Monthly Archives: June 2018

Ways to find new business opportunities

In this you’ll find a few ideas on how to find new business opportunities.

 

The ability to find and take advantage of opportunities in business and in life in general is among the set of traits anyone who desires to have any degree of success should strive to possess. The better you are at finding business opportunities the more likely you are achieve what you want to achieve, as the motivational speaker Jim Rohn would say : “it’s the law of averages!”. This is assuming that not all opportunities will result in success, but the simple fact that you get some, increase the odds that from the ones you get, one or two will be a success. A string of failures makes us more prone or likely to be blessed with a success in the same way that a string of wins makes us more likely to fail.

Ways to find new business opportunities

There are many things one can do in order to find new business opportunities. The problem is that from all those things, when we do eventually do something that helps us get what we want, we tend to forget, or not pay attention to what that thing might be. Below are a few of them.

 

1. Become a more attractive person

The most important thing you and I can do to attract more good things to our lives in general is to become attractive people ourselves. Just like in dating, the math is simple: attractive people attract more people. We can complain of how unfair that might be, but the truth is that this is just one of those things we can’t change. Notice that attractiveness is a fluid word, meaning that it means different things in different settings/contexts. So, the first step in becoming a more attractive person is to find out what is considered attractive for your target audience. In business for example, attractiveness engulfs the traits such as hard work, motivation, knowledge, experience, creativity, etc.

Be more valuable

Being more valuable is in part what becoming more attractive is about. In business, and in life in general, the more valuable you are to the people around you, the more attractive you become. Here is where your grasp or mastery of specific subjects might be at play. You can become more valuable by simply knowing more things, and oddly enough, this can be achieved with as little as one book a month. In fact, when asked what kind of super power would he love to have if possible, the famous investor Warren Buffet, answered that he would like to be the fastest reader in the planet. Research has shown that in general, successful people read on average 6 books every month, which doesn’t necessarily mean that you can read your way into success, but that this is certainly a factor of their success. The next thing is that you can be more valuable by also being more helpful.


We life in a time in which politeness and helpfulness for the sake of it are becoming more and more uncommon. For some reason the new generations came to the conclusion that those values are things of the past, and instead what became more valuable became the tendency to be more confident for the sake of being confident, as well as the unwillingness to do something for nothing. The problem with the latter is that it applies to everyone. In the field of computer networks there is an idea called “altruistic unchocking” in file sharing. Where a computer randomly sends bits of a file to a computer it’s not currently trading with, with the hopes of starting a new trading relationship. The reason why this happens is that the whole system is based on altruism, the so called “tit-for-tat”, where they only share information with the computers that gave them something in the past. The same happens with human beings. The whole system is based on altruism, in fact, we, as humans have a bias towards reciprocity,caled reciprocity bias, where in essence we feel the urge to give back to the ones who gave to us. When we give, the ones who receive feel the urge to give back in return.

The point here is that if you want to be a more valuable to person, you can do so by being more helpful. The two reasons for this are that: 1) Helpful people are becoming less and less common, and 2) We are wired to give back to the ones who give to us(“Reciprocity bias”).

Be more likable

Another thing you can do is to become a more likable person. A part of what makes likable people likable is their ability to be valuable to us without genuinely expecting anything in return. I’m sure you’ve met a person or two in your lifetime, who was willing to help you for nothing in return. Maybe you’re that person, and if you don’t know, small gestures of helpfulness can literally make the day more enjoyable for most people, and the ones who make our days more enjoyable are more likely to be liked by us.


Another thing you can do is to learn how to listen. We live in a time in which people get easily bored, and where the one thing that keeps them engaged for more than a few minutes in a conversation apart from the social media is themselves. As mentioned on the book The art of Seduction by Robert Greene: ” Talk to a man about himself, and he will listen for hours”. The idea here is to shift roles, instead of being the one trying to impress, become the one who genuinely wants to listen and understand the person on the other side of the table. Patiently listen to their stories, and sorrows, and you are more likely to make part of their “Like” list. There is one extra benefit you can reap from listening in business, and this is that increases the odds that you will find some uncovered pain that you might be able to build a business around. When we pitch an idea, one of the most common questions are: “did you interview potential costumers on your idea?”, as a way of knowing whether people actually want what you have to offer. You can apply the same idea the other way around, as a way of finding potential pains not yet solved by the available products/ services in the market. You can literary go in without an idea of what to build a business on, and come out with 3 or 4 potential candidates.

Be more resourceful

Resourcefulness is unlike what we think, the kind of thing that one cultivates, and builds over time. Resourcefulness just like attractiveness is a fluid word, meaning that it takes different meanings in different settings. A resourceful person is as mentioned on the book Relentless by Tim Grover: “when they press that ”in case of emergency button.”, they are looking for you” kind of person. According to the book in order to become that person you have to be a master on your field of expertise, and in addition to that also having the guts to deal in extreme situations with calm.


You can also be more resourceful by your ability to link people to each other. This point was set in the book The art of seduction by Robert Greene, where the advice was about the idea that one can attract people more easily if he or she is able to make their lives better by connecting them to people who can somehow make their lives better. The author mentioned that most of the time we are surrounded by people who are good at making promises and never come through, so that person who promises and makes it happen is looked at highly by the people around her. This kind of people become in other words indispensable to their peers.

2. Network

This one is for sure one of the few pieces of advice I heard so many times with disbelief, until the time I unintentionally implemented and saw the results. Just like a skeptic who sees a sign of divine intervention in the first person, I have become a believer. The reason why I didn’t take it seriously, is for my tendency to discredit pretty much anything I hear from the masses. Most people just repeat what they heard from other people just for the sake of sounding smarter to their peers, without neither pondering what they heard, nor experiencing it in the first person.

I’m sure you’ve also heard of the importance of networking as a way to meet new people who can do something for your business. This is true, but from what I’ve learned, this is not the whole picture. By networking, you not only increase the odds that you meet that one person who can fund your idea, or link you to someone who can, but also get crucial feedback from experienced entrepreneurs with regard to your idea. The thing about pitching an idea to our peers, specially if they don’t have a background in business, is that we are likely to get one of two reactions: the first is total discouragement, or complete approval. Both of which rarely constitute good feedback to anything. As the investor Tai Lopez said once: “It’s not black and white”. In pretty much anything there are always two sides to the coin, and for this one, experienced people who don’t have a relationship with you are the ones who can give the most accurate answers.


I know this might sound that this is not a business opportunity gainer, but there is much more into it. By getting feedback with experienced entrepreneurs you are not only likely to get accurate feedback to a potential idea, but also potential pivoting ideas from the original idea. As I once learned in an innovation and entrepreneurship class, often are the cases in which your first idea for a product, service or business is not the one you end up sticking to. From your first idea, new horizons and fresh concepts can be created, and there is usually no one better than experienced entrepreneurs to help you do just that.

 

3. Do something

Business opportunities just like anything else in life rarely fall in our hands without any effort. In order to find new business opportunities you must be actively looking for them. I know this sounds simplistic, but that what’s all about in the end of the day. We are led to believe that the business idea, or even the career we are “destined” to have will magically materialize before our eyes. The problem is that if you rely on “fate” to give you what you want, you’re likely to wait a very long time. Just like with dating, and the idea that we all have a soul mate and that when it’s meant to be we’ll find them, you greatly increase your odds of finding “the one” but actively looking for him/her.

In doing something there are a few things you can do. One as mentioned above is to look for the opportunities you’d like to have. The other is to improve yourself. Just like the first, the latter is rarely brought up when the subject is opportunity seeking or achievement. As Jim Rohn taught in his numerous tapes, in order to be more attractive to the market you have to increase your value, and as he once said: “work harder in yourself than you do in your work”. The hardest way to get the raise you want, and the opportunities you seek is to be the kind of person who is sought-for when people are on the look for valuable people.


The third is building your reputation. So, there is the need to build your skills and knowledge base, and right after follows your reputation. Be known for something great. By improving your skills and adding up to the amount you know, you do a part of this “build your reputation” thing, but those alone are not enough. You also have to cultivate and live by the kinds of values the kinds of opportunities you want require. In business this means the ability and willingness to work extra hours, take responsibility for what’s thrown at you, and the desire to offer value. The latter is what has been hyped up greatly by the media, and still one of the great truths of business to live by.

Summary

Business opportunities just like business ideas are everywhere, and it all depends on your mentality to tell whether you’ll be able to see them or not. The abundance mindset is more than just a way of thinking about life, but also, in business, a mind opener. If you believe that markets are all saturated, and that there is little to no opportunities out there to be explored, chances are that’s what you’ll see.

 

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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Things to consider when pitching a business Idea

In this post you’ll find a few things to consider before pitching a business idea to potential investors.

We’ve all heard that an empire cannot be built alone, and that behind every successful person there is a person or two who either made their journey easier, or was even key to the success that they have. We’ve also heard that it takes money to make money, and in truth most of us might have great ideas which if we had the money for would be world changing. So, it follows that the second most important thing after the idea and knowing how to build it is to know how to pitch it to the people who have the power, resources and/or connections to bring it to reality. These people could be investors or potential business partners.

 

Things to consider when pitching a business idea

Pitching like any other public speaking endeavor can be a terrifying thing. The reason for this is that rejection here can go from the mere emotional pain of public disapproval, to the more extreme loss of a dream. So, it makes sense that pitching a business idea is a scary thing, and for that reason we focus most of our time practicing the way we deliver the message, how confident we look, and how to engage the listener. The truth is that although those matter to a degree, there are a few things that matter more to potential investors, when they listen to a potential investment. Below are a few.

1. What is your idea about?

This is by far the most important and one of the most overlooked aspect of the whole “pitching a business idea” thing. The reason why I say its overlooked, is that most of us are quick to assume that we have a clear idea of what our idea is about, when in fact what we have is just the knowledge of a hook, and a rough sketch of the details.

When you pitch an idea many questions, sometimes detailed ones, will be thrown at you. And since the time of your listeners is limited, not knowing what you’re trying to do in detail might be detrimental to get the funding/investing you seek.


The idea here is to take some time to think about your idea deeply to figure out any essential information you might be asked to by whoever you’re pitching it to. One way to know whether it doesn’t have gaps or contradictions is to run it by someone else. We have a difficulty in spotting our own failures, and gaps. Others, because they are not us can have an easier time doing so, and making the right questions.

2. What’s the value and who’s getting it

The number one rule of business for the ones who want to be successful in the long run is value delivery. It’s certainly possible to build a business with no real value backing it up and being successful at it, but the problem is that just like overvalued businesses in the stock market, they’re eventually corrected down to their true value. Sooner or later either the market comes to the conclusion that you offer no value and you lose costumers, or something real comes along and they take your costumers. One example of businesses that deliver no value and still “succeed” in the short term are what go by the name of scams. In a scam, as you probably, know the costumer is tricked into believing that by buying the product he/she will get some sort of value until they find out this is not the case.

This is one of the questions that will always be made by pretty much any sensible and experienced investor, and not having a clear answer for it can be deadly for your dreams of succeeding on that business.

3. What is your business model?

Another important aspect of a business idea is how you plan to make money from it. In the end of the day, even if you plan to offer the product / services for free you’ll certainly need money coming in to support the day to day operations in the first place. The difference between implementing one business model as opposed to another, can make the difference between a business that makes money and one that doesn’t. But more important than that is having a business model when you pitch.


Although this might not be as detrimental to your pitching as not knowing what your idea is about clearly, and what kind of value it delivers, not having an idea of how you plan to make money from it might make you look unprepared. Remember the purpose of investing is making your money grow, and investing in a business in which you don’t know how it will make money, defeats the purpose of investing in the first place. Great ideas are everywhere, so obviously the problem is not in coming up with them. The problem is in finding great ideas that can realistically be turned into products/ services, and whose target costumers would be willing to pay for.

4. Is there a market for it? if there is what is your target segment on that market?

This and the previous point are related. In order to have a business model one needs to know if there is a market for it to be implemented in the first place. Again great ideas are everywhere but what is less common are great ideas with willing paying costumers. This is another core question you need to have an answer ready before you do any pitching. Investing in an idea without a market is literally throwing money and energy to the garbage.

5. Do you have a sample of willing potential buyers?

More than just knowing whether your idea has a market, and knowing what segment of it you plan to target, having a sample of willing potential buyers can be the one thing that can literally change the mind of a skeptic and not hopeful investor into the most fervent believer. The reason for this is that the world of business and investing are tricky. It’s just as easy to make the success of your life, as it is to get to the lowest point of it. One can make millions literally overnight, in the same way that one can also lose millions if not billions in a few hours. So, it pays off to be skeptic of pretty much any investing opportunity until one has enough evidence that it might be a good investment, and there is nothing more telling than a sample of people who would be willing to pay for what you have to offer. A business not making money and going bankrupt is in the end of the day, is the worst nightmare of both the business owner and the business investor.

6. What are your potential competitors?

Competition is pretty much in any arena of life. In a world in which 7 billion people, as of today’s estimate and growing, everyone is looking for happiness, money, and success, it has become more and more difficult and unheard-of for one to make part of a segment of life in which there is absolutely no competition. I remember I received advice from a relative not long ago, in regard to an idea of an app. The advice was to patent it, so no one is allowed to take advantage of it in case they hear it from me. But another and more sensible piece of advice coming from another relative made even more sense. And it went somewhere on the lines of: “you can hide your app as much as you want to, but the moment you release it, you’ll see 10 or 15 identical apps in the following day”. What you have to do is make it better than the competition.”.

Of course this kind of advice is not appropriate to all situations, but it certainly sheds some light on the things we can do to deal with competition. Make an inventory of your competitors, list their strengths and weaknesses, and try to figure out what makes your idea different, or even better than theirs before you think about pitching your idea.

7. What makes it different than the competition? (if there is any)

If you really don’t have any competition, well…, there isn’t much work you have to do in this area. But chances are you do have at least one competitor, and your job is to tell whether there is something different or better in your idea than your competitor’s. If there is nothing, or in the worst case, what you have to offer is inferior, this might be a sign that you have to re-think your idea, and try to build more value into it. The reason for this is that experienced investors become successful in part due to their ability to do market research. Sooner or later, specially if they are familiar with the niche you want to make part of, a question that goes somewhere on the lines of “what makes your product/service/idea better than so… and so?”, and you want to be ready for when this moment comes. Just like in an argument where you gain the upper hand when you’re able to not only defend your point by showing the reason why it might be right but also by taking the perspective of the opposition and arguing their point before they do, doing your research on your competitors and being even more informed of them better than your potential investors can give you a head start on getting the investment/funding you look for.

8. What are you willing to share? and what’s confidential?

When the idea you have has the potential for being something more than just “good” for the industry standards, its an even bigger problem to lose a potential funding than it is to get your idea stolen. When we think about secrets and business success we are quick to think of the Facebook case, where one person comes up with a billion dollar idea, and someone else with the skills takes it and implements it herself. The truth is that chances are that even if someone hears your idea, that they might lack the necessary attributes to execute it such as knowledge of the field, connections, or even the plain old motivation and drive i to go through the failure that comes with any “trying to be successful” kind of attempt.

Another angle on the same point is one that I learned from Warren Buffet, who by the time of this writing is the most successful investor alive. The question he was trying to answer was somewhere on the lines of: “what criteria do you use to buy or invest in a business?”, and among the many points he touched on, one was that you should look for businesses with what he calls high barriers to entry. In other words, businesses which are in essence difficult to enter even if you make your mind up to do so. A slightly different view of the same point is what Warren Buffet also calls “competitive advantages“. Which are unlike barriers to entry more centered in the business itself than it is in the market the business makes part of.


The point in the question “should I share specific details of my business?”, the answer is, well…, it depends. You can attempt to have a satisfactory answer to this question by asking yourself the following questions: ” can the people who will hear those details implement it behind my back? Are they likely to do it?”, “Would it be easy for a potential competitor to become your competitor in this kind of business?”, and third “Do the details or specifics of the idea constitute potential competitive advantages for your future business?”. The latter doesn’t have to be something as dramatic as a billion dollars in the bank, but something as simple and game changing as formula that can can improve efficiency in one or more areas of the business you want to make part of.

9. Consider building a mock up

In cases in which you don’t have the product in hands, the next best thing you can do is a mock up of it. The reason why this is so, is that its much easier for people to think about something they can see, than it is to think about an idea inside someone else’s mind, not matter how well we describe it.

 

Taking the time to build a mock up might earn you extra points because you show that you’re more than just a dreamer in some sense, It shows that you have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish. Chances are that for whatever kind of business you plan to start, as long as it entails building something, that there are mock up software on the internet you can use to do easily build mock ups of your ideas.

10. Fill an empathy map

Empathy maps, are diagrams designed to capture in a sense a picture of the business from the client perspective. They force us to think the thoughts the costumers would think, feel what they feel, and see what they see. The points you can find in a regular empathy map are:

  • What do they think or feel?
  • What do they hear?
  • What do they see?
  • What do they say and do?
  • What are the pains of the costumer?
  • What would they gain by using your product or service?

Summary

In the look for funding and potential investors, its important to have the above points ready for when you have to pitch. But as you might be aware of, there is still the chance that even with everything perfect, your idea might be rejected. For this, there is one piece of advice I learned from Jim Rohn and it was about the law of averages. You can read a post I wrote about it here, and use it as a tool to manage your response/reaction to failure on your search for potential investors for your business or your business idea.

 

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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A few Ideas on how to change minds

In this post you’ll find a few cutting edge ideas in the art
of changing people’s minds.

The ability to move people with one view to another is among
the set of things that differentiates the good from the great, whether this is
in the subject of romance or business. Often the moment we make up our minds
about a certain subject, it’s hard for anyone to change it, whether that anyone
is someone else, or as it sometimes happens, ourselves.

A few ideas on how to change minds

As you probably noticed this is a subject that very few have
mastery over, let alone any valuable knowledge about, and the few who do get to
do it successfully still fail to do so once in a while. Which means that
changing people’s minds is not a black or white matter, meaning that you can’t
be sure that you’ll do it successfully or not when the moment calls for it, but
there is certainly a few things you can do to increase your odds.

Avoid Ad-Hominem kind of arguments

We all have our set of core beliefs, and also tend to
associate our identity to them. With this also comes the tendency to place
anyone who doesn’t believe on what believe in, in the enemy side of the table.
Ad hominem arguments are arguments that instead of relying on logic and staying
on topic, are based attacks made to the person we are arguing with. Instead of
pointing the flaws on the other person’s argument, we try to point to the flaws
in the person to try to invalidate their argument. The problem with these kinds of attacks is
that everybody has an ego to some degree, and we are wired to protect our egos.
By attacking the person instead of their arguments we make them more resistant
to change, since accepting it means that whatever attack to their ego is
automatically proven right. This is leaving the fact that the discussion stops
being about the initial topic, and becomes more about character flaws, which
defeats the initial purpose in the first place.

Stay curious

The problem with arguments is that they eventually become a
personal matter, where being right is more important than finding the truth. In
the beginning both think they are right, and it’s all a matter of showing one’s
argument to show the other side of the table how wrong they are. But
eventually, valid points are dismissed, and the weaknesses of each other’s
arguments are more paid attention to. One solution for this kind of dynamic is
to keep a curious mind. A curious mind is not trying to be right, but trying to
find the truth, and more important than just doing this internally, is to show
it outwardly that this is what you’re trying to do. This will force both to
fight the urge mentioned above, the urge to dismiss valid points, and emphasize
the invalid ones for the sake of being right.

Study the other side better than them

The billionaire investor Charlie Munger is known to have
said that he doesn’t give himself the right to argue a point until he knows the
other side better than the opposition. By doing this you give yourself the
ammunition to argue your point better than they can, and more important than
that, also the certainty that your point really is the right one. Often
studying the opposition can help you become more humble, since, as you probably
heard at some point or another, the more you know, the more you become aware of
how ignorant you are. The sense that we know all there is to know might be less
of what goes by the name of self-confidence, but more of what we call by the
name of ignorance.

Appeal to emotions if logic fails

I’m sure you heard that humans are more emotion than logic
driven. This, like pretty much any frequently repeated idea has its own seed of
truth. Assuming we know the truth, and the other person is the one who has to
be convinced, it would be amazing if armed with the highest logic in the world
we were able to bring everybody to the light. The problem is that often we all
think we know the truth, even when we have evidence of the opposite. We can
easily assume that either the evidence is wrong, or it was wrongly interpreted.
When we have conviction on our beliefs, it’s easier, and to some degree more
compelling to assume that there is something we don’t know about the evidence,
that if we did know would somehow prove the evidence invalid.

Oddly, enough, it’s also possible to do the opposite. To
bring a person with all the evidence in the world to prove their convictions,
to believe in the opposite side. The way this happens is still a mystery to us,
but a part of it is known. That part or thing is emotion.

We are biased to believing on what our own emotions tell us.
If we feel like we are worthless because someone made us feel that way, the
fact that we feel it must mean that we are worthless. This can be said to be a
part of the reason why depression is such a tricky subject. What might have begun
as a hormonal, or neurochemical imbalance, could become a self-fulfilling
prophecy where a completely healthy and happy person leads herself to suicide.
The fact that I feel confident must mean that there is something good about me
to back that confidence, even if there is nothing. Confidence, and the feeling
of depression are just two elements of our psyche that could just as likely be
triggered by nothing, as they could be by something real. Same goes to our
beliefs.


One thing that makes devote religious people devoted is in
part the feeling they tend to report of the presence of a Deity. If you feel
like God is present in your life, God must exist, even if the most scientific
of the scientists brings you evidence showing the opposite. Feeling something
has a similar effect to seeing something with our own eyes: it represents the
highest form of proof to us and our own minds. If you’ve seen it, it must
exist. This is also the reason why the delusional and the schizophrenic have a
hard time in distinguishing the truth from the figments of their imagination.

The point is that if logic fails, even if you present the
evidence, chances are that the person knows what she knows “emotionally”. So,
if you can, the route to take is different, and rather difficult. The new
solution is to do what confident and charismatic people do to turn opponents into
friends: make them feel it. A confident person can make you believe in
something regardless of the fact that it’s true or not simply because they are
able to make you feel their truth. Dreamers convicted that they will achieve
their dreams can for example, lose their conviction if they are made feel
stupid for having such dreams, even if the dreams can in truth be realized.

Remember that there is no such thing as a completely wrong
side

As humans we are biased to the feeling that what we do, and
our opinions are the right thing to do, and anyone who does or thinks the
opposite is completely wrong. This is in part why till this day, we still face
issues such as racism, struggle between religious beliefs, and people fighting
opposite political sides. The thing about any discussion is that small are the
odds that one of the parts is completely right, and the other is completely
wrong. Most of us are to some extent rational and intelligent, which makes it
unlikely that in a discussion either side is completely wrong.

This is a problem if as a business, or as a personality your
image is negatively perceived, or associated with something negative. Again, we
tend to think in batches, and summaries of things, instead of consider the validity
of the components. So, if a negative stain attached to your image chances are
that anything coming from you or your brand will be perceived as negative, even
if it’s positive.


The solution for this kind of problem is simple. As, the
book The 48 laws of Power by Robert Greene teaches us: to protect your
reputation in the first place. One could employ persuasion strategies to fix
stained images in the minds of the public, but once such thing happens, the
little we can do to fix it, has minimal effect. Think of the greatest
personalities who were involved in some sort of scandal, who even with all the
resources in the world were unable to go back to how they used to be perceived.
Just like with cheating, even when forgiven, you’re never perceived, or trusted
the same.

In regard to this subject, there is one last thing you can
do if you notice your argument is being completely rejected even if there are
valid components being batched with the rejection. That thing is to call the
other side on it. We live in a world in which
being open-minded, and understanding are desirable traits, and to some
degree even forced upon us. Something as simple as bringing attention to valid
points, and getting the other side to acknowledge their validity can help you
build a case from scratch. From a point where your whole point was wrong, to
the acknowledgment that it’s not that “black and white”.

Remember to sound and be confident

Among the set of traits we all desire and expect from
others, confidence is one of the most popular. A confident person makes us feel
confident on what they say or do. This is another reason why some people can
make a person with all the facts to their point literally abandon what would be
considered the right point of view for the opposite and incorrect point of
view. By speaking with confidence, you kind of make the other side feel that
confidence on your judgment and argument, and thus more likely to switch views.

Confidence has two problems however. The first is that,
well, to sound confident in a way that doesn’t sound fake one has to be and
feel confident. I think we all heard of the idea that the best and most convincing
lie is the lie we tell to ourselves. If you think about it, this is in part why
the most horrible of the crimes ever committed which involved masses of people,
like Hitler in Germany, is that he himself believed on the wrong thing, and the
fact that it was a wrong belief it didn’t prevent masses of people to follow
and obey him.


Speaking out loud is one thing, but believing is another.
Some people just say confident like things, while others feel and behave that
way.

The second problem with confidence is that it has to be
backed up by something. We can lie our way into feeling and behaving with
confidence, you know … that “fake it until you make it” idea. The problem
with that however, is that just like gambling your savings in the stock market,
it might work in the short term, but in the long run it can prove to be an
ineffective strategy. The reason for this is that this kind of confidence is
based or backed up on/by nothing. True confidence must be backed up by something,
and that something is your ability to
solve or tackle a certain class of problems. In other words, true confidence is
backed up by skill and mastery in something. Those serve as “proof” of what you
say you can do since you can easily show it the moment calls you on your
“bluff”.

In business one can have confidence in the product or
services it offers. Making sure they deliver on expectations better than the
competition gives you more substance to “brag on” in marketing campaigns, as
opposed to trying to find an angle to convince prospective customers that you
are a good choice.

So, the take away message is: be confident, but back it up with something,
be that something your mastery of a skill, or a large breath of knowledge and
wisdom in as subject.

Summary

Sometimes changing a person’s mind is a pointless effort,
since they might have their mind made up on what they want to believe. It’s
said now that if after a some back and forth trying to convince a person of
your point they stick to their “guns”, chances are that any further effort will
be with no results still. So, if after some time trying to change a person’s
mind you see no results even with all the evidence you bring, chances are that
maybe you should just leave it be. There are certainly better places to invest
your mental and physical energy on.

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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How to forge new partnerships

In this post you’ll find a few ideas on how to forge new partnerships you can implement today to your life and business.

I’m sure we’ve all heard at some point or another that rare are the cases in which rags-to-riches stories evolve only one person. Meaning that in order to succeed in life and business, we all need the help and contribution of others in some way or another. So, it follows that the ability to forge new partnerships is among the set of things anyone who desires to succeed has to be good at. Again, it’s totally possible to succeed on your own, but it is usually the case that there is someone out there whose partnership would make it easier, either by knowing someone who can help you get closer to your vision, or by being themselves that person.

How to forge new partnerships?

I’ve recently went to a conference whose subject of discussion was about how to make new partnerships as a small business, or a startup. The ideas and knowledge from there, and from a few books will be combined here, making a soup of knowledge and information to the brain.

What are partnerships about?

This question might be a very obvious one, but at the same time, it’s the kind of question we all assume we know what the answer is, but that can often be confusing. To make it clear, the purpose of a partnership between businesses is to move the cause of each forward, not just one of them. We are sold to the idea that if you’re persuasive enough, you can get anyone to agree to do anything. The truth is that people and businesses do the things they do for a reason. If there is a perceived gain in what they are about to do, they are more likely to do it. If there is nothing there, they will wonder why you approached them in the first place. So, the first idea here is that in order to get something from others in a business, or life deal, you must have something to offer.

This is the first nugget, on how to forge new partnerships. You must have something of vale to offer to the other side of the table. As much as we would like to believe that romantic relationships are purely about the mystical feeling of love, that comes out of nowhere, the truth is that in order for each one of us to even consider a person as a potential mate, there must be some perceived gain for us if we were to choose them as dating partners. In the end of the day there is no greater persuasive tool than the certainty that not only you’ll be better off by doing what I tell you, but also that you’ll be way better off than how you are right now. In fact, when others perceive how much value you can offer before you make an offer, they themselves are more likely to approach you first with an offer. One way to do just that is to be the best you can be in your area of expertise.

This is the second nugget. Make you and your business the best it can be. No one wants to partner with losers, so it’s no wonder your and your business’s success will attract more people to your circle. The “loser” has nothing to offer to the other end of the table, and since we live in a world in which fairness and self-interest are among the things that drive most of us, odds are that your and your business’s lack of success is reason enough for potential partners to be avoid ant.

Make a list of you and your potential partner’s potential strengths and weaknesses

The biggest advice I learned from the conference was to before you even try to forge a new partnership, you should make an inventory of yours and theirs weaknesses. The reason why this is important is that It gives you greater chances of not only succeeding in forging the partnership, but also that you get the best deal you can possibly get. The thing about these kinds of deals is that although the other side might be willing to give you something of value for what you have to offer, they will also try to minimize what they have to give. This is a natural behavior in negotiations of any kind. Unless we’re in love with the person, the more we give, the more we feel like we’re losing, and humans are loss averse.

A list of strengths and weaknesses will let you know how much you can push a deal, before it becomes so unpleasant that the partner decides it’s not worth the effort. Just like when countries go to war, a list of theirs and their opponents’ strengths and weaknesses is the base to which to base any crucial decisions. It gives you more control and flexibility.

Watch out for data scraping

As much as it would be good to be in a world in which businesses chose to partner not for their own good but for the good of the costumer, this is not more than just a dream. In the end of the day, all businesses compete, and they so wish, they would own every market, and have every costumer. So, it’s no wonder that large businesses are willing to pay people to see what other businesses are doing, and by taking advantage of this information they can design strategies for growth .

One point the speaker raised was that sometimes, specially when you try to partner with establish businesses, they don’t meet for the sake of forging a new partnership, but for the sake of scraping useful data about other businesses. Sometimes, all they care about is to find out who you are, what you do, and possibly even inside information they can use.

How to prevent data scraping?

On the search for new partnerships, businesses, specially the new and small face a risk that they might not be aware of. On the book The innovators dilemma, the author talks about the fact that often startups are the ones that are quick to take advantage of disrupting innovations, and end up, over time, dominating many if not all the established giants. One of the reasons why this happens, according to the book, is that only startups have the devotion, and culture for the growth of disrupting ideas. Innovations enter the marked usually making what the giants would consider small profits, but for newly created businesses, an opportunity to make their own place. So disruptive ideas are neglected, even if acknowledged by established businesses, and when they do become aware of their potential it’s already too late.

So, it’s no wonder that the giants of today, being aware of how frail they can be when it comes to that subject, pay people to find out what’s going on in the industry, and learn what other businesses are doing. Here is the point one of the speakers made about this. It might be the case that if you’re a small company, or even a startup, that the potential partner you think wants to forge a partnership doesn’t really want that. They might just want to gather inside information they can use to boost their own cause forward.

For this kind of uncertainty where just like in dating where you’re not sure whether the person on the other side of the table has come with your best interest at heart, or just wants to take advantage of you, it can be difficult to know how to treat the person. On the former case hostility, and cutting the whole interaction off before any of you wastes any time might be appropriate. While for the latter, a warmer approach might be called for. What can’t be done is to mix one with the other, since in the end of the day at least one will leave the conversation with a sour taste in the mouth.

Put all the cards on the table (“we are not disclosing everything here”)

The first thing you can do, that also tends to be effective in the world of dating is to make everything clear. It might be against the rules of politeness to be blunt on what you want, and what you have to offer, but more often than not this avoids more pain than it creates. There is no point in tricking the other person into thinking you’re disclosing everything, since it might end up breaking trust in the case that they really have an interest in partnering with you. Making it clear that, as one of the speakers said: “we are not disclosing everything here”, and explaining that this is so for security reasons can be the greatest time and pain saver.

Where is this going?

In relationships the one thing women are known to ask is the question: “where is this going?”. The idea behind it is simple. By knowing whether you’re not wasting your time early, you waste less of it. Same happens when you’re on the look for a new and potential partnership. By knowing whether your both looking forward to, or considering the same thing, you avoid wasting time in case they don’t have the same aspirations as you, and just wondering in case they do. Just ask the question.

Make them sign an NDA

When journalists have the opportunity to interview important people and their workplace, sometimes they are required to sign a document where they promise that any sensitive/important information they learn from the place, they will not make it public. This is what goes by the name of a non-disclosure agreement. By “forcing” them to do this, you are legally protected against any potential data scraping attempts. As good as NDA’s might be, as mentioned by the speakers in the conference, there are a few things that might be in your way.

The first thing is that it’s easier to sue a person after they sign it and break it, than it is to get them to sign the document in the first place. In fact, the difficult part is in amounting the right amount of courage and politeness to ask them for it. Forging a partnership just like with dating requires to some degree some courting. If the person doesn’t like you, chances are that you won’t get the deal. As much as we would like to think that people in suits or lab coats are 100% rational and are able to separate emotions from logic, at their core those same people are still human. Anyone who claims to be rational 100% of the time is lying to you and herself. So, asking a person to sign an NDA can be difficult because it’s the same as raising up our defenses against a potential attack. It means that we think they might take advantage of us, and no one likes to be perceived as a person to takes advantage of other people, specially if they are honest. So, this task is a mix of both warmth to let them know you don’t think less of them, and at the same time courage to actually get yourself to ask for it.

Refusal to sign an NDA, on the other hand is definitely a red flag, that you should think really hard about before considering ignoring it.

Look for influencers and try to persuade them

The million dollar question from this post and that the conference tried to answer was: “How can I get a Google, or a Facebook to be my partner?”. The answer given in the conference was that not everybody in the company your trying to partner with will be of help in forging the partnership, even if the person is high in the chain of command. The best people to target are the ones who have enough influence to make change if they so wished, and at the same time the ones who would somehow benefit from what you have to offer.

Just like with costumers, the best ones are the ones to whom your product or service fixes a pain, and have a big enough network and influence to make it viral.

 

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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Important aspects of team management

In this post you’ll find a few things to pay attention to when managing a team.

Teams are the source of the biggest changes we can see in today’s world. We are mostly sold out on the idea that we should strive for individual growth and success, but the problem is that as clear as it seems, there is only so much any one of us can do alone. More people don’t only mean more hands, but also more brains, and with more brains come more problem solving, and more creativity. So, the ability to not only bring a group of people to work on an important problem together, but also to make them actually work on the problem together is probably one of the greatest gifts/talents/skills any one team leader can have. Great examples of this are Nelson Mandela in South Africa, Martin Luther King at the United States, who were able to make loads of people work for one common vision.

Important aspects of team management

Well managed teams/groups of people are often thought to be so because the leader is charismatic or plain old gifted with people. This might be the case sometimes, but to say that one is either born with the skill to lead a team to a grand vision is just lazy thinking. When something requires practice and study to accomplish, it’s easier for all of us to assume that one can only be born the gifts for it. The truth is that for most “difficult” actions/activities, the first step is to understand the set of things that make it work. Below are a few.

1. Honesty and Fairness

One of the most important things in any team is for the members to get the sense of honesty and fairness in the group. The reason why these two aspects are important for a team, and pretty much any kind of relationship, is that is avoids resentment, and it builds trust among team members, and the leader. Resentment is probably the greatest poison for team work, since if this is the overall feeling of the team, team work in the true sense of the word will be destroyed, which defeats the whole purpose of putting a group of people working together in a common goal. Teammates start then plotting against each other, which hardly makes for progress in the overall big picture goal. If you think of a country as a giant team, you can then see how civil wars are to some degree an example of how can the lack of honesty and fairness be detrimental to a group.

2.Respect

Honesty and fairness are important pillars of a team, but even those alone are not enough to prevent the tendency we all have to make enemies. The next important thing is respect. Google has the famous “don’t be evil” policy, where the need to be respectful to others unlike most places is not implicit, but made it clear. We are aware of the idea of the “don’t do onto others what you don’t want done onto you”, but sometimes, it just feels easier to break this rule. We get the sense that we can somehow go away with it, but just like an overvalued business that eventually gets down to its true value, we too get what we deserve for breaking the unspoken rules of how to behave around other people.

3. Accountability

Another important aspect of team management is the ability to hold people accountable. The reason why teams are important/effective is that they can if well functioning, deliver more results than any individual by itself. As we discussed previously, this cannot be achieved if the team members don’t get the sense of honesty, fairness, and respect from each other. But even with those, oddly enough, it’s still possible to have a losing team. Accountability is another pillar.

A good manager knows how to distribute the tasks among team members taking in consideration their strengths and weaknesses, in other to maximize the impact each can have on the project. A good manager is also able to hold each member accountable for their tasks. On the book The five dysfunctions of a team by Patrick Lencioni this point was among the set of things the author considered important for the assembly of a great team. To hold people accountable, the author advised more than just assigning the tasks in private, to instead do it in public, where not only you and the person know what has to be done, but also the team members, and when the person fails to deliver, to make it clear to everybody of this fact. Politeness is a great tool to use in social settings as a way to improve our connection with the ones close to us, but also a deadly tool for a work setting, where doing actual work is way more important than each of the member’s feelings, although the later might still have an impact on the project in the long run.

4. Personality traits and work styles

People just like planets in the universe come in different flavors. Some are more heart-warming and receiving, while others can be more aggressive and hostile. Also, just like when we fail to develop “one size fits all” kind of strategies for social situations, lets say… dating, same happens with teams. We all have a mental model of how people are, their primary motivations, and how they do things, but the truth is that we can only be accurate if we also include variations of those traits we hold of people in our minds.

Different people tend to be different in personalities and work styles. So, we can’t build and manage a team without taking in consideration these traits. Some people, like myself, find themselves more productive when they work by themselves, as opposed to in a group, while others consistently fail to deliver results when they work by themselves. This kind of people see their skills and knowledge come to fruition mostly in social settings, with their teammates. So, its important to keep an eye on what kind of team culture you create, since what might be intuitive, often fails to deliver results at a similar rate at which it succeeds.

Another thing about teams that is often overlooked and sometimes even ignored is that the idea that different people behave and perform well under different circumstances can be the very thing that makes a team perform well overall. A team of only social butterflies could fail when the time calls for lone work without team discussion or too much chatter. A team of introverts on the other, hand could fail when team work is required and going to social events for the good of the team is called for. Business is more than just building a product / service. It’s also about creating connections, and bonding with people you wouldn’t otherwise for the purposes of moving your vision forward. This is how crucial and game changing partnerships are founded, and as a matter of fact, there are parts of the world, like Asia for example, where deals are closed in social events, and not in a plain room with a team of layers.

As you can see, one sided teams have their own problems, and the solution here is to create blended teams. The weaknesses of a certain group of people are hedged by the strengths of another in the same area.

5. Rewards

If there is something that can get a singular person, and eventually a large team to do the right thing / behaviors is to have the right incentive system. In a system in which the right behaviors are rewarded, and the wrong behaviors punished, we get the closest thing to harmony and synchrony, whatever that means.

The problem starts when we assume that the best and only way to reward people is with money or any valuable possession. In fact, research has found that the moment we get paid for things we would once do of free will just because we enjoy doing it, our enjoyment of the task decreases. The assumption changes from ” I’m doing this because I love doing it”, to ” If they are paying me to do this is that its probably not that interesting/enjoyable, so I’m doing it for the money”.

The most powerful incentive systems are free, and they are of the social kind. Our peers hold knowingly or unknowingly the keys to our happiness and well being. Being approved, and well perceived for a second can make us happy for days, weeks, or even years. Being isolated and looked down upon by the same however, can make us want to or even commit suicide. If you as a manager can somehow embed the desired habits and behavior into the team’s standards where every, or at least most of the members finds it important to reinforce them, you get the closest to a perfect reward system. A reward system in which the prize of peers is what the members are looking for, and where there is no need to make sure that the right behaviors are being executed.

6. Appeal to mastery, growth and greatness

Mastery, growth and greatness, are three of the most powerful motivators for most people. The thing that makes them effective tools to motivate a person is that they make us feel good about ourselves, increasing our sense of self-reliance and self -confidence, but also makes us look better in the eyes of others, which in turn makes us feel even better about ourselves. The problem with demotivated teams is not that the members are lazy, and don’t get me wrong, sometimes the member really are lazy, but the real issue here is that the members have in their heads the idea that completing the project, and let alone completing it with quality and under the due time, are just purposeless actions. On the book Pay Off: The hidden logic that shapes our motivations by Nir Eyal, the author mentions the idea that finding out for example, that working hard towards a specific goal midway of doing it that the little that we did was all for nothing, is the most powerful way to demotivate even the most optimistic of the people. Same happens when we assume that whatever we are about to do is for nothing. We must have a purpose for everything we do. It’s as if we were wired with a brain process that keeps track of the time we have left alive, and that is responsible to make purposeless activities demotivating.

If you find an activity with no apparent purpose behind it and you or others still do it, chances are that you missed the purpose behind it. Remember that by the word “purpose”, we don’t only mean that which is larger than life(like saving the world and ending poverty), but also that which is not perceived as the kind of purpose to live for. It could be something as simple as maintaining your status among your peers. Behind every motivated action or activity there is always a purpose even if you can’t identify it.

 

So if your team members seem to be demotivated about what they have to do, the solution might be to make the seemingly purposeless action purposeful. And the greatest sources of purpose are mastery, growth and greatness. Meaning that you should find a way to frame the action / behavior as a stepping stone to their personal growth, mastery of a subject or for the just plain old greatness.

 

Summary

Team management is a very broad topic to make this clear, and there is certainly much more into it than what was covered in this post. This is a good start, a good way to dip your toes into the subject and get a feel for it. There is one thing however, that can be said to be at the core of what we call by team management : people. So, by learning more about people and the psychology behind their actions is probably the best thing you can do to master the subject.

 

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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