Who’s not your community!

About ten years ago I took a road trip from Los Angeles to visit my parents in Montana. After a couple weeks, I departed via my sister’s place in Nebraska. When leaving Christy’s place, I thought I’d try something. What if I made it all the way home to Southern California without touching an interstate highway or spending a cent at a national chain company.

It’s too easy to default to the easy … get on the highway, get off and eat McDonalds – and get back on the highway, and on and on. But isn’t there more?

My first stop was in Oklahoma. It was noon … lunch time, on two lane State Road 14. Out of nowhere was a little grocery store … and next to it was this huge black gentleman laboring over a barbecue barrel. This was lunch! After three dollars, great conversation – and the best pulled pork barbecue sandwich I have ever had, I drove on.

Pie Town Cafe

Now I could go on about the next two days. I could talk about Pie Town (the pumpkin pie is to die for!) … but I think you know how it’ll turn out. Every stop was memorable. Little I did know that that venture would result in a “business purpose” I’m putting in play today.

Our president is unveiling his jobs plan as I write this. Unemployment is high and consumer confidence is low. And the “insane clown posse” that poses as our government bickers about things that even my ten year old next door neighbor wouldn’t think relevant.

I wrote a post four days ago about “Who your community is.” This fit’s into the above diatribe.

But as important as recognizing who your community is … it’s also important to recognize who your community isn’t. It’s not your Wal-mart, it’s not your Target, it’s not your corporate owned McDonalds and it’s not the big box store down the street. They may be in your neighborhood … but they’re not your neighbors – they are not your community!

These faceless corporations are here to take – to take your money, to take the life blood out of the locally owned firms who are your community. The more you give them – the less you have to give to those businesses that really matter, your neighbors – your community.

Of the sponsors of the Minot relief concert I was at (with L. Sean Key, my collaborator) with the Black Eyed Peas, none of them were these firms, even though all had presence in the town. There’s a Wal-mart in Minot. There’s a Target in Minot, and the there’s two MacDonalds. Only local business gave their time, their effort and resources.

This disgusts me!

Keep your money in your community

Times are not good in America right now. But it’s not because there’s a lack of money. It’s because it’s going to wrong the places. Any time you patronize a national concern over a locally owned business, you are sending money out of your community. Every time you use Bank of America over your local credit union, or Home Depot over your local hardware store … you are killing your community. You are sending money to offshore accounts, to bloated institutions or worse yet greedy, self-serving CEOs.

40% to 50% percent of each dollar spent at a locally owned business stays in the community. Yet only 15% percent does with a large corporate entity, like Wal-mart, Target or Home Depot. What does that tell you!

You may think that the couple of dollars you save – is worth it …. but is it?

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I can be found on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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Are you smart enough to know you may not be that smart?

Are you smart enough to know you might not be that smart?

Back in college, thirty years ago, I promoted rock bands. Once I did a show in Ortonville, Minnesota at the White Eagle Ballroom … in the middle of nowhere. Even though Ortonville only had a population of two thousand, the White Eagle was a great venue for small concerts. Since there was nothing else to do, kids from a hundred mile radius would flock.

This was my first show in Ortonville. In fact I’d never even been there before and the headlining act was an icon Minneapolis glitter band called Straight Up. I knew the band pretty well and the last thing I wanted to do is put on a bad show and have no one show up. Plus I was on the hook for $3000.

My modus operandi was to find a local contact to put up our posters and hopefully start an “excitement virus.” I found Gordy, seventeen, still in high school – and a police dispatcher. How bad can this be – a discount on security. Since I had set everything else up … all that was needed was to put up the posters and get the word out.

Three weeks later, I traveled back to Ortonville to do the show with Dave Theige, my roommate. We got in late the day before and checked into a motel.  The next morning, I got up before Dave and went out for breakfast and survey the town for our show’s exposure.

I went everywhere in pursuit to find posters. I found none! What happened to Gordy?

After several hours, I finally tracked him down.  “Where are all the posters?” Gordy’s response was to hand me back forty of the fifty posters I gave him.  “I only needed six.” “Great!” I said sarcastically. I needed six hundred people to break even. That’s sixty per poster. Unlikely!

Well, the show came and went and I made about two thousand dollars. Gordy manned the door so all Dave and I had to do was hang out with the bands and “rock.”.

After the show, I sat down with Gordy. “Where did all these people come from … and how the hell did they hear about it?”  Gordy came back with this:

“I put the posters in the places where the kids would see them when they were with their friends, so they’d talk about the show.”  This meant posters on telephone poles on the way to keg parties.

In addition, Gordy enlisted members of his “Tribe” (in Seth Godin jargon) to spread the word – and make sure that there were no parties or anything else happening to compete with our show.

I wouldn’t have put up the posters in places like that. Where I would have, the kids wouldn’t have seen them – or if they did they wouldn’t have talked about it. And there’s no way I could have squashed any potential competition. Fortunately Gordy did. That’s all that mattered.

Too many times, professionally and personally – we think we know everything, we have all the answers. Being smart isn’t knowing everything, because we never will.

Be smart is knowing that we may not be that smart!

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If you like this please retweet and check out more of my ramblings on twitter at @clayforsberg

Welcome to my “Perfect World”

Imagine if you could close your eyes, click your heels – and find yourself somewhere else, somewhere where your personal little world was just like you wanted it to be.

About fifteen years ago I started using the phrase, “Road to Your Perfect World.” It was used mainly in the context of my recruiting business. “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Thus the “Road” moniker. I told my candidates to view a job as a just step on a bigger journey where they wanted to go. If the job they were considering didn’t do that … then move on.

Well the over the years my idea of the “The Perfect World” has changed. It’s not just about work or getting a job anymore. It’s more encompassing. If you’ve read this blog, you probably already know that. It’s about my ideas to fix everyday life and all that makes it up. So – welcome to my “Perfect World, circa 2011.”

My Perfect World

My Perfect World ... well, kinda
  1. First it’s local. I’m all into the web, and what happens in the world and everything. And I’ve met some outstanding people that have expanded my life in areas I never expected. But when it comes down to it, it’s about where I’m standing, the ground underneath me, the tree over there (with the nest in it) – and the cat walking across the street in front of me. My physical, mental and financial health begins and ends here in my neighborhood. If I’m going make things perfect – I’m might as well start right here.
  2. Second, there’s more to life than just buying things. My value on this earth is a lot more than just the size of my house or the balance in my bank account. And I don’t think I’m alone here either. Helping each other, whoever they may be, and spreading good karma is more valuable to me than any car in my garage. In this day of “slash to the bone” political rhetoric, a lot of people, even some of my neighbors, are falling through cracks. And the safety net has holes in it. So it’s up to us, the members of my community – to power up the sewing machine and fix that net.
  3. Sometimes I do have to buy things though, so I’m going to make every effort to support locally owned businesses. These people are my friends and my neighbors. They are the parents of my daughter’s friends. Walmart’s not my friend, nor is McDonalds, nor is Amazon. I don’t hate these companies. But all I know, is three times more money flows into my community when I buy locally. That’s money for public art, for schools, for soccer leagues, and for cat parks (yes cat parks – imagine that – after all it’s my Perfect World). These things keep my neighborhood healthy, interesting and prospering.
  4. Also, when I buy things, local or not, I want to be treated like an individual. I’m not like my next door neighbor or my daughter, so why am I marketed to the same way. Once I first start shopping at your business, I want you to start building a profile on me. I know some people think that’s creepy, but I’m cool with it. I don’t want to know about deals on diapers. It’s been twenty years since I bought diapers. Just because you’re too lazy to keep track of what I buy doesn’t give you the right bombard me with endless circulars and junk mail. Keep me informed on things that matter to me when I should know about them. Respect my time as well as my money. Business relationships are exactly that … relationships. So I want them treated like that.
  5. And lastly, I want to not only have a say in what happens in my community – I want to actually make it better myself. I’m done sitting around and waiting for the government – local, state, federal, whatever – to make thing better for my neighborhood and for me and my friends. Whatever the level, government has gotten to point it’s nothing but a bunch of self-serving bureaucrats. We are much better served, serving ourselves. My neighbors and I know what needs fixing and who needs help in our own community. So in my “Perfect World,” we are going to deal with things ourselves. And it’s not just about throwing a bunch of cash around either (assuming any of us had a bunch of cash). It’s about helping however you can, with whatever resources you have. If you have a truck with a plow on it – help clear the snow in your neighbors driveway … and she’ll bake you a quiche in return. If you have open space in your office building – let a new nonprofit, volunteer tutoring service use it … for free. We learned in kindergarden to share. It was a good idea then – so why not now.

Well, that’s pretty much my “Perfect World,” at least in my own little corner of the world. And I think if a lot of other corners of the world did the same  – who knows maybe things might just get better … maybe a whole lot better.

In fact that might not be a bad idea. Imagine if we could bottle my “Perfect World” and spread it everywhere, or at least a template for creating your own neighborhood “Perfect World.”  And imagine if all these little local “Perfect Worlds” would talk to each other and share what they’ve learned. That could make their “Perfect Worlds” even more perfect.

My “Perfect World” may not be the same as everyone else’s, and that’s cool. After all, we’re all different. But one thing I know, is if you wait and hope someone else, mainly government and the big box store down the street, to tell you what they think it should be … you’re probably not going to be happy. How’s that been working for you?

I think there’s a lot of people out there that think the same way. And if you’re reading this then you’re probably one of them. We can make things better for a whole lot of people – if we just get back to the fundamentals, where it starts.

And it starts on your block, on your street  – and in your neighborhood.  A lot us have lost touch with our community and our neighbors – I’m no exception. But it’s time to reconnect … our neighborhoods need us to. This is where the real power lies. It’s waiting for you to grab it and run with it.

Don’t disappoint!

Note: The five items I described above may seem random, but they’re not . In a few months you see why. Keep in touch. I’m on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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Don’t fool yourself … your customers don’t care about you.

Your customers and especially your prospects – don’t care about you. They don’t care about the products you’re selling, and they don’t care about your company. If they did, then they would return your phone calls. They wouldn’t check their phone when you’re talking to them. They’d respond to your direct mail, and they’d get excited about the stuff you’re offering, stuff you know would be good for them.

All the sales advice, all the sales books and whatever other help you find can’t change that. They really don’t care. For the most part, you’re just another added burden – filling their time and mind space with just another agenda item. Your customers want less … not more!

All the sales gurus, sales trainers and sales coaches talk about empathy and relationship selling. But how much is this advice is actually put into action. At the end of the day … you’re probably just selling. You have something to sell and you’re damn sure going to find someone to sell it to.

Unless you’re going to just play the numbers, make enough calls and eventually hope something sticks – it’s only going to get worse. Time and attention is a resource that is rapidly depleting. And every day there’s something new taking their own little piece of it.

Unless you want to be a casualty of this inevitability, you’re going to have to prove to your customers and prospects you truly deserve the they attention they’re willing to give you.

Stress is everywhere

Empathize, really get into their lives. Put down your briefcase, your samples and your sales playbook. That person you’ve targeted is not just a prospect – a way for you to make quota. They’re a person … just like you.  They have families just like you. And those families take priority. They may have a parent that they’re thinking of putting in a nursing home. Their son may have autism. They may be stressing over how they’re going to pay for their daughter’s college. None of these things have any to do with their business or their job – a job they’re trying to subtract from, not add to. In their mind, you are really just another addition – another slice of their time, time they don’t have enough.

Back when I recruited, my candidates had to figure out what effect they had on their last employer. How did they make them money, how did they save them money … and most of all, how did they make their bosses lives easier? Those that focused on the latter, almost always got an offer. All of a sudden the employer looked at the candidate differently. What effect could this person have on their life (personally as well as professionally)? Maybe they would be someone they could depend on so they could see their son play soccer after school – or their daughter’s play. These are things that matter at the end of the day

Print, or whatever you sell, may not make the same impact in a someone’s life that a new employee would – but that doesn’t mean you and your product can’t make an impact. You just have to find that impact. How you can fit into the story in your prospect’s life, and how you can make it a better one?

People don’t buy features, they don’t really even buy ROI. What they buy is what that ROI will do for them and their life, most often their life outside that office they’re sitting in. The best way to learn this is listen. By listening, rather pitching, you’ll find out what’s important to them, and what they’ll react to. I wrote a post a couple of months ago called “The Talking Stick.”  Read it – and you’ll get my point.

It amazes me how telemarketers can be so arrogant. They think that schwag they’re pushing is so important as to call me unsolicited at 9:00 at night. I didn’t give them permission to call me – let alone at the climax of NCIS.

You probably aren’t calling your prospects or even customers at night – but you’re probably calling them when it works for you, not them. How high up on their priority list are you? Probably not as high as you think. Have you taken the time to really get to know who they are and what matters to them? That’s the only way to move up the list.

Have you taken the time to figure out how your “stuff” is going to make your prospect’s life better … not just improve their company’s nebulous ROI, an ROI you may be paying more attention to than they are. In this time of oversaturation of information and choices, businesses that delve into the realities of life and how the personal and professional overlap – will be allowed in their customers lives. Those that don’t will be just another intrusion.

Imagine if one of your suppliers took the time to get to know you … really get to know you. Would you do business with them – would you let that person into your life?

I would guess you would.

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Follow me on Twitter at @clayforsberg 

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Collaboration 2.0 … from ideas to action!

I originally wrote this post two years ago so some of the cultural references are out of date. But even after two years, I believe the message still applies. This is especially the case in many “groups” on Facebook and Google+. There’s a lot of extremely talented and well directed people lending excellent ideas. But it seems as if everything dies in the ideas stage.

If there was one trend I would say is leading on the backstretch of the trends of 2011 (can you tell it’s the day after the Kentucky Derby) – it would be crowdsourcing and collaboration. With each week the “getting everyone involved” movement gathers stream. We saw it, and still are, with the revolutions in the Middle East. We’re seeing it domestically too. Even”hard to change” corporations are jumping on the bandwagon. Coke is currently crowdsourcing their new theme song (under the guidance of Teio Cruz). And two weeks ago Lady Gaga announced she’s giving away millions at four New York charities voted on by her “Little Monsters.”

In theory, this collaboration movement seems great. The “little guy” is getting a voice.

The chasm between ideas and action

Aside from efforts by major organizations – I see a problem. How do you move this collaboration off the internet into action in the real world? Not everyone is Coke or a rock star like Lady Gaga.

In my experience, there seems to be a chasm between thought and ideas, and the implementation of these thoughts and ideas.

There are numerous great online forums and groups that accommodate collaborative vision formation – but where does it go from there? It seems everyone wants to give their opinion (myself included), but who’s actually going to do the real work making it happen.

Somewhere in the process someone has to have the plan to put these visions to practical use. That’s the strength of traditional organizations. The ideas that come from them may be flawed … but they get implemented. Even the collaborative revolution we saw in Egypt, earlier this year, didn’t fully take form until the Muslim Brotherhood and their existing organizational structure joined in. The students turned over tactical control to them in the decisive battle of the Kasr al-Nil Bridge which marked the turning point in the rebellion.

There is no shortage of great ideas that can probably change the face of our future. Unfortunately, most of them are just ideas – even though they may have thousands, if not millions of contributors. But someone needs to “take the bull by the horns” and channel them into a productive movements.

At present, it seems those that have the worst ideas, those in positions of power – have the strongest organizations to implement these ideas.

What we need is an “implementation template.” A platform where our collaborative ideas can move from just ideas and visions to acting solutions. While we may want to discard the status quo with a ‘scorched earth’ policy – and start anew … it isn’t practical. We have to grab some of the old and use it however best we can – to change the world.

Serious implementation questions need be answered before even the best ideas can come to fruition.

Every movement, every challenge has to have someone to lead the charge. Not everyone is a leader however, nor do they need to be. And the organizational structure needed to get things done doesn’t happen by crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing may uncover a leader – but they still have to lead and they must have a plan to do so. Also, will those intricately involved in the idea formation be willing to take a similar influential role in getting it done? And if they aren’t – then who will. These are just a few of the questions that will arise.

We have a unprecedented opportunity to take this place we live in … and make it a whole better for everyone. It’ll take more than just ideas though. That I believe will be the next step in the evolution of collaboration … or as I call it –  “Collaboration 2.0.”

I’d like to make this post a clearinghouse for ideas on how to develop this “implementation template” I alluded to. Please throw in your ideas in the comments on how we can do this. All input, pro or con, is greatly appreciated.

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You can find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg and on Google+

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Invest in the future … fund a ChangeMaker!

There ‘s been a lot of attention recently about the benefits of crowds. Everything is being crowdsourced. A project that wants to get crowdfunded, posts its project or idea on a website dedicated to soliciting small investments. These investments are often as small as ten dollars and seldom larger than a hundred. For your investment, you get a token of appreciation. This token could be a white paper, a shirt or anything else the project head wishes to give you for your support. There are also levels of appreciation which correspond to the level of your investment.

This whole crowdfunding thing got me thinking about when I was young in Minot, North Dakota (pop. 35,000) – where I grew up. When I was in high school, there was a professional golfer in town, Mike Morley, that was trying to hit the PGA tour. He had his tour card, but didn’t have enough money to go from event to event to compete. A group of Minot businessmen decided to back him and pay for his expenses. I don’t know the details of their arrangements, but I suspect that if Mike made money then they would participate in the spoils. This was kind of an informal local crowdfunding.

If we can participate in a new company or project through crowdfunding, why can’t we participate in the success of the individual themselves, like what happened with Mike – only even more esoteric. OK … work with me.

Meet the ChangeMakers

Imagine a web site or portal with a variety of different people on it, people looking for career assistance. For the sake of argument – let’s limit it to young people. Each of these individuals, let’s call them ChangeMakers – would have to put up a profile or online portfolio. These portfolios would be a “Here I am world, this is what I’m all about and why you should invest in me.” The portfolio could be an essay, it could be pieces of art, or a video or whatever vehicle the ChangeMaker wants to use to present themselves to the world.

All of these ChangeMakers would be put in a central virtual location where we, the investors, can find them. They could be organized by location, or life focus or even age. Each ChangeMaker would determine their own tokens of appreciation they wanted to give investors. Chances are, financial participation probably wouldn’t be one – but who knows.

Rather than just giving money to a faceless charitable cause (not that there’s anything wrong with that), you’d be investing in the future of an actual young adult, one that you could watch grow and progress through life – on one that you had a vested interest in. You could create a portfolio of ChangeMakers, not unlike an investment portfolio. You could diversify … or could you throw all your weight behind a single industry or group of ChangeMakers in a similar field.

Ingenious ChangeMakers wouldn’t limit the parameters of investment to just money either. They could solicit mentoring and expertise in their areas endeavour. If they were an artist, they could request studio space. If they are interested in public policy, they could request a legislative internship.

And on top of it, not only would these young ChangeMakers get the resources they need to jumpstart their future – they’d have to figure out what resources they need on their journey to success. This organizational prompt might be worth more than the assistance itself.

As we search for ways to reform schools and prepare our young for the future, we almost always overlook one of our greatest resources – our community. We look to the public sector for all the answers through political debate ad nauseam … when the solution is just down the street, or in the next town or on the other side of the country. But it’s never potentially further than a mouse click. I believe we all want to help and we all have the same goal – success for our young. But we just don’t have the vehicle to pull it all together, a vehicle where we can put a name and face to those that need our assistance – whatever assistance we may be able to give them.

I’d be interested in hearing your views on this idea I’ve been rambling on about. Maybe it’s just a pipe dream, but I don’t think so. Please give me some feedback.

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Wisdom from a 3rd Grader … “Boxes, Lockers and Islands”

I follow Sarah Hodsdon on Twitter. She’s a mixed media artist, author, DIY female McGyver and works in a bat cave … or at least that what her bio says. Maybe she does? Who am I to say. But what she really does is tweet about what her kids say – ages 7, 9 and 10.

I learn more from these three everyday by 8:00 am, than I do from all the gurus, experts and rockstars I follow all day. Their gift is to take complex sociological issues and boil them down in simple terms, in other words … we get to see the world through their eyes. The clarity they have, well … we could only hope for.

Well this me got thinking about when my daughter, Alexandria, was seven. Alex and I were living in Tiburon in northern California. At the time I was recruiting and living near my ex-wife’s family and I was having difficulty communicating with a member of her family.  Alex was in the middle of it.  She told me how she dealt with the … bone-headedness (her word not mine).  “You can’t think she’s like the people you work with.”

Alex has always been a master of metaphors. And this time was no different. She divided people up into “types.”  Each of these types were described according to how their brains worked (the big words are mine, but the descriptions still apply).

  • Boxes – with closed lids: Members of this archetype organized ideas and thoughts in large groups.  They had lots of different types of thoughts in a box and this person could easily put them together.  These people had more than one box also.  They could jump from one box to another, with effort, and sometimes they moved stuff to different boxes.  The close lids, however, made it kind of hard to move from one box to another, thus switching cerebral gears.  She said most people we dealt with had “Boxes – with closed lids.”
  • Boxes – with open lids: This is pretty much like the “Boxes – with closed lids,” except that the person could move between boxes, i.e. Meta thought groups, easily.  She said these people can be kind of hard to follow though.  It took practice to see the connections they they were trying to make.   I have “Boxes – with open lids.”
  • Lockers: People with lockers were organized.  And they had multiple lockers.  Everything was segmented in its place, more so than “Boxes.”  People with “Lockers” were perfectionists and didn’t jump to quick decisions unless it was a micro-decision and all relevant input was contained in that locker.  “It just took a while to open the lockers.”  Alex had “Lockers.”  (As she’s gotten older, I think she’s moved to “Boxes – with open lids”).
“The islands of the mind”
  • Islands: People with “Islands” existed in their own synaptic world.  “If you are on an  island how are going to be exposed to what other people are thinking?”  The word empathy doesn’t really exist.  There might be other islands out there that they can see … but if they can’t swim or don’t want to learn – they’re stuck in their own world, on their own island.  Our relative, the person in question – had “Islands.”  And as Alex said, “she’s not leaving her island anytime soon.”  We  just had to deal with her that way.
Now, let’s come back to 2011. There’s a million books on relationships and how to communicate with people.  But it all comes down to realizing that people are different and all our brains work differently.  Whether they have boxes, lockers or islands, you just have adapt your communication style accordingly if you want to get your point across. What works for you, doesn’t necessarily work for them. And you can’t really change them. If you don’t recognize … well, you won’t communicate.

But then again, there’s always help … maybe there’s 3rd Grader available.

P.S.  Check out my blog post “Who’s batting third in your line-up?” It’s Alexandria’s take on the same subject, thirteen years later at age twenty.  It’s worth it.

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If you like this … please Tweet it and follow me on Twitter @clayforsberg

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