The Importance of a Stop-doing List
If you are going to thrive in any economy, you must commit yourself to a laser-like focus on doing first-things first and a ferocious understanding of what you are not going to do. For me, having a "stop-doing list" has become more important than my to-do list. Here’s what works for me: After 23 years of starting, building, growing, merging and leading a successful distributorship and promotion agency, I was at a point in my life where I wanted to reinvent myself.
My to-do and stop-doing lists have four parts:
- First, I identified 12 things that I love doing. The list includes reading, collaborating, leading, speaking and traveling.
- Then, I specified seven things that I hate doing, which became my stop-doing list. This has been invaluable to me when opportunities that may have had potential financial rewards but also had the potential to drain my happiness and personal peace have presented themselves.
- I also listed 10 things that I’m good at, that I have proven accomplishments and successes that I feel great about. Some of these duplicate the items on my "love doing" list and some are more specific disciplines. I know that I’m very good at incentive marketing, promotional marketing, writing, speaking and facilitation, and these are on this list. Here again, I can compare opportunities against this list and see if it will allow me to perform at a high level and from my strengths.
- The fourth part of my list details concepts and core values that I am passionate about—things like professionalism, creativity, innovation, integrity and transparency.
By becoming clear with yourself about who you are, what you stand for, what you want to do and, importantly, what you don’t want to do, you can develop a laser focus on your strengths and on the things that you can be successful at. You’ve given yourself a standard against which you can measure opportunities, challenges and areas where you need to improve.
At all times, you must baby your customers. Now is when you need to make sure that your best customers know just how much you love them. And, like a baby, nurture them. Give them value-adds. Give them values and specials that make them feel valued and special. I’m not a big proponent of discounting, but rewarding an existing customer with a gift certificate for his or her next purchase is a powerful strategy in a market where your competition may be offering cutthroat pricing in order to get in the door. Remember that you have the relationship, and you can protect it by how you make your customers feel. Make them feel special, valued and smart for working with you.
There are two significant areas where you can focus to increase your value. How can you differentiate your competitive position? And how can you make yourself more relevant to the needs of your customers? What reports can you provide your customers that your competition cannot? How can you learn more about solving your customers' problems? How can you be a more irreplaceable member of your clients’ teams? You have a personality, a level of creativity, a compassion and passion that no one else can match. In the promotional products business, being able to find a product or get it delivered quickly is not much of a competitive differentiator. How can you differentiate yourself? Often, the ways that you can find to make yourself more relevant to the needs of your clients are the things that will also differentiate you from your competition.
Carpe diem, and also seize the new opportunities. Traditional media is losing market share to interactive promotional media. Promotional products may be an old medium, but we’ve never been traditional, and we’ve never been more relevant to reach target audiences.
These challenges mean great opportunity. You may be able to partner with media that you once thought of as competition. A promotional product offered in a newspaper ad, outdoor campaign or radio station event can help them prove the capabilities of their media. But you’ll be doing it through the power of ours. On the other side of this decline of traditional media, you can look for media from which you can pick up budget. Who still is advertising in the Yellow Pages? Those are prospects for a medium that “remains to be seen” when their customers are looking for their services. Find riches in niches.
Think differently and you’ll find new opportunities. Seize them.