Following business blogs leads to a lot of Apple references.

Which is interesting because they are 2nd to Samsung. Yet, Samsung isn’t mentioned all over. Why is that?

Some guesses:

  • Apple is American and the blogs are written in America.
  • Apple for all intents and purposes created the market that Samsung now dominates.
  • Apple has more fans, while Samsung has more customers.
  • Samsung is in a lot of different markets like TVs and other electronics, Apple only a few.

Budgets used to be a showstopper.

There are plenty of employees that want to move the company forward. It used to be that someone needed to approve all the line items. There weren’t a whole lot of things that were cost efficient. Want to help a large customer with a software prior to internet screen shares? The phone isn’t going to be efficient, so you’ll have to fly, or drive out there. That’s an entire day or longer, plus mileage, possibly airline tickets and maybe a hotel. You also have the opportunity cost of not being available for others in the office. It was a big decision, and a company couldn’t afford to do it all the time recklessly, they needed management.

Now, screensharing is possible. Want to help a customer? Schedule a screenshare for an hour and watch what they do. You are out roughly an hour plus a few minutes of scheduling time. No gas. No rental car. No meals.

It’s low cost. Your boss doesn’t need to approve it. Just doing it is an option. A budget is much less of an excuse today.

Most people don’t focus on the problem…

they focus on the constraints.

  • I need to make $XXX,XXX dollars in my career.
  • This marketing article needs to reach 10,000 people.
  • The cost needs to stay under a certain goal.
  • We have to ship in 2 weeks.

You get the point. People are more worried about the constraint than the problem. The people that truly care about the problem are the ones that amaze us. It’s Apple when they developed the original iPhone. It’s Tesla with the electric vehicles they make. It’s the best hamburger you ever had. They all had constraints of course, but they didn’t let them dominate the actual problem. They moved the constraints as needed, by shifting deadlines, raising more funds, or spending more on the ingredients than originally planned for the burger.

There are plenty of constraints around us, bending them is the work we have to do, but coming up with a great product is the reason we do it. Our customer’s don’t care about our constraints, they care about our products.

The value of grades.

Each school treats them differently.

Some schools have to protect their reputation handing out easy A’s.

Other schools have to have rigorous standards. Failing even smart people confirms that.

At the end of the day, the actual grade doesn’t matter, it’s what you do with the knowledge.

Always do your best, but make sure learning is the goal. Grades are secondary.

Selling the opportunity cost

In software, generally you’re selling efficiency. Sometimes people don’t see the value or believe that the efficiency gain is worth it.

One way to flip this is to not always focus on the gain itself, but what can be done with it. For example, if someone is saving 15 minutes a day per employee, the potential customer might do the math and take 0.25 hours/day * 250 working days/year * 100 employees * $20/hour average wage. Ending up with math that says they will save $125,000 per year. If your software costs $150,000 you’re hosed. Or so you might think.

There are only 2 likely ways the deal would happen in that scenario:

  1. Nepotism. You’re a family member of a board member or decision maker and they want to line your pockets. This is not a good way to do business.
  2. You add in the opportunity cost of that time as well.

Thinking about #2, that time saved is going to be replaced with something else. If that something else is valuable, then you’re back in business.

Here are some things that are common and highly valuable usage of time to use towards calculating the value of an opportunity cost:

  • Working on marketing materials
  • Negotiating with vendors for better pricing/terms/delivery
  • Connecting with new customers/keeping existing customers happy
  • Networking/Partnership Development
  • New Product Concepting
  • Coordinating internally between groups to improve results

Everyday we wake up and go to work, we’re choosing to do that over everything else we can do because it’s the highest value to achieve our goals (retirement, feeding our families, paying for a child’s college, etc.) Tasks at work are no different, but at times when we take away something to software, we need to have something more valuable to fill it. Figuring out what that is makes a good salesperson.

Decentralized Marketing

There is a shift that needs to happen. People need to learn to market what they do better, at an individual level, rather than a company one. Marketing is no longer a department, it’s a skill. A company’s marketing should be the collective efforts of a significant portion of their employees. Social shares. Articles written. Podcasts.

If a salesperson has a generous, valuable, creative idea to share with companies, why should he call them up one-by-one during the 9-5 hours to interrupt their work which is already stressful, when he can be more efficient by taking some time to work out his thoughts, record his ideas in an easy to follow along format, and allow the people he’s trying to serve to listen to it on their commute, or on a walk, or on a train ride home. He can sell the podcast recorded on his call, rather than a 20 minute conversation at a future date. Since it’s more flexible, it’s easier for the customer, and he can listen somewhere less stressful than the office with more time to pay attention. And as a bonus, they can revisit the conversation, share it with others and build consensus among their company. Your salesperson also gains 20 minutes back he wouldn’t have had before. More time to prospect and find more people to convince to listen.

If you have a significant number of employees making these contributions, you will win. You become a media company. Something to tune into to fill up the day. And eventually those who tune in will find something that resonates with them. It takes effort though. It also takes skill, and something valuable to say.

The marketing department for most companies, needs to become the media department. A centralized place where people can come for help when they need things like graphic design, sound editing, video editing, copy editing, etc. What was the marketing department is now a resource for everyone, and everyone is now the marketing department. You can make a difference for your company today, just get out there and do it.

The prequel and sequel

A prequel generally shares the guides story back when he was the lost character on his way to becoming a hero.

The sequel generally shows what was a triumphant hero, now stumbling due to a new problem.

Sequels have a reputation for being bad. And it’s likely because the stories we tell ourselves is that heroes have something special inside them, and once they find it, they are superior. Smarter. Stronger. They always have the advantage. People don’t like being confronted with reality, that even once you overcome a major obstacle, later in life you may face more. It’s exhausting just to think about that, let alone have to deal with it. As a result, we don’t like sequels. Of course, we could chalk it up to directors and budgets, but I think they don’t want to admit that fundamentally people don’t like the concept, which makes it harder to make a sequel people enjoy.

The reality though is if you can learn to deal with your sequels in life, you can continue to get stronger and stronger, just like the heroes in those sequels. Don’t focus on the next obstacle, focus on the opportunity to get better.

The biggest chance of success is versatility.

I’ve written about R. Buckminster Fuller’s theory on the great pirates strategies for success.

When it feels like our skillset isn’t adding up, it’s actually an opportunity. If you have versatility from various learning’s you have a broad range of knowledge and skills to build from. This is talked about in the book Range.

If you want to do something great, you shouldn’t be an artist. You shouldn’t be a marketer. You shouldn’t be salesperson.

You should be all of them. And you should do each of them by your own standards and values and share them with the people who have similar beliefs. By being versatile, you’ll be successful.

Average marketing spend of major automotive vs Tesla

Tesla spends $0 on ads. Toyota spends an estimated $2 billion. GM is nearly twice that of Toyota, despite being worth roughly 1/4 of Toyota.

What’s going on? You know who Tesla is and they are selling hundreds of thousands of cars. That’s only a fraction of the other two, still, their ad spend isn’t in line with their results. Beyond that, why is GM spending so disproportionate to Toyota?

There are a lot of factors here:

  1. Remarkability of product
  2. Sales Volume.
  3. Market and vehicle type.
  4. Executive Leadership decisions.

The difference between Tesla and the others is purely #1. The difference between the others is items #2-#4. If you want to spend less on ads, you need to make something that your customers will talk about or share.

Coddiwomple

“To travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination”

Most businesses coddiwomple. The means they employ, the policies they build, the sales they make are all purposeful, and yet where they are trying to get to isn’t clear.

Casting a vision is about taking that vague destination and making it clear. It’s important because if a business is coddiwompling, only it’s leader can add value. If you clear up the destination, then everyone has a map. Everyone can add value, even while the leader is sleeping.

The Flashback Episode.

Many long-running television series have flashback episodes. They put together clips of past events. Sometimes it’s even the series finale.

Creating enough work to create your “Flashback Episode” should be the goal. Sure, you may not make TV, but to be able to put together a greatest hits of your work, or an amalgamation of past projects is an accomplishment of it’s own. It’s amazing to have enough work already prepared that you can simply edit it together and call it another piece of work entirely. Daily effort is the key here.

The shortest route isn’t necessarily the fastest.

It’s only the fastest under the assumption of constant speed. Of course, the world has so many factors that accelerate and decelerate us. Motivation, interest levels in our works, current events, etc.

In physics, the Brachistochrone problem was a problem formulated to find what curve would give the fastest movement of a ball from point A to point B under the acceleration of gravity. The answer doesn’t come out to be a straight line.

Stop thinking in straight paths. Going from here to there in a straight line isn’t likely to reach your goal the fastest as you think. Instead, figuring out what accelerates you, while also not making your path too long is the goal. It’s a balance. It requires learning and adjusting.

What we sell was once a problem.

Every business starts out solving a problem. The difficulty becomes reminding people of that over decades. The collective attitudes of a business who has done the same thing for years moves from “we’re solving the problem of…”, to “this is what we sell, do you want it?”

And all that happens slowly. While no one is paying attention. It happens from personnel turnover. It happens from the building of systems and processes. It happens from becoming disconnected from the founder.

This is the path to dealing in commodities.

Commodities are difficult to sell on anything but price.

Commodities are a race to the bottom.

If you want to get back to solving problems, then perhaps you can break out of the commodities market. Perhaps it’s time to go back to the problem you solve, and consider what improvements you can make with the changes that have happened over that last couple decades.