Hi.  Have you ever heard of Bill Gates?  Of course you have.

Today I want to tell you a story about how Bill Gates made an impact on me … and he doesn’t even know he did it.

A few years ago … I was driving in the early hours of the morning …

It was about 5am and I was on my way to a conference that I was a guest speaker at. I had about a three and a half hour drive ahead of me. So at that hour of the morning, I was fiddling with the radio dial, trying to find a radio station to keep me company. Unfortunately, at that hour of the morning, I was either getting bad heavy rock … or weird talkback callers.

However, I stumbled across the BBC World service on the AM channel, and there was Bill Gates being interviewed. The thing about gates, it doesn’t matter whether he’s talking about software or malaria; he’s brilliant, and this interview was no exception.

This radio interview was about Microsoft being charged with anti competitive behaviour, by the Federal Government. And Gates was speaking about the case.

But he said something in the middle of the conversation that made me – a guy that’s always in a hurry – stop the car and write it down. And this is what he said:

“What the justice department don’t understand is, that if we don’t keep changing … improving … innovating … then we’ll go out of business.

At the time, that was the richest man in the world talking – and yet that was the level of challenge he had for his business.

“If we don’t keep changing …
if we don’t keep improving …
if we don’t keep innovating,
… then we’ll go out of business.”

I’ve been saying the same thing for a long time, albeit less successfully than Mr Gates. I like to say you have to be

  • 20% better every year … just to stay the same
  • 20% better every year … maintain relationships with our customers / our people
  • 20% better every year … to meet the expectations of the people we interact with
  • 20% better every year … just to stay the same

So think about the last time you interacted with a person or a member of your team or a customer, or you gave a presentation, or when you last ran the sales meeting …

  • What sort of impression did you leave?
  • Was it enough to win the business?
  • Was it enough to get your people hanging out for the next session?
  • Or to leave the other party?
  • Or do you have more work to do?

You see, every time we meet someone – write a letter – give a presentation or negotiate a deal – we are setting or re-setting people’s expectations of us.

And if we do a good job, those people will talk about us … and In fact, as they tell others about us, whether we were good or bad, their natural reaction will be to overstate their experience.

So, if you did a great job, by the time you meet up next time, in their mind you were even better than you were when they last saw you in action. As a result, their expectations of you are even higher than you deserve. So, unless we are constantly better than we were last time, we are going to leave those people disappointed or at least underwhelmed.

So, look back over your recent activities; the things you’ve done, the meetings you’ve led, the sales pitches you’ve participated in, or the ideas you threw out on the table in the open forum. How did you go, and what did people think? And more importantly, what do you have to do next time to meet or beat the expectations of that group of people when you get together again.

And if your last effort wasn’t good enough, people probably aren’t expecting much of you next time around. So what are you going to do next time, that blows them away.

We’re all so busy, but there’s always plenty of opportunity to think about how you went last time, and what you can do to be better next time.

So, I urge you think about the words of Bill Gates. They really do apply to everyone.

“If we don’t keep changing … if we don’t keep improving … if we don’t keep innovating … then we really will go out of business.”

Thanks for watching.

Have a great week.