Businesses, particularly large ones, are ‘No’ machines. What do I mean. Ask if you can have your own blog or website to publish industry information or news – No. Ask if you can purchase leads from a company other than the corporate provider – No. Ask if you can do this, ask if you can do that, the answer is likely – No.
In 2008 this was the very situation I found myself in at Wells Fargo selling reverse mortgages. Wells had corporate policies against purchasing leads outside of the approved vendor list and employee sponsored websites (although employees could pay monthly via drafts from pay for the absolutely useless personal sites they provided). Following this prescription I could not generate enough quality leads, which led to not enough sales, which led to being placed on a performance improvement plan, which is just code word for soon to be fired.
Since I was going to be fired anyway I decided to think outside the box, buck the system a little, and not take ‘No’ for an answer. I put up my own industry website, and ran my own online advertising campaign for lead generation. The result – more quality leads than I could actually handle, which led to increasing my sales volume by 600% (I went from making less than 1 average sale per month to 6 sales per month).
And what was the company response when they found about my willful disobedience? It was – Rodney you’re going to need a full-time assistant to help you manage your volume. We’d like to hire one for you.
Refusing to take no for an answer always leads to good things
Consider the very organization you work for. Research it’s beginnings and you’ll find that it’s founder(s) were people who think outside the box, system buckers who refused to take no for an answer. Without knowing who you are I can write this with complete confidence because I know that to start any business entrepreneurs have to over come a ton of negative influence and be willing to buck systems and think outside the box.
What good things did my refusal to take no for an answer lead to?
- Setting up my own website and advertising led to a dramatic increase in quality leads which led to
- A 600% increase in sales, which led to
- Not being fired and Wells Fargo hiring me a personal assistant which led to
- The regional manager noticing what I’d done and asking if I would run a test project to do it by the rules, which led to
- Me calling Google to help put the project together, which led to
- The Google AdWords rep looking at my personal AdWords account and saying you’re good at this ever consider doing it for a living, which led to
- My startup called JugHead Media, which lead to
- Being accepted into the Google Engage program, which led to
- Becoming a Google Certified Partner, which led to
- Being invited to Google NY headquarters, which led to
- Meeting Seth Godin in person who said “Start your own personal blog” (He said it to the group), which led to
- This blog, which led to
- David Meerman Scott reading a response article on my blog last week, which led to
- A personal email from him letting me know he found the article insightful…which absolutely made my day
Ok by now hopefully you get the point. Which is find the courage to refuse to take no for an answer it will ultimately lead good things.
Innovation requires more than your ability to think outside the box
Bucking the system, refusing to take no for an answer is just another way of saying think outside the box. Except the problem is that most people who think outside the box don’t actually get outside the box. That is their thought is not followed up with action. Innovation and change can only occur when thought turns to physical action.
How do organizations go from outside the box thinking, system bucking, never take no for an answer mavericks to drone producing, non-innovating, maintainers of the status quo?
They become successful and grow. In most cases once organizations reach a certain size the desire to not loose what they have out weighs the desire for growth. So regulations go into place to protect the company and they become ‘No’ machines. Exceptions to the rule – Apple & Google.
Let me say that I’m not advocating that employees go out and violate all company policies. Some policies are needed and should be followed. But growth and innovation occur when individuals are willing to bump up against rules that just don’t make sense.
Think Outside The Box Like These People
Off the top of my head here’s a short list ambassadors of innovation and change that went beyond ‘thinking’ out the box to ‘doing’ outside the box.
- The original settlers of the United States of America
- Benjamin Franklin
- John F Kennedy
- Robert Kennedy
- Princess Diana
- Jackie Robinson
- Steve Jobs
Don’t be afraid to ever think outside the box.