Years ago, I received a phone call from the new boyfriend of a business acquaintance. He wanted me to be a part of his new business. He talked at length about what he could do for businesses, his “great idea,” and I guess all kinds of stuff because I tuned out after the first five minutes. He also was very enthusiastic about working with me, but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what I would be doing for him. However, long experience has taught me that when someone wants me to work with them, I usually end up doing all the work and they call the shots and hang onto the money. To paraphrase a line from Jerry Maguire, he pretty much lost me at hello.
I let him ramble on for longer than I should have, well over half an hour, before I snapped. (You don’t want to see me snap. It’s kind of scary.)
“STOP! I still don’t understand what you do. In 60 seconds or less, tell me EXACTLY what it is that you do for people.”
He rambled on for another ten minutes. (No joke. SERIOUSLY. ) I extricated myself from the conversation at that point. I still wasn’t sure what his business was – something to do with YouTube videos.
It was one of those conversations where you turn to the person next to you and say, “Well, that’s an hour of my life I’ll never get back.”
Last year, I ran into that same guy at a social function. (ONE: I couldn’t believe my business acquaintance was still with this loser. WTH?) He starts pitching me the SAME IDEA. This time he only button-holed me for five minutes before someone else joined the conversation and yes, I bailed. (I felt a little guilty, but it was a him or me situation.) I still don’t know what the heck he does or wants to do.
The five or six years that had passed between those two conversations should have been more than enough time for him to hone down what he does – exactly. I’m not talking about a 30 second elevator speech with its pat benefit statement. Those are fine and in this case, would have been not only acceptable, but welcome. However, his description of his company and its services was still all over the map – every idea he had ever had of what his business might one day do came spewing out of his mouth. I’m pretty sure he can breathe underwater because he never stopped to take a breath.
And, unsurprisingly, he still hadn’t gotten his business off the ground.
Organize Your Thoughts, Please.
One of the techniques I use when I start a book is a brain dump. Everything I want to put in the book, every stray idea, gets written down. I spend a few hours on this and then add to it over the course of a week or so as ideas come to me. Then I organize the items into chapters or categories. Not everything deserves to make it into the book. Sometimes a stray idea is just a stray idea. Let it go.
You can use the same technique to develop a brief statement about your business: what you do, who you help, and how they benefit. Again, not everything you do (i.e., every stray idea that runs naked and free through your brain) deserves to make it into your business description. If someone wants more information, they’ll ask.
A Little Preparation Goes a Long Way
Having a clear vision of what you do and being able to state is succinctly puts you well on your way to developing your brand, whether it’s business or personal. You need to spend some time thinking about what you want to say and how you want to be viewed by others. There’s no excuse for being caught off-guard when someone asks what you do.
Whether you’re speaking or writing, organizing your thoughts and deleting irrelevant material will keep your audience from tuning out. It will show people that you respect their time. Most importantly, it will look like you have your stuff together because guess what? You do. You took the time to put it together. And I, for one, thank you for that.