Mix It Up to Stimulate Innovation

We are always saying to ourselves…we have to innovate. We’ve got to come up with that breakthrough. In fact, the way software works...so long as you are using your existing software...you don’t pay us anything at all. So we’re only paid for breakthroughs. - Bill Gates

Most innovations are not the invention of something completely new, but rather an improvement on something in existence.

Change the Color

When General Motors offered cars that were any color you wanted, rather than Ford’s “any color as long as it’s black” approach, they immediately and critically dislodged Ford’s firm grip on the automotive marketplace. As fashion changed, Levi’s blue jeans had a hit on their hands when they went black. When SKYY vodka went to an unusual blue bottle, their distinctiveness soared.

The Total Experience Is Usually More Important Than the Actual Product

"We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better." - Jeff Bezos

Many businesses provide a total experience rather than just a product or service. These owners often focus in on the technical aspects of their businesses—making sure the place is clean, the greens are cut, the coffee is hot, or whatever general standards are applicable to their types of businesses. In paying attention the technical aspects, they sometimes miss the boat on other just as important experiential aspects of marketing their products or services.

Take restaurants for example. There are plenty of local restaurants near my home that sell good food: Casa Norma, The Rusty Duck, and Romano’s come to mind, but none of these quite delivers when it comes to the total package. While each of these places has its own charm, they are not the type of modern, upscale bistro that you would find in a big city.

Then came the Crystal River Wine & Cheese Company. It was the total package: the type of place you would expect to find in Los Angeles or Manhattan, but not in Crystal River—which of course is what made it so special. The place was small, the menu a little quirky, but the food tasted great, the service was very friendly, the jazz band good, and the whole atmosphere produced a great evening’s experience rather than simply dinner.

The Beauty of Accessibility

There are no traffic jams along the extra mile. - Roger Staubach

Go to any large company and try to find a phone number you can call and actually speak to a human being. Most hide behind FAQ pages that seldom seem to answer YOUR UNUSUAL QUESTION. They hide behind “contact us” with a drop-down menu of choices, none of which actually matches your issue. If you do find an 800 number to call, it’s usually a voice mail sending you back to the website or an endless loop of choices you can’t actually execute because you don’t have the 15-digit code they want (in fact that’s why you’re calling).

When clients want to get hold of you, they want to do it now. Few things are more irritating than calling a service provider and being shuffled to voicemail automatically, with little or no indication whether the person you are looking for is in the office or traveling through Kenya on safari. I made a huge leap in business and customer service at my karate schools when I bought a cellular phone and answered my phone sixteen hours a day instead of eight.

Entrepreneurial Problem Solving

The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty. - Winston Churchill

Perhaps the greatest skill of most successful entrepreneurs is their ability to come up with creative solutions to the host of daily problems every business owner faces, be it lack of cash, competition, or employees. Rarely has anyone captured the essence of this trait better than George Bernard Shaw, who eloquently said, “Some men see things as they are and say why…I see things that never were and say why not.” Innovation, creativity, the ability to dream things that never were, or change things that never should have been, are at the very heart of the cunningly clever entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurs are, by their very nature, legendary problem solvers. They learn early that one’s position in life is very often measured in direct proportion to their ability to unravel difficulties. The better you become at problem-solving, the more complex the problems you can graduate to in the future. If your issues are small and trivial and can be solved quickly and easily, or simply avoided altogether, then you probably have not gone very far in life. If, however, your problems are large, complex, or demand a great deal of thinking, time, and effort to solve, then you’re probably well ahead of the pack in terms of power and position.

Spotting, Creating, and Capitalizing on Opportunity

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” - Thomas Edison

A key way to quickly get ahead in business and life is to have a keen eye for spotting opportunities. If only we had the foresight to register a domain name in 1993 – any domain name –  because back then they were all still available. If only we had bought land on the river or where the mall now stands. If only we had unloaded all our stocks in early 2007 instead of 2010. Still, hindsight is always 20/20; the question is how can you spot the next great opportunity for your business?

I’m not talking about you having to predict major national and international trends like the price of gold, or the stock market. I’m talking about not getting so caught up in your day-to-day work that you miss simple opportunities. It’s about you working on your business, not just in it.

The first step to inviting opportunity into your life is to be on the lookout for it – to seek it out, by looking, listening, and constantly analyzing how you do business. The question “What could you do better?” should always at the front of your mind, instead of locked away in a vault at the back!

Your business and life ultimately are determined by the quality of the questions you pose and answer!

On a Scale of One to Ten, How Good Is Your Company’s Service?

It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages. - Henry Ford

If you asked each of the following—all very nice people— whether they feel they have a good reputation for service, each would unequivocally say yes. Each would tell you how they love working with people, how they are excited about their jobs, and how everyone who deals with them has good things to say about them. All would be wrong because the service or the follow-up service I received from each will forever brand these people in my mind as also-rans.

The first house I bought in Florida generated a very large commission for the real estate agent who was both the listing and the selling agent. She spent a grand total of one day with my wife and me before we bought it. Now, admittedly, for one reason or another, we didn’t move in on time, but the fact remains she spent less than eight hours on a deal that made her firm tens of thousands of dollars. Did we have fruit waiting in the kitchen, a bottle of Dom Perignon, or a thank you card? NO! In fact, we got nothing—way to build your reputation lady.