Simple Things

Chaos is inherent in all compunded things. Strive on with diligence.


I opened one of the cupboards in my office and looked in with disbelief – it was a chaotic mess.  Impossible!  I had just cleaned all of these out, what, maybe a week ago.  OK, maybe a month ago.  How in the heck had they returned to their cluttered state?

I knew the answer.  We spend almost 80% of our client project time around the idea of simplicity.  I have spent 32 years committed to its strategic impact, so I knew exactly what happened  –   THE CREEP.


Keeping an Eye on the Creep

Simplicity is about a small sense of order, not a big one. The universe fights against big order, but you can get away with the success of small order.



Simplicity needs a rather constant level of attention.  If you pass off keeping the simplicity train on track, THE CREEP will step right in. THE CREEP loves and thrives on a lack of attention.  One of the favorite homes of THE CREEP is your garage.  You spend an entire weekend cleaning out all the junk that had a gravitational attraction to the garage.  You stand with hands on hips with a triumphant smile on your face.  You conquered the black hole of order.  A month later, with tears streaming down your face you cannot comprehend how the whole damn mess has returned.

THE CREEP is the creator of operational complexity.  It gives birth to bottlenecks and backward thinking that stops your forward momentum and leaves you asking, “How did this happen?”  Given an empty space, THE CREEP looks to fill it.


Simplicity Requires Attention

During a recent project where we were working with a client to simplify their client experience, this happened; he said, “Despite the success of our simplicity work, we just let it get away from us and started adding stuff until we were right back where we started.”  THE CREEP.

If you are genuinely committed to the benefit of a simple approach to anything, PAY ATTENTION.  It takes discipline to become simple and even more to stay simple.

Nothing, and I mean no strategic focus, can gain more impact than a commitment to simplicity and no strategy can collapse faster than simplicity ignored.  We consistently default to our bias for more.  Come on, we can add another feature, another service, we have the capacity and I think our customers really want it.  BOOM, say hello to THE CREEP.

You hear people talk about simple all the time.  It’s EASY, just get rid of stuff.  What?  No, no, no, it’s not about reduction, it’s about THOUGHTFUL reduction and then subtle adjustments until the simplicity you’re searching for fits YOU, fits your culture, fits your company, and fits your clients’ needs. It’s about allowing simplicity to be your lighthouse, providing you direction on your course.

Let it slip and you’ll find yourself loosing another weekend to a garage full of stuff, courtesy of THE CREEP.

As a leader, do you have your feet planted in the past?

I am a child of the west. Born in California. Lived in Idaho and now a long time Texas resident (I don’t think an outsider is ever a true Texan). I always marvel at travel back East. When a client says; “Take the train from Washington D.C. to Philadelphia, I furrow my brow and say, “Train?” When I hear the train I think of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

During a recent trip east I watched an old-time engineer backing up his engine. He had his head craned out the window looking backward at the ground crew for hand signals. No rear view mirror on this engine, or simply an “old school” engineer. Trains are used to going forward.  They don’t often think about reversing. Leaders do.

During our two-year study into leadership (The DNA of Success), I was amazed at the role the rear view mirror played in great leaders. They were great at stopping, turning around and thinking about what they did. They were great decision reviewers.

From this key leadership characteristic, here are some of those rearview images.


Keeping Perspective in Leadership


  • THE SEARCH FOR PERFECTION: When you take time to look at how you responded to a leadership situation you quickly learn to forget about perfection. In leadership, it simply doesn’t exist. If it is your goal you can’t catch that leadership train. Mistakes, getting it wrong, missing a choice by an inch is just part of the deal. I love the quote that “perfection is the enemy of good.” Leaders love good.

  • NOT ENOUGH HELP: I can do this by myself, heck, I’m the leader. It’s my job to make the call. Every leader we interviewed talked about that learning moment where they figured out they couldn’t do this alone. Somewhere along the line, they were embraced; “I don’t know”. This is a classic mindset shift, a moment past a blind spot. I remember Israel Alpert, a tech/video leader using this little gem – PHELP – It stood for “Please HELP”.

  • WHO AM I LEADING? Leaders ask this question all the time. They check their past, both close and distant for key contact points, and don’t lose touch with their direct team. They check in further down the line and become VISIBLE. They hang out with their customers, ask questions, and listen. They check in!

Leadership is a process that centers on the two key timeframes.


  1. The Past – They are learners by experience and experience only teaches when you take a look back.

  2. The Future – They are required to shift their gaze from the learning past to peeking into the various potentials that could make up their tomorrows and the opportunities available to their organizations.

Some trains may not have review mirrors, but you should!

The Importance of Experience


Being a specialist does not guarantee you a full roster of clients, but great knowledge of your niche married with a fantastic client experience IS a winning combination. Very few businesses lend themselves to specialized niches more than real estate sales. The industry divides itself into very specific categories:


The list goes on and on. Then there are the never ending sub categories. In residential alone we have: single family homes, multi-family homes, condominiums and co-ops, and resort properties. Yikes! To make a statement and OWN your niche, you have to combine expertise, service, and a unique and powerful client experience.

Enter Whitetail Properties!

whitetail properties

Their specialty is hunting, fishing, and country homes in the heartland of America. You may have seen their show on HGT, Living Country, where they find dream properties for their clients. Now there are lots of real estate firms that specialize in country living, but the gang at Whitetail Properties have a dominate position. The reason, they create a connection between their knowledge, service, and a killer client experience.

Here’s what it looks like:

  1. They have an extensive meeting with their clients to identify everything they are looking for. Then, they ask secondary questions like, “What else have you dreamed about?” This opens the door to something beyond the desire for a country hunting and fishing home.
  2. Whitetail Properties then teams two realtors to develop properties for the clients in a kind of in-house competition. This creates a sense of urgency to the challenge of fitting the client to the property.
  3. The kicker, the key client experience piece is what gives Whitetail Properties their advantage. They CREATE an experience on each property that gives the perspective buyers a sense of what it might be like to live on the property. This might be a four wheeler excursion or a fishing trip to a pond on the property, or maybe camping on a ridge overlooking the properties stream. They take time to plan the excursion, to make it an adventure and it is always the piece that closes the deal.

This is a true client experience and by adding that one piece, the adventures, Whitetail Properties has put itself at the top of the real estate firms specializing in hunting, fishing, and farming properties.


So, what can you do? Put this idea to the test. Storyboard and sketch out ideas that can add a level of EXPERIENCE to your client interactions. Discover a way to add something that can take your client experience ONE LEVEL ABOVE and change the way your clients EXPERIENCE your service.

PS: The Whitetail Properties gang is so successful at their mission, that their branded merchandise is almost impossible to keep on the shelf. By having hats, shirts, and everything else that can hold their logo, they extend their brand beyond their niche!

The Power of Story Continues . . . . . .




A number of our clients are actively moving many of their communication strategies to the idea of STORY.  Our platform, The Once Upon a Time Project is our approach to empowering the idea of story as a real and true strategy.

The CEO of the design and consulting firm IDEA, Tim Brown, in his new book Change by Design says;  “Storytelling, NOT marketing, drives engagement.”  The idea that you can commit to story as your method of client engagement is gaining more and more momentum across all lines of business.

We often think of story as something done by creative writers, authors, poets and marketing/advertising professionals, but the truth is that story is our most natural way of communication and it only takes a little leverage to apply that natural skill to your business.  Just think about it, we have been storytellers from the time we could walk upright.  From the cave paintings of Chauvet Pont-d’ Arc in France (+/- 35,000 years old) to the greatness of the original HBO series ,Game of Thrones, we humans are experienced storytellers and when you deliver a message in the form of a good story, we can’t help but listen.

Story has only two components; Crafting and Telling.

Here are a few “crafting”  ideas to help you get started:

  • PROTOTYPE:  This is a key process in The Once Upon a Time Project and it involves getting something down on paper as quickly as possible.  This usually takes the form of a storyboard or a sketch of the initial elements of the story.  It is critical to jump into the “drafting” process, to create a prototype of your story.  Without something on paper the story is an ethereal idea.  When something physically exists you can fix it, change it, embellish it, you can mold it.


Woman Drawing on Digital Tablet



  • THE PIECES:  Once you have a preliminary storyboard you will rapidly be able to see the three key pieces, beginning, middle and end.  Spend quality time on ONE PIECE AT A TIME.  This allows you to provide the proper level of attention to each critical piece.  There will be time to see the big picture later, but at the initial crafting phase attack each piece individually.  Here is a good filter to use. The beginning has to be strong enough to grab me.  The middle has to keep my interest.  The end, well the end has to be a killer, something that drives me to action.




Those are just a couple of ideas we teach in the crafting phase of a story.

Need some help?  Give us a call or drop us a note.