Feb 08 2011

The Answer IS . . .

The Answer IS . . .


Whether you’re looking for better grades, improved cash flow, an investor, a loan, new customers, repeat customers, a new employee (or  job), new revenue streams, the exact right set of words for a branding themeline, or some trace of your ex-mother-in-law who changed her name and left town with the contents of your wall safe . . . your odds of success increase dramatically when you:



You might think that’s pretty basic advice, but my experience is that it least happens when you most expect it –especially with headstrong entrepreneurs.

It isn’t that business owners strut around with a know-it-all cockiness; it’s that they don’t want to waste time and it can often seem more productive to step out of a meeting, seminar, webinar, conference call, txtmsg exchange, or cocktail party, than to suck it up and stay there and have to ask questions (when time is perceived to be better spent, instead, taking action).

Does that ring a bell or am I just imaging things?

Entrepreneurs (and most men, it seems) have to be on the verge of total mental meltdown before they’ll ever stop to ask anyone for driving directions. It used to be the threat of embarrassment for being so dumb as to have gotten lost. Now. it’s more like cringing at the thought of getting a reply like: “Hey, man, you mean you ain’t got no GPS or MapQuest thing?”

Here’s the bottom line:

If you don’t ask for what you want,

or what you want to know, 

you don’t get it!

(Always? No, sometimes we get things by accident.) 


Oh, and asking questions is completely useless if you forget the answers. Write them down. Stop with all the excuses about how much time it wastes to write things out by hand on paper (assuming you actually still own a pen and can find some paper, and remember how to write ;<)).

When you write things down, you get them out of your head, create more think space, and deal better with the inevitable interruptions that occur within seconds of getting your question answered. Note taking is not only smart insurance that you’ll walk away with an undistorted idea of what you heard, it also communicates that you value and respect the source of the responses you get.

The answers to questions

are at the root of all progress.


If you’ve been focused on secondary research sources (like books, reports, and the Internet) as your primary decision making tools, you may want to get yourself out into the real world and ask real people real questions once in awhile. There’s nothing can compare with asking real customers what they really think, really listening to their answers, and really writing down what they say.

Formal focus groups? Perhaps. But just plain old informal questions (without rebuttals, defensive reasons, excuses, or “yes, but’s”) will serve the purpose just fine. You will walk away feeling gratified, maybe astonished, and definitely enlightened. So???  (That was a question.)


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931.854.0474    Hal@BusinessWorks.US

“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance!”  [Thomas Jefferson]

Thanks for visiting. Go for your goals! God Bless You.

Make today a GREAT day for someone!

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Nov 25 2008

Paper is still mightier than the email . . .





Literally?  Well, not unless it’s a tissue, or maybe a paper towel or napkin.  Figuratively, then?  Hey, you may be bright enough to stay employed after all.  Are you being a wise-guy?  Of course, this is a blog, isn’t it?  So what’s your point? 

     Unless you’re in a high-stress, time-crunch job location like the ER, the battlefield, the deck of an deep sea fishing trawler, an air-traffic control tower, or the floor of the stock exchange, anything that’s important enough for you to say is important enough for you to say in writing

[P.S. If you’re a tree-hugger worried about your green reputation going down the tubes because you use too much paper, stop reading here and have a nice day!] 

     Once you get your basic thoughts down, edit them carefully (sleep on them if possible), then deliver them in writing (or printout), on paper (or occasionally, online via email)! 

     Now, wait a minute, I’m just a landscaper; the only paper I handle’s a time sheet, and my brother says his company makes all decisions by email! Ah, all the more reason to carry a pen and pocket pad.  How many times a day are you interrupted?  How much of where you were, do you remember after a series of interruptions?

     Every minute that you spend taking notes on the boss’s instructions and putting your ideas down on paper is an investment in your self-success, and the success of your business.

     You simply won’t believe this until you do it consistently for 60-90 days.  But that time period will make a believer of you. 

     As for your brother’s email-crazed company, and my note earlier that occasionally online communications work, is not a condemnation of email.  It is a warning flag that when you email important ideas, you are suggesting they are not so important because you’ve presented your thoughts in the mad rush, snap decision making “delete/save/file/reply” environment that emails breed. 

     Even when an important communication is carefully constructed and edited, it can fail because it was zipped off without enough attention to proper subject line wording, or careful thought given to the who’s who of Cc’s and Bcc’s, or just because the use of email can give the impression that the contents are not well thought out and have been shot from the hip. 

     Sometimes being more personal is better.  I hand deliver proposals to clients when possible because I can be there to see their faces and judge responses they may not express in an email reply or even a telephone discussion.  

     You can read and hear words in a response, but when you can’t see the facial expressions, the posture and the attitudes involved, you’ve only got half the answer.  How confident would you be of making a sale the customer agrees to while hand signaling or winking derisively to a co-worker as you’re babbling away to them on their speakerphone.  And emails are even more distant.

     Whether you’re a contractor making a mental “punchlist,” a law enforcement officer reconstructing an accident scene, an engineer struggling with an architect‘s lack of reality, an administrative or salesperson working with other’s deadlines and expectations, or a physician explaining a procedure to a patient, put it in writing! 

     By writing out what you observe, hear, think or propose, or by drawing a diagram to explain yourself you are taking giant steps toward improved communications.  Improved communications win job promotions, bonuses, customers, comeraderie, industry and professional attention, and management (and, yes, even family) support.  halalpiar

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