Making people smile since 2013

2013 Year In Review From The Offices of Strategy Lab High Above Regina

Strategy Lab November from Strategy Lab on Vimeo.

As I fill my coffee cup with my second shot of Bailey’s this morning, it’s left me a tad sentimental looking back on a great year, one I may never forget.

Starting a company isn’t an easy task, the odds that you’ll go bankrupt are hovering around 90% in your first year, 80% in your second year and only around 10% in your tenth year. What does that mean for Strategy Lab? We have ten years to wait, ten years to stay above the death line, as the goal with any new born organization, survival is the key priority.

This brings up an interesting predicament, what do you focus on?  In the website/marketing consulting industry how do you “survive” per se? How do you ensure you’re focusing on what you need to to ensure you’re around for year ten and beyond?

Sadly I don’t have the answer to this question. My best guess is the little things (I’ll explain later). I wish I did, however I do have an idea of what not to focus on. Pleasing everyone. You can’t do it. ‘Yes man’ philosophy only works to an extent. When you say yes to something you’re saying no to something else. I’m starting to learn about this, it feels like experience creeping up on me, then I pinch myself and remind captain ego that I’m still very young in my field and having patients will be an asset very soon.

As you gain more experience in whatever field you’re in, you begin to learn lessons. They aren’t easy, they’re learned from making mistake, and I’m sure many people don’t see the lessons life is trying to teach them through set-backs and adversity. Most people give up or take an easier path. Life throws them lemons, they set them down, run to Wal-Mart and buy a bottle of lemonade. Work ethic gets recognized these days because it’s so rare to find in our over-educated yet knowledge seeking, work avoiding, know-it-all generation we’ve become. The most important lesson I’ve learned this year is that no matter what industry you’re in the secret to success is not a secret at all, it’s hard work.

The most difficult part of the year has to be parting was with Linden. It wasn’t a bad breakup, we’re still friends, but someone leaving your company is never an easy transition. We’re on good terms, just going in different directions. We wish him all the best and would love to work with him again one day.

The biggest accomplishment as a company has to running our first conference/workshop, #Awesome2013 took over Twitter on the morning of July 18th 2013. We filled a room at the Regina Inn, had four brilliant local speakers, and learned a little bit about running a workshop. Since then we did a Google Analytics session at Capital Ford and a Website-In-A-Day workshop. They’re fun, interactive, prizes, and you learn a lot. We’re excited to start a new Workshop series in 2014.

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The biggest accomplishment personally, was finally seeing the new Regina Police Service cars driving around with their mission statement on the side of the car. It wasn’t my idea, nor did I come up with the mission, but while working with some very smart folks at the Regina Police Service we helped them change their core values, vision and mission.

I still remember one question that came up during the project, how will we keep everyone who is a part of the RPS reminded of the new core messaging? The idea from a very smart person was to print it in more places, make sure every employee can see it every day. In offices, on walls, in conference rooms and, yes, on the cruisers. What a brilliant way to remind yourself of what you stand for. If you want to read more about how we got “Public Service First” on the side of Police cruisers click here.

The coolest project I was a part of this year had to be the Regina and District Association for Community Living (RDACL)’s Sharing your Awesome On An iPad. It was a six week course we developed for people who applied to learn how to use an iPad. We created the program for RDACL so they can use it else where and build on what they’ve already created. Here’s a video Brandon made on Sharing Your Awesome On An iPad.

RDACL Workshop from Strategy Lab on Vimeo.

My most fascinating project I worked on (and am still working on) is the Hospitals of Regina Foundation (HRoF). An organization full of passionate people, an amazing history, and brimming with potential. I’ve met a lot of brilliant minds working together to enhance our health care system, an endeavour that affects everyone in Saskatchewan. The future of what the HoRF can do is amazing, I’m very much humbled to be a small part of it.

I’m excited about the opportunity Brandon and I have working with some of the most amazing organizations in and around Regina, helping them take over he world. To 2014, may it be your best year ever.

 

Love,

Jeph

 

 

* – I said I’d explain the “little things” later so here goes. Our world is very paradoxical, people are irrational and often react in the opposite way we might think. Markets react in the opposite direction as we predict, everything thing in our world has a paradoxical opposite side to it, like the Seinfeld Bizzaro Jerry episode! So as a consultancy (and maybe all companies) to get big, you’d think it would be doing the big things. The flashy things that get you noticed, the bigger the client landed, the more prestigious your brand gets. But you’re only as good as what people say about you, your “brand” is what they say about you behind your back.

We measure this by referrals, the best compliment a client can give you is referring a friend, which unconsciously says: “I was so happy with you guys that I think my friends and colleagues will as well benefit from working with you!”  What can be better than that. People don’t just refer anyone, referring someone is a reflection of your own brand after all. So as an organization, you want to be a brand that people would want to associate themselves with, or co-brand themselves with. The only way to do that is to get the little things right. From your e-mail tag line to your business cards, every single touchpoint people have with your brand they are making a judgement, it’s up to you to influence if that judgement is positive or negative. Over time those judgement add up to what people perceive as your “brand”. Once people have made up their mind, it can be impossible to convince them otherwise.

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My Top 5 Books of 2013

The One Thing

1. The One Thing – if you don’t need motivation, if you get lots done in a day, if you’re a great multi-tasker you’re going to hate this book. It won’t inspire you to do your best work yet.
I loved it. Read more

Digital Darwinism

The Nine Laws of New Business Strategy

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1. A room is always smarter than the one person standing in front of it. The challenge for leaders, coaches, teachers, and managers is taking advantage of connectivity, to inspire the pack to do the right thing. To inspire the tribe to keep reaching for more. To see their combined potential, to push them further than what any one of them could do on their own. To help internal communication. To improve culture. Read Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren’t the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room by David Weinberger  

2. Your Brand is what Google tells you it is.  With a click of a button anyone in the world can find everything they can about you. If they don’t find very much they’re going to find your competitors and hire them instead. It’s a different world we live in, a world where we like to “meet people” online first before in person. What’s your Twitter handle, what do they look like on Facebook, where have you worked-checking the LinkedIn profile, and finally what does Google say about you? These are all questions you should be asking yourself before a competitor or a sneaky friend of yours finds those pictures of you from that Halloween party in University. Your Mother would not be proud of that picture. Read more

Goals Are For Losers, Systems Are For Winners

Scott Adams wrote an inspiring book. It’s called How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big- Kind of the Story of My Life-book by Scott AdamsYou probably know Mr. Adams a lot better once you find out he’s the guy behind those Dilbert comic strips. Yup, that’s Scott.

Throughout this fascinating read he keeps reminding the reader not to listen to his advice, after all he says, “you’re taking advice from a cartoonist!” I think this is why I felt like I should listen to him more, because he was open with his inherent bias’s and extremely transparent. Still one of the best all around books on improving your life, career, business, and most importantly, mindset.

Goals are for losers, systems are for winners. He had a lot of great advice in the book, but this counterintuitive thinking jumped out at me. As a guy who’s always been a firm believer in goals, goal setting, writing down goals, etc. this statement of Goals are for losers! really caught me off guard.

What the hell have I been doing? Why am I setting goals? Am I a loser?!? 

Then you read on and find there is a method to his madness. The general argument is that goals, once completed, give you nowhere else to go, no next step, no contingency plan. But systems scale, they get larger with ease, they adjust to their surroundings, they’re more adept for growth. Your system is the way you create successful outcomes (if you aren’t creating successful outcomes you are probably using a bad system). Your style, personality, approach, tone of voice, attitude, etc. are all a part of your system.  Read more

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The Business of Belief [14 Brilliant Quotes]

I recently finished an amazing read by Tom AsackerThe Business of BeliefHow the World’s Best Marketers, Designers, Salespeople, Coaches, Fundraisers, Educators, Entrepreneurs and Other Leaders Get Us to Believe.

It’s an easy read, not very long, and filled with wonderful little stories that teach memorable lessons in a simple manner. I loved the book and have since bought it for people. I really think you should pick up a copy, after all, don’t you want something to believe in?

I’ve heard this stat before but really puts into perspective the ‘maker’ culture we’re living in.

Every two days we create as much information... quotes-eric-schmidt-information

Read more

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How Long Should A Website Take To Build? A Highschool Website Experiment

Campbell BusinessThe other day, Brandon and I went to a Campbell entrepreneurship class taught by Jordan McFarlen. Mr. McFarlen invited us to talk about how we started Strategy Lab and the entrepreneurial experience. The way Mr. McFarlen teaches the class is he divides them in two groups and they have to start companies which over the semester they will run like an actual company (last years company actually imported iPhone cases from China, pretty awesome). Mr. McFarlen is one in a million and the Campbell Business program is very lucky to have him. The passion and excitement for learning he has is such a bright light in our ever troubled education system.

Instead of talking about ourselves for an hour, we decided to do something different.

In the first 15 minutes we talked about as a company what we believe in, our 10 values, and the story of how Brandon and I met.

Then Brandon went to work.

This first thing Brandon did was made each company decide on a domain name and he bought for them. Then he set each website up on WordPress and give them the login. There’s a lot of technical work that Brandon didn’t do (like 18 hours worth of work he’d do on a regular website) but the students will figure that out, they can learn how to hack WordPress to get it to do what they want.

It was amazing to see the looks on their faces. Something that most people think takes days, weeks or even months, Brandon created in front of their very eyes. It was amazing to witness. A website doesn’t have to take months to create, you can have one in an hour, it won’t look great but you’ll have your very own online publishing platform.

Websites don’t take that long to build. Yes there is a lot of technical and design elements that you should trust a professional on but for the most part people spend an insanely long time on design. Why? Because they’re trying to appease everyone. But when need to build a bridge, you don’t ask a committee or a board, you hire the best dam bridge builder around. Something to think about the next time you want to “re-design” your website.

I’m really excited to see what the students at Campbell will end up doing with the websites. The last thing we said on our way out was, experiment, try new things, and try to break the website. Get Creative.

Hopefully they teach us an entirely different way that websites should look and feel.

a good brand vs a bad brand in action

5 Words That Changed Everything

WestjetI was on a Westjet flight the other day, as per usual, like most of you do, I was finishing off one last tweet before I “turned off my phone” during take off.
This is usually when the flight attendant, playing the authority card says, “sir, can you please turn off your phone” in the same tone of an elementary school teacher scolding a young child.

I’m used to it, it happens pretty much every time I fly. Until, just the other day. The lovely flight attendant says to me “sir can you turn off your phone, after you’re done that message? in such a lovely tone too!
I didn’t feel like a child, I didn’t feel reprimanded, I didn’t feel like she was trying to flex her authority muscle. She added five words which entirely changed the request. Brilliant.

The next time you have a request for a customer, what could you add that would make it that much more pleasant?

Strategy Lab/Capital Ford Google Analytics Workshop

Thanks to everyone who came out to dive into the deep world of Google Analytics and measurement tools with us. The morning went very well, stimulated some educational conversation, and highlighted some compelling case studies. This workshop was geared toward non-profit organizations and will be followed by workshops open to all companies. See you all at the next one!

Strategy Lab Google Analytics Workshop

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Strategy Lab and Based in Business

On Wednesday, August 14th, we had the opportunity to take part in a program dedicated to creating entrepreneurial opportunities for discharged and retired Canadian Forces members. The program, entitled Based in Business, works with the Memorial University Enactus Group to execute a year-long, three-phased program that teaches participants everything they need to know about owning and running their own business.

We were invited into the marketing phase of the program being held at the University of Regina. Along with Lee Elliot, I (Linden) was able to share insights into the rapidly changing marketing world.

Read more

The Best Problems Are Impossible

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I love impossible problems. I love when you solve a once seemingly impossible problem and then have this realization of “wait a minute, if I was wrong about ________* what else could I be wrong about!?”.

People use the word never a lot. I could never do that. That would never work. You’ll never get there. It’s easy to say it won’t work. It’s easy to be a critic.

If only we all had the mind of a child. To children, there are no limits, no barriers, no hesitations, no red tape, no reason not to try the impossible. Read more