What’s the Pattern Here?


 

Have you ever noticed how things work in cycles with observable patterns? As someone whose strength is observing and seeing patterns, I find it helpful to know that these patterns exist and to see if this awareness generates some form of opportunity. This may be because I have that entrepreneurial instinct that draws out this intrigue, but whatever the case, they seem to pop up everywhere.

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You can find these patterns in the stock market, football teams, the weather, time to market saturation for products, and a multitude of other things. For example, look at the stock market over a long period of time. You will see that over time the price to earnings ratio (PE) tends to expand and contract over a longer time horizon than the normal business cycle.

From 1903 to around 1920, you should notice a contraction of PE from around 24 to 5. From 1920 to 1930, the PE surged from 5 to 28. From 1930 to 1950, it contracted back to 9. From 1950 to 1969, it expanded from that 9 to about 23. Then from 1969 to around 1980, it dropped back down to 7. From 1980 to 2000, you should see it surge up to 42 (can you say bubble?). We have been on a PE contraction since then. The sad news, as you can see from the pattern, is that a long uptrend does not typically start until the price to earnings ratio falls into the single digits.

Being a University of Tennessee football fan, I observe the patterns there also. As fans, we have high expectations every season, which makes it difficult to see the patterns. However, you can go back to the 1960s and see a good decade for the UT program. The 1970s were tough. The 1980s bounced around with big ups and downs. The 1990s were great, and the decade of the 2000s has been sad. You would think from this, the current decade will improve.

If you listen to the news, you would think we have been on a warming trend from the past 100 years. Actually, we have been on a warming trend since the late 1970s. In the mid-70s, all the major news stories reported how the average temperatures had been dropping since the 1950s, so we would all starve to death because of crop failures. Last winter, we had snow on the ground in Knoxville, TN for over three weeks. Typically, snow only stays on the ground here for a couple of days, and this was the first time since I started living here in 1981 that this has happened. Could this be the start of something new?

Finally, notice the trend of how breakthrough technological inventions saturate the market. In a general sense, the automobile, television, and radio each took about 30 to 40 years to fully saturate the market. The VCR took at least 15 years. The internet reached saturation after around 8 to 10 years, and it only took Facebook around 3 years once it opened up to everyone.

This pattern is obvious, and we will see new products, services, and software tools reach full penetration within a year in the near future. This results from how connected everyone has become, and this connectivity continues to increase. I would say that at some point in the near future, products and especially software will reach full market saturation within weeks and even days.

What patterns do you see around you? Will these patterns affect your business? Are there opportunities in those patterns or just the satisfaction of knowing this is just one of those cycles and will eventually change?




SWOT your Way to Focus and Flow!


 

When you run a business, various opportunities often present themselves and persuade you to run off in different directions, pulling you away from your focus.  This happens to me frequently, and I find it difficult to avoid being sucked down a path that sounds like the next great avenue for huge success.

Thankfully, my partners, EO Forum,  or my team usually slap me back into reality.  Taking a closer look at what you are doing can also help you discover if these opportunities are worthy or if the current focus is best.

As my success coach Steve D’Annunzio asks:  Where have the most profitable clients come from over the past 3 months?  What is the common theme across those clients and what is it you are providing that makes the clients happy to pay you?  What is the common size of these clients?  What category are they generally from?  What are their locations?

If the answers point towards the companies paying me the most profit, why would I not want to go get more of the same?  Why would I not want to build on this synergy and find a way to get the most scalability possible by giving the clients what they love while also getting paid at the most profitable level?

Steve tells me that when those things happen, you are in “FLOW.”  When it’s right, you notice it in the areas of time, energy and currency because they will all be jamming together like a great jazz band or orchestra.

As we close in on the end of the year, many businesses are looking deeper at what they are doing and may be considering these same types of questions.  Another beneficial exercise that can help to open your awareness to all the options is the basic Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats or SWOT analysis.  We utilize this every quarter to challenge our business and ensure we are considering all possibilities and are not about to get eaten by something sitting around the corner waiting to pounce.  Remember the Software Monster.

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We found that we spent too much time gathering data from all the participants for SWOT, leaving us little time to really dig into the data we had pulled out.  To fix this, we built a tool that has helped us ramp this up before we start our planning meeting and has given us much more time to go deeper.  This tool, called MeetingHabits, can now be utilized for free, and it may stay that way as we study how it benefits us.  We would also like hearing how it helps you if you would like to share your experiences.

As you work to focus more on bringing the most value to a core group of clients that will put you in the best FLOW, what are you doing to make sure your business is harmonizing the best tune?

 




Choose to be Great with These 3 Behaviors!


 

In last week’s blog, I introduced the three core behaviors for business greatness as researched by Jim Collins in his new book “Great by Choice.” These behaviors include fanatical discipline, empirical creativity, and productive paranoia. Let’s take a deeper look at each of these, so we can have a better understanding of how to apply them in our own businesses.

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In the core behavior of fanatical discipline, Collins discusses how these companies had a relentless approach in implementing their processes and strategy. Collins describes “relentless” as “consistency of action, consistency of values, consistency with long term goals, consistency with performance standards, consistency of method, and consistency over time.” He then adds, “For a 10Xer the only legitimate form of discipline is self-discipline, having the inner will to do whatever it takes to create a great outcome, no matter how difficult.” These 10Xer companies operated on a completely different level of discipline than the average or even the comparison companies. They were fanatics about it!

In regards to the core behavior of empirical creativity, Collins shows that 10Xers would try things in the marketplace, get feedback, make changes, and get more feedback. They relied on this practice to make bold moves with less risk. He says, “By empirical, we mean relying upon direct observations, conducting practical experiments, and / or engaging directly with evidence rather than relying upon opinion, whim, conventional wisdom, or untested ideas.” I really relate to Collins analogy of firing bullets instead of cannonballs. Fire the bullets and make adjustments to be sure you zero in on the target. When you have a lock on the target, then you fire your cannonball.

When observing the core behavior of productive paranoia, the 10Xers displayed a sense of constant worry in regards to what could cause their demise in good times as well as bad. They worried, like Gates, that the guy in the garage would come out with something that would sink them. Like me, you may remember Andy Grove of Intel, a 10X company, coming out of the cover of Fortune with the title Only the Paranoid Survive.” Collins says, “They (10Xers) believe that conditions will – absolutely, with 100 percent certainty – turn against them without warning, at some unpredictable point in time, at some highly inconvenient moment. And they’d better be prepared.”

I have discussed many times in these writings how Efficience is working toward its BHAG by creating many products in the marketplace and observing the evidence of what works. Those are our bullets, and when the empirical evidence comes in, we will fire a cannonball. I expected this to be a core behavior, but the other two behaviors of discipline and paranoia found in the 10Xers surprised me. We will be working hard to step up to our discipline and paranoia going forward. How will you use these behaviors to be great?