Category Archives: Business of Consulting

The Doorman

The first and last impression you have in most top-flight hotels is created by the doorman. He greets you, often relays to the desk that you’re approaching for check-in so that you can be welcomed by name, and then packs your bags in a car and wishes you well when you checkout. In the interim he greets you and holds the door every time you depart and return. He has a great deal to do with how you enter and leave that hotel experience. He’s not the highest paid employee, but he has a huge impact.

Who are the “doormen” for your business? Are you paying attention to the hiring and nurturing of those people who form first and last impressions? I’ve met too many restaurant hostesses with zero personality, and too many bank tellers who are bored to tears, to think that all organizations pay close attention to these crucial interactions.

Find your “doormen” and make sure they add significantly to the customer experience and aren’t detracting from it.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Small Minds in Small Business: Dumb Ass Stupid Management

I walk into the local liquor store and ask a woman who’s obviously a manager or part owner to order a very expensive vodka and single malt scotch. I tasted Konik’s Tail Vodka at Scott’s in London and my local cigar club carries Dalmorie King Alexander, which I’ve inexplicably developed a taste for. I want them on hand for when the spirit moves me (pun intended).

Well! I just about ruined her day. She couldn’t find the vodka on her lists easily, and I pointed out that I found it on the internet with no trouble. Then she told me that it may not be available or it may be rationed or it may be stolen by pirates (I began to lose interest). She told me she’d check and call me. I somehow doubt both.

A boutique hotel nearby reached out to me over a year ago, but the sales director dropped the ball, told me NOT to come for dinner unless she was there, and never offered me the deal she had promised. Recently, the new general manager reached out because he used to sell me clothes in a boutique store in another life time. I arranged for some rooms for a group in January to make a gesture. His director of lackluster service wrote me asking for credit card details, copies of both sides of the card, photo ID, blood tests, etc.

I told him the hotel I usually use simply sends me a bill for the rooms and I send a check. He said they’d only accept a check five days in advance. In other words, they have to protect themselves because my credit may not be good or I could give them a worthless check.

On the other hand: A speciality wine shop nearby immediately agreed to pursue a high-end wind they’d never carry to ship as a gift for someone, and they secured it and sent it and then asked for my payment later. Four restaurants on Main Street carry Jean Marc Vodka for me (and one stocks Far Niente) which they can’t really sell daily due to the cost, because they know I like it and they like me to be happy.

It’s like the TSA with too many small businesses—you’re guilty until proved innocent, and you’re not innocent until we invade your privacy. I drink very expensive liquor, and I placed 80 local hotel rooms last year, but I’m not about to move my business to people who are too  lazy or too suspicious to want my money.

How are you reacting to customer inquiries? With enthusiasm, or suspicion, or sloth? Only one will make you rich.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Posted in Alas Babylon, Business of Consulting, DASM | 9 Comments

The Dog Star: Dog Fight

(The Dog Star is a symbol of power, will, and steadfastness of purpose, and exemplifies the One who has succeeded in bridging the lower and higher consciousness. – Astrological Definition)

I was working in my den when I saw Bentley attacking Buddy in the back yard. This is “play” of course, but an 80-pound, two-year-old Shepherd doesn’t know his strength with a ten-year-old, 30-pound Beagle. I stood up, ready to tear downstairs and out into the yard.

Then I saw Bentley turn and Buddy launch himself at Bentley, causing him to retreat and regroup. Buddy was enjoying himself. (He’s also mastered how to get a shared stuffed duck away from Bentley by using his lower center of gravity and tugging it out of Bentley’s jaws.) I sat back down and determined not to intervene.

If Buddy had to defend himself against almost any adversary, he’d do a pretty good job because he is used to fighting German Shepherds (first Koufax and now Bentley). I’m reminded of baseball players who take practice swings with weighted bats, and my track days when I ran the 440 for speed and stamina in training when my actual competition was in the 100 and 220.

Don’t run from tough competition, pressured situations, and stronger athletes. Learn to compete and comport yourself well. If you do so, other situations will be a piece of cake.

You may lose the sale to a billion dollar company’s CEO, but what you’ll learn will make it easy to sell to $500 million division presidents. You may not get the keynote for IBM’s annual meeting, but you will get the featured spot for a trade association, or a concurrent session with IBM, or be invited on TED.

Don’t run away. Throw yourself at your counterpart. Once they back off, the leverage is yours. Bentley may have bigger teeth, but Buddy’s are just as sharp.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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You Are Who You Say (Or Don’t Say) You Are

Former Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci is running again for the position, and he’s hated by the Providence Journal, with an almost irrational venom. Buddy has viewed this with great humor, and quipped once, “If I walked on water today the headline in the Providence Journal tomorrow morning would be ‘Mayor Can’t Swim.’ ”

I could tell you that my wife drives a seven year-old car. Or I could tell you she drives a 2007 Bentley convertible that she loves.

Language, communication, truth, honesty—we’re dealing more and more with shades of grey. In an age where you can expect everything to be broadcast and spread virally, both innocent and malicious misinterpretations can undermine us and our businesses.

Create your own “truth.” Manage your messages. Build a strong brand. Engage evangelists. Make yourself and your value so well known that no amount of distortion can impair your image.

Public opinion has to be constantly managed. How fungible is it? Congress people running as Democrats this November have chosen not to have President Obama campaign with or for them, even in states he carried handily in the last two elections (news item today in the Times). A huge benefit is now perceived as a huge handicap.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Reviving Business

If your business results are down, you have two basic choices to revive things:

1. REPLICATE what’s worked well for you in the past. Identify the causes of your success and recreate them. Find people, circumstances, and opportunities that have yielded high results before. This assumes that the times haven’t changed in a manner which makes these not as effective as previously. This works particularly well in finding new clients for existing products and services.

2. INNOVATE: Find new standards for your business, new products and services, new approaches and methodologies. Create new value and applications around your intellectual property. This works particularly well in increasing your business with existing clients.

Don’t just sit back and assume the pendulum will swing toward you once again. It may just be circling around to knock you out.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Checked by Choice

I used to play military games on my computer that were intuitive and simple. If I built enough battleships or bombers or tanks, and brought them against inferior forces, I would win. I played against the computer at various levels. I could choose the type of terrain.

Recently, I was offered a game of fighting tanks. The instructions alone were stupefying: dials to read, varied ways to move and fire, getting the tank out of the garage, and so on. It was too much like work. I didn’t pursue it.

Investment experts explained to me at a speech that the reason so many people leave money in zero-interest savings accounts is that the options for investing the money are too numerous for a layperson to evaluate: stocks, bonds, CDs, junk bonds, derivatives, real estate, REITs, and so on. Similarly, Best Buy employees have told me that they have to rule  television choices OUT of consideration, because the prospective buyer facing two hundred televisions screens and assorted choices for each tends to leave without buying anything.

I believe in three simple options with every proposal (or to suggest a future meeting or obtain a referral or anything else). That “choice of yeses” improves your chances of a “yes” on something. But more than three options, or three convoluted options, usually won’t work. The buyer needs more time to think them through. Forward progress is effectively checked.

“Paralysis by analysis” extends to a proliferation of choices for buyers. Don’t make it any more complicated than one, two, three.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Here on Nantucket, the planes can’t land if it’s excessively foggy, which it often is. Whether a commercial flight, private jet, puddle-jumper, or whatever, the weather is egalitarian in determining if the wheels will meet the runway. There’s no place to divert, you simply go back where you came from and cancel your plans or try again later.

There’s a fog surrounding many businesses. Potential customers can’t quite make them out. The lines blur. The benefits aren’t clear. It’s uncertain where solid ground is separated from deep water. The value isn’t emerging. It seems dangerous to try to land. There is no one who is helping to “talk them down.”

Does your business stand out like a beacon, or is it lost in a fog of uncertainty where it’s hard to discern its value?

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Flipping Pages

I was asked for an appointment next month, and as I flipped through my Filofax (no, I don’t use electronic calendars) I realized I had gone too far and I was in mid-October, not September.

In a half-second, I had lost a month. How often do you think you’ll get to something, there’s plenty of time, no hurry, and you’ve lost a month? Whether it’s a half-second or it’s weeks, it’s very easy to watch time go by with no action, no results, nothing happening.

Have you accomplished what you intended over the past 30 days?

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Square Zero

I’ve never understood the concept of “square one.” If you want to start anew, then erase the board, tear off the sheet, delete the entry.

Square zero is your starting mindset approaching a prospect. There are two primary chords which seem to be played:

1. How can I get this business? How can I “sell” this person? What objections will I have to overcome? What are the weaknesses in my arguments? How much money can I make?

2. How can I best provide value? What improvements will be most impressive? How can I help this buyer exceed expectations and objectives? How much help can I provide?

You’re either walking in—and pre-determining you success—with a “take” or a “give” mindset. Every day I hear from people who want to “take” something from me. I ignore them or tell them “no thanks.” But I stop to pay attention to the very few who seem to sincerely want to give me something.

What’s your mindset at the outset?

Start again at square zero.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Social Work Doesn’t Pay

I admire social workers. They perform a vital role in society and receive very little money for their labors. I think it’s a calling for most of them, or at least the best of them.


But we have many “social workers” in our midst who believe they’re actually consultants and running a business. Thy are overwhelmingly worried about other peoples’ well being and create these excuses in their behalf:


“I need to give her more time to introduce me to her boss.”

“He might feel threatened if I went over his head.”

“She’s new to the job and I can’t push her too hard.”

“He must have a good reason for not introducing me.”


If you really believe you can help people, then you have to get to the people whom you can help and who can pay for that help. Allowing subordinates and gatekeepers to prevent you from doing so because you don’t want to threaten them or, worse, need for them to like you, is an express lane to failure.


Stop worrying about others’ positions and preferences. They are adults and clearly looking out for themselves. Don’t relay on them to promote you or market you. Simply use them for introductions to true buyers.


But if you want to be loved, get a dog. If you get a big enough dog, you can use it to clear out the gatekeepers.


© Alan Weiss 2014

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