My goal of winning this year is not just a matter of scoring few assignments. Don’t get me wrong. I would love to have those assignments to keep me busy for the last quarter of the year. A great kick-off for next year’s work actually. But yet, the consistency of my work has to be there, day in and day out, in bad and in good weather, in slow times and in fast times.
This consistency is what I would like to celebrate and further strengthen. This is not the goal itself but looking at what I have done since January, I am pretty set up for a more disciplined and targeted approach to acquiring the kind of business that I want for the next five years.
To the organizations, individuals, and companies that are putting in the right effort and the right strategy to use to achieve their goals, hang in there. Michael Angelo painted the Sistine Chapel. It took him a long time but each time, he was getting closer to his “ Obra Maestra.” Your work of art will not be an overnight success.
Nobody is an overnight success. Their discovery is an overnight success but their journey from zero to getting there is never done overnight. Show me one and I will prove to you in million times over that it was never what it appeared to be. Easy on the outside, difficult on the inside.
There is a lot of pruning that needs to happen on a daily basis. Discarding those that no longer suited you or have become irrelevant in your life is important. You do get sidelined sometimes but as long you keep your goals in the frame of your mind, it will stay as priorities.
Eliminating things that no longer fit your own frame of mind and future you have set for yourself is crucial. Those are beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes that are self-limiting. It tends to slow you down and its weight will make you paralyze from inaction. Some of these are good for when you were younger and have those conditions that are sort of set for you by your parents, school, etc. But you have evolved as part of maturity. A 42-year-old person will no longer afford to just ” go with the flow.”
The winning behavior, attitudes, and beliefs will increase your traction, create the change that is balanced and sustained, and set you for the long-term achievements to come.
What elements in your life can you discard, retain, and accept as part of your winning formula?
A couple of years ago, the notion of building your own nonprofit /(also known as Non-government organization) NGO and chasing funders left and right to fund your projects would be faced with trepidation. Not now.
There were many new NGOs and INGOs that have mushroomed in the last five to ten years.
Yes, the facility, the technology, the networking, and the amount of information that we have about what works and what do not work have abounded in a gazillion times.
This is also the era of start-ups, innovation prizes, and private sector-led initiatives that call for market-oriented solutions.
Everyone can be a disruptor, innovator, accelerator, and other important adjectives or noun that you can name. I just googled the word ‘disruptor’ and guess what, it produced 10,600,000 results.
There were many instances and conversations with groups, individuals, and networks I found myself in small chit-chats that revolved around about building an NGO for this and that. It is a noble and endearing idea that some people will commit their life and time to help others and for social good.
But, I think that people have misunderstood the day-to-day work that it requires.
A lot of nonprofits fail because they do not have the business mindset and the financial management skills to keep it afloat.
Marketing is a number one preoccupation aside from getting those services out in the door to the target communities. If you do not have the plan to keep it sustainable, you will literally have to use your personal monies to keep it barely alive.
I have worked with founders and creators of various nonprofits and all their time is devoted to getting funds either by grants, donations, and other creative income-generation mechanisms.
Do not be surprised that by the first 5 years or more, this is what the CEO and Founder’s job would look like. Not very glamorous.
This search for funding has gotten a lot in trouble. From a nonprofit that works in, for example, the environment starts working on a different mandate totally unrelated to their core mission.
The chase for money can lead to further scope creep, venturing to unknown and inexperience lands just to get some dollars pumping into the organization before another staff gets to asked to resign. I have seen this practice a lot.
They tend to do many differentiated things but lose a lot of focus and expertise due to being a "Jack of All Trades."
They also court new donors with new monies on new ‘flavor of the month’ topics such as greening “everything” or using "technology" as a the solution to all social ills in the world without checking for what works with their client communities.
Building an NGO is a very demanding and challenging experience. Some people have built NGOs that have lasted for many decades and have succeeded a lot. Some built NGOs to be their own boss.
Giving back is the least reason why a new nonprofit has to be built. There are 1001 ways to give back without building one.
Start with the local community agencies in your area and build the required skills, perspectives, and experience you need to determine if this is the road you want to travel on.
Most companies, businesses, non-profit organizations see the competition- the organization across the street with the same offering and think that it’s their worst enemy.
It’s not. A coffee house mushroomed in one street is a reflection of actual buyer/consumer interests. That means that there is a demand and continuing demand that needed to be satisfied. Take the cue from the competition that is very successful.
The competition will show you what is selling or not, what the market wants versus what you are offering. The competition will tell you that your services, products, or values are not well-articulated. It will tell you why you need to expand or contract or seek new markets. The competition that is doing well will tell you what practices work and what practices to abandon. What areas are not being serviced, what gaps in customer needs are not being met and what positioning can be done?
A good competition is a good source of information about what is coming around the bend, anticipating that changes can disrupt your business in many ways and that being a bystander of these changes will do you no good. You might be disrupted even before you know it.
Take the case of Uber that has disrupted the taxi cab businesses that have been there for generations. It has created a whole new sharing economy around the needs and interests of consumers who are also users and producers of these services. Do not be the taxicab operator that just woke up one day with a business valuation of less than $200,000.00!
Big box businesses have folded/ are folding up such as Sears, ToysRUs, Greyhound is discontinuing its operations except for Ontario and Quebec, and recently Macy’s might be next in line. These businesses have weathered many storms and remained very strong contenders in the retail market and transport market for years and years. Sears started with a catalog market and became one of the best-preferred retailers for middle-class buyers. Not anymore.
While the middle-class-targeted retailers are folding up, lower buyer segment markets are generating newer and more stores such as Red Apple and Giant Tiger are taking up empty retail space that has been vacated. There is always an opportunity if you can look closer at the changes that are taking place.
Innovation is the stuff that we strut about but rarely understand. It is not a magical moment where executives of Apple just figured it out today. It is a methodical, integrated, and disciplined approach to finding opportunities, studying opportunities for its potentials and risks, and pursuing opportunities to take the business to the next level of competitiveness and profitability.
Is your business merely surviving, beating up the competition, or dominating the space? Do not sacrifice the future of your company in the altar of today’s successes. Learn from the competition and innovate continuously.
Stop thinking that you do not have the money. You have the money you are using it for other purposes.
Stop thinking you do not have time. You have time. You are using your time in things that do no produce results for you.
Stop thinking because we do not have the money, we are willing to work harder, the work will be longer, and we are indebted from people. Invest your money and stop saving it to the Reserves.
Time is the resource not money. Time spent will not go back again. With money, you can earn it. Don't trade your time for money.
Stop begging to be helped. You can help yourself by being independent financially and of others' good vibes.
Stop thinking that leadership is setting everything from the top level. Listen to others so you can get their 'yes' without having to repeat yourself all the time.
Stop thinking that short cuts are always good. Beware of the short cuts that lead to failure!
Stop copying other organizations and people. Ask what makes them successful and create your own terms of reference about success. Learn from what didn't work for them and avoid it like a plague.
Stop saying that this is all I can do. This is what you can with what you have. Take it one day at a time.
Stop overdoing development. You do not need to be doing everything just because there is a need for it or your organization can do it. That is why there is a thing called Strategic Plan.
Stop copying the fad of the day. Those fads and trends come and go and they do not work for all occasion. Work with what is true and evergreen and have been tested and proven to work.
Stop showing up with fake actions like reports, feasibilities, plans, experiments to do x,y,z. These are not results! Get to the bottom of things and fix the wheel to keep in moving again. Fire people if you need to do that.
Stop cuddling underperformers and non-performers in the organization or network that will never ever rehabilitate. Cut your losses and get a better staff!
Stop working harder and stop committing to working harder more. Don't work hard, work smart. If you are working your organization too hard, there is definitely a problem somewhere. People in your organization are working hard already. Adding more work means eliminating some to make room. Your staff are not horses and horses get tired too!
Build a Bear just had a major marketing disaster. Their Get your Age Bear was a big failure.
Thousands were turned away, disappointed moms and kids queueing up for their bears. They should have seen it coming in thousands and they know that they will not be able to handle the overwhelming demand from consumers. This is an ill-thought and ill-executed marketing campaign.
It could have been done well if they have segmented the market where they will start the campaign, pre-positioned the inventory and staff needed to run on those campaign days, and then provide an online alternative for parents to get them online and pick up on different days. The chaos will definitely ensue and that any small store in the mall will be totally engulfed.
Marketing is the engine of any business. If done well, it can boost up sales, customer support, and increase profitability. When done it a wrong way, it can turn away the precious customer affection that takes years to build and nurture.
The CEO apologizing for the disaster the following day is a good mitigation strategy but that it did not vanquish the frustration from the incident. The next Bear the Big marketing event may not get the benefit of the doubt and the marketers may have to grin and bear the consequences.
What happens after a marketing failure sets apart good companies. This is where a good PR can save the day.
The best metaphor for the process of exiting successfully is like your son or daughter moving out and going to college. The process of finally reaching that age when they need to be on their own and carve out a life without their parents is a scary but a necessary element of growing up and living an independent life.
While as parents, we always one day, know that the inevitable will come. They are no longer kids and their decision must be respected, however, silly or foolish it may sound or appear. Hopefully, the years of inculcating the values do not go wasted and wherever they go and whatever life’s challenges throw at them, they can withstand it.
The parent-child dynamics is of course not the same with the development sector. But you get the point.
Below is the continuation of the interview with Ben Hoogendorn on successful exit strategies in development. Thank you Ben for sharing your thoughts on this important topic.
How to end it with grace?
If there is a good relationship based on trust, and knowing everything promised was delivered, ending a relationship is not difficult. It can be sad for all parties but shouldn't be difficult if everything was done according to plan and timelines.
Is it really an end or a new relationship?
It is not the end (or shouldn't be anyway) but the start of a new relationship. It's almost like a friendship of peers since the new relationship will consist around encouragement, mentoring and sharing about how and where to get access to other training and resources to grow the community even more after the agency exits. It's actually quite a beautiful thing!
Other related thoughts
One of the biggest issues that keep people locked in chronic grinding poverty is an incorrect and damaging worldview. This is why it is important that development programs are more about teaching and training (including understanding and challenging the worldview) and less about giving things.
This is a topic that will take a lot more time to unpack, but it's something that is important to understand.
What stood out for you and why? Let me know what you think.