Peer Advantage

What You Can’t See Will Hurt You. Badly. – The Peer Advantage by Bula Network

The mental and emotional health of today’s entrepreneur is a real thing. A very real danger. But very few people talk about it. Or even acknowledge it exists. 

I’m more afraid to not talk about it, than I am to talk about it. Because it doesn’t have to cripple us as CEO’s and business owners. Truth is, it’s like any other challenge or constraint. It can be dealt with. Improperly by ignoring it. Properly by seeing it, understanding it and then handling it. It’s what we do, right? We manage the work. We lead the people. It’s about time we started managing the things that get in our way as owners, leaders and humans. 

Visit The Peer Advantage by Bula Network.

TPA5037 - Putting Your Company In The Best Position For Success - THE PEER ADVANTAGE

TPA5037 – Putting Your Company In The Best Position For Success

TPA5037 - Putting Your Company In The Best Position For Success - THE PEER ADVANTAGE

As the owner you’re the #1. And you wouldn’t have it any other way.  But sometimes you don’t treat yourself like you’re the #1.

Every business owner has one basic – but very big – job: to obtain and deploy the necessary resources to make the company successful. That’s why you invest in the things you do. You believe they’ll garner a return. Some will get a big return. Others, not so much. Sometimes you have a pretty good idea of the return you’ll get on something. Other times you don’t, so you hope they’ll pan out like you want. 

As a young man I once overheard an owner tell a VP supplier who was critical of how he was doing things, “You know the difference between you and me? I’m betting with my money that I’m right.” I smiled. So true. That’s what we do as business owners. We bet on ourselves. We bet on our people. We bet on our ideas and our decisions.

Watch any episode of Shark Tank and you’ll see what the venture capital community has long understood – folks who make their living betting on businesses. They bet on the jockey, not the horse. That means the idea is sometimes far less important than the person behind it. 

In similar fashion, I’m betting on you and I’m asking for you to bet on yourself. As you’re considering all the resources at your disposal and how you can best deploy them, I have a big question. 

Are you an asset or a liability?

Are you an opportunity for the company, or a constraint – a limitation and restriction?

The truth is, you own the joint. And according to the SBA there are 99.7% of you out there – small business owners. And almost 90% of you employ fewer than 20 people. That’s a tremendously large group of people who represent a monumental economic impact on our communities and our country. 

You’re a resource. I’d argue that you are the most important resource in your organization by virtue of the fact that you own it, and you operate it. The buck stops with you in more ways than you may realize. 

When you hire a new employee I sure hope you don’t just welcome them, then leave them alone. I hope you provide some sort of onboarding and training. I hope you put them with more seasoned employees who can show them a thing or three. I hope you surround them with people and resources so they can succeed in their new job at your company. And even if you don’t always do those things as well as you know you’d like, you know you should. You know it’s the smart way to go to help your company move forward. 

I get it. Fires erupt. They foil your plans to do good – or better – work. Stuff happens, right? 

While stuff is happening you’re neglecting your biggest resource. While you’re busy putting out the fires that must be extinguished, you become just a bit more distracted from deploying the biggest resource that’s vital to your company’s success.

YOU.

You take whatever time you want to look over the details of a lease agreement, or a purchase agreement for inventory, or in vetting a new employee. You pay attention to the things that you know can contribute to helping your company grow. You also know from experience that what I call the trifecta of business building encompasses all the work you do as a business builder and owner.

  1. Getting new customers
  2. Serving existing customers better
  3. Not going crazy in the process

It’s about sales. It’s about executing delivery of your products or services to the customers. It’s about the systems and processes necessary so much of the work can reliably happen on auto-pilot without you losing your mind. This is your life.

All this time and attention spent in important areas so your company can succeed. And grow. 

Yet the #1 resource is often overlooked and ignored. YOU. You investing in yourself, not for purely selfish reasons, but because like the sharks on TV, you’re betting on yourself (the jockey). You’re betting with your own money that you’re right. Well, are you right? Are you right in betting your money in all the resources you need except perhaps the most important one? YOURSELF?

Let me ask you a question…

When was the last time you achieved something really big all by yourself? Nobody helped at all. Nobody did one thing to support you. It’s was just all YOU. When?

Yeah, you and I both the answer. NEVER. 

You’re a smart person. You’re just doing all you know and it’s what you don’t know that can hurt you. I’m encouraging you to come over to the bright side of knowing something that you likely already knew — you owe it to yourself and your company to grow, improve and transform as a business owner. Nothing you can do will put your company in a better position for success. Because that’s how important you are to the company. That’s how important your decisions are. YOU impact every area of your company. And you love it. 

You just need to stop avoiding making the investment where it can most matter. You need to realize there is a better way.

Did you know there is an organization called Parents of Murdered Children? No, it’s not a group you want to be a member of, but if it describes you…you’re so thankful they exist. Where else are you going to get in a room with other people who understand your pain and your circumstances? Where else are you going to go where you don’t have to explain to others what’s happened to you? No where. It’s the safe, secure place you can go to gather with people who completely understand and get it. No explanations needed. Just candid, safe conversation where people can serve each other, support each other and help each other because the group has only one big goal — to help everybody through the pain.

You learned all this when you were a little kid. Your parents knew it. Who you hang around has an impact on your life. That’s why your parents didn’t want you hanging around the kids who misbehaved and got in trouble at school. They didn’t want you to join them. Somewhere along the way you outgrew that…you got too smart for your own good. And you forgot that. 

Now you’re a business owner and there just isn’t anybody *that* safe you can go to. Sure, you’ve got other friends who are also business owners. You’ve got an attorney. You’ve got a CPA. You may have a spouse. There’s a lot of explaining that’s required to just get them to kinda sorta understand your circumstance (it’s a big reason why so many business owners don’t rely on their spouse, because they say, “He/She just can’t relate”). And each of them have a relationship with you that can get in the way, for both of you. Friends don’t want to risk the friendship. Professionals don’t want to risk losing you as a client. Family don’t need the drama so it’s best to leave that alone!

Like other groups where the common denominator is that “we’re all in the same boat,” the peer advantage is practical. Little explanation needed (like Parents of Murdered Children). Everybody gets it. And when the group is small business owners nobody wants anybody telling them they should do this, or they shouldn’t do that…we mostly need to voice our opportunities and our concerns, then engage in a thoughtful, deep discussion so we can better see every angle before we make our own decision on what we’re going to do. 

When the room is private, confidential and safe — magic like that happens. Over time we become better at making decisions. We begin to see things we never saw before because other business owners are helping us see things from their viewpoint, which is often different than our own. Nobody is judging. Nobody is criticizing. People are talking, listening, understanding and seeing more clearly than ever before. Oh, and it feels terrific — it’s a big part of the 3rd leg of that trifecta (not going crazy in the process of owning and running our business). 

Mostly, it’s about finally deploying our biggest resource in the most powerful way to put our company in the best position for greater success. It’s about growing great.

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TPA5036 - "They Don't Know What We Do!" - THE PEER ADVANTAGE

TPA5036 – “They Don’t Know What We Do!”

TPA5036 - "They Don't Know What We Do!" - THE PEER ADVANTAGE

The sales team laments how harshly they feel judged by the VP. This morning’s meeting wasn’t exactly joyful. The team has four days left in the month, but more importantly, they’re a few hundred thousand dollars away from hitting their number. Laurie, the VP, challenged them to hit it hard, reinforcing the importance of achieving the monthly sales goal. 

“We relaxed after getting off to a great start,” she told the group. It was true. The great start. The team had a pretty good book of business going into the month, fueled largely by a few deals that were landed the prior month, but didn’t hit the books until this current month. Even they admit they had likely not hustled like they could have in week 2. But since then they’ve worked really hard. One week. But as everybody in sales knows, one off week can wreck a month. 

Laurie informs the group of a new marketing effort due to launch in Q3. That’s 4 months away, but okay thinks the sales team. She shows them a short slide deck outlining the initiatives. She wants them to hear of the coming launch directly from her, and not through the grapevine. But she’s insistent that they not become distracted by it. She doesn’t want to spend much time on it today. Too late. She’s inadvertently opened a box of snakes. 

Robert, one of the senior (and most productive) sales guys pipes up at one slide that is problematic based on his experience with customers. And so begins a conversation about how the marketing department never speaks to the sales team. “I don’t think they’ve got a clue what really happens out on the street,” he says. “They don’t know what we do. And they sure don’t seem to be interested enough to understand.” 

Laurie bristles. You can tell she feels it’s sort of a slam on her. After all, she’s the VP of Sales. After a few more brief minutes of banter, she tries to refocus the group on the task at hand. Make the month. She tables the conversation for another day and assures the group that they’ll finish this discussion, but later. For now, the group has to maintain solid attention on bringing in just under $400,000 over the next 4 days. Meeting dismissed!

This scenario happens too frequently. And I’m not talking about a sales team that is coming up short with not many days left — that’s certainly commonplace. I’m talking about one department feeling like another department is clueless about their work. I’m talking about people inside an organization who feel siloed from others. People who feel underappreciated and misunderstood. Sales and marketing departments operate under different metrics and dashboards. So their love/hate relationship is more common than it should be. 

Rather than assign blame, let’s think about what’s going on, and what we can do to find a remedy. 

Sales is a today activity. Nobody cares what you did yesterday. And tomorrow isn’t even here yet. 

Marketing isn’t nearly as measurable. The performance parameters look and feel much different. 

But the problem, and the solution is much more basic. It’s connection and collaboration. It doesn’t have to be sales and marketing. It can be any group inside an organization or company that impacts another group. Or it could be individual people. It’s the classic right hand and left hand relationship. Too many of us are in organizations where we can readily admit, “The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.” 

We could think about power struggles, bases of authority and ego — all valid things that contribute to the disruption of connection and collaboration. But those can much less practical issues to handles. I’m a practical guy. And I’m a speed freak interested in answering, “What can we do right now to improve this thing?”

Leon Shapiro and Leo Bottary in their book – THE POWER OF PEERS – gave us 5 factors of peer advantage. Here they are:

Select The Right Peers

  • A peer group is smarter than any one individual.
  • Leaders benefit from insightful questions and the impartial advice of their peers.
  • People prefer to implement their own solutions, rather than be told what to do and how to do it.
  • Success is the most effective means of driving positive behavior changes.
  • Leaders, regardless of industry sector, share common aspirations and challenges.
  • Leaders benefit from learning about industry practices not common to their own business.
  • Peer accountability is a powerful force.

Create A Safe Environment

  • Being vulnerable is liberating.
  • When you can share anything, knowing you won’t be judged, it’s a powerful force to help you grow.
  • A healthy respect for confidentiality is mandatory. What happens in a group, stays in the group. It’s not negotiable.
  • Vulnerability is seen as a strength, not a weakness.
  • Creativity and change are fueled by our willingness to be open.

Utilize A Smart Guide

  • True smart guides lead with the hand of a servant.
  • They listen, ask good questions, build camaraderie, consider themselves as coaches rather than consultants and wear their passion for the role on their sleeve.
  • The smart guide is part of the group and every member of the group has their back.
  • They reinforce group norms, create an atmosphere of learning and have fun – all at the same time.

Foster Valuable Interaction

  • Confidentiality is key. That safe environment fosters more open interactions.
  • Skilled, repeated interactions create close bonds among group members who share in the joys of repeated successes.
  • The use of a highly strategic and structured approach fosters more skilled discussions.
  • It involves properly framing the issue, asking questions informed by experience and leveraging the power of a collection of successful business owners.
  • It provides an unparalleled opportunity for personal and professional development of every member.

Be Accountable

  • Accountability is where peer advantage comes to life.
  • It’s where the outcomes and takeaways each business owner realizes manifest themselves both personally and professionally.
  • It’s the whole point — to grow. To improve. To be more effective.
  • The difference between peer influence and peer advantage is that peer influence is an individual pursuit while peer advantage is a group endeavor powered by greater selectivity, targeted strategies for achieving goals and structured engagement that inspires lasting results.

Laurie is the VP of Sales. Joe is the VP of Marketing. They both report to the CMO. Laurie certainly has the power and ability to approach Joe with a proposal for a group to be formed where their respective departments can connect and collaborate for the benefit of the entire company. It begins with her willingness and ability to accomplish those things between she and Joe. 

She realizes that it’s something she should have done long ago, but like every executive leader, she’s been solely focused on the tasks in front of her. She admits it hasn’t been a priority. There’s a light bulb moment when Laurie realizes so much focus (necessarily so) on immediate and short-term sales success has driven her to avoid forging the relationship with Joe that would benefit everybody, including Joe. 

Laurie isn’t interested in encroaching on Joe’s territory. She just wants a voice in the conversation. And she wants her team to feel heard and understood. First, she wants to make sure Joe is feeling the same way about himself and his team. A quick coffee meeting one morning before work confirms they both want the same thing. Joe confesses that his team feels misunderstood, too. They both express sadness that they didn’t get together sooner with this level of candid conversation. Now they’re planning ways to form a group comprised of sales and marketing people.

The Peer Advantage has immense power inside organizations. What group or groups could you form to help remedy the disconnection inside your organization? Are there groups within your company that are saying about another inside group, “They don’t understand what we do?” If your company has grown and become large enough that you no longer know everybody as well as you did in the old days…then you’re experiencing this inside your company. It’s also possible you’re feeling it if your company is still small. Smallness and size don’t necessarily prevent us siloing ourselves, assuming we’re smarter than others. The sooner you shut that down by focusing on the power of the collective – showing people who they achieve much more together than they ever hoped by themselves – the better. 

Subscribe to the podcast

bula network podcast on itunesTo subscribe, please use the links below:

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Thank you!

How Diversity Provides Leadership Insight ( What We Have In Common, What We Don't) - THE PEER ADVANTAGE

TPA5033 – How Diversity Provides Leadership Insight ( What We Have In Common, What We Don’t)

How Diversity Provides Leadership Insight ( What We Have In Common, What We Don't) - THE PEER ADVANTAGE

This story appeared last night on CBS’ 60 Minutes. Oprah Winfrey did the story. 

One year into Donald Trump’s presidency, Americans remain divided, often unwilling to listen to what the other side has to say. It’s happening in families, among friends and at the workplace. We witnessed that schism first-hand last fall when we went to Grand Rapids, Michigan, and gathered 14 people – seven who voted for Mr. Trump, seven who did not – for a wide-ranging discussion about politics, policy and the president himself. To mark President Trump’s first year in office we decided to repeat the experiment. We never intended to go back to Grand Rapids. But then we learned that, after disagreeing on virtually everything, our group stayed in close touch. Members from opposite sides of the divide actually became friends, organizing outings and talking every day in a private facebook chat group.  All of that made us want to go back.

You should watch the segment on 60 Minutes’ website. I wasn’t intrigued so much by the political banter or debate, but by the fact that 14 people split right down the middle in maintaining very opposite views would continue to engage with each other. The conservative pollster Frank Luntz had assembled the group for CBS. He said, “I was surprised that they stayed together because there was every reason, based on the conversation, that they would pull themselves apart. But what I liked about it is that they came to respect each other, appreciate each other, and live each other’s lives to some degree so that they could empathize. That was a laboratory.”

The Peer Advantage isn’t fiction. It’s real and last night we saw a demonstration of it on a prime time legendary news magazine TV show, 60 Minutes. 

Lauren, one of the members of this 14-person group offered this:

I don’t have access to Trump voters outside of this group. In fact, during the election, I pretty much deleted everybody, who believed in the values that Trump espoused. So this group has helped me to understand perspectives that I would not have had access to. And so I’ve been able to take that out to my friends who don’t have access to Trumpers, and they come back and say, “Hey, I really learned a lot.” That’s huge. Because everybody wants to feel understood, but it’s quite a different thing to want to understand. And I think most of us have gotten that out of this.

Business owners and CEO’s can be every bit as jaded as people with strong political positions. We know what we know and mostly, we feel convinced we’re right. But as this – and many other stories – show, being right isn’t the goal. It’s about being understood and understanding. 

What You Don’t Know Will Hurt You

Business leaders hate blind spots. We grow annoyed when something occurs that we knew nothing about. It’s made worse when we find out somebody in our organization knew it but failed to share it. 

Leaders crave information, data, and facts. Because these things fuel our ability to make wiser decisions. And business leaders – perhaps more than the average person – hate being fooled, or getting it wrong because we didn’t see it correctly (or because we didn’t see the whole thing). Many of us are comfortable if we make a mistake because we were trying something new or innovative. But we can’t stand to be defeated by a lack of information, or a lack of insight – things we mostly feel could have been avoided, but weren’t. 

Why then do you continue to live with your assumptions as though they’re facts?

Why do you press on with the same thoughts, ideas, and perceptions when you’ve neglected to really put them to the test?

Like Lauren, many of us have shut off all opposing viewpoints. We’ve surrounded ourselves only by people who are just like us. We say we don’t want a bunch of “yes men” around us, but that’s exactly what we’ve done. Maybe not intentionally, but that’s been the outcome of our actions and behaviors over the course of time. We didn’t see it coming. We never sensed it was happening. And maybe today – you still don’t know it. That’s even worse. Not knowing. 

How can one person be so staunchly in favor of something that somebody else can so staunchly oppose? Because they think differently based on their experiences, insights, and opinions. They understand the issue differently. 

In business, we’re not concerned at all with imposing our viewpoints on others. In politics, that seems to be the only goal. That gives us a big advantage – The Peer Advantage. 

When a custom home builder sits across from an aircraft parts manufacturer, a car dealer, a non-profit and a host of other business owners from different spaces — he learns things he’d never have learned otherwise. He gains insights that at first tempted to think, “That’s not going be helpful to me and my situation.” Until he discovers how wrong he was. Just another assumption he made that proved incorrect.

When he brings a marketing challenge to the group and the discussion begins it’s evident that the fact they don’t build houses is helpful, not hurtful. They don’t suffer his tunnel vision. They don’t suffer his jaded outlook on his own industry. Or his assumptions, especially the ones that aren’t correct. 

Positions are explained. Experiences are shared. He sits there quietly taking it in, occasionally answering questions asked by the group to better understand his challenge. It’s not confrontational, but it’s a room of CEO’s and business owners. Everybody has the captain mentality. So the conversations are mostly to the point and quick at getting to the crux of the matter. It’s what we do. It’s how we operate. All the participants appreciate it. 

There’s disagreement. Some dissenting viewpoints. But every member has committed to first understanding. Active listening is employed. Not simply hearing the words spoken, but intently working to understand the meaning that’s trying to be expressed. That’s why this room thrives on questions. And these aren’t passive-aggressive questions either. The person leading the group won’t tolerate it, nor will the rest of the room. It didn’t take them long to figure out that their questions needed to be non-judgmental. In fact, just about all of them said it was among the first lessons they learned by being in the group — and it really helped them back at their office as they honed their skills to ask better questions. Many of them shared insights how they realized they were able to completely foil progress by asking questions that contained their personal answer. Just another component of the peer advantage.

What We Have In Common Binds Us

The group assembled by 60 Minutes were all people very involved in the political process. They care about it and are passionate in their viewpoints. They’re all Americans with a vested interest in the outcome. There’s no disputing that each of them wants America to excel in every way. 

They’re all honest in their passion and opinions. Perhaps some of them have personalities that are more prone toward contrarianism than not, but they’re not in the group to be contrary. They are all there to express their viewpoints. Well, that’s how it began. Turns out, they’re all sticking around to hear opposing views and to better understand them. 

They’re Americans. Who care. That’s enough of a bind. 

What We Don’t Have In Common Pushes Us Forward

The 60 Minutes’ group differs wildly in their opinions, viewpoints, and perspectives. That fuels the dialogue and debate. And like the business owners who gather, it provokes questions to foster better (deeper) understanding. No, it doesn’t always happen, but the process powers progress. 

Toward the end of the program, Oprah asks one man, Matt, what he had gotten from the group.

Heartache. Dead phone batteries. This is a good group of people. You guys really are. And I understand everybody’s set in their ways. It’s, it’s, it’s not the 80% that we will never change that we’re just never gonna agree on 80%. So 20% we need to figure out a way to come together on.

It’s not about changing minds by forcing opinions on others. It’s about listening, learning and understanding. It’s about gaining insights about others so we can better understand ourselves. And what we can do to grow, improve and transform. 

No, it’s not always comfortable. Like going to the gym for the first time in years, it can be painful. But if we’ll keep at it…we’ll get stronger. Healthier. More fit. Better in every way to become leaders worthy of being followed. Business owners thriving in business and in life because we’re now in the habit of seeing multiple sides of an issue, whether it’s a problem or an opportunity. And we all know that knowledge is power. 

Subscribe to the podcast

bula network podcast on itunesTo subscribe, please use the links below:

If you have a chance, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking Review on iTunes. It’ll help the show rank better in iTunes.

Thank you!

TPA5032 – Small Business, Big Impact: The Power Of The Collective

The U.S. Small Business Administration defines a small business as “an organization with fewer than 500 employees.” The majority of small businesses employ fewer than 100 employees. One and two-person companies make up most small businesses in America. So it’s a very broad definition of “small business.” There’s an enormous difference in running a one-man freelancing operation versus a global 475-person organization yet both would technically be called “small business” based on the SBA’s definition. 

My personal definition is, in some ways, even looser. In other ways, more narrow. I focus on the just a few simple things that I have found more practical for my work in serving CEO’s and business owners. One, it’s got little to do with revenues and head counts. They’re important and there is a correlation between those things and the things I quantify most. How close is the CEO or owner to the generation of revenue? I don’t mean they actually do the selling, but they may help every now and again. How close is the CEO or owner to the actual work of the company? If the company manufactures a product or delivers a service, how involved is the CEO or owner? I consider a business small based mostly on those factors, not on the amount of revenues or the number of employees. My interest is in serving companies that have relatively flat org charts. 

Yes, companies with big revenues tend to have more employees and with that – more layers of management/leadership. However, in the digital age, that’s not necessarily so. For the past couple of decades, a single employee has been armed with sufficient technology to do the work of many. 

According to the SBA 99.7% of American companies are technically “small businesses.” Companies with fewer than 20 employees comprised 89.4% of all businesses. By every standard or measurement, small business dominates the business landscape. It’s been projected that by 2020 about 50% of the workforce will be freelancers. Dan Pink wrote of this in his 2001 book, Free Agent Nation: How Americans New Independent Workers Are Transforming the Way We Live

Small businesses may not get the headlines, but they have an enormous impact, both economically and practically. They represent individual and collective power, contribution and potential. This is evidenced by the fact that companies with fewer than 49 employees have been responsible for most of the employment growth, adding 44% of all new jobs

Small businesses have long learned the power of the collective. Their size has often compelled them to join forces in buying groups, marketing organization, and other cooperative organization so they can leverage their collective size and power. For example, the Nationwide Marketing Group is in the consumer electronics/home furnishings/major appliances retailing space. Here’s what they say about themselves on their website:

“Nationwide Marketing Group works beside thousands of appliance, furniture, electronics, specialty electronics, custom installation and rent to own dealers helping them grow their businesses and their bottom lines. With some 5,300 members, operating approximately 14,000 storefronts with estimated sales of $18.5 billion, Nationwide is North America’s largest buying and marketing organization. Industry veterans, heading Nationwide’s seven regional divisions, work to provide independent dealers with personalized service and local programming in every market they serve.”

No single member of that organization can possibly be as powerful as they can be together. By working together they’re able to leverage not only their buying power but their knowledge base. Like an antelope attempting to survive alone on the Serengeti, these retailers (5,300 of them) have learned their survival and “thrival” is enhanced by joining forces. Small doesn’t have to mean vulnerable to the market or competition. Nor does it have to mean weak. 

The sheer number of small businesses displays the passion, determination, and dedication of American business owners to solve problems, serve markets and make a difference where they operate. However, like a single ember left apart from the whole of the fire, small businesses can easily weaken and die. The passion can be extinguished. The practical reality of maintaining market viability can be tough. Even if your revenues are measured in the millions. Or tens of millions. About 30% of them will celebrate their 10th anniversary. 

I’m optimistic. Mostly, because I’m practical. And experienced at operating small businesses. I know the pain, the struggle and the euphoria of being tough to compete against. And mostly the joy of knowing the market (our customers) is enhanced by our presence. The question we can ask about our own lives applies to our small businesses, “Would they miss us if we were gone?” If they would, then you’re having a positive impact. 

How can that impact be bigger?

Small businesses individually have a big impact on their employees, customers, suppliers and the market. It may feel insignificant sometimes, but it’s not. The ripple effects are widespread and lasting. But it can be improved. There’s a bigger power source to tap into. Like the example of the retail marketing group, Nationwide, small business owners can join forces and find themselves experiencing the collective power that dwarfs anything they’ve ever known. 

Your parents knew the value and truth of the collective. That’s why they’d ask you where you going, and who with. Where you went was something they cared about, but maybe more importantly, they wanted to know who you’d be with. What is the collective going to be? 

Mom and dad didn’t want us going anywhere with the wrong people. They knew the power of influence. And they knew that the people we surrounded ourselves with could make a big difference in the outcome. The wrong kids would get us in trouble. The right kids could provide the right drivers, motivations, and outcomes. “Birds of a feather flock together,” and all that. Our folks wanted us to be part of a collective that would give us the best opportunity for success. And safety. 

Nothing has changed. Absolutely nothing. 

It’s like that popular book years ago by Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Uncommon Thoughts on Common Things. You likely learned life’s many important (and critical) lessons before you started first grade. The power of the collective is one of them. If our childhood playmates were important to our development (and they were), then why do we live as CEO’s and business owners unconcerned about the power of the collective in our lives? Have we forgotten what we learned in kindergarten? Has our life grown so hectic and complex that we’re neglecting the fundamental, but powerful resources that can help propel us forward?

Together We’re More Powerful Than We Are Alone

We take a bit of money and store it away into some investment account. By putting more money together with other money – even a small amount, over time that money enjoys the magic of compounding interest. Compounding isn’t limited to interest and money though. The power of the collective grows and is magnified over time. Hopefully, you experience that in your marriage and friendships. 

The power of the collective is all around us. When birds migrate we see it. When animals herd (or flock) together we see it. When individual players join a team we see it. When a singer/songwriter joins with other musicians we see it and hear it. When small businesses join forces we see it. Going it alone isn’t as efficient or effective as going it with somebody else, or a group. 

CEO’s and owners sometimes tend to think these things are true everywhere except in their careers. Maybe you think you must go it alone. WRONG.

So many misconceptions provoke faulty thinking. Those of us with that “captain” gene – the drive to lead and be in charge – are driven to think for ourselves. We are where we are because we’re basically unemployable, unable to work for others. That can drive us to an unnecessary loneliness. 

Consider that marketing group, Nationwide. Each dealer makes their own purchases. What may be a great buy for one dealer may be idle inventory for another. Just because you’re in the group doesn’t mean anybody is telling you what to buy (or do). The group simply provides you opportunities you wouldn’t otherwise have. The ability to make purchases that are more cost-effective so profits can be increased. Buy it. Don’t buy it. It’s up to you. 

We learned this playing in the neighborhood. And on the school playground. 

Playmates and friends influenced us, but we made our own choices. “No, I don’t feel like playing baseball. Let’s do something else.” 

But we did learn something very important. Our contribution to the group and the group’s contribution to our life made all the difference. Sometimes it was obvious that the group wanted to play baseball. That made us want to play baseball. Because we knew the group needed us. And we knew that when the group played football, something we loved more than baseball, then we’d want the group to join us. You can’t really play baseball or football alone. Not if you want to really play and compete. Not if you want to have fun.

Play. Compete. Have fun.

You want that in your career and in your small business. We all want that. 

For years I’ve boiled down business activities into 3 things: 1) getting new customers, 2) serving existing customers better and 3) not going crazy in the process. By being part of a collective we can enhance all three of these. Truth is, by being in a collective we can reach brand new heights of success in all 3 areas. Otherwise, it’s very difficult. Not impossible, but far tougher than necessary. 

Examples Are Everywhere. Why Ignore Them?

All around us are examples of the power of the collective. We’ve witnessed it in our own lives. Yet, for some reason (many actually, although none are truly valid), we can refuse to deploy this most basic of powerful resources in our careers and lives. That seems even more ridiculous when you consider your role as the CEO or owner – to manage the wise deployment of resources in order to grow your business. 

Are you wisely deploying your resources? Not if you’re refusing to let others help you. Not if you’re refusing to surround yourself with other CEO’s and owners who can (and will happily) help you grow your company, your leadership, and your life. It’s time. Past time. Growth, improvement, and transformation won’t happen by accident. Nor will they come to those who halt or delay. The rewards go to the bold, courageous doers. 

Be well. Do better!

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