Start at Yes

Do You Start at Yes?

Are you someone who starts at Yes, or starts at No? I think it’s a fundamental question that will help you understand how you look at the world. I have to admit for much of my life I started at no. Could I start a new business? Can I buy that? Can I go on that trip? You name it I would start at no. I would talk myself out of things until I sold myself on yes.   

That has completely transformed in the last few years. It started with the decision to leave a very comfortable and good paying job to start 3 Bridges Consulting. The old me would have come up with 100 reasons why I couldn’t do it. But two years ago I decided to start at yes and figure out how I could do it. I still knew I couldn’t do it alone and probably would have sold myself on no had I not found a dynamic partner to start on the journey.   

Two years later, we are a thriving company with clients from all over the country and have built a full-service consulting firm that is making a real difference for the businesses we work with. I am certainly proud of that. But I am also proud of the fact that learning to start at yes has transformed my life. I now start by figuring out how I can do things and not how I can’t.    

Here’s the latest example. Back in the heart of the pandemic in March and April, I started to look at the rest of the year. Looking ahead to November and December, I decided I would be with my family on the East Coast for the Holidays, but what would I do for the 3 weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas? Should I fly back to CA and then back East? Then I had the idea that I would visit one of my favorite places in the world: St John on the U.S Virgin Islands. I decided to stay there for the 3 weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.   

I realized working remotely on an island like St John would be a challenge. There were more than 100 reasons why I shouldn’t do it, and the old version of me would have started at no and there is no chance I would have ever gotten to yes. But instead I figured it out. It certainly helped that this was already the year of working remotely and clients and businesses were used to this. I had some fun Zoom calls with a background that certainly made people jealous, but I pulled it off.   

The entire experience taught me a lot. I called it getting “reps.” I got plenty of “reps” working in a remote area with a lot of distractions. The lessons I learned are that you can work in streaks, mostly because I was working in 5 different time zones. The days included work in the morning, a break for (the beach, hike or workout), back to more work, dinner, and then wind down with a little more work to check in with the West Coast. It even included waking up in the middle of the night and responding to a few emails or writing down ideas for the next day.

This experience helped me master the art of remote working, but the most important thing I learned was to not pass up the opportunity to make memories with the people I love. If I had not said yes to this experience, I would not have the memories I have with the family that was there with me for the first part of the trip. I would not have introduced my daughters to the island and given them an experience they will never forget. Some of my closest cousins were there, along with my father. All of us creating memories that will last a lifetime.

Also if I had not said yes, I wouldn’t know any of the dozen or so strangers I met, who became friends. Like Jimmy from Jimmy’s Frozen Custard (a well known Detroit area business that’s been around for decades).

Or Damia from NYC, who is literally the waitress, bartender and bouncer at one of the most well-known bars in St. John called Woody’s. If you could ever get her off that island she could make millions selling anything to anyone with her dynamic personality and toughness.  But why would you leave St. John?

Or Mark Rockefeller from South Carolina, who bought a bar named Drink after the hurricanes hit the island, rebuilt it and has 3 of his kids running it. We actually helped this bar develop a drink, and we named it the “Flight Changer.” It’s a new spin on a rum punch, and the idea is that everyone who goes to this bar ends up changing their flight to stay longer. I guess you could say it makes you start at yes. 

I also started at yes with a new project on St John, that you’ll be hearing about in the coming weeks and months. Stay tuned!

I share this because after a year like 2020, I think it’s important that we all take time to reflect on this one fundamental question. Do you start at no? Or do you start at yes? I think we have all been reminded this year how precious life is and that tomorrow is not promised.  Maybe it’s a New Year’s resolution. Start at yes and see where it takes you. Maybe it gives you an experience you never had, or the dream job you’ve been waiting for, or brings a joy to your life that you’ve never known. 

Happy New Year from all of us at 3 Bridges Consulting.

Finding Your Competitive Edge

I have always been fascinated by competition. What makes one person competitive and another one not? Can you teach someone to be competitive? I think the answer is largely no. I do believe that you can press certain buttons to pull passion out of people, but I am not sure you can ever make someone competitive if it’s not in their nature.

The mistake many leaders make is they expect everyone to be wired like they are, to have the same competitive drive they do. It’s not possible. That’s why each company needs to motivate their people differently.

Until now I have told very few people this story. My first full-time sales job was at WGRZ-TV in Buffalo, NY. I had recently been a sports anchor and reporter at the CBS affiliate down the street. But that station did not renew my contract. I was left in complete disbelief. I had a 6-year-old and 10-year-old at home and a wife at the time who was just getting her teaching career started.    

Deciding not to continue sportscasting, I had to reinvent myself. I was motivated to try sales and was fortunate to have a mentor and good friend give me a shot at the NBC affiliate. But I had no idea if I would be able to transition from an on-air TV journalist to a TV account executive. I did know one thing; the best way for me to beat my former employer who sent me packing wasn’t going to be as a sportscaster at another station. I knew that if I could bring in revenue for their biggest competitor, every sale I was able to close would be money they were not getting. That fueled my competitiveness. On my way to my new TV station, I used to go out of my way to drive by my old TV station. It was the extra fuel I needed to get my day started. I don’t need to get into the rest of the details but all of that competitiveness worked. I was able to transition into a pretty successful media sales career.   

As a manager, I used to ask potential sales people if they would let their kids, nieces or nephews etc. beat them at Monopoly or a board game? If the answer was yes, it was a strike against their competitiveness. Not a deal breaker but did demonstrate a lack of competitiveness and more importantly that they weren’t willing to teach someone how to lose. If you don’t know how to lose you’ll never really know how to win. Sounds harsh, but I never let my kids beat me at any board game – they did it on their own sometimes. You know what, they turned out alright. In my perfect world, we teach our kids that when you fail you learn, when you lose you learn, and we get rid of participation trophies once and for all! 

The mistake many leaders make is they expect everyone to be wired like they are, to have the same competitive drive they do. It’s not possible. That’s why each company needs to motivate their people differently. It’s cliche, but you have to ask what makes them get out of bed in the morning? What motivates them? Is it to provide the best life for their family, buy nice clothes, go on trips, have the best sports car in the parking lot; maybe it’s a combination of a few of these things? Leaders need to find out the things that their people are passionate about. What is their why?

When I was a sales leader we had our entire team, not just sales people, create their vision boards. These are reminders for people of what motivates them, what makes them want to come to work and give their best every day. What is their why? Here’s mine from 2019 – my “why”  was and always is my daughters. At the time, I had one in college and one headed to college. I wanted to travel, and I wanted a new car that year – all came true. That same year one of our young salespeople had, as part of her goals, a picture of an Audi Q5 up on her desk for her to see every day. By June, she was driving that car to work.   

At 3 Bridges Consulting we believe just about every successful business has to have a competitive culture. This doesn’t just mean the leaders on your team should be competitive, everyone on your team should want to win. All of the great companies of our day – Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Netflix have a winning culture, and competitiveness is at the core of everything they do. It’s not just their sales people who are trained to win, everyone in their organization needs to buy-in to that competitive culture. 

As 2020 comes to a close, and your company is preparing for 2021; consider having your people prepare vision boards for their year. It’s also a great team building experience to get together and share them with each other. You end up learning things about people that you may not have known. What other techniques have you used to inspire positive competition within your team? Leave us a comment and let us know!

The ABCs of Marketing – ALWAYS BE CURIOUS

You know what’s a fun game to play. Ask what companies blew their opportunity the most, and how did it happen? It’s incredible how many companies fall in love with their product or service and forget that without innovation they will be left in the dust. Let’s start with one that I was close to for a while.  

Curiosity means you think critically and ask questions. Curious people challenge the status quo and strive to be innovative. Curiosity leads to disruption and innovation and will ensure your company doesn’t become the next Blockbuster, Blackberry or MySpace.

I worked for Gannett, a gigantic media conglomerate that at its peak was a combination of television stations, local newspapers and its largest brand: USA Today. As we’ve watched print fade and digital takeover during the last two decades, I was blown away at the miss Gannett had with USA Today. With their experience and market share, I always believed they should be the number one resource for national news online. However, old thinking and lack of innovation kept them stuck, while digital upstarts like Yahoo, Google and others took the space that should have been all theirs. 

The top-5 online news sites: (1) Yahoo, (2) Google News, (3) Huffington Post, (4) CNN, (5) New York Times. You have to scroll all the way to (14) to find USA Today in terms of online traffic. What a miss for a brand that, if navigated properly, should have been one of those top-5 online sources for news.

But Gannett is not alone in mismanaging the digital revolution. There are several others with much worse stories. I stumbled on this Blackberry the other day and remembered back to when I got this phone, thinking it was the coolest and most advanced piece of tech. Now it seems like an ancient tribal device compared to an iPhone. The point is that Blackberry owned the smart-phone market. Blackberrys were so popular they were called “Crack-berrys.” But they did not innovate; they did not understand the sweeping market changes. They also thought that loyalty to their brand was all they needed, and that was true in the business world for a long time. When the iPhone first came out, it was really only considered good for personal use, while business people were not ready to give up their Blackberrys. But as we now know, eventually everyone converted either to an iPhone or an Android. Loyalty will never beat innovation. 

History is littered with companies that blew it. Shouldn’t Blockbuster have become Netflix? How did AOL and Yahoo lose to Google? Both were in the search space long before Google. Remember MySpace, shouldn’t they be Facebook?  

What do all of these stories have in common? They didn’t have enough people who were curious. Curiosity means you think critically and ask questions. Curious people challenge the status quo and strive to be innovative. The core of 3 Bridges Consulting is to be Curious – Creative – Competitive. They are all important, but I would argue the first one might be the most important because if you are curious the other two will follow. Curiosity leads to disruption and innovation and will ensure your company doesn’t become the next Blockbuster, Blackberry or MySpace.

What other companies can you think of that missed their opportunity to innovate? Let us know in the comments below!

Strong Brands Will Stand the Test of Time

The painting above was done by my cousin, David Armstrong. He was actually my Dad’s first cousin, so I used to just call him Uncle David. He was a very well-known watercolor artist (Google it!) known mostly for his magnificent Pennsylvania country landscapes. One of his most significant works is called the 3 Bridges of Latrobe. It’s a painting that Arnold Palmer’s wife, Winnie Palmer, had commissioned David to paint as a surprise for Arnie’s 65th birthday. While the picture shows snow on the ground, this is actually the golf course where Arnie learned how to play the game. I have a signed print from David and Arnie –  it’s one of my most prized possessions. Both David and Arnie have passed, David way too young in 1998 after a long battle with Cancer at the age of 51. Arnie died in 2016 at the age of 87.    

That painting was the inspiration for the name for our company, 3 Bridges Consulting. One of the fundamental tenets of our company is that we help our clients build bridges to their best customer, no matter the age of their business. We focus on 3 different bridges: one for start-ups, one for company’s in 2-4 years, and one for established companies of 4+ years. Our experience allows us to customize marketing strategies for companies of every age and size. 

There’s another reason the 3 Bridges painting is a principle to our company. I am an enormous sports fan, and an avid golfer. Arnie was certainly a generational golfer and brought legions of fans to the game. But here’s what’s amazing about his story: Arnie earned 3.6 million on the golf course, but his total lifetime earnings were $875 million. That staggering amount of money he earned off the golf course is because he figuratively built the strongest bridge ever in sports.  That bridge was his connection to his fan base (Arnie’s Army), which was a stronger bond than any athlete had ever established.  That bridge helped his name become an iconic brand. In some ways, Arnie was the “start-up” business for other athletes after him to follow. He paved the way for athletes in all sports to build a personal brand during and after their careers. Arnie may have died 4 years ago, but his brand is still relevant and will be for many years to come.  

Not just athletes, but every company should look to emulate the staying power of Arnie’s brand. The question all businesses need to answer in year 1, 21, or 41: do you have the right bridge to your ideal customer and, as a result, a brand that can stand the test of time? To learn more on this and to read our success stories in helping businesses of all stages grow and develop, please visit our website at www.3bridgesconsulting.co

4 Lessons Every Salesperson Should Learn, as Taught by Dad

What did your dad do?

I get asked that question a lot, and it’s a long answer. But for the purposes of this article, I’ll say he was in sales his entire life, though the road was not normal.

My dad started in the restaurant business in VA.  He “sold” a couple restaurant concepts where he was able to land investors to help him and his brother successfully run and manage these restaurants around Virginia. Eventually looking to get out, Dad sold his part of the company and decided to move on to something else. 

Having visited Cape Cod for his entire life, both as a kid, and then taking his family as an adult, Dad always had a yearning to live there. So when I was 7 and my sister 6, he moved us to Harwich, MA on Cape Cod.  If the Cape is an arm, Harwich is one of the towns on the elbow. My dad ended up at a home improvement company, quickly becoming their number one sales producer. The guys who had been there a while would only take the big leads: room editions, kitchens, baths, etc. Pops would take the scraps: one replacement window or a storm door. He was by far the hungriest, taking all the leads he could get. Sometimes he’d close those smaller leads; more times than not, they turned into much bigger jobs. Lesson learned, never predict an outcome. Always explore and be curious about every lead that comes your way; you never know how it may turn out.

Continue reading 4 Lessons Every Salesperson Should Learn, as Taught by Dad