Francis Wade, Sunday Business COLUMNIST
People often ask me: 'In your next column, why don't you write something about ... ?'
I always listen carefully and sometimes get inspired. But more often than not, I encourage them to do the unthinkable: write their own articles to submit to The Gleaner's business editor.
The looks I get in return tell me I'm the crazy one.
I disagree. If you are bright enough to think up an idea for a newspaper column, you have more than enough brainpower to turn that idea into a finished product.
You should consider writing an article for many good reasons, but perhaps the most important is the effect you'll have on other Jamaican companies.
For the most part, those companies are not led by the rapacious, selfish competitors that typify the worst of the business world.
Instead, they care about Jamaica and the plight of our firms as they struggle to stay alive during the recession. Sharing your ideas in an article may seem like 'feeding the enemy', but if you read my column regularly, I imagine that you can make it about something else: serving your country.
If, like many managers, you are more comfortable giving speeches, remember that a 750-word article on the Internet has more lasting power than an unrecorded speech. It makes a bigger difference because the Internet makes your contribution globally available within seconds. It's not hard - if you have made up your mind to try, here's an easy step-by-step process to use.
Step 1: Collect ideas.
Following the examples of Warren Buffett and Sir Richard Branson, be a persistent collector of business insights. Write down or capture every business idea, no matter how half-baked.
Research shows that this will let your mind relax, knowing it doesn't have to remember the idea for later. When it is relaxed, it is free to come up with new, better ideas.
Step 2: Take the idea most interesting to you, and start writing without censoring yourself for grammar, spelling or style.
Let things flow on to paper and trust that they'll be sorted out later. As you write, expect your ideas to form themselves into logical sequences as you work through them. That is natural. Set your first draft aside.
Step 3: A day or two later, redraft.
Try to read your article as if you're not an expert on the subject. Does it make sense? Have you defined any words or ideas that an average reader might not have encountered?
Step 4: Pass it on.
When you feel that your article is in decent shape (but not perfect), find someone to edit it. Two other pairs of eyes help me with each column: my wife's and a professional editor's. You may not think you need one, but you are likely to be wrong on this count - very, very wrong.
Step 5: Humbly accept your editor's input.
Don't argue with them or fight: remember, you are writing an article to make a difference, not get an A in 6th grade English. Instead, include as many of their comments as possible, especially the ones you don't understand clearly. Look for sections you can clarify for greater impact.
Step 5: If necessary, share your article with your boss, business partners and customers you mention by name.
Don't surprise them by unintentionally exposing insider secrets that may damage the business.
Step 6: Send your article in to the business editor.
Important: Have a backup plan in case the paper decides not to publish it. Where else can the article be used? Who else would benefit from reading it?
If you see The Gleaner as an all-or-nothing bet, you'll discourage yourself from trying again.
Like many, my first articles to The Gleaner weren't accepted, but my list of ideas grew so large that I had to start a business blog and express them anyway. I still used the articles that were rejected. Also, a bunch of those early ideas made their way into later newspaper columns.
While the process above will help, remember why you are doing it to begin with. We Jamaicans need to share more practical business ideas from the minds of those who are trying to make profit day in, day out. Some of us learned to be effective in this tough environment, and we need to give away our ideas, trusting that as we do so, we will all benefit.
So if you meet me and like some of my columns enough to share a suggestion for a future topic, don't be too surprised if I encourage you to write your own. It's not a brush-off; it's a way for us all to benefit from having lots of business writers who share great ideas.
Francis Wade is president of Framework Consulting and author of 'Bill's Im-Perfect Time Management Adventure'. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.