Motivational Zigzagging

October 3rd, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

The name Zig Ziglar may sound like one I made up for a Zigzag Principle mascot, but it’s actually the name of a man who took 16 years of zigzagging to steadily reach his goal of becoming a motivational speaker.

Ziglar started out working as a salesman before he even realized he wanted to become a motivational speaker. However, when he heard his first professional speaker give a speech, he was instantly hooked and knew that was what he wanted to do for work. He identified his beacon in the fog.

Ziglar was wise! He knew that he could not quit his job and put his family at risk so he could pursue his dream. He knew it would be unacceptable for him to make it to his beacon in the fog without his family, and he understood that he had some big barriers to overcome before even achieving that goal was possible.

Instead, Ziglar worked for 16 years, zigzagging back and forth to get the experience he needed to reach his goal. He persistently maintained financial profitability by working in sales while gaining skills so he could reach his beacon in the fog. I don’t doubt that he faced many great trials in this long series of zigs and zags.

Yet in the end, it indeed paid off. Now Ziglar is not a solitary speaker trying to keep cash flow steady in his business, but instead he is a very successful motivational speaker with a thriving business. That expanded business may not have been part of his original beacon in the fog; however, he kept moving once he achieved his original goal.

Though I admit I’m a little sad someone else has a claim on such a great zigzagger name, I have to respect the constant determination it must have taken Ziglar to keep steadily building his skills and reputation to become what he is today. It’s an amazing accomplishment to build not just a business and see it become everything you hoped it would, but to build yourself into what you’ve wanted to be for 16 years.

Kindle Keeps the Book Industry Moving with the Trends

October 2nd, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

 

One of the key elements in a business is recognizing trends and then knowing how to ride the wave to help your business succeed. Indeed, many businesses fail because they do not adapt quickly or intelligently enough to the changes in an industry. Zigzagging helps keep you take advantage of trends. It also helps you learn to recognize when to jump on a trend and let it take your business to new and exciting places. The book industry has learned to ride the technology wave and adapt like few others have.

Though books have been around for centuries, the advancement of consumer technology posed both a threat and opportunity to the industry. Instead of insisting that people would prefer to hold physical copies of books, Amazon in particular (one of the largest book retailers in the world) jumped on the wave with the Kindle in 2007. And now Amazon sells more ebooks via the Kindle than it does paperbacks on its original website!

What would have happened if Amazon kept driving to its goal of selling books as defined by a limited view of what makes a book? It would still be fighting an ongoing trend that has impacted the world, especially with the advent of the iPad. Instead, Amazon is not only able to keep selling Kindles, but it sells ebooks through Kindle apps on iPads, iPhones, Androids and other competitors.

This continual drive to ebook profitability has enabled Amazon to try something new with the Kindle Fire. Though I prefer my iPad, the Kindle Fire tries something new for tablets by being both comparatively very inexpensive and focused.

Only time will tell how successful this new zigzag will be for Amazon, but think of how you can use the trends in your industry to boost your own business. Then, before that trend dies away, make sure you find another trend to harness, like the Kindle jumping onto the tablet trend. By making strategic, intelligent zigs and zags, you can dance among the trends to keep your business thriving. 

 

 

 

 

Zig Zag: The Abbreviated Version

September 28th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen


I love this diagram. So succinct. So accurate. This is one artist’s summary of The Zig Zag Principle. To order the 198-page version click here.

Also please join me tonight on Twitter as we inspire each other with stories about success. Log in and share your story. I’d love to hear all about your successes.

Tonight. Wednesday September 28, 7-9 p.m. MT, @richchristianse, #zigzag

Looking Back at Henson’s History

September 27th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen
Today marks the 75th birthday of one of the greatest entertainers I know of, Jim Henson. Not many people in this world have had as great an impact on so many people throughout their lives as Jim Henson. Just think of how many generations of kids Henson influenced with Sesame Street and his other creations.

Looking back at Henson’s history and career, I’m amazed at the many zigs and zags he took to achieve his goal. Indeed, he did not begin with the exact formula for how he wanted his creations to evolve. We all know Kermit is the main character, Fozzie is his best friend, Miss Piggy is his girlfriend and Gonzo is a…. whatever.

But that’s not how they started. When Henson was getting his BA in home economics, he made puppets for a kids’ show called Sam and Friends where Kermit made his debut as a sort of lizard. It wasn’t until later when Henson was making Sesame Street that Kermit was revealed to actually be a frog.

Even the idea that adults could enjoy puppet shows as well as children was something that took time to develop. His goal to make puppets an acceptable form of entertainment for adults as well as children was a beacon in the fog that took years to achieve, and Henson had to do things he did not necessarily enjoy in order to get to that goal.

For example, before Sesame Street launched Henson’s work into the limelight, he used puppets for various commercials. The advertising industry was something he reputedly did not enjoy, but he did it in order to keep his business profitable  and moving. He exemplified the concept that it’s better to move toward something than it is to sit still and wait for someone else to make your dream come alive. Henson worked hard and waited patiently for the time his business could zigzag closer to his beacon in the fog.

Now, Henson’s Muppets live on and are still fulfilling Henson’s goal of making people happy and feel good despite his passing more than two decades ago. That’s the kind of legacy any zigzagger can be proud to have.

Grocery Stores Zig Zagging With Technology

September 23rd, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

The self-checkout was a brilliant novelty when it was introduced to grocery stores several years ago. Customers and grocery store managers alike thought it would improve the flow at the checkout and the customer’s overall shopping experience.

However, store managers are discovering this technology is actually creating problems they never anticipated. Checkout lines are usually longer because customers have to deal with coupons and checking items like produce by themselves. In addition, store managers feel they lost control of the relationship with the customer by eliminating the personal contact of a store employee at the checkout stand.

So now, even after stores have installed dozens of self-checkout stands in each of their locations, they are zig zagging away from the technology to improve customer experience and thus increase revenue.

Albertsons has actually gone as far as eliminating self-serve lanes in all of its stores. Kroger, on the other hand, has zig zagged to what it calls “metro style” checkouts; customers wait in one line and can be directed to multiple cashiers.

Kroger is also testing a “scan, bag, go” system that allows customers to scan items as they shop, and then pay and bag when they are finished.

These are all ways grocery stores are zig zagging to more success and better customer service. We can all learn to be a little bit more flexible—even after we have made a big initial investment. As each of these cases show, it is far better for a company to evolve by zig zagging in order to stay true to company values and to keep on track to its ultimate goals .

 

Become an Entrepreneur–It’s a great Life

September 22nd, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

I keep two pictures in my office to remind me of what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Both of these pictures are of beautiful and awe-inspiring places in nature. I enjoy hiking and I really appreciate how the analogies of hiking through some rough parts of nature are so closely aligned with what it takes to be an entrepreneur. The similarities are almost unbelievable.

In life and in business as an entrepreneur, much of what we face is hard. Sometimes all you can do is grit your teeth and use your determination to work your way through without forgetting to look up and enjoy the beauty.

Please enjoy this video and my thoughts about a recent trip through the magnificent Zion Narrows in Zion National Park in Southern Utah.

Zigzagger Robert Jordan Rides the Internet Wave

September 14th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

No matter how great your new business idea is, it will never succeed if you are the only one who thinks it’s a great idea. People have to want what you’re selling for you to have a successful, lasting business. Indeed, one of the best times to start a business is when you can ride a wave of increasing interest in a new, underserved market. This is exactly how Robert Jordan began his career as an entrepreneur with Online Access.

Jordan recognized the wave of interested people clamoring for information about the Internet and how to get online. This was approximately 11 years back when AOL was making a name for itself by mailing millions of free AOL CDs to everyone in the nation. Jordan seized the opportunity to join AOL in the movement to educate people about the Internet and how to use it.

Jordan didn’t waste time; he launched Online Access as a magazine to help people who weren’t online know more about the Internet, and it took off in a huge way. Riding the Internet wave at the beginning enabled Jordan to not only tap into a large market quickly, but it also positioned the magazine as a prime target for advertising. It became profitable almost immediately from the bidding wars among other Internet-focused companies.

Now Jordan has zigzagged away from Online Access and into new a few other companies, but his success all stems from his initial capacity to recognize a need in an oncoming wave and fill that need before anyone else. He has even published a book called How They Did It: Billion Dollar Insights from the Heart of America that compiles handwritten notes and interviews from other wildly successful entrepreneurs.

Naturally, not every business that catches a wave rises to such success. Jordan was lucky and smart enough to catch that particular wave, but there are plenty coming and going every year for entrepreneurs to ride. Pay attention to your area and learn to recognize when something is going to be big and how you can attach yourself or your business to it. And always remember to zig zag in these waves so you don’t crash your business.

Lower Manhattan’s Zig Zag Comeback

September 12th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Today marks the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. It is a day of reflection for all of us.

I still remember exactly where I was when I heard the news. I was playing a round of golf at Wasatch State Park; it was the worst round of golf I’ve ever played in my life. I was so distracted and so worried about the victims in New York City.

Of course I was also thinking constantly about the safety of my family. We had a trip planned to Nepal and were scheduled to leave America in two weeks. We considered cancelling the trip, but decided to go for it once we heard that travel was safe. I am so glad we decided to go—that trip became one of my life’s best zig zag stories.

On that trip, we met our little Sherpa girl, Nawong. She introduced my family to a vision that is very much a part of everything we do today. That mission is to educate and empower children all over the world who lack the opportunity to learn. Nawong is now my adopted daughter and a college graduate.

America has had it’s own zigs and zags in the last decade to make a come back from the devastation of September 11, 2001. Just this last week, we heard from New York’s Mayor Bloomberg about the last decade’s events that have helped bring Lower Manhattan back from the rubble.

This is a great zig zag story. Lower Manhattan was home to hundreds of businesses and was considered the world’s financial district. It was a bustling business center, but in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, it was vacant and hollow. About 14,000 businesses were impacted by the event.

Ten years later, Lower Manhattan is not quite back to where it was, but it is well on its way. Mayor Bloomberg said New York has seen the greatest population growth, the biggest commercial development and biggest cuts in crime in the area surrounding the World Trade Centers site.

Small-business owners like the Gandias zig zagged back to success by conserving costs while they could not access their Greenwich Jewelers store because it was too close to burning rubble. They also zagged by adding an online element to their business, which they had never considered previously. This drove Greenwich Jewelers to profitability and the opportunity to rebuild and expand, even though they were in the midst of a national tragedy.

Today the Gandia’s are on to zag number two by adding more resources through adding more product and more space.

Zig zagging is a way of life—particularly when the unexpected comes. It is interesting to note that while the Gandias found great success by zig zagging, others failed by giving up in the face of trial. Don’t let failure bog you down. Get up, dust yourself off, and keep zig zagging. So many times the unexpected brings you results you never even thought of.

Ford Zigging to International Scale

September 12th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Ford Motor Company is a household name in the United States—one that everyone automatically links to the automotive industry. It is no wonder since Ford has produced some of the most popular cars of the century, including the Model T, which sold more than 15 million cars in less than 20 years. Now, Ford is gearing up for another huge, international zig zag with a $1 billion manufacturing and engineering complex in India.

Though Ford has been zigzagging since its inception in 1903, the people there know that it takes more than one zigzag to win in business. All three zig zags for businesses to follow—(1) drive to profitability, (2) add processes and resources, and (3) scale—are repeatable steps. Once Ford went through the three phases, it repeated, and repeated and repeated them.

Now, Ford has reached a measure of profitability and refined its processes. After achieving scale in its home country, Ford repeated the process in other parts of the nation and the world. In India, it is adding additional resources through these building plans (not to mention adding 5,000 employees), and will be able to produce 240,000 vehicles and 270,000 engines a year—talk about scale!

So what are the benefits of adding these resources and scaling the business? Not only will Ford be able to make and sell more cars without burdening or overworking domestic plants, but as Ford India president Michael Boneham said, “[Ford will be able] to aggressively grow the Ford brand in India,” further increasing profitability.

As soon as Ford has got the scale zig down, it’ll be back to zig number 1, driving to profitability once again. It’s a process you will routinely see in many businesses, especially large ones looking for new markets to claim. But for your own business, never forget that these steps are repeatable even though your business may not be the same size as Ford or expanding internationally. These steps are intended to keep a business growing and succeeding, all at a manageable, steady pace, no matter the size.

Recovering from Disasters

September 5th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Last week, I wrote about how to avoid hurricanes in your business. I talked about how important it is to get out of a storm’s way (both figurative and literal) when you know it’s coming, even if the skies look blue out your window.

But many businesses actually caught by hurricane Irene last weekend are now zig zagging their way to recovery. Less than a week has passed since cleanup began, and they are already letting everyone know they are open for businesses. They are looking to restart that all-important zig to profitability.

Disasters happen in life, both in business and out. No matter how well prepared you are or how closely you keep an eye on your business, you will one day get blindsided by a disaster. Resolving disasters is tricky business, but once you’ve faced the worst of the storm, remember to get back up and keep zig zagging!

After hugely disruptive moments like this, you may even need to revisit your entire zig zag plan. Your assets may have decreased significantly, or your beacon in the fog may have moved. Some of the processes you had well in place may now need changing, depending on the nature of your disaster. Also, keep an eye out for hidden opportunities. If something goes wrong in your business, it may be just what you need to help get you to an even better business.

No matter where you decide to go after a disaster, don’t forget to work on that essential profitability zig as soon as you know where you are headed.

Political Zig Zagger, Jon Huntsman, Tries Something New

September 3rd, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Jon Huntsman Jr., a presidential candidate, is about to try something new. His current strategies have let him slip behind his opponents in national polls, keeping him away from political profitability. Now, he has some new messaging he hopes will get him more support.

Now, I don’t intend to criticize his exact plan here: this is a business blog, not a political one. However, businesses can learn from political maneuvers. Huntsman has had a successful career so far, and he definitely has his supporters. These people are sort of like his “Huntsman niche” politically speaking. But what would happen to his beacon in the fog if he decided he was happy just targeting that specific group of people and no one else? He would just fall further behind his opponents!

Likewise, some businesses focus on appealing to a specific niche to avoid getting stomped by competition. This is a great initial strategy, but you rarely see a successful business (or politician) stop with just one niche. Like Huntsman, once a business has a firm hold in a particular niche – or reaches profitability with processes and scale – it will often expand to add more profitability. And if the new zig to profitability doesn’t work, they try something else.

This is how zig zagging keeps with you even after you have hit a huge goal; it keeps you from stagnating as a business. You can’t stop zig zagging because you hit or miss one goal. Even when you’re adding scale, you need to think about how you’re going to add more profitability and how you’re going to add resources to that. This will keep you flexible enough to keep your business moving and growing, even if you have a dud strategy or two.

Jonathan Kapla: From Flip Video to Grilled Cheese

August 31st, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Jonathan Kaplan, maker of the Flip Video camera, is finally zig zagging closer to his beacon in the fog. That may seem an odd statement considering Cisco killed production on Kaplan’s baby project, Flip Video cameras, earlier this year, but you have to remember that zig zagging is about taking indirect steps to get to your goal. And Kaplan’s goal? Grilled cheese sandwiches.

Kaplan has had a dream of building a grilled cheese sandwich restaurant chain for years, but understood his idea was premature. He understood that though he had the mental capital his idea needed to be profitable, he did not have the relationship capital he needed.

Now, Kaplan has had two businesses he sold: #1. Family Wonder to Sega, #2. Flip Video to Cisco. He zig zagged both to success, and in the wake of Flip Video getting scrapped, he now has everything he needs to build his years-old dream. He has the mental capital, the relationship capital, and he also has plenty of financial backing to turn The Melt, his grilled cheese restaurant, into a nationwide chain. Kaplan hopes to have 500 The Melt stores open all over the U.S. within five years.

Kaplan is also smart enough to use a different goal to get people his employees and customers motivated. Though he has the goal of opening 500 stores in five years, he doesn’t use that as a catalyzing statement. Instead, he talks about using grilled cheese to make people remember their childhood. He talks about bringing customers happiness and nostalgia in every sandwich and in every cup of soup, not just a delicious meal. Listening to him talk in this interview makes me anxious to go and try what he’s talking about myself!

Until The Melt comes to Utah or I make it to San Francisco, I’ll just have to keep an eye on this savvy zig zagger and see where he goes next.

HP Zig Zags Out of webOS to Avoid Crashing Guardrails.

August 28th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Hewlett Packard (HP) recently announced it is shutting down the webOS platform. For those of you less familiar with the smartphone competitor, webOS was originally an alternative smartphone platform, but it never caught on like the iPhone or Android platforms. None of the phones using webOS sold well. So what did HP do when webOS phones still didn’t get much support? It made a tablet based on webOS to take on the iPad! HP tried to scale it without nailing it first. Unsurprisingly, the webOS tablet flopped, even after a $100 price drop.

Luckily, HP had set up guardrails for webOS. When it didn’t become profitable or sell, HP officially killed all future production for webOS tablets and smartphones, then had a fire sale for the tablets to recoup losses. Unable to meet its goal, HP zigzagged to the next course of action to avoid crashing the guardrails. This was a good move! WebOS didn’t do well, so now it’s back to the drawing board to establish a new foundation to drive the company to profitability. The only regret HP should feel regarding this decision is that it didn’t cut its losses earlier.

Failure is a huge part of both business and success. Failing efficiently is also one of the hardest parts of business to figure out, particularly since it’s one area no one wants to be good at. But having had 11 businesses fail, I can tell you that knowing how to let your business fail without letting it make your life fail is vital to any entrepreneur.

 

Steve Jobs’ Latest Zig

August 26th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

 

Yesterday the news, hot off the presses was that Steve Jobs resigned as the CEO of Apple. Today I am sitting here with Dave McInnis, one of my dear friends, discussing the big news. Both of us consider Steve Jobs a personal hero of sorts and an amazing individual. Indeed Steve Jobs entire career and his life has been filled with zigs and zags. That zig zag path is indeed how he reached success.

 

His first zig came when he was in college. It’s a well-known fact that Steve was adopted. His adoptive parents made a promise to his parents that he would attend a high university. When he got into a high university, his parents simply couldn’t afford it. He ended up dropping out and just sitting in on classes. Indeed, he went to college to learn; although he didn’t actually receive a formal education.

 

We know he ended up working with Wosniak creating the amazing Apple company. He hit the pinnacle of what was supposed to be success, and then in a very public way, was ousted from the company. He went through a period of time where he really turned inward. During this time he got married, and he also decided to do what he truly loved. He went on to create NeXT, as well as to purchase Pixar (which at the time was a little unknown company.) Amazingly, when Apple later acquired NeXT, Jobs once again became the leader of Apple. 

 

One of my favorite statements that Steve Jobs makes is, “Do what you love in life, life is too short to waste it following other peoples dreams.” I think Steve has been a brilliant example of that statement.  The result was a company that now has the highest volume stock in the world. It just overtook Exxon. 

 

The other interesting aspect here is that Steve has had some real personal challenges in his life, causing him to take some unexpected zigs and zags. He overcame pancreatic cancer a while back, and indeed his health hasn’t been very good.  One of the fundamental teachings that I espouse is, “You can replace anything you own in life, a job, money, cars, whatever; but you cannot replace your health, you cannot replace your trust relationships, and most importantly you can’t replace your family.” 

 

Another thing I appreciate about Jobs is that he established strong core values from the beginning. He has established a value base, a way, and a culture that is almost a cult. I think that is kind of why David and I align with the guy. It is all about innovation, high quality, simplicity, and elegance. The Apple culture is there and its entrenched enough into people that I think it will carry on. 

 

It will be interesting to see what his life ends up being now. We will continue to watch the Steve Jobs discussion as he continue as chairman of the board. We wish Steve great success and watch for his next zigs and zags in life.

 

Christine O’Donnell Should Gave Zig Zagged with Piers Morgan Tonight

August 19th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

By now you’ve probably already seen the Christine O’Donnell clip from Piers Morgan Tonight earlier today. It deftly shows what happens when you don’t zig zag .

As you watch, you will notice how inflexible and unwilling Christine O’Donnell is as Piers Morgan asks less than ideal questions. O’Donnell made the mistake of expecting to drive straight toward her goal of promoting her book rather than participating in an interview. When Morgan asks her something outside of that goal, O’Donnell stiffens instead of zigzagging.

To make matters worse, O’Donnell doesn’t just avoid zigzagging: she flat out refuses to talk about anything but her end goal. She pushes back on Morgan and creates conflict and discomfort for every viewer to see.

In the end, unwilling to zig zag the conversation, O’Donnell walks off awkwardly. Imagine the metaphor I often use of a car driving straight up a mountain; O’Donnell attempted to drive straight up the face of Mt. Everest and drove herself off a cliff.

What a wasted opportunity! O’Donnell had a unique chance to promote her book to millions of people, and she blew it because she wasn’t flexible enough to talk about anything except the particular points she had laid out. Businesses, projects and wonderful opportunities get shut down every day because of this sort of unwillingness to zig zag. The Zig Zag Principle isn’t just for business. It’s great for just about everything in life – including difficult interviews.