At last, those pensive and pondering days between the joyous perpetuated giving of Christmas and the long-anticipated celebration of New Years is here. It’s those few days of the year that seem to slow and people start to search inward, outward, and every which way they can. Maybe it’s because of the cherished time spent with family or the apprehension of having to choose (and stick with) a resolution, but the week between these two festive holidays is a subjective span of soul-searching and self-analysis. It’s time for the masses to re-examine life, love, career, health, passion, and overall purpose – and I am no exception.
Last year, my Reflection of Two Thousand Fourteen post, getting over 100 views (which, for those in tech, is a tiny spec of traffic in the blogging world), seemed to be well-received. So, being a couple of years into the tech/web industry and still continuing to learn and grow, I wanted to share my thoughts. “We are standing on the precipice of a whole new precipice” (props to those who know what movie line that is!), but it’s time for my reflection of two thousand fifteen, and let me tell you – a lot can happen in a year!
I’ll start with business, industries, verticals and all that jazz….
Being in the business of tech opens you up to a realm of possibilities. The very essence of technology is possibility. If you think about the great things technology has enabled like connecting doctors with patients and teachers to students, digitizing records and activities for faster and more streamlined processes, being able to check the weather or traffic conditions before you actually go outside – technology has improved most peoples’ lives. And obviously, there are negative affects of technology, like the lack of social bonds and social skills, poor sleep habits, cyberspace bullying, etc. – but I believe that the pros far outweigh the cons. All in all, I’ve compiled a few business lessons I’ve learned over the last year.
BUSINESS LESSONS OF 2015…
- Know your audience
- Whether you’re selling a product (analytics tools, firewall, etc.) or web services (redesigns, migrations, etc.), you absolutely need to know WHO you are selling to. Create user personas—fictionalized character representations of your target audience members so you know how to market your product or service. It will allow you to concentrate on the right types of consumers.
- A ‘yes’ doesn’t mean yes all the time, it can mean ‘maybe,’ ‘not now,’ or even ‘no’
- Maybe a better way to say this is that contracts equal a ‘yes’! I have had people tell me that they can’t wait to do business with me, but then never sign the contract. So, I’ve learned not to celebrate a win until the contracts are signed. Bottom line—nothing is guaranteed until contracts are signed. And even then things could change…
- Be clear on scope
- For those in tech, you know what scope is. For those who don’t know, the scope of a project is determining what features, functions, and deliverables will be included in that project . Usually written in an SOW (Statement of Work or Scope of Work), it states that the agency will perform the following activities and/or tasks and XYZ will get done. When it comes to things like systems integrations, website redesigns, or site builds, you have to be very clear on what you will actually do – be specific to the point of overkill. The clearer you are on scope, the happier the PM’s will be. The happier the PM’s are, the healthier the project will likely be. The healthier the project….well…you get the point.
- One person can do a lot, but a team can do more
- I’ve always been a self-starter. And if I can be completely honest, I absolutely hated group projects in college. My theory was that I could probably do it better if I did it myself. In business, there’s a different train of thought and it’s around disciplines. You’re very good at one (or a few) things, another person on your team is great at something else..and so on. Pooling your resources and working with your team results in better quality deliverables. So, embrace your strengths and embrace the strengths of others, you’ll produce better stuff!
- Value, value, value
- And I’m not talking about a value proposition. In fact, I hate the term value proposition! It makes me want to vomit, seriously! I’m talking about actual value. If you get an inquiry from a prospect and they’re asking for a migration to Magento (and that’s not something you do), refer them to someone else. This is called value relevancy; make sure your services or product is relevant to your prospects’ needs. Value perception is the value that your prospect perceives they’re going to get from you—make sure this is accurate as well. You can do that through something called: value diagnosis. Work with your prospect to diagnose their problem and if your service or product can solve their problem, your diagnosis will have value, if done correctly (which is a whole other post that I’ll write in 2016!).
- Sales is like chess
- Everyone thinks they can play, many know the basics, but few are really phenomenal at it. Top salesmen are considered masters. It takes a certain type of person to do sales, specifically tech sales. Why? Because tech sales is an enduring and strategic game. My average sales cycle is about two months. It takes a while to get people to sign on with you, especially in web services. There’s qualifying and vetting on both sides. Then there’s the lengthy, grueling challenge of trying to outbid, outsmart, and outplay your competitors. Sales people have to be decisive yet patient, crafty yet sophisticated, and the industry continues to evolve. I’m not saying I’m a top salesman (I’m not), but I’m better than a lot and I can work my way around a chess board without getting beat in three moves. It takes a lifetime to master this profession….as it does chess.
- Business relationships are built on trust
- Successful business relationships are built on trust. They usually start with a connection—like “I know this guy who can help if you need your website redesigned, I’ll introduce you to him.” But then it buds and blossoms because we (myself and my company) build trust. Big companies and organizations usually hire their web vendors because they’ve met someone in that company that they have begun to trust. They stay with those companies because that trust grows and increases. And it’s not built on one phone call, it may start there, but it’s continually constructing a relationship predicated on confidence, reliance, and certainty. It’s pretty straight forward—do what you promise you’ll do (rinse and repeat), communicate clearly, and always have your clients best interest in mind.
- “Talk the talk” even if you can’t “walk the walk”
- In the world of open source technology, there are many different roles ranging from coders to biz dev guys, designers to engineers, marketers, and so on. And obviously knowing your discipline is good, right? Right! But being able to talk in all disciplines in the “native” tongue, will get you farther than you think. I go to a lot of these open source tech conferences and I meet all types and I can talk to all types. I may not know how to write a recursive function, but I know what one is. I may not be able to move the needle on revenue through search visibility, but I can comment with some sympathetic banter to showcase my comprehension. Take the time to learn the language, but understand it good enough to use it in an analogy, because it can backfire and you’ll end up looking like a fool. I’m still not sure what a fizzbang algorithm is!!
Continuing with other lessons, some essential, some…not so much.
This year has probably been one of the most exhilarating years of my life (even though I know I said this last year), but things are going really well. I still have an awesome job/career. My family still loves me (and likes to have me around) and I feel like I’ve made a lot more friends. I’m involved in the community and a member of the Young Leaders Circle (YLC), which is a young professionals group of the United Way of Rhode Island. We volunteer and organize some really great events. I’m an advisory board member for Newport Interactive Marketers (NIM), a 1000+ group of small business owners, agency people, and solo-preneurs. And I’ve spoken at a number of events and conferences on sales and solutions consulting. It’s been a good year, so here’s a few of the things I’ve learned that relate more to life than to business, but they’re not mutually exclusive.
NON-BUSINESS LESSONS OF 2015…
- Sitting is the new smoking
- If you sit behind a desk for your job (for 8+ hours a day), it doesn’t matter how much you exercise, you are living a sedentary lifestyle. That is not healthy!! I recently got myself a standup desk, which took about a week to get used to, but my back feels better and I’m not hunching over anymore. I’m thinking about getting a treadmill desk, I’ve heard good things!
- Meditation is cool
- Over the summer, I went on this silent 3 day retreat with my sister. It was, to say the least, interesting and, to say the most, very very difficult to sit with myself and be consumed by my thoughts. We’re too dependent on technology and we need breaks. Treat yourself to yourself. I get into the office super early and I do walking meditation (because just sitting there sucks!) before I take on my day. It’s calming and makes you aware, which is important in life. I wrote a post about that experience here.
- Get involved with your community
- Go be a part of something. I don’t really care what it is (as long as you’re not hurting anybody), it could be a community center, the Red Cross, YMCA, whatever. If you are fortunate enough to have a job where you can live alone and support yourself, then you’re already doing better than half the people out there. So, go get involved in your community. And I’m not saying to donate money, but you can definitely donate your time and your knowledge. In my opinion, those two things are more valuable than money and there are people out there who will appreciate both. Give it a try, it’ll make you feel good! Which kind of leads into my next lesson, which surrounds money…
- Money isn’t an indicator of success
- I pretty much knew this before this year, but throughout this last year especially, I’ve met a lot of different people. Some who have a boat ton of money and others who don’t. And what I’ve noticed is that people who are doing the things that get them closer to their goals are projecting (to me, at least) that they’re more successful. I don’t think success is wealth of money, but wealth of accomplishment. And obviously, accomplishment can vary from person to person. This leads me into my next lesson…
- Write down your goals
- This is something I used to do a long long time ago and have recently started doing it again this past year. Write down your goals, it can be anything. You want to learn a new language, jot it down. You want to become a black belt, put it on paper. Then, go through them and start numbering them to see which ones you can get done quickly, which ones might take a year, or five, and so on. You can get closer to your goals if they are visually in front of your face.
- They’ve done away with Generation Y
- Seriously, this really bothered me!! Apparently, the generation experts call Generation Y Millennials. That’s horse crap! I’m a GenY-er, have been most of my life, but I guess they have done away with Generation Y and it goes from Generation X straight to Millennials. I wrote a post on this too – Xennials – because I do not identify with being a GenX-er or a Millennial. I know many of you feel the same!
- Feed your happy health
- Yes, I coined this phrase (I think…). It’s not being happy with your health (although, that’s definitely important). Happy Health is the state of being free from worry, sadness, stress, and self-doubt. Find yours and feed it! I used to play music to make me happy. I lost that for awhile, but now I have a guitar in my office and I play when I need a good dose of happy health. Try not to lose or forget the things that make you happy. And visit those things once a day if only for a short while.
- It’s never hard to make the right decision
- For those of you who know me, you know I haven’t always made the right decisions. But over this last year, I’ve realized you don’t have to be talked into making the right ones, you just kinda know which one is the right decision. I like to call them adult decisions. When I started making adult decisions, my life got easier, way way easier.
That about sums it up for this year…
I hope you’ve found something in here that you can relate to or learn from because the way I view it is we are all in this together. We might be on separate paths and we might never run into each other, but we’re here all the same.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year—I’ll leave you with a quote:
“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.” — Neil Gaiman
GO DO SOMETHING!! And enjoy 2016!!