Adventure is not an activity, it is a state of mind

Leaders & Honesty

Leaders must not merely tell the truth.  They must find the truth.

The Changing Face of Retail

I wrote an article last year predicting that more and more manufacturers were going to begin to sell direct in response to a few different converging trends, mainly pointed on the fact that information is so accessible that the idea of a middleman is becoming extinct.

surfacestore1Retail is an outdated concept.  The old model of a merchant buying products from a manufacturer at a lower price than a consumer and then selling those products at a mark-up is becoming extinct.  (especially in this economy, see CompUSA, Circuit City) More and more retailers are having to differentiate their offerings through a blend of experience and services.

This week, Microsoft confirmed rumors that they were going to start opening up direct retail brick & mortar stores.  While many manufacturers have been selling direct online for years, they’ve been hesitant as they’re essentially competing with their channel partners.  I imagine we’ll see manufacturers worry less and less about this as time goes on.  It doesn’t mean all retail is dead, it just means that the old notion of what a retailer is defined as, is going to change.

Take Apple for example.  While they’re a manufacturer who sells direct, they still sell 3rd party manufacturer’s software and accessories.  Microsoft will probably do the same, so it’s interesting to see top manufacturers who will probably become huge channel retailers as well.

The Problem With Experts

We can all agree that it’s important to distinguish between real experts and those posing to be experts. People look to experts for advice on any number of subjects.

I remember sitting in class at the University of Texas where I majored in Government, and looked over one of my professor’s accomplishments. He was a Harvard grad, wrote dozens of articles which had been published, and even co-authored a book on a subject he was expert on. The one thing missing from this list of accomplishments was any actual experience in politics, government, or international relations. He was a student ALL of his life. His ideas and points of views were all molded by other people’s experiences. He may have known more than most people about politics and how government technically works, but does he really have the authority to call himself an expert if he’s never spent any time in the field? Is he familiar with the nuances that goes into every day decision making, or is he going off a hunch?

In my field today where my company sits at the bleeding edge of the intersection between social and commerce, I am surrounded by so called experts. They are experts of web 2.0, social media, and any other term you can think of that’ll make a Twitter lover salivate. Yet you ask one of these experts how to effectively create a program that will drive sales through social applications, and you will get answers that are far more chimerical than actionable.

I’m sure everybody has had experience with these types, but we’ve also all been fooled by them. Next time you talk to somebody who mentions they’re an expert, dig beneath the surface; you never know what you might find. Remember that false expertise is usually hidden behind the cloak of broad generalizations and limited experiences.

Sean Hannity, so-called Economics expert, who never graduated college and has been in radio his entire career

Cut Through The Clutter

Have it your way. Talk all you want. Converse on Twitter. I do it too.

But at the end of the day, results speak for themselves. Networking by conversing on Twitter is plain and simple, a terrible way to network. Look at the top people on Twitter based on followers. The majority of them have created real-life tangible results that are changing the world. Are they using Twitter the same way you are?

Information overload2511539541_b8c0356486

Everywhere I turn these days, I am inundated with advertising. Everybody wants my attention. Brands try to reach me on television, online, when I’m on the bus, listening to the radio, and even when I’m working out in the gym.

Lately, I’ve been swarmed by personal branding. When I’m on Twitter, I feel like a I’ve walked in to a storm of terrible personal branding. Everybody has a platform, wants to be heard, and yells in my ear. It’s like coming to a party where there’s no host, everybody’s screaming, and the only thing that matters is what kind of car you drive, or in Twitter’s case, how many followers you’ve amassed.

I could talk for hours about my wrestle with Twitter. Is it worth my time if I’m trying to have an information-light diet? Is there a real ROI? What is the value if almost everyone on there is selfish and I don’t have any real experiences with 99% of my followers?

As Alana Taylor puts it, Twitter satisfies “the selfishness of being famous, the greed of wanting instant results, the need to speak and be heard, the freedom and equality in being able to take part in a conversation no matter your economic or social status”.

So, if everyone is on Twitter for their own benefit, then is there an extremely attractive ROI from it? I think there are other ways to build your brand in a more tangible and meaningful way. It’s one that may not garner you Twitter followers, but it’s one that will expand your network of people who have had more memorable experiences that cut through the clutter of noise on the web.

Network by doing


What a concept! It speaks for itself, but it’s simplicity is the core of it’s power. By getting involved and taking action, you will create incredible relationships that have amazing value. The relationships you can create by taking action will far exceed any Twitter relationship you can make. What are some ways to make this happen?

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Your Personal Branding Business Model

One of the most important aspects of creating a personal brand, is first attempting to determine what your goals are. Are you trying to become the President of the United States, the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, a serial entrepreneur, a social activist? This will certainly help you understand how to frame your brand, how to develop it, and how to continually move you towards your end goals.

In order to do this systematically, you should think of your personal brand just as a company does of it’s own brand; like a business.


It starts with the product

That’s right, it starts with the person. After all, it is a personal brand, and you ARE the product. Write down how you want to be defined. What are the attributes of your product. Are you innovative? Are you a trendsetter? What are your specialties? If you were sitting on a shelf at a store, why would someone choose you over the competition?

Make sure you can deliver

Great customer service defines companies. It also defines you. Great customer service means you are servicing people who have already given you a chance. That means creating deep, meaningful relationships. It involves listening as much as it involves talking and responding.

Personal service involves great follow-ups with great communication.

You have to remember that your customers have immense power, and if you service your following correctly, they should be creating word of mouth for you. If they’re not, then you need to either re-vamp your product or your customer service.


Finish Strong

I received great advice the other day from my friend and boss, Brant Barton. “Finishing strong is more important than how you start”.

It took me a while to really understand how true his advice was.  Common wisdom says you need to make a good first impression. First impressions leave a lasting memory, right? Even a simple Google search for advice on first impressions, and you’ll be flooded by advice on all sorts of “rules”, “tips”, and even videos.  Try the same search for finishing strong and you’ll probably be underwhelmed.

However, I did find one result which was particularly fascinating.  It’s by a man named Nick Vujicic.  Nick Vujicic was born with no arms or legs, but is using his disability to inspire people.  He gives  a very moving speech called “Are You Going To Finish Strong?”.   I suggest giving this a watch; It’s only two minutes and forty seconds long and it may get you to think differently about life and how you approach problems. 

The most interesting thing to me is, that we HAVE been taught to finish strong, but finishing strong takes more effort.  That makes it harder advice to listen to. Finishing strong involves hard work, concentration, and a clear focus on an end goal.

Think about it from the athlete’s point of view.  What’s more important to the athlete, how they start the race or how they finish?  For the corporate executive, is it more important to start a presentation correctly or to finish strong?  What do you think would create a more lasting memory?   While the start IS important, the finish is everything.  It determines whether you win the race or lose.  It determines whether you get the sale or don’t.

A good start will help you get to the finish line faster, but without a strong push at the end,  you’ll come up short.