Forget about your f*&@)%! email inbox, will you?

Ed Marsh | Aug 2, 2012

Dude - this is your business we are talking about....

  • Your employees' livelihoods 
  • Your personal guarantees on notes
  • Your income
  • Maybe even your ego and pride
These are big, hairy serious topics.  This is strategy stuff - as in will your company be around in 5 years?  Will you be making money?  What will your domestic market look like?  What will your niche become as you evolve? 

And yet, amazingly, most business owners that I talk to offer the same nauseatingly lame reason for deferring or ignoring strategic work.

"I can't even keep up with my email, how can I possibly launch something new?"

Have you done a freakin' risk analysis on doing nothing?

international diversificationProbably not.  But doing the same stuff, in most cases is doing nothing.

Now typically I hear this in the context of international diversification.   Companies that should be exporting often hesitate to do so because the uber pressing day-to-day routine of running the business is too overwhelming to allow executives to step back and implement an international business development initiative.

But I talk to other business advisors who increasingly see the same in other disciplines.  So whether the incapacitation is really a function of email overload, or rather a broader and more chronic indecision driven by uncertainty and relentless day-to-day pressure, the fact is that more and more SMBs are merely surviving.

It doesn't do any good to have a list of "Strategic Goals" that don't address broad global trends which will impact you.  And to state the obvious but often ignored...having strategic goals that only get a couple power point slides once a quarter is Dilbertish.  Seriously.

10 weekends

If you've managed to avoid the vortex of the daily "tyranny of the urgent" congratulations.  Maybe you are able to extend your perspective to a full month...or to parallel the great American corporations, perhaps even a quarter!

That means an epochal span of about 10 weekends.  That's a lot of soccer games (or baseball, football, swimming and gymnastics meets and dance classes) to trudge off to - and a lot of days where you try to balance some time with your family, recovering from travel and....you guessed it...that friggin' email!

Help me out here.  Where in your 18 hour days and brief weekends full of conflicting obligations are you stopping to evaluate (I mean really ponder not just skim an article and forward it to one of your executive team - burying them under more EMAIL) what you should be doing today to be vibrant in 3 years....and what you should be doing next year to be vibrant in 5 years?  Be honest!

That's what I thought.  But it was a rhetorical question.  I already knew the answer.  I talk to enough of you.  Heck, I am one of you.  I get it.

Around the world and back

So read this book and take a quick trip with me. 
  • I've lived "Two Million Minutes" - I've taken a couple of my kids with me to have dinner with an Indian family in Mumbai who didn't eat until 11pm so that full bellies wouldn't shorten valuable nightly study sessions
  • I've seen the confidence and pride in the faces of Brazilians, Mexicans and Colombians who realize that this time is different
  • I've sat with African entrepreneurs who bring an engagement and optimism which is not only contagious but clearly a force which will shape global commerce in this decade
  • I've spoken to folks who look at marketing trends not through the evolutionary goggles of agencies and traditional media, but through the revolutionary lens of current reality
  • I've debated enterprise valuation with private equity partners over beers or coffee and confirmed that many consider a domestic only focus a form of distress
The point is that we aren't going back to the world as you knew it in your formative years.  The new one can be exciting, profitable and fun - but it's going to be unstable.  Your business strategy needs to accommodate that reality.

And it's global.  Really, really global.

Am I right?  Who knows.  As the saying goes, only time will tell.  But by the time the answer is clear, companies which have proactively and strategically positioned themselves (not with bet-the-company "Hail Marys" but with prudent international diversification and effective inbound marketing) will be no worse off and likely those left standing.

Reply to all, BCC, or a phone call

Your choice - and really it is a choice, and one only you can make.  You can reply to all and broadcast some sort of hollow announcement worthy of a Dilbert cartoon which all know will fade by lunchtime; you can furtively critique with a witty reply and reinforce a culture of immediacy; or you can pick up the phone, dim your screen, kill the useless incoming mail chime, and call someone to get together for coffee and brainstorming....to think strategically about your business.

It's your call - will you make it?

It's email.  It's a tool.  It's not your Chairman of the Board!  So stop enslaving yourself and your company's future to that infernal email in-box.  Step beyond it and begin to craft strategy the way you used to - when you had time to think without the beeps and clicks and dings and dongs (OK, there were still ding dongs) creating a cognitive train wreck.

And by the way, if you want to talk about how international diversification and properly executed content marketing / inbound marketing can strategically strengthen your company and position you for success, call me.  (I'll answer an email but a phone call might be more appropriate!  978.238.9898)

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