Sunday, August 30, 2009

"Think Different"

I wanted to entitle this Think Outside of the Box but that expression is so overused that I realized no one would read this if I did. Yet, just like Apple did with the brilliant marketing campaign that upset every English teacher in America, that is exactly what I am condoning here.

"Yes, yes," you say, "I've heard this a million times before. And I do try to look for new approaches to common problems that I encounter." It's great that you do, but I offer that you need to do it as your modus operandi, i.e. your current way of doing things should be the "outside of the box" in the future.

As a simple example, let me describe a situation that happened to my wife's business. My wife, a professionally trained makeup artist (shameless plug: with experience in film, TV and special effects) that provides hair and makeup services on location to brides and their bridal parties, is receiving more requests for weddings that will occur on Long Island, NY. In spite of the fact that we live here, the majority of the business she receives is for NJ, since she was very well-established there prior to our own nuptials.

Since her staffing numbers reflect the distribution of business, the majority of her artists live in NJ. But with the increased demand on Long Island, she needed to find more artists that live there in order to serve her clientele.

The obvious location for a small business owner to look for artists was CraigsList since that is free...right? When she decided to post to the classified ad section, she found CraigsList recently decided to assess a $25 fee for each posting in that section.

"What?!?" she exclaimed (much to the chagrin of my 4th grade teacher who told me that you can't have multiple punctuation at the end of a sentence).

Instead of posting a single classified ad with multiple positions for employment described inside (in order to save money), she opted to post in another section of CraigsList that wouldn't be - at first blush - the first place you'd look for employment. But, it was free, which is important to a small business owner who is experiencing a lot of downward pressure by clients on her prices.

The result? After 12 hours, she had over 20 responses to the posting, which was far more than she ever received when she posted in the classified section of the website. She found herself struggling to answer all of the inquiries and now is cautiously optimistic that she will be able to staff her Long Island operation in anticipation for the late 2009 / 2010 wedding season.

Someone once commented to me about my pool playing by saying, "you always come up with creative but sensible shots that people wouldn't typically think of." (Believe it or not, they were sincere; and given that they are a good player themselves, it was a compliment.) I wanted to tell them that it's because I am really not a good pool player (from the Latin i suckus, which translates literally to "I suck") so I'm forced to do this. As a matter of fact, I recognize my limitations as a pool player and attempt to circumvent them so that I can still come out on top. (That particular night, I beat him 9 games out of the 10 we played. Yippee!)

Think about your limitations and how you plan to use them to your advantage by devising creative ways to highlight your strengths or at least mitigate the risk of exposing your weaknesses. Next week, we will be discussing then an incredibly powerful concept introduced by Guy Kawasaki, a well-known venture capitalist, and you'll have the chance to bring these thoughts to the fore in an exercise that we'll be doing.

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