Data Privacy as Growth Opportunity?  Absolutely!

John Horace is a business growth guy. The metric could be revenue, retention or agency value – as long as the numbers are increasing, he has some swagger.

John is the sales & marketing leader at a mid-size professional services agency, focused on delivering new growth opportunities.

He typically has no interest in regulations or compliance discussions that affect his agency. If you want to see his face contort, start going into depth on compliance or regulatory topics. However, he does pay attention to factors that may impact his prospects and clients. If there is potential opportunity in the regulatory mix, he does pay attention. John is always looking for an opportunity to add value for prospects and clients and differentiate from competition.

John is aware that the data privacy regulatory dominos have been falling, first with the European GDPR in 2018, then the California initiatives, the Virginia Consumer Data Protection Act of 2021 (CDPA) which is effective on January 1, 2023, and the Colorado Privacy Act. Now it appears Utah will be the fourth state with a comprehensive data privacy regulation. More States are working through the process.

However, John focuses his attention on the “so what?”; the implications of these regulations for marketing and sales rather than the details of the regulations themselves. The potential opportunity, not the obligation.

As John evaluates it, he realizes that while the regulations may never apply directly to his agency, the external reality for his business will likely change as consumers, competitors and businesses respond to the regulations. This realization made John consider how customer and consumer expectations would evolve and how his competition may pivot due to privacy regulations.

While regulatory risk to the agency is not likely, John acknowledged that reputation risk could potentially be significant. There are many examples of this from the cyber security world. He wondered about the impact on hard-earned trust and loyalty if they do not handle data in a responsible and transparent way.

John did not want to think about the potential impact a data privacy event may have on agency valuation, since value is typically a function of cash flows and risk.

John’s thoughts shifted to his prospects and clients. Some of the larger clients may have obligations under the privacy regulations. For others, data privacy may be a reputation risk exposure that they are not even thinking about yet. As John considered the potential impact on prospects and clients, he noticed an article about data privacy that a colleague had forwarded. The article attempts to simplify data privacy by highlighting that the various privacy regulations are based on a basic set of individual rights and organizational responsibilities that must be observed.

John didn’t see any confusing technical stuff in the article. It all seemed pretty clear – things like providing notice, obtaining consent, and consumer choice. As he reviewed the article, John started to feel like most of this privacy stuff was relatively easy to understand, and potentially something about which the agency sales team could use for meaningful risk management discussions with clients and prospects.

The article included an attachment named “Data Privacy Canvas – Opportunity or Obligation?”

The Data Privacy Canvas is a one-page summary of basic questions, practices, regulations, and approaches to data privacy. John appreciated how it provided an easy structure for data privacy risk management discussions with clients and prospects and provided a “cheat sheet”.

Please click here to download a copy of the Data Privacy Canvas

John reviewed each of the twelve blocks on the Data Privacy Canvas. There were several terms he didn’t recognize, but most of it was at a level that every member of his agency team could relate to. He began to consider how to use the Canvas for prospect and client discussions.

Encouraged at the prospect of finding a timely topic with the potential to add value for prospects and clients and differentiate his agency from competitors, John started to think of data privacy regulations in a new way – as an opportunity rather than an obligation.

New Questions to Consider

  • In what ways will consumer expectations be changed by what is going on with data privacy, and how might that impact prospects and clients of your agency?
  • In what ways may existing agency competitors change their approach because of the data privacy regulations, and how could that affect your agency?
  • Is this an approach that can position your team to add value for clients and prospects, and differentiate from the competition?

Actions to Take

  • Use the Data Privacy Canvas to review what data you have and how it is being managed, shared and stored.
  • Review the Privacy Policy currently available on your website. What does it tell you about your agency? Is it written in a legal or marketing voice?
  • Review the privacy notices located on the websites of your top five prospects, top five clients and top five competitors. Discuss the findings among the agency leadership team.

David Dillon is the owner of Watney Insights Network, Inc. He has observed that successful executives and business leaders are typically great at what they do, but when confronted with new business challenges like driving growth or team health & culture they usually find they have limited support available, so they settle for the status quo or struggle alone and often fail.

Watney Insights Network helps guide them to rise above their challenges with proven solutions, and the tools, process & support they need to achieve success and fulfillment, so they can thrive.

To learn more visit or contact David at 703.785.9440 or

Data Privacy As An Emerging Growth Opportunity? Let’s Talk Turkey

Add Value By Discussing Data Privacy: It’s As Easy As Serving A Big Holiday Meal

The morning after a big holiday celebration is usually one of John Horace’s favorite times to think.

Really think.

The holidays require lots of planning, errands, and effort. The celebration is great, but it takes work. That’s why he always found the next morning so good for thinking. Kitchen gadgets are put away, serving dishes are back in the cupboard, leftovers are secure in various containers, and there is a brief calm before the next big holiday season gets going. With a fresh cup of quality dark roast, he made his way to his home office.

John is the Sales & Marketing leader at a mid-size professional services agency, focused on and passionate about new growth opportunities. His industry has been relatively strong, but the year 2020 has been extremely challenging for the team. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced them to learn new skills to be effective in virtual meetings and sales calls, and they’ve endured significant uncertainty both personally and professionally. The new year will be welcomed by many.

To keep the team’s focus on hitting their year-end numbers, John has scheduled a sales and marketing meeting for the following Tuesday. He fired up his laptop to make out a list of agenda items:

  • Finishing the year strong
  • Gratitude for strong efforts in a tough environment
  • Adding value for clients and prospects
  • Differentiating from competition
  • Emerging growth topics

After typing that last one, he minimized the window and opened the folder labeled “Growth Topics” to review the files he’d been accumulating. Topics make into this folder only if John thinks they may create a growth opportunity in the market or present a commercial risk. He always looks for the “so what?” of an issue before deciding to discuss them with the client-facing team.

Catching his attention right away was an initiative from the recent election. California ballot initiative Proposition 24 passed, approving the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA). The Golden State already has the country’s toughest data privacy regulation in the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA), which became effective in 2020. This new ballot approval will make that data privacy regulation even tougher when it takes effect in 2023.

John started to consider the “so what?” of this recent development. Since California is such a lucrative market and sets the highest data privacy standard in the U.S., many firms have already invested to comply with the CCPA. They choose to avoid complexity by having one data privacy approach based on the toughest regulation, and that is California’s.

John wondered which of his larger agency competitors would follow this approach as well.

He also wondered how consumer expectations may change as major companies in numerous industries base their data privacy strategy on the CCPA and, soon, the effects of the CPRA.

He would have to demonstrate to the team that risk from data privacy wasn’t a scary subject, but something they can confidently discuss with customers and prospects. But how?

That’s when John thought back to the delicious holiday meal he’d enjoyed the previous evening – and the process required to make it happen.

You Can Understand Data Privacy Risk – And So Can Your Clients

While the topic of data privacy is certainly a potential emerging risk area that should be on the radar of the agency’s commercial customers and prospects, John questioned whether his team would be able to use privacy to add value for clients and differentiate from competition. He winced when he thought about the blank looks he gets from his team whenever a similar topic – that of cybersecurity as a risk factor – is brought up.

Many sales producers lack the confidence to discuss cybersecurity risk with clients. They perceive it to be technical and confusing. Too often, the subject is not brought up in conversations with clients, when it really should.

Is data privacy destined to fall into the same trap?

John made a note to consider this reluctance as a potential constraint before next week’s sales and marketing meeting.

As John continued reviewing the Growth Topics folder, he noticed an article about data privacy that a member of his trade association had sent to him. The article attempts to demystify data privacy by highlighting that the CCPA and CPRA basically define a set of individual rights and organizational responsibilities that must be observed.

John didn’t see any confusing technical stuff. It all seemed pretty basic – things like providing notice, obtaining consent, consumer choice. As he reviewed the article, John started to feel like most of this privacy stuff was relatively easy to understand, and potentially something about which the team could have meaningful discussions with clients and prospects.

If only he could make them see that data privacy wasn’t as scary as the dreaded “cybersecurity” topic – and that it was actually a tremendous sales opportunity.

John did have to review one sentence from the article several times. “You can have security without privacy, but not privacy without security,” it said. He needed to give that one some thought before mentioning it to the team, but he understood it to mean that data privacy is a company policy or approach, while data security is one aspect of it: the protection of the data.

The Data Privacy Canvas: All The Key Points On One Page

The article included an attachment entitled “Data Privacy Canvas – Threat Or Opportunity?” John was a fan of the various “canvas” tools from Strategyzer, so he took a look.

The Data Privacy Canvas is a one-page summary of basic questions, practices, regulations, and approaches to data privacy. John liked how it provided structure for a substantial discussion about risk management with clients and prospects.

John reviewed each of the twelve blocks on the Data Privacy Canvas. There were several terms he didn’t understand, but most of it was at a level that every member of his team could understand – especially with the built-in “cheat sheet” on the back to prompt discussion.

John noticed that only one of the twelve blocks on the Canvas was for security. “How is Data Protected, Destroyed / Disposed?” He shook his head at the realization that before today he thought privacy and security were basically the same thing. They are related, but different.

Encouraged at the prospect of finding a new growth topic with the potential to add value and differentiate his team from competing agencies, John went to refill his dark roast.

Back in the kitchen preparing his coffee, John started to think about how to introduce the topic to his client-facing team. The lessons of cybersecurity risk would be the elephant in the room, so nothing technical, nothing confusing. He had to think of some analogy everyone could relate to.

How Data Privacy Is Like A Holiday Meal

As his mind was working on that challenge, John decided to raid the fridge for a quick snack. After all that work planning, shopping, preparing, cooking, and serving the meal, it was always sad to see the big feast’s leftovers stored unceremoniously in plastic.

An elegant meal one day, basic leftovers the next.

John likes to cook – and he really likes to cook those big holiday meals. He reviews recipes from his personal files, The Food Network, and the latest issues of Bon Appetit and Food & Wine, then he devises a plan. John makes out the shopping list, does the shopping and plans out every aspect of the meal. He loves doing it.

Thinking about his preparations for this latest holiday meal sparked an idea. Forget the leftover snack. Time to return to the laptop.

 John pulled the Data Privacy Canvas up on the screen. As he looked again at the twelve boxes containing a series of questions, he considered his holiday meal preparations.

He noticed a similar pattern between preparing the big meal and identifying a data privacy approach. Not perfect, but a way to think about it in a way he and others could relate to it. A way to build understanding that leads to confidence.

Not yet convinced, John printed out the blank canvas. He would definitely have to make a few tweaks, but it might just work.

With a plan now in mind, John returned to the kitchen to get a fresh coffee and a sliver of his favorite pie – just to tide him over until the post-holiday leftover lunch, another Horace family tradition.

To guide his thinking and help develop his level of understanding, John created a table with the questions listed for each box of the Data Privacy Canvas, the key clues from the cheat sheet intended to facilitate a discussion, and the high-level example from preparing the holiday meal.

Privacy Canvas BoxKey Clues for DiscussionHoliday Meal Example
Fair Information Privacy PracticesGuidelines for handling, storing and managing data; Individual rights (e.g. notice, choice & consent), Controls on data, data lifecycleThe overall plan to source, process, prepare and serve a great meal in a safe way so nobody gets sick
Privacy Policies, Notices & DisclosuresInternal approach and guidance on data practices, External noticesProvide transparency and information on ingredients used to avoid potential issues
What data do we collect?Type of data, purpose for collection, limitations on collectionShopping for meal ingredients
How do we use the data?Limited to the use specified, only collect what is neededProcess the ingredients and prepare per the recipes and plan
How does our data flow?Collection, storage, classification, segregation, use, sharing, disposalIngredients from grocery store to pantry and fridge to kitchen and meal to table
What data do we keep, where and for how long?Data inventory, classification access, quality & correctionStore in pantry or fridge for meal prep, mindful of safety dates
Risk ManagementReputation, brand, legal, operational, & investment riskFood safety, allergy and cooking risks
Clients, their customers and their expectationsChoice, access to data, user preferencesExpect traditional favorites prepared in safe but tasty way
Who do we share data with?Businesses that collect data are responsible for it, even if shared with other entitiesGuests and family, and combine with other ingredients to make new things like soup and leftover sandwiches
How is data protected and destroyed?Security principles, de-identificationSafe food handling practices and mindful of “use by” dates
Which internal teams are involved with data?Marketing, sales, IT, HR, compliance, operations, legalAll pitch in per the overall meal plan
Who is accountable?One individualMe
Applicable laws and regulationsFederal, State, Industry, and SectoralFood handling guidelines and stove / oven safety

John reviewed the table and understood that while the comparison wasn’t perfect, it could be helpful for stimulating discussion with his team. His objective was to have a conversation about an emerging risk in a way that made the topic approachable, understandable and maybe even fun.

Comfort leads to confidence. Confidence leads to meaningful conversations with clients and prospects. The team could be positioned to add value and differentiate. Together they would have to understand a few new terms, but the questions in the table’s first column provide great discussion fodder.

The more he thought about the analogy, the more enthused he became about how this particular Growth Topic had real merit.

As John’s family was beginning to gather for the traditional leftover lunch. he penciled in his ideas on the newly named “Holiday Meal Canvas.”

To help the team connect even more, he planned to review the Privacy Notices from his own agency’s website and those of a couple major clients after lunch. Since likely very few members of his team look at these notices, they’ll likely be surprised to see how much information needed for the Canvas is right there in a website’s Privacy Notice.

He made a note to himself that that’d be an effective pre-call planning exercise. Another confidence builder, another conversation starter.

Cooking Up Opportunity: Discussion Questions About Data Privacy Risk

Before shutting down the laptop for leftovers and family time, John listed some new questions for his team to consider;

  • In what ways will consumer expectations be changed by what is going on with data privacy, and how might that impact clients and prospects of his agency?
  • In what ways will existing competitors change their operations because of the CCPA and the new CPRA, and how will that affect John’s agency?
  • Will data privacy become “table stakes” for agency operations in the next year or two?
  • Given the challenges of selling technical topics like cybersecurity risk and cyber insurance, how can John position his team to get confident talking about data privacy and privacy risk with clients and prospects?
  • What is the level of confidence in reviewing a client’s privacy notice on their website, and using the Data Privacy Canvas, engage in a risk management conversation?
  • Is this an approach that can position the team to add value for clients and prospects, and differentiate from the competition?
  • Since privacy and security are related but different, could the team use the client discussions about data privacy to get more confident about discussing cybersecurity?
  • The “product” we have available to sell for privacy risk is the team taking a consultative risk management approach. While this can add real value and help differentiate, John needs to help the sales producers see the bigger picture of how a consultative approach powers growth opportunity.

As the laptop powered down, John felt even more confident about a productive meeting the following Tuesday. He also felt like he had a fun answer to that inevitable question, “Hey, John, how’d your holiday meal turn out?”

“Well, funny you should ask. Let me share it with you.”

About the Author

David J. Dillon, MBA, is the owner of Watney Insights Network, Inc. and is passionate about helping businesses grow.

David believes everyone is capable of raising their game with the help of proven tools, process and support. Based on that belief, his “why” is to collaborate with others to solve big, meaty challenges so that together we “raise our game” to accomplish meaningful results for success and fulfillment.

He achieves this by combining extensive professional experience with world-class tools, process and support.  David’s approach is to teach, facilitate and coach.

His focus is helping independent insurance agencies thrive. This focus positions him to understand their urgent needs and compelling desires. Their “core cares”. He also helps professional service firms, service-based franchise owners, learning development professionals and others.

David’s interest in data privacy began while leading several high-growth software development innovations which generated a significant amount of personal data from users around the world. The data was protected and secure, but he faced frequent privacy challenges from internal business leaders that wanted to use the data for competitive advantage. That is when he learned the important lesson that privacy and security are related but different.

To learn more or start a conversation, please contact David by email at, visit his website or connect on LinkedIn here.

To download a copy of the Data Privacy Canvas or other resources please click here.

When It Comes To Your Big Goals, Get It In Writing

Get Your Important Goals in Writing

Country-music star Dierks Bentley has a hit that includes the lyrics: “I know what I was feeling, but what was I thinking?” (Emphasis mine.)

I can relate.

Between Christmas and New Year’s, my wife had to replace the workout facility and pool she used because her usual facility was being remodeled for most of 2019. She evaluated several locations, including a YMCA with a nice pool just a short walk from my office, which I also liked since it would be so convenient for me. She enrolled us both.

Not long after that, I started thinking of a personal goal. Our town has a one-mile lake swim every Memorial Day weekend. I had not trained seriously in the pool for 30 years, but with the swim five months away, I latched onto the idea of completing this swim.

New Year’s resolutions are not my thing, but I have been goal driven throughout my corporate career, and in my new role as a business coach, I now know goal achievement is a process. I printed out the one-page template “Seven Steps to Goal Achievement” based on the work of Brian Tracy. The template is consistent with SMART goal concepts (specific, measurable, aligned with your values, realistic, and time-bound).

Pick a goal and a deadline

The first two steps are to write down exactly what you want and pick a deadline. All the concepts of a SMART goal come into play here.

Being realistic was especially important for me. I had not trained in the pool for three decades, and I am a decent swimmer but am not fast in the water. Doing a mile in a lake in a pack of 350 other swimmers is also different than swimming a mile in a pool with a guiding line on the bottom and lane lines to divide the swimmers. No kicking each other, swimming over someone else’s back, or getting a big splash of water just when you turn your head for a breath.

So, my specific goal was simple — complete the one-mile lake swim in Lake Audubon on Sunday, May 26. I wrote that goal on my template and filled in the deadline.

Looking back now, “I know what I was feeling, but what was I thinking?”

This is where most attempts at goals stop, but here is where the work to transition from aspiration really begins in the goal-setting process.

List obstacles and habits

The next step on the template is to list the obstacles in the way of achieving the goal and the habits that need to be developed or changed. These obstacles and habits are why most folks do not achieve their goals, so the time spent identifying and making a plan to deal with them has a huge payback. Some of my obstacles are doozies!

In addition to the usual challenges of scheduling training, limited lap-swimming hours at the pool, and getting into a routine, I wrote three major obstacles on the template:

  1. I did a triathlon 30 years ago, and the mass start to the one-mile lake swim leg was very intimidating. I need to anticipate and mentally prepare for a similar challenge without the anxiety that could deplete my energy.
  2. While living in Brazil, I got caught in a rip current; despite swimming as hard as I could, I was pulled backwards out to sea. Fortunately, I knew what to do and made it back to the beach safely. However, a young man drowned in the same spot the next day, and we found out later that over 30 people had drowned in the same spot that year. While Lake Audubon doesn’t have currents, I need to manage the lingering open-water anxiety from that memory.
  3. An accomplished swimmer died during this race last year. This is a bigger obstacle for my wife than for me, but it is a fact I need to confront.

Develop new skills

The next section of the template is for listing the skills required. First, I needed to put in the miles in the pool and exercise overall, but it was also essential that I mentally deal with the obstacles. In addition, I needed to learn to stay on course without lane lines and a guiding line so that I don’t swim any more than the one-mile distance of the course.

The skill I noted as most important was to be realistic in my training. This is where the specific goal of completing the swim was helpful. We have been around talented swimmers, including our daughter, who was team captain at Vanderbilt University and held the school record in the 200-meter breaststroke, and our son, who also held a school record and made the NCAA meet his final two years at University of North Carolina. At their respective meets, we saw high-level skill.

But that was their competition. For me, this Memorial Day swim is not a race or for time. “Be realistic,” I wrote on my template.

List the people involved in the goal

Identifying the people required was the quickest but most important step in the process. My wife had to support my goal, especially given the fatality in the 2018 swim. There would be sacrifices as I worked to get the miles in. But sharing the goal with her got me more committed.

I also had to work out a schedule with my boss (in my case, me) so that I could achieve this goal without taking my eyes off building my new business.

Writing down each step on the template helped me become truly committed to achieving the goal. By addressing the obstacles and writing the action plan, I could see clearly what I needed to start — and stop — doing. As my commitment increased, my accountability did as well. In my written plan, I saw the path to dealing with the obstacles, developing the skills required, and acting toward goal achievement.

Take action

The final stage of the goal-achievement template is to act by doing something every day towards the goal. This is where reality sets in.

Accomplishing big stuff is hard work, and it is easy to give in to the obstacles. Brian Tracy’s secret weapon of writing a goal almost daily helps with moving toward that goal. Less than 5% of adults in the U.S. have written goals, and only a small percentage of them write their goals daily, so it is easy to see why so few people achieve them.

Back in late December, I had a feeling of what I would like to accomplish, based on my enthusiasm for the new year and my related ambitions. That feeling can be fleeting when reality hits. Thinking through the goal-achievement template and building my commitment made achieving my goal more doable. My written action plan drove my activity, which developed new habits.

Would I be prepared to complete the lake swim if I had not thought through the template steps and written my goal daily? No way! My plans for Memorial Day weekend would be very different.

When it comes to goal achievement, perhaps a slight tweak to Dierks Bentley’s lyrics is in order: “I know what I was feeling, but what I was thinking (and writing) led to the doing!”

The Dominoes Continue: A Growth-Focused Business Leader Anticipates What’s Next After the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018

Please, anything but regulations. John wished the “figure it out” part of his brain could be focused on more energizing stuff like:

  • Commercializing new products and services
  • Strategies to increase their share of customer wallet
  • Customer-specific sales strategies
  • Options to add value and differentiate from competition
  • Or really just about any topic other than anticipating how his external market reality will change due to information privacy regulations

Threat or Opportunity? Do Upcoming Changes in Your External Market Position You to Raise Your Game?

As John settled into his seat on the regional train out of D.C.’s Union Station he checked off the items on his mental checklist:

  • Power cord plugged into the outlet?
  • Headphones?
  • S’well bottle of water within arm’s reach?
  • On the Amtrak Wi-Fi?
  • Files and reading materials on next seat to discourage folks boarding at later stops from sitting there?
  • iPad?
  • Jotter and pen handy?
  • All set…

The Next Privacy Domino: A Revenue-Focused Leader Contemplates the Impact of the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018

The cabin door was now closed. This is always his favorite time for deep thinking about the big things on his plate. From now until they reach ten thousand feet and the laptop comes out he needs to make some real progress on the date that has been on his mind for weeks – 1/1/2020.