From an accounting point of view, the distinction between the assets and liabilities is simple: Assets are the items you or your company owns that can provide future economic benefit.
Liabilities are what you owe other parties. Assets make you money, liabilities cost you money!
But when it comes to your brand and your product or service, the distinction is less clear.
When I present to corporate conferences, I often talk to my audiences about turning their liabilities into assets. Because it’s so important, I often don’t explain to my audiences how they can do it.
Why? Because I want them to have skin in the game. I want them to go out on a limb, raise their hands, and ask how it should be done.
By the time we get to Q&A, most of my audience has heard that they need to make their scars their stars more than once, but they don’t know how. So, when the first person asks the question, everyone in the room pays attention.
That’s when I know some real learning can take place.
And that’s when I tell this little story:
“When this presentation is over and you leave the room, you’re going to be handed a yellow sheet of paper. It’s the speaker evaluation form the organizer wants you to fill out. You’ll get to evaluate how well I did up here on the stage and how much value you got from my presentation. The form will ask questions like, “On a scale of 1 – 10, how did the speaker meet your expectations?” And, “Was the subject matter appropriate to your business?” And maybe, “How well did the speaker explain the concepts they discussed?”
Below those questions there is usually a box where you write what you thought of the presentation in your own words.
Obviously, I’ve read a lot of these forms. And I generally find that most people say the same thing: In the comment box they use the same two words to describe my presentation: “Energetic” and “Enthusiastic.”
That makes sense, of course. I am energetic and enthusiastic. It’s who I am. It’s my gift. It’s my asset. But it’s also my liability.
You see, being “Energetic” and “Enthusiastic” might be a great way to enchant an audience today. But it was a bit different when I was 12-years old. Back then, my audience also filled out a form that rated my performance. The audience was made up of my elementary school teachers. The evaluation was my report card.
Back then I also got pretty good grades for my presentation and content, As and Bs mostly. But down in the section where the teachers could fill in their description of my performance, they would write something like: “Bruce is a very good student. If only he could talk less, draw fewer pictures, sit still, and pay more attention he would do much better in class.”
Today we know that my behavior would probably have been diagnosed as some sort of attention deficit. But back then being “energetic and enthusiastic” didn’t work so well for me. It works really well for me today. Why?
Because I made my scar my star.
3M did it when they turned a glue with weak adhesive properties into Post-It Notes.
Avis did it when they applauded their also-ran status with the line, “We’re number two. We try harder.”
And Colonel Sanders did it when he promoted extra greasy fried chicken with the line: “Kentucky Fried Chicken. It’s finger-lickin’ good!”