The Tunnel is Dark, but the Future is Bright

Bravery, Failure, Goals, Leadership Thoughts, Motivation 10 Comments »

Are optimists crazy people in times like these?

I am an optimist.  Even as I walk through tough, dark times, I can see a bright future ahead.

It keeps me going.

Though many 8pm Warriors are walking through dark hours in their business or career, I still believe the future is bright for those who invest in their future…especially now.

On Wall Street, we said “Buy when there’s blood in the streets”.

The man who is credited with that saying, an 18th century British nobleman named Baron Rothschild, made a fortune buying stocks during the financial crisis after the Battle of Waterloo.  Many of those stocks were of his own companies.

His original quote is believed to be “Buy when there’s blood in the streets, even if the blood is your own.

The blood in the streets is our own.

 

I see it every day.  Small business leaders struggling, talented folks doubting, so many wondering, “when will things get better?”

I get sad when I see those who stop before they get there, the leaders who quit on themselves, or the suicides of desperate warriors.

If you believe that you’re working towards something special, don’t give up hope. Don’t quit now.  Invest in yourself.

The future you fight for is forward.

 

Keep moving.

Have a bright night,

Aaron@Biebert

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You Are Not Your Business Khakis

Bravery, Failure, Leadership Thoughts, Loneliness 23 Comments »

You must never confuse your business with your own identity.  Never.

If it fails, you are not a failure.  If it grows wildly, you remain the same size.  If it dies, you are not dead.

“You’re not your job.
You’re not how much you have in the bank.
You’re not the car you drive.
You’re not the contents of your wallet.
You’re not your f#%$ing khakis.”

-Tyler Durden in the movie “Fight Club”

Wise words from a movie about recreational fighting, blowing up buildings, and the identity crisis so many people have.  Take them to heart.

My fellow warriors, you are not your business.

You are so much more.

If your business falls down, you can rise up.  But only if you let it go.

Have a great night,

Aaron@Biebert

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5 Reasons Why Mitt Romney is Right: Companies are People (Non Political)

Marketing, News 19 Comments »

This is not a political post…at all.  Just a general look at the reality of business as it is and should be in a world of social media.

I saw on the news that Mitt Romney was getting some heat for saying “Companies are people.”  I’m not sure it’s a smart political thing to say, but I generally agree.  (That’s why I’m not in politics)

Here are five reasons why Mitt Romney was right in a way:

1) Companies have souls

If you’ve ever seen a company face bad news or great news, you’ll agree with me that a company has a soul and it can be shattered, uplifted, or ignored. Don’t ignore it.

2) Companies are born

When companies are born, usually everyone involved near the beginning feels like a proud parent.  The company grows, matures, and develops like a real baby.  Some days you like it, other times you don’t.

3) Companies die

Just as a company can be born, it can die too.  It’s very painful and sometimes they take their owners with them.  I just heard about a suicide of a business leader who lost his business during the recession.

When a business dies, it breaks hearts, dreams, and futures.  It’s very much like a funeral when it happens.

4) Companies have faces

I smile when I see the Starbucks logo. Great marketing leaders realize that their logo is the face of their company and they are careful to protect it.  Don’t let people stretch, crowd, discolor, or alter your logo in any way.  It’s your face.  People know it.

5) Companies have friends

Just like Facebook is friends with Microsoft (for now),  companies with strategic interests often bond together for a common cause.  They share secrets, plans, and connections.  Just like humans.

With the increase in brands using social media platforms, companies now have real human friends too.  Just check out the Facebook wall of the most successful brands out there.  It’s like one big party.

Summary

The best companies act like people.  They play well with others, communicate with one voice, have a heart, and unleash the collective soul of their entire workforce.

Have a great night,

Aaron@Biebert

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6 Reasons Why “Conflicted” is Good for Your Life and Organization

Bravery, Changing Times, Leadership Thoughts, Teamwork 29 Comments »

If you want to do great things in life, being conflicted is good.

My last blog post and the one before it had a lot of generous people asking to help me because I seem conflicted.  It’s true that I’m conflicted sometimes, but here are six reasons why that’s a good thing.

1)  Conflicted means you don’t trust yourself

If you’re internally conflicted, it means you’ve realized you’re not always right.  That’s smart.  I’ve made many mistakes and the day I stop watching myself with a leery eye is the day I accept failure.  Anyone who trusts themselves completely is on their way to disaster.

Whether it’s personally or as a team, it’s important to regularly question your practices, ideas, and policies in a changing world.  The day you stop questioning is the day you fall behind.

2)  Conflicted people are moving.

By nature, a “conflicted” person is in a state of unrest and is more likely to be moving. Somewhere.  Once you stop, it’s hard to start again (inertia) and so successful people learn to keep moving.

3)  Peace is not always a good thing

Peace in an organization is not great for advancement.  In peace, there is groupthink, complacency, and a lack of creativity.  People ask, “Why change a good thing?”

Change is good.

Observe the accomplishments and discoveries that happen when governments or companies are conflicted internally or externally.  Look at the discoveries that NASA made while racing the USSR to space.  Look at the technologies developed while defending our country in World War II.  In conflict, people are forced to be at their best.  It pushes us further.

The same goes for individuals.

4)  Conflicted means you’re learning

Conflicted people or organizations are usually hunting for a resolution.  The act of searching for answers keeps us learning, sharp and educated along the way.

5)  Conflicted is good communication

The world is full of conflicts on the inside and outside.  If you seem conflicted to outsiders, you are doing a good job of communicating reality.  Various studies and my own research show we’re in an age of increased transparency and people prefer to work with people, leaders, and companies that are transparent, vulnerable, and humanized.  If you seem conflicted, you also seem more real, approachable, and trustworthy as long as you keep your emotions in check.

6)  Conflicted means you don’t settle for your first impulse

I think people should change their minds.  Even though your first choice might be right currently, it  may not be correct in 5 days or 5 years.  Settling isn’t a good thing.

 

I realize that this may seem ludicrous to some (peace is bad, conflict is good business, etc.), so I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts on the issue.  Good or bad, let’s have a discussion about this topic.

Have a great night,

Aaron@Biebert

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There’s So Much More than Independence

Goals, Leadership Thoughts, Teamwork 6 Comments »

While celebrating Independence Day this afternoon, I got to thinking…

Why do so few people talk about the next step after independence?  When do we get to celebrate interdependence?

As much as I love independence, there’s so much more.  Before I continue, let me define three stages of dependence as I see them:

  1. Dependence – You need someone
  2. Independence – You don’t need someone
  3. Interdependence – You choose to need someone

Every major success I’ve had in my life is because of otherwise independent people who chose to give up some independence in order to make something great…together.  That’s interdependence.

When I was younger, I focused on independence and sought it at every turn. I went to college five hours away. I started my first business when I was 24 so I could work for myself.  

I was obsessed with independence!  In my immaturity I thought it was the goal, not just a step.

Those days are gone now.

Together we can always achieve more and that’s something to celebrate.  Major achievements require synergy.  Greater success requires interdependence.

Let me know if you agree.

Have an interdependent night,

Aaron@Biebert

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+1 Reason Why Leaders Need to Join Google+ Now

Bravery, Business Opportunities, Changing Times, Leadership Thoughts, Marketing, News, Social Media 3 Comments »

This is a different take on why Google+ matters.

To me, it’s not about the features, Facebook, or anything else out there.  It’s about you.

Since my initial Google+ introduction and invitation on Wednesday, I’ve been researching, discussing, and thinking about how it can be utilized by businesses and leaders.  My goal was to write a definitive post on why Google+ matters and why my fellow 8pm Warriors should get on it. Google Plus Logo

Unfortunately, the more I researched, the more I realized it wasn’t the features that mattered.  There was a bigger reason to join…

There are many “Top Reasons to Try Google+” lists out there already, but given that both Facebook and Google have plans to continue changing things (Facebook adds Skype next week), these lists will be obsolete in a couple months, if not weeks.

For me, there is only one simple reason that you as a leader need to join Google+ and it goes to the heart of leadership itself:

Leaders must lead, not follow.

When there is a new frontier and a new opportunity to be a pioneer, leaders must lead.  They cannot wait for the rest of the world to decide if something is successful or not, they must beat the gold rush.  Being a first mover matters.  Slow leaders aren’t leaders at all in a modern era…they are followers.

I’m going to explain myself below.  However, if you’re still trying to figure out if Facebook is a fad, I don’t recommend reading any further.  I will be wasting your time.

Instead, I recommend reading this first:  Time for Sleeping Leaders to Awake

If you haven’t clicked off yet, I’ll assume you agree that the world has changed and social media isn’t a fad, but rather a fundamental and permanent shift in the way much of the world relates to the people and brands in their life.

I’m confident that social media isn’t going away, and neither is Google+.

Here’s why Google+ is here to stay:

I know that Google has screwed up several new attempts at social networking in the past (i.e. Buzz, Wave, Health, etc.), but this time it will be different.  If there is one thing that I’ve learned during my time reviewing the site and testing the features, it’s that they’ve finally figured out a way to bring all of their pieces of the social puzzle together.  Even though they aren’t all fully functional (i.e. Youtube for video and Picasa for pictures), it’s all but certain they will be soon.

Also, it’s going to be an effective alternative to Facebook.  Too many people dislike Facebook for whatever reason, and too many of us already use most of the pieces of the Google+ package (YouTube, Gmail, Picasa, Android, Google News, Google Chat, etc.).

Since we’re using most of it anyway, especially if you have an Android phone, it’ll be smart and easy to bring it all together into one social package, even if it isn’t your primary network.  That’s why Google+ will survive and may thrive.

You’re already using it!

Looking for more reasons why it’s a safe bet?  Read more here

Leaders need to try Google+ sooner, not later:

Let me start with my Facebook story.

Remember when most people thought Facebook was just a college kid thing?

I joined Facebook right when it opened to non-college students and immediately began building a network of healthcare people as part of the Clear Medical Network initiative.  Our goal was to prepare for a world of severe medical personnel shortages.

With that first-mover advantage, our team was able to build communities that served over 43,000 segmented groups of people.  Not only is that an asset for the future, but it helped us weather the job market crisis better than most of our competitors who are no longer in business.

Leaders starting now are way behind.  It’s so hard to build Facebook page communities now without expensive giveaways and advertising.  It’s a mature platform.

At the beginning, all it cost us was time.  Now with valuation of $100 per person, the network may be worth over $4,000,000 and growing as the demand for nurses and doctors moves towards a critical point.  All with no giveaways or advertising.

Why?  Because we were pioneers.

Lessons from the Pioneers

There are some things we can all learn from early adopters of tools like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Google+

New platforms are like frontiers.  There are risks, hazards, a journey, and rewards.

Interactions with pioneers are closer, more intimate.  It’s easier to make meaningful connections as most early adopters help each other discover the new world.

Consequently, early adopters have the advantage of forming larger and tighter groups of people.  If you are in a people business, this is something you need to be thinking about.

Where’s the Return on Investment?

Assuming you’ve agreed with me up to this point, you are still probably wondering where does the return on investment come from if you’re not in the business of social media specifically.

Here is where I see the ROI:

Brand pages are coming soon (think Facebook pages)

We all know how valuable they are to a business now.  This will be similar.  The sooner you get on, the better.  I guarantee your competitors will be there.  I will.

It will help with Social Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Part of Google+ includes a social bookmarking module that tracks the use of the new Google +1 social search system.  I believe that it will encourage users to use the +1 system and that future upgrades of Google+ will tie this feature in with the business pages.  If you learn the system now, you’ll be in a much stronger position to benefit from these SEO benefits as they arrive.

Good old fashion networking

I think it’s safe to assume that there is a certain ROI in simply expanding one’s network and ability to reach new people.  This is a new tool for that.

Final Notes:

I’ve tried almost every social network out there, including Google’s other social platform called Orkut, and my gut is telling me this has real staying power.  Of course I could be wrong, but that shouldn’t be a reason not to follow my gut.

Nevertheless, this is a new frontier and I feel like a pioneer.

Join me.

Have a great night,

Aaron@Biebert
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5 Things to Do After a Business Breakup

Bravery, Leadership Thoughts, Teamwork 4 Comments »

“John Smith is no longer with the company. Please forward all phone calls to me.”

This is not one of them.

In one of my first jobs after college, the company I worked for would send out emails like this every time someone got fired or left. No discussion. No explanation. Simple and cold.

The problem is that even your best employee inserts their name into John Smith’s place.  No one wants all their time, relationships, and energy summed up with the simple phrase “John or Jane Smith is no longer with the company.”
 

Most jobs come to an end, but we all want to believe that we’d be missed, celebrated, and respected.

It’s an emotional situation.

If someone leaves, is fired, or laid off, it should be traumatic to you as the leader. After all, it probably means you failed.

You hired the wrong person, didn’t build the relationship, or made decisions (or didn’t make decisions) that led to a need for downsizing. Obviously, people sometimes do unexpected things that make everyone feel good about a firing, but most times a firing ought to be the toughest thing you do as a leader.

But not for everyone else.

Those who are left behind need to feel like they are safe, appreciated, and respected.

Here are 5 things to do after a business breakup:

1)  Be Honest

Don’t say much more than the basics, but what you do say should be honest.  When you answer questions tell the truth.  It always gets out and you don’t want to ruin your trust with the remaining team members.

2)  Be Respectful

Focus on the positive things the former team member did.  Be thankful for the good things and do not bash them.  How you speak of the former team member is how others will picture you treating them if they’re gone.

3)  Talk about the Future

Just like any relationship, people know that a relationship is intact when you talk about the future of it.  Understandably, some of your team may be nervous if you let someone go, so it’s important to reassure them that the future is fine and they are part of it.

4)  Pay Attention

If one of your team members is close to the former employee, make sure you pay special attention to them. Pull them aside to discuss the situation and ask them to share their feelings with you.  Listen.

5)  Be Human

Let your team know that you have feelings.  Don’t be a strong leader, be a human one.  You just used the big stick, now it’s time for the quiet voice.  It’s time to share some emotions and make people comfortable again with you.  The more they know of you, the safer they feel.

Whatever you do, do not treat it like a regular day.  It is not.  It is the day you lost a part of your team.

How you act will show the world what you think of your team.

Have a great night!

Aaron@Biebert

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Invest in Relationships!

Changing Times, Failure, Marketing, Social Media 5 Comments »

The world is going through growing pains and it’s leaving a lot of people very confused, hurting, and unemployed.

We’re in a new world of “on demand” information and entertainment, and many traditional companies are acting like deer in the headlights.

Not moving.  Not sure.

For them, familiar methods of bringing products and services to market are floundering and they aren’t hiring or growing domestically.  Some are waiting for things to return to “normal”, but we’re living in the new normal right now.

DVRs helps people skip commercials, the internet is replacing newspapers and magazines (I love Flipboard), and only 1 out of 10 people open corporate emails on average. As Gary Vaynerchuk said at a tweetup event last night in Milwaukee, “People aren’t looking at billboards…they aren’t even looking at the ****ing road!”

The same goes for nearly all marketing communications from unfamiliar faces or brands.  Everyone is too busy texing, tweeting, and “facebooking”  to pay attention.

Times are changing and we’re not going back.

We’re now in the Attention Age, and companies are going to have to find new ways to get our attention.  It won’t be easy.  Wives may think husbands are bad at listening, but the modern world is even worse when it comes to traditional advertising.

In one ear and out the other.

Another thing Gary said got my attention.  He said that everything in his latest book “The Thank You Economy” would be irrelevant in 5 years as marketers (like me) find ways to crawl into every successful way of getting our attention.  As they actively seek our eyes and ears, marketers always find a way to ruin what’s working (email, banner ads, etc.) and they’ll ruin social media too.

So what is a safe long term investment?

Relationships.

People are usually loyal to their friends, business partners, and favorite brands.  No matter what happens in the future, if you build real relationships and take care of your clients, friends, and followers, they will take care of you.

How?  If you don’t start using social media tools now, you may not figure it in time.  These tools are valuable for creating and strengthening relationships, but you need to get on it before it is ruined by marketers and the window of opportunity closes.

Seize the day!  Engage on social media.  Invest in relationships.  Do some business.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.” – Unknown

New tools, same rules.

Have a great night,

Aaron@Biebert

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