Zig Zagging in Russia

February 7th, 2012 by Rich Christiansen

This morning I had a delightful conversation with an individual named William Hackett Jones. For the last three or four years I watched with great respect for William as he carved himself out of an almost impossible situation.

Several years back I taught a course on Bootstrap Business. William was there. He runs a translation service, and he was actually on the verge of declaring bankruptcy over in Russia. Then he learned about the principles I follow and changed his course. He came to the firm conclusion that indeed Bootstrapping and Zig Zagging was the methodology that he wanted to follow.

So now without any venture capital and without any funding, William has truly subscribed to the Value Equation. It goes something like this:

Value Equation

Intellectual Capital (value of being smart)

+

Relationships Capital (value of those great relationships that he had developed)

+

Not Taking Funding

=

Adding Value that indeed helped build his business

I am thrilled to state that although it took William several years he has grown that business. He’s taken it from being on the very cusp of bankruptcy to thriving business (one that is also projected to be a million-dollar business this year).

William is now preparing to hire his first executive admin, which means he is now at the critical phase of adding resources and processes. It is all very exciting for me.

I must admit it was really fun to listen to the lightness in William’s as we talked, compared to the conversation that we had a year or so ago.

It is really fun to see the fruits of the labors of those around me. It’s always fun and exciting to have a business succeed. But it is even more exciting to see others applying these powerful Zig Zag Principles from the book, as well as those from Bootstrap Business. The success stories that are now starting to flow back to me are absolutely thrilling.

I respect you William. I look for great things. You have a great bright future in front of you. You are definitively making this zig zag turn. Hold strong. We will be watching you carefully. And I will give everyone an update on the success that William has going forward. Keep Zig Zagging in Russia.

Doing Desperate

October 25th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

At one point or another in our personal lives and our careers we get into a desperate mindset or a desperate mode of operation. I found this to be incredibly destructive, and actually counter productive.

As we slip into this mode you can typically tell because the volume and intensity with how we approach our customers, our clients, our employees, and everyone else is just notched a little bit too loud. At what point you want something so badly that you can’t do without, you know you are doing desperation.

My wife tells the story of driving through our little town and seeing a big poster on one of the little mom and pop clothing stores. The sign said, “Please shop here. I need to feed my children!”

That’s doing desperation. A person’s first thought is, “Oh, I’ll help out that shop owner.” But then that thought is quickly followed by another, “Oh, I don’t want to fall into that trap.”

Here are three things that I’ve found will help you avoid desperation not only in your business life, but also in your personal life.

Number one, put a buffer in place. Inevitably you’ll hit bumps in your personal life and in your business life. I put a three-month minimum savings buffer in the business. And I maintain more than that in my personal life.

Next, don’t risk what you can’t afford to lose. If you’re not in the position to risk at the level that you’re risking, that causes an extreme amount of desperation. So don’t risk what you can’t afford to lose. Before hand make a conscious decision and determine your level of risk.

Finally, if you do get into the desperate mode of operation…back off. Take three deep breathes. Consult those around you. Take a backdoor approach to it. If it is just simply beyond recovery—punctuate it. Don’t go deeper down the rat hole.

I frequently talk about my philosophy of failing efficiently. If you’re going to have a failure and you’re chasing it down the rat hole. Don’t keep following after it, to an even worse death. End it. Put that one to bed. Move onto the next thing.

I know this is an easy topic to discuss intellectually. But emotionally it’s a very difficult topic. I still find myself in modes where I’m doing desperation. I experience this particularly when it’s beyond my realm of control. When I put everything out there and it’s out of my hands, I often struggle with desperation.

I do strongly suggest that we stay in a positive non-desperate, non-threatening mode. Things just go much better in that mode. The putts fall better. The business comes together. Everything flows better and it is much simpler when you’re not in desperation mode.

Go forward, zig zag to success, and have a wonderful week.

 

Lessons from Marriott

October 10th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

We often hear about the Apples, the YouTubes and other such companies that nail a market and see instant success. However, most people cannot plan to see this sort of instantaneous success. Rather, you may have to start out like the Marriott Hotels did: as a nine-stool root beer stand.

Early in J. Willard Marriott’s life, he thought like he would be a sheepherder like his father. However, the sheepherding industry took a big hit, bankrupting his father, so he decided to go to college. When he didn’t have the money for tuition, he looked at what hidden assets and resources he had and offered to teach religion classes at the university to pay for his tuition. He considered what he had and used his skills to get him to his goal without debt.

After Marriott graduated, he remembered a business opportunity he noticed years before as a church missionary in Washington D.C. He remembered how thirsty he always got in the summer and thought how well a root beer stand could do, so he went out to Washington D.C. with his wife and opened a nine-stool root beer stand.

The stand did very well during the summer, but business fell as flat as day-old soda as winter approached. Marriott zigzagged and started selling hot Mexican food at his root beer stand to keep business going. From there, he scaled the business and built more of the stands, expanding them into full restaurants and making the very first drive-through on the east coast.

Marriott was a pioneer in other businesses, too. He noticed how people would often come to his restaurant from the airport, buy a box lunch and then take it on the plane with them. Marriott started making the box lunches ahead of time and sold them to the airlines – the first in-flight meals. During World War II when sales were down, he started selling food to government cafeterias to keep things going.

And then, 30 years after Marriott first started his business, he opened his first motel.

Just look at all those zigzags! For 30 years, Marriott slowly and steadily built his business from nothing. It wasn’t a fast, easy process, but instead a legacy of hard work and brilliant successes. Then consider where his company is now, more than 75 years later. If he tried to build one of the largest hotel chains in the world when he first graduated with only a tiny amount of resources, no doubt he would have failed. However, by zigzagging, he managed to achieve that goal and so much more.

What can you learn from Marriott? Don’t be afraid to zigzag! Keep an eye out for new opportunities and chase after them whenever you are able. Even if it means doing something you’re less comfortable with, it may just be the path that will take you and your business to greater success.

Challanging My Affinity for Meyers Briggs

July 30th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

I’m a huge proponent of Meyers Briggs tests. In my businesses, we use these tests to help with hiring, forming teams, determining target markets, and learning how best to communicate with each other. So naturally, I had several employees and potential hires take the test. Here’s the email I got back from one of my senior team leaders.


Subject: I’m an enigma, but most people are…

These personality test results seem like a bunch of horse biscuits. I don’t agree with that thing. I think I contradict my own self. Either way, thanks for the gig.
   
- I like people, but pretty much all of them annoy me after a while.
- I’m emotional, but I love statistics and facts.
- I like parties and so forth, but I always need to detox from socializing.
- I love history. I think about the past all the time. I also dream of the future (living on my farm where all is perfect.)
- I love getting a ton of stuff done, but I can’t maintain a fast pace forever. I also excel at wasting time.
- I’m always late getting places. I’m never late on deadlines.
- I don’t like to hear about people’s problems, but they all tell me about them all the time, so I’m good at dealing with that kind of crap.
- I’m motivated by humor, a reaction, and (humorous) controversy. But I don’t want to be actively involved in controversy. I’d rather make it happen and then watch.
- I have a huge list of pet peeves. (People who smell like their breakfast, wasteful sounds, girls who scream for no reason, old people who give unwanted advice, people who toot their own horn, anything sticky, static, wind, people who say “I’m just sayin”, people who use the word “uber” in regular English conversation, people who eat sushi because it’s trendy, chalk dust, expensive workout clothes, etc, etc. On the other hand, I can also get along with pretty much anyone.
- Personality tests annoy me because there are close to 6,775,235,700 types of people on the earth–not 4.


After I finished laughing, I thought, this is a good reminder that personality tests have their place. We use them to get the conversation started, we use them to aid communication, but at the end of the day…people are unique individuals, all 6,775,235,700 of them.

 

Success is a Bowl of Cherries

July 7th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

 

Here’s a mini success story. Check out these two young entrepreneurs who assessed their resources and started a business. Watch them ride the wave in this short video. The Zig Zag Principle really is for anyone who wants to start a business, expand an organization, or just better themselves through goal setting.

I’d love to hear your success stories, both small and grand. Please leave a comment on Facebook, Twitter, or right here on the blog. Happy Zig Zagging.