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A Meeting of the Minds

A Meeting of the Minds

Brian Jud

Many independent publishers try to improve their businesses by seeking the advice of professional consultants. Although these experts may be helpful, they can also be expensive. In many cases their advice is to expand by using OPM--Other People's Money. However, there is another OPM resource available to you which you can tap on your own, at no expense and as frequently as you need it--Other People's Minds.

You can expand your business and become more profitable by using the knowledge, creativity, energy and contacts of other people. This is accomplished through a Success Team, a group of people who meet regularly to help each other solve business problems and increase business potential.

Why start a Success Team?

Typically, independent publishers are so embroiled in their day-to-day activities that they do not have (or take) the time to step back and evaluate their relative progress. Additionally, constant rejection and weeks without friendly human contact can erode the enthusiasm of even the most positive people. You can reduce this mental deterioration, improve your business and experience the following benefits if you join or start a Success Team.

* Assess your activity. Preparing for each meeting makes you focus on where your present actions are taking you. Are you proceeding according to your marketing plan and, if not, why not?

* Constructively critique your plans. Your teammates provide a sounding board upon which you can bounce ideas in a secure environment. You know that their comments are offered in a spirit of understanding and helpfulness. The subsequent creative conflict forces you to think through your strategies more carefully, leading you in directions you might not have discovered on your own.

* Increase your mental toughness. The exchange of information among members fosters the personal initiative, imagination, courage and enthusiasm you need for continued success. The camaraderie which develops among Success Team members provides psychic sustenance through lean emotional and financial times.

* Eliminate repetitive explanations. Each person on your Team becomes familiar with the others' businesses. Consequently, you can introduce ideas for new strategies without repeatedly explaining the details of your particular circumstances.

* Expand your network. Your teammates will know other people who can assist you. Their contacts can be invaluable in helping you obtain what you can not on your own.

How is a Success Team formed?

Most entrepreneurs have an informal network of people who they lean on for information. Compile a list of those you feel would be good candidates for team membership and inquire about their willingness to join. If they agree, ask them to suggest other potential members.

Try to select people with varied expertise in such areas as marketing, design, accounting and law. Your goal is to achieve the optimum mixture of knowledge and personalities that will energize a cooperative flow of information. All members should provide input from their perspectives just as a corporation's board of directors provides for its CEO.

It will be helpful if your comrades are knowledgeable about the book business because they will understand the traditional discount structures and return policies. Exclude competitors because you will be discussing confidential business information.

Create a team of four to six members and choose one to lead the group. Invariably, one or two will be unable to attend a scheduled meeting, but the rest can stimulate a worthwhile discussion. Plan to meet biweekly if possible, but at least once a month. Choose a quiet place to gather, away from the distractions of telephone calls or other intrusions. Libraries and schools provide ideal locations.

What is the meeting agenda?

Begin every meeting by asking each person to give a summary of success he or she experienced since you last met. As time goes on you will look forward to this as an opportunity to share your success with people who understand the difficulty of achieving it.

Next, each person should be allotted the same amount of time to describe his or her plan, challenge or idea. The other members may then offer their comments. If one member has a particularly urgent problem, the others may be willing to relinquish part of their time to allow for a more complete discussion of the problem. Each person should end his or her time with a commitment to accomplish one or more tasks by the next meeting.

The proper composition of personalities and knowledge will result in time well spent. As time goes on, your meetings will help to develop a productive, congenial, long-term relationship among people seeking mutual success and profitability.