You are a verb.

I write, therefore I am

I know you may view yourself as a noun most of the time. I do. I am a man, a dad, a consultant, a physical therapist, an American, etc. But sometimes I need more than a noun—I need a kick in the pants, something that gets me moving.

I was listening to the replays from the NAMS 11 conference this morning, and Alex Mandossian was riffing on the idea that you are a verb. More specifically, he was encouraging people to pick one verb, and put it in the form, “I [verb], therefore I am.”

It’s not too scary, though, because you can change it. If you try one and you don’t like it or it doesn’t feel congruent, you can grow into it or pick a new one.

Today I write, therefore I am. I love writing. I love it mostly because I love thinking hard about things, and it’s rewarding to be able to think clearly enough to communicate them to others. And for me, writing has always been my favorite form of communication.

Which verb are you today? Pick one and try it on.

 

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Use Resume Action Words to Add Punch to Your Presentations

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Could you help me with this presentation?”

It’s a question I get a lot. I like helping, too, so that’s fun.

As I started reviewing the presentation, though, I noticed something was missing.

Logical progression? Check.
Audience-focused? Check.
Slides well-designed? Check.
Images supporting content? Check.
Clear value proposition? Not so much.

I appreciate your logic. I appreciate your aesthetic sensibility. But what I really want to know is, “What are you going to do for me?” Help me to picture it. 

“I am going to help you…

  • Achieve
  • Plan
  • Produce
  • Survey
  • Analyze
  • Decrease
  • Expand

Here’s my tip: use resume action words to help you figure out how to say it. You may not be applying for a job, but you do want your customer to hire your solution, right?

Great resources are everywhere: here, here and here, for example. When you use action words, you help me to see what exactly you’re going to do for me When I can picture what you’re going to do for me, I’m more likely to get out my checkbook.

Try it!

 

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“It’s Not My Job” Is a Waste of an Opportunity

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“I’m too busy.”

“I’m not sure how.”

“I don’t have permission.”

I believe it. I really do. Most of us are too busy. There are a lot of things we don’t know how to do. And God knows we don’t have permission to do a lot of things we’d like to.

But still. In the end, we have customers and clients and patients that need us. So here’s what I propose:

Find a way. If we don’t have time for our clients, we may lose the opportunity to serve them. If we don’t know how, let’s get the training we need or figure it out as we go along. And if we don’t have permission, maybe we should dare to do it anyway.

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“It’s Not My Job”

Not my job

“It’s not my job” is one of my least favorite expressions. Everyone knows you’re not supposed to say it out loud, even if you think it. So why have I heard it twice in the last couple days?

I chalked the first one up to frustration. I was asking a coworker to do something that I understood to be her responsibility. She pushed back, asking, “Since when is it my job to….” That’s a good question, because I understood that it had always been her job. So I asked our departmental supervisor whose responsibility it was and the answer was sort of, “It depends.” Which is fine when it works out, but sometimes (as in this case), it wasn’t working out. There was ambiguity and there was friction.

I hate workplace friction, especially when it’s unnecessary.

So we talked it out, I typed up some guidelines so that in the future we’d know who was supposed to do what and we wouldn’t need to wonder.

This morning, though, “It’s not my job” was worse. A patient is bleeding. Not a gusher, but still. A colleague notices the patient is bleeding and goes to get the nurse. That patient’s nurse (Betty) isn’t at the nurses’ station, so my colleague tells the other nurse (Joan) that is standing there, “Mrs. So-and-So is bleeding.” And Joan, a genuinely warm human being, says, “That’s not my job. It’s Betty’s patient.”

Colleague: “Well, Betty’s not here, I didn’t see her on the floor, and there’s a patient bleeding.”
Joan: “Well how bad is it? Maybe we can wait for Betty to come back.”
Colleague: “All I know is that she is bleeding now.”

This makes me crazy, of course, and rightfully so, I think. But beyond being aggravated, aghast, outraged, I started to ask myself, “Why would she say that?”

When she was a first year nursing student, would she have ever imagined saying “It’s not my job” when hearing about a patient bleeding? Doubt it.

If she had been asked in an interview, “If there was a patient bleeding and her nurse wasn’t available, what would you do?” Would she have said, “I’d tell her, ‘It’s not my job!” Doubt it.

If her mom was bleeding and her mom’s nurse wasn’t available, would she have told her mom, “It’s not my job!” Not a chance.

So what’s happening here? I started asking “why?”

Tomorrow I’ll share what I found out.

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Selling Crap

You know what I hate? Crap. And more specifically, the people that knowingly sell crap to unsuspecting people, just because they can get away with it. Maybe I shouldn’t hate them. The jury’s still out.

Like a lot of entrepreneurs, I’m always interested in how people are making money these days. Millions of ideas out there, and you never know when you might see something that resonates.

A friend suggested selling ebooks on Kindle, so I thought I’d take a look at the idea. Most of the stigma is off of self-publishing (and thank goodness for that), and readers are snapping up Kindle ebooks at an astonishing rate. Maybe there’s an opportunity there for me or the people I help?

To find out more about selling ebooks on Kindle, I started nosing around the web. There’s a ton of stuff out there, most of it pretty basic. Eventually I found a course on Udemy.com and signed up. (If you don’t know Udemy, you’re missing out, but that’s a different subject for another day.)

Today I started the course. I was hoping for insight, revelation, an epiphany. Do you know what they suggested? Find a hot topic, pay someone $25 on elance.com to write your ebook (20 pages or so), pay someone $5 on fivver.com to design the cover, then publish. Voilà.

Ouch. Has it really come to this? Are we so desperate to make money that we don’t care who we hurt or whose money we take in the process? 

ebook

I started looking at Amazon through a different lens, the way this Udemy course instructor recommends, to see if people are actually doing this. They are. Lots of them.

As a physical therapist who specializes in working with seniors, I speak to a lot of community groups. Next month I’m leading a discussion on caregiving for loved ones with Alzheimer’s, so today I searched “Alzheimer’s caregivers” in the Kindle store. Turns out there are dozens of Kindle books about Alzheimer’s that seem to follow the 20 pages + a cover format. Here are some of my favorite authors’ descriptions of their books:

  • These are all typical a sign of Alzheimer’s since it causes a lot of mental confusion. It is important to get help as soon as you can!
  • This like all my books I cover the disease or problem so the reader has an understanding of the disease or problem!! So in this book you will learn about Alzheimer’s/Dementia, but Most Importantly you will learn how to care for Your parent or Loved one with Alzheimer’s/Dementia. This might be one of the hardest tests in a person’s life, to care for a Parent with Alzheimer’s. I always remember my Grandmother as a strong independent woman. That is how I think of her, but when she got this disease she was no longer that person that I remember, THAT in itself is hard, but caring for her was a mountainous problem…… I didn’t even know where to start!!
  • Have you ever forgotten something important ant then swore up and down you must have Alzheimer’s? Usually we’re laughing at the time, but it is not a laughing matter when symptoms start to appear. Alzheimer’s attacks the memory and can start as young as 30 years old!

Scintillating, I know! And a healthy use of exclamation points, too!!!!

Here are a couple reviews of these types of books:

  • This seemed like an outline for a high school term paper…just a few sentences about each of the seven types and stages of dementia. Can be read in less than five minutes. I could have gotten more information about dementia just by glancing at a Wikipedia page.
  • I’m disturbed. I was hoping for expert advice…. I’m saddened that there are people trying to make money from Kindle technology, for naught…

It may be the way of the world, but it still sucks. If you feel like it’s ok to sell crap to unsuspecting people, you need confess, repent and sin no more. It’s just wrong. It’s an affront to humanity.

Is there hope for humanity? Yes! Today I had a handyman out to my house to fix some drywall problems the previous handyman made worse (I know I should probably learn to do this sort of thing but I’m just not motivated). We were talking about his business and he told me about some of the ethical choices he has to make. He said contractors call him in to help with a job and they’ll ask him to cut corners and do things that are potentially unsafe. He told me, “My name is on my truck. My name is on my shirt. There’s no way in hell I’m going to risk my reputation to make a quick buck.”

That’s a guy I like. That’s a guy I want to do business with. He may never sell a crap book on Kindle, but he can sleep at night and doesn’t have to worry that his name is on his truck.

Rant over. Carry on.

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Getting SuperBetter with Thankfulness

Tonight I watched a fascinating Ted Talk by Jane McGonigal called “The Game That Can Give You 10 Extra Years of Life.” I encourage you to spend some time watching (if you watch the whole thing you’ll spend less than 20 minutes). 

Jane McGonigal TED

During her presentation, McGonigal mentions the top 5 regrets of dying people I had mentioned in an earlier post. She then explained how gaming, and particularly her game SuperBetter, helped people create lives that minimize those regrets.

One of the core strategies of SuperBetter is emotional resilience, and thankfulness is a key component. During her talk McGonigal encourages people to text or tweet someone to express their appreciation.

You can tweet your gratitude, but I would encourage you to consider sharing your gratitude face to face. It’s not the only way, but perhaps it’s the best.

Who are you going to express your thankfulness to today? The brain chemistry says if you express your thankfulness every day, you will level up and live longer.

 

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Lean Canvas—Your Unfair Advantage

Before you finish your Lean Canvas, you have one last box to complete: your Unfair Advantage.

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You have probably heard you need a Competitive Advantage. That’s the advantage you have that is going to give you the edge and keep competitors from taking your business. What is the Unfair Advantage you have over your competition? How will you defend against their attacks? If you are successful, you will need one—you will have competitors come after you!

One characteristic which many people consider an Unfair Advantage is being “First to Market.” If you get there ahead of everyone else, you have an advantage, right?

Actually, maybe not. When you are first with a product you have to educate your customers about what it is you’re selling (the category) and why your customers should consider it. When you are a “Fast Follower,” you can capitalize on all the work the First to Market folks did to educate the world about your category of products. In that case, you only have to convince your customers that your brand is better than the other guy’s brand. You do that, and the sale is yours.

If being “First to Market” isn’t the Unfair Advantage you were hoping for, what might be?

Lots of entrepreneurs settle for drab descriptors that aren’t really Unfair Advantages. Things such as:

  • More features
  • Less features
  • Design
  • Passion
  • Determination

Ash Maurya shares his favorite definition from Jason Cohen: “A real unfair advantage is something that can’t be easily copied or bought.”

Here are some advantages that might qualify as “unfair:”

  • Insider information
  • Personal authority
  • A dream team
  • Existing customers
  • The “right” celebrity endorsements
  • Large network effects
  • Community
  • Organic search ranking
  • Patents
  • Core values

The truth is, you may not have any of that when you’re just starting out. That’s ok. Normal, even. And if you don’t have one, the best thing to do is leave that box blank on your lean canvas.

If you fill the blank with drab, unconvincing “advantages,” you’ll probably stop asking yourself about what Unfair Advantage you might have or might be able to develop.

On the other hand, if you leave it blank, you will be forced to consider what might develop or where you might find an unfair advantage as your business launches and grows.

So that’s it—fill in your Unfair Advantage or leave it blank. Either way, by completing your lean canvas, you will have a big picture perspective on what your new business is all about and whether it is worth taking the next step.

Speaking of next steps, what’s your next step for your business? Do you know where to go from here? If so, let me know your thoughts. If not, we should talk. I might be able to help.

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Lean Canvas—You Have to Spend Money to Make Money

Looking for a copy of Lean Canvas? Here’s one you can copy to your Google Drive and use as many times as you’d like.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Talking about making money is fun. Talking about spending it isn’t. But spending isn’t all bad. If you spend your money making wise investments in your business, you might reap the rewards for years to come.

That’s what I want for you. So let’s dig in.

When it comes to Cost Structure, the first concept you need to be aware of is “runway.” According to StartupDefinition.com, “runway” is “the amount of time until your startup goes out of business, assuming your current income and expenses stay constant. Typically calculated by dividing the current cash position by the current monthly burn rate.”

Think about it this way. If you were piloting a plane, would you feel safer taking off from a longer runway or a shorter one? Longer is better, right? It’s the same way with your startup. The more runway you have the better.

The next question: How do you know if you have enough runway? That’s where “burn rate” comes in. That’s the amount of money you are spending at regular intervals. If you have $100,000 in the bank and your burn rate is $10,000 per month, your runway is 10 months.

The next question: what’s your burn rate? To calculate that, you need to figure out what your fixed and variable costs are. That will be a guess, of course, but you still need to consider:

  • What needs to be done?
  • Who’s supposed to do it?
  • How will you do what needs to be done?

Let’s take our employment-finding business, for example. Our costs may include: salary for the owner, web development and hosting costs, marketing and advertising expenses, training materials production, office rent, office equipment rental, etc.

My recommendation is to go as lean as possible when starting out to give yourself maximum runway. In the example above, if you can cut your expenses in half to $5,000/month you’ve doubled your runway to 20 months. That’s way less stressful, isn’t it?

A couple more things: Don’t worry about accuracy. Make an educated guess based on the information you have available and then pencil it in. It will change, and you will change with it. No stress.

Consider calculating your breakeven point. If you know you’re going to have fixed and variable costs of $5000/month, and you are going to price your offerings at $500/month, you know you’ll need to get to 10 paying customers to hit breakeven. That’s a critical point in the life of your business, when you can move your business from the red into the black. And it’s a cause for celebration!

My experience is that some entrepreneurs shy away from counting the costs. They’d rather think big picture, or bury their heads in the sand, or both. You don’t need to do that. Know your numbers and they are likely to improve. Neglect your numbers and you might be running out of runway before you have a chance to fly.

 

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