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Friday, October 05, 2007

Who we are

Image from The Artful Golfer. (I am not great at golf!)
Some individuals have it all. They are great athletes, brilliant academically, compassionate, financially successful, have a wonderful appearance, and are truly successful socially.

Others have virtually nothing -- perhaps confined to a form of living hell (if they are aware of it) of physical and mental disabilities and limitations.

Most of us, of course, are gifted or fortunate in some areas and less than perfect in others. We have strengths and weaknesses. For us, the key to success and happiness in life is to enjoy our strengths, capitalize on them, and spend as much of our adult life enjoying and developing them as we can.

Our weaknesses are another matter. We have to make a decision about whether we can do anything about them, and if we can, how important it is to deal with the limitations. Usually the answer to this question is another question. "Are the weaknesses impeding my ability to fully enjoy my strengths?" Then, even in this case, it is wisest to use your strengths to work out a strategy to overcome the problems.

I share these observations because they are clues to how you should conduct your marketing and business development strategies, especially if you are not a 'natural marketer'. Generally, (I hope) you have chosen a trade or business that reflects your strengths and talents, and which you enjoy. The issue is how or whether you should do the things you don't really like to succeed.

I, for example, can write reasonably well, keyboard at 70 words per minute, and have a really strong appreciation of geography, history and journalism. I am also relatively inept socially -- something of a wallflower in crowds or at networking events; fearful of water, and really unco-ordinated for most sports. I also have some appreciation of business processes and methodologies.

These strengths and weaknesses were apparent in childhood; and remain to this day.

My writing skills have helped me to communicate effective, evocative ideas, establish expertise, and leadership. If you can't write well but have good ideas, however, you can hire ghostwriters without spending a fortune. (One thing I haven't done yet is write a full scale book -- it is on my 'to do' list, and is moving up the priority list.)

The typing skills earned me a government job with a transfer to Ottawa from Vancouver (my birth home). They didn't help my popularity in high school. Today, they help me write fast and take accurate notes. (Today, keyboarding is a mandatory subject at elementary school level -- some ability will enhance your productivity, but if you really can't do it, you can hire an assistant.)

My love and appreciation of geography, history and journalism have taken me around the world. I get to immerse myself in these topics every day at work.
I haven't solved the inept social skills, though both my wife and son have fun poking fun at these limitations. Nevertheless, I persevered to gain enough functionality that I could enjoy a loving family and have a few close friends.

I don't like water or swimming but my mother insisted and worked with me until I could have some (limited) swimming abilities. This may prove helpful in a survival situation, though I think right now my son could rescue me from the water (And I survived my immersion in the Atlantic ocean outside a Liberian village, two weeks after a military coup overthrew the then government. Lost my glasses, though.)

I am no good at sports -- maintaining physical health by using workout equipment at the community centre and watching my diet. Son Eric, 10, on the other hand, is great at sports; not a super star, but certainly amongst the best at his school. I am his minor team's manager -- that essentially means, I get to keep the team books, arrange tournaments, handle the money and do things that don't involve the actual sport.)

All of these strengths and weaknesses translate to a pretty good life -- Someone like me is naturally suited to running a publishing business, though I need to have help from others on the selling side (but the mixture of some selling ability/functionality, but not greatness here, allows me to be effective at hiring competent salespeople).

I strongly recommend before you even start thinking about marketing and business development that you look at your strengths and weaknesses. Write them down. Talk to family and friends if you wish, but listen to yourself and be truthful. Use this inventory to develop your own strategy and set goals and a direction that is consistent with your strengths and values. In some cases you will need to work hard to overcome your weaknesses -- this is okay, as long as you focus your primary efforts and resources where you are strongest. Your chances of fulfilment and success are highest that way.

  • This WikiAnswers posting about how to answer the question about strengths and weaknesses in a job interview is one reason I consider the "job interview" one of the least useful elements in selecting employees for our business. People are coached in giving the right answers, but can they do the job? That is what we want to find out, quickly, before hiring anyone.
  • Many of my thoughts on this topic are derived from writings of Marcus Buckingham. See this article from Knowledge@Wharton.
  • SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunties, Threats Analysis is a cornerstone of business development and marketing strategies. This posting, however, refers to your personal evaluation, because you have to have it right inside yourself before you be effective in business or marketing.

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