How to Shape Human Behavior for Negotiators

How to Shape Human Behavior 3rd Edition – Book Preface

Thanks to Olivier Massanella for helping with the print cover of this 3rd edition (paperback available on Amazon for $25) as well as the 2nd edition (paperback available on Amazon for $12), and a very special thank you to the professionals who took the time to answer my questions and make their coachings, trainings, books and lectures available, as well as those who didn’t make this edition but will appear in future versions.


How To Shape Human Behavior 2nd Edition for Advertisers was published in 2014.

Originally, I set out to answer the question ‘How can startups create their own advertising campaigns on a budget?’ I envisioned a manual that outlined step-by-step the creative process professional advertising agencies use to create advertising campaigns. All my early research centered around answering this question.

However the more I researched, the more I realized that I was asking the wrong question; I was merely scratching the surface of a deeper, more important question. And so I felt compelled to deepen the focus of my research.

Humans prefer consistency and predictability. It’s evident in the products they repeatedly buy, the books they typically read, the beliefs they unquestionably defend. It shows in their logic and reasoning. In the short-term consistency and predictability make society run more smoothly. They make life easier and decisions safer. In fact, there are over a hundred other heuristics and cognitive biases that shape the way humans behave and make decisions.  How To Shape Human Behavior 2nd Edition for Advertisers addresses each and every one of those biases from an entrepreneur’s perspective.

Why? Because successful entrepreneurs don’t sell products and services; successful entrepreneurs shape human behavior. And for entrepreneurs, shaping human behavior begins from inside the consumer’s mind. The more intimately you understand the mechanisms and complexities of human behavior, the more control you have over the future of your business decisions. In the hands of an entrepreneur, applicable knowledge of the human mind is priceless.

Whether you’re a new startup creating your branding strategy or an established business looking to add a fresh new perspective to your brand, How To Shape Human Behavior 2nd Edition for Advertisers takes you step-by-step through every phase of shaping human behavior needed to build a successful, consumer-centered business.

An important note. How To Shape Human Behavior 2nd Edition for Advertisers is intentionally written as a guide to building a successful business through understanding and using human cognitive weakness that shape human behavior. There will no doubt be times when the offensive and defensive strategies and techniques outlined herein will make you feel uncomfortable or go against what you consider to be ethical behavior. Humans don’t like the idea that they are being ‘manipulated’ into making decisions and giving their money to brands for any reason other than their own free will. But just because you may consider using this knowledge is unethical doesn’t mean it doesn’t work, and it doesn’t mean that other entrepreneurs aren’t currently using them to their advantage. It is critical for you to be able to distinguish between manipulation and persuasion. More importantly, it is crucial that your consumers correctly distinguish manipulation and persuasion when it comes to evaluating your brand and integrity.

The research in this book is based on academic research and interviews and discussions with professional marketers and executives. Careful attention has been made to accurately cite every reference used. All references are denoted in superscript so you can both verify the research as well as conduct your own.

Another important note. Before implementing any of the advice outlined herein, always consider how your message will be perceived by your target consumer demographic as well as the short- and long-term positive and negative implications your actions will have on your brand image. Most importantly, never do anything that would cause consumers to feel like you’ve tricked them.

Joshua Smith

How to Shape Human Behavior 3rd Edition – Lesson Index

The research in this book is based on academic research and interviews and discussions with professional marketers and executives. Careful attention has been made to accurately cite every reference used. All references are denoted in superscript so you can both verify the research as well as conduct your own:

  1. Rémi Noel, Creative Director for TBWA\Paris
  2. Dominic Dangerfield, Co-Director of Speechmark
  3. Céline LePrince, Digital Producer for Ogilvy
  4. Sabine Lenglet, Associate Director for TBWA
  5. Jean-Baptiste Daudet, Data Consultant for Ogilvy
  6. Ignacio Rodriguez, International Account Manager for TBWA
  7. Thomas Palugan, Data Consultant for Ogilvy
  8. Aurélie Chalaye, Account Manager for Ogilvy
  9. Hervé Thevenard, Financial Controller for Ogilvy
  10. Laurence Maas, International Coordinator for Y&R
  11. Sidavy Chau, Financial Controller for Grey
  12. Martine Meyer, Print Producer for TBWA
  13. Muriel Benitah, Account Director for Ogilvy
  14. Anne Cerutti, Account Manager for Ogilvy
  15. Siegrid Bourgois, Brand Division Leader for TBWA
  16. Derek Banas, Owner of New Think Tank
  17. Eric Holden, Executive Creative Director for TBWA
  18. Fatiha Sanhaj, Model Booker for Idole Model Management
  19. Sylvie Réveillard, Art Buyer for The Shop
  20. Joshua Waldman of Career Enlightenment
  21. Delphine Guerin, Executive Producer for Irene
  22. Sam Fajner, Regional VP of Client Relations for Teecom
  23. Tenin Coulibaly, Accountant for DDB
  24. Hervé Godard, Owner of Blake Magazine
  25. Daphné Claude, Co-Founder of Citigate Dewe Rogerson
  26. Steven Brinlee, Senior Creative Director for AR NY
  27. Lisa Ward, Senior Account Manager for Iris Worldwide
  28. Adrien Laugher-Werth, Co-Founder of EuroBusiness Media
  29. Heather Huhman, owner of Come Recommended
  30. Roc Chaliand, Editor of Ever Magazine
  31. Gézabelle Hauray, Project Leader for Havas Life Worldwide
  32. Aurélien Pécoul, Digital Consultant for Havas Worldwide
  33. Marie-Charlotte Lafront, Account Director for Being
  34. Pauline Gandaubert, Branding Consultant for Havas
  35. Bérénice Goales, Client Services Director for Wunderman
  36. Ian Swan, Independent Copywriter
  37. Kristel Pecnik, Content Director for Vivaki Performance
  38. Vivien Urtiaga, Digital Art Director for Grey
  39. Isabelle Nancy, Account Manager for JWT
  40. Benjamin Descazal, Data Consultant for KBMG
  41. John Foland, Independent Web Developer
  42. Ivan Pejcic, Strategic Planner for Ogilvy
  43. Matt Marrocco, Lead Industrial Designer for Streng
  44. Rory Sutherland, Exec Creative Dir & Vice-Chairman
  45. Arnaud Marullaz, Art Director for Y&R
  46. Marine Soyez, Art Director for Pixelis
  47. Cédric Quissola, Art Director for Y&R
  48. Akim Zerouali, Art Director for Y&R
  49. Olivier Hubinois, Account Manager for Pixelis
  50. Timoni West, Freelance Product Designer
  51. Gregory Ferembach, Art Director for Y&R
  52. Paul Johanet, Digital Account Executive for Being
  53. Julien Hérisson, Freelance Art Director
  54. Sophie Andresen, Owner and Curator of Neuromaencer
  55. Peter Spear, Brand Listener and Strategist
  56. Karen Rudel, Owner of Sight Seeker’s Delight
  57. Kevin Knight, President of Expatriate Party SAS
  58. Thomas Yve, Art Director for Being
  59. Derek Sivers, Owner of WoodEgg
  60. Emmanuel Lorry, Creative Art Director for CB’a
  61. Léa Stagnaro, Account Manager for CB’a
  62. Eric Auvinet, Copywriter for JWT
  63. Samantha Bilodeau, Data Miner for Ogilvy
  64. Lewis Chalas, Digital Coordinator for Group M
  65. Olga Samama, Brand Activation Consultant for CB’a
  66. Julien Chesné, Art Director at Group M
  67. Damien Sterbecq, Business Director for CB’a
  68. Rares Vidican, Team Leader & Tracking and Data Manager for Group M
  69. Igor du Besset, Account Manager for CB’a
  70. Andrei Robu, Design Director, Artist & Curator of Typeverything
  71. Roberto Cruz, Vice President at Cannon Design & Curator of ArchAtlas
  72. William Channer, Entrepreneur and Journalist
  73. Instafame: A Teenager’s Relationship With Fame Through Instagram
  74. Generation Like: How Your Quest For Identity & Connection Is Subtly Manipulated
  75. HR Mgmt: Mega-Trends of Competitive Advantage
  76. HR Mgmt: How Branding Strategy Affects Recruitment
  77. HR Mgmt: Attracting & Selecting The Best Candidates
  78. HR Mgmt: Recruitment From Application to Offer
  79. HR Mgmt: Recruitment From Application to Offer
  80. How to Start A Startup: The Importance of Finding Your Idea & Product
  81. HR Mgmt: Motivation With Compensation & Benefits
  82. How to Start A Startup: The Importance of Choosing Your Team & Execution
  83. How Your Technology Waste Destroys The Planet & Compromises Your Security
  84. HR Mgmt: Training Employees to Stay Competitive
  85. How to Start A Startup: A Checklist of Counter-Intuitive Rules
  86. The Negative Effects of Wealth & Success and How to Exploit Them
  87. How to Start A Startup: Introducing Yourself So Investors Want to Invest
  88. HR Mgmt: Performance Reviews & Talent Development
  89. How to Start A Startup: Growing From Zero to Many Users
  90. HR Mgmt: Social-Engineering in the 20th Century
  91. How to Start A Startup: Competition Is For Losers; Aim For Monopoly
  92. HR Mgmt: Identifying & Developing Key Employees
  93. How to Start A Startup: Optimizing For Growing Your Business
  94. How to Ru(i)n A Business: Streaming & File Sharing Better Absorbed Than Fought
  95. HR Mgmt: Managing Work Hour Models & Productivity
  96. End:Civ. How Our Industrial Society Is Leading Towards An Ecological Apocalypse
  97. How to Start A Startup: How Angel Investors Judge Startup Founders
  98. HR Mgmt: Conducting Effective Employment Surveys
  99. How to Start A Startup: How to Build Products That Your Users Will Love
  100. Critical Thinking: Keys to Critical Thinking & Thinking About Dubious Claims
  101. Transcendent Man: When Humans Merge with Technology & Transcend Biology
  102. Critical Thinking: How Cognitive Biases Influence Consumers Online
  103. HR Mgmt: How to Keep Quality Employees (Part 1)
  104. How to Start A Startup: Doing Things That Don’t Scale & Public Relations Tips
  105. Critical Thinking: Perceptual & Cognitive Biases – Fast & Slow Thinking
  106. The Story of Stuff: How Our Modern Markets Economy is Destroying Our Planet
  107. HR Mgmt: How to Keep Quality Employees (Part 2)
  108. How to Start A Startup: Raising Seed & Series Investments For Your Startup
  109. Critical Thinking: ESP, Psychic Abilities and The Vividness Problem
  110. Copy, Cut, Paste: How Everything is A Copy From A Copy From A Copy
  111. F*ck You, Pay Me: Client-Services Contract Tips For Respectable Businesses
  112. HR Mgmt: Surviving During Changes in Management (Part 1)
  113. How to Start A Startup: Creating A Successful, Long-Term Company Culture
  114. Critical Thinking: Limits to Intelligence Tests and If (A) Then (C)
  115. Integrated Product Design: Building A Generalist/Specialist Business
  116. How to Start A Startup: 10 Proclamations to Win New Clients Without Pitching
  117. Human Behavioral Biology: Dangers & Challenges Of Categorical Thinking
  118. HR Mgmt: Surviving During Changes In Management (Part 2)
  119. How to Start A Startup: Choosing Between B2B & B2C Business Models
  120. Critical Thinking: How & When to Override The Autonomous Mind
  121. Criminal Profiling: 14 Theories of Causes & Deterrence of Criminality
  122. How to Start A Startup: Managing Your Professional & Private Life
  123. Human Behavior Biology: Where Game Theory & Evolution Collide
  124. How to Ru(i)n A Business: Patent Troll Exploits In The Patenting Process
  125. HR Mgmt: Local and Global HR Department Models
  126. How to Start A Startup: A Checklist of Skillsets For Great Founders
  127. Critical Thinking: Linguistic Tricks Con-Artists Use to Manipulate You
  128. Sex & Love: Interpreting Body Language & Non-Verbal Flirting Cues
  129. Criminal Profiling: Introduction & Methodology of Profiling Serial Killers
  130. Human Behavior Biology: Intersexual Competition & Male/Female Hierarchies
  131. How to Ru(i)n an Economy: The Untapped Potential of Defeating Food Waste
  132. HR Mgmt: Software to Manage Your Entire Company
  133. User Interface Design: Step-By-Step User Interface Workshop
  134. How to Start A Startup: Operating Your Business For Growth & Success
  135. Critical Thinking: How to Convince People You Know Them Very, Very Intimately
  136. Sex & Dating: The Psychology of Love & Phases of The Breakup Process
  137. Criminal Profiling: 20 Techniques to Be A Walking Lie Detector
  138. The Next Revolution Will Be Psychological Not Technological
  139. The Next Black: The Future of Clothing & The Quest For Climate-Positive Products
  140. Philippe Torloting on Programmatic Buying & Product Over Brand Reputation
  141. Critical Thinking: Why You Should Be Suspicious of The Stories You Hear
  142. Joseph Donyo on Newletters & The First 10,000 Subscribers
  143. Critical Thinking: Learning Languages & The Benefits Of A Multilingual Brain
  144. Eric Ries & Ondi Timoner’s 10 Lean Content Rules to Launch a Successful Project
  145. Forget Shorter Showers: Why Individual Lifestyle Changes Aren’t Enough
  146. Think Fast; Talk Smart: 4 Effective Speaking Tips In Spontaneous Situations
  147. Dan Mathews of PETA on Protecting your Integrity & Advertising For Impact
  148. How to Start A Startup: 16 Interview Questions to Close A Venture Capitalist
  149. HR Mgmt: Managing Social Media
  150. Olivier Massanella on Brand/Product Truths & Unique Selling Propositions
  151. Nicolas Minisini on Branding, Whiskey & Epicurean Culture
  152. HR Mgmt: The Cost of Expatriate Failure
  153. Critical Thinking: How Personal & Subjective Validation Distorts Perception
  154. Emmanuel Caurel on Creating An Emotional Branding Strategy
  155. Negotiation: Common Mistakes, Underhanded Techniques & How to Improve
  156. The Awkward But Evolving Relationship Between Technology & Skin Tone
  157. User Interface Design: Psychological Bases for UI Design Rules
  158. The Complicated Relationship Between Digital & Psychological Development
  159. HR Mgmt: How to Measure Your Employees’ Value
  160. Elif Tanverdi on Being Yourself & Why Interaction Beats Analytics
  161. How to Start A Startup: Building Your Prototype & Fake It Until You Make It
  162. Dave Trott on True Creativity & How Creatives Can Start Revolutions
  163. Self-Defense: Haganah Knife and Gun Defenses and Disarms
  164. How to Ru(i)n A Business: When Content Meets Native Advertising
  165. How to Run A Business: Superbrand Secrets From The Fashion Industry
  166. Human Behavioral Biology: Species Evolution On A Molecular Level
  167. Seth Godin’s Business Toolbox: Help Your Business Do It Right The 1st Time
  168. Sex & Dating: The 3 Phases of Love & Why We Love And Cheat
  169. 20 Tips to Better Negotiate Your Job Offer & Compensation Package
  170. Sex & Dating: Love Sickness: The Problematic & Pathological Side of Love
  171. The Fermi Paradox: Why We Haven’t Met Aliens & What Would Happen If We Did
  172. How Netflix And Amazon Pleasure You Through Data-Driven Algorithms
  173. How Much it Actually Costs to Create Your Own ‘Viral’ Hit Song
  174. 10 Commandments to Making An Award-Winning Viral Music Video
  175. The Curse of Incorrect Door Handle Design And How it Can Be Fixed
  176. How to Start A Startup: 25 Reasons Businesses Fail Within 4 Years
  177. Criminal Profiling: Exploring The Mind of Killers & Psychopaths
  178. How to Run A Business: A Collection of Ways to Make Your Videos Go Viral
  179. How to Run A Business: Superbrand Secrets From The Technology Industry
  180. The Secret to Success & Why You Should Read A Book A Day
  181. The Awkward Relationship Between Doctors & Pharmaceutical Companies
  182. How to Run A Business: Lessons Learned in Conflict Resolution
  183. How to Feign Competence While Talking About Books You Haven’t Read
  184. Managing Age, Cultural & Personality Differences, Jerks & Assholes
  185. Clemens Ruh on ‘Defining’ Music, Cover Design & How Music Shapes Emotion
  186. How to Build An Amazing UI/UX Design & Why You’re Overthinking It
  187. Critical Thinking: 8 Biases That Hinder Progress In The Workplace
  188. Critical Thinking: How to Build A Career You’re Proud Of Without Burning Bridges
  189. Conducting Effective Negotiations When You Have to Have The Deal
  190. Why Humans Sleep, What Happens When They Do & The Dangers Of Sleep Deprivation
  191. Doni Belau of Girls’ Guide to Paris On Product Diversity & Collaborating With Competitors
  192. How Diplomats Balance Confidentiality & Transparency In The Digital Age
  193. How to Grow Your Business: Turning Strangers Into Friends & Friends Into Customers
  194. What Makes Successful People Successful & How To Copy Them
  195. Louis C.K. On How to Overcome Weakness & Reach Success
  196. Sex & Dating: Fetishes, Fantasy, And Spanking; Understanding What Turns You On
  197. Sales & Customer Service Strategies From The Luxury Industry
  198. How to Tell Stories That Motivate, Inspire, Move, And Change People
  199. How to Ensure Your Presentations Will Inspire & Change The World
  200. Critical Thinking: The Art Of Pissing People Off From The World’s Greatest Internet Troll
  201. John Oliver on The Dangers Of Not Challenging Junk Science
  202. The End Of Humanity? What Happens If Humans Disappear
  203. Joel Osteen On Overcoming Setbacks, Thoughts, & Enemies
  204. Critical Thinking: How Donald Trump Uses Language to Persuade
  205. UI Design: How Consumers Tell You What They Want
  206. Why You Should Never Talk to The Police, And How The Police Get You To Talk
  207. Critical Thinking: A Panoply Examining The Anatomy & Strategy of A Rap Beat Masterpiece
  208. Critical Thinking: Why You Believe You’re Right Even When You’re Wrong
  209. Self-Defense: What’s The Most Effective Self-Defense System to Learn As Quickly As Possible?
  210. Critical Thinking: 3 Ways Arab Businesswomen Can Find Equality In Male-Dominated Societies
  211. Critical Thinking: Brainwashing’s Implication in Education, Advertising, Religion & Government
  212. Critical Thinking: Why ‘Being Lucky’ is A Crutch & 5 Strategies to Improve Your Luck
  213. PressPausePlay: Digital, Before & Now. The Most Disruptive Thing to Happen to Humans to Date
  214. Critical Thinking: 7 Habits of Highly-Effective People
  215. Critical Thinking: Anna Wintour on Intellectual Liberty & Not Highly-Specializing
  216. What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard: Lessons in People, Sales, Negotiation & Business Management
  217. How to Find A Job: Applicant Tracking Systems Basics & How Candidates Are Qualified
  218. How to Find A Job: 5 Basic Requirements of An Attractive Linkedin Profile
  219. Healthy, Wealthy, & Wise: Strategies & Systems to Improve Life
  220. How to Run A Business: Offensive and Defensive Strategies To Manage Competitive Attacks
  221. Critical Thinking: How the Stories You Tell Yourself  Determine Your Perspective, & How to Change Them
  222. How to Ru(i)n A Government: 6 Barriers and 3 Cognitive Biases That Thwart Win/Win Negotiations
  223. 64 Communication Strategies to Increase Productivity, Decrease Contention & Enjoy Your Career
  224. How to Negotiate When You’re The Weaker Party
  225. 6 Techniques to Improve Your Ability to Influence
  226. Sex & Love: A Team of Computer Engineers Reveal a Scientifically-Proven Formula to ‘Hack’ Love
  227. How to Grow A Business: Why There Are No Rules to Creativity & How to Use That to Your Advantage
  228. How to Run A Career: Communication Strategies to Network, Pitch, & Sell
  229. Critical Thinking: Real-World Implications of Fact-Checking Versus Not Fact-Checking
  230. How to Run A Business: 22 Immutable Laws of Branding
  231. Critical Thinking: How Changing Your Communication Can Change The World
  232. How to Run A Business: Customer-Focused Strategies to Build Innovative Businesses
  233. How to Grow A Business: Reverse-Engineering The World’s Best Advertising Campaigns For Inspiration
  234. How to Grow A Business: Copywriting Strategies for Design, Advertising, and Marketing
  235. Social Meida and its consequence on human psychology
  236. Critical Thinking: A Brain-Based Approach to Understanding  & Influencing People
  237. Critical Thinking:  27 Strategies to Persuade People & Build Alliances
Shape Human Behavior on:

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. How can I exploit the Human Resources recruitment process?
  2. Human Resources want me to take a psychometric test. Why?
  3. How can I improve my negotiation position in the long-term?
  4. I want to stop being a generalist and be known as a specialist. How?
  5. I want to stop being an employee and become an entrepreneur. How?

exploit hr

How can I exploit the Human Resources recruitment process?

HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGEMENT

663. To grow, startups and small businesses must hire employees. Once this happens, the brand’s founder(s), CEO, president, and company board no longer have 100% control over every single decision and action that takes place on behalf of the brand.

Once a brand with employees makes a significant branding strategy, business model, or internal administrative change, the leaders must understand who – employees, providers, clients – will be impacted by these decisions and in what way, and they must make sure those responsible for implementing the decisions are sufficiently equipped to manage and enforce the change. Brands that refuse to change, die. Employees who refuse to change and fit in, eventually get pushed out. 93,103,107,112

664. As you grow – and in order to grow – you identify and commit to a specific market and narrow your focus, thus inevitably giving up the startup’s advantage of being able to pivot and modify its strategy and offer to an ever changing market that it once had.

Brands that resist change will eventually appear to be arrogant, closed-minded, lazy and outdated company structures that risk being overtaken by smaller, more ambitious ones. The one commonality nearly all disruptive evolutions share is that they rarely come from pre-existing corporate structures, but from the places you’d least expect. 138,213,215

665. A human resource is a person who transfers his or her time, energy, knowledge and expertise into creating something else, preferably of equal or greater value. The major problem with any resource (human and natural) is that eventually it ceases to provide value. Humans (employees) eventually:

  • Change their priorities and objectives
  • Run out of energy
  • Run out of willpower
  • Become useless and redundant
  • Die

Human resources management is the strategic and decisive act of building and maintaining the ongoing relationship between a company and its business objectives with its employees and their expectations. 75

666. Employees fall into different positions within a company:

  • Low-level employees are responsible for themselves, their job and their responsibilities
  • Low-level managers are responsible not only for themselves and their responsibilities, but also for their subordinates and their subordinate’s responsibilities
  • Mid-level managers are responsible for managing managers who manage theirs and their subordinate’s responsibilities
  • Upper-level executive managers are responsible for managing the short- and long-term strategy, productivity and direction of entire divisions and organizations of employees as well as how the company does business with clients

How a low-level manager runs a single project with 2-10 employees is not the same approach as an upper-level manager in charge of 3 locations with 10 projects and 100 employees. The former is primarily responsible for meeting deadlines and budget constraints, while the latter is primarily responsible for talent development of the managers and employees below him or her.

In the recruitment process, these distinctions are imperative because while low-level positions tend to have a high turnover rate and are more easily replaceable, the higher up in the brand you go, the more time and financial investment is required in the recruitment process, and the more pro-active brands must be:

  • In anticipating sudden, unexpected vacancies
  • Identifying and developing high-potential employees
  • Setting worst case scenario contingency plans into place to quickly identify recruits to fill critical, high-level positions either through their own recruitment initiatives or through the employment of headhunting agencies 88,188

667. If you currently hold a low-level position within your company, understand that as upper-level executive managers make crucial decisions with the brand’s direction and client relationship in mind, the inconveniences and problems resulting from those procedures and protocols implemented will eventually affect your little corner of the office.

As important as you are to your company, your inconveniences are of little concern to the global objective of the company. Instead of complaining about how a new procedure or software makes your particular job more difficult, take advantage of the opportunity to identify yourself as a high-quality employee by focusing instead on:

  • How this procedure improves client relations and business transactions
  • How you can master the new changes as quickly as possible and then take a more leadership role in helping your colleagues adapt to the changes
  • Identifying ways of concretely and legitimately improving the new system and then forwarding your useful solutions to the decision-maker(s)

As a high-quality employee concerned about your career and reputation:

  • If your company’s new system or direction makes your job extremely difficult to do
  • If you are unable to find any logical reasons how the new changes are improving the company’s competitive position and client relationship in the future
  • If you are unable to use this company change to advance your own career objectives

…then perhaps it’s time to start looking for a better job. 188

668. Brands inevitably lose their best talents and human resources to retirement, career advancements and job changes, technological progress, fads, etc., and so those brands, in order to survive and remain competitive, must replace employees who leave with new employees and/or new technology.

Recruiter branding

A talent shortage occurs when a brand is insufficiently capable of attracting and recruiting competent replacements. Brands competing in an industry where there is a talent shortage must be able to consistently attract qualified employees. 75,95

RECRUITER BRANDING

669. Before approaching the recruiting process, the first and most important thing company founders and upper-level executive managers and decision-makers must do is clearly define and communicate the brand’s:

  • Mission statement
  • Short- and long-term objectives and direction
  • Criteria by which success is measured

Once this has been decided, focus on hiring the highest-quality employees you can in ‘gatekeeper’ positions such as your human resources and talent development departments to ensure that only those people who align with the brand’s goals and objectives are employed. 93,112

670. Intelligent brands recognize that client reputation and employer reputation are intertwined: happy employees can lead to happy clients, but happy clients don’t necessarily lead to happy employees.

671. The long-term consequences of an ill-prepared branding strategy include:

  • A talent shortage because brands fail to both attract and keep the right employees that support the branding strategy, which leads to
  • An ultimate erosion of consumer confidence in the brand because the brand’s product and service quality no longer live up to its promises 77

672. High-quality brands position themselves for success, and seek to attract the most qualified investors and employees as possible who then work to build the best products and services possible, thus keeping their brand successful and competitive.

Likewise, high-quality investors and job candidates qualify brands based on how the brand does business and how it positions itself in the market, knowing that their future investments, professional network, and career evolution depend on the success of the brands they work for. 216

673. The main problem with traditional job listings is that brands post a job vacancy and then include a list of ‘employee requirements’ necessary to qualify for the vacant job. Listing the job’s “requirements” is generally an unproductive approach to talent acquisition because:

  • Most brands suffer a talent shortage
  • As a brand, you cannot arrogantly assume top performing employees want to work for you
  • The qualified employees the brand is seeking usually aren’t actively looking for a new job, so won’t read your job announcement in the first place
  • Any ‘requirements section’ usually dissuades qualified candidates from applying, especially if applying for your job is overly cumbersome and requires time to apply for it 77

674. Similar to a unique selling proposition (USP) for marketing to consumers, brands also need a USP for marketing to recruits so they can attract the right job candidates. Brands identify their recruitment USP  by:

  • Identifying their brand’s strengths and what makes them authentic as an employer
  • Identifying and understanding what is most important and relevant to their ideal candidate
  • Identifying their competitors’ recruitment USP and how their competitors are pitching their company to employees
  • Creating and marketing a unique recruitment USP with the strengths their competitors are not offering 77,232

For example, if a brand’s competitors offer job candidates an excellent health care package with a ‘competitive’ salary, rather than competing on the competitor’s compensation playing field, offer instead other compensation perquisites quality employees want such as:

  • Mobility: the possibility of working from home or participating in international projects
  • Stock options
  • More paid vacation time
  • Competitive bonuses
  • Etc.

The total compensation package at the end of the year might amount to the same as your competitor’s offer, but the individual components of the total compensation package are what distinguish the brand from its competitors. 77,169

For more on negotiating your compensation package, see the next chapter.

675. With talent acquisition every person in your professional network is important, and the more connections you have in your network the better; but with the important objective of attracting and recruiting high-quality employees who are right for your particular brand, some connections will be more prosperous than others. 77

676. Career fairs require time, money, and an employee or representative to manage a booth. While this might attract some potential recruits, most highly-qualified employees brands want to attract are either not actively looking for a new job, or they are unable to attend the career fair because they are already employed and at work.

Therefore, perhaps the primary motive of having a booth at a career fair is for the public relations and brand exposure of being seen as a positive and expanding company. Not participating in career fairs while your competitors attend might send the negative message that the brand isn’t doing very well, or that your brand isn’t as aggressive as your competitors. 77

677. It’s one thing to post public announcements for bottom- and middle-management job openings, but quite another to hire and replace top-level CEOs, CFOs, board members, and division directors.

For these positions, brands frequently employ executive headhunters who specialize in covertly:

  • Stealing quality executives from other companies
  • Filling vacant high-level positions that require candidates a public announcement wouldn’t attract
  • Discretely replacing current poor-performing, top-level executives 77,216

678. Production-based human resources management involves getting employees to be more productive per hour. With production-based jobs, clearly defined working hours are required to measure and ensure productivity. The fundamental challenge is: “How can a brand get its employees to be more productive without increasing the total amount of hours and compensation?”

This production-based model led to “9-5” jobs where employees are paid and judged according to how well they abide by pre-agreed contractual obligations entered into with their employers.

However, production-based models are, and will continue to be, more and more replacing humans with technology. Desirable employee skill sets will become predominantly thinking and communicating, and the higher up employees go in a company, the more their responsibilities will become generating ideas that provide direction for the brand, and then effectively communicating those ideas. As a consequence, employees will be paid for their performance and contribution rather than how ‘hard’ they work and how much they produce. This means an employee’s professional and private life will bleed together, since ideas and inspiration can come to you at any moment of the day. 75,95

679. Intelligent brands recognize that:

  • Ideas can come to anyone, anywhere and at any time
  • Ideas and innovation are a major competitive differentiator from their competition and a means of securing a competitive advantage in the future.
  • The vast majority of employee ideas are actually generated outside of the traditional workspace where employees are “paid to do their job”

Intelligent and innovative brands, therefore, pay employees for the quality of their ideas rather than only for fulfilling their legally and contractually required hours on the brand’s premises. 95,227

680. From a legal standpoint, brands should have systems in place to track and monitor employee working hours to ensure the brand:

  • Is abiding by governing labor laws
  • Is protected should an employee accuse the brand of exploiting them and forcing them to work without pay 95

681. Web 1.0 (the first stage of the internet) was a read-only platform where brands produced content and humans consumed it. Modern web 2.0 has evolved into user-generated content where brands provide a platform and perhaps some content, but its users both provide and edit that content.

Web 2.0 has changed how brands attract and recruit human resources. 75

682. Social media has become an integral part of human resources from employer branding and finding and attracting high-quality employees to creating a social network for the employees working for the brand. But just because social media has proven useful for one brand doesn’t mean it’s right for every brand. 8,32,149

683. Brands approach social media with three main communication models:

  • Controlled internal. Only authorized, trained, and trusted employees from designated offices can communicate all brand and work-related content which is only accessible by employees
  • Controlled internal and external. Only authorized, trained, and  trusted employees can communicate brand content to employees as well as the world
  • Uncontrolled internal and external. All employees are encouraged to professionally network, both internally and externally, and communicate every-day activities provided they follow company rules 149

684. Brands that care about their employer image and are actively recruiting should aim to exploit the same principles of virality professional advertising agencies seek to exploit when marketing their products and services:

  • Seductive offer: Providing job candidates with opportunities good enough that they are interested in knowing more
  • Payload: Reaching as many qualified candidates as possible
  • Frequency: Reaching those qualified candidates as many times as possible so they either convert (add their information to your automated tracking system for current or future employment opportunities) or will positively remember and refer your brand in the future
  • Conversion: Obtaining as many qualified candidates applications as possible 93,98,232

For more on how professional advertising and public relations agencies exploit virality, read How to Shape Human Behavior 2nd Edition.

685. For small brands, it’s better to focus on and be really efficient in 2-4 main social platforms than to have 9 different profiles and not have enough time to make them of good quality (inactive).

You can’t keep your eye on every conversation on every social platform, so you’re taking the risk that people will criticize you without your immediately knowing. Running a social media platform is a full time job in itself, and even community managers aren’t available 24/7. 8,32,149

686. For strategic branding to be successful in the long-term, you need to know:

  • How to use the various social media platforms to collect and analyze data on each platform your brand is represented on
  • How to make this data relevant and be more attractive for your consumers
  • How to talk with your recruits and clients using a 1-to-1 strategy 7

687. As soon as you have a company social media profile, you suddenly have to handle important issues like:

  • What is my community management style?
  • What is my conversation calendar?
  • What is the real value of becoming a new fan for the consumer?
  • How can I distinguish between fans that are merely fans, and fans who are also buyers and owners of my product, service, or royalty program?

As soon as you have a company page, you also have to have a crisis strategy because as you’re opening a page you’re also allowing the possibility for everybody and anybody to talk with you, but also to critique or insult you. You need to find a way to be reactive and manage these kinds of situations.  Opening a Facebook page and simply posting things isn’t a safe solution. 7,32,149

688. It’s really difficult to have a consolidated view of your market. If you’re a brand and you have 20 social media platforms, it’s not impossible, but it’s difficult to have a user-centric view.

It’s also very important NOT to have a vertical strategy for each social media platform, but to link them all together. If you’re going to have that many platforms, you’re going to need an approach to help you organize all your data into one easy-to-read location so you can collect and analyze the data from the different social media platforms, and then use the information gleaned to better serve your clients and employees. 7,149

689. Some brands think in terms of channels and not content. You ‘need’ a Facebook page but don’t know what to do with it. You ‘need’ a website but don’t know where you want to go with it.

Without a goal and a clearly defined brand objective there’s no reason for you to be on Facebook, or any social network for that matter. Diving headlong into a social media platform without thoroughly thinking it through could backfire and you could regret it. 32,149

690. While people work because they need money to live, more importantly, people choose to work for a particular brand because of the implicit exchange of promises made between the person and the brand:

A person promises to become an employee, thus giving the brand their time, access to their professional network, image and reputation, and expertise to the company so long as the brand promises to give the person what is important to him or her.

What a person defines as ‘important’ changes from person to person throughout their career, culture to culture, and from generation to generation. Innovative brands must constantly adapt their recruitment offers to meet the workforce’s changing needs and wants. 103

691. Brands cannot be identified as the best in every aspect of business, and a brand’s resources are finite and limited, therefore brands must know where best to focus their resources and develop their reputation in the long-term – 5 to 10 years and beyond. Long-term strategies brands focus on can be:

  • Research & Development
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Innovation
  • Price
  • Design
  • Quality
  • Other

When developing your brand strategy, of all the things you can be known for, being known for a specialist in innovation, transparency, high-quality and fairness will benefit your reputation in the long run because employees and clients will come to know, like, and trust you. In the long run, that reputation will win over any price war competitors try to wage on you. That being said, after you have set your SMART (Specific, Measurable, Acceptable, Realistic, and Time-bound) 5- and 10-year goals, challenge yourself: What is preventing you from being slightly more aggressive and optimized in your work ethic so that you could in fact meet your 10-year goal in 5-years?  76,167,219,227

692. Which department in your company is critical to your brand’s success?

  • Without R&D your company will become obsolete very quickly
  • Without marketing, your product will never make it into consumer’s hands because they won’t know you exist
  • Without sales, customers won’t be persuaded to buy your product and then understand why it’s important for them to use it
  • Without customer service support, customers who run into problems with your product or service will have no way of solving them, and they will make sure nobody they know ever wastes their money on you
  • Without production, your product is nothing more than a concept, and consumers will not buy a product if you’ve no way of making it and getting it into their hands

All the above departments are important, but the hierarchy of your brand’s critical departments in your company depends on your branding strategy. Will your brand’s USP be:

  • The best after-sales support available?
  • The fastest shipping available?
  • The best quality available?
  • The least expensive available?
  • The most cutting-edge available?

Without a clear branding strategy, your human resources department will not know which departments are critical and strategic to your brand’s success to focus their recruiting efforts on, which departments are non-critical and non-strategic, and most importantly which competencies and skill-sets to prioritize when recruiting. 76,230

693. Your branding strategy must be understood by your clients, but you must also consider how it will affect your employees and reputation as an employer. A branding strategy of offering ‘the best quality at a low price’ means that the people you hire must be able to embody that phrase, and must possess certain aptitudes to make that strategy a reality, such as being friendly, efficient, well-informed and diplomatic.

If, however, your branding strategy and business model require going where your customers are, then your employees will need international working experience, fluency in multiple languages, and a level of patience and competence for dealing with intercultural teams.

Your branding strategy guides how and who you recruit, and the type of recruits you attract. 76

694. Humans use clothes, possessions, job titles, etc. as a way of telling a story and communicating to the world who they want to be known as, what they believe, and how they expect to be treated. Successful brands understand this and portray their products and services as well as their employer image to deliberately appeal to their target consumer and employee demographic.

Successful employees and specialists likewise understand this and thus strategically portray their experience, professional background and unique selling propositions to appeal to a specific type of client and employer. Being able to understand and use the same vocabulary and strategies is what identifies and gathers like-minded and skilled people. This is how high-quality employees know other high-quality employees, and why successful brands offer incentives for their high-quality employees who recruit within their fellow professional network. If you want to be a part of those professional networks, you must learn their vocabulary and strategies. 138,165,182,214,227

695. Industry-wide, job responsibilities are usually quite homogeneous, and so brands offering ‘competitive pay and benefits’ rely on employee value propositions – elements of the compensation package that other brands aren’t offering – to stay competitive. Examples of a total compensation package include:

  • Salary
  • Flexible working hours and working from home
  • Company vehicle
  • International mobility
  • Health Insurance
  • Stock options
  • Continual training and career advancement
  • Etc.

But brands cannot beat every competitor’s compensation package, and job candidates cannot expect to cherry-pick the best from every employer’s value propositions when negotiating their compensation package.

Before starting any recruiting campaign, brands should first determine the ideal employee profile they want to attract, and then build a compensation package that attracts that caliber of employee. 98,222

Recruitment process

696. Your brand name and reputation is what sets you apart from your competitors, both in the mind of clients as well as potential recruits, and it is your marketing department’s responsibility to identify your target audience and link your brand with positive associations and promises in their mind. If marketing fails at this, then not only will you attract the wrong clients, you’ll attract the wrong employees. 77

THE RECRUITMENT PROCESS

697. From the brand’s perspective, the recruitment process can generally be divided into several different tasks:

  • Employer branding
  • Attracting and selecting the best candidates
  • Job interviewing and recruiting
  • Identifying and developing key employees
  • Training employees to stay competitive
  • Keeping quality employees
  • Determining compensation and benefits
  • Conducting performance reviews and talent development
  • Assuring productivity during change 125

698. During the recruitment process, typically:

  • Human resources become aware of a job vacancy when an employee turns in a letter of resignation or a manager within the company alerts human resources of the job vacancy
  • Depending on the job vacancy’s level of importance, human resources may:
    • Do nothing and let the position remain vacant
    • Update the brand’s internal job announcement board so current employees can apply if they wish
    • Browse their existing applicant  tracking system database of potential candidates
    • Search for suitable candidates using keyword searches online and through sites like LinkedIn
    • Create and diffuse the job announcement online
    • Hire a headhunter to assist in filling the position
  • Job candidates find and apply for the specific job position or add their profile to the brand’s applicant tracking system on their website
  • Human resources gather all potential candidates and create a short-list of their favorite, who are then contacted for interviews
  • Further evaluations such as an intelligence or personality test may be conducted to better evaluate the candidates potential and suitability
  • A final candidate is chosen and offered the job, compensation negotiation occurs between the candidate and the brand, and the negotiated contract is signed
  • The new employee’s on-boarding process and trial period begins 132

699. A brand’s human resources department has two distinct recruiting problems:

  • Attracting the right candidates
  • Hiring the right candidates 77

700. Line engagement refers to how many employees in your company participate in the recruiting process. Intelligent brands, and especially brands on a budget, understand and exploit networking effects – that qualified, competent, and like-minded people tend to know each other, and therefore would be your best source for finding other highly-qualified employees.

Offering your employees bonuses and incentives for referring and recruiting their fellow highly-qualified friends and acquaintances effectively streamlines the recruiting process and turns your entire workforce into a human resources recruiting machine. 77,227

701. Brands often have difficulty putting into words what they really want – and then there is the matter of distinguishing what the brand wants and what the brand needs. This involves a bit of strategic planning. 42,60

702. Before recruitment begins, human resources must define precisely what problems they need to solve and job positions they must fill to solve those problems. This is usually accomplished by conducting a job analysis to identify the:

  • Nature and scope of every position in the company
  • Critical requirements related to those positions
  • Attractive aspects of the positions (the USPs) 78

703. The problem with recruiting decisions based solely on the nature, scope, and critical requirements of a position is that those criteria evolve over time, and so what was a good measure of recruitment before becomes obsolete, which increases the number of false-positive (recruits human resources believes would make good employees, but fail to meet expectations – discussed later) hiring decisions. Therefore, competent human resources also identify the extreme challenges and problems the employee must face on a regular basis.

‘De-jobbing’ occurs when teams and departments informally divide up their collective job responsibilities to best suit each person’s individual skill sets, preferences and long-term career objectives, thus changing the nature and scope of the position.

For example, in a 3-person sales team where:

  • One colleague excels in cold-calling client prospection from the office
  • Another colleague is skilled in warm-calling prospection and prefers travelling
  • The third colleague is a professional at managing online sales campaigns that convert

…it only makes sense for prospection responsibilities to be informally divided up between the three sales people, thus ensuring maximum efficiency, job satisfaction, and career evolution through specialization.

Before recruiting, human resources should conduct a comprehensive job analysis to identify these informal ‘de-jobbing’ arrangements. 78,216

704. The more complex and important the job position:

  • The more competency, education, and experience are required to do the job
  • The harder it is to find new specialists to do the job and replace the specialists currently doing the job
  • The more the brand must pay their quality employees to keep them.

In this situation, the specialist has attained the negotiation power over his or her employer.

On the contrary, the simpler and more repetitive the job tasks, the less competency, education, and experience is required, the easier it is to train new employees and replace current employees, and the less the brand needs to compensate employees. In this situation, the employer has attained the negotiation power over its employees.

However, employers must understand that employees who feel trapped in repetitive, menial, unrewarding, dead-end jobs tend to suffer psychologically, be less productive, and thus increase the turnover and training costs for that employee’s tasks. Worse, employees who feel deprived from obtaining what they feel they deserve may become disgruntled, aggressive, and even violent.

Employees are not stupid, and they know the legal minimum requirements employers are required to pay for a specific job position. Compensating employees the bare legal minimum sends a strong message to current and prospective employees in terms of what they can expect from their employer. 90,188

705. Regardless of how a brand positions itself, the recruiting process should be viewed as a collaborative, mutually-beneficial give-and-take relationship between the hiring company and potential employees. The brand is assessing your value to them, and likewise you should be assessing how the brand meets your short- and long-term career objectives. If the brand or job position does not bring you closer to meeting your goals, be ready to:

  • Negotiate with the brand until it does
  • Readjust your goals and objectives
  • Turn the job position down

The first and most important rule of effective negotiation is to never put yourself into a position where you have to have the deal. 79,189

706. Brands, with international clients especially, must cope with globalization. Modern customers can be anywhere, and make purchases anytime. Brands, no matter how small, must learn to think and plan globally.

Smaller companies will have a dedicated human resources department with staff responsible for “all things ‘HR’,” but this all-in-one structure will not work for larger companies with offices around the world which will have different needs, responsibilities, methods and legal obligations. 75,125

707. Human Resources generally receive as many job applicant CVs per year as they have employees working for them.Therefore a brand with 100,000 employees can reasonably expect to receive 100,000 CVs/year, the equivalent of nearly 275 CVs every day.

Anticipating this, and knowing that the high-quality candidates brands seek are hard to find, smart brands should take a page out of a headhunting agency’s book and establish an applicant tracking system as well as a process for cataloguing and maintaining their own list of high-quality candidates who have voluntarily expressed interest in working for their brand, and who can be contacted as future positions become available. 78,217

708. At the beginning phases of the recruitment process, experienced recruiters spend on average eleven seconds on each candidate’s profile, focusing on critical elements of the candidate’s:

  • Education background
  • Professional experience
  • Overall presentation
  • Clarity of thought and critical thinking skills as manifested in the words you use, the way you style sentences, and clarity of thought

As the recruitment process progresses and the candidate pool narrows, more care is taken in the decision-making process. The closer human resources get to choosing a final candidate, the more costly that final decision becomes for the brand. 78,219

709. To aid in recruitment, human resources automate the recruiting and talent development processes with software solutions such as applicant tracking systems that enable the brand to:

  • Maintain a big picture of the brand’s corporate structure, seeing who is responsible for which department, and who reports to who
  • Track employee performance and compensation from the initial interview through to the exit interview when the employee leaves the company
  • Identify and monitor high-potential and high-risk employees
  • Organize new job applicants via keyword, skills, former employers, diplomas, and certifications
  • Ensure equal opportunity laws are followed and avoid accusations of discriminatory hiring practices
  • Etc.

Because applicant tracking systems are more and more being used in the recruiting process and replacing the manual sorting of candidate resumes, clever candidates improve their chances of success over their competitors by designing keyword-rich resumes specifically formatted to be understood and ranked higher within the tracking systems to ensure their name appears at the top of the list for the most relevant job postings.

Resumes not designed to be easily read and sorted by applicant tracking systems is a common mistake, and one of the costliest mistakes even high-quality candidates make because incorrectly formatted CVs disqualify you from the candidate pool unless by some luck a human notices and corrects your error. 132,217

710. Some brand’s inventory control software is so accurate that they can track inventory down to the price number and location of a product, and yet have no idea how many employees are currently on the company’s payroll. 76

711. There never will be ‘the perfect’ recruit, therefore employers choose ‘the best’ candidate from their pool of candidates; the one they believe will offer them the greatest return on investment (ROI).

As a recruit, be brutally objective about what you can offer employers at this point in your career, but understand that you control how you present yourself as a candidate and what you can offer employers, and how recruiters perceive you. Every weakness can be a strength, and every strength a weakness depending on the context in which you present it.

Knowing your strengths and successfully portraying them on your CV and professional networking profiles helps you focus on applying for jobs at companies where you stand the greatest chance of dominating your competitors.

Being able to compensate for and reframe your weaknesses so that they become perceived as strengths – or as irrelevant to the job position – turns ‘flaws’ recruiters traditionally consider marks against you and reframe them as advantages, effectively minimizing your perceived weaknesses. For example, when asked during a job interview “Tell me about one of your weaknesses:”

  • If the job in question requires working in close proximity to fellow employees in an open workspace, frame your weakness as not being comfortable working in quiet, secluded office spaces that shut you out from the rest of the world and prevent you from having direct access to your colleagues.
  • If the job in question requires working on complex projects that require a lot of research, frame your weakness as being a perfectionist that isn’t comfortable turning in projects that haven’t been properly fact-checked and objectively verified. 

Most importantly, know who you are and what you’re capable of, and never lie or do anything to cause the person feel like you’re deceiving or manipulating them. 50,162,188,219,237

712. Relying too heavily on shortcuts and automation in the recruitment process may save the brand time and money, but doing so comes with the risk of hiring the wrong employees, which leads to building an average or below-average brand with an average to below-average reputation filled with average to below-average employees who make average to below-average products, and who attract average to below-average candidates.

Investing in a high-quality recruitment process and empowering human resources – the critical gatekeepers of your company – to attract, hire, and develop high-quality specialists and employees and gain access to their professional networks is one of the best investments a brand can make because:

  • As a brand, you will attract higher-quality recruits, therefore the quality and ideas behind your products and services will continually improve
  • As a CEO and entrepreneur, should you decide to sell your brand to the highest bidder, having created a team of extremely-competent, high-quality specialists increases the value of your brand, your strength at the negotiation table, and thus the final sale price of your brand and your reputation as a business person and entrepreneur that will carry over into your future projects and endeavors
  • As an investor, the value of your brand, along with your company shares, will increase
  • As an employee, working for a reputable brand increases your perceived value and negotiation position for  future career moves
  • As a customer, you enjoy better quality products better designed to meet your needs and wants

Everybody wins. 113,122,167,172

713. As a job candidate faced with a company’s or an industry’s recruitment process, you can:

  • Reject the process and refuse to comply with it, likely forfeiting, or diminishing, many career opportunities
  • Tolerate the process and work within it as best you can
  • Exploit the process as often as possible with little regard for changing or improving it
  • Exploit the process and then use your knowledge to help change and improve the process as best you can from the inside
  • Learn as much about the process as you can and then innovatively disrupt it by creating your own process to compete against brands and industries who use that process 188

714. The world is evolving so quickly and becoming so increasingly complex that simply getting a diploma will ‘qualify’ you for the rest of your life is no longer enough; Further education and life-long learning and development is mandatory to staying relevant in an increasingly-competitive environment. This is necessary for both brands and employees alike.

Learned helplessness is a state in which a person suffering from a prolonged and seemingly unmanageable negative situation no longer feels as though they have control over their own life and situation, and feel incapable of escaping or taking control of their negative predicament. For example:

  • Older employees competing against younger, more educated and better adapted employees willing to work for less pay
  • Less educated employees competing against technology and more highly-educated employees
  • Inexperienced employees competing against experienced employees
  • Expatriates and  immigrants competing against a foreign country’s working laws
  • People unable or unwilling to keep up with a constantly changing environment

Disadvantaged people who lose hope are prone to suffer from learned helplessness. 75,112

715. Most people don’t consciously and intentionally fail, become identified as a loser, or sabotage their careers and chances for success, and often times it simply comes down to luck. But that is unfortunately where many people’s careers end up. 188,216

716. Employees who believe themselves to be clever, intuitive, and well-networked, yet are unable to advance in their career will find themselves stuck in middle to lower-management positions and blaming everyone but themselves for their inability to achieve their goals. 162,216

717. Just as consumer needs, wants and expectations change from generation to generation (discussed later), employee needs, wants and expectations also change, and so brands must adapt and evolve, or die. 75,112

718. Quality employees are willing to give their health, time, performance, talents and skills to a brand they are proud of and that will give them opportunities to grow and progress in their career, and intelligent brands want to attract and keep quality employees for as long as possible. This is how brands secure a long-term competitive advantage. 75

719. Employees are usually either:

  • Actively and desperately seeking new employment as quickly as possible. These employees are aggressively applying for open positions via on- and offline job announcements and at career fairs, and will possibly accept the first decent job that comes along, even if it means using that position as a temporary stepping stone away from their current job or unemployment and into a better one
  • Happy with their current position in life, but open to opportunities if they are presented with one. These employees tend to be sufficiently-qualified and ambitious people, meaning they are a brand’s ideal job candidate. Unfortunately, since these employees aren’t actively looking for you, your brand must be pro-active and find them
  • Happy with their current position in life and not at all interested in other opportunities elsewhere, even if they were presented with one; meaning that any recruiting attempts would be a waste of time, money and resources 77

720. When looking for employment, and when considering taking your job offer, quality employees will ask themselves important questions like:

  • “Would I enjoy working for this brand?”
  • “Will this brand offer me the career opportunities and skill set training I’m seeking?”
  • “Will this brand look good on my CV?”
  • “Will this brand still have a strong reputation in a few years if/when I consider working elsewhere?” 77

721. Job boredom occurs when employees have more or less mastered their job’s responsibilities and no longer feel challenged. This boredom can occur more quickly in ambitious, high-quality employees than it can in lazy or unambitious employees.

Because top-level executives and highly-qualified people also tend to be extremely ambitious, they tend to get bored with their position more quickly and thus begin looking for bigger and better opportunities. Luring high-level and high-quality employees and executives away from their current companies and job positions may require extravagant sign-on bonuses and other advantages, otherwise those top-level recruits may back out at the last minute and the brand risks losing all the investment they had made up to that point and having to start from scratch. Or worse, a year after investing all that time and money in recruiting them, they are once again seduced by another company promising more than you are currently offering. Employees attracted by fame and fortune will leave for fame and fortune. 77,216

722. Because headhunter contracts typically include ‘conflict-of-interest’ clauses with their clients, hiring a professional headhunting company may be necessary if for no other reason than to prevent them from stealing your best and brightest employees away from you. 77,216

723. A brand’s employee compensation structure is usually one of, or a combination of, two models:

  • Distributive. Compensation and bonus packages are ranked relative to other:
    • Colleagues
    • Departments
    • Years of experience
    • Years of employment with the company
    • Accumulation of hard- and soft-skills
    • Previous accomplishments
    • Etc.
  • Procedural. Compensation and bonus packages are based on set procedures and policies and include a number of financial and non-financial components such as:
    • Unemployment compensation
    • Stock options
    • Life and Health Insurance
    • Company vehicle
    • Employee discounts
    • Flexible working hours
    • Etc.

Factoring the above elements along with a detailed job analysis for the job position and the standard compensation package, union contracts, and legal requirements for similar jobs in the industry, human resources determine a ‘competitive’ base-pay compensation package for each job position.

Establishing a fair and objective ‘competitive’ base pay compensation package using this method creates clear terms and definitions from which human resources and job candidates can productively conduct negotiations, allowing all parties the chance to reach a mutually-acceptable agreement.

Establishing a fair and objective base pay compensation package using this method also enables human resources to identify discrepancies with its current employees:

  • If it is discovered a current employee is being paid below the market base pay, human resources may choose to:
    • Do nothing and let the employee continue to work below his or her pay grade
    • Raise the employee’s pay to prevent bad publicity or losing the employee to a competitor
    • Reduce the employee’s responsibilities to match his or her pay grade
  • Were it discovered a current employee is being paid above the market base pay, human resources may choose to:
    • Do nothing and continue to let the employee earn more than his or her return on investment
    • Lower the employees pay to market norms
    • Promote the employee to correspond with his or her pay grade
    • Maintain the person’s position and pay, but add more responsibilities to balance the employee’s return on investment

The main problem with defining a compensation package as ‘fair’ is that the definition tends to be subjective, with each party arguing ‘fairness’ in terms that benefits their individual expectations and perception of self-worth. 81,222

724. Understanding a brand’s compensation package structure is crucial to knowing how to approach negotiations during recruitment. Strong negotiators are able to earn a lot from the brand while offering comparable, or less return on investment, relative to their compensation.

Comparatively, weaker negotiators find themselves accepting the first offer given to them and agreeing to offer the brand a lot of value while receiving little in return.

In the long run, these distinctions compound as an employee’s career progresses, which is why two candidates identical in education and experience yet different in negotiation prowess can, in 10 years’ time and a few jobs later, hold completely different job positions and earn completely different compensation packages. 81

Qualifying candidates

QUALIFYING CANDIDATES

725. Natural and artificial selection. Philosophical  beliefs and theories (valid and controversial) such as that of:

  1. Eugenics
  2. Transhumanism
  3. Technological singularity

…applied to scientific and technological revolutions in areas such as:

  • Evolution
  • Medicine
  • Genome mapping
  • Genetics
  • Nano-technology
  • Robotics
  • Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)

…suggest that although humans may be born genetically advantaged or disadvantaged, any identified ‘hierarchies’ can potentially be overcome and even eradicated.

When it comes to recruitment and human resources management – especially in an international context – “survival of the fittest” and a recruiter’s and country’s desire for ‘advantaged’ over ‘disadvantaged,’ or unqualified, employees is unmistakable when you consider that:

  • Most job announcements place strong emphasis on requirements and ‘desirable’ skills and qualities before the hiring company will consider your candidature
  • Many companies require stringent intelligence and personality tests be passed before the company will formally accept your candidature
  • Many companies require criminal background checks before they will formally accept your candidature
  • Nearly every country in the world enacts increasingly severe immigration and visa requirements and quotas to ensure only the strongest, most qualified and most dedicated workers are let into their country
  • Even upon formally hiring a person, trial periods whereby the employer and employee can freely terminate the relationship ensure that the recruiter is content with the employee’s performance 90,101,152

726. Humans, from birth, progress through life based on their:

Genetic predisposition. Your being naturally gifted at specific tasks and abilities

Cultivation. The ability of your caregivers to identify and then properly develop those skills and abilities at which you are naturally talented

Competence. How well you exploit your honed skill as well as understand, adapt to, and excel at an activity, especially with regard to the soft-skills required to effectively manage other people and their individual egos, desires and objectives

Ambition. Desire, objectives, and threshold with regard to risk tolerance; how much you are ready and willing to sacrifice to climb and how comfortable and willing you are to advance in their career

Appearance. It’s not enough to possess all of the qualities and skill sets needed to progress in your career. If nobody else around you, especially the key decision-makers notice you, or when they do notice you they don’t see an ambitious, top-performing employee, then all your hard work cannot be used as an advantage

Luck. The uncontrollable element above and beyond what you can control of finding yourself in the right place at the right time despite yourself 92,162,188,212,216,219,237

727. Humans have a tendency to categorize and then hierarchize brands, other humans, and products and services based on positive and negative attributes. The halo effect is a cognitive bias whereby positive attributes from one aspect of a person’s profile bleeds over into other aspects of that person’s profile, thus giving that person a better overall perceived value.

Conversely, the horn effect is a cognitive bias whereby negative attributes bleed over into other aspects of a person’s profile, thus giving that person a worse overall perceived value.

Correct or not, when qualifying job candidates during the recruitment process according to the key skills and attributes outlined in the open position’s detailed job analysis, the halo and horn effect are but one of many cognitive biases which have been proven to inadvertently and unconsciously lead recruiters to incorrectly conclude that:

  • Taller, stronger, and more physically attractive candidates must be more ambitious, competent, and successful than their comparatively shorter, weaker, and less attractive competitors
  • Male candidates must perform better in a particular position and/or deserve higher compensation than their female competitors
  • Graduates from higher-ranking universities must offer greater return on investment (ROI) than candidates from lesser-ranking universities
  • Candidates with well-known and reputable brands listed on their CV must be better and more highly-desired than candidates with lesser-known brands
  • Employees who excel at preparing PowerPoint presentations must also be good at public speaking
  • Employees who never miss a project deadline must be competent and trustworthy

You cannot assume the recruiter is aware of the halo and horn effects when making his or her decision-making, but you can control how the recruiter categorizes your skills and attributes and hierarchizes your value as a specialist and asset. 102,117,130,162,166,187

728. Highly-skilled employees who have amassed a deep understanding of strategies, best practices, and skill sets from one industry can provide a unique perspective into other industries and domains, but competence and specialization in one industry does not automatically translate into another. It is possible that the most competent leaders in one industry can be utterly incompetent and useless in another. 77,100,220,232

729. To gain the advantage in the recruitment and promotion process, you can:

  • Make yourself appear a better alternative than your competitors by playing to your strengths and unique selling points (USPs)
  • Make your competitors appear a worse alternative than you by pointing out their weaknesses and limitations (mudslinging)
  • Disqualify your competitors as alternatives altogether by making them appear irreplaceable in their current position

If you can position yourself using all three techniques above whilst maintaining your integrity and professionalism and not appearing like an asshole, then you are in a good position to get what you want. 188

730. Ideally, human resources should recruit and train employees who compensate for the company’s, team’s, and the team’s manager’s weaknesses.

As an entrepreneur, employee, or potential recruit, this means you should know your strengths and weaknesses as well as your potential recruiter’s. During your job interview or client pitch, your line of questioning should be aimed at discovering the recruiter’s weaknesses before you even think of offering yourself a solution.

Once employed, you should continually strive to identify your company’s, team’s, and superiors’ weaknesses as you move up the corporate ladder and your scope of responsibilities expand. 92,116

731. University degrees don’t mean you are competent or that you will automatically be an asset to the company or client. University degrees mean nothing more than proof that you are teachable, tamable, and capable of playing by the rules. Furthermore, depending on the culture in which you are seeking employment, university degrees are but one, albeit important, requirement to getting an interview with a recruiter or potential client.

Winning a new client or moving up in a company and being identified as a specialist and high-quality worker requires street smarts as much as it does book smarts because it isn’t so much about doing a good job in your current position as it is looking good and giving the impression that you are doing a good job. You must be capable of solving problems effectively, but more importantly, everyone around you must believe you are an effective problem-solver. Solving problems effectively requires you understand the job, the people involved, the office politics and how to exploit all of these elements and back channels as optimally as possible. Moving up in a company isn’t about changing the system; it’s about exploiting it.

A company’s management structure is in place to preserve the hierarchy and ensure the company is organized and laws and policies respected. Your superior(s), competent or not, are a part of that structure, and if you have an issue with your boss and try to bypass that structure and undermine him or her, it will likely be you who suffers the consequences, no matter how right you may be.

Employees who fail to understand this difference, no matter how ambitious and competent, will find their hard work isn’t as efficient as they want it to be, will find themselves frustratingly stuck in their current position, consistently passed over for promotion after promotion, and may eventually start blaming their misfortune on ‘bad luck’ and taking their frustration out on everyone else around them. 162,212,216,219

732. Language is either active: speaking and writing, or passive: listening and reading. The majority of modern clients and employees you will work with will be multilingual to some functional capacity, and while they may not yet be fully-fluent, they will probably be more and more capable of communicating to a sufficient degree, and to what degree they are incapable technology is making it easier for them to do so. This means that in the future learning another person’s language may become more a way of building rapport and a relationship with the person than an imperative means of communication. 75,143

733. To be identified as a high-potential employee, it’s imperative to your career to spend time abroad and have at least a working professional fluency in several key languages because the more diverse your experience and language base, the more diverse your skillset and tools you can use to solve problems. However the principle reasons many expatriate assignments end in failure are because:

  • The wrong person was sent on the assignment, likely because:
    • Human resources lacked the time, budget, and/or resources necessary to correctly identify and train a more appropriate candidate
    • Human resources chose the ‘ideal’ candidate from a very limited pool of unqualified internal candidates who expressed interest in the assignment because ‘they had been on vacation to that country once,’ or because the employee looked good on paper
    • A well-networked person ‘pulled strings’ with a key decision-maker to get the assignment
  • To save time and money, the expatriate’s intercultural training and pre-assignment preparation were insufficient with regard to the target culture’s:
    • Etiquette. Knowing how to appropriately address superiors, subordinates, and clients
    • Knowledge. Knowing about the local culture’s celebrities, history, values and morals
    • Competencies. Knowing appropriate behaviors and approaches to problem-solving strategies
  • At some point during the expatriate assignment the employee became disappointed with the assignment
  • The expatriate’s family failed to adapt to the foreign culture and way of life

Expatriate failures, regardless of the reason, incur high costs to not only the brand financially and diplomatically, but equally to the employee, as being branded a ‘failure’ can severely damage his or her professional reputation, career, marriage, and psychological well-being. 75,143,152,216,219

734. While men and women do have many things in common, there are also many gender differences that separate men from women, and these differences – whether or not you agree with them – must be acknowledged:

  • Intellectual equality. Women are regaining their educational, financial and intellectual status as equals to men
  • Communication. Women tend to be better communicators than men
  • Relationships. Women demand more from their partners, and prefer remaining single or leaving encumbering relationships than staying with a partner who no longer provides for their needs and wants
  • Problem-solving. Women tend to have superior social skills and deal with data and solving complex problems more differently than men. Men tend to think in terms of ‘important and relevant’ versus ‘not important and irrelevant’ when it comes to solving the problem at hand 168

735. When making career decisions, the motivations behind the person’s decision usually tend to be either:

  • Moving away from negative situations
  • Moving towards positive situations
  • Solving a problem that has arisen
  • Making a strategic move to improve one’s position in life
  • Following their partner or family 107

736. There tend to be two basic kinds of people in life:

  • Reactive people focus on and complain about things of which they have no control over rather than focusing on why those negative things in their life are happening or on the things they do have control over
  • Proactive people fight this urge to lazily complain, realizing that complaining, no matter how legitimate, is futile, and instead productively focus their energy on taking advantage of the things they do have control over 214

737. Two kinds of leaders emerge within companies:

  • Formal leaders, whom the company acknowledges with authority to manage and persuade – the promoted bosses, directors, team leaders, etc.
  • Informal leaders, who excel at the soft skills of communication, team building, speaking, etc. and have a natural ability to lead and convince people, and others look to them for help and advice

Not all informal leaders need to hold formal positions, but human resources must be able to identify informal leaders and reward them for what they bring to the company. Further, competent human resources actively seek to identify and develop their informal leaders because of their natural ability to sway employee opinion, perhaps even more so than formal leaders can. This is especially important when managing resistance and dissenters when the brand is undergoing change and needs everyone working together. 112

738. Two kinds of resistance emerge within companies:

  • Open resistance is when employees openly voice and discuss what they disagree with. The exposed problems and concerns can then be dealt with professionally and diplomatically
  • Concealed resistance is when employees secretively prevent and sabotage change from occurring. Because these problems and concerns are not made public, by the time management and human resources have been made aware of them, a lot of damage may have already been done to the brand, team, and project

Being actively involved with employees and fostering a work mentality where employees feel comfortable voicing their opinion – for and against managerial decisions – goes a long way in keeping the company productive, and can mitigate the damage sought by concealed resistance. 112

739. Two kinds of responses employees experience to change include:

  • Seeing change as beyond the person’s control:
    • Comfort. Prior to the decision to change their life is stable, predictable, and they feel in control
    • Shock. Upon learning of the decision people become paralyzed as they absorb the new information and consider the ramifications of the change upon their lives. At this point many ambitious, high-quality employees who stay aware of their industry and don’t see the change as a good thing may leave the company. On the other hand ambitious, high-quality employees who stay aware of the foundational changes of their industry and who do see the changes as necessary may become the brand’s greatest allies during the change process
    • Rejection. People deny or reject the decision to change, arguing why the change will be a disaster
    • Anger. Anger sets in as people refuse to participate in the decision. This can take the form of protests, strikes, walk outs, and even violence
    • Bargaining. Realizing that the decision to change will happen no matter what, people begin negotiating to try to prevent the change, mollify the change, or at least get a good deal out of the situation
    • Helplessness. Unable to negotiate away the change, depression sets in as people consider the change to be the end of the world as they know it
    • Acceptance. As people begin interfacing with and testing the change, they start getting used to the change, and even learn to appreciate the good aspects to it. Those who reject the change will find themselves slowly being rejected by their colleagues and will either conform, voluntarily leave the company, or become a nuisance the company will have to deal with
    • Comfort. Finally, now feeling stable and comfortable with the new program and back in control of their lives, they accept the change and incorporate it into their lives
  • Seeing change as within the person’s control:
    • Comfort. Prior to realizing the amount of work and sacrifice the decision to change will entail, the person’s life is stable, predictable, and the person feels in control and optimistic about the change, and they happily begin working on the project
    • Intimidation. As they being learning about and understanding the scope of the change and the work and sacrifice required of them to complete the change, they become overwhelmed and although pessimism sets in, they continue working on the project
    • Overwhelmed. Eventually they reach a limit where they are so overwhelmed and out of control that they seriously doubt they can continue, and are ready to give up and walk away. As long as this ‘fuck-it point’ remains below their threshold of tolerance, they will continue suffering yet continue working on the project. However, if their ‘fuck-it point’ exceeds their threshold of tolerance, they will no longer see a point in continuing, and abandon the project; preferring to give up now and not waste any more time than continuing to work on a project they believe cannot be salvaged
    • Optimistic. They reach a point where the hardest part of the project is behind them, and the completion of the project is eminent, they become excited and optimistic and their energy on the project increases as they can see the end in sight
    • In control. They are now in complete control of the project, and know precisely what is left to be done and can confidently predict when the project will be completed
    • Successful. They have successfully completed the project and implemented the change 112

740. Whether it is in negotiation, entrepreneurship, or project management, the most important elements of driving change are:

  • Objective. Having a(n):
    • Clear, well-defined brand vision
    • Reason for the decision to change
    • End result employees are working towards can look forward to
  • Process. Having a clearly defined framework  and goals with step-by-step instructions and ways of celebrating the passage of each step
  • Planning. Either slowly implementing the change into the employees’ lives so they can become comfortable with it at their own pace rather than throwing them head first into the new solution, or setting a start date far enough in advance that they have enough time to prepare themselves for and become comfortable with the change by the launch date
  • Preparation. Managing and guiding the formal and informal leaders to promote open resistance while making sure that any employees who have concerns about the change feel comfortable voicing them rather than resorting to concealed resistance complaining (discussed earlier)
  • Necessity. Convincing the employees of the urgency and necessity of the change; that unless the change is done, failure and negative consequences will ensue

Until employees understand:

  • The extent of the damage that will be done to the company and the employees’ lifestyle if they don’t change
  • What is expected of them during the changing process

…they will not have the necessary incentive to get behind the change, and any attempts on the manager’s part to encourage change will likely be met with skepticism and distrust. 90,112

741. To determine whether or not you would be a good employee, human resources – the ‘gate keepers’ – compare their recruitment experience to your candidature:

  • CV and cover letter
  • LinkedIn profile and internet search results
  • Internet search results
  • Job interview(s)
  • Letters of recommendations
  • Psychometric and IQ test results
  • Etc.

…to try and predict how profitable they believe you would be for the brand in the future. At the end of your trial-period – as well as every subsequent performance evaluation – human resources compare their predictions about your projected performance with how you actually perform.

Based on their assessment of your candidature, human resources come to one of four possible conclusions about you as an employee:

  • Right-Positive. They predict you would excel in the job position, and so choose to hire you
  • Right-Negative. They predict you would insufficiently perform in the job position, and so choose not hire you
  • False-Negative. They incorrectly predict you would insufficiently perform in the job position, and so do not hire you. But had they hired you, they would have been pleasantly surprised to see you would have excelled in your position
  • False-Positive. They incorrectly predictyou would excel in the job position, and so hire you. Unfortunately, as time passes you fail to meet their expectations, and they regret their decision of having hired you

The costs and consequences of a false-negative decision include the rejected candidate going on to make significant contributions to another, perhaps competing, company. However this damage will likely never be identified by the brand unless for some reason the brand follows the career paths of rejected candidates. 78,127

742. There are two major problems associated with false-positive hiring decisions:

  • As a startup or small business the success of your company depends on the crucial first handful of people you hire, and hiring the wrong people at this stage can mean the difference  between success or failure
  • Employee protection laws are stronger in some countries than they are in others, and in some cases firing under-performing employees can be so expensive and time consuming that it would be cheaper to keep the employee on your payroll, take away all their responsibilities to mitigating their damage, and then wait for them to get bored and quit 78,82

743. Competent brands seek to continually improve their recruiting process and employee performance and satisfaction at work by implementing procedures such as employee surveys and performance evaluations to understand their employees’ needs and wants.

Nevertheless, as human resources evaluate your candidature for employment, raises, and promotions, certain unconscious biases, cultural and generational assumptions, communication misunderstandings, and political realities inevitably influence their judgement of you. These judgments can lead to incorrect assessments about your value as an employee, causing them to reject high-quality candidates and hire low-quality ones. 78,98

774. When conducting employee surveys and evaluations, intelligent brands inform the employees of the reason behind the survey, who is organizing the survey, how the results of the survey will be used, and will even share the survey results with the employees who took the time to participate. Even if the results are unsatisfactory, sharing the results helps employees feel like their opinions and concerns are being heard and addressed, even if ultimately human resources cannot fully resolve the employees’ underlying problem(s).

Demanding employees take the time to fill out surveys without explanation or sharing the results with them is an effective way of demotivating your employees and causing them to feel you don’t care about them. 98

identify employees

IDENTIFYING, DEVELOPING, & RETAINING HIGH-QUALITY EMPLOYEES

745. Brands with a quality recruiting and talent development program notice that employees tend to fall into one of the following categories:

  • High-potential, high-performing employees appear to enjoy what they are doing and have found what they are good at, and so quality brands should invest in them through coaching and increased responsibility to develop them for the long-term
  • High-potential, low-performing employees have the potential to do much more, yet for whatever reason aren’t, and so quality brands should determine whether:
    • There are interpersonal problems with the team, manager, or department
    • They are no longer being challenged or feel stuck in their career
    • Have personal issues outside of work which are affecting their work performance
    • Other
  • Low-potential, high-performing employees do a great job in their current position but have perhaps reached their full potential, meaning they would not likely be capable of handling more responsibility. In this situation quality brands should keep the employee right where they are as long as they are happy and continue performing their duties sufficiently
  • Low-potential, low-performing  (false-positive mentioned earlier) employees which the brand regrets having employed, and so would:
    • Get rid of the employee to make room for better quality employees
    • Demote them to a position they can excel at (if they can become a low-potential but high-performing employee)
    • Transfer the employee into a department or job function where they are perhaps better fit and can prove their value

Assuming the brand’s human resources department has recruitment and employee monitoring protocols in place to ensure only apt candidates are hired, employees flagged in the human resources system as demotivated or under-performing might be a symptom of another problem within the department or company, and not that the employee is a below-average, low-potential performer that somehow cheated or slipped his or her way through the cracks in the recruitment process.

In fact, if the brand finds it is attracting more job candidates which aren’t the right fit for the brand, then arguably it’s the fault of the brand’s marketing department for failing to correctly communicate the brand’s vision, thus failing to attract the candidates who are the right fit for the brand.

It’s not only the responsibility for the human resources department or the managers to make employees do their job; it’s the brand’s responsibility to be a company that lazy, unproductive, and incompatible candidates would not want to apply to work for. Ultimately, if key decision-makers focus on creating a brand, product, and service the best it can possible be, the right consumers, clients, investors, and job candidates will naturally gravitate towards the brand. 92,162

746. Unconscious incompetence refers to a person’s inability to identify and understand what they do not know; they are incompetent and are not aware of the extent of their incompetence.

At the other end of the scale, unconscious competence refers to attaining such an automated level of skill that it becomes so instinctive that the person can expertly perform the action without having to think about it. Specialists (discussed later) fall into the unconscious competence category.

Critical situations are costly errors untrained employees provoke when learning to perform a task or use a software program for the first time.

Onboarding refers to the process of having new recruits trained, familiarized with their responsibilities, and productive in their new department, team, and position – moving the new recruits from unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence as quickly as possible. The longer the onboarding process takes, the more expensive the employee becomes and the more setbacks and critical situations surrounding employees and departments face.

When pairing unskilled employees (those with unconscious incompetence) with skilled employees (unconscious competence), an unfortunate side-effect of unconscious competence can be the ‘curse of knowledge.’ The curse of knowledge is the inability of better-informed specialists to be able to relate to, train and consider perspectives of lesser-informed people. An effective onboarding program therefore should be designed from a thorough ‘critical situation analysis’ of the job position to identify common pitfalls and mistakes employees deal with, and then train new employees specifically to overcome them. 84

747. Attracting, hiring, and developing high-quality employees give your company a competitive advantage, but for long-term success you must focus on employee retention – keeping high-quality employees happy and productive over the long-term. 103

748. Technology, competitors, and industries are constantly changing. Once a person has been recruited, that person now needs to be continually trained, retrained, and kept up-to-date so your brand can remain competitive. 84

749. Knowledge is important, but being knowledgeable doesn’t mean that person is an effective problem-solver. There are plenty of ‘gurus’ and ‘specialists’ who make a lot of money by claiming to offer tips and general advice to ‘immediately fix’ problems. The majority of solutions are learned by applying knowledge with experimentation. Effective problem-solving requires knowledge, competence, talent, and intelligence. 16,44,50,84,157,162,186

750. Quality brands who wish to develop their employer branding reputation should invest in talent development because employees thrive most when they:

  • Enjoy what they do
  • Understand their full potential
  • Feel they are working towards long-term goals
  • Have strong social and professional networks developed
  • Feel they have the opportunity to improve themselves
  • Have a strong mentor, coach, or manager
  • Have access to ongoing training and coaching
  • Etc. 92

751. When a brand organizes training for its employees, it must ensure that:

  • Employees like the training
  • The training meets the intended goals
  • What was learned is useful and applicable
  • What was learned will be used and applied 84,176

When choosing among talent development trainings, human resources must acknowledge that:

  • People learn at different speeds and through different methods
    • Formal and informal
    • Hands-on experience
  • Most employees learn informally through experience, help from colleagues, and trial-and-error
  • Some employees are aware they need help and see the training as a way of improving themselves
  • Some employees only attend trainings as an excuse to get out of their office
  • Some employees lack the intelligence and/or cognitive abilities to understand and apply the information being taught to them
  • Some employees refuse to change, no matter how many trainings they attend 84,222

752. Every situation is unique, and a person’s needs, wants and objectives are always different from one situation to another. Therefore advice and trainings should always be taken with a bit of healthy skepticism and seen as guidance that will send you in the right direction, but must be adapted to fit each situation. 89

753. Technology has changed the way people learn. Instead of memorizing notes in a notebook, people have the entire world at their fingertips. A more effective way is learning how to leverage technology so employees know how to find information so they can effectively and creatively solve problems for themselves as they arise, rather than having to rely on somebody else to show them. 84

754. Technology and job responsibilities have become so complex that in most cases employees often become more competent in their particular role than their superiors. Smart managers accept this, and understand that their main role is to globally understand the responsibilities of their subordinates and facilitate peer-to-peer collaborative learning. 84

755. Employee trainings are short-term fixes, whereas talent development is a long-term investment into identified high-potential employees whom the brand desires to keep, develop, and promote into key positions in the long-term. 88

756. Employees who believe they work for brands and managers that rigidly rely on obsolete job analysis and adherence to strict job descriptions tend to adopt an ‘it’s not my job’ attitude – refusing to take on additional responsibilities and volunteer for projects in order to protect themselves from the risks of negative evaluations and not being recognized for their contributions above and beyond what is expected of them. Brands that appear to foster this type of rigid work environment damage their reputation as a quality employer and hinder their potential for talent acquisition and success. 78

757. When faced with a performance evaluation that judges them solely on improvement and inflexible quarterly objectives, humans have a natural, rational tendency to choose the easiest possible tasks and projects that maximize their ability to fulfill their minimum job requirements while using the least amount of effort possible.

Brands that focus too aggressively on short-sighted, quarterly profit increases and continual growth, whether or not their employees are happy, and whether or not revenue comes at the benefit or detriment of society and the planet will find their brand image with employees as well as clients deteriorate in the long-term.

Brands that focus on listening to their employees and contributing to their desire for happiness, fulfillment, purpose, future development, and creating a product or service that has a positive impact on society and that the employees are proud to claim they are a part of will find their employees to be more productive, innovative, and will benefit from a much greater consumer and employer brand image. 90,107,224

758. Performance and talent reviews involve measuring and tracking the performance of employees, and then identifying and investing in the career and future of high-potential employees. Identified high-potential employees should receive priority training and cultivation to ensure they are rewarded for their ambition and competence, and stays with the brand in the long-term in exchange for compensation and promotion opportunities. 88

759. When deciding which employees to promote internally, human resources are faced with two alternatives:

  • Hard skills. They can promote the person who everyone in the team/department considers to be the ‘most competent’ because the respect that that person has worked hard to earn will be accepted, and then provide soft skill training to develop his or her managerial skills
  • Soft skills. They can promote the person who everyone in the team likes and looks up to as a leader because the respect that that person has worked hard to earn will be accepted, and then provide training to develop whatever hard skills are required to do the job 134

760. When it comes to task-based job functions, human resources can keep employees motivated and productive through different types of bonus plans:

  • One-time, performance-based bonuses provide employees with time-sensitive recognition and motivation during times when the brand absolutely must have the employee performing at his or her best
  • Piece-rate bonuses typically establish a minimum amount of productivity along with additional pay for each unit produced above the required limit with the expectation that once that minimum expectation has been reached, the employee’s productivity then drastically increases in order to maximize the supplemental performance-based awards and bonuses before the time expires
  • Target-based bonuses, similar to piece-rate bonuses, pre-define productivity requirements to achieve by a future deadline and then reward employees for  surpassing them

Employees also understand that more pay implies more productivity and output on their part. But monetary rewards in exchange for increased productivity do have their limitations. At some point employees will burn out or decide that they have been productive enough, regardless of how much more money they ‘could’ receive were they to keep working. 81,227

761. With jobs requiring complex creative problem-solving and communication skills, production-based bonuses may actually hinder motivation and performance because it confuses the two different types of motivation: 

  • Intrinsic motivation pushes you to do something because you love doing it; what you’re doing you don’t consider it ‘work’ and you would do it even if you weren’t paid to
  • Extrinsic motivation forces you to do something you’d rather not do, but you do it because someone has promised to give you something else that you do want, such as money

A problem with offering financial bonuses and other incentives in exchange for employee productivity is that they have been shown to actually reduce the productivity of an intrinsically motivated employee, and only temporarily increase the productivity of an extrinsically motivated employee. 81,210,221

762. Brands typically have two types of employees:

  • Workers excel at doing their job and getting things done. These employees are important because they get the products and/services made, but without direction and guidance they can only do so much
  • Managers are the leader-type employees who excel at positioning and directing the right employee(s) at the right problems at the right time to ensure everything runs smoothly and gets done correctly, on time and on budget

Perhaps the most reliable way of identifying the high-quality employees to invest in and promote is to:

  • Continually expand the scope and responsibility of all employees until the employee reaches his or her limit, and is not willing/able to take on more
  • Look at how employees utilize their office space. Powerful-looking offices tend to be either very large and intimidating or very clean, orderly, and optimized if the office is small – an office where decisions are made and work gets done
  • Observe which employees’ office space is the most heavily-trafficked. Employees usually gravitate towards colleagues they know can and will help them with their problems. Find the employees whom the most employees go to most for help, and promote that employee to manager. Promote them, reward them, and then expand their scope and responsibility until they reach their limit. 134,216

763. Change management is the process of transitioning employees from their current state and mindset to a different, desired state and mindset. Humans generally dislike prolonged routine and desire change, but ironically they tend to dislike the process required to make the change because it requires modifications to behavior, procedures, and attitudes with which they know to be reliable and with which they feel comfortable. 112,182

764. High-quality, ambitious managers are continually preparing themselves for their next promotion and career move, be it with their current employer or with a different company. And when these ambitious managers find employees who help them make their career transitions quicker and more smoothly, intelligent bosses usually return the favor by either ensuring you are promoted with them, or make sure you have career-advancing opportunities available to you as well.

To reach your goals, make your boss look good because making your superiors look good makes you and your team look good. And teams that look good receive bonuses and attract headhunters, which increases your leverage in negotiating your compensation package. Even if your current boss is not intelligent enough to see the value in that, rest assured that a better boss will. 188,216,219

765. Look around any office space and you’ll notice employees informally gather in the same locations, such as the coffee machine, a particular smoking exit, or a specific section in the company cafeteria.

If you rarely ever spot your superiors at those same locations and at the same time, it is because they have their own informal gathering places. Knowing where your superiors flock together is invaluable knowledge when it comes to “unintentionally” finding yourself where they are, especially if every time you “accidentally” find yourself in that area you make your boss look good in front of the other bosses by quickly updating him with good news on a project he is managing.

But keep in mind your superiors probably have their own unique locations away from yours because they need to get a break from you, so don’t intrude so frequently that you become an irritation. 188,216

766. Unless you have a procedural or strategic reason, such as your boss is the only person who has access to the documents you need, your superior should be your last person you contact for work-related questions. You should be able to obtain almost all the information you could possibly need online or through your colleagues.

In fact, you should aim to be one of the main sources your employees go to for answers and advice, knowing that those employees whom all the other employees go to for advice and help are usually the ones who get promoted into more managerial positions. If you don’t know the answer, you should be able to find out as quickly as possible. 134,149,188

767. While the higher, more executive and managerial employees are responsible for defining the brand’s strategy, it is the low-level employees making and providing the brand’s products and services who deal directly with the brand’s clients that are both the present and future of your company’s success. When client-facing employees are not happy, feel over-worked and under-appreciated, clients notice. 216

768. The difficulty with business is that it is constantly evolving, and what worked in the past probably will not work in the future, at least not to the same effect.

Company policy and corporate culture are created, and should evolve and adapt to the times, consumers, and employees. Company policies and cultures that don’t adjust quickly enough can lead to failure and bankruptcy. 16,20,216

769. To monitor and measure employee return on investment (ROI), proactive human resources departments rely on programs to gather data on the complex workings of their company and employee productivity as well as software to help them data- mine and interpret that information into performance metrics which help them and their managerial teams:

  • Set and monitor employee productivity expectation and standards
  • Identify when and why employees are not meeting those productivity expectations and standards
  • Identify how to get their employees’ productivity up to acceptable levels and keep them there
  • Ensure data collection methods and productivity expectations and standards are accurate and up to date 159

770. Because there are many different performance metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) brands use to monitor everything from recruiting to talent development to compensation packages to annual performance and productivity, it would be too time consuming to attempt to monitor and improve them all. A brand’s mission statement and objectives should therefore determine the few key metrics human resources and management should focus on that have the greatest impact on the company’s success.

With regard to recruitment, several important metrics human resources measure include:

  • Employer branding and desirability.
    • Does the brand have a positive reputation as an employer?
    • How many job applications does the brand receive?
    • Of the job applications received, how many of those applicants would be considered high-quality candidates?
  • Employee turnover.
    1. How many vacant positions are filled internally with existing employees versus hired externally?
    1. How much does it cost to recruit a new candidate, from advertising for the open position to hiring headhunters, screening and interviewing candidates, conducting psychological testing, and onboarding and training new recruits until they are fully-autonomous?
    1. How often do human resources have to go through the recruiting process for each position; what is the employee turnover rate for each position?
    1. For job positions with a high turnover rate, is the turnover rate the fault of the nature of the work? The compensation package? The working conditions? The supervisors? Other?
    1. How long do vacant job positions remain unfilled, and how much productivity is lost as a result of the unfilled position?
    1. Do those recruited employees stay with the company long enough to at least recoup the cost of recruiting them?
  • Employee training and talent development.
    1. How much training do employees receive each year? Is it enough?
    1. How quickly are ambitious, high-quality employees identified, prepared, and promoted within the company? Are they being identified and promoted quickly enough (fast-tracked) or are they leaving for better career opportunities and taking their ideas, professional network, and skills with them?

The better equipped human resources are at identifying and improving their relevant performance metrics, the better they will be at avoiding business threatening problems that could directly or indirectly lead bankruptcy and crisis. 93,112,159

771. Every decision and action you make – from conducting employee surveys to changes in marketing strategy – should be to solve a specific identified problem, and for your solution to be compelling you should be able to reduce and express every identified problem into a dollar amount so the decision-makers can plainly see the problem’s financial impact on the company.

For example:

  • Context: You manage a retail store with ±500 employees, of which you have 50 managers. Your top 20 highest performing managers earn 50,000€/year. 50% of those top managers leave your company every year. This means you are constantly hiring/promoting & training replacements
  • Problem: While some management turnover is necessary for the health of a brand, a 50% per year turnover rate among your highest performing managers is a major problem worth solving, and may even possibly be a symptom of a larger problem worth investigating
  • Problem costs: 10 highest performing managers turnover x 50,000€ annual salary x 200% (Average cost of replacing an employee) = 1,000,000€ in annual losses
  • Solution 1: Top 10 performing managers receive 5,000€ yearly bonus
  • Solution 1 costs: 10 x 5,000€ (annual bonus) = 50,000€ total yearly bonuses
  • Improvements: Assuming turnover reduced by 50% (from 10 managers per year to 5), turnover costs reduced by 500,000€
  • ROI: (500,000€ – 50,000€)/50,000€ x 100% = 900%

Once you have identified a problem (b. above) and researched how much the problem is costing the company (c. above), identify all possible solutions (d. above) along with how much it would cost to implement each solution (e. above), and how the solution would improve or fix the problem over the short- and long-term.

Determining the cost of some problems and the cost and worth of the problem’s solution can be difficult to measure. In this case, solutions are worth as much as people are willing to pay for them, so determine costs by researching and gathering objective criteria on how other specialist and brands have assessed the problems and solutions.

Comparing the cost of the problem with the cost of implementing the solution yields the solution’s return on investment (g. above). Until you know which problem you are solving and how much this problem is costing you, making changes and decisions blindly is an inefficient, expensive, and risky use of your resources. 103,107,159

772. A major problem with relying too heavily on data-driven decision-making algorithms is that they currently lack the human brain’s capacity to factor in emotions and reconstruct the data more relevantly and innovatively.* Data-driven decisions alone consistently produce safe, mediocre solutions, and safe, mediocre solutions are usually disastrous for ambitious and innovative brands, projects, and startups on a budget. 63,138,172,176

*There may undoubtedly come a day when artificial intelligence and technology will have become so advanced that it surpasses the human brain’s capacity, but until then… 101

773. Generally, when it comes to employee retention and turnover:

  • People who are attracted by compensation packages leave for compensation packages
  • Employees are attracted to companies and brands but leave companies to get away from bosses and colleagues
  • Low-performing and unhappy employees unable to adapt to, keep up or fit in with their colleagues and working environment tend to be ostracized and eventually quit
  • Ambitious, high-performing and specialized employees who don’t feel they are receiving the recognition and career opportunities they deserve, and who actively monitor their industry tend to anticipate when a company or industry is heading towards difficult times. They also tend to be well networked, and thus have many more career opportunities open to them
  • Add up the costs of hiring headhunters, the recruitment process, onboarding and training the new employee, and the decreased productivity during this process, it can cost the company as much as 400% of the vacant position’s annual salary to replace each employee that leaves
  • The cost of losing a valued, high-performing employee’s knowledge and expertise to a competitor is incalculable
  • Keep your employees happy, and they will be more patient and willing to stay with you when things get tough
  • Foster a workplace environment that builds friendships amongst employees, and they will be reluctant to leave
  • Maintaining strong, decisive company leadership, culture, and direction helps keep employee turnover low
  • Some employee turnover is good because it keeps the company innovative and evolving
  • A low employee turnover rate in and of itself is no indicator of company strength; what’s important are the turnover rates among the company’s high-performing employees and the imperative, key positions that keep the company in business 103, 107,112,219

774. Managing employee turnover risk is the proactive process of assessing each employee’s value and contribution, evaluating the likelihood that that employee might leave the company – and if they were to, when, and to what extent the employee’s leaving would impact the company.

Indicators that an employee may be considering leaving the company include:

  • Unexpected drops in performance – perhaps due to a lack of motivation or that their time and concentration is being spent seeking employment elsewhere
  • Short-term absences from work – perhaps due to job interviews during working hours
  • Decreased interaction with team – perhaps due to not fitting in with the team, or withdrawing to make leaving the company easier
  • Increased complaining – perhaps indicating a problem that isn’t being appropriately  addressed
  • Shying away from responsibilities – perhaps indicating the employee doesn’t want to get too tied to the company or does not see value in the added responsibilities
  • Other 103

775. Your being identified as a high-quality employee in the eyes of human resources is the culmination of:

  • Your past and present. The story of your life outlining your education and experience, and what you can offer employers
  • Your future. A glimpse into where you are headed and what you will be able to offer the employer in the future
  • Your intuition. How well you are at reading people and situations before, during, and after your interview with human resources that gives you an advantage in their decision-making process
  • Luck. Out of all the other alternatives available to human resources besides you, they choose to give you the chance instead of somebody else.

No matter who you are and how good you are at what you do, there will always be someone out there who is stronger, better, and smarter than you, and who could do your job better than you, but will never have that opportunity because you were the one who got lucky and stumbled upon the opportunity, not them. 92,162

776. Human resources can’t surveil employees 100% of the time to ensure maximum productivity and return on investment, so they rely on indicators such as:

  • Secure ID badge systems to track your arrival and departure times as well as the total number of hours you spend in the office
  • Monthly and yearly benchmarks to see if your performance is consistent and compares well with your peers
  • Travel expense reports to see how you spend the company’s money
  • Etc.

When a company is perceived by its employees to rely too heavily on performance evaluations and productivity tracking, or they feel that their company is using these indicators as ‘evidence’ against them, employees will understandably begin protecting themselves by only doing those responsibilities that will make their performance-based statistics look good, which can demoralize staff, drive away top performing employees, and lead to more serious problems of decreased quality and productivity. 159,216

777. The bare minimum employers should do to guarantee employees are happy, productive, and aren’t easily seduced away by headhunters and other recruiters are to:

  • Pay employees based on how much they contribute to the company rather than solely on what the legal requirements are
  • Give credit where credit is due and make employees feel they matter and aren’t just some number in a computer system being surveilled and scored
  • Give them as much autonomy as possible
  • Encourage them to make friends within the company

Employees who feel valued, well-trained, and able to progress in their career will do more than you ask from them, be more lenient with you during hard times, and will want to stay with you even when recruiters and headhunters approach them with attractive promises and ‘competitive’ compensation packages. 107,216

778. Employees who are attracted by compensation packages leave for compensation packages. As a top performer you will be regularly approached by headhunters and other brands hoping to lure you to their company, but as a top performer whose reputation depends in part on your loyalty to your current employer, approach the employment process more as a long-term collaboration than as a means of merely earning a ‘competitive’ compensation package which is better than the one you negotiated and are currently being offered by your present employer.

You wouldn’t have chosen to work for your current employer if you didn’t feel they could further your career and deepen your expertise, and so rather than threaten your current employer with an ‘either you match this recruiting company’s compensation offer or I walk’, a better and more productive approach would be to reassure your loyalty to your employer ‘I’d prefer to stay with you, so how can we adjust my current compensation package so I don’t have to take this other job offer?’ 107,216

779. When a company must fire or lay employees off, take into account each employee’s:

  • Loyalty and contribution to the company
  • Timing (Christmas, birthday, work or wedding anniversary…)
  • Reputation (top performer, well-networked…)
  • Personality (discussed below)

The employee you just fired will sooner or later get back on their feet and find a job somewhere else – with a current or future client, a competitor, their own startup… and if that former employee feels you treated them poorly and disrespectful, rest assured they may hold a grudge and are still potentially in the position to threaten the future of your business and reputation. 216

780. Human capital value added (HCVA) refers to the return on investment (ROI) of the brand’s workforce, and is calculated by subtracting the brand’s total labor costs from total revenue. Ideally, the more top performing employees a brand employs, the greater the brand’s HCVA, but in reality most employees will prove to be average or below-average performers and will not contribute equally to the brand’s HCVA.

Traditionally, key job functions such as managers, sales and R&D teams are extremely important to tangible measurements such as revenue, and should thus be expected to contribute at least twice as much to the HCVA as non-key job functions. In fact, once this dollar amount has been placed on employees, human resources are in a position to take the HCVA formula one step further and calculate insights such as:

  • How much revenue a top performer, average, and below average employee currently brings into the company on daily basis
  • How much more revenue the brand could potentially realize were it to train its existing below-average employees and turn them into average employees
  • How much money the brand might need to spend in the short-term to fire all below-average employees, but how quickly the brand could recoup those losses by replacing them with average and top performing employees

It’s important to note that while placing dollar amounts on employees can optimize revenue from an accounting perspective, not all job positions contribute directly and tangibly to the company’s bottom line.  Many job functions, such as after-sales client support, exist as an expense in the financial accounting reports but create the superior-quality brand value, experience, and reputation that enable the brand to:

  • Charge premium prices for products/services
  • Keep clients loyal and attract new clients 76,77,116,138,148,159

781. Fast-tracking involves identifying high potential and top performing employees within the company and then investing in and preparing them to step into key positions within the company in the future. When evaluating an employee’s potential, recruiters tend to judge you based on a few key elements such as:

  • How you have performed while handling challenges in the past as a rough indication of how you will perform in the future
  • How eager you are to take on greater responsibilities, even without being officially asked to do so
  • How adaptable and able you are at building relationships with and influencing others 92,162

782. While every company has its own ‘unique’ recruitment and promotion system, and prefers highly-motivated, high-qualified and top performing recruits, nearly all human resources employees and recruiters are working from the same intellectual thought processes stemming from the same books of techniques and graduating from the same school curriculum.

As a recruit, you must understand not only the fundamental theories and decision-making processes recruiters use to evaluate and classify recruits, you must also understand the individual hiring practices and promotion system of the companies you’re targeting. Every company has its own system, a system based on fallible and exploitable human intervention. The better you understand the requirements human resources look for in candidates, and the more you can understand and draw a correlation between the educational and professional backgrounds of top performing employees in your target company and yourself, the easier it will be to position and prove yourself as a top performing candidate or specialist. 48,188

783. Humans tend to be good at quickly adapting to and overcoming problems when placed into new and unfamiliar positions, situations, and environments. This drive increases with employees living in a culture or society:

  • Where they have financial and familial responsibilities requiring them to do so
  • That ostracizes them for their inability to fulfill their responsibilities

…basically, when they have no other alternative but to adapt and overcome. 92,152

784. Many humans attain a position in life they are happy with and settle in content for the rest of their career while others – ambitious ones especially – reach a point in their current position where they’ve learned everything they can possibly learn from where they currently are and they still desire more; no longer feeling challenged, finding satisfaction in, nor enjoying what their current position in life offers.

Once they have reached this point they will likely either:

  • Look for larger, more ambitious projects and job promotions with their present employer
  • Look for larger, more ambitious projects and job promotions with another – perhaps competing – brand
  • Venture out and launch their own brand 92,188

785. As a brand, despite all your best efforts at employee retention, employees – even your top performers – will eventually leave your company and move on in search of bigger and better opportunities.

Exit interviews are surveys companies request parting employees to fill out with the hopes of obtaining quality insight into how the company can improve its working environment and quality of life for its current and future employees and reduce employee turnover.

While this is a helpful technique to improve a company, there is no assurance that the employees will be accurate or truthful in their responses.

Therefore, human resources should constantly strive to identify what problems are occurring within the company, why, and where (or who) in the organization the problems are originating from.

Keeping top performing employees happy is much wiser than asking top performing employees why they are leaving to work for a competitor. 55,107

psychometric test

Human Resources want me to take a psycho-metric test. Why?

786. The dual process theory holds that the human brain consists of two basic thinking systems:

  • System 1 is the autonomous, primitive, animalistic and unconscious part of the brain that is instinctively triggered by our surroundings
  • System 2 is the slower, critical thinking and conscious part of the brain which can override our system 1 unconscious thinking, enabling humans to consider the ramifications of our actions and think before we act rather than simply acting impulsively and suffering the consequences 105, 184

787. Evolutionarily speaking, the human brain is divided up into three basic parts:

  • The brainstem, or reptilian part of the brain, is responsible for basic bodily functions such as breathing, heartbeat, etc.
  • The limbic system is the part of the brain responsible for emotions such as fear, anger, hunger, sex, behavior, motivation, and long-term memory, etc.
  • The neocortex is the part of the brain responsible for higher-level functions such as logic, reasoning, language and problem-solving 165,179,184,227

788. Most human decision-making processes and behavior are driven by unconscious brain processes. Within the human brain:

  • The limbic system controls how humans feel emotions
  • The neocortex controls how humans consciously rationalize, make decisions and apply critical thinking to problem-solving

Despite the neocortex being more advanced, all rationalization and decision-making are still fundamentally controlled by emotions (the limbic system), and for the most part humans are largely unaware of precisely why they are behaving the way they are. 165,179,184,211,227

789. Cognitive biases are errors in a human’s decision-making process that lead to less than optimal decisions because the person’s individual preferences, beliefs, perspectives, and expectations prevent the person from looking at the situation objectively.

Heuristics, a type of cognitive bias, are mental shortcuts humans make – consciously and unconsciously – in an attempt to speed up the decision-making process and make a decision.

While the outcome may not be the optimal possible solution for the problem, the heuristic solution is considered to be ‘good enough’ considering the gravity of the problem, and value of the amount of time saved. Heuristics may also be referred to as common sense, rules of thumb, educated guesses, ‘gut’ instinct, stereotyping and profiling. There are over 180 different heuristics and cognitive biases that affect human judgement and decision-making.

790. Logical fallacies are errors in thinking and reasoning which make a person’s argument for or against a decision invalid or illegitimate, and so the resulting decision – whether or not the outcome is good or bad – is fundamentally based on invalid information and/or logic. 204

791. The most problematic aspect of cognitive biases is actually realizing that you have fallen victim to one, and that it is narrowing your thought process and decision-making strategy.

Once it has been pointed out that you have fallen victim to a cognitive bias, the next most problematic aspect then becomes being willing to:

  • Acknowledging that it has/is affecting your perspective
  • Correcting your perspective to neutralize the cognitive bias 187

792. Human decision-making requires a combination of information gathering and ‘gut instinct.’ Cognitive biases are illogical and impaired departures from what should be considered as rational judgment and decision-making.

  • When those decisions prove to be successful, we come up with all sorts of explanations as to why we were right and ‘knew it all along,’ or how we got lucky
  • When those decisions turn out to be unsuccessful, we either have no idea why our solution didn’t work out, whether it was in fact a good idea that was poorly executed and a few minor modifications would have made the unsuccessful result successful, or that we were simply unlucky

Meaning there is likely either a problem with the reliability of the information gathering process (garbage in, garbage out), or with the reliability of your ‘gut instincts;’ the decision-making process. When a person’s beliefs do not match reality, or when what a person says and believes, and what actually happens are not congruent, the person is said to suffer from cognitive dissonance. 100,187,212,216

793. Societies tend to reward humans who are consistent in what they say and do, but the world has become so complex that maintaining this consistency is not always possible, and in many cases being inconsistent is necessary, and may even be financially rewarding and/or springboard you into the highest elected position in a country, when successfully used as a branding strategy.

Cognitive dissonance is the uncomfortable and stressful emotion humans feel when what they say and believe are the opposite of what they actually do; when they say one thing yet do another. For example:

  • A person who smokes knows smoking kills, yet smokes anyway
  • An “engaging, forward-looking digital learning company that drives business outcomes and transforms individuals and entire organizations with customized, comprehensive, and fully-integrated learning solutions implemented at an unmatched velocity,” yet uses the same archaic business practices and software its clients use
  • A ‘career and success guru’ who makes a living selling books and webinars filled with strategies and philosophies on how to reach your true potential and financial success, yet doesn’t follow his or her own advice, or uses completely different advice they do not advertise
  • A politician who relies on public opinion and strategy to promise whatever it is they must in order to get elected into office, yet have little, if any, intention of actually doing the amount of legwork necessary to follow through on their promises

Because cognitive dissonance is uncomfortable, stressful, and can lead to being labeled in society as a hypocrite, people experiencing cognitive dissonance either learn to live with it, or seek to reduce this negative feeling by using all manner of justifications to explain why what they do and say differ:

  • Companies selling ‘innovative’ products and services that they themselves don’t use may justify their not using it because “it is something we will incorporate in the upcoming years…”
  • ‘Career and success gurus’ making millions selling strategies they themselves don’t use may justify this by thinking “I’m simply giving people tips to improve their finances if they want. What I believe and do, and whether or not I actually follow those strategies I made my fortune off of isn’t important as long as my readers are happy.”

As an employee, if you’re:

  • Changing your current industry and career path
  • Launching your own startup
  • Going freelance

…and you want to rebrand your image as a specialist/freelance/entrepreneur but you aren’t currently being perceived as one, you will undoubtedly feel cognitive dissonance as your current bosses, clients, colleagues, recruiters, and even your own family notice your change in behavior and treat you the way they have always known you to be.

The most elusive part of cognitive dissonance in the recruitment process is knowing whether or not a recruiter’s decision is truly objective and based on sufficient research, or whether the person’s decision is affected by cognitive dissonance. Put another way:

  • As a final-round recruit, did the supervising manager reject because you “weren’t the best candidate” for the position, or because they saw you as competition to their future promotion, and claiming there were ‘better’ candidates than you was the easiest way for the manager to justify handicapping the company by hiring an inferior candidate?
  • As a freelance specialist, is your client’s refusal to pay you because they think your work was unprofessional and subpar, or is it really because your client recklessly placed so much blind faith in luck and the success of their new product launch that they made a financial mistake and now don’t have the money to pay you, but rather than admit that their predicament is their fault, they blame it on you?
  • As a job seeker or freelance specialist, were you really ‘not the best candidate’ and ‘your work subpar,’ or are you using the examples listed above as ways of justifying why you didn’t get the job, or why the client refuses to pay you?

Regardless, your best chance at negotiating around a person’s cognitive bias is by challenging the weaknesses of their decision through objective criteria: credible statistics, consumer insight, better presented logic and reasoning, etc. before getting yourself contractually involved and dependent upon them. 111,138,176,187,188,195,212,214,216,221,222,232

794. The best way humans can minimize the effects of heuristics, cognitive biases, and logical fallacies and approach the decision-making process as fairly and objectively as possible is to be:

  • Curious. Always striving to be open to learning and discovering more, even if fundamentally you disagree with the information you find
  • Problem-solvers. Always striving to seek out and find new solutions to problems, even if fundamentally you disagree with the steps taken in solving the problem
  • Open-minded. Always being willing and comfortable having your beliefs and assumptions challenged and even proven wrong, no matter how long you have believed them
  • Grounded. Always being comfortable with who you are – your strengths and weaknesses – and being willing to adapt and improve your beliefs and assumptions if and when they are proven inadequate or wrong

Being wrong doesn’t mean you’re stupid, being able to admit you’re wrong or that you don’t know something doesn’t make you weak or incompetent. In fact, being open to contradictory viewpoints and beliefs is a sign of intelligence. 1,26,111,116,162,188,208,216,219

795. Everyone, regardless of your age, maturity, or level of skill and competence, is capable of falling victim to a cognitive bias because people are not usually aware cognitive biases are skewing their decisions until someone points the cognitive bias out to them.

The best way to limit the effects of cognitive biases in your and other’s decision-making is to:

  • Study them so you are better poised to recognize one when it begins seeping into your thought processes
  • Learn how to separate the person from the cognitive bias, addressing and neutralizing the cognitive biases without insulting the person
  • Be able to question yourself when others point out cognitive biases in your own reasoning 187

796. While intentionally exploiting cognitive biases and logical fallacies to persuade a person’s decision-making process may seem unfair, illegitimate, and perhaps a bit manipulative, doing so nevertheless remains a very effective persuasion tool for brands, marketers, negotiators, politicians, recruiters, religions, etc. against humans as long as that they are unaware that faulty logic and incorrect information are being used to manipulate them.

But for informed humans who are aware of cognitive biases and logical fallacies, attempts to manipulate them are risky, can backfire, and:

  • You are labeled as incompetent if the informed person believes you’re not aware your own logic is flawed
  • You are labelled as manipulative if the informed person believes you are intentionally trying to mislead them 50,204

797. The following needs may vary slightly according to generation, gender, culture and personality profile, however universally, humans all have the same basic needs:

  • Security from violence and injustice
  • Economic stability
  • Sense of belonging
  • Recognition for accomplishments made
  • Sense of control over life

Once a human’s basic needs have been met, humans then seek fulfillment of basic universal wants:

  • Their problem solved
  • Knowing an effort has been made to solve their problem, even if their problem cannot be completely solved
  • Acknowledgement and understanding that there is a problem, rather than denial that a problem exists
  • Choices and options to solve the problem
  • Positive surprises
  • Consistency, reliability, and predictability
  • Value for money; not necessarily the cheapest solution, but the best quality for its price
  • Reasonable simplicity
  • Speed
  • Confidentiality
  • Sense of importance

Every action you take and conversation you have should be with the objective of discovering and meeting a person’s needs and wants and creating a mutually-beneficial relationship with them. 155,182,184,224

798. Categorization is the organizing of things into groups based on perceived similarity. Several problems that arise when relying purely on categorization for communication are that:

  • Cultures and their languages have distinct categorization models. While many cultures and languages are close enough that other people can generally understand what you are trying to say, other languages and cultures can have different, or opposite meanings
  • Speak to a person using their categorization pattern (such as when giving them a telephone number), and they will understand. But break the person’s categorization pattern and present the information in a form they are unfamiliar with, and they will have difficulty understanding and/or remembering it. In France, for example, a phone number is presented as 12.34.56.78.90 whereas in the United States phone numbers are presented as (123)-456-7890
  • Paying too much attention to categories and their boundaries limits you from being able to see the larger picture. Are we French, Americans, Muslims, Russians, and British fighting a zero-sum war for global financial domination, or are we all humans refusing to work together for peace?
  • Once you have placed something into a category, from that point on your brain instinctively defines it by that category. This can lead you to assume things are similar only because you’ve decided that they should be placed in the same category, and that things are different only because you’ve decided they aren’t in the same category

Nevertheless, humans tend to categorize people, places, and things because categorization has evolutionarily proven to be easiest way for them to quickly make sense of the world and then communicate those ideas to someone else whom they believe share the same categorization models.  117

799. Although personalities are complex and vary according to context, personality can be broadly parsed into simple  and recognizable categories:

  • Analytical people tend to emphasize logic and reasoning, rationality, intellectual and critical thinking. When trying to persuade analytical people, you would ideally send them your PowerPoint presentation and notes ahead of your meeting with them so they have time to familiarize themselves with the subject matter and bring with them any relevant information and questions they feel would contribute to the decision-making process during the meeting. Analytical people tend to dislike small talk which they consider to be irrelevant to the subject at hand, are persuaded through facts and figures, and consider you to be competent in your subject matter until you have been proven wrong. Analytical people ask critical questions, and you should be prepared to answer them
  • Structural people tend to stress the importance of rules, protocols, and company policy in decision-making. When persuading structural people, focus on how your ideas can be applied practically, and give them step-by-step lists to take a project from inception to implementation. Respect their planning and be on time for all meetings. Structural people are likely to keep track of all correspondence, so if you say you will do something, or that you never sent or received a particular email, be very sure of yourself because they will check
  • Social people tend to emphasize relationships, empathy and teamwork. They will conduct informal interviews and talk to a bunch of different people to get their opinion and input, and the social person’s opinion will be a mixture of all of those conversations. When dealing with angry colleagues and clients, their ability to ‘put themselves into the other person’s shoes’ can resolve problems better than more analytically and structurally-minded people. To persuade social people, ensure they have ample time to gather information before asking them to make a decision. Social people tend to be persuaded by pictures and graphs more so than text and numbers. The world humans have created for themselves is prominently analytical and social: trains and airplanes strive to run on time, foreign work visas and health care applications try to be predictable and organized – or maintain some form of logic – to minimize mistakes and confusion on a mass scale. That the world is so analytical and structural can intimidate social people, who may disagree with certain decisions but have difficulty explaining precisely why they disagree because their disagreement is based on intuition and conversations with many different people rather than precise facts, figures, and objective criteria
  • Conceptual people tend to emphasize unorthodox thinking and experimenting, focusing on the bigger picture and dislike too many details. Conceptual people are persuaded by seeing how your solution is unique, innovative and visionary
  • Expressive people tend to make their emotions visible as they communicate. Less expressive people, sometimes without realizing it, tend to be more stoic and difficult to read because they control their emotions. This can lead to misunderstandings when the non-expressive person agrees with you verbally, but everything about their body language is neutral or, in your opinion, is contradictory or suggests otherwise
  • Assertive people tend to be heavily vested in their projects and actively make managerial decisions concerning the project, and as such may be seen as aggressive. Less assertive people may be equally involved in the project, but need a leader to assign responsibilities to them before they know what to do
  • Flexible people tend to be more willing to adapt their personality, behavior, language, and schedule to align with others. Less flexible people, depending on their status, the situation, and their level of competence, can be labeled as stubborn or as a decisive leader 184,216,219

800. When it comes to negotiation and conflict management, cultural differences can manifest themselves in many subtle ways. Some major differences include:

  • High- versus low-context. With high-context languages, the meaning is assumed to be already understood between the speakers. Foreigners who haven’t grown up in the culture and speaking the same language can have a very difficult time understanding the subtle nuances and allusions required to fully understand the communication’s intended message. In low-context languages, the meanings and messages are included in the communication itself. It can be considered impolite and lead to embarrassing the other party when you assume the person you are speaking understands absolutely everything you know about the subject at hand, and so will politely include all relevant information inside of the communication. Put a high- and a low-context person in a discussion, the high context person may feel insulted that the low-context person is ‘going into great detail’ about ‘apparently’ unimportant information, or ‘insulting the intelligence’ of the high-context person, while the low-context person might not understand what the high-context person is saying, and feel as though the high-context person is arrogant, or is a bad communicator
  • Mono- versus polychronic. Polychronic people are ‘multi-taskers, preferring to juggle multiple responsibilities simultaneously. Monochronic people remove all distractions and focus on only one task at a time. Modern, tech-savvy people used to having unlimited internet access and staying up to date on their social media accounts tend to be polychronic. Although the monochronic approach has been shown to be more productive, modern, open office spaces  and technology have collided to the point where multi-tasking has become a necessary skill, and managing multiple responsibilities simultaneously has become the norm in most working conditions
  • Past- versus future-oriented. If every street and fountain in your city is named after a historically significant person, your culture is probably past-oriented. Entrepreneurs tend to thrive more in future-oriented cultures, and thus tend to be more attracted to those future-oriented cultures who view the future with boundless opportunity, whereas past-oriented cultures would argue that “If you don’t remember the past, you’re destined to repeat your mistakes”
  • Emotional involvement. Some people value a subjective approach to problem-solving as a legitimate argument, while others take a more objective, dispassionate approach. A person who attempts to remove all emotional attachment to the situation and approach it objectively may be accused of not caring about the other person’s subjective needs or wants, while an objective person might interpret the other party’s emotional outbursts as unprofessional
  • Partiality. In matters of conflict, some people request a mediator who knows all involved parties personally, believing their past relationship will lead to the best possible outcome for all parties. Other people request 3rd party mediators which are neutral and unattached from all parties to ensure that one side isn’t given unfair, special treatment
  • Regulatory oversight. People and cultures can consider government regulations and controls to be:
    • Suggestions and talking points that should be negotiated
    • An expensive, time-consuming, outdated, and corrupt annoyance that limit progress and should be worked around
    • Standards that should be interpreted literally and are relied on as a form of protection
  • Relationship. Some people expect to get down to business immediately, and have no difficulty doing business with people they dislike, and even hate, so long as their needs and wants are met, and a contract exists between all parties as protection in case of breach of contract. Other people will only do business with you once they feel they sufficiently know your values and integrity enough to trust you, and refuse to do business with people they do not like or trust, no matter how lucrative the deal may be
  • Saving face. Some people consider it a sign of weakness to admit they have made a mistake, and will refuse to do so despite the most blatant of evidence proving their error. Other people consider it a sign of maturity and integrity when you can admit you have made a mistake
  • Defense against accusations. Some people reason that only guilty people feel the need to defend themselves against an accusation, and that if the person ignores the accusation, no matter how grave, that person must be innocent. Other people reason that if a person does not defend him or herself against an accusation, this must mean they accept the accusation as true and that they are guilty
  • Eye contact. Some cultures consider it impolite, or a sign of aggression, to look a person directly in the eyes, especially if the other person is of another gender or at a higher station in life (such as an employee and the CEO). Other cultures consider eye contact as evidence the person is lying to you (looking at your eyes to see if you believe their lie). Still other cultures consider direct eye contact a sign of self-confidence, transparency, and trustworthiness, believing that if a person will not look you directly in the eyes, they must be lying

These pronounced differences result because humans, throughout their lives and generations, pass down habits and decision-making strategies – good and bad – based on what they believe have worked for them in the past, and based on their cultural and societally accepted norms and behaviors.

Ultimately, globalization is making it possible for people and cultures from all around the world who, prior to modern technological and transportation advances would never have otherwise met, to find themselves sharing a cubicle or sitting around a table negotiating political trade agreements. There will of course be inevitable friction over the next few generations as humans learn to peacefully co-exist, if peaceful coexistence is possible.

For this reason the more direct contact you have with different cultures, the more flexible your personality will become and the better you’ll be at adapting your behavior to work with and persuade others. This is also why, to be identified as a top performing employee and job candidate, it is imperative you spend time living and working abroad during your career, and the earlier in your career, the better. 74,75,143,152,162,165184,206,216,222,236

801. Difficult personalities. The resulting cocktail of all these above aspects of a person’s cultural background, religious beliefs, age demographic, gender, needs, wants, and drive come together to form a person’s unique, individual personality:

  • Some people are very sociable and talkative, while others are not
  • Some people are very direct and blunt in the way they communicate, while others are more indirect, diplomatic, and non-confrontational
  • Some people are very detail-oriented, while others are quite conceptual, dislike details, and prefer to focus on the bigger picture
  • Some people are very tentative to others, while others never listen to what others have to say
  • Some people are very expressive and emotional, while others are very stoic
  • Some people are organized, while others are not
  • Some people micro-manage their projects, while others prefer to take a more hands off approach

While there are personality profiles which are more diplomatic, adaptable, and better suited at getting along with a broader range of people, situations, cultures, and circumstances than others, there is no ‘universally-accepted and ideal’ profile, and any justification made on what makes a person ‘difficult’ is subjective. If your intention is to persuade someone else, it is your responsibility to find a mutually-beneficial relationship by understanding, adapting to, and finding a common ground with the other person’s style and communication method. 74,162,165,167,184,187,216

802. Self-destructive personalities. It’s one thing when diverging personalities collide, and quite another when the logic and rationality behind a person’s behavior seems counter-productive and intentionally-damaging, such as a person who:

  • Sends unnecessarily long and offensive emails
  • Is consistently late, unprepared, and uninformed about their responsibilities
  • Needlessly lies and over exaggerates stories and situations
  • Wastes time and money solving minor problems while larger problems go unaddressed
  • Takes special advantages over others ALL the time, oftentimes to the detriment of others
  • Considers themselves to be better than others and above reproach
  • Refuses to even listen to other people’s complaints, appeals to logic, and constructive criticism

One thing is certain, placing all of these unique, contradictory personalities and egos into the same office space, or onto a slowly dying planet, and self-imposing ambitious objectives with strict deadlines and dire financial consequences in the event of failure lead to stressful social interactions and interpersonal relations that both help and hinder progress. 74,162,165,167,184,187,216,235

803. Intelligence and psychological tests are typically designed to measure:

  • How much factual information you have assimilated over the course of your life about the world humans live in and have created for themselves
  • How well you are at managing new information about the world you live in
  • How well you are at applying that information to logic and reasoning processes and then arriving at acceptable and consistent conclusions
  • How capable you are at problem-solving under controlled conditions 114

804. A human may have acquired a lot of information and facts about a variety of subjects, but all that information and facts are useless unless they can be effectively applied to problem solving. Most people attain enough correct information and critical thinking skills to be able to at least survive and function in society. Top performing employees learn how to optimize their information collection and critical thinking skills to consistently reach their own ambitious goals. 105,114

805. A test’s ‘validity’ determines how effective it is at measuring what it claims to measure.

A test’s ‘test-retest reliability’ determines how consistently it comes to the same results across multiple tests. It is possible that a test can be reliable in the measures it consistently gives, while simultaneously be unreliable as a means of measuring what it claims to measure; meaning it is possible that a test can consistently identify ‘ideal’ job candidates (right-positive), yet those candidates considered ‘ideal’ according to the test could in fact not be ‘ideal’ for the hiring company (false-positive).

A test’s ‘objectivity’ determines how effective it is at neutralizing personal biases, judgements and expectations from the test’s results. It is possible that a personality and IQ test could accurately identify ‘ideal’ job candidates, but those candidates could then be disqualified, for example if the person administering the test holds some subjective bias against the candidate – consciously or unconsciously.

Do intelligence tests really objectively indicate intelligence, or something else? Do personality tests really objectively categorize a person’s personality, or something else? 79,85,153,165,179,184

806. One flaw with personality tests is the social desirability bias: a cognitive bias whereby both the personality tester and the job candidate interpret the questions’ answers according to what each person believes the other person wants to hear. In the tester’s case, the tester might interpret the candidate’s answers from the perspective of the recruiting company that hired the tester to ‘qualify’ job candidates. In the job candidate’s case, he or she might try to answer the tester’s questions from the perspective of the tester and/or of the recruiting company. Meaning:

  • From the job candidate’s perspective, he or she may try to answer the personality question in a way he or she believes the tester, and by extension the hiring company, wants to hear from an ‘ideal’ candidate
  • From the personality tester’s perspective, he or she may try to assess the job candidate’s test results in a way that limits risk of ‘qualifying’ an ‘ill-suited’ candidate which might appear good in testing but later is discovered to be an under-performer (false-positive). If the tester is an independent contractor and the hiring company is a client of the tester, he or she may ‘qualify’ candidates in a way that ensures the tester keeps the hiring brand as a client; meaning the tester may prefer to disqualify top- and under-performing job candidates because they represent a risk to the tester’s relationship with the client, and qualify ‘mediocre’ candidates because they pose the least risk to the tester-client relationship. If the personality tester ‘qualifies’ a job candidate who later turns out to be a failure (a false-positive), this will look bad on the personality tester. If however, the personality tester ‘disqualifies’ a risk-taking, top performing job candidate who in fact would have been a perfect fit with the brand (false-negative), how would the tester’s client know about the tester’s error unless the brand painstakingly tracked the career of every rejected candidate?

Good personality tests seek to limit this flaw and also evaluate the candidate’s tendency to talk positively and optimistically when describing him or herself.78,152,201,223

807. Humans tend to ascribe greater accuracy to opinions and claims made by perceived authority figures, and therefore the results of a personality test tend to be presumed to be true and accurate simply because the hiring company paid so much money for a ‘professional’ assessment. But individual psychometric and personality test results shouldn’t be taken seriously until they have been put into the larger context as a whole:

  • With regard to hard skills, questions such as “Do you possess the skills and qualifications?” and “Are you sufficiently competent in the software and hardware necessary to succeed in this job function?” are important, and the final decision should be reserved for the immediate superiors and colleagues with experience in that particular job position
  • With regard to soft skills, questions such as “Do you possess the necessary soft skills of interpersonal communication, negotiation, presentation, etc. to succeed in this job function?” are important, and while this is something a personality tester may be able to offer a valuable perspective into, the final decision should be reserved for human resources, supervisors, and perhaps colleagues with experience in that particular job position

Comments beginning with “A study says…” or “My professional opinion is…” should be adequately supported with unbiased context and sourcing, or it shouldn’t be taken into serious consideration. 105,109,127,153, 201,221

808. When it comes to assessing a job candidate’s hard- and soft-skills, recruiters are becoming better and better equipped at measuring strong and weak candidates. But at the end of the day a person’s personality is the way it is, and it can prove to be difficult to accurately and definitively assess prior to actually putting the person into a job position whether or not the candidate can effectively adapt to and perform a specific job function successfully. Further, although tests may measure skill sets and competence, and categorize personality, can these tests also predict a person’s underlying drive and motivation to adapt in order to succeed?

Ultimately, a personality is not better or worse than another, just better or worse suited for a particular job position. One cannot necessarily prove a particular personality would not be capable of excelling at a specific job because you cannot prove negatives; you cannot prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that a person cannot do a particular job. The best a recruiter can do is attempt to predict the probability of a particular candidate’s inability to do the job.

For example, while common assumptions may be that shy and cynical personalities might not perform as well as outgoing and optimistic personalities when it comes to the ‘ideal’ salesman or saleswoman, there is no way to prove this is not true because you cannot prove a negative. Strengths can become weaknesses, and weaknesses become strengths, depending on the circumstances and situation. The success of a salesperson depends on his or her ability to adapt his or her approach to the personality of the potential client he or she is trying to persuade. It could very well be that a shy, introverted person may in fact go on to become the sales team’s top seller. Ultimately, there is no one path to success, and success isn’t defined by whether or not a person possesses one exclusive array of competences and skills, but whether or not the person has identified and understands his or her array of competences and skills, and whether he or she  has found a way to use them to effectively solve the problems. It is possible that a person is successful in a position precisely because he or she does not possess the set of competencies typically ‘required’ by the job position, and thus stand out from the crowd. 78,79,85,88,153,219

improve negotiation

How can I improve my negotiation position over the long-term?

809. Never, ever consciously and intentionally put yourself into a position where you HAVE TO have the deal. The party who needs the deal the least is usually the party with the greatest advantage. 189,219

810. Excelling in the soft skills of sales, negotiation, communication, and persuasion is the result of experience, trial and error, skills you have acquired, and luck. One of the biggest weakness businessmen, businesswomen, and politicians suffer from is their lack of knowledge of and approach to sales and negotiation.

Sales and negotiation involve the perfect arrangement of:

  • Timing
  • Patience
  • Persistence
  • Knowing the other party’s needs and wants 212,216

811. In negotiation, time is money, and your time frame must be one of your most protected pieces of information you own. As soon as the other party learns you ‘HAVE TO’ sign a contract with them BEFORE a specific date, expect them to use this knowledge to their full advantage.

Of course, this also means that knowing the other party’s time frame can be a huge advantage for you, and if you can get your hands on it you should likewise use it to your full advantage. 189,216

812. Negotiating is stressful, and depending on the context, you may have a lot of pressure on you to reach a specific outcome otherwise there could be dire negative consequences for you or your company.

Rather than letting that fear, stress, and pressure paralyze and intimidate you, learn to channel that stress as a source of motivation to ensure you are adequately prepared, rather than overwhelmed. 188,195,210

813. While traditional negotiation strategy usually involves projecting yourself as a strong party with few weaknesses and limitations, there will be moments in your career where you’ve been ‘unlucky,’ or business has been bad and you absolutely MUST HAVE certain requirements in a negotiated deal. Everyone has been there at some point in their career. When this is the case, should you:

  • Expose your neck and reveal your true vulnerability, thus giving the other party the advantage over you?
  • Conceal your vulnerability and never let the other party realize how precarious of a position you are in?
  • Uncover vulnerabilities they have and then aggressively position yourself as the stronger party hoping they don’t realize that you yourself are also in a difficult position?

Depending on culture and your relationship with the client, if approached correctly, being open, honest, and sincere about your limitations might very well be enough to convince the other party to give you the benefit of the doubt – or be willing to negotiate an agreement where you can get what you need, and the other party, having once been in the very predicament you currently find yourself, may be empathetic and willing to work with you. 216

prepare negotiations

PREPARING FOR NEGOTIATIONS

814. Generally, smart business people will only enter into a relationship with you if you can prove to them that doing so would meet their desired interests and be sufficiently beneficial for them, and with minimal risks. Likewise, you should only enter into relationships with parties when they can meet your desired interests. Therefore before assessing a  client’s, an employer’s, a startup’s, or an investor’s  capacity to meet your needs, you must first identify a few important things:

  • Objective criteria are statistics, facts, precedence and objective standards that have been independently verified by objective 3rd parties. To justify your requests and to assess the value of the other party’s requests, the opening offer made – as well as the concessions that follow – should be based on objective criteria. Your ability to find and argue objective criteria is especially important when you are the weaker negotiator
  • Your reservation price is your walk-away price – the least favorable agreement you would be willing to accept that still brings you sufficient value. If you will be negotiating with multiple negotiators for a client, then you may need to have several reservation prices to ensure you don’t give everything away with the first negotiator and have nothing to bargain with later
  • Your BATNA – best alternative to a negotiated agreement is your plan B – what you would do if you fail to reach an agreement. Once you’ve identified your BATNA, you will have also identified your reservation price
  • The ZOPA – zone of possible agreement is the zone in-between each party’s BATNA where an agreement can potentially be reached. Egos permitting, as long as there is an overlap between each party’s BATNA, there is a potential for collaboration
  • Your trip wire is a pre-established point in your negotiation before you’ve reached your final reservation price where, if despite your research and preparation the other negotiator is skilled enough to push you so low you risk losing money, you stop negotiations and temporarily step away from the negotiation table to:
    • Lick your wounds after having been so inadequately prepared for the negotiation and thus so dominated by the other party
    • Perhaps bring in a mediator or a negotiator stronger than yourself
    • Send the message that they are demanding so much that you are considering stopping negotiations with them
    • Re-evaluate your BATNA and determine if it’s truly in your best interest to proceed with negotiations and risk accepting a contract that may not meet your needs

Reframe the situation so that you can either respectfully stop negotiations without losing face, or figure out what you can do to raise your BATNA and reservation price to put yourself in a better position to have your needs met the next time you step to the negotiation table.

Knowing your objective criteria, reservation price, BATNA, and trip wire is key to knowing when the other party is no longer able or willing to meet your needs or offer you a beneficial relationship. Likewise, knowing – or at least estimating – the other party’s BATNA and reservation price helps you predict just how much more you can extract from the other party without leaving money on the table or pushing them to terminate negotiations with you.

Perhaps most importantly, knowing your objective criteria is critical to avoiding the winner’s curse: the unfortunate situation in which ‘winners’ incorrectly over-valued the other party’s negotiation strength, or under-valued their own negotiation strength, thus causing them to agree to a deal they never would have accepted had they known the true value of that which they were negotiating.  111,189,216,222,224

815. Negotiations are usually a combination of:

  • Zero-sum distributive negotiations whereby all parties fight over a fixed sum of value, and a gain by one party means a loss to the other. Most people irrationally tend to over-simplify negotiations, automatically assuming that the other negotiator is using this strategy, and therefore that anything that benefits the other party must somehow be bad for them
  • Win/win integrative negotiations whereby all parties cooperate and pool resources to achieve maximum return on investment

Even in balanced, give-and-take, win/win negotiations there will be times when you must choose between cooperating for mutual-gain and cheating to gain an unfair advantage. This is known as the negotiator’s dilemma.

In a professional long-term relationship whereby all parties agree to a cooperative, mutually-beneficial, win/win relationship with each other, your optimal negotiation strategy would be a forgiving tit-for-tat strategy (FTFT) whereby involved parties:

  • Ensure the rules, expectations and definitions are clear and understood from the very beginning
  • Assume good faith by the other party and begin the relationship trusting the other person by revealing your true intentions and not taking advantage of the other party. If the other party responds in the same trusting manner, then your relationship is off to a good start
  • Seek Pareto efficiency – a mutually-beneficial state where all involved parties are using 100% of their available resources so efficiently that no further improvements can possibly be made without damaging an involved party
  • Understand that at some point the other party may cheat to gain an advantage over you, and that the other party also assumes that at some point you may cheat to gain an advantage over them. Don’t be angry about it, just be cautious of it and conduct business accordingly. Trust but verify
  • If at some point you discover the other party has, or is attempting to cheat and take advantage of you, retaliate by cheating for the advantage as well, and continue cheating until the other party returns to cooperating with you, at which time you forgive their cheating and return to being cooperative and friendly with them in so far as they are not continually taking advantage of you and simply expecting you to forgive them
  • Understand that as long as a person is benefiting from a particular behavior or strategy, that person will likely continue using that strategy until no more benefit is being derived from it, at which point they will likely change tactics. Firmly showing that underhanded and manipulative tactics will not be tolerated will very quickly either get the other party to be more cooperative, or will end negotiations altogether
  • Understand that at some point communications will be misinterpreted, and what you interpreted as cheating by the other party – which provoked your cheated as retaliation – may not have been cheating, and vice versa, and so be willing to keep dialogue open and forgive. As long as they stay open to communication, you have to stay

You may lose a few short-term battles with this FTFT strategy, but with a strong reputation for diplomacy and cooperation, and with an ability to show firmness and retaliation, you stand a greater chance of winning in the long-term, provided the other party’s cheating isn’t so devastating that you cannot recover from it.

Relationships which develop beyond a FTFT relationship become a more mature and nurturing communally-based relationship hereby parties are no longer keeping score of each other’s activities and assessing whether or not the other person is abusing the relationship. 111,123,136,155,222,224

816. Interests versus positions. Having developed a BATNA and reservation price, it can be tempting to walk into a negotiation with your pre-established negotiation position – a ‘die-hard,’ fixed objective you have set for yourself, regardless of whatever information you uncover during the negotiations and regardless of the other party’s needs and wants, and by which you will evaluate the negotiation’s outcome as either a success or a failure.

Interests, on the other hand, are the underlying needs and wants each party has that they need met, which is what interested each party in negotiating with you in the first place.

Your interests, needs, and wants are the foundational problems you want solved, while your position is what you believe to be the best way of solving your problems, based on the information you have available to you at that time. For experienced and creative negotiators, there are always a plethora of positions you can take to meet each other’s interests, and mutual gain can usually be attained, regardless of how complex the business environment. Often times, you can uncover the other party’s interests by inquisitively and nonjudgmentally responding with “why is this important for your company?” after each demand they make.

The problem with win/lose positional negotiation is that it technically isn’t negotiation. Rather, it is considered to be:

  • A downright, close-minded refusal to listen to or consider any creative solutions beyond that of what each party considers to be an acceptable outcome
  • A reflection of how the other party is valued: as a disposable means to an end rather than as a potential long-term collaborator
  • A splitting of the difference, where each party stubbornly defends their position against the other party’s demands, reluctantly giving and taking until an agreement which lies somewhere within the ZOPA is attained
  • A war of egos, whereby the strongest, most aggressive, and least flexible person in the negotiation ‘wins,’ leaving the other party to figure out how they’re going to ‘save face’ as they justify to their superior why they didn’t ‘win’ the negotiation, and then figure out how they are going to redeem themselves before their next performance evaluation
  • Damaging to the relationship over the long-term as the ‘losing’ party will seek revenge or recoup losses at some point in the future

Regardless of how the other party wants to behave, the easiest way to switch a positional win/lose negotiation to a principled, interest-based win/win negotiation is by controlling the language. Instead of saying:

  • “I want this.”
  • “We will not give this.”
  • “You must give us this.”
  • “Do this, or else.”

Present it as:

  • “Let’s compare our sources (objective criteria) and see where we are misunderstanding each other.”
  • “One option we could explore is…”
  • “We could give you this if you were willing to…”
  • “If you can give us this, we could give you…”
  • “What if we tried…?”

If despite your attempts to move the negotiation from positional to principled the other negotiator continues to badger you into either taking a position or provokes you to criticize theirs, resist the urge to attack them and defend yourself by calmly steering the conversation back to interests, saying “I see this is an important issue for your company, and I’m curious as to why you HAVE TO have X; What is the interest behind having X?”

If you are unable to break the other person’s positional bargaining strategy and discuss interests, or if you feel the negotiation has reached a gridlock and the other party is refusing to cooperate, or begins attacking you, and losing this negotiation is not a desired outcome for you, then you may need to address the person’s insults (discussed later) and take a break to allow some space between you so the emotions can cool.

Most importantly, just as you must learn how to separate the person from their cognitive bias, you must also address and neutralize their cognitive bias without insulting the person. To do this you must separate the negotiator from their ego, negotiation position, and any manipulative tactics they may employ against you to satisfy their ego and ‘win’ their position. Remember that they, just like you, have quotas and deadlines and budgets on their shoulders, and superiors they must answer to. 88,123,155,159,162,169,182,187,189,216,222,224,237

817. Nobody cares who you are, how hard you have worked, or what your goals are. People only care about themselves, reaching their own goals, and finding a solution that solves their problems and meets their needs and wants at a price they believe is worth the investment. Until you can offer that, nobody cares who you are, how hard you have worked, or what your goals are. 167,214,224

818. Another critical element in relationship building and being truthful is the ability to apologize rather than blaming your problems on someone else. Intelligent people are able to acknowledge their part in creating a problem, and can likewise acknowledge their opportunity in being part of the problem’s solution. Intelligent parties who in reality had no role to play in a problem will even be willing to share blame in the problem if it means overcoming a roadblock and maintaining the relationship in the long-term. Is your goal to be proven blameless or to negotiate a winning deal? 155

819. In an integrative, win/win negotiation where you know the other party’s needs and wants and you possess – or have direct access to – many assets the other party could benefit from, it’s easy to find ways of giving the other party extra advantages that don’t get in the way of meeting your objectives (Pareto efficiency mentioned earlier). In the long run, those little gestures will add up to enormous opportunities for you in the future.

However, whenever individual parties selfishly and narrow-mindedly pursue their own self-interests without regard to those around them, they, their company, their industry, their country, and all of humanity invariably suffers. For example:

  • A company’s department’s employees’ refusal to adopt a new accounting software that would lead to company-wide savings in the millions of € over the long-term because those employee’s workload would be increased beyond that of what they feel they are paid in the short-term
  • Humanity’s preferring the autonomy of driving their own diesel-fueled car rather than taking public transportation or cycling leads to increased traffic congestion which lead to pollution spikes which increase health problems and global warming over the long-term
  • A developed nation’s citizen’s refusal to pay for and eat ‘ugly looking’ fruit and vegetables, which leads to as much as 40% of otherwise perfectly edible food being thrown away; perfectly edible food which could have gone to feed that developed nation’s own 49.1 million of citizens who cannot afford to feed themselves year round.

Major barriers to win/win negotiations occur when the involved parties fail to:

  • Adequately research and conduct due diligence
  • Understand the other party’s needs and wants
  • Effectively communicate their needs and wants in a way the other party can understand
  • Patiently listen, assuming and misinterpreting the other party’s intentions without first confirming them
  • Think several moves ahead and anticipate how the other party would respond to an offer or strategic move
  • Identify tradeoffs that optimize each party’s existing resources (Pareto efficiency)
  • Realize that a gain by the other party does not automatically mean a loss for you
  • Identify creative tradeoffs that expand the resources available 83,86,106,131,139,145,155,169,222,224

820. Raising your BATNA and reservation price is important to your career in order to stay competitive and attractive to employers and clients. You raise your BATNA through:

  • Ongoing education, training, and certifications
  • Specializing in a particular field that will be in high demand in the future
  • Positioning yourself as a consultant/trainer so employers will need you to train their younger recruits do their job and be autonomous as quickly as possible, for example during the onboarding process (discussed earlier)
  • Building a network of like-minded professionals who help each other out
  • Investing your time and money into projects, businesses, stocks, bonds, and investments that will continue to make money in the future

All of which enable you to continually bring more to the negotiation table, which will in turn increase your overall value and allow you to confidently approach and pitch to higher caliber brands and opportunities, thus evolving your career over the long-term.

Ambitiously strive to increase and deepen your skill sets, expertise and knowledge-base. Each year, you should be twice as intelligent in your particular domain as you were the year before, regardless of how many years you’ve been in the business. Doing so is a critical element to ensuring you stay competitive as you get older in life, and minimizes ‘luck’ as a factor in your success. 116,180,212

821. If during the negotiation process, or even after the contract has been signed you uncover a conflict of interest, it’s in your best interest to inform the other party and work together to decide how to proceed.

It’s wiser for you to protect your integrity and risk losing a client by voluntarily pointing out a conflict of interest on your side than covering it up, hoping your conflict of interest won’t be discovered. 216

822. Waiting until your client’s contract is about to expire to negotiate a renewal is willingly putting the other party at an advantage and yourself at a disadvantage. Your best time to negotiate, renegotiate, or renew an agreement is when the timing is perfect; this can be when:

  • You have the advantage
  • The other party is at a disadvantage
  • The other party has just gained a huge win and is in a good mood
  • The other party is unhappy with their current supplier’s services

823. Your reputation as a specialist, negotiator, communicator, entrepreneur, etc. is built upon the physical products or services you provide as well as the impression you leave your clients after you leave. That impression you create in people’s minds is worth far more than the reality of what you physically provide them because the human mind is unbounded in its capacity for creation and imagination, while simultaneously has cognitive biases and logical fallacies that limit rationality and critical thinking. Your reputation is far more powerful in people’s heads than it is in real life; use this to your advantage. 196,197

824. When people like and trust you, they want to do business with you; even if they don’t always agree with you and know that they could probably find a better deal somewhere else. 138, 155, 169, 189

825. Negotiation boils down to getting what you want at an acceptable price. Like it or not, the harsh reality is who you are right now is the result of all your prior negotiations and the deals you have accepted up to now.

Don’t like who you are right now? You can reactively look at the ridiculous student debt you incurred during your university studies and blame your current position on how your university failed to adequately prepare you for your future career despite what you paid them plus interest, or you could blame it on your prior bosses, the applicant tracking system (ATS) errors that algorithmically disqualified you for jobs you should have/could have gotten, the unpredictable financial market, or the millions of scapegoats freely available to you other than yourself to blame your problems on; or you can proactively choose to accept that no matter how justified you may be in your complaints and injustices, there are still many things you have under your control that you can take advantage of and start doing something about to at least find happiness in your current position in life, if it’s not too late to rectify and improve it. 189,212,214

826. Human resources and clients typically have the position of power because they have:

  • An identified problem
  • An underlying need
  • A budget dedicated to solving the problem and meeting the need
  • Many different alternatives at different price ranges available to them to choose from
  • Among those alternatives available to them, a large number of them willing to further lower their prices because they either:
    • Aren’t strong enough negotiators to say no, and so accept a deal to provide quality while gaining nothing in return
    • Live in a culture or part of the world with a lower currency conversion which allows them to charge less for their work
    • Are amateurs who need experience and a portfolio to break into the industry, and so are willing to work at a loss
  • You want their company name and recommendation on your CV and portfolio as well as access to their professional network

For example, if a company’s identified problem (a.) is a job vacancy in one of their audit teams, the company has several alternatives available to them. They may choose to:

  • Recruit internally, thus developing talent and:
    • Increasing employee satisfaction because employees won’t feel ‘stuck’ in their current job
    • Saving money on the recruiting, onboarding and training process while maximizing their current payroll expenses
  • Recruit interns to do the menial tasks, thus:
    • Offering a career opportunity to a student
    • Saving money on payroll
    • Giving more time for the qualified auditors to specialize (“dejobbing”) and focus on the important responsibilities
  • Purchase software that allows the other auditors to work faster while making the empty position redundant
  • Proportionally extend deadline, budget, and salary, thus giving the smaller audit team more work, but also greater responsibilities, challenge, and a larger salary
  • Outsource, hiring an external company that specializes in auditing to take over some missions while redistributing their audit team to different parts of the company
  • Recruit externally, thus bringing in new blood, ideas, and people to keep the company evolving
  • Do nothing, requiring the smaller team to do more with one less person
  • Other

But the problem above does not address the company’s underlying need. The company’s underlying need may be to:

  • Reduce company expenses to avoid going bankrupt
  • Increase company expenses to fight off the risk of being acquired by a larger company
  • Expand their audit divisions
  • Improve their audit division’s reputation
  • Dissolve their audit division to focus on other, more lucrative areas of business
  • Other

You, as a solution to the recruiter’s or client’s problem, fit somewhere into one of these alternatives. And unless you can stand out as meaningfully better than all the other alternatives you are up against, you will be seen as just another option, or you will not be seen at all. 77,78,79,82,116,137,167,197,220

827. Revenue, return on investment (ROI), and compensation can come in several forms:

  • Sharing is when you give away your assets: time, money, and possessions with no expectations in return
  • Bartering is when you trade your assets for other assets
  • Asynchronous tit-for-tat (ATFT) is when you give your assets to someone in need today with the expectation that they will return the favor in the future when you are in need
  • Monetary is when you exchange an asset for some equivalent monetary value
  • Religious is when you give away an asset with the belief that you will be rewarded in some other way 138,224

828. The higher you move up in your career, the more risk-averse you tend to become because so many other people’s lives become dependent upon and affected by the decisions you make.

During every negotiation you conduct and decision you agree to, always at least consider potential collateral damage caused by the outcome; those teams, clients, and employees 2, 3, even 4 levels removed from the decision-makers who will have to live with and implement your decisions, but have no voice at the negotiation table.

Approaching decisions from this context may be enough to persuade other decision-makers to accept your deal, provided yours does the greatest amount of good with the least amount of damage; especially when the decision-maker you’re persuading has a reputation to uphold and must live with the scrutiny of his or her actions. 189,192

829. Bluffing, in negotiation, is imprudent and can pose a dangerous threat to your reputation and credibility because you have no idea how much the other party knows about you and your situation. Make one bad bluff, or even have an amateur negotiator call you on your bluff, and your reputation could be irreparably damaged. Experienced negotiators can usually get what they want without having to resort to manipulative tactics such as lying, and manipulative tactics don’t build long-term, quality relationships. 189,224

830. A negotiator who calmly and seriously states “That is our final offer.” is much more convincing than a negotiator who screams “That is our final offer!” while jumping out of his seat, throwing a fit and threatening to leave the room. Negotiation is a competition in controlling emotions, and showing that you are serious and mean what you say tends to carry more weight than the unpredictable, emotionally-laden approach. Usually, the first negotiator to lose control of their emotions is the one who gives away their position of strength. 189,195,216

831. Correctly done, negotiating and relaying communications through intermediaries or proxies can be effective in building your position of strength as well as allowing the intermediaries to communicate your message in a way that the final decision-maker can best understand, provided you accurately communicate your message to the intermediary who then correctly communicates your message to the final party. 189

832. Before starting negotiations, be sure you’re dealing with the right party; the final decision-maker. It’s perfectly normal to ask about the other party’s decision-making process and who the final decision-maker will be, and knowing how many people you’re expected to go through allows you to pace your concessions so you do not give everything away to the first negotiator only to find out there is another decision-maker who will require further concessions before they can do business with you. 189,216,224

833. If you expect to be doing business with a person over the long-term, or anticipate dealing with this person or brand multiple times, take the time to negotiate the rules by which you will agree to negotiate: show you’re competent, fair, and reliable by establishing rules of fair play each party will agree to abide by to help the relationship run smoothly during the negotiation process. Do this, and the end result will be mutually-beneficial. 189

834. What commonalities do all of your negotiation outcomes have and how would the other party deduce your reputation is as a negotiator?

  • If the other party believes you to be risk-adverse, they may use threats of lost opportunities – real or unreal, direct or implied – to get you to concede
  • If the other party believes you to be afraid of arbitration or bringing in lawyers, they may threaten bringing one in unless you concede
  • If the other party believes you only seek win/win outcomes or aren’t strong at standing your ground or getting your hands dirty, they now know they only need to find the right objective criteria and context to get you to feel like you’re making a win/win deal

Your reputation can be as much a strength as it can be a weakness; it’s all about the context you put them into. 162,189,219

during negotiations

DURING NEGOTIATIONS

835. As you analyze the other party’s demands and expectations, focus on their interests: the incentives behind why they are asking what they are asking. Doing so allows you to identify creative ways of using your unique skill sets and selling points to meet their underlying interests, especially if you can do so at little or no cost to you. 189,224

836. For every concession you propose to the other party, agree to from the other party, or resist, it’s important to consider each request in the overall context of your relationship with them as well as the negotiation package as a whole. What do you want the other party to do, and where do you want the relationship to go? It may be worth losing a little bit of money on one concession that isn’t as important to you in order to stand your ground on the points which are more important to you, all while keeping your relationship in good standing. 169,189,216

837. The problem with internal negotiations: negotiating with colleagues and superiors within your own company is that if the outcome isn’t mutual beneficial (win/win), then everybody may lose because nobody wins in internal conflicts. If the colleague you’re dealing with is extremely aggressive and/or competitive in nature, then this problem will be compounded and require even more diplomacy and tact. 189,222

838. Because negotiations present as much of an opportunity to open doors and advance your career as they do a risk of closing doors and burning bridges, every action and reaction speaks volumes about how others will interpret – or misinterpret – your intentions behind your actions, and expectations. Pay special attention during these content-rich situations by learning to observe, note, and use what you learn to your advantage. 169,189

839. Overcoming ‘No’ and saving face. Negotiators say ‘No’ and make ultimatums (Either ‘X’ or ‘Y’) because their current situation or perspective prevents them from saying ‘Yes.’ Understanding why they are saying ‘No’ shows if and how you can turn their ‘No’ into an eventual ‘Yes.’

Negotiators are more willing to change their ‘No’ to a ‘Yes’ when they can do so without looking incompetent or weak. 169

840. Ensuring win/win outcomes. ‘Winning’ the negotiation, ‘beating the other guy,’ and ‘maximizing your own profit’ is focusing on the wrong things, and parties who believe they have been manipulated and taken advantage of never forget, and will seek revenge. 169,214,216

841. Never assume; verify and confirm. At every stage in a pitch, presentation, communication or negotiation, whenever someone asks you a question or says something ambiguous or that you weren’t expecting, investigate and ask for clarification so you understand why they asked the question or made the statement they did.

Their answer may open up opportunities you hadn’t realized were possible. The better you understand the situation and the other party, the more wisely you can adapt to, respond to, and overcome limitations. 169,216,224

842. Don’t leave the negotiation table. Situations change and people forget what they promised you. Stay in contact with all parties even after you’ve parted ways and are waiting for their decision. Negotiations should conclude with either a ‘Yes,’ or a reason as to why they are saying ‘No.’ 169

843. Think long-term. Negotiating an incredible compensation package at a company you dislike and doing a job you loathe and limits your career movement shouldn’t be considered an accomplishment.

That being said, negotiating an acceptable compensation package at a company you loathe but offsetting the temporary displeasure with future compensation benefits such as:

  • An accelerated performance evaluation (being eligible for pay raises every 6-months instead of every year)
  • Increased training opportunities or paid-MBA training programs to improve your skill sets
  • Priority consideration for managerial positions that open up in the future to ensure your career is not limited

…could be a very wise career move. 169,219

844. Make sure the key people like you. Personalities and objectives don’t always align, and it is possible that the brand’s recruiter may not particularly care for you, but is willing to tolerate you because their priority is finding competent candidates to fill job positions. Annoying the recruiter may not automatically disqualify you for the job, but annoying the hiring boss probably will. 169

845. While human resources actively work to identify and develop their talent within their organization, the reality is that many people in business lack comprehensive training in effective negotiation strategy, and instead rely on their own experience, research, and ‘gut instinct’ on the subject. This means that taking the time to learn a few tricks and strategies will give you an advantage over many of the people you’ll do business with.  84,125,155

846. It’s usually assumed that the best negotiators are the older, wiser, more mature elders. But technology and business changes so quickly that this assumption is no longer reliable, and being older and out of touch may actually put you at a disadvantage to the younger, less experienced but better adapted generations who can see where the future is headed.

This is the difference between power and leverage. As a young person, you may not yet have the age, experience, and financial resources at your disposal, but you have more energy and time on your hands, and a unique, forward-facing look into the future of business; an advantage older, wiser, and more mature negotiators would be foolish to not take seriously. 155

847. Likeability and salability. The investor, recruiter, or potential client must like you, believe you deserve what you’re asking them to give you, and be able to convince their superiors to give it to you. When asking for something – be it employment, a raise, or a promotion – always base your requests on objective, reputable sources and give the decision-maker in front of you a compelling reason why you deserve what it is you’re asking for. 141,146,169,198,199,224

848. Compensation flexibility. Think of what you earn as a whole rather than the individual sum of its parts. There are many ways of improving your overall compensation package, such as:

  • Base salary
  • Performance benefits
  • Company vehicle
  • Paid vacations
  • Combining business travel with vacation
  • Additional training and coaching opportunities with external consulting and coaching professionals
  • Work-from-home or work-from-abroad
  • Stock options
  • Priority in future promotions and/or expatriate opportunities
  • Etc.

The more creative and flexible you are in negotiating your compensation package, and the more opportunities you give your potential client or recruiter to compensate you, the better your overall compensation package will be, especially when you can identify important concessions that mean a lot to you, but mean very little to the potential client or recruiter, and vice versa. 169

849. Attainability. Recruiters generally have a standard compensation package they offer new recruits.  This ‘competitive’ compensation package is usually based on law, industry norms, and the brand’s unique employer reputation. By asking the recruiter to make a departure from their standard compensation package, you are in effect asking them to go out of their way to negotiate with their superior and reorganize their internal budgets to accommodate you.

You therefore must convince the recruiter that the additional work you are asking them to do is worth it because you are seriously considering the job position, and you must make the recruiter’s extra work as easy as possible by:

  • Giving the recruiter every source, justification, and argument they’ll need to convince their superior to give you what you’re asking for. If the recruiter, or the recruiter’s superior feels as though you don’t deserve what it is you’re asking for, they will probably turn you down and offer the job to the next candidate
  • Negotiating multiple-issues simultaneously rather than one issue at a time, and prioritizing your requests so the recruiter knows which issues are the most important to you. For example, if the ability to work from home is more important for you than stock options, let them know this.  If the recruiter feels as though you are being unnecessarily difficult or trying to take advantage of him or her, he or she will probably turn you down and offer the job to the next candidate
  • Plan for awkward discussions.
    • Were you fired from any previous jobs?
    • Did a trial period not turn into a full-time job offer? Why?
    • Were you unemployed for a year?
    • Are there embarrassing photos of you online?
    • Did your startup project fail?
    • Do you have several job offers?
  • Don’t hope the recruiter didn’t do a good job at preparing for your interview and overlook those weak points on your CV. Assume they are skilled recruiters and will ask you about it. How you respond to these difficult questions can either disqualify you from the job or move you from their 5th choice to their 1st choice candidate. It’s not that you have weaknesses in your career – everybody has weak points in their professional career; what’s important is how you talk about yourself and the other people involved. Top performing employees don’t blame anyone but themselves; top performers accept their part in an error and focus on what they learned and how it can be applied in the future
  • Do you have several job offers at the moment? Be transparent with whether or not you currently have other job offers on the table, but reassure them that you’re interested in working for their brand if they can work with you on the compensation, and tell them what you like about the brand and why you would turn down the other offers to work with them
  • Don’t have any other job offers at the moment? There is no reason to lie and say that you do if you don’t. Consider being transparent and saying not at the moment, but you are actively looking. If the recruiter sees you as a top performing job candidate, then they know that other recruiters will also see your potential. This could put you in a position to offer them your candidature before other recruiters start contacting you, or if you’re not 100% happy with their compensation package offer, request a week or two to think about it

If the recruiter feels as though you have no intention of taking their position, they will logically prefer to focus their time and attention on candidates they feel are more interested in the position and brand. 76,77,169,214,227

850. Mutual respect and relationship building. The other party must believe that you are listening to them and that they are being understood. Regardless of the negotiation’s outcome, the other party should have even greater respect for you and the brand you represent than before the negotiations began. 123,155,169,182,188,189,224

851. Transparency and truthfulness. Experienced negotiators can usually get what they want without having to resort to manipulative tactics such as lying, and manipulative tactics don’t build long-term, quality relationships. It’s a small world, and you will probably negotiate with the same people many times throughout your career, so build your reputation on quality and integrity. Why burn bridges and make enemies in the long-term just for a short-term gain? 69,216,227

852. Objective criteria and storytelling. It is hard to disagree with reputable sources, facts and statistics, industry standards, and precedence. It is even harder saying ‘No’ when your requests are based upon those objective criteria. The sources you use in a negotiation are your strongest weapon, especially when you are the weaker party. 169,227

853. Long before a skilled negotiator comes into direct contact with you, they research you, categorize you and form judgments and strategies about how to handle you based on what they assume to be true about you:

  • Their previous experience with you, your company, your generation, gender and cultural demographic, knowing that humans tend to behave consistently
  • What others who have dealt with you have to say about you, knowing that objective 3rd party sources create a better-rounded picture of you
  • Those who you work for and with directly, knowing that humans tend to unconsciously mimic the behavior and characters of their superiors and colleagues
  • What Google searches uncover about you, knowing that while you control what appears on your LinkedIn and social media profiles, you can’t control what others such as journalists, friends and family post online about you
  • Etc.

The more visible you are – online and offline – the more sources and opinions there are about you. The more skilled negotiators learn about you, the better they are at knowing how to control you during the negotiation.

Therefore, the better you understand, accept, and actively monitor and control people’s judgments about you, the stronger position you will be in to use those judgments to your advantage.

Knowing what their assumptions about you will be, and then behaving the exact opposite of those assumptions will throw them off, causing them to question all the research they have gathered on you. By acting opposite the person’s assumptions about you…

  • If others have claimed you’re a stubborn, unreasonable person, and then you turn out to be very attentive and collaborative
  • If others have claimed you’re disorganized and forgetful, and then you turn out to be very well organized and well-prepared
  • If others have claimed you’re a low-level, unambitious employee with limited responsibilities, and you turn out to be an ambitious, knowledgeable and strategically-minded future manager
  • If others have claimed you’re extremely competent in the subject, and then you feign ignorance and ask a question that someone of your competence ‘should’ know
  • If others have claimed you to be amateur and inexperienced, and then you calmly cite references or procedures only an expert would be aware of

…in most business situations doing this will disarm the other party, causing them to doubt their assumptions and question their position at the negotiation table.

But just knowing all of this information before the negotiation doesn’t give you an advantage if you cannot apply this information, and if the other negotiator disarms you and causes you to doubt your research and assumptions, any informational advantage you thought you may have had will have been lost by your inability to adapt to the changing situations.  25,29,204,216,225

854. As a freelancer or startup, if what you offer is of such superior-quality that it can give your clients a competitive edge in their target market, a very effective negotiation option for you could be offering the potential client exclusive access to your solutions, effectively denying the potential client’s competitor’s access to your product or service, provided, of course, they are willing to pay for this exclusivity. 216

855. Although clients usually open negotiations with price, as a specialist the best thing to start out with would be the first identifying what precisely the other party’s objectives are after having done business with you. Do they want to:

  • Increase sales?
  • Improve brand recognition?
  • Reduce employee turnover?
  • Identify and develop their top talent?
  • Improve inter-personal relationships?
  • Other?

By first understanding and agreeing on this, you are better setting up the discussion that follows on achieving that objective for them, and then discussing the different price ranges the client wishes to choose from.

Price, in this context, is preferably one of the last points you should discuss. Starting a negotiation discussing price:

  • Risks labeling you as a generic, average worker rather than as a specialist and top performer
  • Prevents you from first building a relationship with the client and understanding the client’s real needs
  • Forces both of you into a negotiation whereby you won’t be happy with the price compared to what you have to do for the client, and so the client probably won’t be happy with what you provide them and your lack of inspiration will show in your work

When you do discuss price, put the pricing to your advantage by quoting precise numbers instead of even, round numbers. If you quote your prices at 1,000€/day plus tax (25%), you can be sure the client will try and negotiate a lower price because the figure 1,000€ looks more like a random starting point than it does a final price.

Instead, quoting the client 1,250€ (1,000€ plus 25% tax) for services rendered appears much more calculated, justified, and non-negotiable. 26,116,216,232

856. Loss aversion is the tendency for humans to resist change, preferring to not lose something they already possess than taking a risk and obtaining something new. Using loss aversion to your advantage by pointing out that the typical cost of replacing an employee who leaves a company can cost between 100%-400% of the employee’s base salary, your request for a raise followed by your willingness to take on additional responsibilities will pale in comparison to the cost of replacing you. 102,103,222

857. What you wear sends a strong message about who you are, how you expect to be treated, what you think about the other party and your goals as a professional. What you wear also sends a strong message about what you are not. In a negotiation, the more neutral and conservative your clothes, the harder it is for the other party to read you, thus giving you a small added advantage. 188,216

858. As parties meet each other for the first time, or after a long absence, a certain ‘sizing up’ of each other’s verbal and non-verbal behavior, status in life, level of preparedness, skill, intention, and strategy occurs to see who might be the dominant party and whether or not the encounter should be treated as a fight or as a collaboration.

How the other party perceives you and the negotiation depends on a combination of:

  • The environment in which the encounter is taking place (an executive office versus a café)
  • The judgments the other party has made about you based on their research of you
  • What you are communicating at the moment, consciously and unconsciously
  • What they are projecting onto you based on their own age, gender, and cultural assumptions
  • Other

You probably won’t know the extent to which they have researched you, and while you can anticipate their assumptions about you, you can’t control them. What you can do is control what you are communicating at that moment, knowing they will absorb that information into their global view of what they know about you, and then respond accordingly. 216

859. The more formal the venue and dress code, the more controlled, deliberate, and strategic people tend to be. 216

860. When negotiating your compensation package, three important elements to give you a position of power during negotiations include:

  • Objective criteria outlining how much others with your similar professional background, experience, and skill set receive
  • Alternatives (BATNA) such as other job offers from other companies you’re also considering are also in negotiations with should the negotiator give you an ultimatum you’re unwilling to accept or refuse to give you for what you feel you’re worth
  • Flexibility in how you are compensated 155,169,224

861. When gathering information and sources, especially online, humans tend be either:

  • Searchers. Using search boxes to immediately  find and highlight keywords across the entire internet (Google), on a particular website, or in a particular article page (CNTRL+F)
  • Scanners. Scrolling through website and articles in search for keywords closest to what they think will be relevant to their needs

When preparing and sending documents to the  other party, structure your documents and emails in such a way that both ‘searchers’ and ‘scanners’ can quickly and easily find the information you need them to. Doing so could mean the difference between getting what you want from a negotiated deal, or spending half the day arguing over what was or wasn’t included in a document you sent.  40,157

862. Before initiating any communication, take the time necessary to outline:

  • The person’s needs and wants
  • What you want the person to do as a result of your communication with them
  • How you can make it as easy as possible for the person to do what you want them to do
  • How you can best communicate your message to avoid any misunderstanding and disagreement

A few extra minutes before clicking ‘send’ can save you tons of time and frustration in the long term. 216

863. Skilled persuaders rarely consciously reveal all of their strengths and weaknesses, and almost never make large concessions. Getting what you want depends on your ability to uncover and exploit small, subtle weaknesses and opportunities along the way that add up to large concessions in your favor over the long-term.

Likewise, insight into the other party’s weaknesses is only valuable and advantageous so long as the other party isn’t aware you have it. 216

864. Short-sighted, amateur negotiators define success as dominating the other side in some form such as price, terms and conditions, compensation packages, deadlines, guarantees and warrantees, and consequences in case of a breach of contract.

Smarter, long-sighted and more career-minded negotiators define success as:

  • Identifying and achieving their own personal objectives set prior to the negotiation and independent of the other party’s needs and wants
  • Creating an atmosphere of mutual respect
  • Facilitating a win/win collaboration as much as possible whereby all involved parties feel it is in their best interest to disclose information to come to an agreement where everyone can get what they want 189

Resistance

DEALING WITH RESISTANCE

865. Persuasive communication can be defined as the ability to convince the other party that you are sincerely listening to what they are saying, understand their side of the story, and acknowledge their needs and wants. Intelligence is being able to explain something, even if you don’t agree with or believe it. Until the other person feels like you care about what they have to say, they will not be open to being persuaded. 78,155,184,237

866. Hyperbolic discounting is the tendency for humans to prefer immediate, short-term solutions and opportunities over longer-term solutions and opportunities, even if the longer-term were a better investment. Make a short-term offer that is too good to pass up, and the other party may take it. But before you accept their offer, look at where it puts you in the long run. 44,138

867. Even the most seemingly objective human has biases that work for or against them, whether or not he or she is aware of it, and is willing to admit it. 205

868. No matter how good you think you are at compartmentalization, emotions follow you around. The residue of anger left over from a morning meeting with a lazy supplier can probably be felt by the negotiator you meet with 10 minutes later, and if you aren’t aware of it, that emotional residue could inadvertently start your negotiations off on the wrong foot. 216

869. For every message you send – consciously and unconsciously – there is a message received – consciously and unconsciously – by the other party.

The words you use and how you structure your sentences reveal a lot about your intelligence, empathy, respect, ethics, values, assumptions and intentions, and can change the outcome of the negotiation and even your relationship with that person. Even if what you have to say is important, the way you say it has to be carefully chosen.

Your ability to correctly read and adapt to people’s body language and interpersonal relationships, while controlling your own, is key to getting the advantage in a negotiation. Choose your words and your actions wisely. 216,219,226

870. Actions speak louder than words, and when people are unable to communicate using words, what they want to say can usually be understood in their eyes and body language. 216,226

871. Cognitive biases commonly fall under one of three categories:

  • Laziness. When dealing with complex problems, especially during long negotiations when you are tired and your critical thinking skills are low, a negotiator may resort to their unconscious and impulsive feelings (system 1) rather than taking the time to consciously rationalize and weigh opportunities and outcomes
  • Insufficient critical thinking skills. When consciously weighing opportunities and outcomes, the negotiator may lack the objective criteria, IQ, and critical thinking tools necessary to optimally consider all possible solutions
  • Bad sources. When gathering sources and information to help in their decision-making process, the negotiator may be seduced by incorrect, misleading, or biased information from disreputable or fake sources.105,219

872. Confabulation refers to the tendency of the human brain to unconsciously and unwittingly distort, reorganize, misinterpret and misremember memories, and then confidently remember those distorted memories, decisions and events as being accurate and truthful, even when presented with contradictory evidence.

Confirmation bias is the tendency for humans to gather and accept – consciously and unconsciously – information in a way that confirms their beliefs while disregarding or ignoring information that disproves their beliefs.

The backfire effect is a bias whereby humans, when shown evidence that disproves their belief, react by rejecting the evidence and further strengthening their initial belief.

This essentially means that – accurate or not – once a person has accepted a belief as the foundational premise for their worldview, every piece of evidence, justification, argument, decision and memory that follows will reinforce that person’s belief system, and changing that person’s worldview can be an extremely slow and difficult process. 105,109,127,135,153,187

873. Being a good person doesn’t have to mean being the underdog in a fight. If you’re going to fight against a person who uses manipulative negotiation tactics, you need to know how to diffuse those tactics as well as how to use those tactics against them, if need be. If you do not have at least one advantage you can use against a manipulative negotiator, you have not prepared properly. 163,209,219

874. Being able to manage the other party’s anger and strong emotions is crucial to getting what you want. When faced with an angry person, realize that anger exists in two forms:

  • Justified anger is a natural emotional response people legitimately feel to something they disagree with. Whether or not you agree, the reason for their anger is right and fully-justified, even if it is based on incorrect assumptions, information, or misunderstandings that need to be discussed. Respect their position, acknowledge their feelings, apologize if you feel doing so will improve the situation, and then work with the person to resolve their concern
  • Tactical anger is an intentional and strategic response to a situation with the objective of manipulating you, through shock, threats, insults, harassment, or intimidation, into doing something you don’t want to do. If you suspect the person may be attempting to manipulate you through tactical anger, keep control of your emotions, calmly ask questions to get to the root of precisely why they are angry, and stand your ground. If they are sincerely angry, you should be able to reach a solution. However, if you decide they are merely being manipulative, be willing to calmly tell the person “Insults do not help negotiations, and I expect to be treated with the same level of respect as I am giving you. If you are unable to do so then perhaps we should end this meeting. Contact me when you are ready to continue this discussion more professionally.”, and then wait silently for the other party to decide. But make it understood that you are stepping away from the other party’s unprofessional behavior until they are ready to have a mutually-respectable conversation with you, and not the negotiations altogether. As long as they stay open to communication, you should as well; especially if you are the weaker party and you need them more than they need you. 188,219

875. Principles are standards of ethics, beliefs, and behaviors a person abides by in life and in business – in a particular industry, or among a specific culture and group of people (such as among specialists, lawyers, university alumni, etc.) that are ‘understood’ to be upheld.

If at some point in a negotiation the other party becomes angry or refuses to concede on a point because of ‘principle,’ ensure you haven’t in fact inadvertently damaged their ego in some way, or if the other party would lose respect with their company were they to present your offer to their superior. Coming up with creative win/win solutions may be enough to overcome their ‘principles.’ 216

876. Getting what you want from a negotiation is about managing the other party’s ego. You can:

  • Try to dominate them, thus making the process of getting what you want more tedious and probably making an adversary in the process
  • Creatively avoid their ego altogether, thus making the process easier for both of you, getting what you want, and perhaps making an ally in the process
  • Use their inflated ego against them, saying to them “I can see why everyone considers you a leader in the industry, and I’m fully committed to working with the best. So if you don’t have the budget to work with me, who in your industry would you recommend I contact?” Faced with this situation, they may either:
    • Refuse to admit they have a rival, and re-evaluate doing business with you, in which case you are in a position to get what you want
    • Refer you to another person whom they consider as their equal, in which case you may not get what you want, but you will have obtained a planned meeting with someone of equal value
    • Knowingly refer you to someone who is not of equal value (An inferior deal), in which case (if you have adequately done your research) you will know the that that you, as a negotiator, are not being taken seriously  155,169,182,216,219,237

877. Humans tend to show greater trust for arguments supported by statistics and figures than those without, even if those statistics and figures later turn out to be incorrect, or are correct but interpreted incorrectly. 138,204

878. Whenever humans realize that they lack either the knowledge or the critical thinking skills required to solve a problem with certainty, they attempt to simplify the decision-making process by assigning probabilities to each identified possible outcome.

When humans make decisions with incorrect information and/or with faulty critical thinking skills, they will inevitably make incorrect probabilistic calculations and arrive at incorrect conclusions. Worse, they won’t know they are arriving at incorrect conclusions. If the other negotiator is making this mistake, you must be able to respectfully convince them they            are wrong. But how do you know the negotiator with the incorrect information and the faulty critical thinking skills isn’t in fact you? 114

879. Motivated reasoning, similar to the confirmation bias mentioned earlier, is when a human’s emotions, biases, and preferences for or against a specific decision prevents them from gathering fair and objective criteria and making fair and objective decisions. Being unaware of your own motivated reasoning further compounds your ability to make fair and objective assessments. 208 

880. The vividness problem is the tendency for humans to allow one piece of information to overpower hundreds of other pieces of information merely because that one piece of information stands out in their mind; not necessarily because that piece of information is useful, insightful, or even important, but merely because it is remembered. For example a friend of a friend you meet at a picnic a few months ago advised you not to work for a particular company because two years earlier that person had heard some bad things about the company while working as an intern for them. 109

881. During a negotiation, people tend to consciously assume a specific role and communicate with an intended message and objective in mind, and when their train of thought is interrupted during their ‘roleplay’  – intentionally or unintentionally – those interruptions can reveal inconsistencies about who the person really is and the role they are trying to play for you. 216

882. There is no such thing as ‘off the record.’ Assume anything you do, say, or write can and will be used to protect or attack you at some unforeseeable point in the future. Why would you say something if you don’t want the other person to use it? Either you say it or you don’t. 25,29,205

883. Nobody is perfect, and nobody is innocent. Because laws, company policies, and social codes are so complex and overlapping, people are bound to make mistakes. Follow a person or a brand long enough, and do enough research on them, and sooner or later – knowingly or unknowingly – they will break the law, company policy, or some social code. 206

884. From a military perspective, when faced with a threat, humans instinctively make decisions in one of two mindsets:

  • Fight or flight. In response to an imminent threat your blood pressure elevates and you:
    • Fight and defeat your enemy, or are defeated
    • Flee and live to fight another day
    • Go into shock and are defeated
  • Reconnaissance. Absent an imminent threat and neither attacking nor defending, you attempt to analyze and understand the players, their motives, strengths and weaknesses, and the situation and environment as accurately and objectively as possible so you are at an advantage should the need to fight arise 163,208

885. Most humans find negotiating, public speaking, job interviewing, and any other situation where they feel they are being ‘interrogated’ or in competition for dominance uncomfortable, and prefer for it to end as quickly as possible. This is why hyperbolic discounting (mentioned earlier) can be used to your advantage in negotiations.

Experienced and dominant negotiators, recruiters, and other people understand this, and use this against you to get you to do what they want with the promise – real or implied – that once you do what they ask, the uncomfortable situation will be over. They will also know that you may use this against them. In this situation you either negotiate for a win/win situation, or you don’t and the strongest, most cunning, and most patient person usually wins. 44,138,189,206,216

886. There are generally four types of communicators:

  • Those who need you to get into their personal frame of reference before they will open up and begin communicating with you
  • Those who let you be yourself and are comfortable with you being yourself
  • Those who communicate predominantly through stories and anecdotes rather than through facts and details, perhaps as an attempt to dominate you or to hide or avoid giving away specific information
  • Those who are uncomfortable with silence and will speak just to avoid the silence 206

887. Always make people feel happier and smarter for having met you. Anytime you do or say anything that makes a person feel stupid, lost, or confused, you decrease the likelihood that they will like you, open up their professional network to you, and want to give you what you want. 186

888. Mediation is a soft skill which involves resolving conflict and maintaining productive dialogue through specialized communication and negotiation strategies, and is an extremely useful skillset to have because its techniques can be applied to every other aspect of your personal and private life. 155,169,182,187,189,214,216

889. A generalist is someone who tends to work on a variety of diverse projects across several industries, and therefore attains at least a basic and operational competence in multiple subjects or activities. While this approach can give you a global view of the industry and unique approaches to problems specialists may not clearly see because their experience and assumptions blind them, it can also take you a long time to develop your reputation. Also, because you are in competition with so many other generalists, obtaining a quality reputation and position of power in negotiation based on experience alone can be extremely difficult.

A specialist is someone who focuses primarily on one or two particular subjects or activities to the point he or she would be considered an authority on the matter. Specialists tend to work on the same problems over and over again until those problems become so familiar and predictable that solving them becomes second nature. While this approach may not give you a global view on the industry, it does identify you as an authority on solving those specific problems in the global process. The more critical those problems are to a brand’s success, the better your negotiation power and utility throughout your career.

However, as you work towards being identified as a specialist:

  • Keep a generalist perspective so you don’t lose your ability to take a step back and see problems from a bigger, more generalist, picture (Conceptual personality profiles), otherwise you risk overlooking better, more innovative ways of solving problems
  • Don’t become known as a mere puppet or publicity stunt brands or people promise to work with as long as you promote their own products and services for them until you are no longer of value to them 115,116,162,167,219,227

890. Sales skills are a fundamental and required skill set in negotiation. Sales is your ability to identify, qualify, and then convince potential clients to buy, believe, or invest in you and what you offer.

As a generalist whose offer isn’t meaningfully different from your competitors, potential clients will be immediately drawn to comparing prices, and your only meaningful differentiator lies in how far you can lower your price.

As a specialist, however, your skillset and reputation is what separates you from your competitors, thus allowing you to identify and approach companies that have the problems you have specifically trained to address. From this perspective, sales isn’t convincing a company that they need you over everyone else, sales is helping the company identify the depth of the problem they have, how that problem affects their company, and how you are capable of solving that problem, as well as a plethora of identifiable symptoms – for them. 116

891. The documentation you send to recruiters and potential clients:

  • PowerPoint presentations
  • PDF files
  • Email correspondences
  • Résumés and cover letters
  • Etc.

…may get them interested in your profile, but it is the verbal and non-verbal communication they receive directly from you during a conversation that ultimately sells you. As qualified as you may be, if the recruiter or potential client doesn’t like you, trust you, respect you, and wouldn’t want to spend 40+ hours a week working with and looking at you, then your chances of being chosen reduce considerably. 116

892. Your competitive advantage and negotiation power come from knowing:

  • What your weaknesses are and how to control the environment and discussion to turn your weaknesses into strengths
  • What the other party’s weaknesses are, how they will seek to control the environment and discussion to turn their weaknesses into strengths, and then how to anticipate that
  • the outcome you want to achieve, and attracting and working with the right collaborators to achieve that outcome, all while avoiding the wrong collaborators

If you walk into a negotiation with another party and you do not have at least one advantage over them, you have not done enough research. 30,115,219

893. As a specialist, don’t offer solutions until you are sure what your potential employer’s (or client’s) problems, needs, and wants are.

In the recruitment process for example, where job candidates are typically numerous and therefore aren’t in a position of power, human resources will dictate self-diagnosed problems, such as:

“We need to hire a person with X experience and Y degrees and education to fill Z position.”

…and it will be up to you to convince the human resources recruiter that you are the best person to solve that self-diagnosed problem. Conducting research before your interview helps you identify possible arguments for your candidature and a background of information to direct your questions during the interview, but the true underlying problems and needs will not be clear until you actually sit down to a face-to-face conversation with them. 116,206

894. Breakdowns are issues in a relationship that cause unavoidable dissatisfaction. Healthy arguments are conversations about breakdowns that need to be resolved for the relationship to stay balanced. Regardless of how strong the emotions and feelings are about a particular breakdown, your conversation about the breakdown should be handled predominantly analytically and structurally. 136

895. A person’s happiness or disappointment depend on how their expectations meet reality, not by reality itself. For example, if managers or clients seem to be constantly complaining about you, either:

  • Change reality and offer what they are complaining about by giving them what they say they want – which can be extremely expensive, time consuming, and risky as complaints may not solve the actual problem, but may be a symptom of another problem
  • Change or reframe their expectations so their experience with reality drastically improves by challenging the context of their expectations 44,55,138,237

896. In any relationship – professional or personal – for every breakdown or negative interaction you have, ensure there are at least five positive interactions to counter-balance. Maintaining this ratio keeps your relationship positive and in stability. Failing to maintain this 5:1 ratio over the long-term can cause the other party to begin focusing on your negatives and incompetence.

Once a person begins focusing on the breakdowns in your relationship, this inevitably leads to wondering if doing business with you was the right decision, which leads to them conducting a cost/benefit analysis of your relationship – comparing the pros and cons of the relationship, and what the financial, contractual, reputational and legal ramifications might be were the person to end their relationship with you.

With any contractual agreement, verbal and written warnings may be conducted in an attempt to reconcile the relationship and provide justification for terminating the working contract in the court of law if the breakdowns aren’t correctly addressed. 136

897. The process of negotiation is what makes an agreement fair and puts the relationship on equal ground; outlining and agreeing on clear definitions and expectations for each party as well as identifying the risks should the other party not fulfill their requirements. Any potential client who insists on your signing a contract without at least some form of negotiation, or insists on no contract, should raise a serious red flag. 111

898. When trying to persuade decision-makers to notice, accept, and support your ideas, you must understand that this process usually follows a predictable process:

  • Not important. Decision-makers don’t know about, nor care about your idea, you, or what you have to say because they have far more important things to manage. At this point, any communication with the decision-maker will likely be deleted or ignored
  • Awareness. Provided you have structured and presented your idea in a way that catches their attention, the decision-maker may listen to you but they may not understand 100% of what you are saying, especially if you are not speaking to them in a way they understand (see personality profiles earlier). If they are diplomatic, they may smile and nod, feigning understanding and interest. If they are not diplomatic, then they may return to ignoring you or even insult you for having wasted their time
  • Understanding. Provided you have a great idea and have explained your idea to the decision-maker in a way they understand, they may have a positive reaction to your idea and you may be willing to get them to commit to at least ‘look into it and see’
  • Acceptance. Provided the decision-maker ‘looked into it’ and what he or she found has persuaded them to take your idea seriously, the dilemma now becomes whether the decision-maker will act on and implement your idea, or whether it stops at their verbal acceptance and goes no further
  • Investment. Provided the decision-maker is persuaded by your idea and willing to put some level of commitment into it, the decision-maker would then need to dedicate a certain amount of time, budget, or team to the researching and implementing your idea
  • Commitment. At this stage, the decision-maker is 100% convinced and invested in your idea to the point where he or she publicly supports it and makes it a priority for the rest of the company

You must know where you lie in this process, and what you must do to overcome ‘luck’ and advance your idea on to the next step in this process. 118,212

899. In some companies, executive decisions are made and then dictated throughout the company to be blindly enacted without discussion or input from the lower level managers and employees. In other companies, executive decisions act as a starting point for further discussion and feasibility of implementation.

Regardless of company decision-making structure, for an executive decision to be effectively implemented, ambassadors and project leaders at every level within the company must be given the responsibility of ensuring your idea is both implemented and accepted, otherwise by the time the idea’s implementation reaches the lowest levels of the company, those employees will not understand what they are supposed to do, and why they are supposed to do it. This can lead to a demotivated workforce.

Likewise, when implementing ideas, launch them and get them up and running as quickly as possible. This is because as time passes people’s attention span and level of interest in the project fades as new projects and responsibilities come up. Take too long in getting your idea implemented, and its chances for success significantly decrease. 118,216

900. As a manager implementing an idea and faced with strong, persuasive opponents of your idea, forcibly invest them in the idea’s success by giving them the leadership role of implementing the idea and ensuring its success. Make that person responsible for the project’s success, and the project’s failure would become a stain on that person’s reputation as a leader. 118

901. It’s usually easier to re-frame the context of a situation and the perspective of the other party than it is to convince them to concede in a negotiation. 216

902. In negotiations where ‘price is non-negotiable,’ be flexible on how you are paid and look at your compensation package as a whole, especially when it would cost the other party nothing in comparison to what you could benefit from, such as:

  • Combining paid vacation with business travel effectively means your employer is paying for your transportation and much of your hotel and food expenses during your vacation
  • Access to expensive training courses already provided by the company to its top performing employees not only allows you to expand your competence, capacity for promotion, professional network, and attractiveness to future recruiters, it by default identifies you as a top performer in the company
  • Lenient contract termination clauses or deadline-extensive wavers for you allow you more flexibility in managing your scheduling with other projects and clients
  • Priority eligibility in future company business development, such as international projects or managerial positions that come available
  • Being able to buy the company’s products or services at deeply discounted prices and/or large quantities
  • Etc. 169,216

903. In negotiation, the first offer made tends to act as an anchor that heavily influences the final deal of the negotiation. Anchoring is the tendency for humans to be too heavily influenced by one particular event or piece of information – such as the opening offer. While anchoring can be an effective strategy for lowering the perceived value of other party’s offer as well as their expectations, anchoring only works if the other party isn’t equipped to neutralize its effect.

Understanding the power of anchoring, it can be advantageous for you to let the other party make the first opening offer because it allows you to get an idea of their expectations and perspective of the situation, and it allows you to counter with a principled negotiation strategy of offering to compare your objective sources and criteria to understand why the other party believes their opening offer is acceptable.

If the offer they open with is so far away from your expectations, rather than ‘accepting their anchor’ and trying to fight them into conceding until you reach an agreement you’re willing to sign, take advantage of their opening offer and create a constructive dialogue around their real underlying needs and how you can best reach them. It may be that:

  • Your pre-negotiation research didn’t uncover the other party’s real needs and wants
  • The other party was unprepared for the negotiation or wasn’t able to adequately assess the value of what you offer, and by pointing to ‘case studies’ and examples of work you have done for other clients, the other party can better understand the value you bring to the table
  • The other party is manipulative and/or has unrealistic expectations, and you are now in the position of deciding if you are able to find common ground and reach an agreement, and  whether or not you want to do business with them
  • By removing features of your product or service from the negotiation, you may still be able to meet their needs at their budget, and with less work on your part
  • They decide to increase their budget significantly to benefit from all of the features your product or service offers 155,169,189,216,224

904. Negotiation deadlines versus time-constraints. Telling the other party that if they fail to accept a negotiated deal by a specific date then they will suffer legal and financial consequences puts the other party in the position of either accepting your threat, or rejecting it and you risk losing the negotiated agreement altogether.

On the other hand, explaining to the other party that due to prior and up-coming contractual arrangements, if they aren’t able to accept a negotiated deal by a specific date then you won’t be able to offer the business opportunities you are currently promising them. This puts the other party in the position of taking advantage of the offer before it is lost.

The former is a ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ threat you impose on the other party and upon their ego as a negotiator, while the latter is professionally informing the other party of a scheduling conflict and the need for urgency in their decision. The former will more likely lead to a rejection because nobody likes ultimatums, while the latter will more likely lead to the other party doing all in their power to accept your offer before the deadline and opportunity expires. A simple change in how you present information can have a huge impact on the final outcome. 216

905. Instead of re-actively getting angry and doing or saying something you may regret because it ‘makes you feel good at the moment,’ proactively focus your energy on learning more about the options available to you and how you can use your current situation and relationship with the client to your advantage. 188,195,214,216

906. When faced with inexperienced negotiators, letting them ‘win’ a few small concessions may be enough let them feel they did a good job while letting you get the best out of the larger contract points.

But as a professional with a hard-earned reputation it is also your responsibility to be fair with people who aren’t as skilled as you, especially if their lack of experience is easily exploitable. This is because the amateurs you exploit now will report back to their more experienced bosses and decision-makers who will not forget how you do business and take advantage of others. Also, those amateurs whom you exploited and later find out that they had been taken advantage of by you will not forget and may one day stand between you and a potential client. People who feel manipulated and taken advantage of will not forget, and may even do their best to get revenge. Why burn bridges in the long-term just for a short-term gain? 122,184,216,224

Manipulative negotiators

DEALING WITH MANIPULATIVE NEGOTIATORS

907. When it comes to prestige, wealth, resources, influence and power; economic and social advantage. Some people:

  • Have it
  • Don’t have it
  • Will never have it
  • Don’t have it yet
  • Don’t want it
  • Have it and believe they don’t
  • Don’t have it yet believe they do

Positions of perceived privilege almost always lead to a measurably negative influence on the person’s worldview. Notably, privileged people are more likely to become:

Increasingly proud of their success and assets

Viewing waste as an indicator of wealth and become less worried about the impact of their consumption habits and their adverse effects on other people and on the environment

More dominant and aggressive towards others

Less empathetic towards lesser-advantaged people and less willing to help them

More self-centered, self-entitled and self-serving, and less willing to negotiate and concede to others’ requests

More accepting of the use of manipulative and unethical behavior such as lying, cheating and bribery in the pursuit of maintaining their advantaged position and gaining even more

Convinced that their advantage was due to their own ingenuity and skill more so than any external forces 86

Don’t be naive, but give the other party the benefit of the doubt by assuming good faith and separating the person from the manipulative tactic they are using. It’s possible that the negotiator may:

  • Be unscrupulously manipulative, in which case you adopt your strategy and determine whether or not you really want to do business with this person
  • Apologize for their tactic and attempt at taking advantage of you, whereby you can continue negotiations on the basis of equality
  • Disagree that their tactic is manipulative, in which case you may need to address their assumptions about doing business with you, do more research into their culture, and set some negotiation rules to avoid misunderstandings moving forward
  • Not be using a manipulative tactic, but you are misinterpreting it as such, in which case you must be able to identify incorrect assumptions in your own thinking, and if need be apologize for any reactions you had made based on their perceived ‘manipulative’ tactic
  • May be using a manipulative tactic in retaliation for what they believe to be a manipulative tactic on your part, as explained in the tit-for-tat (TFT) relationship model (outlined earlier), in which case you can identify the miscommunication and get the relationship back into equality
  • Be negotiating from different objective criteria you are not aware of, in which case you can have a constructive conversation about which objective criteria is most relevant in your particular situation 123, 155, 224

909. People’s values and beliefs are malleable, and can be modified through psychological changes in behavior, environment, and logical and emotional interactions and associations 86

910. Prosocial behavior refers to any voluntary behavior intended to benefit other people specifically, or humankind in general. Anti-social behavior refers to any behavior intentionally done without regard for the consequences of other people or humankind.

Everyone, regardless of their position in life, lives and copes with their own level of anti-social and self-centered impulses. In many instances, being self-centered is a necessity to survival, advancing in life and reaching your goals. Not everyone can be at the top, and often the only way to be promoted is by selfishly taking the opportunity away from others. 86

911. It’s imperative you understand and are aware of aggressive and manipulative negotiation tactics people use, but relying too heavily on negotiation ‘tactics’ to gain an advantage in your negotiations:

  • Causes you to lose sight of your goal, which is to obtain an outcome that furthers your objectives, not hinders the other parties’
  • Hinders long-term relationships, which can hurt both your company and your own professional career if you find yourself back in negotiations with the very person you took advantage of in your past
  • Sends the message to the other parties that you cannot be trusted to cooperate for mutual-gain
  • Can make the other party feel they have been manipulated, and so they may seek revenge – directly or indirectly – against you at some point in the future
  • Makes the negotiation a contest of who knows the most manipulative negotiation strategies rather than about the both of you gaining an outcome all parties are happy with and benefit from 155,216

912. Manipulative, underhanded negotiating techniques can be:

  • Psychological
    • Provoking cognitive dissonance by pitting your identified cultural and religious convictions against you, such as organizing a business lunch with the other party and ‘accidentally’ or ‘innocently’ serving only food that is against your religion to consume
    • Pitting you against your competitors and then seeing which one of you will take the bait and turn your specialist offer into a generic price war
    • Intentionally pitting you against your competitors and then, when discovered, claiming ‘I didn’t know another department in my company was also in negotiations with your competitor.’
    • Completely disregarding everything you negotiated and doing what they wanted to do in the first place
    • Postponing negotiations and dragging you along for months with the false hopes of reaching a deal, when their true motive was keeping their options open in case a better deal presented itself
    • Permitting telephone calls and ‘other business’ to continually interrupt you throughout the meeting as a way of destabilizing and dominating you
  • Physical
    • Over-feeding you with liquids and food prior to and during negotiations, and then limiting bathroom breaks and pauses or placing ‘out of order’ signs on all the bathroom doors in the proximity
  • Intentionally using the language barrier to their advantage by only speaking to you using advanced vocabulary and grammatical structures they are certain you not to fully understand
  • Using your travel and deadline constraints against you
  • Using the time zone difference and jet lag against you
  • Strategically creating the negotiation environment to be as uncomfortable for you as humanly possible without making it appear intentional
  •  ‘Unintentionally’ seating you directly facing hot sunlight, a shiny reflection in the window across the street, or directly underneath a cold, damp air conditioner
  • Giving you a slightly broken, unbalanced, squeaky seat to sit on
  • Conducting negotiations in a smoking-area even though they know you are a non-smoker 189,216,224

913. The problem when confronted with uncomfortable situations in business is that, apart from thoroughly researching and knowing the other parties involved, you have no way of knowing prior to negotiation day whether or not you’re dealing with a negotiator who is:

  • Intentionally manipulative in bad faith
  • Passive-aggressive
  • Incompetent
  • Competent and making an honest mistake

In addition, people do not all share the same needs, wants, culture, legal, moral, and ethical codes. Therefore it is in your best interest to strive to remain as inoffensive, neutral, and objective as possible by:

  • Being open-minded, focused, and objective enough to forego your own ego to reach your longer-term objectives
  • Putting all comments and behavior into the proper context so that you yourself do not act too emotionally and too hastily
  • Neutralizing manipulative tactics by nonchalantly and non-judgmentally drawing attention to the tactic
  • Separating the person from the manipulative tactic, affording the other party the opportunity to rectify their strategy or, if they continue using their manipulative strategies, understanding and adapting to the other party’s true motives
  • Being inquisitive, asking questions and seeking to understand whenever any party does or says something that you weren’t anticipating
  • Protecting the most important information that can be used against you such as your true budget constraints and deadlines, and building in tripwires and extensions
  • Finding other people within the other party’s company to do business with or befriend and make allies with
  • Having a candid discussion with the other party about your fundamental differences and opinions and seeing if you can overcome them and find common ground. Frankly asking the other person “What do we need to accomplish to do business together?” is a blunt yet respectful way to address those differences and foster an open dialogue while maintaining respect for each other’s differences
  • Trusting but verifying, assuming good faith by the other party while simultaneously ensuring that prior to entering into negotiations you conduct sufficient research and due diligence to ensure that clear definitions, clear expectations, and proper contractual mechanisms are put in place in your negotiated contract to dissuade abuse and manipulation and avoid expensive, time-consuming lawsuits. 111,123,155,169,184,189,206,216

914. When negotiating in an international context where miscommunication and misunderstandings are expected to be numerous and potentially dangerous to business, being:

  • Humble enough to admit you don’t know everything, able to laugh at your own mistakes and not take yourself too seriously
  • Adaptable enough to accommodate the other party’s culture and personality
  • Willing to overlook the other party’s mistakes

…can go a long way in maintaining diplomatic relations with people from even the most opposite of cultures. 155,184,216

915. When negotiating your compensation package, don’t approach it on an issue-by-issue basis, but as a total compensation package. Until you have been formally offered the job, assume you are probably not the recruiter’s only option for the position, and if you make life too difficult for the recruiter, you may lose the job to another candidate easier to cater to. 155,169

916. Never approach a negotiation and business transaction as a mere one-time isolated event, but as one of many repeat transactions because the world has become so small and interconnected, and people change jobs, companies, and careers so frequently that it is highly likely that you will cross paths with those same negotiators multiple times throughout your career. Building open-ended and diplomatic relationships is a wiser career move for you than burning bridges and violently taking everyone for every penny you can get out of them. 155,182,216

917. A critical element to overcoming misunderstandings and relationship management is identifying and addressing assumptions – assumed beliefs and expectations that are not directly stated, but rather implied – both in yourself as well as in the other party’s logic and communication.

At any point in a discussion, whenever anyone says or does something you don’t understand, disagree with, or were not anticipating, it is your responsibility to ask questions to understand why they said what they said. Inquiring will help you uncover information you perhaps weren’t aware of before that can help you better make decisions and overcome any conflicts in the negotiation. This approach is especially important when a high-context culture meets a low-context culture. 155,169,184

918. Your negotiation position is relative to the other party’s perceived value of you in the situation in which you are negotiating. You can increase your value by improving your skill set, forming coalitions, controlling the environment, or breaking up their coalitions. Most importantly, you can improve your negotiation position by gaining more self-confidence

Close deal

CLOSING THE DEAL

919. The problem – or advantage depending on how you use it – with pitching to and negotiating with multiple employees within the same company is that you’re dealing with multiple employee egos, each with their individual objectives and interpersonal office politics. This is often why bad decisions are accepted while good ideas get rejected because while competition in general can be good for business as it continually forces brands to provide the best quality products and services possible, internal competition can lead to decisions that may actually harm the company as internal groups vie against each other for their individual career progression rather than for their company’s long-term gain.

From the very beginning identify the final decision-maker and do your best to get him or her alone for the final decision. 44,216,222

920. When you are the final decision-maker in a line of other negotiators, try not to get physically involved in the solution until you absolutely have to. Many problems have a way of working themselves out without requiring your immediate involvement. Also, not getting involved until the very end leaves you more options as you watch the negotiations unfold.

As the final decision-maker, once you get involved personally, you’ve given up one of your most effective positions of power: the authority to step in at the end and make any final modifications to the deal based on up-to-date information and events that have happened since the negotiations first started, and the ability to step back and observe the large picture before making decisions.

Bear in mind that when dealing with a line of negotiators from the other side, their refusal to give you direct access to their final decision-maker may be a sign they are using this ‘I’m-not-authorized-to-negotiate-that’ strategy on you. 216

921. The longer a negotiation takes to reach an agreement, and the longer it takes for the negotiated agreement to be implemented once it has been agreed to, the more likely it is for the deal to fail because as time passes, people lose interest in projects and become preoccupied with other, newer projects. Make sure that once a negotiated deal has been agreed to that it is enforced as quickly as possible. 216

922. Towards the end of your negotiation or sales pitch after you’ve discussed nearly every point and there’s really nothing more you can say, make your final offer and then stop speaking.

Silence is a normal part of the decision-making process, and your speaking while the other party is silently contemplating your offer prevents them from reasoning with and convincing themselves that your offer is acceptable. Speaking at this point only works against you.

Learn to behave neutrally and be comfortable with prolonged periods of silence while you wait for the other party’s next move. If at this point the other party does require more information they will ask for it, and your answers should be closed, short, and concise, not an invitation to reopen the discussion.

Once an agreement has been made, continuing to discuss the particulars of the deal or reassuring the other party that ‘they have made a great choice’ may raise suspicions and give them second thoughts, so instead change the subject and end your negotiation on a positive note, and then after the meeting send a follow-up email outlining your agreement in greater detail. 189, 216

923. Most professional and reputable brands and specialists have lawyers to ensure their contracts are correct before they are signed, and the lawyers who verify contracts don’t have the same time frame as the people negotiating the deals.

Therefore when sending contracts and legal correspondences, either send them directly to the person you’re negotiating with, or Cc: that person every time you communicate with their lawyers. Having the both of you pressing the lawyer for results is much more productive than you alone. 111,216

generalist specialist

I want to stop being a generalist and become known as a specialist. How?

TAKING CONTROL OF YOUR REPUTATION

924. Assuming a 40-hour work week and the ability to save up enough money along the way to retire and live the rest of your life out with some sort of dignity, your career is estimated to span roughly 80,000 hours (±40 years), of which:

  • ±8,000 hours (±4 years) will be looking for new career opportunities
  • ±72,000 hours (±36 years) will be invested in:
    • Performing your job responsibilities
    • Building your reputation
    • Growing your professional network
    • Developing your skill sets, competencies, and level of expertise to improve your value in the recruiting process and progress in your career 218,219

925. A generalist is someone who tends to work on a variety of diverse projects across several industries, and therefore attains at least a basic, working competence in multiple subjects or activities. While this approach can give you a global view on the industry – which may be a positive attribute in a manager, it may also take you a long time to develop the high-quality reputation you’ll need to separate yourself from so many other generalists and obtain a position of power in negotiations.

A specialist is someone who focuses primarily on one or two particular subjects or activities to the point he or she would be considered an authority on the matter. Specialists tend to work on the same problems over and over again until those problems become so familiar and predictable that solving them become second nature. While this approach may not give you a global view on the industry, it does identify you as a specialist in solving specific problems in the global process. The more critical the problem you solve to a brand’s success and competitive advantage, the better your negotiation power. If you walk into a negotiation with a potential client and you have not uncovered at least one critical problem they need solved, and worse, your solution to their problems are no better than your competitors, return to your branding strategy phase.

Specialization has as much to do with the hard skills required to perform the responsibilities of the job as it does the soft skills of communicating, persuading, and making people like you. 115,116,162,167,219,227

926. A network of just 100 true and dedicated people who appreciate and respect what you do and who are willing to refer you to clients and employers can give you more negotiation power than thousands of people who like you but wouldn’t put their reputation on the line and recommend you if you asked them to. 113

927. The first step to specialization is identifying what you want to be known as a specialist in. You must have a goal in mind before you start building your experience towards it. Doing so will enable you to optimize your time and resources. Constantly pivoting and starting over will give you a unique perspective, but it can also take you much longer to be known as a specialist. 115,116,198,227

928. What are your long-term and short-term objectives? To become a specialist, you must anticipate and plan for your future. Where do you want to be:

  • In 6 months from now?
  • In a year from now?
  • In three years from now?
  • In five years from now?
  • When/if you retire?
  • As you die?

As you continuously update this planning list above, you must also remain flexible to ‘luck,’ unplanned opportunities that arise in your ever-changing environment.

If you don’t know where you want to end up – your long-term, final goal – you will not be able to deconstruct and reverse-engineer:

  • Which jobs, industries, and countries you must work in and with
  • Which languages you must become conversationally fluent in
  • Which certifications you must obtain and software you must master
  • Etc.

…in order to achieve your goals.

Once you know what you want in the long-term, your short-term goals will become blaringly obvious to you. These blaringly obvious goals must be then further broken down into practical, step-by-step objectives you must obtain in order for each future objective to be reached.

It is at this point you must set for yourself a system you will follow in order to achieve your goals. For example, if in order to qualify for your bosses position you must have a certification that requires you to memorize a manual with 1,000 pages and requires you to pass a test that costs 600€, following a monthly system of saving 60€ and learning four pages from the manual per day would have you ready for the certification in 10 months. If you spend 2 hours per day sitting uselessly in public transportation to and from work that could be used studying, what excuse do you have left?

That being said, after you have set your SMART (Specific, Measurable, Acceptable, Realistic, and Time-bound) goals, and after you have established a system which will allow you to meet your goals, challenge yourself! What is preventing you from being slightly more aggressive and focused so that you could in fact meet your goals earlier? What if instead of learning four pages of the certification manual per day, you learned six pages? 180,219,232

929. Compare what you consider to be most important in your life with how you are actually spending your time.

  • If you say it’s important for you to be a good partner and parent, are you spending the majority of your time at your office staring at unfinished reports on your computer screen, or are you at home with your partner and children building relationships that matter?
  • If you say you want to run a blog or website, are you spending the majority of your time scrolling through social media feeds looking at what everybody else is publishing, or are you publishing your own content on a daily, weekly, monthly basis?
  • If you say you want to be a top performing employee, are you spending the majority of your time doing only those responsibilities associated with your current job position, or are you learning, taking on additional responsibilities, and attending events to meet like-minded professionals?

If what you’re spending the majority of your time on today isn’t aligning with what you said is important to you now and in 1-2, 5, and 10 years, then lower your goals and expectations so that they correspond to your behavior, or stop wasting your precious time on unnecessary and counter-productive activities that make you feel like you’re accomplishing something but don’t actually help you meet your goals.

Recall that when your beliefs do not match reality, or when what you say and believe are not congruent with how you behave, you are said to suffer from cognitive dissonance: the uncomfortable and stressful emotion humans feel when what they say and belief are the opposite of what they actually do; when they say one thing yet do another. And to reduce that uncomfortable feeling associated with cognitive dissonance, you will invent justifications for the incongruence. Such as:

  • My family is my priority, which is why I spend the majority of my time at work – to provide for them financially, even though I may be missing out on the best moments of their lives
  • Running a blog is my priority, which is why I spend the majority of my time reading other people’s work – to come up with a good angle for my blog, even though a year may pass before I eventually get around to launching it
  • Becoming identified as a top performer is my priority, which is why I’m doing only those responsibilities related to my job – to become better at them until the boss notices and rewards me, even though my bosses change every 1-2 years 5,100,187,188,212,214,216

930. Professional networking websites such as LinkedIn serve two main purposes:

  • Improve your current position by allowing you to:
    • Expand your professional network to find new clients
    • Attract new recruits
    • Promote your employer’s reputation
  • Advance your career by allowing you to:
    • Expand your professional network
    • Brand yourself as a top performing specialist through the associations with other specialists you make
    • Get your profile in front of headhunters and recruiters who are looking for top performing employees 218

931. Your professional online profile, resume, portfolio, and your business card need to ensure your message is congruent and say precisely how you want the person reading it to categorize you. Specifically pay attention to your:

  • Job title/headline. As this is the first thing people tend to look for, you want the person to immediately recognize your:
    • Level of expertise. Stating how experienced you are helps the other person understand how to treat you and how competent you are at what you do. Are you:
      • An amateur looking for your first job?
      • A freelance specialist?
      • An expert?
  •   Your target audience. Stating who precisely you want to do business with helps the other person understand if they are a potential client, or if they know someone they should introduce you to. Are you looking for:
    • A new job in a new industry?
    • Your current job in another country?
    • Investors to buy into your startup?
    • Potential clients?
    • People who could introduce you to potential clients?
  • How you help your target audience. Stating how you help your target audience helps other people understand just how relevant and useful you really are. Do you:
    • Improve their employee’s productivity?
    • Ensure they don’t overpay taxes?
    • Negotiate multi-million contracts?
  •   How your target audience benefits. Stating how your target audience benefits helps them understand exactly how important you are to their business. Will they:
    • Save money by controlling costs?
    • Earn money by increasing their sales team’s competence?
    • Maintain a competitive advantage by innovating their research and development?

Fitting these elements into one concise sentence optimizes your time spent networking by immediately identifying who you are, what you want, what you offer, and it also improves your search engine optimization (SEO) because your title/headline appears in a Google keyword search.

  • Contact details. If your job title and headline are precise enough, and if your contact details lead visitors to additional resources where they can passively learn more about who you are and what you offer, then two things will probably happen:
    • You will probably receive far less visitors and inquiries
    • But those who do contact you will be precisely the target audience you’re trying to reach, meaning they’ve basically done as much research on you as they could and are seriously considering you as a solution to their identified problem
    • Contacting you is to confirm whether or not you are a qualified alternative to their identified problem
  • Summary and call-to-action. When potential clients and recruiters find your profile, don’t make them scroll down your entire online profile to deconstruct your professional experience and education, give them a concise paragraph summary at the very top along with a way to contact you. The words you use, the way you style your sentences, and your clarity of thought say a lot about how you think, treat others, and expect to be treated. 218,219,228

932. Anyone can have an opinion they can neither explain nor support with credible sources or examples. As important as your opinion may be, an opinion is only as valid as the sources you used to form it.

Having a well-articulated and well-balanced opinion is the first step to developing a reputation as a specialist because in order to have one you must know enough about the topic or industry to be able to competently articulate and defend it. 120,153,183,198,211

933. You will not go from being known as a generalist to a specialist overnight. It takes time, persistence, education, strategy, networking, and luck.

Being identified as a specialist is as much about the lessons you learn and skill sets you acquire through your successes and failures on your path to becoming a specialist as it is your ability to communicate them to others. If you have the best product on the market, but can’t communicate it correctly, nobody will buy your product.

195, 212,214,198,227, 237

934. Going from a generalist to a specialist involves:

  • Identifying a significant problem – that exists now and will still exist in the future – that isn’t currently being solved, or the solutions currently available are lacking
  • Identifying an industry or location that is lacking in workforce, competition, skills, or qualifications, and nobody else is either aware of or willing to go into
  • Identifying fundamental changes in technology behind modern products and services, and then learning about them before everyone else

…and then learning about that problem so comprehensively that you become the best solution available. 119,142,162,227

935. Being a specialist involves honesty and transparency; knowing who you are and what you’re capable of. More importantly, it involves knowing your limitations: who you are not and what you cannot – and will not – do. If you can’t do something, say so and refer them to someone who can. Even if they decide not to work with you, they’ll see that you have their best interest in mind. That really goes a long way. 52,198,227

936. To be known as a specialist, you must have a believable professional background, experience, and story explaining why you should be viewed as a specialist. People must understand why you are qualified to be treated as a specialist in your particular industry. If your core message on your LinkedIn profile, cover letter, CV, and portfolio or website doesn’t convince others you deserve specialist status, then either you aren’t qualified enough to be a specialist, or you are poorly communicating your value. 198

937. Storytelling, whether you are pitching to a client, presenting to your colleagues, or building your branding strategy, is an extremely powerful means of communication because stories bypass the neocortex of the human brain responsible for logical thinking and decision-making, and speak directly to the brain’s limbic system, which is responsible for feeling emotions. Emotions, not logic, are what really motivation decisions. 141,165,179,184,198,199,208,219

938. Your reputation as a specialist, negotiator, communicator, entrepreneur, etc. is built upon the physical products or services you provide as well as the impression you leave the people you’ve worked. That impression you create in people’s minds is far more valuable than the reality of what you physically provide them because:

  • Whatever it was you provided the company or person will eventually break, be made redundant, or be replaced by something else, but your reputation as a competent professional will remain with them long after what you gave them has been deleted or thrown into the trash
  • The human mind has cognitive biases and logical fallacies that sabotage the person’s ability to objectively rationalize, while simultaneously creating boundless possibilities on creativity

Your reputation, therefore, is far more powerful in people’s minds than it is in the actual office space where you work. Controlling your reputation in people’s minds is what turns you from a generalist to a specialist. 196

939. Once you have identified what kind of specialist you want to be known for, and in what market you want to dominate, immediately and as quickly as possible begin deeply focusing, learning and honing the hard and soft skills necessary to become known as a specialist and stand out in the industry. 116,195, 215,227

940. Immediately begin contributing to the industry by researching and writing informed, competent articles for your own website as well as relevant, reputable websites and publications which are read by people in your target industry. Your publications further establish your credentials in your target industry, which then give you deeper access to industry top performers who take you seriously and sit down with you and answer your questions and honestly open up to you. Procuring just one 20-minute interview with a well-known professional in an industry even further establishes your credibility and gives you context when you approach others. 72

941. Use your research to get your foot in the door and interview the top relevant people at the top companies you want to work for. Leverage your interviews and professional network and be smart about it, your contacts will eventually lead to a job doing what you want to do for a company you want to work for.72

942. People put a lot of emphasis and importance on your name and reputation. Who you are, who you know, and what you offer is important today because there are so many highly-skilled people looking for work every day.

In fact, what’s more important than the quality of your name and reputation are the reputation and credentials of the people networked with you.  Recruiters will hire you if they are convinced doing so will help them or make their lives easier, but they will also readily hire you because a person they know, trust and respect endorsed you or is publically investing in you. 72

943. Get your name on one important and relevant project and then use that to build your reputation and get assigned to other projects. Create a network ecosystem for yourself so that when you speak, people listen. 72

944. Invest in networking and creating a high-quality network of reputable professionals. Travel to wherever the influential decision-makers and well-connected industry leaders are. But don’t just go, organize your trip dates, then spend the next few months emailing and packing your schedule so full of meetings that by the time your plane lands at the airport you’re already 15 minutes late to your first meeting, and then EVERY meeting after that!

If you’re having difficulty getting reputable people to agree to meet you and take you seriously, then consider that as a sign that:

  • You haven’t yet identified yourself as a specialist or as someone who should be taken seriously, in which case you need to get your name on a few more projects
  • The projects you have worked on aren’t as important as you think they are, in which case you should be more ambitious and take greater risks and responsibility on larger projects
  • Something about how you are communicating – your emails, your approach, how you position yourself – isn’t effective and needs to be improved
  • What you’re specializing in or offering isn’t something the people you are contacting are interested in, in which case you should either do more research and identify the people who do see value in what you offer, or be able to show those people why it is in their best interest to pay attention to you. 2,72, 237

945. Pay special attention to how you communicate in your emails. Everybody wants something. Invest in researching and finding out exactly what each person you want to meet with needs and wants, and then craft the perfect email the right way that cuts through the thousands of other emails and meeting requests they likely receive and get them to respond to yours. This comes down to soft skills: the quality of your copywriting. 72

946. The primacy effect is the tendency for humans to remember what happened at the beginning of an event – their first encounter with you – and that positive or negative first impression tends to guide all subsequent judgments of you.

As a specialist, you should always provide your client with the absolute best content and assistance you can possibly offer them right from the start.

Doing so:

  • Puts your best foot forward. If you lead with your best content and advice, and the client or recruiter isn’t impressed, then either you didn’t communicate yourself correctly, your solution is not what they need, or perhaps you aren’t yet good enough to be considered a specialist
  • Affirms your authority in the eyes of the client or recruiter, making it easier for them to take you at your word and trust that you are capable of solving their problem(s) and meeting their needs and wants
  • Forces you to continually improve your weak points and seek out new strengths to stay relevant. Technology, industries, and needs and wants are constantly changing. Today’s problems become tomorrow’s solutions. If you fail to adapt and evolve, you will be quickly overtaken by other specialists who see the importance of staying up-to-date 41,116,195

947. Collect case studies. Any generalist can get lucky once or twice and then build a specialist persona around those lucky projects, and those lucky breaks may even turn into more lucky breaks. But specialists are able to consistently and successfully solve client’s problems again and again.

When your most recent case studies become so outdated that you feel embarrassed of your portfolio, then you’re either a generalist who got lucky, a specialist who is losing your edge, or a specialist who needs to revisit your business model to find new clients.

In the long run, solving the same problem over and over again does eventually become mundane and you lose inspiration. So be aware that this is natural, and know when you need to take a break or move on to other things. Don’t wait until you become so burned out and are no longer capable of producing quality work that your employer has to let you go.

Specialists who have lost their edge and have nothing to fall back on may go freelance. So clients must learn to identify when a specialist has burned out. 48,116,150,162,216,227

948. Form partnerships and selectively develop your professional network because specialists know and prefer to work with other specialists, and generalists know about and usually prefer to work with specialists. If you want to be known as a specialist, you have to develop a professional network of other specialists. 72,116,142

949. As you specialize, you learn tricks, techniques, and shortcuts that become your methodology for complex problem-solving. Your methodology develops into your reputation, which is what makes you unique and of high-quality. Your reputation is why potential clients contact you, and why current clients continue to work with you. Later in life, access to your methodology, techniques, and experience will be what younger, inexperienced generalists and aspiring specialists will pay you for. 139,162,215,219,232,237

950. Decisions come from pre-established and unconsciously primed emotional responses which are then justified consciously through rational thought processes during and after the fact. From the perspective of clients and recruiters:

  • Post-purchase rationalism is when the person consciously justifies why their decision to hire or work with you was a good one and brought them value. A right-positive hiring decision whereby they predict you would excel in the job position, and so choose to hire you
  • Buyer’s remorse is when the person regrets having made the decision to hire or work with you. A false-positive hiring decision whereby they incorrectly predict you would excel in the job position, and so hire you. Unfortunately, as time passes you fail to meet their expectations, and they regret their decision of having hired you
  • The choice-supportive bias is the tendency for humans to look back at decisions they have made in the past and believe they were better than they may have actually been

Therefore, as a crucial step in your decision-making process, actively seek to self-evaluate what really drives your decisions, and when dealing with other people, ask yourself what their underlying motives are as to why they are making the decisions they are making. Ask yourself:

  • What do I want the other person to do?
  • Where do I want our relationship to go?
  • What additional creative solutions can I propose so that everyone affected by the decision wins?
  • How can I set up a long-term working relationship that will turn into repeat revenue in the future?

For example, if you’re a specialist employed by a reputable brand and who has also published a book or an online training course teaching your best advice, tips and tricks learned, and a company offers you a paid public speaking engagement whereby attendees would pay an admission fee, consider ALL of the creative compensation solutions at your disposition. You could:

  • Demand a fixed price plus travel expenses and then invest that revenue into an advertising campaign to find more clients
  • Offer to speak for free plus travel expenses if the company buys and offers 2 copies of your book or access to your online training for each audience member and then let your product or service advertise itself rather than having to pay for advertising to find your next client
  • Offer a reduced speaking price if the company books multiple speaking engagements with you in the future
  • Offer a product or service barter rather than money, such as they promise to promote your training program on their social media accounts once a week for 6 months.
  • Etc. 78,127,165,169,179,211,216,227,229

951. Once you’ve identified the specialists in the field you want to enter, contact them and convince one of them to help and mentor you – even if it means inconveniencing yourself to fit into their schedule.

Over time, as you become more and more competent, your relationship may evolve into a friendship, or even a business partnership. 72,216

952. Follow and read popular and specialist blogs, but also think “Instead of just reading these blogs, why not actually interview the people who contribute to them: speak to them first hand and see what they have to share?”

Rather than asking the typical ‘generalist-generalist’ questions you usually read on blogs and in magazines, ask questions that you, and you assume, others in your profession would want to know the answer to. 72

953. High-quality, reliable and reputable sources and specialists who care about their reputation tend to band together and cite each other’s sources and research, and their research grows and stems from each other in a linear fashion. Meanwhile useless, polluted, and poor-quality sources and ‘scientific studies’ and theories hosted on websites and blogs whose advertising-based business model which relies on quantity of visitors over quality of content build up alongside those reputable sources, periodically linking to the high-quality sources, but very rarely, if ever, are linked to by the high-quality sources.

Develop a reputation for providing reliable, high-quality information from verified sources while simultaneously communicating and building a relationship with those verified and reliable specialists, and their reputation will extend to you. 120

954. Humans have a natural tendency to like, be drawn to, and want to help people who listen to them when they talk. This tendency can be so strong that they will often go out of their way to help you.

Further, passionate and open-minded specialists love talking about their work and industry, and helping others acquire the skill sets they themselves have mastered. Reward or not, they enjoy opportunities to teach their craft to someone else, especially if teaching it allows them to see new and useful ways of applying their expertise.

Further still, ambitious people love helping others who can and will reciprocally return the favor.

This means that the networks of professionals you want to be a part of have already been established, and you just need to find a way in. Informational interviewing is the process of contacting – via cold calling or by way of a mutual acquaintance – reputable specialists in a particular field and getting them to share with you:

  • Their sincere emotional opinion on their job, their career, and their industry
  • Their strategies and techniques they have learned through experience
  • The pros and cons of working in the industry. This is important to know because one of the signs of an experienced specialist is their ability to see, and even laugh at, the weaknesses in their industry
  • Quality sources they’d recommend you look into
  • A list of several other reputable specialists you should contact with permission to say they referred you
  • Invaluable insight into their industry’s strengths and weaknesses, how it works, where it is going, and how you should proceed to establish your own reputation within the industry

Conduct but two high-quality informational interviews per week and get the names of two other unique people to contact, and within six months you will have accumulated a direct network of 52 specialists, a ton of invaluable information and sources, plus thousands of other specialists you have been given permission to contact via reference.

But how, as a stranger or industry outsider can you:

  • Elicit a sincere, emotional opinion
  • Hear detailed and in-depth stories
  • Inspire enough trust and transparency to obtain useful advice beyond the useless ‘canned responses’ typically reserved for fans and the media

…while avoid getting yourself transferred to the company’s public relations department responsible for media response and crisis management? Here are a few important steps:

  • Make sure you have everything you need to effectively record or take notes during the interview, as well as a backup plan if your original means doesn’t function. If the person agrees to give you an hour of their time only to find after your interview that your microphone battery died three minutes into the conversation, you’ll have wasted both of your time and ruined a chance to make a good first impression
  • Begin by assuring them that you’re there to gather sources to help you break into the industry or do your job better, and that you have no intention of making them look bad or incompetent. If you plan on turning your interview into a podcast or an online blog piece, let them know and reassure them that they will have the final edit of their interview before it is posted online. If the person declines, respect that. It’s better to build a relationship with them and benefit from their experience than it is to publish their thoughts against their will and burn a bridge for a few measly website visitors
  • Offer to do the interview in whichever format they prefer: face-to-face, skype, email, or telephone, but remember that your goal is to make a mutually-beneficial professional connection whereby the both of you can help each other in the future. Therefore even with email interviews, always try to at least get a skype or telephone call to say thank you
  • Ensure your questions are properly prepared:
    • “How did you fall into this particular industry?”
    • “Why do you stay in this particular industry?
    • “How has the industry evolved since you first entered it?”
    • “Where do you see the industry heading?”
    • “In my research, the average person thinks that your industry is moving towards… What would you say to them?”
    • “In your experience, what foundational technologies do you see posing the greatest threat to your industry in the future?”
    • “In your opinion, what would be the next logical step in your career evolution?”
    • “I found you through X. How did you meet this person? How did you get interviewed for this website?”
  • Build rapport and trust by being as sincere and vulnerable as you would like the other person to be with you by talking about your own weaknesses or experiences 1,72,182,216,219,225,227

955. Email copywriting is really all about your approach, and positioning. If you approach people as a ‘fan,’ that will likely turn them off. They may respond to you and thank you for following their work or connecting with them on LinkedIn (or whatever social media) and emailing them, but they probably won’t take your request too seriously.

But if you approach them objectively, professionally, and with a valid business opportunity such as:

“Hey, I’m interviewing accomplished executives in the _______ industry for my own improvement as well as for a project I’m working on. I’ve interviewed a few of your peers such as Mr. X, Mrs. Y, and Mrs. Z, and I’m interested in what you have to say about your experience. Would you be available to answer a few questions and be featured in my project?”

…you’re much more likely to get a positive response such as ‘yes, it would be a pleasure’ or at least a ‘Sounds interesting, tell me more about it.’ 72

956. Don’t idolize and settle yourself to be a mere ‘fan’ of anyone who has already developed a name and reputation for themselves because:

  • You will likely end up imitating what they are doing rather than going off on your own and creating something new
  • Most likely when you finally meet them you will be disappointed with who they are and the ‘god’ you created them to be in your head.

If you have the same ambitions as they do and you are operating with the best techniques, strategies, and methodologies available to you – as they are, then they are merely equals who have already found their niche and successful business model.

As a generalist wanting to become a specialist:

  • Gain as much hands-on experience as you can, as quickly as you can
  • Learn through trial and error
  • Work with and interview specialists in your target area of interest
  • Focus on being identified as a specialist in something brands need and are willing to pay for, both now and in the future
  • Increase your knowledge in your industry as quickly as you can 162,180,215,219,227

957. As a specialist, your goal isn’t to convince others that you’re better or bigger than you really are; your goal is to convince the potential client that you are the best solution available to them when it comes to solving a particular problem within a particular budget.

But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t position yourself as bigger than you currently are, especially if how you position yourself determines whether or not a potential client will become a client. Many large companies only want to work with large companies. As an independent specialist working alone, you can pitch on behalf of yourself: “I work with companies to solve this problem…”, or you can pitch on behalf of yourself as a brand: “We work with companies to solve this problem…” What’s important is that as a specialist, you only promise what you know you can do, and that you never cause people to feel like you’ve manipulated or tricked them. 50,115,161

958. Specializing and building a reputation around you, an person, can be better than building a reputation of your brand because doing so:

  • Builds a professional network around you rather than around the brand or project you’re currently working on. People may respect your brand, but that doesn’t benefit your reputation as an entrepreneur or independent if people aren’t aware that you’re the owner of the brand
  • Enables you to transfer your reputation into other, future projects without having to start building your reputation all over again
  • Leads to further opportunities because other brands and organizations will pay you, the independent, to give guest lectures and presentations to their fans, employees, graduating classes, etc. This earned media even further secures your reputation
  • Your reputation in one industry or field-of-work can help you break into a completely different and unrelated industry
  • You will never be lacking for work. Simply send a tweet, post on LinkedIn, or email everyone you know, and your professional network will feel confident referring you 50,140

959. Because anyone can instantly publish anything they want onto the internet without taking the time to verify and cross-check the facts, information pollution accumulates in every industry and field of study, and it is harder and harder for generalists and those unfamiliar with the subject to tell the reliable information from the unreliable. As such it is harder and harder for specialists to develop a reputation for themselves and be taken seriously amid so much contradictory and false information, notably when modern online business models reward websites with money through paid advertising, regardless of whether the information contained on those heavily-trafficked websites are reliable or not. 120,181

960. Regardless of how specialized your interests, education, and experience thus far, never stop learning and adding new skill sets – related, unrelated, and complimentary to your identified mid- and long-term goals (discussed earlier). Eventually you may have to make a decision as to which job or industry you will focus on, but choosing to take a particular path doesn’t necessarily disqualify you from maintaining and learning new skill sets that position you to move from current positions into new opportunities and career paths later on.

Smart brands don’t recruit employees, and innovative clients don’t hire specialists only because of their knowledge and experience in a particular and related field; Smart brands hire specialists for their ability to consistently solve problems, regardless of their previous work experience, and because they enjoy working with the specialist. Sell your ability to solve problems and get along well with others, not the amount of experience you possess. 115,215

961. How a human behaves with the little, insignificant things when he or she thinks nobody is watching says a lot about who the person really is. 216

962. The first step to being identified as a specialist is getting you and your work noticed to prove your worth, and getting noticed will be through:

  • Your personal style
  • The consistency and quality of the work you’re paid to do
  • Strategically identifying, proposing, and volunteering for special projects beyond the scope of your current job position that will improve your skill sets and give you the greatest exposure within your company and industry while demanding the least amount of work on your part as possible
  • Building your professional network, both in your company, industry, and online
  • Being known as the best at a particular skill that is transferrable and relevant to your company not just in your current position, but in positions higher up in the company
  • Continually expanding your skillset and knowledge; you should be twice as knowledgeable today as you were a year ago, regardless of how long you have been in business
  • Learning the software and responsibilities of your superiors so that when a managerial vacancy becomes available, you are in a position to immediately step into it with little additional training required. You must be the first, obvious choice for internal promotions among all the other employees in your company
  • Identifying ways of reducing your team’s, department’s, company’s costs and increasing productivity
  • Making sure human resources identifies you as a top performer that should be developed and promoted

Ideally, you should optimize your schedule and workload so that you can afford to reserve several hours each day to focus on achieving these objectives. 116,180,188,216,219

963. One of the quickest ways of gaining experience and specialization is to spend time abroad. If you’re willing to leave everything you know and are comfortable with, international offices and projects are usually areas where expanding companies are struggling the most, and your being willing to spend a year or two in a foreign country and on a project the company is struggling with may be the one of the best ways to gain the most useful experience and start branding yourself as a specialist in the least amount of time possible.

If you don’t know which projects and offices within your company are struggling, email your human resources director and/or the appropriate superior and tell them:

“Hi, I’ve enjoyed working for our company over the past year, and I’m interested in gaining more experience and being as useful as I can. If you or another department is currently having difficulties with projects or recruiting to fill positions within the company, no matter where in the world, I’m interested in learning about it and being considered for the position if you feel my professional background would be of value.”

Done correctly, this approach could get you a face-to-face meeting with superiors you would never normally have met, identify you as a top performer to be invested in, and open the world up to you in terms of travel and finding a job you truly enjoy. But before you agree to take on any position, be sure you’re not actually unwittingly walking into a career-killing position. (Covered later) 152,188,216,219

964. Use patience, opportunity, and volunteerism in a way that does the most for your long-term goals while using as little time and effort as possible. Volunteering for every project that is proposed to you may let everyone in your company know you exist, but if doing so prohibits you from fulfilling your own job’s responsibilities, moves you away from the direction you want to head, damages the reputation you are working to achieve, or disqualifies you for future promotions and important projects that really matter to your career, then you are not optimizing your time and energy. 188,216

965. Most jobs are a combination of:

  • Responsibilities: Set, fixed tasks you are paid to do
  • Extra-responsibilities: The projects and responsibilities you take on which aren’t originally included in your contract and that you aren’t necessarily paid or are expected to do
  • Style: Individual, unique ways you do your job

You may be able to build a reputation for the consistent and superior-quality of your work, but more likely you’ll develop your reputation by how you do your job (style) as well as what additional responsibilities you work on. 188,216

966. As a specialist, you are expected to have a certain level of autonomy, above-average competence in your field, and make far fewer mistakes than the average generalist would. But being a specialist doesn’t mean you know everything, can do everything, and that your work is always flawless.

Being comfortable admitting…

  • “I don’t know, but I’ll find out ASAP”
  • “I don’t understand/I could use some help”
  • “I made a mistake”

…reveals a lot about your value as a specialist humble and intelligent enough to admit you don’t know everything and your willingness to collaborate with others for mutual gain and to get the job done.

Likewise, saying you don’t understand and asking for further explanation forces those around you to re-evaluate how they communicate and explain their ideas, which may lead to them realizing that they are being unclear or incorrectly assuming everyone believes the same way they do.

Being a specialist doesn’t mean ALWAYS having EVERY answer, but it does entail:

  • Collecting as many different strategies, perspectives, and approaches to a solution as possible
  • Copying and extrapolating on those strategies and approaches
  • Knowing how to adapt  them to best fit a specific problem

To accomplish this you must stay up-to-date through continued education and research, being taught by people more competent than you in a specific skillset, and by training people who aren’t as strong as you in a specific skillset. 180,188,206,216,219

967. The best and most skilled and successful people in an industry publish books, articles, and case studies to teach what they have learned to others. Find them and read them. 180

968. As you are exposed to and incorporate sources strategies, tricks, and problem-solving approaches into your professional life, you develop your own unique methodology. You’ll also notice that the sources you read consistently refer to and build upon the same sources, case studies, and authors which came before them. This is because reliable, high-quality information from reputable specialists within in a particular subject tends to build upon one another.

These sources fall into one of several categories:

  • Sources you have never heard of, and therefore haven’t read
  • Sources you have heard of, but haven’t read or skimmed through
  • Sources you have heard of, and can recall having read or skimmed through
  • Sources you have heard of, and can recall having skimmed through, for example at a book shop or in someone else’s personal library
  • Sources you have heard of, but cannot remember having read or skimmed through

This source overlapping means that eventually you will reach a point in your knowledge database where you can confidently discuss sources and subjects you aren’t 100% familiar with because:

  • There is so much information – reliable and unreliable – available today that it can be difficult to distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources because:
    • Online business models reward content publishers with money through paid advertising, regardless of whether the information is of high-quality or not
    • The ability for anyone to publish anything they want onto the internet immediately and unpenalized
    • Human reliance on and belief that search engine algorithms are objective and unbiased
  • The human brain is vulnerable to so many cognitive biases, logical fallacies and heuristics that we cannot reliably trust ourselves to consistently make sound decisions
  • Modern languages contain so many rhetorical devises, ambiguity, and limitations on accurately translating and communicating thoughts and feelings – especially when communicating between languages – that we cannot reliably trust that what we want to communicate will be understood by the other party

What therefore makes a specialist become known as a specialist isn’t that you know absolutely EVERYTHING there is to possibly know about any particular subject, but that you:

  • Appear up-to-date on all the strengths and weaknesses of the theories, methodologies, and problem-solving strategies relevant to the industry you claim to specialize in
  • Appear able to understand the context and relationship of all those theories, methodologies and strategies
  • Either maintain a deep and narrow understanding of a few topics, of which you can thoroughly and competently talk about, or maintain a vast and shallow understanding of many different topics and can effectively collaborate with those who likewise maintain a deep and narrow understanding of a few topics
  • Appear able to consistently apply that knowledge to solve the problems you set out to accomplish in a way clients and peers deem acceptable. 48,84,115,120,139,164,183,187,201,208,232,237

969. While limited budgets can spark creativity and unique solutions, especially when it comes to advertising and marketing (refer to How to Shape Human Behavior 2nd Edition), limited budgets also tend to limit the level of quality resources at your disposal. While the highest quality technology, training, and specialists are worth the investment, they usually don’t come cheap. This can prevent even the most ambitious and promising people and startups from standing out in from the crowd, especially against more financially-backed competitors.

Perhaps your best approach to becoming identified as a specialist on a ‘limited budget’ would be to:

  • Take full advantage of the high-quality information and resources freely available around you, be it online, in your professional network, at your school or office, etc. Online ‘freemium’ business models make high-quality content and expertise available to you for free, or inexpensively
  • Learn Boolean search strings to better navigate online search engines and gain access to high-quality information and tools that don’t appear in a default search result
  • Define the retail value of what you’re expertise is worth and don’t be intimidated to quote and explain that price when pitching to clients or recruiters
  • Identify creative solutions, through bartering, partnerships, collaborations, sacrifice, etc. to pay for or access more expensive, high-quality resources and networks
  • Identify creative solutions to build your reputation as a specialist

Once your reputation has been established, slowly deepen and diversify your expertise.  27,44,115,116,162,215,216

970. As a specialist, you must identify and network with other identified top performing specialists as well as those unknown people who are full of potential yet are relatively unknown today. In a few years, those unknowns could be highly regarded specialists or key decision-makers in influential companies whom you’ll be trying to sell yourself to. 216,227

971. Because the work you do is but one piece in a larger, overall system, and because others are basing their schedule, deadlines, and workload around what you promise them just as you’re basing your schedule, deadlines, and workload around what somebody else has promised you, as a specialist you must never miss a deadline and keep people waiting for you, and whenever you do commit to a deadline, you should always factor in enough additional time to ensure that, should things go unexpectedly wrong – such as colleagues calling in sick or your internet going down for an entire afternoon – that you can still meet your deadline. The quickest way to damage your reputation is to waste someone’s time. 188,216,219

972. No company’s workflow is ever 100% efficient, and upstream colleagues will have special demands that may make their particular job easier but make your workload more difficult. So don’t ever complain about something unless:

  • You understand the larger, upstream context of why you’re being asking to do what it is you’re complaining about, and if it can be fixed
  • Have at least one solution to propose to solve their upstream problem. Complaining about problems without offering solutions is the quickest way to develop a reputation of being lazy and incompetent, and nobody wants to listen to, take seriously, or promote a person who seems to do nothing but complain. 188,219

973. In most industries, the guidelines, processes and techniques taught and used by specialists today were intentionally developed over the years through trial-and-error and through an understanding of human behavior and critical thinking processes.

A major problem with generalists and specialists alike is when they become skilled at applying ‘proven’ strategies and solutions without first understanding their underlying foundational reasons for existing and being ‘proven’ in the first place, such as:

  • UX/UI designers who design ‘user-centered’ websites and mobile applications without understanding the principles of human cognition
  • Brands who assume that uploading their expensive and successful television commercial onto YouTube will have the same level of success as it did on television without understanding that people consumer information differently online and on television
  • ‘Growth hackers’ who collect and modify previously successful ‘growth hacking’ tricks without understanding why the strategy worked, or blindly accepting claims by some growth hacking ‘guru’ who outlines after-the-fact assumptions as to why they believe a strategy they used probably worked. 157,162,176,180,195,212,214

974. Top performing, highly-skilled people who have amassed a deep understanding of strategies, best practices, and skill sets from one industry and domain may help and provide a unique perspective into other industries and domains, but competence and specialization in one domain does not automatically translate into another domain. The most competent leaders in one domain can be utterly incompetent in another.

This is because the most important elements of any decision are:

  • Sources. The data, facts, and information supporting each decision’s alternatives. Quality, reliable sources can be difficult to come by, and people are generally gathering information under deadline – meaning they don’t do a very good job at collecting enough reliable sources because they don’t have enough time to do it. Since they usually have no idea if and how the information they collect will be used in the future, and whether or not the information will actually be used, they therefore prefer to gather data from a variety of different sources they feel are as reasonably acceptable as possible
  • Critical thinking skills. The process by which you interpret the above sources through a consistently reliable decision-making process to arrive at the best possible solution

If your sources are reliable and accurate but your critical thinking skills are biased and flawed, or if your critical thinking skills are objective and accurate but your sources are flawed, any acceptable conclusions you do reach will be in part because you got lucky.

Being a specialist, therefore, involves acquiring an automated mastery in both the search and collection of reliable sources as well as an impeccable critical thinking process. Unfortunately, the very automated mastery of critical thinking you honed as a specialist in one field doesn’t mean those same critical thinking processes and sources will be accurate in another domain. In fact, similar to cultures and the interpretation of body language, the same gestures and thought processes can be interpreted completely opposite. 100,184,212,219,226,232

975. Outrival those who are better than you. Humans perceived as specialists may have the advantage over generalists and subsequent strength at the negotiation table, but that doesn’t mean specialists will ALWAYS win. While a specialist may be able to consistently accomplish more difficult tasks in shorter time, a generalist willing to work 2x, 3x, 10x longer and harder can still meet the same deadlines as those specialists, and begin standing out as a ‘specialist.’ You may not be the smartest, fastest, strongest, most-experienced or best-networked, but you can still narrow the playing field and compete by being the hardest and most optimized worker.

If the end result you give to your boss or client is equally on budget, on deadline, and as good as the end result a specialist gives to the client, how long it took you to create the end product is irrelevant as far as the boss and client are concerned. If you’re not seen as a top performing specialist, then work as hard and as long as you must until you are being compared to and categorized with them. Those sacrifices you make in the short-run will pay dividends over time.

‘Specialists’ may not currently seem to need to work as hard as a generalist to find new clients or job offers because they have already put in the hard work of building their reputation and professional network. But a specialist is only as good as their latest project, or the latest job position and company on their CV.

To summarize, to move from a generalist to a specialist:

  • Don’t wait; start now. Even if you are dependent upon someone else before you can begin, there is absolutely no excuse why you cannot start now:
    • If you cannot launch your new blog until your web designer has finished creating your website, start writing articles now so that by the time your website is ready you already have 25 finished articles lined up.
    • If the classes in your fall semester’s MBA program don’t begin for another 6 months, find out what the required reading is and start reading them now
    • If the final draft of How to Shape Human Behavior 3rd edition is 85,421 words and the graphic designer designing your book cover needs one more week before its ready, take advantage of your luck by returning to your library, grabbing 19 additional books you didn’t think you’d have time to include in your 3rd Edition, and then incorporate your notes into your updated final draft
  • Work as hard as you have to provide the same quality work as a specialist does
  • Double your intelligence and understanding of your industry as often as possible through reading, attending trainings, conducting informational interviews (discussed earlier) and working with specialists
  • Learn all the shortcuts built into software programs so you optimize your time and energy by avoiding slow, repetitive actions and working more quickly and efficiently (i.e. CTRL+C, CTRL+P, CTRL+S…)
  • Replace outdated and obsolete software and methods such as the QWERTY keyboard layout – which was created in the age of typewriters and was intentionally designed to slow people down because of the typewriter’s slow moving parts – to the modern, computer-based Dvorak computer keyboard layout
  • Maximize the speed and click-rate of your computer mouse
  • Ensure your office space is organized and has the highest possible internet connection possible so that you aren’t wasting time waiting for pages and documents to load
  • Volunteer to work for free if you must in order to learn what you need to learn, and most importantly…
  • Disrupt your competitors and change the rules of the game so that the game favors you
  • Become so competent at solving problems critical to a company’s success that your competitors cannot ignore you, and potential clients will hire you simply because they know that your competitors have, and therefore may be operating at an advantage

…then eventually you will be the one who seems to never have to work as hard to find new clients or job offers. Frankly, if you started from the bottom and now you’re here, then the ‘specialists’ whom you bested deserve to have been bested. 49,116,162,219

976. As the results of your hard work begin paying off and your reputation as a specialist grows:

  • Clients will offer to pay you to identify and solve their problems
  • Brands will offer to pay you to use and promote their brand, products and services. They will contact you willing to pay hundreds of dollars if you’ll put a specific hyperlink on a specific word on a specific article on your website. While this may be a convenient way of earning money, protect your reputation and don’t let yourself become a puppet for brands or people who offer products and services you disagree with or that take away from the integrity you’ve worked so hard to earn 20,181,219,232

977. The vast majority of any job involves completing mundane tasks, paperwork, and attending meetings, which for the most part go unnoticed – you blend in and are largely forgotten. However, there are also those few moments where everybody’s eyes are on you, and you have the opportunity to demonstrate exactly how skilled, competent, and ambitious you are, such as during:

  • Your recruitment process when recruiters, bosses, and decision-makers are assessing how competent and qualified you are for the position
  • Your first three month-trial period in your new position when everybody is assessing how well you fit in and whether or not you will excel
  • Annual performance reviews when superiors are assessing how well you are at setting and meeting goals and objectives
  • Meetings and presentations you organize and present at when everybody is assessing how well you are at problem-solving, planning, communicating, and persuading
  • Meetings and presentations you attend where people are assessing how well you are at listening, following directions, fitting in, and asking important questions
  • Professional LinkedIn updates where colleagues and recruiters who follow you are learning about extra-hobbies, projects, and websites you contribute to outside of your working hours

Save your energy and skillset for those crucial moments when they matter most. It goes without saying that as a specialist you will never turn in projects late and of poor quality, and you will never ‘cheat:’ turning in reports hoping superiors won’t notice are incomplete – no matter how much unpaid overtime you must work to complete them, but if as a specialist 4 hours is enough for you to prepare an acceptable quality project of little importance that nobody will ever see, then don’t waste 14 hours of your time making it flawless and comprehensive, especially when the document will never go anywhere important. Instead, spend 4 hours writing an acceptable quality project and invest the remaining 10 hours in improving your professional network, learning a relevant software, and preparing for and creating those moments where everyone’s eyes are on you. 

If the project isn’t key and can’t be used to bring you closer to meeting your goals, then don’t put any more work into it than what is needed. 188,216,219

978. Once brands realize they have a need and that you are one of many alternatives that meet their need, they become a potential client. Depending on that potential client’s estimated budget, all alternatives are then classified into possible solutions, from ‘the best’ solution to ‘the worst.’

Whether you are one job seeker among a candidate pool of many, or one of many independents pitching to a potential client, if they see you as a generalist, they will see you as a mediocre, less expensive solution compared to the more expensive, specialist alternatives. While you may not know or be able to control who a potential client compares you with, you can control – through your branding and marketing strategy – whether or not you will be viewed as a specialist, or as a generalist. 111,116,203

For more on creating a professional marketing and branding strategy, read How to Shape Human Behavior for Advertisers.

979. Start off on the right foot. Whether your goal is to distinguish yourself as a specialist in your industry or as an entrepreneur, how you define yourself: the words you use to define who you are to your target demographic, and more importantly to yourself, define your capacity for success or failure. 203

980. Intelligence – your capacity for learning and applying what you learn – is one of the most important strengths you can possess because all of the modern problems humans and businesses face – environmental, health, poverty… – will require intelligence to solve them.

Intelligence is being able to explain something, even if you don’t agree with or believe it. 78,101

981. Memory is made of data, facts and emotions. Your ability to combine these elements into a logical and compelling story about your professional background you tell recruiters and potential clients is how you establish your credibility as a specialist and top performer.

For example, don’t let yourself become known as an accountant who was promoted to a managerial position; be known as a manager who started off as an accountant. 87,116,188,195,227

982. As a specialist who thoroughly understands your industry, the problems and concerns employers and clients bring to you may in fact be insignificant or irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. As insignificant and irrelevant as these client concerns may be, the client’s perceived ‘problems’ are important to them because they perhaps don’t fully understand your industry as well as you do, which is why they are paying you to help them. If your client is concerned about it, and takes the time to bring it to your attention, that by default makes it important, and it is your responsibility to diplomatically take your client’s concern seriously and address it. 192

983. As a specialist, you should be able to find new employers and – as a freelance – win new business by (in order of importance):

  • Word-of-mouth. New clients and recruits approach you because current and former clients have referred you, or because your profile is the first on the list whenever they search for candidates online
  • Competitive advantage. Your solution to a potential client’s problem should be so much better than any other competitor’s offer that you are without a doubt the person the client wants to work with. If you cannot identify at least one strength that you can position as a competitive advantage to demonstrate you are a specialist, then you will be forced to compete with generalists on price
  • Top two. If you cannot show you are visibly better than all your other competitors, then be so good that you are among the top two or three final alternatives
  • Work harder, revisit your branding strategy, or walk away. If you are consistently being rejected and not even making the final round of interviews, then either you aren’t working hard enough, or you haven’t found and effectively communicated your unique selling proposition that sets you apart from your competitors, or perhaps you should re-evaluate your strengths so you can identify in what way you can become identified as a specialist. If you cannot do  this, then perhaps you should give up and re-evaluate your goals 116,219

984. The better you understand a process or protocol, the better you are at identifying its strengths, weaknesses, and inconsistencies. 139,215

985. Business gestures are things you do in a professional context for someone else. Whether you are doing something for someone with the express intention of them ‘owing you one’ at some point in the future, or whether it is genuine offer to someone you appreciate with no express intention of reciprocation, make sure your business gesture:

  • Is noticed by the other person. If the other person isn’t aware that you have done something for them, the whole benefit of the gesture will have been lost. The person cannot thank you or repay you if they are unaware you have done something special for them
  • Is discreet. A business gesture with too obvious an expectation of reciprocity will still likely lead to them returning the favor, but they will only do so out of social obligation and not because they genuinely care about you

There are several types of business gestures:

  • Short-term gestures that make a person’s day or afternoon better and are then forgotten, such as:
    • Paying a compliment for work done well
    • Brewing a large pot of coffee for everyone just after lunch
    • Offering to do some mundane task your colleague dislikes doing
    • Etc.
  • Long-term gestures that make the person’s life better and are never forgotten, such as:
    • Providing a character reference to help a person get a new job
    • Showing them a skill or shortcut that saves them hours of work each week
    • Buying their children a nice birthday present
    • Letting them back out of commitments they made to you, or forgiving mistakes made
    • Giving them all the credit for a project you both worked on together just before their annual performance evaluation, thus helping them negotiate a pay raise
    • Helping them develop in their career by introducing them to professionals they otherwise would never have met 169,188,216

986. Ideally, your area of specialization should be unique enough that even other specialists will not necessarily be considered direct competition, and those who might be considered as competition would stand to benefit more through collaboration and sharing each other’s expertise, professional networks and clients than competing for market domination.

If rather than seeing other top performing specialists as competitors and seeking to discredit them to your advantage, you embrace them as another way to provide value and a different yet complimentary perspective, this creates a win/win situation for everybody involved. 184,214

987. As a specialist, you understand that success comes neither quickly, cheaply, nor easily, and that while there are methodologies, philosophies, and research strategies which have proven in the past to be more effective than others in minimizing the role luck plays in your success, there are no such things as a 100% guarantee. 162,176,180,195,212,214

988. You become a specialist by working with and learning from the best, and through trial and error – both through your own mistakes and through observing other’s mistakes. But it’s your responsibility to learn and be taught; not your professor’s, mentor’s, boss’s, or colleague’s responsibility to teach you. 162

989. Generalists become specialists once they have identified their unique selling point that clients are willing to pay money for. Until recruiters and clients can see a meaningful difference between you and your competitors, you will be treated as a generalist.

Even if you are relatively the same as your competitors, you still have your own unique professional background and story that make your skillset unique from everyone else in your industry.

There are many different techniques specialists use to differentiate themselves from their competitors. For example, you can create your very own unique selling proposition (USP) by focusing on your:

  • Product/Brand name
  • Features and physical characteristics
  • Logo/Identity
  • Packaging
  • Taste/Flavor
  • Heritage/History/Reputation
  • Price
  • Competition
  • How your product is made
  • Key ingredients
  • Product lifespan
  • Personality
  • Attitude
  • Your consumer
  • You, the owner or your staff. 53,150,223

990. To find your unique selling point, look at the intersection between what is true about you and your skill set relative to your target industry you want to be known as a specialist in. At this intersection you will find the problem that is preventing you from being identified as a specialist that you need to improve upon so you can position yourself. This problem can be:

  • Notoriety. Nobody knows you exist, in which case you need to invest more in professional networking so more recruiters and potential clients know you exist
  • Image. The recruiters and potential clients who know you exist have a bad impression of you, in which case you need to improve the quality of your work and reputation in their eyes, or start from scratch, find a new recruiter or client-base, and don’t make the same mistakes you did before that lead to your bad reputation
  • Product or service weakness. What you offer is not seen as meaningfully different than what everyone else is offering, in which case you must either improve what you offer, or find a better, more unique way of describing your offer so recruiters and potential clients understand why you’re better
  • Competitive weakness. Your competitors are in a stronger position and have advantages you lack, such as certifications you don’t have, fluency in required languages you lack, work visas, etc., in which case you must assess whether or not you can diminish their competitive advantage, or find your own advantages that they lack. 53,115,116,150

991. As a specialist, you understand that consumers and clients could care less how much time and money you sacrificed to become who you are or create what you offered. They care only about what you can offer them and how you can meet their needs and wants. Therefore your only objective is to understand who your target audience is and what they need as intimately as possible before determining how you can help them – or even if you are their best alternative to solving their problem. If you won’t take the time to understand them and what’s important to them, why should they take the time to care about who you are and what you have to say? 116,214

992. Saying “Yes” usually signals agreement and the end of a negotiation, while saying “No” is an invitation to negotiate. In situations where you have neither the desire to say “Yes,” nor the time and incentive to say ‘No’ followed by an explanation as to why you’re saying “No,” sometimes the best solution to avoiding a negotiation altogether is by simply not responding. If the other party absolutely HAS TO have a “Yes” from you, he or she will take the time to do their research and choose their timing, logic, and approach so that you see why it’s in your best interest to say “Yes” to them.

That being said, if you HAVE TO get a “Yes” from someone who isn’t responding to you, then either:

  • You’re not as important as you think you
  • You haven’t done a good job of explaining to the other person how important their “Yes” is
  • You’re dealing with a personality that will need to be more strategically managed and adapted to if you want to be productive
  • You’re dealing with an incompetent person
  • That person is on vacation and forget to turn on their out-of-office auto-responder 216,219

993. Where you are in your career today, and the power you have at the negotiation table, is the result of all of the “Yesses” you said over the course of your career thus far. If you are unhappy with where you are today, then it wasn’t you who has shaped your career, rather it was all those other people you said ‘Yes’ to whom you allowed to shape who you are.. 

To correct this and to begin taking control over your career, ask yourself:

  • What were the goals and objectives you set for yourself when you first started your career?
  • Looking back over all the ‘Yesses’ you said during all of your previous negotiations and interactions with clients, colleagues, and bosses, which of those “Yesses” demanded you deviate from your initial career goals, and which you should have spent more time contemplating on before saying ‘Yes?’
  • What circumstances around those ‘Yesses’ convinced you to say ‘Yes’ when in retrospect you perhaps should have said ‘No?’
  • Moving forward, what are your current and realistic career goals that want to reach in the future?
  • What can you do starting now to ensure that from this day forward you only say ‘Yes’ to opportunities that help you reach your career goals?
  • How can you take advantage of your past experience and start positioning yourself today so that you are able to say ‘No’ to future opportunities that will appear ‘too good to pass up,’ but do not align with your career goals?

That being said, you never know when saying ‘Yes’ could lead to ‘lucky’ introductions and knowledge learned that turn into extraordinary opportunities in the future. This is where the value of your professional network comes in; always aim to say to potential clients “I’m sorry I cannot do that for you at this time, but I can refer you to two or three people I trust who I believe can help you.” As a professional specialist, access to your professional network can be as valuable as the advice, strategies, and solutions you offer your clients. 116,182,212,219

994. People want and expect a certain level of quality; therefore it’s crucial when creating a useful high-quality professional network that:

  • Your network wants to continually follow, listen to and be open to being contacted by you
  • The people you’re networked with trust you and want to be a part of what you’re doing 72

995. With any belief, emerging technology, or future-thinking person, those innovative first movers are usually labelled as idiots and unrealistic. But overtime as awareness grows and the emerging technology and trends go more mainstream, people begin talking about it more and more, taking it more seriously, and eventually start incorporating it into their lives. Those few first movers who saw the potential and the social and technological landscape in advance and who invested in learning all about it, by the time it goes mainstream will be the most knowledgeable people on it.

Becoming a specialist, sometimes, can be as simple as identifying something new that very few others have seen and positioning yourself as competent in it before everybody else has had a chance to do so. 119,147, 188,230

996. Don’t confuse your reputation as a specialist with the work you do. Yes, clients invest in specialists because they are guaranteed a reliable solution and value for money, but among all the other options available, clients chose to work with you because they trust in your reputation for consistently providing quality service in everything you do. 116,161

997. There is so much information available today – for free or at an affordable price – that to remain ignorant and uninformed is a conscious choice. 144

998. Assume your clients have a hundred other equally qualified alternatives to solving their problem besides you, and differentiate yourself with a real distinct personality. Potential clients remember distinct personalities. 147

999. If you’re going to stand up for something, stand up for it all the time; not some of the time or only when it is in your best interest. Integrity is the most important thing you have; not something to be taken lightly. 147

1000. Having a sense of humor is a great way to create a positive long-lasting impression. Being able to laugh at yourself as well as the weaknesses in your industry shows you don’t take yourself too seriously, helps diffuse tense situations, and shows you are experienced enough in your industry that you can see the weaknesses in it. 183,216,227

1001. Saying ‘No’ gives your ‘Yes’ more integrity. Turning down work because they cannot afford you or because you are perhaps not the best solution to their problem gives your solutions more authority. 116,216

1002. Substance versus form. You may have a superior product, service, or reputation, but if it is not presented, communicated, or marketed correctly, you will not have power in any negotiation. Power and authority in negotiations is dependent upon the other party acknowledging you have it. 46,115

1003. Companies bring in external specialists and experts to help implement a new idea or make company-wide changes because those specialists have a unique external perspective and have dealt with the specific problem so often with other, similar companies that they instinctively know how to most efficiently manage it. 118

1004. To reach your full potential, advance quickly within a company structure, and/or overall in your career, it’s imperative you understand how the promotion and talent development system works. Knowing this puts you at the advantage over your fellow employees. 88

1005. Theory versus practice. Knowing how to do a job, and actually doing the job, are two different issues. Your competency will be decided by human resources’ assessment of your perceived experience, knowledge of the necessary hard- and soft-skills, and personality traits necessary to adequately handle the responsibilities of the job position in question. 88

1006. Educational versus professional backgrounds. Learning and teaching how to do something isn’t the same as learning by doing something. Universally, humans tend to assume that professional experience is better than educational experience; that your ability to teach in an industry doesn’t mean you can actually do the work you’re teaching, and any accomplishments you’ve made in the education industry is not as valuable in the industry you are teaching in. As a result, the professional experiences and case studies you base your teachings on should blend your education and experience into a story so that everyone will remember you training capabilities while not undermining your ability to provide value because of any prejudgments on the other person’s part.

Just because you’re a teacher/trainer/coach doesn’t mean you are incapable of doing the actual job of the people you are training. Don’t let others define you by who they think you ought to be. 162,182

1007. Charging higher fees from wealthier clients so you can offer your services for free to less fortunate, struggling communities can be an excellent way of honing your craft and expanding your professional network while making the world a better place.

As a specialist with moral and ethical standards, demanding exorbitant fees from brands and/or industries you abhor, or don’t particularly prefer to work with can still be used morally or ethically:

  • Your revenue earned for services rendered is free to be used or donated to however you feel appropriate, and under some governments may even be tax deductible
  • Using your free time to teach less fortunate or disadvantaged people a skillset they can use to improve their position in life and in turn give back over the long-term is better than simply giving them money, which is a temporary fix
  • The employees working in a company or industry you abhor should not be confused with the company and industry itself. Those employees may feel the same way you do and are looking for an excuse or opportunity to break free; it may be that life’s responsibilities and their inability to say “No” is why they are working for a company they dislike in the first place. If as an independent specialist you are offered a project working alongside the employees of a company-you abhor, their working with you may be precisely what the employees need to find the courage to move on in their career and into something they’re more proud of

It’s up to you to balance your moral and ethical compass while abiding by the codes of conduct and laws of the land you’re doing business in. 182,188

1008. There’s no fixed time-frame for becoming ‘successful’ because the process is different for each person. What matters is that you build your career at the intersection of what you’re good at doing, what you enjoy doing, and what you can do for as long as possible while getting paid for it. Ask yourself:

  • What’s most important to you?
  • What makes you happy?
  • Do you just want to make money or actually help people? The answer to this question determines your business model, and most of the time consumers and clients can feel your passion in the way you speak to them 2,16,20,188,212,219

1009. When you’re just starting out, your online presence and networking may require weekly publications and a lot of unpaid work. But later as the fruit of your unpaid work and dedication begin showing you’ll find it harder and harder to maintain your online presence and networking on a regular calendar as more and more clients begin contacting you. As your level of responsibility increases, you’ll have to fit your working toward your career goals in around your busy schedule. 72

To summarize:

  • Establish your credentials
  • Perfect your mission statement, product and/or service, and quality of your copywriting
  • Get your foot in the door by contacting people who already know and trust you
  • Use the people who already know and trust you as a springboard to contacting other, more difficult to reach people who don’t yet know and trust you
  • As you expand your network, be open to and actively seek out collaborative projects and business ventures that further establish your credentials and let you do what you enjoy doing. 72

interviews presentations

INTERVIEWS, PRESENTATIONS & MEETINGS

1010. Rather than view a job interview or a client pitch as a presentation where you speak and they listen, turn it instead into a conversation where the both of you discuss needs, underlying problems, and how you would go about providing them with the best possible solution to their problem.

Presentations create an unnecessary barrier between you and the other person, prevent you from connecting and understanding the other person, and inherently give the person being presented to the position of power because you are there to ‘impress and convince’ them.

Instead, reframe and structure your presentation as a conversation where you can immediately demonstrate how you are meaningfully different than all your competitors by explaining to the person:

“These are the type of problems I specialize in solving, and here are a few notable case studies I have worked on and solved for companies similar to yours. I propose we spend the rest of this meeting looking in-depth at your problem and how I would solve it for you. If I can help your company, then it would be a pleasure to work with you. If you don’t feel my approach is the solution you need, please feel free to tell me. And if I don’t feel like I would be the best person to solve your problem, I’m sure I could connect you with a person or two in my network who I think could.” 116

1011. Communicate effectively. Be it directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously, verbally or non-verbally, written or spoken, humans communicate; and that communication conveys information which is then interpreted by those who see, hear, watch, and read your communication.

While you cannot fully control how people interpret your communication, persuasion comes through researching and understanding your audience as much as possible – their cultural background, personality profile, etc. – so that you can communicate in a way you are better able to predict they will interpret what you have to say to them in the best possible way, while simultaneously giving you as much benefit-of-the-doubt as possible.

As a specialist, in whatever you say or do, say and do it with confidence and assurance, and not only will people assume you know what you’re talking about, they will instinctively trust and follow your advice. 141,188

Attention level of participants of a typical meeting

1012. Recall that the primacy effect is the tendency for humans to remember what happened at the beginning of a meeting – their first encounter with you – and that positive or negative first impression tends to guide all subsequent judgments of you.

Focus on those very short but crucial first moments in a recruitment, negotiation, pitch, or presentation process that leave the other party with the best possible impression of you, and then work to control it to your advantage as much as possible. Trim tab interventions are the very small and subtle things you can do that have much bigger, disproportionate effects on the overall outcome. Control the beginning of a meeting, and you will be in a stronger position during subsequent interactions. 44,87,138

1013. If during a meeting you have a question that only you need to know the answer to, and the answer would not benefit anyone else in the meeting, then rather than slow the meeting down and waste time by asking that question, wait to ask the question after the meeting is over. One of the biggest signs of unprofessionalism is wasting other people’s time.

That being said, often times people are afraid of raising their hand and asking questions if they risk appearing dumb. If you feel this may be the case, then the most mature, strategic, and beneficial thing you can do is to ask that ‘obviously dumb question’ that everyone, especially your shy, low-performing and/or newly-recruited employees, are wondering but afraid to ask. In this case, asking that ‘dumb’ question for their benefit may be a smart career move (covered later). 216,219

1014. People make snap judgments about you within the first 15 seconds of meeting you, and their initial impression of you tends to change very little by the end of your meeting. 

With employment, those first 15 seconds of your job interview – the primacy effect – act as an anchor that determines how the interviewer will perceive you: your competence, level of intelligence, trustworthiness, as a generalist or a specialist, a top performing employee to be invested in, developed, and promoted depending on the company will also act as an anchor for subsequent performance evaluations if you are hired. The remainder of your meeting will either confirm or deny the interviewer’s first impression of you.

In fact, prior to even being called for a job interview, simply ‘looking’ competent on your LinkedIn and online search results has been proven to be enough to act as a strong anchor as to how the decision-maker will judge you. This is the power of your first impression. 87,152

1015. Turn your message into a story. Information presented in the form of a good story is enjoyable to hear, more easily remembered and accurately repeated over the long-term, and is more persuasive. It is your responsibility to tell the story that you want to be known for and in a way your audience will remember, not the recruiter’s responsibility to give you the benefit of the doubt.

In fact, people tend to forget 90% of what you tell them within 30 seconds, but they never forget a good story, nor how you made them feel while you were telling it to them.

Also, because competition is so strong, everybody wants to make their own story and professional background appear as impressive as possible. Experienced recruiters, clients, and investors expect this and are comfortable challenging you to get to the truth.

Therefore as you create the career story you will tell your future employers and clients, be careful that your story and what you offer:

  • Aren’t so complex and outrageous that the recruiter feels as though you are obviously embellishing and trying to make yourself look more qualified or important than you really are
  • Aren’t so incredible that they are almost ‘too good to be true’
  • Aren’t so difficult to understand that they feel as though you don’t understand who they are and what they need and want
  • Aren’t so simple that they take away from or oversimplify your potential
  • Aren’t so simple that they make the other person feel as though you are treating them like they are stupid
  • Are congruent with your price
  • Aren’t so black-and-white that no other options and possibilities appear to exist 46,87,141,144,146

1016. How you structure your presentation depends on what you want your audience to take away from it. The better structured your presentation template:

  • The more you are free to find and insert high-quality content into the structure
  • The more congruent your talking points and key messages will be
  • The better you will be at anticipating questions the audience may have
  • The less stressed you will feel beforehand, thus the more confident you will appear during your speech

In fact, a well-organized structure and presentation template actually offer you more liberty during your presentation. For example, if your goal is to:

  • Provide answers to common questions, then:
    • Ask your audience a question you know they want to know the answer to
    • Answer that question in a way your audience understands
    • Repeat
  • Motivate, persuade, and inspire your audience, then:
    • Identify a problem relevant to your audience
    • Give your audience solutions they can use to overcome the problem
    • Show the audience how those solutions will improve their lives
    • Repeat
  • Educate and inform your audience, then:
    • Identify a useful skill or technique your audience could benefit from
    • Show them why this skill is relevant and important to them
    • Show them how they will benefit from this skill after they leave your presentation
    • Teach them the skill
    • Repeat
  • Motivate, entertain, and inspire your audience, then:
    • Identify a life or career lesson you want your audience to learn
    • Illustrate the lesson with one or two stories or case studies that demonstrate the lesson
    • Repeat 146

1017. Conversation-style presentations structured as a Q&A session, or presentations which include a Q&A session are an opportunity for you to:

  • Repeat your key points you want your audience to remember about you and your message
  • Identify through the audience’s questions how you can improve future presentations
  • Control the speed of the meeting so that it is slow enough that you can ensure you understand the people’s question and that you have correctly answered it. Thinking you answered a person’s question only to have the person, and the audience, look at you strangely because you didn’t answer the question doesn’t help your reputation
  • Understand if and how your audience received your message
  • ‘Erase,’ correct, or reframe any mistakes and weak points you made during your presentation 146

1018. When it comes to change management, when pitching, presenting, communicating or negotiating with the objective of pointing out defaults and limitations in people’s and company’s situations and ideas that need to be changed:

  • Take the time to identify and understand where they are right now and the reality of the problems and limitations they are currently facing
  • Compare where they are now with where they could be in the future were those limitations no longer hindering them. The more stark the contrast, the better
  • Identify, create, and use vocabulary, metaphors, and associations familiar with your target audience to ensure they not only understand what you are trying to say to them, but are emotionally influenced by how you are saying it. Using the associations, references, and categorizations that already exist in their mind is far easier than trying to create new ones from scratch
  • Be and identify the key leaders, decision-makers and influencers who can embody the change you want your target audience to adopt. Having clear leaders makes it easier and socially acceptable for the general population to follow
  • Continually compare the way the world is today with the way it could be once the group adopts your solution. Doing so helps make the possibility of the transition easier and more desirable as your target audience begins contemplating all the possibilities of your solution
  • During your presentation, when you notice your target audience is most receptive to your solution, reveal an ‘AHA!’ moment (your product, service, brand, etc.) that shatters their once ‘that’s nice but impossible’ mentality and replaces it with a ‘Wow, this is actually a possibility’ mentality that they will not only remember, but will also shape their future behavior and will be talked about with everybody that person meets
  • At this vulnerable point when your target audience is convinced that your solution is the future, involve them by arming them with the information, statistics, documents and other supports they need to be able to convince skeptics and the ‘undecideds’ to agree with your solution
  • End your presentation with a call to action so your target audience knows exactly what is expected of them and how they can play their part in making this new idea a reality
  • Never stop learning and adapting and improving your communication to ensure it is more and more persuasive. 199,231,237

1019. In presentations you are competing for both the person’s time and attention. Obviously the more attention they pay, the greater the indication they understand your message and the greater the chances are of them wanting to know more.

But people generally pay attention in meetings and social settings because they are afraid of being at any moment asked to participate in the discussion, so just because they’re paying attention to you doesn’t mean that they are interested. There is no guarantee that they are interested in you even though they appear to be giving you their undivided attention. 87

1020. People’s attention levels follow a predictable path:

  • Right at the beginning of a presentation the person is paying full attention to you because they are in a new place with new information, listening to a new person talk about a subject relevant to them
  • As the meeting progresses the person feels comfortable and his or her attention level drops as they either lose interest and/or become distracted with other things and their mind begins to wander
  • Towards the end of your presentation, once you give the person a signal that your presentation is drawing to a close – such as with the words ‘in conclusion,’ ‘lastly,’ or ‘finally’ – the person’s attention level returns and is fully focused on you in case there is a Q&A and discussion 87

1021. People might not pay attention to you for several reasons, for example:

  • They are in a large group and so the risk of being directly asked to participate is low to non-existent
  • They are distracted by work or home life responsibilities
  • They don’t clearly understand why they are there or aren’t convinced by what you’re saying
  • They simply don’t like something about you, your presentation, or your message 87

1022. A few basic things you can do to improve the amount of time the person is paying attention during your presentation include:

  • Involving them in your presentation
  • Maintaining eye contact with them throughout
  • Creating a beautiful PowerPoint presentation that catches and keeps the investor’s attention
  • Placing your Q&A intermittently throughout your presentation rather than exclusively at the end
  • Having a really disruptive and/or interesting idea presented in a way that excites the person
  • Turning your presentation into a captivating story 87

1023. Spend the first few minutes of every interaction making your audience feel comfortable because uncomfortable people will not be open to what you have to say to them. The best way to make your audience feel comfortable is by:

  • Ensuring your reputation for quality and competence precedes you. If your audience doesn’t already have an opinion of you, assume they will Google you, or at least ask for other’s opinion of you
  • Researching your audience prior to the meeting so you can understand and anticipate their needs, wants, and what communication style they are most likely to be persuaded by
  • Confirming your pre-presentation research and get your audience involved at the start by asking them questions and listening to their responses
  • Being comfortable yourself because your audience will react to how you feel
  • Sincerely finding something nice to say about your audience
  • Focusing on being in the moment, rather than playing out worst case scenarios in your head and thinking about the risks and possible consequences of how people will view you and your presentation after you have failed
  • Avoiding the appearance of attacking or insulting people, directly or indirectly, because people who feel attacked will not be open to what you have to say. How you communicate is as important as what you communicate
  • Structuring your presentation as a solution to their problem, rather than a ‘performance’ for them
  • Using inclusive language (we, us, our…) rather than defensive language (me, my, you, your…) 146,169,184,206,224,225,237

1024. People tend not to care about something until it affects them. If you won’t take the time necessary to understand who your audience is and what they want, why should they care about what you have to say or sell them? 87

1025. People forget 90% of what you said within 30 seconds. Recall humans tend to most vividly recall their first interaction with you (the primacy effect) and their most recent interaction with you (the recency effect). 87

1026. People won’t always remember what you said, but they always remember how you made them feel. At the end of the day your presentation may amount to nothing more than a printed handout with a few scribbled notes on it that your audience took with them back to their office, and a general impression of you as a competent, or incompetent, person. 15,87

1027. During your presentation you must include a logical, emotional, and compelling reason to believe in the message you want them to take away from your presentation; your call to action.

Recall the different types of personality profiles:

  • Analytical
  • Structural
  • Social
  • Conceptual
  • Expressive
  • Flexible
  • Assertive

…and that it is important to combine both logic and emotion to create a well-rounded presentation.

Emotionally-laden presentations lacking sound logic and feasibility will not persuade analytical and structural people who will pick apart your logic for holes and weaknesses, and logically-sound and feasible presentations lacking an emotional element will not persuade social and conceptual people who get bored and tired when too much information is thrown at them all at once. 87

1028. You’ve worked hard to build a reputation as a top performing specialist who is known for quality work, and you’ve created a high-quality presentation based on reputable sources and sound logic, but despite all of your hard work, you will eventually find yourself challenged by:

  • Hecklers who enjoy division and argument
  • Dissenters who want to sabotage your idea
  • Strong, confrontational personalities who lack the diplomacy to discuss ideas politely
  • Highly analytical and structural people who are curious about very specific details of your idea
  • Superiors who will be held responsible for the consequences of your idea, and so are rightly challenging it to see if it will work
  • Well-meaning people who just didn’t ask their question correctly
  • Well-meaning foreigners who either lack the language fluency or cultural awareness to understand they are being impolite
  • Other

At any moment one of these difficult people may step forward to challenge or cross-examine you, your sources, your logic, or your conclusions. How you respond in this situation can further reinforce or destroy your reputation and all of your hard work.

When you find yourself confronted with a difficult question from whom you believe to be a sincere and well-meaning person, answer them as thoroughly as you can and then make sure you correctly addressed their concern. However, when you find yourself confronted with who you estimate to be a heckler or a saboteur:

  • Calmly and strategically pause, remain silent, and non-judgmentally look at the person, letting their words linger in the audience’s ears before addressing the person’s remarks professionally. Doing so:
    • Helps you maintain control over the situation, whereas immediately responding to the person relinquishes your control of the situation to the other person as it may appear you are either attacking the other person in retaliation and giving your audience the impression that you have lost emotional control, or appear threatened and are defending yourself against their attack rather than letting your idea’s logic defend itself. Further, any response you do immediately give will likely be insufficient compared to the response you could have given were you to take a few seconds to think about how to best respond
    • Allows you to assess your audience’s perception of your level of control. If your audience:
      • Reject the aggressive person’s behavior, thus reinforcing your control over the situation while sending the message that this behavior is unacceptable, you can feel reassured that you work for a company that prohibits unprofessional and abusive behavior
      • Neutrally observe the interaction and how you, the person in control, handle the aggressive person, then you are given the opportunity to prove that you are in fact the specialist you claim to be
      • Condone the aggressive person’s behavior, then you are now in a better position to understand who your true allies and adversaries are and what kind of company you work for
    • Gives the aggressive person the opportunity to apologize or reword his or her statement to be less aggressive
  • Don’t define the emotional state of the aggressive person. For example responding by saying “I see you are angry.”, because if the aggressive person responds “I’m not angry, I’m disappointed in your lack of knowledge on the subject.”, you’ve needlessly given up your position of power and are now trapped in a ridiculous argument over the person’s emotional state and assessment of your credibility, and forced to defend yourself against the other person’s accusations rather than the more important topics you were speaking about
  • Diffuse the situation with humor, if possible, because humor allows you to connect with your audience if you can use it correctly. Also, being able to inject humor and acknowledge flaws and mistakes on a particular topic is evidence that you specialize in what you do because you understand the topic deeply enough to see its defaults. Self-deprecating humor: the ability to laugh at yourself is usually the safest form of humor because it shows you don’t take yourself too seriously and are open to constructive criticism
  • Repeat, reframe, and then explain or paraphrase the aggressive person’s claims or remarks into a single thought you can more easily respond to. Doing so will ensure you’ve fully understood what the person is trying to say, reword it into a point you can respond to, and that process will buy you time to think about what you want to say
  • When arguing against or attacking the aggressive person’s claims, always be fair by giving the person the benefit of the doubt, and approach the person’s argument in the best possible light and as accurately and unbiased as possible. Doing so will:
    • Ensure you accurately understand the opposing side’s position
    • Make you appear more credible and reasonable when you disprove his or her argument
    • Having acknowledged that you understand your opponent’s position prevents him or her from claiming that you didn’t understand or weren’t listening after you give your answer 120,146,153,169,196,216,219,224,227

1029. There are four basic types of skeptics:

  • Those who were raised to believe that beliefs different from theirs is flawed and that their belief is not only right, but unchallengeable
  • Those who have their strong beliefs, but are generally open and tolerant to other’s beliefs and willing to live with flaws in their own belief
  • Those who once believed in the particular belief as right, but then later became skeptics of the belief they once held
  • Those who could care less about a belief, and are only challenging it because they can

Regardless of the type of skeptic a person is, intelligence is being able to explain something, even if you don’t agree with or believe it. Identifying which type of skeptic you’re dealing with and being able to intelligently find common ground with the person helps you understand how to approach that person and persuade them to at least consider your ideas as possibly correct, convert them, or mitigate the damage they can do. 78,153

1030. As a specialist, you are not ‘performing’ in front of or ‘entertaining’ your audience, you are a competent professional who has been asked to inform and help your audience so they can stay informed and/or solve a specific problem they are dealing with; you are making their lives better in some incremental way. Presentations are not threats to your reputation, they are opportunities to share your hard-earned knowledge and experience with help other people, improve your reputation, and grow your professional network. 146,169

1031. There are two different types of PowerPoint presentations:

  • Face-to-face presentations where you and your physical presentation are the center of attention. In this context your PowerPoint is a support to what you have to say, and you, the speaker, are the most important conveyor of the message; not your PowerPoint
  • Report-publishing presentations are full of facts, figures, and details which can be handed to the attendees after your meeting, emailed, printed, and read on their own time. You are not required to be present for this presentation to be understood, and any questions people have can be answered by researching or contacting you

Using a content-heavy report-publishing PowerPoint during a face-to-face presentation tells your audience you don’t care very much about your audience or the project. Your audience will either ignore your PowerPoint presentation and only listen to you, or MORE LIKELY, they will ignore you and only read your presentation. Either way, your audience won’t be paying attention to the most important aspect of your presentation; you and your message. 87

1032. Public speaking can either be:

  • Planned presentations you prepare for and give with the intent of:
    • Establishing or reinforcing your reputation, your team, and your company’s competence
    • Informing and persuading a group of people to take, or not take, a certain action
  • Unplanned presentations you aren’t expecting nor are fully prepared to give, nevertheless are expected to give such as:
    • Introducing people, teams, and projects at meetings and social events
    • Giving feedback on a project, person, or situation
    • Replacing another speaker at the last minute
    • Q&A sessions after a presentation
    • Telephone calls you pick up and do not know who is calling you and for what reason

Spontaneous, unplanned presentations actually occur more often than planned presentations, and with each response you and your reputation will be judged by how you react. 87,146

1033. Canned statements are practiced and perfected sentences and responses based on strategic linguistic strategies you have memorized in advance in response to a particular question or situation, be it the predictable “So what do you do?” question when meeting a person for the first time to a company prepared media crisis management response should a public relations nightmare occur.

You develop your database of trustworthy canned statements through observation, experience and preparation. The more you anticipate and prepare for interactions with people, the better equipped, and the more comfortable and confident you will be when speaking situations do arise. 146,169

1034. Anybody can complain when they aren’t responsible for solving the problem; complaining is the easy part, and only complaining makes your superior’s and colleague’s lives more difficult.

Therefore never present a problem to anyone – management, colleagues, or subordinates – until you also have a solution to propose. Even if your solution isn’t used, always including a solution will avoid your developing a reputation as a complainer, or worse, incompetent. 112

Leadership management

LEADERSHIP & MANAGEMENT ROLES

1035. Challenge your competence and abilities by accepting projects you are not particularly qualified for, and where failure on your part could get you into trouble; it’s called responsibility. You cannot become a specialist and stand out from other specialists without taking on responsibility. And once you have convinced your superiors you are capable of handling that responsibility, do whatever you must to make sure you deliver above that person’s expectations, on deadline and on budget. 188,198,216,219

1036. Whenever people have a problem, they usually look to people they trust and believe are capable of helping them best solve their problem. When people assess your ability to solve their problem, they judge you based on what they know about you: your reputation.

If you have not adequately established your reputation and demonstrated you can competently solve their problem or handle a particular situation, it is unlikely people will come to you for help, and will instead turn to someone else who they believe can. If you are not the person everyone comes to for help, then your chances of winning a promotion or justifying a pay raise diminish. 134,146,184,188,216

1037. Develop a reputation for being a specialist in something people need and are willing to pay for, and more importantly when it comes to managerial evolution, develop a reputation for being able to collaborate with specialists, all while being able to see the world through a generalist’s perspective.

The danger of being a specialist is that constant exposure to your job and the best practices in your industry can cause you to overlook disruptive and unorthodox approaches and solutions that may seem blaringly obvious to a generalist or someone unfamiliar with your industry. As a person who manages specialists, your job is to frame questions and problems so that they challenge the limitations of a specialist’s problem-solving skills while not challenging their expertise.

The skill of being a manager of specialists is being able to identify when specialists are being asked to answer the wrong question, and then being able to challenge the questions being asked to identify the right questions, which will lead to the right solutions. 2,16,17,20,115,162,232

1038. As an entrepreneur and leader, your role requires its own set of hard and soft skill and competencies your employees won’t necessarily need. Having a technical competence equal to that of those you manage isn’t imperative, and lacking the technical skills of those you manage won’t automatically undermine your authority, however having at least a working knowledge of their job responsibilities and technical skills is important because you can:

  • Take on some of the workload yourself, thus saving time and money
  • Identify the competent and top performing specialists from the below average employees when recruiting and offering compensation bonuses
  • Earn respect as the leader since your team knows you understand their role and they can come to you with technical questions, confident in your ability to help them problem-solve
  • Give you a common vocabulary with which you can effectively communicate 82,107,126,161

1039. Your management style must be flexible enough to adapt to whatever the individual situation and person in front of you requires. Employees and clients may need to modify their behavior and compromise a little in order to reach agreement, but as a business owner and leader, you are ultimately responsible for the productivity and the brand’s success, and therefore you must be better at adapting your management-style to optimally meet each situation. 134,216

1040. Even if you have to make up an excuse, never say “I’ll try” or “I’ll see what I can do.”

  • Saying “I’ll try” and then doing it doesn’t impress anybody at all
  • Saying “I’ll try” and then not doing it gives the client the impression you tried and failed

Either way, you don’t win any respect saying “I’ll try.” You either do it or you don’t. If you don’t know whether or not you can do it, say “I don’t have that information right now, but I’ll find out and get back to you immediately.”

Then do so. 22,188,216

1041. As a leader and entrepreneur, instead of selling your own expertise, recruit and work with the best people you can attract and then sell your team’s expertise, not yourself. The smarter the people you surround yourself with, the greater perceived value of your brand, you, and the people you recruit. Everybody wins. 216

1042. As an independent specialist, you are effectively trading your time for the client’s money. Because you are limited in the amount of hours you can be available for clients, the only way to grow your client-base is to:

  • ‘Sell’ as many of your working hours as possible
  • Improve what you offer to justify raising your prices so you can work less hours for the same pay or work the same hours for more revenue
  • Increase your client-base so clients are competing for your time, which also allows you to increase your prices (Your BATNA)
  • Externalizing your expertise and automating elements of what you offer clients, such as publishing a book or a video series of your training so people can obtain your information without having to see you in person, or creating and selling a software program that allows more people to have basic and affordable access to your expertise
  • Collaborating with other specialists to help you and make your job easier, allowing you to focus on increasing the value of what you offer. For example:
    • Hiring a sales specialist to increase your client base and keep your working schedule full in the future
    • Collaborating with other specialists who offer similar or complimentary products or services enabling you to bundle together a more comprehensive product or service package

To truly optimize your time, energy, and money, if what you are working on is critical to the success of your company or client, and nobody else you know is capable of sufficiently performing those tasks, then do it yourself. Otherwise, you should be paying someone else to do it for you while you focus your attention on the most critical tasks. 167

1043. Not every little detail needs to be solved by you. Most errors and issues that seem important in the moment have a way of getting dealt with and disappearing on their own, especially when you work with and empower competent people. 216

1044. What makes you a specialist is that you have worked so extensively on the same problem over and over again that you almost unconsciously notice patterns and mistakes being made, patterns and mistakes that generalists would have to spend 3x, 5x, 10x more time and money trying to identify and solve.

As a specialist, you will identify the solutions to complex problems much more quickly than generalists can, and thus can demand more money, provided you can convince them you are worth their investment.

As a specialist, the difficulty won’t be identifying the problem, the difficulty will be training and modifying the affected employee’s human behavior to ensure the problem is fixed and stays that way.

As a specialist, you should be twice as competent today as you were one year ago, and a year from today you should be twice as competent as you are today. 116

1045. Mathematical versus creative solutions: Physical and financial constraints versus unbounded psychological opportunities. Engineers and financial people, and marketers and creatives have such different and sometimes contradictory roles to play within a company that it can be hard for them to understand and work with each other, and the only way to find common ground and effectively communicate and negotiate is by creating the vocabulary that everybody can understand. 138

1046. As a specialist, you must know how to manage, train, and work with other, often times less competent and ambitious, colleagues, subordinates, and superiors.

As a specialist you must also learn to be fully self-sufficient, being able to do as much as possible without having to depend upon someone else to maintain the level of quality you have made yourself known for.

Aim to be at least functionally competent so you can assure all aspects of whatever project you promise to do, that way:

  • When managing or working with other equally-competent specialists who excel at your weaknesses, the overall quality of the project will improve while allowing you to improve upon your weaknesses
  • When managing or working alongside less-competent employees, you will be able to train and improve their weaknesses
  • When working on a project alone, even the weakest aspect of your project will be of as good of quality as a generalist’s best work 215

1047. For a generalist aspiring to move up in his or her company, their fellow colleagues, followed by external candidates applying for employment, are considered competitors for upward movement.

If you are not the first choice for promotion among your peers, then your priority must making yourself the first choice for promotion. In order to hold your manager’s position:

  • How many years of experience do you need?
  • What certifications must you obtain?
  • What software programs must you master?
  • What laws and company policies does your boss regularly follow that you aren’t aware of?
  • Etc.

Until you can show yourself as more qualified than your peers and other candidates, you cannot yet consider yourself ready for a promotion. 188,216

1048. Branding yourself as more qualified than your peers mustn’t be attained by attacking your peers, damaging their ego and reputation, or preventing them from achieving their goals. Treating your peers as allies rather than rivals will go much farther in getting promoted, especially if upon promotion you must now manage the very people you attacked and humiliated to get the promotion. 188,216,237

1049. A problem with being identified as a specialist is that everybody looks to you expecting you to know exactly what you’re doing, and a problem with being identified as a specialist is that you’re expected to know exactly what you’re doing at all times.

Therefore, as a specialist:

  • Understand that everything you do, say, and communicate is constantly being observed and judged by others, and while you can’t prevent people from judging you, you are able to control the information they use to judge you
  • Never admit that you’re beyond your scope of competence. Ask for a colleague’s assistance, opinion, or perspective, but don’t ask for their help
  • Never let anyone see how hard you work, and never let them hear you complaining without proposing solutions or asking for deadline extensions. If you have to work 20 hours a day to meet the deadline you promised, then you will work 20 hours a day to meet that deadline, and then you will make sure you never again make the mistake of underestimating your deadline. Lesson learned

1050. If you don’t know something, say you don’t know and that you’ll find out and get back to them with the answer within a specific amount of time 111,116,162,188,216

1051. Be it in conversation, Q&A, or in idea brainstorming, when others are making themselves vulnerable by speaking publicly, responding to someone’s comment with:

  • “Yes, but…” or “No, and…”:
    • May be interpreted by the speaker as an attack or an insult, depending on their personality
    • Inhibits opportunities and creative solutions
    • Could make you appear close-minded
    • Could shut down all communication, thus defeating the purpose of your Q&A session
    • Could leave others with a negative impression of you
  • “Yes, and…”:
    • Neither insults nor attacks the person, even if their comment or idea is unsuitable or unqualified
    • Opens up opportunities and creative solutions
    • Demonstrates you see everybody as well as their ideas as constructive
    • Shows you’re open to new and different ideas
    • Leaves others with a positive impression of you

You can always find a way to respond “Yes, and… (your input)” no matter how wrong or impossible the other person’s comment is.” 146

protect reputation

PROTECTING YOUR REPUTATION

1052. Quick verbal telephone calls and exchanges are probably sufficient for most business exchanges, but with so many possibilities for cultural, personality, and language misunderstandings, keeping records and having a paper trail of notes, emails, and telephone messages for the strategic and important exchanges can:

  • Ensure the other party has received your communication
  • Allow you and the other person time to interpret (if it’s in a different language), seek translation help if necessary to understand your communication, and then prepare an appropriate response
  • Identify when and where in the chain of communication any misunderstandings may have occurred, and by whom
  • Protect yourself if ever your reputation or career is at risk from a material misunderstanding 188,206

1053. As a specialist, you will routinely be exposed to other people’s and brand’s weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and confidential information; and many times without having signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). Violating, or even being accused of violating, that trust and sharing their information to outside parties even once is enough to ruin your hard-earned reputation and career. 111,188,216

1054. Recruiters, bosses, and clients don’t have misconceptions about you, they have subjective beliefs, judgments, and objections about you based on word-of-mouth and their experience with you. If recruiters think you’re incompetent or deceptive, it’s not their responsibility to give you the benefit of the doubt; it’s your responsibility to improve their experience and reframe how they see you and change how they classify you. 66,216

1055. The more successful you become, the more people like you, disagree with you, and hate you. This is due, in part, to the fact that:

  • Many specialists have built their career, reputation, and fortune on the foundation of one particular belief, so if you come out and disprove or call into question their reputation and source of revenue, rest assured they have a vested interest in challenging and disproving you
  • Current online advertising-based business models reward blogs and websites with revenue through paid advertising in exchange for page-views, regardless of whether the content contained on their heavily-trafficked websites are reliable or not. If popular press speaks highly of you, rest assured websites with revenue-based, traffic-dependent business models will begin stirring debate by arguing the opposite

As a result, clients and companies who don’t fully understand their own needs and wants, nor how a ‘specialist’ can meet their needs and wants, will be susceptible to treating any and all information they find through online research as equally reliable, whether or not it actually is. 44,100,120,164,195

1056. Humans are much more informed today than they used to be, and despite your hard-earned, top performing ‘specialist’ status, you will not be a client’s or recruiter’s only source of information. In their research that may or may not eventually lead them to considering you as an alternative to their problems, needs, and wants, they will likely have gathered an range of reliable and misleading information about your industry from many diverse sources – online and offline, and have a plethora of expectations and assumptions about what you can do for them. Expectations and assumptions you will have to navigate if you’re going to successfully sell yourself to the potential recruiter or client. 17,116,164,201

1057. Threats and opportunities come in many forms:

  • Changes in foundational technologies that threaten to make your entire industry redundant
  • Younger, more skilled recruits and/or better networked recruits being employed in your department that threaten your next promotion
  • Changes in diplomatic relations among countries that put your working visa at risk
  • Unintentionally offending a key decision-maker within your company
  • Etc.

While you cannot anticipate every possible threat and opportunity, neither should you spend your time worrying about every little thing that shows up in the news and on the horizon. Recall that ambitious, top performing and specialized employees who don’t feel they are receiving the recognition and career opportunities they deserve, and/or who actively monitor their industry, tend to anticipate when a company or industry is heading towards difficult times. They also tend to be well networked, and thus have many more career opportunities open to them than their generalist and average performing colleagues who don’t yet realize that in 3-7 years they will find themselves replaced by technology and/or cheaper labor.

With the amount of information freely available to you today, remaining ignorant is a conscious choice on your part, and as a conscious choice you should never be taken off guard by major threats or opportunities. In your continuous research you should have seen them coming far enough in advance that you’ve time to adapt. 188

1058. With every communication you send, assume that it has also been blind copied, a screenshot has been taken of it, and that it has been forwarded to at least one other person, perhaps to the company lawyer or to some final decision-maker who is monitoring your communications and has some degree of control over your future success. 103, 107,112,216

1059. Wasting a person’s time and money is the quickest way to damage your reputation. Be known as a person who is punctual, reliable, and who provides superior-quality in everything you do. Nobody is perfect, and people will be willing to overlook your mistakes so long as their overall impression of you remains positive. 136, 216

1060. As a specialist, you should be in a position where you can anticipate and act to avoid errors and problems, not react to problems as they occur. But anticipating will not always be possible, and when you must react, especially during a crisis, how you react is what really confirms you as a professional and top performer. 192,216

1061. Honestly admitting you don’t know something, and then being able to ask relevant, open-ended questions, keep quiet and actively listen while they explain it to you demonstrates humility and builds credibility and trust. People who feel listened to treat you better. 184,192,216,224,237

1062. As a top performer, take the time to sincerely contemplate on how your behavior, personality, and way of doing business might be perceived by superiors, colleagues, and clients who don’t like you or consider you an enemy:

  • What is it about you that they dislike?
  • If they needed a scapegoat to get themselves out of trouble, or if they wanted to attack you and damage your reputation, how would they do it?
  • What are some technical and personality weaknesses you have that they would complain about?
  • If someone were trying to get you fired right now, what would their proof against you look like, and how would you defend yourself against it?

Being able to honestly answer the above questions keeps you humble and improving upon yourself, and shows that you’re able to admit you’re not perfect but that you’re willing to take constructive criticism and improve yourself. If you sincerely cannot answer any of the above questions, your biggest weakness may be an inflated ego. 219,227

1063. If as a specialist you are being paid for your ability to provide a reliable service and/or professional advice. If your company or client is not using your work or taking your advice seriously, ask yourself if your time spent working for them couldn’t be better invested elsewhere. And before you get comfortable accepting a free paycheck from them for services not rendered, assume that at some point your employer or client, who is paying for but not using your expertise, will eventually break your contract to save money. It’s better for you to anticipate this eventual redundancy and move on rather than be called in for a meeting to find out you’re not longer needed. 216

1064. Everything about you, from the weaknesses in your educational and professional background to the incongruent personality profile that the recruiter or psychometric tester believes would not make you a suitable candidate for a position can be reframed to sound positive, no matter how negative they appear to be. Even problems themselves can be reframed as solutions. People judge you by what you say as much as how you say it, and if people tell you that you give them the impression that you’re pessimistic or complaining, don’t just disqualify their observations as incorrect or ill-informed. They may be right and it is you who is wrong.  188,237

1065. Humans tend to define a crisis by how much damage it can cause rather than for its opportunity to create value and reinforce your position.

Of course errors and crisis inevitably happen, and rarely will a mistake forever destroy your reputation as a specialist. Repeatedly making errors, or making the same exact error a colleague made the day before, however, makes you look incompetent. Whenever errors do occur, take the opportunity to build a relationship with the person who made the error while simultaneously understanding why the error occurred by offering to help the person fix it.

When you do make mistakes and bad news arise, it’s wiser to release all the bad news quickly and at the once. With good news and wins, however, release that information slowly. The former will be remembered as a really bad day, and the latter will be a reminder as to why you are a top performer. 25,188,216

1066. Everyone has weaknesses and room for improvement, and it goes without saying that significant weaknesses which prevent you from excelling at your job must be improved as quickly as possible so you are not dependent upon someone else to do your job. But strengths are only strengths in context, and there are situations where your strengths can actually hinder you, likewise there are situations where your weaknesses actually give you the advantage, if you’re creative enough to identify them. For example:

  • Being an educated Mexican immigrant with imperfect English is an employment disadvantage in the United States… until you remind your potential employer realize that 60% of their clients are Spanish-speaking, and that your understanding of the client’s cultural values as well as your willingness to train your non-Hispanic colleagues in the Hispanic culture and customer service strategies as a part of your responsibilities would provide an extraordinary increase in revenue and customer satisfaction as well as a reduction in the company’s employee training budget, at no additional cost to the recruiter
  • Being an Arab businesswoman is a disadvantage in a male-dominated society… unless you band with other businesswomen to build and hold the keys to a professional network of so many highly-sought specialists from more egalitarian societies that companies in your country need to do business with to stay competitive, and the only way to access your unique network is through you

Just because one person or society try to define and categorize you by your weaknesses don’t mean you have to accept their definition. Just because a recruiter asks you “What is your greatest weakness?” doesn’t mean you have to answer that question by laying out all of your weaknesses on the table in front of the recruiter in the hopes he or she will accept you as you are. Reject a person’s narrow, pre-defined definition of who they think you are or ought to be and change the context so your weaknesses become your strengths. 162,210,216,219,237

1067. Having developed a reputation as a top performer, you will inevitably be rewarded with opportunities to manage new departments, divisions, and projects.

Just as there are win/win situations in negotiation and decision-making, there are likewise no-win situations, and wrong decisions can slow down and even sabotage your career advancement. For example:

  • For strategic offensive and defensive reasons, brands routinely merge with or acquire other brands. When this happens, a new leader is needed to step in and run operations. While this may seem like a great opportunity for you, consider the situation from a bigger picture that you, as a leader, could potentially be walking into:
    • The acquired project is already successful (which is why it was acquired), under your management the acquired project’s value will either:
      • Continue to improve with the original creators receiving recognition for having put into place the project’s successful foundation, while you receive little to no recognition for future success for an already successful project and recognition only if you maintain the its level of success
      • Maintain its current value, neither improving nor weakening with you receiving no credit for maintaining it, and in fact blame for letting competitors catch up and steal market share
      • Weaken with you being blamed for having run a proven-successful project into the ground
    • The acquired project is a failure (which is why your company got such a good deal on it, or because a top-level manager made a bad decision), in which case the acquired project’s value will either:
      1. Improve and you will receive credit for the turnaround unless your superior steals the credit from you
      1. Improves only slightly with you being branded as being the leader of a struggling project
      1. Maintain its current value, neither improving nor weakening with you being the leader of a failed project
      1. Further weaken to the point it becomes a liability to the acquiring company with you being branded the leader of a failed project as your superior attempts to use you as a scapegoat. If that project is then sold to another company, you risk being sold with it

In all the above cases, you are working at a disadvantage because:

  • When projects get acquired and industries undergo rapid change, recall that their founders and top performers walk away with a lot of fame and money and are usually no longer involved in the project’s direction, leaving behind the mediocre and below-average employees
  • The project will likely be micromanaged by your superiors, who will take credit for any successes while blaming you for any failures 50,77,216,220

1068. If ever you are offered a ‘career-making’ position that ‘only someone with your level of expertise’ could possibly fill; a position that seems too good to be true, before accepting the offer and signing the contract, consider the possibility that:

  • A superior may see you as competition to an up-coming job vacancy you don’t yet know about, and are trying to get rid of you
  • You could be the 10th person to be offered this job in the last 2 years because something about the position or team is impossible to work with, and they are willing to say anything to anyone to fill the position 216

1069. Along with setting and working to achieve ambitious goals, you must also recognize when your goals are damaging your mental and physical health, and your private and professional life. Sacrifice requires a deprivation of sleep and other luxuries, and inevitably leads to strains on relationships with loved ones, but don’t let your goals cause you to lose track of what’s most important to you.

Take charge of your priorities, and be willing to abandon and pivot away from goals as your circumstances and priorities evolve. But before you abandon a goal, ask yourself:

  • “Am I absolutely sure I am using all of my resources available to me to meet this goal I am considering abandoning?”
  • “Is there perhaps an easier, more creative and efficient way of reaching my goal that I am somehow overlooking?” 188,214

1070. To summarize:

  • Recall that the first and most important rule of effective negotiation is to never put yourself into a position where you HAVE TO have the deal. The party who needs the deal the least is usually the one who has the greatest advantage
  • Immediately strive to attain an unconscious competence in the soft skills of negotiation, communication, and people management: attaining such an automated level of skill that it becomes instinctive to the point you can expertly identify and employ multiple strategies without having to even think about it

Having said that, if ever you do find yourself in a high-stakes dilemma where you absolutely HAVE TO have the deal and must imperatively persuade the other party, instead of trying to memorize and apply every possible strategy and trick all at once, start preparing for that future moment now by becoming unconsciously competent in one strategy, then another, then another, and then another… 79,189,209,219

optimize time

OPTIMIZING YOUR TIME

1071. Efficiency is getting things done as quickly as possible. One of the best ways to get things done without hindrance is to do them when nobody else is doing them. If all of your colleagues take lunch from 12:00-1:00, that means your office is empty enough for you to use all office equipment that normally would require a 10 minute wait. Likewise, once all of your colleagues are back from lunch, you will be seated within 10 minutes and have 50 minutes to enjoy your meal, as opposed to waiting 20 minutes for a free table and then having only 15 minutes to eat, as your colleagues did.

Efficiency also means knowing your own work habits and organizing a personal working schedule that allows you to get as much done in as little time possible. If you know your peak productive hours when your brain is functioning at full capacity is between 9:00-12:00, don’t waste those precious hours sitting uselessly in meetings and standing in line at the coffee machine in the employee lounge. 216

1072. Email, text and phone message communications allow both parties to delay and avoid response until they are ready and able. Telephone conversations, on the other hand, require immediate response; once you pick up the phone there’s nowhere to hide. Regardless of the form of communication, if after two attempts you fail to get a response from a person, it’s more likely the person is either avoiding you than they are too busy, or that they don’t take you as seriously as you think they should. 216

1073. Every conversation  you have should be productive:

  • If you cannot catch a person when they are next to their phone, leave a message and tell them that you will call them at a precise time in the next day or two, and if they are not available at that precise time to let you know. Doing this will allow them to organize their schedule around your call, or contact you immediately to give you the information you need
  • If you cannot get a superior’s decision on something, tell them the precise decision you will make unless they contact you with another solution by a specific time and date. Finish the conversation by telling the boss that if they are happy with your decision, then they aren’t required to return your call. Doing this demonstrates your potential as a top performer, and allows your superior to save time; if you’re competent enough to make the right decisions, then your superior has one less decision to make and one less action to take, and in the event your decision turns out to be incorrect, your superior’s tacit acceptance of your decision by not correcting you will still hold them responsible for any consequences, and successes, your decision
  • If you cannot get what you need from a person, ask them when they will be able to give you what you need. If you can’t get them to tell you when they can give it to you, find out when they will know when they can give it to you. If the person isn’t even able to tell you when they will know when they can give something to you, then perhaps:
    • You’re not as important as you think
    • You haven’t done a good job explaining to the other person how important the information you need from them is
    • You’re dealing with a personality that will need to be more strategically managed if you want to get what you want
    • You’re dealing with an incompetent person
    • That person is on vacation and forget to turn on their out-of-office auto-responder

Either way, you’ve learned a lot about what you’re dealing with, and in a very short time. 216

1074. The design, layout, and contents of your office, and where you greet and meet your boss and clients says a lot about the quality of person you are and what they can expect from you. 216

1075. Once you set SMART goals and are efficiently working towards achieving those goals, no work is ever wasted. It may take a while for you to see the fruit of your work, but it isn’t wasted. Even working on projects that you decide you must abandon and move on from is useful in that they taught you what you needed to know so that your next project is more optimized for success.

In situations where you abandon a project and move on, it’s important to ask yourself:

  • Why did it take you so long to realize the project wasn’t going to work?
  • How can you set your future projects up to help you validate and reach that decision as quickly as possible?
  • Even though this project didn’t work the way you plan, what wins can you take away from it?
    • Additional skill sets
    • Increased/improved professional network
    • Raw materials which can be used in future projects
    • Other 40,57,116,122,158,198

1076. One of the benefits of specialization is the ability to quickly prioritize tasks, knowing which must be handled immediately, which can be handled later, and which problems are merely symptoms of other larger problems that will disappear as those larger problems are dealt with. It is the generalists and the inexperienced who must spend the most time and money trouble-shooting to figure out what the specialist has spent a long time mastering.

As a specialist, once you learn these soft skills, you can either continue making money for someone else, or you can go into business on your own. 134

become independent

I want to stop being an employee and become independent. How?

YOU, THE INDEPENDENT ENTREPRENEUR

1077. Recall that nobody cares who you are, how hard you have worked, or what your goals are. People only care about themselves, reaching their own goals, and finding a solution that solves their problems and meets their needs and wants at a price they believe is worth the investment. Until you can offer that, nobody cares who you are, how hard you have worked, or what your goals are. 167,214,224

1078. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to create and express yourself through what you love doing, and it’s even better when you can earn a living doing what you love doing.

As an entrepreneur, never start a business simply because you can or because it’s the popular thing to do. Why? Because if your startup does happen to defy ‘luck’ and start earning money, now anticipate that you may very well spend the next 10 years of your life dedicated to its success. If you don’t like what you’re business is doing, or weren’t prepared for the amount of work needed to keep it running, it’s going to be a long, miserable job.

It’s worth taking the time to ponder the long-term viability of your brand, whether or not it is really in your best interest starting it, and if there are not other, more effective ways of getting your ideas into the world – even perhaps as an employee for a brand you admire, and who admires you, rather than as an entrepreneur. 80,176,227

1079. There are much easier ways to get rich and earn a reputation for yourself than by starting your own business. In fact, you should only really launch a startup if you feel compelled by a particular problem that angers or frustrates you, and that solving this problem in your own unique style is the best way to solve that problem. In this case, the passion and advantage you have for solving a specific problem using your unique set of skill sets and methodologies should be your first priority, and the business you start will follow. 80,219

1080. The problem with entrepreneurship is that it tends to be counter-intuitive:

  • Business schools and business degrees aid in managing businesses that have already been set up, but aren’t necessarily designed to help businesses that don’t yet exist
  • Learning French ensures you can communicate with French speakers, and learning accounting ensures you can manage your finances, but ‘learning’ entrepreneurship doesn’t ensure you will be a successful entrepreneur. In fact, the more ‘tricks’ and ‘checklists’ you memorize and rely on with regard to entrepreneurship, the riskier starting your business becomes because you’re overlooking the greatest element of brand success: insight into human behavior
  • Intuitive knowledge most industries is likely either wrong or is misplaced because predictions about where an industry is heading are usually approached by looking at the way a product, market, or industry was in the past, comparing it to how it has evolved to today, and then deducing where it’s likely to go. But innovation comes from places you’d least expect, and from places you didn’t even know existed

The one single aspect that does remain predictable is the underlying foundation of human behavior. The better you understand people’s needs, wants, and expectations, the better you are at meeting their needs, wants, and expectations, and thus making reliable decisions about their future behavior. 85,138,162,176,184,219

1081. If you intelligently built your professional network and established yourself as a top performing specialist with a reputation for quality while you were an employee for another company, then you will be strongly positioned to launch your own business.

However, if you did not have this luxury or foresight, then when you’re an unknown just starting out, getting investors, clients, and sales will take longer simply because you have to give people time to become comfortable with you and trust you. This is because investors, recruiters, and brands prefer to do business with successful and already established people, and they want to see that you will continue being successful whether they are involved or not. So focus first on gaining a few note-worthy successes that you can point to before you pitch or approach anybody for collaborations or for help. Until you have some successes you will be the weakest party at the negotiation table. 59,216

1082. Your reasons for going into business will likely be the result of:

  • Long-term goals. Wanting money for retirement, your children’s education, peace of mind, being in control of your own life, status and recognition, making the world a better place…
  • Short-term goals. Solving a problem in your own life or in someone else’s, paying off a debt, distracting your mind from a divorce or another stressful event…

Whatever your short-term reasons, always take into account the consequences of your actions and decisions over the long-term.

Making decisions which act as mere short-term remedies for problems you are currently dealing with may solve that particular short-term problem, but those short-term remedies may inadvertently limit or eliminate future possibilities. 203

1083. Strategies don’t really change; the same techniques and thought processes that were learned and used in years past are still being learned and used today. What’s different is what inspires us and how we implement those techniques and thought processes.

What makes true creativity and originality non-conforming and disruptive is the ability to see what everybody else has already seen and is already doing, yet being able to notice and do something with the same information that nobody else is.

Entrepreneurs and creative people are skilled at coming up with good ideas, but while being able to come up with original, creative ideas is already hard, what’s even harder is having the capacity to identify the good ideas that must be nurtured and then being willing to defy ‘luck’ and turn that idea into a success.

Being original shouldn’t be confused with being the first person to do something – having the first mover’s advantage. If you have to forfeit your opportunity of being the first person into a new industry so you can ensure that when you do enter the industry your timing is perfect and what you offer is the best possible solution available for your target audience, then that is what you must do.

While being a first mover can have its advantages, being first into a new market is also what attracts a slew of copy-cat competitors who benefit from your hard work, advertising, and public relations for free while improving upon your mistakes you spent time and money learning.

Why? Because it’s much easier to take somebody else’s idea and improve upon it than it is to create something that has never been done before. From this perspective, being the last person to enter a market with a product, service, or branding strategy after the other specialists and generalists have tried to enter and have gone bankrupt or survived and defined themselves – when you have a very clear understanding of who you are and what you offer, and no other competitors are even remotely capable of competing with you – can be a better position to be in than blindly creating a market first with a slight advantage only to be quickly overtaken by a wave of copy-cat competitors. 20,48,91,122,162,194,216

1084. Specialization is about obtaining a deep, comprehensive knowledge in a specific subject matter and solving a specific problem through repeated encounters with that problem to the point where solutions almost become unconscious. Creativity involves studying anything and everything that captures your attention for as long as it holds your attention, and then moving on when the subject no longer keeps your interest.

Creativity and specialization are not mutually exclusive. You might see something that means nothing to a problem directly, but it provokes something in your brain. Your mind is constantly brainstorming and your ideas are always working in the background. The more you feed your mind, the more your mind gives you in return. Feed it with everything. 1,17,36,115,116,162

1085. You don’t need to be completely original; you just have to be original enough to stand out. How far you want to stand out depends on you, your product or service, and your branding strategy. 104

1086. Having a custom email address from your own professional domain name is one of the first indicators of a serious business person. If your professional email address that you use to pitch to and communicate with clients ends in @hotmail.com, @gmail.com, or @yahoo.com, you will have a more difficult time convincing potential clients you are a legitimate entrepreneur.

In fact, recalling how recruiter branding plays a role in the quality of the candidates it attracts and recruits, the email client you use: Yahoo!, Hotmail, Google, Microsoft Outlook… as well as the internet browser you use: Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari… have been proven to reveal a lot about your job performance, commitment to your employer, and your ability to compare solutions and choose the best one that fits your needs and wants. The reason for this is because browsers such as Windows Explorer and Internet Safari come pre-installed into computers, whereas Firefox and Google Chrome users must go out of their way to download and compare the different browsers options available to them and until they have settled on the browser(s) they prefer.

Another red flag for clients is when you claim to be a serious professional, yet have no online portfolio, case studies, or recommendations to provide them. Being able to stand behind your work, and having current and former clients willing to go on record and recommend you are critical to establishing your credibility as a specialist.

Also, your domain name and email address must be easy to understand and spell, and should sound the way it spells, otherwise you lose credibility having to S-P-E-L-L space O-U-T how the person can contact you. This is especially true if your client-base doesn’t speak the same language as you. If your potential clients are around the world and don’t speak your native language, selling yourself will be even more difficult. 50,161,194,219

1087. When building a brand reputation, you have two options:

  • Brand you, the entrepreneur
  • Brand your company

In the long-term, building your reputation around yourself can be better than building the reputation exclusively around your company because building your own reputation:

  • Builds a professional network around you rather than around your brand. People may respect your brand, but that doesn’t benefit your long-term reputation if people aren’t aware that you’re the mastermind behind the brand
  • Allows you to transfer your reputation into other projects without having to start building your reputation all over again from scratch
  • Leads to other opportunities. Other brands and organizations will pay you to give guest lectures and presentations to their fans, employees, graduating classes, etc. This earned media further develops your reputation
  • Your reputation in one industry or field-of-work can help you break into a completely different and unrelated industry
  • You will never be lacking for work. Simply send a tweet, post on LinkedIn, or email everyone you know, and your professional network will make sure you land on your feet

As a specialist, branding yourself is also a great way to improve and maintain negotiation leverage with your current clients and/or employer because other recruiters and headhunters will continually be offering you bigger and better opportunities, and if your current clients knows this – and want to keep you – then they will have to be more willing to renegotiate terms and conditions with you.

If, however, your ultimate goal is to move from a specialist to becoming an entrepreneur, then perhaps the optimal course of action is to:

  • Establish your reputation within an existing corporate structure
  • Build a professional network within the industry that you can use to ensure your personal launch is positioned to succeed as quickly as possible
  • Learn as much as you possibly can from the industry before launching on your own
  • Get out of, or slowly transition out of the corporate employee environment before:
    • You get too comfortable with your paycheck and way of life
    • Your reputation within the corporate community becomes too established
    • You lose the ambition and entrepreneurial mindset required to launch your own startup 50,119,122,115,140,216

1088. As a leader and entrepreneur, instead of selling your own expertise, recruit and work with the best people you can attract and then sell your team’s expertise, not yourself. The smarter the people you surround yourself with, the greater perceived value of your brand, you, and the people you recruit. Everybody wins. 216

1089. As an entrepreneur, you’re confronted with two perspectives in life:

  • Reactive people focus on and complain about things they have no control over rather than focusing on why those negative things are happening or on the things they can control
  • Proactive people fight this urge to lazily complain, realizing that complaining, no matter how legitimate, is futile, and instead prudently focus their energy on taking advantage of the things they can control

Rather than reactively complaining about how people today don’t like to pay for things or have no respect for specialists and experts, or how the government is constantly making it harder for business owners to make money, proactively focus on how you can create a branding strategy and product or service so superior in quality that customers and clients will download your buggy beta-version, pre-order it before its ready, or stand in line for days just to be able to say they were one of the few first proud owners before everyone else got their hands on it. 76,99,176,214

For more on how to create a branding strategy, read How to Shape Human Behavior for Advertisers.

1090. Start off on the right foot. Whether your goal is to distinguish yourself as a specialist in your industry or as an entrepreneur worth investing in, how you define yourself is key to your success or failure. 203,232

1091. By looking at how a person organizes his or her office space, you can usually extrapolate how productive, inspiring and powerful the person is. Clean, orderly, and optimized office spaces give the impression that decisions get made and work gets done. Investors, clients, and managers alike may judge your worth based on how your office is organized. 134,216

1092. Know who you are. Successfully starting your own business and creating an idea and reputation from scratch is a long-term objective, not short-term, because making long-term strategic decisions requires knowing who you are not as much as it requires knowing who you are. 20,122,203

1093. The most powerful idea you can have is that one idea that becomes the foundation for a business model or product or service so disruptive that it reshapes and redefines how humans see their world and approach their future. 199

1094. The principle of business is that:

You want money, and people are willing to give you their money if you provide them with “X.”

This formula for a successful business is really quite straight forward. It’s finding and providing “X” that is the next to impossible part to accomplish, and the inability to find “X” is one of the many reasons why the large majority of startups fail. 176,186

1095. Brands and humans, especially brands and humans which have built their wealth and reputation on a particular belief or technology, tend to fight change and innovation; especially when that change and innovation threatens, undermines, or renders that brand or human obsolete. This kind of disruption has happened many times before in the history of humanity, and will happen many times to come. It is wiser to accept this reality and instead look at how you will stay relevant in the future than to try to hold on to the past. 94

1096. Humans typically have one of two types of career goals:

  • Move up as high as possible within an established structure and make as much money as they can
  • Find self-fulfillment in their lives, either by doing something they love doing or for motives other than prestige and money 92

1097. Can everyone be a musician, painter, writer, or entrepreneur? Yes, if they want to. Can everyone be talented and famous and financially self-supporting doing so? No, even if they wanted to. This is because humans progress through life due to their:

  • Genetic predisposition: your being naturally gifted at specific tasks and abilities
  • Cultivation: the ability for your caregivers to accurately identify and then develop those skills and abilities which you are naturally talented at
  • Competence: how well you exploit your honed skill as well as understand, adapt to, and excel at an activity, especially with regard to the soft-skills required to effectively manage other people and their individual egos, desires and objectives
  • Desire: ambition, financial objectives, and thresholds with regard to risk tolerance; how much you are willing to sacrifice and how comfortable you are at advancing in your career
  • Luck: the uncontrollable element above and beyond what you can control of finding yourself in the right place at the right time (or in the wrong place at the wrong time) despite yourself and your best efforts. As you read the words on this page consider the fact that there are at this very moment humans exponentially smarter and more capable than you and those innovators you read about in the news, but who will be born, live, and die without even the slightest opportunity, despite themselves and their best effort, of giving their best to the evolution of humanity

Can everyone be successful? Unlikely, but ‘success’ depends on how you define it; individually as a human and objectively as humanity. 92,162,212,213,219,227,237

1098. No experience versus too much experience in an industry. Approaching a problem with no experience or background information whatsoever can give you a perspective to the problem that confirmed specialists familiar with the problem may be overlooking, and confirmed specialists with 20-30 years of experience dealing with a problem may not be preferable either because they may lack the awareness of emerging technologies and have become so set in their ways that they’re no longer able to identify innovative opportunities to solve problems.

Ideally you should have at least some level of experience in the industry and solving its problems so that you:

  • Understand the industry’s best practices
  • Are familiar with the key competitors and understand why the industry leaders are the industry leaders – who they are, how they got there, and how they maintain their position
  • Can develop a visible competence and reputation within the industry that others in the industry will feel comfortable with
  • Can create a high-quality network of contacts within the industry to ensure you have exposure when/if you do launch your own brand, or want to change jobs 59,89,230,232

1099. Becoming a semi-expert in something and having the ability to passionately and effectively teach others how to do something can be more useful to companies and in your career path than becoming an expert, especially if as an expert you cannot teach or explain to others how to do your job or explain why your expertise is so necessary. 59,115

1100. When launching your brand and transitioning from employee to independent, you should organize your life so you can dedicate at least 2 consecutive and uninterrupted days each week to its success. 89

1101. Launching your own brand from scratch is intimidatingly hard work and requires an obsessive level of commitment because you are creating something from nothing with the intention of making it self-sustaining, and the amount of sheer physical and mental energy and fortitude required will be taxing on your physical and mental health as it will take precedence over and cause serious strain on your family, friends, hobbies, and everything else you consider important in life. You will need a specific set of skill, dedication, charisma, and personality to defy the odds and make it.

A popular profile startup founders believe they have to have is that of a robot, or Superman who works 23-hours a day, 7-days a week and at an impossible pace. If this is how you want to approach your startup, you may be able to manage this lifestyle for a while, but don’t forget the harsh reality that you are but a mere human and you will eventually crash and burn. If you crash and burn before your business has taken off and is self-sustaining, then you will have nothing to show for all your hard work and sacrifice but a large gap in your professional career printed on your CV that you must explain to a recruiter. If your business does fail and a recruiter asks you “Why did your startup fail to take off?” What will you say? 16,50,89,122,126,176

1102. Fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) are a normal and necessary part of the entrepreneurial process, and while a certain amount of risk-taking is necessary to succeed, you should also protect your professional CV over the long-term by:

  • Defining specific, measurable, acceptable, realistic, and time-bound (SMART) goals from the outset with a clear ‘abandon and walk away’ deadline to ensure you don’t get trapped in a failed project and unable to rebound
  • Understanding the difference between:
    • Self-doubt: questioning your own competence and legitimacy as a professional to come up with good ideas and solutions
    • Idea-doubt: acknowledging that you are a competent professional capable of having both good and bad ideas, being able to distinguish the good from the bad, and then knowing how to challenge and improve your good ideas to make them great
  • Keeping a:
    • Plan A. Your goal if you had no restrictions
    • Plan B. What you will do if your ‘plan A’ doesn’t happen or if in your path to ‘plan A’ a better alternative presents itself
    • Plan Z. What you will do if everything fails
  • Positioning yourself so you can walk away a winner even if your project fails, such as having acquired:
    • New and useful skill sets
    • A specialist reputation despite your setback
    • A much larger and higher-quality professional network
    • Lessons learned to ensure future project(s) will be more successful
    • Etc.
  • Having coping mechanisms such as sports, loved ones, etc. to effectively manage fear, uncertainty, doubt, rejection and stress 40,122,194,219,227

1103. The top 25 reasons most businesses fail within four years are due to:

  • Incompetence
  • Entrepreneur loses hope. It takes a long time to get a business up and running, and entrepreneurs unable to invest the time necessary will give up and move on too quickly
  • Entrepreneur lacks objectivity. Don’t fall in love with your product to the point where you are no longer able to make objective business decisions
  • Wrongly anticipated costs and timing. Your business idea might be a great idea in four years, meaning you’ll need to either wait for the world to catch up with your business idea, or start investing now so that when the world is ready you already have the advantage
  • Inadequate or incorrect consumer testing
  • Inadequate communication on product and/or brand
  • Employees don’t believe in product
  • Bad business idea from the very beginning
  • Entrepreneur falls in love with product. There is a difference between being passionate about your product and falling in love with your product to the point you cannot make the tough decisions to improve or abandon it
  • Inadequate research and development
  • Bad advice from friends and family
  • All budget spent on product creation, with insufficient budget left for marketing and advertising. Even with advertising campaigns that go viral, brands invest a lot of money making it viral
  • Strategic marketing mistakes
  • Unclear or faulty purchasing process. If customers get all the way to your checkout and it doesn’t work, is too complicated, or looks unsafe, they will abandon their shopping cart and probably not tell you why they didn’t buy, so you will have no idea why people aren’t buying
  • Product launched too quickly/at the wrong time 
  • Governmental regulatory changes that render your product or service illegal, heavily regulated, or obsolete
  • Ineffective or incomplete advertising and public relations campaigns
  • Too dependent upon public relations campaign for success. Marketing and public relations serve distinct purposes, and you should have the right objectives and expectations before investing
  • All budget spent on gaining first trial, leaving an insufficient budget for gaining repeat trials to make clients loyal
  • Business idea based on a passing fad which too quickly dies
  • Product priced too high for consumer acceptance
  • Product incongruent with brand perception
  • Wrong target demographic
  • Offensive/defensive moves from other brands
  • Bad luck

While the above checklist is helpful in planning your business, learning from your failures to ‘guarantee’ success in your next project is nearly impossible to do because most projects fail for multiple reasons; not for one single and obvious reason. So while you estimate that your project failed ONLY because of reason ‘d’ (Wrongly anticipated costs and timing) above, in reality you may have failed for reasons ‘d,a,f,u,c,k,’ meaning your next project may be doomed to fail for the 6 other reasons you didn’t identify.

All of these 25 causes for startup failure boil down to two major problems:

  • Entrepreneurs don’t know how to properly build a branding strategy to limit failure
  • Entrepreneurs lack the budget to hire professionals to advise them in their branding strategy 25,29,40,46,51,53,55,61,65,69,74,82,89,92,103,104,122,176, 212,216,219,220,227,232

1104. Luck, unfortunately, is an unavoidable element of success. You could do everything absolutely perfectly and still not be at the right place at the right time. To control luck as a factor in success:

  • Create a clear definition for success that is attainable
  • Be prepared and recognize when ‘lucky’ opportunities arise
  • Actively and intentionally get your name and reputation known in the right places
  • Be bold enough to fight like hell for your opportunity before it passes you by 122,212,216,219

1105. Inexperienced and ill-informed entrepreneurs tend to launch their brand based on unreasonable expectations by:

  • Building their entire product or service behind closed doors and hidden away from public view before they are even sure if there are people interested in it out of fear that someone may steal their idea and beat them to market
  • Organizing a fancy product launch campaign, expecting the buzz from their ‘epic’ launch campaign to make their brand successful and lucrative and attract a lot of happy and loyal users
  • Becoming disappointed with the underwhelming results of their ‘epic’ campaign launch and marketing campaign results and so resorting to buying advertising or emails to push their brand in front of users
  • Abandoning their project altogether because it didn’t meet their expectations and objectives, or because of one of the many other reasons why startups fail mentioned above 89,176,220

1106. The startup phase of your brand isn’t supposed to last a lifetime, and the best way for you to ensure you do not become obsessed over a project that will never takeoff is to sign a contract with yourself which clearly outlines:

  • A realistic definition of the success you hope to achieve
  • SMART (Specific, Measurable, Acceptable, Realistic, and Time-bound) goals
  • Smaller sub-goals to help measure progress and keep you motivated
  • A clear deadline by which you must meet your SMART goals
  • Built-in fail-safes to ensure your startup can be counted as an asset on your CV and in your overall professional career – such as acquiring highly-desirable skill sets, a specialist reputation, an enhanced professional network… – even if your startup fails

If you arrive at your pre-established deadline and you are still in ‘startup mode’ with no justification as to why and how much further you must go to escape the ‘startup mode,’ seriously consider cutting your losses and moving on. 40,122,126,176

1107. You cannot simply “do your job” expecting key decision-makers to notice your contribution and potential and give you promotions, raises, and whatever else you feel you deserve because your superiors and employees are all also busy worrying about their own job responsibilities and career advancement.

You have to fight for what you believe you deserve, otherwise you are putting too much of your future into the unreliable hands of luck and other people’s planning, moods, decisions. 92,162

1108. One of the most notable signs of maturity is your ability to work your schedule around that of others, knowing that to get what you want it’s often easier to simply fit into someone else’s schedule than it is to force them to go out of their way and adapt to yours, even if you’re the stronger party. 216

1109. Just because you have obtained the education, qualifications, experience, and reputation to be considered a top performing specialist or business in a useful field or area of business doesn’t mean you can assume that brands, recruiters, head hunters, and customers will automatically begin actively seeking you out and throwing money and opportunities at you. This is where hard work, innovation, and luck works against you because:

  • Equally qualified and reputable competitors will also be vying for the same jobs and customers as you
  • Lesser-qualified but resolute competitors willing to work harder, longer hours for less pay will undermine your qualifications and reputation by placing themselves in the right place at the right time in front of the right recruiter or customer will overcome your unique selling points (USPs). 93,162,197

1110. Engineers have engineering solutions. Marketers have marketing solutions. Accountants have accounting solutions. Lawyers have legal solutions. One is not ‘better’ than the others, but believing that your solution can only come from one educational and professional background is limiting your potential for creative and innovative solutions that set you apart from your competitors. 138,232

1111. If your business or project does fail for whatever reason, or your past ventures have failed and you’re starting over again on something different, instead of thinking reactively – as a victim of circumstances beyond your control:

  • Think proactively – identify all the elements of your life that are under your control and build upon them
  • Identify whether or not you are putting your time, money, and energy into the right projects. If you are not, then be willing to cut any losses you have accumulated thus far and start working on your next project
  • Learn to distinguish:
    • Setbacks: events that slow down or prevent progress and force you to reevaluate your current decisions and objectives
    • Setups: events that put you and your project in a better position to maximize success
    • Breakdowns: reaching a point where you have sacrificed so much of your time, money, and energy that it is no longer sustainable nor rewarding and you’ve no assurance that you will benefit from your sacrifices in the future, and your best option would be to cut your losses and walk away before you inflict greater damage to your physical, mental, and financial well-being
    • Breakthroughs: reaching a point where all of your time, money, and energy sacrifice has given you direction and helped you realize what precisely you need to do to move forward with peace of mind
  • Identify the important lessons to be learned from your experience, and positively focus on how you can use those lessons to increase your chances of successfully moving forward
  • Be resilient by redefining how negativity motivates you – pain, failure, and attacks from critics and competitors are 100% guaranteed to happen. Rather than letting them negatively affect you, anticipate, absorb, and channel them in a way that motivates you to keep going and improving what you’re trying to accomplish

Think about negative criticism in this way, and suddenly pain, failure, and insults become key to your success.  203,210,214,219

1112. Once your startup begins bringing in money and showing signs of success, you need to balance the amount of money you put away into savings versus how much you re-invest into marketing to find new clients and product or service development. No, you don’t  want to lose the revenue you have sacrificed so much to earn, and it would be great to start collecting your own paycheck, but neither do you want your initial success to fade because no new clients are being targeted and brought in, meanwhile competitors are starting to notice your success and copy your business idea. 122

1113. Innovative, ambitious, creative and money-hungry business people steal, copy, and improve upon other’s ideas. You cannot stop this reality, and fighting copyright infringements and idea theft through the court of law is fighting a losing battle as it only slows the theft down, not stop it. In fact, your competency and expertise is thanks in large part to how effective you were at stealing, copying, and improving upon other people’s great ideas.

Instead of fighting theft or building your product/service in secret, launch what you offer into the world as quickly and publically as possible, brand it with your logo, and then let it act as publicity for you. Incorporating the theft into your marketing strategy may be a more lucrative approach to growing your business than fighting it. 30,89,110,220,227

1114. Because the startup phase is wrought with big wins as well as large setbacks, you must be prudent in balancing the good and bad news you share with your loved ones along the way. Setting SMART goals at the beginning of your startup launch helps keep yours and everyone else’s expectations about your ‘success’ grounded and prevents you from being unfairly judged by the successes of other entrepreneurs. If anyone you know feels justified in saying to you:

  • “All the other entrepreneurs I read about say they make a million dollars every year. Why are you still barely earning a living? What is wrong with you?!”
  • “You are finally making good money, and yet you are still spending 15 hours every day glued to your computer working on something. What is wrong with you?!”

…then you need to reassess how SMART your goals are, and you should be more prudent in balancing the good and bad business news you are sharing with them.

That being said, after you have set your SMART 5- and 10-year goals, challenge yourself; what is preventing you from being slightly more aggressive and optimized in your work ethic so that you could in fact meet your 10-year goal in 5-years? 40,122,219

1115. As long as you are experiencing some growth and building a client base, you are getting closer to getting through the startup phase and creating a viable business. But falling too much in love with your idea can prevent you from making important decisions about your future, and most brands barely survive the startup phase and become frustrating, expensive, and time-consuming small businesses that should have been abandoned in the startup phase.

Just like settling for being in a romantic relationship with someone you’re not “in love” with because “it’s better than being single,” being the owner of a “successful” brand because “it’s better than being an employee for someone else” can make you unhappy and complacent, especially if your small business is not set up to earn much more money or become easier to manage so you can stop focusing on the business and start focusing more on what you enjoy doing. Sooner or later you’ll have to choose between maintaining a business you dislike, and cutting your losses, and moving on and trying something else. 122,144,176

1116. Launching a business is a large opportunity cost because:

  • The sheer amount of time, energy, and money required to create something out of nothing consumes your life for an undetermined amount of time. Your business runs you as much as you run your business
  • You alone make all the decisions and you alone are responsible for the brand’s failure or success
  • You’re not guaranteed success – in fact, the odds of success are against you, and failure may result in large financial losses and damage to your long-term career
  • If your business does become successful, the nature and complexities of your problems grow with it
  • You’re guaranteed to learn from the experience, but what you learn might not be something future employers are willing to pay you for
  • In retrospect, spending that time moving up the corporate ladder as an employee in an established company might have put you farther along in your career and put you in a better position financially than trying to create your own startup 85,122

business monetization

YOUR BUSINESS MODEL & MONETIZATION PLAN

1117. A lot of business models and ideas sound smart and logical until you objectively evaluate the data and research behind them. The confirmation bias is the tendency for humans to gather and accept only information that confirms their beliefs while disregarding or ignoring information that disproves their beliefs.

A major problem at the crossroads of business and ‘truth’ is that data and research can be interpreted any way you want them to, and why when it comes to interpreting data:

  • Researchers have a lot of vested interests in the outcome of their research because with the unfortunate reality of tenure (for scholars), promotions (for employees), reputation, and funding at risk, an expert’s success often depends on how much they produce, how often they produce it, where their work appears, and who reads it
  • Most online magazines, blogs, and content-based businesses rely so heavily on paid advertising to exist that they balance what readers want to read with what advertisers are willing to pay for
  • For businesses, there is a lot of money to be made in selling complex products and services to clients who don’t understand the complexities of those products and services 44,162,164,165,176,184,201,211,232

1118. Each industry has its own strengths, weaknesses, leaders, price ranges, and perceptions, and knowing which industry you are competing in is imperative to knowing:

  • Who your target consumers are
  • Who you’re competing against
  • What your business model and branding strategy must be to effectively compete
  • What  products and services you’ll offer
  • How you’ll price and pitch products and services
  • What your marketing strategy must be to effectively differentiate yourself from your competitors

But when it comes to choosing and competing in business industries, you can and must be creative; especially if you are competing on a budget. Just because your startup offers event planning services doesn’t automatically relegate you to only competing in the event planning industry. Were you to brand your startup as an event planning company that caters exclusively to the luxury industry, your direct competitors are no longer other ‘event planners,’ but are luxury hotels, restaurants, and jet liners who also offer events. Take this one step further, these competitors would welcome your indulgent services at their luxury location (since your events need to be hosted somewhere, right?), thus turning competitors into collaborators; a win/win negotiation. 216

For more on creating your marketing and branding strategy, read How to Shape Human Behavior 2nd Edition.

Also, download our free 65 question strategic planning & creative brief template at: http://www.humanbehavior.solutions

1119. Before investing too heavily in your business, test your business idea. Launch a well-designed yet simple, no frills, no back-office landing page using free resources available to you with your business offer, a way to collect the email address of people who fall upon your business offer and like it, and a way of contacting you for more information. Then, email your landing page to your professional network explicitly asking them to share it with their network. If people respond positively to your offer, you know you have a business idea worth exploring. 104

1120. Airlines are in competition with other airlines, but they are also in competition with trains, buses, boats, and even digital technology such as Skype and email if the client needs to merely transport documents.

For example, a married couple with an agreed upon $4,000 budget for their 5th year wedding anniversary have a million alternatives to choose from:

  • A six day, all-inclusive stay at a local 5-star hotel
  • A quaint 4 day trip to a small island in Greece
  • A nice dinner and an expensive piece of jewelry
  • Foregoing the anniversary and instead investing that money into their house payment
  • Etc.

Your competitors are not only those brands which are offering similar products and competing in your same chosen industry, your competitors are any acceptable alternative within the potential client’s chosen budget. 116,137,197

1121. Innovative business ideas come from anywhere:

  • Identifying current needs and wants people have right now, and then creating a product or service specifically designed to meet those needs
  • Anticipating future needs and wants by being an early adopter: observing the underlying foundational technology behind modern products and services, and then identifying the disrupting technologies what will force modern products and services to improve because those changes to the foundation will create a ripple effect on all existing products and services, forcing them to either adapt, upgrade, or go extinct. Basically by comparing:
    • How things have been done in the past
    • How things are being done now, and
    • How things will be done in the future

That being said, true creativity and innovation don’t come from the places you would expect. When humans try to predict the future, they tend to look at progress from the past until now what they have seen most recently, and then make deductions. But true creativity and innovation are disruptive and involve looking at what everybody else has already looked at, and being able to see something nobody else has seen. It looks obvious after the fact, but nobody would have predicted it beforehand. 119,138,142,144,151,162,213,219,232

1122. Should you ignore clients and people’s advice, follow your vision, and create what you believe to be the product or service they don’t yet know they want, or should you build and adapt your product or service according to client feedback and data? This depends, in part, on the problems you want to solve. 126,232

1123. At the core, startups begin with two commonalities:

  • An idea people need or want, or can be convinced that they need or want
  • Investment (time, money, energy) into the idea’s growth

From there, the best way to come up with the idea people need or want is to:

  • Go to where the people are and observe their lives, their needs, and their wants first hand
  • Go to where the forefront of your industry is so you can see firsthand what the future is moving towards
  • Train your brain to become an unconscious idea generator by staying up to date on everything that is happening and filling your brain with as many quality sources as possible
  • Identify and work on problems that you find interesting, and work on them with people you like, respect, are well connected, and who share common interests and desires
  • Develop your ideas into side projects that you (and perhaps a team) can adapt, turn into a product or service people want, and then grow
  • Continually learn and refine your ideas until you either abandon it for another, better project, or your project becomes so successful that you need to, and can afford to, quit all other projects to focus exclusively on this one 85

1124. There are tons of products, services and applications available today that you can use for free to help you launch and run your business. Don’t waste money paying someone to create for you a state-of-the-art, custom-made back office software program when a free, simple version would suffice. Instead, use the free version somebody else has made and invest your time and money getting your minimum viable product (MVP) created and your first 1,000 pre-orders or sign-ups.

Once you have created your successful and profitable business, consider paying it forward by offering a free, simple version of your own product or service other aspiring specialists and startups can use to launch their ideas. 38,161

1125. The information, strategies, and lessons you have learned while building your business might never have been considered as a potential source of income for you, but don’t view it as worthless. At some point you could be approached by established companies and startups to do training workshops or consulting projects for them.

That being said, if you’re providing specialized knowledge and solutions that aren’t easily found and readily available, and that knowledge requires extensive research and a unique solution to each individual problem, then it’s understandable that you charge for it, and clients would understand this and be willing to pay for it. 72,216

1126. Imagine you have no limitations, no rules and market regulations. What would you create? At the beginning, don’t focus on limitations and don’t argue why an idea wouldn’t work at this point; focus only on positive language. Focus on possibilities. Dealing with limitations and narrowing ideas is a separate step to be dealt with later. 133,232,233

1127. When first starting out on your own, having a perfect product or service isn’t your top priority. At this stage your only priority is creating and communicating your:

  • Minimum viable product (MVP): the smallest and least expensive product or service that works and that you are proud to stand behind so you can see if people are willing to pay for and tell others about
  • Value proposition: the promise of value you offer your clients; the foundation of your brand reputation 89,144

1128. As startups grow and turn into businesses, they logically aim at expanding and diversifying their product line and industries they compete in. This attempt to become ‘the comprehensive solution’ for all their client’s needs becomes both a competitive advantage as well as a risk.

Why? Because as an independent specialist or as a small startup on a limited budget, you are not yet in a position to compete with those large, aggressive, ‘comprehensive’ companies, and at this point you do not yet want them to perceive you as a threat that must be destroyed, otherwise they may acquire you for a cheap price and/or crush you before you become too serious of a threat.

Instead, fly under your competitor’s radar by starting small, simple, and specializing on one superior-quality, highly-relevant solution that provides an incredible user experience that meets the needs and wants of a small target demographic, and then slowly expand your business. 119,220,230

1129. As a sole proprietor or independent, once you reach a point where you must start adding employees, you no longer have 100% control over every single decision and action that takes place on behalf of your brand and reputation. Hire wisely. 93

1130. Once a brand with employees makes a significant branding strategy, business model, or internal administrative change, the leaders must understand who under them will be impacted by these decisions, in what way, and they must make sure those responsible for implementing the decisions are adequately equipped to manage the change. Brands that refuse to change, die. Employees who refuse to change, are ostracized. 103,107,112

1131. As you grow as a startup – and in order to grow – you identify and commit to a specific market and then must eventually narrow your focus, thus giving up your fundamental advantage over your more established competitors: the ability to pivot and modify your business model and strategy and offer to an ever changing market that you once had. 230

1132. If your brand is too slow to change and stay competitive, your brand risks being overtaken by smaller, more ambitious startups. The one commonality nearly all disruptive evolutions share is that they rarely come from pre-existing corporate structures, but from the places you’d least expect. 138,213,215

1133. Cash flow is the difference between your liquidable assets such as cash coming into your business, and how quickly you’re able to use those assets to pay the debts and expenses involved in making and getting your product or service into your client’s hands. Costs include:

  • Renting your office space
  • Purchasing required software
  • Paying your employees
  • Shipping and handling of your product
  • Etc.

If it takes you six months to get paid for work done for a client, this means six months of spending your own money or going into debt until the client pays you (assuming they do pay you and you don’t have to write it off as a loss or take them to court for non-payment).

When starting out, if you don’t have enough savings to survive until your clients pay you, you will suffer financially and even risk going bankrupt, in which case you may need to go into debt while you await payment or find a financially-backed investor or partner to cover those expenses.

If you’re not comfortable with going into debt or giving away equity in your business to investors, then set up a business and payment model that targets and rewards clients willing to set up 50% to 100% up front upon sale, thus giving you the liquidable cash you’ll need to cover expenses and reinvest in your business growth. 111,167

1134. Many online businesses rely on 3rd party advertising and ‘sponsored content’ as a substantial source of revenue to stay in business, or as a way of earning a little extra revenue. This monetization avenue can become problematic for your brand when your quest for earning money starts to outweigh your desire to create a quality product and brand reputation. Humans come to your website and want to do business with you because you provide them with a quality product or service that makes their lives better in some incremental way, not because of the advertisement on your website. Never forget this.

The problem with relying on paid advertising and sponsored content is that many consumers have learned how to ignore it, and even rely on ad-blocking software to limit their exposure to it. ‘Sponsored content’ has become stealthy to the point the majority of uninformed consumers are unable to distinguish quality content and articles from sponsored advertising and fake news disguised as quality content.

As a consequence, if consumers believe the content on your website to be mere advertising – whether or not it is, how does that brand you as meaningfully different from your competitors? If you, as a startup, resort to tricking your clients and consumers by camouflaging advertising and sponsored content as a means of revenue, how does that brand you as a trustworthy startup? Further, how does that make you look as a reputable entrepreneur? 20,164,165

1135. If as you improve your product or service you find your brand in the awkward position where your product is:

  • So powerful and packed with so many features that consumers are being over-served, yet
  • So weak and with so few features that businesses are being under-served

…then you may need to reconsider your business model and direction:

  • Business-to-Consumer (B2C) models allow you to either be a generalist or specialist, but because the competition is so fierce and because barriers to entry so low, it may take you a long time to establish your reputation as a specialist, and generalists can always beat you by lowering their price and promising the moon. Because consumers generally don’t like to spend money, especially if they can find alternatives cheaper than yours, it can be difficult to monetize your product or service and get people to buy from you. B2C businesses are generally more glamorous and attract more job hunters looking for work because of this sexy, fun and innovative perception, and because they get more social media attention, which employees like because it makes them more desirable to other employers
  • Business-to-Business (B2B) models allow you to focus on business problems and specialize in business-centric solutions, which equate to much larger, longer, and more complex projects. There tends to be less competition than in the B2C market because barriers to entry are much higher, B2B market leaders tend to be much more aggressive against competitors, and clients may be contractually engaged with their suppliers and less willing to switch to new suppliers, making it difficult for you to win clients.
    You will, however, be able to charge much more for your products and services – and charging less than competitors may even turn prospective clients away, assuming you to be inferior in quality and a risk to their business’ safety – because you are dealing with clients who have much larger budgets and greater demands. Because there are fewer competitors, word-of-mouth can work to your advantage. B2B businesses are generally less glamorous and attract fewer recruits because they get less media attention and the idea of working on long, complex projects for “boring, stuffy” clients isn’t as appealing as the glamourous world of B2C
  • Business-to-Business-to-Consumer (B2B2C) models require you know enough about the ultimate end user that you can make a product or service that meets their needs and wants, while simultaneously trusting your reputation in the hands of your clients who will be selling your product or service to the ultimate end users

B2B and B2C business models are very different and require a completely different set of rules to survive. 119,148

1136. If you’re a B2C business, your consumers are interested in having their problems solved and/or needs met for the best price possible.

If you’re a B2B business, understand that the decision-maker isn’t spending their own money; they are spending their company’s money, and as a result their purchasing decisions will be judged by their superiors, and may be used against them in their annual performance evaluation or opportunity for promotion.

Therefore, their priority is making decisions that will make them look good in front of their superior. As a B2B business, understanding what is important to the decision-maker’s superior enables you to offer a product or service solution, and structure your sales pitch so that the decision-maker will choose you as their best alternative because doing so advances their own career objectives.

During a B2B negotiation process, it’s perfectly reasonable to ask about the decision-making hierarchy and who the final decision-maker is. Knowing the final decision-maker’s priorities can be an incredible asset to winning the client. For example:

  • If the decision-maker’s superior is primarily concerned with saving money, then ‘letting’ the decision-maker negotiate a price cut lets that person look good in front of their superior when they tell their superior they saved the company money
  • If the decision-maker’s superior is primarily concerned with maximizing employee output, then highlighting how your product or service will enable employees to be more productive and limit unproductive idle-time lets that person look good in front of their superior when they tell their superior they optimized performance for the whole department

Regardless, you win the client, the decision-maker’s superiors are happy, and the decision-maker looks good on their next performance evaluation. Everybody wins. 167,216

1137. Are you going into business for the short-term or the long-term? The answer to this question determines which business model is most appropriate for you. It’s quite possible that the best avenue for you and your current business idea would be to create a business with the express intention of turning around and selling it to a larger company at a profit, in which case you would focus on recruiting a highly-specialized team of competent, top performing, and highly-sought after sales and coding professionals and amassing as huge a list of consumer information that larger, financially backed companies will want to acquire you to gain access to your talent. 113,122,126

1138. To monopolize a market, you must:

  • Demonstrably possess some real or perceived, sizable proprietary advantage over every other alternative currently available on the market
  • Have a brand name and/or reputation, business model, tagline, and communication style that gets stuck in people’s heads
  • Have, or can quickly obtain, a social and professional network of people who are willing to recommend you to paying customers in their network
  • Have a lean and scalable business model that allows you to keep your costs minimal, even as your demand for your product or service increases
  • Target a consumer niche small enough that you:
    • Can fairly quickly and with minimal effort establish and develop a quality brand reputation among a small group of strategic consumers
    • Can monopolize that position because no other players currently on the market can offer what you offer nor see you as a threat to be dealt with… yet
  • Ensure the niche is big enough that the market has the potential of becoming financially lucrative in the future and attracting competitors, which generate buzz around and promotes your market
  • Be prepared so when competitors do eventually begin encroaching into your market to steal a share of your revenue, you are still able to maintain your monopolistic position over time 91,167,230

With regard to a unique selling proposition (USP): Being the “ONLY French-Québécois speaking child daycare center for left-handed children in Paris, France” is perhaps a monopolizable market, but unless this claim is a public relations ploy to attract attention to your brand, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to make enough money from this business idea to make a living.

With regard to a branding strategy: Is “the crazy misadventures of an American girl who falls in love with a Frenchman and moves to Paris to spend her blog posts days critiquing restaurant lunch specials” a really great idea for a blog, or just one in yet another million already existing blogs with the same exact tagline? 90

1139. Improving conversion rates is critical to growth, but ensuring your business model is scalable and optimized for growth is even more important because if through hard work and luck your client-base were to explode from 10 to 10,000 overnight, would you be in position to meet the demand as promised, or would you suddenly have 9,990 paid, disappointed and angry clients? 161,162

1140. The scaling process of going from doing business manually to incorporating fully-automatic models should be intentional and done at a pace that allows you to understand what you are automating and why you are automating it. Automating your brand too quickly – for example replacing personally written emails with automated mass newsletters can break your branding reputation and damage your credibility. 89

1141. When you start your own business in an already existing industry, you are forced to work with the standard of quality, price range, and expectations already established in that market. If, however, you discover a market you can both create and monopolize, understand that while you must face the long, hard road of paving the way in this new market, you are also in a position to benefit from an unrivaled level of income and innovation and you have the advantage of setting the standard for quality your eventual competitors and copycats will be compared to.

In a newly created, monopolistic market there are many less alternatives for consumers and recruiters to accurately choose from and compare your solutions to, so anyone operating in this form of uncharted market is constantly being:

  • Compared, justly or unjustly, to alternatives that consumers assume to be ‘similar’ to what you offer
  • Challenged to expand the market while simultaneously defending your market share from other aggressive and financially backed competitors 91,167,220

1142. Being known as the first brand into a newly created market can have the branding and public relations advantages of making the media headlines and defining the market; this is known as the primacy effect: the tendency for humans to remember what happened at the beginning of an event.

There is also great advantage to being one of the first few copycats who notice and also enter the new market because you can:

  • Take advantage of the learning curve and lessons learned from the brand that initially created the market, thus saving you time and money
  • Work in collaboration – even through direct competition – with the other brands to promote the new market and attract more consumers
  • Exploit your resources – time, money, and professional network – and steal the first-mover’s advantage from them

There is another advantage of being able to learn from and copy other’s successes while avoiding their errors, and being identified as the last brand to enter a maturing market where many other brands have entered, tried, and failed, and where only a few brands remain. This is known as the recency effect: the tendency for humans to remember what happened most recently in an event.

1143. Test, validate, and get your business idea and model financially self-supporting as quickly and as inexpensively as possible before you begin investing any further time and resources into it:

  • Create your minimum viable product (MVP) or service (MVS): the smallest, simplest version possible that people are willing to give you money for. This will allow you to validate whether or not there truly is a market for your idea, if you must make any modifications to your product or service before people are willing to give you money for it, or if you should abandon it for another, more highly-desired idea
  • Ensure all your communications (website, pamphlets, instructions, etc.) are clear, persuasive, and speak directly to your intended target audience
  • Launch a website landing page so people can purchase your product or service, or at least give you permission to contact them with updates and other useful information
  • Invest in highly-targeted advertising and marketing campaigns that focus on repeatedly exposing your small, highly-targeted audience as frequently as possible
  • Monitor your conversion rates:
    • How many people visit your website and from which sources they found you
    • How many of those people purchased your product or service or gave you their email address
    • How many of those people shared your product or service with their network
  • Modify and test your product or service, communications, website interface, and target audience to continually improve conversation rates
  • If you require investor funding or partners to grow or further evolve your product or service, you are now positioned to use the above information to pitch your now validated business and client-base to investors or partners 161,167

1144. Landing pages requesting email signups and conversions are great for validating your business model, driving sales, and establishing yourself as a specialist, but this strategy works better for B2C business models than it does for B2B models.

For example, as a B2B business you could use the B2C strategy of paying for advertising on LinkedIn or Facebook and offering a free high-quality downloadable white paper you created and collect the email address of every employee in a particular company you’d like to sign as a client. And while this B2C strategy may make you popular among the employees of a potential client company in the short-term, and may even create internal allies who forward you to their human resources department and relevant decision-makers who have the authority to buy your product or service, that doesn’t guarantee you a foot in the door with those decision-makers. And if after you’ve spent all that money the decision-maker turns you down because they don’t like you or because they ‘are already contractually-bound to another company’ or ‘already have someone internally who handles that,’ then while you’ll have employees who like your product or service, you won’t have any clients or revenue to show for it.

For B2B business models, in addition to showcasing your expertise through downloadable white papers, focus on video presentations and case studies from current and past clients, and then having a simple contact form for potential clients to request a face-to-face meeting with you to learn more. 161,232

1145. With potential clients, giving you their email address isn’t the same as giving you their money. Getting a person to sign a non-binding letter or email of intent to do business with you is more promising than a 100 email addresses and compliments on your product or service, but that letter of intent is still non-enforceable and you cannot make business decisions assuming that you will have their ‘promised’ money. 161

1146. The problem with a semi-successful business is that it may be a project that is doomed to never take off, but the slow growth is just promising enough to seduce you into feeding more and more of your time and money into it instead of killing it, learning from the process and moving on to another project.

To avoid this problem:

  • Set SMART goals and clear deadlines for your project, considering your career and reputation as a specialist over the long-term
  • Don’t fall so much in love with your product or service that you are unable to see and take opportunities that arise
  • Be open to criticism and ways of improving your product or service to better meet your target audience’s needs 116,122,161,167,176

1147. If you’re trying to break into a market which has a few leading brands and then many smaller brands copying the leaders and competing amongst each other for whatever is left of the market after the top leaders have devoured it, then perhaps rather than adopting a generalist’s mentality and also competing for the market leftovers, partner with some of the small- to mid-sized businesses in the market to obtain validation for your business, and then use that validation to:

  • Convince one of the market leaders to incorporate your product or service into theirs, which may oblige the other leaders, and subsequently the smaller brands, to use your product or service as well
  • Convince one of the market leaders to acquire your brand and either work with that leader, or sell it for the highest price possible and be willing to walk away from it 134,148

1148. Building a business can actually prove to be more difficult to do than building a product or service because employees have such diverse personalities, cultures, needs and wants, expectations, idiosyncrasies, and cognitive limitations that sooner or later communications will be rendered incompatible, and your recruiting employees to work in a high-pressure environment and obliging them to collaborate with other humans in a small space 40+ hours per week for a financial incentive further compounds this situation.

Even assuming you have correctly hired intelligent, top performing, patient, interculturally-minded and skilled employees, many communication problems will be minor and will be worked out interpersonally without causing too much damage or requiring your attention or direct involvement while other, deeper problems, fester and will eventually reach a point where productivity is halted and you must either act immediately and decisively or risk losing significant time, money, and reputation, if not your entire business.

As a leader, you must differentiate these problems, knowing when to step in and when to let your empowered employees resolve them. 78,127,134,184

1149. Humans generally dislike paying for products or services, and will go out of their way to find it for free, or are willing to use an inferior product than pay for a product that would better meet their needs. While you should actively seek to mitigate your losses, you should understand that loss and theft is a part of the process, and rather than wasting all your time fighting it, you should absorb this unrealized revenue into your business model’s marketing and branding budget and view theft as an opportunity for earned media and building your brand reputation on quality so good that humans are willing to go out of their way to steal it. Humans willing to go to great lengths to steal your product or service were probably never going to pay for it anyway.

However, many people are ready and willing to pay you for your hard work because they see the value in what you do, so while you can’t eliminate theft and free usage, make it as easy as possible for people to pay you, and don’t be afraid to demand the price it is worth. 30,94,110,144,176

1150. Reducing your price to provoke a price war and skew the middle price range is a strategic marketing strategy, not a business strategy. In every market, there is a price range: a low price point, a high price point, and a middle price average. It’s your responsible to identify where you want to be identified in that price range and then create a product or service, and brand reputation that supports your price point positioning. Your product and service design and offer must fit the price. If there is any incongruence between your price and your perceived value, clients will notice this inconsistency and probably won’t take the risk. 46,138

1151. Larger established brands typically try to expand their product line until they have become the ‘comprehensive’ solution for all their clients’ needs.

As a startup you are not in a position to possibly compete with them, and at this point nor should you even try. You do not want them to perceive you as a threat that must be destroyed, so start small, simple, and relevant, and specialize as one very small but powerful solution with an incredible user experience clients need and want, and then slowly expand. 119

1152. Brands are never guaranteed success, however your ‘luck’ can be increased by focusing on the four most important areas:

  • A great idea
  • A great product
  • A great team (employees)
  • A great execution

…and by dominating a market though one of four basic strategies:

  • Offering the best price
  • Offering the best product and/or service
  • Offering the most comprehensive solution to the client’s problem(s)
  • Neutralizing and/or sabotaging competitors 80,99,220

1153. Larger established brands are not as flexible and adaptable with their technology and strategies as smaller, leaner startups can be. Referring back to the emerging and disruptive technologies which force established brands to conform their products and services, building your products and services using those emerging technologies will cost you far less than it will for your existing competitors to fundamentally update their entire business. 32,119

1154. Technology-based products and services can be automated, purchased, and accessed by an unlimited number of clients 24-hours a day. Humans, however, are limited by law, energy output, working hours, life expectancy, etc. Therefore your business and products should combine human- and technology-based products with services to optimize scalability and monetization. 28,148

1155. You can make more money selling subscription-based contracts that begin as a free trial and then automatically turn into a paid automatically renewing contract unless the client cancels their free trial period than you can offer free trials and then trying to convince consumers to purchase your products and services after the trial period expires.

Why? There is a consumer perception difference between offering free trials that turn into a subscription and giving away free trials of your product or service. Potential consumers don’t view free products the same way they do paid products, and once they’ve been primed to experience your product or service for free, they tend to be less likely to want to pay money to continue using it, and may instead seek other, cheaper alternatives to your product or service that meet their needs. It can be extremely difficult to convert free users to paid users.

Make sure that the value of your product exceeds the price at which you offer it, and make sure your potential consumers understand this.104,138,148

1156. Consumers make a distinction between a bonus (30% extra free) and a bribe (25% off). Bribes definitely attract consumers, but those consumers may assume that because the price has been lowered, the product or service may be of poorer quality, whereas a bonus offers additional value without calling into question the product or service’s reputation and quality. These bribes also act as an effective defensive strategy when a competitor launches a product to compete against yours. 64,138,220

1157. With sales-based advertising you should be engaging. For example it should say ‘Click here to get 10% off!’ or ‘Click here to get 10% more!’ or another attractive offer to peak the consumer’s curiosity. Never underestimate the power of the words ‘Click here!’ 64

1158. Modern economy is based on the ability to sell goods and services for a profit, yet we live in an era where people generally don’t like paying for content and services; especially online. Further, many people are willing to settle for low quality content that is free than superior-quality content that they have to pay for. The modern human mindset seems to believe that information wants to be free.

A technologically-savvy, globalized and ever-increasing inter-connected human civilization combined with the continual advancement of technology enabling people to acquire, copy, and then widely diffuse information stored in digital format means that it is becoming more and more difficult to create digital products and services, combine those digital products and services into distinct units, and then sell those distinct individual units at a profit.

Therefore, rather than fight this you should absorb it into your business model; it’s easier to absorb it than it is to fight it. You are going to lose money to streaming and file sharing, and once your product or service has been made public, there is no way for you to stop its being shared for free.

So rather than expending your time and energy futilely fighting the losing battle of suing everybody you find for piracy and information theft, what if a better approach for the success of your brand were embracing this reality and instead figuring out how and where to absorb that unrealized revenue in a way you can both control and benefit from?

Information – especially presented in story form – which can be shared, imitated, copied, improved upon, and widely distributed to the masses is information capable of connecting and then shaping human behavior and beliefs; behavior and beliefs which then go on to be further copied, improved upon, and widely distributed. This is how culture develops. 30,94,110

1159. Humans tend to assume that a competitive market is proof that the product or service is necessary and desired. This is known as the bandwagon effect: the tendency for humans to do or believe something because they perceive everyone else around them doing or believing it.

As a brand operating in a perfectly competitive market, there are so many identical options for consumers to choose from that companies operating in this hyper-competitive market are constantly being challenged to differentiate themselves by offering better quality products and services at a cheaper price.

But there can be great value in not having competitors. As a startup, rather than attempting to penetrate and steal a decimal of a percentage from an existing market, disruptively creating and becoming known as an unrivaled specialist in a highly specific area can be very rewarding and lucrative.

This can be accomplished by thoroughly knowing:

  • Your target demographic intimately enough to identify:
    • General or highly specific needs and wants that have thus far gone overlooked and/or aren’t currently adequately being solved
    • A subset of your target demographic with highly-specific needs and wants and/or that would prefer a different format or functionality than what is currently being offered
  • Your unique selling propositions (USPs) and what problems you are better than anyone else out there at solving.

If you can’t create and monopolize your own market, and if you can’t identify what distinguishes you from any potential competitor or alternative out there, then you haven’t looked hard enough. Or, perhaps, consider the fact that your brand isn’t yet viewed as a specialist and is still competing in a generalist market.90,91,167,227

1160. When you’re just starting out, expect that your original business model, product or service, and branding strategy will not be the same one that actually turns into a viable business and sells, and that you’ll need to do consumer testing and pivot: make modifications and adaptations to your business model, product or service, and branding strategy until you do discover a viable business.

Expect also that at the beginning you will be clumsy at meeting and pitching to potential clients and investors, and will waste a certain amount of time doing things that will either be deleted, refused, won’t be included in improved versions of your product or service, or that won’t bring you much money.

Lastly, understand that the objective of this pivot process is not only to identify the product or service clients are willing to pay money for, but to understand how to earn money using a business model and process that allows you to optimize your time spent on the administrative side, whether you have 2 clients or 2,000,000. 57,80,87,104,116,144

1161. Even if your brand’s products and services are relatively the same as your competitors, each brand has its own unique history and story that makes it unique from every other product or service in its industry.

Create your very own branding strategy and unique selling proposition (USP) by focusing your advertising around:

  • Product/Brand name
  • Physical characteristics
  • Logo/Identity
  • Packaging
  • Taste/Flavor
  • Heritage/History/Reputation
  • Price
  • How your product is eaten or used
  • Competition
  • How your product is made
  • Key ingredients
  • Product lifespan
  • Personality
  • Attitude
  • Already existing advertising
  • Your consumer
  • You, the owner or your staff 53

1162. Know your market and your competitors. How can you really distinguish yourself as a superior-product if you have no idea what your competitors are offering? 56

1163. If, as an independent or as a startup, what you offer is relatively the same as your competitors, or if you are at a disadvantage to your competitors, then you’re going to have to work ten times harder than they do to out-rival them. 91,162,219

1164. Before you spend any time or a single penny on creating and building a product or service, you should:

  • Identify and understand as intimately as possible every possible target demographic segment who could be interested in your solution to the problem you are solving
  • Using that information, create a ‘customer journey’ from the very first time they come into contact with your brand all the way through to how a dissatisfied user will know you have solved their after-sales support issues. 89,167

1165. When you do officially launch your brand, you ideally need to include a budget for marketing and public relations through as many major websites as possible to maximize exposure and ensure you reach a large amount of users who then have the opportunity to use your product, become a customer, share you with their network, and offer you ways to further improve upon your product or service via analytics or customer service. 89,176

1166. Complaints, anger, and unrealized expectations are a part of every relationship. When dealing with unhappy clients, after-sales complaints likely center around:

  • Price and billing procedures
  • How your product or service performed
  • How your product or service measured up to client expectations
  • Warranty
  • Other 99

1167. The successful, multi-million dollar brands that shape your world today are the result of many tiny decisions, details, processes, and sheer luck that started as a ‘what if’ idea in the past.

The successful, multi-million dollar brands that will shape the world tomorrow will be the result of many tiny decisions, details, processes, and sheer luck that are starting as a ‘what if’ idea today.

Be patient, responsive to the market, and ensure the small things are done right and running smoothly at the beginning, and your success will come. 134

1168. As a small brand starting out, be lean and flexible as you figure out your market and position. But you cannot stay like that forever; eventually you want to build a brand and business that isn’t easy for others to copy. 80,220

1169. Brands that are mission-oriented:

  • Are  clear and passionate about what they are, why they exist and what problem they’re solving
  • Can carry that passion into the long-term
  • Can more easily attract and recruit employees who share their passion
  • Find decision-making less difficult: if it supports the mission; do it.
  • Attract like-minded partners, employees, and other businesses who share similar missions. 80

1170. Your brand’s ultimate objective should be to find a product or service idea capable of monopolizing an existing industry, or creating your own industry to monopolize, and then start small by monopolizing one small, precise consumer demographic that has a specific problem they want solved, and then expanding quickly until you dominate the market. 80,167

1171. Building a product or service, and building a company that builds the product or service are two different problems. Company culture refers to your brand’s core values and principles, way of thinking, believing, behaving, making decisions, and method of working.

Along with a strong brand image you should build a strong company culture because these two elements:

  • Outline what your brand is, and more importantly what your brand isn’t. This makes all discussions and decisions about the future of your brand easier
  • Provide clear direction and accountability for the decisions employees make on behalf of your brand that you do not have control over
  • Naturally attract top performing employees and specialists, which give your company a competitive advantage and cut down on recruiting costs
  • Empower you and your human resources department to judge not only whether or not a potential employee is competent, but whether or not he or she is a good fit for your brand’s culture. Don’t work with people simply because they can help you, work with them because they share your company culture and because their skills and competence inspire you to improve yours
  • Create a consistent and predictable workplace environment and comradery which is necessary for productivity and keeping employees happy and working for you for a long time
  • Position your transition from being a one-person start-up to a larger business 30,103,107,113

1172. When you’re an unknown startup just starting out, getting investors, clients, and sales will take longer simply because you have to give them time to become comfortable with you and trust you. This is because investors, recruiters, brands, and clients prefer to do business with successful people, and they want to see that you will continue being successful whether they are involved or not. So focus first on gaining a few note-worthy successes that you can point to before you pitch or approach anybody for collaborations or for help. Until you have some successes you will be the weakest party at the negotiation table. 59,216

recruit employees

RECRUITING EMPLOYEES

1173. As your startup grows and you must take on new employees, while the ‘do everything myself’ approach worked at the beginning, this attitude will reach a critical point where it hinders and even threatens your growth, and you’ll need to invest your time and money in hiring and  training other people.

In terms of business scalability, you’ll receive a much greater return on investment spending half a day training or paying external consultants to train employees on how to perform a task that you yourself could have done in 20 minutes than keeping that knowledge and responsibility all to yourself. 216

1174. Once you have a minimum viable product people are willing to pay for – or in order to build a viable product people are willing to pay for – your number one priority should be growing your client base as quickly as possible. This means that if a responsibility is so critical to the success of your brand that you must manage it, then do it. Otherwise, recruit the most competent and skilled specialists you can afford and let them do it while you focus on the more critical responsibilities.

1175. Recall that ‘de-jobbing’ occurs when teams and departments divide up their collective job responsibilities to best suit each person’s individual skill sets, preferences and long-term career objectives as well as for the brand.If you and the people working with you aren’t matching their skill sets with your brand’s priorities, you are losing time, and money, and you will not be growing your client-base as quickly as you could be. 78,167

For more on the recruiting process, refer back to the beginning of this How to Shape Human Behavior 3rd Edition.

build improve

BUILDING & IMPROVING YOUR PRODUCT/SERVICE

1176. Rather than building your entire product or service in secret and then revealing it to the world, create and then launch into the world as quickly as possible a minimum viable product (MVP): the lightest, functional version of a product or service that you can that users are perhaps willing to pay for so you can both validate your initial product’s desirability and also give those users the opportunity to incorporate it into their daily life and then use their feedback and reactions to improve upon your initial product.

If your MVP turns into a profitable business, excellent! But keep an objective view and consider the worst case scenario: all signs point to a barely profitable project you would be wise to abandon and move on to something else. Within a year people will have already forgotten about your abandoned project. 72,89,232

1177. As you build your MVP you should also create and begin communicating your brand’s mission statement: A simple, single, memorable sentence that positions you, your brand, and your product so that your target consumer demographic understand how your product solves a problem relevant to them and how it is different, and preferably better than, all the other alternatives currently available to them.

Once you have your:

  • Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
  • Mission statement
  • Way of getting permission to contact and sell to potential-users
  • Easy way for users to give you feedback on their experience with your product so you can improve upon it

…now it’s time to start investing your money in bringing your target demographic to your website so you can test your business model, monitor user feedback, solidify your brand reputation, and turn your MVP into a better, stronger, more functional product with a higher price tag. But remember, it is not the job of your customer or prospect to answer your marketing questions, it is your job to be able to understand, read between the lines, and interpret what they do and say into what they really mean. 50,55,89,197,232

For more on advertising campaigns and communicating your brand’s mission statement, read How to Shape Human Behavior 2nd Edition.

1178. Your prototype is your MVP, and is only supposed to be used to validate your business idea, not become the final product or service you build your business on. Very likely, upon validation of your business, that prototype will be abandoned and you’ll start from scratch on a better, stronger version of the prototype, this time building a much more durable, scalable, and long-term final product using the best quality materials at your disposable. 55,161

1179. If your goal is to make a product or service which is 10% better than your competitor’s alternatives currently on the market, then your best option may be to reverse-engineer their existing products and services to identify how you can incrementally improve upon them. However, if your goal is to disruptively build a product or service which is 10 times better than your competitor’s alternatives, merely copying and improving upon current products and services will not be sufficient; you will need to innovatively return to the drawing board with a fresh, new approach and start the entire creation process over from scratch to avoid accepting the same limiting technological restraints and processes that all your competitors accept as an unavoidable weakness in their product or service. 219

1180. Happiness can usually be attained through two channels:

  • Material – amassing as many things to meet your needs and wants as possible
  • Psychological – changing your definition of happiness

As an entrepreneur, you can either create products and services that meet client’s needs and wants and make them happy or redefine their understanding of what it means to be happy. 138

1181. When it comes to creating products and services that meet clients’ needs and wants, you can:

  • Decrease the amount of pain they experience
  • Increase the amount of pleasure they experience 138

1182. Established brands spend millions of dollars every year in advertising, marketing, and public relations to shape human behavior to persuade consumers into buying their products and services. As a small startup on a limited budget, you cannot compete against that, and so you will have much better success finding unique and extraordinary solutions to solve people’s existing problems than you will creating new products and then teaching people to change their automated behavior and way of life and adapt to your new product. 161

1183. Conducting research and thinking critically is hard work, and so to save time humans tend to automate decisions where the outcomes are sufficiently predictable and reliable. As a consequence, rather than look too deeply into the research, it’s often easier to just follow the crowd and copy what everybody else is doing with the assumption that there must be sound, hard logic and reasons behind why other people do what they do. While this strategy might produce positive results, merely mimicking what everybody else is doing without knowing why they are doing what they are doing is neither disruptive nor creative. 44,162,164,165,176,184,201,211,234

1184. There is a difference between creativity and style. If you are going to call yourself creative, actually be creative; otherwise accept that you are just a stylist altering other people’s already created work. 162

1185. There is always an underlying reason behind why a potential customer is considering buying your product. If your product costs $90, and if the potential customer in front of you has decided to buy something because his underlying need is to ‘show his wife how much he loves her,’ and his budget is around $100, the potential customer has many, many alternatives to choose from to meet his underlying need:

  • Offer your product to his wife as a gift
  • Treat his wife to a fancy dinner
  • Treat his wife to a full-body massage
  • Buy his wife a $100 gift card to her favorite store
  • Decide not to buy anything today and think about it some more
  • Other…

Now imagine what alternatives you’re competing against if your product or service costs $4,000. 197

1186. When pricing your products and services, offering them to potential clients at a price similar to or lower than your competitors may not only fail to reinforce your reputation as ‘better-than-our-competitors,’ undercutting your competitors’ prices may even damage your reputation, making you appear as a ‘just-like-every-body else’s’ generalist company who is simply selling below your other generalist competitors’ prices. No potential client will see the value added in your product, be convinced to abandon their current solution for yours, or if they are willing to consider abandoning their current solution, will simply let you dictate the terms of the sale to them. Employees who are attracted by compensation will leave for compensation. Consumers who are attracted by the sales price, will leave for better sales prices.

Your price sends a powerful message to potential clients about how you view your product’s and service’s quality, and what level of quality the potential client can expect once they decide to work with you. 167,232

1187. Complaints are opportunities. Most consumers don’t take the time to complain to you about their experience with your brand; instead they simply abandon their shopping cart, never shop with you again, and tell people they talk about how much you suck.

That a customer, or potential customer, actually took the time out of his or her busy schedule to:

  • Ask to speak to the manager
  • Call or email your customer support
  • Fill out your online form

…means that they care enough to help you become better.

As a concerned employee or business owner, not only should you take the time to listen, you should reward that customer above and beyond the worth of their complaint.

Why? Because if one potential customer complains about something, how many more potential customers also had the same complaint but didn’t care enough to let you know why they chose to abandon their shopping cart and spend their money elsewhere? 55,89,197

1188. Recall that consumer purchasing decisions tend to be dominated by the emotional part of their brain (limbic system), but the brain’s logic and reasoning (neocortex) of needs and wants tend to fall under one of three categories:

  • “Nice to have” products or services make your client’s life a little bit easier, are nice to have but aren’t crucial, tend to be available for either free or at a low cost and thus are in a highly-competitive market
  • “Very nice to have” products or services save clients significant time and/or money, allowing them to focus on more important things, tend to be a bit more expensive and are also likely in a highly-competitive market, so clients may do more shopping around and comparison before spending a large sum of money
  • “Must have” products or services are so specialized and imperative to the client’s life – solving the most important of problems – that to not have it would seriously handicap or ruin the client’s lifestyle or business, tend to be quite expensive, and are likely not in a highly-competitive market so clients take shopping around and comparison very seriously

Positioning your product or service as a ‘must have’ depends on your product or service’s features and branding strategy. 148,184

1189. While a blog comments section may help in ‘creating a conversation around your brand’ as well as getting shared across social media profiles, most blog comments tend to be nothing more than noise – and don’t really add anything to the quality of the initial content.

When sitting in front of a really wise speaker, you tend to prefer to stop talking and listen to what they have to say; trying to learn as much as you possibly can from them. What if, instead of hosting a blog or website that highlights the noise, you removed the blog comments section altogether and instead focused on creating content so rich, extraordinary, and helpful that readers want to stop talking and just learn and enjoy? 54,72

1190. Consumers don’t have misconceptions about you, your products and services, and your market, likewise any beliefs, judgments, and objections they have about you are valid and based on word-of-mouth and their own experiences. If consumers think your product is bad or deceptive, it’s your responsibility to either:

  • Improve their experience and re-frame how they see you
  • Conform to their beliefs and judgements
  • Change how consumers classify and value you

But value can be a difficult and subjective thing to quantify because humans don’t know the value of something until they compare it with what they believe from experience to be a similar alternative. This can help or hurt your product or service value depending on which alternatives consumers are comparing you with.

To determine the value of your product or service, ask yourself:

  • What industry do consumers believe you’re in and what alternatives is your offer being compared to?
  • How unique do consumers understand your product or service to be? Is it possible to make what you offer even more unique and incomparable?
  • Do other brands have similar offer consumers would compare your offer to?
  • If you lower your price, do you risk starting a price war?
  • If you raise your price, can you justify it?
  • How badly do consumers need and want what you offer?
  • What alternatives could consumers use besides your offer?
  • Are there any similar case studies based on similar situations as the one you’re currently in?
  • What are consumers willing to sacrifice to obtain what you offer? (i.e. Going into debt? Pre-ordering months in advance? Driving 6 hours?)
  • Will what you offer quickly be made redundant by emerging technology, or is what you offer the future?
  • Are you offering a one-time purchase, repeat purchases, or an ongoing membership? 66,216

1191. Trying to sell a product or service you’re not proud of or believe in is difficult; your lack of confidence will show in your pitch and in the long-run your reputation for quality will suffer.

Create instead a product or service so incredible and useful and that significantly improves your target user’s lives, and your confidence and assurance will exude in your sales pitch. In fact, it probably won’t even feel like a sales pitch. 43,59,216

1192. Superior-products and services can be distinguished through benefits and features, but products are sold by highlighting the specific features and benefits that best meet your target consumer’s most important needs and wants and in a story they can relate to and be inspired by.

Products and services can also go beyond benefits and features by being directly associated with positive emotions (limbic system). Products and services strategically designed to bypass the human decision-making process (neo-cortex) and evoke emotions (limbic system) in consumers almost sell themselves.

Ultimately, your best sales strategy could be creating a product or service so attractive and relevant to your target demographic that all you have to do is simply give it to them, stand back, and let them use it and fall in love with it themselves. 216,227

1193. Whenever you feel like you’re getting to the point in your brand’s growth where you’re considering investing money in a marketing or advertising campaign, first ask yourself if that money could be more productively spent improving your product’s name, features and benefits, guarantee, durability, quality, design, etc. to the point where consumers naturally want to share it with the people they know. If you can’t, then now is the time to invest in advertising and marketing. 84,216

1194. Curiosity, unbounded creativity and human ingenuity lead to disruptive and revolutionary ideas, and  advancements in yesterday’s technology and inventions, coupled with ease of access to the general population accelerates this process of innovation. 213

1195. Staying relevant and competitive in today’s technologically connected world means companies must offer the best possible products, services, and solutions they possibly can. Thoroughly researching your alternatives before making a purchasing decision should lead you to the most reliable and best quality companies, products, and services in a particular market.

If a company fails to give you what you expect, then either:

  • The company made promises it could not deliver
  • You haven’t conducted enough research to know what better alternatives are available
  • What that company offers truly is the best available on the market today, flaws and all

In any case, instead of getting angry and doing or saying something you may regret because it ‘makes you feel good at the moment,’ proactively focus your energy on learning more about the alternatives available to you and how you can use your current situation and relationship with that company to your advantage. 188,195,213,214,216 

1196. Improving your product or service doesn’t mean making it more complex and capable of solving more problems. Anybody can make things bigger and more complex. Improving your product or service means making it easier for its users to use, understand, and incorporate into their everyday lives, regardless of how complex or how many problems it solves.

Your dilemma in making things simpler is that if you make your product or service too simple to use, you risk either leaving users feeling insulted and stupid, or you risk them using your product or service in ways you weren’t anticipating.

If, however, you give your users several ideas as to how they can use and incorporate your product into their daily life, and then monitor how they use it, you will stand a much greater chance of identifying user trends and then allowing those trends to direct how you improve your product or service. 186

1197. With regard to business models, products and services, website design, and monetization models from a user interface perspective, most brands blindly copy whatever they see the identified industry leaders doing without really knowing why they are doing it.

While your ability to copy and improve upon others’ ideas is essential to success and evolution, and while adhering to universal best practices when it comes to product and website familiarity and predictability – such as using the universally-accepted social media share icons, menu bar functionalities, and contact forms – is important, blindly copying others doesn’t necessarily lead to success. There are many brands with terrible, buggy, beta-version design that aren’t well known yet are wildly lucrative. 20,119,147,180,186,232

1198. Improving your product or service involves:

  • Observing potential clients and identifying patterns in how they live, navigate the world around them, solve problems, and what their needs and wants are; especially when it comes to using products and services similar to yours
  • Developing a prototype – or minimum viable product (MVP) – of a product or service you believe addresses and improves upon how people understand and navigate the world around them
  • Testing how people interact with your MVP, what they like and dislike about it, whether or not people are willing to give you money for it, and if not can you improve your MVP until users are willing to pay for it? 55,80,89,99,175,184

1199. Discoverability and feedback. If users are consistently misusing or misunderstanding your product or service, it’s your fault, not the user’s. If users are unable to instinctively understand and predict the logic behind how your product or service is used, and are unable to know when they have correctly used your product or service and successfully completed an action, such as knowing with 100% certainty that:

  • People have correctly filled out your website contact form and that you have received it
  • Your application is secure and that the user’s confidential information will in no way be compromised
  • All of the obligations laid out in your client-services contract have been fulfilled and the work is finished

If clients can’t see this, it’s your fault, not the user’s. 62,66,111,175,186,232

1200. It’s better for clients to either love or hate your product or service than to think your idea is ‘pretty good.’ If potential clients think your product is pretty good, you risk wasting time and money on a failed mediocre product or business, and worse, not knowing why you’re failing because consumer testing is so ‘encouraging.’ 162,176

1201. A core ingredient of innovation is borrowing, copying, and building upon successful elements of other people’s work and research, and the single largest minefield to innovation is borrowing and copying while not infringing upon somebody else’s copyright.

Under copyright law, fair use is the legal right, under certain circumstances and according to the country, to use portions of another person’s copyrighted material without being required to negotiate directly with the copyright holder, such as when doing criticism, teaching, news reporting, and research.

The problem with copyright and fair use law is that interpretations of what defines infringement can be extremely vague, and unfounded and false accusations of infringement can be enough to bankrupt any business trying to build a product or service on a budget. 110,220

1202. Personification is humans attributing human characteristics and emotions to nonhuman objects. As humans use and are exposed to your brand, they inevitably personify it, and then refer to those characteristics and evoked emotions when they talk about you to others.

As you design and promote your brand, product or service, and before- and after-sales communications, understand your target audience and target which emotion(s) you make them feel because consistently evoking the right emotions speed up your business and reputation growth. 99,167

1203. Generally, the better you understand your target consumer demographic and the more intuitive your product or service, the less time you’ll have to spend on client support services. If too many consumers are calling or contacting you after having purchased your product or service, this likely means:

  • You are not offering a useful, superior-quality product or service, and consumers are contacting you to complain
  • Your product or service is too complex and requires too much knowledge and training to use, and consumers are contacting you to complain and to understand how to use it
  • You are not reaching the right target demographic
  • Consumers are disappointed with what your before-sales communications promised them 99

1204. In many industries and cultures, offering consulting services may be best received when you wrap a product around it. Make a product out of your service so your clients can touch it and see it. This makes it easier for clients to justify paying a high price for your service when it comes along with, or at least resembles, a product. 28

1205. Once you’ve created your MVP, begin communicating it and monitoring, and more importantly understanding how clients react to it.

At this point, lack of interest by your target audience will likely be because:

  • Your MVP has not yet reached a level of quality people are willing to pay for and talk about, in which case you need to keep improving it
  • Your communication about your MVP – copy, website design, product packaging, price, etc. – has not yet reached a level of quality people are willing to pay for and talk about.
  • You are targeting the wrong people
  • You are targeting the right people but asking them the wrong questions, thus gathering the wrong data from which to make your decisions
  • You are targeting the right people and have the right data, but you are not measuring the right metrics, thus leading to the wrong conclusions to from which to make your decisions
  • You have a bad product or service idea 28,42,55,144,167,176

1206. The more options and features you add to your product or service, the more difficult you make the potential client’s decision-making process, and the more training and knowledge they will need to fully use your product/service. The more options and features you add, the better your client support services must be.

If as you improve your product/service you find your brand in the awkward position where your product is so complex and packed with so many features that consumers are being over-served, or need special training just to be able to properly use it, then you may need to reconsider your business model and direction:

  • Are you sure you have the right business model? If you are B2C, perhaps a B2B business model would be better for you?
  • Does your product really need to be so complex?
    • Is it possible you can reduce unnecessary features and keep only those consumers use the most?
    • Is it possible you can keep the features yet hire a user-experience professional to redesign its user-interface to ‘feel’ less intimidating to consumers?
    • Is it possible you can have both a B2C and B2B business model depending on needs and wants?
  • Can you wrap your product up with a training package?  28,99, 119,148

1207. Creating your product or service, and making it available for purchase is one problem, but an even more important problem you need to keep in mind as you build your product or service is ‘how it will be distributed?’ because:

  • Clients have so many other alternatives out there advertising and fighting for their attention that getting them to notice your solution and then change their behavior to purchase your solution rather than continuing to use whatever alternative they have always been doing is difficult
  • If you cannot get your product or service into your client’s hands, or if the logistics and distribution costs are so great that you have to sell your product or service at a price people aren’t willing to pay for, then your product is essentially useless and your business is ruined before you’ve even had a chance to start 126,144,176

1208. Once you have validated your business and are certain there is long-term demand for your product or service, you have several options to choose from:

  • Continue investing your own time and money slowly growing your business through marketing and public relations campaigns while maintaining 100% ownership of it
  • Turn to crowdfunding platforms to quickly gain the pre-orders and revenue needed to become a thriving business while maintaining 100% ownership of it
  • Seek investors who will share their money, wisdom, and professional connections to turn your startup into a huge success in exchange for a percentage of ownership in your company
  • Sell your business to the highest bidder in exchange for a high-level position within your acquiring company or walk away with a large sum of cash in hand

Regardless of the option you choose:

  • Don’t stop improving your product or service because it, as well as your brand reputation, are an extremely valuable bargaining chip when negotiating with investors, potential clients, and larger brands seeking to acquire you
  • With a validated business and an established and growing client base, you’ll be in a position to qualify exigent investor’s demands for better PowerPoint slides, better website design, updated business plans, etc. by stating “Thanks for contacting us. We’re currently past the startup and validation phase and already have our product with a growing client base. If you would like to invest in this business, let’s talk. Otherwise, I need to get back to work.”
  • With a validated business, you’ll have even more investors to choose from because investors prefer the projects where they stand to earn the most from doing as little amount of work as possible; the low-hanging fruit
  • If you’re convinced that bringing in investors is the best for your business and your career, then you should begin pitching to investors 113,161,216

finding investors

FINDING INVESTORS

1209. Fundraising and procuring investments is but one small and comparatively easy step in the long, difficult process of starting, running, and growing a business. 108

1210. Your objective in job hunting is to get a face-to-face job interview, your objective in sales is to get potential clients face-to-face and pitch them, and your objective in finding investors is to get a face-to-face meeting with them. Your objective is not to send your CV or PowerPoint presentation or sales pamphlet to a person who may or may not be a decision-maker and then pray that that person forwards your email with attachment to a key decision-maker. If a person is interested in your business and requests information as an email attachment, but isn’t interested in taking the time to set up a meeting with you, then ask yourself if this person really is worth the investment and if your time can’t be better spent elsewhere, or make that document freely downloadable on your website. 161

1211. The fundamental elements of an investor pitch include:

  • Introduction
  • Current market conditions
  • Identified problem
  • How you will solve this problem
  • How you will make money
  • Call to action

These elements can be reordered in whatever way you feel necessary to cater to the investor and personalize your pitch, making it your own unique story. 87

1212. Your call to action is your official instruction after a pitch or presentation specifically designed to provoke the investor into making some desired response. By the time you’ve reached your call to action, however, most experienced investors will have already made up their mind as to whether or not to invest in your startup.

At the end of your pitch the investor will either say:

  • “Yes.”
  • “No.”
  • “Not yet.” 87

1213. Right or wrong, investors make snap judgments about you (limbic system). These decisions about you are unconscious and immediate and are based on a lifetime of experience. If the investor in front of you is experienced, they will have already seen thousands of pitches before and will  instinctively know if:

  • Your startup has potential
  • Your startup is good but will require a lot of mentoring
  • Your startup’s name will need to be changed
  • One or more of your startup’s team will need to be replaced or rearranged
  • There is a weak link in your business model
  • Etc. 87

1214. Quality brands position themselves for success, and thus attract the most investors and the best employees who then work to build the best product and service possible, thus keeping the brand successful. Therefore smart investors, like smart job seekers, look at how a brand does business and how it positions itself in their market before agreeing to invest in, or work for, your brand. 216

1215. Ideally, giving away equity in your brand should be based on clearly defined, objective and measurable performance-based goals rather than negotiating some arbitrary percentage. With employees, for example:

  • “If you make X€ in sales by this deadline, then you will receive X% of revenue or company stock.”
  • “If you create a defect-free digital product by this deadline, you will receive X% of sales.”
  • “For every idea you come up with that decreases costs or increases sales by X%, you will receive X€ in revenue.”

At this early stage, its imperative you are picky with whom you do business. Never work with someone simply because they can help you, but because they’re qualified in what they do. 30,111,167

1216. If as an entrepreneur the success of your entire business depends on obtaining a specific amount in investor-funding, and until you obtain that amount of money your dreams of becoming an entrepreneur will never happen, then:

  • You are likely overlooking smaller, less expensive opportunities and business models enabling you to start and grow your business and brand without requiring so much initial seed money
  • You are relying far too heavily on luck, and someone else, to make your business a success
  • You are putting too much of your future into someone else’s hands. Shrewd, experienced investors will realize this, and exploit this during negotiations, and they will take as much ownership of your business as they possibly can. Never, ever consciously and intentionally put yourself into a position where you HAVE TO have the deal. The party who needs the deal the least, usually the one who has the greatest advantage 167,187,219

1217. Before investing, experienced investors want to know how much return on investment (ROI) they can expect and how quickly they will start making money from their investment. In many cases, selling your business to the highest bidder when the time is right may be the quickest way for them to transfer their ownership investment into cash.  If your goal for your business is long-term, and the potential investor’s goal is short-term profit maximization, perhaps this is not the right investor for you. Before you start signing away ownership of your brand to investors, make sure your and your potential investor’s vision for your brand align. 167

1218. If you’re not comfortable with going into debt or giving away equity in your business to others, then choose a business model which allows you to keep 100% control of your brand and is funded entirely by clients, customers, and vendors.

With all the crowdfunding and other options available today, building a brand whilst bypassing the risks and loss of ownership involved with debt and investors is more possible than ever, if you’re willing to go slower and take the time to build and capitalize on a social and professional network of collaborators, fans, and clients willing to pay you for your work. 167

1219. Analogies are very short, concise comparisons between two or more things. In business, an analogy condensed into one memorable sentence structure:

“Product/Service/Brand is the X of Y.”

Your business idea’s analogy helps clients and investors quickly and easily understand and discuss:

  • What your business idea is (and isn’t)
  • How your business fits into the market
  • What it will become in the future

Your analogy may change according to the investor or client you are pitching and selling to, as well as over time as your business model and product or service evolve, but your analogy must always align with your mission statement and branding strategy. 148

1220. Just because you offer a product or service doesn’t mean people will buy it. Investors need more than a mere product or service before they will hand money over to you; they want to see a competent and well-researched business model and monetization plan that optimizes return on investment (ROI) while reducing their risk to as low as possible. Your business model might not start out immediately making money, but it must be monetizable for investors to want to get behind you. 148

1221. Recall that top performers tend to associate with and want to do business with other top performers, so you must make networking and relationship building a priority because who you associate with and do business with speaks volumes about your reputation as a specialist:

  • As a startup, being referred to a well-known and reputable potential investor by another well-known and respected entrepreneur or businessman gives you the quality first-impression (primacy effect) needed to ensure you get a face-to-face meeting, procure funding, and/or are referred to another investor(s) who may be interested. Quality Investors will qualify you before giving you access to their resources and network; likewise you should qualify any investor that shows interest in your project. Investors you’ve never heard of, or nobody in your professional network have ever heard of, or who don’t show up on Google searches, or who cannot/will not show you their portfolio of investments, release their taxes, or who are unable to provide sources and credentials should be considered a red flag that should be investigated further before any contracts are signed with them.
  • Recall that as a recruiter, line engagement refers to how many employees in your company participate in the recruiting process. Intelligent brands, and especially brands on a budget, must understand and exploit networking effects – that qualified, competent, and likeminded people tend to know each other, and therefore would be your best source for finding other highly-qualified investors and top performers.

Your reputation as a top performer is reflected in the quality of your ideas and the collective reputation of the people you choose to associate yourself with. But while connections and professional networks are important, in the fast-paced startup environment investors and professional connections can come and disappear as quickly as business ideas themselves, it is therefore your reputation that will stand the test of time more so than your connections. Don’t work with people simply because they can help you; work with them because they are good at what they do.  1,30,77,97,108,126

1222. People tend to forget, have a short attention span and get easily sidetracked. Go so far as to take thorough notes and follow up on every interview and investor meeting with an email summary of discussions and agreements, but do not make any business decisions based on promises of financial investment until you have gotten that promise formally written down in a binding contract. 111,161

1223. Most high-potential startups will come with a few weaknesses that may hinder the startup’s chances for success, and those weaknesses will need to be managed. Seasoned investors understand this, and so during your pitch they usually pay special attention to:

  • Your, the entrepreneur’s, capacity for leadership
  • Your, the entrepreneur’s, level of passion and dedication to your product or service
  • Whether or not your product or service was borne out of a true problem, and if it actually solves that problem?
  • How effective of a communicator you are?
  • Whether or not your strengths are complimentary to your team and the success of the product or service? 108

1224. Team founders versus solo-founders. Investors tend to prefer teams whose skill sets and strengths complement each other and compensate for each other’s weaknesses over the lone entrepreneur who does everything by him or herself. 85,97,108,125

1225. Most serious investors tend to prefer the benefit of owning a percentage in your successful startup because whether your startup goes on to make millions in the long-term or is sold to the highest bidder in the short term, they stand to maximize their revenue. Therefore when negotiating % ownership of your company, especially when you are considering multiple investors, decide how much of your company you’re willing to give away and still feel like you are an owner in and motivated by your company. If you give away too much of your company, you may end up becoming just a mere employee doing all of the hard work for your bosses; the very position you initially started your own business to get away from. 108,122

1226. Investors are attracted to maximum return on investment (ROI) for minimal effort on their part. Don’t seek external investment until you absolutely need to, and get your business model so lean that you could almost survive without investment, and you’ll find that you’ll have no problem finding high-quality investors to choose from.

In most cases, improving your business model and the quality of your product or service will do better for your success than improving your pitch presentation. 108

1227. If you meet a potential investor and you get the feeling that he or she:

  • Doesn’t have a mutual-respect towards you
  • Lacks the expertise necessary to understand your company or industry
  • Lacks a professional network of other quality investors
  • Is only thinking about how much money he or she will get
  • Would not make a great long-term business partner

…then seriously consider seeking investment elsewhere. Don’t work with people solely because they can help you; work with them because they are qualified at what they do and because they share the same beliefs and values. 30,108,113

1228. Unless you have a customer relationship management (CRM) model that makes it extremely difficult for clients to cut ties and do business with your competitor – such as phone company contracts that require its users to break their existing contract, obtain a new sim card and perhaps a new telephone altogether, and lose all earned fidelity points to start from scratch with the new company, consumers tend to follow the market and can be easily seduced to switch. 35,138

1229. Investor funding typically includes the contractual promise that once signed, the investor will not back out of their promise to you or invest in a competing startup and force you to fight for their attention. This means that from the investor’s perspective, the opportunity of investing in your startup implicitly includes the risk of an opportunity loss should a better product or service be launched by a competitor shortly after the investor has already promised exclusivity to you.

Understand that this opportunity cost is an important element in the investor’s decision to invest in you, and counteract it by proving to them how your product, service, and/or business model will not be easily disrupted in the near future. 35,108

1230. From an investment point of view, your first priority should be to build a superior-quality product for your clients. Once you have accomplished this, your next priority should be attracting, recruiting, and building  a team of high-quality marketing and sales specialists to grow your client-base as quickly as possible.

During this critical stage, actively replace poor-performing employees with the best you can find and offer bonuses and incentives to refer and recruit their fellow top performing friends and acquaintances. Doing so effectively streamlines the recruiting process and turns your entire workforce into an effective human resources recruiting machine. 77,148

defend brand

DEFENDING YOUR BRAND AND REPUTATION

1231. Brands that have defied the odds and managed to:

  • Create and launch a product or service
  • Penetrate a small niche consumer demographic
  • Grow their business without being acquired or attacked by a larger brand
  • Go on to dominate a market category and obtain a sizeable lead over their competitors

…will logically seek to capitalize on their advantaged position, create barriers to entry, and further dominate their competitors by:

  • Creating a product or service which is expensive and difficult for competitors to copy
  • Creating a customer relationship management (CRM) program that turns potential clients into clients and then makes it extremely difficult for clients to cut ties and do business with their competitors
  • Hiring headhunting agencies and setting up a recruiting campaign that aggressively target their competitor’s top performing employees
  • Conducting competitive intelligence campaigns to spy on competitors and thwart any moves they make that could put their business at risk
  • Identifying and hostilely acquiring all up-and-coming potential threats
  • Blocking and monopolizing distribution channels to prevent competitors from getting their products and services into consumers’ hands
  • Aggressively launching marketing and advertising campaigns to prevent competitors from gaining the market awareness necessary to entice consumers to try the new product, and then make repeat purchases
  • Distributing promotional coupons at the same time as a competitor’s launch
  • Disseminating news and blog articles – real and fake – to discredit a competitor’s claims and reputation
  • Patenting processes and inventions and then legally attacking every competitor who tries to encroach upon your industry
  • Lobbying government officials to convince law makers to pass laws that favor them
  • Forming coalitions and making backroom deals with other companies to strengthen their power

Why? Because not only would competitors have to invest significantly in R&D to create a product or service that rivals yours, they would then have to somehow exceed your product or service to the point where they seduce your current clients to break their current contract with you. Simultaneously, they would then need to somehow disrupt your aggressive marketing campaign and redirect your potential client’s attention away from you and towards them.

Startups and innovative people around the world are at this very moment dreaming up incredible products and services and launching them in to the world. Left unmonitored, these threats could make your product or service, an even your industry, obsolete within the next 5-10 years. Ignoring, avoiding, and failing to address this reality will not make these threats go away, it only showcases your ignorance for blindingly trusting in ‘luck’ to keep you successful. 35,138,164,181,219,220,222,237

1232. Legal fees and lawsuits are extremely expensive and time consuming, and therefore should be used as a last resort. In most cases, it is in fact the lawyers how make the most money. 111,155,216,222

1233. Many computers and technological devices brands throw away as they upgrade their systems contain personal and confidential information. Discarded hard drives should be fully-wiped of all data before they are re-sold or destroyed. Failure to do so could result in confidential business secrets being made publicly available for anyone to copy and use against you. 83

1234. The whole point of strategies, procedures, and rules are to provide with reliable information and a sound decision-making framework which enable you to make the best decisions as you can. As you work with and slowly internalize these rules and framework they eventually become second nature to you, allowing you to know when you should follow the rules, and when your instincts tell you to break the rules. This is the essence of specialization. 139,188,219

1235. With its many benefits, one unfortunate drawback of capitalism – an economic system where trade and industry are run by for-profit businesses and private owners – is that the quest for wealth and power can drive companies to compromise their ethics and morals, creating substandard, fake, deceptive, and even dangerous products and services. In this case, the greatest defense against unscrupulous brands is transparency and an informed and educated consumer.

One thing is for sure, as soon as you start showing signs of success, rest assured that others will notice and begin attacking and copying you. In fact, the more lucrative you appear to be, the more generalists and specialist competitors will begin ripping off and spinning off your ideas, for better and for worse. In this case, your greatest defense against competition and attack is your reputation. 86,91,194,216,220,222

grow develop

CLIENT RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT AND GROWING & DEVELOPING YOUR REPUTATION

1236. While your higher, more executive and managerial employees are responsible for defining and implementing your brand’s strategy, it is the low-level employees making your products and services and dealing directly with your clients that are both the present and future of your company’s success. Don’t lose touch with them, and don’t let them feel like you aren’t listening to them.  216

1237. The consumer journey usually follows a predictable path:

  • Your brand spends a ton of money on advertising, branding, public relations, product design, etc. so potential clients know you exist
  • As a result of all your marketing investment, at some point their life, be it through social media, television, word-of-mouth, a ‘related content’ widget on a website they frequent, etc., a potential client becomes aware of your product and mentally begins assessing whether or not they want or need it
  • Potential client begins mentally creating a list of all the reasons justifying why he or she might need your product
  • Potential client then mentally creates a list of all the reasons why he or she might not need your product at this instant, or what alternatives he or she could spend his or her money on instead of on your product or service
  • Potential client approaches your sales location to gather further information to help in his or her decision-making process
  • Potential client is greeted and assisted by your sales staff or automated check-out process, whose actions decide whether or not the potential client becomes a client now, later, or NEVER.

That ton of money you invested in advertising and marketing to get the potential client’s attention is wasted if your:

  • Store appears dirty or unorganized
  • Potential client is kept waiting for too long
  • Sales staff who greet the potential client appears incompetent or unhappy
  • Product they are interested isn’t in stock
  • Checkout line at the register is too long
  • Automated check-out software your store location relies on is difficult to use
  • Credit-card machine is temporarily out of order and they don’t have cash in their pocket
  • Etc.

Unsatisfactory client experiences with untrained and disgruntled client-facing employees lead to unhappy clients; unhappy clients who become ex-clients who make sure everyone they know doesn’t do business with you. Either give potential clients a quality experience or don’t. You can’t take back a bad or incomplete experience.  55,161,197,219,232

1238. The majority of your clients are not won by cold calling. At some point in the past a chain of events occurred that lead to the potential client realizing they had a problem that needed a solution, and in their research to uncover possible alternatives to solve that problem, your brand  came into their conscious awareness. 111,216

1239. In addition to the answer to their problem, clients needing customer support experience different emotional states during their problem-solving process:

  • When they first realize there is something about your product or service they don’t understand that requires an answer on your part
  • After they’ve searched your website in vain for what they believe is  the answer to their problem
  • After they’ve searched other people’s websites and message boards in vain for the answer
  • After they’ve taken the time to find your contact information and contact you directly for the answer

Meaning, by the time they are speaking directly to you, your clients will have likely experienced several extreme emotional states. They may have felt:

  • Stupid for not being able to solve their problem themselves
  • Irritated for not being able to find the answer to their question on your website
  • Angry for not being able to find the answer to their question in a Google search and on other websites
  • Ripped off and taken advantage of when they uncover blog post forums of other people and trolls complaining about how stupid and useless your brand and products are
  • Regretful for having paid you money and trusted you to solve their problem, only to have to take time out of their busy day to call you for the answer.
  • Revengeful as they call up your customer service department ready to share their bad experience with your brand on every social media website they can and even contact the local news channel to alert them about your product being a scam unless you solve their problem or give them their money back.

…and as you pick up the phone expecting a have a friendly chat with a concerned client, their emotional state may be the first you’ve become aware of their particular problem. Client service support therefore is as much about identifying and quelling the client’s emotional state as it is solving their problem. 99

1240. When clients are unhappy and take the time to contact you to tell you about it, any and every employee at your brand that that client is able to contact – from the secretary to the VP of Sales – automatically become the ‘official’ representative of your brand, and that client’s anger and expectations of having their problem solved is on their shoulders – whether your employee likes or not. Make sure your Human Resources recruiters consider this when qualifying, on-boarding, and training employees. 22,99,197

1241. The more time you spend working directly with your clients, the better your product or service will become. The higher up the corporate ladder you climb, and the farther away from your clients you go, the less you’ll be able to understand and relate to your client’s evolving needs and wants. 17,99,184

1242. When gathering feedback on your product or service:

  • Your main goal is a satisfied customer
  • You listen to consumers when you need inspiration or if you need to refine your offer
  • Customers generally will only take the time and effort to complain when:
    • They feel comfortable expressing their opinion
    • They feel like they are being listened to and understood
    • They care about what it is they are complaining about and/or they feel they can somehow benefit from it
  • Consumers do not have answers; they have experiences. Yet most consumer research approaches people as if they were a source of reliable answers to our questions, and that consumers keep those answers in their heads and are calmly and intelligently able to communicate their opinions about your brand. This is a disastrous misunderstanding
  • Give people space and time to describe their own experiences and stories they have had, and don’t interrupt them while they are doing it
  • The mind thinks in images first, so do a lot of free association and projective questions to get at the imagery and emotions (limbic system) and work backwards. All the exercises should be written down to give people the opportunity to free associate within themselves and to protect against social influence
  • As consumers answer your questions and describe their experiences with your product or service, listen for emotional or descriptive words they use to define your brand and offer
  • Do not introduce your own language. What you call something and what consumers call something could be totally different. It is this difference that creates valuable insights
  • Who are you serving and who is your ideal prospect? Actual experiences and current behavior is a better predictor of future behavior than any demographic information about the client
  • Sometimes what people say they want and what they actually want are two different things. There may be incredible insight hidden in-between the lines, and if you don’t identify it, then you may miss some real opportunities
  • Ask follow-up questions. The first response is never a complete response; it’s usually what they think you want to hear
  • If you find someone explaining something instead of describing something, it’s probably not the whole truth. Focus on getting descriptions
  • Avoid asking ‘Why’ questions. This puts people on the defensive and assumes there’s a rational explanation for their behavior (neo-cortex). While there may be a rational reason for their behavior, you cannot assume the consumer knows why they are doing what they are doing
  • With free products and free trials, people tend not to be sincere when asked for their opinion of the product. Friends and family will tell you what you want to hear, and strangers will likely not care enough to put the effort into giving a sincere answer
  • Even with paid products, friends and family may not tell you what they really think about your product, preferring to hide their disappointment, be polite, and forget the money they lost to preserve the relationship. Paying strangers, however, will be more honest with their feedback because they paid you to solve a problem, and either you did so in a great way, or you didn’t. In terms of useful user feedback, therefore, you should aim to quickly create a product at a price strangers are willing to pay
  • Listen to what customers say, but compare it to your user retention rate (how often your users use your product, and return to it) because satisfied customers stay, and unhappy customers stop using your product
  • Your user feedback and retention rate should increase over time, otherwise your problem is more fundamental. Perhaps you’re attracting the wrong target demographic, or your product needs to be modified to meet consumer demand47,55,89,146,155,161,169,184,197,224,232

1243. If your analytics show that many people are sharing your content but aren’t actually converting themselves, then what you likely have is a group of people who share your content because they want to be known by their peers as someone who is up-to-date with the buzzwords related to your brand or industry, yet care little about who you are and what you actually offer. 161

1244. As an entrepreneur (like as a specialist), your goal isn’t to convince others that you are bigger and better than you really are; your goal is to convince the potential client or investor that you are the best solution available to them when it comes to solving a particular problem within a particular budget.

But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t position yourself as bigger than you currently are, especially if how you position yourself determines whether or not a potential client will become a client. Many large companies only want to work with large companies, and as a small independent working alone, you can pitch on behalf of yourself: “I work with companies to solve this problem…”, or you can pitch on behalf of your brand: “we work with companies to solve this problem…” What’s important is that you only promise what you know you can do, and you never cause the person to feel like you’ve manipulated them. 50,115,161

1245. Anybody can turn anything into a success if you throw enough money at it, but to maintain your reputation, status, power, revenue and success you must convince consumers to:

  • Switch from their current alternative to solving a particular solution
  • Accept your solution as a new and better alternative to their particular problem
  • Convince consumers that your solution is the best alternative on the market and to continue using your solution after they’ve switched
  • Get your consumers to convince others that your solution is the best on the market

Sheer repetition is an effective market-dominating strategy, but there’s nothing creative about this. And disruptive ideas will never emerge from this mentality. All it really takes to dismantle an industry is for one daring startup with nothing to lose to come up with a truly creative and innovative idea which irreversibly disrupts the current best practices and undermines the industry’s current leader’s monopolistic marketing strategy. 162,230,232

1246. Just because an idea has worked in the past doesn’t mean it will continue to work. Idea brainstorming techniques and principles of yesteryear don’t change much, but the formulas and solutions to meet people’s ever-changing needs and wants do. You should always seek to improve upon your ideas to stay relevant and competitive, otherwise some other ambitious person with nothing to lose will sooner or later come along and outwork you or render your hard work, sacrifice, and expertise obsolete.

That being said, change for change sake and with no strategic reason is ill-advised. If your idea is profitable, being well received by your client-base, and conversions are high, then why would you change this at the risk of losing it all? The reason you change, test, and pivot is to find the optimal idea that clients want and are willing to pay you for. Once you’ve found this optimal situation – through hard work or ‘luck,’ don’t change it for change sake. 162,193

1247. Humans tend to compare known (and researched if they are prudent enough to do so) alternatives before making a decision, this comparison is what allows us to feel like we are in control of our own lives. Your offer should specifically address your target demographics’ needs and wants, but it must also be unique from your competitor’s offers and branding strategy. 76,197

1248. Up-sales and extensions to current contracts and sales offers should always make sense in the client’s context. If the client stops thinking about how useful your product or service is and starts thinking “Why is this person trying to sell me this?” You’ve stopped being trust-worthy and have become just another salesperson.

Once you become lumped in as ‘just another salesman,’ your integrity as a specialist is at risk. You may still make the sale, but you may have lost a repeat client, or a person who would have referred you to everyone he or she knows. 197

1249. Ideally, as a superior-quality brand, durability and reliability should be built into every product you put your name and logo on, and your product warranty should be but a selling point clients rarely ever have to fall back on. Offering information on how clients can clean and maintain their product for the long-term brings an added-value to your client relationship and to your reputation as a reliable brand. 99,139,197

1250. Every sale you make should be unique to each client. You may only sell one product or service, but how you describe it, structure it, and help the client meet their needs and wants should be adapted so that it feels unique. A good salesman can take 10 facts about the same product, and sell that product a hundred unique and personalized ways. 197,216

1251. If you’re selling a one-time product with no intention of building your product line or launching future projects, and if a customer relationship isn’t important to the success of your business, then advertising is your best bet. But if your success depends on your reputation, word-of-mouth, and returning customers, then your priority is getting the contact details from people along with permission to keep them up-to-date on what you are doing. If you have to start from scratch on your marketing and promotional endeavors every time you launch a new product or project, you’re not using your resources to their fullest. 122,193

1252. If you ask the right questions, you’ll almost always uncover:

  • The person’s story as to why they’re speaking to you today
  • A reason behind why your product or service is an alternative to solving a problem they have
  • An opportunity to sincerely congratulate or compliment the person for something they have recently accomplished

Whether the person is a potential client or not, take the first few minutes of every conversation to make them feel comfortable and understood before trying to sell to them anything.

If you’ve researched your target demographics’ needs and wants thoroughly enough, you should already have a basic understanding of the person’s story that you can use as a conversation starter.

If, for example, a potential client contacts you asking about the warrantee of a product you offer, instead of simply giving them the mere answer to their question, take 30 seconds to discover:

  • Why they are in the market for this type of product; what are their needs or wants?
  • Why are they specifically interested in the warrantee? Is it because they’ve had a previously bad experience with a similar product? Because they want reassurance of your after-sales support? Because they expect superior-quality, and they believe that a product’s warrantee reflects the product’s quality?
  • Knowing what you know after these questions, is what they say they want what they really want? Is this particular product really the best option for them, or do you know of a better alternative that may better meet their particular needs?

They may not become a client immediately, or even ever, but you’ll have given them an interesting experience and a good story to tell the next time they find themselves among friends or clients and in need of a conversation piece. 197,237

1253. With VIP and influential clients – past, present, and potential, their basic contact information along with one or two notes on them such as anniversary dates and job promotions should be organized into an easily accessible and filterable database, and you should invest time maintaining contact with those clients and updating your database on a daily basis.

Remembering your clients is how you maintain a personal connection with them, even when your client-base grows so large that you can no longer maintain direct and personal relationships with every one of them all the time. 193,197

1254. To make clients happy, aim to provide instant gratification anyway you possibly can and as often as you possibly can. If your competitors are better at this than you are, potential clients will notice the difference, and that detail will be a point of comparison. If you are unable to provide instant gratification, make sure the potential client understands why waiting is in their best interest. If you can’t find a good reason why your potential clients should wait, re-evaluate your business model.

Build into your product or service positive surprises that you can offer afterwards that the client wasn’t expecting or anticipating before they made the purchase, such as:

  • ‘Free’ samples of other products or services
  • ‘Complimentary’ upgrades
  • ‘Unexpected’ price decreases
  • Free upgraded shipping and handling
  • Etc.

Even though you intentionally built these ‘free’ offers into your business model, the fact that the client feels as though they are getting something of value at no additional cost improves the perceived value of your product and service, and by extension your brand. 197

1255. Competent brands actively monitor their industry for competitor movements and observe the underlying foundational technology behind up-and-coming products and services that will force their own products and services to adapt or die, and then invest in R&D to keep their brand up-to-date because those technological changes will create a ripple effect on the industry. 119,197,219,220

1256. Clients refer clients. More important than making a one-time sale, your sales person’s goal should be to provide an experience so friendly and enjoyable that that client not only wants to return, but will talk about their experience with your brand whenever the conversation arises. Always aim to provide an extraordinary experience for your clients, and always give satisfied clients 2-3 business cards as they leave (instead of just one), that way they can have one to keep, and 1-2 to give away to their friends.

The bandwagon effect is the tendency for humans to place greater value on something simply because ‘everyone else appears to be doing so.’ 102,197

1257. When solving problems, humans are working with limited resources: they only have so much time and money available to them. This means when seeking out and comparing alternative solutions to solve their identified problem, any time and money they have allotted to solving the problem that isn’t given to you will be spent somewhere else.

If a potential client has decided to allocate 100€ to solve a particular problem, and your 90€ product or service would solve their problem, they will purchase your product and spend the remaining 10€ somewhere else.

However, after taking the time to understand the client’s problem(s), needs, and wants, you may be able to offer the client your 120€ product or service that would not only solve their particular problem over the short- and long-term, but might also help with other problems the potential client wants to solve. This is a win/win situation. 100,193,197

1258. A specialist’s strategy when pitching to potential clients would be:

  • Interviewing them to identify and agree on their problems, concerns, and what their ideal outcome would be
  • Incorporating what they say into your pitch
  • Afterwards, if what you offer can help them solve their problem,  showing them how what you offer is the best solution available to them
  • If you cannot help them, have a professional network of qualified professionals developed enough to be able to refer them to a few people who you know could help

This strategy pre-sells you, your competence, quality, and integrity, regardless of the product or service you offer, and whether or not the client goes with you or with someone you referred them to. 116,216

1259. Clients, like employees, who are attracted to you for money, will leave you for money. 197

1260. Recall that one of people’s wants in business is choices, options, and a sense of control. The act of negotiating and saying ‘No’ to your offer is the process by which clients and yourself can have their needs and wants met while simultaneously investing themselves in your product or solution. ‘Take-it-or-leave-it’ offers may work, but adding a layer of negotiation into your deal may lead to more lucrative contracts with happier clients. 

You should therefore anticipate ‘No’ in sales and negotiation, and even include negotiable elements that you know clients will want to negotiate. An invitation to negotiate is a precursor to making a sale the client will be happy with. 116,155,182,189,216

1261. Brands often attach blogs and newsletters to their website to inform current clients of product and service updates and as a way of showing potential clients how their product or service is continually improving. But unless your blog or newsletter provides added value that makes your reader smarter and happier for having subscribed, your blog or newsletter will largely go unread and clients won’t be aware of all the improvements you’re making for them.

A better client relationship management (CRM) solution for your brand may be incorporating a time-stamped ‘administrator notification update bar’ so that every time your clients log-in or return to your site they see improvements you’ve made since their last visit. Doing so can be a better way of giving clients the impression of getting an increasingly better product or service while still paying the same price. 99

1262. On a budget, managing your online search results and reputation is something you can and should invest in because regardless of where you find potential clients, you can bet they are going to research you before investing any significant time and money into building a relationship with you. 151

1263. Having the courage to let go of your brand reputation and take the risk of creating content, products and services in such a way that enables internet users to take your work and them remix, remake, spoof, Photoshop, and build upon your work – both for better and for worse – creates a community of people around your work and effectively turns that community into brand ambassadors. 30,37,52,110,178

1264. Brand logos and symbols are very powerful markers of importance and competence. On your website, for example, having your logo at the top of the page, followed by the logos of the best clients and companies you have worked for is enough to make or break your reputation as a specialist and as ‘the’ best brand to do business with. 46,58,102,165,208

1265. To further increase user engagement and conversion rate on the online aspect of your business model, instead of requiring visitors to sign up or register and give you their personal information in order to access your free trial so they get a taste of all the ways your product or service can improve their lives, how can you create a free trial version users can first access and become addicted to and share with their network, and then allow them deeper access to your product or service if they register or sign up? Sometimes, when your product or service is so good, the best way to sell it to a person is to give it to them so they can experience it, and then sit back and shut up.

Think about it. When was the last time you wanted to try someone’s product or service, but immediately changed your mind simply because they wanted you to first create an account? 186,216

1266. Aim for a simple design with high, eye-catching brand recognition. Clients familiar with your brand and product should see your logo or package design and immediately and unconsciously recognize you. 185

1267. To the extent possible, join forces and negotiate creative win/win collaborations with other ambitious, competent, and open-minded specialists and entrepreneurs rather than seeing them as competition. 210,214

1268. It’s understood that with success you will broaden your target market to include users and clients that weren’t part of your original target demographic. But just remember that your reputation for quality and specialty was created because you became known for being extremely competent at solving one specific problem and meeting specific needs and wants. Don’t let the needs and wants of your investors and diversifying target audience dilute the brand reputation and unique selling proposition you became known for in the first place. 93,112,186

1269. ‘Tastemakers’ are those people – online and offline – who have developed a reputation for consistently discovering and sharing new and interesting things, and so everyone follows them to stay up-to-date.

‘Micro-celebrities’ are people who have become famous to a small but powerful group of people thanks to viral online distribution.

Attracting tastemakers’ and micro-celebrities’ attention and then getting them to talk about your brand can thrust your brand from obscurity into an overwhelming success in just one click. 39,73,178

1270. It’s better for people to either love or hate your idea than it is for them to think your idea is simply good. If you’re pitching to potential clients and you’re constantly coming in as a runner up, then in the eyes of the potential client you are perhaps good, but you are not great; and your product or service is not meaningfully different than all the other runner ups and alternatives available to them. Improve your reputation and your product or service until potential clients either love you or hate you.

Even enemies talk about who they hate (because it creates controversy that gets them noticed and they benefit in some form or another); very rarely does anybody talk about subjects they find mediocre and ordinary. 162,201

1271. Conventional public relations strategies involve collaborating with influential bloggers and journalists to get your message out to as many people as possible. The opposite, and an equally powerful strategy, is to deny everybody access to information about your brand up to the last minute, thus making people speculate about your brand. 25,29,179

1272. When qualifying a client, ask yourself:

  • “Would I make a lot of money from them?”
  • “Would I enjoy what I’m doing for them?”
  • “Would I be creating work I’m proud of?”

If you’re not answering ‘Yes’ to at least one of these questions, then why are you REALLY considering doing business with them? 111,162

1273. The more time you spend in research:

  • The more general behaviors and perceptions you uncover
  • The better you understand and can anticipate your industry and client’s wants, needs, and feelings
  • The more confident you feel in ‘knowing’ the right decisions to make
  • The better your ‘gut instinct’ becomes and the more confident you are in your solutions

These consumer insights may not transfer perfectly from one industry into another, but humans do tend to think and behave predictably, so an expertise in one market can prove to be quite useful in complimentary markets. 151,155,169

1274. Brands are no longer just brands, they are products, services, and images that represent a part of the client’s desired identity and exist in the client’s mind and in their everyday life. As a brand, you are not simply promoting your product or service, you are helping create and promote the client’s desired reputation and way of life. 151

1275. The more information clients agree to give you, the greater their expectations that you will:

  • Keep their information secure and confidential
  • Only use that information to better meet their needs
  • Not use that information to manipulate or take advantage of them. 138

1276. Long-time, loyal customers expect preferential treatment and to be given the benefit of the doubt when they make a complaint or when an error has occurred. This is a great opportunity for you to instantly build an even deeper relationship with them, and a great risk should you fail to meet their expectations and lose their respect. 138,197

1277. High-quality investors, clients, and employees aren’t naively seduced by special offers and deals you offer that show an obvious self-interest on your part. They notice, appreciate, and reward you for the small, discrete things you do to make their life easier, make them smarter, make them happier, and make the world a better place to live. If doing this also benefits you, that’s great. But people don’t care about you, and any ‘selfless, client-oriented initiative’ you do that looks like you are only doing it because it benefits you may actually do more harm to your reputation than good.

You’re in business to make money for whatever reason, we all know this. The question is how are you making money, what is your purpose. This is very interesting to think about. It makes you fundamentally look at what you’re doing and examine how you can do it better. Ask yourself “What is my purpose?”, “Am I making people’s lives better and making money during the process or am I out to make money regardless of whether I help or hinder people?” 2,16,138,203

1278. Even if you are highly-specialized at what you do, you will likely be up against 1,000s of other, cheaper and/or seemingly better alternatives that can also solve the potential client’s problem. To stand out, you really need to perfect your unique selling proposition (USP) and be able to compellingly communicate it. 116,126,167

1279. As your brand grows and you start recruiting people to improve your products and services and develop your business, be clear, transparent, and fair with the people you hire to work for you, even if those employees and interns are not good at negotiating or standing up for themselves. Your reputation as a brand to your clients is important, but your reputation and future as a reputable brand to work for is equally imperative, because this is how you will attract the highly-skilled specialists you need to gain the advantage over your competitors. Exploit too many employees and burn too many bridges with enough influential people, and you will quickly run out of quality specialists willing to work with you. 122

1280. Word-of-mouth growth – people talking about and promoting you – is your least expensive and most prized – yet most difficult to attain – form of exponential growth, and every decision and action you make – from your website to paid public relations, marketing and advertising campaigns to your product/service improvements – should bring you closer to attracting the attention of your target demographic as well as tastemakers and micro-celebrities, turning them into clients and collaborators, and attaining the free viral growth associated with word-of-mouth. If people aren’t talking about your product/service, improve it until they are. 50,59,99,101,119

1281. Be selective with who you make yourself available to. As your client list grows, don’t just work with a client because they offer you money, work with the client because they are the type of clients you want to attract, and because you are doing the type of work you want to do. That way when word-of-mouth growth starts working to your advantage, it will be with the type of clients you want to do business with. 116

1282. As an employee in a company, you can take advantage of rules, company policy, ‘tricks’ and ‘faking it’ to advance quickly in your career, but as an entrepreneur those same rules and ‘tricks’ aren’t as reliable because as the boss you’re only cheating yourself and your customers, which in the long run will have adverse effects on your brand reputation. 16,85,188

1283. As a specialist and entrepreneur, after you’ve created your superior-quality product or service, negotiated and signed a contract to provide it to a client, and then successfully fulfilled your contractual obligations as outlined in your signed contract, the next important step in the process is ensuring the client respects their contractual obligations; especially with regard to getting paid.

Have a contract. Invest in a lawyer who looks over your contracts before you sign them. Don’t start work without a contract, and don’t solve problems and give clients full ownership of your work until you’ve been paid in full. This is one of the most important signs of a serious professional. 111,116

1284. Any sane, sound-minded, and respectable client willing to enter into a fair and legally-binding contract with you is probably as excited about the end result as you are, and is most likely entering into the working relationship with the best of intentions. But there is always a risk that projects get derailed, postponed, renegotiated and re-prioritized due to changing requirements and expectations, priorities, personalities, bad ‘luck,’ and misunderstandings as well as many other external factors beyond your, and even the client’s, control.

When/if this happens, the contract you signed will be the only leverage you have to ensure that you are both protected and compensated. 111

1285. Know your value, know the value of your solutions to the company or client, and be confident and comfortable discussing money. This is a sign of a serious professional and skilled negotiator. 111,116

1286. In a business relationship, be it as an employee or a company providing a service, all parties are in the relationship to make money, meet their underlying needs and wants, and advance their personal interests. It is your right and obligation as a for-profit specialist to refuse to work at a loss, and it would be unrealistic for any recruiter or client to expect you to do so. Know your value, and know at what point a business deal would become a loss for you. 116

1287. As a reputable specialist and entrepreneur, it is imperative that you know what you and your product and service are worth, and can comfortably discuss and negotiate price and cost. The ability to competently discuss these important issues is in part what makes you a serious professional, and an inability to address these important client concerns can damage your credibility, lose you money on contracts, or both. 111

1288. With client relationship management as with professional networking, the more contacts and allies you have inside your client’s company, the better positioned you are at managing egos and  finding peace through the inevitable misunderstandings, disagreements, and setbacks that arise in any relationship, especially if you are the one at fault and the client wants to fire you. 111

1289. As a serious professional, you have the power to choose which clients you will and will not work with, and you have the right to fire clients whose goals and objectives no longer align with yours, so long as you respect the terms and conditions of your client-services contract. If financially and reputation-wise you are not yet in a position where you are able to control who you work for and with, then it is your priority to get yourself into this position as quickly as possible. Never, ever consciously and intentionally put yourself into a position where you HAVE TO have the deal. The party who needs the deal the least is usually the one who has the greatest advantage. 111,116,189,219

1290. With so many uncontrollable factors putting your reputation, credibility, and revenue at risk, it is imperative that you budget for legal counsel to ensure the contracts you are signing are fair, mutually-beneficial, and mitigate you from as many of those risks as possible. In fact, hiring quality legal counsel who ensure your client-services contracts protect your client relationships will allow you to focus on the work that you love doing, and will actually bring in more money than they cost. 111 

1291. Your dealings with clients will inevitably expose you to highly-confidential information, and will reveal weaknesses and shortcomings of your clients. Be very careful what you communicate online and offline, and respect the relationship you have worked so hard to establish with your client. You never know who is listening, and what innocent comment made ‘off the record’ may find itself on the front page of an international website, or incriminate you. 25,29,111,206

1292. Your target market today is important, but a more important element of your branding strategy is to understand how your market will evolve; what it will look like in 3, 5, 10, and even 20 years. How can you effectively grow your brand unless you know where its market is going?

But how do you know which industries have a bright future and which may fade? The culmination of your:

  • Critical thinking: the better your logic, reasoning and decision-making process, the more reliable your decisions
  • Knowledge: the better quality sources you work from, the better your foundation for decision-making. Garbage information in leads to garbage solutions out; regardless of how infallible you think your critical thinking skills are
  • Experience: the more you experience, ideally the better you become at improving your critical thinking skills and identifying and gathering reliable sources until patterns emerge and the world becomes more and more predictable
  • Perspective: how you interpret your experience determines your world view. Overly-optimist, overly-pessimistic, realist… your perspective can sabotage or facilitate success
  • Gut instinct. The automatic reaction you unconsciously feel as you choose among sources of information and make decisions; the winning decision between your head and your heart

While younger generations may lack the experience, depth of knowledge, and gut instincts older generations have spent a lifetime obtaining, younger generations are also uniquely in an advantaged position because they tend to be better educated and with access to more resources, better acclimated to modern technology and where it is heading, and have the energy to work as hard as necessary to master any task they set out to. 80,82,97,122,176,219 

1293. Every brand and industry has its true story of what is really happening, and then there’s the branding, advertising, marketing and sales professional’s story they tell to make themselves appear bigger and better.

Listen to what the industry leaders are saying, but be aware that whatever they say and whatever market projections they release probably have their own vested interests in mind. 44,91

1294. Is there a market for what you want to create? If not, can you create the need? Every good answer has to start with a good question. Don’t invest a single penny in marketing, public relations, or growth until you know precisely who your target audience is, what they need and want, and how you can meet those needs and wants. 1,29,48,50,55,87,89,97,167,219

1295. How does your target demographic want your information to be made available to them? In a printable pdf document? In a blog post? In a popup notification on your website once they log in? In a podcast? Create your content and then transfer it into the format that your target audience wants. 72

1296. In terms of sales, consumers may feel more comfortable entering their credit card details into their desktop and laptop, however this is changing and there is a battle between desktop and mobile. Honestly, the size of the screen (laptop, desktop, tablet, mobile) isn’t really the issue anymore; the more important question to ask is ‘Which screen(s) do your consumers interact with the most, and why?’ In short, ‘What is your target consumer’s journey?’ (discussed earlier)

Two questions you need to answer for this is:

  • What do I want to say?
  • When would my consumer be most receptive to my message?

Consumers may use their phone more in the morning before work to browse the news and quickly check their email, and then after work during the transit home. During the day they will probably work exclusively on their company laptops and desktops, where they will probably not want to put their personal credit card information into. In the evenings after work and on the weekends consumers may use their tablet to relax, read and browse their favorite sites in bed or on their living room couch, and thus may be more open to your message, likely to share your articles and making a purchase. Knowing this about your target consumers, you’re better able to focus your digital advertising when they will be most receptive to it. 64

1297. Have a landing page for your advertising campaigns to link to, but more importantly organize your website so that every page is designed to convert –so that on every page and blog post consumers are encouraged to purchase or sign up. Don’t clutter your website with so many extraneous share buttons, widgets, ‘related posts’ and text that potential consumers overlook the most important thing – the purchase button. 64

1298. From the moment potential clients first arrive on your website through to when they click the ‘confirm purchase’ button, you lose traffic with every additional click the consumer has to make. When running a sales campaign, don’t link your advertising to your homepage; instead save a few clicks and link directly to the specific page where the person can buy your product or service you are advertising in your ad. The fewer clicks necessary the better. 64

1299. Get as much free advertising and buzz as you can through your friends and social network. Guest post on other blogs for exposure and reputation-building. Post informed comments on other people’s blogs and community forums. The more inbound links to your website, and the more locations potential consumers can find them, the better. 64

1300. Offline expenses such as business cards and flyers can be difficult to monitor because the price of one business card is roughly the same as the cost of a person clicking on your online advertising. Further, you can’t analyze and track the exposure of your business card. Consider that as you plan your campaigns. 64

1301. Brand activation is a marketing program focused on engaging consumers at the time(s) during the year when they are most likely to be receptive to your brand’s messages and product. 65

1302. Begin by building a consumer program around the many different points of consumer contact – for example:

  • At the point of sale – the final 100 meters in the consumer journey just before they reach your product on the shelf and at the cash register
  • Landing pages, websites and banner advertising on other websites
  • Special street marketing campaigns
  • On key websites and social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram
  • Contextual marketing

Brand activation involves the promotional mechanisms of several principles such as a giveaway, a sweepstakes or a loyalty program, a special event, etc. 65

1303. First understand your consumer market enough to identify the one or two peak seasons in the year when your consumers would be most susceptible to your message and likely to purchase your product or service, and then use the best means possible to interact with them during those times. During the rest of the year – your brand’s ‘down time’ – play with the traditional advertising techniques such as banner ads. Banner advertisements may not lead to conversions and new clients, but they can get your logo in front of your target audience. The more times they see your logo, the greater the opportunity for them to notice you and eventually become a client. 65

1304. If a competitor is outspending you in advertising, then look to public relations rather than trying to compete in advertising space. 65

1305. On a budget, don’t have an objective of ‘making buzz’ and ‘going viral.’  Don’t think ‘I want to distinguish myself from the thousands of other competitors, and do it on a small budget.’ And for two important reasons:

  • With so many brands competing for exposure today, ‘viral’ content without significant marketing investment has little chance of actually going viral
  • Consumers don’t talk about and share brands; consumers share things that interest them. Instead of thinking ‘how can I go viral,’ a better question to ponder is ‘how can I create content that consumers will find interesting and want to talk about and share?” 65

1306. Everybody can be creative. But the hardest part of being creative is keeping your idea alive and developing it as it makes its way through the creative process of becoming a final advertising campaign. This requires experience and bouncing your ideas off as many experienced creatives as you can get your hands on.

The best place to find stories and ideas is to pay attention to what’s going on around you and at your own decision-making processes. Ask yourself:

  • What is it about this particular advertisement or product that I found interesting and made me turn my head and give it my full attention?
  • Why do I remember this particular story or piece of information?
  • How can I apply this insight into my own creative processes? 66,115,162

1307. Building your key insight and idea into your product so that the product becomes its own advertising would be your dream goal. But if you cannot do this, then you must make a superior-quality product or service and put that idea into your advertising. 66

1308. Advertising is made for consumers; therefore arguably consumers do not have misconceptions. If consumers think an advertisement is stupid or bad, is deceptive, or is doing more harm than good, they are right.

So consumers don’t have misconceptions, they have opinions based on experience and prejudgments, and as a business owner it is up to you to either conform to those preconceived opinions or work to change them. 66

1309. Know your target consumer demographic as intimately as possible. This is the starting point for everything. 66

1310. Advertising is reminding consumers that you are still in business; brand activation is pushing potential clients to buy your product instead of your competitor’s at the crucial time when those potential clients are in the market to buy what you have to offer. 67

1311. Today, your brand’s clear, unique and decisive value proposition is what persuades consumers to purchase your product or service over your competitor’s. 67

1312. If you sell a physical product then online user experience is but one part of the experience. If you sell a physical product, clients will likely have more experience and interaction with your product packaging design than with your website user interface. 67

1313. Build your social network. It’s easier to find employment and move up in a company – and find new clients and consumers – when you have other people recommending you. 67

1314. Advertising is a major component of an online business model, and even with ad blocking software this will probably not be changing any time soon. 68

1315. If an internet user chooses to use online ad blocking software, then he or she has simply eliminated him or herself from the media plan’s analytics which wouldn’t have any direct monetary consequence on your media plan budget because your brand isn’t charged for ads that don’t appear. As long as your media plan is meeting its conversion rate objectives, that is what matters. 68

1316. Brand activation is much, much bigger than simply launching a giveaway and then driving people to your landing page to sign up. Brand activation is about meeting an objective. It’s about actively taking control of the consumer’s image of your brand by creating an experience around it as a way of explaining your brand’s core values, vision and unique selling point as well as showcasing your products.

Brand activation is also more strategic than simply paying for advertising – you should expect to see a greater return on investment during a brand activation campaign than on a traditional advertising campaign because brand activation campaigns are designed to be more strategic and target consumers at different touchpoints. 69

1317. Never forget that advertising is a service industry, and so you must think about client service first and foremost. This is imperative to building and maintaining a strong relationship with your client from the beginning. 69

1318. With regard to branding strategy, social media platforms evoke emotion among their users. Some make you feel optimistic about the world and better about yourself; some do the opposite. Know which social media platforms correspond with your brand’s emotional appeal and focus your advertising and exposure on them. 73

1319. If you come across a business, website or social media profile and there aren’t any selfies and/or photos of the people behind the business, website or social media profile, would you trust and believe in it? Are selfies narcissistic if your target audience consider them as an important element in the purchasing process so they see and can relate to you? 73

1320. Like, Share, Email, Tweet, Stumble… every internet-user understands the importance, necessity, and communicative powers of social sharing buttons. Whatever your purpose online, to not understand them or fail to use them to your advantage is simply not possible today.

1321. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram… every piece of content you voluntarily put online raises the value and profitability of the company you give that content to. Online currency doesn’t just generate itself.

Because that online currency, company worth, and profitability are created by its users, those respective companies do anything and everything within their power to ensure you continue giving your content to them: through UI/UX design, free and paid content of their own such as applications, podcasts, and games, enticements such as giveaways, social communities, and advertising and brand activation campaigns… Anything to keep you involved and participating. 74

1322. Social media is as much about sharing others as it is about sharing yourself. When everyone works together online, everyone wins. 74

1323. Talent combined with hard work, dedication, sacrifice, and luck used to be the keys to success; and even that wasn’t guaranteed.

They are still necessary today, however the internet offers shortcuts along the path to success, provided you also master the soft skills of interpersonal communication, strategic online collaboration and leveraging your online presence and status necessary to stand out among your competitors and the increasing amount of noise on the internet. 74

1324. Exploiting online collaborative models means that if you’re publicly affiliated with a group of people who are also affiliated with a brand, your individual brand value and endorsement increases exponentially, to the point where you can then monetize your perceived value. 74

1325. Begin by identifying and understanding your target demographic: who they are, how they communicate, how they like to be communicated to, and what you want them to do.

Next, use that information to position yourself accordingly and create a communication model where your target demographic actually begins selling you to themselves, and by extension their social network. Plan this correctly, and your target demographic will want to see your success as much as you do. 74

1326. Once you thoroughly understand your target demographic as well as what you want them to do, absolutely nothing about what you do should be left to luck. Every communication should be intentionally done with the goal of convincing your target demographic to actively do your selling and promotion for you. Leave as little as possible to chance. 74,162,216

1327. People have learned instinctively when you’re trying to ‘sell’ something to them, and they also understand that you have bills to pay and that the content you create and provide comes at a price. So just be open, honest, and transparent with your target demographic. 74

1328. ‘Selling out’ used to have a negative connotation; Today, ‘selling out’ has become an archaic term for changing who you are in exchange for money and success. Today, when brands contact you and take interest in who you are and what you do, it is because you have reached the point where they consider you a worthy asset, and are interested in collaborating with you to reach a mutual target demographic. If you monetize your success professional and correctly, you will not be accused of ‘selling out,’ you will be congratulated by the very fans and people who helped make you successful. 74

1329. The words you choose to communicate with and define yourself to your target demographic evoke different psychological responses within them. Advertisements no longer have to be called advertisements, they can be ‘rewards,’ ‘moments,’ and ‘experiences.’ 74

1330. Offering a quality product, service, or solution is necessary to attracting customers, but retention involves keeping those customers happy, paying you, and then continually paying you into the future. Retention is imperative for growth and advancement. 93

1331. As a specialist or as an entrepreneur running a startup, once you have researched and identified:

  1. Your optimal business model
  2. Which market or industry you want to compete in and how you want to be positioned in that market or industry
  3. Your product or service as well as pricing models

…the marketing decisions you make from this point on will make or break your brand strategy and impact your success or failure. 167,232

1332. Above all, NEVER forget that the world is not fair. It is very well possible that you could sacrifice everything you are and have and do all of the trail-blazing work of creating a new market that disrupts an industry and changes people’s lives for the better, and never receive any credit or financial reward for all of your hard work. This is the risk you take as an entrepreneur. 91,162,176

For more on creating your brand’s marketing and branding strategy, read How to Shape Human Behavior 2nd Edition.