A Lone Wolf is a Dead Wolf: Why You Need a Pack

Wolves are pack animals. A lone wolf quickly dies because only with the support of a unified pack can they bring down animals with which to feed themselves.

Likewise, the lone wolf in an organization may have some limited success but it will be the exception rather than a consistent pattern.

You need your own wolf pack within and outside the organization. Who do you rely on? Who can help you to get things done, to get that new product or campaign out the door? Extend this to external providers as well. The more useful people with whom you have relationships the better you’ll able to put together a team that cannot be beat.

And always remember that it should be a reciprocal relationship. No pack will have you long if you only take from others. Be generous with your assistance, advice and aid when needed.

Link of the Week: A Consultant's Advice to Non-Profit Boards

Alan Weiss postedhis advice for non-profit board members based on his experience as a consultant and board member for numerous NPOs.

Many good lessons in that post on the role of a board member, relationship to staff, and how to stay out of the weeds. Alan’s nutshell: “Non-profits have been failing at an alarming rate. That’s not the economy’s fault, it’s the board’s fault.”

Interview: Strategic Bragging with Sally Strackbein

Sally Strackbein, a speaker, coach and consultant, specializes in helping people to tell their stories. When I heard about her concept of strategic bragging, which she has been teaching to packed room of late, I thought it would be a great thing to share here.

In the interview, Sally and I discuss:

  • What is strategic bragging and why it matters.
  • Why you should encourage your staff to engage in strategic bragging.
  • The entrepreneurial benefits of strategic bragging as a virtuous circle.

Here is the link to the MP3 of the interview. Or use the embedded player:

[podcast]http://www.orgpreneur.com/podcastStrackbein.mp3[/podcast]

If you enjoy the interview be sure to check out Sally’s website at www.DefiningStory.com.

Organizational Politics is a Means, Not an End

When I worked on staff at associations, I was quite good at navigating organizational politics, particularly later in my career. What I realized was that organizational politics is simply a means to an end rather than the point of work. Once I figured that out, it was quite liberating and actually allowed me to engage in less politics while being more effective.

A critical part of managing organizational politics is understanding whether you are arguing about goals or about methods. Make this part of the conversation. Do we agree on what we are trying to achieve? If not, resolve that before moving on to determining how you will achieve it.

I have personally seen groups arguing about methodology when they had no agrement on what they were attempting to achieve. Going back to resolve the goal would often evaporate the original conflict because it was suddenly and obviously irrelevant to the clarified goal.

If you don’t clarify the core of the argument like this the only way to ‘win’ is by retaining your turf. This rarely creates value for the organization nor your mission.

The Two Tremendous Advantages NPOs Have Over Business

Non-profit organizations of all types typically have two advantages over for-profit competitors: trust and data.

NPOs are trusted more than businesses quite often. The trust comes from being a mission-focused organization as well as knowing that profits are reinvested to support the mission rather than paid out to owners or shareholders.

Many organizations also have a tremendous amount of data about their market already on hand. You know who the big givers are, you know who is in your profession, you know who comes to more meetings and events than others. This data is priceless.

Businesses would give a lot to have the same advantages.

Use the trust you have been given to offer value to your members, volunteers, donors, and others. Use that data to make highly relevant offers and communications to these same people.

Fulfilling your mission as an NPO doesn’t mean you have to be a doormat. Embrace your advantages! Put them to work. You owe it to your mission and your constituents.

Engagement Triggers

I’ve written a few posts on engagement this year and I have a feature article in Associations Now coming out in a month or so on the topic. One important concept that I touch on a bit in the article is that of identifying the natural precursors to a product or service among your other offerings.

If you review your data you should be able to identify segments of your customers who are more likely to buy product B if they have already purchased product A. Or they may have taken some other action you have captured that represents a meaningful change that opens new opportunities for you to provide value.

You can map out these connections and essentially develop an acceleration path comprised of a targeted chain of value that you can offer to relevant people.

My friend Tom Breur, a master at turning data into dollars, wrote recently in his newsletter about using automated triggers in your database to target customers for additional value when they have made a relevant purchase or taken some other step that indicates they are suitable. With Tom’s permission, I have quoted the relevant passage below:

Transactions Initiate Trigger-Based Marketing

Event-based marketing are actions that are triggered by changes in the customer’s life. The term trigger-based marketing is also commonly used. We would consider an “event” a complex, multi-faceted occurrence in the customer’s life. “Some” (unusual) transaction will be a signal this event has taken place. For instance, a customer who has bought a house will subsequently change address. Or a (female) customer who gets married changes her name. A customer reports a stolen credit card, etcetera. Sometimes it is clear from the transaction which event has taken place (like in the case of a female changing her name after getting married), and sometimes it isn’t.

If you understand the implications of an event to the customer’s life, it can help you in servicing the customer better. Or possibly selling additional products. This can become a very efficient means of interacting if the campaign or dialogue follows automatically from the transaction that triggers identification of the event.

The key, as Tom points out, is to understand the changing needs reflected behind a particular action you record in your database and determine what targeted value you can offer to them.

What are the most meaningful actions you currently capture? Based on that, what you can you offer to those people that is powerfully valuable to them given the new scenario they are in?

If you found the excerpt above valuable, you can sign up for Tom’s free newsletter here.

Lessons on Entrepreneurship from the 1940s

The first story I always tell about my grandfather, J.D. Gammel, Sr., is one of entrepreneurship.

As the story goes, JD Senior had started a small appliance store in the early 1940s and had a number electric ice boxes he was trying to sell. He lived in Western Kentucky which was in the midst of significant change as the Rural Electrification Administration set up electric cooperatives that ran wires out like spokes from a hub as TVA built hydro-electric dams across the middle of the U.S.

Granddad would load a few electric ice boxes into the back of his pickup truck and follow the newly strung lines out into the countryside. He would stop at a modest farmhouse and ask if the man of the house was about. (Early 40s, remember!) If so, they would shoot the breeze for quite some time until finally the farmer would ask what he had in the pickup truck. The farmer, who was using electricity to light a bulb or two in his home, if that, was always skeptical. “We don’t need an electric ice box! Our root cellar has worked for my family for as long as I can remember.”

Granddad would admit as to how that was true but offered to leave one of his boxes on the farmer’s front porch for a week at no cost and with no obligation. He would come back and take it away if they didn’t want it. Novelty usually won out and he would leave with one less ice box in his pickup truck.

As you might foresee, while the farmer thought the root cellar was fine his wife had a very different idea once they had had the electric box in place. No mess, fresh cold milk, ice on demand, less spoiled food, and so on.

Granddad would come by the next week and the farmer would come out and arrange a plan to pay him for the new electric ice box. Every single time. As the old saying goes, if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!

Some thoughts to consider for your organization:

  • What electrical lines can you follow to discover new markets and customers?
  • Who is the true buyer for what you are offering?
  • Are you taking the time to build a relationship with your best prospects before going for the sale?
  • How can you let your prospective customer, member, or volunteer experience what you have to offer before they have to buy?

Big thank you to my dad, the little guy in the picture above, for helping with the details of the story and to my sister Lisa for providing the scanned photo.

Link of the Week: Why an RFP May Guarantee You Don't See the Best of the Best

Tom Searcy shares in this post an experience where he advised a client to decline a request for proposal.

When looking for a new vendor or partner of some sort, everyone says they want the best possible partner for their goals given what they have to invest. Yet, too many requests for proposal appear designed to actually push those companies away. They are overly prescriptive, include pages of legalese, and ask irrelevant questions. Send it to too many firms and the best will drop out simply because the percentages aren’t in it.

The best, healthiest, companies have criteria for which prospects they want to pursue. Especially for a growing company, bad business is often worse than no business. Check out Tom’s post and some of the links he shares to get a sense of how the other side of the table approaches this.

A poorly designed or overly distributed RFP is unlikely to draw the best candidates. You may be left sorting the chaff while the wheat goes looking for a better baker!

Goals That Matter

My very first job when I moved to Washington DC in the early 90s was as a temp mailing sugar propaganda to schools across the country.

The goal of the organization at the time was to promote the health benefits of natural sugar. While I found the idea of mailing sugar information to schools pretty amusing, especially the Spanish-language version titled “El Diente,” it wasn’t a goal I cared about at all. I actually felt somewhat guilty about it. Combined with the mind-numbing work, it was hard to stay motivated and I did precisely what was expected of me and no more.

(I’m experiencing karmic payback now that I have two young children who love sugar!)

My next temp gig was filing paper event registration forms for an organization that helped companies relocate their employees more effectively. There was an international component to this, which I was very interested in since I had studied abroad in high school and college. The goal of relocation is to move people efficiently but also to do so in a way that enabled the employee to become effective in the job as soon as possible. Much of this work actually focuses on supporting their family more than the employee.

This was something that I could get behind. I had personal experience with it and knew how valuable it was to people uprooting their lives to move across the world.

It was a goal that mattered to me. I worked hard, was offered a permanent position and spent the next seven years moving through a half-dozen positions of increasing responsibility, constantly pushing to create new ways to achieve that goal.

What a difference a goal that mattered made to my career. I’m still exploring the path that those seven years opened up for me.

This is why goals that matter are critical if you want to be an orgpreneur. You need an evil plan. You need goals that will make you fail on the way to success.

You will actually harm your career if you take a job somewhere that does not pursue a goal that matters to you in some fashion. You will languish. You will not make exciting things happen.

Nothing other than a goal that matters will maintain your motivation and energy consistently over time.

You need a goal that matters. If you don’t have one, make one. Or find someone who has one you can get behind and work with them.

Life is short! Go for it.