May 102011

Your Will To Succeed

The Most Important Character Trait As An Entrepreneur

In my consulting and coaching practice, I have the good fortune to interact with a lot of top entrepreneurs, CEOs and athletes. I’m in a particularly intense period of such interaction right now, as I’m in the thick of research for a book I’m writing on peak performance and what it takes to be “great” at anything.

My coaching, research and consulting look at many factors that impact peak performance on an individual and organizational level. Even though we look at a wide range of factors, there is one factor that always stands out in successful individuals and organizations: the will to succeed. Given the complexities of talking about this factor as it relates to teams and organizations, I will focus here on the will to succeed on an individual level.

In talking and working with top performers in business and sports, we cover a wide range of factors including: natural ability, clear goals, preparation, belief and the will to succeed, among many others. I see a wide range of variability on all but the will to succeed. In peak performers, almost invariably, when we look at their will to succeed and talk to them about it, its importance comes out as a “10” on a scale of 1-10. When you take a closer look, it’s relatively easy to see why.

First of all, we all start out with different levels of natural ability. In reality, it’s something that’s beyond our control. As the saying goes, “you’re born with it, or you’re not”. Secondly, some people are extremely goal driven, while others are not. Next, some people are fanatical about preparation, while others tend to do the minimum to get by, and yes, this is even true among top performers in many disciplines. In terms of belief, it’s true, most peak performers do have a strong belief that they can be great at what they do, however this belief is something that usually develops over time, with each successive milestone reached.

The will to succeed, on the other hand, is a different sort of animal. While it’s true that many people that have a strong will to succeed seem to be “born with it,” the majority appear to pick it up from environmental factors, often in the early and formative years of life. In my case, for example, I grew up in a very competitive household, mainly with adults. I was not an “only child”, but my siblings are much older than me, so I spent most of my childhood with adults. I observed what they did and how they competed, and from a very early age, even though I was a child, I wanted to and I believed that I could beat them. When I was wrong in certain disciplines, mental or physical, I worked as hard as I could – I studied and trained as much as necessary, in order to beat them, despite the difference in years.

Other peoples’ inner drive to succeed comes from other factors. Perhaps, for example, as is so often the case, a person may grow up seeing what other people have and wanting to be more like them. When I say seeing what people “have,” I’m not necessarily referring to material things. Sometimes we see that other people have the lives we think we want, whether those lives include a lot of wealth, or an apparently happy family, or an apparently rewarding job – whatever it may be. In my coaching work, I often see that people are driven by trying to obtain the lives that other people have. Although this is often misleading, which people only realize once they obtain those things or “that life” that they had been envying, nonetheless, it can be a great source of motivation, drive and willpower.

Then there’s that inner drive that cannot be simply explained by childhood rivalries or by trying to keep up with the Joneses. That harder to explain drive and will to succeed may in fact be the most powerful of all. Where does it come from? I don’t have a great answer for you. For the religious, it comes from a God, that is whichever God they worship. For the non-religious, it comes from some inexplicable source, perhaps from some unknown drive within the human species to continue to evolve and improve constantly.

Regardless of where you may believe the will to succeed comes from, in my experience, it is the single most consistent and powerful factor in all peak performers in all areas of endeavor, including entrepreneurship. Cultivate your will to succeed. Make sure you focus on endeavors where your will to succeed, to compete, and to be at your best is alive and well. If you don’t feel such willpower in what you are doing, ask yourself why. Should you be doing something else? Or is it simply that you need to be more focused so that you can fully engage your will to succeed? Be honest with yourself and realize that without a strong will to succeed in any particular endeavor, your odds of achieving “greatness” are severely diminished, as you simply will not have the strength to overcome the inevitable roadblocks and challenges you will face.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and comments. Do you agree that the will to succeed is the single most important factor on the road to greatness in any endeavor?

Paul Morin

Apr 292011

I have to confess that I’m not someone who sits glued to the TV watching the royal wedding ceremony and proceedings. In reality, as a entrepreneur, advisor and peak performance coach, I am more fascinated by just how fascinated others are with everything royal, including the royal wedding. As I went into our kitchen today and saw several members of my family watching the ceremony, then I switched on the television in the other room and flipped through a ton of channels covering the same thing, I had to ask myself, what can be learned from this obsession with royalty and royal weddings. So, here are my thoughts.

First and foremost, when you would like to catch the attention of the media, make sure you are providing them with a topic/story that their viewership cares about. If you don’t, you will get zero coverage — NONE. If you do, the sky is the limit on the amount of free publicity you may be able to obtain for your startup or small business.

Second, remember that everyone has a dream, or many of them. And remember that for many, as is apparent based on the media bonanza on all things royal and in particular the royal wedding, people’s dream(s) often revolve around childhood fairy tales and a “real life prince and princess”. Hardly anything captivates the mind of many people more than stories of princes and princesses, particularly those with happy beginnings and presumably, happy endings.

Third, when you can come across opportunities to mix royalty and non-royalty in your story, by all means, do so. This captures the minds of massive amounts of people even more than just the basic royal wedding scenario. Rags (not really, in the case of this royal wedding) to riches stories are what much of the public yearns for. These stories give people hope and belief. Be sure to weave your own stories into your startup (or small business) marketing, as stories are how we communicate and learn best as human beings.

Fourth, in your marketing and public relations, be sure to tie in to major media stories “of the day,” just as I am doing with this post. It helps to keep your content current and it allows your audience to relate your material, whatever it may be, to something that they are currently fascinated by. It can also help from an SEO point of view, if done correctly and consistently over time, but that’s a much longer story for another day.

Finally, where possible, make your marketing more personal. Be willing to divulge a bit about yourself, so that your audience and prospective customers will see you as a person, and they will not see your small business or startup as just one of millions. Help your audience understand that you, like them, are just another “commoner” trying to create your very own rags to riches, little girl or boy grown up, meeting royalty and finding your place in your castle story.

The more you make the growth of your startup or existing small business feel like the wonder and fascination of the royal wedding and the “real live prince meets princess,” falls in love and lives happily ever after story, the more likely you are to capture the attention of the media and your target audience. The connection is not literal, of course, but remember, we live on analogies and metaphors and we make emotional decisions, and then justify them with logic. So even if yours is not a true royal wedding story, make it metaphorically so.

We look forward to your thoughts and comments.

Paul Morin [free business idea screener] [free template for equity investor presentation].

Apr 122011

American psychologist Abraham Maslow pioneered an approach to understanding human behavior that he called “Humanistic Psychology”. He believed that every person has a strong desire to reach his or her full potential, which he referred to as “self-actualization”.

Maslow’s insights into human nature quickly allowed him to realize that self-actualization was not the most pressing need for human beings. This led him to create his most famous contribution to psychology, now commonly referred to as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, illustrated below.

As can be seen from the graphic, Maslow represented the basic levels of human needs in a pyramid, or hierarchy. The needs flow from the most basic survival requirements, such as food, water, and shelter, to the pinnacle, which Maslow referred to as self-actualization.

So what does this have to do with marketing? In reality, you should always bear this hierarchy in mind when you are marketing or selling anything. It is fundamental to try to understand where your audience falls on this hierarchy, whether you are selling to an individual in-person, or marketing to a large group of people dispersed across a wide geographic area. Either way, presumably you are marketing to human beings, all of whom are impacted by the Hierarchy of Needs and whose behavior will be greatly affected by where they fall on the pyramid at a particular point in time. Let’s look at some examples to further understand this.

The first example we’ll look at is an extreme one. Let’s say that you decide to make a foray into Africa with your marketing, as you’ve been told that the self-improvement program that you sell could likely help the people of, let’s say several countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, find their way out of poverty. So, you put together a seminar and begin to advertise it throughout the region. You quickly realize that the only responses you are getting are from a few government officials and members of wealthier families in the area. You have wasted money on marketing and realize that your foray into Africa, at least the way you approached it, was a failure. So what happened? The answer is quite obvious: you were trying to market a self-actualization product to a target population, a large portion of which has not even satisfied their most basic physiological and security needs.

Now let’s take a less obvious example, which also illustrates the importance of “niche” markets and market segmentation. Let’s say that you sell electronic security systems and monitoring services. You decide that based on the demographics of a certain part of your city, you will focus your marketing efforts in that area. One of your prime indicators is that the area has a lot of families and you know that on average, families with children are very concerned about safety. There are several small, affluent neighborhoods in the area you’re looking at. Given that the demographics are similar, you don’t think it matters much which one you use for your test, so you choose neighborhood A. As it so happens, a competitor is thinking along the same lines and chooses neighborhood B, which is very similar, but a couple miles down the road. You run your test and achieve a 10% success rate on a key sales metric. You later find out that, using exactly the same marketing approach, your competitor achieved a 30% success rate in neighborhood B, a couple miles down the road!

So what happened? Your product and service offerings are very similar. Past experience has proved that your sales forces are roughly equal in closing skill. Your marketing materials are virtually undiffferentiable. You ran your tests at almost exactly the same time. What was the difference that caused your competitor to have a result 3 times better than yours? You may have already figured it out – neighborhood B had had a rash of home robberies in recent months, so the residents there were very concerned about the Safety Need referred to on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The residents in Neighborhood A had not had a robbery in their immediate area in over 5 years. Maybe your competitor got lucky, or maybe they did their homework, but either way, they achieved much greater results because the market they targeted had an immediate need for what they were offering, due to a pressing concern to satisfy their Safety Need.

This second example also illustrates that it is not just important to bear the Hierarchy of Needs in mind in your product creation, marketing and sales efforts, but also remember that the consumer is focused on satisfying immediate needs, particularly at the lower end of the pyramid. In fact, regardless of where someone may fall on the pyramid, the reality is that the majority of the time, they are focused on satisfying relatively short term needs. Sure, there are some “planners” out there, particular those who at the present time fall higher up on the pyramid, but the vast majority of customers and clients you are likely to target, spend most of their time trying to satisfy immediate or relatively short-term needs. This is true whether they’re focused on physiological needs, safety needs, affiliation needs, esteem needs, or even purpose needs. If it’s not immediate or urgent in their minds, most likely it gets demoted in favor of something that is more pressing. Bear this in mind in your marketing and other persuasion efforts; you must not only hit the target with the right message for where they are in the Hierarchy, you must also try to hit them at the right time. If you don’t, as the saying goes, your message is likely to go “in one ear and out the other”. Since it’s tough to predict the exact correct moment, this is an argument for having ongoing and frequent interaction with prospects, obviously without overdoing it to the point that they just “shut you off,” in order to increase the probability that your message will be in front of them at that moment when the need your offering can satisfy becomes immediate or urgent for them.

Keep Maslow in mind as you go about your business. If you have comments or questions, we’d love to hear them. Leave a comment below or in the top right corner of this post.

Paul Morin
Twitter: @companyfounder

Feb 022011

You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this and you will find strength.
Marcus Aurelius

You have control over your mind, your thoughts and your actions. Do your best to make sure that you keep perspective on what you can and cannot control. Don’t adopt the victim mindset, wherein you allow other peoples’ words and actions to dictate how you feel or act. You are in control. You can and should take into account what others do and say and what you expect them to do and say in the future, but you should most definitely not let it control how you feel or how you act. This is fundamental to being an achiever with staying power through good times and bad.

Dec 072010

Hi, Folks. The roughly 45 minute audio interview of Paul Morin with valuation expert Robbie Clinger has been updated and is now available for free, for the time being at least. You can find the link to the MP3 audio and the original description of the interview in the post here. best, Paul.

Dec 062010

Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

For me, this quote from one of the great writers of the 19th century is the essence of what it means to be an achiever and an entrepreneur. Achievers typically do not follow the well worn path of others, rather they decide where they want to go and they create their own path. Blaze your own path intelligently, but without fear. If you feel yourself slipping into follower mode, resist the temptation! How can you chart your own course if you’re not leading the way?

Sep 282010

As proud, ego-driven perfectionists, many entrepreneurs are loath to make mistakes – or certainly to admit having made them.  In my observation and experience, this perspective is the wrong one.  In fact, the right approach is to make as many mistakes as you can, as quickly as you can – learn from them, then move on.  Of course, you need to make sure that these mistakes are not large enough to kill you, individually, or in the aggregate.  Responsible mistake making is what I’m advocating here.  It will get you farther, faster than being too conservative in your approach.  If you are not willing to put your ego on the line and take risks, then entrepreneurship probably is not for you.  But if you are willing to put it on the line on a daily basis, make errors, learn everything you can from them, then move on and make some more, you’ve probably found the right home in entrepreneurship..

Sep 022010

This is a Guest Post by Justin Whitmire.

If you own a small company, you are keenly aware of the need to streamline business costs without sacrificing customer service.

The current economic climate ensures that everyone is looking for a way to gain an edge, a way to cut costs without appearing cut-rate.

For years, companies unable to afford a full-time receptionist have employed methods to help ensure the best results for their customers, but answering services and giant overseas call centers haven’t always provided the best options. And both can be impersonal and frustrating to callers, many of whom are looking for quick and simple answers that any trained office worker can provide. But not every business can afford to hire a full-time secretary to help smoothly run the front end of their business.

One of the solutions to this problem is the advent of the remote or off-site receptionist.

A fairly recent development – thanks to new technology — the off-site receptionist, often referred to as a virtual receptionist, allows businesses the more personal touch of a small, dedicated group of receptionists that get to know the companies they represent and act as another member of on-site staff, despite their actual location.

In fact, callers to companies that employ virtual receptionists will feel as though they are actually talking to someone within the organization, as the receptionist will be able to answer questions about the company and transfer calls in real time and some services even offer the ability to take orders and make appointments over the phone.

Most virtual reception companies make sure their receptionists understand your business by working hand-in-hand with you. Through your combined efforts you can develop scripts for the receptionists to use with callers, familiarize them with your products, and establish your office schedule.  When an off-site receptionist knows your schedule, they are able to communicate with callers more effectively, including such simple things as when a client can expect a return call – and even schedule appointments in your absence.

Best of all, outsource reception services are extremely affordable.  Full service providers generally charge just a few hundred dollars a month; a bargain when compared to hiring a full-time employee.  Additionally, virtual receptionists are available 24 hours a day, never sick, and don’t require company benefits or raises.

Though finding a service that fits your individual business needs is critical, the right provider can offer your company several advantages over simple answering services or larger, less personal call centers.  Most importantly virtual receptionists provide their service at a fraction of the price of hiring a dedicated employee.

About the Author:

Justin Whitmire is a Virtual Receptionist team specialist with Hosted  Justin specializes in employee training and customer care utilizing his 11 years of experience in the Call Center Services industry..