We spend a lot of time here coaching people on how to communicate in order to get the outcomes they want. And in some cases, the outcome is a sale of a product or a service. But in many cases, the outcome is the “sale” of an idea or a plan. The vast majority of persuasion that happens in the workplace concerns the building of alignment and persuading support for an idea or a strategy or a solution of some kind.
And whenever I am discussing this with a client, I always think about my own experience launching The Latimer Group in 2002. We recently celebrated our twentieth anniversary, and so lately I have been thinking about some of the big lessons learned along the way.
When you are trying to build support around your idea or your plan, there are a few obvious things that must be in order… the idea has to be well organized, it needs to solve a critical problem and/or leverage a big opportunity, and you need to have, at least, some semblance of a business plan.
Every book, class or workshop on starting a business or launching the big idea will cover these obvious points.
But when you are trying to build momentum around your idea, there are a few other, perhaps less obvious, things that must also be in order:
- Your life must be able to support your effort. You could have the greatest idea in the world, but if you don’t have time to nurture it and see it through, it won’t happen. For example, I hear lots of stories about people trying to create a startup business “on the side” of their regular gig. In my experience, this rarely works out well for the regular gig, the side gig or both. Or if you want to lead a new project team, in addition to your regular responsibilities, you better be able to support both. Be careful what you ask for.
- The people closest to you have to be on board. You are going to need support along the way, either from your closest colleagues, or in many cases, the people in your personal life. Do the people closest to you support what you are trying to do? They better, or else you have some challenges coming your way. In The Latimer Group example, the unsung hero of the Latimer story is my wife Emily. At any one of several points along the way, especially in the early years, she could have gotten tired of the entrepreneurial lifestyle and said “enough.” I would have had a hard time ignoring that. Emily’s support has been just as critical as anything else that has gone our way over the last 21 years.
- You have to be patient. I remember a key piece of advice I got in 2002. I was speaking to a then-member of our Board of Advisors, and I said “I am going to give this 18-24 months, and if it isn’t working, I will try something else.” And the advisor laughed at me. “Not nearly enough time,” she said. You have to give things time to germinate. Every big idea that you go after will have its own germination period… be realistic about what that needs to be. Because if you commit to the idea, but don’t commit to a realistic germination period, then you haven’t really committed to the idea.
- You have to refine the idea along the way. Show some intellectual agility. As you proceed, you will undoubtedly learn a few things, and you have to be willing to adjust. You have to be patient and committed to the idea, but you also have to be willing to adjust the idea, the strategy, the plan, as you learn new things. Agility is critical. In our case, the business that exists today has some legitimate common DNA to the original idea… but the idea has also evolved in several significant ways.
- You have to have faith. There are a thousand reasons why your idea might die. But if you really believe it is a good idea, then you need to remain faithful to it. If you lack faith, why should others have faith?
The idea can be almost anything… maybe you have an idea for a better method of production, or a better sales plan, or a more refined organizational chart. Or, in my case, the idea might be a business idea that has changed the course of my family’s life. Regardless, you need more than just a business plan to maximize your chances of success.
We believe that great communication skills change the world. We transform people and organizations of all sizes with simple, repeatable techniques, through an integrated platform of corporate training, coaching, and asynchronous learning.
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