Hold ‘Em, Fold ‘Em, or Walk? Here’s How To Know

I was talking to a colleague new to the business world who told me he had been working on a new initiative, it wasn’t working as well as expected, and he was getting ready to throw in the towel. I asked him how long he had been doing it for. He told me a little over a month.

A month?

Really?

It’s at this point that I (very quietly) started singing the Kenny Rogers song I titled this tidbit after… When he looked at me like I’d grown a second head, I told him that he was folding and walking away far too early.

Often, I work with companies who tell me similar stories. They launched this new tool or a new initiative, and it wasn’t working, so they were moving on. They tell me they’re trying something new and before I can ask how they’re doing, they tell me they’re “pivoting.”

It seems the motto of fail fast, fail often is one that’s regularly misunderstood.

When I first launched the Tuesday Tidbit, I decided to write every single Tuesday, no matter what, without fail. I told myself I would write for a list a year before deciding if it was worth it.

I haven’t missed a single Tuesday, and that was six years ago. It has become the single best, most fruitful thing I’ve ever done for my business. I could have quickly given up many times in that first year (and even long after), and if I’d given in to that temptation, I feel confident in saying that none of my books would have been published and that I’d be working with small, local companies instead of an international who’s who of business.

My biggest fans for the longest time were likely my mother, my friends, and anyone else I could cajole into reading – through in that first year, and it’s hard to say if even they were paying attention to it on a week to week basis.

When companies are introducing much-needed initiatives, I’m often shocked how quickly they’re willing to throw in the towel.

One company heard my rant and rail about CRMs and sales expectations for years. They finally bought an off-the-shelf piece of software, rolled it out to the teams, and gave up two months later (It was at that point they asked for my help).

There are three simple rules to consider when launching any new initiative that will greatly improve your chances of success. This applies to any new initiative, including those outsides of sales, customer experience, or service.

First, commit to a certain time frame no matter what. It often depends on the initiative. But, as an example, if you’re launching a new method of maintaining or building stronger relationships with your current customers, one month isn’t enough. Commit to at least six to twelve months of consistent effort.

Second, understand that pivoting is okay – if you’re doing it based on actual feedback, and not just a feeling that “things should be happening quicker.”

Here’s something I don’t see considered nearly enough. Think about your pivot points in advance. In fact, have three ready to go. Here’s an example. If you’re launching a new sales tool and you’re not getting appropriate adoption from those who you expect to be using it, consider the pivot points. Does the tool need to change? Do you need stronger consequences for non-compliance? Do you need to ensure expectations are clearly understood?

In basketball, pivoting isn’t about quitting something and moving to the next thing. Pivoting is all about re-positioning. Consider your re-positioning strategies in advance.

Finally, have a clear understanding of what constitutes success. Develop a list of the three to five most important metrics of success. The metric isn’t always more profit. The metric might be more leads, more referrals, improved customer satisfaction, more pleasant customer experiences, etc.

In many cases, the metric is consistent employee adoption of the new plan – Remember, the natural inclination of most employees is to “ride out this new fad of the week until I can get back to my real job.” Be aware of that, and ensure that you’re prepared to measure, reward, and punish based on the adoption of your people.

When I started the Tuesday Tidbit, my metrics were simple. They were:

  • Did I write a tidbit this week, that I can be proud of,
  • That pushed me to develop my intellectual property, and
  • Required me to think deeply about the work I’ve done with clients

After that first year, I enhanced my measures of success, to include:

  1. Are people responding to my weekly challenges?
  2. Are people sharing the Tuesday Tidbits with friends, colleagues, and peers?
  3. Is the Tidbit creating new opportunities that did not exist before?

The answer after the first year was yes to all three. At that point, perhaps not at the speed I would have liked, but the indicators were there.

Your Challenge For This Week:

Consider a new initiative that you’re rolling out within the next 3-6 months, and make sure you have all 3 of these points covered (Ironclad timeline commitment, potential pivots at the end of that commitment period, and the metrics that you’ll use to measure success or failure of the venture).

Kenny would be proud.

Best,
Noah