Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Good Ideas Executed Brilliantly!

We live in a period of history where there are a lot of cutting edge, industry changing, “brilliant” strategies or innovations that are hitting the B2C and B2B landscapes.  I am literally writing this essay on a west coast flight, on my laptop connected to my Gmail account and listening to music on my I-Phone… lots of brilliant innovations there!  Unfortunately this essay isn’t about any of those wonderful innovations that were executed so well, but on the dynamic between the quality of the idea, ranging from Poor-> Good->Great-> Brilliant, and the executional success of that idea also ranging from Poor to Brilliant.  I have the chance in my consulting practice to work with a wide variety of clients that are often developing brilliant strategies that deeply under-optimize their potential due to a poor execution.  I have a growing point of view that rather then focusing on the most “brilliant” of ideas and innovations, organizations can really benefit from being centered on “good” ideas then focusing on ways to make the execution of those “good” ideas “brilliant”!

I had the chance to see this idea/approach brought to life last week.  Since 2014 I have had the pleasure to work with and advise an exciting Tech Startup in Atlanta.  Their business is starting to scale and the annual trade show for their primary vertical was last week in Las Vegas.  As they prepared for the show, we had a work session where we used a simple “destination document” to guide what their objective for the show was and thus their core communication points and plan.  Very quickly the team became focused on “qualifying leads” as the central objective for the trade show and developed a lofty/ambitious objective for how many “qualified leads” they wanted to secure (via a simple app supplied by the trade show folks) at the show.  So far, nothing break-though, just a simple (“good”) plan that needed exceptional execution for success; well as a guy that’s probably been to 25+/- trade shows over my career, it was impressive and delightful to see their executional intensity!

The small team was divided into two sections, one group worked the front line, “attracting” as many trade show attendees as possible.  Using a simple set of 3-4 questions (role in the industry, size, legacy technology platform, compatibility) the “attractors” would identify “qualified” leads, scan their badges, and then try to move them into the second group who were educating, running simple demos and working to close the sale.  Again a very simple two-team approach, using just a few questions (with lots of smiles and handshakes) and a few I-pads to do the demos (along with a totally kick-ass video-wall that was the talk of the tradeshow) totally won the day!  The team came away beating their objective for scanned qualified leads and even had prospective customers paying deposits in the trade show booth to insure their spot on the implementation calendar.  Each day was finished with a "Curbside debrief", truly exceptional execution and results!!

While this story/example is very recent, I encourage you to think about other examples from your career of initiatives with truly exceptional results.  Ask yourself whether they were brilliant ideas executed adequately, or good ideas executed brilliantly.  My money is on the latter, and I suggest that we could all benefit from learning or re-learning this lesson demonstrated beautifully on the Las Vegas tradeshow floor last week!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Breakfast with Cicero

Well once again I have been blown away by a small early morning experience at the 24th St. Café in Bakersfield California.  In a recent essay, I talked about lessons of business and life that I learned from a conversation with a funeral home director at the counter of this same restaurant (http://fylegacy.blogspot.com/2017/01/lessons-from-bakersfield-funeral-home.html) and now I am inspired by the writings of a famous roman senator and orator from over 2000 years ago in a most unlikely setting!

Since 2009, I have had the chance to travel to Bakersfield numerous times for my work at Bolthouse Farms.  I have come to really enjoy travelling to “Bako”, with all of its quirks and charms, and have developed quite a routine when I visit.  Most mornings start early, checking in at home at 5 am pacific (8 am Atlanta time) in order to talk to Marie before she goes to school and to Jennie before her day gets going.  Finished by 5:15am, I usually hit the streets for my morning walk, cruising through the Westchester neighborhood near downtown Bakersfield with its beautiful historic homes and quiet streets.  Once back from my walk, I hit the shower, get ready for my workday and head over to the 24th St. Café for a great breakfast on the way to the plant.  Last Tuesday morning was no different, and I walked into the restaurant at 6:30 and quietly sat down at the counter.

With a fresh cup of coffee in hand, I noticed that one of the waitresses was standing on a booth in the corner, writing something up on a chalkboard.  Expecting to see the “special of the day” featured (their food is really out of this world!), I was blown away to see a quote from Cicero appear on the board (pictured above):

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”

To say the least, that was not what I was expecting to see, early on a Tuesday morning, in Bakersfield California.  I asked the waitress what the story was about the quote and she mentioned that the owner had “sent it in” and wanted it up on the board all week.  Asking to speak to the owner, she mentioned that he should be in later in the day and came over to take my order (the Tri-Tip Omelet and sourdough toast!!)

As a historic note, the Romans believed that there were 15 common “virtues” that were part of the “Roman Way or Via Romana” that were the bedrock of what made the Roman Republic and Roman citizens unique in the world 2000 years ago.  The list includes: humor, mercy, tenacity, industriousness, truthfulness, and gratitude among others.  Cicero’s quote really got me thinking.  If “gratitude” is not only the greatest of the virtues, but also the “parent” of all the others, he must mean that you can’t really show “mercy” unless you are personally “grateful” for what you have.  In the same vein, the root of “industriousness” is to be appreciative and grateful for your own situation.  Etc., etc.  Cicero’s challenge is basically in order to be virtuous we need to be grateful!

As I headed out of the 24th St. Café that morning, the Cicero quote on gratitude really hung with me.  With so much division and challenge facing our communities/country and world, it’s hard to be “grateful” or feel “gratitude” in our everyday life.  We are so busy with the challenges and issues of the day, whether they are personal, professional or political, that we miss seeing all the “blessings” that should “stir” our “gratitude.”  The world really needs us and our “virtues” to come to life everyday, now maybe more than ever!  Taking Cicero’s quote to heart, let us focus on “gratitude” as our first step in living our “virtues” every day!