The Go-Giver Secrets of Steve Jobs

My friends at ScanSource Latin America and I are reading and discussing Bob Burg and John David Mann's jewel of a book, The Go-Giver.

So far we've covered two very important laws of success:

The Law of Value:Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment.

The Law of Compensation:
Your income is determined by how many people 
you serve and how well you serve them. 

It's interesting to note that in all our book club sessions we've often referenced Steve Jobs and Apple's amazing customer-centric products, which is more than fitting because Steve Jobs is living proof that Go-Giving works! 

But if you're still skeptical about whether these principles can truly work in the real world, here are two quotes from Steve Jobs that may prompt you to change your mind.

As you know, after releasing the "insanely great" Macintosh computer in 1984 Steve Jobs got really rich, really fast. In a 1985 Playboy interview, he was asked about his tremendous, newly-found wealth:
“You know, my main reaction to this money thing is that it’s humorous, all the attention to it, because it’s hardly the most insightful or valuable thing that’s happened to me.”
So, according to Steve Jobs, money is NOT the game-changer?

Then what is? 

What's his focus?


Nearly a decade later, in 1993, he was asked by the Wall Street Journal about money and what drives him to succeed, to which he responded:
“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful…that’s what matters to me.”
So acquiring wealth is nice, but doing something wonderful is what truly matters to Steve Jobs. Creating products that change millions of peoples' lives is the ultimate reward, not the money itself.


You can check out lots of great Steve Jobs quotes from the Wall Street Journal. 

Read them and you'll sense his amazing devotion to giving through innovation, creativity, and creating a truly unique experience for customers—experiences that are worth more than customers could possibly pay for in simple monetary terms.

Not focusing on money and focusing on giving, helped Steve Jobs earn BILLIONS!! 

That's the power that Burg and Mann would like you to tap into.

Now that you know... what will you do differently?

P.S. I wrote another piece on Steve Jobs that's very apropos to this discussion on my Happy Monday Blog. It might be worth checking out. 

The Entrepreneur as Benevolent Dictator

Michael Feuer's new book, The Benevolent Dictator landed on my desk at exactly the right moment—two months into the launch of my own business enterprise! So as you can imagine, I dove into the book eager to mine some valuable nuggets of wisdom from the mind of a talented entrepreneur who was able to take OfficeMax from very humble beginnings up to its sales in 2003 for $1.5 billion.

Although the book is full of great insights worthy of study and application, the most important take-away for me relates to the role of the entrepreneur as a Benevolent Dictator. Feuer makes it clear that there is no secret sauce; no magic recipe; nor any single piece of sexy advice guaranteed to take your business to dizzying heights of success. Instead, Feuer insists that it comes down to something really simple (though not easy): devising a smart and detailed strategy, and executing that strategy relentlessly. 

Execution, however, requires discipline and a stubborn focus on setting goals and minding the details.  The occasional cracking of the whip comes with the territory. But that doesn't make Feuer a bad guy at all. His heavy hand is always guided by a benevolent sense of service, to customers and employees alike, and by the humility to recognize that he doesn't have all the answers and that the people in his organization are partners who deserve a say in how things are run. 

For me, it's great to see a CEO who is at once strong and assertive, but humble enough to encourage his people to come up with ideas, and to challenge his own when they disagree.

The following passage is my favorite from the book:
As a founder and former CEO of a Fortune 500 company, I have given more than 1,000 talks and speeches over the past 25 or some years. I am invariably asked the same question during each presentation's question-and-answer session: What is a CEO's most important role in the organization? 
The audience doubtlessly expected a pat, text-book-type response–"building a team," "accelerating sales and profits," or "increase shareholders' value." And all of these truly are critically important objectives, each of which provides a barometer of effectiveness and success.
However, my answer to this age-old question was—and still is—"A boss' job is to stir the pot."
I personally disdain the status quo. The trite phrase, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," sets me off. The comment, "Same old, same old" when applied to a business' progress is, as far as I'm concerned, the first sign that a company is heading into obscurity. Getting a start-up venture off the ground with some modicum of success can lull an entrepreneur into a dangerous mind-set where he or she beings to relax a bit and starts "smelling the roses."
Feuer has organized his thoughts on business into 40 lessons divided among the "four phases" of an entrepreneurial enterprise: (1) Start-up (2) Build Out and Put the Idea to the test (3) Constant Reinvention and (4) The Payday. Although the phases are not fully fleshed out, and while some of the lessons are repetitive, overly expansive and superficial, there is some serious red meat in the book.

The juiciest and most interesting lessons are those about using OPM (Other People's Money) to finance your business. Feuer's genius comes through as he describes (in fairly good detail) how he was able to fund OfficeMax's growth in early and later years without having to deal with overly demanding professional investors (venture capitalists). His myth-busting insights on raising capital are easily worth 100X the price of the book!

There's lots of great advice, that although not particularly original or ground-breaking, is presented in Feuer's clever fashion and is ignored at one's own peril. There's solid advice on how to hire effectively, manage projects, test ideas, change course, encourage innovation, outwit competitors and much more!

Although the book sometimes feels more like a promotional tool than a truly heart-felt treatise on entrepreneurship (there are incessant references to Feuer's Max-Wellness venture in the first half of the book) it provides enough valuable information, humor and even some genuine emotion that compel me to recommend it to you.

If you're thinking of starting a business, or if you're in the middle of launching a business like I am, the advice found in the pages of The Benevelovent Dictator may not be inspirational, but it's highly instructional. Follow Feuer's advice to steer your business in the right direction.

Tell Lots of Stories

Story Time
Photo courtesy of Scottish Libraries
Peter Guber and Bernadette Jiwa have really got me thinking about just how powerful stories can be, not only in building a brand, but in having an impact on the people around you.

Stories are powerful because our brains are hardwired to grasp them easily.

Before the advent of the written word, human beings told oral stories for tens of thousands of years. That's how we survived and endured -- by learning through stories.

Stories cut to the chase.

Even the most complex or technically convoluted concepts can be easily understood if presented as a story. Case in point, you can expound about the wonders of your product  or service 'til you're blue in the face and many customers will still not understand. Tell them a story, on the other hand, and they will instantly "get it".

Stories are just more fun.

They entertain and enlighten. They help you to be at your persuasive best. They give you the power to break old paradigms by allowing your audience to place themselves in the role of the protagonist in your story. You have them in rapt attention. Empathy increases. Understanding ensues.

So given the power of stories, you need to ask yourself two critical questions:

(1) Am I telling enough stories?
(2) And are they good ones?

Your Customers: Satisfied or Happy?

Have you ever thought about the difference between customer satisfaction and customer happiness? 

I think it’s becoming increasingly clear that customer service needs to evolve from satisfying customers to wowing them, thrilling them, and making them truly happy to work with you.

That’s because customers who are merely satisfied aren’t loyal. If your competitor decides to drop his prices, many of your “satisfied” customers will leave you. They’re content – that is, until something better comes along. 

Happy customers, on the other hand, are loyal. 

They’re your raving fans. You get them and they get you. They’re “evangelists” for you cause. They’ll help you spread the word about how great you are because they have a stake in your product and your business, and they know that you care about them as well.

Case in point: take a look at what the guys from 37Signals are doing on their website. Not only do they aim to make their customers happy, they publish their happiness ratings online for all the world to see.

That keeps them honest.

And that’s a good thing because it’s easy to talk a good game about wowing customers but not easy to get it done.

But keeping customers happy is a must now, not a nice-to-have. In a market saturated with capable competitors, the last thing you want your company to be is just “OK” in the eyes of customers.

You want them to see you as great! Awesome! Remarkable! Worth raving about!

I know it’s not easy, but what are you doing to move in that direction? 

And by the way customer service applies, not just to external customers but to internal customers as well- your teammates, co-workers and direct reports! Remember to WOW them too!

The King's Speech

In case you haven't seen King's Speech, I recommend you run to the nearest theater and go check it out.

Not merely because it just won an Oscar for Best Picture, or because Colin Firth's performance as King George VI is sublime, but rather because there's a HUGE message about courage, conviction and overcoming the fears that hold you back.

The King's Speech is the story of Prince Albert Duke of York's ascent to the throne in 1936, on the eve of the horrible 2nd World War.

People were worried.

Prince Albert was brave, dutiful and brimming with patriotic conviction. He was perfectly fit to be king, save for one GINORMOUS flaw: he was a horrible stammerer and just about the worst public speaker anyone ever saw.

Prince Albert simply dreaded speaking in public. In the movie, you can see the life drain from his very soul at the mere sight of a microphone. 

And part of the movie's raw power is that we can all relate in varying degrees to the Prince's fear. People say they fear public speaking more than death itself!

But there's a problem with that. If you want to make a greater contribution; if you want to make a greater impact and make more of a "dent in the universe" you're going to have to face this, or any other fear, and master it.

I've learned this lesson firsthand.

When I was a kid I had a pretty bad speech impediment. I spoke too fast. I blurred my words. I stuttered mildly. They sent me to speech therapy sessions a couple of times a week.

But that wasn't all. I used to have a horrible fear of public speaking. And it wasn't those cute little butterflies in your stomach. It was primal, run-for-your-life, Freddy Krueger type fear. The kind where your hands shake uncontrollably and your mouth turns into the Saharan desert. 

The funny thing is that people often comment on how comfortable I am as a public speaker. Little do they know that what they perceive as innate talent or skill is actually the result of countless hours of facing my demons, pushing myself, practicing, studying, embarassing myself, and daring to try again.

Like The King's Speech shows, it's okay to be afraid. But it's not okay to let that fear limit what you can become.

Just look at at what great people like Richard Branson or Temple Grandin have been able to accomplish despite very serious limitations. They've had the courage to push themselves to do more, and in doing so have changed the world.

You can do it too.

But when in doubt, you'd do well to recall the words of another great contemporary of George VI: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

3 Essential Ways to Boost Your Productivity

People with Evil Plans keep busy. Probably too busy. But keeping busy doesn't equate to being effective or productive.

The key to your success is finding ways to maximize your productivity while minimizing unnecessary stress.

It's possible, and it's downright necessary if you're looking to make a dent in the universe.

So to be more productive, there are 3 essential things you must do.

1. Disconnect
Einstein once said that "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." It's so true. It's so easy to get sucked in and get caught up in our momentum. The days rush by as we're propelled forward, but in what direction? Are you on track or have you veered off the right path?

You have to disconnect frequently to reassess and plan a more sensible approach. Disconnect a couple of times a day for a few minutes and reassess your effectiveness. Are you just putting out fires or are you working on things that will yield results today AND in the future?

You can also disconnect frequently to take a high level look at your work. Do this on a weekly, monthly or yearly basis. Do it as much (or as little) as you need to feel comfortable that you're on the right track. And remember that rest and leisure are your friends. They'll help you renew and refocus your energy.

2. Singletask
Multitasking is the enemy. It only creates the illusion of speed and actually wears you down. You spin your wheels frantically and don't get very far. It brings unnecessary stress and saps your creative powers. So instead of diluting your energy, focus it! Work on one thing at a time. Focus. Ignore the phone. Turn off email. Don't instant message. Get it done, then move on to the next truly productive task.

3. Batch
Bundle similar tasks together and get them done in one shot. If you have multiple errands to run, batch them together and schedule a single block of time to check them all off your list. At work, don't check email sporadically throughout the day or as they come in. That kills productivity. Instead, block off specific times to deal with email and then shut it off. This'll free up blocks of uninterrupted time to work on your projects.

One last word. All this may sound simple, but it's not particularly easy to do. It takes discipline and determination. So ask yourself, how badly do you want it?

What Is It That Only You Can Do?

Washington gives up his military command.
The other day I was reading the Harvard Business Review and came across an interesting interview with John Mackey, Co-CEO of Whole Foods Market.

In the interview, Mackey stated the he often asks himself the question, "What Is It That Only I Can Do?

Great question.

Because of his unique expertise, vision, perspective, position and talents, he identifies what it is in the organization that only HE can do to make progress and gets busy doing it.

Interestingly, when George Washington attended the Second Continental Congress in May of 1775, this very idea was also at work.

Because of all these factors, leading the Continental Army was something only George Washington could do. And after his hard-fought victories on the battle field, only he could lead the nation as its first president.

Washington made history once again in 1783 when he ceded his commission as Commander-in-Chief of the Army to the Congress. It was something only Washington could do--relinquish military power so as to send a clear message: the United States was to be led by civilians and not military dictators. 

Washington did what only he could do. How about you?

Given your unique gifts, talents, background, and experience, I can assure you that there's something that needs doing that only YOU can do.

Will you identify what that is and take it upon yourself to do it? You might just make a little history.

Happy President's Day!