Saturday, November 24, 2007

Seize the Idea

One of the great things about networking is that it uncovers opportunities and ideas that you would never have found on your own. I've been amazed at how many consulting engagements I've found while networking, without really looking for them. That's led me to a new Idea that I hope will reshape my career. I also recently read a story that highlights how even the smallest actions can lead to bigger things, if you are open to "Seizing the Idea" when it comes to you.

Last week I shared with many in my networking circle that I was through with dabbling at consulting work while looking for a job, focusing instead on building and growing my consulting business. A lot of companies need help in setting marketing strategy, developing key messages and value propositions, writing white papers and case studies, and developing relationships with potential clients.

In response, Jen Antonio-Lim of the Purple Cow Brainstorming Circle gave me a book that she thought I'd find useful in my quest for sane self-employment: Spare Room Tycoon, by James Chan. (Jen also gave me a "Certificate of Moorit" for my "remarkable creativity and leadership" in leading last month's brainstorming session!)

I found a story in Spare Room Tycoon that I thought I would share, as I think it demonstrates many of the keys to successful networking:

The setup: Mike McGrail had a franchise business that trained executives how to be better leaders. He was scraping by on word-of-mouth referrals from his neighbors, but he desperately needed a breakthrough.

Mike is a religious man, active in his church. He decided to become a lector, one who reads scripture to the congregation, so he signed up for a training course that the church was offering. During a break in the session, all the participants went to the church basement for refreshments. Mike sat down at a table by himself, not thinking much of anything. Then another lector trainee sat down beside him and asked Mike what he did for a living. "I own a management training company," Mike replied, and the man's eyes lit up.

"Here's my card," he said. "Give me a call on Monday morning." …The stranger was general manager of a large company known for caring about its employees, just the kind of company Mike... needed for a breakthrough.

To make a long story short, Mike was hired by the general manager to train an executive, but the big breakthrough was slow in coming. Frustrated, Mike went to the general manager to pitch more work, but the executive tossed a book, Eli Goldratt's The Goal, on the table and explained that he wanted to implement the ideas in this book but was unable to get the people in his company on board.

Mike read the book and returned to the client with a detailed proposal for putting Goldratt's ideas to work in the company.

The client accepted his proposal, a six-month project that involved an immense amount of work. As a result, the client was able to achieve a 50 percent inventory reduction, which had an immediate positive impact on the bottom line.

Note that the breakthrough came because of specific actions on Mike's part:

  • he volunteered his time, in something completely unrelated to his profession
  • he allowed someone to share a table with him
  • he wasn't satisfied with the first bloom of success with the person he met, but kept developing the relationship
  • he responded boldly and imaginatively when his networking smacked him in the face with a new idea


Unknown said...

Hi Oliver,

We’re still hearing great feedback on the brainstorming format you introduced @ October’s Purple Cow!

Thanks for sharing Mike’s story – a great lesson on the doorways that will only reveal themselves with bold thinking and direct action.

FYI, another resource for you: ran an interview with James on Spare Room Tycoon in which he focused on the corporate-to-entrepreneur transition you’re experiencing:

In that interview is also an excerpt of one of my favorite stories from SRT, “Waking to opportunity” which also reminded me of one of Seth Godin’s older posts on Yahoo’s salesforce, “How to Sell Anything to Anyone”.

Key point: “If people want you, they’ll find a reason to value you.”


Oliver Picher said...

Thanks, Jen.

That brainstorming format I taught everybody at the Purple Cow is a lot of fun and can be very useful in getting people to think about things from a new perspective. It doesn't have to involve things, though using small, everyday-but-out-of-context items does tend to shake people up and get them thinking creatively.

I once used 1960s sitcoms in a meeting as a way to get the creative juices going. I posted the results to a humor newsgroup, which you can find here:

Unknown said...

Love that link, Oliver... please save this for 2008, if you would delight us as our host again. 1970s this time, perhaps?