Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Cool Things My Friends Do (Week #114) - Ann Fry and Senior Flat Mates on CBS Morning News

Each week on this blog I enjoy highlighting some of the cool things my friends do in their personal and professional lives.

My friend Ann Fry, and her roommate Dina Wilcox, were featured on the CBS Morning News this week.  Ann and Dina share an apartment in New York City, and are part of a growing trend of seniors who share living expenses (but don't call the Boomer Roomies!).  They even have a blog called Senior Flat Mates that chronicles their lives and provides advice to other seniors who seek to live with roommates.



Ann met Dina a few years ago after moving to New York from Austin, TX.  I know Ann from the professional speaker community in Austin, I had breakfast with her on a visit to NYC last year.  She told me all about how they came to sharing an apartment and the wonderful friendship that has grown over the past few years.  

The situation provides a more affordable living situation, companionship, and someone to make sure all is okay on a daily basis (when you get older, living alone can mean other challenges, and having someone nearby brings peace of mind).  

Rent in places like New York (and other cities) has become very expensive.  The single "20-Somethings" share apartments to afford living in the city, it only makes sense that the single "60-Somethings" could do the same thing.  

The duo are in the process of writing a book and hosting seminars to help others create great life with roommates.  The idea is not different from the old TV shows "The Odd Couple" or "The Golden Girls", and I applaud Ann and Dina for their efforts to educate others on how to make it work.  Happy to feature them as week #114 of "Cool Things My Friends Do".

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Got Mojo? - Dawnna St. Louis Guest Blog

Dawnna St. Louis is an expert in Mojo.  She knows has a way with explaining what business people need to succeed and has a unique understanding of harnessing Mojo.  

Dawnna has developed a system based on the science of confidence, the psychology of influence, and blended it with your personal business experience.  If you have ever wondered why some people can increase sales through networking, why some teams have a competitive advantage, or why some leaders can motivate masses to follow a vision.... the Mojo system outlines your personal competitive advantage.

Her guest blog about how Apple got it's Mojo right walks is below. Check our more of her writing at the Get Mojo Blog.

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Executives usually don’t suffer from a lack of confidence or influence. In fact they usually have both in aces and spades, but sometimes they will admit to suffering from some misplaced Mojo.
Misplaced Mojo can cause even the greatest executives look as if they are doing a poor job. Tim Cook ran into some serious Mojo misplacement issues over the past two years; and who can blame him. There are seven different Mojo Superpowers: SuperStar, Thought Leader, Magnate, Champion, Authority, Networker, and Secret Agent; so figuring out how to wield your superpower can be tricky at best.
As it turns out, Cook’s Mojo Superpower is Authority which means that he has deep passionate knowledge in a specific area and knows how to execute it like a Jedi master. Regardless of who you ask about the “running” of Apple they will all agree that Cook does an amazing job of visioning, strategizing, and leading Apple into the future – basically the things that a great CEO of a major organization should have on their resume.
Where things get a little wonky is when Cook tried on the Steve Jobs superhero outfit. He tried everything from being on the same platform with Jobs to wearing matching outfits to imitating Jobs’ Mojo style. Well, it didn’t work and it was ugly. It was like he was dancing to the syllables of a song with two left feet while singing off key with a swollen tongue. Everything everywhere just looked and sounded wrong.
Some people blame Cook’s failure on the Jobs’ specter haunting every presentation by setting a bar so high that only a champion could reach it. And in a way… the people were right.
Steve Jobs had Champion Mojo. Champions are pulpit masters that have a quasi-religious hold on their followers; followers who gladly dig deeper, pay more, and bring more followers into the flock.
So what is Cook to do? After all, you can’t just wake up one morning and be podium prowling pontificator with major pull; either you are born with that kind of Mojo or you are not.
The answer is simple. Just like Jobs’ needed a side-kick with Authority Mojo, which he found in Cook; Cook’s needs a side-kick with some Champion Mojo. And that is where Craig Federighi comes in.
The man might as well don a cape because he has some real Champion Mojo.
Champions, like Federighi and Jobs, believe in a product so deeply that they can create an emotional connection between their followers and their belief. At WWDC on June 3rd, Craig showed everyone exactly what his Mojo was made of. We watched brilliance unfold as he made off-the-cuff jokes, sly remarks, and let his belief in Apple’s newest and shiniest innovation be known; a belief that his followers will soon believe, too. He was transparent, authentic, passionate and exactly what Cook needed to create magic for Apple.
Cook’s brilliant move to fill in the Mojo gap on his team really paid off. Suddenly the internet world went ablaze asking the question – “Is this the next Steve Jobs?” While Federighi is not the next Steve Jobs, he doesn’t need to be. He knows how to wield his Mojo Superpower to bring followers into the flock and punch up profits.
Like most Mojo Champions, Federighi believes in this new brand of Apple Kool-Aid and his followers will be looking to take a hearty sip.

***********************
Dawnna St Louis is the world’s expert on Mojo: Your Unique Power to Magnetize, Captivate, and Influence. She works with leaders and their organizations to help individuals and teams tap into their perfect brand of Mojo to conquer challenges with confidence, build strong team alliances, and excel in business as an iconic leader.
What can Mojo do for you? Everything.







Have A Great Day

thom singer

Friday, July 25, 2014

Cool Things My Friends Do (Week #113) - Misty Williams Relocates Business and Life to Austin

Each week on this blog I enjoy highlighting some of the cool things my friends do in their personal and professional lives.

My friend Misty Williams is doing so many cool things at one time that it is hard to keep up.  A month ago she decided to get a fresh start and move her life and company to Austin, TX after more than a decade building her business in Tennessee.

Misty is the founder of Strategic Marketing Solutions / MarketechU, a marketing strategist and author of How Should I Market Myself?  She has also recently released several free tools including the "Marketect Grid" that allows people to plan and track their strategic marketing efforts.  

She works with speakers, coaches and consultants to develop their marketing gameplan to grow business.  Since her move to Austin I have spent time with her, and she is clearly "the real deal".  Too often consultants prey on new speakers and struggling solopreneurs to get them as clients, while Misty prefers to work with those that have already established their practice.  She a true expert in marketing strategy and the development and execution of solid marketing campaigns.

Her career began in artist management and marketing before she founded Strategic Marketing Solutions in 2004. Her clients include bestselling authors, nationally-known speakers and a plethora of experts who package their expertise as speeches, books, training and coaching programs, tv/radio guests, and more.

I am currently reviewing her Marketect Grid and the Marketect Grid Crash Course.  You should check out her website and download all the cool free tools she offer.  And if you are so moved, hire her for coaching!

It is fun to watch her launch new products and create a new life in Austin. She has jumped in to see the sights, make friends, and begin building her brand in Texas.  I am happy to have her as week #113 of "Cool Things My Friends Do".

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Mastermind Construction Zone


Association conference organizers are always seeking unique programs that are interactive and offer lasting impact.  Professional speakers who serve convention audiences are more than a commodity.  The right presentation sets the tone for the whole event.  As a one who considers himself part of the meetings and association industries, I am always looking for new products to add to "The Conference Catalyst" program that will enhance the conference attendee experience.  The "Mastermind Construction Zone" presentation is just that type of breakout or keynote.

Are you familiar with the idea of a Mastermind Group?  The term has been round for nearly a century and many successful individuals attribute much of their career achievement to these small circles of trusted peers.  But curating a mix of committed people who will both push and pull others to reach their highest level is not an easy task.  There are many ways to forge a powerful alliance that co-advise each other, but the first step is to understand "why?"

Many times I have been in an audience where the speaker instructs audience partners to discuss goals around their topic.  The presenter then encourages participants to exchange contact information and follow up as "accountability partners".  I have not found success with this type of alliance.  A random person seldom is the ideal long-term and mutually-beneficial support system.  

A true Mastermind Group has to be constructed over time and with a blueprint as to what is being built.  This group is not magic and results will never happen instantly.  The organizer of the group must identify what type of peers they are interested in having participate, and then assemble a group that is committed to the ongoing experiment.   

During my career I have been part of several formal Mastermind Groups.  Some failed to develop into anything worthy, but two have had meaningful impact on my career.  My current Mastermind Group is still evolving, but I always get excited before one of our meetings by phone (or Google+) or in person.  I know each time we gather there will be action items I will leave with.  And I always have somewhere to share the good and the bad days of my career journey.

Surprisingly many have never heard of this concept.  Napoleon Hill first introduced the concept in his book Think and Grow Rick more than 75 years ago.  Leaders in a variety of industries have utilized such groups to help propel their business accomplishments.  Nobody is an island, and having a personal "board of directors" is a great way to get additional points of view to weigh in on any issue.  The associations where I teach this to members all have active boards that guide the organization, and this translate well to each person who wants to find more opportunities for their own success.

This workshop takes the idea of networking to the next level.  Thinking about the people you meet at a conference as a possible piece in a lifetime tapestry of mutually beneficial relationships changes how humans interact. When attendees at the association conference make connections with others and discover similar long-term goals, they can then begin to explore ways to mingle shared visions into something that lives long beyond the conference.  When considering the selection of others to be part of an ongoing Mastermind Group it elevates casual chit-chat and transforms conversations into deeper explorations.  

The goal of the session is not to create a Mastermind Group for each person in the room.  In stead it is to shift the perspective of participants in how they look at the power of long-term and mutually-benefical connections.  Using the analogy of the construction of a building, long before the doors open on a new facility there was much that happened along the way.  We need to begin with the blueprints and permitting of the site ages before ground is broken.  Each person assumes the role of architect and project manager as we explore what they can create.

Networking can become so much more when you have the right affiliation with people who are committed to being a guide for success to each other.  But the right group will not self-select, there needs to be a planned effort to ensure the Mastermind Group will be supportive of the members and endure over time.

For more information on The Mastermind Construction Zone presentation, please contact Thom Singer at (512) 970-0398 or thom (at) thomsinger.com.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Solopreneurs and Selling Your Services


Being a "Solopreneur" is an exciting journey and there is never a dull moment. No matter what services you offer, the sales process is a very personal experience when you are the product. One cannot get disappointed or discouraged too easily, as you will win some and lose some along the way.

If I could figure out the secret code to why clients select me over other speakers it would make this solopreneur life much easier, but it would not be nearly as much fun. The human-to-human engagement of the sales cycle is exciting, regardless of if I am hired or not.  The experience of determining if I am the right fit for each company, law firm, association or other meeting is like a glorious puzzle.

I recently asked a friend for an introduction to an association where I would like to be a featured speaker at their annual event (and I am confident I would make a huge impact).  The head of the organization did some homework and realized they had turned me down last year.  He was worried about having me chat with his team, and he told my friend he "did not want to get my hopes up".  I still wanted to have the conversation, as without a dialogue with a real person there was no change I could ever be considered.  The meeting organizer and I had a most delightful discussion, and there was some interest in ways to get the crowd more engaged with each other and a possible need to bust the cliquey atmosphere that can sometimes exist at these types of gatherings.  In the end the committee decided their meeting did not need the "Conference Catalyst", but I was still extremely grateful for the.chance to talk to this highly creative meeting professional.  I am never disappointed when the answer is "No", as I could never be the right speaker for every event.

Each potential speaking engagement is different and what motivates the decision makers (event professional or committee) is always unique. The sharing of ideas I get to have with very interesting people keeps me excited about being part of the meetings industry. Those professionals who are committed to creating interesting experiences are full of energy, artistic vision, optimism, experience, knowledge and the entrepreneurial spirit.  Rarely will you find someone with a stronger work ethic than an events professional.

Delivering over 50 presentations a year to a variety of types of audiences, I have discovered that no two clients are the same. Their underlying motivation to what they want from speakers is always different.  It is also true that "speaking" is an art from, and some prefer a Monet to a Picasso.  A speaker is not a commodity, and each person creating a conference agenda has their own vision for what they need in the tapestry they are creating.

In the end it is sad to not get the gig when you believe the audience is ready for your message.  However, there is always next year, or the year after.  I have had many situations where "no" has simply meant "not this year", or while I am not a fit for their organization, they refer my services to another group.  That is the coolest part of dealing with people who you want as your friends, not just as clients.  A mentor once told me "In business No only means not this time".  His advice was to be polite to everyone and know that there is always tomorrow.

In the same hour of getting the "No" from the prospect I mentioned above, I heard "Yes" from another amazing organization.  You can simply not predict what will happen. As a solopreneur you have to own it all (the good, the bad, and the ugly).  You must not let a lost sale slow you down.

Have A Great Day

thom singer


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Monday Has A Brand - But No Marketing Budget (Guest Blog Post by Gerry O'Brion)

Monday has a brand... and it has no marketing budget!!! 

I said this to a group of friends in a bar the other day, and got a big laugh.  But the credit for the saying goes to my friend Gerry O'Brion who put it on his blog last year.  When I originally read these words it made me laugh, too.  But then it made me think, because many believe that branding takes a lot of money and effort.... but does it?

We all have brands, and if you have employees you need to remember that all they do (inside and outside the office) can impact your corporate brand.  People are always watching and judging, so actions matter.  

Below is a guest blog post that came from July 2013 from the What Big Brands Know blog.  Check out what Gerry had to say on this subject.  If you do not know him, you should.... as he is a great speaker!!!

Who's In Charge of Your Brand
By Gerry O'Brion

Every organization, every person, every place, well…almost everything has a brand. Think about it – what’s the brand of Monday? How did Monday get a brand? It doesn’t even have a marketing budget!

In big companies Marketing or the “brand managers” (which I was at Procter & Gamble and Coors) are “in charge” of managing brand perceptions. But who’s really in charge? I spent my career managing billion dollar brands. The process of managing those brands is simple to understand, but extraordinarily hard to execute well. Especially today.

The reality of your brand is that every single employee has an impact on your brand. And today, so does every customer. So how do you “manage” your brand in this new reality? The first step is getting clarity on your true brand message. What do you stand for that is unique from competition? Then, be sure that every employee understands and delivers that message consistently to every customer. Give your employees the language to use so every customer knows what you do that’s special.

As a marketing speaker I teach the strategies that great companies use to build powerful brands. Today more than ever, consumers want to be in a relationship with brands that both listen and act on customer input. Social media has made it easier than ever for consumers to be heard. Companies now have the opportunity learn directly from their customers, and make changes based on their feedback. And it’s free. It used to be that consumer research was only done by the big companies. Now, they’ve lost that advantage – anyone can do it.

Social media scares many companies – especially big ones. At companies with clarity about their brand message, this is much less scary. If every employee knows exactly what the company stands for, they’re clear how to act in every situation, with every customer. They have the ability to do the right thing, and are clear what the right thing is. The foundation of a great brand always starts internally. When everyone in the company is clear on the brand, your customers will understand who you are, and what you stand for.

In great companies branding is everyone’s job. While branding efforts may be led by Marketing, the execution of these efforts happens at every level, in every department of the organization. Think about restaurants as an example. In restaurants, the brand is largely built on the front lines where the customers are being served. The servers are typically the lowest paid employees in the company – and the most important.

The hiring, training and motivating these front line employees is critical to the long-term success of a restaurant brand.

So, who’s in charge of your brand?



Gerry O'Brion is a marketing speaker and author who translates big brand strategies into knowledge that any business can use to win in the marketplace. Whether you have a small business or big brand, Gerry's strategies can grow your business. Gerry built his career growing big brands. After earning his MBA at the University of Michigan, he worked with Procter & Gamble on brands such as Crisco, Tide, Mr. Clean, and Spic & Span. Next, at Coors Brewing Company he managed Coors Light, a $2 billion business. He was then VP of Marketing for the $1.5 billion Quiznos restaurant chain. Gerry was most recently VP of Marketing for Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, a $1 billion brand.

Have A Great Day

Thom Singer

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Forever Friends


Our family spent part of our vacation with the families of two of my friends from childhood. Later this summer we will attend a Bat Mitzvah where many other life-long friends and their families will be present. While people will come and go from our lives, some souls are "forever friends".  We are fortunate to know many of these folks whose presence is ever lasting in our lives. Time and geography move people apart (we moved to Texas from California 23 years ago) - but the age of communication can also keep us together.

Cherish people. 

Have A Great Day

thom singer


Friday, July 18, 2014

Planned Improv? (Guest Blog by Avish Parashar)

I recently coached a person who complained she "over-planned" everything.  She confided in me that she dreamed of being more of a "free-spirit".  As we talked it was clear she felt these two ways were mutually exclusive.  But are they?  I find that the more planning I do in my business, the more un-planned opportunities and serendipity pop up.  

Planning is important, but often it prepares you for the unexpected.  A business plan is not Google Maps.  It is not reality.  It is an idea.  Plan like crazy, then be open to what can happen.  My friend Avish Parashar teaches improv comedy to business professionals, and he agrees with my idea of the being prepared, while being open to the unexpected.  

Below is a blog post that appeared on Avish's blog that I thought might shed some light on this idea:

Tap Into your "Zone of Brilliance"
By Avish Parashar

Can I make a confession?
I am a paid professional speaker who speaks on the power of improvisation, and yet, my speeches are fairly well planned out when I speak!
Does that seem incongruent to you?
Would it make it worse if I told you that I practice my keynotes and that some of my stories are – gasp! – written out?
I can understand that feeling. However, it shouldn’t. Not if you understand a fundamental rule about improvising:
Improv is not about slacking off on the things you can control. It’s about letting go of the things you can’t.
I can control my speech, and I can control my content for the speech. When I speak, there are 2 levels of improvisation I use:
  1. play improv comedy games in my speech. Those are new every time.
  2. I stay present and aware of my audience and adjust if and when necessary
Interestingly, the more prepared you are the easier it is to improvise!
I know my keynote and material so well that I don’t need to think about it. That frees up my conscious mind to be in the present and connect with the audience.
Then, when things go “not quite as planned,” (i.e. “Ding Happens!”) I am able to use improv skills to react and flow as if everything is just fine.
  1. Understand Why You Should Learn to Improvise - Don’t resist learning improv skills because you are very detail oriented and prefer to plan and prepare. Learn improv so that when something happens that you didn’t and couldn’t prepare for – and it will! – you will be able to quickly flow and deal with it.
  2. Get Over Your Fear Of Letting Others Improvise – If you are a manager or leader, you may find yourself saying, “I don’t want my people to improvise! I want them to do what they are supposed to, when they are supposed to, how they are supposed to.” No one is telling you otherwise, However, when taught and used properly, improv is not about letting people “wing it.” It’s about giving people the skills they need to react when the policy and system isn’t enough. (Here’s a tip: Google great customer service experiences. Almost every one is about an employee taking action outside of the “policy.”)
  3. Prepare! - I don’t care if you are a speaker, business owner, salesperson, customer service rep or other, there is no excuse for being unprepared! Know your material. Be an expert in your subject matter. Know your script/policy/system cold. THEN you will be in an amazing position to improvise when needed.
So yes, I am an improviser who prepares. And if you want to be a rockstar in your job, career, or industry, then I highly suggest you become one too!
Do you want to unleash the brilliance that comes at the intersection of improvisation and preparation in your team or organization? Then contact Avish now to find out how he can help you do just that!


Have A Great Day

thom singer

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Eject the Core


In one sentence the speaker on the stage transformed my work.  

While attending the 2014 National Speakers Association convention, I heard Eric Chester encourage the audience of professional presenters to throw out their PowerPoint and make each slide "earn its way back into the presentation". It sounds so simple, but these words have impacted me at a deeper level than Mr. Chester probably intended.

From that moment forward my business has begun to change.  Each presentation I have given after that moment has become more crisp.  Information that was "filler" is already gone, and some of the stories and audience exercises I have used for years are now in ongoing negotiations inside my head to determine their role in future presentations. A new course has taken shape, and I am removing all offerings that are not solidly anchored in my favorite areas of expertise.

Beyond the slides I am discovering it is time to examine other actions, relationships, beliefs, attentions, intentions, etc....  Many habits we embrace are security blankets that we cling to for ease and comfort, yet they are not the path to our most productive self.  I am evaluating everything.  This includes people.  Maya Angelou said "never make someone a priority when all they are to you is an option".  It is freeing to realize that you do not need to cling to people who sap your energy.

It can be a good thing to "eject the core".  Releasing distractions and making a conscious decision on where to put energy allows for new directions.  In the Star Trek series there are situations when the captain needs to have the crew jettison the warp core to save the ship.  This is not done easily or without thought toward the long-term consequences, but if they do nothing there could be a full meltdown and the ship will be lost.  While in our lives we may not have full warp breach, our future success can be enhanced by beginning anew.  Saving the ship and having a fresh source of power will bring you to places nobody has gone before.

No change happens without a purposeful dedication to shifting perspective. In the short time since I heard Mr. Chester's advice I have spend most of my days looking at what parts of my world must be removed, reviewed and re-invented. Certain things stay intact, but other pieces of my "core" are ready to be replaced.  Deciding what will "earn its way back in" will be an ongoing process.  The core is being ejected, and the future is unclear.

It is exciting and also frightening.  After achieving a certain level of success, and the idea of making changes could threaten everything.  I want to grow beyond the plateau I have reached to conquer the next mountain.  It is clear that what got me here wont get me there.  I need to embrace the unknown that lies ahead and create new material.

Comedian Louis CK is said to regularly throw out his act and start over by creating new material. He supposedly learned this from studying the career of George Carlin, who avoided stagnation by requiring himself to recreate his act.  What works for professional comics can also work for anyone. The reality can be that the best one has to offer is not necessarily what they are doing today.  But we are not taught this in school.  Our education system encourages completion of the course and then working with the skills you have mastered.  There is little talk about what is next or how to get there.

The hardest part is getting the marketplace to notice the changes you are making.  Some will want your old material, while others will assume all you do is what they witnessed in the past.  People make decisions based on a limited view, but overtime as people around them change the reputations (good or bad) remain the same.

Ejecting the core is not easy and there is no "Starfleet Command" who will send supplies to rebuild your engines.  You have figure it out all by yourself.  I know, as feel as thought I am currently alone in deep space.  Yet it is clear my best work is in the future, so it is fun to retool the whole system.

Have A Great Day

thom singer