Business is all about ideas: you need to know which of those ideas you should be pursuing, when and how to do it, how to test these ideas to make sure they’re viable. Take action to see them become tangible, revenue-generating, profit-producing reality. Prime your mind. Direct your focus towards the thinking and actions needed to see your ideas through – all the way towards completion. Learn how to move faster, easier, higher with less risk, time or effort with Jay Abraham, one of the top marketing executives and marketing consultants in the country with a huge career in direct marketing. Jay has helped literally thousands of companies make billions of dollars in the course of his career. Are you ready to generate more revenue with your next idea?
Listen to the podcast here:
Entrepreneur Disrupted Mini-Series – #2: Ideas
This episode is all about your ideas, how to know which of those ideas you should be pursuing, and when and how to do it, how to test these ideas to make sure they’re viable and then take action to see them become tangible, revenue-generating, profit-producing reality. This is an important episode that will hopefully prime your mind and direct your focus towards the thinking and actions needed to see your ideas through to completion. I truly hope you benefit from and enjoy it. We put an enormous amount of ourselves into each of these episodes so that you will be able to move faster, easier, higher with less risk, time or effort.
Jay is one of the top marketing executives and marketing consultants in the country with a huge career in direct marketing and helping literally thousands of companies make billions of dollars over his career. I get a chance to pick his brain.We were friends before we did the show and decided we’d get an excuse to talk with each other and that you’re going to benefit from this. What you’re going is an interesting conversation where we tell you how to solve the problem of knowing which of your ideas to go with and which of your ideas to completely reject with reckless abandon and which ones to maybe go with some other time. If you work with a crazy entrepreneur like Jay or me or you are one, more likely if you’re attracted to the show, you likely have more ideas than any normal person think is possible or sane, and they’re right. You do have that many ideas. I am famous for carpet bombing the Bulletproof team. In other career times I’ve had, I’m always coming up with more ideas than we’re going execute on. I’m talking about this from my own experience and also the guy who shine the light on this the most.
There are two people to thank. One is Dan Sullivan with Strategic Coach who just pointed this out blatantly. The other one is Joe Polish from Genius Network. What you will do if you have this creative idea entrepreneur thing is you’ll misestimate the amount of time it takes to do it. That means that you’re like, “This is easy.” You think it requires no resources and no time. It’s work for someone to do. This is a good thing though, because like me, I don’t believe anything is impossible. Truly nothing’s impossible. When my kid says, “Can’t,” I just say, “What if you change the Laws of Physics, then could you?” He is like, “I guess.” I’m like, “Then don’t say can’t. The problem is that you don’t know how to change the Laws of Physics. Get to work on that or find something else good to do.” I mean that. I do not use the word can’t unless I’m using it consciously, and I use it with a qualifier like, “I can’t do that with the things on the table in front of me in a way that I know.” That is an accurate statement, but otherwise, just don’t say that. Entrepreneurs are like that. We believe anything is possible and we believe it’s easier than it is going to be.
Once, when I started the very first e-commerce company ever, my little T-shirt company that sold caffeine t-shirts over Usenet, someone from Entrepreneur Magazine, surprisingly, in fact my photo from Entrepreneur Magazine is my proof of fat photo. A million people saw me when I was 23 and weighed 300 pounds. For reference, Jay, was the Founder of Entrepreneur Magazine. They asked me, “Dave, you’re not sending envelopes full of paper to people,” which Jay was big business for years, it was direct response marketing. I said, “No,” and he said, “How long will it be before people stop sending catalogs?” I said, “It should be about three years.” This is the entrepreneurial bias. I was right. You still get junk mail. I don’t get junk mail because I blocked my address so I don’t receive mail. Why would I open paper? That’s a waste of my time. There are many companies now who do email, but it took twenty years and I thought it would take three. At that time, one of the other companies that I could have worked with, it’s a company that sold for $200 million to DoubleClick, founded by Rosalind Resnick who was a reporter for The Miami Herald. These guys figured it out earlier than I did and monetize the crap out of just that early movement. The idea was sound, it was just way, way more work.
You get guys like Peter Diamandis. Private space travel? No big deal. It took ten years and he made promises with money he didn’t have. If you see the movie Visioneer, it’s an incredibly inspiring story about an entrepreneurial effort that changed the world. When you dig in on this, you will break your team if you’re not careful. It’s also stressful for you as an entrepreneur. This is what I’ve learned from working with people who know what they’re doing. What I do now came about from something I learned the first time I attended Joe Polish’s Genius Network. It was a simple concept and one that is going to solve this problem for you assuming that you have this problem. If you don’t have it, someone in your organization does have it, either you’re doing it to someone or they’re doing it to you is most likely. The solution to this is take the ideas, say thank you, whether they’re your ideas or someone else’s, gratitude is good. Then put them on a list. The list is we’re going to say no. These are good ideas we’re not going to do. They were still captured and they weren’t lost, and this reduces stress. It actually reduces stress more than emptying your inbox down to zero because your inbox will always repopulate.
All the good ideas were captured, we put them on the ‘do not do this list.’ There might be a ‘do not do this now list’, if you want to get cool. Maybe this is my someday list and then there’s a now list. If you do that, suddenly these ideas all of which seem easy like, “At least I’ve triaged them.” If you have a team supporting you, even if it’s just a part time EA who’s plugged in to what you do and you’re thinking, you can work with that person to prioritize them. A sane person will look at how much resource and how much time it takes. When I say a sane person, that’s what you might be thinking. What I think a sane person is probably pathologically lacking vision and clearly not knowing how to hack things. Whatever date and resource level they give me, I will be absolutely convinced because I’m an entrepreneurthat that is wrong and it probably is, because they’re going to do it the old way and we’re going to do the disrupted way.
Your job is to work with your team to get your idea on the ‘do it now list’ versus the ‘never do it thing’. Relaxation happens after that and then you can focus on the do it now. That’s where you go back to the same people who came up with timelines and budgets and you say, “Are you kidding me? Let’s roll up our sleeves and let’s break this.” That was such a huge thing to learn from Joe. Joe who works with Dan Sullivan all the time, Joe and Dan, it was probably Dan’s idea that Joe was helping to spread. That changed the way I thought about things with my team, and now we’ve had full three-day off sites where our whole job is to work on communication, where everyone in my team feels safe saying maybe not no to the CEO, but saying, “Not now,” or saying, “I understand the business rationale.”
Part of what I learned is that oftentimes I want to do it for reasons that I don’t explain very well. I’m convincing my team, “Do this.” The normal instinct for primates is that when the alpha dogs/silverback gorilla, whatever big animal I am, whatever that animal is, it’s the top animal so all the other animals behave in a certain way towards it. This will happen to you as entrepreneur, especially if you’re even halfway successful like, “This is successful, power, money, prestige,” and so then people start behaving towards you that way, which means when you have an idea, they feel obligated to do it and then they don’t know why. I’m working on teaching the Bulletproof team, “No. If I ask for something and it’s not readily apparent why, then let’s have the conversation. Let’s structure things to do it.” That is the process that I go through for picking ideas because literally I send one sentence emails a couple of times a day to someone in the company, “Let’s do this, let’s do this, let’s do this.”
If you’re a CEO, if you’re an entrepreneur and you’re paying someone, what you say is an order the way it’s perceived by the nervous system of the person who gets it. You’ve got to break that habit and make it so that your people know that these are ideas. Even though you’re the CEO, you’re probably brainstorming and that it’s okay for them to ask you, “Did you want us to do this or were you just saying that was a good idea? If so, are you going to fund that? What’s the deadline?” We even have code words at Bulletproof because there are some things or ideas where we’re like, “We’re going to do this. It is a strategic priority and I’m going to exercise CEO power. We will do this.” We have specific language in the company. If that’s what I’m intending, I will make it abundantly clear. If I don’t do it, it’s a shame on me because I didn’t do my job right. That’s my advice for entrepreneurs about how to pick ideas. Come up with all of your ideas, write them all down, sort them and then see what happens when you communicate them to your team with reasons for doing them. You’ll find that the order of execution changes. After that, you go in and you roll up your sleeves and figure how to break a system.
You gave me probably twelve comments so I’m going to give you my take. Always understand I look at it from a more eclectic, maverick approach. When people are trying to figure out what to do with or without ideas, I try to sit them down, take a deep breath and start by saying, “First of all, let’s try to figure out what the idea is trying to accomplish and why? How does it fit in whatever your business model is current? Why are we doing it? Should we do it?” It’s like the analogy maybe about the holding. Next, before I do that, I’m very pragmatic. I want to look at what you’re doing right now and how it’s doing because you’ve got all these new ideas that require diversion of resources, diversion of financial, human, intellectual, capital and capacity. I want to look at your main business, even if your business needs to be pivoted and re-pivoted. Most people don’t come even remotely close to maximizing and multiplying the performance of all the key elements that are driving that business. I’ll give you a couple simple examples.
Back when dotcom was coming in its own, people would come to me and say, “Jay, I’m getting 40,000 visitors a month and I’m converting 1%. If I could only get 80,000, I would do so much better.” I’d say, “Why wouldn’t you rather try to figure out how to convert 2% or 3%? It’s a quantum time easier than the other.” Another person I did a consult with, he trains HVAC, like heating, air conditioning people how to grow. His claim to fame is he’s got a $30 million, $40 million company, but they only bring 3% to the bottom line and he’s putting all his effort in being a mentor. A mentor is great, but there’s no equity value in it. It’s a lifestyle business. It can be leveraged a bit, but the truth of the matter is if you grow your business from 3% to 8% and now you’re mentoring people, you can assign your brand to those people, you can organize a syndicate and you could create a $400 million or $500 million assets.
I try to figure out what the game you think you’re playing is, whether you’re playing little stakes, big stakes and whether you even know it, then after doing all of that and I try to do it using Socratic interviewing, but I do it in a way where I ask questions designed to have the entrepreneur himself or herself or their team evolve to the answer, so that it has not only ownership but rooted power. If I shove it down their throat, it’s not going to have any value. The next thing is I look at three different elements in the growth or interest in the implementation, actualization quotient. Assuming it makes sense, assuming it’s not going to kill you on diversion or investment of resources, there are three different areas. There are easy high probability wins that don’t make as much, but sometimes depending on the next or the next level, are very useful to reinforce the self-worth of the person doing it. Wins help you want to be more courageous. There are certain things that are windfall that are sitting there and they’re opportunistic and they’re not long term. Most everything I try to do for people are designed to be sustainable, systematic, integrative, advanced and enhanced, everything you’re trying to do and if they don’t, I don’t want to see you do that.
The next one about Entrepreneur Magazine, I had different requirements. We had two different operating units. One didn’t make a lot of money but it had to create the product that the other made a fortune selling. I had to balance two different cash flow, revenue model and agendas at the same time. When there are all kinds of forms of revenue or wealth, whatever you want to call it, there’s strategic, which could be what you do to bring a prospect in or to go out and find one, and that’s usually negative cash flow. If you’re dispatching a salesperson or having an opt-in or a lead or a trade show, there’s current income, there is predictable and dependable future income that evolves from a system that flows from that. There’s windfall income that comes from intersection. You’ve got to get a lot of reward and the final one is asset.
The one thing I would say to most entrepreneurs and this is not a downer, it’s a clinical fact, for everybody that’s Uber or Google it’s going to be worth $100 billion. The majority of businesses, small and medium, doesn’t sell or sell for such a pathetic amount that the owner really and truly hasn’t got enough outcome out of it to even get rid of it. Most of them get closed down either bankruptcy or liquidated for asset value. You’ve got to be thinking about all this stuff. I’m not trying to give you a headache, but this is the stuff I look at. I want to know what is going to be the highest, easiest thing to win on. Is it recurring? Is it strategic? Is it validating to reinforce and fortify your tensile strength or your grit? What’s going to be mid-term and what’s going to be long term? We also used to always have 10% of the money our clients be allocated to what we call jackpot craziness. These are things we expected 99% to fail. We only needed one win every so often to change the game. I’m known to be wildly eclectic and non-linear, but in all actuality I was trained by people who are fiercely analytical, pragmatic, profound, critical thinkers and would not allow their minds to get deviated for things that weren’t relevant and highly, highly, highly strategic. 90% plus of all entrepreneurs are tacticians, they’re not strategists. That’s probably my two cents’ worth.
You think 90% are tacticians, not strategists?
Their strategy is so weak or misdirected that it becomes nothing more than a tactic. I’m not talking about the big corporations. I do this all over the world. Of 40 million businesses, 38 million are going to be 10 million or less. If you go to 5 million, that’s going to be 95%. If you go to 2 million, that’s going to be 92% of them. They don’t have infrastructure, they don’t have a lot of talent and most people don’t understand strategy at the real entrepreneurial frontline of capitalism level and yet it’s one of, if not, the biggest denominators of superiority and of multiplied performance.
I’ve spent a lot of my bigger corporate career running strategic planning. I used to run strategic planning for the Citrix virtualization business unit, which is a sizable company and a meaningful part of the company. Corporate strategy is so quantitative and so very different, there’s a lot of competitive analysis. I may have a very biased view on this, Jay, because the kind of entrepreneurs who I surround myself with when I do things like Genius Network or Peter Diamandis’ Abundance 360 Group or the Joe Polish’s Genius Network or JJ Virgin’s Mindshare.
Inherently, they have a prejudice towards being strategic, but you’re not operating very frankly in the real world as far as the totality. You’re operating in the 1%.
You just made me see that. I’ve advised a good number of entrepreneurs. I probably had been on 40 or 50 advisory boards now. I was on IBM’s advisory board. I was the youngest member ever. I was under 30 and advising, that was so crazy. It was called the EABC. They flew me to New York three times a year. It was amazing. I don’t know if it’s because I was good or if it’s because I was at the right company at the right time. Advisory work is interesting. You were telling me that I surround myself with entrepreneurs who are kicking ass. That’s why I go to all these different networking things and I spend time there because it helps keep me at the top of my game. There’s a selection process. What I’m talking about is the point of view of a disruptive entrepreneur who is strategic. I do tend to have that view of that. You’re right though, if you’re an entrepreneur who’s running a chain of restaurants and I’m doing strategic partnerships with guys like that around opening more Bulletproof Coffee Shops more rapidly. I would almost argue that it’s almost denigrating what they do to say it’s tactical.
Let’s say it’s suboptimal.
From a neighborhood point of view, it’s strategic. They’re going to win. You have ten locations for your very respectable thing you’re doing; restaurant, Laundromats, whatever the thing you’re doing. You’re going to operate that thing, you’re going to be some mix of tactical and some mix of strategic, but your mindset and your scope is very different. Your set of ideas, you’re going to sit down and go, “I could run an ad in the local paper or I could hire a sandwich board guy to stand up front and do jumping jacks. Those are tactics except when the scope of operation for you is, “I basically have this one location and I have all these different ways to get people in the door. If don’t get people in the door, it is life or death.”
Can I argue?
Absolutely. That’s the whole point of this.
I’m not going to argue like wrestle you in mud to the ground, but I’ll give you two perspectives and I’ll give you a funny anecdote. The first perspective is this. I drive people crazy because I am ruthlessly and hopelessly focused on the fact that the average enterprise, singular, multiple, franchised, franchisor, has so many elements within it that can be multiplied and improved. In the improvement, not only does the revenue obviously improve, but the delivery of the unique, differentiated, pre-emptive, pre-eminent service improves. When I look at the person who’s got ten different facilities and I know that person is going to try sandwich boards or this or ads. First of all, multitude of things is available but none of them make sense until you figure out what you’re trying to do.
For example, I had a restaurant client in Boston once. They were very established in small rural towns. They went to Boston and they only had enough experimental money to take one quadrant. They had a budget of $500,000 which sounds like a lot, but in Boston, the media before wasn’t online. You had to pay for the whole city even though you only wanted one geography. They were struggling and I said, “You’re doing this wrong. You get $500,000. Retail is going to buy you 90% exposure to people who are not even qualified, and the other ones, most of them are going to be, ‘Let’s do it differently.’ Who do you want?” It was upscale. They said, “We want people of influence and people of stature.” I said, “Okay.” I already told the Willy Loman story. Willy Loman is the greatest bank robber that ever lived. He robbed more banks than anyone before, during and after. Do you remember the bottom line?
He went to where the money was.
Remember that defining message. I said to these people, “Who do we want?” and we defined it. I said, “What your $500,000 is going to be at most in any conventional media tactically selected, you’re going to have about 5% access to who you want and a 95% waste. You’re going to only get whatever 5% is, $25,000. What’s the food cost?” “It’s 15%.” “$500,000 in money would buy whatever the inverse is. $3 million worth of food.” We hired very attractive men and women and we dispatched them to the influencers in the area. We gave them the title of assistant managers and we sent them to introduce themselves with the following tested and validated, not conjecture-based phrase. They would go and they’d say, “My name is Jay Abraham. I’m the assistant manager at such and such restaurant. You may or may not know, we opened at the corner of Hill and Brewster. We very much know that if you and either your family or your colleagues come there once, you’ll be coming back. If we wait for you to find us and invest in us, it may take three months or year. We have enough faith in our restaurant, our food, our chef and you that we would like to buy you and another colleague lunch, dinner or whatever you want.” Our idea of influencers wasn’t just the doctors and the lawyers and Indian Chiefs. It was the hairstylist and the clothiers. All total, we spent $150,000 and created $5 million worth of revenue. Certain things you’re going to challenge me and argue and I will take umbrage on the word tactical, although I still think it is technical but I want to be respectful. Did you ever see the segment of South Park called the Underpants Gnomes?
This is my single favorite TV clip ever even better than the South Park where they all went crazy eating butter, which was awesome. The Underpants Gnomes, tell the story for people who don’t know it. Most entrepreneurs who have seen it are like, “Yes.”
This is a definitive and a great, metaphoric, allegorical, illustrative example of what I’m talking about. I don’t remember the character, but the one character whose dad coincidentally had a coffee. His dad had an independent coffee shop.
That’s Tweak. Tweak is the one who’s getting in trouble.
We liked it so much we put it on letterheads or in envelopes and send it out to people, the picture. Whoever he was, his dad owns an independent coffee shop. The kid’s having double espresso all daylong and his eyes are popping out and he’s freaking out and he’s got insomnia. He tells all the other kids that every night at about 2, all these little gnomes come shuffling in to his room and they steal his underpants. They just think that he’s having a meltdown and he said, “We’re going to prove it.” All the South Park kids go in the closet. Sure as shooting at 2:00, they hear this knock and they opened the door, and there are all these gnomes on each other’s shoulders at the top of the closet door or whatever it is, throwing underpants down. They flip off the light and they’re scared the heck and they come tumbling down. They said, “What in the heck are you doing?” The lead gnome said, “It’s part of our big money-making plan.” He said, “What’s the plan?” “Number one, steal underpants. Number three, profit.” I always thought that was wonderful.
It was such a commentary on Silicon Valley at the time where that step two in strategy about how are you going to make money and add value. The thing that made that cement in my mind was there was a pregnant pause. Step one, steal underpants. Step two, all the gnomes just looked at each other, and then step three, profit. It was looking around with like a lost look with Trey and Matt. It’s absolutely amazing that they got that so perfectly because that is the problem. When you’re picking ideas, which is what this episode is about, sometimes that happens. It’s a good idea but the why and the how is all gone, but you know it’s good. That’s the crazy entrepreneur thing that I was talking about where we have these ideas, but having someone who thinks about step two is good. If you’re strategic, you might think you know step two, but having your execution team sit down with you and work through step two is probably pretty helpful.
Another thing that we might do in a subsequent segment, we could go back and forth. I’m not saying this arrogantly, it’s just because of the vastness of the experience and the diversity. I know more ways to pretest or to at least indicatively validate or invalidate assumptions or hypothesis or ideas before you have to commit too much. Most people don’t think about what it will take you right in a whole monthly array of things from the development, the execution, the dissemination, the reception, the fulfillment, the scaling up and how much of the reallocation of resources and facilities. I’m profligate about this. Somebody said about me one time, I’m like a gigolo who comes up with another hot idea every evening, takes it to my room, has my intellectual way with it and throws it out in the morning. I thought that was very graphic.
It’s graphic, but that is what entrepreneurs, at least the kind that I hang out with, that’s what we do. You’re right. There are a lot more operational-focused entrepreneurs, a lot of them aspire to be more at the high growth, high disruption thing. That’s the whole point of Entrepreneur Disrupted is how do we take you to that level. Quite often the ideas are coming, but they’re automatically filtered in the nervous system by the two F’s we talked about; the fear and the failure of things. If you’re sitting down at your company and you’re saying, “How do I get to the next level? How do I 10X this thing?” that comes down to you quite often. You are saying no to yourself before you even consider the idea. When you cut the fear and become comfortable with failure, then what happens is the ideas are free to come out of your subconscious without being squelched by an automatic system that you don’t even see. We’re going to do another show on how to test new ideas before you run with them. That would add a lot of value for people. You’ve been listening to Entrepreneur Disrupted with Dave Asprey and Jay Abraham. Our intent here is to accelerate what you’re doing in your business and to offer some knowledge from a couple of people who’ve walked into walls more than a few times. If this is helpful, ask us a question. Go to the Facebook page, the Dave Asprey public page and say, “I want to hear about X,” and then you’ll hear about X. That’s what this is all about. Have a great day.
- Strategic Coach
- Genius Network
- Entrepreneur Magazine
- Abundance 360 Group
- Genius Network
- Dave Asprey