The Art of Doing

Starbucks & The Economist

Let’s make a bet.

You and me.

I wager you a free drink at Starbucks that at some point in your career you’ve heard this line (or something like it) from someone at your company:

“I have this great idea to boost revenue.” [Emphasis on “great idea.”]

Two weeks later you get the plan on your desk.

Three months later… nothing happens. They didn’t follow-through. And you think, “what happened?”

I’ve noticed there’s an art to getting things done.

And just like any other art — be it on canvas or in melodies and harmonies — in order to become an expert at it, you have to practice (some say it takes 10,000 hours of practice).

Now, there is a slight exception. You Type A, doer, focus-oriented, choleric, over-achievers out there don’t have this problem. You see a goal, and you achieve it — for better or worse.

For the rest of the world, getting things done takes practice. It’s something you have to work on. You’re not going to become Michelangelo over-night. But if you’re ever going to sculpt your David, you’re going to have to move forward.

One step at a time.

Getting. Things. Done.

What does that look like?

1. Spending less time planning and more time taking action.

Many times, those that don’t “do” are afraid of taking chances, so they hide behind excessive planning, researching and contingency-ing (my failed attempt at turning “contingency” into a transitive verb).

Fear — one word that dominates the motivation of individuals and societies around the world. Ignore its powers of paralysis for now. We’ll get to that in a minute.

The important thing is that action begets action. Turn down the planning knob. Turn up the doing knob.

…leading us right into the second point, which is…

2. Adopting the model of bounded rationality throughout your entire life.

The world we live in runs on limited resources. Time. Money. Energy. And don’t get me started on fossil fuels.

Every decision we make has opportunity costs. To use Herbert A. Simon’s language, our decision-making processes are “bound” by finite time, resources and rationality in the face of infinite information and possibilities.

The Internet only intensifies this effect. Raise your hand if you’ve ever been guilty of spending countless hours online “researching” a topic only to end up a ton of “research” and no time to actually do anything with it?

I’ll raise my hand to that one. Guilty.

So, what do we do with that?

We maximize our efforts by putting our resources where we yield the highest return. We make decisions and take action knowing full well that we don’t have all the available information in our grasp because we are limited by the world around us — we are limited by our own selves.

3. Ignoring your fear of failure, because if you’re ever going to succeed at anything…

You’re going to fail. And you’re going to fail big.

Every great leader has hit rock bottom a time or two in his day. I could go through a barrage of examples, metaphors, or soliloquies about the necessity of failure, but I won’t be nearly as eloquent or motivational as The Greats themselves. Here’s what they have to say about fear:

If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.

– Dale Carnegie 

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

– Nelson Mandela 

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.

– Steve Jobs

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.

– Mark Twain 

So the real trick is choosing to take action knowing that you won’t be able to complete every task, project or objective with perfection. In this case, completing the task is more important than failing to do it.

I’m going to ask you a favor:

Leave a comment below telling me a time when you or someone you know failed to take action on a project and the consequences. (Be kind and don’t you names.)

Also, I’m a man of my word. I will happily buy you a cup of coffee if I lost the bet. Email me here, and we’ll call it a date. Or a shindig. Whichever makes you more comfortable.

Related: The Secret Ingredient To Success

Related: The Things That Hold Us Back From Greatness


Pricing Discounts and Why You Should Never Use Them



Sales. Pricing discounts. One-time offers.

Oh, these are clever ways to increase your short-term sales. Businesses have been offering discounts since a man could trade two fish for the price of one when he really needed to seal the deal. However, these pricing practices can tend to hurt more than help in today’s currency-based economy. Discounts may increase your market share for a little while, but it eventually changes customers’ expectations of your brand and you’re stuck with the discounted premium forever…well, at least longer than desired.

Caveat: I realize that pricing strategy is more complicated than I’m letting on in the 500 words or so, and sometimes it’s necessary to use price pulses, etc. However, I’m addressing the common problem of using “sales” as a reactive, first response decision that many businesses make.

Problem: the doom loop

Just like a plane spiraling in an irreversible dive towards the ground, brands get sucked into what’s commonly called “the doom loop.” Here’s how it happens (and I’m sure you’ve seen this before):

  1. Your sales slow down and your marketing results are lacking,
  2. So you decide to lower your prices as an incentive (you’re following the classic ideas of the price elasticity of demand).
  3. To maintain profits with the price reductions and tighter margins, you decrease your services and marketing expenses.
  4. Good news! Your short-term sales improved.
  5. But wait, your competition responds in-kind.
  6. Customer price expectations shift (think fast-food chains when the “value menu” was introduced).
  7. Your customer experience deteriorates (because you decreased your services and marketing expenses),
  8. Which leads you back to soft results and dampened sales.

And just like that, you’re back where you started, only now you have less wiggle room.

My encouragement to you is not to succumb to price discounting. Don’t throw a sale. It’s easy. It’s common. And it’s death incarnate for your business.

So what is the right step to take?

Solution: zig, don’t zag

There’s another way out of the mess, and you can be the one that changes the game. Instead of moving with the competition when discounting ensues, add value. Easy to say, I know, and hard to do. I don’t mean to belittle anyone’s situation or downplay the difficulty of short-term and long-term cash-flow battles. But if you want to position yourself away from competition, provide benefits (even if the benefits are only based on perception) and customers will respond in-kind.

The Plan: add benefits

Let’s revisit our fisherman friend from before. Instead of offering a 50% discount, he could have added benefit to his trade by:

  1. Filleting a fish for his customer
  2. Cooking the fish
  3. Flavoring the fish
  4. Making jewelry from the fish bones
  5. …You get the picture (the list goes on)

What does that look like in your business? It could take the shape of free samples. Or maybe it’s offering the best customer rewards program, referral program, and/or guarantee in the industry.

The trick is finding the benefits that customers in your industry are craving and offering that to them.

So I’ll leave you with this:

Pricing discounts are the easy way out. Pump-up those creative juices and put in some hard work. You’ll find a way to make your brand attractive while your competition is helplessly spiraling toward oblivion.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below. I’d love to hear from you!

You can also contact me directly via this page.

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Weekly Matchbook – 7 Resources to Ignite Your Business

The Weekly Matchbook

Week of May 13 – May 19

This is a weekly post highlighting a few hand-picked resources that I believe will help boost your business’ performance. Topics are focused around business strategy, marketing and professional development.

This week on the Matchbook:

  • 7 Smart Marketing Links You Can Thank Me For Later…
  • CEOs Need Hard Data on Customer Loyalty
  • What To Do With Employee Survey Results
  • What the Highest Converting Websites Do Differently
  • Entrepreneurs Must Save America
  • When the Product Is the Marketing, and Vice Versa
  • Pricing Strategies for the Downturn

If you want to grab even more useful links every week, follow @MatchConsult on Twitter.

INSTRUCTIONS: Use the Matchbook to spark ideas; a small set of kindling that can provide the necessary heat to ignite your business endeavors. (All underlined material is actionable. Click to your heart’s content.)

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