A closer look at WOW 9 from 99 Creative WOWs—Words of Wisdom for Business

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To succeed, entrepreneurs MUST directly or indirectly make business happen. In this 99WOWs Blog post, we’ll explore how and why entrepreneurs directly make it “rain” and “pour” when it comes to bringing in new business. This WOW is an expansion of 99 Creative WOWs—Words of Wisdom for Business, a newly published book for thriving and striving entrepreneurs, biz whiz professionals and creative wizards as well as recent grads ready to make their mark on the world.

Rainmakers dance between raindrops—without umbrellas.

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Entrepreneurs are often called rainmakers—the people who consistently and tenaciously must make results happen in order that their businesses grow and succeed. These results might be acquiring sales, discovering new opportunities, creating new products, winning new projects or forging new client relationships. To be a rainmaker, an entrepreneur has to have the drive and focus to push forward—no matter how difficult or myriad the obstacles.

As an entrepreneur, I know a lot about being a rainmaker. It’s my job—every single day. I am the person who not only closes sales—I open them as well. Over the years I’ve tried an array of different business development strategies in attempts to share the sales burden. All attempts aside, as is the case with many entrepreneurs, this process still rests squarely on my shoulders.

It’s not for lack of trying. Over the years, I’ve hired a range of people. Many had strong track records and bulging contact lists and others supposedly knew “everybody.” For many reasons, those approaches didn’t work. While these individuals did understand our business and they did have existing relationships with the decision-makers in our client companies—these strengths often eclipsed other weaknesses, like a reticence to take risks or a lack of follow-up skills and disorganization.

I realized that by hiring such executives I was only deferring the new business hunt; in reality, it was not happening—without me. In fact, this extra layer slowed our sales process with only the illusion of true progress. I was so busy trying to give others time to “get up to speed” that I spent my time worrying and sitting on my hands instead of seeking out and closing deals myself. These individuals may have truly wanted to develop business, but they lacked some key ingredients.

I didn’t give up there though. I forced my own pendulum to swing the other way. While I’d resigned myself to needing to close every sale, I became hopeful others could assist in the front-end lead generation. I explored data-driven lead generators, sales clouds, follow up reminders and more. That, too, was a distraction. It created many weak leads that only moved so far without my direct involvement and ultimately languished into nothing while I served as a low-level bottleneck. This was also another expensive approach that didn’t work.

Both strategies taught me a great deal, however. Regardless of the specific tactical concerns one or another of these options may have displayed, they all lacked one core ingredient for success: they didn’t have the entrepreneurial gene.

This entrepreneurial DNA begins with a deep-seated drive to make results happen. An entrepreneur must see opportunities and understand clients’ needs to connect both to the value their business will add. An entrepreneur HAS TO possess this “connective tissue” because when all is said and done, it is the entrepreneur who must take the right actions to keep open the company’s doors. If the company’s lead entrepreneur does not make it rain, the ensuing drought can destroy the company. The entrepreneur knows this in a way that business development executives can rarely fathom and sales data platforms are not designed to support. When you must sign the bank loans and guarantee the lines of credit, your entrepreneurial urgency tends to skyrocket. This entrepreneurial hunger and urgency is what ultimately helps fuel rainmaking.

An entrepreneur who took the risk to launch a business is also typically passionate about the product or service offerings they champion. This passion, when coupled with the DNA and drive, leads many entrepreneurs to CHOOSE to be their company’s chief rainmaker.

I’ve learned that most entrepreneurs prefer it this way. We’re in the best position to pinpoint the smartest leads for our companies and conversely decline those opportunities that are poor fits. We also typically serve as the best closers because we have a powerful and innate knack for balancing out the options, strategies and outcomes. Wise, confident and informed entrepreneurs can also negotiate quickly without having to go back and re-crunch numbers. Because we hold all the pieces to our business puzzles, we can make more informed decisions more quickly.

Many entrepreneurs are also quite astute negotiators who clearly grasp the need for all parties to benefit from every negotiation. We tend to do this well and this type of risk-taking comes easily to us. This is why many entrepreneurs simply dance through the raindrops while making it rain! We don’t need umbrellas because we know that armed with our DNA, we will move deftly, quickly and wisely to navigate these business waters with confidence and success. In fact, we often eagerly put on our bright red rain boots and jump feet first into the puddles, splashing our way happily back to the office!

 

Expect challenges.

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A closer look at WOW 6 from 99 Creative WOWs—Words of Wisdom for Business

This third 99WOWs Blog post explores challenges and the role they play in the creative process. In work and in life, however, there are times when the very last thing one needs to do is to go out and discover more challenges. Far too many can land right on your proverbial doorstep, as was the case for me recently. This WOW is part of 99 Creative WOWs—Words of Wisdom for Business, a newly published book for thriving and striving entrepreneurs, biz whiz professionals, recent grads and creative wizards.

Expect Challenges. If none arise, go out & discover some.

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When I initially wrote this WOW, my focus was solely on my creative work. In that context, I expect challenges every day. They are vital ingredients in my creative process and results. Challenges provide the rich fundamental basis for creative work to take place. Challenges form a framework—cornerstones for the problem solving process. It is only with a clearly understood challenge to which creativity may be applied that creative problem solving can truly be effective. Without a challenge, creativity is without focus and without the ability to measure its merits and success.

The second part of this WOW, the “If none arise, go out and discover some” phrase, also applies directly to creative work. Risk-taking and the seeking of creative challenges is a critical part of any creative equation. Without them, parameters can remain elusive. So, when hoping to create, one must look for challenges in need of creative solutions. In the case of entrepreneurial endeavors, one must also strive to seek out such challenges that also provide remuneration for one’s work—if one likes to eat.

Challenges often occur without needing to go out and look for them—often more regularly than any of us might desire. Recently, I had the chance to travel and whether you travel regularly or infrequently, everyone has heard of the perils of travel challenges. My recent trip has been nothing short of a barrage of challenges—three days of lost luggage, the only room in the entire hotel without wireless, and other more complex and stressful experiences all along the way. It seemed that on this trip, the respite from challenges was the exception rather than the norm. Each time I absorbed a new challenge, incorporated it into my actions and reactions and tried to normalize it, it seemed I only had to turn a corner to bump into yet another challenge.

I am a seasoned enough traveler to know that issues and challenges occur when one is in new places with different languages, time zones, customs and new people. As I reflect back on this experience, I recognize a connection I’d not made before. To truly expect challenges can help to temper expectations—and challenges challenge those expectations. I thought I had expected there might be challenges, but I can see now that my initial excitement eclipsed my concerns and off I went. Perhaps this WOW should read, “Expecting challenges challenges expectations.” Regardless of the specifics, the time on my travels went quite differently than I expected. The experience was quite dissimilar to my prior trips to this favorite place, this same hotel and similar itinerary. This journey was far different than the others and with only a few exceptions, rarely positive.

As a creative individual, I know I will apply this experience and these challenges to my work and businesses in various ways. I will write about these events. I will use my comic reflection to regale friends about the “Only to you!” experiences I have had so far. I will also quietly reflect on how these challenges that have, in many cases, pushed me to my limits these past weeks will become tools for my work and hard-won experiences upon which I draw going forward.

I am a smart enough creative entrepreneur to recognize that I must be long past this collection of challenges and perhaps onto some that are more familiar and take place on my own home turf to be able to truly “see” and process these experiences. Challenges are like that. They may be quick to descend upon us, but they are slow to digest and internalize, often leaving an imprint long after the immediacy of the situation has been resolved.

The concept of seeking out challenges if none arise frames the action in a way that often appeals to entrepreneurs. Reaching out to discover challenges we can help to solve and resolve is far different than encountering challenges one does not know to expect or know how to address. As entrepreneurs seeking out challenges—these are challenges others are facing to which we can contribute assistance. We have control and enough emotional distance to add value in such situations. This is a very different kind of challenge than those that happen to us when we are the unwitting recipients of such surprises, as is the case with travel challenges. These challenges can make us all feel out of control, a fundamental difference between seeking out challenges we can help with and encountering those we must fix for ourselves or accept on the fly. As is often the case, your challenges are far easier for me to see and help solve than the ones on my own personal plate.

As I move forward in both my work and the balance of my travel in this year, I’m hoping to continue to put this challenge issue under my lens. I plan to continue to define and refine my thoughts on three facets of challenges—

By expecting challenges we temper our expectations. Until actual challenges occur, we have only the theoretical opportunity to create potential contingency plans.

By seeking to discover and help with challenges others face, as entrepreneurs we can apply creative problem solving to achieve better results. Because the challenges belong to others, we can bring a clear perspective and our creative tools to the solution.

By contending with those unexpected, blind-siding challenges that can drive even the heartiest among us to spin out of control, those challenges belong to us. It will take some time, resolution, and distance to help us see what the applicable longer term take-away strategies may be from such experiences.

No matter which of these challenge types you experience or contribute to, challenges will contribute to your creative journey and help enrich your work—albeit later rather than sooner in some cases, especially if luggage is involved.

If you have had challenging creative experiences or sought out challenges you’ve helped to solve, we hope you’ll share your thoughts in the comments below. Challenge us!

What and Why

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A closer look at WOW 2 from 99 Creative WOWs—Words of Wisdom for Business

This WOW is from 99 Creative WOWs—Words of Wisdom for Business, a newly published book for recent grads, thriving and striving entrepreneurs, biz whiz professionals and creative wizards. In this 99WOWs Blog post, check out this example of how important it is to ask the right questions. You don’t need to know every step at the start. In fact, you can’t. When you ask the right questions in the right order, you learn what to do next along the way, as this WOW demonstrates.

Know the WHY. Create the WHAT. The rest will follow.

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As a creative problem solver, asking questions is a big part of what I do. My work pivots based on my ability to ask the right questions. When clients bring creative business challenges to QuaraCORE they often start by stating WHAT they need. When clients begin with WHAT, we do some digging as this example shows.

“We need a new brochure to introduce our new B2B product called the X2000.
It’s 32 pages long, full color and we need 3500 of them in three weeks.”

This request for services is clear, thoughtful and specific. However, even clear requests are not always what clients really need. Consider the WHAT as a starting point—what the client is able to define from inside the challenge. Creative consultants offer a different view. We see the challenge from a distance and with the right questions, we can propose ideas that tap into the root issues and deliver more value as a result.

One powerful question often upends the initial specifications that clients present. “Why?”

This question exposes detail and information that wasn’t part of the directive to prepare a proposal for a 32-page brochure. When a client reaches out with a specific request like this one, I begin by listening. When there’s a cue for me to respond, I ask simply, “Why?” We then explore why it is a brochure that is needed as opposed to many other creative ways to present a new product. We discuss why 32 pages is a magic number, why full color is important and of course, why it is so important to complete this brochure in three short weeks.

Often I discover answers like—

“We need a brochure because all our competitors do brochures; it’s just what everyone does.”

“All the other brochures are 24 pages so ours needs to be bigger. They also do lots of splashy color so we have to do color, too.”

We have to have this in three weeks because we need to ship these to Cleveland for a big sales conference a month from now.”

“My boss told me to go out and get a brochure done and she’s the boss. She wants a brochure? We do a brochure.”

While compelling urgencies, these responses are not always the right reasons to create a brochure.

Once I discover the answers to this first wave of WHYs, I delve deeper still with more WHY questions. I usually discover the need to achieve a specific result that extends far beyond the requested service, in this case, the brochure. Answers to the next WHY questions revealed—

To cover development costs, the client needed to sell 10,000 units of the X2000 in six months and reps needed to start selling.

They planned to bring this product out last year, but a supplier problem caused an eight-month delay. Production began four months ago, but product wouldn’t be available to sell until October.

The conference was already costing a lot of money. They were flying reps in from all over the country; reps knew from weekly newsletters that the product was finally going to be ready, but were still wary. The client needed to make a big internal splash—fast. Their next conference wasn’t until after Labor Day.

The three-week brochure timeline was not just for design and production—the copy for this piece had not been written because the product was not yet complete enough.

Simple requests for services are often anything but. By discovering the background, history and pressures your client faces, you are better positioned to create better solutions for both short- and long-term needs. Once you KNOW the WHY, you can often CREATE a better WHAT. To help this client solve this product launch challenge, we proposed a different approach—one that was more achievable in the three-week work window.

The brochure had to achieve three short-term results to ultimately lead to their big goal, selling 10,000 units within 6 months.

Result 1: Inspire and inform the reps about the new product.

Result 2: Provide the reps with enough specific take-away information to pre-sell the product—before they have it.

Result 3: Reassure the reps that this time, the product will work and be ready.

Once our WHY questions led us to understand these deeper priorities, we created a proposal for a different WHAT than the originally-requested brochure.

Here’s WHAT we proposed:

To inspire and inform the reps about the new product, we suggested going directly to the reps. Given the tight timeline, we proposed creating a real-time, experience-focused solution with a fun and informal video for the conference as its centerpiece. This “behind-the-scenes” work-in-progress video would show proof that the product actually was being created. The CEO would personally contribute footage to confirm growing market demand and share market testing results, both designed to reassure and inspire reps.

We also proposed a concept to make learning about the X2000 an honor. The Sr. VP of Sales would invite three top-performing reps from different regions to become the X2000’s NPCs, New Product Champions. We would create an identity for this honor with special gear including hats, embroidered shirts, and special cell phone cases. NPCs would be flown to the factory to see the production of X2000 first-hand. No third-person report could replace this rep-to-rep verification. They would spend time with the production experts who would answer the toughest questions the reps could think to ask. Great sound bites and photo opportunities would provide evidence of progress—without needing a lot of content that couldn’t be accurately crafted.

Each NPC would create a quick phone-generated You Tube video explaining what they saw. Based on product benefits, reps would map out their plans to sell the product to 3 different customer types yielding 9 sales scenarios.

The week before the meeting, we’d weave these authentic videos together with close-ups of the product and short, compelling benefit statements. This video would be shown at the conference and circulated after via internal social media. Transcribed video text excerpts would grow into internal post-conference blog posts. NPC reps and factory production experts would provide monthly progress updates following the conference template model. This approach created a lot more buzz and conversation than any brochure.

To provide the reps with enough specific take-away information to pre-sell the product—before they have it, we proposed X2000 Product Launch conference events. NPCs would each host a Q&A session. Every rep attending the Q&A would receive a badge button reading, “I’m ready to sell the X2000! Are you?” Each rep would receive digital FAQ documents, colorful product benefits infographics and customizable PDF handouts for each of the 9 sales scenarios.

Finally, to reassure the reps that this time, the product would work and be ready we proposed cameo video clips showing production experts working feverishly to finish the product including close-ups of dinner delivery trucks to underscore everyone was working round the clock to deliver results on time.

The Rest Will Follow

Instead of spending the client’s money to create a static 32-page brochure, we respected their budget and proposed using time and resources differently to help them achieve short-term goals that would help them determine WHAT to do NEXT—after their first conference hurdle had been crossed.

KNOWING the WHY led to CREATING this different initial WHAT. By asking more questions after the conference, we could determine the best NEXT steps for the client to take between the conference and the October product release. With the first-hand knowledge from the overt rep response at the conference, the right next steps would follow.

This WOW is all about three smart business habits:

  1. Ask essential WHY questions to ferret out core issues.
  2. Create actionable WHAT options that are doable in the time frame.
  3. Trust that by creating a WHAT that delivers and informs, the RIGHT rest WILL follow.

Ask yourself WHY to lead you to your next creative WHAT!

Do you have a similar experience from your business? Share it below.

WOW 1: Family first. ALWAYS.

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Family first. ALWAYS.

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In my world, nothing comes before family. Ever. While we typically introduce and even define ourselves in the context of the work we do, our lives are composed of far more than work. Each of us is a whole person—engaged in the lives of other people who are hopefully extremely important to us. Long before I define myself as a creative starter and driver of businesses, I am a mother, wife, daughter, sister, cousin, friend, board member and volunteer—with and for my core and extended family. We each have our own custom labels that simultaneously define our connections. Hopefully they also define how we make choices.

Some business leaders claim that business is business and no place for emotion, personal issues or other spillover from the rest of our lives. I disagree. I am a whole person and I hire whole people. The highest achievers on our teams are consistently those who live rich, full, messy and even complicated lives. These people “show up” and squeeze the most into each day in order to get the most out of every moment.

As an entrepreneur, I’ve always worked hard to make room for the whole-life obligations and demands of those with whom I work because it feels right—and it is right. At twelve, I learned firsthand that not to do so feels wrong—for everyone. My mother, an amazingly gifted early-childhood teacher, was an only child. At one point, she worked for someone who “charged a high price” when anyone needed to miss even a few hours of work. Because money was always tight, my mother felt she could not risk her job. Even if it meant going to work with food poisoning, so long as she was not contagious, my mother worked. She would choose to put herself through practically anything to avoid asking for time off—even when she should have.

I was 12 when both of my grandparents were in critical condition in the ICUs of two different hospitals while my dad was at a third hospital, undergoing a tricky cardiac test. To avoid her supervisor’s wrath, my mother went to work that day, staying until the last extended day child was picked up after six. That afternoon after school, my brother and I rode the bus to the hospitals to bounce between waiting rooms until she could get there. We were too young to be allowed into the ICUs, but we could listen, watch and use the pay phone if need be. We stood watch in my mother’s stead.

Even then I knew something had to be wrong with this pressure we all had accepted; it felt so wrong. She needed to be with her family, yet she felt so unable to do that. We understood that Mom never left work because she couldn’t. This was just one of many times I watched my mother struggle to choose work first, no matter what.

As an entrepreneur, I’ve found that putting everyone’s family first is always the right priority. People who are committed to family and work rarely take advantage of either; instead, when faced with tough life demands, these capable individuals somehow juggle it all to be present for the most important happenings, even when many issues compete for center stage. Expecting team members to put their family first removes the need for anyone to struggle to make this choice. There is also innate transparency in this model. It removes anyone’s ability to hide behind real or fictitious work obligations as a reason not to show up for family.

As the entrepreneur in charge, I set the tone. Each individual makes his/her own family decisions. In today’s world, there are many different ways to make a family. As a result, to be effective, a family-first model must be free of judgment or comparison. When someone on our team received an urgent text during a complex client call, he popped his ear buds on and seamlessly continued the call from his car as he dashed off to pick up Eddy. A very busy terrier pup, Eddy had gotten so many pink slips from doggie day care that immediate expulsion was the only logical next step after his latest doggie-playground infraction. Eddy’s inconvenient antics are as important a family matter as another team member’s need to move her grandfather from rehab to assisted living and back again, only on a weekday between the hours of 11 and 3. Pipes burst, kids get sick, and sometimes we get blizzards in April. Life brings us all sorts of family emergencies.

Not every issue is an emergency. Some are just plain important and require daylight. While new products and marketing plans can be reviewed on a laptop at night, the preschool Mother’s Day parade cannot be moved to a more convenient time slot.

Once, someone on our team made a big deal about being too “slammed” at work to attend his son’s first kindergarten play. His little boy was playing a tree for hardly more than 14 seconds at precisely 2:20 in the afternoon and yet this manager couldn’t figure out how to be there for his family and get his work done? I heard about this after the fact and I knew he didn’t have a long future with us. It was not because he didn’t make his child a priority; that was his business; claiming to be too busy at work was ours and signaled deeper performance issues. He couldn’t manage his time or his work well enough to get to his own son’s pageant. How could he possibly make effective choices for the clients who hire us? He couldn’t and left us shortly thereafter.

As an entrepreneur, if you think that there is a time when family should not come first, think again. Chances are, you didn’t ask enough questions to get to the heart of the matter, which is where, of course—you will find family. First.

Welcome to 99 WOWs—

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Words of Wisdom for Business—
designed as quick, colorful sound
bites for new and seasoned
business professionals.

I thrive in my very colorful entrepreneurial businesses by making smart decisions in even the most challenging contexts. I base my decisions on the 99 Creative WOWs—Words of Wisdom for Business that I use every day. I recently published a book of the same name that features all 99 of these WOWs. To supplement the book itself, we created this 99WOWs Blog to offer up a platform for all of us—recent grads, thriving and striving entrepreneurs, biz whiz professionals and creative wizards—to chime in and share, compare notes and expand upon each of these WOWs.

I continually apply these 99 truisms to a diverse array of business, creative and personal situations. These watchwords help me strive to be and do my best in many settings.