Posts Tagged ‘gralfe’

Measure for Success

by Guy Ralfe on January 20, 2010

I don’t see myself as competitive but thinking about it if someone draws a line in the sand, I have to jump over it. My boss decided that we all needed a challenge to get us through the winter. He offered to everyone in the company an entry to Boston’s Run To Remember – 1/2 marathon. Not being a runner but seeing the line in the sand I signed up.

I asked a few questions to get an idea of how to train and how to build up to this race. I was told “…you need to get into the habit of running about 35-40km (about 21.5-24.8 mi) a week” and then build up on speed after you have established a base in attaining distance.

I had never run more than 10 km before, and to be honest if I recall most of those 10km were walked, how was I going to achieve this? Well I put on my trainers and set off aiming for 35 km in the first week. After a mammoth effort I managed just over 10km on my first run. Suddenly 35 km didn’t look so far but finding another 3 hour slots in the week was going to be the challenge. Getting daily email reminders from my boss on how far he had run, quickly helped overcome that problem, and surprisingly, after my first week of training I managed to log a respectable 37.5 km. Now that was some two months ago, and it has gotten a lot colder up here in the north east. What started to happen was that I began not keeping accurate records of what I was running so I began telling myself stories about what I had done to feel better, not what I had left to accomplish. The result was that suddenly I was not able to keep up the required standard.

Lately I have been trying to build up speed since all I had been focusing on was distance. (to you athletes out there I am not a runner yet so no laughing at my shared statistics) From discussions I heard someone mention that you need to be in the 4:50 min/km pace for this type of a run. So I sported a watch and off I set. In my mind, I was thinking that I must be getting close to the 5 min/km mark. Well after a good fast run the watch must have had a problem, I was averaging 5:32 min/km. I was suddenly aware how weak my training program was and that the performance metrics for running were both speed and distance. After some work I have now been able to break the 5:00 min/km mark for my training runs.

So just yesterday I went for a run in Copenhagen, it is flat with no hills and I felt like I had flown. At one point I sprinted alongside a cyclist to keep the pace elevated for 2 minutes – my time must have been close to 4:50 min/km. After looking at my watch I only managed 5:01 min/km. I was really upset and shocked, but I also learned a very clear lesson that us humans cannot be objective for our own sake.

We must know what we are going to do, what the criteria (metrics) are that define the standard if we are at all going to compete. Let’s not fool ourselves we compete all day every day. We need to ensure we stay ahead of the pack to succeed and realize our ambitions.

This is a great video emphasizing the point of knowing what the standard is and measuring against it.

(Click to Start Video)

Here is a brilliant blog post Don’t Do Your Best that gives more insight into the limitations we commonly set ourselves when saying we will do our best.

And from a business perspective here is a an insight to what it means to Run the Last Mile of the Race.

Know your ambitions, personal and business, set the criteria you are going to measure against then go out and perform. And if nothing else measure your performance!

Making Expensive Sales or Lucrative Relationships

by Guy Ralfe on December 30, 2009

Star-RatingsI have just returned from vacationing with relatives in Colorado. The vacation was great except for the frustration caused by one purchase over this festive season. Steve was due to take delivery of a new vehicle yesterday that they had ordered 3 weeks before.

Buying a car is likely the most expensive discretionary item most people purchase. There is often a lot of thought and time that goes into the purchase even if you are not a car fanatic. Whatever make, model, style and financial commitment you settle on, you have to live with for 3-5 years before you get to change it without incurring unnecessary cost.

During our vacation we got to hear a lot about this transaction… After a less than stellar sales interaction the paperwork was complete and the deposit paid. The expected delivery date was given with a 98% certainty. Steve requested weekly updates even if it was that there was no new information, to which the salesman assured him he would get.

After two weeks he had to call the salesman for an update. The salesman promised to get back to them, which he didn’t until they called back again a day later. Only news was that it still appeared to be 98% certain to be available on the promised date. On the promised date no call was received by 10 am, so a call to the dealership was made for an update. The salesman wasn’t available so the sales manager promised to get back with an update shortly. By 4pm still no response so another call was placed to the dealership.

On being put through to the sales manager and requesting the update, the sales manager said they had been extremely busy with a number of other customers and that Steve would have to wait. When Steve asked if he wasn’t also a customer having committed to spending more than $35,000? The sales manager  took everything to heart and rather than addressing his concern, attacked him and told him he could come to the dealership and collect the down payment for the vehicle if he was so dissatisfied with the service – which he could guarantee delivery of in 10 min!

Having waited 3 weeks already, he assured the sales manager he wanted the vehicle and was not concerned when it came, just that he expected some information so that he could plan around that. The sales manager then said the manufacturer was off and the systems were not updated so it could take up to two more weeks to get the vehicle. Steve was fine with that but upset he wasn’t told that initially when he called and said “… great then I will expect it in two weeks”. To which the sales manager then responded “…but I expect you to get the car in the next two days!” Steve then became frustrated as he asked the sales manager – how can you make that assurance when you have just told me the system is not updated? In frustration the sales manager then offered his down payment again, which Steve refused and responded that he will work to another 2 weeks delivery and maybe he will be surprised – and the dealership will call him early!

Based on this interaction (there is always two sides to every story and a lot more detail but…) Steve will wait out his delivery but as a consequence he has already made two commitments:

  1. He will not use the dealership for any service and maintenance
  2. He will post on online review forums about his experience

This is where the tragedy lies and so much damage is done without the salesman even being aware of the situation they have caused. Instead of viewing the transaction as a relationship where there could be ongoing goodwill through referrals and future maintenance of the vehicle this is now a once off transaction that is likely going to cost more than the expected sale. Secondly, this is the ignorance of a salesman/sales organization not yet accepting the power and influence of Social Media and the cost it can have on:

  • The salesman – any online post will likely name the individual and the power of Search Engines will quickly find that for future customers and employers
  • The dealership – also named in the online review will produce a negative customer valuation which can affect traffic to the dealership
  • The dealership network – often a dealership is an affiliate or part of a larger network (across multiple brands). Again the power of search engines will make the association of the individual dealership within the larger organization thus tainting their reputation.
  • The manufacturer – the dealership represents the retail storefront for a global manufacturer, who works hard to promote and protect their image. In the realm of social media they are dependent on their product and dealers to preserve this image.

As consumers this is the magic of Social Media – no longer are we told through marketing and advertising what our perceptions should be, our peers and fellow consumers tell us firsthand. Social Media has given us the power, we need to use it wisely, to both promote and demote based on actual interactions which helps everyone.

This is a simple illustration coincidentally involving the behavior of a stereotypical car salesman, but this applies in all transactions – Understand and engage at all levels as if you were in a relationship as Social is how the world moves today.

The Entrepreneurial Switch

by Guy Ralfe on December 23, 2009

do-not-sit-on-the-fenceFor many entrepreneurship is scary, I found it that way for a long time until I found myself in the right environment. Initially I envisaged entrepreneurship as finding the right idea, quitting your job and following your nose with your new idea. For the longest time I just seemed to miss the idea.

In a way it is a bit like approaching getting married. You love your girlfriend and want to spend the rest of your life together, you see your friends and family getting married one by one around you and they all seem happy. However, I was still apprehensive about what was going to happen after I got married. Were all my married friends suddenly engulfed by the “married spirits” and sworn to secrecy. What was the world like after taking those vows? Were they just waiting for me to fall into the same trap?

Of course not! What was I thinking looking back now? The reality was that I just did not have the knowledge or experience of what were the standards and criteria for operating as a married couple. I didn’t even know where to look to find the answers. Yes I saw my parents with 30+ years of experience but it did not occur to me that that would be the same for me. In fact what I didn’t realize was that the actual answer to this mystery was actually my parents, as the background of what it is to be married is shaped by those around us, that we observe. Our interpretation of that is how we engage in a married relationship – of course your spouse also has her background of what marriage is and so the interaction of these two visions is what drives the resultant actions we hold in marriage as a couple. So far so good and in many ways our actions seem to be exactly how our parents acted with us.

There are no magical entrepreneurial spirits out there but there are different ways of overcoming the apprehension. Many entrepreneurs just find themselves in the situation and their story is just how they dealt with the situation. A bit like a couple after a steamy and risky night, suddenly find themselves dealing with the situation of becoming parents, they just have to deal with the situation.

The remaining entrepreneurs are in two camps: those waiting / planning and those executing on fulfilling their ambition. Those waiting for the right moment, big idea, perfect plan etc will remain that way unless something around them changes. I was in this group for a long time, I know what it is like. For me the ambition was there but the desire was just not strong enough to quit and start out on my own. I recognized that I still had many knowledge gaps and a lack of capacity to act, which all compounded the risk to start executing. For me I needed the organization, to help me cover these knowledge gaps and with the team at Active Garage I have been able to execute on an entrepreneurial venture I could not have imagined on my own.

From me this is a thank you to the Active Garage team for making this venture possible. To those of you on the fence, waiting for the right something. Stop waiting and seek out the help in the areas that you have apprehension – those are the knowledge gaps you have to close before you can move forward. Happy Holidays!

You Can, but you shouldn’t Can’t

by Guy Ralfe on December 16, 2009

cant textHave you noticed in business how you react when people tell you something CAN’T be done? For me it lights my fuse and I then become driven to find the solution, almost to prove them wrong. I question the persons qualifications, their intent and any optimism that my problems are going to be solved by this individual/team/organization vaporizes.

A few years back I was the person delivering this news, time and again the customer was asking for help and because we didn’t have the skills we continually told the customer it can’t be done. Looking back it was a difficult time as this approach only added fuel to the fire and caused unnecessary conflict on projects at the time.

Customers employ staff and engage companies services primarily because they lack the skills and competence themselves. Clients are there to make requests, otherwise we would not be there servicing them, so always provide an option to move the client forward – let the client be the one to decide to quit a particular request not you telling them.

To do this I see two possible routes;

  1. Let the customer know why you believe this to be risky/difficult but that you could perform a little exploratory work and then they (the customer) can make a decision.
  2. Demonstrate to the customer why it is not feasible/possible etc

In both instances you have to show that you can lead the client through the process. This builds the trust in your capabilities and, generally, they will work with you to find a mutual outcome.

Another situation that I caution is “sandbagging” your risk by making something seem overly complicated. Take two situations:

  1. Consultant advises client he is unsure if it is possible, will do some investigation / proof of concept then provide an estimate to complete.
  2. Consultant advises client this is a major technical challenge and that it will take 40-80 hrs to attempt a resolution.

When consultant A comes back after 4 hours and advises he has a potential solution and it will take a further 4 hrs to develop, the client will work with the consultant. If consultant B comes back after 6 hrs and reports the task completed and that it is available to test – the client is left overjoyed by the result but regarding your competency and skill, it will be judged as low, and you may not get the next business request.

Clients pay to receive services, that requires knowledge, expertise and a leadership offering to facilitate realizing their requests. Can’t is not a powerful option so look to see how you can make positive possibilities for your customers, even if one possibility makes them realize this is not an option – you just should not be the one saying can’t in response to a request.

A couple of years on and I have a team that has great skills, are open and engaging with our clients and our business is thriving as a result. Best, our customers keep coming back for more.

Hindsight is a beautiful thing.

What Matters NowI am privileged to have had the opportunity to preview Seth Godin’s upcoming ebook What Matters Now prior to its launch. First off, there is little I can write here that will be of any substitute for reading the actual ebook.

This is a brilliant work and you must read it for 4 key reasons:

  • Timing – It is the end of the year and those pesky new year’s resolutions are upon us. This book will provoke your thoughts, stimulate your ambition and orientate you for action in the coming year.
  • Power – Seth Godin has brought in 72 thought leaders to provide their version of “What Matters Now.” This is providing us a sneak peek into the minds of these thought leaders with minimum time investment from us.
  • Network – Through this book you get access to the recognized thought leaders of today, what they are up to and how to tap into their networks – very valuable.
  • Diversity – Each contributor has presented their work in their own desired format, which in conjunction with the powerful messages produces a lesson in the art of communication.

The eBook comprises a page per topic word, with diverse topics as Strengths; Poker; Harmony; DIY; Change; Confidence; Productivity, to which a contributor per topic has shared their insight and knowledge, primarily producing a sense of reflection and thought to each topic.

I found it triggered many emotions and thoughts associated with each topic. As fast as they were triggered, when I flipped the page to read the next topic, the sensation was repeated – it is like being in a conversation with the author of each topic.

Later in the  day after reading the book, as I moved about I found I was pondering my situation and reflecting back on what I had read earlier. I think this is one of those books you keep with you as a guide. The format makes for a very easy read and great if you need to read in byte-size slots.

To give you a little insight to the content and contributors – Tim Sanders, author of Love is the Killer App: How to win business and Influence Friends wrote on the topic of Confidence – Tim speaks of confidence as the “Rocket fuel for your business life”. He then exposes the problem in confidence – “Most people don’t cultivate confidence – it just lands on them due to favorable conditions… Good times make for confident people. Bad times crush them, along with their daring point of view”

How true has this been over the last year? Tim then prescribes some sensible action to avoid this situation.

To demonstrate the contrast in presentation Jessica Hagy, author of the blog Indexed drew a simple picture on an index card and it produced just as much thought on the topic of Facts!


Do yourself the favor and download the ebook – but more importantly read it! If you can’t do that then please send the link to someone you care about because they will appreciate it.

Download free now –What Matters Now