I heard a fascinating talk at a Ladies Who Launch event the other night that not only helps women business owners hear the secrets about what men think, but also provided some strong marketing and branding advice for any business owner.
Self-professed and reformed “Alpha Male” Chris Flett of GhostCEO was the speaker. GhostCEO helps mentor and coach women business owners by providing answers, not just asking questions like many other biz coaches. If you visit his personal vs. company website that promotes his best-selling book, What Men Don’t Tell Women About Business, you will surely get a taste for his candid, brutally honest, no-holds barred, opinionated style. He’s provocative, I’ll give him that.
OK, I admit I was a bit skeptical . My first thought was that this guy has treated women in business badly (self-admitted) in the past and now here he is trying to make money by acting like he’s on their side? I also hate when women play the “gender” card in business and act like that is why they can’t get ahead when I see so much self-sabotage out there. But I left thinking, “Yes, this guy has a giant ego but he’s honest, has a good heart and his points are extremely valid.” Plus, this is the guy that I want to listen to about business – someone who has created and sold successful businesses . I appreciate candidness in business, and this guy has it in spades. I don’t mind arrogance if the person is successful and has a reason to be arrogant.
Why did he write the book (besides making money)? He felt that if he was going to give advice to a sister, daughter or other woman he loved before she embarked on a business career, what would he want her to know? At least if she’s armed with the information, she can make good choices. This resonated with me (and then my skeptic said, “I’m sure that helps him sell more books!”) But you know what? Who cares, if he’s providing valuable info? That’s a win-win.
So what did we talk about? Here are some highlights. Keep in mind these are provocative generalizations, and you may or may not agree but I don’t doubt that these thoughts and behaviors are out there, as I’ve seen them myself – would love to get some comments going on this. As stated, some of this advice holds true to marketing and branding in general. Want more details and info? Buy the book.
- Stop giving up your power: Women businesspeople give up their power all the time. With clients, vendors and colleagues. They don’t ask for exactly what they want and when they do, they sugarcoat it or don’t think big enough. Next time you discount for a client or let a vendor/employee railroad you, Chris says to think about what example you are setting for how women should be treated and would you treat a client/partner like that yourself? Taking poor treatment from others in business is not the message we want to send. And as far as brand goes, your personal conduct and reputation supports or negates your brand, so think about that.
- Cycle each other up, not down: Men push each other to be greater. Women try to “out-miserable” each other. “Business is bad, I can’t do this that or the other.” “Oh, that’s nothing. MY business is suffering from….I can’t…..etc.” Men tend to cycle each other up since Alpha males especially do not want to engage in “loser behavior.” Women tend to cycle each other down. Listen to the language you use with each other and set a better example. Men tend to pick each other up along the way, even if the other guy sucks because you never know when you need favor. Chris adds this is why men love The Godfather so much: the honor code is huge.
- Never bring up personal issues or family. Not sure I agree 100%, but his point is business is business and personal is personal. I worked with an Alpha Male that followed this philosophy and was seen as untrustworthy and secretive (turned out he was). Chris advises never bringing up family unless the guy brings it up first – and most Alphas will not. And personal issues at work? A no-no. Especially not the “If you had kids, you’d understand why I can’t make deadlines. You are not being fair,” comment a guy friend of mine got from a female colleague. Seriously.
- Give information differently to men vs. women. Chris told a great story about a financial planner who gave him the bottom line and let him go, but spent 3 hours with his wife going through the process. Men need “what”; women need “how.” Alpha males are goal-driven and care about how much money they can make with the least amount of effort. Women often want to also hear about the process. This also applies to the language you use. Retailers are much more successful with Alpha males when they say, “Let me know how I can assist you” vs. “How can I help you?” Alpha males don’t need “help” – and it puts you in the weaker position of “helper.”
- Ask for what you want, not what you think you can get. Strong men love strong women who ask for what they want. If you want to do business with an Alpha, be bold, be concise and think big. Don’t think “how”, think “why” and then find people who can show you. Confidence is key. Chris advises answering 3 questions nefore talking business with an Alpha Male (and this is true for your marketing messages as well): What do you do? Why does it matter? Why do I care? If you can’t answer that for an Alpha male (or a customer), you will lose them.
- Excuses don’t matter, Outcomes do. Alphas care about results. So when you’re late, don’t bore them with all the reasons why; just sit down and promise it won’t happen again. Move on to your next course of action, not the “why” of what came before. Again, Alphas don’t care about process, they care about outcomes.
- Keep secrets. The secret keeper is the most powerful person in business. And you will be tested by Alphas, Chris says, with half-truths from time to time so they can see if it comes back around.
- Don’t engage in open war. Hold your cards close to the vest when being openly attacked and don’t engage on their level of reaction. Tell them to “go take a moment and pull themselves together” if you need to diffuse the situation. Women especially need to practice not getting emotional at times like these.
- Business is not fair. But you can choose to do business with fair people. You have to have boundaries.
- Ask for endorsements. Don’t be shy about asking for referrals, endorsements and references from those you work with. If you do a good job for them, they will be glad to offer it and this kind of word of mouth is key to growing your business.
- Always have a Plan B. Pursue your business, but always have something cooking on the back burner. You need a backup plan.
Chris also goes into some common slang terms used by Alpha Males and what they mean, such as “piker”, “kill it and bill it” and “boat anchor” but I siggest you pick up the book to learn more.
Overall, a fascinating talk that gave me lots to think about and react to. But you can’t deny that knowing the game is half the battle to winning the game.