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Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
June 01 2021
The hardest sale

The hardest sale

The hardest sale for most businesses isn’t new customers.

It’s existing customers.

The company you didn’t pay much attention because you thought they were “easy money”. So you didn’t try your hardest. You didn’t communicate often. You didn’t look after their interests. Wait, they’re leaving?

The company you sold something to then forgot about. Because they’re done. Because you didn’t have another thing to sell them right this instant. Wait, they’re not interested anymore?

When someone gives you their trust and you don’t revere that… when reality and marketing don’t align… this is not an “easy sale”. This is harder than winning new business.

Earning trust isn’t the hardest. Earning trust again is.

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 31 2021
The importance of comparing

The importance of comparing

Do you compare your work to others?

There are many reasons why you shouldn’t.

Here are a few why you should:

There is no ‘expensive’, only ‘less expensive than’. Contrast creates value, and price is meaningless in isolation.

There is no ‘good value’, only ‘better value than’. We have to measure value against something in order to quantify it, even if it’s against its former self.

There is no ‘fast’, only ‘faster than’. If we remember there can be fast dogs and slow cars, we remember the importance of context to create meaning.

There is no ‘successful’, only ‘more successful than’. Otherwise Gates isn’t very successful when compared to Bezos, nor Bezos compared to anyone who is happily married. The variables in question make absolutes relative.

Comparing gets a bad name.

It’s not all bad: consider comparing your work to unearth more context and value, so you (and those you serve) can more fully appreciate what you have.

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 30 2021
Modern is out-of-date

Modern is out-of-date

‘Modern’ has a short shelf-life.

Pursuing a ‘modern’ website means it won’t be modern when the trends change.

Chasing a ‘modern’ demographic means churning through people, each wave with needs different to the last.

Needing the latest ‘modern’ tools means your pocket never has the same device for long, even if each does the same things as its predecessor.

Wanting a ‘modern’ workplace means adopting behaviour, operations and culture from the innovation conveyor-belt, regardless of what’s on it.

Perhaps ‘modern’ isn’t what we’re looking for.

Maybe we want a website that speaks to our audience. Maybe our work changes to accommodate our audience, rather than the other way around. Maybe the right tools for the job aren’t always what’s hot off the press. Maybe the right workplace culture is one that represents our values, rather than the values of big tech and business news cycles.

Perhaps what we’re looking for is the opportunity to do good work for people we like, with people we like.

That has a much longer shelf-life.

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 29 2021
Is more value better?

Is more value better?

Is more value, better?

Let’s see:

Which is the better referral incentive: 10% off your next order, or an immediate cash reward or movie ticket or similar? It depends on whether your goal is repeat behaviour or value maximisation. They’re not directly connected.

Which is the better closed-wallet offer: a single page Word document that solves a small problem right away, or a 200 page PDF that solves a slightly bigger problem? It depends on whether your goal is for people to actually take action, or value maximisation. They’re not directly connected.

So. Is more value, better?

It doesn’t matter: if the goal is to help people move forward from Problem to Solution, make that the focus, instead.

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 28 2021
What’s your lens?

What’s your lens?

You do what you do through a lens.

You do it whether you know it or not.

But knowing it makes your work oh-so-much-better.

To find yours, here are a couple of examples:

When our coaching team creates coaching processes, they make processes through the lens of teachability and repeatability. Our focus on extracting audience narrative insights quickly means we need to be able to methodically equip team members (or those we serve) to repeat the process independently. 
That disqualifies permission for individual ‘gurus’ to show up, or excess process bloat that makes learning difficult. Our lens guides their focus.

When our development team writes code, they write code through the lens of accessibility and flexibility. Our focus on rapid re-expression of audience narrative means what we build needs to be able to iterate regularly based on what we (or those we serve) learn, and those iterations need to be accessible to as many people as possible.

That disqualifies needless technical debt, inflexible frameworks, and unnecessary whiz-bang. Our lens guides their focus.

What’s your lens?

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 27 2021
Engage Others, Build Better

Engage Others, Build Better

Are you connecting enough with your peers to produce your best work?

Leadership is useful because many team members don’t talk to each other enough in a pinch. The ones that do, become leaders.

Development frameworks are useful because many developers don’t talk to each other enough in a pinch. The ones that do, make the frameworks.

Good books are useful because many interested in a subject don’t talk to each other enough to learn from each other any other way. The ones that do, write good books.

We don’t have to engage with others when trying to produce meaningful work. But if doing so creates team leadership, thought leadership and solid frameworks, perhaps it’s worth a try?

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 26 2021
The simpler option

The simpler option

What’s the simpler option to that thing you’re working on right now?

Do you need to double your customer list, or simply help your existing ones a little more?

Do you need 50% faster hardware to reduce overheads, or simply 5% more efficiency from your people?

Do you need to send generic 500 emails per week, or simply a small handful of thoughtful ones that solve a problem for people?

Do you need 50 web pages to pitch prospects with, or simply 1-3 really thoughtful ones to help people along their journey?

There could be a simpler route that focuses you on the important stuff. You’ll wonder how you missed it when you find it.

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 25 2021
Will it flex?

Will it flex?

I hear you’re making something great.

Will it flex?

Buying a new website? That’s great, I hope it’s going to be a great advocate of your customer’s desired journey. But will it flex? Better make sure you have the ability (or support) to edit that asset often in response to what you’re learning about your customers.

Preparing a new advertising campaign? That’s great, I hope it’s profitable. But will it flex? Better make sure your assets are ready to be refined in response to the performance data you should be receiving.

Creating a new product offering? That’s great, I hope it’s a hit with your customers. But will it flex? Better make sure you have the ability to listen to real feedback and reflect that feedback back into your work as it comes.

If your work is an act of service to our choice of market, the things we make must be flexible enough to change with our audience’s needs.

Unless, of course, we’re not listening to what they have to say.

You are listening, aren’t you?

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 24 2021
Closing vs Paying Attention

Closing vs Paying Attention

This ones for the ‘closers’:

We don’t define value. We can help set downstream buying criteria, but customers define value. What’s important to them is what’s important. Our job is to help them define value.

We don’t convince customers to buy. We can help them make a good decision, but customers convince themselves. Our job is to help them convince themselves.

Sales are not random. We may witness seemingly random sales patterns, but that just means we aren’t paying enough attention. Our job is to pay attention.

What if you were to identify less as a ‘closer’ and more as someone who pays attention, helps people define value, and compel them to act upon it?

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 23 2021
Your Company’s Laws

Your Company’s Laws

What’s the law?

Companies often have manifestos. But how many in the team embody these things? For real?

Companies often have mission statements. But how many share this “mission”, rather than rolling their eyes at their higher-ups?

Companies often have “core values.” But for whom are they truly core values? What difference is it making?

Companies don’t often have a “law”. Law is how things absolutely happen. Sometimes because they’re believed in (patriotically), sometimes because they believe in who wrote them (religiously), sometimes just because…it’s the law.

Team members may slip on their values. But they don’t break the law. Because it’s the law.

If you truly believe the things in your mission, in your core values, in your manifesto… if they’re critical to your ability to produce work that matters… perhaps it should be the law.

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 22 2021
Product Development and Washing Dishes

Product Development and Washing Dishes

What do product development, marketing, and washing the dishes have in common?

Here’s a quick story:

A monk told Joshu: “I have just entered the monastery. Please teach me.” Joshu asked: “Have you eaten your rice porridge?” The monk replied: “I have eaten.” Joshu said: “Then you had better wash your bowl.” At that moment the monk was enlightened.

Hey, there always feels like there’s a lot to do.

There’s certainly a lot we could do.

But remembering the act of “doing the next right thing” helps us steer clear of the paradox of choice, paralysis by analysis, or overwhelm.

Doing the next right thing could be to make that call you’ve been putting off. Or accepting a reality in your research.

Or it could simply be to wash your bowl.

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 21 2021
How to outperform yourself

How to outperform yourself

Your goal is not my goal. Your goal is probably not the same as your competitor’s, either.

So don’t compare:

My goal might be to create an environment that’s calm, steady, predictable, creative. Those might not be among your goals.

Your goal might be to re-invest profit as quickly as possible to maximise business growth while minimising corporation tax. That might not be among my goals.

When you observe the development of other companies or the progress of other individuals, it’s natural to compare.

But as we know, for things to be compared, they must share axes. They must demonstrate statistical relevance that helps us draw useful conclusions.

When your goals and my goals don’t place the same value the same things or quantify information in the same way, they can’t (or shouldn’t be) be compared.

Outperform yourselves.

Outdo yourself.

But don’t compare. You’ll only slow yourself down.

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 20 2021
Good VS Bad Cold Email

Good VS Bad Cold Email

What are your feelings toward cold email?

Cold email done well is an unrestricted, decentralised, open way for people with something valuable to share to connect with others, one at a time. This is good, and rare.

Cold email done badly is an unrestricted, decentralised, open way for people with nothing valuable to share to spam others at scale. This is bad, and common…

…So common, in fact, that “cold email” is synonymous with “cold email done badly”. As a result, giving people gifts, solving people’s problems and serving people first are all increasingly at risk of being limited to restricted, centralised, closed ways of doing good.

Consider sending good cold emails.

Consider thanking anyone who sends good cold emails.

Continue to smite those who send bad ones.

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 19 2021
Sharing isn’t free

Sharing isn’t free

People not sharing your product online?

“Why won’t they share our product on Twitter, it doesn’t cost them anything…”

Yes, it does.

If it doesn’t say something positive about them for associating with it, it costs them something. Status, trust, reputation, attention. These aren’t free, or infinite, so they aren’t spent as such.

If it says something positive about them for associating with it, it gains them something. Status, trust, reputation, attention. Because they’re valuable, sharing is now something people want to do regardless of whether or not you put a huge share button in their faces.

Sharing isn’t free. Sharing is an investment. Make it a good one.

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 18 2021
Creating great work, through Stoic quotes

Creating great work, through Stoic quotes

Here are some quotes from the school of Stoicism, and how we can apply them to our daily work:

“The best revenge is not to be like that”: Just because Jeff Bezos and Kevin Plank use their leadership positions to manipulate the stock market for their gain and everyone else’s loss, it doesn’t mean you need to play their game to get ahead. Play a different game.

“What’s bad for the hive is bad for the bee”: To accept the conduct or presence of bad clients or bad employees is to accept poison into your work that, once injected, is very difficult to extract. Preventative action is better than seeking out a vaccine.

“Amor fati”: Associating emotional security in certain outcomes creates high blood pressure, envy, exhaustion, and ignored families. Conversely, learning to love the journey, rather than the outcomes, creates better creators.

“Look for the poetry in ordinary things”: System and process design and/or refinement don’t feature on the cover of business magazines. Yet they’re a cornerstone of great companies. Beauty need not be sexy – learn to love systems.

“Meditate on your mortality every day”: You get to be a part of this work today. It’s just for a short time, possibly shorter than you think. Learn to love simply the act of getting to play in the first place.

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 17 2021
Speed kills when you focus on it

Speed kills when you focus on it

…but speed as a byproduct is great.

Trying to go fast often means communication suffers. If ambiguity breeds anxiety, and anxiety kills creative energy, speed kills your ability to produce your best work.

Trying to slow down often means better communication. If clarity removes anxiety, and that space leads to creativity, slowing down creates the opportunity to produce your best work.

When we focus on speed, we get slow, suboptimal output.

When we focus on slow, we get faster, more excellent work.

SEAL and Delta Force operators are right: Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast.

Are you trying to go faster? Consider whether making it the focus is better than making it the by-product of something greater.

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 16 2021
Representing your work

Representing your work

Do you represent your work?

Not just by being a spokesperson for the product. But by truly representing your work.

Chrysippus – sometimes known as “the second founder” or the third head of the school of Stoicism – supposedly wrote 500 lines a day. Not words, lines. An estimate states he wrote more than 700 papers on his work.

Similarly, Seneca supposedly read every day. “Reading, I hold, is indispensable”, he claimed. Not every sometimes, every day. This represented the belief that writing and reading should be pursued in equal measure.

Seth Godin writes a blog post every day. “I don’t write every day because I have lots of good ideas, I have lots of good ideas because I write every day”, he said. This happened to be the quote that motivated me to start writing every day 1,255 days ago.

Epictetus said, “Don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it.”   The same is true for your body of work.

Do you embody yours?

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 15 2021
Between the back-foot and the front-foot

Between the back-foot and the front-foot

What’s between the back foot, and the front foot?

You may have witnessed these traits in folks along your travels in business:

When they’re on the front-foot – succeeding, well-regarded, ahead-of-the-game – they’re to be credited and revered for their self-made success.

When they’re on the back-foot – embarrassed, stuck, stressed, “under the gun” – it’s your fault it didn’t work, or the government’s, or the supplier’s.

What’s in the middle?

Balance.

When we’re balanced – whether succeeding or stuck, winning or losing, among calm or chaos – we’re respectful of both ourselves and those around us, operating with sound mind and good judgement.

Lady Fortune spins the wheel, projects succeed and fail, and we get to choose whether to swing from front-foot to back-foot, or whether we’ll model something different, something better.

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 14 2021
Warning, shiny thing

Warning, shiny thing

Warning: Shiny things!

Not in this post… But probably in a bunch of others you’ll read today online.

Shiny objects are everywhere. Vying for our attention. Distracting us from our commitment to focused, meaningful work.

They promise outsized riches in exchange for our distraction and detours. They deliver us splintered focus and fractional results.

Sometimes, it pays to recognise the opportunity behind the shininess. After all, many great innovations that benefit us started out shiny.

Most of the time though, it pays far more to remember the opportunity is already within our scope. We need simply stay the course.

Are you looking for more shiny things today, or more focus?

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 13 2021
The answer might not be in a course

The answer might not be in a course

The answer might not be in a course.

It might not be in your industry’s “best practices”.

It may not even be in that 5,000 word blog post that you bookmarked and have been meaning to get around to reading.

It may not even be in that Facebook Group you joined yesterday, or in those LinkedIn messages you’ve been meaning to get around to.

It might just be that…

…They’re in your audience.

…And that can feel inaccessible. Further away from us than the posts and groups we’re used to turning to.

That’s simply a failing on our ability to nurture close relationships with our audience. After all:

  • Business 101: make things people want to buy.
  • Messaging 101: say the right things to the right people.

If you’d like a blueprint for doing this, we made a mini-course covering how to say the right things to the right people. Warning: may require you to get closer to your audience!

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