hey (accountability) buddy, can you spare a dime

accountable

High on my list of words that are trendy right now that I detest is the word ‘tribe’. Call me a snob (snob!), but I don’t like the primal, wild, chasing bison with spears, image that it brings to mind. It takes me back to my elementary school years when we still called Native Americans ‘Indians’ and they spoke broken English and lived in tribes (not that there’s anything wrong with that…it’s the inelegance ‘tribe’ implies I don’t like).

That’s what comes to mind, for me.

But now the hipsters like to use the word ‘tribe’ to describe a group of people that you feel most at home with. For some reason the word ‘friends’ – or ‘community’ – is not right, and ‘tribe’ is used to denote a wider group – so maybe not friends but closer than community… something like that.

Why am I rambling on about this? Because, with the above as context, I hate to admit that a big positive influence in my life has come through something I learned in a tribe, and that is the concept of an ‘Accountability Buddy’.

What’s An Accountability Buddy?

Back in the 90s, in the dot.com bubble, the term ‘accountability partner’ first came up in a business context. Before that the term was used mostly by American Christians as someone who would stop you from doing things you weren’t supposed to, like watching porn, drinking or coveting.

We all realize that we are accountable to God, but how often has that thought entered your mind while surfing porn sites?

— Accountability Partner for Porn addicts

But in the business sense, this phrase took on a different meaning.

Here’s what we mean when we say Accountability Partner (or Buddy) in the business sense

An accountability partner is a business peer who helps you grow your company by offering guidance and by holding you to your commitments. While it’s similar to a mentor relationship, both partners work on bettering their businesses with the feedback and support of each other.

Entrepreneur Magazine

Sadly, rarely is porn involved.

An accountability partner does not have to be in your same industry (actually, I find it much better if they are not). I personally also prefer to have a female accountability buddy (men are such assholes) because there is usually much more honesty and a lot less chit chat. It has to be someone you are comfortable with, because they are going to be hearing your insecurities about your business.

How To Work With An Accountability Buddy

For me, the best schedule seems to be to meet up – usually on Skype or some such thing – every couple of weeks. I find I can’t get anything done in a shorter time than that because I have too many fingers in too many pies.

So, you hook up every couple of weeks and chat for about 30 – 45 minutes. This is how it usually goes:

1. Cover the action items from the last call

At the end of every call you should both set out some actionable items for the next couple of weeks. Stuff like writing a blog post (done!), speccing out a software feature, contacting x number of people about your business, etc etc.

If it’s your first call (look at you, all accountabilitising!) then the first part of the call should be a brief business state of the union, outlining what you’re working on, and what you’re hoping to achieve. Honesty is the name of the Accountability Buddy game. So, if you are a bullshit artist be prepared for pain!

2. Explore possibilities

After you get to know each other a little, a good accountability buddy will pick up on things in the conversation. Things like ‘oh, you don’t like to cold call/email people? why is that? how could doing that help your business?’. Or maybe they will notice that you talk a lot about product, but not about distribution. And call your attention to it.

Again, honesty and questions are the key here. There are no stupid questions! Having to answer a question that your buddy asks will make you think about the answer.

This is the time to also bring up problems or barriers that you are hitting or deadlines that are coming up that are important.

One person could be overpowered, but two people can stand up for themselves. A rope made of three cords is hard to break.

— Ecclesiastes 4:12

(why ‘three cords’ and not two?)

3. Set up actionables

In the last part of your call it’s vital (VITAL, I SAY!) to set up some clear goals for the next couple of weeks. Don’t be stupid and overreach. Because a good accountability buddy is going to whip your ass in the next meeting when you don’t do it.

Why it works

For me, it’s The Motivation Of Embarrassment. Two or three days before I know I’m going to have to talk to my accountability buddy I go into ‘oh shit’ mode and realise I have to get my stuff done or I am going to look like an idiot. Maybe it’s different for other people, but, for me, that’s a huge factor.

There’s other things two, like the fact that it’s usually easier to criticize, I mean, see, other people’s problems. So, your buddy will do that for you, and you’ll do that for them. Being outside of the team that is responsible for making your business go really gives the detachment needed.

What having an accountability buddy has done for me

One word: Progress.

I’ve accomplished a LOT in the last 6 months, and I think a big chunk o’ thanks belongs to my Accountability Buddy. I’m a bit of a shy person. I prefer to sit in my room, grooving with a pict. I can set goals for myself, but, if I didn’t get them done… oh well. Maybe next week. It’s very very hard to keep self-motivation going in such an abstract situation. And self-reward or punishment only goes so far I find.

The Accountability Buddy street runs both ways, and being able to help someone else with their business is also very fulfilling. And it hones your listening skills (do your buddy a favour and listen!) and your analytical skills too.

An accountability partner can help you identify weaknesses in your business, make plans to overcome them and hold you accountable for action. It has changed my life, even beyond my business. I can’t recommend it highly enough!

But most of all

Your accountability partner should look you in the eye and ask: “Have you looked at pornography since our last meeting?”

— Accountability Partner for Porn addicts

Oops. Wrong article.

The 1 Hour Work Week

Tim Ferriss has nothing on me. Well, I mean of course you have to set aside the 10s (if not 100s) of millions he’s accrued. And the empire. And the respect. Other than THAT STUFF he’s got nothing on me.

Because, right now, the majority of my income is generated by about 1 hour’s worth of work a week. The other 167 hours I’m either sleeping (56 hours), eating (14 hours), exercising/walking (12 hours) and working on ideas that are not yet making money (60+ hours).

Should I be proud of the fact that 1 hour pays for my life? It pays for the apartment, the utilities, the travel, the food, the equipment, the ex-wife, etc etc.

On one hand, yes, of course. It’s a major accomplishment.

But really, the answer is no – I should not be proud. The needle should be closer to the ashamed end of the spectrum. Because those other 60+ hours that I am spending try to find other ideas are not yet producing. That is a big problem.

I used to have annual mid-life crises. About once a year I would hit the wall. I’d be frustrated. Nothing was progressing. Money wasn’t increasing – sometimes it was decreasing. Projects weren’t escalating – sometimes they were crashing. In short – I was ‘crossing the desert’ as Key Person of Influence author Daniel Priestley would say.

But here is what I am really ashamed of: some of those past ideas and projects were good. They had potential.

But I gave up.

It’s not a good thing to admit: I am a quitter.

This one factor alone would doom me to failure and marginality.

Except that I know I’m a quitter. I would beat myself up later about it, until I realized something important:

“You Can’t Always Control What Happens, But You Can Control How You React”

I don’t know who said it first. It doesn’t matter.

My quitting things was always a ‘reaction’. Maybe I thought it was an ‘action’. But I was wrong.

I have finally (at almost 50!) reached a point where I understand about learning from my mistakes. And what a gift I gave to myself – I’ve made LOTS of mistakes, so lots to learn from!

So for now, here’s four mistakes.

Lone Wolf Syndrome

Usually it had to do with being out in the desert all alone – rarely did I have supportive (or any!) business partners. You can’t really run a business by yourself. You need either active partners or at the very least some kind of administrative support. The paperwork is depressing! And rarely is someone (i.e. me) capable of all sides of any worthwhile business.

Tip #1: Find a partner

Not enough customers

If you are a consultant you can’t progress if you don’t increase your number of customers. If you can only deal with 1 customer at a time then your a still just trading time for money. If your source of income is just a handful of customers then you’re probably just good at time management but you are still at risk. A ‘real company’ has a wide enough appeal that you can pull in lots of customers.

Tip #2: Bust your butt looking for customers

You can’t scale

Some people hate the word ‘scale’. But my experience is that you have to take scaling up into account from the first day. Pretend (yes, I know we’re adults, but we can still pretend!) that you have LOTS of customers. Pretend your 10 customers that you have right now are just 10 of 1000 (or 10,000). Can you treat 1000 people the same as you are treating your 10 just to keep them as customers? No? Then you are screwed.

Now I’m not saying to anonymize your earlier customers. Early customers are GOLD. They help you work the kinks out (unless your in the adult toys business, then they help work the kinks IN). But the day to day, minute to minute stuff that these customers are doing (i.e. USING YOUR SHIT) should pretty much run itself.

Tip #3: Make believe an empire and act accordingly

No Automation

My business didn’t always just require 1 hour a week. It used to require LOTS more time than that. So over time I wrote software that automated as much as possible. I mean like 95%. The 1 hour I spend a week is writing Facebook posts (I like those to sound human) and dealing with ‘corner cases’ (or ‘edge cases’ – you want a nerdgasm? read this blog post! http://bit.ly/1Jy0OpG ). Time you spend (or money you spend, if you are outsourcing the development) on automation – or ‘systematizing’ – will come back to you many fold.

Tip #4: Computers are your friend.

Conclusion

Obviously I am still in the desert. I am not touring the world giving speaking tours or autographing best-selling books at a bookstore in Manhattan.
But I feel a corner has been turned. And unlike when I usually turn a corner, there is not a large truck parked there that I run straight into the back of.
The four tips that I list above are not the only ‘secrets’ to growing your business. They’re just the four secrets that today, right now, are at the front of my mind.
As always, if you have any comments or questions I’d love to hear them. If you need any help in YOUR business, I’m happy to talk it through with you. We’re all in this together.

There’s a monkey in the house

For 2016 I have pledged to myself – as I am the only one listening – to write a blog post once a week. This is to compliment the videos about business and books I am posting over on my YouTube channel. I’ve decided to do this every Friday. It seemed like a good idea, but then I found out that the First Friday of the year is today, January 1st. So, that wasn’t so great, but, as I promised myself, and I don’t like to break promises to myself, here goes.

This year, 2016, is the year of the monkey. In Japan, where I’m currently spending most of my time, people and businesses ring in the New Year by sending all their customers and friends little cards – called ‘nen ga jo (年賀状)’  to let them know they’re being thought of in the new year. This one is from the little company that services our car.

car service nengajo

There’s several remarkable things about this, and not just the outrageous cuteness of it!

First, there is an incredible business here in the designing and selling of these cards. And customizing. They come pre-printed with postage (say that ten times fast!), so maybe it’s a difficult thing to get into but when you have EVERY person and company sending at least a few of these THAT’S A LOT OF CARDS!

Second, what a great way to keep in touch with your customers and still look respectful. One thing this does – which I am a big believer in – is that not every time you reach out to a customer should you be selling. Actually, I think you should almost never be selling. Get them thinking about you, loving you, etc. THEN go in for the sale. That sounds creepy, but, it’s not. Honestly.

kitty nengajo

This is the one I’m sending out. Kittychan with her monkey slaves basking in the view of Mt Fuji. For some reason this card is seen as slightly childish, whereas the other card is not. I think that the Japanese are always using cartoon characters in inappropriate situations. I once was shown a happy illustration info sheet at a bank that explained why I wasn’t going to be able to open a bank account. Cute!

But I think the point I’m trying to make is always be on the mind of your customers. Wouldn’t it be awesome to send out cards like this everywhere? Not with a coupon (that’s selling), not announcing something about your store or business, but just a ‘Hi, we’re here, we’re thinking of you’!

Now, here’s a couple lists I found on the internet.

The Lucky Things for “Monkeys”

Lucky numbers: 4 and 9
Lucky days: the 14th and 28th of any Chinese lunar calendar month
Lucky colors: white, blue, gold
Lucky flowers: chrysanthemum, crape-myrtle
Lucky directions: north, northwest, west
Lucky months: Chinese lunar months 8 and 12

The Unlucky Things That “Monkeys” Should Avoid

Unlucky colors: red, pink
Unlucky numbers: 2 and 7
Unlucky directions: south, southeast
Unlucky months: Chinese lunar months 7 and 11

Missing from the first list is ‘bananas’ and missing from the second is ‘people’.

Me & Pete: Why I’m doing a YouTube series about Peter Drucker

So, I finished my YouTube series about Tai Lopez’s 67 Steps. I like to do series as it gives me a chance to delve into a topic.

I’ve chosen the teachings of Peter Drucker as my next series. Peter Who? you ask!

Drucker was arguably the founder of -and unquestionably a strong influencer on – modern business management. Drucker took a holistic approach, that an organisation exists within the society it serves. That’s what appealed to me. That, and the fact that his views work – and companies I’ve been involved in that ignored those rules failed.

Below is the playlist. I’m not sure right now how many episodes it will run to (probably a dozen or so) but if you want to learn how to run and manage a business that will stand the test of time I encourage you to subscribe and watch.

It’s free. And it might even also be entertaining.

 

Peter Thiel talk in London on business and politics – Business Insider

Thiel spoke on stage about a wide range of subjects.

Source: Peter Thiel talk in London on business and politics – Business Insider

Peter Thiel is a pretty amazing guy. Co-founder of PayPal, the first outside investor in Facebook… you get the idea.

So, when he speaks you should listen. Thiel talks at length about positioning your company and originality in this piece in the Business Insider.

A must-read

Bow To Your Billionaire Drone Overlord: Frank Wang’s Quest To Put DJI Robots Into The Sky – Forbes

At 34, Frank Wang has turned his dream of flying robots into the world’s biggest drone company–and an expected $4.5 billion fortune. Now, as the market for his devices explodes, his old colleague is trying to take him down.

Fascinating article about Frank Wang Tao, how he grew DJI into an amazing company, and how he got wrapped up in the concerns over drones.

This is a business article – learn from the best!

Source: Bow To Your Billionaire Drone Overlord: Frank Wang’s Quest To Put DJI Robots Into The Sky – Forbes

Common Stocks, Uncommon Profits – 15 point to measure your business

common-stocks-and-uncommon-profits

I just finished reading Philip Fisher’s seminal investment book ‘Common Stocks, Uncommon Profits’. The book tells you how to truly evaluate a company that you want to invest in (or buy stock of).

The book is a little dated, first coming out in 1960. Some things certainly don’t apply to today’s world (I don’t think you or I could go and meet anyone in management of any listed company!), but a lot of the points are valid and can (and should) be done.

With books like this I like to turn them on their head and say “is my company worth investing in” or how to make it so.

Luckily, Fisher was kind enough to list the 15 criteria that a company should satisfy (or as many as possible). This is a perfect tool for measuring my business and I hope you’ll use it for your company too. Making ourselves and our companies outstanding and outstanding investment opportunities is a key goal!

Here’s his list

  1. Does the company have products or services with sufficient market potential to make possible a sizable increase in sales for at least several years?
  2. Does the management have a determination to continue to develop products or processes that will still further increase total sales potentials when the growth potentials of currently attractive product lines have largely been exploited?
  3. How effective are the company’s research-and-development efforts in relation to its size?
  4. Does the company have an above-average sales organization? (ouch!)
  5. Does the company have a worthwhile profit margin?
  6. What is the company doing to maintain or improve profit margins?
  7. Does the company have outstanding labor and personnel relations?
  8. Does the company have outstanding executive relations?
  9. Does the company have depth to its management?
  10. How good are the company’s cost analysis and accounting controls?
  11. Are there other aspects of the business, somewhat peculiar to the industry involved, which will give the investor important clues as to how outstanding the company may be in relation to its competition?
  12. Does the company have a short-range or long-range outlook in regard to profits?
  13. In the foreseeable future will the growth of the company require sufficient equity financing so that the larger number of shares then outstanding will largely cancel the existing stockholders’ benefit from this anticipated growth?
  14. Does management talk freely to investors about its affairs when things are going well but “clam up” when troubles and disappointments occur?
  15. Does the company have a management of unquestionable integrity?

How well did your company do? I can clearly see some areas where my company needs to improve.

The book is an amazing read. Pick it up if you can. I’m not going to include a link to it, I’m sure you know where to find it!

BannersBroker – the plot thickens (or the waters muddied?!). StellarPoint??

Well, I just got a very interesting email with a Word document attached. Here it is:

Who or what is StellarPoint and why are they saying these things about me!?
Who or what is StellarPoint and why are they saying these things about me!?

The email looks like this:

Must be nice to have a middle name that is the company you're working for!
Must be nice to have a middle name that is the company you’re working for!

The problem is – I don’t advertise BB (as anyone who reads this would know!). I never have. I am a publisher!

Who is StellarPoint? Where do they fit into the mix?

Well – here is the whois info about StellarPoint:

StellarPoint.ca whois

Seems they’ve only been registered a few months.

I have responded, saying that I don’t know what they are talking about.

Has anyone else received an email like this?

BannersBroker – I’m getting heavily quoted!

Hi everybody.

Recently I’ve noticed a significant increase in traffic here to philsmy.com. It seems there are a lot of people interested in what I have to say about BannersBroker (and interested in Banners Broker I guess!).

One of the places I am getting a lot of traffic from is ‘The Motley Fool’ message boards. This is nice as I’ve been a Fool member for year! You can see that thread here: http://boards.fool.co.uk/banners-broker-12595908.aspx?sort=whole

Again, if you have any personal experience as a publisher in the banner’s broker network I’d love to here it. Please comment here or send me a message.