Excerpted from the book on enlightened business, Business Black Belt
“Experience your greatness, not your self-doubt.”
~Ron Bynum, Essence Partners
There are a variety of situations that take me by surprise. My inability to effectively respond has allowed me to either miss a wonderful opportunity or agree to something I’d later regret.
What compelled me to write this section was a chance encounter with a beautiful woman when I acted like a deer frozen in the headlights. This has happened to me a number of times before and until now, it never occurred to me to develop a response that I could practice and use in emergencies. (Being a single male looking for the ideal woman—this situation seemed like an emergency.)
To give another example, I recently hired a consultant, only to realize soon thereafter that he was incapable of doing the work and that we really didn’t need it or him anyway. Like most entrepreneurs and successful business managers, I have a bias for action. Every project is critical and I want to do them immediately. Combining that need with a good sales pitch by someone who seems capable of giving me what I want adds up to a potential problem, if not a disaster.
In both of these situations, I am susceptible to trying to wing it. They seem like great ideas at the time but since I haven’t thought them through or been able to plan for them, I take the easiest route. In the case of the woman, I did nothing. In the case of the consultant, I said OK. I never realized that there are situations where my brain runs off down the street and I should have a practiced response that I can immediately use to ensure the appropriate action without having to think about it. It’s almost like a fire drill. You don’t expect to have a fire, and you know it will happen unexpectedly. You’ll probably panic when it does but if you’re prepared in advance, you’ll know exactly what to do automatically.
I do have an emergency response for pushy salespeople promoting deals that are too good to be true, etc. “I don’t make decisions like these impulsively. I’m going to think about this and get back to you. And here are a few things I need answered… Here are a few things I need to do… Here are a few things I need to know…” This response keeps me from making mistakes, inadvertently shuffling priorities, spending money where I shouldn’t, and distracting my employees from other projects that are equally or more important. It also helps to take the salesperson out of the “pitch” mode and put them into an “engineering” mode. I tell them that I’m sold on the concept, but I need help integrating their product or service into my business (or whatever). If they persist with a pitch—more convincing and less listening to understand and help with my situation—then I see red flags. Their deal will last a few days or a few weeks so I can take my time.
When to be prepared
(Here’s a short list I prepared for myself)
• When introducing yourself to a room full of people and telling them who you are and what you do — in < thirty seconds. • Introducing yourself to potential business contacts at a party. • When your airplane engine quits at 7,500 feet. • When a maître'd seats you at a poor choice of tables. • If someone grabs your girlfriend’s purse. Obviously, this list can be a long one, but think of a situation that you should be prepared for and plan a simple, no-brainer response. Here is an example of one of my thirty-second introductions: Hi, my name is Burke Franklin. I’m the president of JIAN software. We produce a line of business development software to help you build your business. Our key product is BizPlanBuilder, which is a complete software package to help you develop your business model and write a compelling business plan for investors, bankers, senior management, or even your employees. It takes advantage of your word-processing and spreadsheet programs on both Windows and Macintosh and sells for $97.
Rare opportunities from rare situations
The point here is to understand that there are situations where you have blind spots and are susceptible to stupidity. If you honestly reflect on past situations, you should be able to recognize yours. Take a moment to write down a description of a situation and then list what the parameters of a good response would include or look like. From there you can create a statement you can readily use while your brain and common sense are down the street. It’s a lot like writing and rehearsing a script for a special scene in a movie. At this point you will have disengaged yourself from acting like a deer frozen in the headlights. The mild panic state will be sidestepped and you can think creatively enough to take the next step.
The key is recognizing you have a problem, developing a method to deal with it, and then practicing it so you can deliver it without thinking. Ask people you trust to give you honest feedback.
The first step in the process is to center yourself. If this is an emergency, you don’t have time to meditate for an hour, but you can prepare an instant meditation that will work. Take a moment to search your memory banks for a place and time in life where you were completely happy. No worries, no criticisms, and everything is great. There I am, five years old, swinging in an old tire hanging from an apple tree at my grandparents farm in Northern California in the summer. Where are you, what are you doing, what is around you, who is there, when is it, how old are you? Build a complete scene. This is your “happy place.” Keep this as a handy film clip in your head that you can refer to anytime you want. Go to your happy place. When I go to my happy place before I hit a golf ball, I’m amazed at my results. Going to your happy place does wonders for your state of mind and your capacity to think under pressure. Also, the energy you exude in this process will be clean, free of any fear, anger, anxiety, and other things that might put people off. Now you are ready to implement the response you’ve developed. If you’re worried about potentially dangerous situations on the street, most martial arts or self-defense training will prepare to you respond with a good move without thinking.
The flip side — Just Say No
The reasons you give for why you can’t do something only offer a handle for someone else to use to coerce you to do what they want. They can use your reasons against you—argue their value judgments to discount your reasons—as if the reasons you give are less important than the favor they are asking of you. You run the risk of getting into a debate about the value of your reasons instead of how you might creatively solve their problem. In the privacy of your own mind, make your decision: yes or no. If it’s no, say no. The more reasons you give, the more you expose yourself to being dragged into something you don’t want to do.
Business Black Belt Notes
- Identify the emergency, compulsion, or fatal attraction.
- Establish the parameters for your emergency response.
- Plan and practice your response so you can do it without thinking.
- When the situation occurs, go to your “happy place” and follow your script.
- Make decisions without necessarily giving your reasons.