The 5 Ps of professional happiness

A recent survey listed lawyers (specifically associates) as the unhappiest occupation in America. This isn’t a huge surprise. I know about a kajillion lawyers (which is one followed by a wad of zeroes, or ten to the wad), and way too many of them are fairly unhappy with their profession. When I stopped practicing (escaped?) two years ago, many of my colleagues gave me that look you saw as a kid when you told your friends that you’re going to Disney World — you know, that wistful, pleading look that says, “Take me with you. Please?”

In this short talk (just six minutes) at the LexThink Conference in Chicago, I explain why unhappiness abounds in the legal world. Then I give five simple steps for fixing it. And this advice doesn’t just apply to lawyers; any professional or creative person can use them to find happiness at work. So take six minutes and watch. See if it can help you find your own professional happiness.

Don’t do what you’re good at

Here’s a short (19:47) video of a talk I gave recently at Super Conference II in Boston. In it, I warned over a hundred lawyers that the advice that they’ve been given — “Do what you’re good at” — is actually bad advice. Instead, they should find their outstandingness. (Yes, I know: that’s not in your dictionary. Well maybe your dictionary is broken. Or quite possibly, I made it up. Either way, you already know what it means.)

By the way, even though I was addressing lawyers, this advice holds for anyone in business.

Thanks to the Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program and the Massachusetts Bar Association for hosting the conference and providing the video.

Bad advice from Harvard Business Review

Author Rafi Mohammed advises JCPenney to dump what he calls its “risky” pricing strategy:

The best retailers succeed by offering highly differentiated products (as the Apple Store does) or a unique shopping experience (as Nordstrom or Target does). Today, J.C. Penney sells semi-differentiated products and provides a ho-hum shopping experience — it doesn’t have much “mojo” to draw customers into its stores. So what’s the only lever that can excite and bring in customers to make often discretionary purchases? Discounts…

I believe that even if customers fully understand its pricing strategy, J.C. Penney is not going to get the revenue/loyalty windfall that it is hoping for. It’s time to put pride aside and revert back to a discounting strategy.

Mohammed is a very smart guy and he’s written a couple of good pricing books: The 1% Windfall and The Art of Pricing (both affiliate links). But I don’t care for his advice that JCPenney should surrender and return to the brainless approach of discounting. When you rely on discounts, you send a message to customers that your stuff isn’t worth as much as you originally said it was. This is true whether you’re a midmarket retailer, a car company, or a law firm. Discounting belies a lack of creativity.

In fact, Penney’s path to success lies in something Mohammed said above. Since it’s not likely to start selling highly differentiated products like Apple, its best option is to create a unique shopping experience. It needs to figure out what “JCPenney” is supposed to stand for. In other words, something better and more interesting than “also-ran department store.” (And a name change might be necessary, too.)

No one is going to ever say, “Hey, let’s go to JCPenney because they have a new pricing strategy.” Ever.

Saatchi: Brutal Simplicity of Thought

Kind of a neat thing. The advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi has launched a short web book devoted to simplicity. It contains a few short entries chronicling simple solutions to age-old problems, such as barbed wire and traffic lights. From its introduction:

It’s easier to complicate than to simplify.
Simple ideas enter the brain quicker and stay there longer.
Brutal simplicity of thought is therefore a painful necessity.

I like the sentiment. I also like that they then invite readers to contribute their own short entries. And they don’t overdo the advertising for the firm, which is surprising, since that’s sort of their thing. In fact, there’s no way to navigate to Saatchi’s main website. But as a tribute to the power of simplicity, it’s a nice one.

(Thanks to HR Examiner’s Heather Bussing for the heads-up on this.)

Kudos to JCPenney for simplifying its pricing

Can new JCPenney CEO Ron Johnson turn around the fortunes of the ailing department store? He certainly hasn’t wasted any time making changes. The former head of Apple’s retail arm recently announced that Penney was radically restructuring its pricing strategy to make it simpler and less dependent on discounts:

“The customer knows the right price,” Johnson said. “To think you can fool a customer is kind of crazy.”

In the past, only 0.2 percent of sales came from full price items and Penney’s 590 unique promotions a year were confusing and failed to draw shoppers, he said.

Discounts are almost always a bad idea, as it makes it impossible for customers to discover the value of what you’re selling. And complexity in pricing inevitably frustrates customers, and sends them to your competitors. It will be interesting to see if these changes are in time to save JCPenney.

Why choices hurt profitability

Great piece from Andrew Kim at Minimally Minimal from a few months ago on how market share is a misleading metric, and not nearly as important as profitability. Tech pundits are often talking about how Android dominates the smartphone market compared to iOS. But Apple makes far more profit than any other smartphone maker. One likely reason is the bewildering array of choices that Android manufacturers offer compared to just four types of iPhone. Look at Kim’s graphic showing Samsung’s complete smartphone line compared to Apple’s. He sums it up brilliantly:

I truly feel that a simple, focused and powerful product line is what’s not only better for the company but also consumers. Seriously, if you had to buy a Samsung phone, which would you buy?

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