Is your glass half-full?

The start of 2012 has been intense, as I have traveled coast to coast and back too many times.  As I sat on countless airplanes, waited in too many airport lounges, and contemplated the meaning of life, the sheer number of negative people I encountered along the way struck me.  Could it be a coincidence?  Was the universe sending me a sign via negative Nancy and pessimistic Paul?

Each conversation was a one-way ticket to the land of “impossible, too hard, not now and maybe”.  Normally, I would attempt to exit these conversations ASAP to avoid being dragged into the room of misfit toys.  These trips were different though because I so desperately wanted to understand the psychology of people who are in the habit of waving the white flag before the battle actually begins.  Much like Indiana Jones, I was now on a quest to find new civilizations where everywhere felt satisfied to criticize, complain and condemn.  In the middle of all the chaos running between flights, I had many opportunities to live vicariously through the eyes and experiences of people who see the glass as permanently half-filled.  After a while, I lost my appetite for this sandwich filled with pessimism, heartache and bewilderment.  Is it too much to ask to be genuinely optimistic about the future?  I hope not for your sake.

As I reflect back on my travels this year, I am reminded of a valuable lesson learned many moons ago amidst all the chaos and one that I will not forget.   In case you happen to be selling, discussing or presenting something tomorrow, please do not forget that your personal brand often begins and ends at hello.  The quickest way to damage You Inc. is to spend too much time on Interstate Impossible.  Building your personal brand on an island is okay if your name is Gilligan.  Otherwise, I might suggest that you spend some time talking about what you can do and less time, what you cannot.

Amongst all the clutter in the marketplace, something as small as being optimistic matters more than some might suggest. It is easy to discount the small stuff in our race for more, more, more…. Your mission is to make everyone feel valued that you meet online and in person.   Take some time to understand and work with all sorts of people who cross your radar screen.

Now that I have stuck my finger in your Cheerios and have your attention, let us discuss what you can do in 2012 and beyond to be a digital rock-star:

  1. First, make sure you are extremely comfortable in your own skin and are able to articulate what you do, how and why.  Take some time to really think about this one, especially the “why you” piece.  Ideally, you should be to describe your personal value proposition in a tweet (140 characters).  Longer than that and most people are bored and will begin to tune you out.
  2. Second, people no longer have an interest in buying things but do have an interest in joining things.  Are you building a community that offers real value to people?  You must bring others with you. If not, get a clue or do something else.
  3. Third, if you can create an authentic experience that pulls the Band-Aid off a few wounds, people will stand up and notice.  Sit on the sidelines and regurgitate the same rhetoric as everyone else and you too can bite down on a sandwich filled with heartache, frustration and mediocrity.

In closing, take an interest in others and they will take an interest in you.  By the way, smiling works well too!


Social Media, Customer Service & Home Depot

There are thousands upon thousands of people that still doubt the enormous power of social media and its ability to affect change. In some ways, you cannot blame them. Everywhere you turn; it is being thrown in your face (your inbox) by the media or some self-proclaimed guru claiming to have mastered the social media universe. I know many people with profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter that claim to have derived little value from them. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I was about to experience first-hand the power of this medium.

Last year, we (my family) purchased carpet from Home Deport for our stairs and hallway. While at the store, we were talked into buying a new blend (fabric) that looked great on the rack. We were assured that it would wear well on the stairs (high traffic areas) etc… I am sure you can guess where this is going. Approximately 90 days after installation, the carpet looked as if the San Diego Chargers had played their regular season on our stairs and hallway. At this point, my wife is almost in tears as she cannot believe that it looks this bad so quickly. I jump up like a Super Hero (perception vs. reality) and assure her that I will take care of it. I am confident that Home Depot will stand behind their product. It’s Home Depot. I find their mission statement online just to make sure that customer service is indeed still important to the folks in Atlanta. I am in luck as they value “excellent customer service”, “doing the right thing” and “building strong relationships”.

I call the store to report the issue and this is when the story gets real interesting. I cannot seem to find out who is actually responsible for taking care of situations like mine. Uh-oh! I get transferred several times on my first attempt and finally end up leaving a message for the consolidator. I have no idea what a consolidator does but that is who I am directed to speak with on Monday morning. Consolidator, consolidator are you there?

I call the consolidator on Monday morning as directed and I am told that the store is not responsible for this situation but rather the good folks that actually installed the carpet. Does anyone not outsource anymore? The consolidator insists that this is the process so I ask for the installer’s number and call them. The installer takes the call but it is obvious that they too want nothing to do with me and my carpet. Lo and behold, the installer shows up to inspect the carpet. I pick up right away that this is not going anywhere real fast. The installer takes a peek here and there but seems genuinely uninterested in finding out the real issue. I attempt to ask questions for clarity and intent but I get blank looks and lots of mumbled jargon. As I expect, I get a call a few days later from my consolidator explaining that the excessive wear was caused by my family. At this point, not a soul from the store (Home Depot) has offered to come to my house and see it first-hand. What’s next is where I am blown away.

At wits end, I decide to tweet about my unfortunate experience with Home Depot. I am not sure what I am expecting but in some ways it feels like a great way to blow off some steam. Within fifteen minutes, I get a tweet from Tinzley at Home Depot. She is pleasant and seems genuinely interested in finding a resolution. I explain the who, what, when, where, and why to Tinzley and she goes to work in tracking down the appropriate people for me to speak with. As you might have guessed by now, this story has a happy ending as our new carpet looks great.

I am not sure how many other Tinzley’s are out there right now listening and monitoring every Tweet, Facebook, LinkedIn or YouTube post but I saw firsthand the power of the phenomenon we call social media. Take-away: Social media is real, pervasive and it matters. If you don’t believe me, just ask your customers. I think you might be surprised just how many are using social media. On a side note, I still have no idea what a consolidator does which still bothers me. On a side note, Tinzley, wherever you are, Thank you!

Why Awesome Spreads!!!

When I first ventured out on my own (entrepreneur), I scratched around looking for the recipe to be wildly successful.  Already a hard-wired optimist, I read countless self-help books, watched YouTube videos from all the gurus and talked to every man, woman and even child who might share the secrets to being a successful entrepreneur.   In many ways, I felt like Ponce de Leon trying to find the fountain of youth.  In the interim, everyone I spoke with kept telling me to just “think big” and a bunch of other positive affirmations.   Could it be that easy?  I was doubtful.  Keep in mind; I was as positive as one might be but still thoroughly perplexed as to what was required to build my brand.  I was lucky though because I did understand both the “what” and the “why” for a bullet-proof brand but was clueless as to the “how”.

At wit’s end, I attended a local National Speakers Association meeting hoping that one phrase, one word, or even one encounter might shed some light on my situation.  Truth be told, it was a combination of all three that sent me on my way down the yellow brick road with new-found clarity.  I concluded two things when the meeting was over.  First, there was no secret or “that one thing” that an entrepreneur can do to ensure success.  Second, I realized that what wins is what spreads and only “awesome spreads” virally in the digital age.   What I had been looking for was right in front of me the whole time.   Now realizing that there is no secret to success, I focused my time and energy on the “awesome spreads” piece.  What are you talking about Devin?  What is with this “awesome spreads” stuff?

The primary ingredient for me to create the success I so desired was to create:

  • awesome blog posts (content)
  • awesome tweets
  • awesome YouTube videos
  • connect with awesome people (LinkedIn, Twitter & Facebook)
  • share awesome content
  • create an awesome experience

If I could do some of the above consistently, then my brand would grow and spread like a new-born child.  Do you think I am nuts?  Step back and think about who you like, who you follow and why.  There are countless examples like Richard Branson, Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki, Chris Brogan and a host of others.  Are they smarter than the rest of us?  Do they have extra neurons firing in their heads?  I am not a neurologist but I think not.  The common denominator is that they live out on the edge where “awesomeness” occurs and it spreads and spreads.   Do yourself a favor in 2012, get your arms around your “awesome” and share it.   The world needs a few more authentic voices willing to reject the status quo.  By the way, average is over-rated!

Brand M.D.

This past weekend, I had the good fortune of attending a picnic in my neighborhood.  Have I ever told you how much I love picnics?  As I sat there consuming anything in sight, I struck up a conversation with a physician who, like me, was enjoying the barbeque.  He began to tell me about an unusual experience he had that afternoon in his office.  During a routine office visit with a new patient, he asked her how she came about selecting him as her primary care doctor.  She replied, “I read the reviews about you on Yelp and they were all positive so I decided to come see for myself.”  I thought he was joking and came to find out quickly that he was not.  For some odd reason, I was shocked to hear that a consumer would make a healthcare decision based on anonymous online feedback on Yelp of all places.  My curiosity now in overdrive I began to dig around a bit to uncover the relationship between physicians and online branding.  Boy, oh boy was I surprised.  I love learning new things.

Physicians and branding

Social Media adoption and personal branding among physicians is increasing at an extremely high rate.  Many physicians have recognized that they too are a brand. Hence, it is imperative that they manage their brand online, join online conversations to stay competitive, relevant, and busy.  With reimbursements at an all time low, being busy often equals increased revenue and in many cases survival. As transparency and competition for patients has increased, many physicians are now using social media to highlight their expertise, differentiate their services and develop a tighter connection with current and future patients.  In turn, patients are demanding more from physicians in terms of ways to connect with them. This includes iPhone apps, Facebook pages, Wi-Fi office connectivity, YouTube updates and other user-friendly tools enabling patients to have access to information and their providers more often.  I now get it when they talk about the “business of healthcare.”

My research on this subject was a great reminder of the power of the personal brand and social media.  If physicians are now doing it, there must be something to this social media stuff.  Right? There are potential clients right now doing online research on you, your group, industry, and your office decor.

What will they discover when they do a Google search on you?