Are you like Madonna or Willie Nelson?

I think it’s fitting to start a blog post about Madonna and Willie Nelson by telling you a short story about my departed Grandfather. He would be 102 years old today. His wife, my Grandmother Lois, is still alive and turns 101 this January. I spent my summer’s working on a cattle ranch for my Grandfather- and he was constantly teaching me. He would tell me which plants were edible, how to move cattle and most importantly- proper dinner table manners.

“I’ll have the butter please,” my Grandpa said to me.

“Here it is,” I said as I quickly handed it to him.

“Now Adrian, good manners is not just about passing things when they are asked for, and saying ‘please’ and ‘thank-you.’ Having good manners means anticipating what people will need BEFORE they ask for it. When you see someone breaking their bread, go ahead and pass them the butter. If they don’t have anything to drink, offer to poor them some water.”

Anticipation is a powerful tool both for dinner-table manners and for business. Now on to the rock stars.

Madonna doesn’t have to anticipate. She is a pop-icon that is always recreating herself. She has such talent and charisma that whatever she chooses to be or however she choose to re-invent herself, people adore her for it. Or think about a production company like Pixar. Everything they create is solid gold, so they have the luxury to create from nothing something fantastic in every one of their productions. Unless you have CRAZY talent, you may not be able to be like Madonna.  You may need to learn the art of anticipation.

Willie Nelson didn’t have crazy talent. At least not in the way Madonna did. Willie Nelson was an extremely talented song writer.  He wrote big hits like “Crazy” for Patsy Cline.  The problem was, he didn’t want to write, he wanted to sing- but none of the major record labels would sign him.  They said he didn’t have the singing voice to be a star.  Instead of trying to force it, he changed tactics.  Willie noticed a movement in country music towards a little rougher cowboy.  Call this the “Harley Davidson Movement.”  He saw this growing trend, and he realized that it was going to be big.  Maybe even bigger than country itself at the time, so instead of trying to create the new trend- he decided to ride the wave by writing music to resonate with this new growing market.  He anticipated their needs before they knew they had them, and not only did he land a huge record deal and propel his career to stardom- he even got to sing and play the music his way.

How can you possibly anticipate the next big trend? How about anticipating the needs your clients will have next?  Do you need to read their minds, or shuffle through their garbage? No, but I would recommend you start by listening to them.  You need to be tuned it.  Talk to them.  Ask them what is keeping them up at night.  If one client calls with a new concern, chances are there will be other clients with similar concerns.  Find out from the source. It’s not the only way, but it gives you the best chance of success.  Madonna’s are one-in-a-million but new smart business people that are able to anticipate are springing up everyday.

Anybody can learn to anticipate, but for starters take a lesson from my Grandfather, and pass me the butter.

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