics are better. And better than that is living up to them – wait, you mean I actually have to do these things for the course I charted? Here goes.

Is this kind of discipline and determination any different than what you face when deciding whether or not to work out? Not really. You know what happens when you slack off from going to the gym. You suffer. You may feel good temporarily but then the guilt sets in.

Well, the same thing occurs when you keep kicking development of your own brand down the road.

You miss a day. Then another day. It becomes a week. Before long you’re saying, “I should really get back on that treadmill.” Just replace that last phrase with “We should really update our online portfolio” or any other burning initiative you have.

Is it easy? Ha. No. It’s fun but it’s not easy. You have to make yourself a client. Plain and simple. You will always, always, ALWAYS find an excuse not to do things for yourself if you do not see your own brand on the client roster. That is challenging when you have other clients who pay. I get it. But when you can see the steps forward in bite-sized goals rather than goals that are too big and too far in the future, you have something you can work on together with a consultant – and feel like you’re making real progress along the way.

Just like a fitness trainer can be of help to those who need to stay on the path of consistency, consider who you can turn to outside of your four walls to help you achieve your mission, one small hurdle at a time.

Sarah Victory

Now, I’d like to introduce you to the person who has already been and will continue to be a dynamite help to me. Her name is Sarah Victory and if you have time this Thursday the 20th, I’d love for you to hear her speak on how to Double Your Business, Double Your Impact, Change The World.” It’s going to be a fantastic evening of networking at The Metropolitan Club through one of my groups, the American Club Association (ACA). There are only a few spots left and you must register in advance at the link above.

I hope you can make it. And I also hope you can break outside of the thinking that it’s OK to put your own brand on the back burner or that only someone under your own roof can work on that effort. Let me know how it goes and the kind of outside help you’re getting to work toward what matters for developing your own brand.

Keep pushing forward. You’re worth it.

Comics Journalism: Tales From The Cusp

Last week I had the opportunity to spend some time at The Cusp Conference, a 2-day celebration of all things design put on by the agency team at Multiple. I originally planned on writing about all the guest speakers but frankly, there were so many of them I would be writing solely about each of them between now and next year. So I decided to select a few shining examples of speakers at Cusp who inspired me and opened the mindset to how I view design. If one of them strikes a chord with you, you’ll want to attend Cusp in late October next year when it comes back around.


So often, we think of design in a traditional sense, such as graphic design, illustration, sculpture and painting. But we don’t often think of how design can be applied to business models to create ambitious industry approaches. See, things that can look beautiful (or even just orderly) on the surface can also be filled with clutter – and in the path of changing that clutter are people too close to the problem within the company or industry, set in their “that’s the way it’s always been done/that’ll never work” ways. And yet, they never asked the customer about their experience. Imagine that.

Thankfully, the people I’m about to focus on this week with a few different selections are showing in their own ways how to make such changes through good design.

Bad Design: Journalistic formats that give little clarity to issues

Jon Stewart gives news outlets like CNN an epic FAIL for good reason. If you are a news outlet that doesn’t give insight and are nothing more than trying to win the race to be the “first to speculate,” that’s bad design. If you’re a journalist who makes it harder for the audience to understand the elements of a news story and is guessing right along with everybody else, what are you really adding?

Worse, what do you add by shouting about it as a foursome? Tell me that this doesn’t cause greater divisiveness. Cable network news is often bad design.

Good Design: Change what a news narrative can be and how it can be interpreted so that the audience is able to better absorb the issues at hand.

Who says the news solely has to be on TV? Who says the news solely has to be streamed via video? We have to look for these new opportunities that the traditional newspaper is having a hard time fulfilling.

What if investigative reporting met the graphic novel format and was delivered through a tablet magazine?

Such as how Erin Polgreen and Joyce Rice are delivering it through their digital news magazine called Symbolia, for example?

My morning at CUSP came with a jolt of inspiration from these two ladies who have already been covered by Fast Company a few times. Simply put, Erin went from reading a Wonder Woman comic book to reading a news magazine and, in between, a light bulb went off. She realized that perhaps a form of “Comics Journalism,” could bridge borders.


Indeed, it appears this bi-monthly product is proving that to be true. Published online, through the iPad, Kindle and in PDF form, Symbolia focuses on everything from rollerbladers in Northern Iraq, secret species in the Congo and Zambian psychedelic rock. What the duo has realized in that process is that comics have become a powerful teaching tool for their stories to people outside of the U.S., of which 45% of their readership consists of.

What’s more, even the comics format itself is elevated at Symbolia, with uses of animation within stories. Imagine a band being featured within the pages of the magazine that you can actually listen to and watch in a whole new interactive way – and then share it?

No matter what your preference of story is, think about what this format holds for a not-too-distance future when more and more of us will be able to absorb our news and share it with others who can appreciate it. I’m talking far more than just liking and sharing something on Facebook. I’m talking about getting into the content like never before. Combine that with investigative reporting that’s more insightful than much of the present product and guess what?

That’s good design.

Next: How Dr. Joyce Lee used a personal challenge to create an important health care solution to bad design.

You May Be Your Best New Business Salesperson.

So let’s say you have a relatively new business that’s no more than 1-2 years old. Things are progressing nicely and you’re making a decent amount of money. Maybe you aren’t quite yet jumping into a pool of it like Scrooge McDuck, but you’re doing OK for yourself.

Still, the challenge of filling the pipeline becomes a regular thing in your mind. The conversation with your team becomes, “Maybe we should hire a New Business Salesperson.”

Hey, that sounds intriguing. Someone who can get out there and sell for you, huh? You can focus on the work you’re doing and another person can head out there to make it rain.

It’s a great idea in theory. And it’s not to say it’s impossible. But here’s the two choices you’re most often faced with:

Ronnie Rainmaker 
What’s that? Yeah sure, you bet I can bring in the big bucks. I worked in tons of industries and had a lot of success. Maybe not this one exactly, but I know what I’m doing. I don’t think I have to know a ton about your business. I get it. You’re what, an ad guy, a social media guy who does a lot of this, uh, Facebook updating for people, right? Sure, fine, whatever. You just do your thing and I’ll do mine. Since I’m so awesome, you need to pony up the big bucks for me but you’ll be glad you did.

Two problems with Ronnie:

1) The extraordinary amount of money he costs until he proves he can deliver the goods

2) He could find you a bunch of clients and think he’s doing incredible when in reality, the ones he’s finding are not the greatest fits for who you want to reach.

In his defense on the second point, that’s your fault, not his. You have to define precisely who you want to attract, who you don’t and how you’re going to reward him for more of the cream of the crop. This is as much a branding exercise as it is a sales issue. If you don’t know how to position yourself in terms of who you definitively want to work with – and it’s not that “everybody who needs my services” bullcrap –  you will be leading Ronnie on a wild goose chase and financing every mile for him.

Commission Carl
You don’t have to pay me much of a draw or even any draw. All you have to do is pay me a handsome commission for what I bring in. Isn’t that a great deal? Nothing out of pocket for you other than what I bring in! What’s that you say? Experience? Well, I sold flat screen TV’s at Best Buy so I’m really good at moving product and connecting with people. That’s what it’s all about and I’ve been doing it for decades. So what do you say?

At first glance, it sounds attractive for an entrepreneur. Not much risk there, right? Nothing lost, nothing gained. Except for one thing – again, if you want to improve Carl’s chances of success, you have to guide him on what your brand is all about. He has to understand the brand forwards and backwards for every prospect challenge. He has to understand your audience and what methods play well with them. If you’re in the business of Internet marketing, you probably don’t need him to knock on doors at his country club. This is so much easier said than done, it’s not even funny.

There’s just got to be someone who really gets you, gets your brand, gets who you want to speak with more often and knows precisely where you want to go.

I’ve got just the person. Grab a mirror and look at it.

What we often don’t realize about New Business is that we don’t give ourselves enough credit or see the potential we already have within ourselves. You see, there’s nothing more authentic or rewarding than knowing that you are delivering your message in a way that feels right and to the right person. This isn’t egotistical to say. If you truly have a command of your own message, who could be more powerful of an advocate than you are?

“But I don’t have enough time to do New Business. I’ve got other things that need to get done.”

Sure, I understand that. But do you think you can just give most salespeople a little instruction in a “set it and forget it” kind of way? I don’t buy that. They require guidance, collaborative planning and accountability measurement from you on a regular basis so that as a team, everyone can be on the same page consistently. That takes an investment of time too.

The middle ground can often come from better coaching and training.

This is where the rubber often meets the road. I’m certainly not immune to this challenge, which is why working with a sales coach like Steve Fretzin of Sales Results, Inc. can help ensure you’re disciplined in your activities and meeting with the right people rather than just tire kickers.

Are you with me so far? Think you have it in you to change at least a habit or two? What about as many as seven bad habits?

I think you can be committed enough to spend just two hours and a hair over $20 to find out.

If you’re in that camp, read on and join us on Wednesday, June 12th from 8am – 10am at 180 N. LaSalle as Steve and I present:

Seven Reasons to Change Bad Habits

Forget all the outdated “sales-ish” methodologies. Forget sounding like a used car huckster. Selling can be easier and even, yes, fun. Here are a few of the negative questions, assumptions and frustrations we will be solving in our interactive workshop:

· Why the traditional model of sales has failed
· Why social media “doesn’t work fast enough”
· Why you may be measuring social media success improperly
· Why your prospects are only buying on price
· Why you’re perceived the same as everyone else in your field

It’s a limited seating event, so if you’re committed to finding out just what kind of sales you can obtain on your own before blowing a large amount on Ronnie Rainmaker or hoping for the best with Commission Carl, this is the event you don’t want to miss. Mark your calendar for the morning of Wednesday, June 12th from 8am-10am at 180 N. LaSalle, Suite 3700.

Follow this link to register:

One Book Could Make You A Thought Leader: Your Own


Jacqueline Camacho-Ruiz, JJR Marketing

When I met Jackie Camacho-Ruiz of JJR Marketing several months ago, I was enthralled by our conversation. It began the way many networking meetings do, with us sharing our experiences, challenges and strengths. But then Jackie started telling me about how writing a book changed her life in ways she couldn’t even have imagined at the time. It’s earned her speaking opportunities, media invitations and an extra level of credibility as an author of a published work.

It was one of those hours that goes by all too fast. But after speaking with her, I immediately began planning an event that showcases this amazing woman’s thoughts on how to be recognized by your circle of influence.

It’s called “The Art of Becoming a Thought Leader” and it’s hosted by the American Club Association (ACA). It takes place on Wednesday, March 20th at 5:30pm at Mesirow Financial (353 n. Clark).

After some light mingling, Jackie’s going to show you how to:

–       Explore intentional strategies to becoming a thought leader, including writing your own book

–       Uncover key benefits of being an expert

–       Discover how media plays a major role in getting the credibility you deserve

In addition to Jackie’s presentation, this group has had some great success with small group networking, which aims to put 4-5 people together from similar industries for more purpose-driven relationship building. By doing some of the legwork for you once you register, it beats wandering around a big room wondering, “Is my next potential client or partner in here?”

I hope you can make it! Follow this link to Register.

What: “The Art of Becoming a Thought Leader” presentation and networking
Where: Mesirow Financial, 353 N. Clark
When: Wednesday, March 20th, 5:30pm – 7:30pm

“10 Things To Grow Your Business in 2013” Event

We could all use a little inspiration to kick off the year and it’s a sure bet that you wouldn’t mind at least one great idea to grow your business, right?

Well, you might find as many as 10 of them when you attend an awesome event this Thursday the 24th, from 7:30am – 10:30am at the Mid-America Club (200 E. Randolph, 80th FL).

After all, it is called “10 Things You Need To Know To Grow Your Business in 2013.”

My friends at Sales Results and Mustang List are sharing their new ideas and techniques for you to grow your business in the coming year and since it’s being presented by Steve Fretzin and John Rudnick, you can bet that the ideas among these two gents will be of both the online and offline (sales/networking) variety.

As an added bonus, this event sponsored by the American Club Association (ACA) combines not only these engaging speakers but also some great networking and a full breakfast. Just following the link below to register and I hope to see you there!