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Monthly Archives: February, 2012

Kidnapping, Pivoting, Best Business Practices and the Triple Bottom Line

The FARC, Columbia’s main rebel organization announced today that it will no longer kidnap “for financial ends”.  When analyzed in a business context this is an example of a pivot. Obviously the FARC is willing to forgo the revenue generated to achieve a higher means, even possibly a more peaceful existence.  This is a great story to learn how a political movement has made both a policy choice and business decision based on feedback and facts on the ground.  While not condoning kidnapping or any such violent policies, it is interesting how all entities have to justify their means through which they produce revenue.  When is the last time you thought about all the effects of your revenue stream.  How do your revenues affect production, people and the planet, the ultimate triple bottom line.

Until next time, be good and cultivate your community of friends.

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Do you have what it takes? “The Entrepreneurial Personality”

David McClelland‘s book “The Achieving Society” (first published in 1961) detailed six critical traits that entrepreneurs posses:

1.  Desire for Responsibility.  Entrepreneurs prefer to be in control of their resources and take  deep sense in the responsibility of the outcomes they achieve.

2.  Preference for moderate risk.  As detailed by Malcolm Gladwell in his article “How Entrepreneurs Really Succeed”, we are not wild risk takers, rather we mitigate, calculate and monetize risk.  Entrepreneurs serve more as risk eliminaters rather than risk takers.  A good way to minimize risk is to prepare a robust and competent business plan.

3.  Confidence in your ability to succeed.  Entrepreneurs are supremely self-confident in their ability to succeed.  In addition optimism allows us to continue down the path if multiple previous efforts have yet to be fruitful.

4.  Desire for immediate feedback.  Entrepreneurs are always looking for a way to improve and increase effectiveness.

5.  High level of energy.  This is a critical factor given the amount of effort both the emotional and physical  needed to create a new venture.  On average 66 percent of Gen Y entrepreneurs work over 10 hours a day and six days a week (from a survey conducted by American Express Open April 26,2007).

6.   Future orientation.  Entrepreneurs want to define their future for themselves and others.  Sitting passively is out of the question.  We look ahead to what needs to be done rather than revel in today’s success.

So for today, that is it.  Meet me at the next milestone with your acheivement in hand ready to change the world.

Until next time, be good and cultivate your community of friends.

Are You an Agent of Change?

101 years ago, Joseph Schumpeter in his book The Theory of Economic Development described entrepreneurs as more than business creators but rather as change agents for the entire society.  What was he referring to and how is this relevant today?  Entrepreneurs engage in “creative destruction” thereby creating new ideas and new businesses.  The result is a shift in the allocation of resources that creates a vibrant economy where these newly created businesses make some existing entities obsolete.  Think about mobile phones for a minute.  If any of you are old enough, you might remember a time when you could only make a call from a fixed land line that you were in close proximity to.  Now you can text, call, check e-mail just about anywhere.  It is becoming increasingly hard for consumers to justify paying for land based phone lines.  The constant “churning” that Entrepreneurship creates in a healthy and growing economy is finding better ways to serve and improve the quality of life of the region.  Schumpeter compares the list of leading entrepreneurs to that of a popular hotel guest list “always full of people, but people who are forever changing”.  I don’t think Joseph Schumpeter would have believed in The Eagles “Hotel California” where “You can checkout any time you like, But you can never leave!”

So for today, go out and innovate, creat positive change and report back.

Until next time, be good and cultivate your community of friends.

Are you a Double Dipper? Multiple Viewpoints, Self Criticism and Strategic Thinking

Don’t ever let your family or friends tell you that watching television is a waste of time.  Often I have tried to explain to my family that watching sports on TV was part of my professional development.  As a couch potato, I try to study trends and understand how consumers will behave along with the products and services they will demand.  For me, Seinfeld consistently provided thoughtful analysis and a demonstration of how important it is to understand how the same action or behavior can be viewed in two distinct ways.  The Seinfeld episode where George is attending a wake and he “double dips” is a great example.  At the wake George takes puts his chip into the dip and takes a bite.  After finishing half of the chip, George “double dips” the same chip back in the dip to the horror of Timmy.  It is Timmy’s interpretation that George might as well put his whole mouth on the bowl of dip.  When looking at the example of Double Dipping I like how clear it is that a single behavior can be socially acceptable to one person and completely offensive to someone else.  Likewise in business, your strategic decisions have impacts on multiple levels.  Use your analytic ability to parse out the right decision for you personally, professionally and financially.   Finally don’t be afraid to look in mirror and realize that you may not know everything.  Accepting constructive criticism from others who see your venture in a different light can be equally as valuable.

Here is a link to a clip of George double dipping.

http://youtu.be/1J3w4cS2MvM

Until next time, be good and cultivate your community of friends.

From a Goat to a Hero: Stories in Redemption from Duane Reed

A few weeks ago on a Sunday night I was traveling through Penn Station in New York City.  After getting off the 1 train from the upper west side, I needed to connect to New Jersey Transit for a train to Newark and my eventual destination.  After a day full of meetings, my head was throbbing and I set off to buy a bottle of cold water as an attempt to relieve the pounding.  If you have visited Penn Station you probably know there is a Duane Reed drugstore with a great location that is always very busy.  I had about ten minutes before my train departed for New Jersey and I went to get some water.  As I entered Duane Reed, the lines at checkout were long but if they moved quickly, I could get my water and catch the train in time.  Bottle of water in hand I got in line anxious to check out as the time was ticking down for my departing train.  It was 6:47 pm and my train was scheduled to depart at 6:53 when it was my turn to check out.  As I was checking out I noticed my bottle of water was frozen.  Opening this bottle would not only cause it to explode and get me wet but the water was not immediately drinkable since most of it was frozen.  The whole time I was waiting in line, the Duane Reed “shift manager” was chatting up the cashier slowing her down.  As I realized this bottle of water wasn’t going to work and since the shift manager was sitting by idly, I asked him if he would get a bottle of water for me that wasn’t frozen.  He promptly replied that “he was not my slave and I could get my own water and get back in line”.  All I wanted was a bottle of water for the train ride back to Newark.  I wasn’t advocating ownership of humans as property nor did I think the request of an idle employee was over burdensome.  With that kind of response, I left the store and bought water from the deli next door (albeit at an increased price relative to Duane Reed).  What the Duane Reed shift manager failed to realize was that our interaction was taped on their security system and I am a persistent person that doesn’t tolerate mediocre or poor customer service.  The next day while on the train to another meeting, I called the store manager at Duane Reed and let him know of the incident.  He said he would check into it and get back to me.  Within ten minutes my phone rang and an embarrassed apologetic Duane Reed manager stated that he had watched the video tape and he had no excuse for how his employee acted.  He offered to personally deliver a $25 American Express Gift Card to me if I was in the area and he asked that I not hold a grudge against his store or Duane Reed.  This was true redemption.  I told the manager I was on the train and I live out-of-town.  He offered to put the gift card in an envelope and personally mail the gift card to me.  Additionally in the future anytime I am in Penn Station, he asked me to come by the store and ask for him personally.  Two days later I received the American Express gift card mailed to my home in Skokie.  The ownership and responsibility the Duane Reed manager took for his employee’s indiscretion are admirable but even better he worked hard and convinced me that he really cared about the way I felt.  Take a lesson from a Duane Reed manager and take negative customer experience and use it as an opportunity to build trust.  My first stop in Penn Station on my next trip to New York will be Duane Reed looking for this store manager that understands what customers want.

Please share how you enhance your customer’s experience with your company.

Until next time, be good and cultivate your community of friends.

How to Learn from a Lame Duck

I once learned from a man who fired me that evaluating facts while  understanding history and context was the key to making an accurate assessment and sound decisions.  So I ask you to close your eyes for a moment and think back to January 2003.  The landscape as we know it was far different.  As a nation we were trying to spend our way out of the World Trade Center Attacks.  Homes were flipping more frequently then Mitt Romney’s political stances.  Our President encouraged us to keep shopping as a way to battle the enemy.  E-commerce was a dirty experimental word dominated by Ebay.  Social Media was just a twinkle in my eye, yet to be conceived.  Personally I was out of work (laid off in June of 2001) and was responsible for earning income for my household.  Being considerably more youthful at the time I was also sure that my command of the consumer market place was accurate.  Essentially I knew everything and was ready to create, manufacture, distribute and sell my own product.  To this point my wife and I had been prudent with our money as we saved for retirement and created a “college fund” for our young son.  During a restless night of sleep in January 2003 it came to me, clear as a biblical dream.  The world would soon see a collectible product that was revered by the three major religions.  I had the answer and was on the fast track to the American dream.  A Moses rubber ducky was what the American consumer wanted.  In retrospect the lessons learned were valuable, my passion for business runs deep and most importantly I have evolved as person and entrepreneur.  If given a Mulligan the three concepts I overlooked were:

A:  Clearly articulating my vision

This is where a short 25 word business concept statement telling others and myself the purpose of my product or service would have alerted me that maybe this product was more of whimsical idea rather than a solid business proposal.

B:  I did not do any market research or an Environmental Scan.  Checking on competition, getting feed back from focus groups or even friends and family.  This would have been a great opportunity for me to reach out to 10 acquaintances and get their feedback.  An acquaintance or a more one who offers more objective instruction is a great way to see if your idea passes the “smell test”.

C:  I did not build a recognizable and desirable brand.  I must have just watched the movie Field of Dreams.  “If you build it they will come” does not apply to Moses Ducks nor most business ideas.  Consumers and potential buyers need a reason to buy your product.  A Moses Duck had no practical purpose other than a collectible.  When creating a product based on brand appeal your item needs support from influencers of popular culture.

As a post script to this story, many ducks remain sitting in my basement and serve to ground and humble me everyday.  However wasn’t just yesterday when I was listent to Casey Casum’s top 40 and he said “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars”.

Until next time, be good and cultivate your community of friends.

My Personal "Mona Lisa"

I can see you through the haze

Everyone has a vision on how to make the world a better place.  Whether it is unconditional peace between all people or a high-tech innovation, we all have dreams.  However moving from a dream through execution to reality always proves more difficult.  Our most respected and effective visionaries, whether it be Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs or your favorite community leader all are able to create a loyal group of supporters.  How do they do it and more importantly what key elements can we learn about communicating our vision?

1.  If you build they will come.  What James Earl Jones forget to tell Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams is that there are just a few other elements needed to get people to care about a baseball field in Iowa.

A.  Articulate in five minutes or less what you intend to create in the future–expressing your idea in a compelling, concise and confident manner is essential.

B.  How do you intend to get people marching with you and why should they care?  Integrity and Optimism are key leadership traits you must display.  Even on the darkest days of the civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would state “What a great time it is to be alive”.

Finally Dwight D. Eisenhower had a particularly telling statement on the importance of integrity in a leader:

“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”– Dwight David Eisenhower

With these thoughts in mind–dream it, do it and report back.

Until next time-be good and cultiviate your community of friends.

Humble Beginnings

As we mark day one of the blog it is worth noting the apocalyptic atmosphere of our economic well-being.  In a world where my entire net worth is in my 501K (a term from the urban dictionary that describes a person’s economic condition and their net worth as being what is present in their jean pockets).  Simple percentages like one and 99 take on a double entendre with a hidden meaning beyond a simple statement.  Lastly I started thinking about friends and community.  With the rise of Social Media these terms have changed.  Would you loan money to every one of your Facebook friends?  To be a member of a community before the new media age, you had to share a physical space or location with fellow members.  With the development of new media, community can mean a shared space or connection in a virtual environment.  Until next time-be good and cultiviate your community of friends.