“Colleague” or “Competitor”?

To “Friend” or Not to “Friend”

A former client, now friend – we’ll call him Charlie – called me for some advice on an interesting dilemma:  Since Charlie’s recent TV interview has gained a good bit of online publicity, several people from within his industry have requested to connect with him via Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin (like many of us, he also has an active blog and YouTube channel). The thing is, Charlie works in an industry with loads of competition – in fact, in his town alone there must be 100 other companies that do what he does … and they’re all vying for the same local and regional clients. So in Charlie’s small world, “colleague” is often synonymous with “competitor.”

Here is Charlie’s concern:

  • “I’m very selective about whom I connect with on Facebook. I use it mainly for personal stuff. But what if I ‘friend’ someone who steals my business ideas?”

In this post I’ll address his concerns. I expect several of you will feel compelled to chime in. As always, I invite and value your comments.


Create Your World

In the social media universe, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and YouTube are the big four. Each has extensive privacy controls to make you highly visible to the world, completely INvisible/inaccessible, or something in between. Decide what’s right and best for you. We’ll use Facebook as an example here:

Make the choice:Join Driven to Excel on Facebook

a. my Facebook presence is strictly personal
b. my Facebook presence is strictly professional
c. my Facebook presence is rated “E” for everyone


If you choose to go fully public as a representative of your business, give some thought to creating a social media strategy that feels right for you and is aligned with your mission. You could post daily, weekly or monthly updates, sharing videos and articles like I do. Once you’ve made your choice, the path becomes clear and moving forward will be easier. For a live example of these easy-to-follow guidelines, CLICK HERE.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s move on to Charlie’s main concern.


I don’t wanna give away my best stuff!

Top SecretSocial media has created an interesting dilemma for many of us, especially [Read more…]

Does Online Video Matter for You?

Leveraging Online Video for Business (Part 2)

Good for you! You’ve chosen to look at leveraging online video for business. So what’s next? Where to begin?

Well, here are 6 quick tips on strategy and best practices…

1. K.I.S.S.²

  • Keep it SimpleFlip Camera

There are a number of easy-to-use cameras on the market. I chose The Flip – not only is it super easy to use, with only 7 buttons and a built-in, flip-out USB connection for your computer, but the video and sound quality are excellent. (When, instead, you decide on wanting a professional to do the taping and editing, contact me. I’ll have some referrals for you.)

  • Keep it Short

As I mentioned in “Part 1,” it seems we all suffer from A.D.D. when we’re sitting at our computers. Before hitting the play button, most of us will look to see how much time we’ll have to commit to watching a video. So keep it short. Anything under 2 minutes seems to be perfect. I do recommend an extended version for those who decide they want to see more of you. Aim for 5 to 10 minutes for the longer version (Note: YouTube limits your uploads to 15 minutes in length.)

2. Be You … Times 5

You can’t fake authenticity. Instead of trying to be someone you’re not, simply embrace the real you. Not everyone is going to “connect” with you and that’s OK. Wouldn’t you rather do business with [Read more…]

How to Eliminate “Experience Wreckers”

Could you possibly be annoying your clients?

Are you annoying your clients or prospects?

Recently, I was waiting for a haircut and couldn’t help but notice an annoying sound – a fuzzy, static-filled radio station. The salon was playing (well, attempting to play) music and its radio reception was terrible. In fact, it was downright annoying and distracting. I gave up trying to read my magazine and found myself thinking, Doesn’t anyone else notice this? Have the owners and employees become numb to it? They must know this isn’t good for business. Should I say something?

Why is this a big deal? A salon’s #1 job is to create an experience for its clients. Whether consciously or unconsciously, we (the clients) are taking in the sights and sounds, smells and textures of every business we enter. All these things – small and large – contribute to our experience. It’s easy to see how static-spewing speakers will make a negative impression. Problem is, many businesses don’t see these annoyances as a big deal. Some may have initially, but then become numb to the problem.


Doesn’t anyone else notice this? Should I say something?

I remember having dinner with friends on the patio of a nice local restaurant a few summers ago. We couldn’t believe how heavy and, therefore, how loud their big iron patio chairs were. Every time we – or any other patio guests – scooted our chairs in our out, it was like nails on a chalkboard. Big, heavy, iron nails. All we could do was laugh at how ridiculous – and preventable – this was. What an oversight!

Movie theaters have caught on…

What do your clients have to overcome –or endure — in order to fully experience your company and its products or services?

Take a cue from movie theater owners. They understand the seriousness of “experience wreckers.” Over the years, we’ve seen theaters become more soundproof, so you don’t hear the action thriller playing next door while you’re trying to enjoy a romantic comedy. We now enjoy an unobstructed view of the screen because the owners installed expensive tiered seating. They’ve even created clever and entertaining ways of telling us to silence our own cell phones.

Here are a few more annoyances you may have experienced for yourself:

  • A wobbly table and/or chair
  • Trouble finding a company’s phone number on its website
  • A busy front door that slams shut each time, instead of closing gently
  • A ceiling fan blowing cold air directly on you
  • An offensive odor
  • Overhearing inappropriate language from employees
  • Sun in your eyes from a poorly shaded window
  • A shrill, constantly-ringing business telephone
  • A cold rush of air every time another patron enters
  • A loud electronic door chime
  • Sticky floors
  • And, perhaps worst of all, deafening silence


What do all the above examples have in common?

[Read more…]

Business Leadership & Social Media

Understanding, Harnessing and Leveraging the Power of Social Media for Business Leadership

If 80% of success is showing up, then how are you and your company showing up … online? Do you keep hearing about “leveraging social media for business” but see challenges in connecting the dots? And what’s your social media policy for the workplace: do you discourage it or embrace it? Does your website fall into the category of static … or is there some level of freshness and interaction?

Social Media is not the future of business leadership … it’s the now.

The Compelling Numbers

300,000 = the number of new Twitter users EACH DAY!
400,000,000+ = the number of Facebook users
60,000 = the number of people you are 2 degrees from, on Linkedin, with only 250 connections
70% = the number of Facebook users outside of the United States
2,000,000,000 = the number of YouTube Videos viewed EACH DAY
24 = Hours of Video uploaded to YouTube each MINUTE
35+ = Fastest Growing Age Group on Facebook and Twitter [Read more…]

How “Warm” is Your Company?

Do your clients want to do business with a person, place or thing?

In last month’s article, I included the phrase “… referrals are where it’s at!” A loyal reader replied to me with an e-mail that read, “Not that I’m knit-picking, but it should be ‘referrals are where it is!’ … Unless you are writing colloquially, which it appears to be the case.” Maybe that guy was onto something …

There are two schools of thought on the topic of business etiquette. One school tells us to remain completely professional at all times, while the other says, “C’mon man, loosen up a little!” Is it possible to be friendly and warm while remaining professional? Absolutely! Why is this important? Because by and large, “loosening up” (a.k.a. “warming up”) is becoming a requirement if you want to attract and retain more business.


4 Tips on Warming Up Your Brand

1. People do business with people they like AND people like people like themselves.
Who are your clients? Perhaps more important, what type of client do you want to attract? If your clientele is completely “buttoned up,” then the loosened up approach may not be the best. (This should only apply to a few of you.) The rest of us, however, are dealing with everyday people; people who want to deal with … everyday people. So how can you be perceived as more of a “real” person?

2. Be Accessible
In a recent video message, the wildly successful (and always-charismatic) wine expert and branding guru, Open Door Policy (Humorous)Gary Vaynerchuk, shared his insights on “consumer expectations” and advises that your clients want to know and feel that you are accessible.

Here’s an example we can all relate to: Just a few years ago, it was a big deal to have contact with your favorite author. Now, personal replies from famous writers are becoming the norm (I’m in touch with several). If your clients can reach out to their favorite author and receive a response, shouldn’t they be able to reach you? Gone are the days of burying your phone number and e-mail address in the basement of your [Read more…]

r u “There” ?

How “Human” is Your Customer/Client “Experience?”

4 Tips to Recapturing Some of the Good Ol’ Days

The mother of a 13-year-old told me a very interesting story. After she encouraged him to do so, her son wrote a thank-you card to his grandmother in response to a recent gift he’d received … he wrote it with pen and paper in text language!

“Tx grnma 4 the awesome new fone. Mus’ve cost u alotta $$. U rock!”

According to Nielsen*, “During the second quarter of 2008, a typical U.S. mobile subscriber placed or received 204 phone calls each month. In comparison, the average mobile customer sent or received 357 text messages per month.”

Did you know that we experience 1/20th the number of human interactions today, as compared to just 20 years ago? Put another way, Baby Boomers grew up with 20 times more human interactions than Generation Y (approximate current ages 9 to 29).

While this is certainly startling, it’s also clear as to why it’s so true. Often, when I hear a Baby Boomer say, “These kids today!” what I’m hearing is a frustration around a “disconnect” that they’re feeling.

How is it possible that we only have a twentieth of what we had just 20 years ago, with regard to human interaction? [Read more…]

It’s All About Who You Know

 5 Tips to discovering valuable connections

With only 130 connections on LinkedIn (at the time of this writing), I’m within 2 degrees of 9,800 people! (…3 degrees away from 864,000 people!)

In 2006, a former client invited me to join a leadership breakfast group that he’d founded 15 years prior. Within a few months of joining, I met my future co-founders of the YPLG (Young Professionals Leadership Group). By attending these monthly leadership meetings, I continue to meet like-minded professionals and always walk away with fresh ideas on training and business development.

I purposely did not use the word “networking” in the headline. Why not? For many people, that word carries a stigma, conjuring up images of a room full of “Me Monsters;” business-card-dispensing salespeople, all with dollar signs in their eyes, engaging in cheesy, superficial conversations.

While many of us have had awkward or even unpleasant experiences with networking, it doesn’t have to be that way. Whether you already make networking a part of your business development or it’s the last thing you feel comfortable doing (even though you know you should) here are five tips designed for making valuable connections:

1. Showing Up is 80% of Success

While online networking is important, nothing compares with face-to-face meetings. Sure there have been times that I didn’t feel like attending an event, but each and every time I reminded myself that I had nothing to lose and everything to gain and went anyway, I met some excellent people. If nothing else, it’s a nice way to remain top-of-mind within your locale.

2. Pitch That Elevator Pitch

You know the scene: Everyone is talking and no one is really listening. Fact is, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. You could theoretically deliver your elevator pitch to a hundred people in order to meet just one that would bring you new business, either directly or indirectly. Why play with those odds? Instead, here’s a way to engage in a conversation with a stranger and still make relevant points about your business:

Ask for a story and listen well. Say, “Will you share a story with me, about a client you’ve recently helped?” The other person will always oblige.

  • You’ll understand what they do and maybe even why they do it;
  • You’ll develop a much better sense of what type of person they are;
  • You’ll get them onto new conversational ground, and away from the same old script;
  • You’ll learn how to position your story, making it relevant for them.

3. There are no competitors, only partners

People are always asking me who my competitors are. My answer is always the same – “There are no competitors, only partners.” We live in an abundant world. There is enough for everyone. For example, it doesn’t matter that our Young Professionals Leadership Group includes two or three financial advisors as members. They can learn from each other … and do. Besides, any given member will connect with one of them more than the others, when it comes to doing business together or referring leads.

I’ve traded lots of great ideas with many people in my industry, butI’ve never considered any of them to be my competition. I’ve noticed that, in the end, we tend to attract clients that are just right for us.

4. Join Non-Networking Groups

Not a fan of structured networking groups? Do what I do. Join “non-networking” groups. I attend three separate monthly leadership breakfasts. We’re all there to share strategies for success. When you’re surrounded by dozens of like-minded individuals, networking occurs … naturally. Fact is, any time you’re surrounded by a group of people, it’s an opportunity to make valuable connections. As you attend those holiday parties and friendly gatherings, make an effort to talk with someone you don’t yet know that well. More often than not, you’ll be glad you did. What do you have to lose?

5. We Should Really Do Lunch

When you make a valuable connection, set up a follow-up appointment for coffee or lunch. This allows you to pursue more focused conversations than those had in large group settings, meet more people, and can lead to stronger associations.


Our world is a richer place for the many connections we make along life’s path. Like bestselling author Bob Burg always says, “All things being equal, people will do business with and refer business to those people they know, like and trust.”

[Originally posted 12/17/08]