The Difference Between Very, Very Good and The Best
Posted on Monday, Aug 22, 2016 by Michael Canic

The Olympic Games are a wonderful showcase of the possibilities of human performance. And of how thread-fine the margin can be between being the best, and not.

When I think of the Olympics I often think of the greatest sprinter you’ve never heard of.

Frankie Fredericks.

Frankie Fredericks of Namibia won the Olympic silver medal in the men’s 100-meter sprint in 1992. And, he won silver in the 200 meters. Four years later he again won the Olympic silver medal in the 100. And, yes, silver in the 200. The difference between Frankie Fredericks winning four silver medals and four gold medals was a combined time of 0.59 seconds.

That’s the difference between being very, very good and being the best four times.

What’s the difference between being good, very good, very, very good, and the best in your business? Are you paying sufficient attention to the details, the little things that, combined and multiplied over thousands of instances, make up the difference between silver and gold?

Good enough isn’t.

It’ll do won’t.

Will you go for good, or go for gold?

Your thoughts?


Selling Sand in the Arabian Peninsula
Posted on Monday, Aug 15, 2016 by Michael Canic

The Arabian Peninsula. The name evokes a sense of endless sands and the oven-like heat of the desert.

In the vastness of the desert there are quadrillions of grains of sand. And it would be easy to think that sand is sand is sand. Yet when the contractor for a new golf course in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates wanted to find just the right sand, he knew who to contact.

Waupaca Sand & Solutions, a Wisconsin-based company that tests, engineers and manufactures the right mix of sand for almost any application.

Because, as it turns out, sand is not simply sand. Grains of sand come in different degrees of sphericity – rounded, sub-rounded, sub-angular, and angular. And different sizes – coarse, medium, fine, and very fine. Sand has properties, and the balance of properties, such as stability and drainage, can significantly impact the firmness, consistency, durability, and even health of a golf green.

What Waupaca Sand & Solutions discovered in the Arabian Peninsula was that the sands of the United Arab Emirates weren’t right for the golf course. So it would have to be imported!

Clearly, sand is not sand is not sand.

Become acutely aware of your customers’ needs. Pay attention to detail. And understand that small things can make a big difference.

Your thoughts?


Why Details are Critical
Posted on Monday, Aug 8, 2016 by Michael Canic

As someone who enjoys outdoor activities I'm always interested in innovations to outdoors gear. I recently came across one that totally impressed me with its attention to detail: the GoBites Uno – a spork.

A spork is part spoon, part fork in one, lightweight utensil. Not hard to manufacture. Been around a long time. So why a new spork and what makes it special?

Start with strength. Many lightweight sporks feel flimsy; they’re not hard to break. The Uno has a diagonal ridge line that stiffens it and makes it exceptionally strong for its weight.

Then shape. The snub-nose spoon makes scraping the bottom of pots and bowls a breeze. Concave areas at both the spoon and fork ends provide natural resting places for your fingers. And the thick, smooth edges don’t dig into your skin when pressing down while cutting.

The central tines are just long enough for twirling noodles. Pointy enough to stab raw veggies yet rounded enough so as not to puncture your mouth. Tapered edges on the outside tines allow you to break apart even hard food into smaller pieces.

This is a thoughtfully designed product. And if you’re into outdoors activities you especially appreciate the small conveniences.

How important are product and service details to your customers? The little things that make subtle impressions. That can differentiate you. Are you paying enough attention to the details?

Your thoughts?


How to Win in the Shark Tank and Not Get Eaten Alive
Posted on Monday, Aug 1, 2016 by Michael Canic

If you’re a business person looking to entice investors, there is likely no higher profile venue than the popular TV show, Shark Tank.

Many entrepreneurs get the opportunity to deliver their pitch. So what separates those who get funded from those who get eaten alive? Kevin O’Leary, a shark who is known for being opinionated and ruthless, says that you must succeed at doing three things:

1) Articulate your idea and the benefits in 90 seconds-or-less

Sounds straightforward. Yet for all the so-called Mission Statements out there, I find that many entrepreneurs and business leaders can’t deliver the 3 C’s – a concise, coherent and compelling pitch about their business and the resulting benefits.

2) Explain why you and your team are the right people to make it happen

Everyone has an idea. But not everyone has the will or the skill to execute. Without the will to persist through pressure, uncertainty, and setbacks, you’ll never succeed. As for skill, if you don’t have it then you’d better figure out how you’re going to attract and secure the people who do.

3) Know your numbers inside-out

O’Leary says he is shocked by the number of entrepreneurs who don’t know their numbers – market numbers, operational numbers, and financials. Heaven forbid that you make it onto the show and don’t know your numbers. Because if that happens, O’Leary says he will eviscerate you.

These must-do’s don’t apply just to entrepreneurs on Shark Tank. Any business leader should be able to do them. Can you?

Your thoughts?


Why You Don’t Want to Think “Out-of-the-Box”
Posted on Monday, Jul 25, 2016 by Michael Canic

It's one of the most enduring sayings in business: thinking out-of-the-box. And for almost 20 years I've been advising leaders not to say it. Why? Because if you say “thinking out of the box,” you're not. How could you be? Parroting this saying about not thinking like everyone else only confirms that you are!

I like to say, “thinking out of the circle.” I’ve never heard anyone else say that. That one’s mine.

Pick your own shape and own it. Two-dimensional, three-dimensional, it doesn’t matter. There are triangles and hexagons, trapezoids and heptagons, cylinders and pyramids, cubes and cones – the possibilities are endless.

Just don’t say you’re thinking out of the box.

Your thoughts?


What ‘Wow” Service Looks Like
Posted on Monday, Jul 18, 2016 by Michael Canic

Standing out a little is little better than not standing out. Sure, it’s nice, but not particularly memorable. The only way to be memorable, and to inspire customers to speak passionately about you, is to blow them away.

I walk into a chocolate and fine foods shop called Sinfully the Best ( Immediately I’m greeted by a staff member, not trying to sell me anything but eagerly offering me one of their flavored truffles.

Mmmmm, very tasty.

As I walk around I notice everyone’s joyful spirit. Clearly, these people love working here. I pick up an assortment of chocolate tasting squares for one of my clients.

Anything else we might help with?

Maybe something for my wife. Nothing too sweet.

We have this ginger and rhubarb spread that is just wonderful with a medium cheddar Here, why don’t I make you one?

Thank you. Yes, that is good. I’ll take a jar.

I’ll put it in a nice cellophane wrap – I’ll bet your wife will like that! What’s her favorite color? Purple? Great. I’ll use a nice purple ribbon for the bow.

After a few more such pleasantries, I pay and start to leave the shop. They thank me effusively, say how much they look forward to my next visit, and promise me they’ll have some irresistible new treats.

Blown away. Not by service that was simply nice or pleasant or better than others. But by an experience that was compelling, complete and consistent.


Your thoughts?


Why Being “Different” Isn’t Enough
Posted on Monday, Jul 11, 2016 by Michael Canic

Differentiate yourself from your competition. Don’t be “me-too.”

So goes the conventional wisdom. Being different is where to be. But is different enough?

This past week marked the end of a long-running battle about being different. BlackBerry said it will stop making its Classic model, the one with a physical, rather than touchscreen, keyboard.

Today, the physical keyboard – at one time the standard – is different. And there is a segment of the market that prefers the tactile sensation of a physical key. That segment is very satisfied with BlackBerry’s physical keyboard. And as other phone makers abandoned physical keyboards it allowed BlackBerry to grab more of that segment.

Yet they’re shutting it down. Why?

Because you can be different, appeal to a market segment, generate high satisfaction levels, dominate that segment … and still fail. It’s not about being different. The question is: Are you desirably different to a sufficiently large and growing market segment that will pay a price that makes your financial proposition viable?

Break that down. Desirably different. Sufficiently large and growing. A price that makes your financial proposition viable.

Different can be death. Ask the right question.

Your thoughts?



The #2 Reason Why Family Businesses Don’t Endure
Posted on Monday, Jul 4, 2016 by Michael Canic

Why the number 2 reason? Because number 1 is obvious: businesses get handed down to inept offspring who ascend to the throne based on the merits of their last names. You can take it from there.

So let’s get to the more interesting reason:

Excessive conservatism.

What leads to excessive? Several things. It could be risk-aversion – not wanting to tamper with a perceived entitlement. Or fear of making decisions that might destroy the family legacy. Or the often mistaken assumption that what led to past success will lead to future success.

Regardless of the root cause, the symptom is the same. A business that fails to anticipate, and is ill equipped and slow to adapt to change.

Fred Olsen is the 4th-generation leader of a Norwegian conglomerate. As heir to the family fortune Olsen could easily have been merely a caretaker of the family business – shipping. But that was never in the cards.

“Both products and family businesses obey life cycles,” he said in an interview with Fortune magazine*. “My mother’s family was in fishhooks and horseshoe nails. Those businesses came and went. That’s why it’s so important to catch the wave, to keep innovating, keep changing.”

Olsen diversified the family business and became a leading player in the North Sea oil revolution. Later, he became one of the trailblazers in wind power. As one of the world’s most successful watch designers – and with controlling interest in the Timex group – he originated both the Ironman Triathlon watch and Indiglo illumination.

Keep innovating, keep changing. Family businesses have life cycles. Don’t let excessive conservatism condemn yours to its final phase.

Your thoughts?



A Test of Commitment
Posted on Monday, Jun 27, 2016 by Michael Canic

Decision time.

We started at 3:45 a.m. and had now been hiking and climbing for over 11 hours. Our objective was to traverse the northernmost 10 peaks of Colorado’s Tenmile Range in a single push. Ten summits, all over 12,000 feet, across 16 miles.

Now, at the top of Peak 9, having climbed a total of 7,200 vertical feet, we were faced with a choice. My partner had been experiencing clear signs of altitude sickness for over an hour. Worsening headache, nausea – almost to the point of vomiting, and a steady and rapid decrease in performance.

I looked up. One peak to go. The highest summit of the day with the second greatest elevation gain.

There was no decision.

“We’re going down, my friend.”

He protested of course. All of us do. So close to the goal after coming so far and giving so much. He was committed. But there was no doubt in my mind. The one, rock-solid rule when a person has altitude sickness is to descend. Period.

Were we committed? Whenever I do an outdoor adventure the second objective is to complete the adventure. The first objective – always – is to return safe and unharmed. Mission accomplished.

Always, always, be clear on your objectives and the priority of those objectives.

Your thoughts?


Is Your Work True to YOU?
Posted on Monday, Jun 20, 2016 by Michael Canic

A friend just introduced me to Crossing the Unknown Sea, by David Whyte. Whyte is a poet and – yes – a corporate consultant who writes lyrically and compellingly about identity, meaning and purpose at work.

Today we read much about having purpose, about discovering our why. And justifiably so, as meaning is what ignites our spirit and inspires our actions. It’s what makes work feel like, well, anything but work.

Whyte’s is not your standard find-your-purpose-and-live-it prose. He writes of work as a “pilgrimage of identity.” He observes that while our bodies are present in our work, “… our hearts, minds, and imaginations can be placed firmly in neutral or engaged elsewhere.” Yet if we, “… set out boldly in our work … to understand that the consummation of work lies not only in what we have done, but in who we have become,” then we can embrace the pilgrimage and whatever truth it may bring. The discovery of who we are takes place through our work – if our hearts and minds are open and we are sensitive to what elevates and dampens our spirit.

This is not about being more productive or getting ahead … and there is nothing wrong with those. This is about realizing that we must never, writes Whyte, “… mistake a good career for good work.”

I have seen colleagues and clients hanging on – tolerating and enduring what they do. Out of habit, fear, or the prospect of some financial outcome. Yet unhappy and unfulfilled through all of it. Because their work was not a true reflection of who they are. Because they didn’t understand, or manifest the understanding, that the personal should drive the professional. That the stream of career rewards, challenges, and expectations should not be let to supersede the priorities and ambitions of who we truly are.

That’s why Whyte writes of work as crossing the unknown sea. And that’s why work, if we have the courage to allow it, can be a pilgrimage of identity.

Your thoughts?



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