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Nearly five years after launching The Brainzooming Group as a full-time strategy and innovation firm, we are honored by the Brainzooming blog readership growth. We appreciate those of you who have been diving in to the Brainzooming blog mid-stream to join us. Based on new readers asking about the Brainzooming backstory when I’m out speaking, and the fact there are now nearly eighteen hundred articles on the Brainzooming blog, an “in case you just joined us” recap highlighting all the different perspectives woven into the Brainzooming backstory seems helpful.

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A Left Brain and Right Brain Start

I grew up enjoying school, including both left- brain (math) and right-brain (writing, art) subjects out in Western Kansas. Along the way, there was an opportunity to get involved in music, producing concerts, and working as a DJ. All of those find their way into what we do now.

By the time graduate school was finished, however, I still was not sure what I wanted to do.

Hearing Bill McDonald on a Kansas City radio talk show discuss his firm doing research for other companies sounded like my dream career. It was the epitome of small business life, and a few years there were like earning a second MBA degree focused on business analysis, writing, and the realities of living on a business shoestring.

Corporate Life at a Fortune 500 – From Marketing Analyst to Marketing VP

When the small business route was not helping make ends meet sufficiently, I landed a job at a Fortune 500 B2B services company right around the corner, serving for most of the time as Vice President of Strategic Marketing and Marketing Communications.

Starting corporate life as a marketing analyst, I was fortunate to rise quickly and gain exposure to a variety of marketing and business disciplines, thanks to another important strategic mentor. How often does a market research guy get to take on marketing communications, NASCAR sponsorships, strategic planning, conference production, and online marketing (with a healthy dose of music, art, and public speaking) – all at the same time? Rarely, I’d guess.

In the midst of this, our corporation tripled in size (to $10 billion) through acquisitions within just thirty months. I was deployed to help our new subsidiaries improve marketing and strategy while being told I couldn’t tell them what to do. This intriguing challenge led to blending all the creative thinking exercises, strategy templates, and innovation tools I had created and gathered over the years into what became the Brainzooming methodology.

While that was happening, I started blogging and tweeting to share the lessons learned with both my team (at least the smart ones who subscribed to the blog) and others outside the company.

Starting The Brainzooming Group

After several years of honing this rapid, question-based planning methodology called Brainzooming, I had a “couldn’t pass it up” opportunity to leave corporate life and make the move to growing and sharing the methodology full-time as The Brainzooming Group.

The Brainzooming Group now serving clients in business-to-business and business-to-consumer industries, including public, private, and not for profit organizations. We help them quickly and innovatively expand their marketplace views and strategic options. Our work can entail developing and implementing business strategy, marketing strategy, branding initiatives, revenue building efforts, marketing communications campaigns, and social media launches.

And through all of it, we are still blogging on strategy, creativity, innovation, and social media.

Thanks for joining the Brainzooming journey. We would love to work with you! Let us know what business opportunities and challenges you are trying to better address. Across our core and extended team, we have broad experience and well-tested tools to get your business, improving, growing, and moving forward quickly.

Working with us will make you feel you are Brainzooming – guaranteed! – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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It is always fascinating how business professionals approach business networking.

This is particularly true when you get to see how business professionals set themselves apart through smart business networking techniques.

Business Networking Techniques that Created Results

Here are five recent business networking techniques that stood out:

1. When meeting someone new, call attention to your shared networks.

One way to highlight your common network is printing your shared list of LinkedIn connections. This simple business networking technique can move a conversation ahead in positive ways. At a recent meeting, the other individual handed me a hard copy list of shared LinkedIn connections; the list was surprisingly extensive. Scanning it, I discovered a childhood friend who SHOULD be a prospect for the other individual’s service, and I provided background on why he should follow up with my friend.

2. Don’t give up making a meeting happen, even if the introduction is months old.

Several people contacted me right before my wife, Cyndi, had surgery and my availability for non-essential meetings shrank dramatically. One individual followed up four months later before abandoning the possibility of making the meeting happen. His email and phone call combo instigated our in-person meeting months after the initial introduction occurred.

networking-guys

3. Follow up an informal first meeting with a second invitation right away.

At the closing Content Marketing World session, I sat next to someone new. We hit it off, had a wonderful conversation, and identified Pam Didner as a shared contact. Before parting company, he invited me to a dinner he was having with a client. Back at the hotel and planning to head to another event I had already paid to attend, he texted me with specifics on where they were headed. His invitation and follow up turned into a great dinner getting to know him better along with two of his clients.

4. Make your follow-up personal, not formulaic.

After the recent networking event prompting the “you have to keep up your blog current once you start it” post, one person I didn’t get to meet reached out via LinkedIn with more than the standard, “Join my network” message. He recounted leaving the event early to tend to a diabetic pet. Having had a diabetic pet ourselves, his personalized message created an instant connection.

5. Have a good memory (or good notes) of why you met originally met someone.

Right before Cyndi’s surgery, I did squeeze in a networking meeting with someone new instigated by friend and blog reader, Michael Irvin. With everything else on my mind, I remembered it was a great connection, but by the time we reconnected, I could not remember the specifics. The other individual came to our second meeting, however, with detail on why we were meeting again and what we hoped to accomplish. What a great boost to a productive second meeting.

What have you seen work with smart business networking techniques recently?

Mike Brown

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

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Learn all about how Mike Brown’s workshops on creating strategic impact can boost your success!

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Ever feel like this quote from Andy Warhol is your life motto?

I first read this Andy Warhol quote on practicing what you preach in high school, and I’ve used it to try keeping myself on (or moving toward) the program ever since.

While your preaching and practices need to match up, it can be so very hard to do.

Andy-Warhol-Practice-Preach

This is one of the things we’re talking about today in an updated workshop on “Aligning Your Life’s Work” I’m presenting for the Heartland Chapter of the Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA) Annual Conference in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Among the topics we’re covering in Aligning Your Life’s Work are:

Today’s workshop, while more focused on a personal strategic thinking approach, is a wonderful complement to yesterday’s closing session I presented to the CFMA group on “7 Keys to Creating an Innovative Workplace Culture.” The innovative workplace culture presentation is a new one building on writing I’ve been doing the past several years on better inviting, adopting, and recognizing ideas and strategic thinking from employees to direct business strategy.

For a variety of reasons, much of that content hasn’t appeared on the blog yet. Given the response from the CFMA group, however, it may be time to start sharing it with all of you as well.

And if your company or association would benefit from strengthening your innovative workplace culture, let me know. We’d love to develop a comparable workshop to help address your opportunities for innovation and creating strategic impact. – Mike Brown

 

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.


Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation and strategic thinking success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

 

 

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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I’ve had several coaching conversations about career challenges with multiple individuals who thought their jobs might be in danger.

One theme through all of them was how to really figure out your career situation if you suspect your job is in danger. Sometimes it’s obvious you’re on the bubble. Some people seem to always miss the obvious, however, especially when the obvious is about them.

Last-Day-Mug

11 Questions to Ask If You Think Your Job Is In Danger

Those coaching conversations led to this list of eleven questions about an individual’s organizational impact. If you suspect your job is in danger (or even if you don’t), honestly ask yourself these questions. They range across a variety of ways individuals can make an organizational impact through the value they deliver

If I weren’t here, would the organization . . .

  1. Lose any customers?
  2. See a revenue decline?
  3. Be less profitable (or financially successful)?
  4. Be a less compelling investment?
  5. Suffer a negative impact in reputation?
  6. Lose out on an incredible brand ambassador?
  7. Suffer from a major loss of intellectual capital?
  8. Become less efficient?
  9. Experience a major loss in quality or effectiveness?
  10. Be asked why I was no longer there?
  11. Notice the difference two months after I’ve left?

This list of organizational impact questions is not tested, and it’s not necessarily comprehensive.

But if you can’t find at least one or two undisputable “Yes” answers amid the list (and “maybe” or “a little” aren’t “yes”), you are simply a cog in your organization – and a pretty expendable and easily replaced one at that.

What to do next to improve your career success?

Your inability to answer any of these career success questions affirmatively means it’s past time to decide how you’re going to change your career situation where you are. Alternatively, it’s time to find a new place where you can develop and play a critical role.

And if you do neither, you’re just living on borrowed time, which is no way to live your career. – Mike Brown

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.


Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation and strategic thinking success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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I’m not proud of this list of entrepreneurial frustrations, but that does not make them any less real. No matter the size of an organization, there are ample opportunities for things to not go as planned – whether that is unintentional or intentional on the part of someone else.

Strategic Thinking on Entrepreneurial Frustrations

1. Hitting your deadline when the other party couldn’t hit its own deadline.

2. People saying one thing and doing another.

3. Feeling like you are all by yourself at times.

4. Somebody not trying hard enough.

5. Not spending enough time on the right things.

6. Finding it easier to undercut rather than stand up for yourself.

7. Getting excluded for no apparent reason.

8. Accepting the exclusion rather than asking, “Why?”

9. Standing by as “the hurt gets worse and the heart gets harder.”

10. Denial.

11. Not doing the tough strategic thinking and taking the easy way out.

What entrepreneurial frustrations bedevil you?

Do you ever get to the point where any of them drop off your list? – Mike Brown

 

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Does your organization have good ideas, but lacks effective  ways to bring them to reality? The Brainzooming Group and our collaborative, implementation-oriented planning techniques will quickly move you toward success. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call  816-509-5320  for a free consultation on how to get started.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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As mentioned in our article on integrating spiritual and business lives, Stephen Lahey (of SmallBusinessTalent.com) and I recorded a podcast conversation on the topic. We discussed motivations, benefits, and occasional challenges to having one’s spiritual life placed front and center as you make business decisions and chart your course as an entrepreneur. I think of it as strategic living.

Stephen has published the podcast, and I’d invite you to both listen and respond to our conversation on integrating spiritual and business lives as an entrepreneur.

spirituality-and-business

You should also subscribe to his SmallBusinessTalent.com updates. You’ll receive notification each Wednesday about Stephen’s featured guest on that week’s podcast, plus a brief Sunday update with a business tip, suggested content to peruse, or a personal reflection.

I really appreciate Stephen’s support for Brainzooming. He has shared multiple strategic ideas for us from his vantage point as a reader and entrepreneur. Additionally, his recommendations on business development and client relations approaches have translated into thousands of dollars of new revenue and profit we’d have otherwise not captured.

That’s pretty incredible ROI!

Given those impacts, if you’re an entrepreneur with a small business, I’d encourage you to reach out to Stephen about the consultation he offers to entrepreneurs. He has the experience (having been an entrepreneur for well over a decade), and he is very efficient and accurate at sizing up business situations. Stephen translates those insights into actionable strategies with tools he’s used to grow and cultivate his own entrepreneurial ventures.

So take a break from Brainzooming today, visit SmallBusinessTalent.com to engage in the conversation on strategic living, and think hard about whether Stephen could help you with a new, trusted, and veteran perspective to gain more ideal clients, profitability, and fulfillment. – Mike Brown

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.


Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation and strategic thinking success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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I find it surprising when someone discusses the advantages of entrepreneurship and mentions, “You don’t have to work for somebody else.”

This sentiment seems incredibly naive.

Amid this second round of entrepreneurship in my career, it’s clear you certainly DO work for somebody else

In fact, if you serve multiple and varied clients, an entrepreneur works for more somebody elses than is ever typical in a corporate job.  That’s been the case for me without exception. Despite a variety of competing interests and priorities in the corporate world, it was easy to separate the one or two people I was working for versus all the other people who thought I was working for them.

Such clarity isn’t necessarily there as an entrepreneur.

Serving a B2B market, I’ll admit that it’s not always clear what is going on inside a client’s four walls. It’s easy to be on the outside and NOT looking in as internal politics, cumbersome processes, and questionable motivations slow down what should seem to go more smoothly and quickly.

I realized the other day, however, what people are really talking about as the “not working for someone else” advantage entrepreneurs have.

Talking with someone who works for a company that provides services in the B2B market, she was reflecting on a recent client interaction. The client hadn’t provided solid planning information upfront. As a result, there was confusion about how vital processes and decisions would proceed. Her sense was that she, as the client contact for a relationship her employer held, couldn’t set the client straight. She wound up biting her tongue on multiple important issues because it was a client. The best she felt she could do in challenging the situation was to offer two strong suggestions to attempt to correct the situation.

Having my own business, however, I’d have been in a different position to act. If pushing back to the client resulted in losing the business, I would be in the position to fully understand that impact and shoulder the full ramifications of it. As an employee, she wasn’t in a position to do that.

If you have someone paying you, you are working for somebody else whether as an entrepreneur or as an employee. Maybe what people really mean about not working for somebody else is that an entrepreneur can talk back and take action against the whoever is paying more effectively than an employee.

In that case, I’d have to agree with them. – Mike Brown

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

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Learn all about how Mike Brown’s workshops on creating strategic impact can boost your success!

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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