in Achieving Goals

When Systems Break Down

Systems break down.

This happens all the time.

My personal systems run best – I am at my best -when I get to the gym early. With time to work out. Music on, motivation on. Nothing else on.

I run, lift etc.

Then I see the world clearly. I sell something. I can find a deal somewhere that is ‘missing.’

I perform at a level I’m proud of.

But it’s far too easy to get me off track. My day can be slaughtered by a number of – too many – factors. Dropping the kids off at school (we live too far away). A client that is toxic/emotional. A third bourbon the night before.

All of these things are predictable. They happen an they conspire to ruin good days, an make days hard. When that happens, I’m not at my best anymore.

Figuring out how to make this less fragile is the job of the day. Because it’s important. When I get through my day the right way, I can produce decent results.

Have enough days in a row of decent results then we’re getting somewhere we want to go.

Onward

The question is always: can I do it?
I’ve recently acquired the majority of Simplifilm.
It’s exciting to me, and I’m all in. I have some coaching clients and some consulting I was doing but I’ll be winding that down so I have two main jobs:
A podcast (The Line Which IS Dotted)
Simpliflm (Product Demo Company).
Working with a partner has been a mostly good thing for me. It has helped me stay focused and stay hungry. In the past, I’ve been in situations where my demons overcame my angels; having someone else’s reputation to defend and protect has kept me from old habits. Eventually, I got used to being restrained, and not twitchy.
I stopped blowing up relationships (a pattern). It’s easier for me to get along, long term than it ever had been.
I became more strategic. I’ve always been a good tactician, but there is a big difference between strategy and tactics. I learned what it takes to make a great company.
So the question is – can I do it?
I don’t know. Most people can’t. I have lasted 4 years and gotten to seven figures, but what next?
How do I grind it all out?
I know – I have in my head some inkling of what I want to do web strategy wise.
I know what type of company I Want to run (Transparent, speedy, better > bigger.)
Doing it is rough. February will be tough.

Must We All Be “Killing It?”

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I’m an upbeat guy. I have kept at it for years, as an entrepreneur. Sometimes I feel like I’m about to hit the big time, sometimes I feel like I’m over the hill and toast.

That’s normal. Mostly, I feel like I’m going to hit it, that this year, I’ll knock ‘em out and inhabit my potential.

Thing is, that’s only most of the time. These days, there is such a bias towards positivity that if you say you had a bad day out loud people give you those pitying looks.

But the thing is: it’s hard. Of course it’s hard. It was always hard and it’s always gonna be hard. Building something from nothing takes verve, moxie, restraint, patience, balls, ignorance, knowledge, skill.

Some days it doesn’t go well.

And since we’re all social now, some days we vent. And the responses are so exhausting, “Wow, Chris, I thought everything was going so well for you.”

Because of one rough day, I get treated with the condescension reserved for frustrated six year olds or suicide attemptees.

Fundamentally, I’ve got a ton going for me.

I’m reasonably young (38). I’m smart, I’m strong. I have done everything a man can to ruin his body and I still have great health. I have great kids. I can close deals.

I can make something out of nothing.

But.

Sometimes customers make things hard. Sometimes people fire me.

Sometimes I goof up and wind up on the wrong side of a deadline.

Sometimes stuff happens.

I don’t want to have to say “I’m killing it,” to avoid the perception of failure.

But it seems that I do because of inflation.

Gestures (A Brief Rant About Client Service)

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A lot of client work can be made better by simple gestures.

You have to acknowledge and empathize in advance their issues. It’s not enough to be technically correct in your position – it could be an unfortunate circumstance that means that there is a delay, or something is less than optimal.

But the way you say it is everything, and it’s so much harder than it looks.

The Wrong Way To Handle Things

The way that places like Comcast/Best Buy deal with it is to admit nothing. Stonewall. They say things like “I’m sorry you feel that way,” or “I understand you’re upset,” as a front-line, catch all response to any circumstance.

At best, these phrases are disingenuous. A phrase like “I see you’re upset,” doesn’t really share empathy. It’s become more of a gas-lighting response to issues.

The Right Way To Deal With Customer Service Issues

So there are going to be issues that come up on a regular basis with most companies – even good ones – will have failures of effort, systems or even communication.

If you do 200 + projects, each of which has 100+ touchpoints,, then you’ve got 20,000 instances. You’ll misfire on a few.

First, don’t go on trial. Sometimes customers are truely shitty people. They are sharpshooting everything because they are (a) antsy, or (b) they’ve been burned. Or (c) an expectation that was unspoken was not met.

Trying to get them to vindicate you – in your eyes – isn’t useful. Rarely will you stand your ground and suddenly convince them of your point of view. Even if you succeed 10% of the time, 90% of the time you’ve pissed them off. This is a tough part of the issue, but it’s an economic decision. They will often make narcissistic and obtuse self-centered remarks.

Generally, it’s best to simply ignore that nonsense.

Second: tell them what to expect – and stick to it. And tell them what to expect after that, too. Sweeping it under the rug (i.e. a missed deadline that goes unspoken) isn’t a respectful way to treat customers/vendors/partners. When you’re behind just tell the truth, acknowledging the deadline issues.

Third: restate their mutual expectations. This means that you have to salvage all you can. “Sorry we delivered in red! I know you wanted blue. We can get red Monday at 4 if nothing goes wrong. I’ll call you monday morning to confirm we’re on track.

Then a question: as long as we do that, does that work for you?


An ounce of Prevention
People are generally reasonable and patient.

Even when they don’t call you on it, they know what happened. They aren’t dumb, but they don’t call you on everything.

Meaning: when you aren’t acting exactly correctly, you expose yourself to a customer service debt. That sometimes can get wiped out by overdelivery in the product (i.e. Apple has crappy customer service, but nobody minds because shiny). But only sometimes. What generally happens is an overreaction to the one thing that pushed them over the edge.

A scenario:
-your contract needs to be sent twice. Because the first version didn’t have all the details right.
-a scheduled call is 5 minutes late. Mild annoyance but nobody says anything.
-a delivery has a typo somewhere. Easily corrected. unspoken.
-you’re sick one day – the flu
-an email has a bunch of irrelevant information on it that the customer doesn’t care about. Noted.
-client is sick and can’t get back to you.

Nothing bad happens for a week or two. Then there’s a more substantial situation happens, say, a milestone slips, a detail is missed.

Then there is a disproportional client response. To the one detail.

Because they aren’t reacting to that detail at all. , they are reacting to everything – all at once- but they may only be talking about one issue at a time.

Things don’t happen in isolation.  People don’t just wake up mad-  when they hired you they had high hopes.

The solution is to make impeccable the new baseline. And it’s not complicated to do that. You just have to be realistic about your commitments, both internally and externally.

Do you even focus, bro?

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You wanted this, didn’t you?

Yes, but I didn’t think it would be this hard.

Well, what did you think?

I don’t know. Well, that I guess I could just cruise by on talent and pontification.  Running a business by answering Quora questions.

HA. You thought that? And how old are you?

38. Man, I just didn’t know.

How dare you. What made you think it would be easy?

It’s so easy for everyone. Their facebook pictures are white linen families, gourmet paleo dinners and likes.

Do you even focus, bro?

Man, I don’t know. It’s so hard sometimes. There are all these conversations happening.

Conversations. You mean the circle jerk that is TwitBook? Like they’ll miss you when you go.

Oh, they will. They all wait for what GenuineChris has to say. They are just dying to hear from me.

Answer me this, tough guy, how many projects you get offa facebook this year?

2. Just 2 so far.

MMm hmm. And how many projects you do?

About 60 projects, man. I like Facebook.

And Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Pinky Blinders. Civilization. Threes. You’re as bad as a cat with a red dot. Fucking focus.

But, look, I can’t work all the time.

Agreed. But are you even scratching the surface? Good parents, good brain, you got more than this, you son-of-a-bitch.

But see, I don’t get high fives when I do the boring shit. The sales calls, when I calm a project down or get someone to pay me. When I pay my people.

True enough. You get something else instead.

Money. I know.

Do you? You sure don’t act like it. Tell you what, you can send all your fucking retweets (and you’re not getting many anymore, are you) to Wells Fargo. See where that gets you.

OK. OK, I get it.

This year was hard man. Good people left my company.

I’m a fraud.

No, jackass. You’re not a fraud. You’re lazy. Just sometimes. Just when it gets hard.

You say that shit to yourself when you want a cop-out. You built Simplifilm. It wasn’t your first thing and it isn’t your last thing. But you only half built it. Because the rest of the work is scary. Of course they left. You weren’t all in.

Now stop talking to me, get back to work and finish your proposal, price sheet, & presentation. That stuff shoulda been done in June.

Fine.

No Facebook, texting or twitter till they are all done. It’s 20 hours work, but you’ll earn in January. Now, go.

Just because they didn’t say anything

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Just because they didn’t say anything doesn’t mean they didn’t notice.

They noticed you forgot to update them, you didn’t get them the email. They are aware that you missed the deadline. They are just polite. Making the best of a tough situation. Lectures don’t do any good.

We all do the same thing. They didn’t say a word about the fact that it was wrong/shabby/late or misshapen.

Nobody wants drama, but it happened.  So they pay their bill, they go on, and they quietly get you out of their lives.

The consequences to having a mediocre meal are indirect: we don’t complain to the staff. We just shake our heads, “what the hell has this world come to? Why bother if you don’t care…” and we walk out.

But they noticed, and you lost.  And that’s the hardest thing to understand. People expect lousy.  So it’s easy to exceed those expectations.  Everyone – just about – is an incompetent flake.

But they dream of competence. They yearn for it.  So instead of exceeding expectations – which have been pummeled by places like Chase and Comcast and Delta, let’s try and exceed their dreams.