SME's - Portfolio entrepreneurship Rob Smorfitt, Start up Guru from South Africa What is portfolio entrepreneurship? Portfolio entre...
I have been looking at technology transfer methedology of late, I have transfered technology in the past, for a selection of companies and u...
One thing you will have noticed when you talk to an investor is there passion for your sales projection, order book and customer sales funn...
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
I have led a lot programs in my time, plant construction, process improvement, budgeting, recruitment, Production capacity ramp, outsourcing...etc and the one thing that I have learned above all others is to keep the key milestones in a simple project plan format, it is cool for the techies to be using MS Project etc, but the only thing as a leader that you want to know about is the key milestones and are they red or green. I have been bogged down in the details of where we get the PTFE piping and who is going to weld it, or where are we going to get the black boxes for moving the widgets around the room etc...these things are all well and good and some things can be sexy, like the new piece of equipment that shows you how the edge of the PLC waveguide looks at the level of molecular adhesion....but does it really matter to the top line milestones, No, your company needs a product/ service to go out the door on a certain time at a certain cost, and that is where your focus should be
But does it stop there ?
Now I know that there will be folks out there that have been bitten in the bum by assuming something was thought about in the early planning stages of a project and you find out that it wasn't, or a small detail falls through the crack like the black boxes for the widgets, so you will be saying but I need to know the detail so I know it is getting done correctly, if that is you stand up and slap your face, wake up, you PAY other folks to do that planning for you, unless you are the T-E-A-M in the team then OK you do :) but for most folk they have hired competent people they can trust to do there jobs and to plan correctly. I still hear some folks saying but folk make mistakes so I need to check in detail what they are doing, if that's you then add to your job title: MICRO MANAGER/RESOURCE WASTER, that is not what you have to do here are the key things you have to do:
Define the project and scope
- What it is you want to accomplish
- When you want to accomplish the program by
- Ball park figures in costs to be incurred
- Level of priority the project is ( if you have 10 No 1 priority project none will get done on time)
- Define the method of reporting back the progress
- Define the correct period between standard reviews (I.e give enough time for progress to be made)
- Identify a project leader
Behind this you need to supply the tools for the folks to manage there part of the program, now this can be Prince 2 or PDMA training , or it can be simple excel charting, personally if you are building a nuclear submarine then Prince 2 will work, if you are developing your first or second widget then probably excel or if you are a techie MS Project will do, the key is to keep it easy to update and present from, you do not want your Project leader spending a lot off time preparing presentations or updating MS project, you want him to be managing your project. I agree that there may be a need for some formal training as a company grows, but do not let it slow the organization down.
So to close for today, KISS in all your planning, and as a leader look at the key milestones and have confidence in the process you have in place and the people you have hired to deliver.
I would be interested in your own idea's...
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
For years, Armstrong has been conducting research showing that competitor-oriented objectives, such as setting market-share targets, are counterproductive. After co-authoring a paper in 1996 that reached this conclusion, he and a different co-author, Kesten C. Green of Monash University in Australia, have written another paper summarizing 12 new studies that add additional weight to the original conclusion. Their study is titled, "Competitor-oriented Objectives: The Myth of Market Share."
Business has long been likened to warfare, Armstrong says, so it is hardly surprising that companies want to beat their competitors. In the 19th century, it was common for many American executives to strive for revenue maximization. To see how well they were doing, companies compared themselves to competitors in their industries. But in the mid-20th century some academic scholars began to question the widespread focus on market share. In 1959, one researcher "lamented the common use of market-share objectives and discussed the logical and practical flaws of pursuing such objectives," according to Armstrong and Green.
In the 1996 paper, Armstrong and Fred Collopy of Case Western Reserve University summarized a host of studies by other researchers that examined the prevalence of competitor-oriented objectives.
For instance, several researchers in the 1950s and 1960s had groups of subjects play repeated games in which cooperation was necessary to maximize profits. The researchers found that when they provided feedback to subjects on other subjects' performance, nearly 90% of the choices that the subjects made were competitive and hence low-profit. In another example, Armstrong and Collopy asked 170 MBA students over a period of years whether the "primary purpose of the firm is (a) to do better than its competitors, or (b) to do the best it can." One-third of the students chose (a), suggesting that a large number of the students believed that beating the competition is more important than other goals, including profitability.
In their 1996 study, Armstrong and Collopy also analyzed data amassed by scholars to measure the level of competitor orientation of 20 major corporations, as stated by the companies themselves, and how the level of competitor orientation was related to the firms' after-tax return on investment (ROI) for five nine-year periods beginning in 1938 and ending in 1982. "Competitive-oriented objectives were negatively correlated with ROI for these data," Armstrong and Collopy concluded. In other words, the more managers tried to be the biggest in their market, the more they harmed their own profitability.
For example, companies whose only goal was profit maximization -- DuPont, General Electric, Union Carbide and Alcoa -- posted stronger returns on investment than did the other firms studied. By contrast, the six firms whose only goal was market share -- National Steel, the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, Swift, American Can, Gulf and Goodyear -- fared worse in terms of ROI. Indeed, some of these companies, like National Steel and American Can, no longer exist.
Armstrong acknowledges that the 1996 paper was controversial. Aside from some coverage in the popular press, corporate executives largely ignored the study and academics criticized it. Since 1996, however, Armstrong and Green have continued their efforts to collect data on the effect of competitor-oriented objectives. They have incorporated the results of these efforts into their new paper.
Competition vs. Cooperation
Once again, Armstrong and his co-author examined both laboratory and field studies conducted by other researchers. One lab study compared the performance of MBA students with that of computerized profit maximizing pricing strategies. Each game involved three players. The subjects were unaware that in two out of three games the third player was one of the computerized strategies. The game was designed to represent the market for mature, frequently purchased consumer goods. It was possible for cooperative players to make a profit of $20 if they all charged $1.50 per unit. Subjects playing the roles of managers were instructed to maximize their profits and were told that their compensation would be partly based on their profitability.
Despite these instructions, the students tended to charge close to the price that maximized the gap between their own profit and that of the other subjects. When the students played against other students only (i.e., there was no computer player),the average profit was $7.19, well below the potentially achievable cooperative profit of $20.
In another study, a team of researchers including Armstrong analyzed additional data, through 1997, on the 20 companies originally studied by Armstrong and Collopy. The researchers introduced two new criteria: real return on equity and the percent of after-tax return on sales. All of the correlations between competitor-oriented objectives and profits were negative, ranging from minus 0.28 to minus 0.73, according to Armstrong and Green.
These two studies -- and others that are recounted in the Armstrong and Green paper -- strengthen the authors' assertion that the oft-touted advice to chase market share in order to achieve greater profitability, is a harmful myth.
In addition, Armstrong and Green write, they "have not found a single paper that challenges the finding that competitor-oriented objectives harm profitability. While advocates of market-share objectives have provided no evidence to support their contention, their writings seem to have had a big impact" on strategic-management research and executives' beliefs that increasing market share is a worthwhile goal. Armstrong and Green also note that many management textbooks erroneously "repeat the claim that increasing market share will boost profitability."
Toyota and Canon
In an interview with Knowledge@Wharton, Armstrong pointed to contemporary examples that appear to underscore his long-held contention about the myth of market share.
For instance, Toyota is a profitable company and expects to build more vehicles than any other automaker in 2007, but grabbing market share is apparently not one of its goals. An Associated Press story on Toyota's imminent rise to the top described Kazuo Okamoto, executive vice president, as being "nonchalant" about Toyota's achievement. "We aren't that concerned about vehicle numbers," Okamoto told the AP. "But we are determined to go at it to develop cars that make a lot of people happy." Indeed, researchers have long known that, in general, Japanese automakers shun market share as an objective, according to Armstrong.
As another example, Armstrong points to two longstanding competitors in the printer and copier business, Canon and Xerox. During the period that Fujio Mitarai was CEO and president of Canon USA -- from 1979 to 1989 -- the value of Canon's stock rose by a factor of nine times while the value of Xerox shares was virtually unchanged. "I changed the mindset at Canon by getting people to realize that profits come first," Mitarai told BusinessWeek in a story published in 2002. Mitarai is now chairman and CEO of Canon in Japan.
The harm that competitor-oriented objectives can cause the companies that pursue them was the subject of a December 4, 2006, article in The New Yorker by James Surowiecki, the magazine's business writer. Surowiecki describes how Sony, with its PlayStation 3, and Microsoft, maker of the Xbox 360, are beating each other's brains out trying to capture the biggest share of the video-game market. Meanwhile, third-place Nintendo, with its new game console called Wii (pronounced "wee"), has quietly become the most profitable game console company in Japan.
Nintendo "has not just survived out of the spotlight; it has thrived," Surowiecki writes. "It has $5 billion in the bank from years of solid profits, and this past year, though it has spent heavily on the launch of the Wii, it made close to a billion dollars in profit and saw its stock price rise by 65%. Sony's game division, by contrast, barely eked out a profit and Microsoft's reportedly lost money. Who knew bringing up the rear could be so lucrative?"
Armstrong says the focus on beating the competition remains entrenched in the world's biggest companies. Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, famously stated that GE would not be in any business in which it could not be first or second in market share. Welch's belief in the myth still holds sway in boardrooms, but Armstrong says it is never too late for CEOs to change.
"We're not saying companies shouldn't pay attention to their competitors; they might be doing reasonable things that you may also want to do," Armstrong says. "What we're saying is that the objective should not be to try to beat your competitor. The objective should be profitability. In view of all the damage that occurs by focusing on market share, companies would be better off not measuring it."
Monday, January 29, 2007
"how different from your business plan is it"
I am not one for making and breaking new year resolutions, but I do believe in setting life goals these are more that just linked to work life objectives they do have some connection, but they are also about my personal "Holistic" development. I believe that we need to a step back from time to time and review where we have been, where we are and where we want to be in a 1 year , 2 year and 5 year time frame. I also believe that we let life pass us by , because we are focused totally on work life objectives, we miss so much life enrichment that could make our work life experience more rewarding for us and our families and friends.
I have a friend who sent me her list of life goals and she keeps me updated on her progress, some good, some bad, she has focused on experimentation and exploration of her self, she has some goals that I would have to raise an eyebrow over but I admire her for sticking to her own agenda and making her choices for herself. This is the key idea that I want to bring out today, if you don't have goals for your life you will never be stretching yourself, developing yourself, we are flesh and blood, but we also have a "spiritual" component as well and in setting our life goals we need to create a balance, the old saying " to much work and not enough play makes Jack / Jill a dull boy/girl" is very true.
The balanced approach can be hard to get for our lives, but having life goals and planning to tick them off is one way to make sure you do achieve that balance. I have some major goals I want to lead my "own company", but also have to some people minor goals, exercise 30 mins a day, go for a long walk somewhere different every month "come rain or shine". I structure my goals to stretch me in areas that are not normally touched in my work life.
The other thought I would like to share is the one of review, it is so easy to let our life run by us without us reviewing our life goals and looking at where we are, my friend who sent me her list mentioned one time we chatted that why she gave me a copy off her list was that she knew I would ask her how she was doing with her list, and it would be a constant reminder to her of her life goals and progress.
I would suggest that today you do a review and if you don't have anything to review against, get some goals down on paper, write them down by hand, it has deeper impact, and then share them with a very close friend, and as I do for my friends, they can do the same for you. I hear some of you saying we are responsible for our own lives, yes we are, but it does make it a tad easier if you have some help...
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Check out Rob's webpage his company is based in South Africa and it assists early stage companies, interesting comments...
The research showing no business plans were needed for success is skewed in a generic context. The people who formed the universum for this research project were all graduates, therefore extrapolations regarding non graduates cannot be done. Would the same apply to someone who has very little if any formal education at even school level as is often the case in developing countries?
I also believe that all the graduates may not have had a written business plan document, but they had a mental one. There are key issues addressed by a business plan, which are critical to business success. I am sure that these people did not ignore their business educaiton, and that they used it in one way or another.
I also saw research where in the USA business graduates had a higher success rate than all other, eg arts, graduates. However, similar research in South Korea found that business graduates generally underperformed all other graduates.
However, I believe knowledge is important.
MainSpring - driving business development
Friday, January 26, 2007
Before you dedicate your life to crafting a business plan the length of a book, read these two paragraphs from the 1/9/07 edition of the Wall Street Journal in an article called "Enterprise: Do Start-ups Really Need Formal Business Plans"
A study recently released by Babson College analyzed 116 businesses started by alumni who graduated between 1985 and 2003. Comparing success measures such as annual revenue, employee numbers and net income, the study found no statistical difference in success between those businesses started with formal written plans and those without them...
“What we really don’t want to do is literally spend a year or more essentially writing a business plan without knowing we have actual customers,” says William Bygrave, an entrepreneurship professor at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., who says he generally advocates “just do it.” Entrepreneurs must be nimble, and will be more apt to stick with a flawed concept they spent months drafting, he adds.I think that Prof. Musgrave’s study is so right. Here is the entire study if you’d like to read it. This is the plan’s abstract:
This study examined whether writing a business plan before launching a new venture affects the subsequent performance of the venture. The data set comprised new ventures started by Babson College alums who graduated between 1985 and 2003. The analysis revealed that there was no difference between the performance of new businesses launched with or without written business plans. The findings suggest that unless a would-be entrepreneur needs to raise substantial startup capital from institutional investors or business angels, there is no compelling reason to write a detailed business plan before opening a new business.
The phrase “unless a would-be entrepreneur needs to raise substantial startup capital from institutional investors or business angels, there is no compelling reason to write a detailed business plan” merits discussion. Most venture capitalists require a business plan as part of due diligence. This doesn’t mean they spend more than ten minutes reading the plan, and it certainly doesn’t mean that they believe it. :-) A great plan won’t make a lousy idea successful, and a lousy plan won’t necessarily stop a great idea.
Most of the plans that we see at Garage are too long and too detailed—to the point of reducing credibility. Here is my prior blog posting about business plans that you might find helpful. The gist of it is:
Perfect your pitch, then write your plan.
Use the business-plan exercise as a way to get your team on the same page.
Keep it short: ten to twenty pages.
Spend no more than two weeks writing it.
Don’t get obsessed with with details in your financial forecast because it should be one page long.
However, don’t draw the wrong conclusion from this study: “Analysis, planning, vision, and communication are unnecessary.” This isn’t true. What is true is that a business plan should not take on a life of its own. It is a tool—one of many that may help you get funded (or, more accurately, hinder you from getting funded if you don’t have one) and may help you get your team working as a team. But it is not an end in itself.
- Ten Questions With Donald Trump
Donald J. Trump is a graduate of the Wharton School of Finance and started his business career in an office he shared with his father. In August of 2006, Mr. Trump was voted by BusinessWeek magazine as “the world’s most competitive businessperson.”
In New York City, the Trump signature is synonymous with the most prestigious of addresses, among them the world-renowned Fifth Avenue skyscraper, Trump Tower, the Trump International Hotel & Tower, voted the best U.S. Hotel by Conde Nast Traveler, Trump World Tower at the United Nations Plaza, 40 Wall Street, and Trump Park Avenue.
In a departure from his real estate acquisitions, Mr. Trump and the NBC Television Network are partners in the ownership and broadcast rights for the three largest beauty competitions in the world: the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA Pageants. He is also the star and executive producer of the hit television series, “The Apprentice,” which has received national and worldwide attention. In the summer of 2004, his radio program on Clear Channel made its debut and broke all syndication records.
Mr. Trump has authored seven books, all of which became bestsellers. Trump Magazine was launched in 2004, Trump University Online in 2005, and the Donald J. Trump licensing program. In 2006, GoTrump.com, an online travel agency, made its debut, as did Trump Productions in Los Angeles.
Question: If you, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Herb Kelleher and Larry Ellison got marooned on a desert island, who would end up running the place and who would end up as dinner?
Answer: We would find a way to order in and have a productive meeting at the same time.
Question: How long would Larry and Sergei, the co-founders of Google, last on your show?
Answer: That would depend on whether they were good team players and if they had an original idea or two.
Question: Would you fire your son or daughter?
Answer: Yes, if they deserved it, but fortunately they are well prepared for their positions, so I doubt they would ever merit being fired.
Question: What do you do to chill out?
Answer: Playing golf provides me with my version of chilling out, plus I develop golf courses, so it’s a productive way to spend my chill time.
Question: At the end of our life, what do you want to be remembered for?
Answer: As a builder who has enhanced the cities and communities where I have built and/or developed.
Question: What’s the difference between the Donald Trump on “The Apprentice” and the Donald Trump in every day business meetings?
Answer: Business meetings are more about negotiation skills whereas “The Apprentice” falls into the job interview or audition category. I have business meetings with people who are looking to do business, not people who are looking for a job. My attitude on “The Apprentice” is as an employer looking at possible future employees. I don’t look to mold any of my business associates.
Question: If you could apprentice with anyone in history, who would it be?
Answer: My father was a great mentor. He’d be hard to replace.
Question: Not many people make billions, lose billions, and then make billions all over again. How did you pull this off?
Answer: To me it was a blip, not a catastrophe. I knew I was destined to succeed, and I kept focused on that belief. I’m very tenacious...and I don’t give up.
Question: If you graduated from Wharton in 2006 instead of in the 1960s, what industry would you go into?
Answer: Real estate. I love it and it still exists as a career and as a viable passion.
Question: What do you think of two guys in a garage showing amateur videos selling out for $1.7 billion?
Answer: I’d say they had a great idea—my hat’s off to them.
Question: TV is TV, real life is real life: What’s the most important real-life advice you can give to an entrepreneur?
Answer: You have to love what you do. Without passion, great success is hard to come by. An entrepreneur will have tough times if he or she isn’t passionate about what they’re doing. People who love what they’re doing don’t give up. It’s never even a consideration. It’s a pretty simple formula.
I sometimes work with companies that are on the verge of leaving the ‘cottage stage’ and pushing into the great uncertainty of corporate adolescence. This push, and the stress which often accompanies it, is one of the seminal periods in the development of any company. By the time I arrive on the scene, battle lines often have been well formed and the organization has divided into two camps. The coming battle will present severe challenges for the founders, team and the company. The prevailing camp will get to decide what the future will hold for all involved.
Let me start by defining what I mean by ‘cottage stage’. First off, defining a company in terms of its gross revenue is not useful. I’ve seen organizations generating close to twenty million dollars in gross revenue while still operating within this paradigm. Secondly, the size of the organization in terms of its client base or human resources is also not a good indicator. I have encountered companies with twenty to thirty major clients and over a hundred employees that are still operating as a cottage business. Finally, the age of a company is an unreliable indicator as well. Once a company slips into what I call ‘life-style mode’ it enters a period of repressed adolescence that can last through its entire life span.
There are a number of indicators which are very useful in identifying a company which is still operating within the cottage industry paradigm and facing the complex issues of reinventing itself. The most notable of them are: the evolving nature of leadership, the changing nature of employees, the definition of span of control, the performance and behavior of the founders, the level of professionalism within the corporate culture and the ability of the company to allow its culture to evolve in order to cope with the increasing burdens that always accompany rapid growth and increased size.
The Evolving Nature of leadership: In the cottage stage, leadership tends to be defined by the founders. For many, because of their own rather limited management experience, their vision of leadership tends to be based on position and prerogative rather than inspiration and example. This can work during the early stages.
But, as the company grows, it comes under increasing pressure to bring in more experienced managers. These newcomers tend to pose an immediate threat to the prevailing theory of leadership. In a sense a new coin of the realm begins to compete with the old currency. Employees now face a choice that wasn’t available earlier on. On the one hand there are the founders who may continue to insist that they are the leaders and should be followed - often without question. On the other there are managers bringing new, and often very creative, approaches. Their leadership is based on the proposition of ‘do as I do’ rather than ‘do as I say’ - and they lead by example.
Founders are often the most challenged by this evolution in the operative concept of leadership. It takes an exceptional person to give up the security of the ‘I own the business so you will do as I say’ attitude in favor of the more risky and challenging approach of ‘follow me when I need to lead and I will follow you when it is better that you lead’ approach. How the founders react to this option has a major impact on the future of the company.
The Changing Nature of Employees: As an organization grows, and the pressures to generate higher performance increases, employees will seek out leadership and form allegiances which will empower them to solve new, and far more difficult, problems. New managers may have experience and skill sets that were not present in the original team. Some of them will take leadership roles in areas that have traditionally been seen as the prerogative of the founders - resulting in tensions that are felt company-wide.
Over time, two camps evolve within the company. The first, which I call ‘the traditionalists’, tends to find the changes unsettling. They often wistfully reminisce about the good old days when the company was more like a family than a business. They are bound together by a network of relationships, some of which are deeply personal. Their approach to the business tends to be conservative and focused on ‘growing without major changes in the corporate culture’. As the battle approaches they will often adopt a Fort Apache the Bronx approach - circling the wagons and defending what they consider to be the pure heart and soul of the company.
On the other side of this developing divide is the new breed of employee whose vision of the company generally extends farther into the future. Their vision involves not only substantial continued growth but an increasingly professionalized environment which includes a professionalization of the management team - a significant and sustained evolution of the corporate culture. These employees tend to lack the emotional connection to the early stages of a company’s growth. They’ve signed on not because they are true believers in the founders but were attracted to the opportunities that the company has now become able to offer.
The Definition of Span of Control: One of the early indicators of the coming battle is a widening disagreement over the concept of span of control. In traditional, modernist management terms the span of control is defined in terms of a list of those individuals who report directly to a given person. This ‘post Fordist’ vision is the most common one adopted by founders because, in the early stages, all roads lead to them. But this vision of organization is fundamentally flawed.
In truth this rather basic version only works in the most primitive of organizational structures when leadership is based upon prerogative and position. But things get considerably more complicated as the company’s operations expand. Informal reporting patterns begin to evolve based upon perceived competence and charisma rather than prerogative and position.
Inevitably informal span of control networks develop. Employees develop strong relationships with individuals they trust and respect and who relate to them in a supportive and empowering way. Pressures build when there is an increasing divergence between these informal and formal relationships.
The Performance and Behavior of the Founders: In the early stages of a company’s growth most founders tend to fancy themselves as chief of everything. They have ‘final say’ on virtually everything that affects the company. Few things are minor enough to escape their attention. But as the company grows this becomes practically impossible. (Although I have known several founders who have given the impossible a heroic and generally destructive shot.)
In purely human terms there is gets to be too much to understand and process – too many skill sets to master – too many places and people to be – for the founders to remain master of everything. Additionally the challenges that a company faces as it grows become both more complex and specialized. Solutions require extensive knowledge and experience in skill areas – skill sets that the founders often do not have.
If the founders try to maintain their control, the company will be limited in its growth to the size that that management approach allows. It will grow until the internal pressures threaten to cause an implosion. Most often, founders who cannot bring themselves to let go and delegate will (sometimes unconsciously) work to keep the company a ‘manageable size’. If the founders successfully reinvent themselves, the team will expand to include new members with more sophisticated knowledge in important areas – members who will take the lead in their areas.
The Level of Professionalism within the Corporate Culture: When a team first starts out to build a company, there are many areas where they are just ‘making it up as they go along’. Many of these are in the ‘non-technology’ parts of the business of growing a business. Finances can be managed out of the proverbial cigar box. HR is handled by visits to job boards or word-of-mouth searches. Decisions about which business opportunities to pursue are generally made opportunistically and with an eye towards survival. Little attention tends to be paid to the definition and evolution of a corporate culture – and the attention that is paid tends to be superficial.
There is some point in the evolution of every company that marks the beginning of the end of the viability of these kinds of ‘off-the-cuff’ strategies. They just don’t seem to be working like the used to. Things get more complex and the need to have systems that are robust and effective increases. Also, the impact of the failure of these strategies tends to increase and the founders can spend more and more time crisis managing.Professionalization of the team means bringing in new members who have deeper knowledge and experience in the process of running a company (and often little in the technology, product or service that is the company’s foundation). Some major areas of professionalization that can cause internal stress are: proposal development and delivery, capture, red-teaming, sales, HR, financial control and general management. That these new skill set are critical to the growth of any company is not the question. How a company deals with meeting or avoiding these needs is.
The Ability of the Company to Allow it Culture to Evolve: An adult will do poorly in most civilized societies if they have repressed the process of maturing and are still acting like a child. The same is true of a company and its culture. Growth means change - but it also means evolution in along well traveled pathways.
There are two broad paths that present themselves to a company moving out of the cottage stage and into adolescence. One road takes it towards what I call a ‘life-style’ company – one which meets primarily the needs of the founders leaving the rest of the team to decide whether their needs are being fulfilled. Along this road, employees have to accommodate the circumstances desired by the founders or leave in search of greener pastures – and many of the best often do. The second road opens towards growth beyond expectations and focuses on meeting the needs of an expanding team. This option requires the founders to evolve in ways that allow them to help the expanding team to meet their needs.
Corporate culture most evolve and become more adult-like if a company is going to grow sustainable – a company will insist on that evolution. The issue becomes whether it is going to have the chance.
The Ten Percenters: So how does a company decide between the paths of repressed adolescence on the one hand and maturing adolescence on the other? You probably noticed that I have made extensive references to the role and impact of the attitudes and capacities of the founders so it will come as no surprise that I believe, at least initially, the future is in their hands. The truth is that the founders make the first choices – choosing a path for their creation. These choices are often best if they are decisions to allow others to participate. Even so, these first steps are only the beginning of the battle. I have seen battles at cottage gates rage on for years - with both sides struggling for supremacy - while massive amounts of damage accrue.
I have watched founders, in reaction to perceived challenges to their supremacy, resort to the nuclear option – become true dictators in their own house. In those cases the results have been very bad. At other times one or more of them go through an evolutionary leap – reinventing themselves to a new type of leader and putting the status of founder on the shelf. Here progress is made and, over time, the battle may get resolved productively. On more than one occasion I have seen the newer, more professional team members get fed up and go off on their own – leaving the cottage to the traditionalists. That result puts the company back to square one in the process and the battle lines may tend to reform around the gate.
These battles rage on as long as the issues such as the ones described above are potent and until one or the other side totally abandons the field. Two roads diverge in a leafy wood and the company can only take one. One leads to limits and eternal adolescence until death - the other to a path to possible healthy adulthood. The future is in the hands of the founders and the outlook is not rosy. My experience has been that, by their actions, rather than their words, nine out of ten founder groups drive their company towards the first path.
(Link to Greiner Model….sorry if I am teaching folks to suck eggs…)
good article Earl, I wish more founders understood these challenges at the outset and planned for growth from the start…
I have also been in a company where they ported in a CEO from a large multi-national to run a start up in it’s later stages…I wonder why these guys would want to and I have my own thoughts w.r.t that, but 9 times out of 10 they crash and burn, they have the strategic vision but they lack the ability to get down and dirty with the hard core of the company, they have lost the ability to people manage, because they have not needed to in there previous corporate role, this usually means they have no ability to influence hence the ability to lead, as Leadership= Influence. It is inevitable that an early stage company growing will need to bring in a management team if they are to succeed, but in the selection process, look for the cultural characteristics in your on organisation and match them to the candidates you bring on board, use a large pool of existing employees to meet the candidates and use there feedback, the choice is your own, but be guided.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Ask any experienced entrepreneur who's been through the startup ringer what the most basic formula for a successful startup company is, and they will likely give you this response:
-Revenue minus expense equals profit-
This may sound like an overwhelmingly obvious point, but you'd be surprised how many startups screw up this formula from the start. And you may be one of them.
While no startup succeeds without revenue, plenty of startups fail because they can't manage expenses. Experienced entrepreneurs know that in order to keep the ship afloat, you need to reduce as much weight as possible. This means shaving every possible expense you can find â€“ even the ones you thought any startup should have.
When I help companies review their business plans, there are three areas that consistently waste the most capital. They're the biggest obstacles to getting to the profit part of the equation. Let's take a look at the biggest offenders.
Ditch the Office Space
The premature office space lease is the single worst expenditure you can make. The thinking goes that if you have a place to work from everyone will be more productive and you'll look more like a real business. It's true, you will definitely be more productive in a shared space and you will look more professional.
But at what cost?
Office space is never cheap, and the overall benefit rarely outweighs the associated cost. The lease alone is rarely the largest cost, since once you move in you will need extra phone lines, office furniture and services just to maintain the space. More startups create cash liabilities from office space leases than productivity bonuses that generate real revenue.
Instead of rushing out to get an office, find a free place to gather your team (your living room or a local Starbucks) and hold your meetings there. If you need to meet with a client then consider a neutral meeting location. Your tiny office space is only going to make you look tiny, not professional, there are plenty of serviced meeting venues that will be more cost effective, And the money you save on not signing a lease can go toward expenses that generate more sales, not additional costs.
Forget About Hiring
The second worst offender on the cost analysis is headcount. Entrepreneurs tend to think that businesses are only real if they employ other people to help spread the workload. Another myth. Hiring staff in startup mode is generally a horrible idea.First, you have no income. That means what little money you do generate is going to go to everyone but you. To some degree that's to be expected every business starts by paying more people than the founder when it launches. But it's also an enormous liability.Instead of taking on staff, consider nothing but paid project assignments with contractors and work-for-equity or stock options arrangements. The only asset you don't have right now is cash, and that's the one asset staff is going to eat up quickly.
In order to keep the income flowing to the right places (like your pocket) you'll need to hold off on hiring as long as possible. If that means more nights and weekends at your personal expense, so be it. It's the one expense you can afford to pay.
Write on Your Hand
On your quest to create a real business,you've probably also thought about buying all of the usual staples that you generally see in offices ,computers, post-it notes, furniture and the like. Together, they make for the kind of office you worked in at the big company that paid you a salary before you started this venture.But startups don't need office supplies. You need a barebones computer a cell phone (your company's new main number), and the back of your hand to write on. Anything else is an expense.
Only Spend on Stuff That Makes Money
If you want a simple way to determine what to spend money on, ensure every expense directly relates to income for example, marketing and sales. If you can deliver your product or service without an expense, then it's not essential.
You'll find that by adopting a no expense is necessary mentality, your road to profitability will be much shorter. Then, when the cash starts tumbling in on the profit side of the equation, you can put a little in your pocket. Even a dollar of income goes straight to the bottom line when you've learned how to cut out all of the expenses. For this reason, it's best to think of expenses as the last luxury that your new business can afford. The only line item that matters right now is income, and hopefully profit. Everything else doesn't fit in the equation.
Always remember you get the monkey (Venture capital /Investors) of your back when you start to make profit...and they you have a real company..
Law N0 2: leadership equals Influence
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
In the early stage company the most important resources that you need to track with great precison is Money and Time, both are like "Air and Food" to the body, both are critical and without any one of them you are dead in the water with no following wind.
Time is the most worrying of resources, you can never get any back, what you misuse you loose. I have been running multiply projects in the past and had that "middle of the night experience" when the realization slaps you in the face, we are starting to loose major time on this one. I have been involved indirectly with projects that feed into my programs and lost track of there progress, only to be supprised when I find out that they have slipped and are now delayed. I may be the only one who has those problems and if so you can stop reading now and go read Guy's Blog, but I find as you take on more resposiblity and your focus becomes more strategic than tactical you become further removed from the projects, you get updates on projects but sometimes you don't get the whole picture, you may have less experinenced project managers running programs who miss something critical, and all of a sudden you find that a project goes into delay, sometimes this will actually kill the project/program.
Some thoughts on saving your precious resource:
- Sometimes spending money can draw back some time.
- Do not take to much on, decide on how many projects the company can commit to at any one time and do not over extend, if you need to take a new project on then drop one of the others or find more resource.
- Make the project status visble to all, and use the 20 second rule and KISS.
- Mandate that the the company only works on the key projects, that there is no stealth projects running in the background.
- Be realistic on your list of projects and timescales, better to under commit and over perform and delight your customers.
- Have weekly by exception meetings with your key project managers, most SME's can run 10 key projects on top of the daily business, so these weekly meeting should take no more than 90mins, if it runs to more then there are more serious issues.
I would say be aware, and always keep an eye on time, it is too easy to loose track when you are busy.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
One reason meetings get more bloated than old Elvis is the common belief that speaking is mandatory. Employees fear that if they say nothing, everyone will assume they have nothing to say. Sitting in silence, they imagine their reticence attracts all eyes. The L's on their foreheads burn like the scarlet A on Hester Prynne's chest.
So, desperate to contribute, they search their mental pockets for two cents to put in. In linguistics terminology, that two cents is a signifier: It represents engagement with the topic whether or not such engagement actually exists. Say the subject is a process change, and the employee can think of no helpful suggestions or criticisms. Instead, she dredges up an objection based on an isolated incident that occurred years earlier. ("If we number versions that way we'll eventually reach 1,776, and you remember the trouble that caused during the bicentennial!") Another ploy is to bring up a broad, works-in-all-contexts consideration, such as global markets, diversity, and/or changing customer attitudes. ("Yes, but we must consider global markets, diversity, and/or changing customer attitudes.") Sometimes the best she can produce is a vague question: "What are the next steps?" or "Are we sure this is the best possible option?" Just one of these pointless comments adds at least two or three minutes to the discussion.
Meeting leaders have been taught that there are no stupid questions (only stupid rules about there being no stupid questions), and most are too considerate to shut the offender down. This is how meetings grow. Every time a new person speaks, those who haven't done so feel still more pressure.
"Speak up and be counted" is, of course, a dictum of democratic societies. It is also bred in the bones of our educational system: All those teachers who made participation 20 percent of the grade have a lot to answer for. But company leaders are responsible too, if they fail to clarify what traits they most value. Quality of participation should matter more than quantity; smart thoughts and actions more than words. Let everyone have a chance to prepare for a meeting by publishing an agenda--unless the purpose of the meeting is to spring something on the staff. If there are employees whose insights you particularly want on a topic, tell them before the meeting so they can prepare. Be sure to tap everyone at different times, however, so no one feels unimportant. End meetings on time, with the reminder that anyone who hasn't had a chance to speak should come by your office or e-mail his or her ideas. The silent ones can then leave the room looking determined to do so at once.
Most important, never single out a quiet employee with a jovial, "Kent, we haven't heard from you yet." Employees who fear being put on the spot may block by introducing nonagenda items about which they do have opinions, and the meeting starts to hydroplane. To put everyone at ease, try occasionally attending a meeting at which you yourself have nothing to add--and add nothing. Let your staff see it's fine just to listen and to learn, and that you don't think silence equals the death of a career
Monday, January 22, 2007
I support this fully, we need all the help we can get in this environment, compared to the US and some of the European countries we have a real burden here which is hindering Scotland from growing in the SME sector. I hope to be talking with Andy soon to see what help can be given.
Rates relief call for small firms
The Federation of Small Businesses Scotland is urging the Scottish Executive to double the small business rates relief scheme (SBRRS) in a bid to reduce the rates burden on Scotland's small firms (The Scotsman). The move would see businesses with a rateable value of less than £3,500 effectively removed from the system. Andy Willox, policy convener for FSB Scotland, said: "England introduced a small business rates relief scheme in 2005, and we feel Scotland should again lead the way in small business support by doubling SBRRS, which could make a huge contribution to our business start-up, business sustainability and economic prospects."
Authenticity, according to Webster'sDictionary, is being genuine. Genuine,suggests Webster's, means not being a hypocrite. And to be a hypocrite is "to feign qualities or beliefs that one does not actually possess or hold, especially a pretense of piety or moral superiority."
So to be truly genuine - or authentic -a leader requires a few things: To ensure that one's corporate actions and rhetoric are aligned; to ensure that such actions are meaningful (as opposed to superficial,headline-grabbing actions that don't take root beyond the organization's need for disingenuous publicity); and to ensure that one's public persona and private core are not at odds.
Even without the great degree of personal discernment required for Plato's examined life, it can be challenging for many leaders to ensure that their own and the organization's rhetoric is borne out in the actions taken individually and collectively. We don't have to dig too deeply to find an ample supply of corporate hypocrisy that results from a disconnect between good intention (or perhaps good spin) and follow-through.
No, in most cases it's not a matter of evil people doing evil things for purposes of unmitigated self-gratification. It's just that it's pretty easy to say things, to read a speech about vision and ideals, to inaugurate a new initiative with a lofty tag line.It's not so easy to get an organization tha thas assumed a life of its own, driven more and more by the insatiable appetite of shareholder value, to actually be that ideal. The proof is in the follow-through.That's where the level of leadership commitment and influence becomes evident.
And small businesses aren't immune. I know from my own experience as a business founder that it's easy to believe in a course of action, only to find that it's not the best course of action a week later. To get excited about a new idea, only to find out the idea's time has not yet come, or worse, it's not realistic in practice.Without straight forward communication,clearly articulated expectations, and an authentic, stable core vision, the sort of strategic vacilation common to both entrepreneurial companies and large corporations can force a disconnect between that which is spoken and that which is done.
We've all heard the grapevine stories about organizations that tout one thing publically while doing quite another behind closed doors. Examples would include the communication firm that doesn't practice skillful communication; or the large corporation that's recognized for its great work environment while it conducts round after round of layoffs and is permeated by areal culture of enforced workaholism. Or the large company that, in a competitive job market, perpetuates the myth that it's"flat" by calling its leaders "coaches" or its employees "associates" or "team members." Is it any wonder that we live in a time in which corporate spin and employee cynicism have skyrocketed?
In any organization, an authentic leader gets ahead of the often unavoidable, sometimes unpleasant business realities, and communicates both realities and possibilities in a context of uncompromising honesty. He or she withstands the temptation to adopt popular buzzwords if he knows there's inadequate commitment to long-term support required for an initiative or ideal to take root and survive.She doesn't pretend the company has no hierarchy when both its size and its production requirements make hierarchy of some sort a necessity.
Authentic leadership may indeed be more possible in privately owned companies, given the tremendous pressure on leaders in public companies to squeeze every possible penny of profit for shareholders, regardless of the deleterious effect on the organization's culture, employees, or customers. Are the chief executives of large, public companies - like most politicians - morelike actors than true leaders?
Friday, January 19, 2007
When you get into running your own enterprise you find out very quickly that it is not an easy task, or you can be a hard ass manager bottom line driven with a flack jacket for skin and the adventure will pass you by and will have missed one of life's greatest challenges. on the other hand you can be a leader who gets involved with the grass roots of your enterprise and engages with your employees, as you engage there will be greater requirements and demands laid on to you. The key thing to remember is that you are responsible for your employees, and as relationships develop you will find yourself being involved in more and more of there life's events. The leader needs to have empathy but also be able to step away at times and look at the overall picture, businesses can go badly wrong when there is too much concern given to individuals, leaders don't take the corrective actions necessary to fix performance or behavioural issues because they are too close to the individuals concerned. This seems to be a mixed message be a "people person" on one hand and the other be remote, I do not think these are at odds if the leader follows a few guidelines.
- Be honest with people, tell them how things are, if they are performing bad tell them if they are doing well then tell them.
- Set demanding goals and objectives for the organization, people will measure themselves against them and most will correct there own performance.
- Look at issues with the "360" approach and apply the helicopter analysis to put fixes in place.
- Be loyal to your employees where loyalty is returned, dump those who are not.
- Be consistent in all your decisions.
When there is a strong prevailing wind blowing and no safe harbour
So how do we need to behave in times of trouble, we need to show a calm, steady resolve that you will fix what is wrong if you can, and if not, you will communicate the worst in the same manor. If you have been honest and developed trust with the employees they will appreciate the openness, even when the news is personally bad.
I will close this post with this statement, yes!! your employees have a choice to work for you or not, but if they have chosen to work for you, that means you have sold them on the enterprise vision and they have put there trust in you, the least you can do as a leader is honour that.
See you all tonight
Thursday, January 18, 2007
By Richard Wilson -- Electronics Weekly, 1/17/2007
The industry has been stunned by the U.K. government’s failure to support the building of Plastic Logic’s $100 million semiconductor production facility in the U.K. rather than Germany.
Despite investing more than $2.9 million (1.5 million pounds) of public money in the Cambridge, England-based company’s R&D activities, the necessary support was not available in the U.K. when Plastic Logic planned its first production facility.
“This is a great concern to us and should be for others too,” Derek Boyd, chief executive of the NMI told Electronics Weekly. “Where the U.K. can compete on R&D, skills and clusters it cannot compete on the level of subsidies that other regions have,” said Boyd.
Electronics Weekly understands that Plastic Logic considered the U.K. when looking for the best European location to carry out their high-tech manufacturing. Wales made it on to Plastic Logic’s top five list, but was disadvantaged because it could not provide a competitive greenfield site and attractive grant.
“Are we doing enough to support, grow and retain them beyond the early stages? … It appears not,” said Boyd.
Boyd plans to question the government on the issue. “It is unclear to us how the U.K. will effectively compete in the long-term if we do not fully support businesses in a holistic sense, ie. R&D, design and manufacturing,” said Boyd.
“The case of Plastic Logic is especially interesting as it has the potential to be truly disruptive and has the potential to create a schism in electronics manufacturing. It is on this basis that we will be contacting government to help us understand their considered strategy for the U.K. more fully,” said Boyd.
Boyd believes that European policy has created a playing field that is not level and U.K. appears to be at a significant disadvantage. “We believe the U.K. government should be encouraging and supporting high-tech manufacturing; the cases of Plastic Logic and MED are two excellent examples where the U.K. is leading the field in new, high-tech areas but policy out forces further deployment,” said Boyd.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
INTERVIEW: GORDON THOMSON, CISCO
GADGETS and software are part of the day's routine for Cisco's Gordon Thomson, but one pioneering piece of kit manufactured by a rival has caught his attention.
According to an e-mail flashed to his PDA that morning, the telecoms software giant is to sue Steve Jobs' company Apple over its use of the name iPhone, a brand already used by Cisco. The lawsuit could run and run, especially as American lawyers are involved, and there are big stakes to play for. But for Thomson, this will be one piece of business he will happily leave to his bosses in San Jose, California. The row will rumble on while he gets on with his job running the company's operations in Scotland.
This is his first day back at work after he was struck down by a flu-like bug just before New Year, but he seems to have recovered fully. Chatting over a coffee in the Palm Court bar in Edinburgh's Balmoral Hotel, he speaks with passion about the power of technology to transform Scotland's business performance.
Unusually among the Scottish bosses of international technology groups, Thomson is responsible for selling to local clients as well as managing the local production facilities.
Cisco has made a habit of snapping up nascent Scottish technology which Thomson views as an under-exploited feature of the economy. The firm has about 70 software engineers in Cumbernauld - once home to Atlantech, the company bought from Scots entrepreneur David Sibbald in 2000 - and a similar number in Leith, at the offices of the former Spider Systems, acquired from another Scots duo, Martin Ritchie and Nick Felisiak.
Edinburgh-born Thomson is embedded in the Scottish tech business scene, as a board member of ScotlandIS, the software trade association, and as a part-time lecturer at Strathclyde University's Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship, but he wants to see Scotland take more advantage of technology to grow the economy.
"People talk about a glass ceiling for businesses in Scotland," he says. "We produce a lot of small businesses, but how do they develop into the Microsofts or Ciscos of the future? What is constraining them? I believe the problem is that we do not harness technology enough.
"Our productivity is growing more slowly than gross domestic product, which means that we have to work harder to produce less, which is frightening."
But using technology, he believes, can help indigenous companies to grow rather than waiting for the next footloose international investor to roll up, claim a grant and create a few hundred jobs: "We have to work smarter. This is not about attracting more inward investors to Scotland, it is about going out and collaborating on the global stage."
As Cisco's business is in providing a range of telecommunications, computing and video products, Thomson obviously has a vested interest in stimulating demand, but he also argues that, from a trade perspective, such things as videoconferencing and the internet can bring Scottish companies closer to their markets and help them to reduce costs.
Also on Thomson's prescription for a healthier Scotland is more sales staff - echoing a view expressed in Scotland on Sunday last year by Gavin Don, professor of entrepreneurial finance at the University of Edinburgh. Then, Don said sales people were undervalued and that a cultural change was required.
Now, Thomson says: "There has been a stigma attached to sales in the past. But we live in a world where products do not have unique selling propositions any more, or not for long. You have to differentiate yourself and you do that by being closer to your customers so that you understand their needs more."
Thomson speaks from a position of experience. His first proper job was as an advertising salesman at Thomson, the directory publisher (no relation), where he worked after dropping out of a history course at Strathclyde University. He enjoyed the cut and thrust of sales, but decided that technology was the way forward and joined Cable & Wireless, the communications group, in 1989. He stayed there for nine years, latterly managing contracts for the likes of Hewlett-Packard and British Airways, before joining Cisco, where he stepped up to become country manager for Scotland in 2001, replacing Maggie Morrison.
His time at Cisco has coincided with mixed fortunes for the US group, which was briefly the world's biggest company by market value at the height of the dotcom boom in 1999.
Its acquisition of telecoms software firm Atlantech for £114m made Sibbald a rich man and raised Cisco's profile in Scotland. And in 2001, the company hit the front pages after Glasgow city council sources said it was planning to build a European headquarters, housing 2,000 staff, on the banks of the Clyde.
But the news came just as the sector was about to plunge into a downturn and the idea was shelved. In any case, Thomson says, there was never any intention to expand the workforce significantly: "That was all about consolidating our offices on to one site, it was a real estate thing, but the story did not come out right."
Two years later, the normally reserved Atlantech founder Sibbald talked of his "sadness" when Cisco said that jobs were to be cut at his former plant. But according to Thomson, the Cumbernauld site is now heavily in demand. It produces software which helps telephone companies such as BT manage the traffic moving over their networks. "The operators are investing a lot in this area now," he says.
Thomson is an enthusiast for virtual meetings and at one point he chuckles: "Slap me if I talk about any Cisco products." But that does not stop him detailing Cisco's latest videoconferencing concept, TelePresence, which will enable realistic three-dimensional moving images of people to take part in negotiations, boardroom discussions or conferences anywhere in the world. "It is going to have a massive impact over the next few years. It will look like you are really having a conversation with someone in the room."
It sounds like the death knell for business class travel, although Thomson admits he is still a frequent flyer, and will travel to the US at least six times this year to attend various Cisco conferences and directors' meetings. He says the schedule would be far more gruelling without technology: "I could be on the plane three times a week if I did not have video technology."
The most important thing happening in technology now, he says, is "Web 2.0", a catch-all term for the new generation of online services which are personalising the internet. Sites such as YouTube and features such as blogs are transforming the internet from a monolithic block where you take what is on offer to something more participative.
"To give you an example, my son wanted a pair of trainers for Christmas. Rather than going to JJB Sports and choosing what was on offer there, he went to Nike.com and designed his own pair of trainers. What Nike has done has individualised its service and attracted my son to buy from them.
"Web 2.0 is about communicating more effectively. It means business can collaborate more effectively, and it means intellectual property from Scotland can be more accessible globally."
After enthusing for 45 minutes about the wonders of technology, Thomson has a moment of self-consciousness: "I do enjoy other things beyond IT," he says. "I was Scottish secondary schools champion golfer in 1984. If I wasn't doing this, I would be trying to make a living as a professional golfer."
Using only the latest, most technologically advanced clubs, no doubt.
Well for those who need a break have a look at "How to Be Creative" by Hugh Macleod another book about creativity is If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit. Hugh is the guy behind Gapingvoid (“cartoons drawn on the back of business cards”). I saw this on Guys Blog.
Monday, January 15, 2007
So as it is late in the evening and today has been a long day , by time and distance, I will keep it short tonight,
Walk the Job, how many times have we heard those words and how many times have you buried them with the rest of all those nice thoughts, well take it from me walk the job, talk to the teams and drink coffee with the guys and gals you may learn something, you may not like it but at least you will walk away edified..
told you it was short...
dinner now...and a glass or two of my favorite single malt...some water of life...and I truly need that tonight..
Friday, January 12, 2007
Ten Ways to Use LinkedIn
By GK = Guy Kawasaki for Anonyomus :)
The average number of LinkedIn connections for people who work at Google is forty-seven.
The average number for Harvard Business School grads is fifty-eight, so you could skip the MBA, work at Google, and probably get most of the connections you need. Later, you can hire Harvard MBAs to prepare your income taxes.
People with more than twenty connections are thirty-four times more likely to be approached with a job opportunity than people with less than five.
All 500 of the Fortune 500 are represented in LinkedIn. In fact, 499 of them are represented by director-level and above employees.
Most people use LinkedIn to “get to someone” in order to make a sale, form a partnership, or get a job. It works well for this because it is an online network of more than 8.5 million experienced professionals from around the world representing 130 industries. However, it is a tool that is under-utilized, so I’ve compiled a top-ten list of ways to increase the value of LinkedIn.
Increase your visibility.
By adding connections, you increase the likelihood that people will see your profile first when they’re searching for someone to hire or do business with. In addition to appearing at the top of search results (which is a major plus if you’re one of the 52,000 product managers on LinkedIn), people would much rather work with people who their friends know and trust.
Improve your connectability.
Most new users put only their current company in their profile. By doing so, they severely limit their ability to connect with people. You should fill out your profile like it’s an executive bio, so include past companies, education, affiliations, and activities.
You can also include a link to your profile as part of an email signature. The added benefit is that the link enables people to see all your credentials, which would be awkward if not downright strange, as an attachment.
Improve your Google PageRank.
LinkedIn allows you to make your profile information available for search engines to index. Since LinkedIn profiles receive a fairly high PageRank in Google, this is a good way to influence what people see when they search for you.
To do this, create a public profile and select “Full View.” Also, instead of using the default URL, customize your public profile’s URL to be your actual name. To strengthen the visibility of this page in search engines, use this link in various places on the web> For example, when you comment in a blog, include a link to your profile in your signature.
Enhance your search engine results.
In addition to your name, you can also promote your blog or website to search engines like Google and Yahoo! Your LinkedIn profile allows you to publicize websites. There are a few pre-selected categories like “My Website,” “My Company,” etc.
If you select “Other” you can modify the name of the link. If you’re linking to your personal blog, include your name or descriptive terms in the link, and voila! instant search-engine optimization for your site. To make this work, be sure your public profile setting is set to “Full View.”
Perform blind, “reverse,” and company reference checks.
LinkedIn’s reference check tool to input a company name and the years the person worked at the company to search for references. Your search will find the people who worked at the company during the same time period. Since references provided by a candidate will generally be glowing, this is a good way to get more balanced data.
Companies will typically check your references before hiring you, but have you ever thought of checking your prospective manager’s references? Most interviewees don’t have the audacity to ask a potential boss for references, but with LinkedIn you have a way to scope her out.
You can also check up on the company itself by finding the person who used to have the job that you’re interviewing for. Do this by searching for job title and company, but be sure to uncheck “Current titles only.” By contacting people who used to hold the position, you can get the inside scoop on the job, manager and growth potential.
By the way, if using LinkedIn in these ways becomes a common practice, we’re apt to see more truthful resumes. There’s nothing more amusing than to find out that the candidate who claims to have caused some huge success was a total bozo who was just along for the ride.
Increase the relevancy of your job search.
Use LinkedIn’s advanced search to find people with educational and work experience like yours to see where they work. For example, a programmer would use search keywords such as “Ruby on Rails,” “C++,” “Python,” “Java,” and “evangelist” to find out where other programmers with these skills work.
Make your interview go smoother.
You can use LinkedIn to find the people that you’re meeting. Knowing that you went to the same school, plays hockey, or shares acquaintances is a lot better than an awkward silence after, “I’m doing fine, thank you.”
Gauge the health of a company.
Perform an advanced search for company name and uncheck the “Current Companies Only” box. This will enable you to scrutinize the rate of turnover and whether key people are abandoning ship. Former employees usually give more candid opinions about a company’s prospects than someone who’s still on board.
Gauge the health of an industry.
If you’re thinking of investing or working in a sector, use LinkedIn to find people who worked for competitors—or even better, companies who failed. For example, suppose you wanted to build a next generation online pet store, you’d probably learn a lot from speaking with former Pets.com or WebVan employees.
You can see people in your network who are initiating new startups by doing an advanced search for a range of keywords such as “stealth” or “new startup.” Apply the “Sort By” filter to “Degrees away from you” in order to see the people closest to you first.
Ask for advice.
LinkedIn’s newest product, LinkedIn Answers, aims to enable this online. The product allows you to broadcast your business-related questions to both your network and the greater LinkedIn network. The premise is that you will get more high-value responses from the people in your network than more open forums.
For example, here are some questions an entrepreneur might ask when the associates of a venture capital firm come up blank:
Who’s a good, fast, and cheap patent lawyer?
What should we pay a vp of biz dev?
Is going to Demo worth it?
How much traffic does a TechCrunch plug generate?
hope you have a good weekend
Tough as nails. Ice queen. Steely-eyed resolve.
There’s no shortage of popular, metaphoric expressions for the intrepid, invincible, impenetrable executive persona to which so many managers appear to aspire.
Striving to be the Hardest, Toughest Manager undercuts the example you set for the people around you.It seems that Real Managers have Kevlar woven right into the fabric of their constitution. They’re impervious to the slings and arrows of everyday challenges that befall mere mortals; immune to the piercing foibles of everyday life that bring down lesser colleagues. Heck, they are bullet-proof.
And yet… And yet, we all know intuitively that just cannot be. No one is all that infallible, indefatigable, unfailing.
Just think of the energy consumed tying to maintain that façade of being the Invincible Manager! You have to work doubly hard to be as perfect as possible, but what may not be so readily apparent, is the hidden cost of projecting the image of invincibility and invulnerability. Because you have to work even harder yet again to maintain the appearance of superiority and unflappability.
But the really interesting thing — the revelation that so many Super Managers find difficult, initially, to wrap their heads around — is that striving to be the Hardest, Toughest Manager undercuts the example you set for the people around you. Trying to be Invulnerable Manager doesn’t bolster your credibility, it undermines it.
Why is that?Showing vulnerability is not a sign of weakness but strength.
Here’s the reality. Everyone knows that perfection is not only elusive but unattainable. So at a core level, when we see someone passing themselves off as essentially without blemish, we know that something is awry with them. Invulnerability is a form of dishonesty. It undercuts trust.
On the other hand, when you can openly share your own vulnerability, show your foibles and imperfections, share tales of your mistakes, what does that communicate? Weakness? Au contraire!
This is the Paradox of Vulnerability: Showing your vulnerability is not a sign of weakness but displays your strength. Here’s how that works. A manager who is secure enough in his or her own skin to be candid, to reveal imperfections, to tell of missteps made, is not only not displaying weakness but demonstrating strength of character, revealing a sense of security fortified enough to reveal the unvarnished, unspun, unembellished truth.
It also encourages the people around you to be courageous. It has a magnifying effect. Think of it as the Lighthouse Principle. You know that a lighthouse beacon takes one point of light and magnifies it many times by reflecting it multiple times through a series of mirrors. A manager affects his or her associates in much the same way. His or her single point of light is reflected by all the people around that manager. The brighter the light, the stronger the reflectors, the greater the intensity of the total light created.
The paradox is, when you reveal your vulnerable side, you cast more light not less. And it is reflected back to you many fold in the intensity of effort of those around you. As the old song says, you can’t be a beacon if your light don’t shine.
See you guys tonight, looks like a long evening
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Check out this excellent compilation of visualization methods called “A Periodic Table of Visualization Methods.” This came to my attention via a convoluted path from BoingBoing (who thanks Mike Love) to Seth Godin to Acorn Creative. Ralph Lengler and Martin J. Eppler created it. You might also enjoy reading their paper, entitled “Towards a Periodic Table of Visualization Methods for Management”
Plastic Logic Lands $100M
UK-based maker of e-book displays to build plant in Germany.January 4, 2007
By Ken Schachter
In one of the largest venture capital rounds in European history, Plastic Logic announced Wednesday that it had raised $100 million to build a factory in Germany to make display modules for electronic reader products.
Leading the funding round were two investment firms based in Connecticut, Oak Investment Partners and Tudor Investment Corporation. Also participating were Intel Capital, Bank of America, BASF Venture Capital, Quest for Growth, Merifin Capital and Amadeus, which led Plastic Logic's seed financing.
Plastic Logic, based in Cambridge, UK, makes flexible active-matrix displays that can be fabricated like the pages of a book and used to display downloaded content of books or newspapers.
"Our displays will enable electronic reader products that are as comfortable and natural to read as paper whether you're on a beach, in a train, or relaxing on the sofa at home." John Mills, chief operating officer at Plastic Logic, said in a statement. "Wireless connectivity will allow you to purchase and download a book or pick up the latest edition of your newspaper wherever you are and whenever you need it. The battery will last for thousands of pages so you can leave your charger at home."
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The company plans to build the plant, with an initial capacity of a million displays a year, in the eastern Germany city of Dresden and start production in 2008. The company said demand for electronic readers is expected to climb to 41.6 million units in 2010.
The investment is "a perfect fit with Oak's vision of future media interaction through handheld devices," Bandel Carano, managing partner at Oak, said in a statement.
Plastic Logic makes its thin-film transistors using flexible semiconducting polymers. The thin-film transistors control the voltage on each pixel, creating an active-matrix display.
Oak has backed companies including Compaq, Genzyme, and Seagate.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
The Stickiness Aptitude Test (SAT) and Ten Questions with Chip and Dan Heath
My prediction for Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die is that it will join The Tipping Point and Built to Last as a must-read for business people. The book explains why some ideas stick and some don’t--and I’ve been on both sides of this equation. A warning though: If you read this book, you’ll revamp a lot of your marketing material (as you probably should).
By way of background, Chip Heath is a professor of organizational behavior in the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University. Prior to joining Stanford, Professor Heath taught at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business and the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University. He received his B.S. in Industrial Engineering from Texas A&M University and his Ph.D. in Psychology from Stanford.
Dan Heath is a consultant at Duke Corporate Education. Before joining Duke CE, Dan had a fellowship at Harvard Business School, where he conducted field research and developed cases with several professors in the Entrepreneurial Management unit. Prior to Harvard Business School, Dan co-founded a company called Thinkwell in Austin, TX. Dan has an MBA from Harvard Business School, and a BA in the Plan II Honors Program from the University of Texas at Austin.
Question: Why didn’t you name the book, The Sticking Point?
Answer: It’s genius...if only we’d thought of it earlier... [Whose fault is that? Dan should have given me the draft earlier.]
Malcolm Gladwell is one of our heroes, and of course we borrowed the “stickiness” terminology from The Tipping Point. Gladwell’s interest was in what makes certain trends likely to “tip.” In his chapter about stickiness, he talks a lot about the value of experimentation in educational shows, such as Sesame Street and Blue’s Clues. He’s absolutely right about the value of experimentation. But we think that you can know a lot, up front, about which ideas are more likely to succeed and fail because successful ideas share common traits. Our book digs into those traits and how you can put them to use in communicating your own ideas.
Question: What separates ideas that stick from those that don’t?
Answer: We spent lots of time researching sticky ideas—ideas that people understand, remember, and that change the way people think or behave. The ideas we studied ranged from the ludicrous to the profound, from urban legends (no, there is no kidney theft ring) to great scientific theories (yes, the land we walk around on does ride on giant tectonic plates and when they collide they cause mountain ranges and earthquakes). We found there were six principles (“SUCCES”) that link sticky ideas of all kinds. Sticky ideas won’t always have all six, but the more, the merrier.
For example, JFK’s idea to “put a man on the moon in a decade” had all six of them:
Simple A single, clear mission.
Unexpected A man on the moon? It seemed like science fiction at the time.
Concrete Success was defined so clearly—no one could quibble about man, moon, or decade.
Credible This was the President of the U.S. talking.
Emotional It appealed to the aspirations and pioneering instincts of an entire nation.
Story An astronaut overcomes great obstacles to achieve an amazing goal.
Working with my buddies at Electric Pulp, we created the Stickiness Aptitude Test (SAT). You can use it to determine how sticky your product or service will be.
Question: Your principles sound pretty basic. If these six principles were all it took to make a sticky idea, why aren’t there more brilliant ideas in the world?
Answer: Basic, yes, but not natural. That’s an important distinction. People tend to think that having a great idea is enough, and they think the communication part will come naturally. We are in deep denial about the difficulty of getting a thought out of our own heads and into the heads of others. It’s just not true that, “If you think it, it will stick.”
And that brings us to the villain of our book: The Curse of Knowledge. Lots of research in economics and psychology shows that when we know something, it becomes hard for us to imagine not knowing it. As a result, we become lousy communicators. Think of a lawyer who can’t give you a straight, comprehensible answer to a legal question. His vast knowledge and experience renders him unable to fathom how little you know. So when he talks to you, he talks in abstractions that you can’t follow. And we’re all like the lawyer in our own domain of expertise.
Here’s the great cruelty of the Curse of Knowledge: The better we get at generating great ideas—new insights and novel solutions—in our field of expertise, the more unnatural it becomes for us to communicate those ideas clearly. That’s why knowledge is a curse. But notice we said “unnatural,” not “impossible.” Experts just need to devote a little time to applying the basic principles of stickiness.
JFK dodged the Curse. If he’d been a modern-day politician or CEO, he’d probably have said, “Our mission is to become the international leader in the space industry, using our capacity for technological innovation to build a bridge towards humanity’s future.” That might have set a moon walk back fifteen years.
Question: Why has Windows stuck? It doesn’t appear to be simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, or involve stories.
Answer: It’s important to distinguish ideas and products. A fax is a product but not an idea. “Do unto others...” is an idea but not a product. We talk in our book about what makes ideas stick but we don’t want to claim that our framework describes everything you need to know about why products stick—or pop stars or dance crazes. Everyone has a mailbox, but it’s weird to say that mailboxes are an idea that has stuck.
Some parts of our idea framework may apply to Windows: In comparison to DOS, Windows was certainly simple and concrete, as had been the Macintosh and Xerox PARC graphical interfaces before it. Because of its association with IBM PCs, Windows also had more credibility—what are you going to trust for your business: an IBM PC or a Commodore 64? But let’s face it, Windows lives closer to the fax side of the continuum than the idea side.
By 1985 when the first version of Windows came out, IBM had the largest market share in PCs. Even back then people were starting to understand network effects: There was more software available for DOS and Windows machines, so people were more likely to be able to exchange files with coworkers, so they—and coworkers—tended to buy the same kind of computer. Network effects for products are powerful, but we don’t want to claim credit for them as part of our framework for ideas.
Zooming out, there *are* things that live at the intersection of ideas and products—in almost any branding opportunity, there’s a product and idea. High-end vodkas, for example, would probably be indistinguishable in a blind taste test as products, so when people prefer one, they’re preferring the idea promised by the brand. Our framework is more likely to apply to analyzing the ideas promised by different brands than the products that go along with them.
Question: Who’s in the Heath Hall of Stickness Fame?
Answer: JFK, of course, for his man on the moon idea. But that example is somewhat misleading because JFK is a president and a hero. It’s easy to think his idea was powerful because he was powerful. So in the book we discuss a lot of great ideas that come from relatively unknown heroes:
An elementary-school teacher who designed a shocking simulation that virtually cured prejudice in her students.
A small-town publisher who created the most successful local newspaper in America by focusing on a simple mission for 40+ years.
The leader of the team that developed the PalmPilot, who kept his team obsessive about design simplicity.
The Australian medical internist who figured out what caused stomach ulcers—and then faced the much larger challenge of convincing his colleagues that he was right. He was unknown at the time, but he isn’t any longer, and he won the Nobel Prize in Medicine last year.
The important point is this: You don’t need power or charm or resources to make a sticky idea. It’s not solely a JFK thing.
Question: Time and again, you hammer on simplicity and core, and yet your jacket copy says, “This is a book written for anyone who strives to craft messages that are memorable and lasting: teachers, businesspeople, journalists, ministers, and nonprofit leaders.” This sounds to me like you want to be Gladwell, Cialdini, Warren, and Drucker. Isn’t this a violation of your concepts?
Answer: Nope. Our book was written for a type of problem, not a type of person. The problem is this: When you have an important idea, how do you communicate it in a way that has impact? How do you construct a great idea? Teachers and businesspeople and ministers all have this problem in spades, so our book will help them—but only with this one problem! We’ve got absolutely nothing to say about long division or finance or salvation.
The cool thing, to us, is realizing that the idea-playbook is similar for these diverse sets of people. Good science lessons and good Hollywood movies both raise mysteries that cause people to *want* to listen until the mystery is resolved. Aesop’s Fables have survived over 2000 years because of their concrete examples, and if you want your business plan to survive more than 15 minutes, you’d better be concrete as well.
Once you’ve got a great idea in your head—whether you’re in engineering or business or teaching—there are a handful of principles that will help you communicate it. That’s where our book comes in.
Question: Did Herb Kelleher “know” his core when the first Southwest Airlines flight took off?
We talk in the book about the importance of finding a simple message that expresses the core of your idea. Kelleher’s core is that Southwest is “THE low-fare airline.” Most entrepreneurs struggle for years to find a core message, but Kelleher started with his.
In fact, the original core idea fit on a cocktail napkin: An entrepreneur named Rollin King from San Antonio, Texas owned a small commuter air service and had the idea of creating a larger commuter service with bigger planes. In a conversation with Kelleher in a bar, he sketched out his idea on a napkin. The original napkin is framed in the boardroom of Southwest. On it is a triangle with the vertices labeled Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. The idea was to launch a commuter airline flying big planes between those three cities. The driving distance between the cities is about three to three and a half hours. Rollins and Kelleher knew people might decide to fly instead of drive if the fares could be made cheap enough to present an attractive alternative.
Of course, it took a long time to put the napkin into practice. The other airlines tied up Southwest in court battles for four years. But the Southwest story has a nice lesson for potential entrepreneurs, the Cocktail Napkin Test. Lots of entrepreneurs can tell you a dozen reasons that their product or service will transform the world. A good challenge for them would be to sort through the dozen reasons and pick the single most important one. It’s a worthy aspiration to paint a picture of the world that is simple enough and concrete enough to be sketched on a cocktail napkin.
Question: What is the relationship between stickiness and evangelism?
Answer: Evangelism has been one of your recurring themes over the years. As far back as The Macintosh Way you were arguing that the best partners are interested in the ideal of what you’re doing, not just the potential for making money. The people in it for the money bail when times get tough, the people in it for the ideal stick with you.
We have a similar theme in our book. There are two basic approaches to creating an emotional idea that makes people care—you can appeal to consequences (e.g., money) or you can appeal to identity. Consequences are not as important as we sometimes think. Political scientists find that voters don’t vote their personal pocketbook as much as they vote their identity—what’s good for us as Americans, or, more narrowly, for the other members of our religious or ethnic groups. Steve Jobs’ 1984 commercial cleverly appealed to identity—Macintosh true believers were striking a blow for liberation in an oppressive world filled with IBM’s big box machines.
But though identity is powerful, we often ignore it. When we predict what motivates others, we all tend to assume that everyone else is motivated by consequences. We tend to think that we, personally, are motivated by learning and service and and fulfillment, and others are motivated by bonuses. Research suggests that people tend to systematically neglect identity appeals. Bottom line, there’s less evangelism than there probably should be.
Question: Is there a point in a market where it’s impossible to make a new entrant stick? For example, how would you try to kick MySpace’s butt?
Answer: In the beginning, MySpace started as a better idea. At the time the leading social networking site was Friendster, founded by a former Netscape programmer, which assumed that being “social” was the ability to calculate the degrees of separation between you and someone else. On Friendster you couldn’t see the profile of anyone who was separated from you by too many degrees.
By contrast, MySpace started as a place to bond with others over emerging bands and music, an important source of identity. You could see everyone’s profile –you could easily meet strangers who shared your interest in Seaweed or the Bad Brains. Shared identity and hormones are a potent combination. Friendster, by contrast, tried to shut down “fakester” members that stood for shared interests or identities as opposed to real people.
At this point MySpace is a sticky product because of network effects—just like the QWERTY keyboard or Windows—so the idea of MySpace may not matter as much as the product. You have to be there because that’s where your friends are, just like you have to buy on eBay because that’s where the sellers are. But if something can unseat MySpace it might be a reverse of the basic identity appeal. MySpace is getting so mainstream it may be vulnerable to a rebellion strategy just like fashion products that lose their cachet when knock-offs show up in Tulsa strip malls. MySpace has a serious problem: People in their 40s have MySpace pages. That can’t be good and it might leave room for a hipper niche player.
Question: Can a slick marketer apply your principles and make a piece of crap stick—or does the intrinsic value ultimately decide stickiness?
Slick marketers are already using most of these principles. We wanted our book to serve as an equalizer. Because you’re right—instrinsic value counts. The slick marketing recipe is: Sticky communications about ideas with little intrinsic value. The social enterprise recipe is: Ideas with huge intrinsic value communicated with little stickiness. We wanted to even the arms-race.
The problem is that ideas with intrinsic value don’t always win. It’s not true that you only use 10% of your brain. Or that the Great Wall of China is the only man-made structure visible from space. And gum doesn’t take seven years to digest in your stomach. The world of ideas is unfair. Teachers and public health officials and legislators agonize over how to get their messages across, and meanwhile, dumb ideas, like urban legends, propagate with no advertising budgets and no authority figures supporting them.
We can bemoan the fact that dumb ideas win out. But we can also reverse-engineer them. We can figure out the principles that make them stick and teach them to people who have worthwhile messages. Slick marketers know a lot of these principles already. Urban legends have them baked in. But no one teaches engineers or entrepreneurs or chemistry professors how to make their ideas stick.
Question: What’s your advice to a product champion stuck in a large company who gets matrixed to death trying to implement your ideas?
Make people play on your turf by keeping things concrete. It is so much easier to bullshit with abstraction than with concrete examples. Don’t say, “I think we should devote more resources to evangelism among mid-market IT decision-makers.” Say, “Here’s a list of 500 IT decision-makers in the area around Salt Lake City. I want to invite them to a one-day conference on Sept 29. It will cost $60,000 to pull off. Who’s in?” Even if they disagree, it will be productive disagreement, anchored in reality.
In the book we tell about Melissa Studzinski, who joined General Mills as the brand manager of Hamburger Helper. She was twenty-eight years old. When she started she was given three huge binders full of sales and volume data, ad briefs, and marketing surveys. The data was too abstract to provide much intuition. Then she ran a program called “Fingertips” in which her team found Midwestern moms who would let General Mills employees barge into their homes and watch them cook. They wanted a concrete picture of their customer at their fingertips. What they found was that moms didn’t care about variety of flavors. This was a shocking insight within the company: previous generations of marketers and food scientists had created thirty flavors of Hamburger Helper!
On the other hand the moms did care about being able to find the same predictable flavor that their kids would actually eat. Using this concrete information, Studzinski’s team convinced people across General Mills to reduce the number of products. Costs went way down and sales went up. Who’s going to argue with Betty Jones in Wheaton who says she stopped using Hamburger Helper because she could never find the spaghetti flavor? That’s a very concrete example that convinced lots of people across a big bureaucracy to consider a different way of doing things.
Question: What does it mean if your book doesn’t become a bestseller?
Answer: It means we should have been born the Grisham brothers.
“Bestseller” does have a nice ring, so please do buy some books, but remember that a sticky idea is one that people understand, remember, and causes some change in the way they think or behave. So our failure story has nothing to do with sales. Our failure story is that people who buy our book do nothing different the next time they pitch an idea and they’ve forgotten what they read 3 months later. Erg, that would hurt.
We have a specific measure of success for our book. We want to get emails from people who used techniques from our book to make their ideas stick. If we get a lot of those emails, we’re happy. If we don’t, we’ll keep studying ideas until we get it right. [To email Chip and Dan, use these: Chip Heath Dan Heath ]