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The Shortcut

I wish I wrote the following … but Quinn McDonald said it better. I get a call like this every day. (Read the original full post here.)

The voice on the phone could have been any business call I get in the course of a day.
“I’m an artist, and a coach, and I teach business communications.”
“Great,” I say, and almost always, I know what’s coming.
“I’ve noticed on your website that you teach journaling classes, even
incorporate them in business seminars,” the eager voice says.
“You are right,” I say waiting for the next question.
“Well, I’m having trouble getting a lot of people in my class. And
you’ve had this up on your site for a while. So you must be doing
something right. Can you give me some tips and shortcuts so I can be
It’s seldom that I am at a loss for words, but this is a sure way to
make me speechless. Lacking understanding, I aim for clarity.
“I’m not sure what you want me to tell you,” I ask, although I’m beginning to think I do.
“I want you to give me shortcuts and tips to be successful,” the voice says.
“What are you doing now that works?” I ask.
“Well, I’ve been a coach for about six months and word of mouth isn’t working,” she says.
“Word of mouth is a method that comes after there are enough happy
mouths to talk about your work. Word of mouth takes about four years to
work,” I say.
“What? That can’t be. Look at all those people on the internet, and
their sites, and all the ones that get thousands of orders overnight,”
she says, what about them?
“I don’t know about them,” I answer honestly, “Here’s what I can tell
you about my success. I work 120 hours a week, divided over 7 days. I
make mistakes, I fail, I figure out what went wrong. I do something
else. I advertise, I use every opportunity I can find, some work better
than others. I don’t have a secret, and I don’t know any shortcuts.”
The voice at the other end of the phone is quiet.
“You won’t help me. Women are supposed to help each other,” she says.
“I am helping you. I’m telling you from my experience that there is no shortcut. I can give you tips, though.”
“OK, she says, GO.”
“Keep track of what works.
Listen more than talk.
Ask questions.
Go “huh?” a lot and wonder why.
Advertising takes longer to work than you think it should.
Run ads at least 7 times before you expect them to work.
Have a clear idea of what your business is about.
Know why what you do is different from what other people in the same line of work do.
Know what your features and benefits are, be ready to explain them.
Most people know features really well, but explaining the benefits of your service is the key to success.
Don’t ever undervalue yourself, but understand that value is a relative thing.
Don’t think everyone in your audience is rich, and don’t plan on having just rich people for an audience.”

Those are the best tips I know.
“Oh.” She sounded disappointed. “So you won’t share shortcuts.”
“I can’t,” I say, wishing I had some myself. I’m not pushing 50, I’m dragging it, and I wish I had discovered some shortcuts.
“Can I ask you another question?” the voice asks.
“Sure, go ahead. If I know the answer, I’ll tell you.”
“Do you know someone else, maybe someone famous, who’ll share their shortcuts with me?”

Nicely said, Quinn.

These are the shortcuts I know:

  • Work your ass off
  • Try everything. You never know.
  • Repeat what works. Stop doing what doesn’t work.
  • Make lots and lots of friends.  You never know who can help you someday, so help them first.
  • Read everything you can get your hands on, from people who aren’t like you.

As long as I’m at it, here is the secret shortcut to losing weight:

  • Eat less crap
  • Exercise more

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  1. Bill Gammell July 11, 2007 at 5:15 pm #

    Hey! Those aren’t shortcuts. I want my money back.
    Far too often I think we want to find the easy or failsafe way (as if that exits) instead of just simply trying. However, trying things over an extended period of time is the only way that I know of to bring the most important things to light. And once in the light, the things that matter most will stand as a beacon to remind us why we tried in the first place.
    Thanks for the reminder Andy.

  2. Sue Bailey July 13, 2007 at 4:35 pm #

    If you think that’s bad, you try running a blog about eBay. Just because people publish ebooks called “Powerseller Secrets” and the like, half the planet has the idea that there’s some magic secret-handshake way to get rich off eBay without doing any actual work. When you tell them “buy cheap, sell for more than your costs, keep doing it” is the only way to make a living on eBay, they get all upset :^O

  3. Andy Sernovitz July 15, 2007 at 5:25 pm #

    Some entrepreneurs just get it, some don’t. It’s hard when you really want someone to succeed, but they don’t see the years of work it takes to make it “just happen overnight”. All you can do is keep sharing!

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