Friday, August 26, 2016

Don’t Automatically Seek the Easy Way (stronauts advice)

In today’s era of Uber, Waze, Amazon and Netflix, it’s tempting to seek out the easiest, most convenient solution to any need or challenge we have in our work and personal lives. Even fitness apps and wearables—from FitBit to stay-at-home group spinning rides—are taking some of the work out of workouts.

But the easier way isn’t always the better way according to astronauts, Mark and Scott Kelly. The 52 year-old twins, who have logged a combined 576 days in outer space, delivered a rousing keynote speech at the American Society of Association Executives annual conference I attended last week in Salt Lake City. Yes, there’s an association for association professionals—33,000 members strong.

Many of you are financial professionals. If you’re not working with trade associations in your area—you’re missing a huge opportunity. More on that in a future post. Meanwhile, many of the lessons the Kelly brothers learned from the NASA training program are transferable to your practice.
As President John F. Kennedy famously said during the Kelly’s formative childhood years in the late 1960s: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” By going into space, the Kellys said they were able to accomplish something really hard. But in order to be as successful, they had to set goals, plan, test the status quo and take risks along the way – all skills that you can relate to.

ASAE President, John Graham, told me during an exclusive interview that the two biggest takeaways he got from the Kelly brothers’ keynote were: a)
just because you are not good at something initially, doesn’t mean you can’t get good at it and improve and b) you should simply focus on what you can control.

Control what you can control

Scott put this mantra into action when his sister-in-law and Mark’s wife (Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords) was shot in the head by a protestor in 2011. Scott was up on the International Space Station at the time. While he couldn’t be with his family during the tragedy, he was able to complete his mission and take care of his crew. In a time when there are a million distractions during each day, the Kellys said focusing on what you can control is key to accomplishing your goal.

Be a leader, not a dictator

We all know about the importance of teamwork, but Mark said that as a commander on the space shuttle, he made sure to select team members who would not be afraid to question his decisions. Let’s face it. Many of you with your own firm have decent-size egos. Surrounding ourselves with “yes” people, will not make your organization better. “Recognize the strengths and weaknesses of your team,” he added, “and know when to be a coach and when to be a dictator.”

Sweat the details

Those of you with accounting backgrounds are often chastised for this trait but the Kelly’s said NASA’s philosophy is to worry about everything. It’s all about protecting its astronauts from any possibility and you should take the same approach with clients. As Mark explained, the level of risk flying a space shuttle mission is high – about the same as storming the beach at Normandy on D-Day – and NASA takes that risk seriously. With your practice, you’re the captain, so it’s your job to look at every minor detail or decision and consider the consequences to your staff and members.

Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not good enough

Many of you had to overcome plenty just to get through school. We know many of you struggled through well-paying, but unsatisfying corporate jobs before setting out on your own and it wasn’t just a string of successes without a few stumble along the ways. There were numerous times when the Kellys, and even their classmates and trainers, wondered if the space program was really right for them.

But they pushed on, inspired in part by their mother, a New Jersey secretary and waitress, who failed a grueling physical fitness test numerous times before becoming one of the state’s first female police officers. Long story short, the Kelly brothers made it through the space training program and left a pretty significant dent in the universe. Keep banging away and have a great weekend.

Our blog and website has more.


TAGS: NASA, Mark & Scott Kelly, astronauts, perseverance

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Less Is More in the 'Excess of Everything' Age

What we can learn Olympic boxers, cyclists, amateur fly-fishermen and backyard trampoline enthusiasts.

On the advice of our client, Gary Klaben of Chicago-based Coyle Financial Counsel, I picked up a copy of Matthew May’s The Laws of Subtraction. I was trying to squeeze in a little R&R in the deep woods of western Michigan where my wife’s family maintains a fishing cottage about 7 miles and several dirt roads from the heart of one of the 10 poorest counties in the U.S. It’s on the banks of a renowned fly-fishing and salmon-fishing river, but Internet access and cell service is spotty.

For Type A’s like myself, it can be maddening to be unplugged from the grid, and also very difficult to find a gym, swimming pool or reliable paved road to work off your excess energy. At first I tried to fight the swift flowing river, but you just can’t swim, paddle or fly cast upstream for long before you eventually run out of energy and start sliding backwards. You also realize that your body is naturally conserving energy for your return to the frenetic world back home—just like your brain is.

Waking up at the crack of 10 am (we’re in the far, far western edge of the eastern time zone), you also realize how information-overloaded we are the rest of the year. As Matthew May would say, we’re caught up in “the age of the excess of everything.”

According to May, you need to start
removing all the “excessive, confusing, wasteful, unnatural, hazardous, hard to use, or ugly” things that cloud our decision-making process.  We don’t need more premium, bonus or enhanced features—WE NEED LESS!

Our take? Start cutting back on email and text messaging every day and then try a 24-hour technology fast every week or at least limit your email/texting time to 3 intervals per day. Then start eliminating non-essential meetings, conference calls, commuting, air travel, HR trainings and other time-sucks. Then eliminate all the planning and confirmations needed to schedule the aforementioned. Guess what? All of a sudden you can think.

Laws of subtraction in sports

If you’ve been following the Olympics, you see the laws of subtraction at work. Believe it or not, it’s actually safer for boxers NOT to wear headgear because researchers found that
head guards create a bigger target for boxers, who in turn attempt more head blows. Experts say head gear also gives boxers a false sense of security. Still not convinced?  Well several studies, including one commissioned by the International Boxing Association, (IBA) found that the number of acute brain injuries declined when head guards were not used. And the IBA found that the number of times a fight was stopped because of one boxer receiving repeated head blows fell 43 percent in bouts without head guards compared with fights with head guards.

If you follow bicycle racing, you’ll also notice that the elite riders—who sometimes pedal over 100 miles per day—ride in Spartan saddles with holes or deep slits in the middle. You’d think that with all that riding they’d want seats with extra padding, but it turns out that minimalist seatsdo more for rider comfort than heavy padding does and reduce the risk of prostate and sterility issues.

How about the backyard trampoline? We’ve always had one in the back yard and never bothered with protective netting around it (sorry homeowners insurance). Without a net, kids are less likely to take excessive risks and less likely to get the elbows, ankles or new braces caught up in it.

Not to be a spoiler, May offers 6 laws for eliminating mental clutter and simplifying your life:

Law #1: What Isn't There Can Often Trump What Is

Law #2: The Simplest Rules Create the Most Effective Experience

Law #3: Limiting Information Engages the Imagination

Law #4: Creativity Thrives Under Intelligent Constraints

Law #5: Break Is the Important Part of Breakthrough

Law #6: Doing Something Isn't Always Better Than Doing Nothing

It’s a quick and easy read if you can find the time. If you can’t find the time, we suggest you make the time to do so. As regular readers of this blog know, we recommend getting started on your New Year’s resolutions around Thanksgiving time. By the same token, August is the new September. Don’t wait until after Labor Day to start getting focused for Q4.


Monday, July 25, 2016

8 SlideShare Tips for Business Professionals

Last week, we explored why Successful Professionals Use SlideShare. Here are some tips we’ve learned through our own trial and error as well as recommendations from other thought leaders.
SlideShare (acquired by LinkedIn in 2012) is a great platform for getting yourself found by thousands of well-connected people who don’t know you yet—but who should. Not just clients and prospective clients, but journalists, analysts, speaker bureaus and conference program organizers all looking for experts on topics that are right in your wheelhouse. Think of Slideshare as YouTube for professional presentations (not cat videos) and can easily accommodate
PowerPoint, PDF, Keynote or OpenDocument presentations.

NOTE: Our blog and website has more about this and related topics. 

1. Take the descriptive tags seriously. For ideas, see how other wealth managers, estate planners and business succession planning experts are tagging their presentations. According to Hubspot, SlideShare presentations carry lots of weight in search results, so you should be targeting the keywords you want to get found for in search in the slideshows you upload.

2. Treat your title slide like a video thumbnail. Your title slide must be eye-catching from both a content and visual point of view.

3. Personally brand EVERY SINGLE slide. Put your name, company name, web address and phone on each slide or page of your content. Not every SlideShare user will get to your presentation from the title page. Make sure they remember and credit you when they share, clip or download your digital words of wisdom.
4. Be generous…to a point. Like it or not, we’re in the sharing economy. Don’t be stingy about sharing your smarts with the world. Put most of your slides or a chapter of next book on SlideShare free of charge, but don’t provide anything else that’s proprietary or of deeper value unless users contact you directly for more information. See Tip #8 for more about calls-to-action.

5. Long form is OK. Even in this A.D.D. era of tweets, vines and snaps, social media experts like Dan Zarrella have data indicating that longer slideshows perform better than shorter presentations. For instance, did you know that presentations with 60+ slides or longer generate the most views? Unlike most social media channels in which shorter content tends rules, Zarella says SlideShare users welcome comprehensive content. Again, they’re primarily professionals.

6. Remember your audience. One reason SlideShare is so useful for thought leadership marketing is that is that is core users are well educated professionals (hence its attraction to LinkedIn). Unlike the casual followers you might get from Twitter, Facebook or YouTube, most SlideShare users are searching for content that will help them advance professionally or build their businesses. This is also a good indicator of the types of content that performs well on SlideShare.

7. Looks matter. Strong, bold colors and large text to capture users' attentions and make the content easy to follow along. Provide detailed charts, graphs, images and graphics that are easy to scan and understand. On the web you only have a split second to capture users’ attention.

8. DON’T let downloaders be freeloaders. Anyone who is familiar with SlideShare will tell you to include a final slide featuring a call-to-action for lead generation or potential speaking engagements or strategic alliances.


There are a number of other good knowledge sharing platforms out there for smart professionals like you. We’ll get to them in a future post, but we wanted to start with SlideShare since most of you are regular LinkedIn users, you are already great presenters, it has critical mass and you can’t beat the price. If you have other favorite knowledge sharing tools, please send them along, and we’ll mention in a future post.


TAGS: SlideShare tips for professionals, Dan Zarella

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Successful Professionals Use SlideShare

Most of you on this distribution list are thought leaders and successful professionals. You enjoy the spotlight and are comfortable on the podium. You’ve done countless presentations to groups large and small and chance are you’ve got it down to a science. But what about AFTER you’ve wowed the live audience with your presentation?

Maybe you printed out handouts in advance or asked attendees to email you for a copy of the presentation. Some will. Many won’t and that’s just part of the reason why your great thought leadership content is left to die on the vine. Whether it’s a presentation, a white paper or a chapter of your new book, you want to share your smarts with as many clients, prospects and centers of influence as possible. SlideShare (acquired by LinkedIn in 2012) is one of the best ways to do that. It’s also a great tool for getting yourself found by thousands of well-connected people who don’t know you yet—but who should. 

In its simplest form, SlideShare is like YouTube for professional presentations (not cat videos) and can easily accommodate
PowerPoint, PDF, Keynote or OpenDocument presentations. Like YouTube, there are featured presentations and you can search the vast archive of presentations by keyword or topic--and the archive it is VAST. The sharing site gets an estimate 70 million unique visitors per month and an estimated 400,000 new presentations are uploaded daily.

Unlike YouTube, SlideShare gives you quality eyeballs, rather than quantity. SlideShare is a favorite hunting ground for journalists, speaker bureaus and conference organizers. They know if you’re on SlideShare then (a) You’re in the know, (b) You’re probably a thought leader and (c) you know how to put a compelling presentation together. They can see the quality of your work before they book you or interview you and they don’t have to worry about your ability to deliver respectable presentation materials on time for their event.

NOTE: Our blog and website has more about this and related topics. 

Convenience: When it comes time to share your presentations or other long form content, it’s much easier to send a SlideShare link than is to push a memory-hogging 70-side presentation through your email server. For example, here’s a recent presentation that my son Jake and I did about Drones for Business People & Investors. With all the animations and embedded videos, it would have taken quite a while to send this to you via email, but it’s a snap to send, view and clip via SlideShare.

Analytics: We received almost 100 views in the first few days after posting the presentation and most were not people who attended live. In addition to the number and source of views, the basics analytics package tells you the number of clicks, likes, shares, comments, downloads, embeds and lead forms completed.

This relatively new feature allows users to clip and save the best slides they discover from throughout the SlideShare universe into handy topic-specific clipboards. You can share your clipboard with others and if you’re a presenter, you’ll receive a notification when someone clips one of your slides (and which slide it was).

IMPORTANT: Always have your company name and contact info on EVERY single slide or page of the content you upload to SlideShare. You never know you’ll be clipping you or checking you out.


Next week, we’ll share more tip about leveraging SlideShare to your advantage. It’s a simple, yet powerful way to expand your reach exponentially—but you want to make sure you do it the right way.


TAGS: SlideShare for professionals


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Unlocking Innovation: How to know what you don’t know

Remember the old cartoon of the military sergeant who asks one of his troops the difference between ignorance and apathy? The troop’s response: “I don’t know and I don’t care.”

I think of that cartoon sometimes when we attend innovation workshops or visit with clients who are dutifully hosting their annual off-site brainstorming retreats or “all hands in the conference room” idea days.  HR brings in the balloons and sticky notes and off we go! Right? Wrong. Innovation doesn’t just happen on-demand; it’s a fluid process that must be cultivated all the time—from all corners of your organization at all levels of the org chart. That way, whenever a customer/client need or opportunity hits, you’re more than ready to fill it.

As the old saying goes: “Good luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” But how often are we really prepared when opportunity knocks?

Last month, Michael Dunham, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of Georgia, Inc. told me that if you have all the money in the world and a lot of staff, you can just sit around, throw out a bunch of ideas and see what sticks. “That’s not the case here. You need to go stay alert, identify needs that must be filled and then look for creative ways to solve them. My job is to find out what members need before they know they need it and then have a solution waiting when they get there,” said Dunham. See more insights from Dunham here.

Last weekend, Warren Berger, author of the book A More Beautiful Question, argued in a New York Times article that encouraging employees to ask good questions is one of the best things companies can do to help spur innovation. At a time of rapid change and rising uncertainty, Berger wrote there is constant “pressure to keep learning and to keep anticipating what’s next.” In fact, Berger referenced an organization called The Right Question Institute which believes that the simple act of formulating questions “organizes our thinking around what we don’t know.”

Of course, as Berger points out, getting management to respond well to questions is not as easy as training employees to ask more and better questions. “For questions to thrive in a company, management must find ways to reward (not thwart) the behavior.” It could be as simple as publicly acknowledging a “good question” when asked and by encouraging employees to think in terms of “What If?” and “How Might We?” wrote Berger.

The only trouble is that most of the world’s best question-askers don’t work for our companies—they tend to be kids, whose question-asking acumen peaks at age 4 or 5, not 40 or 50, according to researchers.

If your innovation practices still need a jumpstart, we strongly recommend webinars and conferences from the
International Association of Innovation Professionals (IAIOP), where you learn more about the difference between the art and science of outcome driven innovation.

Our blog and website have more about this and related topics. 


According to Berger, “leaders could do more to encourage company-wide questioning by being more curious and inquisitive themselves.” Of course, that takes a great deal of courage whether you’re a sole practitioner or a Fortune 500 exec.

So at the end of the day, how do you know what you don’t know? Simple. Just ask. And never stop thinking like a kid—something my wife says is never a problem for me.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Working with Millennials and Generation Drone

Yesterday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced a new category of surprisingly business-friendly new rules for drone operators. The new category of FAA rules will make it substantially easier for law-abiding farmers, ranchers, photographers, contractors, videographers, real estate professionals, and fire-safety professionals to use lightweight drones for commercial purposes. The new rules, which may go into effect as early as August, will also have a pronounced impact on many industries and career choices, especially among young adults. More on this in a future post.

Meanwhile, our recent post, Once and For All, Millennials are NOT all Alike, generated more feedback than usual. One big takeaway: Our followers tell us that Millennials are not any more self-indulgent than previous generations were at a comparable age. They are simply the latest “disruptors” to enter the workforce with different values, work styles and motivations than their elders.

Josh Patrick, head of Stage2Planning Partners wrote, “The noise around Millennials is no different than the noise that was around Gen X or for that matter Baby Boomers. As each generation moves into their 20s, the whining starts about how this [cohort] is the worst of all times. It’s not that they are better or worse, they are different and understanding the difference can help you connect with these people.”  

Daniel Obst, Deputy Vice President of the Institute for International Education told us, “Millennials care a lot about mission and values.” Also, if you’re trying to reach them electronically (and who isn’t?) Obst said you’ll have much better luck going through Facebook and Instragram than you will via email.

Derek Poarch, Executive Director of APCO International, the world’s oldest and largest organization for public safety communications professionals, told me he doesn’t communicate with Millennials any differently than he communicates with staffers who’ve been at APCO for 25 years. “We hire quality people of all ages and train them well. Every person, regardless of age, has measurable goals and objectives tied to our strategic plan. It may sound tough, but we have very low turnover here. Everyone is empowered to suggest ideas.”

Russ Webb, Vice President of the Atlanta Apartment Association said his communications coordinator is only one year out of college. “Everything we plan to send out to members and the public must go through her. If she thinks any communication piece is not going to resonate with younger members, she’s very quick to let us know that it should be changed.”

Our blog and website have more about this and related topics. 

If you’re still scratching your head about how to engage with 20-something staffers (or children), Patrick recommends the book Generations by William Strauss and Neil Howe. “They were the first and I think still the best when it comes to talking about how different generations act and what tends to motivate them.” You could also ask young adults directly. Our client Naylor, LLC has also done many thought provoking pieces by Next Gen about what Millennials really want in the workplace.



Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Take the Stress Out of Taking Vacation

Take an R&D approach to R&R--6 tips you can use today

With school and graduations in the rearview mirror for most of our children or grandchildren, thoughts turn to summer vacation plans. Historically it’s been a time to slow down and catch your breath for moment, enjoy the longer days and generally sunnier weather, but it can also be a time of tremendous stress for you and your clients who run their own enterprises. Being your own boss means you theoretically have more flexibility in life, but it also means you have no formal vacation or PTO days.

"We often joke that if we didn’t take a vacation we wouldn’t need one," quipped syndicated radio host, Maureen Anderson in a recent Fast Company article about how exceptionally busy people take guilt-free vacations. Before planning a two-week vacation, she and her husband, who co-produce Doing What Works, prep several extra episodes ahead of time. HB tip: If you have a client blog or newsletter, you can easily do the same as most platforms have an advanced scheduling feature.

Unlike workers in other countries, Americans tend to think of vacations as week-long events at most. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average full-time worker gets 10.2 paid vacation days after 3 years on the job, and even professional workers with a decade of service average just 16. But even with that limited time off, most people won’t take most of it at once because they worry about the ramifications if they do. It’s even worse for business owners and solo-preneurs. You don’t have to face the ire of jealous co-workers and disappointed bosses upon your return, but your re-entry into the real world can be overwhelming if you’re not careful.

According to Fast Company, the average American workers gets about 150 emails a day, so being out of contact for 10 business days means there will be at least 1,500 messages waiting for you. OY! Although only 10-15 emails a day will be important, half of those should be able to be handled by someone who is covering for you. Fast Company also said a good rule of thumb is to start planning at least a week ahead of time for every business day you’ll be gone (e.g. 10 weeks for a 2-week trip).

In other words, vacation time should be an essential part of your business plan.

Here are some of our own tips:

1. Unplug from the grid, but don’t have your head in the sand….Check email and voicemail messages at the beginning or end of day….BUT absolutely don’t respond unless it’s 100 percent necessary! Most of all, don’t leave voice mails and don’t let yourself get caught up in an endless cc/bcc loop. Time with your family and friends is all too important, don’t let work ruin that precious time. It’s good to know what the problems and issues are at the office, but don’t sacrifice valuable personal time to solve them.

2. Every morning on vacation, take 5 minutes to scribble a very short list of Must-Do’s for the first week upon your return—don’t actually do them, just scribble them down. We’ve found that just putting your major worries or concerns in writing—and stowing that list away--we’ll help your brain let go of them while you’re getting some much needed R&R. but you really need to unplug and recharge.

3. Do sports like golf and tennis. These sports are lots of fun, but, but they require intense concentration and focus to be even moderately successful. If you’ve been playing well all week and suddenly find yourself shanking your golf shots or double-faulting in tennis, that means you’re starting to let your mind drift back to work issues or confrontations you had before leaving. Empty your mind and think about nothing and relax your grip on your club or racquet. How many minutes (or seconds) can you go? That’s a good indicator of whether or not you’re relaxed.

4. Don’t expect everything to be nailed down perfectly before your leave (one of my personal big flaws).

5. Don’t expect a seamless “re-entry” to the real world upon your return. Use the plan ride as your “transition zone” both upon your departure and upon your return. Tie up loose ends on the way out—then shut down that tablet or computer upon landing. Don’t turn it back on until your return flight is in the air. Ninety percent of the problems you couldn’t solve on the way out, are suddenly easy to grasp upon your return. Trust me, this really works.

6. Make a short journal about your trip while you’re traveling. Jot a few notes and collect a few photos every day that you’re traveling. There’s no better way to remember the highlights and it will give you a sense of productive accomplishment if you’re a driven, Type A, competitive person like most of us.  

Our blog and website have more about this and related topics.


Work hard, play hard—and don’t mix the two. There’s simply no other way to achieve your personal, professional and financial goals while remaining healthy enough to enjoy them.