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The Headless Ghost Movie Poster

You won’t hear this guy complaining about his niche.

You will hear entrepreneurial leaders and other talking heads (Seth Godin, can you hear me?) telling us to find our niche. As I was watching a Twitter feed during lunch on the day of the manhunt for the (alleged) Boston Marathon bomber, it struck me how unimportant nearly all the voices (tweets) were, at least to me. They were all just a bunch of noise.

Why is finding your niche so important?  It is easy to look out into the world and easily become overwhelmed by the flood of information.  You have a product, a service, or an idea that you want to share with the world, but you will more than likely be drowned out, unless you start with your niche.  Take the case of the Twitter posts I mentioned above: nobody cares about your comments unless you have active followers.  Finding your niche is the best way to be heard through all the noise.

Don’t worry about being listed on the Amazon best seller’s list or getting a call for an interview by Wired, Inc., or Fast Company.  Focus on your niche first.  I have learned this lesson over the years. When I started this company, I had grand hopes and dreams for this company to become a large player in the ERP space, providing implementation services across the full spectrum of Oracle E-Business Suite modules. I never put much effort into that bigger plan for a variety of reasons, and frankly I am glad that I did not. Instead, I focused on being really good and getting better at just one area: Human Capital Management (a/k/a HRMS). Although I read this more than a decade ago and can’t remember who said it, this is the age of the specialist.

The reason the niche matters is because people who care about what you sell or say will be the ones listening. It is much easier get the attention of 200 people than 200,000,000 people. If the message is important or interesting enough, those 200 will make sure it spreads to a larger audience.  The important thing is to find your niche, decide if there is growth, and then get in and build.

The book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World is next on my reading list, which addresses platform creation.  The platform is one of the concepts Seth Godin proposes in his book Linchpin, another book that I consider recommended reading. I will offer my thoughts after I’ve read it.

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As a general rule, I spend no time on Twitter. I will usually visit when I want to see how a big new event trends, especially from people on the ground.  Aside from that, I am only there when I post updates to this blog.

March 2013 - The Best Month Ever

March had 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays, and 5 Sundays. How could it not have been the best month ever?

For the independent consultant, marketing does not come naturally for us, unless perhaps you are a marketing consultant.  This is because we are technicians by nature, using the definition of technician as described in The E-Myth Revisited, the brilliant book by Michael Gerber.  Our websites and blogs are one of the most visible ways in which we can market ourselves and showcase our knowledge.  Running a website and blog is one thing; getting traffic to our sites is another.

When we relaunched this site in August 2012, we began experimenting with different methods to increase traffic to this site. March…it was the best month ever.  Really! Why was March the best month ever? Three things: [click to continue…]

Lyon, France Train Station

Somewhere in Lyon, France, a company named Matrice owns the domain I want.

Matrice Consulting just celebrated our ten-year anniversary in August. Looking back, I found that one of the most difficult steps of starting a new company is creating a good name.  I formed my company name after watching a trailer for a movie; I merged my first and last names, added ‘Consulting’ to describe what we do, and voilà!  We had a name and an identity.  I have assisted in naming a couple of other companies and the decision process is difficult, and even more so when you consider Internet presence, social media, and domain names.  In this modern age, you have to consider all the following:

  • Is your name being used by another company, or is it similar enough to cause confusion? [click to continue…]

SisyphusThe 4-Hour Workweek, a book by Timothy Ferriss, has been exhaustively praised and panned across the globe.  The book is part self-help, part DIY, part romanticism.  As of this writing, both the first and second editions have been reviewed on Amazon.com 2,333 times.  The ‘Expanded and Updated’ edition has an Amazon.com rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars.  I have chosen to write a review from the perspective of the independent consultant, business owner, and entrepreneur.  As a critical reviewer, I give the book 4 stars because of some inconsistencies and awkwardness in the book.  On a personal and professional level, I give this 5 stars because this book has proven to be very valuable to me and my company.

I will start with these questions:

  1. Is the book worth your time and money?  Yes, if you take just one of the recommended actions.
  2. Does the book add value to your work or personal life? Yes, if you apply one or more of the recommended actions.
  3. Is the book a panacea?  For a select few people, yes; for most people, no. [click to continue…]

Riley Freeman from The BoondocksA Word to the Haters

Riley: “There he goes again! Hatin’!”

Granddad: “Boy! Stop Hatin’!”

Boondocks, Season 1 Episode 11 – Let’s Nab Oprah

 I am not sure what some of the people who read this book were expecting.  This is what some of the people on Amazon.com have to say in their reviews:

  • “A con artist with a motivational speech”
  • “His shameless self-promotion and braggadicious (sic) style is second only to the undisputed champion of the genre, Donald Trump.”
  • “The whole book is about how to become a sleazy snake-oil salesman in the modern internet era.”
  • “A con man who needs to be taken down”

Yes, the book is painful to read at times.  Ferriss mixes up his message sometimes, which makes him come across as a charlatan and brings his sincerity and integrity into question.  He is from the school of Dan S. Kennedy, which is all about tireless, persistent promotion.  But he is honest, to a fault, which is something that is missed by his harshest critics.  Timothy Ferriss isn’t perfect and sometimes his message is confusing.  Here are some of the problems the people who hate (yes hate) this book seem to have:

  • They had a hard time extracting anything useful from the book, which is unfortunate;
  • They did not approach his concepts with an open mind;
  • They confuse the meaning of ‘rich’, or to use Ferriss’ term ‘New Rich’, to mean monetary wealth;
  • They see only a common con-artist;
  • They believe that self-promotion is a bad thing.

The message is very much about living a richer life with less material wealth.  Timothy Ferriss is a hustler, not a con-artist.  So is Jay-Z and so am I, though they are both much better at it than I am. We are out there working, finding the opportunities, and seeing what works and what does not.   If Ferriss really wanted to, he could exploit this book much in the same way that Steven Covey and many others have with their successful books, holding seminars, giving lectures, etc. and charges thousands of dollars to do so.  I know I would.  He gave the public a manual and challenged people to apply it.

Harrison DillardConclusion

Can the 4-Hour Workweek be done?  If you are an artist, a laborer, or assembly line worker, and you want to continue doing that, then the answer is “No”.  If you are a consultant and you want to continue doing that, the answer is “No”.  If you are a business owner, the answer is “Maybe”, depending on your business.  If you are an entrepreneur, you analyze it, break it into pieces, and say “Probably” or “Yes”.  Personally, I think it is completely achievable and in some respects I am already moving in that direction.

The problem with entrepreneurship, for most people, is the risk.  I am not referring to starting a business.  Starting a business is easy, but this is not the same thing as entrepreneurship.  As entrepreneurs, we expose our minds, bodies, and souls to the world at-large.  Accepting risk as a normal thing is difficult, as humans are biologically programmed, by way of the evolutionary process, to avoid risk.  Implementing a 4-hour workweek takes skill, daring, and a certain amount of fearlessness.

How has this book improved Matrice Consulting?

  • A measurable time savings of at least 5 hours per week since implementing some of the time saving tips and tricks;
  • Hiring of a phenomenal virtual assistant, Taby, who helps us with a variety of back office activities, which included rebuilding this website and blog;
  • Opened my mind to pursuing other opportunities;
  • Allowed us to produce more billable hours, which means more revenue and more opportunity for growth.

How has this book improved my personal life?

  • As mentioned earlier, I have more time with my wife and children;
  • I am able to relax at the end of the day;
  • My mind is generating all sorts of new ideas and concepts, as a result of the recommended media fast;
  • I no longer work on weekends.
My recommendation to you is this: ignore the haters and bad reviews, read the book with healthy skepticism, and try to implement what you can. Your life will be richer as a result.  If you feel that you should not give money to Timothy Ferriss or his publisher because you think he is a con artist, then borrow the book from your library, buy it used, or borrow a copy from a friend.  Once you cut away some of the fluff, there are some valuable gems in there.
Man smiling, waving his armsTo establish oneself in the world, one does all one can to seem established there already.
– François de La Rochefoucauld
 

Self promotion really gets a bad rap.

Exhibit A:  Timothy Ferriss

From an Amazon review of Timothy Ferriss’ bestselling The 4-Hour Workweek:  “His shameless self-promotion and braggadicious style is second only to the undisputed champion of the genre, Donald Trump.”   Ouch.

Exhibit B: Nikola Tesla vs.Thomas Edison

These were two of the most prolific inventors of the late 19th and 20th centuries, who were bitter rivals.  Who is better known today, Tesla or Edison?  Ask 100 people who invented the light bulb, and probably 95 of them will say Thomas Edison.  Ask 100 people who invented the power system that lights that same light bulb when you flick a switch, and you will be lucky to have 1 person name Tesla.  The difference is that Edison was a self-promoter and Tesla was not.

Exhibit C:  Muhammad Ali

One of the greatest boxers of all time, stated, “It’s not bragging if you can back it up.”, when referring to himself as the greatest boxer ever.  And back it up he did.

Exhibit D:  Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt and his team won the 4 x 100 meter relay at the London 2012 Olympic Games on August 11th, breaking a world record in the process.  He announced to the world that he is a legend.  Bob Costas commented, “It is harder to have a higher opinion of Usain Bolt than he has of himself.”  Well said, Bob.

Is self-promotion a bad thing?  Are self-promoters bad people?  I am of the opinion that if you do not promote yourself, no one is going to do it for you.  One of my early failures in business in the late 1980’s came in expecting to be recognized for my hard work and dedication.  As an assistant manager, I found myself passed over for promotion several times without justification, at least in my eyes.  The people who were promoted were the people who put themselves in positions to be noticed.  I, on the other hand, was a horrible self-promoter, expecting that my efforts would be recognized.  Sadly, the “if you work hard, you will be rewarded” myth is one that still permeates our labor force.  Hard work and dedication are just parts of the formula for success.  Just look at Tesla’s life and you will see what I mean.  His inability to sell himself to the world relegated him to second fiddle behind Thomas Edison.

There are two sides to this coin and I believe there is something to be said for humility.  I consider myself a pretty humble person and I think most people who know me would agree.  Even when I say, “Yeah, I know I’m great”, I am saying it in a dry, deadpan style. The act of being humble, which should not be confused with submission, is not an easy thing to do.

I am going to step out on a limb here and state that self-promotion is a very good thing, when tempered with humility.  It is a really good thing.  Timothy Ferriss is promoting himself, because as a writer, he is his own brand.  Edison promoted himself and his ideas so that he could make enough money to get back to the lab and create more cool stuff with his staff.  Ali proved that he was one of the greatest, and by the time he had stated it, he had earned the right to call himself the greatest.  Bolt stepped over that line in claiming that he is a legend, which is a title received from others, not bestowed upon oneself.  Now that was shameless.

If, as entrepreneurs and independent consultants, we do not promote ourselves and our brands with the same energy and enthusiasm as the finest self-promoters, then we are doomed to be passed by those who are willing and able to do so, even by people of lesser skill and ability.  Once more:

If you do not promote yourself, no one will do it for you.  

If you can successfully promote yourself, your company, and your cause, then I believe you can do great things.  If the haters call you shameless, then so be it.  Self promoters move the world.

At home I am a nice guy: but I don’t want the world to know.
Humble people, I’ve found, don’t get very far.
– Muhammad Ali