Nancy Lublin - Zilch: The Power of Zero in Business

Nancy wrote a book where she is sharing her lessons learned as not-for-profit leader. The book is organized in 11 chapters with 11 questions after each one. Questions! \o/

  • Ten is never enough. Everyone else shoots for "one to ten". In the not-for-profit world, we start with zero and deliver an eleven. --6
  • This concept of starting with "nothing" may be the most wild idea in the book. Zilch can make you go, Huh? --210

Here is the list of chapters:

  1. Do More with Less Cash to Throw at People
  2. Do More with Your Brand
  3. Do More with Your External People
  4. Do More by Asking Smart
  5. Do More for Customers
  6. Do More with Your Board
  7. Do More with Your Staff
  8. Do More with Your Story
  9. Do More with Your Finances
  10. Do More by Bartering with Zero
  11. Do More with Innovation

So what is so interesting about not-for-profits? It's their success how they manage to get and keep the people, run the organization without having the strongest argument that business uses all the time => loads of money.

  • They're [companies] shortchanging their people and their productivity by believing (and behaving as if) money is everyone's primary driver. --9
  • People will do more work for less money if they work at place with clear, lofty purpose. --14

The big secret is that there are more important things in life then money. :-) The other secret is that having too much of __place_holder__ is as unhealthy as being in need of __place_holder__... Put anything into the __place_holder__ like - money, kilograms, problems, etc. So what can Donald Trump learn from Nancy Lublin?

  • I'm not bored. We've got plenty of problems to solve in the world, a sense of urgency to do it, and a lack of funds to do it with. For some people, this combination would be a killer - frustrating or impossible or boring, to use Donald Trump's word. But for people like me, it's the opposite of boring. In fact, it's a cocktail that drives creativity and fresh ideas. --213

Would it matter for him? Donald and Nancy are living in two different non-overlapping worlds. One world where it's possible to buy anything and (nearly) anyone and the other one where it's a day-to-day fight for survival in the name of doing something that really matters.

  • They looked at me, silently, as if I had three eyes and six arms and were the firstborn spawn of being from another planet. Who is this weird creature? What language is she speaking? How did she get pass security? --2

I've enjoyed the sense for reality that Nancy uses to write. Like:

  • We tend to gravitate to people who are like us, not just race and age but in so many other ways, from schooling to career to club affiliations. --120
  • I figured his knack for perseverance might make him a good fund-raiser, so we tried him at corporate cause marketing. He turned out to be a lousy salesperson. He had a high IQ, but he wasn't a relationship-driven type of guy. He didn't suffer fools easily. --140
  • And political realities that everyone is aware of mean that it's the people with the best connections who get their ideas into play, not the ones with the most creative concepts or the most compelling and forward-looking notions. --215

And here are some more interesting citations from the book:

  • In fact, while altruism may be the bait that attracts not-for-profit employees, being part of something big is the hook that retains them. --12
  • When was the last time you thanked them for something big or small that they accomplished, asked, or suggested? --31
  • Simple doesn't necessarily mean small. In fact, simplicity can be a terrific precursor for scale. --36
  • The trick is to be able to use one or more of the following terms to describe your organization: first, only, faster, better, cheaper. I call these "The Five." (Why? Because giving it a name - even a dumb name like The Five - makes it far easier to remember than there are five key words.) So long as you can pin yourself to one of these words, you've found a niche. --38
  • A brand has to stand for something, and that something shouldn't be changing constantly. That's how you build the right set of consumer expectations, and that's how you cultivate loyalty. --42
  • It's worth sitting down and putting on paper exactly what your simple, unique, consistent, relevant brand is. Please don't call it a mission statement. --45
  • It is impossible to convince a friend to try a product or visit a website or donate money if in the same breath you are unable to explain, concisely and memorably, why they should bother and why they ought to care. --60
  • Why does this person care about what we're doing?
    What does he need from us?
    How can we best meet his specific requirements?
  • It's very easy ... to say no to one direct ask. But when presented with multiple options, people usually pick one. --84
  • Don't take an answer for an answer.
    Sometimes the most important thing I have to say is nothing at all. If you want your audience to feel something, you've got to give them the time to think. Let them fill the hole in the air with their own voice. Let them try to tell you that no, they really don't want to help you. --89
  • If I had to choose between a passionless Ivy League grad with ten years of experience and great skills and high-school dropout with less experience and skills but an abundance of enthusiasm, I'd take David over Goliath every time. --139
  • If a bear plants a flower in the woods, he ought to pick it and bring it into the city with him so other people can smell it too. --151
  • Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. --166
  • We're capable of stretching, moving, leaping, changing our minds, and so on. Those bendy people are pushing the buttons and signing the contracts and making the handshakes at every company in the world. We're people, not robots. We're capable of negotiation. --198
  • You know the old adage about if life gives you lemons, make lemonade? --204
  • Want to exercise your brain? Throwing money at a problem is just like getting liposuction. It's expensive, it might require anesthetizing other parts of the organization, and the results don't last. --228
  • Since innovation inherently involves risk, people need to be confident enough to ask questions and try something new. --230
  • The best time to start thinking about new ideas and innovations was yesterday. The second-best is now. --231