September 11, 2017
TALKING POINTS

Guardrails, bumpers and guidelines to move your business forward

Bernard L. Kavaler

Guardrails on highways and bumpers on bowling lanes serve parallel purposes, although there is an undeniable difference of magnitude between improving your score and potentially saving your life. The thread of similarity, however, is instructive. At times, we stray from our intended path, and need a gentle nudge — or a sharp jolt — to stay on course.

Along the way, there are guideposts that can help propel forward progress, keep objectives in sight — and ultimately within reach. Here are a handful:

Everything is connected

In a state the size of Connecticut, that often feels especially true. But even beyond, in our increasingly intersecting world, the frequency with which something — or someone — from "before" pops up in your presence can be either invigorating or debilitating. Best to assume that what you do, how you do it, and with whom, will lead to new opportunities — or kill them — at some point in the future. Make that yet-to-be-revealed connection a pleasant surprise, rather than an adventure in adversity.

When in doubt, leave it out

If you are uncertain, unconvinced, downright queasy, just don't do it. Trust your gut, believe your instincts. They've brought you this far. It could be as simple as a phrase in a marketing brochure or news release, an image on a website, a display in the showroom, or a catchy tweet or enticing email subject line. What may have seemed like a great idea initially, may awaken second thoughts just as you're about to hit the send button. It's always tougher to get the toothpaste back in the tube.

Technology changes, core values don’t

It is easy to get swept up in change, and lose your way. It can be considerably more challenging to keep your feet planted firmly on the ground as tech-driven alternatives proliferate. There's no question that tech advances offer openings to do more and reach further, often more efficiently. It can be pivotal, however, not to let the rush to do what's possible loosen your grip on the values that contributed to your business success. You can be cool and cutting edge (and successful) without giving up the principles that guided past growth.

Nothing you do is ever wasted

At any given moment, it may seem as if a particular project, meeting or proposal is of no value whatsoever. While that may prove true, it is at least as likely that it won't. The original intent of the exercise may ultimately not be what proves to be of value, but value may be found nonetheless — and sometimes when you least expect it.

From inventions that solved a problem completely unrelated to what was initially sought (Post-It Notes come to mind), to work done successfully for a new client that had roots in a failed project for another, there is evidence to suggest that nothing is really a complete waste of time.

The more you know, the more you know

There are advantages to being an expert in your own silo. But there can also be business advantages to knowing what's happening in other silos, even if you can't quite see any overlap with your own. Knowing what's occurring in other industries or regions could become the foundation for future possibilities, which may end up benefitting your bottom line. At the very least, you'll be more knowledgeable and interesting in conversation, a potentially potent combination that has been known to bring business benefits, too.

And there's one more. Proofreaders are worth their weight in gold. Anyone, regardless of business or industry, who has ever printed anything about anything knows this to be true. If you stumble upon a skilled proofreader, make a friend for life. Even as we spend more of our marketing time (and budget) online, we occasionally still need to put words on paper. And when we do, it's really quite useful to get the spelling right.

Bernard L. Kavaler is founding principal of Express Strategies, a public affairs and public policy consulting firm based in Hartford, at www.express-strategies.com.

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