Dec
19

Masterminding

I spend this past weekend with 9 other professional speakers.  We are part of a mastermind group – a group of people who get together and work on each other’s business (or personal lives) to help provide suggestions and different perspectives. The concept was developed by Napoleon Hill in his book, Think and Grow Rich. The purpose is to “multiply an individual’s brain power and continually motivate positive emotions.”

Each of us have different business models.  Some are motivational speakers while others are more educational.  Some have very specific niche markets, some target corporations, while other are more mass market.  And some  focus primarily on keynote speaking and writing, while others have training and consulting backgrounds.

We meet twice a year to discuss our respective businesses.  We also have ad hoc conversations in between meetings as well as bi-monthly conference calls.

I found it interesting that when everyone was focused on my business, I got the least value.  I am so close to what I do that it is hard to see the forest through the trees.  But when we were working on the other 9 businesses, I gained incredible insights for my business.

I now have a long laundry list of things I want to do with my business reinvention.  Over the next few days, I need to reflect and prioritize.

If you don’t have a mastermind group, I strongly urge you to assemble one (or more). A few years ago, I wrote an article on how to run a mastermind.

Dec
09

Going Mass Market

I just had a great call with my attorney and advisor, Peter Hoppenfeld.

As you may recall, my strong desire is to find a way of going more “mass market” while reducing my reliance on speaking as my primary source of income.  Instead of making money by presenting to corporations, I want to find other means of delivering my content to a wider range of audiences.  This partly involves creating more delivery vehicles (licensing, webinars, products, etc) for my content.  But it also means finding new audiences beyond the corporate world.

My ultimate objective is to work with individuals to create “innovative lives” instead of just helping corporations innovate.  I have a strong desire to build deep relationships with the people I work with.

A few things Peter and I discussed are (some are not new, but confirmation of direction):

  1. Move aggressively with the licensing of Personality Poker®.  This would involve the development of more sophisticated online and mobile tools, as well as other “consumable” resources.  The target audience would still be corporations. In 2012, this will be a major strategic initiative that will be led by someone else on my team.  [As an aside, I am pleased to announce that we have licensed a Dutch translation of Personality Poker.  And, in case you weren't aware, the Danish translation has been available for a couple of years now. If either of these languages are of interest to you, write me and I can connect you with the appropriate people.]
  2. In parallel, license “extensions” of Personality Poker to leaders in the non-corporate world.  For example, create a Personality Poker for dating, wealth creation, families, etc.  Some of these conversations have already begun.  This would be one way of expanding into a larger market.  This direction excites me a lot.
  3. Continue with the licensing of my core content to one or more large players in the training/consulting/coaching space.  These conversations are underway and I hope to have big news soon.
  4. Begin to investigate how to create a truly mass market offering that changes the lives of individuals.  Although my core innovation work is applicable at a personal level, it is my Personality Poker and Goal-Free Living® work that can make the greatest impact. And I don’t want to create a “transactional” business model where I deliver an event (e.g., speech, seminar, etc) and walk away.  I want to create an on-going process to deepen my relationship with people.  Therefore I am looking at creating an offering that involves one or more retreats, masterminds, coaching, and more.  We’ve already begun discussing the marketing channels as well as the marketing challenges.

My head is spinning with the possibilities at this point.

I also had some interesting insights on my “negative” conversations about selling and how that might be holding me back.  More on that soon.

So much to write over the coming days.

Dec
09

Masterminding

I am excited to announce that as part of my reinvention process, I am bringing in support….

Darren Hardy, the publisher of “Success Magazine,” is running a mastermind group.  Basically it is 24 hand-selected people who will work together over the next year.  We meet mid-January in San Diego to kick things off.  This will certainly lead to new insights and perspectives.

Stay tuned.

Nov
04

Travel

Since leaving my week-long retreat where I contemplated ways to rethink my business, things have been moving along nicely.

Two licensing deals may be signed this week or next.  And although my assumption was that with my new model I would end up speaking less, I have been booking new gigs every day.  At the same time, I am delivering more webinars and teleseminars (virtual events that do not require travel).

This past weekend I spent two days in a personal development class.  I am not sure yet how it will impact my business reinvention, but I suspect it will provide some new insights and perspectives.

So this update is short and sweet since I have not had the bandwidth to think.  I will have time later this week.  Then I fly off to Calgary, Las Vegas, and Rome, Italy.  During those travels (two weeks), I will be so busy that my only reflection time will be on the plane.  But that’s ok since I do my best thinking while up in the air.

Nov
01

Licensing

On day 3, I had several interesting conversations where I was asked to consider some challenging questions/points of view.

Day 4 involved even more conversations and reflection.

Personality Poker®

The first thing I did was flesh out a Personality Poker licensing strategy document.  It is still rough, but it describes the general principles of how I can help others create their own income by using the cards, methods, and tools.  Since we are in the early stages of planning, I won’t give too many details now.  But in general, initial thoughts include the development of a support program that would include:

  • A mastermind group of licensees
  • Instruction manuals and videos
  • More sophisticated tools that will replace the existing “video game” (you can still check it out at game.personalitypokerbook.com).  There are many cool things we are designing right now that could revolutionize the way people play the “game.”
  • Marketing and branding support
  • Access to updated versions of the Personality Poker cards (available in bulk)
  • We also discussed product extensions: Personality Poker for Investing/Wealth Creation, Personality Poker for Dating, Personality Poker for Families, etc. These variations might have a completely different licensing model (e.g., one licensee per variant).

More will be revealed in future blog entries as I get clearer on the direction.

Innovation Content Licensing

We still want to move forward with some licensing deals with a small number of large training/innovation organizations.  At the same time, we want to find ways of licensing the content to corporations who want to deliver the content to their employees.  I was asked to think about two questions:

1. What is everything that I have that would be valuable to a Fortune 500 company?  PowerPoint, videos, articles, books, audio programs, webinars, etc.

2. If I licensed the training…

  • Who would deliver the content?
  • How would I package the content so that it can be delivered?
  • How would I ensure they were fully qualified to deliver the content?

As we continued to explore this area, we realized that there is also an opportunity to create digital products that can be licensed to organizations.  I currently own innovationgym.com and innovationworkout.com.  We will investigate if there is a way to create a place where people can build their innovation muscle.  This could be sold on a site license basis or individual subscriptions.

Web Presence

Finally, I spoke with my “internet marketing” guru and the conversation turned to my branding and web presence. For simplicity sake, we are going to merge the stupidpractices.com site into the steveshapiro.com site.  The site will then be streamlined and redesigned.  The “24/7 Innovation” brand will go away and the focus will be on branding Stephen Shapiro.  Dan Pink has done an excellent job of creating a site that focused on his personal brand while still promoting his books.

The personalitypokerbook.com website will stay stand-alone and will eventually be redeveloped.  Part of the redesign will include the removal of the video game and the creation of a members/licensees only section.

What’s in Store for Day 5?

At this point, I have no idea.

I have a call with a licensing agent that has been investigating how we might license Personality Poker to a board game manufacturer.  I will continue to flesh out the details of the Personality Poker licensing document.  And I will fly back from my “office” in Texas to Boston.

This weekend I am taking a personal development class.  I am sure that my business reinvention will be a big part of my thinking over the course of the two days!

Stay tuned…

Oct
28

What Is It Like?

On day 2, I discovered that there was a lot I didn’t know about content licensing.  So it was time to learn a few things.

First I decided to read.  This seemed like the least expensive option with immediate access from my Kindle.  Using my “What is this like?” technique, I settle on books about Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) and franchises.  Although I won’t be creating either type of business, there is a lot to learn from the work done in these areas.

I first read “Success in 10 Steps: Secret MLM Strategies” by Michael Dlouhy (I paid $0.99 for my copy in the Kindle store, but you can download for free here…I think).  As I said, I have no interest in creating a Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) organization, but there were some useful insights that apply to the creation of any business where you sell a product to others who will in turn try to sell that product to their customers.  This is what I am looking to do with Personality Poker®. After reading the book, I contacted the author.  He responded quickly and gave me even more to read on the topic.

Then I started to read “Franchising & Licensing: Two Powerful Ways to Grow Your Business in Any Economy” by Andrew Sherman. This book is a little “heavier” and will take more time to get through.  However it is opening my eyes to the amount of effort required to create a franchise (like McDonalds).

While they provided some useful perspectives, I quickly realized that books are not going to be my only source of information.  I needed to call in the big guns:

  • First thing I did was put attorney Peter Hoppenfeld on retainer.  He works extensively with authors/speakers and specializes in joint ventures and network marketing/MLMs.  He is helping me not just with legal issues but with the overall strategy as well.
  • I then brainstormed a bit with Peter Winick.  He has worked with some well-known authors/speakers to help them create products and other streams of income. He and I worked together in the past on some marketing initiatives and are currently working on a major deal.
  • I reached out to my mentor, Alan Weiss.  As always he had some contrarian perspectives that made me think long and hard about what I am doing.
  • I also contacted someone I know who is in the personality assessment arena.  He is a major licensee of a particular assessment and has extensive experience in this area.  His perspectives will most likely be the backbone of my Personality Poker licensing strategy.

There were others I contacted, but did not yet have a conversation.

What did I learn from my reading and conversations?  A lot.  And in some cases, the points of view were quite contradictory.

Here are some of the questions/perspectives I was asked to consider by my advisors (to protect the innocent, I am not attributing to anyone in particular):

  • How do I want to spend my time? Do I want to manage people? Do I want to speak? Do I want to write? Do I want to sell?
  • What do I resist? What don’t I want to do?
  • What is my body of work (assets) and how can they be monetized?
  • Look at the entire life-cycle of an innovation project and identify the areas where I lack the skills or interest.  These are areas of opportunity for partnerships.
  • How can I create a business that has “enterprise value?”  - something that can be sold in the future.
  • What’s my “why?”  That is, why do I want to make a change?  Make sure the “why” is strong enough to get me through times when there are breakdowns or resistance.
  • What’s my core strength?  What differentiates me from others?  Where do I have established credibility?  I should focus all of my energies here.
  • You can’t license content.  You need to create something that will explicitly make others money.  For example, a packaged innovation workshop with demonstrated demand.
  • Create products/offerings that can be sources of revenue.  For example: innovation coaching sessions, forums/discussion boards, diagnostics/audits.

There are a few other suggestions that were very specific to my situation that I am pondering and will post here at a later date.

I’m still in contemplation/fact gathering mode.  No specific actions are being taken…yet.  Day 4 is filled with more calls and meetings…and of course, more time in the hot tub.

Oct
27

Divide Then Multiply

Day 1 was fruitful. I became clearer on the degree of change needed for the reinvention of my business (30º to 45º) and the overall problem statement (I am quitting the speaking business and now need to make money by leveraging my current intellectual property in other ways).

(again, I intend to keep on speaking, but as a “thought exercise, I am excluding this as a possibility)

I then started to formulate ideas on how I might achieve this objective.

My initial thought was to create new products and services that could generate passive income: CDs, online forums and subscription services, mastermind groups, etc.

Although this will be part of the equation, my mind quickly went in an entirely different direction.  One of my favorite phrases is:

Before you can multiply, you must first learn to divide.” (you can read my article on this topic here)

If you want to grow a business, you must learn to partner with others – and give them a slice.  This means you take a smaller slice of a bigger pie.

Reflecting on potential partnerships led me down the path of exploring various content licensing models; an area I want to explore a bit further.

I first established some guiding principles (all subject to change):

  • I want to spend as little money as possible up-front in developing new products or technologies.  I prefer to do a revenue split with developers whenever possible. While this may minimize my gain, it will minimize my risk.
  • Ideally, I’ll only make money when licensees make money.  Although this does not necessarily mean a revenue split, it does imply ensuring the success of licensees to some degree.
  • I need to make sure I do not alienate my existing target markets (innovators within large corporations) like I did back in 2006 (read where I discuss the 90º turn).
  • Speaking is still an option (of course), but my focus will be on something other than money: marketing, generating book/product sales, enlisting licensees, training licensees, etc.

I then started thinking about different models I could use.

Bring my core intellectual property (IP) to my current target audience. My main business is innovation for large businesses.  My philosophies are outlined (at a 10,000 foot level) in my book, Best Practices Are Stupid. Behind each of the 40 strategies outlined is an entire body of work that could be fleshed out.  Therefore, for this, it seems to make sense to find licensees who are already well entrenched in the Fortune 500 companies. Therefore, the strategy might be to partner with a small number of large licensees: training organizations, consulting firms, online learning systems, etc.  They can then deliver my content to their clients via workshops, training, e-learning, or membership sites. Another option is to license my content directly to large corporations who want to use my materials with their employees.  I could train their trainers who then deliver the concepts internally.

Expand the reach of Personality Poker. Right now, Personality Poker is being played by corporations and trainers around the world.  Although there is some profit in this for me, it is relatively small ($125 for 10 decks of cards – enough for 70 people). Therefore, I am exploring how I might take this content to a new level.  This would involve the development of some more sophisticated back-end tools that would support trainers.  We could then license this to a larger number of small business/individuals along with training, manuals, technology, marketing, and overall support.

Although there are many other options for creating non-speaking income, for now I plan to further explore the licensing model.

Admittedly, I have little experience on this topic, so I will need to find out what I don’t know that I don’t know about this area.

To do this, I decided to use a technique that I encourage my clients to use.  Ask yourself, “Who else has solved a similar problem?”

Upon reflection, McDonalds and other franchises came to mind. Also, Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) organizations like Amway and Arbonne have an interesting “network marketing” model.

I spent the rest of the day finding and reading books on franchising and MLMs.  These provided some very interesting insights.

The more I learn, the more I discover I how much I don’t know.

Time to call in the experts.  That’s the activity for day 3.

Oct
26

Degrees of Change

Day one of my business reinvention process proved to be very productive.

The first question I asked myself is, “How much do I want to change things?”  I spent about four hours “meditating” on this while sitting in the hot tub (ok, I was not in the hot tub for four straight hours).

Degrees to Change

In my Goal-Free Living book, I talk about the concept of “using a compass, not a map.”  Therefore, I decided to think through my change in terms of compass settings.

I realized a few things:

0º – 5º: No company that stays in business is ever on a zero degree turn.  Some innovation must be taking place.  Most companies tend to track on a 5 degree turn.  They innovate more incrementally.  Although these changes can add up over time, there are no radical shifts.

180º: A 180 degree turn – basically throwing everything away – is not an option.

90º: What about a 90 degree turn? This would involve new products for new markets.  Based on my experience, even this would be too much change.  Back in 2006, Wiley published Goal-Free Living. Although the book received wide acclaim and was even the cover story in O, The Oprah Magazine, it actually hurt my business.  My core buyers were corporate innovators.  A “self-help” book which was endorsed by Oprah lessened my credibility in their eyes.  In fact, before going on stage once, a client said to me, “If you mention Oprah, we will not pay you.”  Hmm, that explains a downturn in my business after the publication of that book.

30º – 45º: What I quickly realized was that I need to develop a business model that meets the needs of my current clients yet allows me to branch into new markets.  I won’t restrict how I make money.  The business model shift can be radical.  But I need to make sure that whatever I do, it does not alienate my current audience.  I do not want a repeat of 2006.

What’s interesting is that I had expected to go more radical –  maybe another 90º turn.  My gut keeps pulling me towards a more “mass market” audience and away from the corporate world.  I love speaking about things that are more personal in nature and touch the lives of individuals.  But I am convinced that now is not the right time.  I need to leverage what I have.

And leverage is the key word.

Right now, with the exception of book royalties, I only make money when I am giving a speech, conducting a workshop, or advising a client.  In other words, I only make money when I am investing my time.  But if I can leverage my intellectual property properly, my income is not limited by the number of hours in a day.

This led me to my problem statement…

The Challenge Defined

While innovating, I preach that the first step is to “define the challenge.”  This serves as your problem/opportunity statement.  I am known for frequently quoting Einstein, who reputedly said, “If I had an hour to save the world, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem, and one minute finding solutions.”

At first, my challenge was a bit too broad: “How can I reinvent my business?” Although this allowed me to “think outside the box,”  it gave me no focus and actually limited my ability to innovate (watch my video on this).

Therefore, once I was clear about the degree of change, I next needed to settle on a more well-defined problem statement.  Here is what I decided (after much contemplation)…

“I am quitting the speaking business and now need to make money by leveraging my current intellectual property in other ways.”

Although I don’t intend to stop speaking, making a bold statement like will force me to fundamentally rethink my delivery model.

My next blog entry will provide a 30,000 foot view of what might be my new business model.  It’s very different than what I am doing today!

Oct
24

Welcome to Reinventing My Business

For the past 10 years I’ve had my own innovation business. In fact I officially went out on my own October 11, 2001.  Although I’ve developed new books, new product and new speeches over the years, I have not done any fundamental innovation.

It’s time for me to start innovating the way I innovate.

Unfortunately, “expertise is the enemy of innovation” (this is one of the tips from my new book, Best Practices Are Stupid). As a result, being an expert in innovation makes it difficult for me to innovate the way I innovate.

Although that last statement is a bit tongue-in-cheek, there’s some truth to it.

My natural inclination would be to apply all of my lessons on innovation to my business. But I want to go further. Therefore, over the next several months, I will take a critical look at my business and the way I run it.  I plan to challenge the fundamentals.  I will be brutally honest with myself.

What does this mean to you, the reader of this blog?  I plan on chronicling my thoughts and conversations as I go to this process.  Several times a week I will post my perspectives here on this blog.  Hopefully the process I go through in reinventing my business will help you do the same for your business.  My goal is to be completely transparent.  I will share my deepest thoughts, even when they do not paint the rosiest picture of me.

The first step is to acknowledge that my over-thinking this can actually limit my ability to rethink the business.  Creativity is choked when we engage the cerebral cortex. Therefore, for one week, I am not working with clients. I am not taking phone calls.  I am not giving speeches.  I am not reviewing documents.  I am trying to avoid everything, except reflecting.  I am even trying to avoid thinking about rethinking my business…but that is not always easy.

This week I am away from my office.  I am staying seven days in a warm location.  My days will be spent on the roof deck of the hotel, sitting in the pool and hot tub (the picture is my “office” for the week).  My evenings will be spent with friends.

The first step of my innovation work with clients often involves “Defining the Challenge.”  That is, getting clear about the problem, issue, or opportunity you want to work on.

But it is important to remember that this first step is also a creative exercise.  You want to think divergently about what you could work on, before diving too deeply on what you will work on.

Therefore, initially, I do not want to over think the problem statement. Instead, I want to open up my mind, relax, reflect and engage parts of my brain that I might not normally be inclined to use. In just the past few hours, I’ve develop more thoughts around my business than I have in the previous several years.

Soon it will be time for me to start reflecting, refining, and framing what I need to work on in order to help move things forward.

You may be wondering, “Why now?”  Why am I going through this process at this time?

There are several reasons for this timely reflection:

  1. When my business turned 10, I realized that very little had changed during an entire decade.  My business was pretty much unchanged.
  2. My fifth book was just published.  For the past 2.5 years, I have been hyper focused on writing and promoting books.  So now is my first time I have really had for reflection.
  3. Things have been going well with my business.  2010 was my best year ever and 2011 is even better.  So now is the perfect time to start innovating.  Why wait until things start turning downward?
  4. I love traveling around the world.  But some recent travel nightmares have had me question how long I can keep up this schedule.
  5. As I look into 2012, I start growing concerned about the economy and the speaking business.  It just feels like it is time for a change.

As I said, I will be spending time on this blog chronicling my thought process over the coming months. It is my objective that on December 31, 2011, I can look into 2012 with a fundamentally new business model.

Stay tuned.

Follow this blog to see my thought process and learn how you might apply the same approach to your business.

P.S. A lot of these blog entries will be written using the Siri voice recognition software on my iPhone.  As a result, you may see more errors than usual.  Although I do plan on editing the entries before posting, I am trying to avoid over thinking right now.  Therefore stream of consciousness entries may be more frequent.