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  • Writer's pictureBill Petrie

Don't Be Afraid to Dull Your Blade

Holding back a tool for the "perfect time" is not smart strategy

About five years ago, I had the pleasure of speaking at the national sales meeting of a large promotional products distributor just down the road from me in Memphis, TN. The event was spectacular, but this blog is about something else. Instead, this blog is about conversation and a snowblade.

After I finished sharing the value of removing friction from the sales process to create long-term loyalty to the group, I was invited to join a small faction for dinner on Beale Street. Not being one to shy away from a free meal – especially when said free meal is barbecue – I eagerly accepted. At first, the dinner conversation covered the usual topics one discusses at these types of things: everyone's industry journey, what to order off the menu, and the location of the after-dinner rally point.

After the initial banter and repartee, people started huddling into small groups of two or three, with the folks sitting immediately around them. As the restaurant was loud – and my hearing is a bit off after many years of listening to Van Halen at top volume – I found this turn of events most welcoming.

I sat next to and spoke with the organization's Director of Business Development. Even better, he also happened to be a friend, as he lives near me in Nashville, and we often have lunch. We spoke about creating content and how hard he thought it must be to continually develop ideas. I pushed back a little by sharing that I think content is everywhere; you simply have to keep your eyes open and look for it.

We moved on and began talking about his move back down south after living in the upper Midwest, and I inquired if he had a snow blower during his time in the wintery wonderland. He told me he never purchased one as he never felt it was necessary. As I pictured mounds of snow, I eagerly nodded in agreement and suggested that living in that area required a snowblade, which would REALLY move the snow off his driveway. Yes, I like big, powerful toys like that.

After a long tug on his beer, he stated clearly that he hadn't needed that either, as he had seen his former neighbor use one, unsuccessfully, on several occasions. As I am prone to do, I pressed, and he explained that his neighbor never lowered the blade to the concrete because he was afraid to dull the blade. Because of this, his neighbor always left just enough frozen precipitation on the ground, which resulted in a quarter-inch sheet of ice coating the driveway, making it impossible to navigate.

I perked up and exclaimed, "There it is!"

He looked at me quizzically as imaginary question marks formed over his head. I clarified, "There's the content idea – dull the blade. Your old neighbor was so focused on not getting that blade dull that the tool is completely ineffective. How many of us in our own businesses don't use our own tools for fear that they will be dull when we need them?" At this point, I was on a roll, so my dinner companion had little choice but to munch on tater tots and quaff his beer while I continued to make my point.

Everyone has tools they deliberately hold back until the "perfect time." Whether it's taking a risk to land that huge prospect, proactively pushing your client because you know they are capable of more than average, or executing a content marketing strategy to make your business relevant by leveraging the chief currency of the internet, there is no perfect time – there's only now or never. Holding back a tool for the non-existent "perfect time" is a useless strategy for growing a business.

Just as scraping a metal blade on the ground will result in temporary dullness, implementing any aggressive strategy to grow a business will result in mistakes. However, you'll never realize your full potential if you never use the available tools. Take the bold leap today: launch that podcast, push your client not to settle for mediocre marketing, and proactively go after that whale of a prospect. Remember, the blade can be sharpened to enhance its operation after becoming dull from use, just like mistakes can be learned from, resulting in improved business performance.

While my friend's former neighbor might have accomplished a good bit of snow removal, he never used the blade to its full capability. By not dulling his blade by dropping it firmly against his driveway, he will always leave just enough snow on the ground to form an undrivable sheet of ice the next day. Growing your business is no different: if you don't make bold efforts to expand, you will always leave copious amounts of frozen potential sales on the driveway of prosperity, making it incredibly difficult to navigate.

After I was finished, my friend arched his brow and gave me positive feedback in the form of a smile and a nod because he understood that if you don't intentionally dull your blade by using it, you'll never know what you can truly accomplish.

When was the last time you dulled your blade?

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