Being slightly behind can be a winning situation

Churchill

So it’s half time. You are behind by a goal (or a basket, or a stroke …). You take a breather, reassess your situation and fire yourself up for the second half. And what happens? More than likely, you end up winning.

Much has been spoken of the emotional half time Churchillian speech from the coach, an inspired substitution or reorganisation… but the simple fact is that if a team or a group or an individual believes it is just behind, but with enough time left (such as half the game) they can refocus and be motivated to play better and get over the line.

It doesn’t work if you’re way behind. Invariably, people give up – it’s just too hopeless. 5-0 down isn’t much fun. It’s demotivating. But if you’re just behind, there’s a chance, and things can be turned around. You can sense victory, within reach.

Intuitively, this makes sense. We’ve all been in situations (or seen them) when teams have come back afresh in the second half, 1-0 down, to win, say 2-1. There have been (rarer) instances of teams being 4-0 up at half time and then losing it. Ouch. Although I read that Man City has not won a game in 20 years having been down at half time. (Quiet hurray!)

So, the theory is that a team is more likely to be motivated, play better, and end up winning if they are only just behind at half time. In other words, you’d almost prefer the team to be in this situation. Unless their opponents are hopeless or the gap in abilities too wide, teams that are just ahead can stutter, their nerves a-jangle, they make mistakes, play too defensively, and forget what put them ahead in the first place.

So what does the research say? It concurs. Jonah Berger (he of the ‘STEPPS’ Contagious findings) and Devin Pope found in 2011 that if teams thought they were just behind at half time they had a slightly higher chance of winning in the end. Studying 18,000 professional basketball games, they found teams that were 1 point behind won more games that teams that were 1 point ahead. They found that being behind at half time was only half as advantageous as playing at home. And we all know playing at home can be a massive advantage.

Berger found the same results when he put people into a competitive typing situation telling certain groups they were slightly ahead, another they were even, and another they were slightly behind. It did not matter where these people were in fact. What mattered was where they thought they were, compared to the other groups. Those told they were slightly behind massively increased their keystrokes per minute (their increase was higher by a factor of three.)

So, here we are near the end of the calendar year, half way through the Australian financial year. If you’re slightly behind to budget, be fired up for the second half. Spend some time relaxing, getting away from things, and then come roaring back in January to June.

Merry Christmas.

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What are your 5 top company priorities?

Tammy May

Yesterday I attended the ‘Entrepreneur’s Convention‘, run by the Entourage. Billed as Australia and New Zealand’s largest conference for entrepreneurs, I’d missed the previous two times it has been to Perth, so was keen to give it a look this time. So keen in fact, I bought myself a VIP ticket, which got me preferred seats in the front few rows, a VIP area with food and drinks in the breaks and a goodie bag.

I heard three speakers in the morning, all quite different. Jess Wilson was a young lady who had developed a fashion app, having been told she would never be able to do much in her life by her career counsellor. I think everyone in the audience (Riverside theatre was about 75% full) probably wanted to slap that counsellor. How could you crush someone’s dreams like that? However well intentioned. She showed us a picture of her sitting next to Richard Branson on Necker Island, where she’d visited earlier this year. A motivation story, and she came over as a genuinely resourceful and impressive young lady.

Next up was by far my favourite. Tammy May (see picture above) founded MyBudget in 1999, aged 22, and has since had 3 children (they were watching on admiringly) and grown the company 50% year on year to revenues of $35 million. While I listened to Jess as a nice motivational story, I took copious notes with Tammy. How she arranged her systems and procedures for growth, managed her time, her team, and spoke with passion about the things she got right, and her mistakes… incredibly useful insights.

You always pick up a few things from stories like this. Here are 10…

  1. Educate the market (use advertising and PR, free media)
  2. Grow yourself and your leadership team as leaders
  3. Delegate and have trust in your staff’s abilities
  4. Get the right people on the bus (Jim Collins, ‘Good to Great’)
  5. Continually update your systems and procedures to handle growth
  6. Make decisions on the data and your gut instinct – “what gets measured, gets done”
  7. Everyone should know the top 5 company priorities (management team, staff, suppliers…)
  8. Passion and enthusiasm are invaluable – keep a positive attitude, be genuinely nice to people, build relationships
  9. Continue to grow and learn
  10. Follow your instincts – often your first impression is right

And finally, enjoy it, spend time away from your business.

A better list of 10 things I could not imagine. I spent my whole time nodding. Probably my favourite was the ‘everyone should know the top 5 company priorities‘. These could change from time to time, but it ensures everyone is rowing on the same boat in the same direction. Great advice. I think I might just use that one.

Overall, the conference was OK. Not great, but OK. I felt a bit like it was a bit self congratulatory, verging on the cult-like, especially when Entourage founder Jack Delosa took to the stage (twice, before lunch). He came over well, but there was not a heap of content, and he didn’t tell his own story, nor many stories for that matter. The best bits from him was when he spoke about the Einstein theory (1916) that was later proved correct in the famous 1919 experiment, that showed that light did bend around the sun due to gravitational pull. “The gap between where you want to be and where you are now, will be your greatest motivation.”

All a bit hands in the air, let’s clap together, and motivational for me. And of course, the ‘sell’ then came in later, asking attendees (most of whom were there for free) to attend one on one training sessions over the ensuing days at a (greatly reduced) fee.

However, Tammy May’s session made it all worthwhile for me. I gave away my VIP ticket for the afternoon for a staff member.

Not here for a haircut

The Donald

The Donald – and that famous haircut

A cricket coach of mine used to turn up to training, survey the scene and pronounce “C’mon boys, get organised, we’re not here for a haircut!” We would all groan and start our stretches.

“Not here for a haircut” has become a favourite saying. I use it a lot. It’s quirky and punches through. It raises a smile, and it’s better than saying “come on guys, get your **** in gear” or stating the ‘bleedin obvious‘ Basil Fawlty style.

Traditional Pub Scene. Man asks other “want another beer mate?”. “Not here for a haircut” comes the response. Beers duly ordered. Scene ends.

Well travelled Aussie folk band ‘Rough Red‘ has just released their new album ‘Not Here for a Haircut’. Where did the name come for the album, asked the reporter? Steve Tyson, band member explains ~

We’ve had this saying floating around in the band for years. After a gig, or sitting on a canal in a café in Amsterdam, someone will say, “Are we going to have a drink?” And the response will usually be, “Well, we’re not here for a haircut.”

Traditional use.

I found this Youtube video showing another band playing their jazz ditty: Not Here for a Haircut – Elad Mileikowsky on tenor sax  is awesome.

My boy was bemoaning his new (tougher) basketball coach the other day. ‘He shouted at us and told us to get moving‘. “Well, you’re not there for a haircut” came my response. [Translation: suck it up lad, put more effort in and listen to your coach.]

Looking around business life, I see many people seemingly there for a haircut. Life is not going to hand it to you on a plate. Stop sitting around looking/sounding clever for effect. A haircut occurs every 2 to 3 months, the rest of the time, you are literally NOT there for a haircut.

The importance of our environment

[tweetmeme source=”ChazGunningham” only_single=false]Despite the lofty title, dear reader, this post is nothing about “the environment”, but is in fact about the environment. Sorry, a puzzling beginning, I grant you, but stick with me.

One of the best things I read on the MBA program, all those years ago, was Amir Bhide’s ‘Bootstrap Finance‘ paper, which argued that far from picking the crack team and spending money on impressive office fit outs, the best start ups were lean and mean, biding their time until they really knew what their business was about. (“Ideas come about from being out there, so just get out there…“). Amazon.com famously used old doors as its first office tables, and when I started a dotcom in the late 1990s, I remember using whatever furniture we could muster for our first office. Later we climbed the dizzying heights of IKEA tables (flat rectangle and 4 screw in legs) which were repainted at least once in funky blues and oranges and lasted us 8 years.

However, having been through a recent office upgrade (moving next door into our fabulous new purpose built 3 storey affair) I can say that the office environment does indeed matter – for current staff, clients, morale, and probably hiring/retaining good staff too. Now the organisation I work for is almost a century old, and has moved at least 4 times and so it is hardly ‘blowing startup cash’ on lavish new premises. In fact, by selling the old building and using that to build the new one, it has not had to raise any money from anywhere to upgrade.

Having been in the new building for a month now, I can say that it has lifted everyone. Open plan takes some getting used to, but you can’t help feel good coming into a sparkly lift and rising up to the top floor which overlooks Subi Oval on one side, and suburban tree/rooftops on the other. Everything is new, shiny, confident and 2012. (The last office was very 1977, and fading fast.)

I remember living opposite a dotcom 10 years who did 98% of their business in the States, yet emblazoned their building with huge branding statements over looking a busy highway. They did not need to advertise to the 30,000 cars that streamed past every day, so I asked their CEO, “why did you do that?”. “To make our staff feel good” he said. Plain and simple. Make them feel good coming to work, make them stay, and tell others how proud they are of the company.

In my ‘spare time’ I am also Chair of the local independent primary school, which my own children attend. The school’s 50 years old and the buildings are tatty. The parents have raised many tens of thousands of dollars to improve the branding, entry way and various grounds projects. Why? For much the same reason. To make the kids feel proud of their school, and the teachers too (and to attract good prospective teachers), and the parents and prospective parents. It’s the same deal.

So, while a start up should certainly not blow its hard earned/borrowed/invested cash on shiny new offices, being able to do so when ready can have certain advantages. After all, you spend a lot of time at work don’t you? Why not make it a nice environment?

Photo: of TBWA Ad agency in New York City
More cool offices here

Making money in a tough market

So, dear reader, as per the last post about my recent trip to Brisbane and my random musings on how similar real estate markets are around the globe, I thought I’d share my notes from Richard Rawlings’ main talk about making money in tough times. It is mainly about selling real estate, but I think there are lessons for all people who are selling in a period of downturn …

Only motivated sellers are coming to market. You don’t actually want to deal with ‘stupid sellers’, because not only do they have unrealistic expectations on the price of their homes, even if you did find a buyer stupid enough to buy the stupid price from the stupid seller, the stupid seller is so stupid they won’t even take the stupid price from the stupid buyer! So work with motivated sellers. You can’t sell a $10 bill for $11, in fact you can’t even sell it for $10, but make it $8 or $9 and you’ll get interest… so get the market going.

Rents are rising fast, naturally enough, as people are finding it difficult, if not impossible to get loans, and prices of houses (although lower than they were) are still quite high.

Despite all this, don’t  be hopeful, be proactive! Don’t worry about the market, worry about your marketing. If you have 15% share of a local market, so what? Go out and get the other 85%.

How can you influence your market share? In 3 ways:

1. What you do (action)
2. Who you are (integrity) and,
3. How you argue your case (persuasion)

If you ask sellers, they will say they judge real estate agents on how high a price they can get and how low you charge – both are bad reasons  for choosing an agent! Higher the price is probably the worst reason to choose, as stats show a well priced property sells quicker (and in the end for a better price) than one that comes on too high, hangs around and gets stale, and then you have to lower it right down to shift it. And as for lower commissions, well if you can’t defend that, how are you going to get the best price for your clients? Don’t get distracted or concerned by low commission agencies – defending your commission requires same skills that will grow your market share.

Some agents rush to social media, and blast all their listings on twitter. That’s like walking up to random people in supermarkets and shouting at them: “Wanna buy this house?!!!” The chances are you will only annoy people. What you want to happen is getting others to talk about YOU on twitter and the like. So, what are you doing that is remarkable? That will go viral on social media. Personal recommendations are what matters now.

Do you hold keys for buyers in case they are locked out? and turn up at 2 in the morning when they have locked themselveas out? Do you water their garden when they are on holiday? These are the things that will WOW your clients, get you talked about, and will win you new business.

It’s not the number of ‘for sale’ signs, it’s speed of sale, sale price vs asking price, number of cancelled sales, inspections, and fewer price reductions that actually matter and should be your yardsticks.

Don’t ask your clients what they want, think what they will LOVE! Be in the business of FUN! Virgin has Indian head massages and is investigating putting pool tables in planes (seriously). They did not ask clients whether they wanted these, the clients had no idea. Just think what will wow them. We didn’t ask mobile phone companies to put cameras in them, have them synch with outlook, install tetris and demand video conferencings … but someone at Apple thought phones could do this, and when we saw it, we loved it. As Henry Ford once said, “if I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said: a faster horse!”

The fundamentals are truth, beauty, humour, attractiveness, integrity – build these into your brand.

What does your service DO for your clients? How does it make them FEEL? The #1 reason for choosing agent is personal recommendation; how well you presented; location of office; … one of the lowest reasons is fees.

You only need to win by a nose to get the business, so go the extra mile.

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Inspirational stuff eh? For more on Richard Rawlings, he is speaking at REIWA Learning this week, and also see his web site

The Cost of Hesitation


It’s good to size things up first. It’s good to be prepared. It’s good to do your homework. But sometimes, you just need to pick up the phone, make the call. The cost of hesitation can be high.

One thing I’ve learned in business is that sales people actually like being sold to. They respect someone who persists, and patience and persistence wins in the end. The fly by night job hoppers don’t last. The get rich slow schemes are the best. Build trust, win them over, and then when you have their business, shock them with how good you are.

So, after you’ve pysched yourself up, pick up the phone, make that appointment, because you know what you do is good, and you know the clients actually need you, ad how the prospects are missing something when they don’t have what you provide. So don’t let someone else get in there. Go on, do it now!

Photo Credit: AnimalPictures3.com