On making decisions promptly

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Napoleon Hill recorded a commentary on the Three Causes of Failure back in 1953. While listening to the recording, I noticed something of rather interesting value. Hill recounted an event as an example of the cost of procrastination.

Some years ago one of the large automobile manufacturing companies decided to begin an extensive expansion program. The president called in 100 young men from the various departments of the plant and said to them: “Gentlemen. We are going to enlarge our plant and greatly increase our output of automobiles. Which means that we will need executives and department managers far beyond our present staff.”

Hill went on to describe the conditions being offered to these men, which included working four hours a day on their regular duties, four hours of training, there will be homework, and the injunction that this may require additional work beyond the regular work day. He gave them one hour to make up their minds. Twenty-three accepted the offer. The next day, thirty more came into the office saying they had decided to accept the offer, some after talking it over with their wives. The president of the company informed them, however, that the offer had been withdrawn because, as was put

Gentlemen you were given one hour in which to make up your minds after you had all the facts concerning my offer that I could give you.

The point was that these men had lost the opportunity because they had, according the president, demonstrated that they could not make up their minds when they had all the facts. The president, however, was wrong. Dead wrong. And his incorrectness may be an indicator of what was about to happen to the automotive industry over the next few decades.

While it can be argued that the single men had all the facts, those who were married did not possess all of the facts about how the offer would impact their lives. Indeed, it can be assumed that of the fifty who still didn’t approach the president to accept the offer, at least some had consulted with their family and decided that the impact would be too great.

Although this can be dismissed as rising executives knowing what they wanted, it was also  a demonstration of selfishness at work. Men rising to executive position who, in all likelihood, did so without any consideration to the impact beyond their career. Remember, it was 1953 when this interview took place. Some years ago had to be at some point after 1945 and was probably right about 1950. The men involved would have been roughly 30 – 35 years old. Twenty years later, these 50 – 55 year old men who had demonstrated that their careers came ahead of any other consideration were running the automotive companies right at the time when Japanese and German car makers were starting to run circles around the Big Three.

Family is arguably far more important than one’s employer and the fact that the rising executives were willing to put career over any possible family considerations was less than encouraging concerning their potential loyalty to their company vs their career.

The moral of the story is simple: if you are an executive, don’t assume that your people have all the information they need to make a decision until you have verified your assumption. And secondly, don’t assume that a rapid decision is good for your company. The only thing that you can be sure of is that a rapid decision is intended to help the person deciding. Or, to the point, don’t assume. You know why.

The two questions you must answer

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Today, while re-reading an excellent piece in Inc Magazine, which shows the results of studying every pitch made on Shark Tank, the author exposed the interesting point that there are two questions which can determine if your business idea is going to fail.

I’ve often found that you can predict whether a business is doomed to fail within about 60 seconds by asking two simple questions: What customer problem are you solving? Why are you the person to solve it?

So, in keeping with my mantra, let’s avoid complexity and answer these questions one by one.

What customer problem are you solving?

This exercise is so much easier to do when you have an accountability partner asking it. Someone who won’t let you off with an easy answer. Someone who will pound down, questioning every answer you give, forcing you to dig deep. So my suggestion is to find someone who will do that. Use the precision model to dig even deeper. How specifically do you know that it’s a problem? What specifically is the level of problem? Specifically how does it cause pain? How specifically are they solving the problem now? What specifically causes the problem? What would happen if the problem went away? What would happen if a better solution came up tomorrow? What do you think it would be?

You should be able to write an epistle about this one question.  Take fifteen minutes today and answer it. And stop whining; this is your real job as a business owner. Everything else you do is a distraction.

Writing the elevator speech

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Have you ever tried to design an elevator speech? The elevator speech not only is useful for describing your business to others, it’s also a valuable tool for catalyzing your business brand in your own mind. Here is a simple approach to writing the elevator speech. Simply copy and paste the below into your favorite word processor and replace the bold-italic parts with your answers. Then, start editing and tweaking until it become authentic for your vision.

Choose as specific an answer as you can and repeat the exercise for every sub section. You’ll be surprised at how easily the answers will come when you are thinking of “a twenty-five year old unmarried female college graduate who wants to start a home business” instead of “any entrepreneur”.

Give it a shot today and repeat every month to observe how your company is evolving over time. It may surprise you. I guarantee you’ll learn something valuable.


Hello, my name is your name with your company. We help specific customer type like you who have the problem specifically describe the problem which costs you describe costs and pain. And that really costs you underlying pain.

We help you by overview of solution. This means you will reduce primary cost and will gain primary benefit. And what that really means to you is deeper benefit. And you can know this is true because give brief explanation of why.



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Dreamers filled with joy,
their visions coming alive,
my day is complete.

The elevator speech is one of the most important things you can write; not only because of the need to convey a lot of information in a short time, but also because it forces you to think clearly about what your brand is and does.

In the same sense, try this little experiment. A haiku is a form of Japanese poetry which follows the pattern of 5-7-5. First line, five syllables; second line seven; third line five. It is a form of writing which forces you to select carefully your choice of words and which clarifies your thoughts.

My challenge to you is to try to write a haiku about your business. It may sound like a foolish effort, but often you will find your thinking expanding as you are forced to come up with a good solution in very few words. Sometimes, the enforcement of limitations can actually increase your creativity.

Step one: Open a text processor or word processor or a pad of paper

Step two: Start writing. Think about the syllables, but don’t obsess about content right now. Practice and see what comes out.

Step three: Write a couple of them and keep refining your thinking. This should be a fun exercise. Work with it.

Finally, take the best haiku and set it aside for a day. Look at it tomorrow and ask yourself

  • Does this really reflect how you brand yourself?
  • Does this really reflect how your employees, associates, and partners see your business?
  • Does it reflect how your customers think of you?
  • If not, why not?