Good luck is when opportunity meets preparation, while bad luck is when lack of preparation meets reality. – Eliyahu Goldratt
If you go to work every day and focus on what needs to be done then pretty soon you’ll start to lose track of what’s going on outside – what’s happening in the real world out there.
Guy Kawasaki’s book Reality check: The irreverent guide to outsmarting, outmanaging and outmarketing your competition is a collection of lists, Q&As and short pieces covering topics from starting up and raising money to making work less unpleasant.
At the end he has a reality checklist with ten points, out of which I’ve selected six (maybe seven) that are worth asking yourself regularly.
1. Do you make meaning with what you do?
I suppose this is a little like asking what value you provide?
It can be a slightly off-putting question – we probably all agree that teachers, police officers, first-responders and firefighters add value to society.
Every profession, in its own way will argue that it adds value.
Loan sharks, for example, make the argument that they provide credit where no one else will.
But it would be nice if it were possible to do more than that.
If you’re unsure about whether you make meaning right now, just think about it a bit more.
Maybe you just need to discover it for yourself.
2. What curve are you on?
A lot of people start things by looking at the competition – what else is out there?
That’s the red ocean strategy – the one you don’t want to follow.
It’s where there’s lots of competition and the sea is red with creatures fighting each other.
Where you want to be is the blue ocean where there is space and no competition.
Okay, not always.
If you sell a commodity product, you want to be where everyone else is so that people can compare and choose quickly.
This is the world of Amazon and Ebay.
If you do something a little more involved, then you should think hard about where you are on the innovation curve, and whether you can make the leap to an entirely new curve.
3. What’s your mantra?
Kawasaki asks if you have a three-word statement that sums up what you do.
I suppose it doesn’t have to make perfect sense – that’s the point of having time to elaborate on things.
Right now, if I were to have a mantra it would probably be Soft Systems Methodology – a useful approach to understanding and dealing with problematic situations.
4. Can you pitch or demo clearly and quickly?
The saying used to be publish or perish in the academic world.
It’s similar with marketing – you have to create content to explain what you do – with articles and white papers and presentations.
You still need to be able to pitch an idea – explain what you do in a way that people understand.
But even better is showing what you do – it’s now a demo or die world.
You’ll get a lot more enthusiasm if you show people stuff than if you tell them about the cool stuff you can do.
If you haven’t got a demo as part of your marketing package – build one.
5. Can you go to market with no budget?
In The Knack: How street smart entrepreneurs learn to handle whatever comes up Norm Brodsky writes about the business lessons he learned from his father.
Sell with a big markup, he explained. Make sure you can collect from your customer. Be fair – don’t take advantage.
And then the important one – “There’s a million dollars under your shoe; you just have to find it.”
Too many people wait until everything is right before looking for customers.
Start now – because it will take you time and you will be glad you did later.
6. Don’t ask people to do stuff you wouldn’t do
This is the basic rule of management – ask people to do only useful work.
Too many owners and managers ask people to do work that doesn’t create value for a customer.
Keeping timesheets, sending in status updates, form filling, follow processes – we need to ask which of these help with the central task of filling customer demand.
If the customer doesn’t need it doing then don’t do it.
If you own the business and wouldn’t do it yourself if you had a few minutes spare – then is it really worth doing at all?
Look around every once in a while
The point of this list, according to Kawasaki, is to act as a reality check – important points that will get you on the right path.
Because, as he quotes from Indiana Jones, “If you want to be a good archaeologist, you’ve gotta get out of the library!”