Discussion forum for members of the Massachusetts Bay Organizational Development Learning Group

Friday, August 18, 2006

Shepherding Business to Your Door Winner Report

I was fortunate to win the drawing for our February meeting, OD Meets MBA. Here (at long last) are my notes regarding the prize from Harvy Simkovits, Business Wisdom’s 2006 Guide: Shepherding Business to Your Door. Having enjoyed two of Harvy’s ODLG presentations, I looked forward to digging into his guide on how to gain more business.

This 118-page guide is a hands-on workbook that aims to help business owners, sales executives, and professional service providers win at what Harvy calls the Outside Game of business. The Outside Game is the external part of developing a business, which includes being clear about your business vision and mission, focusing your business-development strategy, finding business opportunities, identifying prospects and developing a good pitch, and carrying yourself with confidence and certainty about your value. It is logically organized into five sections to help you answer a series of questions that will help you shepherd business to your door: WHY should customers buy from you? WHO is your customer & WHAT do you offer them? WHERE is your business coming from? HOW do you get your prospects to buy? WHEN: continually planning your work & working your plan. Each section includes pearls of wisdom, diagrams and worksheets.

Being a baseball fan, my favorite diagram and metaphor was from section IV, How do you get your prospects to buy? Harvy writes, “Gaining a contract with a prospect is like going around the bases in the game of baseball.” The batter’s box is where you try to make contact with a prospect. Following this contact, you circle the bases: first base is where you have an initial conversation with a buyer, second base is where you conduct a meeting with the buyer to understand their needs and build trust, and third base is where you submit a proposal or quote. You reach home plate when you've signed a contract/agreement. The guide has a page or two describing each base, including the issues involved at each stage and questions to think about. Now when I see Big Papi standing at first base, smiling and chatting up the opposing team’s first baseman, I’ll imagine that he’s “creating a desire to connect and engage” by building awareness, tension, and credibility.

While I found the supporting materials important and informative, I found the worksheets to be the heart of the guide. Most of the workshops are structured around a series of thought-provoking questions to answer. Reading a self-help book can certainly be useful. But actually working through exercises can really help clarify your thinking and increase the likelihood of actually changing your behavior. I found the exercises to be clear, practical and useful. For example, in the first section on why customers should buy from you, the guide has a series of worksheets that ask questions to help you elucidate your values and beliefs, define your professional/business mission statement, and derive your vision statement. Several of the worksheets have example answers that provide inspiration and clarity.

The guide is structured in way that allows you to focus on only one or two sections, or work your way through the entire workbook. Thus, it seems like it could be a useful tool for a wide range of people, from those who are thinking out launching a business to experienced business-owners and consultants who want to upgrade their business. I imagine that it could also be very helpful to individuals who are on the job market; with some adaptation, many of the exercises and lessons might help you prepare for informational or job interviews.

The guide also includes a CD that contains a copy of the entire workbook as well as several articles Harvy has written about ways to increase your business.

At this point I find myself wishing I could add a testimonial about how I worked through the guide and used the results to enhance my own business. Alas, I am not currently a business-owner and do not have significant sales and marketing responsibilities in my current position. That said, I did find the guide helped me to think about various possible directions I could take with my career in the future, and pushed me to think more creatively about how I could contribute to the “outside game” as an employee in my current position.

I have one minor quibble, which seems almost too petty to mention. The size of the notebook binder is too small to contain the quantity of the guide’s useful materials. A binder with rings that were a size or two larger would make it much easier to turn the pages and to remove sheets to do the exercises.

A copy of the guide is available to check out from the ODLG library. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning how to better market their business.

Ginger Fitzhugh

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

SpeakingPresence Winner update...


As per the agreement for the June program giveaway, I am passing along my "learnings" from my recent ODLG "winnings" - one session of a SpeakingPresence workshop facilitated by Carla Kimball, the Founder and President of RiverWays Enterprises.

First, as someone who has been diligently looking for new work, though unsuccessfully finding any, I sensed my luck beginning to change once my name was pulled from the raffle envelope at the ODLG June "Going Around in Circles II" meeting. It was announced that I had WON a training session! How appropriate ! A training session related to a skill that I could use not only in my upcoming interviews, but also in the type of work I was seeking.

After some e-mail correspondences with Carla, we coordinated a mutually optimal date for me to attend my complimentary SpeakingPresence workshop. At this point, I don't remember the exact date, but mid-July seems about right. Carla requested that I arrive 15 minutes earlier than the other students so that I can learn more about the workshops and Carla could learn more about me.

If my memory serves me right, I ate up most the time talking about myself, while more experienced students trickled in, eager for another session. Carla reassured me that the session would be easy to follow along and with the crowd gathering, it seemed best to transition into introductions and becoming part of the group.

We started the sessions with some timed exercises. Instructed to focus on some pictures for an alloted time and then assigned partners for another time slice. I must admit I felt a little giddy looking over at a partner while they looked back at me, feeling the urge to crack a joke. As time went on though, my uncomfortability with the mutual attention started to wane, especially since the more experienced students didn't seem as adolescent about it all.

This introductory exercise was a lead into the idea of focusing your attention towards a connection with your "audience" members rather than focusing on yourself. A brief catch phrase used to summarize this shift was "arrows out", as opposed to the more self-focused "arrows in".

Over the course of the evening we took turns speaking, again during timed segments, to our fellow classmates. At each turn, we each tried to practice this idea of "arrows out" and connecting with our audience. To emphasize our shift in focus, we even spent time looking at each of our individual classmates. These turns were followed up with feedback comments from the class and an opportunity to reflect on how you felt while speaking or some of the qualities you felt your talk embodied.

The grand finale of the session was when we took turns speaking, about ANYTHING, for 5 minutes. Though 5 minutes normally goes quite fast in the rest of my life -suddenly, the time felt extended during this exercise. I watched participants take the time to connect with their audience, but also with themselves. It seemed like a continual "re-grounding" or "re-centering" was practiced while the flow of their talk seemed uninterrupted. Carla taped each of us while we spoke so that we could bring our tapes home and review them in privacy.

During my recent graduate school work in education, I had the experience of being taped many times along with the requirement of reviewing my tapes in private and writing papers which included my reflections on what I observed. The tapes were a great way for me to break some poor habits fast, as I didn't want to see myself fiddling with chalk, triple checking my watch, or talking too fast, ever again. But my focus during these earlier tapings were usually on the content I was attempting to present, the nature of my interactions with a student, or the pitch or pace of my voice.

As a result of this one workshop, without viewing the tape, I could already tell that the quality of my speaking was calmer, slower, and more connected than it probably was on those previous grad school tapes, although granted I had less I was simultaneously trying to do.

Well, it seems I'll just have to trust that feeling, as the day I tried to view my tape in private, my old VCR started acting up, and the darn thing wouldn't play. All I saw was "static " :< ! It wasn't just my tape from Carla, the other old tapes won't play now either. In spite of my lack of video documentation, I tried to keep the principles of the SpeakingPresence workshop in mind during a recent interview, during which I needed to teach a 15 minute class to a room full of instructors and the assistant dean of the school. I know I focused on my PowerPoint animations about as much as I did my audience, but lo and behold, this past week, I was offered the job ! In, the ODLG giveaway, like the Massachusetts State Lottery, you have to "Be In It to Win It". One factor that tilted the winning odds in my favor is that I not only filled out my form, but I also stuck around until the end of the meeting. Two other folks has their names drawn before me, but they had headed out early. You need to be in the audience to claim your prize. Well, thanks Carla for an interesting perspective on public speaking. And, thanks ODLG for providing me with a mini-success during my arduous job search. Marianne Smith

What is the relationship between organizational development and organizational strategy?

Our August 15 program meeting was on “Supporting Strategy Implementation,” presented by Jeff Stone and Nick Craig of Potentia Consulting. We learned the “law of organizational gravity,” the limitations of the strategic planning process, and, in particular, the method of backplanning and its value in increasing the success of strategic planning.

As with many of our programs, this is one served to foster connections between the OD community and other areas of practice, in this case strategic planning – a key concern of all organizations, but not generally of OD practitioners. Hence our “Question of the Month” is “What is the relationship between organizational development and organizational strategy?”

Jim Murphy