OTS 132 | Change Course


Every so often, you hear the words stay the course, never quit, don’t quit, but changing course can mean a lot of different things. You read books like Five Feet from Gold and think about JK Rowling who got turned down seven times on Harry Potter before she struck it rich. You think that if you want to change course or abandon a project then you don’t believe in yourself. People are trying to tell you what they think, but whose opinion do you trust? A course change could be a complete redesign or an abandonment of a product or project. It could be changing course in how you’re marketing what you’re doing. It’s a scary topic because it feels like sometimes when you want to change, it’s like giving up. Tim is joined by four industry experts who share their thoughts and opinion about changing course, trying something new, or stopping what they’re doing.

Listen to the podcast here:

How To Know When It Is Time To Change Course

The band is all back together for Flash Topic Eight and I can’t wait for you to get in the discussion. Not all the usual suspects are back though. Tracy Hazzard, Joe Tarnowski and Jamie Robinson are back. We have a new addition filling in which is Tracy’s husband, Tom Hazzard and he adds a tremendous amount of information, experience and expertise to the Flash Topic call.

I’m super glad to have you with us. We are missing a couple of people and we have added somebody so let’s roll around some introductions. First of all, I’ll tell you who’s not in this episode. Bill Carmody is not here and also, Salah Khalaf is not here. We do have Tom Hazzard with us. Welcome, Tom.

Thanks so much. I’m so happy to be here.

Tom, you obviously have the same last name as Tracy, why don’t you tell us a little bit about you, who you are, how you fit into Hazz Designs and what’s going on there?

I’m an industrial designer. It’s a degree from an art school. It’s not an engineering type of degree, although it’s very closely related to engineering. I’ve been a product designer and developer. I do light engineering for my whole career. I met Tracy in college at art school and we’ve been working together one or another ever since. In our design firm, Tracy does the visionary and research side of things. She’s setting some of the directions where the market opportunities are and things like that. We both work on the concept of what the designs might be. Then, I do the execution and follow through like once we come up with the concept, here’s what we want to do. I’m the one who’s making the decisions on how something’s going to be made or worked and creating the CAD files, the data to get things made. We’re consulting together all along the way, but we have unique complementary skills and enough that crossover in the brain trust to make the best product.

For a lot of people, self-reflection is not a good strong skill. Click To Tweet

If your company is The Rolling Stones, who is Tracy and who are you?

I don’t know the Stones as well as The Beatles. Can I switch to the Beatles? I’d say she’s John and I’m Paul. It’s an interesting example because they were true partners and wrote music together, but they had different particular talents and even interests somewhat.

I’m not at all disagreeing with that one. I think that’s pretty accurate. I’m the front girl usually that’s why you hear from me. It’s a little combination of being the girl up front, the voice and active member because I do speak all over the place for Hazz Design. It is a visionary of how we write, how we design and how we work behind the scenes.

It’s interesting that there was a pair of struggles between John and Paul. John definitely when he was alive, The Beatles were real, he was definitely the front man, considered the leader of the band, but Paul did a lot of the writing behind the scenes. There are probably as many ways you could shoot down this analogy as you could adopt it.

There would be no Hazz Design without both of us. That’s what we’ve discovered over the time. Not one of us can take it on without the other. That’s why we’re careful about what projects we take because we’re busy.

Joe Tarnowski is back. Joe, how’s it going?

Very good, thanks. I can’t believe this is number eight already.

It seems like eight is a lot and then it seems like eight is not a lot. I decide whether this is a lot or not. I have been seeing a lot of your face in the videos on LinkedIn. It seems to me you discovered the people who want to hear you say stuff.

It’s funny because there are a couple of reasons why I started doing that. As you know LinkedIn is relatively new to native video. It was only recently where LinkedIn started letting you actually upload video to the platform as opposed to putting all YouTube links and because of that, they are trying to catch up. I found out that they shared native videos with more of your network. I attributed some of these to you because I’ve been mostly behind the scenes in my marketing efforts and putting out content but not myself. Having done the podcast with you and having fun with that made me want to take it to the next step, so I’m putting myself out there and encouraging our teams to put themselves out there. Part of the reason was that people liked hearing our opinions and thoughts. Part of it was also to put myself out there to encourage the rest of our team members to do that as well so they become the faces of their individual categories. They’re starting to do that and the results have been great. The amount of views and responses from the videos in that format is a lot more than those other types of posts. Our teammates who were doing that as well are getting a lot of results, feedbacks and leads coming in. It’s been fun too.

OTS 132 | Change Course
Change Course: Some people in particular especially like things that may not be directly related to the category but helpful.

I’m not sure if you saw the one that I did wearing the men’s facial mask. We have our personal care session coming up and a big component of it is men’s grooming. Men’s grooming is blowing up in the category. One of our customers gave me some men’s face masks and I couldn’t resist. Something simple like that got me tremendous numerous views and a lot of engagements so that encourages me to do more. It turns out that it’s not just when I talk about the category but some people in particular especially like when I talk about things that may not be directly related to the category but helpful. For example, I did one based on Fision and how quiet downtime can help you with creative breakthroughs. I also did an analogy with Alexander Hamilton after I saw the play in content marketing and now he is the country’s first big content marketer. I’ve been having fun with that and the more I do it, the more ideas pop into my head.

Well done for creating one for the team and having it work out so well. The rest of the team have been coming along slowly but I enjoyed hearing your commentary and it makes you want to click the link for some reason after you’re done with your pitch. Jamie, how are you doing?

I’m doing well. How are you?

I’m good. What’s new with you?

I moved my entire life and family. That is the worst ever, especially when you’re doing it in the sick months of June and May in Florida. There’s been a lot of rain. I’m trying to make it back on track but everything’s going well.

It’s hard. We’re getting ready to move so it will be a bit hotter, a bit of weather and that should be super fun. Two days after we move, I’ll travel for seven straight days. My wife is very excited about that. Our topic is when is it time to change course. Changing course can mean a lot of different things but you hear so often stay the course, never quit, don’t quit. You read books like Three Feet from Gold and think about JK Rowling who got turned down seven times on Harry Potter before she struck it rich. You think that if you want to change course or abandon a project, then you don’t believe in yourself.

People are trying to tell you what they think but whose opinion do you trust? It’s like a bad stuck and you’re trying to figure out, “When do I get out or when shall I get out? Getting out is not going to make me my money back. Should I stay in for the long haul?” I’m interested to know when you think that it’s time to change course. A course change could be a complete redesign or an abandonment of a product or project. It could be changing course in how you’re marketing what you’re doing. It’s a bit of a scary topic because it feels like sometimes when you want to change it’s like giving up. Tom, I’m going to throw it over to you and let me know what comes into your mind first about abandoning a project to changing course, trying something new or stopping what you’re doing. What are your thoughts? 

If you do have that set of why, you will always find a way or an opportunity or make that opportunity. Click To Tweet

It’s a great subject to talk about because Tracy and I have been in this quandary ourselves in our own businesses. We have also gotten all the same counsel that you read about on Napoleon Hill’s books and in all of the business networking conferences where everybody says, “Stay focused and do one thing. Get it done. Finish it before you move on to the next thing.” I don’t know if I am quite wired that way. I hear, understand and see that may make a lot of sense. Maybe it’s because Tracy and I work together. We’re two people who are co-owners of our business and now two different corporations because we spun one off. We didn’t do what Napoleon Hill would suggest. We didn’t stay focused on one thing and take it all away. We’ve been podcasting for many years and we set up a team to do that so it didn’t take over the daily work that we’re trying to do every day. Other people in the business said, “Can you do that for me?” It got to the part where we were like, “That’s a business opportunity on that itself.” We wrestled with that. I’m like, “We’ve got to do it. Podcasting is growing. It’s a big market.”

It wasn’t in our phase. It’s a totally different shift and business. What we usually do recommend to people are small changes or small pivots. That’s what design is about. You keep tinkering with things till you get it right for the marketplace but you don’t make a radical change to everything because if you do that then you have to start everything all over again in your process. It’s more costly and time-consuming. We recommend abandoning quicker, more often than we do a completely radical change of something. 1% change can have a magnified effect later thinking about it like a trajectory.

Tom, we’ll use your example. Let’s say I’m not talking about identifying a business opportunity and then turning towards it and driving towards that. I’m talking more like you’ve identified that business opportunity. You turned towards it and driving towards it and it’s not working. It’s not developing like you thought it would develop. You still know it’s a great idea. The indicators are all still there. The reason that this came up is maybe I should have backed up a bit but I have people and I know that you talk to them too. People who are holding on to projects or products and they need to let go or change course. I’m trying to figure out through our group what the indicators are. If together we can’t come up with some good advice for these people as to when to say like a bad stock, when should you sell it and be done? With that caveat on it, Tom, I’ll throw it back to you.

We do see this a lot especially with inventors. We tend to attract inventors. Maybe it’s because we are inventors sometimes more than we’d like to. I was guilty of this early in my education and career as well. I fell in love with my own idea and a lot of inventors fall into that category. They think that their idea is the best thing ever because they birthed it. There’s something about that that makes them think that no one else has thought of it before. They think, “It’s the best thing and I’m going to make tons of money. I need to pour everything into this at all cost to make it happen.” They get that reinforcement from the environment around them about how amazing the idea is because people love them. That’s usually the friends and family factor which is very dangerous. Either their friends and family say, “That’s amazing.” They are impressed because the average person in this world is much stuck in their lane of life. They don’t stray outside of it and think, “I can create something. I can take the initiative and make something happen.”

When they see someone else do it, they’re legitimately impressed by that. That can give an inventor or an entrepreneur a false sense that they’ve got something unique and it’s going to win. Your family is always going to tell you either they love it because they love you and they want to give you positive reinforcement or they’re going to tell you it’s the worst idea in the world. Don’t ever do it because they’re afraid you’re going to go bankrupt chasing this idea. Friends and family are never a good way to get feedback. You do need perspective and this is the first piece of advice I would give to anybody who is trying to decide.

Maybe it’s an unrealistic piece of advice because they’re stuck in their world that they may not see it. Get perspective from outside your friends and family circle or current business circle. Get other perspectives because you have blinders, you don’t realize it but your perspective is clouded. The old cliché is you can’t see the forest for the trees. That is the reality of it but how do you know? I don’t know that you can know. I wish back in one of our first businesses where we had a business that was based on a single invention. We went and patented it. We didn’t get the patent. We manufactured the product initially in the United States and then went to China to do it as we needed to. We built a whole company around this one patent which became several products but we were guilty of these issues of being stuck in our world. I wish we had known at that time.

They always say you don’t know what you don’t know. I wish we had known there were communities of other business people, conferences, organizations that can help educate us in the realities of business that we could go out and get some counsel and perspective. Had we done that and educated ourselves in different ways, it could have been more successful. My best advice is to get some outside perspective, help and counsel. Do not be arrogant that you think you know everything. That’s the biggest problem that gets in the way of people getting, having clarity and good direction on where to go, whether to stay with it or abandon it.

You’re saying that things are going horribly but you go out, reach out and get some outside influence. All indicators are still a viable project and a good product. It’s just taking some time. That would give that person the confidence to keep going or vice versa.

I’m going to caveat that. It depends on the perspective. If the perspective is that the consumer or whoever’s going to buy this, even if it’s business to business, wants it and if you hear that that’s the reinforcing messages which are desired in the marketplace, then you keep pushing forward. Three Feet from Gold gives me anxiety. I can’t stand the book and the chapter. I don’t like the other book that’s all about it. It drives me crazy that he never went to get an expert who knew anything about how gold runs in vanes. How to mine gold? He didn’t get an expert. It drives me absolutely insane that he wasted all that time and gave up because of that. I recommend getting an expert’s advice but I also recommend getting that in a place at which you’re getting consumer desire feedback.

OTS 132 | Change Course
Change Course: Get an expert’s advice but also get advice in a place at which you’re getting consumer desire feedback.

If you’re getting desired feedback that this is wanted, then you should keep pushing through. Sara Blakely went to the story that’s probably magnified from how many she saw, but hundreds of banks and investors and other things. They all turned her down for Spanx, the pantyhose with the feet cut off. That’s what they were at that time. It’s tight, holds you in and squeezes everything. She got turned down but all of them were met. Every woman she talked to you and every person she met on the other side of it said, “I want that. Where can I get it?” She was listening to the right core people to keep going whereas everyone else was telling her no and should quit. It’s what indicators you listen to. If they are consumer desire, then move forward. Move as fast as possible to keep getting that momentum going and keep checking that.

Back in our first experience in business, we invented a product that was an accessory for the handheld computer. Do you remember the palm pilots? That was a big thing in the late ’90s. We embarked on building a business from scratch to sell an accessory to two consumers. It was two end consumers and it was a growing market. Everybody thought it was the biggest thing in the world but that course ended up fizzling early in the new century. It was a difficult thing to try and build a company around selling a single accessory one at a time to individual consumers. At that time, we thought that was the big market.

What Tracy was saying is in terms of going out and making sure the market wants to buy your product. I agree with that, but I don’t think we could have done it in that situation. What ended up happening is we got lucky and a market found us. It wasn’t a business to consumer market, it was a business to business market. It found us because all these companies kept saying, “This is a great product. Can you print my logo on it? Can I buy thousands of them to give away at the trade show?” “Sure, I can do that.”

We ended up pivoting the business and building the entire business around that market. That was the lion’s share of our business. It became a seven-figure company. It didn’t get to eight figures but it became a seven-figure company doing just that. The business to the consumer side of it was 5 or 10% of our business in the long run. We got lucky. We could not have predicted that. The point is you can’t always go, do that research and know either. I don’t know what conclusion to draw from that. Tracy, what do you think? The reality is how do you know whether to go forward or not. You could get lucky and there is another opportunity.

Luck is rare.

It is rare and luck is not a plan.

Jamie, I’m going to get your take on this. Remember though, what we’re trying to end up with are some key things that we can give out. People who might be struggling with a product that’s not doing well and wondering whether they’re going to throw in the towel or not. What we’re trying to boil it down to is do this, don’t do that. This has worked for me in the past, this hasn’t worked for me in the past. Jamie, we have been with multiple people that have thrown in the towel, stopped using services or changed their mind. How would you know it’s time to change course in your vane?

When you first placed the subject on the line, my first response to that was if I spend a lot of time in marketing and with all of the tools out there these days, I have a lot of information. I can go to or reflect upon and say, “This is working or this is not working.” I don’t make a lot of uneducated guesses but I will say that there’s a lot of times where I would say, “My gut is telling me this or feels like this,” especially when it comes to a product and a certain type of consumer.

The analytics are not always going to reflect what your gut or my gut is thinking. That gut is a lot of experience, knowledge and all that other fun stuff that goes with being in business for awhile. I attended a seminar and I was a little taken aback because I felt like people were taking advantage of the people who were attending the seminar for they were a little ignorant. The approach they were taking was asking for a substantial amount of money to have them come back to another seminar for information that was readily available online. There are people out there who will take advantage of your ignorance. That is another situation that people have to take into consideration when it’s time to throw in the towel on who they’re asking for help or counsel from. People will take your money and sometimes they’ll give you good information and sometimes they won’t.

When you were all talking about it and you, Tracy, was saying that they should go and get information. They should get help. They should seek professionals who can counsel them and tell them, “Yay or nay.” The best source for that is consumers. If you have a product that no one wants to buy, no one is going to buy it. You’re not going to be successful no matter how beautiful you think your baby is. No matter how great the process was when you were inventing this product if no one wants it, no one is going to buy it. If you don’t have that consumer support, then you’re going to fail. It’s simple as that. That is your best resource for deciding if or not it’s time to throw in the towel, consumers and their response.

David Oreck would always say, “If you want to put an advertisement out there and you want to know whether it works, go as far as you can. Give away as much as you can. Do it as big as you can afford and see if it works. If it doesn’t work, then you’ll know that it doesn’t work. If it does work, then, you can start to pull back a bit at a time to see where the threshold is. If you never did everything that you could have done and it fails, you’re always going to ask yourself, ‘If I would have added this, if I would’ve gone big here or if I would have given this away, you’re going to be left with all these questions.”‘ 

To your point when you were putting it out there. One of the things that people can ask themselves is, “When things are bad did I do everything that I could have?” Here’s a good example. Joe, this is going to lead right into you. I have a lot of clients that never go to a trade show because they think they can’t afford it. When things are slow or things aren’t kicking off as fast as they could, my recommendation is always, “Go to an ECRM session or to a trade show. Put yourself in front of a large number of people to see the responses.”

A lot of times they don’t want to do that because they don’t want that expense. In that way, I’m saying, “You’re part of the cause of your own issue if you’re not doing everything that you can.” We should all make it clear, you can’t build a product, order a container, put it online and not do anything with it. When it doesn’t sell, “I wonder what’s happening?”

It’s not a, “Build it and they will come,” world.

Joe, what do you think about that? What do you think of gender?

Everybody on the panel seems to have covered the grounds as far as external feedback. There’s an internal component as well. There’s a macro way of looking at it and a micro. When you think of it in terms of, “I’m an entrepreneur, I’ve got this product and I’m putting everything into it.” One thing that they should also listen in addition to all of the external feedback is when your passion guys for it. If you no longer feel that spark or fire, then you’re not going to have the energy and grit to stick it out and look for those opportunities to make it work. It’s just I’m a big believer.

OTS 132 | Change Course
Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

Simon Sinek wrote in Start with Why, you need to find that reason for being. What is your reason? What is your thing? Follow along those lines. If what you thought was your reason for being is no longer the case, then it’s time to find something else. On the other hand, if you do have that set of why, you will always find a way, an opportunity or make that opportunity. I could use myself as an example. My why is content. I love creating content and connecting people through content. It’s something I’ve done my entire life. That first part of my career as the trade media journalist for 24 years and I loved it. I bounced around doing a lot of different things within that time, but it always focused around that content portion. Even when I wasn’t happy at a particular job, I still managed to find another thing to do within that realm because the content is what I was passionate about. Then at ECRM we’re switching from journalism to content marketing. It was a whole new world. You have that doubt to do that, “Can I really step up and do this? It’s a bit different.”

It’s still about content. Those opportunities will come as long as you have that passion, that fire for your product, your business or what you are looking to do. In addition to all of that external feedback, what the customers are saying, the sales and all that, internally it’s important to still have that passion and fire for what you’re doing. Otherwise when that flame dies, it’s time to look for something else. We’ll find that other thing that you’re going to be passionate about.

You’re saying that when your fire goes out, that’s a huge indicator that you might want to pivot, make a change or do something different. 

Just myself, I’ve never worked anywhere or done anything that I didn’t truly enjoy.

I find sometimes people don’t realize that the fire has gone out there. They’re in denial that it’s gotten past that point.

That takes a lot of introspection but you’re right, Joe. You can see it happening because they procrastinate more. That’s how it manifests itself.

All those things that Tim mentioned, they don’t look for those other ideas, step out of their comfort zone and try something new that might revive their business, pivot into another area. They’re not going to be open to newer opportunities that maybe is something completely different or maybe is a little slight pivot into a new area. If they’re not passionate about the business, they’re going to shut themselves off in being receptive to those opportunities.

Tom, you were saying though sometimes it’s hard to because a loss of passion happens over a period of time. You don’t just wake up today and you had tremendous passion yesterday while today your passion is in the toilet. It happens over a course of time. You were saying that people might not even recognize that loss of passion. 

For a lot of people, not for everybody, self-reflection is not a good strong skill. Even understanding that you’re at that point and you’ve lost that passion, the hardest thing for people is having a mirror put up in front of them. Seeing what they didn’t realize that, “What do you mean that you’re not passionate about it?” “Of course, I am.” “No, you’re not because you’re spending more time doing other things. Maybe you’re not having as much success as you expected to and doing the same thing over and over isn’t working. You’re not trying new things.” There can be many symptoms that show this. I find myself that Tracy and I always say that she hits me over the head with a hammer now and again when I’m not seeing things like that. Over the years, I’ve gotten better at self-reflection but it’s still not my strength.

We’ll let Tracy answer that.

That’s why he has a partner because sometimes you need a partner to be looking in those blind spots which you can’t.

It’s hard to find out whether you’re losing that passion or not. One simple guideline is on Monday morning, do you look forward to jumping out of bed and getting going or you wish the weekend lasted a bit longer?

When I look at it and I didn’t even give myself that long to think about this, I’ve been super busy. I whittled down to this topic. Here are my two things. It ties a lot into what you guys involved in saying, but in order to first know if you’re going to have success, could have success or success is possible in the future for you, you got to have an executable plan. That plan has to be diverse. Work it from a multitude of different angles. Part of that might be a trade show, a social media, Amazon or Big Box Retail. You have a diverse way that you’re attacking this problem.

Tom’s point or Joe’s point about passion, if you’re unable to self-reflect and find out whether your passion is gone or not, you can say, are you pumped to get up in the morning? More analytically, are you still executing on your plan? Has over time the execution of your plan stopped or dwindled? Are you executing in one direction instead of multiple directions? To me, that’s a huge indicator. When I have a client that all of a sudden starts pulling in the multiple areas and is focusing on one area, I know that they’re in trouble. I know that they are no longer executing from a place of strength. Most likely there’s some fear going on. 

When people get fearful, they start to pull things close. They contract and they’re no longer firing on all pistons. They’re just firing on one piston and the car’s not going anywhere. My advice to Big Boxers out there, if things are slowing down, wondering whether you should pivot or whether you should go this direction or that, is go back to your original plan if you made one. If you didn’t make one, shame on you, start making a plan. If you made a plan, go back to that and see are you executing on all the original things that you said you were going to do. If you’ve narrowed it down to just one area then, you need to start branching out again or re-execute your plan. For instance Tom, if you’re not good at self-reflection, I have a feeling though that you’re good at making an executable plan. We don’t know each other that well, but working with you, I have a feeling and you can tell me if I’m wrong about that. Analytically, you would be able to take a look and say, “Am I still executing my plan and if not, why not?”

We feel that some of the best plans have gates and points within them where you review. If you haven’t met all the criteria that then says, “You should go forward.” Then you take a step or two back. You revisit the issues that are not matching the plan. The pivot of course correct and only move forward after you have achieved these milestones or indicators that have presented themselves.

These are based on long-term product development processes that major corporation used to create and keep innovation going. How do you decide when they’re spending millions of dollars on innovation? Do they keep going? It’s easy to spend more money. In your example of Pistons and everything, there is also the opposite of that which companies with a lot of money tend to do the shotgun approach where when things go wrong, they throw everything they’ve had. They have no idea because it was so random. They have no idea what worked to duplicate it again. It happens. Making a plan makes it so that you have to evaluate, sit back and have this gate that says, “If I don’t know why I threw out all those things at work, I better figure out which one did then, move forward.” We also treat it as a go-no, go-point.

We’re narrowing on some real advice. Big Boxers, is your plan multifaceted? Does it have gates that you have to accomplish before you can pass through? Jamie and I have seen especially in the world of social media and marketing, let’s sort dollars at it. You want to get followers and grow your brand, sort dollars at it. They’re not always the right dollars in the right way. What do you think about that Jamie?

Money, contrary to popular belief doesn’t solve everything. In a social world, what’s most effective in thinking for a consumer-based product, a person is better than a robot. We speaking face to face or person to person to someone is far better than some app trying to do the same thing. It’s not authentic and it communicates to the consumer that you don’t care enough to have that conversation. Therefore, I’m going to keep it moving. You know your brand sucks. I’m never going to buy anything from you and I’ll tell my friends.

OTS 132 | Change Course
Change Course: In a social world, what’s most effective in thinking for a consumer based product is a person is better than a robot.

It deteriorates that. When you could have been authentic at the very beginning and did it correctly. It’s very frustrating for people in our position. I wish that people would operate first on their mind. Do it the way that they think it should be done not necessarily traditionally but authentically. Instead of trying to do all these new bells and whistles that this or that app or this platform is trying to push forward us to be the new and improved version of something that’s not broken.

When we were talking about experts, it frustrates me that people don’t get the right expert. We’re talking about Three Feet from Gold. He should have gotten someone who knew the direction that gold vanes ran. They didn’t seek out any information from an expert. You’re right, Jamie, many of them take advantage of your ignorance and they sell you something. For me, if they’re not giving you the advice and expertise you need, if it’s not available in a free format, then they’re not the person who should be giving it to you.

For instance, Tom and I were talking about this plan. We operate our plan. We give it away to everyone because if they’re not going to follow it, they’re not going to be good clients. We don’t make them pay and then we give them the plan. We give them the plan first. The point is you’re going to follow this because we know this works. It’s worked 250 times in the last eight years successfully. It’s still working today even though its basis was 25 years ago. It’s based on great product development principles. It’s going to get to the market. It’s going to get you to spend the least amount of money. It’s going to get you there the fastest with the best chance for success and we know that. If you’re not willing to operate on that then you’re not going to be a good client for us. We’re not going to able to accelerate you.

That’s what the expertise is out there that is being given away. Joe is giving away tons of it for you on LinkedIn. If it’s not coming to you in that way or coming to you in a reasonable group, there are groups that you pay fees for because they’re admin costs. If that group is a bunch of people like you who don’t know what they’re doing, then get out of it. If that group is all about selling you something, then get out of it. Find yourself a safer place to broaden and learn. That’s what you need to do.

I have a question specifically about that, Tracy. How do you know what you don’t know? You’re in a group with a bunch of people that don’t know. This is based on the seminar that I was speaking about. I knew in that room that most of the people were who were attending didn’t know the information that the gentlemen were presenting. I also knew that the information that he was presenting was readily accessible with a couple of keystrokes on Google and for free. It took everything I had not to jump and be like, “Don’t give this man $2,000. I promise you just go home and get online.” Of course, I didn’t do that. That would not have been right. How do you know what you don’t know?

I have been conditioned from practical birth by my father. I love that he has put this practice into me. This is what I try to get other people to do but they don’t. They don’t because the first thing that pops in front of them, they tend to do. My practice is absolutely Google everything, go out and search. There’s a book for something that I’m going to pop on my Amazon Kindle and look for it. Even if I don’t read it, I’m going to know that it’s there. It’s my number one thing that I do when somebody contacts me and says, “I have a great idea.”

I first Google what you say because I’m going to check it out. You think that you’re the only one but I guarantee you, you’re not. I do that and it happens all the time. We’ve had that happened to two people and they’re like, “Now that you opened up my eyes, I see there are twenty of these on the market.” I’d be like, “I know however I still think you have a seed of amazement that could sing and here’s why.” It’s not an indicator. Just because it’s out there doesn’t mean that there’s no brilliance in whatever someone is selling or whatever idea they have. It now has a context in, is it different and could it work? It gives you a framework.

What my dad has taught me is you read at least three things or you research at least three disparate things before you make a decision about buying something, doing something or accepting that as a word. In that way, your mental capacity has been broadened enough for you to be skeptical by having done that, having read through perspectives or viewed through perspectives if its videos or whatever that might be. It’s forced a skepticism into your consciousness. It will make you sit back and go, “Do I think I could do this for $10,000? Is it worth it?” There are some things that are because if at the end of the day you’re not getting advice for $2,000, but someone’s doing something and saving you time for $2,000, you might want to take them up on it. You will have made that decision for the right reasons and not because someone was selling you.

I’m a big fan too of research. Getting all of the different angles that you can. I’ve built most of my career in research as a reporter. That’s the way my mind works. If I want to learn something, I read as much as I can on it. I talk to as many people who have knowledge about it. I get as many different opinions and viewpoints as possible. In this way, you get enough exposure as you mentioned. Then you can make an informed decision as to which direction to go.

To Jamie’s point about that automation, the bots, the things that are out there and the tools. I completely agree with you, Jamie. If it’s not working on an organic level, if it’s already not getting good feedback, if it’s already not converting on a one-to-one basis or I’m sending my messages via LinkedIn but no one’s responding though I’m doing it personally, nobody is going to make that better. There’s a scale for things because you have to refine your messaging. You have to refine how you talk about your products. You have to do that in person because you have to get feedback and not wonder why people didn’t respond.

I am always a fan of going organic and if it’s working, then, go semi-automation. If there’s stuff that’s time-consuming, you want to save yourself some time and move to semi-automation. If it’s still working there and still converting then you move to some automation and test it. If it continues to work, I usually do all three in some capacity but I’ve dialed it in and said, “The time that I’m spending on the organic might be my highest value clients that I’m going to be sticking out and attracting. Let the rest of it run on autopilot because I don’t want to leave people behind.” There might be reasons for it but I love your method. If it’s not working one-on-one it’s not going to work any better later.

If it's not working one-on-one, it's not going to work any better later. Click To Tweet

The thing is most of the people that I’ve run into has a good handle on their business. Their business is consistently improving and increasing. At one point, we’re deep in the weeds. When they were getting things rolling, they were deep in the weeds. They understood every little aspect of their business and hand their hands on everything. It wasn’t until things started to take off that they started to climb a bit out of the weeds, a bit more out of the weeds. They didn’t replace it with automation. Sometimes they replaced it with hiring somebody that can also be personal with people. If you find yourself in the beginning business that’s not taking off the way that you want and you’re not in the weeds, people get back in the weeds. I want to know two things from each of you. Joe, we’re going to start with you. I want to know one and narrow it down to one piece of advice like we always do on this subject. Then two, I want to know what you’re reading. 

One piece of advice, I’m going to go back to that passion thing. If you’re not excited about it, it’s not something that you look forward to getting up in the morning, jumping into bed and getting into it, then it requires some work. You’ve got to fix it somehow. As far as what I’m reading, you might get a kick out of this. I am reading Michael Pollan’s new book. He is the one who wrote The Omnivore’s Dilemma, The Botany of Desire. He has a new book that’s called How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression and Transcendence

What’s interesting about it is he dispels or takes away all of the stigma that was associated with the whole psychedelic counterculture. He focuses on the use of psychedelic drugs as a way of helping people who are already well enhancing their lives. The reason why I found this interesting is all of the direction and the momentum that the whole hemp, marijuana and CBD industry’s going. There was the first CBD drug that was approved by the FDA. In that, somebody got a tremendous momentum. I’m wondering if psychedelics could be the next thing down the road.

Tracy, one piece of advice and what are you reading? 

Prove it first and this is always my advice. Prove that the market wants what you have to sell because everything else will be easier. The path will lead its way forward. People will reach their hand out to you and say, “I want you to come and present to me. The consumers want what you have to sell. That’s my top piece of advice and anything that you can do to make that proof clearer, broader and not your opinion is the important thing. Whether it’s data or testimonial feedback, use videos or whatever it takes to make that and make it sizeable too.

I am reading and it’s called ProphetAbility by Tony Bodoh and Betsy Westhafer. Betsy is a good friend of mine. I got to read the preview copy. I’m reading the final copy because there were some new stories. It’s based on this idea that the pharaohs and religions of the world listen to prophets. People who were foretelling innovation and change in the world were a lot of times not listened to. How do we as leaders start listening to our prophets before they leave our company, start a new one and disrupt our entire industry? That’s what the book’s about. It has some great stories of ways in which people listened and didn’t listen. It is less of an entrepreneurial book and much more of a C-Suite style book but it is worth a read.

Tom, one piece of advice and what are you reading?

My piece of advice is a cliché for me. Hope is not a plan. That’s my mantra. It leads to getting some outside influence experts, some other eyes to help you gain perspective to get out from behind your own blinders. That was a big focus. Hope is not a plan leads into that. I agree with you, Tim, you need a plan. Even if you don’t know what needs to go in that plan, get some expert advice so hoping you’ve got it right. I’m reading a great many different things. I’m not reading a specific book.

Hope is not a plan. Click To Tweet

I’m doing my research and reading a huge amount of articles into different app platforms for creating your own app as a business for one thing or another. It used to be you had to hard code an app, hire a company and spend $50,000 to $100,000 to create a mobile phone app but you don’t have to do that anymore. You can do it yourself for most things with some plug and play things. It’s like WordPress for apps and still has it on the app store, iTunes, Android and all that. I’m looking at that not only for our own business and doing that research, but to add offer as a service to others for one of our businesses. That’s not as exciting as the other books you all were reading but that’s what I’m spending with whatever time I have reading and researching.

Jamie, one thing and what you’re reading? 

My one piece of advice is to remain authentic. That has shown to be the best way of approaching your marketing. Do it person to person instead of listening to Joe blow the new guy who’s telling you about the new Bot that Facebook added yesterday and everybody’s doing it today. I’m not to say that some of those tools aren’t profitable and they’ll help your business or whatever, but think about it first and remain authentic. The book that I’m reading is Ta-Nehisi Coates because I’m having a lot of political anxiety. I’m reading his book, We Were Eight Years in PowerI’m trying my best to remain positive, put on a good face, make my business work and make my clients’ businesses work. It’s just a lot.

Tracy, by the way, you were talking about giving it away free. Nobody gives it away for free better than Flash Topic. You don’t just get one person’s advice but from a lot of different people doing a lot of different things and a lot of different ways. I don’t think anybody could come across better advice in a more well-rounded way. My one thing is putting a cap on what we’ve all talked about is work the plan. Have a plan and work it. Understand when you stop working the plan or the plan is no longer working. That’s when you’re at that crossroads. Anybody that’s having difficulty, look at your plan and figure out if you’re working. Have you contracted or you’re focused on one simple thing? 

The book I’m reading is called Ego Is The Enemy by Ryan Holiday. Hopefully, we’ll all finish our books by the next time we get together and we can all do a quick little book review. Of course, as you can tell, ego is the enemy. Understanding what role ego plays in your decisions and how you respond to people. When you’re on your own business and it’s very personal then when things happen, if you respond to them right away, it could be your ego responding. 

It’s funny that you say that, Tim, because the interview I saw with Michael Pollan was the fact that that’s why he’s a proponent of the psychedelics. It frees you from your ego. After you figured out that ego is your enemy, I think you should read Joe’s book.

I’ve had to learn and I’m interested to see what this guy says. He has a lot of stories there and a lot about himself too. In my life, it’s been a steep learning curve. My first response is not always my best response. I always have to think of the why. Why am I saying it this way? Why am I upset? Why am I jumping out and wanting to rip somebody’s head off? Why? I have a feeling that my ego has something to play with that. Ego Is The Enemy is what I’m reading. I’ll be happy to give you a report on that next time. It’s been a tough topic but you all handled it expertly as always. You have my undying gratitude. Many thanks to the Big Boxers. I can’t wait for this episode so that we can put it out there and people can learn and possibly make some great choices about the future of their business, their products, the things that they’re doing based on the advice that you all gave. Once again, Tom, thank you for joining us. I look forward to you being on the topic again soon. Tracy, thank you. Joe, awesome to speak to you and Jamie, great to speak to you. Thanks, everybody and we’ll see everybody next time. 

Big Boxers, Flash Topic number eight is complete and I hope that you’ve got a lot out of it. I hope that the information that was provided gives you some tools in your toolbox for when the time comes for you to pivot and make those decisions. It’s not always easy to say, “I’m going to change course, I’m going to sell that stock, I’m going to stop selling that product, or this thing has slowed down I’m going to cut that service from my menu.” Inherently, we feel like we’re failing in some way, we didn’t do something right or it’s just our fault. Here’s the thing, it’s our fault if we don’t do something. Sometimes the bravest, most courageous thing you can do is cut something, close down a part of the business, change or pivot in a new direction. It takes a lot of guts. You know how I feel about each and every one of you because we’re all entrepreneurs together. We’re all in that club of people who have put a line every single day.

When you have people counting on you, when you’re the sole breadwinner or your company is a sole breadwinner and things aren’t going exactly your way, fear can get in there. What about if I can’t pay the bills or take care of my family? That’s why it’s important for you to make those decisions carefully. Do not be afraid to turn something off or change directions. Here’s why. If you continue to struggle, you’re never going to have the time to take a look at what you could be doing instead. You’re too busy trying to bail at the boat that you don’t even see the bigger boat next to you, waiting for you to climb aboard. You’re too busy paddling and bailing. Sometimes you have to stop that and say, “I’m going to let this little boat go and climb on to the bigger boat.” Big analogy there, Big Boxers. It is a tough topic but you are going to make the right decision. If you ever want to talk through that, bounce it off at somebody, I’m here, we’re here to help you out with that. 

Ego is your enemy. Click To Tweet

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About Tom and Tracy Hazzard

OTS 132 | Change CourseBased in Orange County, California, product designers and design experts Tracy Hazzard and Tom Hazzard of Hazz Design Consulting have collectively designed and developed 250+ products generating almost $2 Billion in revenue for their retail clients. They hold over 37 utility and design patents with an unprecedented 86% commercialization rate – double the USPTO-reported national average. Their entrepreneurial experiences are taught in a Harvard Business Review course in 26 universities around the world. Tom and Tracy are hosts of three podcasts: 3D Printing Podcast WTFFF?! ranked #1 on iTunes with over 100,000 listeners monthly; Feed Your Brand podcast providing Ninja digital Brandcasting tactics; and  Product Launch Hazzards podcast for members and clients only. Their flagship 3D Print Twist Tie Design won Outstanding Work from the China World 3D Printing Tech Alliance.

Tom and Tracy are graduates of Rhode Island School of Design with degrees in Industrial Design and Textile Design respectively. They have worked as ghost designers behind such well-know brands as Martha Stewart Living, X-Rocker and Bayside Furnishings. Tracy worked directly for design-leading companies like Milliken and Herman Miller. Tom built and managed design teams for three ready-to-assemble furniture companies. Both Tracy and Tom have had products in all major retailers, wholesale clubs, electronics boutiques and office super stores. Their best-selling mesh office chair has been in Costco for over 6 years straight. Besides being featured on numerous podcasts and publications like Entrepreneur, Forbes, Wired, Fortune Small Business, and CNN Money, Tracy pens a regular featured Inc. column on innovation.

Tom & Tracy Hazzard regularly speak to, mentor and coach corporate executives, entrepreneurs, private labelers and start-up incubators on innovation, product strategy, design and development to get them to rethink their sequencing and strategy to design success into the process and turnaround their product market mix to deliver their brand promise.

About Joe Tarnowski

OTS 132 | Change CourseDynamic and innovative content development expert with a proven ability to find information needs within any industry and engineer a solution to meet those needs via the most relevant media – whether it’s print, online, or face-to-face.

Skilled and experienced in both editorial and sales in the B2B publishing arena, with excellent presentation skills – whether one on one, a small group, or addressing a large audience at an industry event.

Adept in creating partnerships among industry members with complementary strategies.

Specialties: Custom content development, business development, writing, editing, developing trade show content, public speaking and presentations, social media, webcasts.

About Jamie Robinson

OTS 132 | Change CourseCreating opportunities for businesses to succeed while taking a “common-sense” approach to marketing and creative services. Specializing in developing and implementing strategies that clearly define your brand’s marketing message, persuading your potential customer to react and respond. Creating brand awareness, equity, and measurable growth.

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