Excuses are just Excuses; Go Sell Something.

Fifteen years ago I attended a special service at church. There was to be a guest speaker on Sunday night. The sanctuary was packed and I ended up sitting on the front row. It was a blessing.

A man named David Black walked to the podium and introduced himself. He was born without arms. He shrugged off his jacket and somehow draped it across the back of his chair. He did it so fast I can’t tell you how he managed.

Next, he sat down, slipped off his shoe, picked up a pitcher of water with his foot, poured a glass, sat the pitcher down and took a drink. He slipped his shoe back on and stood up. He walked to the microphone and said, “Tonight I want to talk to you about focusing on what you have instead of what you don’t have.”

I was totally dumbfounded. For the next ninety minutes he talked about working, driving a car, using telephones and computers. He explained that he is married and has children. He’s a successful businessman and public speaker. The time passed at light speed. When his time was up it seemed too soon. The entire audience was mesmerized.

Another inspiring character was my very good friend Jim Pipkin. Jim is gone now. He died several years ago in the west. He was traveling in his RV seeing America. He had already seen the seven seas.

Jim was the victim of a boating accident. He broke his back and did irreparable damage to his sensory nerves. His motor nerves worked fine. He just couldn’t feel things he needed to feel.

Let me describe how this influenced his daily behavior. Jim could barely feel his feet and hands. He described it as the way we all feel when our foot or hand falls asleep. The tingling and numbness were with him 100% of the time. There was no relief…ever.

I watched Jim burn his feet while walking barefoot on hot pavement. I watched him tear up things he was trying to handle because he couldn’t tell how hard he was squeezing or pressing. It caused him to limit his driving to short trips and reduced his work day to less than three hours. Everything that depended on delicate touch and agility was impacted.

Now…Jim was a printing salesman. He was also a boat captain. He taught me how to repair my boat and drive it. That was no small task. It was big (60 feet) and very heavy (54,000 pounds). That’s a lot of weight with no brakes. It takes a sense of touch…a sense Jim no longer had.

I mentioned that Jim sold printing. He sold a lot of printing. He sold enough to earn six figures. He did it in three hours a day. He managed to grow when he couldn’t go.

His accident was just that. He didn’t let it own any more of him than it deserved to own. He just couldn’t and wouldn’t make that excuse or waste that time. He insisted on being happy, funny, productive and…on the water.

I remember having to repair my marine toilet. They’re complicated devices and not everything you encounter is…glamorous. I made every excuse in the world for putting it off.

Jim cornered me and said, “Billy…how long have you been this way?” He made me stop and address the repair. He sat with me and watched every step. He told me what to expect and what each turn of a blade should feel like. I was the hands and he was the brains. He taught me to do something he couldn’t do himself. In the process he inspired me. I miss him every day.

These two guys had it right and had something in common. Neither allowed their circumstances to win. They refused to let their disabilities define who they were. They refused to make excuses for being mediocre. Because they refused…a new standard was set and obtained. They dictate the rules. They control the results.

Now what does this have to do with us? What is my point this time? Why am I parading two people you don’t know in front of you now?

Because I want our industry to make a difference. I want each of us to see limits as exactly what they are…excuses…lies we tell ourselves to allow the comfort of being mediocre to continue. I want us to resolve to change that…today.

I wonder what David Black would say about a “price problem.” I’ll bet he would kick off his shoe, dial the phone and talk to the client about what it would really take to win the business. I’m guessing he would share the answers with management and insist that we step up and earn the work.

I wonder what Jim would say about any employee’s comment that “I don’t have time to manage my work.” I’m fairly certain he would address them the way he addressed me about the toilet. I think he would find it interesting that the tools and technology available today don’t empower us to do more than ever before. I don’t believe he would be sympathetic to excuse makers.  I’m confident he would borrow a phrase from Nike and say “Just do it!”

That’s what we should do. Just do it. Make a difference. Commit yourself to asking more of yourself. Throw out the rule book and write your own. When needs change…throw that one out too.

I’m getting out of the excuse business. I’ll mange my weight by pushing back from the table and my sales by dialing the phone. My work will be as promised because I’ll make it be. These things are under my control…as they are for you. Excuses are just excuses. They’re nonsense.

Jim would let me have it. He would say, “Billy…how long have you been this way.” My answer would be lame so I’ll keep it to myself. I pledge to simply get busy and do it! Join me please! You’ll like what happens.

The “Slow Fix”

Everyone wants a quick fix in business these days.  We need leads right away.  We want sales results now.  We need to have a positive ROI on specific marketing activities.  If the quick fix doesn’t happen, heads will roll.  Budget will be cut.  In general, it seems like we can tolerate a little pain, but not for very long.

There really is no standard recipe for how companies can win now.  If we had the answer or proverbial “quick fix,” it wouldn’t be a secret for very long.  The facts are that iconic brands stand the test of time.  They endure because they’re willing to put forth the effort to build a relationship with their community, even if it doesn’t pay off in the short term.

Great relationships are born out of trust.  They are built to endure the toughest challenges.  They can take the pain in the short term in order to realize long-term prosperity.

The most compelling marketers are not looking for quick fixes.  They are working feverishly to be a part of people’s lives.  They realize that we have an irreducible need to belong.  In turn, being present within their target community increases the chance their brand will be loved.

So, with a nod to the quick fix gurus out there, we suggest the “slow fix.”  This is the kind of fix where collecting and acting on client feedback is sincere.  The kind of fix where we cultivate flexibility and adaptability.  The fix where we create a culture of innovation.  The fix where we identify and correct internal barriers to our profitable growth.

Slow and steady does the trick…better!

Climate Change

While many have said that the recession is over, that doesn’t mean that the recovery will be spectacular. In fact, there will be nothing fair about the recovery ahead. To the contrary, it will heartlessly divide those who are prepared for a transformed world and those who are not.

While each of us is worried about a host of things, the biggest concerns are normally centered on our ability to increase sales. We wonder where our next sale will come from and whether or not we will have anything of value in the future.

The gist is that our economy gained strength in 2014 regardless of the economic roller coaster we have seen in recent days. But even among the greatest marketers, there is widespread unease that margins are wafer-thin. If we take our eye off that key account, even for a moment, it might be gone. Get a little careless with costs and profitability could take a hit. Think for a minute that you have it all figured out and you may quickly learn otherwise.

In Epicomm’s recent “Printing Business Conditions” survey, marketing services executives say the future of print will be targeted. In other words, they believe that customized content delivers unique value and allows you to connect more deeply with your clients. And the more you connect with them, the more resistance there is to drop you as a provider.

So while the economic climate is in a constant state of change, great marketers understand they must stay remarkably in tune with their communities. They realize that if the rate of change on the outside is greater than the rate of change on the inside, they are in trouble.

As we continue to preach about going deeper with our clients we need to give thought to how we stand out as a brand. We also have to protect our brand and its reputation.

So, while the recession may be over, the recovery will not be a rising tide that raises all boats. We need to focus on our clients and remain open to the changes that inevitably lie ahead.

Join Us for Endless Possibilities 2.0

When we invented this series We asked ourselves what would be relevant to the creative and marketing community.  Of course, we wanted to get prospects and clients into our facility but we hoped for so much more than that.  We wanted our guests to have fun and say “WOW.”  We wanted to create content that would inspire even the most seasoned professional and send them away excited with what is possible today.

We seem to have accomplished that.  We’re excited to say that we have continued to field questions directly related to the sessions we designed.  We find ourselves immersed in elegant initiatives inspired by the day.  Guests saw things they didn’t know were possible and had little trouble relating what they learned to their own business objectives.

Next month we’ll be putting on Endless Possibilities 2.0.  It will take each of the topics introduced in the first session to a much deeper level.  Guests will see marketing communications automation at work.  We’ll be touching prospects with text messages, email, direct mail and voice recordings customized, on the fly, based on real time responses.  They’ll see Point of Purchase designed, structurally, rendered, decorated, printed and fabricated while they watch.  They’ll be challenged to identify subtle differences in finished products that are expensive and inexpensive to produce.  Finally, they’ll have the opportunity to see what’s possible with robotic laser cutting, stamping, embossing, coated papers, uncoated papers and exotic substrates.

We’re very excited about this series.  We’re grateful to our clients and friends that encouraged us to provide content like this and shared what they felt would be valuable…and we’re thrilled by how the effort has been supported by the market.

Our goal is simple.  We want to see creative take the gloves off and do whatever they can dream up.  The gap between what is possible and what can be imagined is smaller than it has ever been.  We’re excited to see the most creative people in the world experiment and challenge today’s fabulous set of tools.

Come join us October 14th.  The Varsity will be providing the food once again.  The event is a college tailgate theme so wear your school colors and plan to browse the “school tents” for ideas and fun.  Along the way you’ll have a chance to attend some really cool sessions designed to turn your imagination loose.

It’s gonna be great!