Enlightened Conflict

a pragmatic primer for leading a business

October 6th, 2017


ideas thinking group community enjoy the tactic business



“In general, people are not drawn to perfection in others. People are drawn to shared interests, shared problems, and an individual’s life energy. Humans connect with humans.


Hiding one’s humanity and trying to project an image of perfection makes a person vague, slippery, lifeless, and uninteresting.”


Robert Glover



“Never go outside the expertise of your people.” It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone.



Saul D. Alinsky





I was fishing around for some new ways to talk about leading a business <I get old habits new habits forward back progress life choice secretsbored with using the same words and thoughts over and over again> and I came across the Saul Alinsky quote … the second one I used upfront.


It resonated with me because I cannot tell you how many times I have sat in some company “forward thinking strategy” meeting discussing how we would expand the business … stretching not only beyond the existing functional strength of the business but also stepping beyond the existing expertise of the employees.


This is usually cloaked in the infamous “oh, if we can do this, we can certainly do this” statement … or the even more dangerous “we have always figured it out” mantra.


To be clear … progress is always tricky. And leading progress almost even trickier.


But, if you want it to be less trickier, ‘feeling secure’ is almost always a great step toward increasing the odds of success.


You can secure the … well … security … in a number of ways – some reality based and some emotionally charged ways.


And that is where Saul Alinsky comes back into the leadership discussion. He big plans ruler universewrote a book called Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals in 1971.   He wrote it as a guide to community organization <uniting “Have-Nots”, in order for them to gain social, political, legal, and economic power>.


What I loved about the Rules, beyond the rules themselves, was that Alinsky believed, when organized and directed well, the community can determine & achieve its purpose & goal. That thought, to me, is exactly the attitude a leader attempts to create <supporting a vision offered by the leader> within an organization.


What I loved about the Rules is the rules themselves are actually signposts for how to have a company compete in the marketplace.


That said.


Let me share the rules and some brief thoughts with the rules. The Rules:



  • “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.” Power is derived from 2 main sources – money and people. “Have-Nots” must build power from flesh and blood.


Far too often … despite the fact 99% of businesses unequivocally state “our difference is our people” … a business forgets to actually build their power off of flesh & blood.

watch people behavior what they say and doMoney comes and goes.

Machines and infrastructure does what it does.


But people, flesh & blood, is the true power. It pays, as a leader, to never forget that.



  • “Never go outside the expertise of your people.” It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone.


Every business I have been involved with has had an expertise. Uhm. The difficulty is that far too many leaders & managers wish the organization had a different expertise or they aspire to some other expertise.

I, personally, love the thought of isolating a company expertise, consolidating the inside expertise and using it like a battering ram in terms of progress.

People love doing things well and being appreciated for the expertise they have <and not diminished by suggesting they should have another expertise>.



  • “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty.


When I saw this one I almost chuckled. It is so good, so solidly strategically right … and I would guess 95% of businesses never think this way. Oh. They may be happy  identifying a “this is what we are better at than they are” and competing with that in their hip pocket … but I struggle to think of any business I have ever been involved with who has sat down and said “let’s go outside their expertise <and consciously accepting they have an expertise.”


Crushing a competitor is always fun but ignoring an opportunity to outflank them is stupid.



  • “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules.


rule book leading a company behaviorOk.


Here is why I loved this one.

I loved it because bullshit & hollow rhetoric and promises/claims are strewn throughout the business world. I can guarantee, with 95% certainty, I could pick up any business’s vision & strategy & ‘rules of the road’ binder and find a significant amount of hollow shit. What would happen if I consciously attacked one of my competitor’s hollow shit? Make them live up to their own book of rules?

I am chuckling.


You would crush them.

You would crush them in two ways:


  • External perceptions: everyone knows almost all businesses make hollow promises but get aggravated when it becomes too obvious that the promise really is hollow


  • Internal perceptions: almost every employee simply accepts that some of the company rhetoric is bullshit but they accept it because it doesn’t really affect them. But if the hollow rhetoric becomes obvious AND a pain in the ass … discontent grows. Bitching at the water cooler increases.


This is an awesome leadership thought.



  • “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.


I admit. Ridiculing your competition is fraught with peril. However … having i was not made to be subtle me Brucesome swagger and vocalizing your swagger is … well … infuriating to some competition. It puts pressure on them.

Ridiculing, specifically, what a competitor believes is their most potent weapon will … well … infuriate them.


Pick your path wisely … but there is absolutely nothing wrong with swagger, infuriating your competition and putting some pressure on them.



  • “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.” They’ll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They’re doing their thing, and will even suggest better ones.


Far too often some strategic guru envisions some tactic that will be smashingly successful and then attempt to imbue some excitement within the people who will actually do it. I think the best strategic thinkers find tactics that people enjoy AND can be smashingly successful. Unfortunately this is harder than you would think. But nothing really good is easy.



  • “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.” Don’t become old news.



A lesson we forget every day <and should not>.



  • “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.” Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new.


work value replaced effort smarts businessTactical adaptation is possibly one of the most underrated strategic decisions a business can make. While we talk a good game on this in today’s ‘digital world’ the truth is that most of us chase numbers more than we think about outflanking and expertise advantages. That is kind of the bane of the ‘big data’ world.


Numbers are good in judging things but, in the end, people & behavior are not numbers and no matter how good a tactic may appear in a number it can always be replaced.



  • “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.” Imagination and ego can dream up many more consequences than any activist.


I am not an empty threat guy, however, ‘power is what the competition thinks you have.’ My point here is not to make shit up and offer empty threats but rather the more you can make a competitor think, and worry, about the wrongs things the better off you are.


Stoke their imagination.over thinking mess

Make them have high falutin’ meetings pondering “what if” scenarios.


I wouldn’t do this to replace any of the other rules … but in combination?


Whew. This is good stuff.



  • “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.” It is this unceasing pressure that results in the reactions from the opposition that are essential for the success of the campaign.


Sometimes in today’s business world we treat tactics like spaghetti we throw against the wall and hope something sticks. I am not suggesting a business should invest gobs of energy developing operations to maintain constant pressure in INDIVIDUAL tactics but I am suggesting that strategic tactics tend to coalesce and operations can be developed to support them.

I imagine the real point here is hollow tactics may generate some numbers for you but they don’t really make any dent into the competition <which, inevitably, is the key to leading an industry>.



  • “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.” Violence from the other side can win the public to your side because the public sympathizes with the underdog.


I love this thought because, let’s be honest, we have become a mamby pamby business world. What I mean by that is at the first glimpse of any significant negativity we tend to retreat or retrench. Pushing through a negative is not standard operating procedure in a business today.


Let me be clear on this one.

If you do Rule #5 well, you will infuriate your competition. An infuriated competitor reacts <usually with some desire to inflict some negative pain> — they will violently react. If you stay the course, maintain your expertise, well … you can push through and own a positive.

More businesses need to remember this.



  • “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.” Never let the enemy score points because you’re caught without a solution to the problem.


the end game overI call this “consolidating a win.”

I cannot tell you how many times <but far too many> I have seen a business “lose after winning.” It is maddening, depressing & demoralizing … and completely avoidable.

Far too many businesses chase the success assuming they will be able to take a breath and take advantage of the success in a relatively timely fashion.

This is where ideas die.


In the take-a-breath moment.


This happens for a bunch of well-intended reasons … the most likely one is everyone invests their energy on the attack and a successful attack rather than diverting any energy & time to “what do we do when we are successful” other than maybe a framework of ‘what will happen.’


Unfortunately … frameworks do not consolidate.

The solution to this is so obvious I scratch my head as to why more businesses do not do it. Businesses always have two basic levels … the outside structure and the inside structure. The outside is the face of the organization and most typically is the one that pushes through and creates the ‘wins.’ The inside operations gets shit done … I have always had an ‘inside operations team’ well briefed and ready to go and insert them into the breach as soon as the win has occurred and have the ‘fresh team’ consolidate.

I could write an entire ‘consolidation strategy’ piece but suffice it to say your business gains value in a number of dimensions by doing it this way.


The larger point with this Rule is ‘don’t lose a win by not having a plan for when you win.’



  • “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.


Well. Let me share the thought that first hit me on this … “a brand is a promise delivered in the store everyday” <this was The Limited’s phrase>. The point is that a business doesn’t exist if it doesn’t deliver upon what it promises.


That said … this is an important rule. As in a REALLY important rule that I bet crushed by objectives short term bludgeon99% of companies do not even think about let alone adhere to. Most businesses target another competitor’s users & customers and go about trying to steal them <persuade them to switch>.




What about instead we attacked the company, the support network … the “promise” as it were … and make the people who actually deliver the promise start doubting, or start feeling less than secure, or just “less good about their brand & promise”?

If we did this, we create a gap, isolate as it were, between what the customer thought they wanted and what they perceive they are getting or would get.


I love this rule.


I admit I had never thought about t this way before … but from here on out it is part of my leadership toolkit.







control goal is to create something that will live together vision Life business

Those are some good rules for business.


But you know what?


It all comes back to the first Rule and my first quote.


Flesh & blood is the real power in any business and … people are drawn to shared interests, shared problems, and an individual’s life energy. Humans connect with humans.


Honestly … I don’t think most leaders ignore the fact the people in their organizations are important but I think we don’t elevate them to ‘flesh & blood is the power’ status.

And that is where the Rules come in.

Inherent to each rule, and the success therein, resides with … well … the flesh & blood. That is a pragmatic reminder for leading a business.



sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream

April 15th, 2017

 American Workers sweat hard hats



‘In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream …’ It’s a ‘death trap,’ a ‘suicide rap.’

‘I want to guard your dreams and visions.’ ”


Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run




“This man said that you can move to Greece, live in Greece, but you can’t become a Greek. You can move to Japan, live there, but you can’t become Japanese; or France and become a Frenchman; or German—or become a—all of these things.

But he said, everybody or anybody from any corner of the world can come to America and become an American.”



Ronald Reagan






I have a piece coming up on globalization but today it is about the American work flintstoneswork ethos and American workers and, I imagine, a view on any version of isolationism <extreme to practical>.


I admit.

I find very little appealing in an isolationist concept <any aspect of it> … even the common rhetoric of the day.


Simplistically I feel like it suggests we, America, cannot compete globally. In my pea like brain I view it like sports … sports in which almost every home team retains an advantage … despite the same rules, same number of players, same dimensions of the court & field. Mainly it comes down to coaching, ability and , I imagine, pride of home field … uhm … but I still get on a bus and go play away games.


I believe it was Ronald Reagan who said ”American workers don’t need to hide from anyone.”


Which reminds me of how much during American presidential campaign, and even now somewhat, I found it extremely aggravating how we had a bunch of people talking about American workers and American businesses.

work sheep wolf

They all seemed to forget that our ethos is “just do it.”


When set free to do the voodoo it does … American business is dynamic, energetic, innovative, can-do and actually gets out there and makes & sells shit.


We shouldn’t be impatient because the success is coming fast enough and in our impatience “change the rules” or “hide within our borders” but instead we should use our impatience to invite competition, sweat it out and beat the crap out of them.


My impatience? I sometimes get a bit impatient when I hear people moaning about the state of the world and the inevitable “the sky is falling” or “the world is unfair” <pick your poison>.


Given an opportunity every generation believes it is tougher for them and will create their own prognostications of doom & gloom and, yet, we are still here and still have the world’s largest economy <and best on a variety of measures>.


I am not suggesting there aren’t real business issues and I am not suggesting from a regulatory standpoint there are some tweaks to the system which would enable businesses to improve themselves to compete better <please notice I didn’t say “to constrict the competition” but rather to have us improve to compete>.


Isolation goes against every bone in our “just do it” American body & soul.


Nike trademarked it but the pilgrims brought it to America. From day one immigrants, with the help of Native Americans, went to work building America … stone by stone … seed by seed … idea by idea … sweat drop by sweat drop.


labor american workerAmerica First should never be America Alone.


America has never been an individual competition it has always been about a team competition.


America First should be earned on the playing field competing against the best of the best and winning <by the way … that defines ‘exceptionalism’>.


America should be about building a better engine, building a better race car and running a better race.



”It’s time to gun the engines, not put on the brakes.”



Ronald Reagan



It is aggravating to hear “close the borders” combined with “the world is going to shit” … which all leads to ‘disengage from the world <competition>.’






What kind of shit response is that?

What kind of “winner” doesn’t want to compete and compete against the best?


It seems like we should be investing not in building advantages for ourselves but rather in building a better team. That is where money and energy should be spent.


Hire better coaches.

Offer better training programs.

Buy better equipment.

Study better strategies.

Create better plan of attacks.

no substitute for hard work sweat edison



I wasn’t a huge Ronald Reagan fan but he got it … he hated changing the rules of the business game <tariffs & regulations> and only did so situationally, tactically and for short term ‘balancing out’ … as he says …  given a respite from predatory import practices, can become competitive in a world market.


But … he understood the importance of the attitude of the American worker above all else … check out these words he said to Harley Davidson:


… you gave some folks in Washington an important lesson about how we go about buying and selling with other nations. You see, we’ve shaken hands on an agreement with most of the other nations of the world, an agreement that sets the rules for international trade. We have problems, of course, with some of those nations—the ones that don’t let us sell to their people as freely as they sell to ours. But the agreement, called the GATT agreement—that’s the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade — gives us ways of dealing with those problems, and it also gives us ways of giving industries the kind of breathing room we gave you.


And if they’re as serious as you were about shaping up—now we’re about to begin worldwide talks on how to make this agreement even stronger.


Because of the GATT agreement, when you were ready to sell more bikes around the world, no one stopped you.

But now there are some in Congress who say, in effect, that the United States should break its word with the other countries.

They say American workers need to run and hide from foreign competition, even if that means other countries will strike back by not letting you sell your bikes to their people. Well, Harley-Davidson has shown how wrong that is and what the truth is. American workers don’t need to hide from anyone. America does best when America sticks by its word. And American workers can take on the best in the world, anywhere, anytime, anyplace. No one is better than you are.


You may have heard that my temperature’s up about some trade legislation that’s before the Congress right now. On TV the other night, it was called one of the toughest trade bills of this century. I remember the last time we had a so-called tough trade bill. It was called Smoot-Hawley, and they said it would protect American jobs. Instead, after other nations were through retaliating, it helped us—or it helped give us, or at least deepened, the Great Depression of the 1930’s. I’m probably the only one here that’s old enough to remember that. I was looking for a job then. [Laughter] Twenty-five percent were unemployed, including me.


The Harley-Davidson example makes a very strong statement about how government, through the judicious application of our trade laws, can help the best and the brightest in American management and labor come together in ways that will create new jobs, new growth, and new prosperity. Government’s role, particularly on the trade front, should be one of creating the conditions where fair trade will flourish, and this is precisely what has been done here. Our trade laws should work to foster growth and trade, not shut it off. And that’s what’s at the heart of our fair trade policy: opening foreign markets, not closing ours. Where U.S. firms have suffered from temporary surges in foreign competition, we haven’t been shy about using our import laws to produce temporary relief. Now, there are those in Congress who say our trade policies haven’t worked, but you here at Harley-Davidson are living proof that our laws are working. The idea of going to mandatory retaliation and shutting down on Presidential discretion in enforcing our trade laws is moving toward a policy that invites, even encourages, trade wars. It’s time to work to expand the world market, not restrict it.


Today, as many as 10 million American jobs are tied to international trade, including many jobs right here at Harley. For more than a century, when America’s trade with the world has grown, America has created more jobs. When trade has declined, so have the number of jobs. So, when it comes to making new jobs, free and fair international trade is America’s big machine. It’s time to gun the engines, not put on the brakes. Your chairman, Vaughn Beals, summed it up when he said, and I will quote him: “We’re sending a very strong message to our competitors and to the international industrial community that U.S. workers, given a respite from predatory import practices, can become competitive in a world market.”


The best way to meet foreign competition is also the right way: by sticking to our agreements with other countries and not breaking our promises, by making sure other countries also stick to their agreements with us, and by being the best. As America prepares for the 21st century, you’ve shown us how to be the best. You’ve been leaders in new technology. You’ve stuck by the basic American values of hard work and fair play.




A danger we are currently meandering our way toward is one of attitude.


attitude foreign life adventureWe currently have a president who doesn’t foster attitude and belief in self but rather believes success is found solely in removing disadvantages, real or not, and removing “unfairness” <even if the other team were simply playing the game better or had better players>.


He is wrong in his approach.


Business is often more about attitude and fortitude then it is about whether “the pitch was mowed at 1 inch instead of an inch & a ½.”


It is a false narrative, and a dangerous narrative, to suggest success is based on ‘fairness’. Why? Because … well … more often than not we will always find that the world was unfair in some form or fashion … and you know what?

You still gotta compete, you still gotta play the game and you still gotta figure out a way to win.


America is at its best just doing it … sweating it out on the streets seeking the runaway American dream.


America is at its best when it ignores all the reason why we cannot do something and just go do it anyway.


America is at its best when we have a leader standing up in front of us not making excuses, not whining about unfairness and all the reasons why we haven’t been successful … but one who is instead saying “here is what we are gonna do and lets go do it.”


It was Theodore Roosevelt, in 1904, who said:

“We, the people, can preserve our liberty and our greatness in time of peace only by ourselves exercising the virtues of honesty, of self-restraint, and of fair dealing between man and man.”

But he also reminded everyone of the importance of work ethic.

“They stood for the life of effort, not the life of ease.”

Freedom, Roosevelt warned, had to be earned by the exercise of restraint, and its bounty could only be harvested by diligent labor.




I am not an isolationist mostly because of all I have written today. I am a compete flower bloombusiness guy and as a business guy I want to compete … and I believe I can compete well and win often enough if I put in the smart thinking and the diligent labor.


While I may proudly wrap myself in an American flag I also proudly wrap myself in an attitude … ”American workers don’t need to hide from anyone” … and I am an American worker.


We should never underestimate the American worker and American business ingenuity.

We shouldn’t hide from the world … we should be building the best team and sending them to the far corners of the world, wherever they may have an opportunity to compete, and win through hard work and fair play.


Isolation is the wrong path. It’s not American. We compete, work hard, play by the rules … and win more often than we lose.


American workers can take on the best in the world, anywhere, anytime, anyplace.

communications, advertising & the battle for truth

December 6th, 2016


everybody needs what i am selling deserve life



“Forget words like ‘hard sell’ and ‘soft sell.’

That will only confuse you.


Just be sure your advertising is saying something with substance, something that will inform and serve the consumer, and be sure you’re saying it like it’s never been said before.”



David Ogilvy




“If you try to comprehend air before breathing it, you will die.”



Mark Nepo




“Seeking truth is a full time job.

Communicating truth is a purpose in Life.

Embrace that truth and your Life will be significantly more complicated, but significantly more rewarding.”



Bruce McTague






Communicating has always been a tough gig but in today’s world it has taken on liaran increased challenge.


I scan headlines in magazines and online and I cannot see one topic being discussed, one industry or any one group of influential type people that isn’t under attack by ‘lack of trust’ or, in other words, ‘liars.’


What that means is anything you are communicating isn’t starting from a commodity standpoint <all facts and truths are created equal> but rather you are already in a hole trying to climb out of ‘prove to me this is not a lie.’


Truth has never had a more difficult challenge than today. This may sound odd because common sense suggests truth is truth and, unvarnished, stands clear of any and all clutter as … well … truth.

Unfortunately that is not … well … true.

Truth, more often than not, is a wallflower and not the one breakdancing in the middle of the room. The schlub doing the crazy dance alone, being watched by everyone, is more likely a lie or a semi/partial truth. You have to coax truth to the dance floor. Someone has to bring it out into the audience and permit it to be seen.


Truth telling is hard work. It is not for the faint of heart. Seeking truth is a full time job <which most people, frankly, just do not have the time to do as they do their paid full time job>.

And communicating truth has to be a purpose in one’s life in order to meet the onslaught of untruths, purposeful ignorance, unintended ignorance, semi-truths and … well … cynicism.


To be clear.


I do not believe we are in some ‘post truth world.’

Nor do I believe what someone said “there are no facts anymore.”


Facts are facts and truth is truth.

There may be some confusion around this but … of all industries … advertising and marketing communications people had sure as shit better be fucking clear on this … or they are in deep shit.


Anyone in the professional communications business had better be absolutely fucking clear that communicating today ain’t like communicating yesterday … or they are in deep shit.


While I believe business, in general, benefits if they start on day one embracing the thought they are in the decommoditization business <rather than in the ‘uniqueness business’> I believe communications would benefit by embracing the thought they are in the ‘establishing truths’ business.


Look <part 1>.


Advertising, marketing and all of professional communications is in a challenging position. Challenging in that businesses spend money on marketing & advertising most typically to sell shit. Therefore its main goal is to … well … sell nothing in boxes business selling stuff capitalismshit.


This means that if I represent a product and its main buying audience is white, male & blue collar <or pick any demographically based segment> … I am going to use imagery and words that will appeal to them <sometimes to the detriment to other audiences who are less likely to buy your shit>.




Of course you want to do it with style and substance and some sense of responsibility <not be stupid>. So any advertising person with any chops <any good> will figure out a way of not doing the stupid shit to sell shit.

Even then … your audience is your audience and while we would like to suggest everything is made to be created with a larger purpose of ‘bettering the world’ … to a business who only has maybe $1000 to market something <or some finite budget amount> that $1000 is spent on selling shit and not ‘bettering the world.’


Simplistically … you sell to the people who will buy or have bought.


Simplistically … you sell to those people who will buy in the most effective way so that they will actually buy.


I say hat because someone on the outside looking in can take apart imagery & words and make some very valid points with regard to the kinds of messages they send … but marketing people & advertising people are under a lot of pressure to sell shit. And, remember, they are in the service business … they ultimately do not do anything but ‘strategically create persuasive creations’… and a business makes the decision on whether what they create will actually be produced and put in front of people.


And here is where the communications folk can get a little sideways. They focus on imagery & words & ‘attention’ with the intent to gain interest … not specifically sell shit. And they ignore truth as … well … too complicated & too complex. And it is quite possible we communications folk may have gotten away with that in the past, but in today’s world, sure as shit, you better be grounded in hard, clear truth or you are gonna get screwed.


Look <part 2>.


In the good ole days … truth was appreciated, but aspirational sold.


sell hope i canWell.


That was before we all got a good dose of cynicism and started drinking from the fountain of untruths.

Messages are everywhere and simply suggesting you were offering truth because “you’re too clever to fall for manipulation” gave people permission to at least think you were offering truth.

No more my friends.

While aspirational drives value, lack of truth suffocates value into nothingness.

This doesn’t mean there will not be a boatload of products and services who make a sale standing on the superficial surface of irrelevant, but appealing, value. But that will be the geography populated by the hacks.

This truth thing may not be a battle which some people want to fight. And that is okay. But someone has to or the entire industry will become … well … irrelevant. If no one tells the truth then why would I listen to anyone.

I, personally, am not suggesting ditching aspirational but I am suggesting that truth, communicating the truth in a away that people actually believe it is true, is the key to future success.


Look <part 3>


I have worked in and out of the marketing and advertising business for <yikes> over 30 years so I feel like I have some qualifications to comment on the industry.


Everyone on the outside of the advertising business looking in thinks those creating the advertising think about shit that … well … truthfully … advertising people actually never waste their time thinking about.


And everyone inside the advertising business thinks about more shit than people outside the advertising could ever imagine they think about.we all scream for the truth


Suffice it to say I could gather up examples of advertising using material over 20 years and make pretty much any point I want to make – good, bad, absurd, true, untrue, semitruthful, smart, insightful or blatantly uninsightful.




Here is a communications truth — perception is not reality.


The perception is that advertising makes shit up, makes stupid vapid shit and says nothing <as much as possible> and if they do say something it is a lie and, ultimately, they try and make people feel something <to sell>.


Nothing could be further from the truth <with the non hacks>.


The problem in advertising typically arises when the ad creators struggle to articulate the benefit <or convince themselves that it is ‘non differentiating’ and then seek to ‘differentiate’ in some form or fashion>.


It then can unravel from there because the ‘go-to’ phrase at this point in time is ‘do something brave’ … or ‘entertaining’ or ‘edgy’ <notice nowhere in there is “smart, insightful, thoughtful, truth”>.




Great advertising messaging always is, and will be, imbued with some sense of courage.




Because if you want to be distinct you will not please everyone.

Because if you want to tell the truth you will not please everyone.


on-top-of-the-worldThe hack advertising people use the ‘do something brave’ phrase indiscriminately to justify bad advertising.


The good advertising people use this phrase to do something smart in order to not be different but stand ABOVE everyone else.




Huge difference.


Hacks say ‘stand apart.’


Non hacks say ‘stand above.’


And this is where I imagine articles about advertising should focus their attention on.


Why doesn’t the advertising stand above <and not be below what is good & right & untrue>.


Advertising should be smart and not talk down to people but actually enable them to rise up to the occasion … and FEEL like they are rising up to engage with that brand or company.


Communications should be truthful, regardless whether it is simple or complex, and enable people to be able to FEEL truth in such a way that doubts about that brand or company are swept away.

few thinking and feeling

And it all has to be done with an eye toward ‘decommoditizing’ or being distinct in some meaningful way <because truth, in and of itself, is not a differentiator>.


Advertising cannot be dull and uninspired … and you cannot use a small budget as an excuse.


In fact … the truth is that a limited budget is typically what drives innovative advertising.


Inspired smart creativity tends to make each dollar be more effective <hence you can live with a smaller budget>.


In other words … a smart, insightful, relevant, entertaining ad will be more memorable than a typical ‘category using sacred cow imagery’ ad therefore it needs to be seen less for the same effect.



And if you add in ‘truth’ <in a way in which you aren’t just communicating it but people actually BELIEVE it>, your communications is more memorable, more believable, can be seen less for the same effect … and is, of course, of higher value.


By the way … smart means not any obvious photoshopping or any exaggerated ridiculous claims or just plain inaccurate information or anything fluffed up or untrue.


By the way … smart means avoiding stereotypes, typecasting and idiotic generalizations and lies.


Note to advertising people:

We can see through those slimy tactics. Realize consumers are people … people who are smart and informed.

Make me aware of a product.

Educate me.

Relate to me.

Tell me the Truth.






“A dull truth will not be looked at.

An exciting lie will.


That is what good, sincere people must understand. They must make their truth exciting and new, or their good works will be born dead.”



Bill Bernbach




Truth is truth.


Lies are lies.


Responsibility is responsibility.


And if you do not accept your responsibility to tell the truth as excitingly and politics lies and truth and repeatingconvincingly as you possibly can … lies will win.


If you choose to vulgarize the society or brutalize it … or even ignore it <all under the guise of ‘understanding what the consumer wants’> … society will lose.


I honestly do not despair when I look at business in today’s world … or even marketing & advertising behavior.


I get aggravated.




I get angry.

I get angry that we are not accepting the responsibility.

I get angry that we are not strong enough to accept the burden.

I get angry that many do not even presume the responsibility is within their purview.


Business, whether you like it or not, shapes society. Business, whether you like it or not, shapes truth.


What we do matters.


Selling stuff doesn’t matter.

It only matters as a means to an end.


What really matters is the shaping of attitudes <which ultimately shapes behavior>.


Far too often by simply focusing on ‘selling stuff’ the byproduct of our ignoring the larger responsibility is that we brutalizing society in some form or fashion – in this case and in this time and place … it would be truth we are brutalizing.


Am I suggesting that selling stuff or being profitable isn’t important? Of course not.


All I am suggesting is that HOW you sell stuff and be profitable matters.

And that you have a responsibility in HOW you do what you do.


Because HOW you do things impacts society.

It shapes society. It can vulgarize or brutalize … or invigorate or instill good.


HOW you do things has a power way beyond simply you or what you do in that moment.


HOW you do things is a pebble dropping into a pond.


In the end.


I will not argue that all advertising is good.

I will not argue that all professional communications is good.

A lot of it is shit.


But I will argue that good communications & advertising people, not hacks, are smart and tend to create smart insightful educating communication pieces that avoid the trite and stereotyping imagery and focus on telling the truth, if not A real truth, rather than lie or some semi truth.


I would also argue that good communications & advertising people, not hacks, have the opportunity to save truth in today’s society.


I think many of the world’s institutions are embattled but the one that concerns me the most is Truth.

The institution of truth is under siege.

I can honestly say I don’t think most who are attacking truth are trying to facilitate its downfall … most are simply unclear what is truth and what is not. I believe anyone in any position of influence should be proactively assuming the burdensome responsibility of telling and protecting truth <that will come at an expense> but today … I think the professional communications industry should be at the forefront of the battle.




They get paid to communicate. If they cannot figure out how to effectively communicate truth, who can?


They must … must make their truth exciting and new, or their good works will be born dead. Uhm. And lies will win.



About the author:

I am a 50something who believes my generation hollowed out Truth by simplistically suggesting truth was best told through simplicity.

Truth is neither simple nor hollow.

I have had one framed picture in my office since maybe 2000: Seek Truth.


friends and enemies and interests

August 29th, 2016

friends goofy unintended together



“We have no permanent friends.

We have no permanent enemies.

We just have permanent interests.”



Benjamin Disraeli






I admit.

murderers among enemy

I have always had a slightly contrarian view on relationships with competitors in the business environment.


I always met with them.


I always encouraged my people to meet, and interact, with them.


I always debated and discussed with them.


I have always had some friends at competitors … and certainly had some enemies at competitors.



And I have always been quite willing to put them out of business if, competitively, I felt like my business was better than theirs.



I just said that. In fact. I said two things.




Put them out of business. This doesn’t mean doing anything evil nor does it mean going behind anyone’s back in some slimy undercutting way. This is about confidently putting yourself alongside the enemy and beating the living daylights out of them. And doing so over and over again until you suffocate their business or they just quit.




Please note ‘my business was better than theirs.’




Yeah.company culture die trying


Sometimes you are actually not the best and sometimes you are actually not different in any real significant way.

Sometimes you are just a different alternative.

Sometimes you don’t compete exactly directly.

And sometimes your enemy actually is a better fit for someone then you are.




If you are better, then beat them.




Beyond beating the crap out of some competitor … 90% of the time I find the ‘enemy’ quite the delight to rub elbows with.

This doesn’t mean I was flippant with regard to confidential information it is just that I believe ‘unique’ or ‘proprietary’ are more often than not … well … not. I also believe that my ‘enemy’ was simply a business competitor who had the same interests that I did <selling more shit at the highest price possible>.


But I have never understood some absurd ‘never talk with the competitor.” And I think it is absurd for a variety of reasons but let’s go through why business relationships are always tricky But no reason to not interact openly with a competitor>.


Your best employee may become the best employee at your competitor at some point.


Your favorite boss may leave and start a new company … competing against a portion of your offering.


You may leave, leaving behind a boatload of people you like & respect, to take a promotion at some competitor and … well … compete against those same people you like & respect who happen to be at a company you still like & respect.


And the trickiest?


Sometimes you actually decide to partner with a sometimes enemy because of mutual interest <and money of course>.


What business teaches you … well … what it should teach you is that there are no permanent allies, no permanent friends, no permanent enemies and, really, only permanent interests.


This shouldn’t be construed in any way as morally hollow or ethically challenged.

just keep trying flourish grow

It is a simple business truth that it is in the interest of a person and business to maximize behavior in a given situation. That means you give your best, you offer your best and be your best regardless of who is in the room or whomever you may be competing with.


I imagine the net translation on that thought is that through individual behavior the interests of a business are being best served and ultimately it is the interest of the business itself that is the only thing that truly remains constant.


The corollary?


Friends and enemies may keep changing depending on what suits the business interest best.




There are potential costs … as well as potential benefits to rubbing elbows and being friendly, or at least conversationally cordial, to your competitors.


But that should not mean ignoring competition nor should it mean not maintaining some dialogue with them.


Some people will not agree with this.


What I have on my side is diplomatic history. The concept of ‘continuous dialogue’ originated in the 17th century with the French and Cardinal Richelieu.

It is a “belief in the utility of diplomatic representation and communication even between states that have reached a hostile relationship short of war.”

And you do so not to be friends, nor to seek to be allies, but to maintain the respect of two entities with different interests, but a similar interest to succeed, as a way to reduce the chances of war.


But let me point to what I believe is the truest of benefits.




As long as your business is well defined, as long as your business has a strong culture, as long as your business fosters the attitude of ‘being the best’ without arrogance … I would suggest that nothing strengthens your people than interacting with the people of friends, enemies and those with different interests. Your people, through interaction with others who may be seeking things on their own self best interest, are the surest arbiters of what is right, wrong, true, false, lawful or ethically hollow.


And while I do not think this is solely an American trait it was Alexis de Tocqueville who said this about Americans in 1831:


[T]hey hold that public opinion is the surest arbiter of what is lawful or forbidden, true or false. … They hold that every man is born in possession of the right of self-government, and that no one has the right of constraining his fellow-creatures to be happy. They have all a lively faith in the perfectibility of man; they are of opinion that the effects of the diffusion of knowledge must necessarily be advantageous, and the consequences of ignorance fatal; they all consider society as a body in a state of improvement, humanity as a changing scene, in which nothing is, or ought to be, permanent.



ignorance is their powerIt is the people who are the surest arbiter of true & false … therefore if you ever want someone to truly believe in your business that you must mentally believe “the consequences of ignorance fatal.”


And embrace that an industry, which is often a society within itself, is a body in a state of improvement.

Keeping yourself, or your employees, cocooned within just who and what you are endangers the livelihood of the business itself in that you miss the opportunity for potential change and run the danger of ‘permanent’ <or stagnant>.


I personally find nothing wrong with positioning yourself as close to your competitors as you possibly can. The benefits outweigh the possible negatives.


On a separate note.


I tend to believe this idea works just as well in non-business life.


I have friends & acquaintances who clearly have different political points of view, different views on religion as well as significantly different views on a spectrum of different things. I watch news programs and listen to news programs which clearly do not appeal to my sense of what is true or right.

enlightened conflict think

It doesn’t harden my point of view but it certainly makes me more self-aware with regard to how others think and why they do the things they do.


And it certainly reminds me that no matter how much I may disagree with someone the majority of the time they have the same interests that I do – a better country and a better way of doing things.


I don’t think this makes me any better than others but it may make me a little more enlightened and aware.

And I have to believe that isn’t a bad thing.

a view on competing – for communications agencies (part 2)

April 23rd, 2014

constant. change

“Anytime you find someone more successful than you are, especially when you’re both engaged in the same business – you know they’re doing something that you aren’t.”

― Malcolm X




A view on competing part 1 was more general.

Some useful <hopefully> thoughts for just competing in the everyday business world.


Part 2 is more specific.


I think it has more to do with competing in a business to business service world.

Because I have worked at and with advertising agencies this will most likely delve into their world more so than any other industry … however … having met and worked and discussed competition in a variety of industries I can tell you that advertising agencies could teach a lot of businesses about sales and presenting and , in general, competing when you are pitching against other businesses.


And I opened with the quote I did because far too often … at least in the advertising & marketing world … we looked around seeking the ‘something you aren’t’ and under the guise of simplicity we focus on one thing.



Just frickin’ silly.


As a reminder … I said this in the general ‘competing in business part 1’ post:


Any time competing for business is on a time continuum <i.e., it takes time> there are multiple variables which can affect the outcome … being impacted by multiple variables <called multiple participants> … being impacted by multiple environmental variables which can change the very ground you were standing on just a minute ago to mud.


Competing in business is … well … maybe a formula … but a unique formula every time in that while there may be larger basic ‘to do’s’ <like make sure you maintain contact> winning is often in the sometimes random nuance in the formula. A nuance that can often be frighteningly elusive <until afterwards when agencies tend to look back and go “wow, that was it … we need to make sure we do that every time’ … which is inevitably the kiss of death to the next win and that nuance>.




Competing is never about one thing.


Let me repeat that.


Competing is never about one thing,


It’s a bunch of little things interspersed with <hopefully> something big on occasion.

But you have to grind on the little things. And grinding sucks. it sucks so much that to build some enthusiasm some leaders start calling them ‘big things’ so they look more important.



They are important.

They just aren’t big.


And it never <ever> works to call something little big. People see through it so fast you cannot even get the words out of your mouth before someone is calling bullshit on it.




Competing well is not only about the grind … it IS seeking the bigger things <when opportunities arise> … but it is also about realizing the majority of competing is about the little things.

Let’s call it the blocking & tackling … or the nuts & bolts … or the non glamorous part of competing and winning. I don’t really care what we call it. You just suck it up and do it … or you don’t compete.


So here are some things I have seen as useful ‘to do’s’ when competing <and winning>:



–          In general … the more you are prepared the more likelier you are to win.

That may sound pretty basic <it is> but far too often in our hectic schedules we say things like “we know our stuff … let’s just be natural and not over prepare’ or say ‘too much overthinking and we will talk ourselves out of the right thing to do <which is normally the first thing we think of>”.




As with everything … it’s about balance … and preparation. I say preparation because oddly … there is almost an inverse relationship to preparation and naturalness. What I mean by that is the more often you prepare well … the less time you will actually have to invest over time … and the more natural you will end up just … well … being who you are and what you are good at.


Let’s call that ‘being natural.’




So I imagine I am saying rehearsing equals being natural.


Ponder that.



–          Face to face meetings.

Companies will always say the final decision was determined  by the thinking or the work or the articulation of the ideas or sometimes even the price.


It’s tangible.

Choices, decisions and selections are supposed to be rational based on professional measures.


Unfortunately they are lying <okay … they are being nice>.


Prospective clients are exactly like consumers … they can often make irrational decisions and value intangibles more than tangibles <once you have quasi-compete respect attentionchecked the tangible box for them>.

The reality is that they decide mostly based on the people … ah … but not ‘likeability’ but rather ‘respect.’

Far too many experts <and business people in general> confuse ‘trust’ with ‘likeability.’ They say things like ‘I like them and I trust them to do the job’ as to what determines the choice.


We all like to be liked … but … well … this is business.


People who are only liked get fired.

People who are respected get shit done <and are less likely to get fired>.


My advice here is very different than most ‘experts’ … they suggest ‘casting is important and make sure you have a team they can like in front of them.’ Well. I say that’s bullshit. I don’t want an unlikeable team but I suggest you first & foremost put a smart team that can solve business issues in front of your audience and tell them their goal is to earn respect <and hence trust> in face to face meetings.

If they earn the respect … trust me … they will be liked.

By the way … earning respect doesn’t mean being arrogant … it means … well … earning respect.


How do you earn respect?


I apologize to whomever gave me this following list of questions and thoughts because I cannot remember who it was and where it came from … but I use it all the time to insure we can check the ‘respectability box.’


Make sure you can answer these questions and suggest these things and I can almost guarantee you will earn respect:


Can you bring together the best minds to assist the business

                Can you organize chaos … instantly

                Can you bring a constant stream of ideas to the table

                Can you reasonably quantify the potential of the ideas you bring to the table

<so you don’t waste my time>

                                Can you manage existing partners efficiently around any idea you share

                                Can you marshal deep understanding, complete confidence and a plan

Do you know how to justify doing nothing, or not doing something

             <as easily as you can justify doing something>

Are you prepared to help us run the gauntlet of our own organization

Can you bring a third party relationship to the table <and are you comfortable doing so>

Can you be scalable and can you prove it

Are you ready to expand your focus into alternative tactics and communications options

Are you willing and can you afford to know more about us, our industry, our audience … and can you avoid lumping us in with other clients and solutions


Can you act like a partner <and prove it rather than just say it>

Can you be an expert project manager

Can you be the group that best understands the whole and not just the parts

Can you be an advisor and idea resource <not just for things you do>

Can you be objective in the marketing process

Can you know the audience <cold>

Can you provide the criteria for success



<note: even if they do not seem relevant to a specific client or project … I can tell you if you check these boxes for any and all … they build value and respectability>



–          All face to face meetings are part show.

Companies often insist on picking a partner after one or two short meetings. This means every contact matters. Each face to face contact needs a … well … reason. A strategy, a story/message, a theme, a script, a designer, a logistics manager and the proper casting.

But, mostly, a reason.

The net impression of the each contact … yes … EVERY contact … has to feel like it was worth the time.



compete mobile be relevant–          It is about ideas not executions.

Frankly, ideas are much easier to present in an engaging sometimes more entertaining way. But more importantly … an idea can be executed so many ways your head will spin. Therefore … focusing on executions is silly.

When you think about ideas remember these things <and point them out because they are thinking these things>:


Business changing ideas win.

Idea centric tactical thinking beats tactical thinking.

Ideas involve the client <and lets them drive components>

Owning an idea means that you can own the outside relationship a client already has

                                 <which invariably benefits the client also>

Give as much emphasis to the idea platform as the cosmetics you put on it

                                 <executions and creative tactics>

Drive tactics and executions from the core sales interaction point out

                                <if it is a mobile technology tactics should begin from mobile>

Make ideas tangible by showing how you would measure



–          Don’t avoid any elephants in the room <ever>.

Fact: almost every room has an elephant.

Fact: ignoring an issue not only will not make it go away I can guarantee you it will dog you every step of the way when you want the audience to be thinking compete elephant100% about something other than the frickin’ elephant you wish would make itself invisible.

Fact: A prospect will talk about it <the elephant issue> amongst themselves.

Fact: If you don’t give them the argument for why you’re right, don’t expect them to come up with one.


Truth <fact>: embrace the elephant <or it crushes you>.


For example … if you’re small and you think the client wants big, then overtly address how you’re able to deliver what the big guys can and more <and vice versa>.



Fact: never … NEVER … lie.

Shit. Don’t even stretch the truth. It may sound good to you but it never sounds good to them.

Face it … if there is an elephant in the room it is most likely there because of some truth. Honesty and authenticity trumps any white, tinted, gray or elastic lie.



To prosper soundly in business, you must satisfy not only your customers, but you must lay yourself out to satisfy also the men who make your product and the men who sell it.

–Harry Bassett



–          Money.

Surveys show that money & finances are the biggest friction issue in new marriages.

It is the same in any client & partner relationship business.

The majority of clients don’t mean to mislead partners, but often what the client has in mind for compensation doesn’t match with the partner’s point of view.

There can be a variety of reasons but it almost always comes down to not agreeing on the scope of work and the amount of time it takes to do something.


And also the value of the output.

Value prior to implementation is ALWAYS different than value after implementation <hence the reason I am a big fan of compensation tied to results>.

I will haggle over a purchase price until it almost seem irrational … but I will pay almost anything once I have used it and it has made me happy, brought me success or whatever positive outcome you can insert here.



It’s always okay to ask about the client’s philosophy about compensation. It is always easy to talk about money … because while it seems like it shouldn’t be easy … no one wants to get to the altar and find out they cannot afford to get married.



–          Time.

It will either be used by you or against you.


Suffice it to say that being quicker usually wins over protracted considered approaches.  The sooner you act, the sooner you can make what you’ve created into a better idea, a better presentation and a better … well … everything.

In addition … I always remind people that time has a strong relationship with expectations.

The shorter the time … the lower the expectations.

The longer the time … the higher the expectations.


Give me lower expectations every time.

Give me shorter time every time.


My point? Quit bitching you don’t have enough time. Little time actually works in your favor.



–          Connect outside the presentation.

Find as many ways as possible <in a relevant meaningful way> to connect with anyone and everyone at the prospect company.

Ask to ‘stop by for a cup of coffee to ask a question’ even if you have to fly somewhere to do it.

Use the phone if in-person contact can’t happen.

The more someone hears from you the more they’ll be thinking about you.


The more you actually talk with someone the more knowledgeable you get.


Here is something to ponder … up front contact is sometimes more important than presentation content.

Send agendas ahead of time.

Share credentials with the executives beyond your direct contacts <just be careful you aren’t seen as ‘going around’ the decision makers>.

The more the company knows about you the easier it is for the selection team to select you.

The more they know you … and what you plan on saying … the easier it is for them to engage with depth rather than shallow interactions. Yes. It can be a little riskier in deeper waters … but shallow is … well … shallow.



–          Disrupt <or seek a disruptive moment>.do epic shit

Some experts call this ‘give them a surprise.’

I don’t.

Frankly … when I think about surprises I mostly think bad things. Most surprises are unexpected in not a good way. I typically call this my ‘no surprise theory.’


Always give them thorough, accurate responses to their brief or to someone’s problem.


But you should always be seeking the disruptive idea, or thinking, they weren’t expecting.

Be unconventional when you see an opening.

Here is a truth.

If it weren’t for disruptive ideas & thinking they could do it themselves. Always seek to show and say and do some … well … epic shit.



–          Balance simplicity & complexity.

I differ from many of the ‘experts’ on this subject … most everyone else says something like ‘simplicity rules.’



The entire idea that you’re supposed to be able to simplify everything down to a ‘nugget’ seems silly to me. Silly in that some things just cannot be encapsulated into a sound bite or a :30 elevator speech or something like that.


Making the complex understandable is very very different than making something simple.


And people get this confused … a lot.


I am all for simplifying whenever possible. But I believe you get more points for admitting when something is complex and not oversimplifying it.

Oversimplifying when inappropriate is demeaning to not only the challenge but also to the people who are faced with it day in and day out.



–          The battle of attrition or details matter <a lot>.

Because contact time is often quite limited during a purchasing decision process even the tiniest things take on huge importance and eliminate you.  Every part of every contact needs to be completely planned and executed with care.

Proofread everything.

Get your website right.

Script your phones calls.

Script everything, in fact.


Sound ‘not natural’?

Too bad.

There is a time to be ‘human’ and make ‘human mistakes’ but this isn’t the time. Be human once they have decided you passed all the detail tests.



–          Listening and responsiveness.

This may sound silly but … well … make sure they know you listened.

Play back what they said and what you heard.

Give clear responses to specific requests.

Never ignore questions <even if they are stupid>.


First. Listening is a sign that you’ll be easier to work with.

Second. If you show you listen … well … that increases the odds they actually listen to you. This is called ‘mutual respect.’

By the way … you want that.



–          Being smart versus being right.

This is a tricky one … and is often like a high wire act.

Clients hire outside partners because they tell them what they believe is right even if you know they don’t want to hear it.

You can do that because there’s mutual trust.

During a new business process you haven’t earned that trust level yet.

So, being contrary, even if you’re right, is unlikely to be a great strategy for winning if that is the only thing you do.

You have to make it clear you will tell them not only what they want to hear but what they also should hear … and need to hear.

Hence the high wire act.


Personally I suggest two things:

complex person rubix cube ichi nichi<1> if you are 80% contrarian to whatever it is the client is believing or doing … you may not be a good fit for them. You may be actually what they need … but that much contrarianism is typically a sign of lack of chemistry … if not lack of respect for business acumen.

<2> seek the ‘disruptive’ contrarianism. I will speak about a disruptive idea later but the reality is that most things just aren’t worth fighting over … but … there are typically one or two things which can truly make a difference.  Ah. And make a difference for their business AND your business. By that I mean if you can shake the etch a sketch on these couple of things you will actually be able to DO something that matters.



–          Being smart versus being right (part 2).

Part 1 being said, in a 4 horse race no one cares who finishes 2nd, 3rd or 4th.

All that matters is who wins.

Finishing second is worthless and not a moral victory.



“What does it mean to be the best? It means you have to be better than the number two guy. But what gratification is there in that? He’s a loser—that’s why he’s number two.”

― Jarod Kintz



And sometimes straightforward honesty will make the difference between being the second choice and being the first choice.

In the end they are truly seeking an insight or an idea to solve whatever problem they had to generate seeking a partner or a solution.

If you don’t make a stand for what you believe they will have no idea what you do stand for.


They can do that themselves.

You will not win.



–          Brevity.

The best big multi-million prize presentation I have ever been part of was 44 minutes long. Rehearsed to 45 and delivered in 44.

But let’s say that if you deliver a 1 hour presentation and everyone else is at 2 hours you will be remembered … and most likely appreciated.

You are almost never measured by the quantity of stuff presented.



And don’t forget.

That’s why there is a question & answer period in any big final meeting.

If you didn’t say something they truly wanted to hear, trust me, they will ask.



–          Being human <and humor>.

Presentations are tense.

For everyone … you & them.

The more relaxed stuff that happens the more they’ll be relaxed <which means they will listen more> and the more they’ll think you’ll be easy to work with.

People like to see you, and the team, is human.

Humor is one way <when it is not forced> but team chemistry is always the best.


I hate when some expert tells you ‘how to be human.’ That sounds frickin’ crazy to me.

Go back to dating and relationships. We all know it and have the experience. Do what is right for you to get beyond the tense portion to the relaxed portion.



–          It’s often more about how you say it than what you say.

confuxedI have stated this so many times people are tired of it.

I have seen so many good ideas die because they were presented poorly I just want to cry <a lot>.

Content does matter. But in a flurry of meetings, sometimes stretched out over a period of time, people will remember very little <mostly because smart competing companies tend to end up “dancing” in the same space>.

What most clients will remember is the people and how they delivered the messages and ideas.  A presentation should be written carefully <thoughtfully> … podded <pieces of the whole should be able to stand alone> and delivered well.

Bottom line … do not confux people.



–          Everyone in a room matters.

Everyone deserves the best from ‘the actors on stage.’

Presenting while staring at a senior decisionmaker is a sure way to piss off everyone else.


Some people are more important than others. But at least acknowledge everyone.


My presentation style trick <tactic>?

I shift my focus to the person for which what I am saying is most appropriate to. This actually helps me as a presenter because it increases the odds I actually get a ‘head nod’ acknowledgement from the audience which, as a presenter, at east creates the illusion of some link to the audience.



–          You’re always on stage.

How you sit, whether you look at the presenter, whether you smile, and whether you look like you like each other matters.

A lot.

You need to realize you’re on stage even when you’re just sitting there.

Don’t eat.

Don’t leave the room.

Don’t look at your phone <and make sure you have it turned off>.

Don’t pick your teeth with the client’s business card.


And the hardest part.

Pay attention to who is talking like it is the first time you have ever heard it <even though this may be the 10th time you have heard it>. If you don’t look like you care why should the client pay attention.

I had a past boss who called this ‘the full Nancy.’ If you ever watch an old speech from Ronald Reagan you will always see Nancy Reagan sitting to one side looking like she is hanging on every word good ole Ron was saying <even though she had probably heard the crap before so many times she could shove him off the podium and deliver it herself>. You figured if Nancy cared you should.

Same concept.

Always give ‘the full Nancy.’



–          Rehearse.

Yes. You have to rehearse.

<yes. you have to rehearse>


No one would ever think of putting on a play without rehearsing.

Of course everyone is embarrassed to do it.  And senior managers never like to practice in front of their subordinates.  But rehearsing is the only way you can get comfortable enough with your part of the content and especially with what the rest of the team is presenting.

They hear your words … you hear their words … you will actually change how you say things … and they will change how they say things.


Rehearsing sucks.


But … in the end … it makes you better.


Two, that’s right, two, rehearsals should be the minimum.



–          Don’t wait for a response after a meeting.

Sometimes a prospect will meet and make a decision immediately after the last presentation.  Most don’t.

That gives you time to react to issues that came up, time to add a new idea that maybe should have been considered, time to get any influencers into action.

Don’t ever <EVER> do anything that even smells of desperation … but also never be afraid to take one last shot.



–          Instincts part 1.

intuition knowledge wisdomTrust them.

And act on them.

In the course of presenting and talking to the people at the prospect you get vibes and signals. The tendency is to only focus on the positive ones <they loved our idea!>.  But, without overthinking paranoia, you reflect upon some glimpses of evasion or a lack of desire to talk of meeting again …. the honest answer is that you’re losing and they don’t want to face you.


You have some choices:


wait and face the inevitable


get out <pull out of competition>


get going and break the rules. Do the unexpected. Change the team, show an idea you had put aside, do something based on their presentation responses <as long as it is insightful and not pandering> because, in the end, you have nothing to lose.



–          Instincts part 2.

In trusting your instincts … stop worrying about what you cannot control. The internal politics, what other companies may have said, things you didn’t say or present, etc.

Stop worrying about them.

Useless energy.

Its paranoid energy.

Focus on what you presented and how they responded. Just because the day has come and gone has not made you an idiot.

You thought about what you presented and it is typically a good idea <whether they recognized it or not>. If you presented good thinking then stick with it. Waffling at any time is unattractive … but particularly at this stage of the competition.



That’s it.

As you can see … competing incorporates a bunch of little things. Little things that can become big things if you overthink.

As with part 1 … I will suggest that competition is very very rarely about the competition … but rather it is about you.

How you focus on yourself, be yourself and not overthinking yourself.congrats fist bump


That said.

Ponder this quote and have a good day competing <and winning>.



“A man comes to measure his greatness by the regrets, envies and hatreds of his competitors.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Enlightened Conflict