On a previous 710 WOR “Mind Your Business” broadcast, Yitzchok Saftlas (YS) spoke with guest, Keita Demming (KD), Director of Development of Innovation at The Covenant Group.
YS: Where do you think most people get stuck in realizing their vision?
KD: Number one, they're not being strategic. Most people lead with tactics. And the reason they’re leading with tactics is because they’re thinking too close in. They’re thinking on too short of a timeline. There's a great story about Jeff Bezos when he was starting Amazon. He titled the first letter to his board, “It's All About the Long Term.” And the thing that was really powerful about that was that if you compete on a 3-year timeline, you're competing against a lot of people. But if you raise the level of years and start to compete on a 7–10-year timeline, you're competing against a lot less people, because very few people are thinking and acting on that longer timeline. If you begin to think on that long timeline, you say, “this is my strategy, this is where I want to be 5-10 years from now,” you now need to figure out, “how do I align the things that I do on a daily basis with my strategy.” You want to make sure that everything you do today is in service of your desired future. Everything you do in the short term is serving where you want to be 5-10 years from now. So, you have three options. Anything you do today can either sabotage the future you want, support the future you want, or serve the future you want. Most of us don't even realize the things we're doing that are sabotaging our future. For example, I'm trying to get back in shape. But when I came in for this interview, you offered me cookies. But eating those cookies would be sabotaging the future I want, so I asked you, “hey, can you give me some crackers?” And I made that healthy choice in the short term. And most people don't recognize that our brains are very motivated by those things that are personal, immediate, and certain. We're not as motivated to do those things that are organizational, deferred, or a gamble. And those are the things that that will redefine your performance and help you realize a desired future. So, I think it's about aligning the things you want to achieve in the long term with the things you're actually doing in the short term. That's where most people fall short. It sounds simple, but it's not easy.
YS: What does a businessperson need to put into place to actually execute a vision and a strategy?
KD: Your mantra, every day, should be, “narrow your focus.” And generally, you narrow your focus in three ways; the people you serve, the things you do, and the next best action for the future you want to achieve. The narrower the focus, the bigger the opportunity. Most people think in terms of what niche they’re in. And I absolutely believe that when you narrow in on a particular target market or niche, you definitely increase the opportunities. But in terms of thinking about the implementation side, you’ve got to think through who you serve as a niche, what you do on a daily basis, and then what's the next step. Make that narrow focus on one thing. Don't try and focus on 10-30 things. When we teach people about marketing, we tell them, “you’ve got to be promoting yourself in six to eight different ways.” The mistake a lot of people make is, they try to implement six at once. So, that last piece of narrowing the next best action is saying, “right now, I'm focusing on launching a podcast. Then, I’ll focus on building my Instagram presence.” You nail that one thing for 3-4 months, and then you figure out, “okay, what's the next best thing I need to do?” Here's the problem with transformation. As an example, I decided I want to lose weight. Let's say my weight was 240 lb. when I started working out. So, every day, I measured my weight. And it's connected to an app that tells me what my trajectory is. My weight kept fluctuating between 240 and 230. I did that for seven months. I thought, “this is not working. I'm working out so much. I changed my diet, and did everything.” But when I looked at the other numbers, my muscle mass had almost doubled. My fat percentage had dropped considerably. The rate at which my body was burning calories while resting had doubled. My weight fluctuated between 230 and 240, but if I looked at the other numbers, I was actually making a lot of progress. So, the challenge is that, when you're doing all the right things, you don't see results for a while. So, people give up. That happened to me at the eight-month mark of working out. If I hadn't looked at those numbers, I might have given up. But I raised the level of my gaze and said, “I'm going to a three-year plan. And these are the things I'm going to do every week. If I miss a week, I’ll start over next week.” The challenge is, because you're doing things that are serving a long-term desired future, the short term results are small. And most people don't have the patience to wait for that exponential growth. Now, let's say, I’m investing $1,000 in stock and Warren Buffet is investing $1 million in the same stock. If I get lucky, the return on investment is $1,000. If Warren Buffet gets lucky, the return an investment is $1 million. It's transformative. At higher and higher levels, when you get lucky, the win is much bigger. So, this goes right back to the idea that you have to play that long game. You’ve got to raise the level.
YS: So, you need to keep your eye on the prize and work backwards from there?
KD: Exactly. And you also want to keep your eye on both the long term and the short term. I'm currently coaching an entrepreneur in financial services. And she got into financial services because she was really broke and struggling with money. But she figured out how to do budgeting really well and got out of debt situation. And she became very passionate about helping people get out of debt. She realized that she was working herself ragged, and not making money, because her whole clientele didn't have money. But that was her passion and purpose. So, I told her, “if you're running a business, you have to ask yourself what problem you're solving, who you're solving it for, and who's willing to pay for that. You have the problem and who you’re solving it for, but nobody's willing to pay for it. So, you’ve got to switch that up.” She realized that the market she wanted to go after were people like her, who are making $200,000-$250,000 a year as a family unit. And she helps those people with their budgeting. Unfortunately, you have to answer the question of who's going to pay you. Your value proposition drives everything you do. If you don't get that value proposition right, and you don't get that exchange of value right, you're going to waste so much time.
YS: Can you elaborate on the importance of a driving value proposition?
KD: Why will people take time out of their day to spend time with you? What difference are you making in people's lives? Can you say that in a simple and compelling manner? Are you very clear on, “this is how I help make you a better person. This is how I make your life easier.” If you can't do that, you're going to have a problem in sales. We have a client, Dean Harder, who wrote a book on conversational selling. His value proposition is that he helps people spend, enjoy, and share their wealth. That's what he tells people when he meets them. I tell people, “each of us has two lines that we're managing in life. One is a strategic line, and one is a tactical line. The challenge is, mostly the lines are either crashing into each other, moving apart, or the tactics were never even close to supporting strategy. So, what I do is I help you make sure your strategy line and tactical line are supporting each other.” That's my value proposition.
YS: How does one get from being an average producer to a high performer?
KD: The single biggest differentiator between average producers and high performers is the timeframe and timespan average in which they think and plan. So, the first thing you have to do is think on a much longer timeframe. A second thing is that discipline is also absolutely important. But, the piece that really brings it all together is systems and processes. If you listen to motivational speeches, they say, “it's all about discipline, etc.” But discipline only goes so far. Systems and processes are absolute game changers. Because whether you're disciplined or not, or whether you’re motivated or not, if you have the systems and processes in place, your tasks that day get done. Because you focus more on systems and processes rather than willpower or discipline. We often say that “you have to do it yourself, and you can't do it alone.” I’ll explain with a metaphor. Let's say you're training for a 10k. You find a training program online, and with it, you successfully run the 10k. Now, suppose instead, you'd gotten a coach. You would probably be a little bit more successful in finishing that 10k. Now, let's suppose you have a coach and a running group. In this scenario, you're probably going to run your best time of those three options. Here's the trick. In all three scenarios, you're successful. But in the last two, you finish much faster and feel much better. So, success is a matter of degree. Let's say the difference in our degrees is that I make $100,000 more each year over a 10-year period, because I got a coach and a supportive community. That's a million-dollar difference.
YS: What should one keep in mind, when developing these long-term strategies, to ensure that they stick?
KD: It’s all about intention, process measurement. As you set that intention of what you want to do, what's the process you’re going to put in place to realize that? And how are you measuring your success? Here's the really tricky part about setting the intention. You have to base your planning on past success. One of the measures of your potential successes is the historical trajectory. So, if the most you've ever grown your business in one year is 10%, to project 50% growth, is just not realistic. You're going to have to do something really different. Your vision has to be at least attainable and achievable. Now, let's assume that it is realistic. Again, don't double down on willpower and discipline, double down on systems and processes because businesses are built on replicable processes. And at The Covenant Group, we talk about the four cornerstones of every business: strategy, structure, systems and processes, and financial management. Most of the work you're doing is on systems and processes. Because what you're doing is really focusing on what I call Q.C.I. (Quality and Continuous Improvement). And if you slowly continue improving things, those small gains become exponential as you go along. So, focus on doing common things uncommonly well, and you will close that gap between strategy and tactics. And if the things you're doing uncommonly well are in service of your strategies, you close that gap faster than you think.