Category: Business

What We Measure Matters

Tracking progress toward a goal is more or less a given as part of the success formula. We log total miles run leading up to race day. We monitor progress toward quarterly sales quotas. We “track” things to be able to stay motivated and focused.

But what if we mistakenly track the wrong thing?

One (extra) takeaway I had from reading Atomic Habits recently was the notion that we optimize for what we measure. In other words, whatever metric we deem important, we’ll start modeling our behavior to hit that metric.

In the sales world, a metric based solely on volume could lead us to cut deals with customers just to pump our total unit sales. But that creates a situation where we risk sacrificing gross profit and could (potentially) create a negative GP result.

However, having a goal that is mixed between volume, new customer acquisition and total GP can help create “good behavior” that keeps focus on the big picture as a sales rep while simultaneously maintaining the organization’s long-term health.

Or in our personal lives, we can let status symbols like a car or a house be our metric of success. This can lead us to work longer hours and feel like climbing the corporate ladder is the only way to win. But this creates a situation where we risk accidentally leaving our family or personal health in the rear view mirror.

If we instead make our metric of success ‘keeping a budget’ or ‘living within our means’, the need to overwork and burn out can be reduced. Status symbols and monthly budgets both revolve around our finances, but one keeps us focused on the big picture while simultaneously keeping our finances in order.

As we go about setting our top-level goals, we have to be careful which metrics we choose to track our progress. Making sure they don’t derail other important areas is key to maintaining long-term success.

What metrics do you currently use to measure your goals? Have you adjusted them over time to make them more effective?

Stay tuned for my next post where we dive in to how this lesson changed what metrics I’m using for myself in 2019 v what I used last year.

On Starting Your Own Business

One of the coolest things about our continual surge in technological advancements is the effect it has on starting your own business.

Two and half years ago, my wife knew she could make money as a hand letterer. With the purchase of a $300 computer and a 20 cent listing fee on Etsy, she had an e-commerce store all set up (enter Staples button saying “that was easy”).

Our grandparents couldn’t quite grasp how that was possible. Our parents were supportive, but definitely showed a little apprehension as to how it would all play out. Our friends thought it was awesome and were almost instantly jealous.

No, it didn’t turn into a full-time job overnight, but the fact of the matter is she was able to start it literally overnight.

That’s never been possible until now – and it’s awesome.

The key is to strip down the grandiose idea to its bare essentials and find out what it’ll take to start. Odds are good, you won’t have to lay too much cash out upfront. Handicapping yourself with debt to get the ball rolling is not an ideal situation.

So start simple. Make a few bucks. Do the same thing again. Make a few more bucks. Then begin to implement steps to build something bigger.

Shipping Costs

It’s a daunting prospect to have people look at a personal project and (wait for it…) give us feedback!

O, the horror!

Fear of shipping said project (a.k.a. releasing it for people to view) sets in and we think “Well…I could make this a little better if I…”

Then we make that change and say “What if I tweaked a, b and c, too?”

Then we pick it back up and adjust x, y and z.

Before long, an attempt to make a project perfect in our own eyes has paralyzed any possibility of ever launching. All the while, we forgot that the goal of making something was to ship it! To provide content. To fill a need in the market. To follow a dream or passion.

But shipping a project can incur costs.

We have personal doubt that our stuff doesn’t stack up to someone else’s work. Our friends or family might thinking we’re crazy for trying. We could get negative feedback from consumers. We have to make time and sacrifice other things to get it off the ground.

Yes, Taylor said it best in that haters gonna hate, but what if you took those comments with a grain of salt and also paid attention to the positive reviews and constructive criticism from satisfied consumers with ideas on how to make it better and even more satisfying for them?

That’s the point — to create something that people want. Progress only comes from iteration. So ship. Make adjustments. Ship again. Make more adjustments. Then ship again. That creates a cycle. If we’re only ever making adjustments, we’re not creating anything cyclical. It’s just us, alone in a room that starts to smell musty and a little bit like those nachos we habitually get for take out every Tuesday night for dinner.

It’s stagnant.

So share your music. Showcase your photography. Publish your writing. Perform your comedy. Dance your dance. Post your vlog. Launch your fundraiser.

The biggest barrier to entry in most endeavors is our own fear. Yes – shipping has it’s costs. But we have to remember that those costs (like any other cost) create return on our investment.

3 Things To Know When Making An Ask

3 things for ask_blog

In my life as a promotional marketer, I’m in regular contact with consumers, retail managers and event organizers trying to either sell a product, organize an appearance or negotiate a fee. I’ve found three key things help make these tasks as efficient as possible regardless of my target audience.

  1. Know The Vernacular
    It makes a huge difference when I know the acronyms and titles within an organization or buzz words that are top-of-mind for consumers. It’s far more efficient to know that 1) the “nutrition manager” is responsible for booking a sampling so that I can 2) letting her know the “OPSR from Coca-Cola” provided me with her contact information. This gives me a little credibility right off the bat.

    When you know who you need to speak with, you also avoid getting bounced around from person to person only find that the real decision maker is out for the day. It might take a little while to learn, but you’ll end up using your time more wisely which allows you to make more points of contact in a shorter period of time.

  2. Know The Problem You’re Solving
    For consumers, the protein shake I market has multiple benefits: natural ingredient, no powders, lactose free, (genuinely) awesome taste. The list goes on.

    When I’m setting up a sampling at retail, I’m providing that manager with a free marketing tool to help sell more of a high-margin product. Informational literature and coupons will be given to consumers to try and ensure repeat purchase at their account. I’m solving the problem that “no one knows what this is, and it’s not selling”.

    As a caveat, I would say that point 2b is asking the right questions. Assuming you know someone’s problem is dangerous because they can very well say “no, that doesn’t apply to me” and then walk away.

  3. Know The Details
    As with the previous two, this may vary depending on your audience.With consumers, I have to know the nutrition label inside and out as well as the background on our farms and animal care and treatment. I have to be the expert in their eyes in order to be credible.

    For retailers, I can honestly give them an average numbers of bottles they can expect to sell in two hours. I’ll tell them exactly what items we’re bringing and how much space is needed, so all they have to do is watch us set up shop and generate revenue on their behalf.

    In removing the guess work, you earn people’s trust and respect, which allows you start cultivating mutually beneficial relationships.

Selling isn’t necessarily easy, but I’ve found that if you know these three things when making an ask, you can help increase your odds of ultimately earning a “yes”.

What preparation have you found most beneficial in trying to make an ask, either on the B2C or B2B side?

4 Books to Help Launch Your Dream


If you have an ounce of entrepreneurial spirit in you, odds are good you’re looking at 2015 and thinking “This is my year!” You’re ready to bust out and do something big. When I decided I wanted to start this blog, I began to look for resources to help focus my goals and bring my vision to life. Below are four books that I found extremely motivating and technologically insightful to get this show on the road. Regardless of what you have in mind, each of these has something to offer.

off balance

1. Off Balance by Matthew Kelly
The primary takeaway here is that work-life “balance” isn’t real. One will always effect the other, so it’s a matter of finding what’s important to you and prioritizing. Along with helping you determine these priorities, Matthew also shares his system to drive behavioral change. As he says, “Satisfaction doesn’t come from experiences and things, but rather having experiences and things that you deem important”.



2. Essentialism by Greg McKeown
With a similar feel to “Off Balance”, this book helps you figure out how to do less but do it better – cutting out the trivial many for the important few. Greg discusses topics like the power of choice, the importance of sleep (my favorite section) and how to say “no” gracefully, among many other things. He then gives his step-by-step process to work toward the “essentialist” life. A must-read for anyone feeling overwhelmed and too busy for their own good!


start3. Start by Jon Acuff
A great book that’s both motivational and humorous, Jon’s writing style is easy to relate to – because we’ve all been in a situation where we just needed the gumption to get going. This book will help you flip the switch to “awesome” by debunking any fears lurking inside of you. Whether it’s making action payments at 5:30am or going to rehab to gain experience, Jon is honest with you about how to begin your journey and get where you want to go.



4. Platform by Michael Hyatt
Talk about a power-house playbook! Not sure how to get your message heard or set yourself up for success in the digital world? Read this book. I knew how to blog and use social media before I read Platform, but Michael lays how out to tie it all together (and then the real work begins). I know I’ve only scratched the surface in the whole process, but I’m also confident I’m headed in the right direction – and that’s a good feeling to have. It’s an in-depth discussion on setting up your product, your blog and your social media and then leveraging those resources to stay in contact with your tribe to drive success.

So there you have it…my recommendation for some great reads to help pursue your dreams in 2015. What are your goals for this year, and what will you have to do to accomplish them? Any recommended reads you’d like to share? Please let me know in the comments!

Every Job Has a Lesson

I once heard a speaker named Frank Mercadante share his research on what makes the millennial generation (i.e. my generation) different from those previous. One of the attributes that stuck with me was who millennials consider a role model; more often than not, we pick our parents. Having put my Father’s Day card in the mail, I’ve been thinking about the lessons my dad taught me, specifically those that shaped how I try to navigate the business world.

For thirty-plus years, my dad has owned more than a dozen rental properties, on top of being a full-time pilot (has an entrepreneurial gene been discovered yet?). That means, for as long as I can remember, my brother and I had steady summer jobs mowing lawns and cleaning houses when tenants moved out. Many of Dad’s teachable moments came from these very tasks and have all had an impact on my still-young career.

1. The Devil is in the Details

One of the biggest lessons I learned was to pay attention to details. If my mower couldn’t get any closer to a house and the weed-eater was broken, I had better stop and pull the weeds out of the ground by hand; there was no excuse for having an unruly lawn. And before an apartment was really ready for move-in, someone (see: me) had to tighten every screw in the house – outlet covers, switch covers, door hinges, door knobs, kitchen cabinets, you name it. While it all seemed a little crazy at the time, I eventually came to realize that the final touch I left on a project was someone else’s first impression, and that goes a long way in building credibility and earning people’s respect.

2. Burn the Midnight Oil

I also learned that to meet a short deadline you sometimes have to sacrifice your short-term schedule. Repairing, painting and cleaning ten houses in a week isn’t easy, but when we had a plan, worked with a purpose and delegated tasks, it all somehow got done. The hours were long (and the summer temperatures in the 90’s), but I learned that sometimes you just have to put your nose to the grindstone and make it happen. There will always be an ebb and flow of high-intensity workloads mixed with a more normal workload, and it turns out, when you’re surrounded by the right cast of characters, a sixteen hour day can actually end up (kind of) fun!

3. Learn from Others’ Experience

Lastly, my dad taught me to make every new task a learning opportunity. Whether he was changing a spark plug, replacing a toilet flap or building a patio, I always got the hands-on tutorial so that I could one day do the job myself. In my current role, there are national events that move from region to region. If I didn’t take insights away from our team in Boston and apply them to Charlotte, I would be doing myself a disservice. I work with people who are smart, creative and driven, and knowing that I can learn something from every one of them makes my job that much more enjoyable. It also ensures that I’m expanding my horizons and constantly developing my business acumen.

I’m sure many people can reflect on their first jobs and remember lessons they have kept in their back pocket throughout the years. I’m especially thankful that my first boss was full of patience and business insight, and also a really great dad.

Do you have any lessons from your first job that stuck with you? Please let me know in the comments below.

*This is a re-posting of a blog originally written for LinkedIn Pulse on 6/12/14

Keeping an Eye on the Competition


grocery fruit
Photo by garryknight

Brands change their packaging: “New look. Same great taste!”

Companies change their tag lines: “Have it Your Way” became “Be Your Way”.

And grocery stores improve their customer experience.


Within walking distance of my place, there were two major grocery stores for people to choose from. Harris Teeter was the higher-end, upscale option and Food Lion was the more affordable, save-some-cents-with-us chain. Then the plot thickened.

Suddenly, Harris Teeter starts doing around the clock remodels to their store that (in my opinion) looked just fine. About a week into the remodel, I get a piece of mail announcing the grand opening of a Publix grocery store…right across the street from Harris Teeter. Now the renovations made sense; they’ve got to keep up with Joneses.

But was adding an olive bar, a fresh-made pizza station and some new doors in the dairy section really necessary to maintain clientele? We would see…

So Publix opens; my wife and I go check it out. There are taste tests comparing Publix brand to Harris Teeter brand, free samples of practically everything and (most notably) every employee in the store strikes up a conversation with us. At check out, the guy bagging our groceries shares his whole story of moving to Charlotte from Boston (because I told him I recently moved to Charlotte).

It felt so odd.

People at grocery store don’t make conversation like that (at least not in my experience). They don’t check in with you every time they pass you in the aisle. Publix wanted to be different. But I wasn’t the only one to notice.

The next time I went to Harris Teeter? Their check-out folks all of a sudden became super friendly and eager to start conversations. And Food Lion? Albeit a little delayed, began their own remodeling. This was a local arms race for customers!

I know that making strategic shifts based on the competition happens every day, but I can’t say that I had ever consciously experienced it on such a micro level. Each chain became hyper-aware of the experience they were giving customers because of the new kid in town.

So what is there to take away from this? Have you recently taken the time to consider best-practices of your competition? Is there anything you can learn from them to take into the new year instead of insisting you’re superior in every way? It doesn’t have to change the core business, but it might not hurt to do a little introspection for course correction.