On The Value of Research

Knowledge is power is an old saying. In society, this is completely true. Have you ever met someone who seemed to be in the loop on almost any topic? The level of respect you sense in the air around these people is awesome in the proper sense of the word.

While we all have different interests in learning things, we can all learn from this. Whether you are going to a job interview or pitching a client, you will be better off knowing things about the company or person you are meeting.

Doing your research ahead of time will not only set you apart, but create the impression that you are well-informed and serious. That’s a great image to present, especially given how little time it takes to do some basic research.

So, regardless if you’re the kind of person who loves soaking in information, or not, just doing some basic research will set you apart from the competition. Greatly.

A while ago, I wrote about the problem of us thinking that we are always more busy than we are. Recalling this, you might be wondering why I seemingly today write the other complete opposite? The benefits can be found in business.

If you have a pretty clear calendar for the week ahead, how do you approach scheduling something with a client? Do you say “I’m pretty open this week, just pick a day and time!”? If you do (and I do this at times too), I’m sad to say you are doing it wrong.

In this case, it actually pays off to signal that you are busy. Because being busy creates the signal that you are an expert in demand. And we value people in demand.

You don’t need to lie to adopt this either. Just pick a few times a week when you are open to meeting clients and stick to them. You’ve got tons of other things to do in your week anyway, so you aren’t lying either.

Together with other techniques, this can help drive your reputation as an expert in demand, which ultimately results in people respecting you and your time more. Consciously, or unconsciously.

If there’s one goal that I keep coming back to with my businesses it is that of thought leadership. Over the years, I think I have fundamentally realized that the way I want to be in business is being an expert, driving innovation rather an adhering to the lowest standards.

Of course building thought leadership isn’t easy, and how to go about it is something I think constantly about. What I have come to realize is that perhaps the only way to really succeed in positioning yourself as a though leader/industry expert, is to publish more.

The problem with publishing more (really useful articles, posts and content) is of course that it takes a lot of time. Time that could be used at client projects that see immediate benefits.

To me, this is a tricky balance, because I also know that this is a long term strategy that will inevitably pay off. But both the short and long term viewpoints need to be considered, and weighed.

What’s the strategy you ask? Simple. For me to focus as much as I can on strategical matters, including positioning and publishing, trying to reduce time spent on tasks that don’t need my expertise (handing that to more junior developers) and, if my strategy pays off, reap the benefits hopefully as soon as within a year.

I guess only time will tell.

On Solving The Right Problem

It is natural in my role that I get asked to solve problems. Quite often, someone tell me specifically what they think the solution to their problem is, asking me to just do that. I refuse.

The reason why I (often) refuse at this point is that the solution typically comes from someone who does not have any experience in what they are solving. What is most important to ask yourself before even trying to solve a problem is: “Am I solving the right problem?”

Many popular techniques exist for this, such as the 5 Whys. Ask “Why” five times to get closer to the true problem and what you should really fix.

The reason I bring this up is that more often than not I see something of a desire to solve just this specific scenario that the perceived problem seems to be the cause of. While you may get lucky you are more likely to fail as you are solving the wrong problem. Solving the wrong problems will eventually cause you losses, in one way or another.

Schools have some fault here. If we are asked to solve a problem, we have come to expect that it is the right problem to solve. Nowhere throughout school and university are we taught to ask whether the problem we are given is the one we should solve.

Yet, this is a trait that the most successful have. To make great solutions, you need to solve the right problem. Start by digging deeper and for an easy method embrace the “5 Whys”. I’ll make you that much better.

Communication is the hardest thing we have to do. This is something I have found myself saying over and over again lately. The thing is, it is also true.

When I talk about entrepreneurship to startups and at schools and Universities, this is something I stress over and over again. One of the things I mention is that “Nobody has ever been fired for overcommunicating”.

The problem when dealing with customers, that most people tend to overlook as they sit in the role as the business (and the reverse) is that as a business you know exactly how your service towards the customer is going. You know how much work you have gotten in. You know if you are on track to meet your deadline. You know if any problems arise.

The thing is though, what good does this do if the customer does not know this?

Here is where keeping in touch is important. Frequent updates are important. Personally, I see it as a major failure if a customer has to ask the status. That (usually) means that I have failed to communicate with them properly.

To overcome this, I have added a new routine at Bernskiold Media this fall. Every Monday we send an email to all customers to let them know how we are approaching their project this week and what we expect. This email also includes a link to where they can schedule a weekly short status call (max 30 min) on the Thursday or Friday. Then come Friday, we also send a follow-up email to summarize the week.

What I have found so far is that customers really appreciate these emails, in addition to our other communication during the week. And that’s no surprise. They now always know the status of their project. What I was slightly surprised about is how much easier this has made planning internally, since we now have two fixed points to describe the status of the project clearly, this gives a much better overview of the current load, balance and what needs to be done.

So adapt and apply. I’m confident that this model can suit many and even if it doesn’t as is, look at increasing communication with your customers. You’ll thank me later.