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Rocky in Siberia

I wanted to do a quick play off of Nick’s reference to my time I spend every year doing the boxing at Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.

This is my 38th year of coaching and the 44th year I’ve been involved in the Bengal Bouts at Notre Dame.

Amazing program. Talk about a story. Founded by my mentor and Godfather, Dominic J. “Nappy” Napolitano and Knute Rockne in 1931. All of the proceeds from the boxing tournaments over all these years have gone to the Missions of the Holy Cross Fathers in Bangladesh (formerly known as Bengal, thus the Bengal Bouts).

Last year we gave over $100,000 to the Missions bringing the total gifts well over $1 Million.

This year marks the 82nd Annual Bengal Bout Tournament; it’s hard to believe I’ve been involved in well over half of all these years.

When I started boxing in 1968 as a freshman, there were about 40 boxers total. This year over 350 men signed up for boxing in the fall and 260 of them are back for the tournament going on in a few weeks. There are so many boxers that we now go four different days with two rings going at the same time for the first two nights.

Nappy’s Mantra: STRONG BODIES FIGHT SO THAT WEAK BODIES MAY BE NOURISHED. This was my first real example of the power of a SIMPLE MESSAGE.

More from Siberia later.


It Starts with Visioning

I was reading an article over the weekend talking about Aaron Rodgers, quarterback of the Packers and his visioning process. (Sees, in his mind, the entire game beforehand, the different plays and routes, the outcome, etc.) Talked about how much it meant in his preparation.

Then, there was a great article in this month’s Inc. Magazine titled Creating a Company Vision. It’s by Ari Weinzweig. Ari is the Co-Founder and CEO of Zingerman’s Community of Businesses in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Amazing guy. Amazing story. Amazing article.

Where do you want to be in three years (1,000 days)? In five or ten years?

Article includes 8 Steps to a Vision of Greatness and a separate list of questions around Nothing but Blue Skies.

As good old W. Clement Stone used to say, “READ. RELATE. ASSIMILATE.”


Hire People With Whom You Can Have A High-Bandwidth Conversation

No leader or manager will contest the notion that you should be hiring really smart people.

How do you determine smarts?

Two great nuggets in this interview with Jeremy Allaire, How the Shape the DNA of a Young Company, in Saturday’s New York Times. Jeremy Allair is an entrepreneur out of Boston. He founded Brightcove media.

  1. “I put a huge premium on intelligence, so I wanted people who were extremely bright. It doesn’t mean they had a certain pedigree, but I was looking for bright people with whom I could have a high-bandwidth conversation, and who could synthesize really quickly.”

  2. “I’m in a unique position in that I have a view across every dimension of the business. And so you have conversations about different parts of the business and you see how quickly they can connect to it, parse it and ask good questions about it. If they ever say, “Yeah, I don’t really know much about that,” that’s a real problem.”

A side note: Jeremy’s first company was called Allaire media. The core product was ColdFusion, a programing tool on which I built my first company.


Strategic Planning v. Strategic Clarity

Strategic Plan v. Strategic Clarity

Think about the difference in these two terms.

Every organization needs strategic clarity and a 1000-day action plan. They need to have everyone on the same page about:

  • The purpose (the WHY) and the vision (the ultimate goal) (at 30,000’).

    This should fit on a napkin.

  • No more than THREE* simple strategic priorities (at 14,000’) that advance the organization toward the goal, aligning with purpose.

    These should fit on the back of that napkin.

    *Drucker was even simpler. He said every organization should have at most TWO priorities… WOW!

  • A 100-day (near term) plan of action tied to each priority and a 1000-day plan of action with benchmarks that run more fluid for quarterly review.

    This should fit on one sheet of paper (maybe two) if you stay at the strategic level.

Every day I talk with someone that needs or wants a ‘strategic plan’. I can’t identify with that term anymore because it means so many different things. In each case though, they need clarity and simplicity. Only about half the time do they need to do a lot of consensus building (think: visits, dialogue and time) to bring everyone on the same page.

Over simplified? No.

Easy? No.


Permission to Proceed

Ask for “Permission to Proceed”.

This concept helps you TRANSITION in the flow of a visit and ACCELERATE the pace of your ongoing dialogue in a relationship.

The use of this is pretty literal. At the end of a first visit with someone you might say, “This was our first visit. My only goals today were to establish a relationship, take some time to learn about your interests and make you familiar with our impact. It seems like there were some good connections, based on that would it be okay if we explored ways to help in our next visit?”

Other examples:

  • “Would it be okay?”

  • “Would it be possible to?”
  • “At this time, I’d like to talk specifically about the Funding Plan if that’s okay with you.”

If there was a poor job of predisposition, you might even be able to get away with: “I know we didn’t come here today to talk about numbers but it certainly seems like we’re in sync about the projects. Would it be okay if I were to share the Funding Plan?”
Asking for permission to proceed allows you to be comfortably assertive. How do you know if it’s okay to ask? You ask.


People cultivate because they can’t communicate.

I’m reposting this nugget from the archives.

“Why do we cultivate people?” As Tom always reminds me, “Cultivation is that thing you do with plants and manure.”

I really, truly don’t understand ‘cultivation’. We are in the business of saving, changing and impacting lives. If you can help someone understand your impact then it’s really not about cultivation; it’s about asking whether or not they want to help you with your cause.

I always reduce this to a simple story in order to emphasize my point. Imagine that you and your prospect were walking around a lake and came upon a drowning child. What would that prospect do? It’s likely she would jump in with full commitment to save the life of the child (so would you). I can’t imagine a scenario where you would first try to spend years getting this person interested in saving children (read: cultivation).

So… if you’re saving or changing lives then you can’t really argue that we need more cultivation. I would propose that the issue at hand is really much more about communication. That is, how you communicate your impact in such a way that is clear, concise and compelling. So clear, in fact, the prospect jumps on board (read: into the lake) to make a major investment in your vision.

If you can communicate the impact, the income will follow. If you can communicate the impact, you can ask for any amount of money on the first (sometimes second) visit. The challenge, again, is that we struggle with our message. Or, we might even have the message, but we’re not out visiting with people, one-on-one, to share the message and present the opportunity for them to help (save the child – as it were).

Your job is to communicate the impact, not spread manure. I know that’s blunt but I want to motivate you to action with this idea. You’re doing great things… so present the opportunity for someone to help… now. So stop cultivating and start communicating.

Impact Drives Income: Half of our methodology focuses on helping you COMMUNICATE the IMPACT. If you can do that then it’s not about taking three years to make someone feel important enough to want to give. Your job is to take that three years down to 30 minutes – in many cases. You want someone to say, “WOW, this is INCREDIBLE IMPACT. HOW CAN I HELP?” (Then, you have to answer their question, not sprinkle with compost.)

PS – If you think my example is too simplistic or unrealistic please know that this same example is what set into motion the greatest philanthropist of our era – I’ve altered the lake example somewhat but stole that from noted philosopher and ethicist Peter Singer who wrote an amazing article last year in the New York Times: What Should a Billionaire Give – and What Should You? In that article he also explains Bill Gates’ moment of clarity around impact that moved him to action.



In our work with Social Entrepreneurs, I am constantly urging start-ups and even second and third-stage organizations/companies to look for ANGELS… not ‘VC‘.

I tell them to go out and look for 3 CHAMPIONS or ‘ARCHANGELS‘ as I call them. (Catholic upbringing.) ‘Archangel’ is much better/stronger than just an ‘Angel’.

Lately, I have been expanding the use of this term to any organization, large or small, when looking for Project Funding. For example, a college running a $300+ Million ‘Campaign’ has a multitude of Priorities and Projects and Programs. Take a Project. Do the Math. Find 1 to 3 ARCHANGELS to provide the ‘seed money‘ to get this Project moving.

This morning I was reading Fast Company (February 2011), which included the article by Farhad Mangoo titled RISE OF THE SUPER ANGELS. Talks about this “emerging class of investors”… re-inventing the start-up economy. Some good stuff.

My big point to the For Impact World (from Social Entrepreneurial Start-Ups to Large National or International Impact Organizations) is: FIND YOUR ARCHANGELS!

1,000 Gifts at $300 won’t work. (That’s like asking family and friends for cash to start your company.) Going to a large (re: bureaucratic) foundation with 75-page grant forms also won’t work. (That’s like going to the Venture Capitalists.)

The ‘sweet spot‘ are the ARCHANGELS who:

    • Get what you do.
    • Understand what you need.
    • Will make the decision fast.
    • Will get you a check fast.
    • Will not meddle with the ‘how’ you deliver.



Involvement Begets Investment

I was reminded again this week of the power of this simple idea/action: INVOLVEMENT BEGETS INVESTMENT.

    • INVOLVING your Leadership, Board and Top Prospects is a great way to MAXIMIZE RELATIONSHIPS
    • INVOLVING and ENGAGING your STAKEHOLDERS is a great way to guarantee much greater INCOME.
    • INVOLVEMENT can be in (what we call) the Leadership Consensus Building Process. It can be attending a MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE. It can be as simple as sitting down one-on-one and having a great CONVERSATION.
    • No More Feasibility Studies. No More 5-Year Strategic Plans. No More Internal Case Statements. No More Visions in a Vacuum. No More Promises in Private. No More Decisions in the Dark.

Get your absolute best Champions and potential Investors INVOLVED!!!



Synchronocity: The Inner Path of Leadership

Got some nice feedback the Power of One… Snowflake .

Got this from a wonderful book SYCHRONOCITY (The Inner Path of Leadership) by Joe Jaworski. Picked it up in December ’98, then re-read in June ’01, based on recommendation of Jeff Bernel. Jeff was then the head of the Gigot Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, a seasoned entrepreneur and business owner, and one of the most straight-forward, direct advisors/coaches I’ve ever been around. (And a great guy!)


It’s where I first read about dialogue as flow (of meaning).

*On Page 110, there is a phenomenal paragraph and a great nugget and a whole idea of dialogue. Comes from two Greek words, dia and logos. Suggests flow, meaning flowing through, etc. Jaworski says that it is in sharp contrast to the word debate which means to “beat down” or even “discussion” which has the same root as percussion and concussion – or “to break things up”!

I have so many notes and underlined stuff in this book that I ended up taking it with me to read on my way back from Florida.

Copyrighted in 1996 and 1998… this is one of the real classics! Check it out.


Message… at the Highest Level

Today I’m presenting to Junior Achievement Central Florida and working with an amazing staff and a great group of Boards/Leaders. We have summarized the Junior Achievement Message and/or Vision Card, a Business Card and an Engagement Tool.

While I love the way these came out, I’m always concerned that the MESSAGE AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL somehow becomes complicated.

In Junior Achievements case, there are THREE great powerful storylines.


The Junior Achievement Pillars of Student Success are WORK READINESS and ENTREPRENEURSHIP and FINANCIAL LITERACY.


These are great storylines… that allow for wonderful conversation.

However, at the highest of highest of highest levels, Junior Achievement is about: STUDENTS –> SUCCESS.

*By the way, Junior Achievement is the largest organization in the world educating students around Work Readiness, Entrepreneurship and Financial Literacy.


1 World. 2 Wheels.

I found a small ‘brochure’ that I picked up at the bike shop when I went in to get my bike tuned. It’s from Trek and it’s a great, great, great powerful MESSAGE and VISUAL.

1 world



Again, WOW!

    • 1 WORLD. 2 WHEELS. (A Trek Commitment)

This has it all. Visuals. 3 Words. 2 Numbers (that add up to 3!) Visuals and more Visuals!

You can check out more at

Can you capture your Message and inspire/ignite your followers… as simply and powerfully as Trek???


It takes 15 visits to hit your selling stride.

We coach and train organizations and individuals to sell… to sell their vision, their projects, their impact.

  • Sales is a 1:1 activity. It requires that we get out of the office and meet with people.
  • Sales is also the only way to truly maximize relationships.

I will often ask an executive director, “How many visits and asks (1:1) does your organization make each month?” More than any other statistic, this is a key performance indicator for an organization. Many leaders respond with something like, “Well, right now, none. We’re waiting until we finish our strategic plan.” Or, “About once per month but we’re really going to commit to major gifts in 2011.”

Get out. Visit. Ask. Read more here.

As coaches, we know it takes about 15 asks (over a three-month time period) from one person to hit ‘selling stride’… where a sales person is likely to keep making visits… revenue will jump… systems will start to form. On paper 15 visits doesn’t look like a lot (and it’s not) but it requires:

  • That we stop messing with the message.
  • That we get out of our comfort zone. Otherwise, human nature would have us wait forever to make the FIRST visit.
  • That we get beyond the 2-3 low-hanging fruit… being proactive in a sales process.

If you’re new to this your first few visits are going to feel awkward. You’ll find yourself saying really stupid things. Just know this and know that you have to do them to get them out of the way. Somewhere in the range of 6-10 visits you’ll start to ‘own the message’ and find yourself in familiar territory on each dialogue. And… by visit 15 you will find a groove. Each visit is no longer produces that ‘deer in a headlight’ feeling. Much like an experienced quarterback describes, the time seems to slow down and you get much better at processing on the fly.

For what it’s worth:

  • I feel really awkward on my first ten visits on behalf of a cause. Even having done this hundreds of times it takes me a while to find my groove.
  • It’s much easier to do three visits in one day than it is three visits in one-week.
  • Remember, be authentic and you can’t screw up. It’s okay to say, “This is the second time I’ve shared the plan in this way.”
  • If it helps, go ahead and make ‘practice visits’… these count toward the 15.
  • I’m suggesting it takes 15 visits for a person to reach his or her stride which impacts the organization as a whole. If you have two sales people then they each should make 15 vists to hit a stride.