Popular Posts

Friday, November 30, 2007

So do the VC's have it correct Good Judgment or Credentials and experience what matters ?

So do the VC's have it correct Good Judgment or Credentials and experience what matters ?

Interesting post by Carleen Hawn on the two sides of the founder coin, Judgement Vs Experience, for my books I would rather work with a team that has both, less for me to teach and and watch over. The Zen statement was interesting in that a fresh mind is more willing to change, that is so very true, my wife was talking about setting up a Christian book shop in the area, I was already away down the road of why you can't do it, and had nearly buried the idea because of the "experience " I have in starting businesses, it took me back to my first business I started it was a Guest house, now real capital, haggling for everything we bought, paying cash to get best price, etc.....I did think have I lost something important, with all this experience or gained ?

I will be traveling next week over in the land of the rising sun, so posts will be infrequent, so to the post below..good reading and have a great weekend

Credentials? Nah. Judgment is what counts.

For your company’s prospects, Marc Andreessen says “the market matters most“ — more than product, team, and even b-plan.
For your prospects as a leader, a terrific Op-Ed in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal illuminates the reasons why personal judgment trumps every other criterion — even experience.
“Leadership is, at its marrow, the chronicle of judgment calls,” write the authors, two business school professors, Warren Bennis (University of Southern California) and Noel Tichy (University of Michigan).
It begins as a comparison of presidential candidates Hilary Clinton (cast as experienced) and Barak Obama (not so experienced), but the thesis is even more relevant to business leaders — especially young founders who likely have ‘less experience’ and, therefore, must rely on their judgment to succeed.
The piece is behind the pay wall (Rupert, where art thou?), so here are its key points.

With good judgment, little else matters. Without it, nothing else matters. Take any leader, a U.S.president, a Fortune 100 CEO, a big-league coach, wartime general, you name it. Changes are you remember them for their best and worst calls … [Kennedy: Cuban Missle Crisis; Nixon Watergate.]

We are not discounting the importance of experience. Seminal and appropriate experiences must be drawn on and understood before judgment can be informed. But experience is no guarantee of good judgment.

In fact, there are numerous times when past experiences can prevent good judgments … generals tend to fight the last war, refusing to new realities, almost always with disastrous consequences.

We need to understand what Zen Buddhists call the “beginners mind,” which recognizes the value of fresh insight unfettered by experience. In this more contemporary view, the compelling idea is the novel one.

Judgment isn’t quite an unnatural act, but also doesn’t come naturally. We’re not sure how to teach it. (We know it can be learned.) Wisely processed experience, reflection, valid sources of timely information, an openness to the unbidden and character are critical components…



Thursday, November 29, 2007

Give your company a personality it helps!!!

I read this post this morning and it resonated with me deeply, I have always said that my company will be a fun company to do buisness with, it will also make the customer money and my stakeholders. I had a session with NEXT (http://www.next.co.uk/ )earlier this week, and there really poor customer service, there company personality was destroyed by there call center staff, don't let it happen to your company.

I got a package delivered to me from Moosejaw.com a couple weeks ago, and it reminded me of something I haven’t written about here yet, namely, how important it is for your company to have a specific voice. Here’s how the pre-printed paper note that was packed with my Moosejaw shipment starts out:
“If you are actually reading this note you should be super happy. First, you have received your order, reading is fun and getting something in the mail (even if you bought it yourself) has got to make the day better. Second, I put your order together all by myself.”
That’s a fun note to read. I like Moosejaw more because of that note. Is it silly? Sure, it’s a silly note and it’s pre-printed, so I know that everybody else gets one. Why does the note make me like Moosejaw more? People like it when companies have personalities. It makes us feel like there are actual people on the other side of the communication. It’s fun to be the customer of a company with a personality. This seems totally obvious, and yet you too rarely see companies with distinct personalities really grab your attention in the marketplace. Why is this? It’s actually hard to remove personality and character from communications. So, instead of saying that companies don’t take the time to have personalities, it’s probably more accurate to state that companies don’t allow themselves to show their personalities. I’m sure there are a few different reasons for this. First, it’s risky – what if people don’t “get” your personality. Second, it’s hard to maintain a personality as you grow and have a global audience (the http return code 404 in FeedBurner, for example, results in a page that says “There is no spoon”. This can be a bit challenging for those of us that have a hard time with English and/or technology). Third, and probably not to be underestimated, we have been brought up to think that business is serious, and that we have to be serious if we want to be taken seriously. As the saying goes, this is serious business. So, we (meaning you) spend lots and lots of time depersonalizing our corporate communications, because, you know, we can’t say that!. We write press releases that use approved emotions like “we are very excited to announce the release of…” instead of writing “It is with great fear and trepidation yet in some ways it is ultimately delightful for us to let you know we’re releasing …”, etc.
It is a competitive advantage for you to have a unique voice in your market. Companies with unique personalities give themselves a leg up because people want to embrace other people, and we all dislike antiseptic and bland corporate communications.
I should also point out that when I say it’s important to have a unique voice, I don’t mean that you have to make sure people think your company is fun and cool. Your company voice can be serious or esoteric and still your customers will appreciate you for having a unique voice.
The time when it’s easiest to embrace your company’s voice is of course when you’re a startup, but even larger companies should be allowing themselves to have a unique voice. Recently, a number of Apple press releases have given the sense that Steve Jobs wrote the release himself (and that he had to tell a number of people in corporate communications that yes, dammit, I really do want to say that. It would be absolutely fantastic if he had no hand in these releases!). You never get such a sense when you read a Lucent press release; they all sound exactly the same. I bet it also takes longer to write a Lucent press release because a lot of people have to make sure it scores 100 on the dehumanizer before it can be released. I pick on Lucent because I used to own the stock and actually waded through some of the releases, but you could look at 95% of the public company press releases out there and draw the same conclusions. Why the heck did I used to own Lucent stock? Um, I made some mistakes in my youth, and then I made a lot more mistakes in my not youth.
Don’t talk to your customers the way most Fortune 500 companies talk to their customers. Your customers want to like you. Your employees want to like the company they work for. Communicate with your customers and the marketplace in a way that makes them feel closer to you, and the way you do that is by allowing your company to have a voice.
Note that having a company blog is not a checkmark that equates to having a company voice. Company blogs are great, and I can think of very few companies that shouldn’t be blogging. Your voice, however, has to be everywhere your company interacts with the market and customers. It’s more than the brand, it’s all your communications, including customer service responses and presentations that employees give at conferences.
Post-Script: I think I’m slowly going insane because the structure and grammar of my posts seems to get progressively worse. It’s like I’m the lead character in Flowers for Algernon and the brain surgery is wearing off. Soon I’ll be writing in all consonants and uploading pencil sketches.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Marketing, for you, your family and your start up

Guerrilla Marketing for the layman:

Guerrilla Marketing, as described by Jay Conrad Levinson is an unconventional way of performing marketing activities on a very low budget.It is argued that if one uses guerrilla tactics, you will find your company's small size an advantage and you will be able to obtain publicity more easily than a large company, you will be closer to your customers and more agile.Levinson identifies the following principles as the foundation of Guerrilla

Marketing:Guerrilla Marketing is specifically geared for the small business.. It should be based on human psychology instead of experience, judgement, and guesswork.. Instead of money, the primary investments of marketing should be time, energy, and imagination.. The primary statistic to measure your business is the amount of profits, not sales.. The marketer should also concentrate on how many new relationships are made each month.. Create a standard of excellence with an acute focus instead of trying to diversify by offering allied products and services.. Instead of concentrating on getting new customers, aim for more referrals, more transactions with existing customers, and larger transactions.. Forget about the competition and concentrate more on cooperating with other businesses.. Guerrilla Marketers should always use a combination of marketing methods for a campaign.. Use current technology as a tool to empower your marketing. Only 4% of new businesses make a sizeable profit after 5 years. Lack of marketing savvy is one of the main reasons businesses fail.

Review your marketing strategy, and the techniques you use, viral marketing in it's different forms is a low cost and effective way to get your message out, have a read on the early days of Apple, and how they got the message out to the world. As a start up you need to get the message out in a manner that suits your business model and vision, following the four P's rule of marketing , and construct your marketing plan around the four P's, you don't market a dog clipping service in the FT, or a financial services company in the beano....ok I know but you can allow me some licence.

Guerrilla marketing is more about matching wits than matching budgets. Guerrilla marketing can be as different from traditional marketing as guerrilla warfare is from traditional warfare. Rather than marching their marketing dollars forth like infantry divisions, guerrilla marketers snipe away with their marketing resources for maximum impact.

Some of the reasons why you buy something:

1. To make more money – even though it can’t buy happiness

2. To become more comfortable, even a bit more

3. To attract praise – because almost everybody loves it

4. To increase enjoyment – of life, of business, of virtually anything

5. To possess things of beauty – because they nourish the soul

6. To avoid criticism – which nobody wants

7. To make their work easier – a constant need to many people

8. To speed up their work .....

you could add to the list , someone said there were 51 reasons to buy, target your marketing in away that raises the awareness in the mind of the future customers, marketing in 90% about winning new customers.



Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Having problems naming your new baby, or Company have read

I found this article posted in http://www.thenameinspector.com/ , it talks about naming your company and goes through some ideas and examines some companies already named.

10 company name types on TechCrunch: Pros and cons
Every once in a while The Name Inspector likes to step back and look at the big picture. This post illustrates ten name categories that account for all the names in the TechCrunch company/product index. Well, almost all of them. The name 1 800 Free 411 would have required its own category, and that would have made eleven categories instead of the magic ten. So let’s just ignore that name for now.
Though most of the TechCrunch names are “Web 2.0″ names, there’s nothing particularly Web 2.0 about the categories. They all represent linguistic naming strategies that can be used for companies or products of any kind.
Of course, there are different ways to categorize names. You can use phonetic properties like sonority or number of syllables. You can use semantic criteria, such as whether they are metaphorical, metonymic, or literally descriptive. The categories below are based on the morphological structure of names: what kinds of meaningful pieces they have and how the pieces fit together. They’re listed in descending order of frequency. The number of names in each category is in parentheses.
1. Real Words (34)
Names that are simply repurposed words. Such names can’t be generically descriptive, because then they wouldn’t be protectible trademarks, so they usually work through metaphor or metonymy (indirect association).
Pros: These names are short and come ready-made with rich, often multiple associations.
Cons: Expect to pay money–possibly a lot–to secure the URL. Trademarking can be tricky too.
Misspelled words
These are simply words that have been misspelled to make them more distinctive. This addresses the URL/trademark issue.
del.icio.us (delicious)
Digg (dig)
lickr (flicker)
Google (googol)
Goowy (gooey or GUI)
Snocap (snow cap)
SoonR (sooner)
Topix (topics)
Zooomr (zoomer)
Foreign words
Renkoo (Japanese renku, a type of poetry)
Rojo (Spanish ‘red’)
Vox (Latin ‘voice’)
2. Compounds (31)
Each of these names consists of two words put together, with the first word receiving the main emphasis in pronunciation. (It doesn’t matter if there’s a space between words). In most cases both words are nouns. Names with verbs in the second position are Bubbleshare, Google Talk, and possibly Tailrank (share, talk, and rank can all be nouns, but they’re verbs under the most natural interpretation). Names with non-nouns in the first position are BlueDot, SocialText, JotSpot, Measure Map, and possibly Jumpcut, Rapleaf, and SearchFox. Again, the first words here can all be nouns, but they’re more naturally treated as two adjectives (blue and social) and a bunch of verbs.
Compounds are a simple way to create new words and are very common in English (and other Germanic languages), so it’s not surprising to find them high on the list.
Pros: The practically limitless number of possible combinations makes it easy to create a unique name. Interesting meanings can be created through the combination of words.
Cons: There are no huge drawbacks, which is one reason that compounds are popular, but they are longer than many other kinds of name.
Measure Map
Video Egg

3. Phrases (25)
These are names that follow normal rules for putting words together to make phrases (other than compounds).
Pros: They sound linguistically natural and have clear meanings because they follow regular rules.
Cons: Phrase names can be long, and they can also sound awkward when used as nouns if they are not already noun phrases (e.g. Have you tried iLike?)
37 SignalsAdaptive
AllPeersAmie Street (could be a compound, but __ Street is such a common pattern)
Planet Web 2.0
TheVeniceProject (could be a compound, but the the makes it phrase-like).
Included in this category are names that consist of a company name or prominent brand name followed by a generic noun. In these names, the first word functions as a kind of modifier of the second.
ExpoYahoo Answers

Notice the Google Talk is not here–it’s on the compound list. That’s because Google Talk is pronounced with the emphasis on Google, which means that the whole thing is treated as one word. As far as The Name Inspector knows, all the names immediately above are pronounced with some emphasis on each word, and the main emphasis on the second. Does anyone disagree?
4. Blends (12)
Each of these names has two parts, at least one of which is a recognizable portion of a word rather than a whole word.
Pros: When they work, blends can be short and elegant and have all the advantages of compounds.
Cons: When they don’t work, blends can be awkward and/or have obscure meanings.
Maxthon (max + marathon)
Microsoft (microcomputer + software)
Netscape (net + landscape)
Newroo (new + kangaroo)
PubSub (publish + subscribe)
Rebtel (rebel + telephone)
Rollyo (roll + your own, or roll + your own)
Sharpcast (sharp + broadcast)
Skype (sky + peer-to-peer)
Technorati (technology + literati)
Wikipedia (wiki + encyclopedia)
Zillow (zillions + pillow, with overlap of -ill-)
5. Tweaked words (11)
Some names are just words that have been slightly changed in pronunciation and spelling–usually with a letter replaced or added.
Pros: As long as people recognize the word, you get all its rich meaning while still having a distinctive name.
Cons: People might not recognize the word, and some of these names can be a little cheesy and gimmicky.
Attensa (attention)
CNet (might stand for computer network, but who thinks of it that way?)
WikiaZoho (Soho)
Zune (tune)
Zvents (events)
6. Affixed words (10)
These are all novel forms consisting of a real word and a real prefix or suffix. Notice how common the -ster suffix is.
Pros: These names can be distinctive and meaningful while remaining relatively short.
Cons: Sometimes these names sound contrived. The meanings added by affixes are limited in variety and usually abstract (which means not very vivid).
Performancing (performance isn’t a verb, so doesn’t normally take -ing ending)
PostSecret (post can also be a noun or a verb, making this a compound)
7. Made up or obscure origin (8)
These are short names that are either made up or whose origins are so obscure that they might as well be made up.
Pros: Made-up names can be short, cute, and very distinctive (and therefore easy to trademark).
Cons: Made-up names don’t provide much ready-made meaning to work with (all the meaning has to come from sound symbolism). Good ones are hard to think of, and when they’re short the URLs are likely to be taken.
Zimbra (taken from a Talking Heads song based on a nonsense Dada poem)
8. Puns (8)
These names are words or phrases that have been modified slightly to evoke an appropriate second meaning. They’re similar to blends, but they involve a coincidental similarity between part of the main word and the second evoked word.
Pros: Pun names can be fun and memorable.
Cons: Nothing sounds dumber than a bad pun.
Automattic (automatic, mat –> matt, the guy who started the company)
Consumating (consummating, consumm –> consum(e))
Farecast (forecast, fore –> fare)
LicketyShip (lickety split, split –> ship, the verb)
Memeorandum (memorandum, mem –> meme)
Meetro (metro, met –> meet)Meevee (teevee/TV, tee –> me(e), the pronoun)
Writely (rightly, right –> write)
9. People’s names (real or fictitious) (5)
Some names are either pitched or recognizable as people’s names. If the audience for a name doesn’t see the connection, the name is just like a made-up one.
Pros: These names are short and give personality to a company (or product or service).
Cons: Aside from personality, these names don’t provide meaning to work with. As with made-up names, good, short ones might not be available as URLs.
Bix (e.g. Bix Beiderbecke)
Jajah (F. Jajah Watamba seems to be their fictitious spokesperson)
Kiko (a name in Japanese and other languages)
Ning (a Chinese name)
Riya (the name of a founder’s daughter)
10. Initials and Acronyms (3)
These are names made up of the first letter of each word in a much longer phrase name. Sometimes the letters are pronounced individually, in which case we can just think of them as initials, and sometimes the combination of letters is pronounced as a word, in which case it’s an acronym.
Pros: These names provide short mnemonics for long, descriptive phrases.
Cons: Zzzzzz. Also, sometimes initials are short when written but long when spoken. For example, the initials www have nine syllables when spoken, while the phrase world wide web has three.
AOL (America Online)
FIM (Fox Interactive Media)
Guba (Gigantic Usenet Binaries Archive)

The Name Inspector hopes that these name categories will be useful to people struggling with their own naming problems. They might suggest naming strategies or spur name ideas that wouldn’t otherwise come up. Good luck in your naming endeavors!



Monday, November 26, 2007

Passion your secret weapon and your life saver, for your start up.

Some thoughts on the Cottage Industry

I was at a friends preview of her new exhibition over the weekend, Karen Willis, http://www.karenwillis.co.uk/ , she was born in the Shetland Islands now she works from the market town of Morpeth, Northumberland. Karen has shown an affinity for painting, winning awards for art at school and work published a national photography magazine. As a teenager she painted prolifically, selling to local Shetlanders and many tourists. The exhibition was at her home, she had her work, in every room aroudn the house, she had help from friends and family to support the event, she helps up and coming artistes, by letting them show there work as well.

One off the things that did catch my mind was the passion and energy that she displayed , ash she spoke to customers and friends, about her work. This is something that will help you win in your own company, and it is a good sign or "tell" to investors as well, if they see genuine passion and energy from you as you talk about your business, they will have one less risk to worry about, if they know this is your life, not just a job, they will be more inclined to invest in You as well as your business plan, it gave me a lot to think about, and left me a tad unsettled.



Friday, November 23, 2007

Some thoughts from the desk of an entrepreneur

Some thoughts from the desk of an entrepreneur

As most of my readers know I have been working on a new start up project, based in Northumberland for the last three months, I have not mentioned much about it, just a few posts on things that have irked me a tad, at times, so today I thought it's time to share some of my thoughts on the process so far.

Month one was spent pulling together a funding presentation, (that I thought was far to early) and visiting the customer base that exists. Pulling together the funding presentation was interesting, it was played in a three ring circle, which is not the best way to do things, there was some good help from the investment advisers "SIGMA", but it just took to long, the lesson learned here was that I should have made it clear what the consensus was on every ones part that was involved, there was a lot of Teflon shoulder stuff, all parties are busy,there never was a "come to Jesus" session to set things right, this is something that should have been done, but was out my control or maybe not, anyway we moved on and the first pitches were done and we raised some interest. The other lesson was that the project was not as prepared to go out for investment as I had thought, the salient point here was we should have had all our material in place before we went out an pitched, hence my earlier comment of "we went out to early".

Month two was spent getting used to the industry players, I went to the large PV conference in Milan, met more customers ,capital equipment suppliers and a few strategic contacts of my own that I met through the http://www.linkedin.com/ site. There was another pitch at the Connect Investment conference in Edinburgh , I have posted about that earlier, again we raised some interest in the proposition, and it was a good learning experience for those involved.
Month three I started to see some movement, and we got to asking the hard questions about the business model and the true value proposition, this had been stated before, but we started to dig deeper and push to see if the assumptions and past experience held true, this again was run in the same three ring circle, so took longer that I would have hoped and for me it was evident early on where our true value lay, but it took some time for the rest to be more comfortable with it, we took on a CEO , who has helped to crystallize the value proposition clearly and focused, so I feel now we are starting to move move faster, and dispense with the three ring approach and tackle things as a team of two, and truly begin to see if there is a future in this project.

In closing, the one thing that has been reinforced in me is the purity in creating a new organization, how it all grows from a thought and it is through the germination of that thought, into actions and deeds, do you see the growth of a new organization, I started work in the office in the picture above, and now I have created a functional office, I have a strategy to build a company, and factory design in it's bare bones form to house it. Things are taking shape. I see in greater clarity that the link off passion to the idea is proportional to the results achieved, I sometimes wonder what it would be like if you had a team off liked minded , passionate individuals working on the real issues of this world, it only takes a few to change the future of a nation and a world.

have a great weekend



Thursday, November 22, 2007

Mergers and there success rate in Europe

Nine out of ten mergers fail
Only nine per cent of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in Europe over the past three years have achieved their stated objectives, according to research from management consultancy Hay Group. The survey of 200 business leaders also finds that under a third (28 per cent) say their merger created significant new value.The figures for the UK are even more alarming, with only three per cent of mergers rated as successful.One key reason for failure is the over-prioritising of systems integration over intangible assets and cultural compatibility, with some 58 per cent of respondents admitting this had been a problem. David Derain, a director of Hay Group who leads its work on M&A, says: ‘Integrating intangible assets six months after a deal has gone live is too late. Companies should be examining the compatibility and differences between the two firms well before the deal is made public.’Little over a quarter (27 per cent) of companies surveyed analysed the cultural compatibility of the businesses to be merged before signing the deal, while 59 per cent failed to prioritise a review of leadership capability within the two organisations. The failures often led to an unfavourable post-merger climate, with 38 per cent of business leaders describing the early months as ‘culture shock’ and a further 16 per cent going so far as to label them ‘trench warfare’.



Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Are you a leader?

Following on from the post yesterday on Leadership, here is a post that we can call do with reading, and do a 360, how much can you see in yourself and how much can you see in the leaders around you, and my advice is align with the leader you see performing the bulk of these actions.

10 Essential Business Leadership Skills
by Ben Yoskovitz
Are you a leader?
Truth be told, not everyone is a leader. It’s just not meant for everyone. And that’s OK.
But more people are leaders than they realize. Leadership takes on many different faces; it’s just a question of understanding how you lead and why.

Here are 10 key business leadership skills you’ll need to succeed as a leader:

Lead By Example. You can’t be an aloof leader, someone that’s never around and incapable of getting your hands dirty. One of the best ways to lead is by example - pitching in where needed, lending a helping hand, and making sure that the work you do is clearly understood by your team.
Passion. A leader without passion isn’t a leader. He’s a paper pusher. Or a taskmaster. Or a government employee… Passion drives a lot, and you can inspire so much in others through your own passion and enthusiasm. That doesn’t mean you have to be constantly cheery, it means you’ve got to believe in what you’re doing and what your company is doing.

Be Organized. A disorganized leader isn’t leading, he’s chasing his own tail. Disorganization breeds nothing but more disorganization. If you’re frazzled and messy, your team will be too. When you’re organized you’ll be much more productive and so will everyone else.

Delegate. You can’t do everything. A great leader needs to be able to delegate effectively. The key to delegating successfully is giving employees ownership of the work you assign them. They can’t just feel like they own the work, they really have to.

Take Ownership and Responsibility. Although you’ve just delegated work and truly given your team ownership, you also have to take ownership and responsibility at all times. Your team has to know you’ll be there for them through the good and the bad times. That doesn’t mean you absolve people from making mistakes or ignore crappy work/effort, but it does mean you take responsibility for the big picture.

Communicate Effectively. Duh. Everyone knows great leaders have to be great communicators. But there are certain points of communication that many people forget. For example, it’s critical that you communicate to employees how their work matters in the bigger picture. Are they a cog, or does their work truly make a difference?
Communicating success is also something leaders forget to do. People need affirmation. They want to know they did a good job. You just have to tell them. And be precise. Insecure leaders will often ramble; uninterested leaders cut things off to quickly. Whether you’re giving praise, providing constructive criticism, or defining goals and to-dos, you have to figure out how much to say and in what order. Be precise, specific and concise. Get to the point.

Be Brave and Honest. Cowardly leaders will shy away from any number of situations that crop up regularly when running a team. The project your team has worked on for 6 months just got shelved. Now what? Or you have to talk to someone about their lack of effort recently. Do you ignore the problem? Or maybe it’s time to take your product into a new market. Do you hobble forward, scared and nervous, or do you grab the market by the throat?
Leaders are brave.
And honest. Tell it like it is. Don’t sugarcoat, don’t obfuscate. Don’t be a jerk either. You have to learn how to present things to your team in an honest but balanced manner.

Great Listener. A huge part of being a great communicator is being a great listener. If all you want to do is talk, you’re not a leader. Keeping people motivated means listening to them, asking them questions, understanding their issues. When you listen more, you can respond more effectively and get to the heart of things much faster.

Know Your People. You have to know your people. You don’t have to be best friends or even socialize outside work, but you do have to know what makes them tick. You need to know something about their personal lives because their lives outside work matter. Their lives outside work drive a great deal of their success (or lack of) at work. Keep track of simple things: birthdays, marriages, children, etc. The more you know your people the more common ground you’re likely to find, the more you’ll be able to connect.

Be a Follower. Benjamin Disraeli said, “I must follow the people. Am I not their leader?” That sums up many of the other points so beautifully. Great leaders are followers too. If you’re a leader without following, you’re a dictator. And as fun as that sounds… Being a leader-follower means finding value in your team, getting inspired by your team, encouraging your team to communicate, brainstorm and be open.

Very few people are great leaders overnight. It takes time and practice. As long as you’re open about learning along the way and working with your team on leadership versus dictating to them, most people will be happy to go on the journey with you.

And without getting too mushy, here are some great quotes on leadership:

“Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” - George S. Patton

“Delegating work works, provided the one delegating works, too.” - Robert Half

“The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” - Theodore M. Hesburgh



Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Seven Secrets of Inspiring Leaders

Following on from my last post of Leadership, I saw this article this moring and thought it would slip in neatly to follow on. I had a good break, sun , sea, some half decent red wine, not too soaked in oak, and a few good books, some historic, the beginings of Gengis Khan's long career and his routes, an interesting read on the Templars and there effect in the middle east over a 50 year period, just after the 2nd crusade, left me with more questions than answers though, and a couple of books, I would recommend,

Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman
Synchronicity: Inner Path of Leadership

These are works of art and should rest in your travel bag, as cool refreshing springs to dip into and quench your thirst in times of dry and thirsty patches , along with a copy of the bible to feed the soul.

So back to the post, and here it is:

By Carmine Gallo

American business professionals are uninspired. Only 10% of employees look forward to going to work and most point to a lack of leadership as the reason why, according to a recent Martitz Research poll. But it doesn’t have to be that way. All business leaders have the power to inspire, motivate, and positively influence the people in their professional lives.
For the past year, I have been interviewing renowned leaders, entrepreneurs, and educators who have an extraordinary ability to sell their vision, values, and themselves. I researched their communications secrets for my new book, Fire Them Up!: 7 Simple Secrets to Inspire Your Colleagues, Customers and Clients.
What I discovered along the way were seven techniques that you can easily adopt in your own professional communications with your employees, clients, and investors to motivate and inspire.
1. Demonstrate Enthusiasm - Constantly.
Inspiring leaders have an abundance of passion for what they do. You cannot inspire unless you’re inspired yourself. Period. Passion is something I can’t teach. In fact, no one can. You either have passion for your message or you don’t.
Once you discover your passion, make sure it’s apparent to everyone within your professional circle. Richard Tait, for example, sketched an idea on a napkin during a cross-country flight. It was an idea to bring joyful moments to families and friends. His enthusiasm was so infectious that he convinced partners, employees, and investors to join him. He created a toy and game company called Cranium. Walk into its Seattle headquarters and you are instantly hit with a wave of fun, excitement, and engagement the likes of which is rarely seen in corporate life. It all started with one man’s passion.
2. Articulate a Compelling Course of Action.
Inspiring leaders craft and deliver a specific, consistent, and memorable vision. A goal such as "we intend to double our sales by this time next year," is not inspiring. Neither is a long, convoluted mission statement destined to be tucked away and forgotten in a desk somewhere.
A vision is a short (usually 10 words or less), vivid description of what the world will look like if your product or service succeeds. Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer once said that shortly after he joined the company, he was having second thoughts. Bill Gates and Gates’ father took Ballmer out to dinner and said he had it all wrong. They said Ballmer saw his role as that of a bean counter for a startup. They had a vision of putting a computer on every desk, in every home. That vision - a computer on every desk, in every home - remains consistent to this day. The power of a vision set everything in motion.
3. Sell the Benefit.
Always remember, it’s not about you, it’s about them. In my first class at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, I was taught to answer the question, "Why should my readers care?" That’s the same thing you need to ask yourself constantly throughout a presentation, meeting, pitch, or any situation where persuasion takes place. Your listeners are asking themselves, what’s in this for me? Answer it. Don’t make them guess.
4. Tell More Stories.
Inspiring leaders tell memorable stories. Few business leaders appreciate the power of stories to connect with their audiences.
A few weeks ago I was working with one of the largest producers of organic food in the country. I can’t recall most, if any, of the data they used to prove organic is better. But I remember a story a farmer told. He said when he worked for a conventional grower, his kids could not hug him at the end of the day when he got home. His clothes had to be removed and disinfected. Now, his kids can hug him as soon as he walks off the field.
No amount of data can replace that story. And now guess what I think about when I see the organic section in my local grocery store? You got it. The farmer’s story. Stories connect with people on an emotional level. Tell more of them.
5. Invite Participation.
Inspiring leaders bring employees, customers, and colleagues into the process of building the company or service. This is especially important when trying to motivate young people.
The command and control way of managing is over. Instead, today’s managers solicit input, listen for feedback, and actively incorporate what they hear. Employees want more than a paycheck. They want to know that their work is adding up to something meaningful.
6. Reinforce an Optimistic Outlook.
Inspiring leaders speak of a better future. Robert Noyce, the co-founder of Intel, said "Optimism is an essential ingredient of innovation. How else can the individual favor change over security?"
Extraordinary leaders throughout history have been more optimistic than the average person. Winston Churchill exuded hope and confidence in the darkest days of World War II. Colin Powell said that optimism was the secret behind Ronald Reagan’s charisma. Powell also said that optimism is a force multiplier, meaning it has a ripple effect throughout an organization.
Speak in positive, optimistic language. Be a beacon of hope.
7. Encourage Potential.
Inspiring leaders praise people and invest in them emotionally. Richard Branson has said that when you praise people they flourish; criticize them and they shrivel up. Praise is the easiest way to connect with people. When people receive genuine praise, their doubt diminishes and their spirits soar. Encourage people and they’ll walk through walls for you.
By inspiring your listeners, you become the kind of person people want to be around. Customers will want to do business with you, employees will want to work with you, and investors will want to back you. It all starts with mastering the language of motivation.

Carmine Gallo is a communications coach for the world’s most admired brands. His book, Fire Them Up! contains insights from top business leaders who inspire through the language of motivation.
PS: Who not to invest in, maybe some lessons to learn, I sent this link by Amy Quinn on the "The 20 Worst Venture-Capital Investments of All Time", http://www.insidecrm.com/features/20-worst-vc-investments-111907/

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunday Night

Well I am off on holiday for a week to the sunny climbs of North Africa, catch you all on the flip side...

remember "be all you can be"



Tuesday, November 06, 2007

See what the folks think of you as a leader

The link below is to a survey taken by BNET, that explores what the emplyoees think about there CEO, these are always good to have look through and mark yourself against the average, see areas that you never thought were concerns to people, and generaly pat yourself on the back or not. I will not be posting Wed / Thur as I am on my travels, I will be in Denmark to visit suppliers, I wish the BAA would get Newcastle airport sorted out and get some direct flights fixed into Europe.

PS ever thought of getting a 360 degree report done ?

Link to the Survey



Monday, November 05, 2007

A story of Risk and Reward

I found this article this morning and it struck me as something that would kick start your Monday, the original can be found here http://foundread.com/2007/08/07/risk-everything/,

I couldn't find the authors details, but you can hit the link and it will take you to there blog, some good stuff there.

My story evolved over the course of eight years, but can be summarized in very few words. I founded a software company with technology I developed at NASA. I licensed the software, raised two rounds of venture capital, and ran the company for seven years. Then, as a result of increasing differences with my investors, it became clear that I needed to leave. End of story.
That was two years ago. I am often teased by the prospect of returning to business. But since then I have been dedicating time to things I never made time for before. I have invested in my personal relationships. I learned Spanish. I bought a half interest in a 50’ sailboat, and I am learning to sail.
I have another story to tell, one that is chronologically short. It transpired in less than an hour but it requires more words. It isn’t a story about me, but it left a mark on me. We were sailing the boat to Belize from Fort Lauderdale, in my first blue water trip.
With a two person crew, we had to take two-hour night watches. That meant two hours of sleep in between. REM was out of the question. At night, alone on deck, I developed an urge to whirl around and see who was behind me. Of course there was never any one there, we were hundreds of miles out to sea. I had heard that people get weird after days spent out of sight of land, and I was getting paranoid as a result of sleep deprivation.
Two days from Key West, just after dawn, I saw a rock out in the distance off the starboard bow. Had I added hallucinations to paranoia? We were in deep water; no islands or rocks charted anywhere. I peered through the binoculars. The rock looked like small boat. I hurried below to wake up my sailing partner, Dave, who has crossed many oceans and would know what to do. By the time we made it back the cockpit, there was not doubt: This was a small boat, with people inside, waving a red flag.
The prevailing wisdom for this seafaring situation is “Don’t Stop.” The possibility of armed pirates makes it unsafe, particularly for a small crew. But Dave and I hardly ever follow conventional wisdom. So we changed course to allow them to approach us.
When we were within 10 or 15 yards of the little boat, we saw that there were actually 10 men on board, packed in like sardines. Some lay in the bottom of their craft, the rest were standing. They were disheveled, dirty, a wild-looking bunch, and appeared in age from 20 to 40. They screamed hoarsely above the noise of their engine, which seemed to have been converted from a piece of farming equipment and was missing any semblance of an exhaust system.
“Water! Agua! Water! Agua! Agua….” There was a hysteria in those shouts of mixed Spanish and English that made me strangely uncomfortable. Something didn’t feel right about it, we both noticed. We prepared the can of mace, just in case. Dave tossed them a line, and indicated that they were to take it but hold their distance without coming closer than ten feet.
The conversation was limited, but we learned that they were six days out of Havana. They’d had no water in 24 hours. Five other vessels had passed them without stopping since they drank their last drops. That inexplicable ‘something’ in their shouts that didn’t ‘feel right’ was the sound of terror – the terror of those who believe they might die. Dave filled their five-gallon water jugs, urging them to drink at least one jug on the spot. We needed my Spanish to convince them that this was ok, that we would refill it. They were in the mindset of conservation—or preservation. They believed our water supply was limited.
I asked if they needed food, they declined. But we didn’t see any food in their boat, so I rushed below for provisions that, orginially packed for two, might be suitable to share between ten. I sorted through packages of gourmet cheese, piles of fresh vegetables (what were they going to do with a bag of arugula, an artichoke, or asparagus), bags of chips and roasted tomatillo salsa, microwave popcorn… I settled on fruit – to feed ten, I needed all of it. I poured a dozen apples and some oranges into one of those plastic grocery store bags, and added a box of saltines, and some chocolate. When we handed it over, they took it gratefully, with looks of wonder. They declined fuel, pointing proudly at their reserves. One made a gesture of lighting a cigarette. He still had some smokes, but no lighter. We found him one.
The only other thing they needed was to confirm their course. They were headed for Cancun. “Why Cancun?”, I asked. The response was simply, “Los Estados Unidos no son buenos para nosotros…” The U.S. Congress was debating legislation to build a wall across the Mexican border at the time, so they weren’t going to American shores. The GPS told us we were 60 miles due east of Cancun. Our Cuban friends had no GPS. They had no nautical chart. They had only a simple hiking compass, but they were more or less on course.
With water in their bellies and food in their boat, the men were beginning to sound friendly rather than frantic. A few kept asking about direction. I began to discern that it was the youngest among them who was in charge. He had a quiet confidence: He only needed to confirm his course once. The rest were less certain, maybe less familiar with the sea and the currents. Maybe a little less confident in their captain than when they had first set out. But with 60 miles to go, at four knots they would arrive in Cancun a few hours after dark. The luminescence of the city lights over the water would guide them after sunset.
When they set off again, releasing our line with smiles, renewed hope in their eyes, and calls of “Vayan con Dios”, my eyes filled with tears. (They sometimes still do when I think about it.) I wonder what has happened to them. I hope they made it.

I think of myself as a risk-taker. An inventor. A dreamer even: I sail open water; I scuba dive with sharks; I founded a company; I am an entrepreneur. But I re-learned a few things about risk-taking and dream-seeking from those men, in that hour, on the open ocean. I think these are things valuable to all risk-takers or dreamers — to all founders.

Boldness is risking everything, meaning that which you cannot affford to lose, to pursue a dream.

Inventiveness is finding the will to be creative when necessity demands it— not when it comes to you.

Motivation is finding the spirit to hang together when resources are depleted and plans run awry.

Honor is maintaining a sense of fair play and not asking for more than you need—even when it would be excusable.

Leadership Real leadership is demonstrated when one at the ‘helm’ finds the confidence not to waver, even when the confidence of the team has wavered.Luck On a day when it really counted, they had some of it. But it dawns on me that luck is just the product of all these other qualities. (Think about this the next time you feel ‘lucky,’ or dismiss someone else’s success as ‘lucky.’)
When I share this story with other sailors, they are universally aghast that we helped these refugees. But I’m proud that we took a risk to alter a situation that might have meant life or death to someone else. I didn’t know I was capable of that before. And I’ve never stopped thinking about the qualities of these men: the intense drive to achieve something better and to risk everything to do so. I can’t help wondering if my own business venture might have turned out differently if I had been able to instill in my team more of a make-it-together-or-die-trying attitude…or maybe if we had had just one more lucky day.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Looking after yourself as a founder

When to Take the Money Off the Table
In Vegas, if you keep on winning, you can keep on playing all night. But if you lose it all just once, you're done for good. The only way to ever get ahead in the long term, is to take some money off the table when you're lucky enough to have it.
Pouring money back into your startup is a lot like betting at Vegas. Ideally if you keep winning you'll be able to keep pouring money back into more growth, and more profits. But if you lose just once and have already invested all the capital you had on reserve, you're done for.
Startup founders need to learn the value of taking money off the table when it's available. Without knowing when it's time to write yourself a check, you may end up creating a payday for everyone else while putting yourself in jeopardy in the process.
(Re)Filling your Coffers
When you started the company you probably had some money saved up or some capital reserves to fall back on. That could have been anything from your home equity line of credit to your personal savings account. They gave you a little bit of latitude to operate before your new venture involved a regular paycheck.Over time, those capital reserves got sucked into the business, totally depleting your personal reserves. That seemed okay, because the business was growing and clearly you were getting a return on your investment.But it's easy to forget how important those savings were to begin with. The cash in your coffers allowed you to navigate a difficult period in your life. To think that there won't be another slow period again could be a huge mistake! Don't think of pulling money out of the business to refill your capital reserves as a selfish act. You may need to rely on those reserves during a downturn, so that you can spend time focusing on fixing the business without having to worry about whether you'll go personally bankrupt at the same time.
Thanks for the Memories
The sooner you can take that money out and refill your coffers the better.
Over time, as more investors, shareholders and partners join the business, your initial capital contributions, while incredibly risky investments at the time, will quickly be forgotten about. A Founder's early investment is often written off as the cost of doing business or the cost of owning the majority share by later stage participants.You too may even consider that money as a sunk cost that can't be returned. But the reality is that nest egg that got you here should be replenished quickly, before it's forgotten about and before anyone (including you!) loses sight of its valuable contribution. A simple way to do this is to treat your contribution the way investors treat preferred stock. Many venture capitalists or angel investors will ensure that any income that the company receives in the future will go toward paying off their investments before anyone else's.For this reason you should agree that at least a certain percentage of your initials profits will be used to repay the original debt that you created when you invested in the company. The company should show a clear and distinct liability to anyone who's invested in the company, on a preferred basis, including you.

Healthy Founder, Healthy Company
Refilling your coffers not only helps you financially, it helps the company as well.
It's hard to manage a struggling company with a clear head when the Founder has to worry about making his home mortgage payment at the end of the month. The distraction of personal finances can force the Founder to make bad short term decisions on the company's behalf in order to settle his own debts and problems. Generally speaking, if the Founder is failing at a personal level financially, the company is soon to follow. Therefore in order to maintain a clear focus on how to keep the company on track, even in the most trying of times, it's important to focus on how to keep yourself on track.

The Captain Needs a Life Vest
If the ship looks like it's going down, your employees will get other jobs and get their finances in order quickly. You, on the other hand, don't have the luxury. You're going to be forced to go down with the ship, as all of your personal assets are likely intertwined with the company's.
For this reason, think of taking money off the table as your “corporate life vest” that ensures that if you do go down with the ship, you don’t get sunk altogether.
Taking money off the table as the company grows isn't about being some greedy industrialist, it's about being a smart player that understands the value of having personal reserves to manage effectively in a business crisis.
by GB Network
Slainte Gordon

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Not for the eyes of the Scottish executive or Parliment

The trip to Edinburgh to pitch at the Connect Investment Conference, (www.investmentconference.co.uk/CIC/CIC_home.asp) was just, worth the effort, the last time I was there was to pitch my own company a few years ago, Rosebank technologies, with Callum Norrie, we were looking for a few 100ks, and there was no takers, it was, a couple of million or more, and any less and the VC's were not interested, you were left to the tender mercy of the Angel sharks. This time it was the reverse, there were medium funds present, from a few 100ks to a million, and only a trio of larger VC's. This is not the place to be if you want to raise a lot of cash, it is the place to be if you want to meet SE folks, lawyers, and other service support technologies, the pitches were polished and gave the bones of the stories, but I did come away with some sadness, as there was not a lot of energy in the pitches, or excitement, has the Scottish entrepreneur lost it?

I do wonder where the future of Industry lies in Scotland, there are a lot of intelligent people doing smart things, but they bogged down in Academia snares, SE funding hurdles from the box tickers, and a lack of practical help from the very people who can help them, they are the entrepreneurs that have been successful but either are not allowed to, or have lost the will to because of previous engagements with the same funding bodies,those of you who have read my blog int he past know that I try to give back some of the lessons learned, but the Scottish Executive need to get there heads sorted out and focus on actually doing the old country some good, and hire on board some real talent and not just J.O.B candidates, set up a "flying squad" to support new and emerging technologies, without the constraints of the ole ways.

I do not want to land this all on connect, they a good job, but they are a commercial business so they have to do what they can to bring in funds, and they also have to work with what tools they have at hand. I do believe that the root cause, lies within the political and academic institutions of Scotland, come on guys give the folks a chance, look through the organisations and support the guys who are doing well, support the innovation centers and fund the support teams better and give them a hand with bringing in some more talent to get along side the emerging companies, the future of Scotland, give the old country a chance.