7 Trends That Can Actually Help Us!


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Text of lengthy article written by Glen Cooper of GlenCooperColorado.com on 7 current business trends, 2 fundamentals, and 6 steps for reducing stress.

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7 Trends That Can Actually Help Us!

  1. 1. DRAFT OF 1/30/2011The Future of Business:7 Trends That Can Actually HelpUs!By Glen J. Cooper, CBI, CBA, BVALBusiness & Professional Coach, Intermediary, Appraiser and SpeakerToday’s chaotic times can be good for us. We are being forced to change. Change is good when wehave what it takes to fix things.I’m confident that we have what it takes. But, our fellow business owners – and we professionals whoserve them – need help. Many are doubtful about the future. Nearly all are chronically stressed.In abbreviated chart form below are seven trends I see, the changes I think they are causing, and what Iam doing to fix things in my world, as I invite you to join me in many collaborative efforts. Trends Changes Fixes Change is getting faster Nobody is keeping up Slow down, deal with stress Science & tech. driving change Significant breakthroughs ahead Choose lifetime learning People want more control Custom products/services 24/7 Adopt “crowd sourcing” Relationships are multiplying Friendship, trust mean most Drop the “Elevator Pitch!” Transparency, accountability up We can’t hide our mistakes Brand with our true stories Ideas, information are now free Intellectual capital is fleeting Invest in systems & teams Collaborators are winning Complexity forces cooperation Partner up with the bestWe can use today’s trends, and the changes they are forcing us to make, to help us fix ourselves, ourbusinesses and the ways we use technology. Trends and changes can also help us to get started now!I want to invite everyone reading this to join me in a local effort here in Colorado, so that we can form alocal network of like-minded advisors to business owners and other professionals who care aboutpredicting future business trends, achieving work/life balance, learning self-coaching techniques andhelping ourselves and others build valuable businesses and professional practices.To get help, in my opinion, we must, first, become aware of trends around us, and the changes they arecausing. Awareness, step one, requires an open mind.In addition, we need to recognize at least two fundamental truths. When changes come too fast, we needa solid foundation of truth. Knowing fundamentals – knowing the truth - requires experience andwisdom. 1
  2. 2. Finally, we must learn to question, listen, facilitate and collaborate. This is a fundamental way to buildrelationships. It is as ancient as the village community and as modern as the online community.Most of us, unfortunately, only learn to question, listen, facilitate and collaborate when we have to. Mostof us just talk too much, including me! Learning to question, listen, facilitate and collaborate requireslots of practice. This is really what coaching is all about, and is why I refer to myself as a business andprofessional coach now.Coaching ourselves and others through tomorrow’s trends and changes, while keeping our ownfundamentals straight, is a tough job. New economic realities call us to build better relationships withothers. But, new personal realities call us to rebuild the relationship, first, with ourselves.Nearly 60 years of continuous economic improvements in the U.S. (1947-2007) distracted us fromnoticing important changes, understanding key truths, and making many improvements we needed tomake.If we need a purpose, a mission statement or an action plan, this is it: We must sharpen our awareness,get in touch with truth, and start reconnecting, reinventing and rebuilding.American author Michael Gerber (of E-Myth fame) said years ago, “The purpose of a business is to giveits owner more life.”Well, the purpose of our careers as business advisors is to give us more life. A better life is one livedconsciously, truthfully and in relationship, or so I believe.Simply by starting today to examine and discuss the trends that are pushing and shoving us around is away to get back on a path to recovery for ourselves and our fellow entrepreneurs.Let’s All Take a Deep Breath; Look at Two FundamentalsEverything we need is within reach, but we also need some “quick wins”Some of us would like to deny many of the changes we feel being pressed upon us, push back againstthem, or, if we must, compromise only slightly with them. We may be confused, frightened, or maybejust sad, that things are changing so fast.“If the pace would just slow down, so we could catch up!” we say, even though we know that’s notgoing to happen. The daily messages we’re expected to absorb just keep increasing, don’t they?Others of us are beyond a normal level of confusion, fear and sadness. We’re in full-out “panic mode.”We find ourselves choosing “urgencies” because that’s all we have time for. “There’s no long-runwithout a short-run,” we tell ourselves. We don’t have time to work on the longer-term tasks. We havegot to get today’s “to do” list done today!And, oh my, what a “to do” list it has become! No time even for all the “urgencies!” 2
  3. 3. When we take any time out to attend a business conference or listen to someone, we ask: “Please just tellus how to close more sales tomorrow!”“Make it short, too,” we say. “We haven’t got all day! We need to know the most important things youhave to say within the first few minutes! Get right to the takeaways please.”Sounds familiar, right?Well, let’s all take a deep breath! In fact, let’s all do that right now.(BREATHE DEEPLY HERE)Now, let me remind you of something we’ve all heard, but may have forgotten:Everything we need is within reach. Yes, it’s true!That’s one of those ultimate truths of religion, philosophy AND science. It’s not just found in quotationsfrom ancient scriptures and philosophical writings, it also now verifiable by objective scientific method.Indeed, today, it’s even intuitive common sense. At least electronically, we can reach everything,whether we need it or not!And, no matter where we want to go, we all have to start from where we are. So, learning to embrace“what is,” and start from that position where we are, it seems to me, is the whole point in understandingthat “everything we need is within reach.”In fact, I can almost hear the voices of religion, philosophy and science practically shouting at us: “Hey,quit complaining! Start from where you are! Everything you need is within reach! What are you waitingfor?!”Now what I mean by this – that everything we need is within reach – may be different than what youmean. For me, it is a matter of faith AND practical everyday reality. I suspect, however, that for mostbusiness advisors, it seems easier to take it as a faith principle than it does to utilize it in daily actions.It’s a bit more complicated in real life, isn’t it? To realize that everything we need is within reachrequires that we are willing to accept “what is.” Some people just can’t. Some of us just want to argueabout what “should be.”It has been called an “American myth” that anyone can accomplish anything they want if they just workhard enough. While that IS clearly a myth for those unable to work, including those who are hopelessand disheartened, that doesn’t give us a reason not to re-affirm for ourselves that we can, indeed,accomplish anything we want, if we CAN work and are NOT hopeless and disheartened!Knowledge and relationships are the currency of the day. We, literally, have a nearly free and endlesssupply of these resources – within reach – everywhere around us.Another basic concept we need to fully comprehend is a bit trickier to grasp and employ: 3
  4. 4. We all need “quick wins.”Frankly, until recently, I didn’t fully understand this one myself. I was prejudiced against anything thatseemed too good to be true, and distrustful of anything that came too easily. I was suspicious of anyonewho suggested anything less than “big wins.”When I first read about “quick wins,” I assumed it meant small, inconsequential wins. “Why wouldanyone aim for a quick win instead of a big win?” I asked myself.I have come to understand, however, that long-term change is brought about by people who also getshort-term gains, or “quick wins,” when they take the steps toward a long-term change.Most entrepreneurs, we know, get “quick wins” just thinking about what they want to do. The businessdream alone is intoxicating to them.We business advisors get quick wins when we get a call-back, an appointment, an engagement, a signedcontract, a check, or when we make a well-received speech, complete a successful workshop, or evenjust receive a sincere “thank you” along our journey, from a client, customer or fellow professional.Since little has been written about “quick wins,” however, let me explain even further.We short-term-thinking humans seem to be only just beginning to learn that long-term success does,indeed, usually come in small daily victories (gradual, one-day-at-a-time, short-term changes). That’sthe way reality works almost all the time. People – including ourselves – just don’t change quicklyenough to make it work in any other way.Ambitious and noble “big win” goals are great, but we only sustain long-term efforts to achieve themwhen we allow ourselves to enjoy the effort over time, by enjoying incremental “quick wins” that buildor maintain our momentum as we move toward the goal.For human beings to get motivated to work for a longer-term goal, we must be able to respect, nurtureand celebrate the “short-term” things we can do about it today. Without adopting the structure of “quickwins” into what we plan and do, we make promises we can’t keep. We fail to meet our goals.The personal New Year’s resolution is blown after the first week, for example, when we do not allowourselves a daily reinforcing “reward” for staying the course. In the same way, any business plan iscompromised immediately when people implementing it are not able to do daily things about it that offereach of them joy in the journey toward that goal.These two fundamental concepts – that everything we need is within reach and that we all need quickwins – are not easy concepts to learn or practice, but if learned, their implications are compelling.If we truly want to fix things and be successful, we must remember these fundamentals as we observethe trends that are forcing us to change.Remembering fundamentals directs our attention to the right questions that need asking in any changingsituation. 4
  5. 5. The answers, we will find, are mostly within us, individually and collectively, if only we will askquestions and listen for answers. “Quick wins” can come from every meeting and individual encounterin which we employ probing questions and active listening. Facilitating such experiences as wecollaborate with others can give us a “quick win” nearly every time.There are always solutions within our reach, but most of us are largely unaware of just what to reach for,and we are lousy at reaching. In fact, we are overwhelmed today by too many choices and we often tendto retreat into distractions.To “fix” both ourselves and our firms, we must fully understand how this obvious human characteristicof ours – this need for ‘quick wins’ – can be anticipated, planned for, engaged and utilized. Most of thetime it is circumvented, denied, papered over, or buried under a “big win” strategy that has no satisfyingdaily action plan. We nearly all devise “action plans” that are too immediately ambitious, settingourselves up for longer-term failure.There are, in my opinion, several worldwide business trends that will dramatically affect our future, thatare changing both what we might reach for, as well as how far we can reach.Most of us know the trends, and are even part of them, but have not given enough consideration to howthey are dramatically altering our lives. The trends, it seems to me, are actually expanding the number ofsolutions available to us.Some of these trends are new. Some just seem like new versions of longer-term trends that have beencontinuing for many years, but are now being accelerated or even transformed. I categorize the trends Isee in seven categories, but because they overlap, and are entwined with each other, how they arecategorized or numbered is not important.There’s nothing magic, either, about the number seven. Trends can easily be broken down further intomany separate trends-within-trends. I consolidate the list to just seven categories to make it simpler.We all seem to be at a crossroads. Do we try to re-establish what we had, or do something different?Shall we ignore change, fight it or shall we observe the trends and utilize the changes to fix what’swrong?In my opinion, we should use the energy and momentum of current trends to fix what needs fixing.Think of martial arts training. Even if we don’t like the direction things are going, we still want to usethe energy of that direction if we can.We urgently need to change our lives for the better, make money now, get technology under control, andstart today.What Are the 7 Trends?Trends impacting us today, and maybe even more tomorrow 5
  6. 6. The ways of doing business appear to be changing so fast that many now in business will NOT be ableto survive. But, as in all other eras of change in history, some of us will prosper! This time, I think, thosewho pay attention to trends will be most likely to prosper from that awareness alone.Here’s my list of seven trends that I am trying to get on top of myself (it’s not easy!), which I wouldurge all to consider: 1) Change, itself, is getting faster. The rate of change in almost every field seems to be accelerating. No matter which future economic scenario proves correct (either bad times or good times ahead), it will bring more change. Social norms, business practices, as well as government policies, rules, regulations, tax laws and priorities at all levels, and all around the world, appear to be changing constantly now. No one is keeping up. Some are pretending to. A major result, that most of us are still in denial about, is that rapid change is stressful and we now have a chronic stress crisis in our world that is getting worse. Too much stress is leading to very bad decision making on every level. We must do something about it now. 2) Science and technological advances are driving these changes. People are dramatically altering their “workstyles,” and “lifestyles” – and therefore their working and purchasing habits – with each new turn of science and technology. Scientific and technological change rates have reached a critical point. New discoveries are now increasing exponentially. The “great recession” has delayed and hindered some of our progress, but the advances being made today are truly astonishing and the significant breakthroughs appear to be increasing in number. 3) Individuals are demanding more control of their experiences. This applies to us, our clients as well as our colleagues. People are expecting differentiated experiences, products and services designed just for them, delivered directly to them, researchable and accessible through any communication channel they choose, available 24 hours a day, every day. It’s always been wise to listen to the customer. Right now, they’re demanding it, and shoving aside those who aren’t listening. Our colleagues (partners and staff) are also demanding more. The workforce of the world – including the one in our own office – is changing quickly. 4) Individual and group relationships are multiplying. Being accessible, listening and asking questions are the oldest (and now brand new again) building blocks of relationships. As our world becomes a giant village, where everyone can know about everyone, we are, ironically, returning to sales techniques that work among neighbors in a small village setting. The canned “elevator pitch” for strangers, that we still see advocated by some, is now the mark of an outsider – someone not “in tune” with the village. Resistance to “being sold” is as high as I have ever known it to be. The evolving sales “paradigm” now seems to be about being findable and “find-out-about-able,” not being invisible or inaccessible, about actively listening and leading with thoughtful questions, and not reciting “elevator pitch” hype. People still love to buy. They just don’t want to be targets for a “pitch” they don’t ask for. 6
  7. 7. 5) Increased transparency and accountability are now normal. “Big Brother” is watching more. So is everyone else. We’ll have to get used to it. We must adjust to, and even embrace, this new environment, if we ever again want to “sell” anything to, or gain influence with, anyone. This is a game changing trend for business ethics – as trained, practiced and perceived. Honesty has always been the morally right policy. Now, too, it’s the only practical policy precisely because of increasing visibility. I’m not arguing here for lack of privacy. We’ll have to work to improve and refine the defense of appropriate privacy rights. That will take years. In the meantime, we have an immediate need to be much more transparent and accountable in what we do. This is one of those “accepting what is” moments, as opposed to arguing what “should be.” “Branding,” in this context, takes on a whole new reality, whether individual or corporate. A successful “brand” is a relevant, believable story that resonates well with people in an emotional and symbolic way over time. Well, people are now demanding – and can easily check out – our relevancy and believability. The fakes and frauds will still be with us, but their effective lives will be much shorter.6) Ideas and information are now essentially free. Knowledge “leveling,” in what American author Tom Friedman calls an increasingly “flat” world, means that ideas get shared quickly. The advantages created by unique “intellectual capital” of new ideas or process secrets are smaller and sometimes only fleeting. The only long-term advantage now comes from having developed what I call “systems, teamwork, and track record.” That’s where our time and money investments should go. We or our firms now must have operational systems based upon clear values, a team of relevant people we bring to the table as employees, contractors, collaborators or advisors, and a track record we have developed, now visible to all who seek it. Creating systems is easy. Following them is hard. People come and go, increasingly responding only to those who engage their individual initiative, imagination and passion. Track records, too, are increasingly valuable when they demonstrate passion, commitment and perseverance, not just financial successes.7) Collaborators are winning. We can no longer afford to have, or to be, “enemies” or estranged competitors. This is true of nation states as well as all players in a business economy. Unproductive conflict has always been wasteful, but not always understood to be so. In a world with more people and possibly fewer of some physical resources, but with a growing value of uncontrollable free-flowing information (intellectual capital), the social, political and economic power shifts to the collaborator. The old “Golden Rule for Business” was that “He who has the gold makes the rules.” Today, I would change that to: “Whoever shares the most golden information will re-make the rules.” Because, in fact, actionable information is the new “gold,” and because it is largely free and free- flowing, defending one’s own “turf” no longer makes any sense on any level. 7
  8. 8. This new reality (an abundance of free flowing information) makes collaboration the best way to go, if not the only way. Our prospective clients and customers are going to access the information “gold” with or without us. It might as well be with us. If we want our fair share of their business, we better sign-up to cooperate. Making business enemies is isolating in a world that no longer acknowledges the isolated. When our competitors and customers can know everything about us, then the only rational choice is to cooperate with them to make the world a better place – for them, us and everyone else! Team spirit has always been important and the team size just got a lot bigger! Clients and customers, equity partners and lenders, our employees, independent contractors and vendors all now expect us to know and practice worldwide connectivity.So, What Specifically Should We Be Asking & Doing?Further thoughts and questions for professional service providersIn my life, I have discovered that the old ways of coping are what I need to “dust off” and re-learn.Perhaps that goes for you, too.My first “old way” to cope with sudden change is to make time to think things through.Of course, I’m an “introvert” as defined by the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator). An extrovertmight cope by talking to friends. Both ways are good first steps, actually.We ARE NOT going to find our ways without making the time to think. And, we ARE NOT going to fixthings without joining with others!I know how hard this is to make time for something, but setting aside time to reflect is the number onepriority. We must think things through first, in private, and then in dialogue with others.In the vernacular of the famous Seinfeld TV show “soup Nazi:” No time? No thinking? No sharing? Nosolutions for you!”We have to build our own ways of dealing with these trends on foundations of carefully chosen, but veryindividually specific, core values and core performance metrics, remembering all-the-while at least thetwo fundamentals I wrote about earlier, first for ourselves and then for our businesses.To think things through and get feedback, we must make the time to ask questions and listen to theanswers. We must start with asking ourselves questions and listening carefully to our own answers.But, we humans also need other viewpoints. We need to look at ourselves and our challenges from manyangles and through many sets of eyes to achieve the best understanding.As a business and professional coach, I know that the power is in the questions and in listening carefullyto the answers. But, the reason that it starts with our individual questions is that there are no one-size-fits-all answers. The reason we seek feedback from others is that we each have a need for the bestanswers based upon a 360-degree candid review of who we are, what we want and what’s possible. 8
  9. 9. Judging by the titles of books, articles, seminars and webinars, it seems that most people believe thatthere is someone out there who has all the right pre-packaged answers. Well, frankly, no one does – notfor us, or even for themselves.To me, the only kind of credible published work is one that encourages its readers, listeners and/orviewers to question what they thought they knew before.Only by asking probing, provocative, difficult questions and then mixing and matching carefullyconsidered answers, that we and others have provided, can we really learn anything new or hope to findcreative and unique solutions to fix what needs fixing.So, let me add more comments about each of the seven trends I see and give you a preview of the kindof advice I give to myself and others. 9
  10. 10. Allow me then suggest some specific questions that have the power to start us on our own individualpaths toward our own answers: 1) To keep up with rapid change, it’s actually time to slow down! We need to lower our stress levels in order to make better decisions. We know that we must race to meet our core performance metrics (the things that make us money), but we often seem unaware of our also-urgent need to slow down long enough to reflect upon our core values (of integrity, fair dealing and long-term relationship development), and to be rested and refreshed enough to make good business decisions. The more things change, the more important it is that we recognize what has NOT changed. Relationships between people, by-and-large, are based upon what they’ve always been: mutual respect, nurturing, celebration and authenticity. This all starts in our heads with our own self respect. When we respect, nurture, celebrate and authenticate ourselves, we’re okay. When we don’t, we lose touch with who we are and often stress obsessively. Because change is getting faster and no one is keeping up, we are losing touch with ourselves. We are stressing obsessively. The levels of stress in the business world are now chronic. The devastating and long-term medical diseases that are now dominant in western culture, and which are spreading globally to everyone, are often stress-related if not stress-caused. This is due to the much-discussed “fight or flight” response in men, and a similar response in women. It was designed to help us in crises, but not designed to be triggered several times a day. The way we live today now turns on our stress response systems several times a day. Our personal and business lives today offer us too much noise, not enough sleep, too many distractions and not enough time to reflect or focus. We have too many confusing choices for everything and not enough time to exercise, day-dream and play. We develop too many shallow relationships and don’t connect well enough with others to build a solid community of family and friends. We are being prescribed too many drugs. We are being served-up too much “junk food.” Our minds are being filled with too many “junk ideas.” Our surroundings are now full of moment-to-moment “stressors.” These stressors are constantly messing up our digestive track, our blood composition, and even our brain’s ability to function properly. This impairs our physical and mental health. It interferes with our ability to make reasonable life choices or good business decisions. Human beings, each with a large pre-frontal cortex, react like no other species to stress because our cortex gives us memories, perspective and future planning skills that cause us to stress excessively over what happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow. The coping system that nature gave us for dangerous and threatening moments goes crazy when we fire it up 24/7. They way to combat this is to use that large brain of ours to develop a work-around solution. Going with the natural ways that we can we mitigate stress, and doing it consciously and deliberately, is the answer. 10
  11. 11. Re-connecting with core values is a first step. The ways we build relationships with ourselves and with others is where we should start. There is a need to re-awaken and re-energize ourselves and get back to what we hold to be ideal, and then translate that for others, so that they will recognize and respect us, as we respect ourselves. This is no simple process, but it can be done over time, deliberately, with a great increase in the enthusiasm and passion of everyone connected to us. The time has probably come, too, for each of us to get some coaching. Would we ever expect an athlete to do his/her best in the competitive environment of today’s sports without coaching? Absolutely not! How, then, can we expect to do our best in our competitive environments, if we do not get the best coaching we can? Key Questions: So, who am I? What am I doing? What do I want to be and do? What am I going to do that is different enough to generate the better results I need? How can I tell if someone is stressed? How can I tell when I’m stressed? What are the best ways I can deal with my stress, and help others deal with their stress? How do I and my firm express who we really are in front of prospects and referral sources (and in front of ourselves) by our actions, our attitudes and beliefs, our use of technology, our office décor, our personal appearance, and our treatment of others? How honest is our process of getting real with ourselves, doing things we value, and making the performance metrics work?2) Because science and technology are moving forward so fast, it’s time to read again, and take some courses to learn about this new world! Over our lives, have we replaced reading, studying and thinking with being entertained? Studies show that many of us have. The re-introduction of reading, studying and thinking in our lives is a great comeback strategy for each of us individually and for our whole country. U.S. educational statistics are looking increasingly dismal. We need to reverse the current trend, starting with ourselves. No more computer illiterates need apply – for anything! Our ignorance of science shows when we fumble with electronics in front of prospects, customers and clients. It shows, too, when we fail to understand basic psychology in sales! It also shows whenever we seem unaware of, or incapable of explaining to prospects and clients, how the major changing dynamics of world science and technology affect how businesses are run, valued, bought and sold to give their owners more life. Science and technology are the dominant drivers of nearly everything in business. That means we have to read and study science and technology and think about how they are affecting our larger political, economic and social structures! How can we claim expertise in business, when business itself is driven by science and technology, if we are scientific and technological illiterates? 11
  12. 12. We are also now forced into adopting increasingly sophisticated technological solutions to facilitate the required giant leaps in social networking. We will have to train ourselves and get formal training. Both prospecting and client services require new gains in productivity, managed by new gains in our own knowledge of the many new tools and venues. We are all stressed out about our email, for example. The answer, however, lies in engagement, not denial. We have to learn the technologies that will help us handle it, not just ignore it. There are many books and courses about what is happening today. We need to take ourselves “back to school” by reading, studying and thinking. (See my recommended book list at the end.) Key Questions: How am I personally keeping up with science and technology? Am I mastering the new communications technologies? How am I using the new search capabilities, communication channels and social networks? Am I learning and understanding what’s new in science and technology that changes my prospective markets? Am I able to deal with high tech executives? Do I speak their language? How should I learn their language? How does science and technology affect the quality of my life? How can I make it work for me? How can I make it work for my colleagues and clients?3) We need to address people’s frustrations more than “solve their problems.” Because individuals are demanding more control of their lives, both our clients and employees want much better relationships with us. They want us to acknowledge and address their frustrations so they can solve their own problems. The successful business owners and professionals will be the ones who find some unique ways to do this. We need to forget trying to be expert know-it-alls. We need, instead, to be facilitators for ourselves and for our clients and customers. The now-four-generation workforce and business market (Veterans, Boomers, GenX and GenY), with mixed cultures, multiple ethnic backgrounds, often wholly disparate values, not to mention a great increase in the percentage who are women leaders, is the most complicated and diverse workforce (and market) in all human history. This new group is now our business workforce, our business market, AND our source of referrals, just like it is for our clients. In businesses, and as consumers and clients of businesses, this “workforce” is changing its conventions and habits. We have to help business clients deal with these challenges to make their businesses more valuable to them. We have to deal with these changes to make our firms marketable too! We business advisors are going to experience increasing dissonance in our own workplace environments until we come to grips with the fact that “top down” management will no longer work best. Many professional firms – including the one in Maine that I used to own and run – are, or were, “top down” run firms, where the leader called the shots. That’s not going to work anymore. 12
  13. 13. “Crowd sourcing,” collaborating with everyone in our “crowd,” and harvesting the “wisdom ofthe crowd,” is a fundamental shift in the way successful enterprises are now being run.The “crowd” of a business is anyone and everyone who is connected to it in some way –especially employees, clients, customers and vendors.For a professional services firm, that means a dawning of shared responsibility within the firmand without. It is both economically and socially required today. We now need to harness thewisdom and committed energy of our “crowd” to survive.Our colleagues want more control over their lives, too, like everyone else. They will feel “incontrol” when their frustrations are being addressed.Does this mean that the organization chart should be turned upside down? Actually, it might.We CEOs are now already the servants of our “crowd.” Our “crowd” already has a strongervoice, sometimes many stronger voices, as individuals’ web presences increase. The organizationchart, in many cases, has already been turned upside down.These workforce and market changes mean that we will be granting new status to everyoneinvolved in, and associated with, our firms.Collaborators, independent contractors and even staff must be accorded respect and given aninternal, if not external, voice. Prospects and clients need to be free to contact anyone they want,based on the prospects’ or clients’ understanding of what each person does at the firm.This is a deep social change occurring. When our customers and clients want to say somethingabout us and broadcast it, we need to be prepared to take advantage of the positive feedback anddeal appropriately with what’s negative. The voices of potential referral sources, too, are gettinglouder.We have revolutions going on in everyone’s personal visibility, and among women, especially,in new leadership roles.The birth of individual platforms for everyone through their social networks is already happeningon a large scale.The arrival of many more women as corporate CEOs, professionals and private entrepreneurs –which has been happening slowly for many years – is demographically predicted to happen evenmore rapidly in coming years.The sudden appearance of new women leaders will be especially dramatic in professions that arestill dominated by men. It is increasingly being documented that women manage relationshipsdifferently than do men, including the internal relationships with themselves.We have to begin recruiting and cultivating our own internal business family of individuals,especially women, to be prominent in the future of our businesses. That starts with an extra doseof recognition for those we already have, even if they are “only staff.” That’s at least onemeaning of the “upside down” organizational chart metaphor.Key Questions: What are the changes happening in the markets I now serve? How am Ichanging to deal with the changes in my prospect and referral source base?How do we and our firms fare in the judgment of the growing numbers of GenX, GenYand women professionals and other entrepreneurs? 13
  14. 14. Are we recognizing the impact of these changes on management processes and styles, both in our firms, as well as in those of our clients?4) Multiplying relationships are changing the nature of who we know, like, trust and buy from. Drop the elevator pitch! Learn to ask questions, facilitate and be a coach. A major Internet paradigm suggests a value proposition that “information should be free.” That “information-should-be-free” attitude, combined with the increasing distrust of institutions among clients and customers, is playing itself out to mean lower enterprise profits. We are giving away more and spending more time customizing than ever before. Because businesses are still floundering in their responses to such vast changes in public attitudes and expectations, peoples’ distrust, frustration and levels of distress seem very high. Such changes call for an entirely new ways of sales training, promoting, packaging and selling both the products and services we have for sale and in how we structure and market our business itself. This will call for what I define as a new “coaching” approach to sales. The “sales pitch” or “elevator pitch,” as it is also called, and the published materials that tell how great we are, will be replaced in successful firms by a new level of listening and questioning, teaching and training, at all levels of enterprise sales efforts. Successful selling has always been about helping clients and customers buy what they want. That’s still true. But, clients and customers now want to control the process in a more assertive way. If ALL WE DO is ask questions and facilitate the prospects’ and clients’ discovery of their desires and needs, offering our advice and/or story only when asked, we will beat the competition every time. On an elevator, when people ask what we do, the best answer may be, “You first! What do YOU do?” Key Questions: How am I training myself? How does my firm train its people? What am I (are we) doing to improve my (our) ability to ask questions and listen to customers and clients? Do I understand the “coaching” approach of asking questions and facilitating the thoughts and emotions of customers, clients and prospects? Is this really an effective way to sell? What do my customers, clients and prospects want me to do? How will I implement more questioning and listening into my daily actions?5) Branding is best done with a true story about ourselves and our business or professional practice. The increase in transparency and accountability everywhere means it’s time to get clear about who we are, who we want to be, what’s ethical and what’s not, and emphasize the clarity of our intentions in partner, employee, client and customer education and training. Everything we do must pass public exposure standards to protect our firm’s very life and future. It’s also time to get the website tuned up, get on at least one major social network, and make sure we are technically proficient at it by taking a course at our local college, or from our many local providers, in social networking. 14
  15. 15. And, if you do this, take their advice! Please! Write complete profiles, add professional photos, and participate responsibly in online forums and discussion groups. Branding is redefined by the fact that we are all now very visible. Anyone selling anything today must sacrifice much of his/her own privacy to the new reality of needing to be findable and “find-out-about-able” by prospects and clients alike. Key Questions: Am I resisting “openness? If so, why? What can I do to make myself feel comfortable with this change? What can I find out about my potential prospects or competitors? How does that affect my position in relation to them? What openness do my contacts expect from me? Is the information on the Internet about me accurate and complete? Is my photo professional? What should I do to improve what I have already done to define my “personal brand?”6) When all of our competitors have access to the same ideas and information, it’s all about building systems, teamwork and a track record! The key points of differentiation between us and our competition are now the systems we’ve developed, the people we keep, and keep up with, and the track record we have behind us. In that environment, we need to develop and follow our own unique business systems, recruit the best people, and build relationships with the best people. We must also remember and document our track record. This means we may have to change our attitudes, opinions and beliefs to value relationships and people more than money. That will be impossible for many. It impacts everything from a firm’s equity structure and partners’ relationships to the ways that office staff is respected and prospects are handled at first contact. It even impacts our language (or, is it the language that defines us?). We need to be engaging our prospects, customers and clients in more meaningful relationships, not just adding them to a database or treating them as numbers. Competing with everyone from everywhere means we must have a clear set of “core values” to trumpet with the very best marketing materials, now including audio and video. If we believe in our values and value our systems and people, we have to demonstrate this reality on multiple levels and different venues. Most of these new “materials” need to represent collaborative outreach efforts to help our potential clients take more control for themselves when they engage us. Most communications will be electronic, but high-quality printed materials are still important to some, and face-to-face meetings will be valued even more highly. Collaboration and networking have also become much more important. It’s not just who we employ now. Our professional colleagues and fellow business owners, with whom we collaborate, are now also knowable and noted. In the small village of yesteryear, you were “known by the company you keep.” Today, the village is worldwide, but now everyone can see “the company you keep” in the social media. 15
  16. 16. They can also see when you don’t keep any company in the social media. If you don’t participate, that alone creates an impression. Key Questions: Do I have a system for doing what I do that I can credibly demonstrate? Are my “core values” defined and/or reflected anywhere in my processes and/or materials? Am I a part of a team? Can I form a team? How do I demonstrate to prospects that I have a relevant track record? Do I have a system for managing relationships? How do I manage my relationships? If I have a system for contacting prospects, how do I maintain that contact and build it into a relationship over time? If I don’t do that now, should I? If I should, how will I learn to do this? What market do I want to serve? Is there a need? Is there a market? Will those in need actually pay for the services and products I am offering. Can I make a profit?7) Collaborators can unite material resources with information, ideas and relationships better than anyone else. That’s why the best collaborators win. The successful business owner or professional is now the trusted collaborative sales person or advisor, not the “get-the-deal-done-any-way-I-have-to” prima dona. To qualify today as a trusted advisor, we need to be seen by the customers and clients as individuals and firms that how to get things done using a multiplicity of resources. It seems naïve to argue for an “honest, competent and trustworthy business owner or professional.” We all claim the title. No one wants to claim otherwise. And, by-and-large, 99% of those I have known for all of my years have met those standards, at least in my presence. But, surely, we must all know that our image in the marketplace is tarnished by too many dishonest, greedy, incompetent and sloppy colleagues. The reputation of business owners, as a class, has also taken a big hit lately. If we don’t re-make our individual and corporate realities, we cannot remake our individual or corporate images. If we cannot re-make our image, we will flounder for years in the public perception that we are often unethical, greedy, incompetent or sloppy, if not all four combined. The only reasonable response in this situation is to practice being a better connector of resources to help ourselves, our co-collaborators, our customers and clients. The first steps in that process are to “connect up” and “partner up” with the best people in the fields that we want on our teams – not just the best people in business, but also the best professional services providers that we can find to help us with new ideas and new pursuits. Key Questions: How can we become collaborators with our prospects, customers and clients? What do our prospects and clients really want and need from us? How can we help them help themselves in ways that also help us all? How can our firms train people to do this? What does collaboration mean? Where do we spend our time? Is there a way to outsource some function to a collaborator? 16
  17. 17. So, How Does Asking Questions Fix Anything?Fixing ourselves, our business models, our technology and our reluctance to getstarted always begins with difficult questions.Asking questions is the first step to fixing anything. When we want to pound a nail, we ask, “Now,where’s my hammer?” Right?But, really, before that, we ask, “What fixes this problem?” And, before that, we ask, “What is theproblem?” In fact, the whole process that is leading to a solution here is a long funnel of ideas,information, relationships, questions and answers that brings us to the point of closure – in this case, anail hammered into place.Most of us have heard the idea of the “sales funnel.” Suspected leads come into the top of the funnel.Prospects are separated from the suspects and then people who will actually do something (customersand clients in our world) are culled from the prospects. It’s all a long sales process visualized as afunnel.Well, what I am seeing is that this process just got a lot longer and more complicated. The sales funneljust got a lot longer. Everyone can see through it now. It’s transparent. It also leaks and falls apart like itnever did before. We have lost control of the outside forces that impact our sales funnel. Think of thesales funnel – the business development process funnel, if you want – and consider the trends andchanges and questions I have written about in this article.The trends toward ever-more-rapid change, new products and processes being developed and brought tothe market at a dizzying pace, with more prospects and clients expecting custom work and service, morecompetition and choice in every market, and others’ increased ability to hold us accountable to ever-higher standards have just made taking people through the sales funnel much more complicated. Addthat set of problems to a slow economy and it makes us want to really stress out!If we continue to pose simply as “experts” in the processes of selling our products and services, we aresetting ourselves up for failure. Today, in such an environment as I have just described, it is no longerpossible to be an “expert.”If we were “experts,” we would be able to tell ourselves, our prospects, customers and clients where themarket is going and where the opportunities are. We would clearly understand our own motives andemotions and those of our customers and clients. We would understand how to make money even in arecession. Right?But, we don’t/can’t know these things today. No one can. And, we may never again be as certain of suchthings as we were in earlier years.So, what do we do when we can no longer pose credibly as the “experts” in , what expertise can wedevelop?I think that depends upon which things need fixing in each of our unique situations. I will cover that inthe next article I send, on achieving work/life balance and dealing with chronic stress. 17
  18. 18. Recent books (and one CD set) I recommend:2010 State of the Future by Jerome C. Glenn, Theodore J. Gordon and Elizabeth Florescu, The Millenium Project of the World Future Society, ©2010 88pp. summary with 1,300pp. CD background documents, www.StateoftheFuture.org .Becoming A Professional Life Coach by Patrick Williams & Diane Menendez, ©2007, 349pp.Coaching for Performance by John Whitmore, 4th Edition ©2009, 232pp.Emotional Branding: The New Paradigm for Connecting Brands to People by Marc Gobé, ©2009, 325pp.Engage by Brian Solis, ©2010, 382pp.Long Fuse, Big Bang: Achieving Long Term Success Through Daily Victories by Eric Haseltine, ©2010, 249pp.MOJO: How to Get It, How to Keep It, How to Get It Back If You Lose It by Marshall Goldsmith, ©2009,205pp.Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead by Charlene Li, ©2010, 311pp.Stress and Your Body by Robert Sapolsky, The Great Courses CD Series, ©2010 The Teaching Company, 24 lectures. www.thegreatcourses.com.Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Health and Dan Heath, ©2010, 305pp.The Stress Effect: Why Smart Leaders Make Dumb Decisions by Henry L. Thompson, ©2010, 329pp.The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working by Tony Schwartz, ©2010 ,334pp.About the Author: Glen Cooper, CBI, CBA, BVAL is a thirty-year veteran business intermediary, appraiser, coach and motivational speaker who has kept up with today’s rapidly changing business environment by challenging himself to teach it! He coaches business owners and the professionals who serve them to accurately envision and respond to change, achieve work/life balance and still meet the challenges of building a valuable business or professional practice by learning to coach themselves. He revels in teaching and speaking about what he knows and continues to learn – available to, and appropriate for, any business audience – combining his instinctive humor, storytelling ability and the ”streetsmarts” ofany salesman who has survived for thirty years on commissions!Glen offers one-on-one business coaching, group coaching, workshops, seminars and keynote speeches on a wide varietyof topics related to business value drivers, predicting future business trends, stress management, and even often-humoroustalks on the pluses and minuses of hiring a business coach.Born and raised in Colorado, he never-the-less ventured to Maine and, in 1981, co-founded what became that state’slargest business brokerage firm. He sold his company in 2010, returned to his home state, and now lives in Denver.GlenCooperColorado.com is the name of Glen’s latest business, as well as its website address (it will be live sometime inFebruary 2011). The website, when launched, will be where you can learn more about, contact and engage Glen and hismany creative ideas.Glen is an active member of many organizations, including the Denver chapter of the Association for Corporate Growth(ACG), the Executives’ Network, the Colorado Association of Business Intermediaries (CABI), the World Future Society(WFS), and his local Metro North (Denver) Chamber of Commerce (MNCC). 18
  19. 19. Glen is a Certified Business Intermediary (CBI), a designation awarded by the International Business Brokers Association(IBBA), a Certified Business Appraiser (CBA) and a Business Valuator Accredited for Litigation (BVAL), designations of theInstitute of Business Appraisers (IBA).Glen is a sought-after senior instructor and workshop presenter for the IBBA and its regional affiliates, and was named a"Fellow of the IBBA” in honor of his service to this professional association in 2009. Glen remains active as a “virtual” senioradvisor of Maine Business Brokers, its strategic partner firm, New Hampshire Business Sales, as well as several otherintermediary firms throughout the United States.In addition to business brokerage, business appraisal, coaching and speaking, Glen also has an extensive background incommercial and investment real estate and, for years, was a Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) of theNational Association of Realtors.Contact: Glen J. Cooper 303-919-2694 (Cell) GlenCooperColorado@gmail.com (current email) www.Linkedin.com/in/glencooper www.Facedbook.com/glen.j.cooper 19