Creativity

My Next Ten Years

Networked Brains

I decided it is time for me to make a new plan. The Chinese have their 100 year plans. I like the idea but having turned 62 a couple of months ago, I thought 100 years might be bit too optimistic. So, I am working on my ten-year plan.

Now the truth is that while I’ve always been a goal setter, I don’t recall ever setting a life plan for myself. I’m fascinated by people who do it and even more fascinated when they actually follow the plan but I’m just too interested in too many things and I always wanted to keep my options open. Yeah, I’ve always suffered from shiny object syndrome. It’s worked for me. I’ve had a fascinating and rich life and while there are things I might like to do-over, I’ve learned not to dwell on the past and to focus on today.

I’ve been writing a new book for the last couple of months. It was focused on sales for small business. I say was because I’ve decided not to write it. And, the story of why I made that decision is what led to putting together the ten-year plan. Let me tell you the story of what happened.

Part of writing the book involved interviewing small business owners, entrepreneurs, and freelancers. One of the things that kept coming up was the expressed need for a better way to sell despite all the amazing amount of content available in books, DVD’s, video, online, etc. It seems like these things just aren’t enough to give people the combination of skills and confidence necessary to sell when selling isn’t your primary job description.

All of the people I talked with share a couple of characteristics. The first one is they are in business because they love and are passionate about what they are doing. The second one that most of them share is they have almost no direct selling experience and, for the most part, are anxious about selling to someone.

That got me to thinking about how I learned how to sell. The first formal training occurred when I was in my mid-twenties and working my first job for someone other than myself. I got a sales job with 3M Company and they put me through an extensive two-week program followed up by time working in the field with a supervisor, followed up by more classroom training, which was followed up by more follow-up. It was an awesome program.

When I later formed my own sales and marketing consulting company, I put together my own sales training that was three full days of workshops followed by six to eight weeks of continuing on-site follow-up including working with the salespeople on actual sales calls where we not only observed but interacted with the customers and prospects so the person undergoing the training could learn to model us. It too was very successful but it was designed for people who wanted to be sales professionals and were motivated to participate and learn.

Suddenly during my interviews with these small business owners a light bulb went off and I realized that it was always going to be exceptionally hard for them to learn how to sell and value the sales process from reading a book or watching a video. Selling is an experiential process. Books are great but most people need to actually experience the sales process in order to own it – especially people who view selling as something they know they have to do for their business to survive but don’t particularly appreciate having to engage in it.

It was at that moment that I decided the world doesn’t need another book about how to sell.

But, now I’m faced with a really difficult question. “How do you help non-sales type people be successful in selling without the long-term training and follow-up? How do you let them experience selling for themselves without being with them?”

I’ve got some ideas but I can’t do it alone. It’s going to take a tribe of us to make it happen. We’re going to have to network our brains for exponential growth. If there is one thing I do know it is that there are lots of you out there that want and need to be able to sell but you don’t want the process to feel manipulative and you don’t need all the rah-rah and sneaky sales tactics. You want selling to be a win-win relationship that happens naturally and gently.

I’m with you on all this and I’m proof that you don’t need any of the slimy tactics to sell. I broke every sales record possible with 3M and continued to have remarkable success in selling my entire life. Manipulation and creepy tactics just don’t work for me and they don’t work for most people who are in business because they love what they do and not because they love the sales part of it.

So the 10-year plan is focused on delivering a realistic, first-hand, you’re part of the sales process experience while still allowing you to run your business. The first change you’re going to see in this 10-year plan is my blog is going to be very different. I’m going to give you something that I hope will be a way to keep you in tune with gentle selling. I call it The Daily Doughnut and you’ll be hearing more about what a treat it will be right here very soon. I know you don’t have a lot of time to spend on learning and maintaining your selling skills when you’re running your business so The Doughnut will give you some bite size chunks that I hope will be one way to help you.

In order to make the experience more real for you, I’m going to invite readers to share their sales challenges and we will use the power of stories to recreate them along with solutions that you all can use in your own business. You’ll see more videos, hear more podcasts, experience more webinars and be an actual part of all this yourself. I may even show up at your place of business and we’ll do this together.

If you only come away with one thing from this post I want you to remember this. In order to learn how to sell, to become better at sales – you have got to experience it! You just can’t sit on the sidelines watching. I don’t have all the answers and this plan is a journey for all of us. More ideas of how to turn this into an experience are in development now. I’m talking to several companies about doing real interactive long-distance training as one example. I’ll continue to write about leadership and creativity but I hope to even make that experience more real for all of you. Between technology, storytelling and working together as a tribe I hope we can accomplish these things.

I hope you’ll join me on the trip. It should be one heck of a ride!

Best App Ever – Well At Least Up Until Now!

My plan was to publish a post today about all the tools I use in my business. Then I started making a list and realized I really need to use one of my favorite tools to make this post. That would be video. I’ll do it over this weekend and we’ll have it up for Monday.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I want to quickly share with you my favorite iPad app. As many of you know, I began my career at the age of 7 as a professional photographer. (Just teasing about the age and seeing if you’re paying attention. I was actually 11.)

Sophisticated Clematis

My very favorite app at this moment is one called Instagram. It’s free and over 7 million people are using it. That’s a lot of people just in case your mind is totally boggled by the recent US debt numbers and you don’t know a million from a trillion. (I don’t.)

It works with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. I use it on the iPad most of the time. Apparently if you have made a stupid decision to go with a phone using the Android operating system you’re out of luck. Just kidding again – about the stupid part. You’re not stupid if you picked an Android OS based phone. I’m sure you bought it because you researched it and know that it is the absolute best possible phone OS for your needs. I mean Apple is evil. We all know that. I’m the one who got sucked in by their gorgeous design, engineering, service and apps.

I’m pretty sure the Android folks have left by now and are writing nasty things about me on Google +1. Oh wait a minute. I just got a note from someone named “IAMDROID” who wants me to know there are similar apps like Instagram running under the Android OS. Even my hero Robert Scoble has written about it here and on Quora. Robert knows his shi*t so you really ought to read these articles.

All done reading. Okay. So, go forth and prosper my Android friends. Make lots of Instagram photos (well sort of but not quite as good as Instagram but who cares it’s only the Internet and nobody is paying attention anyway.)

Instagram. That’s where we started. Go try it out. Have fun. Take new photos and use the filters and play, play, play. It’s fun and you’ll get some very interesting images. I’m using it for both new photos and some old images I’m having fun in making into Instagrams. The photo here is one I took with my iPhone of my grandson, Michael, as he sat behind the wheel of a firetruck a couple of months ago. You could see him dreaming. And, also looking for a way to blow the siren!

Dreaming of Being a Fireman!

 

Who Knew Back in 1986?


Let’s say that in 1986 you had walked into my home (and after having me turn down the volume on my stereo playing last year’s best selling album from Bruce Springsteen) you told me that in twenty-five years I would find myself watching a television show hosted by a guy named Stephen Colbert and Colbert would be interviewing a neuroscientist by the name of David Eagleman, I probably would have shrugged and said something profound like, “Really?” I would have had some inkling of exactly what a neuroscientist does back then which is about the same as I actually have in 2011.

However, if you had told me that Colbert is a comedian and that he hosts an award-winning satirical program that lampoons idiotic, political, pundits (of which there are many in 2011) by portraying one of the idiots himself, I would have said something like, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

But, if you had then told me that the interview was to discuss David Eagleman’s new book, “Incognito – The Secret Lives of the Brain” and that I’d enjoy the description of the book so much that I’d reach out and pick up a shining piece of metal and glass weighing only a little over a pound with the look of a skinny photo frame and by using my finger I’d touch the screen and in seconds I would have not only purchased the book but it would be delivered to that same device and I’d be reading it – I would have laughed and asked you, “What have you been smoking?”

Can you imagine today what kinds of new devices you’ll be using twenty-five years from now? Can you see in your mind’s eye something that could change the way we view not only symbols like words but also the way we view something as simple as eating or sleeping or as complicated as hitting a golf ball?

The pieces are already here right now.

Word processors, touchscreens and the Internet had all been around for years before 1986. But, we had libraries and book stores for our books. In 1986 we would have asked why anyone would ever want to read a book on a piece of glass and aluminum? Today, we know the answer to that question.

What questions aren’t you asking right now – what actions aren’t you taking today that will change your world (or maybe even the world) twenty-five years or even only two years from today?

Kids photo compliments of crol1373

There’s a New Sheriff in Town

A little over five years ago, I signed up for a merchant account with my business bank to process credit cards. I had resisted getting one as I had bad memories of fees and rules that turned me off when I first had one over 35 years ago. I had managed to do without it for years by only accepting cash and checks. But, the world changed. I tried PayPal for a while but they were still in their early days and had too many problems. I do believe a lot of that has changed and they are not a bad option these days.

But, there’s a new sheriff in town and I think this one is going to clean up the mess the payments industry has made of itself. It is called the Square. You may have already seen it advertised or even run into it as it has been in the market for a year. Yesterday Square launched a new update to their app that is available on the iPad and comes with new features that makes it easier for customers to buy from small businesses and for small businesses to sell to their customers. You can read more about it here.

Let’s get back to my merchant account experience. My bank happens to be PNC which is no worse than most and better than many of the giants. But, when it comes to merchant accounts all banks act like loan sharks or clueless simpletons dependent upon which role suits them when you try to get answers to questions about your account.

I was paying three different fees each month plus a lease fee for the POS terminal from First Data Global Leasing. First Data Global Leasing seems to be managed by the worst customer centric people on the planet. Don’t ever do business with them unless you want one of the worst experiences possible when it comes to service and communication. Sadly you won’t have a choice if you have a bank merchant account as nearly all of them seem to use First Data (the parent company) as an entity whose name must not be spoken based on the fear they seem to strike into the hearts of bankers. But  it is unlikely you’ll ever deal with them directly. They, along with your bank, will take a piece of every dollar you’re paid by your clients that goes through a credit card payment.

With the merchant account, it was almost impossible to determine what rate my total fee would be in any given month including the hated and totally not understood interchange fee. There was even a higher rate fee if I processed a payment without adding in sales tax. However, in PA customers don’t pay sales tax on everything including some of my services. But, that didn’t matter to the bank, Visa, or the company whose name must not be spoken. I got charged more for following the tax laws! If I asked the bank about the fees they blamed Visa or that nebulous entity.

In short the entire experience and payments processing industry is in FAIL mode. Square means to change that. Not only with its square dongle device where you can swipe a card or input the card numbers without the card being present but with a feature called Tab where you can open a virtual tab (like a bar tab) at businesses so you don’t even need to bring your credit card. Your information including your photo can be stored with your permission so future purchases are one touch.

Businesses can enroll for to become a participating merchant. That’s what I just did and it didn’t cost me any fees for enrollment, etc. And, I pay a flat 2.75% transaction fee. I’ll also get great analytics. I’m so happy right now I want to jump up and click my heels but I’d probably break something.

The bottom line is Square wants to transform the entire payments industry to make is friendly and simple. Visa is running to catch-up with their own virtual wallet.

Want to bet it isn’t as simple or friendly for businesses?

Do yourself a favor and check out Square and the new Card Case.

Start Moving – Stop Idling

Free is often a very good thing.

Not always but I promise that if you take advantage of downloading two free books today (or no later than May 20th) you won’t be disappointed. One is a PDF eBook and the other a digital copy of a hard copy work.

But, first, I want to tell you a story. Did you happen to see the movie, “The Legend of Bagger Vance?” It came out in 2000 and had an all-star cast of Will Smith, Matt Damon, Charlize Theron and was directed by Robert Redford. It also had Jack Lemmon as the narrator. It turned out to be the last movie Jack was in before his death.

It is a golf movie set during the depression and is based on the novel of the same name by Steven Pressfield. When I watched the movie I thought Pressfield was using golf as a metaphor for life. If you have played the game you probably can appreciate that. Later I learned that is what Pressfield had in mind and that he has loosely based the book on the Bhagavad Gita which is considered one of the most important texts ever written.

Steven Pressfield has written eleven books including his first non-fiction work “The War of Art” in 2002. Nine years later it is still ranked #3 in Self-Help, Creativity books on Amazon. If you haven’t read it go to Amazon and pick up a copy. It will explain why your stuck, don’t have enough time to do what you want, and show you how to get moving. You’re going to want to read it after you get your two free eBooks.

Steven has a brand new book called “Do the Work” which is the follow-up to “The War of Art” and is currently #5 in the same Amazon category. You can download a free digital copy of it right now and until May 20th so you don’t have much time left. Don’t put it off. Do it now. You can thank me later.

And, you can also download a copy of “No Idling” a PDF eBook produced by the Domino Project Street Team. It is a collection of personal stories written by 30 people who were inspired by “Do the Work.” It has only been available for a couple of days now so you can be one of the first to read it. Hopefully the stories will add value to your life and inspire you to move forward, to change, and to turn dreaming into action. Some of the contributors I personally know and have written about because they inspire me. Others are new to me and I found their stories to be amazing. One of the 30 is yours truly and I’m humbled to be included in this group. It will be available after the 20th but why wait.

Again, here is where you go to download the books. Click here to download “No Idling.” And, Click here to download “Do the Work.”

I’ve given you links to download two great books that won’t cost you anything – unless you don’t read them. And, then we won’t ever really know what they’ve cost will we?

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

The Business of Creativity

Do you love your clients? You should. We do here because we know that they could have gone to thousands of other consulting firms and sales and marketing coaches. I get all excited when a client chooses us because I know they found something out before they invested in our services that made them love us too. And, so we do our absolute best to deliver really great results and value to them.

If you’re in any kind of service – especially creative services – then you know that a client relationship has many of the same elements as a marriage. You may not always agree on everything and there will be times when you want to stomp out of the room and sulk but ultimately you come together as a team for your mutual benefit. And, when you do work as a team and also share respect and caring about each other then most often magic happens in the creative fields. That’s when you shift into feeling and creating and forget about contracts and fees and all the stuff that all business owners face.

Often I talk to sole-practitioners or freelancers who find themselves always worried about being successful. They worry constantly about the business side of their business because they have identified that’s their weakness. This worrying and fear ends up taking away from the creative side which then affects the business side and round and round we go – usually in a downward spiral.

The truth is that not everyone who lives a life of creativity can be a successful business person too.

But, you can partner or team up with someone who has the business skills. You can find someone who already understands the business side and make them your partner. You can hire someone who specializes in what you need and make them a permanent part of your team. They’ll make you money because you can now focus on the creative side.

The same thing goes for client development which is a euphemism for selling. You have to sell yourself, your company and your services. And, you have to put yourself in front of enough people who are interested in purchasing services like you offer so you can tell your story. That means spending a lot of time marketing, prospecting, and selling. Once again, not everyone can do that. You may be the best animator or designer or copywriter in the country. But, if you can’t market, prospect and sell it won’t matter unless you plan on working for the man all your life and even then you’ll be expected to do a fair share of all three of these jobs.

The solution is the same as above. Why be a lone wolf when you can be the leader of a pack? Almost all the creatives I meet that tell me their story of going it alone and struggling or failing are not the types of people who would prefer to live in a cave by themselves. Most of us humans have a deep need to belong to a community, team, or tribe.

Why be a lone wolf when you can be a leader of a pack? Build a team. Build a family.

Photo compliments of Brandon Carpenter

A Safe Alternative to Facebook

It was just a matter of time before scammers, serial killers and pedophiles discovered the soft underbelly of the internet. Like con men throughout history they recognized that people are at their most vulnerable when they don’t understand what they’re doing or what the risks of something are. Many adults and kids use the internet for entertainment and socializing and don’t always understand the risks and how easily their privacy is invaded or compromised.

If you don’t know enough to set your privacy settings on Facebook, or don’t know that Facebook can and does change them at will as they “improve” the site, you can end up broadcasting very private and personal information to the world.

If you aren’t very tech-savvy, meaning you are just now feeling confident about sending and receiving email, or attaching or sizing a photo, then welcome to the world of 80% of those of us on the net!

That’s the bad news. The good news is that more and more developers are creating what are called “social media management sites.” That’s the long version of “private social networking sites.” These sites allow true friends – not just people you randomly meet on the internet – to interact and share files, photos and information in a private “room” online. Unlike chat rooms, these sites are more controlled and not visible to anyone who hasn’t been sent the link and invited and admitted to the room by the creator of the room.

Sites like YapTime, Posterous, Fridge, and other social media management sites are rolling out new features and new possibilities every day. They offer the privacy that Facebook doesn’t (unless you’re a genius at figuring out Facebook groups), and are easy enough for a child, or a non-tech savvy adult of any age to operate. I belong to all the top sites, and even pay for professional sites like Basecamp because I like having a place to store files, photos and videos my clients can access without having to master a lot of complex dashboards.

The most aggravating thing for me has been the time it takes to set up sites on Google, Ning or Weebly (usually days or hours). I wasn’t crazy about the fact you had to learn something about websites or understand how they work before you can create your own site. That’s why I love YapTime the most. It’s easy enough a kid or a grandparent with no real computer experience can set it up in 30 seconds and start adding files, sharing photos and inviting family members to join them. I like YapTime primarily because I use it the most with clients and friends (you can set up as many rooms as you want and each one is separate and private). I was so impressed with it I opted to work a few hours a month with the founder while it’s in beta  to help develop it into a site that’s even more parent, kid and internet safe. Robert Kapela, the founder of YapTime created the site because, as he says, “Teens don’t email. Grandparents don’t text.” So, YapTime is a great way for both generations to share photos and news.

Advantages:

Yaptime is a free site – most of these sites are. They’re supported by ads, or you have the option of being ad free for a small price.

They’re fast and easy to set-up. Most require only an email and a password.

They’re private. You control who has access to the content because no one even knows the room exists unless you personally email them the link to join and approve their joining (one click simple!). You don’t get requests to “be pseudo friends” with someone who knows someone who knows someone you met in a chat room!

On YapTime you can upload photos (and they’re working on a photo album feature as well), word files, videos and just comment, tweet or chat like you do on Facebook. No complex controls – all very intuitive.

These private sites are a great way to help deter or even stop online bullying. If your kids have been bullied in the past – it won’t happen on YapTime. Parents control the invites and if your child is too shy, afraid or unable to say “No,” to friends or pseudo-friends they can put the blame on the parent for the control of the room. If your child wants to have a place they can go to talk to their friends without worrying about anyone else from school or the neighborhood seeing their posts – this is the place.

If you wanted to post videos and photos of your kids to your real friends and family and not to the whole internet (accidentally or intentionally) – private sites beat Facebook. When you want to delete your photos and files it’s easy to do too.

YapTime also has a calendar where anyone in your invited room may add events. There’s even a link to Google maps so you can print off directions to the event.

I hope you’ll join us there while it’s in beta so we can benefit from your input. Visit YapTime Now!

Stop The Small Business Financial Roller Coaster

A recent call from a friend needing help to generate some new business to fill in for a delayed contract got me to thinking of how to help him from this happening again. One of the challenges of being a small business or solo entrepreneur is the cyclical nature of the business. It seems like you’re always either delivering or creating your products or services or you’re trying to drum up business. By the way, the term drum up business came about because the earliest traveling salesmen were called drummers.

Photo courtesy eschipul

I suggested getting a drum and beating it on a street corner to my friend. I’ll spare you his response as I don’t want to engage in profanity. Shame on him.

I then discussed the following process with him. It has worked for me for many years so maybe it can be of value to you too. It might even help you get off the financial roller coaster of running a small business.

  1. First write down all the benefits that you deliver to your clients. Give this some serious thought. Do you save them money, make their lives better, help them increase their company’s value, allow them to live the life they want, find them more customers, etc., etc. You should be able to make a pretty long list.
  2. Next write down why your clients choose you over all the other choices they have in the world. Don’t be shy here. I want you to have the courage to face the truth and write down why you’re different and better than your competition.
  3. Now make a list of companies that you know could use your services. They may be in the same market as your other clients or you’ve already seen that they use a competitors products or services.
  4. Here comes the fun part! Do whatever it is that puts you in your most creative mode and pretend you are now the CEO of the company you want to sell. I want you to put together a plan that will help your company (not YOUR company – remember you’re pretending to be the CEO of the company you want have as a client) be more successful. Successful should tie back to what you wrote in Step #1 and #2.
  5. Since you’re using the reasons you listed in the first two steps to help define the plan that means that your plan will use the services of someone like YOU.
  6. Now go make an appointment to see the actual CEO of that company. Tell them you have an idea that will help them (back to the Steps again).
  7. Present your plan. Create a new client.

Sound too simple or too complicated? Here’s a scenario. You’re a professional studio photographer. You do most any kind of photography and you’re good. But, you’re stuck trying to find consistent business. So, you apply the process above.

You write down all the benefits you bring to your clients along with all the reasons why they should buy from you. (By the way, this is the most difficult part of the process.)

You see that a local community bank is spending lots of dollars advertising how they are different than the big banks. They are saying things like:

  • They are local.
  • They are more in touch with their customers.
  • They know their customers.

So you go see the CEO and you tell her that you have created a marketing campaign for them that increases their community visibility while driving home their core message. It’s called “Faces of Our Town.” You’ll go out into the community where you will take candid portraits of people working, playing, learning, praying, etc. You’ll get all the necessary releases for the images and then you will create large prints for a gallery that will be hung in the bank. For the next 90 days all the banks advertising will be focused on the gallery. After spending the first 30 days in the bank the gallery will travel to other local business, schools and churches to be hung in their buildings. You’ll take care of all those details too. At the end of the campaign the photos will go into a permanent display in the bank and the people in the photos will get a nice sized copy for themselves.

The CEO is thrilled at the idea. You’ve just made her job easier and you are taking care of all the details.  It’s a win-win. And, they are already spending lots of dollars on trying to create the very perception you are going to enhance and strengthen. You are offering so much value that the investment in you and your services will not be a factor. She will ask how much. This is where you look her straight in the eye and give her the price. And, this is where you also remember the things you wrote down in Steps 1 and 2. You’ll get the contract.

And, guess what? Your name is attached to all the images, the gallery and the permanent display. Thousands of people all of whom are potential customers will see your work. You’ll be getting some of the best advertising and public relations possible.

And, you’ll be getting paid for it too.

What’s stopping you? Put away the drum and start with Step #1. You can adapt this process to any type of business.

Let me know how it works out and don’t hesitate to ask questions.

Photo courtesy eschipul

Who Is Bob Poole Video

Well, if you’re reading this then you’re on my brand new site. It was time to get my blog and website in the same place. I’m excited about it and I hope you find it useful. I’d love your feedback and feel free to poke around and make sure we didn’t leave construction debris or tools lying about.

I also decided it might be fun to do a little different “About” page. I mean they are usually boring or too much or not enough. So, I asked a bunch of friends to answer the question, “Who is Bob Poole?” and create a short video as an answer. Then the brilliant Paul Durban mashed them up. We put it on the main page for now for you to see. I’m also going to put it below.

But first – here is the list of the guilty parties who contributed. They did a wonderful job and I thank them very much.

In order of appearance:
Johnny B. Truant
Charlie Gilkey
Jodi Kaplan
Anonymous Landscaper
Martin Whitmore
Rolly Brown
Anonymous Bartender
Pace Smith
Rob Plotkin
Megan Elizabeth Morris
Seth Godin
Paul Durban
Joann Scully Poole
Michael Tapp Jr.
Tom Bentley
Two Creative People
Tim Brownson

Now on with show!