Business Lessons From A Children’s Author

It was 2 a.m. My wife and I instantly and simultaneously woke up. We did not wake up due to a sound outside or the thought of leaving the stove on.

I believe it was God-given.

Immediately a story popped into my head. It was far more than an idea as it included a name, a story line and all the imagery to go with it. Unfortunately, for my wife, she woke up with heartburn. This is often how our life goes; I get an idea and she gets heartburn. Months later, I would finish interpreting this story and publish the first of what will be two children’s books in 2017.

Tinko, by Matt Waters (pen name), is a message and project that has taught me more than I could have asked or imagined. I’ve always held a strong belief that the lessons and practice of our personal lives can be directly applied to shaping the success of a business.

Here are 7 such lessons.

1.   SIMPLE MESSAGES TAKE TIME

I tell people that what separates good writing from excellent writing is about 25 drafts.

Painters are known for explaining how their art reveals itself to them over time. With each passing of the paintbrush there is an opportunity for more layers, more depth, maybe even a new character. In this way, writing is a form of painting. You begin with a simple idea, “I want to write a book about my family.” What you soon discover is a need to allow the story to develop. Or, you may need to allow yourself to do more of the right research. It is never as simple as just writing about your family. There are so many more layers to add if you allow them in. What’s the conflict in the story? What color were the houses on the street? What was playing on the radio? The pie cooking in the oven filled the room with what smell? Joey had a laugh that reminded you of whom?

So, while editing is a writer’s greatest tool, so is a bed. Sleep on it. Allow the story to unfold in your mind, then write it down. Then edit. Edit again. Edit again. Repeat.

2.   YOUR BIGGEST INVESTORS ARE YOUR FAMILY

As I picked up the brown box out of the back of our Dodge minivan, my five-year-old daughter, Emma Grace asked, “Daddy, what can I carry?”

We had just parked our van and walked through the small downtown filled with one-story businesses of antique sellers, a local appliance store and a small print shop. We were on our way to the very first reading of Tinko. Emma Grace had been speaking about this event for two weeks. Her offer to carry something was just the latest example of her excitement and involvement.

Each of our three kids had direct involvement in the creation of the book. My wife’s suggestions changed parts of the final product. My extended family was the first to show up to the reading. It has been overwhelming to see the investment my family has made–their time, encouragement and thoughts. It has been a poetic blend of work/life balance I had not seen before. My work and home values were perfectly aligned. And I know it only scratches the surface of what it could be.

How does this relate to business? Prior to the 1990’s there was an unsaid belief that work and family life was to be kept separate. Those lines have been grayed thanks to our our ‘always-connected’ culture. As the workforce becomes more remote, the trend is to bring work home or to spend at least one day working from home. If we understand that work comes home, isn’t it also true that ‘home’ (family and values) comes to work with us?

In the workforce, Generation X and Millennials have made it clear that the values of a business are important. Organizations are now careful to select employees with a drive for high ethical standards aligned with values listed on the company’s website like trust, respect, integrity and creativity.

While business values are put in place to benefit an organization, they are shaped by the foundation of our personal lives–at home.

Both ‘X-ers’ and Millennials desire to work at a place in which they can make a long-lasting impact. They want to make a difference. When they hear about a company’s values and they are a match, they expect a seat at the table or an opportunity to contribute. If they don’t find those, what happens next is simple–they leave.

Put plainly, there can’t be an authentic work family without the introduction to the home family. They are no longer mutually exclusive.

3.   FEWER WORDS, BIGGER MESSAGE

Tinko is a book about creation and purpose. Frankly, wrote it because I was concerned about children being told that they arrived here as some sort of accident and their only legacy was to leave Earth as dirt. Trust me, I have many things to say on the topic, but there is no need. Stay with me.

My aim in writing Tinko became very clear. It was to begin a dialogue in homes. I no longer needed to worry about writing in every angle or arguing every side. That’s why Tinko’s mantra became “Created with purpose!” It is on stickers, websites, social media–even the reviewers began repeating it. What more did I need to say?

The Challenge: Today, our social media celebrates loud, obnoxious, fast, convenient and comfortable. “Slow to speak, quick to listen,” is an art lost in today’s society. We read long-winded, ill-guided, one-way rants on all sorts of subject backed up with little wisdom or life experience. Our younger generations are becoming very good at talking and very poor at listening. The byproduct is the shutdown of self-induced, continuous personal improvement.

The Solution: Listening, discussing, and finding purpose can change this. Simple messaging makes it easier for these things to happen.

Businesses need to adopt simplistic messaging to stand out. I’m often surprised why many still feel the need to give you a dissertation on their products, services or who they are as a company. The right, simple message evokes a discussion. It is about creating an entry point for your business offering.

When everyone else is using so many words in a world that is always talking, break through the clutter by delivering a big message with few words.

Yes, it takes longer to carefully craft. After all, “Quality is easy!” said no one, ever.

4.   THEY ARE NOT BUYING YOUR PRODUCT, THEY ARE BUYING YOU

I am convinced that no one is buying Tinko because they are on a mission to buy a book. Instead, they are buying an opportunity to be part of Matt Waters Books.

Unconsciously, consumers want to be part of your company. Their purchase is their vote and are letting you know “Here we are. What will you do next?” They are buying a piece of the puzzle right now with the hope that you will one day have all of the pieces

Everyone is looking for that one ‘diamond in the rough’ partner who is on a journey to solve all of their problems. These consumers desire to be your loyalists. They want to have a reason to share their experience with their contacts, good or bad. They have high expectations. They also have ideas.

Focus on building for the long-term. One product or service purchase is just one vote. Gather together enough votes from the same person, family or business and you will find yourself with a lifelong partner cheering for your success.

5. STOP TRYING TO BE EVERYWHERE

There are over 200 well-known social media sites, endless advertising opportunities, millions of media outlets, websites, videos, blogs, radio and countless places a business can live. It’s tiring. Trying to be everywhere is certainly not a wise mission.

Instead, focus on the few that are potential buyers. Serve them well. Personalize your communication to them so they know you understand them and making the effort.

Not trying to be everywhere looks a lot like a small slice of a demographic. If you are a real estate agent, that means focusing on newlyweds. If you are a commercially-focused CPA, it means focusing on small businesses with revenue of $200k-$1m. If you are a multi-billion dollar light bulb company, this method still applies to you. Don’t panic about ‘What if’s.’ What if there is a really opportunity outside this group? Have a rule for addressing the outliers but keep the focus.

You’ll save money, save time and be more effective. You’ll also become a well-known all-star of your niche market.

6. HAVE A STORY

I’ve been preachy about this for years. As a marketing leader, it is a life-long mission of mine. Tell a story. It doesn’t have to be your own, but I would argue that you have plenty of them. Businesses are missing truly great storytellers and the world needs more of them. Stories are rooted in educational gold because they all contain a challenge, a message and a lesson. I bet you can’t say you received those three things in the last Power Point presentation you heard.

I’ve wondered why people are reluctant to tell stories and I have come to this sobering conclusion; a story makes you vulnerable. It is also risky. Again, don’t ‘what if’ yourself to death. What if you don’t deliver it well? What if the audience can’t identify with it? What if it isn’t funny like you think it is?

Many ‘what if’s’ exist but there are too many positives. What if you DO deliver it well? What if they DO identify with it? What if they DO think it is funny? Don’t take my word for it. Listen to a Ted Talk. See how they use stories and model your next speech after the Ted Talk outline.

7. COLLABORATION IS WORTH IT, EVERY TIME

My biggest mistake in creating Tinko was not letting my wife in on what I was doing earlier. It was for no other reason other than I didn’t want to bother her in this strange new hobby of mine. For all I knew, I would give up and never do anything with it.

I remember that her very first post about Tinko was a re-post of mine that I had made announcing the book. Her words were, “So… THIS is happening.”

While I wasn’t sure where this book thing was headed, I had forgotten a very simple lesson. Taking people along for any ride is important. It would have made it better and it would have been more fun. I was including my imaginative oldest son, Evan who was giving me marketing advice. That was fun! “Daddy, let’s make an App for Tinko, or a game!” he once told me. My other son Aiden, was my on the street promoter. Emma Grace, our youngest, offered her artistic advice on the illustrations. Still, I missed an opportunity to collaborate more with my wife….and others!

Collaboration is often missing in the business environment. Especially in organizations who are dramatically changing through mergers, growing pains and acquisitions. It is as if walls and silos are built during those times.

Yes, collaboration does takes time, effort and explanation. However, final product is always better. It is also how tomorrow’s leaders are discovered.

Matthew Gosselin is a husband, father to three, a corporate marketing leader and an industry author. Matthew also recently published his first of two children’s books in 2017 called ‘Tinko.’ (Pen name: Matt Waters)

Tinko can be found on Amazon and other global retailers. For more information, visit MattWatersBooks.com

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s