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5 Risk Signs of Unfair, Deceptive, and Abusive Practices (UDAP) in Marketing

Posted on January 5, 2023 at 7:35 AM


The US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) just reached a historically large $3.7 billion settlement agreement with Wells Fargo Bank to pay consumers for harm caused by its ”widespread mismanagement of auto loans, mortgages, and deposit accounts.” According to the CFPB, the company ”repeatedly misapplied loan payments, wrongfully foreclosed on homes and illegally repossessed vehicles, incorrectly assessed fees and interest, charged surprise overdraft fees, along with other illegal activity affecting over 16 million consumer accounts.”

 

While the amount of this settlement was staggering and this was not the first time Wells Fargo was penalized by the CFPB, Wells Fargo is not alone among large financial institutions in coming to settlement agreements with the CFPB. American Express, JPMorgan Chase, Capital One, HSBC, Discover Financial Services, Ocwen Financial Corporation, Equifax, Synchrony Financial, Bank of America, Citibank, Ally Financial, Experian, and TransUnion have all reached $100 million+ settlement agreements with the CFPB since its founding in 2011.

 

Sometimes the root causes of the consumer harm found by CFPB investigations are mismanagement. Rules were broken. Cases fell through the cracks. Processes had bugs. The classic passive ”mistakes were made” explanation. Because they can be so massive, management of organizations as massive as these can be massively challenging.


Sometimes, however, the problems are actually built into the system in the way their products and services are designed and marketed. What seemed like a logical design to a bank marketing professional to maximize profits can come across as an unfair, deceptive, or abusive trick or trap to a bank customer - and regulator. These problems can, and should, be systematically rooted out of banking products and practices to minimize risk of harm to consumers - and of resulting regulatory enforcement actions to banks. Here are the five biggest indicators of areas where financial institutions (and other organizations) should examine themselves to minimize the risk of harming their customers.


Red Flag # 1 - Penalty Overuse - Penalties for things like late payment serve a valid purpose to shape customer behavior. The ability to levy penalties also creates an "easy money" temptation for service providers. If you are relying on penalty fees for things like late payments for a substantial part of your profit, you are courting risk because you are creating incentives to impose penalties beyond their valid purpose. If you are charging a penalty fee to terminate an account, for example, that may be a lazy way to fight customer attrition.

 

Recommended Action - Look at two metrics - the percentage of your profits that come from penalty fees and the the amount of penalty fees your customer service reps are reversing. If those are higher than expected, that can be a sign that you are imposing too many penalty fees.


Red Flag # 2 - Product Perplexity - As technology drives product innovation, it also can drive complexity. Complexity can be a good thing if it moves toward mass-customization, where everyone gets a product tailored for their needs. Product complexity can be a tempting cloak to sneak bad customer deals into a product too, though. If you bury changing terms, teaser rates, hidden fees, and other "gotcha's" into your terms and conditions, you are opening yourself to alienating customers down the road. If you make it hard to figure out that total cost of your service, you are asking for complaints.

 

Recommended Action - Monitor your customer complaints to see where over-complexity is driving an inordinate share of your customer complaints. Re-engineer those out of your product offerings.

 

Red Flag # 3 - Channel Inconsistency - Marketing often means offering different products to different customers. But if you are not providing a consistent marketing experience as your marketing plan intends, you are also courting trouble. For example, if your call center reps have a lot of individual discretion in setting prices without adequate policies and procedures, you are opening yourself to risk of unfair or biased treatment of some customers over others. If you have lots of affiliates marketing your product without clear direction and supervision, you are opening yourself to having your product pitched in ways in your name that are "off-script." Multi-channel strategies can be effective, but they take work to ensure they are delivering on the marketing intent as designed.

 

Recommended Action - Create clear policies and procedures for all your marketing channels - especially third party affiliates. Train everyone involved and hold them accountable by regularly auditing their performance against those standards.

 

Red Flag # 4 - Vulnerability-Based Targeting - Marketing 101 teaches us why supermarkets put candy and other impulse buys next to the cash register - they are hitting customers when and where they are most vulnerable while waiting to pay. It can be tempting for marketers to focus too much on customer's vulnerabilities instead of on their needs. Left unchecked, clever merchandising tactics can evolve into marketing practices described as "predatory targeting." If your market targeting starts to look like it is based on consume vulnerabilities more than distinct needs - e.g., "going after" the elderly or those with limited English-language proficiency - you are exposing yourself to risks of being seen as a predatory marketer.

 

Recommended Action - Consider getting an outside, independent audit of your marketing efforts to assess your risk of being seen as targeting vulnerable populations.

 

Red Flag # 5 - Incomplete Accountability - Sales incentives are core to marketing strategies because they work. Sales agents sell more because they are rewarded for doing so. Risks emerge when the incentives that sales agents see do not include the full cost of their actions. If a sales person isn't held accountable for customer dissatisfaction after the sale, they may have a temptation to go "off script" and say whatever they need to to close the sale. If your sales performance metrics don't include things about the resulting default rates, attrition rates, and customer satisfaction, you are asking for trouble. And this goes not just for your own employees, but for your marketing partners and vendors too.

 

Recommended Action - Assess your sales performance metrics and incentives to see if they are balanced to include accountability with customer satisfaction post-sale.

 

While not a complete list of risks, these are the handful of red flags about practices that may drive the bulk of customer alienation today. If you assess and manage your organization’s risks in these areas now, you should avoid a lot of pain in the future.

 

All images are public domain from Pexels.com or Pixabay.com.

Copyright 2022 - Victor Prince 

#CFPB #UDAP

7 Tips to Find Your Ideal Job in 2023

Posted on December 5, 2022 at 7:45 AM


As the new year approaches, many job seekers are setting goals for their career development. Here are seven tips for setting good goals for the new year if you are searching for a job:


1 - Identify your Target Job - It's important to have a clear idea of what kind of job you want to pursue. Consider your interests, skills, and values, and do some research to find out what types of jobs align with those. Look for job titles and industries that excite you and that you feel passionate about. This will help you stay motivated and focused as you work towards your goal. Your ideal job will be something that you enjoy doing, you are good at, and that can provide you with the salary you are looking for.


2 - Identify What People Look Like in Those Jobs - LinkedIn is a great resource for researching what people in a specific role look like and what skills they have. Look at profiles of people in your target job and see what kind of skills they have and training they have. Look for the keywords that they talk about on their profile. This will give you a good idea of what you need to focus on in order to stand out as a strong candidate. It will also give you a good idea of the types of organizations that hire for those types of jobs and what people in those jobs do.


3 - Get Training - Once you have identified the skills and trainings that people in your target job have, make a plan to acquire those skills and trainings yourself. LinkedIn Learning is a great resource for finding online courses and trainings in a variety of subjects. Consider signing up for a course or two to help you build the skills you need to be successful in your target job. Complete the relevant online tests available in LinkedIn to add to your profile. Adding those skills increases your qualifications and shows inititiative on your part.


4 - Improve Your Resume/CV with Keywords - Keywords are important for getting your resume noticed by recruiters and hiring managers, especially for searches using automated screening tools. Look at the job descriptions for positions you are interested in and identify the key skills and qualifications that are mentioned. Make sure to include those keywords in your resume, as they will help it get noticed by the right people. Don’t overdo it though and make it sound forced or artificial. Read your profile out loud and note if you hear the same words repeated too many times.


5 - Improve your LinkedIn Profile - Your LinkedIn profile is essentially an online resume, so it's important to make sure it looks professional and showcases your skills and experience. Potential employer will likely look up your LinkedIn (and perhaps other online profils to learn about you.) Look at profiles of people in your target job and see what kind of information they include in their profiles. Note the keywords they use. Note the quality of the proile and background photo they use. Note the kind of content they post about and react to. Use this as a guide to improve your own profile, making sure to highlight your relevant skills and experience.


6 - Practice Interviewing - Interviewing for jobs can be nerve-wracking, but the more you practice, the better you'll become. Consider practicing with a friend or family member. You can do it in person over coffee or over remote video. Maybe even give them some example questions to ask. Consider recording yourself on video so you can see how you come across. You will be surprised at how many small improvements you can make by just seeing yourself. This will help you feel more confident and prepared when you go into a real interview.


7 - Expand and Activate your Network - Networking is a crucial part of the job search process, and LinkedIn is a great platform for connecting with people who can help you find a job. Make sure to actively use LinkedIn to connect with people in your industry and to participate in relevant groups. This will help you build relationships and make connections that could lead to job opportunities down the line. As you connect with people, remember to focus on building the relationship first instead of immediately asking them for something. Simple things like commenting on people’s posts can be great ice-breakers and relationship builders that will make it easier to ask for help down the road.


Overall, setting good goals for the new year can help you focus your efforts and stay motivated as you work towards your career goals. By identifying your target job, researching what people in that role look like, and taking steps to acquire the skills and experience you need, you can increase your chances of finding a job that you love. Good luck!


#JobSearch #JobSearch2023 #LITrendingTopics

 

Note: All images are public domain from Pixabay or Pexels.

7 Keys to Success for a Great Offsite Retreat Meeting for your Team

Posted on November 8, 2022 at 1:40 PM

After a COVID hiatus, in-person retreat meetings are back with organizations in a big way for a few reasons. 

– First, after a two year absence, there is pent up demand for retreat meetings, which many organizations had on an annual or recurring basis.

– There has been a lot of turnover in team members, so there is a need for team building.

– The challenges in the world (e.g., COVID, inflation, war in Europe, supply chains, staff shortages, etc.) means organizations need to regroup to update or rethink their strategies.



If you are putting together an offsite retreat for your team, here are 7 keys to success.



1 - Clarify Meeting Goals - Retreat meetings can serve several purposes, ranging from team-building to strategy development. It is important to set a clear and reasonable goal for what your offsite retreat meeting will produce. If your goal is strategy development, for example, producing a 50 page strategic planning document by committee is probably not a reasonable goal in a one or two day retreat. Perhaps coming up with a prioritized list of a handful of strategic initiatives for the organization is a more reasonable goal. 


 

2 - Set Logistics Early - Setting the dates and venue as early as possible for your retreat is key. With added demand and staff shortages this year, meeting venues that are available can be harder to find than before. A long lead time will also be key to ensure that you block out the times on the calendars of the attendees.



3 - Choreograph the Meeting - The attendees of an offsite are often managers who are used to being the leader of their own teams and organizing a lot of their own workdays. When you have a bunch of independent leaders working as a team, it is important to have structure around the “who does what, when, and where” in the meeting. Where do you need to mix in fun and higher energy activities to break up more tedious activities? How do you ensure everyone participates? One key to creating a great agenda is to look at it from the perspective of the meeting attendees, not just from the perspective of the meeting organizer. 



4 - Have Ground Rules - The most valuable, and scarce, resource in offsite retreat meetings is time. Retreat meetings are often only a day or few because the attendees cannot be away from their regular responsibilities for long. In addition to the short time, the attendees may not be used to working so closely with each other. Having effective ground rules can be a way to shorten the team forming/storming/norming phase to ensure the time together is efficient. The best ground rules are ones that the team comes up with themselves and are also fun and easy to enforce.



5 - Get Help - Offsite retreat meetings can be big investments of time for the attendees and expenses for the organization. That means the stakes are high for the meeting organizers. Since meeting organizers probably don’t organize meetings full time, it can make sense to bring in expert help from elsewhere to make sure the meeting is a success. Hiring an external facilitator can be a wise investment. They will have learned how to avoid common retreat meeting derailers. Having an independent newcomer in a facilitator role can also break the mold of typical day-to-day meetings of the organization and get the meeting attendees in a new attitude.



6 - Build Skills - Team-building is often a goal for offsite retreats. Smart meeting organizers often insert a training module into a retreat as an activity that builds skills while also providing team-building. Find a common individual skill that all the team members could benefit from learning and make it a module. Leadership, communication, and problem-solving skills are common training components to add to a retreat.  

 


7 - Share Results - The true measure of success for a retreat is the output from the meeting. Having a before versus after survey of attendees´s assessment about topics ​can be a useful way to show attendees how the meeting had an impact. Creating a high level document of the output from the meeting that can be shared with others in the organization can be a clear way to coalesce around an output too.



When managed well, offsite retreats can be a powerful way to build teamwork and direction for an organization. When done poorly, they can be viewed by senior management as big time wasters that reflect poorly on the retreat organizers. Following these 7 rules can make sure your offsite retreat goes well and not off the rails.


 

A Superhero's Secret to Stand Out in Job Interviews

Posted on October 5, 2022 at 8:55 AM


I have been on both sides of the job interview process countless times, so I have heard (and given) lots of advice about how to stand out in job interviewing. I recently heard a great piece of advice from an unexpected place - an actor who played a superhero.


 

Micheal Keaton played the title character in Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992). Keaton had toiled for years as an aspiring actor through his 20’s auditioning for small parts before his career took off in the early 1980s with a string of bigger roles. Keaton shared this insight in a recent interview about how he broke through:

 


”What I finally figured out about auditioning, and this was big, was I thought I’m going about this wrong. I’m going about it like ’that’s the job… I have to go get the job.’ And so I thought, ’no, no, no, I’m going to work. I already got the job.’ The fact that I got a call to show up in the valley or way down here, and I’m gonna get three minutes in a room or 20 minutes in a room, whatever they’re gonna gimme in a room… That’s the gig. (I) got the job. I’m going to work today. So I just went, ’I’m going to work today.’ And I showed up ready to go to work. And then I started to like auditioning.”

 


Keaton’s insight about his mindset as a role seeker applies to careers outside of acting as well. His approach can help you unlock two behaviors that will increase your chances of success in job interviewing: confidence and positive energy.

 


As a job interviewee, you should get confidence by realizing that the hiring organization is already paying you in a way. They have already invested the time of their employees to review your resume and interview you. Perhaps they have even paid your travel expenses. So walk into the interview with the attitude that you already landed a job as a candidate and are working your way toward a promotion. That will help you view your interviewer as a colleague to respect instead of as a judge to fear.

 


Keaton’s mindset can also help you project positive energy that creates that important intangible connection with the interviewer. By taking this approach, Keaton said he ”started to like auditioning.” Doesn’t everyone like to work with people who enjoy their work? The candidates who look like they are actually enjoying the interview process are often the ones who stand out. Maya Angelou’s great quote about people is true for job interviewers too: ”People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” If you go into an interview with the mindset that you already have the job and are enjoying it, the interviewers may feel that and remember you as a colleague and not just another candidate.

 


#LITrendingTopics #JobInterviewTips #JobInterviewHelp

 

All images are public domain from Pexels.com or Pixabay.com.

The 10 Most Important Job Skills for 2025 versus 2015

Posted on September 5, 2022 at 9:05 AM


What skills are the most important for employees and job seekers to develop? How have those skills changed over recent history? Since 2016 the World Economic Forum (WEF) -- the group behind the annual conference of leaders in business, politics, and more in Davos, Switzerland -- has published a list of the Top 10 work skills people will need to thrive in the future economy. Here are the 10 most important skills the WEF said employees and job seekers should have by the year 2025, in order of importance, with a note on how each skill rated in their 2015 list.


# 1 - Problem-Solving / Analytical Thinking & Innovation - (This skill also showed up as # 1 on the WEF’s 2015 list as “Complex Problem-Solving.”;) Analytical thinking is the ability to logically and systematically break down larger issues to understand them. Innovation is the ability to find new ways to do things. People who combine these two skills will be in the highest demand in the workplace of 2025. They will be the drivers of the economy who determine business strategy, develop new products, improve processes, create technological innovations, and more.

 

How to Prepare -> Get training in analytical thinking and innovation for yourself and your team.


# 2 -Self Management / Active Learning and Learning Strategies - (This skill was not mentioned in the WEF’s 2015 list.) Technological innovation will continue to change the workplace. To benefit from, or at least keep up with, those innovations, people must continually retool their own skills to succeed in the new workplace. This metaskill in learning new skills will become a skill in itself.

 

How to Prepare -> Get the most out of tools like LinkedIn Learning to continually educate yourself in new skills.

 

# 3 - Problem-Solving / Complex Problem-Solving - (This skill was # 1 as ”Complex Problem-Solving” in the WEF’s 2015 list.) Artificial intelligence technologies likely will increasingly take over simple problem solving activities at work - e.g., looking up account information or setting up appointments on a calendar. The most complex problems will be left for the people at work to solve.

 

How to Prepare -> Get training in complex problem-solving for yourself and your team.

 

4 - Problem-Solving / Critical Thinking and Analysis - (This skill was # 4 in the WEF’s 2015 list as ”Critical Thinking.”;) - This is the ability to use logic and reasoning (i.e., analytical thinking) to come up with, and critically assess, alternative solutions to an issue to come up with a conclusion. As more and more data and information is made available by technology, people will need critical thinking skills to digest that firehose of information to make good decisions.

 

How to Prepare -> Get training in critical thinking and analysis for yourself and your team.

 

5 - Problem-Solving / Creativity, Originality and Initiative - (This was # 10 on the 2015 WEF list as “Creativity.”;) This is the ability to come up with original new ideas about issues or to find new ways to solve problems. Not everyone is born as a Picasso, but everyone can work to grow their own creative skills. One way to offer more creative ideas at work is to find creative ideas in other areas that may apply.

 

How to Prepare -> Get training in innovation for you and your team.


6 - Working with People / Leadership and Social Influence - (This showed up in the 2015 list as # 2 “Coordinating with Others” and as # 3 as “People Management.”;) People in the workplace need leadership, and they aren’t going to take it from machines. You can't outsource people management to computers. Since customers and stakeholders are people, people will also be needed to help influence them. People who have the skills to lead and influence other people will always be needed in any workplace.

 

How to Prepare -> Get training in leadership for yourself and your team.


7 - Technology Use and Development / Technology Use, Monitoring, and Control - (This was not specifically mentioned in the WEF’s 2015 list.) Workplaces everywhere will continue to adopt more technology. People in those workplaces will need to learn to work with that technology.

 

How to Prepare -> Take advantage of training your employer provides in specific new technologies brought into your workplace. Add certifications of your completion of trainings you have taken on your resume / CV. Find other training and certification options on places like LinkedIn Learning to continually educate yourself in new technologies relevant to your career goals.


8 - Technology Use and Development / Technology Design and Programming - (This was not specifically mentioned in the WEF’s 2015 list.) Since the demand for new technology will continue to grow, people who create new technology will also be in demand. Not everyone can be a programmer or engineer, but everyone should at least think about it when choosing career paths.

 

How to Prepare -> Find other training and certification options on places like LinkedIn Learning to continually educate yourself in new technologies relevant to your career goals.


9 - Self-Management / Resilience, Stress Tolerance, and Flexibility - (This was not specifically mentioned in the 2015 WEF list.) As the workplace continues to change and innovate with new technology, the people in those workplaces will need to change too. The ability to embrace and manage change will be a key skill required in the future.

 

How to Prepare -> Get training in resilience for yourself and your team.

 


10 - Problem-Solving / Reasoning, Problem-Solving, and Ideation - (These showed up in the 2015 WEF list as # 8 as “Judgment and Decision-Making” and as # 10 as “Creativity.”;) This is the fifth of the top 10 skills that are in the Problem-Solving category. It is very similar to elements of the other four skills. The message from the WEF is clear - problem solving skills should a top priority for learning agendas over the next several years.

 

How to Prepare -> Get training in problem-solving for yourself and your team.

 


Disclaimer - The author may receive compensation for sales generated from links included in this article. 

All photos are public domain from Pixabay.com.

7 Mistakes New MBA Students Make

Posted on August 5, 2022 at 9:20 AM


Congratulations! After months of preparation and anticipation, you finally are starting your MBA program. An MBA is a huge investment of time, effort, opportunity cost, and money that perhaps 100,000 people worldwide make every year. That investment in yourself can pay great returns over your career, especially IF you avoid these seven mistakes that full-time MBA students can make.


1 - Remaining in Your Ruts - By the time you are ready for an MBA, you probably have developed your style at work. Maybe you have focused on a few strengths because they cover your weaknesses. Maybe you have been typecast into roles. Maybe you have developed some bad habits that you have found hard to shake. Maybe you have been too risk averse to try different roles. The good news is that your MBA experience gives you a chance to reinvent yourself - perhaps like college was a chance to grow beyond your high school self. Your reputation will be a blank slate to your classmates. Your habits have to change as you go back to being a student. You are probably looking for a new job when your MBA is done, so it gives you some freedom to try new things too. An MBA can be a perfect chance to make changes.

 

RECOMMENDATION => Set 3 goals about things you want to start, stop, change, or try while you are getting your MBA.


2 - Being Too Shy - An MBA is an extraordinary and unique time in your life to build your network of professional contacts. Your classmates will come from a broader spectrum of backgrounds and future interests than you had with your past workplace. Imagine going into the future and being at your 5, 10 or 20 year reunion. How many of your classmates will have experiences and roles that would make them people you would want to know? The good news is that your shared MBA program should make it easy to make those connections. You all share an experience and you all are starting at the same place. And if your MBA program happens to be on a campus with many other graduate and professional programs (e.g., medical, law, engineering, etc.), find chances to meet your peers there too. Even try to get close to at least a couple of your favorite professors. View your MBA as an opportunity to plant seeds in your professional network that will sprout suprisingly wide, deep, and tall in many interesting places in the future.

 

RECOMMENDATION => Set a goal for yourself on how many new LinkedIn connections you will make each week/month among your MBA classmates and other people on campus.

 


3 - Underpreparing for First Job Interviews - Since your MBA is such a big investment, you need to get a job that will help you pay that off after you graduate. Getting ready for job interviews is key. If your program has a summer off for internships between the two years, getting a good internship job there will make the rest of your MBA much less stressful. Do not assume that your success in interviewing before will carry you, however. Job interviews at the MBA level can be quite different. Case interviews, for example, require unique skills that are not easy for the inexperienced but can be improved through practice. Practicing for interviews is not like studying for tests, though. You should practice out loud, with others, so you can hear yourself. Maybe even video yourself to see how you come across to interviewers.

 

RECOMMENDATION => Treat job interview preparation as a class of its own. Carve out the time on your study schedule. Work with others. Set goals for how many practice interviews you will do and what success will look like for you.

 


4 - Making Enemies - Some competition between MBA students is natural. MBA students tend to be driven to get them best out of themselves. That may spill over into a competitive drive with others for things like grades and talktime in class. Competition can come to a head with job interviews. If you ever find yourself tempted to think your chances of getting a desired job would be increased by decreasing your classmates’ chances, immediately stop yourself before you do something a classmate might resent. The post MBA world is much smaller than you think, especially with social networks like LinkedIn. Before you do or say something to or about a classmate, imagine them at an organization that you are trying to work for in the future. What would you want them to say (or not say) about you when a hiring manager sees on LinkedIn that you were classmates and asks if they should interview you?

 

RECOMMENDATION => You don´t have to be friends with everyone in your class, but don´t leave with anyone mad at you, if you can help it.

 


5 - Settling for Bad Professors - If your MBA program is big enough, you may have many options on classes and professors. There may be multiple professors teaching the same courses. Some professors are always going to be much better or worse than others. Do whatever you can to get into classes with the best professors, or at least avoid those with the worst professors. Years later, you will have forgotten much of what you were taught in class, but the things you will still find useful will have come from the best professors.

 

RECOMMENDATION => If there is one place where it is worth being a squeaky wheel with school administrators, switching professors may be it. I remember how my classmates and I got my business school to help with an ineffective new professor when we made a compelling case. They just added seats to the other professor’s class to give us an option. It was not ideal, but much better for me than having an unacceptable experience for a key course.

 


6 - Skimping on Summer Vacation - If your MBA program has a summer break built in, take the fullest advantage of it you can. Build in some time before or after your summer internship for a vacation. It may be your last chance to get more than one or two weeks off in a row to do something that requires extra time, like travel or an extracurricular project. It can be hard to get extra long vacation breaks after you start your new job.

 

RECOMMENDATION => Plan your summer ahead so you can carve out time you want. Your summer employer might have some flexibility on your start/end dates. If you have a worthy-sounding reason for asking for more time, you are more likely to get it.

 


7 - Taking it too Serious / Not Seriously Enough - Being a full time student is a much different experience than working full time. There are things that can be stressful - like difficult subjects, getting homework and grades all the time, and having to form new relationships. Keep those in perspective and don´t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. There are things that are liberating too, like being your own boss and having a much more flexible schedule. Enjoy those, but keep the discipline to treat your studies like the job it is. If you find yourself treating it like a vacation, change your routines fast.

 

RECOMMENDATION => Identify a few friends inside and outside your program who you can check in with on a regular basis to get feedback on how you are doing.

 


I look back on my MBA experience as one of the best times of my life. It was a great investment in so many ways. Perhaps it could have been even better if I had had this advice. In particular, what if I had been less shy and met more people at the broader University of Pennsylvania community? What interesting connections would I have in my LinkedIn network now? I say this because Elon Musk was also a student at Penn at the same time as me. How cool — or maybe even life-changing — could it have been for me to strike up a conversation with him while waiting in line for lunch at one of the food trucks? What future inventors, CEOs, or other leaders will be standing next to you at school?

7 Communication Lessons from Steve Jobs iPhone Launch

Posted on May 26, 2022 at 9:50 AM

On January 9th, 2007, Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple Computers, announced a new product that he believed would change his company and industry - the iPhone. The iPhone, and the knockoff competitors it inspired, have changed the world. They have connected people in new ways - e.g., face-to-face video calls, mobile internet browsing, enabling uncensored witness videos to be immediately shared worldwide. They have also fueled the development and growth of countless social media and other new applications. 


Jobs had long earned a reputation as a master communicator. His first public communication about the iPhone was no different. Jobs announced the iPhone at the end of a two-hour speech and product demonstration at the annual MacWorld conference in 2007. Here are seven highlights from his talk that demonstrate his skills and techniques in leadership communication.


1 - Open with a Reason for the Audience to Listen - Jobs started his talk with a simple, yet bold, statement - “Thank you for coming. We’re going to make some history together today.” He wanted everyone to know why they should listen to him. He told them that this meeting was going to be part of history. He was letting them know they would want to remember it, so they should pay attention. 


LEADERSHIP LESSON => Tell your audience why they should want to listen carefully to what you are about to tell them. Tell them what is in it for them. 


2 - Establish Credibility After opening with such a bold assertion, even Jobs had to back it up with some evidence. So he said this - “It was just a year ago that I was up here and announced that we were going to switch to Intel processors. A huge, heart transplant to Intel microprocessors. And I said that we would do it over the coming 12 months. We did it in seven months, and it was the - it’s been the smoothest and most successful transition that we’ve ever seen in the history of our industry.”


LEADERSHIP LESSON => Give your audience a reason to believe your claim that they will want to pay attention to what you are about to say. Point to other times your words have mattered to them.


3 - Save the Best for Last - Once Jobs had his audience’s attention, he pushed the information that he needed to share, not that they most wanted to hear. He knew people would be closely tuned in to hear when he started talking about the history-making thing he teased at the beginning. He used this audience attention to push a lot of information about the performance of his company’s activities in other product lines - computers, music, video, and even the most recent TV ads - that he needed stockholders and other stakeholders to hear. Jobs did this so often that audiences started to wait to hear him say something like “wait, there is one more thing” at the end of his talks. 


LEADERSHIP LESSON => Once you have the audience’s attention, you may want to take advantage to push some other information you need them to hear but that may not have enticed them to attend. If done right, you will both get important information across while building anticipation for the big news at the end. If done poorly, you may lose your audience or train them to ignore your communications until the end. 


4 - Give Perspective - Because Jobs was ahead of his audience, he had to give them context to understand what he was talking about. He had to give them something to connect themselves to the bold news he was going to tell them. He did it this way that day: “Every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything. And Apple has been - well, first of all, one’s very fortunate if you get to work on just one of these in your career. Apple’s been very fortunate. It’s been able to introduce a few of these into the world. 1984, introduced the Macintosh. It didn’t just change Apple. It changed the whole computer industry. In 2001, we introduced the first iPod, and it didn’t just change the way we all listen to music, it changed the entire music industry. Well today we’re introducing three revolutionary products of this class… An iPod, a phone, and an internet communicator. These are not three separate devices, this is one device and we are calling it the iPhone. Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone…”


LEADERSHIP LESSON => Stories from history can be helpful to connect an audience to new concepts. Analogies can also be helpful in simplifying complex concepts. 


5 - Define Problems that Need to be Solved - Jobs did not introduce the iPhone by describing all the innovative technologies it contained. Instead, he started by describing why the current state of phones was a problem that needed to be solved: “The most advanced phones are called smart phones, so they say. And they typically combine a phone plus some email capability, plus they say its the internet. It’s sort of the baby internet, into one device, and they all have these little plastic keyboards on them… Now why do we need a revolutionary user interface? Here’s four smart phones, right. Motorola Q, the BlackBerry, Palm Treo, Nokia E62 - the usual suspects. And what’s wrong with their user interfaces?… They all have these keyboards that are there whether or not you need them to be there. And they all have these control buttons that are fixed in plastic and are the same for every application. Well, every application wants a slightly different user interface, a slightly optimized set of buttons, just for it. And what happens if you think of a great idea six months from now? You can’t run around and add a button to these things. They’re already shipped.”


LEADERSHIP LESSON => Focus your communication on the problems that your audience cares about. In this case, Jobs knew he was talking to techies instead of end users, so he focused on why the iPhone solved problems for technology developers. If he was talking to end users, he may have focused on showing how the compact iPhone would have replaced the need to carry a separate phone, camera, music player, and internet browser. 


6 - Make Solutions Seem Obvious - After he had demonstrated the problem, Jobs made the solution seem obvious by saying it was actually an old problem in a new guise: “Well how do you solve this? It turns out we have solved it. We solved it in computers 20 years ago…. We solved it with the mouse… So how are we going to take this to a mobile device? What we’re going to do is get rid of all these buttons and just make a giant screen… We don’t want to carry around a mouse, right?… Nobody wants a stylus… We’re going to use a pointing device that we’re all born with - born with ten of them. We’re going to use our fingers… So we have been very lucky to have brought a few revolutionary user interfaces to the market in our time. First was the mouse. The second was the click wheel. And now, were going to bring multi-touch to the market.”


LEADERSHIP LESSON => If you make a solution sound obvious enough for the audience to explain to others, they probably will. And every time they explain the problem and solution to others, they will take more interest — and maybe even a sense of ownership — in the problem and solution as you have outlined.


7 - End by Looking Forward - After Jobs did a thorough demo of the capabilities of the new iPhone, he closed his message by looking forward. He set a goal for how many iPhones they could sell this way: “Let’s take a look at the market and how big it is… Mobile phones, just about a billion last year, worldwide… 1 percent market share equals 10 million units. This is a giant market…. One percent market share, you’re going to sell 10 million phones. And this is exactly what we’re going to try to do in 2008 - our first full year in the market.” Then he set his sights even higher by saying that his aspirations for his company would no longer be bound by traditional boundaries: “So, today, we’ve added to the Mac and the iPod. We’ve added Apple TV and now iPhone. And you know, the Mac is really the only one that you think of as a computer… So we’re announcing today we’re dropping the computer from our name, and from this day forward, we’re going to be known as Apple Inc. to reflect the product mix that we have today.” Jobs closed by sharing a quote that he thought could best communicate the mission of his company going forward: “There’s an old Wayne Gretzky quote that I love. ‘I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.’ And we’ve always tried to do that at Apple. Since the very, very beginning. And we always will. So thank you very very much for being a part of this.”


LEADERSHIP LESSON => Leave the audience motivated and pointed in the right direction to use the energy you have built in them. End with a description of how your message fits into your organization’s broader mission and vision. 

Steve Jobs was a rare leader who led his teams to multiple industry-changing innovations. Few, if any of us, can replicate even parts of his vision and force of personality. Hopefully, we can learn from a few of his communications techniques.


Photo Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Steve_Jobs_Headshot_2010-CROP.jpg, Matthew Yohe, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

7 Keys to Find the Best Executive Coach for You

Posted on April 14, 2022 at 3:55 AM


If you have thought about getting help from an executive coach, you are not alone. According to a 2013 survey by Stanford University's Graduate School of Business, 51 percent of senior executives reported they "receive coaching or leadership advice from outside consultants or coaches." 


There are many situations that lead people to get an executive coach. A new job, a new boss, a new challenge, a desire to build skills or fill gaps. Whatever the reason, finding the right coach is essential because the quality and style of coaches vary widely. Here are 7 keys to selecting the best executive coach for you. 


1 - Review Client Recommendations on LinkedIn - Customer testimonials and reviews are helpful, but how do you know if they are true and not fake? The professional networking site LinkedIn is very helpful here because the authors of reviews and endorsements are identified by their LinkedIn profile. It is easy to click through to see if the authors are real. The brief description of them that shows up in each recommendation can also let you compare the recommenders background to your own.


2 - Look for Expertise in your Industry/Profession - The industry or profession you work in has its own unique characteristics that have an impact on the coaching you need. The coach you choose should understand the unique things in your field. It took you years of hard work to build that expertise. Find a coach that has that same expertise so you do not end up spending your valuable coaching time training them.


3 - Seek Leadership Experience - Much of coaching centers on helping people work with or lead other people in the workplace. A coach who has been a leader of teams brings valuable lessons learned from their own experience that can help you work through similar challenges. The more people they have led, the more lessons a coach has learned about working with challenging people and situations. 


4 - Check Coaching Certifications - Some people market themselves as a coach even though they have no training as such. Look for coaches who have been certified by one of the respected organizations in the field, such as the International Coaching Federation and the Board Certified Coach credentialing organization. These credentials not only signify that a coach has training. They also require coaches to practice a set of professional standards, such as protecting clients private information. 


5 - Have a Test Conversation - Once you find a coach that meets the above criteria, the best way to test them is to have a conversation with them. Instead of having them describe what they do, ask them if they will coach you maybe 15-30 minutes through a through a real issue you are facing. That will give you a sense of what you would get if you hire them. A confident coach should be willing to have a complimentary chat for 15-30 minutes with a serious potential client.


6 - Sign a Written Agreement - A professional coach will structure a coaching engagement by giving you a written agreement or proposal to define the terms by which you will work together. The agreement should clearly define expectations for both the client and coach, including fees, length of time, cancellation policies, privacy, etc.. 


7 - Seek Performance Guarantees - Things like a money back guarantee for coaching can be tricky to work. Coaches will typically want some or all of their fees paid up front. You should be able to pay the fees in installments to manage your own risk. Perhaps the best way to make sure that the coach you work with will provide the services offered is to look for one with a good reputation that they will want to protect. Even better, find a coach with a public reputation, perhaps as an author or speaker.


Hiring an executive coach can be a smart investment in your own professional development and happiness. Making the effort to pick the right coach is a great way to get the most out of that investment. 


About the Author of this Article: Victor Prince is the #1 executive coach for financial services executives. He is also an Amazon Top 20 best-selling leadership author who helps organizations build leadership, strategy, communications, and critical thinking skills. Follow Victor on LinkedIN to access his 100+ articles on leadership, strategy, learning & development, and more.

The Journey of a First Time Author - How Book Publishing Works (Part 1 of 4)

Posted on June 24, 2021 at 10:45 AM

I decided to try to publish my first book in 2014. That book, Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide their Teams to Exceptional Results (Career Press, 2015), has done quite well, including:

 

  • hitting the Top 20 bestseller list in three categories - Leadership, Management, and Teams - in the Amazon Kindle store in 2020
  • gone on to be a Top 10 all-time bestseller for its publisher, 
  • been released in English, Chinese, and Korean versions, and 
  • is stocked in public libraries across the US and around the world in every continent except Antarctica. 

 

The journey to get there was quite long and arduous. I kept a journal of my experience as a first-time author in real time. I am republishig that journal here now to help other first time, wannabe authors.


Why I am Starting this Blog (Jan. 3, 2014)


I've got to fess up to a serious addiction - I am totally hooked on conquering long-distance hiking and biking trails. I've bicycled from Pittsburgh to Washington DC, from Montreal to Quebec, across the state of New York along the Erie Canal, and across most of Europe along the Danube River. Last summer that addiction began to spread to hiking with a month long month long hike across Spain along the Camino de Santiago. My adventures keep getting longer and a bit crazier.


Now, to feed my adventure addiction, I am doing something much, much more terrifying and difficult: I'm writing my first book. It's a non-fiction business book I have been kicking around for a while and finally decided I had to get it out of my head. Don't worry, it's not a memoir or anything like that - I don't think even I would find it interesting enough to buy. It's about a leadership style I have learned over the years that has worked pretty well for me. I'm told the journey for a first time author is as long and hard as the chances of success are remote. It will make the physical challenges of hiking and biking hundreds of miles seem relaxing I think.


When I did my hike and bike across Europe last year, I Facebook blogged everyday to my friends and many seemed to enjoy it. I know the feedback they gave me every day helped push me on through the sore muscles, twisted ankle, and blisters.


So I figure I need all the help I can get with this first time author journey, so I am going to live blog this as well. Hopefully I get some luck and make it to the finish line. Come join me!


Sharing the Book Idea for the First Time (Jan. 11, 2014)


My career has centered on doing two basic activities (1) analyzing things and (2) leading people. Over time, the two have blended in with each other. As I had more and more experience leading people, my analyst self looked for patterns and root causes in the situations I found myself facing as a leader. My inner voice started a conversation with itself: "This difficult situation I am facing with leading Joe right now reminds me of a situation I faced with leading Jane two years ago. If I apply the lessons I learned in leading Jane to this difficult situation with Joe, that would be a lot better than starting from scratch." "And if I can figure out what makes these two situations so similar, I can more easily identify similar situations like that in the future so I could apply the right lessons learned." "And if I could identify what these root causes are and look for those in other team members, I could probably anticipate problems and apply those lessons learned ahead of time."


So I set about to identifying these common root causes and organizing them into a framework. I started with a simple picture that soon found its way into PowerPoint. Then the PowerPoint turned into a Word document to fit all the words around the picture describing the concept. By the time the Word document turned into ten pages or so, I figured I might actually have an outline of a book. Wow, how did that happen?


Just one problem - I had no idea what a book idea looks like or how you turn it into an actual book. But luckily I had a trusted friend and colleague who did by the name of Mike. Mike had published his first book a couple of years ago and had found quite a bit of success and learned a lot of lessons along the way. I sent him the outline with an introduction along the lines of "this is probably nothing, but do you think there is a book here and, if so, want to help me?" That was three days ago, and now I just got back the reply I was hoping to hear -- "Yes and yes."

So a journey begins. Hopefully both a book and I emerge on the other side.


Learning How Book Publishing Works (Jan. 15, 2014)


Mike and I found some time to chat about the book today. My starting question was "how does this work?" He told me to buckle in for a few minutes while he walked through the whole experience. Here is what I caught from the fire hose of information that followed through the phone.


(1) The process starts with a literary agent. There are a relatively small set (maybe a dozen or so) of literary agents in this niche of the business book world that hold the keys to the publishing kingdom. They have become experts at knowing what the publishers are looking for and being able to quickly tell if they see it. Because they have built a reputation for doing just that, publishers rely on them as gatekeepers between them and aspiring authors. If you can't get an agent interested in your concept, it will never even get in front of a publisher. For that service, agents typically take 15% of the money an author gets.


(2) The pitch to publishers comes in the form of a Proposal, which has several parts.


(3) First is the Precis, a word so new to me I can't even figure out how to type the foreign symbol on one of its letters. The Precis is a fancy name for a very short summary (one page) of the core concept of the book and why it is useful. The next part is a description of the author and the platform they can use to market the book once it does get printed. Could the author prove to readers that they know what they are writing about? And can the author advertise the book to a lot of people to help drive sales? Basically, their way of saying ?I need to know that you can both chop down the tree and there will be people there to hear it fall before I give your lumberjack-wannabe butt a lift to the forest.?


(4) The next part is the chapter outline. You number and title each chapter and write a brief description of what they contain. This is the bulk of the work because you not only have to have your concept fully developed but you have to get the flow of the story right too in smaller pieces.


(5) Finally, the last part is the writing sample. This is typically one full chapter of the book to show that you can actually write well.


(6) Once your literary agent has a complete proposal, they present it around to the publishing houses they know are most likely interested in your topic. In the ideal world, one or more come back with an offer to pick it up that includes an advance on royalties, deadlines and other financial terms.


(7) Financial terms center on royalty rates, which are set on wholesale, not list, price and are typically tiered based on volume. The first 5000 copies earn the author 15% of wholesale price, the next 5000 copies 17% and runs above that pay out 20%. You should note that your agent?s 15% cut comes out of all of those, so author?s net take is 12.75%, 14.45%, and 17%, respectively. And remember that the advance you get, maybe $10-20K or so is called an advance because it is just pre-payment of royalties you earn. If you don?t sell enough books, you won?t see any more. To sum up ? don?t quit your day job.


Once you sign an agreement, the real writing work actually begins and you will be on deadline. A whole new slew of people will be ripping apart your work ? the acquiring editor, the copy editor and at least one other type of editor whose label I cant read from my notes because Mike was talking so fast. This whole process took about 14 months for Mike with his book, which is pretty fast, and he signed with an elite publishing house.


It took me a moment to notice that the fire hose of information had finally stopped. My hand was cramped from writing and my head was spinning. What exactly am I signing up for? Am I really up for this? Do you have to be crazy to do this? "Hello. You still there?" Mike's voice on the other end of the phone snapped me out of my stupor. I hesitated a moment and replied, "Well, we better get started."


The Journey of a First Time Author - How Book Publishing Works (Part 2 of 4)

Posted on June 23, 2021 at 12:35 AM

 

Enter: The Agent (Jan. 22, 2014)

 

"Sideways" is one of my all-time favorite movies. The scene where Paul Giamatti's character goes beserk and sloppily chugs the spit bucket of red wine at the tasting room of a winery is a classic.

 

Do you remember what caused him to go beserk? It was talking to his literary agent.

 

Today, I communicated with a literary agent for the first time. No wine buckets were spilled in the process, but I am going to refer our agent as Miles going forward in homage to my favorite fictional author. Miles represented Mike for his book and was key to getting it published. So when Mike suggested we see if Miles thought we had a good book concept, I instantly agreed. Mike and I spent the next several days polishing up the simple outline I had so we could get Miles something to react to. Mike emailed it to Miles under the subject line "Next book" last Friday. Miles replied surprisingly quickly with a "I'll get back to you next week. Have a good weekend." I wonder how quickly - or even if - Miles would have responded if I had sent the email cold to him.

 

I checked my email inbox about 100 times a day for the next several days. Today, we finally got a reply from Miles - "I like this quite a bit, and think it is definitely worth developing... Let's discuss."

 

I'm not sure what I was hoping or expecting to hear, but this sounded pretty good. I don't think I will be chugging a spit bucket of red wine ... at least not today.

 

Agent Feedback (Jan. 23, 2014)

 

Mike and I just got off of a conference call with Miles the agent. It was great to hear he liked the outline and said it had good potential worth pushing. He gave some very helpful feedback too.

  

First, he said we have to decide what our "voice" would be in our writing. Are we going to use "we" or be non-personal. Whichever way, we had to be consistent. Then he pointed out the part he thought was the weakest part. It was exactly the place that Mike and I thought he would. He reacted to our working titles and gave us some tips on what makes a good title and subtitle. We left the call with a bunch of "to do's" and an agreement to get something back to Miles soon.

 

More Agent Feedback (Jan. 26, 2014)

  

The phone call with Miles sparked a new email conversation between Mike and Miles on Mike's first book sales update. When the conversation touched on our book, Mike looped me in. (Seeing the earlier part of the email conversation about tracking sales of Mike's first book via a portal for agents to check retail sailes was an interesting peek behind the curtain for me.) Miles reaffirms that he likes our concept with an "I like this idea a lot" which brings a big smile to my face. My logical self knows that tossing out positive affirmation to aspiring authors must be a regular task for agents - like what lawn sprinklers do with water. That said, it still makes me smile.

 

Their conversation goes to ideas to further monetize the concept. (Ok, maybe Miles really does see something here if he is already thinking of that.) Could we offer additional training on the concept in a mass market way? Miles throws out a couple examples we should think about as ideas to emulate. One is a new one I have never heard of. The other book is a household name that I still see in every airport bookstore. Now this is getting interesting. If only this book could write itself...

 

Formalizing our Co-Author Agreement (Jan. 27, 2014) 

 

Mike and I decide that we should probably formalize our partnership terms on the book to avoid any confusion down the road. We are both on the same page about what partnership means, but it sounds like a good idea anyway.

 

Jointly creating intellectual property does create some unique questions worth answering (e.g., what happens to the intellectual property rights if one partner drops out part way and the other wants to continue). Besides he has an old coauthorship agreement draft he did for a past project that can be an easy starting point. He will mark that up and get it to me.

 

From the first time I shared the idea with him, I said I wanted to be true partners - 50/50 on everything. Sure, the original idea is mine but I know that Mike brings a lot to the table that I lack that complements the idea. Mike's experience successfully publishing a book opens doors and helps us avoid rookie author mistakes. He also has built a great marketing platform with his thousands of readers of his book and business blog. He is a prolific writer how has learned to communicate business topics in a compelling way. Finally, he is a great and smart guy I have been partnering with on other things and really enjoy working with. Overall, a no-brainer.

 

I do have exactly one thing I would like to not split right down the middle and I'm a bit uncomfortable saying so. One of our names has to go first in the author line and, for some reason, it would mean a lot for me to be first. Before I even ask, Mike has already taken care of that in the draft agreement, noting me as "author" and him as "coauthor" with my name going first. Everything else seems pretty common sense and I send it off to an attorney specializing in copyright law to give me an expert read. (I use eLance.com to bid out my legal projects and have been very happy with the service.) We agree to finalize any tweaks after incorporating any changes from the attorneys. I'm not 100% sure this book will ever produce a penny of revenue, but now it is incurring some real expenses. This is getting real.

 

Work Intrudes (Feb. 14, 2014) 

 

It's been over two weeks since our flurry of activity pushing the book and connecting with Miles. We haven't made as much progress in these two weeks as we did during the last two days of that flurry. It's for a good reason though ... other work has popped up that has distracted both Mike and me. We both have our own management consulting and training businesses and we partner together frequently. In the last two weeks, we have had several new potential client leads come in all at once and putting together proposals to respond takes some time. Prospective clients are always a priority, so the book has taken a back seat. It is a good problem to have, but hopefully we can find some time to continue pushing forward to a proposal Miles can start marketing. Oh, and also Miles emailed today to ask for an ETA for the updated proposal. It is a good reminder ... and a nice validation that he must think there is some good potential here.

 

Proposal 0.0 (Feb. 17, 2014) 

 

The gentle nudge from Miles has spurred us to finish up our edits to the outline and get it back to him for his thoughts. Miles gives us a few suggestions and tells us we need to start translating the outline to a more formal proposal. Mike sends a copy of his final proposal from his first book and we decide to use that as a starting point. We need to translate the 5-10 page outline into a 30-50 page proposal. We have our work cut out for us. Kind of intimidating.

 

Good Distractions, but Distractions (Feb. 28, 2014) 

 

We've had more good distractions. A couple of other potential clients needing proposals. Some family and vacation. Excuses, excuses. Bottom line is we haven't made a ton of progress in building out the big proposal format. Most of the progress we have made in the last couple of weeks has been around setting up the process through which we will work together. Mike set up a Dropbox folder for us. First time I am using it and it is very useful. We also set up a weekly meeting to check in, although we have skipped the last few because of competing priorities.

 

Mike: Slammed (March 15, 2014)

 

I finally got back to working on the proposal and check in with Mike. His reply back - "Slammed. Will review/revert soon. Sorry for the delay." The terseness of his message reinforces the content. Mike is a workaholic (he would admit so) so I don't doubt for a second that he is slammed on other valuable things. I just find that pushing the ball alone takes a little wind out of my sails. I feel like I am playing tennis with a wall - the only thing I get out is what I put in. The adrenaline I felt in January is kind of running low. I start to wonder if this was a crazy idea after all. No hard feelings, just more like a check back into reality that feels like an adrenaline hangover.

  

Victor: Slammed (April 3, 2014)

 

I am not sure what happened to the second half of March. A freak cold snap in DC froze my pipes, which meant I started a new job of babysitting plumbers in my house. My parents' 50th wedding anniversary and an impromptu family reunion in DC meant I was hosting a big party. More client requests came in. Spring and Cherry Blossoms. Nationals baseball season opening. A mayoral race to help with. Whatever it was, the last couple of weeks were quite event filled, but did not translate to a lot of progress on the book.

 

Restart (May 5, 2014) 

 

The book proposal has moved exactly zero inches forward over the last several weeks. Lots of excuses, none of them great. I was overseas on a hiking trip for a couple of weeks. Mike continued to be slammed with work. Etc. So I reached back out to Mike today and asked if we should restart the book or should we take our lack of progress as a sign that maybe it wasn't meant to be. We both decided to get back to it and schedule a call to get us going again.

 

Sometimes a Break Can Be Good (May 22, 2014) 

 

We have made some nice progress over the last couple of weeks. In fact, setting it aside seems to have had some big benefits. First, re-reading it confirmed for me that there was a good concept here worth completing. Second, it made it much clearer what should be changed and gave some fresh ideas on how to restructure. We have cranked quite a bit on it. The proposal is up to almost 40 pages and it is getting much tighter. Much tighter. I am officially excited again and getting eager to get it to the next step.

 

Coffee with an Author (May 28, 2014)

  

I had coffee today with a neighbor of mine who just published his first book. The whole time I was meeting with him I was thinking to myself "when can I call myself an 'author'?". He cracked the top 10 of the Washington Post's non-fiction best seller list. It was interesting to hear about his experience. When he asked about where we were and when we started, I felt a little embarrassed about our big delay over the previous couple of months. I told him we started at the New Year, secured an agent who wanted to represent us, and have our proposal up to about 40 pages. His reply - "Wow, that is really fast." That was a surprise. It was a nice reminder about how picking the right partner so early was a very smart move.

 

Finally Hitting 'Send" Again (June 2, 2014) 

 

I love the book. I hate the book. Well, to clarify, I am really happy with where we are with the proposal draft. We seem to be accelerating in finding ways to tighten it every time we exchange edits. I am starting to think people actually might want to buy this book when it gets printed. Yes, I said "when" as I am now getting very eager to get to the next stage with it.

 

At the same time, I am hating the book a bit because I am now at the point where I have read it so many times I am having a hard time letting it go back to Miles (remember, he is the agent) for his feedback. I keep thinking "what if we added this or changed that" but then realize that at some point you just need to sew up the patient up. We set a goal to send it to Miles by the end of last week. It was ready, but we decide to sleep on it over the weekend.

 

So today was the day to send it off. I sent Miles a heads up on Saturday that we would be getting something to him in the next few days. My purpose with that was to (a) remind him who I was after such a long gap so my email didn't get lost in his inbox, (b) let him know to set some time aside because going through the 40 page document does take some time, and (c) to commit myself to getting it out. I reread the proposal one more time. I found no type-os and changed exactly one word. I resaved and then attached it to an email. My temptation was to write a long explanation of what changed since last time, what we think is good, what we know we need to work on, etc. etc.. But I resisted that temptation and simply said "As mentioned. We are eager to get your feedback." under the subject line "Revised Book Proposal".

 

For the first time in months, I feel like the ball is out of my court and it feels good. The bad part is that I am now playing a waiting game. The proposal has grown a lot since Miles last saw it. Would he still think it is a good idea or has he since come to his senses? What if all the work to date was for naught? Was I crazy to think I could write a book? And I wait...


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