Control the Controllable’s

Predictors of success are as varied as the weather. Predictable results can help. And to drive predictable results, we can control the controllable’s.

Often, the results we have to deliver can seem unreachable. Business growth does not happen in a linear fashion. At times, it’s sporadic.

All we can do is focus on what is in our control and execute.

Control the controllable’s and let the results follow.

Control the Controllable’s

What can we control?

We can control:

The process

The process we use to drive our results. To increase productivity. The process we choose is the principles, tactics, and habits we execute daily. It’s like compound interest for our business.

Sleep schedule

The time we wake up and go to bed. Sleep is important.

Activity level

The number of calls we make, emails we send, blog posts we write, and customers we see. We can control our activity and put ourselves in a position for success.

Showing up

If, and when, we show up. Consistently showing up is the hardest part.

Office hours

More hours do not guarantee better results. But, we need to put in the work.

Continuous learning

Seeking further improvement. We all have something to learn. We’re all amateurs at something.

For most business, positive results are not guaranteed. The economy can be poor. Or, a star client is sick on the last day of the quarter. So, no last-minute deal to make quota.

Manufacturing is on back order. Shipping didn’t get the order out. Our proposal was not brought up at our prospects meeting. Meetings were canceled. Our contact changed companies.

It may seem as though our company and clients are plotting against our success.

These are all issues outside of our control. All can result in negative outcomes. Thus, a focus on what we can control is the only path forward.

What is in our control are the habits we use, the principles we follow, and the tasks we accomplish.

We may not be able to control the end result, but we can control the process.

Let’s put our focus there and control the controllable’s.

Establish a process

At 4:30 am, you don’t want to think. Actually, you do think. You think “why I am up at this hour”.

I’m a swimmer. That means practice is at 4:30 am, three days a week.

We aren’t going to go into why swimmer’s workout that early, but they all do. And when I swam at that hour, the team I swam with had to set up the pool.

What does that mean?

Removing covers and changing lane lines. I had the luxury of swimming in an Olympic pool. This meant we could swim a length of 25 yards or 50 meters.

Naturally, we did both. 25 yards in the afternoon, and 50 meters in the morning. Each morning before practice, we had to change the pool from 25 yards to 50 meters.

Removing the pool covers, changing into our suits, and switching the lane lines. We had it down to a science. A well-oiled machine with a process that worked every morning.

The process

The process was rolling the covers off the pool, while chlorine steam hit our faces.

On cold days, you couldn’t see across the pool. Thankfully, the pool was heated.

Then, you loosen the lane lines. Pull half the lane lines to one end and the other half to the opposite end. There are also these things called connectors. Because the lane lines are designed for 25 yards, two lane lines don’t make 50 meters. It’s basic math.

So, you throw the connectors in the pool and they float to the center. The connectors are the best job because they’re the least work. No one can see you in the steam.

Last, you connect the lane lines together with their connectors and tighten them.

Now we can swim.

Seems like a long process, but with a full team, it’s done in about 15 minutes. That’s from the time you walk into the gate until you’re swimming. The beauty is you don’t have to think about it.

This leaves more time to question life choices. Like why am I at a pool at 4:30 am.

Establish a process

Building a process, so when it’s 4:30 am at a pool, you can get to work. Or, it’s just Monday morning and I have hit snooze for the last half hour.

Regardless, when we establish a process it works under pressure. When things don’t work right.

Establish a process and it works when we are tired, burned out, and questioning why we keep subjecting ourselves to our work.

I have not swum at 4:30 am in years. Not sure I ever will again. I don’t think I miss it.

On second thought, I am writing about it, so maybe I do.

The Grass Roots Level

Grass Roots Level

Everything begins at the grass roots level. One person at a time. A small community.

There’s no doubt this method works.

It is slow, difficult, and may not have exponential growth. But, it’s sustainable.

Let’s take a look at four examples of starting at the grass roots level.

The Pabst Blue Ribbon Come Back

Pabst Blue Ribbon was going out of business. There was no Marketing budget. Sales were in a steep decline.

They went back to the grass roots level. No advertising.

The new target market? Hipsters.

The target for Pabst was Hipsters who wanted a beer that had zero national attention. Naturally, Hipsters were a perfect target.


Pabst Blue Ribbon is back on the national beer scene. You can see it in dive bars and Fraternity Houses across America.

Changing the balance of beer power with a grass roots approach. And Hipsters.

Grass Roots Level with The Art of Shaving

Shaving got to a point where, basically, men were putting sharp blades on their faces with little more than foam as protection. Not taking care of our beautiful faces during our morning shave.

The result in the market was men looking for high-quality shaving products. This began with a small community of dedicated shavers. Using double-edged safety razors. Going back in time.

The Art of Shaving produced a high-quality shaving cream, designed for the double-edged safety razor. A better shave for your skin. And, my preferred shaving method.

When word got out how much better the products were and the community they built, Gillette bought them.

The return of a great shave at the grass roots level.

The 3rd Wave of Coffee with Blue Bottle Coffee

Folgers put coffee in everyone’s homes in America. The 1st wave of coffee.

Starbucks taught everyone to love coffee in its many forms. The 2nd wave of coffee.

Now, with Blue Bottle Coffee out of Oakland, we have the 3rd wave of coffee.

Produced in small batches, for a small group of coffee aficionado’s, it’s a coffee movement. The ultra-premium coffee market. I am a fan of the new wave of coffee.

I’m a fan of Blue Bottle Coffee and the Blue Bottle Coffee story.

Roasting beans in his Oakland apartment and selling them at a Berkeley Market, the founder, Freeman, began small. At the grass roots level.

Building a community of coffee drinkers led to the expansion of Blue Bottle Coffee and Venture Capital funding.

All from the grass roots level.

Sales Territory Building with Referrals

Whether opening a new sales territory or building an underperforming territory, it takes a grass roots approach.

Starting small. A few customers you can use as referrals. It’s painful, it’s slow, but it works.

I built an underperforming sales territory on low margin service work. Built a community of clients, then leveraged trust for big purchases. Then, I asked for referrals.

We can’t be everywhere at once. It makes sense to focus on the small community we can serve.

In each of these examples, starting at the grass roots level worked. Building a community, one person at a time.

I am sure there are countless more examples, but this is all I could think of.

If we start small, we might have the opportunity to get big. Slowly building traction. I am not too sure what other methods to use.

I’m going to stick to the grass roots level.


Entrepreneur. Big Data. Virtual Reality. Vertical. Social Selling. DevOps. Diversity. Synergy. Millennial. Exit strategy. Organic growth. Hacking. Growth hacking.

Buzzwords tend to be viewed negatively.

This is most likely because sales and marketing professionals get ahold of them, and then abuse them.

Even if abused, they are extremely useful. Necessary.


Buzzwords typically have a specific meaning. Yes, some may argue semantics about what they mean, but in general everyone knows what you mean when using a buzzword.

This is useful in communication. Especially when we are not always communicating on a personal level.

I have no problem with buzzwords, and at times I like them.

They are easy to use and everybody knows what you mean.

Good communication is making it easy for the other person to clearly understand your idea.

Good luck and good selling!


Certifications provide validity.

In a world of buyer beware, where everyone claims to be an expert, the certification says “I put in the time”.

What if all you have is a certification?

Competing with those who have experience, but no certification. Does this mean your certification makes you more equipped?

Thinking you need a certification is a problem. The problem could cause you not to apply for a role when you want to change career paths. Cause you not to launch a business. Say things like, “I am not certified to talk about this” or “I don’t have the credentials”.

As we continue to have more readily available information, it is becoming easier than ever to certify yourself in a subject.

How do you do this?

If you want to learn a new skill, there are endless resources to do so. Some paid and some free. Resources such as, Udemy, or Codecademy. These provide tools to learn new skills.

With these new skills, you can get a customer. Delight the customer, and use them as a referral. This is the new certification.

A piece of paper stating you have completed something is nice. A customer who can explain how you provided them value is better.

At times, even though you have the certification, you still need this customer to prove you can provide value. Quite a predicament. Maybe while achieving the certificate, you find the customer.

The certification does not need to be a traditional school or university to prove you have the experience to provide value. It could be as simple as one person you have helped being a referral.

I think the formal degree, in business, is holding less and less weight. What is desired is the ability to find unique solutions to customer problems. Being able to learn new skills as the market rapidly shifts. Providing value to customers and stakeholders.

These are things a certificate cannot accomplish, but are what is needed. Especially in the sales and marketing departments.

Sorry, your MBA doesn’t give you automatic credibility, so please remove it from your signature.

Good luck and good selling!