Tactical Advice

Laying Bricks vs. Building a Cathedral in Business

June 12th, 2012

I believe a story that summarizes the Power of Vision really, really well is the story of The Three Bricklayers.

As the story goes, three bricklayers are working together, side by side in the hot summer sun.

A young child, passing by on his way home from school, stops and looks at the bricklayers. "What are you doing?", he asks.

The first bricklayer replies: "I'm laying bricks."

"And you?" Says the child. "What are you doing?"

The second bricklayer answers: "Feeding my family."

"I see." Said the child.

The third bricklayer is then asked the same question: "What are you doing?"

He responds.

"I'm building a cathedral."

Whether you are the CEO of your company, or the newest employee. Whether you've been there for years or it's your first day. Remember one thing: no one wants to go to work thinking they're laying bricks. People want to go to work knowing they're building a cathedral. People want to go to work knowing they're building something magnificent. Something that simply NEEDS to be built because without it the world would be worse off. Help one another see the cathedral you're building together. And someday, you may just step back and realize what you've built:



My Jiminy Cricket and The Power of Parkinsons Law

June 4th, 2012

I believe one of the most important things to remember when it comes to the topic of time management in business is Parkinson's Law: "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." It's my Jiminy Cricket when it comes to productivity.

Here are some examples of what I'm talking about:

If I were to ask you the question, "How long does it take to clean your room?" What would you say? A half-hour? One hour? Two hours? The whole day?

What if I told you you only had five minutes to clean your entire room?

Would you be able to get it done in the shorter timeline?

If I were to tell you at 9 AM on Monday morning that I'd like you to have the company Quickbooks account reconciled by 6 PM the same day, what time do you think you would finish reconciling the books?

What if I told you that you only had two hours to reconcile?

Would you be able to get it done in the shorter timeline?

It turns out that time can be a really funny thing. Sometimes, I'm sure you look back at the end of a day and wonder where the time went. Other times, I'm sure time seems to drag on and on and on and on. In the world of startups, it is likely 90% vs 10% in favor to things moving fast vs. slow. However, just because you think life is moving fast doesn't mean you're not falling victim to the effect of Parkinson's Law. It is likely you are.

Do this the next time you think about a project you'd like to get accomplished by day's end. Think about how much time you think you'll need to get the project done right. Now. Cut that time in half. Can you still get the project done right? Now. Cut that time in half again. Can you stillllll get the project done right? What would Jiminy say?

You'll often find that if you think a project will take four hours... it will end up taking four hours. If you think a project will take one hour... it will end up taking one hour. If you think a project will take five days... it will end up taking five days. No matter how big or small the task, if you set a time limit around a project, the task will often times occupy the space allotted.

So the next time you think about managing your time, and the next time you're looking to be "more efficient" or "move faster" or "be more productive"... just remember my Jiminy. Remember Parkinson's Law. It's the only "time management" lesson you'll ever need to know.


Where Can I Learn the Basics of SEO?

May 10th, 2012

Samuel Johns is the Sr. Marketing Associate of Organic Search at Vistaprint. Samuel is from Australia, and has a strong Australian accent. My only regret in life to this day remains not having been born in Australia so that I could have his accent. I bet it pulls in ladies.

Samuel is a highly respected Marketing leader in Boston. The man drops SEO knowledge like Little Boy on Hisoshima. Total destruction. He's a great guy to have by your side.

I asked him recently to help craft a blog post aimed at helping young people in Boston who were interested in learning about SEO. And without further adoo... Samuel writes:

It’s the question Ryan asked me and it is the question I get from a number of people wanting to learn more about SEO: 'Where is the best place for me to get a basic understanding of SEO?' The question gets asked so often that I’d created a stock standard email of the resources to send out to people. Below I’ve taken the standard contents from the email and elaborated on each of them a little bit. Hope you find it helpful.

1. Google: The big brothers of search

  • Google Guide to SEO: A guide to follow and easy to understand for any novice. A great place to start, in combinations with the SEOMoz guide listed below.

  • Google Webmaster tools: With anything, you only learn by doing. Google Webmaster tools allows you to start getting your hands dirty and will provide great insight into how your website is performing from an SEO perspective.

  • Google Webmaster Blog: Provides education and updates related to Webmaster tools.

  • Google Inside Search Blog - Worth checking out to learn about the history of Google’s changes to the algorithm and keeping up with new features they are launching. They’ll post every so often about a number of the updates made.

  • Youtube Videos: Matt Cutts is the Search Quality Specialist at Google (SPAM Police). He often answers common questions through some really simple and quick YouTube videos. Well worth looking through and seeing which ones are relevant to you.

2. SEOMoz: The founders of SEO education and thought leaders in the space: http://www.seomoz.org/

  • Web Version or PDF of the SEOMoz guide to SEO. It is quite possibly the best guide to SEO for any beginner. The original version of this was written 2 years before Google even published their first version. Hence why the Google version has a lot of the same elements as SEOMoz.

  • SEOMoz Learn SEO: In the right nav of the “learn SEO” page on SEOMoz.com has some of the best and basic gems related to setting yourself up for success by building the base.

3. SearchEngineLand: The one stop shop for SEO news and industry updates: http://searchengineland.com/

  • SEO Table of Elements: To get a quick snap shot of the elements and various functions within your company that can affect SEO. SearchEngineLand has created a periodic table of SEO elements. The table will help give you an overview of a number of SEO elements to think about.

4. Blogs to follow:

How was that? Do you now consider yourself an expert in SEO, or soon to be expert?

Feel free to ping across any questions you may have and remember to share any other helpful tools to get you find on getting started in SEO. Twitter: @samuel_johns


Put your pitch-er-ee on the spot

April 18th, 2012

This past Thursday I was invited to go to the Northeastern Entrepreneurship Club's Demo Day. At the event, over a dozen companies demoed their products and services to a crowd of hundreds of people. It was an awesome night, and I think serves as a great model for entrepreneurship and youth in the city of Boston. The gang at NEU have done a tremendous job over the past few years and everyone in the city of Boston takes notice. Great work guys. WOO WOOOO!

Now. I'm gonna throw some old knowledge at you that I'm sure you've heard a thousand times: it is important to pitch, and repitch, and repitch again in order to get better and better at delivering your value prop to others.

However, if you're having trouble figuring out what your value prop is in the mind's of your customers, try this: The next time that you pitch your company to someone, tell them before you start pitching that after you have finished speaking, you'd like them to repeat back to YOU the pitch you just told them.

I'll tell you what happens (or at least what I've seen happen).

By putting someone on the spot and asking them to pitch what you said back to you, you immediately grasp your viewers' attention like you've never seen before. It's like giving someone a test. It immediately grabs the other person's attention. They zone everything else out.

Now, say your pitch, and ask for them to say the pitch back. And get ready to take real good notes.

Almost always the pitch will be different than what you said. However, what is interesting (and what you should most certainly write down) are the SPECIFIC WORDS that the person chooses to repeat and emphasize back to you over and over again.

If it takes YOU (the entrepreneur) two sentences to deliver your pitch, it will likely take the person you are pitching four sentences or more. Pay close attention to the words that are repeated as they try to state the pitch back to you. Remember, you've said your pitch dozens if not hundreds of times, and your listener hasn't. Encourage them to keep going. Write their repeated words down. And thank them.

Run this exercise with a number of different people.

From what I've found, the words that consistently resonate with your customer base are the ones that are repeated more often than the words that are ignored. These are the words that resonate most with your customers. You should encourage the use of these words, and eliminate words that confuse people / are too "big" / are hard to pronounce / or are too scientific.

I've seen brave students get up in front of crowds of people and pitch their ideas. I've seen some do their homework, and I've seen some get slaughtered. And as someone who has done their homework before and also has been slaughtered before, I'm here to tell you it aint no thanggg. You learn from each pitch, and you move on. Get creative with new ways to learn from others when pitching so that you can get to your core value prop. If nothing else, some of the pitches you hear back will make you laugh!



“AND” not “BUT.” How one simple word can change conversations for the better

April 15th, 2012

Warning: This tip is a game changer. It is something you can actively do to change your life for the better starting today. And it involves the way you talk (and listen) to other people. Well I'lllllll beeeee...

Try this: Erase the word "BUT" from your vocabulary and replace it with "AND."

Here's why. The word "BUT" does a really unbelievable job of NEGATING statements. If your goal is to win someone towards your way of thinking, or to have a conversation that keeps the other person open (and not closed off or guarded), you need to replace your "BUTS" with "ANDS."

Here are some examples to articulate:

1. "Rachel. I think your idea is great, BUT I think we should spend some more time on this product launch."

Deciphered: Your idea actually kind of sucks, Rachel.

2. "Billy. You are doing an awesome job, BUT I think you need to focus on hitting your deadlines."

Deciphered: Billy. You're actually not doing an awesome job. You need to start taking deadlines seriously. And if you cant get your shit together, I'm going to be pissed. DAMNIT BILLY! DAMNITTTTT.

In these two cases, the BUT negates the first statement.

Now try this. Instead of using the word BUT, try the word AND.

1. "Rachel. I think your idea is great, AND I think we should spend some more time on the product launch."

Deciphered: Rachel, your idea is great. And we should spend some more time on the product launch because it's also really important.

2. "Billy, I agree you are doing an awesome job, AND I think he needs to focus on hitting his deadlines."

Deciphered: Billy. You are doing an awesome job. And if you could spend some more time focusing on timing and details, you'll hit your deadlines, and this will make me really happy.

The next time you have a team meeting and other people are talking to one another, remember this lesson. And listen for the word "BUT." It is often used. And when you hear it, pay attention to the way the person who is listening to the conversation responds. It is highly likely that they are put on the defensive. It is highly likely that they are more combative. It is highly likely that they become more guarded. The word "BUT" does not include. It negates. And it affects conversations in a significant way.

AND, not BUT. Try it.