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Sunday, December 31, 2006

Hogmanay Post or New years Eve

A thought for the New year and a day of reflection.

I received a couple of comments on my previous post of the 28th and I do not have an answer for the crisis in Scottish Industry I do have a few comments to make on what I see as a route forward for Scotland. I will post on that next week. But for Today's post it will be short but I hope helpful for some, at this time of year where the last sands of the old year run away and the new sand of the coming year gets ready to start it's journey, I have a story to tell I found it in a book by Viktor Frankl, so it is not an original thought but it may help you to get your mind focused on whats really important for the future. We are Human because we are seen to be human in the eyes of others, if we did not interact with other Human beings who would there be to see our Humanity ?


A Son and his father are walking in the mountains, suddenly, the son falls , hurts himself and screams; "AAAhhhhhhhhhh!!!" To his surprise, he hears a voice repeating, somewhere in the mountains: "AAAhhhhhhh!!!" curious , he shouts out "Who are you ?" He receives the answer "Who are you" And then he shouts at the mountain "I admire you !" The voice answers "I admire you!" Angered at the response he shouts "Coward!" He receives the answer"Coward! "He look sto his father and asks whats going on? The father smiles and says:"My son pay attention" Again the man shouts "You are a champion!" The boy is surprised but does not understand. Then his father explains "People call this the echo, but really this is life. It gives you back everything you say or do, Our life is simply a reflection of our actions. If you want more love in the world create more love in your heart. If you want more competency in your team, improve your own competency. This relationship applies to everything, in all aspects of life,Life will give you back everything you have given to it. Your life is not a coincidence.Its a reflection of you!".
From Viktor Frankl "Finding meaning in life"

All the best for the new year friends and may you have a happy life.



Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Future of Industry in Scotland

A short rant on the future of Industry / Employment in Scotland

I have worked in Venture capital backed Industries for over 12 years and I have seen the impact on Industry in Scotland and North America. The thought model goes like this for most of the folks involved in starting companies...and I am not saying that it is a correct or wrong way of thinking

Get an Idea>Product>service
Get a few mates to work on it with you
Get some VC money
Prove your Idea
Get someone to buy you or in 5% of new companies go for an IPO
Cash out and retire-do it again - become an Angel Investor and spend your time listening to pitches from guys and gals looking to start there own company

Cycle time 3 to 7 years

To build a sustainable Industry base in Scotland this model is not going to work, Scottish Executive and Scottish Enterprise need to wake up and smell the coffee, there strategy will not build a sustainable industry base, it has been aligned with the VC mentality of quick in/ out and gone and if you don't meet the profile your done....they do a PV on you and pull the cash a year or to into the programme ( This sometimes needs to be done...but it's done as a last step not deriguer). The Venture Capital Industry has it's place in the overall scheme of things and an important one but it is the Government that is responsible to help build a sustainable industrial base and help give jobs to it's people as is the same in any country.

We need to get back to building good old fashioned companies the grow slowly and organically these can utilize the low cost manufacturing bases around the world or the same priced low cost service industries as an extension of themselves to bring there idea to the market, bringing in revenue and jobs, not in huge numbers as the Silicon industry did or the coal industry but in small clusters of high skilled enterprises.

I hope to see the Scottish Government get there act together, they have some good guys working for them but they need to get the correct mission, not cuass but build a better Scotland....

Would love to hear from some folks on this matter...

I hope you have a great new year...you are the only one that can make it so..



Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Between the "year end" and "year start"

Building a Great Team - Ten Easy Ways to Start

It's all about focusing on where the best value in using time lies. Who is the leader of the team and what is your best use of time? Getting to know your own value and appreciating where you add it best is a big, and very productive step.
So, to start at the beginning, here's how...

1/Do Less
One of the most important shifts for you is to appreciate that leading a team is about giving way and letting others get on with it.
2/Communicate Well
Keep in touch regularly. Keep your people informed and listen to them well. Ups and downs - if you do this, they will build their trust in you.
3/Be Interested in the People
By creating a great team remember that they are all individuals too - they are real people who have differing needs from you. Appreciating that differentiates you as an exceptional team leader. There is an I in team!
4/Choose Well
The best time to choose a team is at the start. If you tolerate poor team members it is much, much harder to fix. So choose well. Recruit well. It's the best form of Team Building you can use.
5/Learn Together
This is a concerted effort of co-operative learning - all together, including you - admit your shortfalls and they will support you. Support them and they will grow!
And as part of that learning, review progress regularly; appreciate if someone is struggling and encourage ways to learn and move on. Review the end result too Using what's been learned for the next project.
7/Be Open
As leader you have an important role to make sure that the job gets done. Yet you are allowed to be open with them - to share your concerns and fears. It is OK to be human and within that emotional bond, you will all become a stronger team.
8/Allow Failure
How you handle things when they do go wrong is a vital component in how your team will evolve and how you will evolve as a team leader. The outcome will be positive or more fear and doubt. As Charles Lindbergh said:-
"What kind of man would live where there is no daring. I don't believe in taking foolish chances, but nothing can be accomplished without taking any chance at all"
9/Have Fun
It's OK to have fun. A team leader walks a fine line between over-familiarity and easy business relationships. But it can be done - watch for signals and respond accordingly. At the same time enable laughter and joy. It is a strong bond.
10/Spread the Word
When the team work is over, or if key people move on, rejoice in what they take from the experience with you. Encourage them to use their experience of Team Building with their new people and do it for themselves.
Once you get on a roll and take all these on board, Team Building develops a self-sustaining momentum all of it's own...



Friday, December 22, 2006

Santa Clause's Rules for getting funding for your Start up

This is an article on where to go and how to go about getting funding for your Start Up, I hope you all have a great Christmas and I will see you class in the new year, take care and keep safe.

How to Get Investors for Your Startup Raise the money you need by proving to investors that you've done your homework and are willing to sacrifice.

I've been working with entrepreneurs now for close to 15 years, and throughout that time one thing hasn't changed: Only 5 percent of all entrepreneurs get funded. Can it be that only 5 percent of the ideas generated are good enough to succeed? Why is it that this "magic" number never seems to change?
I believe there are three fundamental reasons contributing to this impasse. Finding ways to address these issues could significantly improve the flow of viable, creative ideas in this country and have a dramatic impact on our economy.

1. The system for evaluating entrepreneurs is arbitrary and inefficient. When you think about it, the methodology investors employ to find and qualify a potentially viable entrepreneur places almost all the responsibility on the entrepreneur. Once they have an idea, they must take the initiative to package it and promote it all to potentially interested parties. There're two problems with that system:
It's the entrepreneur who decides what information gets presented, and
Everyone who receives this information must process it from a cold start.
To illustrate how ridiculous that system is, it would be the equivalent of you going into a bank to ask for a loan and instead of filling out their application form, you just created your own. How would the banking system operate if everyone made up their own application? What entrepreneurs need is a scoring system similar to the one Venture Alliance uses to determine if you're really ready to get in front of professional investors. It'll also help you find quality resources if you're not. What the system won't do is help you bridge the gap between having a need for capital and actually being ready for it. That part is up to you.

2. Entrepreneurs don't understand the difference between having a need for capital and being ready to ask for it. In a system where the entrepreneur chooses the application, it's not surprising that their timing for when to submit that application is often out of sync with the very investors they're trying to impress. Why? Because entrepreneurs are motivated to seek capital based on need, not readiness. What do I mean by that? Here's the difference. When an entrepreneur is driven by a strong sense of need, the message they send to an investor is one or more of the following:
I need you to bail me out of my bad management of the limited capital I had.
I'm unwilling to invest any more of my money, so I need yours.
I haven't been able to raise money from anyone else, so I need you to save me.
On the other hand, when an entrepreneur has "done their homework" and truly understands what it takes to run a business, the message they send is:
I'm ready for a partner to help me take this to the next level.
I have a handle on my product, my market and my customers, and I'm ready to accept an investment that'll help me grow.
I've researched the various sources of capital available to me and I'm ready to work with you because you're the best match.
Since most entrepreneurs are unwilling or unable to determine when they're truly ready, one goal of a good rating system should be to make that call.

3. Entrepreneurs often struggle over whether to fork over their own money vs. paying someone who won't deliver, leading to a freeze on progress and a slow painful death of their vision. Admittedly, the entrepreneurial industry is flush with charlatans just waiting to take advantage of a vulnerable entrepreneur. However, a far bigger problem is that many entrepreneurs with absolutely stellar ideas simply don't understand that building a business requires tons of sacrifice (including money), and they're just not willing to pay the price. So how do you deal with this conundrum? There are two ways to approach it:
From the investor's perspective: We'll always look for entrepreneurs who demonstrate to us their willingness to "put their money where their mouth is" and who clearly "have skin in the game." If we don't see indications that they believe in their vision enough to invest their own hard-earned cash, then we won't invest either.
From the entrepreneur's perspective: Don't hire anyone without checking their references thoroughly. Talk to previous clients. Be wary of "guarantees." Look for resources that'll take at least part of their reward based on the success of their service. That way, they know they must perform to get paid "the big bucks."

Running your business should be a lot like running your household--you know it's going to cost money and your resources aren't unlimited. So, be prudent on how you invest your limited capital, but realize that an investment is required. Have a plan and follow it as long as it's working. Be flexible, be tough and be open to new ideas. Not every thing will work as you planned.



Thursday, December 21, 2006

First Group's Darin Brumby on his turn around of the IT Dept.

First Group Darin Brumby

With revenues of over £3bn a year First Group is the UK's largest transport company, carrying almost three million bus passengers a day as well as operating many rail franchises. silicon.com chief reporter Andy McCue recently caught up with First Group CIO Darin Brumby who explained how he turned around a failing IT operation suffering from years of under-investment and talked about the role of technology and innovation in the future growth of the business.
Andy McCue:Darin, how important is technology to an organisation like First Group whose core business is running buses and trains?
Darin Brumby: I think on the face of it Andy you look at a company like First Group and you think there's not much technology to it. You know, it's just old buses and some new trains running around the country. The reality is that technology runs through First Group in the same way a circulatory system runs through our body. It's absolutely dependant on information flow back and forth from one end of the company to another.
AM: What was your biggest challenge when you joined First Group as CIO three and a half years ago?
DB: The challenges were widespread. We had a failing infrastructure, rising IT costs, low value perception inside the business. Were the systems enabling the staff out in the field to do their jobs? So I think if you looked at it from one end of the IT spectrum to the other we probably thought generally, and I agreed when I had a good look, that most things were broken in terms of business process, people and just the general information flow in the company. So we had an over-arching view that said it all has to change here, not just one part of the jigsaw puzzle.
AM: Was that down to a lack of alignment between business and IT strategy?
DB: I think for us it was saying 'what do we want to be valued for as an internal service-providing model'? We needed to change the whole model from cost centre proposition to value centre proposition. So we saw a transition, a transformation and that's where we started our strategic thinking from.
AM: So you've already managed to cut the IT budget for First Group from £42m to £37m within the space of about a year. How much more cost do you think you can take out of the IT budget and how will you achieve that?
DB: I think initially we saw some fairly classic cost reductions you know, some leverage of our current investment. We knew we could drag some money back to the bottom line. I think to answer your question that says 'where do we go from here' what I'm most pleased about is that we can now grow our business for a known cost. We can inject new franchises, we can buy more bus businesses, we can expand into Europe, we'll know exactly what our IT services should be costing us. We know exactly what we can plan to a five year period in the raw commodity areas of IT and that gives us a better investment portfolio for new ideas and innovations inside the organisation.
AM: You're at the beginning of a five-year plan to transform your entire IT operation. What are the key goals of this plan?
DB: The key goals are really flexibility and agility at the infrastructure layer, rationalise our business systems portfolio down to a very manageable single-bodied almost suite of applications we know would run our business succinctly over the next five to six years, to really get the information from the decision-takers back in ready access. Very convoluted systems architecture existed through the years of our growth without a clear strategy, so we plugged it in, we glued it together, we made it all work. Now we have to simplify some of that complexity. So it's really around the basics, get the fundamentals back - simplicity, ease of access, ubiquitous networks, more flexible working environments and make sure our systems are additive to our own goals of transforming travel in the UK.
AM: Is it all just about consolidation, streamlining, and cost-cutting or does innovation through technology have a role to play in giving you competitive edge over your rivals?
DB: Innovation's a big part for us. We're a small IT team so we've got to be very flexible, very agile and through our change programme and through those areas we've been able to siphon off some of the money we would always have spent on maintenance historically and now move that towards growth, productivity and innovation areas. So it's a 'more with less' strategy, you know it's re-distributing the IS investment rather than saying 'can I have more money'. There is enough funding around we've just got to spend it more wisely and get greater bang for the buck back.
AM: And how do you build that culture of innovation into your processes and your IT department and in fact is it just about the IT department?
DB: I think there's much more innovation in the transport sector to be extracted out not just within First Group but within the industry sector on a wider scale. And we're leading that path in some degree. We don't want to be at the bleeding edge but we certainly want to be pushing enough innovation in things like the future bus initiative, in CCTV technologies for safety on stations, to really making the whole customer experience of travelling on public transport once again more tasteful, more pleasant, and very safe, and the IT systems that underpin that are a strategic element of it.
AM: And finally, your future vision. What are the emerging technologies and trends that you see out there on the horizon that have the potential to have a big impact on your business and the wider transport industry?
DB: I see the UK as one big commuter country. You know, everyone's travelling for hours on public transport but it's not the most efficient use of their time. I think in the next three to five years we're going to see more internet on trains, we're going to see services really come back and make a splash to really differentiate some of the providers out there. But people are going to want more information - more information at the station, they're going to want to know if the services are on time, if they are going to be delayed, where the alternative solutions are going to be. I think we'll see ticketing on mobile phones being used more widely. I think we'll see people now carrying around a single device that's going to allow them to move in a sort of through-ticketing sense on multi-modal transport.

Some Ideas to help the entrepreneur to start well in 2007

Detox your business for 2007

For many people, the New Year is a period of promises and good intentions. Pledges are made to actually use that gym membership and start a rigorous detox regime. Philip Verity, a partner at international accountancy firm Mazars, suggests ten ways to get your business in top shape at the same time.

1. Get your own head together first – personal governance comes before corporate governance! Do fewer things, do them well and see them through.

2. As the owner of the business, is it working for you? Consider both your short and long term ambitions – what needs to happen in order for you to achieve them?

3. Take a step back and look at the business objectively. Do you have all the management information you would like to enable you to run the business effectively? Is it the right information?

4. Be brutal on costs – they will creep up. Assess your fixed costs (e.g. insurance, utilities, mobile phones, office equipment). Are you paying over the odds? Could you reduce costs by switching suppliers, re-negotiating contracts or cancelling those that are surplus to requirements? Can you reduce costs just by making processes simple?

5. Review employee skills to ensure there are no gaps in the business. Is a lack of skills or knowledge constraining the business? If so, consider strategic recruitment or training to fill the gap.

6. Update your business plan to ensure that it is timely and reflects the key areas of focus for the year. Bear in mind the adage ‘what gets measured gets done’ and set deadlines and targets within the plan that will be monitored and reported upon regularly, rather than just putting the plan back in a drawer until next year…

7. Check your HR policies and procedures to ensure they are relevant and reflect legislative changes (such as age discrimination, disability discrimination and maternity). That way everybody can focus upon impacting the bottom line.

8. Talk to your customers and listen to what they’re telling you. A client satisfaction survey is a good starting point.

9. Thank your staff for their work last year and motivate them for the year ahead. Help them to understand the direction of the business and the role that they play.

10. Focus the business on the key priorities – excellent businesses decide what not to do

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Zen, Managing stress in leadership

Zen, Leadership and Stress

"It is in self-limitation that a master first shows himself. " - Goethe

Power and Stress. If you want to be a leader, you better learn to deal with both of them. You don't have to be a CEO to experience them, and you don't have to run a large company. As long as you manage people and have a lot to do, you probably have power and you probably have stress. And if you have stress, there is a good chance that it negatively impacts your use of power. The first step in remedying this situation, is to take a closer look at yourself.HBS has a unique look at leadership. The premise, in zen-like fashion, is that leadership starts with self-discovery.
How can leadership be so rich in information yet so poor in knowledge? Hundreds of books and "models" purport to advise on the best way to become a leader. Yet many people, asked to name a leader they admire, struggle to identify more than a few individuals.According to Jagdish Parikh (HBS MBA '54), the gap between what everyone learns about leadership and what they actually experience exposes a fundamental flaw in leadership models today. The qualities that genuine leaders possess---and what makes inspiring leaders so rare---are not innate characteristics. Rather, he believes, they are skills that aspiring leaders can and should actually teach themselves, such as self-knowledge and self-mastery. Self-knowledge and self-mastery can be developed through conscientious practice."Unless one knows how to lead oneself, it would be presumptuous to lead others," Parikh said.Zen is a good model for just about any business topic, but it works particularly well for leadership. They both require a delicate yin-yang kind of balance. Leaders have a lot to do, and they can't let their work overwhelm them or they become ineffective. The best way not to become overwhelmed is to master your own life. By being productive and focused, you get more done and are more effective. But often that means saying no to things, delegating, and making sure not to take on too much. "But Rob," some of you might say,"I need to take on as much as possible. Stress motivates me. Stress helps me get things done." Sorry, but I'm calling bullshit on that one.
"Does stress bring out the best in us?" Parikh asked. Many executives, he said, buy into the myth that being stressed-out is an asset and means they are dedicated to their job---they use stress as rocket fuel. Parikh said he too adopted this mindset when he was an MBA student. As a child he had been taught the opposite by his family: that the most important thing in life was to be happy and content, to do his best but not fret about the results. But at business school the mantra was "Don't ever feel satisfied." Stress, he was told, would help him set goals and reach them.
Stress releases a chemical in your body called Cortisol. It's a good thing in certain doses, because it helps you focus and provides energy to your brain. But too much can have negative effects and your performance will decline. It's that yin-yang balance thing again. The article sums it up well:
It is important to get to know one's own inner dynamics deeply "in order to achieve sustainable peak performance," he said. When managers operate largely out of fear, they may perform at a very high level but not for long. "Adrenaline is energizing, but we want to move from the 'fear of losing' into the 'joy of doing,'" he said. "Unless one feels good about oneself, the momentum can't be sustained."It makes sense. But how can you do more and still keep your stress at the right level? You use your brain.Brains are amazing filters. There is an overwhelming amount of information around us, yet our brains manage to figure out what is important and relevant. The nice thing is that much of this processing takes place outside of our conscious awareness, and we can take advantage of that.Remember when you learned to read? It was tough. You had to sound out all the words. But over time, the words started to come naturally, without conscious processing. Once that happened, you were able to read and focus your conscious attention on higher level meanings (sentences, paragraphs, etc) instead of spending it to figure out how to say the words. Your brain filters that lower level out by processing it unconsciously, saving your conscious attention for other tasks.That can happen with anything that you learn. If you learn a new way to conduct more effective meetings, you have to consciously employ it at first. But as time progresses, you just naturally hold efficient and effective meetings. The same thing applies to stress and self-knowledge. If you get used to being introspective, if you get used to evaluating yourself, if you make a conscious effort to think about the way you think, eventually it will become easier. You will have changed the way you naturally think and it will be much more useful to you.That is what makes learning so important for leaders. No one has time to go through countless mental checklists about all the aspects of running a business. But by focusing on them one at a time, you can incorporate them into your unconscious process. You can change the way your brain filters information. So if you want to lower your stress and use your leadership power more effectively, it is going to take work. And working on yourself is often the most difficult thing to do. But then again if it was easy, everyone would do it. Master yourself and make your leadership a competitive advantage.



Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Chill Time, an amazing video experience


The link will take you to a short video of rare public appearance, photographer Gregory Colbert shares an astounding film from his exhibit, Ashes and Snow. This Video will stir your soul....be prepared..



The Entrepreneurial Brain

An Interesting Article on the Brain and it's functions with regards to you and me and the roles we have in business

The Brain of an Entrepreneur As science unlocks more and more of your brain's secrets, learn how harnessing the power of your greatest asset can create a more productive, more persuasive, more competitive business.

By Mark Henricks

The sun rises as you leave work and head for an early breakfast. You smile cheerfully at the server and decline coffee. While waiting for your food, you glance through a business magazine and mentally file several items for further thought later on. You and your sales and marketing vice presidents have just pulled an all-nighter preparing a presentation, and the client meeting is in two hours. It's a new prospect and a new market, and none of you had heard of either before yesterday. But you feel relaxed, alert and confident that if the business can be won, you and your team will win it.
Can this story be true? After staying up for 24 hours, you should be sleepy, jittery, irritable and anxious for more caffeine to add to the buckets you've already gulped. You should have trouble reading, much less memorizing pages of text. Your employees should feel the same. And you should never count on any marketing effort to work, especially one with less than a day's worth of preparation behind it.
But this story can be true. All you have to do is take note of recent strides in understanding how our brains control sleep, learning, memory and other functions, and--even more important--how we can improve these faculties. Improved brain imaging has opened windows into how we learn, remember, recover and rest. Coupled with new insights into the genetic underpinnings of brain development as well as new products in neuropharmacology--brain drugs--it is a revolution in brain management.
Before long, staying awake for extended periods while effortlessly learning new material and remembering large chunks of information may seem normal for entrepreneurs and their employees. We--as well as some of our competitors, unfortunately--may have new ways of marketing to prospects and customers that make our efforts more effective than anyone had dreamed of before. Our brains may go from being our biggest constraints to being our biggest competitive advantages.
The Origins of New Brain ScienceBy now, everybody's heard of the antidepressant Prozac and other new drugs and supplements that tinker with brain workings. Many of us have had MRI scans of our body parts, if not of our brains. Some of us have heard of neuromarketing, which aims to craft marketing efforts that overcome obstacles and exploit loopholes built into our brains.
What may have been missed, though, is the fact that Prozac's latest successors are the leading edge of a new wave of drugs and supplements that do far more than lift blue moods. They actually improve memory, ease learning and banish sleep. Neuroscientists use MRIs and related scanning technologies to discern areas of activity in the brains of people doing such things as recalling recent memories. That reveals how specific brain structures are used in different tasks. And neuromarketing, while doubtless containing some hype, may well be the revolution its proponents promise.
Brains, in short, are hot. One reason is that Congress declared the 1990s the "Decade of the Brain," and pumped tens of billions of dollars into brain research. That generated advances now beginning to bear fruit. Annual federal neuroscience funding still tops $4 billion. And private sources including VCs are getting into the act, funding startups to commercialize drugs and procedures for modifying our brains and the way they work.
Joel Garreau, an editor and reporter at The Washington Post and author of Radical Evolution, a new book about applying technological advances to human bodies and brains, says the turning point came when we began directing our curiosity inward, rather than outward. "Now, for the first time," says Garreau, "our technologies are going through a wholesale process of being aimed inward, modifying our minds, memories, metabolism, personalities and what it means to be human."

The Brain of an Entrepreneur
The Entrepreneurial Brain

There may be something special about entrepreneurs' brains. Many have a condition called attention-deficit disorder, or ADD. "There's a very high incidence of ADD among CEOs in small companies," says Daniel G. Amen, M.D., a brain researcher and director of Amen Clinics Inc., a group of four brain-imaging centers in the U.S. "These are people who take risks, need people to help them stay organized, don't like working for other people, have a lot of energy and are good at multitasking."
Eventually, even the most finely tuned entrepreneurial brain runs up against human limits. Take sleep. Most people who use caffeine to try to stay awake for long periods find it makes them jittery and anxious, and interferes with concentration. The same goes for prescription stimulants such as amphetamines.
But new anti-sleep drugs dispense with side effects and actually allow you to focus better. Modafinil, for example, was developed for patients with narcolepsy. When healthy people take it, they can stay awake 80 hours or more without losing focus or concentration. "If you can stay awake with your cognitive functions thriving for a week, think of what that does," says Garreau. "Imagine lawyers with photographic memories who never sleep."
Better memory may come from other drugs. Tim Tully is a scientist who studied the gene that controls memory and learning in fruit flies. Helicon Therapeutics, a Farmingdale, New York, company he founded in 1997, has developed a drug, now in trials, that may help humans learn faster and remember better. When given to mice with age-related memory problems similar to those that older humans experience, the drug, HT-0712, works well. "Old mice, roughly 50 years in human equivalents, have the memory capacity of young mice, roughly 25 years in human equivalents," says Tully. "And the potential is there to enhance memory for all of us."
The Employee BrainEntrepreneurs can also improve employees' memory, alertness and concentration by making work a brain-enriching place to be. Amen recommends offering employees opportunities to educate themselves, including cross training for other functions in the company as well as learning that goes beyond work. "A learning brain," he says, "is a happy brain."
A brain listening to music is also a happy brain, and one that enhances learning. University of California, Irvine, researchers found that people who listened to Mozart before taking a pattern-recognition test improved their scores 62 percent after two days of practice. Those who spent the time in silence improved just 14 percent.
While piping in Mozart may not be all that practical at the office, removing brain-damaging elements is imperative. Be alert, especially for toxic chemicals. "I can't tell you how many indoor painters and cabinet refinishers we have looked at, and their brains look terrible," Amen says. "Make sure there is good ventilation if [people are] going to work around toxic materials."
Pay attention to workplace food and drink, too. "We kill people's brains by bringing in doughnuts," says Amen. "I have a policy in my office that people are not to have candy dishes on their desks. People eat it, get blood sugar spikes and crashes, and then they're stupid." He also recommends against workplace coffeepots, because caffeine interrupts brain blood flow and impairs sleep.
Stress from overwork also affects sleep, and experts say fewer than six to eight hours of sleep daily over the long haul is bad for brains. "Chronic stress kills the memory area of the brain," Amen says.
Encourage physical exercise, which increases brain blood flow and reduces stress. You might even sponsor meditation classes, suggests Martha Farah, director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Says Farah, "Meditation and mindfulness programs have been shown to enhance brain function."

The Brain of an Entrepreneur

The Customer Brain

No brain research has spurred as much business interest as the studies of marketing and brains. The hope is that we'll learn to market in ways far more effective than anything anyone has come up with yet. Early results are promising.
A couple of studies did MRIs on people exposed to celebrity faces and brand images. One found Coca-Cola's logo triggered impulses in the midbrain, an area that sits between the primitive hindbrain and the more developed forebrain. A Pepsi logo didn't have the same effect. The study suggests a brand's image can drive behavior in a way that neither instinct nor conscious thought controls.
These and other findings are being translated into practice by Patrick Renvoise, co-founder and president of SalesBrain LLC in San Francisco. Renvoise, co-author with his business partner, Christophe Morin, of Neuromarketing: Is There a "Buy Button" Inside the Brain?, says we should rethink marketing to reflect current brain understanding. To start with, marketing should be more visual and less verbal.
Areas of the brain controlling vision are much older than those for language, Renvoise says. That has implications for anyone attempting to influence decision makers. "A lot of entrepreneurs talk about their benefit or solution and don't use a strong visual metaphor," says Renvoise. "And it's very hard to convince people using words when their organ of decision is primarily visual."
In addition to strong visuals, marketers should present their solution in sharp contrast to other options. To Renvoise, brain research says too many entrepreneurs rely on "me, too" marketing slogans such as "We are a leading provider..." when they should be finding ways to say "We are the only provider..." It's a critical distinction. "Without contrast," he says, "the brain cannot make a decision."
It's also important to tell the truth, because customers' brains are better at detecting untruths than even they know. Renvoise's book reports on one neuroscientist who had people play games with decks of cards rigged to produce unfair results. Players were occasionally asked whether the games seemed fair. After a number of rounds, players started reporting the decks were stacked. But skin-conductance tests revealed that they became nervous when reaching for rigged decks well before the knowledge reached their conscious minds.
Another study Renvoise quotes asked people to accept money for placing a large billboard in their front yards. The success rate was more than seven times higher if the homeowners had first agreed to display a much smaller postcard in a window. The moral: Don't underestimate the power of starting small.
Brain BoundariesBrain understanding appears to open up limitless possibility. Brain-based business, however, has costs, limits and risks like everything else. For instance, Amen says pre-employment screening using brain scans will likely become common practice in several years. But at the current price of $1,000 per MRI scan, these tools will be used only by wealthy companies filling high-value positions. Brain drugs aren't free, either. Modafinil costs about $3 a dose, and newer drugs are likely to cost more.
Similarly, neuromarketing may not match promoters' claims. "There's only one area of real importance," says John Philip Jones, a professor of advertising at Syracuse University in New York. "It destroys the supposed differentiation between rational and emotional advertising." To Jones, brain studies suggest that most ads need emotional appeal to get people to pay attention long enough to get in the rational selling proposition. "That's the key thing, and there's nothing more to it than that," he says.
There are also side effects. Modafinil apparently has few-except that it allows people to do without sleep. And doing without sleep, while a major short-term productivity booster when you're facing a crunch, is ultimately bad for the brain when engaged in long-term. "Sleep deprivation is a real trap for the ambitious," warns Farah. "You might think the extra hours on the job are helping, but in many ways, you'd work smarter if you were rested."
While it may be possible to change your brain, it's not inevitable, says David Weiner, an entrepreneur and science writer who authored Reality Check: What Your Mind Knows But Isn't Telling You. Weiner says practices such as thinking positive thoughts will actually change brain structures, but not without a lot of repetition. He says, "Your brain is stubborn and doesn't change easily."
Brain FuturesThe idea of fielding a work force equipped with enhanced memory, never needing to sleep and able to learn any subject quickly and easily, may sound like utopia, but brain boosting probably won't create super-employees or super-entrepreneurs. Nor will just anybody be an entrepreneur.
Thomas Harrison is a cellular biologist as well as CEO of Diversified Agency Services and author of Instinct: Tapping Your Entrepreneurial DNA to Achieve Your Business Goals, in which he shows how highly successful people use genetic advantages to overcome their own weaknesses and exploit competitors'.
At bottom, Harrison says, we are who we are. While we can change much about ourselves, we can't change everything. He says, "You have to be genetically inclined to do what you want to do."

Monday, December 18, 2006

Steve Wozniak on how he shaped Apple

How the Woz shaped Apple
It wasn't all about Jobs

By Seb Janacek
Though Apple's success has made Steve Jobs' name well-known in many a household, few know much about co-founder Steve Wozniak. But, says Seb Janacek, 'the Woz' played at least as crucial a role in shaping the PC industry as Jobs. Steve Wozniak's name is established in Apple folklore as the person who single-handedly designed the company's first computer, the Apple I.
While the Apple I set the Cupertino start-up on its way towards commercial success, the Apple II, again a computer solely designed by Wozniak, turned the company and the computing world on its head.
Probably more so than his namesake Steve Jobs, without him there would be no Apple, let alone the Macintosh, iMac or iPod. However, it has always been Jobs who for one reason or another has the strongest association with the phenomenal success of the one-time Silicon Valley start-up. This has as much to do with their characters, the extroverted Jobs versus the introverted Wozniak. However, the recent publication of Wozniak's autobiography, iWoz, tells the story of Apple from his perspective for the first time. Wozniak sees engineers as artists. The transistors and circuits only serve to deliver the end result. He was a child prodigy at school at mathematics, electronics and engineering and had his IQ measured at more than 200. His father, also an engineer, instilled in Wozniak an interest and love of electronics and engineering. He spent his formative engineering years poring over the schematics of early computers and redesigning them with as few chips and transistors as possible. Engineering quickly became his passion.
It's Wozniak's character which comes across most in the book, and in particular how his personality and values were instilled in the products he designed for Apple, and interestingly those that the company continued to develop after he left to pursue other interests.
While Jobs is known as the mercurial and charismatic leader and visionary product marketer, with the Midas touch when it comes to predicting the next big thing in technology, it is clearly Wozniak who was the prime architect of early success of the company. It could be argued, and indeed the book makes this case, that it was Wozniak who single-handedly defined the company's core vision for personal computing as well as designed the hardware and the software that made it real.
The Apple principles of improving the world through computers and putting a 'dent in the universe' were part of the engineer's design ethic from a very early stage.
Indeed, it was Wozniak's vision that personal computers should be accessible, usable and above all elegant that influenced Apple product philosophy. His highly focused view on the role of the inventor as artist, combined with his philanthropic drive to improve the world by bettering the quality of life through cool technology, are key to the Apple devotees' view of the company occupying a special place in the technology landscape. Perhaps what's most interesting are his views on the creative engineering process and how he viewed the role of the engineer within the corporate ladder, as well as how he saw his own involvement and responsibility as co-founder.
Despite being one of the co-founders, he was adamant from an early stage that he had no interest in becoming a management player in the nascent Silicon Valley scene. In fact, the prospect of having to become an executive who hired and fired, developed business strategies and marketing plans for the company was so alien to his character that he almost never left his beloved HP.
It was only when a friend urged him to join Jobs in founding Apple and pointed out that he could be "just an engineer" that he made the decision to quit his full-time job.
Wozniak reckoned that having responsibility to investors and shareholders inevitably mutates the mindset and personality of a company and its employees. Just look at Google for a much-publicised, modern example of this.
The Apple I was developed out of a joint effort to impress computer hobbyists and to realise his ambition of owning his own computer. It was never designed with the aim of selling millions of units. His reasons for co-founding Apple were to continue to design cool and elegant computers and gain peer recognition for doing so. The designs of the original Apple computers are still lauded as masterpieces of electrical engineering.Wozniak sees engineers as artists. The transistors and circuits only serve to deliver the end result. As Jobs perhaps put it best: the journey is the reward. Again this is a philosophy that has long been part of Apple's ethos - and one born in the development of the original Macintosh.
Also central to Wozniak's product philosophy is his firm view that the creation of products is a matter of individual inspiration and the subsequent dedication to making that vision a reality.
His belief was that product development driven by marketing was inferior way of producing stuff, insisting that the spark of genius lies within the individual inventor or engineer.
Wozniak further advocates the adoption of an insular approach to developing technology products that would sell millions of units. In comparison, the approach of designing "by committee", as he puts it, is deeply flawed, as evidenced by the disastrous Apple III computer. The requirements for the Apple III, Wozniak claims, were defined by marketing and management executives rather than being conceived by an individual.The approach is undeniably anachronistic and perhaps representative of his position of a pioneer in the early stages of an industry rather than applying to the modern market. This is an anathema to most modern product management and marketing practices, which position user advocacy at the centre of all product development.
There's little doubt that Wozniak's vision of product development - of doing it on your own - simply couldn't exist in the corporate make-up of a modern product division. It's very much a start-up mentality rather than one belonging to an established company. This is further evidenced by his decision to leave Apple and start his own projects and companies based on personal technological visions.
What iWoz highlights is the critical and formative role in Apple's history which Wozniak played - without him modern personal computing simply wouldn't exist as it does now. Surely, at some point someone, somewhere would think of hooking up a computer with a keyboard and a video monitor but posterity will record that Wozniak got there first.

Are leaders born ? some gems for the Entrepreneur

From Business Owner to Business Leader

Long before you became an entrepreneur, I bet you remember saying to yourself, "One day, I'll own my own business!" People around the world have been saying those same words, some as early as 10 years old and others well into their 80s, with both excitement in their voice and a sparkle in their eye.

But when you thought of owning your own business, my guess is, your thoughts probably centered on the type of business you'd be starting. You dreamed of launching your own restaurant or construction company or taking over the family insurance company. You thought about how to make money and how to survive while ramping up. And how to run the business better and faster than your competition. Your first thoughts were probably not focused on the people that would be working for you or what type of leader you'd be.

At this point, you've most likely proven yourself to be a successful business owner...but have you proven yourself to be an effective leader?

Here's how you can find out. Take a few minutes and answer these questions for yourself:

  • Are you happy coming to work everyday and do you enjoy the people you hired to work with you?
  • Have you created a positive environment for yourself and your employees?
  • Do your employees feel comfortable coming to you with questions or problems? How do you know this for sure?
  • Have you developed the best focus for the business, yourself and your employees?
  • Do you really have the right people working in your business?

If you answered yes to most of these questions, then you've become an effective leader. But what if you answered no or you weren't sure? Don't feel bad--you're simply a business owner who needs to grow as a leader.

It's very easy to get caught up being the business owner and forget about the importance of being an effective leader in your business. Because those daily details can bog you down to the point where you forget that your employees need your time and attention--and need the guidance that only you, as the business's owner, can give them.

Think you could use a little help to become a better leader of people? Here are a few helpful hints to get you started:

  • The business's leader and employees know the strategic focus of the company and how to articulate it clearly and simply to anyone.
  • As the leader, you need to help your employees see how their position relates to your company's strategic focus and tell them how important they are--not just their position.
  • If you catch your employees doing something right, praise them for it. Recognition goes a long way toward building a loyal workforce.
  • Communicate with everyone in your company in a variety of ways on a regular basis, not just every now and then. For example, start holding weekly staff meetings, initiate individual conversations with your employees, start an internal newsletter or launch a monthly contest. There are dozens of ways to keep the lines of communication open.
  • Create a sense of pride in your employees by asking them for their opinions--when appropriate--when it comes to making changes in the company. Even if you don't always use their ideas, they'll really appreciate just being asked.
  • If you give bonuses for strong performance, try giving something more personal than cash. Know what your employees like to do in their time off with hobbies and interest. Then, instead of giving a £1,000 bonus (which your employees will probably use to pay bills and which is quickly forgotten), send your hiking hobbyist on a mountain trip for two in a beautiful cabin next to spectacular hiking trails. Or offer your shopaholic assistant a gift certificate to their favorite store. They'll remember these gestures much longer than a standard bonus and think of you fondly when they do.
  • Here's the last and perhaps most important tip: When it comes to your emotions, remember to respond to your employees rather than react to them. For instance, if an employee comes to you and says the numbers are off by £50,000 and you react by saying, "What? Are you crazy! How could that be??" that employee is most likely not going to want to share information with you next time around. But if you respond by saying, "Help me to understand how you arrived at that number," you'll exhibit genuine concern and let your employees know that you're there to help.

Remember, becoming a great leader is a learning process that never ends. Great leaders enjoy the challenges and the lessons learned--even when they're painful.

The type of leader you wish to become is entirely up to you. But if you want to learn to become a great leader, consider these additional tips:

  • Be aware of where you are today as a leader. Do you need to take action to improve your leadership skills?
  • Be open to critical self-assessment when it comes to your leadership skills.
  • Be willing to grow personally and professionally by learning new skills. Find a mentor, read, network.


Friday, December 15, 2006

Business is about selling things to people

Business is about selling something to a person

This was something that was driven home to me when I was on vacation, business is all about selling something to a person (Yes I know it's not a new idea but it is something we forget), yes it could be another company but it will be decided by a real flesh and blood person. I spoke about the customer interface in your organisation a few months ago and to walk through the process your customer will maneuver through to buy your product , service. I wonder how many did and what you thought afterwards, many people would think our process is good, but how did you measure it, was it repeat business, customer satisfaction surveys ?. The only reliable way is to talk to the customer face to face.

Is an overly demanding customer good or bad ?

following on from that is the customer from Seoul on a Saturday night experience ? anyone who has sold to that neck of the woods will know what I mean, but you get the customer who wants the Rolls Royce silver shadow and pays the ticket price for a Lada LX200 unloaded. These can be either good for you or bad, these customers will push you hard on every item of your specification, they will want to dig into your quality and testing procedures with a pick and shovel, they will be an irritation to you, but if you can satisfy these guys that your systems are solid and your product/ service is as well you will satisfy anyone. I may not have captured this idea as well as I would like, but difficult customers should be seen as a way to improve your companies performance.

Have a good weekend



Thursday, December 14, 2006

How do VCs value young companies and is a higher valuation always better

So as I am catching up today from a weeks vacation just of the coast of North Africa, I thought I would post an article from a friend who works for Scottish Equity Parteners...to let me get my thoughts straight before I launch into a new series..

How do VCs value young companies and is a higher valuation always better?
By Stuart Paterson

Contrary to popular wisdom, VCs consider it vital for entrepreneurs to be comfortable with the valuation of their company so that they are highly motivated to succeed.

Critical factors affecting valuation are the prospects for returns and the inherent risks associated with getting there. VCs focus on the prospect of a significant capital gain so potential exit value is key. Factors influencing this include the size of your market, your likely share and revenues, and above all, the likelihood of attracting a trade buyer or achieving IPO.
VCs need at least a 3x return on their investments overall to make the economics work. Situations differ, but since some companies inevitably fail, a high risk start-up requires the potential to achieve at least a 5x return. A prospect of 10x can lead to a higher initial valuation, providing that is a credible outcome.

The earlier the development of both company and market, the higher the risk. Valuations take this into account. VCs also factor in how strong and sustainable your competitive advantage is and the experience of the management team. They consider whether the product can be easily copied and how you will take it to market and achieve revenues?

Securing the participation of a syndicate of high calibre VCs at the start of the funding process can help attract other VCs to subsequent rounds. You should focus on attracting investors with a real knowledge of your sector and realistic expectations and time horizons to avoid being pushed into a premature exit.

You may need very large amounts of capital to succeed. For example fabless semiconductor businesses face high costs in designing, developing and marketing their technologies while information and communications technology companies have to offer complete solutions including software and subsystems. VCs will not usually commit total funding requirements up front and will more likely invest in stages once certain milestones have been met, so companies should aim to see an increase in valuations in successive rounds, as well as at IPO or exit.

A very high initial valuation isn’t necessarily the best thing and it is better to take a long term view on building value. Many VCs won’t invest in A rounds because their value hardly increases in the B Round, resulting in limited reward for taking a high risk in investing early.

If initial valuations are excessive, investors may think the next round is too expensive. Worse still, if your initial aggressive assumptions aren’t sustainable, a round with a lower valuation means giving away a lot more equity. Take a realistic view and remember that it is in the interests of the VCs for you to be incentivised to deliver long term value.

Consider carefully the milestones you need to hit to demonstrate that you are making solid progress at each round and remember that it usually takes longer to achieve them than you think. You should prepare for fundraising nine months before you need the cash as being forced into unplanned financing results in greater dilution . Raise enough at each stage to achieve the milestones which will trigger more funds in subsequent rounds and take more than you need if it is on the table.

First round valuation is less important than attracting the best VCs who can add real value as well as capital. It is important to consider whether you can be open and honest with them, whether they have realistic expectations concerning the development of your company and whether they will provide the follow on investments you need. That is the way to maximize your valuation when it really counts – at exit.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Marketing with not much of a budget

By Guy Kawasaki

Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell are the co-authors of Citizen Marketers: When People Are the Message. Their first book was called Creating Customer Evangelists: How Loyal Customers Become a Volunteer Sales Force. As a business advisors and speakers, McConnell and Huba have worked with Starbucks, Microsoft, Whirlpool, Discovery Education, PBS, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. They are also the authors of the award-winning Church of the Customer blog.
Question: What inspires people to create digital content?
Answer: We think there are three reasons: The first is that the people who helped build sites like Wikipedia, TiVo Community, or Mini2 aren’t part of mainstream culture. They’re what we call the “1 Percenters,” the people who live at the edges and are different than from 99 percent of the world. Our research for the book led us to create the 1% Rule, which states that about 1 percent of a site’s total number of visitors will create content for it. The 1 Percenters flout cultural conventions. Americans love rebels, therefore the 1 Percenters often become the influencers of American culture.
The second reason: Their work is a hobby. Hobbies are fun, certainly, but hobbies can be viewed at a deeper level as an extension and reflection of one’s identity. Hobbyism grants one the permission to consider their work as recreation while subconsciously it works as ideological re-creation. It replicates the skills of the workplace and adds value that may often be lacking from it. Their content is their production.
The third reason is the sense of community. We’re not talking cities but more like extremely large families that scale. It’s easy for other hobbyists to find one another. The human need to bond with something is strong, even if it’s with a commercial entity.
Question: What should companies like Coca Cola and Mentos do in reaction to the videos their products are in?
Answer: There are three different ways to respond to amateur grassroots efforts like that:
Say nothing and let the citizen marketers have their time in the spotlight. It’s a safe and conservative approach.
Use your company website or blog to point to the citizen marketers in the spirit of “what people are saying about us.” This opens the door to ceding control, and that’s a good step. Just remember that citizen marketers don’t follow instructions. This approach requires company spokespeople to have a sense of humor. That wasn’t the case with the Coke, whose spokesperson was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as scolding people for not drinking their precious beverage!
Quickly build a program around what’s happening. It can beneficial but also tricky because it can taint the grassroots nature of what’s happening. Keep it simple. The “firecracker” nature of something like Diet Coke and Mentos has a short half-life. Better to openly solicit ideas from the people or community involved and keep it simple. Follow the lead of the community. And keep the company lawyers locked in a cage.
Question: Why did YouTube succeed over Google Video?
Answer: We suspect the primary reason is something you’re pretty familiar with: entrepreneurial focus. YouTube’s mission was itself. Combine that with a bucket of venture capital to pay bandwidth bills, and YouTube had tremendous advantage. The Google Video product team probably had to navigate the political minefields of a big company with multiple products.
Second, YouTube won because of a vitally important theme: It democratized data. YouTube made user data transparent while Google Video did not. YouTube exposed data like numbers of views, comments, referrers, as well as most popular referrers, most popular videos, most popular channels, etc. That data helps YouTubers gauge their own popularity and allows the larger community to measure relative popularity, too. Google did none of that out the gate. It democratized data using a piecemeal approach, and it didn’t set any standards along the way. YouTube set all of the standards.
The third reason was a great user interface. Simple, intuitive and elegant. With apologies to Google, the UI for its video product was clunky, confusing, and inelegant.
Question: What’s more important: appearing frequently on the front page of Digg or achieving a spot in the Technorati 100?
Answer: Neither. The total number of subscribers to your blog is the most important measure. RSS is the paperboy to an opt-in mindset. Great subscription numbers means someone is creating valuable, important or entertaining content—or all three).
To use a hockey analogy, trying to get on the front page of Digg is like taking a slap shot from behind the red line [I think she means blue line, but I digress...] and hoping to score. It’s highly unlikely unless you’re damn good and very lucky. The “Digg Effect” is great, but it’s short-lived. A few days at best. Subscriber numbers is a better indication of how well you’re connecting with the larger community over the long term.
Question: How long do you think MySpace will remain hot?
Answer: It may already be cooling. Use Alexa to compare the growth of MySpace and Wikipedia since 2005 and you’ll find nearly identical reach until the summer of 2006, when Wikipedia kept growing while MySpace flattened. It’s not over for MySpace, though; members who have invested significant time into decorating their spaces and building a network of friends won’t easily abandon the service. Like any hot business, it’s bound to cool off. As long as it doesn’t pull an AOL, it will remain a cultural influence.
Question: Why do citizen marketers proselytize the companies that they love?
Answer: Some people innately like to help. They want others to know about a brand, product or company and share what they’ve experienced. For others, it’s about status. They like being an expert about a brand or company and therefore demonstrate their knowledge by talking about what they know. Finally, others just like to connect with others who are as crazy about a brand or company as they are.
Question: Who owns what they do?
Answer: So far, most companies have been smart to keep the trademark lawyers in their cages when citizen marketers create fan sites. And for the most part, most citizen marketers have been smart to unequivocally declare their independence from the companies they cover. But who owns what has yet to be resolved. Lawrence Lessig proposes a joint ownership agreement, similar to a Creative Commons license, and that makes a lot of sense. We imagine some form of a template agreement will arrive sometime in 2007 as the number of user-generated and citizen-created sites reaches critical mass.
Question: How do you plan to get citizen marketers for your book?
Answer: We’ve followed two principles in thinking about this: First, word of mouth is most efficient when it’s designed it into the product, service or brand at inception, not just at launch. Second, ideas grow in value the more they spread.
When we coined the term “citizen marketers” in February 2005, we did so on our blog, almost two years before the book arrived. That spread to a number of bloggers, who’ve adopted it as a content category. Some point toward our posts on the subject when talking about the content category. When we started writing the manuscript about a year ago, we invited readers of our blog to join a peer-review group. People from around the world signed up, and their feedback was truly invaluable.
A number of them have since become early promoters of the book because we gave them a stake in its formation and ultimately, its outcome as a guidebook to what’s happening culturally and its effect on customer relationships. Finally, we are outsourcing our book tour to our evangelistic blog readers. Called “40 Talks in 40 Days,” we will go anywhere in North America during 40 specific days in 2007 to deliver a one-hour presentation in exchange for 200 books and travel expenses. Evangelists for social media have been the first ones signing up for the book tour. So far, about more than half of the dates are taken.
Question: Do you think that because something like “Dell Hell” occurred, other companies will work to prevent the same thing happening to them?
Answer: “Dell Hell” was the Great Chicago Fire of online customer commentary. Jeff Jarvis’s posts about his laptop lemon spread so fast and ignited kindling of discontent in so many disparate quarters that its lessons are a textbook case for companies on the importance of customer communications. At the time, Dell did not have a corporate blog and no way to respond to the online conversations. The number of companies starting corporate blogs continues to grow, and that will help them get out in front of future crises.
Question: Are citizen marketers more effective at calling out bad things or promoting good things?
Answer: It depends on your definition of “effective.” Citizen marketer “firecrackers” like Brian Finkelstein, who shot the video of a Comcast technician sleeping on his couch, fomented a lot of negative Comcast buzz but beyond that, not much happened. On the other hand, the Kryptonite bicycle lock-picking video cost that company millions of dollars in revenue. Kryptonite survived and moved on. The nature of “firecrackers” is that they create a lot of noise and commotion but typically for a short time. Therefore, we’d say positive citizen marketers are more effective – they’re in it for the long term, helping snowball word of mouth and building momentum for a product, brand, company, or person.
Question: Is there a way to identify citizen marketers before they become citizen marketers?
Answer: On a regular basis, companies should be asking customers, “Do you recommend us?” That helps quantify evangelism. Those conversations should also include discovering how many customers have their own blog, podcast, or community site. The heavy users of social media are the most likely to create content, and the top 1 percentile of evangelists is the most likely to become citizen marketers.
Question: Last but not least: How could you write a book about citizen marketers and not cite me or my books even once?
Answer: But you were such a superhero in our first book! No matter what, you’ll always be the godfather.
Nice try, guys...do you own a horse?



Saturday, December 02, 2006

Setting Your Personal Goals

Setting Your Personal Goals

In my conversations with top business people over the years, I have found that they all have one thing in common. They have taken the time to sit down and create a clear blueprint for themselves and their future lives. So many have said that they started the process of goal setting and personal strategic planning with more than a little skepticism. As their success have increased so too has every one of them has become a true believer in the process. Everyone has a process. It's not a hit and miss sit down and throw out a few nice sounding goals!

Every one has been amazed at the incredible power of goal setting and strategic planning. Every one of them has accomplished far more than they ever believed possible and they ascribe their success to the deliberate process of thinking through every aspect of their work and their lives, their successes and struggles, their motivators, values and beliefs, and then developing a detailed, written road map to get them to where they wanted to go.

It's not that hard to believe and so many people don't do it because they don't have any idea on what to do and how to go about developing goals.

Best Year Yet Program

A few years back I needed a process for a client I was working with both for his team and for their personal strategic plans. I discovered a program called Best Year Yet and have since brought it into my business.

Learn how 10 simple questions can provide you with the most important strategies and techniques ever discovered to help you accomplish more of your goals, faster than you ever have before. The amazing thing is that you have the answers, and these questions will bring them out.

The Definition of Happiness

Happiness has been defined as, "The progressive achievement of a worthy ideal, or goal." When you are working progressively, step-by-step toward something that is important to you, you generate within yourself a continuous feeling of success and achievement.

You feel more positive and motivated. You feel more in control of your own life. You feel happier and more fulfilled. You feel like a winner, and you soon develop the psychological momentum that enables you to overcome obstacles and plough through adversity as you move toward achieving the goals that are most important to you.

Determine Your Values

Personal strategic planning begins with your determining what it is you believe in and stand for--your values. Your values lie at the very core of everything you are as a human being. Your values are the unifying principles and core beliefs of your personality and your character. The virtues and qualities that you stand for are what constitute the person you have become from the beginning of your life to this moment.

Your values, virtues and inner beliefs are the axle around which the wheel of your life turns. All improvement in your life begins with you clarifying your true values and then committing yourself to live consistent with them.

Fuzzy or Clear?

Successful people are successful because they are very clear about their values. Unsuccessful people are fuzzy or unsure. Complete failures have no real values at all.

When you take the time to think through your fundamental values, and then commit yourself to living your life consistent with them, you feel a surge of mental strength and well-being. You feel stronger and more capable. You feel more centered in the universe and more competent of accomplishing the goals you set for yourself.

Action Exercises

Here are two things you can do immediately to put these ideas into action.

First, decide for yourself what roles you have in your life and then organize your life around them. Pick one to highlight this coming year, for even greater success. Write down your goals around these roles and make plans to achieve them. Have fun.

Second, begin with your values by deciding what it is you stand for and believe in. Commit yourself to live consistent with your inner most convictions -- and you'll never make another mistake.



Friday, December 01, 2006

"Wake Up Wake Up oh great sleeper of The Venture Capital Industry"

Is is it Sunrise or Sunset for the European VC's ?

This is a short article by Crawford Beveridge who is a member of Scottish Equity Partners board a VC company based in Scotland, on the exodus of our best entrepreneurial talents to the US and how the Venture capital community needs to wake up and look at how to retain the best for themselves

The exodus of technology companies to the US is building, with some of our best entrepreneurial companies moving across the Atlantic, and the European VC community must think about how they respond to this.
The US is indeed a hugely important market for technology companies, and it is also true that it is notoriously difficult for an overseas company to set up an effective sales channel that will enable them to tap into that market. One of the main reasons that companies are moving to the US is the belief that a physical presence is necessary to achieve this. However, many will find to their frustration that it takes far more than a local office to establish the channels they need to tap into the market.
For most young technology companies, the ideal solution is to partner with an organisation that has already established strong marketing channels. If a small company can form a partnering relationship with a company like Sun Microsystems then the vast resources of Sun’s sales channels are opened up to them.
Yet even if a company were based right next door to Sun’s HQ in Santa Clara, achieving this kind of partnering relationship without the right contacts is almost impossible. In an organisation of 40,000 people, finding the best person to talk to in the first place is hard enough. Even in my position, it can even take a week or more to find the right decision-maker in my ownorganisation! An outsider would find it much more difficult, and harder still to gain that individual’s attention and interest without an endorsement from a source they trust.
Rather than focusing too much on the issue of geographical proximity, companies should perhaps concentrate more effort on finding US based non-executive directors with an industry background. Someone who works or has worked directly in your sector and has direct connections with organisations you want to get close to and a network of contacts who can help open doors.
Finding a US NXD with this kind of background may seem like a daunting task in itself, but there are many very able people who have personal or working relationships with the UK who are keen to maintain them and are receptive to opportunities that will help them to do that.
It might seem an expensive exercise to bring someone across from the US for board meetings but the value they bring todeveloping relationships and channels for the business will be enormous. It will also undoubtedly cost far less than trying to set up direct channels or find channel partners without their help.
European VCs should also consider their role in this. VCs with an international outlook and good financial and industry networks can offer companies a great deal of support as they set out to make these contacts. US VCs can be strong allies in this effort and can be a good option as a syndicate partner. Although some US VCs may seem too overpowering and controlling to be brought into a syndicate without them taking over, with careful research it should be possible to find a boutique firm with similar values.
It may also be a challenge to convince a US investor to join a syndicate investing in a European company and led by a European VC, as they prefer to have their investments nearby and to have high levels of control over their management. Convincing them of the benefits may therefore take time and good working relationships will not develop overnight. But, when established, these links can only enhance the UK venture capital industry’s offering to the technology community and help them win more deals rather than lose them. It may even help halt the exodus in its tracks.


Have great weekend