Lack of self-awareness is killing your brand

I recently helped a friend whose business was in need of some TLC. Great little hipster esq café which, operationally was sound but lacked the connection economy to drive relationships with the customer base. I hate seeing missed opportunity, retail and hospitality is now full of missed opportunity. Money left on the table everyday. Don’t get me wrong this isn’t about money…this is about connecting with your customer, making them feel special and building long lasting relationships built off mutual respect and trust.

I simply asked what are your strengths? The reply was centric to operational excellence, great in the kitchen, eye for the menu and passion for service.

So what are your weaknesses? It took a while to get there but in the end it boiled down to “marketing”…which by the way if you didn’t know is now called “caring” or “giving a shit about your customer”.

I thought…the business has been operating for just over a year and now you decide marketing is a weakness and to add in…zero dollars had been spent on marketing…in fact that was blessing because there was only upside!

It got me thinking I wonder how many entrepreneurs out there in business today have no idea what their weaknesses are…or better still know it and either do nothing about it or fake it till they make it?

We have all the tools available to us via Google, Youtube, freelancer.com, airtasker, Quora.com…the list goes on…it’s now lazy if you know a weakness and don’t either work on learning the strategies to win or better still outsource if like me you can’t stand looking at spreadsheets!

Within about 20 minutes we had come up with 3 tactics to action immediately which will transform the look and feel to the customer. I also recommended spending money on an intern or university student who would offer skills on photography, creativity & graphic design…it’s the ultimate mutual exchange of value…business owner…meet intern…now go make shit happen.

22…promoted…we should have a baby…come again??!!

This one kicks off the blog series on parenting as a millennial / gen Y…it starts a bit blokey because I am one…but it develops as I learn my role and work as a team player.

I met my now wife 11+ years ago when I was 19. We got introduced by my mum who didn’t mean to introduce us…go figure. Anyway it happened and we literally haven’t lived apart since. Not a traditional story but then my life isn’t that traditional.

She is gorgeous, amazingly smart and an incredible teacher…she is also 5 years older than me…I thought this was very cool at the time and didn’t at 19 make the connection, that would mean she would want kids 5 years sooner than I would…

Fast forward a few years, I’m 22 and kicking goals at work, smashing 15 hour days hustling my chops off and I just took a promotion. Life was chugging in the right direction. We sit down for a meal at a nice restaurant in London, I look at her, and she looks at me. I’m thinking…isn’t life great. I get paid more than I’m probably worth, we’ve got a great apartment that we purchased together 20 minutes from London’s epicentre and I have the love of my life opposite.

Luke…yeh? I think we should have a baby. What? I think we should have a baby. Really? Why don’t we just stick with a starter and a main? Luke…yeh? I’m serious. So am I. Really? Yeh. I really think we should have a starter and a main.

I think you get the picture…

It took a little while to sink in that I could be all of 23 with a child. In fact, I remember distinctly calming myself down with the sudden thought that all I’ve ever been told is how long it takes to conceive. Side note…I’m pretty good at looking at the absolute silver lining to cling on to when a crisis hits. It worked and I was calm.

So honey…Yes Luke? If I was to agree to having a baby, how long do think we would be trying for? Oh I don’t know…maybe a year?! A YEAR?! Yeh…that’s the average. It could be shorter or longer but that’s about right. OK fine. What? OK. You’re in? Yep let’s do it! You serious? Yep…but don’t ask me again I may change my mind. But that took about 5 minutes…are you sure Luke? Yep I’m in. Let’s go for it!

And that was that. I was sold on a baby purely on the basis I would be having fun with the one I loved consistently, just like they did in the movies for 1 whole year! You beauty…

Pregnant. First time. Didn’t see that coming…

Leadership requires your full attention…

I meet leaders all day. Having spent thousands of hours consulting to individuals and businesses on what makes a great leader. It’s become incredibly obvious whilst I’m discussing this point what the essence of that point is.

Simply put, it’s your ability to give your whole self, every fibre, every ounce to the person or group you’re interacting with. Think about it. All the bosses, teachers, friends, parents, shop assistants, doctors you’ve ever spent time with…what separates the ones you never thought twice about with the ones you attribute some of the biggest life lessons too? Attention. They gave you their full attention. You felt like only you mattered.

In a world where time is currency. It’s becoming almost impossible to have someone’s full attention. We ban mobile phones in meetings as a work rule for this very reason. My best moments as a leader and employee have come when I’ve been so far in the moment with someone I respect, that I got a lifetime of knowledge in an instant.

I challenge you next time you have a meeting with an employee, meeting a client or catching up with a friend. Put the phone on silent. Leave it in the car. Spend a few minutes prior to the meeting, just thinking about how you see the interaction flowing and then put all your juice into a 20-40 minute power session.

Then switch off and relax. The upside from doing this will blow your mind…because it’s so unbelievably rare. We used to criticise people for taking a call or texting in a meeting now it’s acceptable. Be the pinkemu in the room or in that person’s life and focus in the moment, bring value and reap the rewards.

Too much choice is a REAL…first world problem

Starting your career in the late 2000’s has got nightmare written all over it. Firstly you’re faced with far too many options. You have this 1st world problem that an abundance of choice is actually killing your decision making capability.

We need to embrace this because we are fortunate but at the same time it’s completely daunting. I remember back in 2005 when I started in Real Estate that I felt fortunate, because it was all I wanted to do. I applied to 23 different London based companies with the sole mission of becoming a Sales Negotiator. Little did I know or care at the time this was seen as a bit of cliché thing to do. All I cared about was getting independence. I just wanted a free car and to sell my face off.

I was so hungry for success. Like starving. I would literally work so hard that I was gutted to be told that walking buyers through a house at 10pm was inappropriate. I would get home, drive my girlfriend (now wife) crazy talking about my day. I was so friggin pumped. I miss those days.

Back to choice. You have loads of choice and yet it seems almost impossible to make a decision. So you choose to study Finance. Commerce. Business. Marketing. Entrepreneurship (just to cover all basis). Or you decide to take on an apprenticeship. Heating engineer. Sparky. Bricklayer. Hairdresser. Beautician. You get a few years in if you’re lucky then bail. Parents are devastated. They can’t believe you ‘wasted’ that time.

I’m here to tell you that you didn’t. It was the best possible year, two years…whatever it was, that you could’ve spent. You learnt more by doing something that didn’t float your boat and made you bored as bat shit, than if you grinded it out to the bitter end and finished with no idea what was next.

I’m not saying quit because its ‘tough’, I’m saying if you don’t look at your DNA closely and really listen to your heart before making a 2-3 year life decision you will regret stuff and you will make average choices.

I got offered a University placement at one of London’s elite Business Schools…yep I sure did. I had a choice. I could either take on student debt and study for 3 years and then figure out what I wanted. Or listen to every fibre in my body telling me to start my career, put my money where my mouth was and take on the best in the business. Sink or swim. I’ve never regretted my decision because I followed my soul, I also decided I would prefer to spend the next 3 years in a job I desperately wanted not a degree I was ‘supposed’ to do. I encourage you to look at life in 2 year chunks and follow your heart.

 

It feels uncomfortable to lead…get used to it!

If leading a team and making decisions feels comfortable then you probably aren’t leading. If being a senior manager and doing what you’re ‘meant to do’ feels normal, then you probably aren’t leading. If going to University and doing that course doesn’t inspire you, then kiss goodbye to leading for the next 3+ years.

We are all tempted by the safe and the normal. It feels easy. We are told it’s the best way and the right way. I have a feeling that it won’t be what you truly want or the vision you had for your life.

Now is the greatest time we’ve seen for hundreds of years to make a decision to lead. Now is the time to be comfortable with that feeling in your stomach…that feels uncomfortable. Be comfortable with someone telling you, that you must be mad for thinking that thought, doing that course, taking that job…starting that business!

Because normal and comfortable in the long run is far less fulfilling and a whole lot harder.

People….Events…Ideas…where do you live ‘most’ of the time?

How often do you talk about other people? Friends, colleagues, family members or the person who just served you. If the answer to that question is a lot, then it’s likely you fall into the ‘most people’ category.

How often do you talk about past events? Do you remember when we used to do this? I can’t believe the company is about to do that? Did you hear what happened to so and so? Shall we stand at the water cooler together, forever?

We spend so much time in the people and events categories that we neglect our focus on ideas. People and events are often negative conversations that leave you feeling deflated. Ideas get people inspired, they motivate people into action and move individuals, companies, non-profits and the world forward.

Eleanor Roosevelt was quoted as saying small minds focus on people and great minds focus on ideas. Challenge yourself, next time you enter that meeting room with your co-workers or the next time your mate wants to gossip. Step back, take a breath and move the conversation to an idea which has a solution that the group can be motivated by and your friend can cling on to. It won’t feel easy at first, but then leading isn’t supposed to. I can promise you though, it will be very rewarding and profitable.

Don’t sit there just watching stuff…there’s a box set of reality with your name on it!

I’m amazed how popular TV shows are. Literally amazed. I get it, don’t get me wrong, I understand why you watch what you watch but I’m still left baffled. So I’m contradicting myself…again. What I mean is, if you add up the hours spent watching an entire season, you could divide that time in half and still have time to pack in your purpose, to ensure you have no regrets and reach your true destiny.

Whilst watching Game of Thrones…you could have…set up your own blog, planted a herb garden, made a baby, read a book which provided vital inspiration, developed an idea into a product or joined a charity you believe passionately about…or even started one!

All these things and not Game of Thrones…will add to your personal brand narrative, make you more interesting and more important than all, make you happier! All these things will mean that you get the job you want. All these things make you a pinkemu in the outback of brown ones. All this time spent achieving your destiny is far more enjoyable and longer lasting…than achieving the end of a season.

The curious are punished but we need them to lead us…

I was a very average student…I would sit and think about everything in class, from business ideas to fantasies and the thought of spending, what I considered my ‘prime’…stuck in a classroom was vanilla.

Unfortunately for me and many others this is alarmingly normal. The current ‘system’ doesn’t allow for creativity. It definitely doesn’t allow for curiosity and it’s likely you will be told not to speak out if you have a different opinion.

If you…like me…have a curious mind, ensure you continue to believe your curiosity is normal and better still its imperative. Change is our new normal, curiosity has brought this change. So the next time you hear “stop asking questions” and “what does it matter, why we are doing what we are doing” remember, you have no choice but to ask. We need you to lead us and you need to find out why, to create the next wave of change.

1 thing that every pinkemu has in common…

I’ve spent 5,000+ hours interviewing people over the past decade and there is one commonality that separates the ones who nearly got the job, with the ones who got it.

They wanted it more. I’m mean WAY more.

That’s right. They wanted it so bad they couldn’t breathe. They went to the concert, bought the t-shirt, memorised all the lyrics, signed up to the Facebook fan page and slept all night to catch a glimpse of the band at the airport.

Of course I’m talking about going above and beyond the normal online research into a company and LinkedIn stalking. I’m talking about being an employee, living in the shoes of the company or start-up you’re talking to and bringing ideas to the table, they themselves, haven’t even thought of.

Not because you think it might be the ‘right’ thing to do. Not because you read this blog and thought I should do it. But because you’re obsessed with the very thing they want you to do. The problem they’re trying to fix. The pain point they have that only you can solve.

You rock up to that meeting with ideas, a game plan and some deep context of their current state and you won’t be wondering IF you got that job…you will be negotiating your start date after 45 minutes of banter.

I started thinking about my career when I was 8…

I thought about what I wanted to do and what I did from the age of 8. I washed cars, cut lawns, painted houses, sold candy at school and then sold out a nightclub with a friend of mine by the age of 16.

I reckon a lot of you have thought about the above or even tried a few things in your early teens to see if your hunch was a business. I worry with technology, that we are stifling this creativity and hunger. I’m not referring to tech start-up teenagers, I’m talking about hours of social communication and online games putting any burning fire inside on ice.

I promise you that the more time you think about ideas and actually start trying a few things that give you energy and excitement, the easier the transition from student to working world will be.

Do me a favour, the next time you have an idea which gives you butterflies…actually do something with it. Give it go and worst case you have a learning experience for the next one, then the next one and the next one. You never know it just might become an obsession…which in turn becomes your career.