Articles on this Page
- 01/22/13--12:35: _12 Essential Questi...
- 01/22/13--13:31: _Mr. President, Here...
- 01/24/13--09:07: _10 Ways To Impress ...
- 01/28/13--14:19: _The Barriers To Bec...
- 01/29/13--14:04: _Startups, Don't Bui...
- 02/06/13--09:34: _Colorado Governor O...
- 02/09/13--08:30: _Serial Entrepreneur...
- 02/11/13--09:39: _Why People Are Rush...
- 02/18/13--13:33: _How To Make A Succe...
- 03/04/13--10:27: _Market Flaws Are Th...
- 03/06/13--12:27: _SUBWAY FOUNDER: Sta...
- 03/11/13--08:29: _Employers Don't See...
- 03/11/13--16:28: _Harvard Lecturer Ex...
- 03/12/13--06:47: _This Is How It Feel...
- 03/13/13--09:48: _Chinese Execs Will ...
- 03/16/13--12:52: _The 25 CEOs Who Are...
- 03/19/13--13:03: _The Man Who 'Owns' ...
- 03/21/13--15:19: _40 Percent Of Ameri...
- 03/21/13--15:39: _Startups Should Wat...
- 03/25/13--15:23: _Gen Y Isn't The 'En...
- The 5-minute test – When you first come up with an idea, apply the Launch Lens in a 5-minute screen: try taking just 5 to 15 minutes to gin up ‘off-the-top-of-your-head,’ 1-sentence or bullet-point answers to each ‘focal point’ in the Launch Lens. Then step back and ask yourself, Does this make any sense? Are there any red flags or show-stoppers that would make me reject this idea out-of-hand?
- The 5-hour test – If your idea is still looking good, it may be worth “drilling down” on more detailed research on some of focal points – the 5-hour screen, if you will (which, if you like what you’re seeing, may become a 5-day screen).
- The 5-day test – If it passes the 5-hour test, a still-deeper dive should involve getting out and talking to prospective customers, suppliers and the like to get first-hand validation of your concept.
- 01/22/13--13:31: Mr. President, Here's A Tax Plan That Will Actually Create Jobs
- 01/24/13--09:07: 10 Ways To Impress Your Manager
Show up for every check-in with the full agenda – send it a day or more ahead (Give your manager time and space to prepare)
When you are asking your manager to communicate something (an email to the team, a reference letter, etc.), draft it for him or her (Editing is much easier than creating)
Do a start-stop-continue analysis once a year on all of your key activities (Make yourself as efficient and effective as possible – that’s your responsibility as much as your manager’s)
Own your own development plan and check in on it at least quarterly (Those who own their own career paths progress more quickly down them)
Read a relevant business book and ask your manager to discuss insights with you (Staying current with best practices in your field – books, articles, blog posts, videos, mentors, lectures – is key in a learning organization)
Dress for success – even casual can be neat and “client ready” (Your presence has an impact on those around you. There’s no reason anyone should ever have to comment on your clothes, your hair, or any aspect of your personal hygiene)
Respond to every email where you are on the TO line within a day, even if it’s to say you will respond longer form later (At Return Path, you have to be in the jet stream of communications. Otherwise, you find yourself in the exhaust of the jet stream)
End every meaningful interaction by asking for informal feedback on how you’re doing and what else you can be doing (Again, part of being in a learning organization…and taking more tasks on is always a sign that you are ready for more responsibility)
Do something that’s not required but that you feel is a best practice (This shows you’re on top of your game. One example: I send the Board a summary, the details, and the YoY trending of all of my expenses every year. I don’t have to, but enough CEOs out there have high profile expense problems that I decided it’s a good practice. They all LOVE it)
(If you have staff reporting into you) Show up for every check-in with your manager with a list of all staff issues and highlights (You need to bubble things up, both good and bad, so your manager is on top of his or her overall team and (a) is never surprised by events, (b) knows how best to handle skip-level communications, and (c) can think more broadly about resource deployment across the organization)
- 02/09/13--08:30: Serial Entrepreneur Explains How To Reach A Million In Revenue
- 02/11/13--09:39: Why People Are Rushing To Invest In Africa Like Never Before
- 02/18/13--13:33: How To Make A Successful Presentation To The Budget Committee
- 03/04/13--10:27: Market Flaws Are The Lifeblood Of Entrepreneurs
- Product – Ranging from the coffee shop example mentioned earlier, to an underserved category such as electric scooters.
- Service – As mundane (and geographically-tied) as rental storage lockers or as sexy (and geography-agnostic) as cloud-based data storage.
- Information – Let’s say it takes 3-5 person-days for hospitals and clinics to download industry quality data into usable spreadsheets for analysis and government-required reporting – and you figure out how to deliver a cloud-based solution enabling them to perform the same task in 15 minutes.
- 03/06/13--12:27: SUBWAY FOUNDER: Starting A Company Today Is Harder Than Ever
- 03/11/13--08:29: Employers Don't Seem To Care That Working Dads Have It Tough, Too
If there is a problem with a project, do you take it over and issue detailed orders?
Do you tend to object if your team takes an unorthodox approach to a project?
Do your subordinates always seem to follow your “suggestions” to the letter?
When you’re looking at a finished project, do you search for every small mistake?
- 03/12/13--06:47: This Is How It Feels When Your Startup Fails
- 03/13/13--09:48: Chinese Execs Will Feel Richer Than American Execs By 2017
- 03/16/13--12:52: The 25 CEOs Who Are Most Loved By Employees
- 03/21/13--15:19: 40 Percent Of Americans Will Be Freelancers By 2020
- 03/21/13--15:39: Startups Should Watch Out For These Poor Leadership Behaviors
Blame others for everything. An entrepreneur’s passion for an idea often prompts them to blame others or external events for setbacks, rather than themselves, so that they can maintain some semblance of self-esteem and control. This “attributional bias” may be understandable, but is perceived by associates as poor leadership.
Worry and fret about everything. Precious little of what we worry and fret about ever happens, so don’t share every concern with associates. At best, it comes across as lack of confidence, or more likely sounds likely trying to make excuses for possible later failures. Team members want leaders who calm their worries, not amplify them.
Criticize others and the company. Managers who speak critically of team members, customers, friends or family members, have something going on within them that needs to be examined. There is some aspect of self that they find unacceptable. Real leaders are recognized as willing to look in the mirror, and learn from what they see.
Complain about being overwhelmed. Overwhelm is a feeling that always precedes growth, and is a state in which your brain is developing new pathways and connections. Starting a business or a new organization will always cause self-doubt and insecurity. Real leaders embrace and manage these feelings, rather than complain to associates.
Do 10 things at a time in a mediocre fashion. Entrepreneurs or managers who claim to be able to do multiple things at a time must never use this as an excuse for poor quality. Associates will quickly conclude that mediocrity is good enough. Even one task done with mediocrity can be the kiss of death for any business, or any career.
Appear disorganized and manage things haphazardly. Doing things haphazardly is prone to mistakes. In business, when you are making mistakes, it’s costing you time and money. With associates, making mistakes will cost you in productivity and morale, and will kill their image of you as a leader. Worse yet, associates will follow your example.
Fail to see the positives in others. The key here is to maintain a positive mindset. Leadership is all about finding positives, for business growth, for competitive advantage, and people development in your organization. Managers and entrepreneurs need everyone in their organization accentuating the positive, not amplifying the negatives.
- 03/25/13--15:23: Gen Y Isn't The 'Entrepreneurship Generation'
Whether you’re launching a new product or service from within an existing enterprise, or you’re an entrepreneur noodling a new startup idea, I find that the same fundamental set of screening questions can help you shape your idea.
I’ve assembled these questions into a 12-point framework I call the Launch Lens.
As you screen new-business ideas, the Launch Lens gives you a quick way to focus your thinking and flesh out the concept. First-pass, do your answers to the questions make you feel more excited about your business idea? Or does the Lens uncover red flags that might give you pause about moving forward? And if your idea passes a first-order screen and you decide to dive deeper, the framework gives you guidance as to where to focus your research and analysis as you develop your plan.
Let’s zoom in on each ‘focal point’ of the Launch Lens:
1. Who are your customers?
What I mean here is to generically describe the types of customers (not to list your specific customers).
That is, what are the categories of consumers, businesses or other entities that will purchase and use your product or service?
If you have a consumer product, is your target market Hispanic pre-teen girls in Southern California… or Baby Boomer men and women throughout North America… or music lovers over 30 with disposable income of $35,000 or higher… or whom? Be as clear as possible.
If you have a business-to-business product, is your target market warehouse operators of a certain size… small independent retail establishments…. software developers…. financial institutions… or whom?
2. What is your customers’ unmet need?
To state this question another way, what is the customers’ “pain” that your product or service – you’ll be describing that in question #5 – is designed to ameliorate or address? This could be a true and dramatic unmet need – for instance, for the inventors of the pacemaker, the customers’ unmet need was that their hearts were beating slowly or unpredictably, thereby endangering their lives. On the other hand, for some businesses, the unmet need might be a less of a need than a want – for instance, for the founders of LoveThoseHotShoes.com, the “unmet need” might be the frustration of style-conscious women in their inability to learn about up-and-coming designers before they make it big, and to easily purchase those designers’ shoes at competitive prices.
3. How are your customers addressing this need today, however poorly?
Even if your company has a novel new way of addressing a customer need, remember that those customers were addressing that need in some other fashion before you came along. Say you had developed the first automatic dishwasher: your customers would have been addressing their need by hand-washing dishes. Before the advent of the cell phone, individuals got along with a combination of landlines at home, in their offices, and in phone booths. Before SMS texting, people got by with email. Before email, people made due with phone calls and postal mail.
4. To what extent are your customers hurt by not being able to meet this need effectively?
If they’re business customers, does their inability to address their need optimally (i.e., using your company’s new solution) cause poorer product quality for them? Does the pain delay their product launch by several weeks, thereby postponing profits? Does the absence of your solution lead to more clinical errors?
If you’re targeting consumers, does the pain cause them to look unstylish at school, thereby causing loss of social status? Fail to connect with friends due to the lack of your social networking app?
5. What is your proposed solution (product, service, or combination)?
Concisely describe your customer solution. What product, service, or product/service combination will you be offering? At first, you ought to be able to state this in a sentence or two. But as you evolve your concept, you’ll want to make your solution ‘come to life’ in diagrams, mockups, and prototypes.
6. How will your customers benefit, and can you quantify those benefits?
What is your “compelling value proposition” (CVP)? Can you quantify that CVP? That is, how will your customer benefit by switching from the way “the way they’re dealing with it now” to addressing their need using your solution?
If customers adopt your solution, explain exactly how they will be able to address their unmet need significantly better, faster, cheaper or cooler than they were formerly able to do so. Be as specific as possible.
7. How will your business make money?
In business parlance, what is your business model?
Note that a company may have multiple, different business models that complement one another. For instance, a golf-oriented website may make money through a combination of: (i) referral fees for providing teaching referrals to golf pros; (ii) transaction fees for online or mobile scheduling at golf courses and driving ranges; (iii) Google AdWords advertising; (iv) display advertising; (v) affiliate marketing, selling books, DVDs, golf apparel and so on on their site through Amazon and other retailers and receiving affiliate sales commissions. And bear in mind that for such a company with multiple, complementary business models, there’s no requirement that all the revenue-generation methods be implemented at once. In other words, you may consider “turning them on” one at a time as they make sense and as you have the time and resources.
8. How big is your total addressable market?
Theoretically, if every one of your potential customers were to purchase your product or service, at the asking price, from either you or your competitors, how much annual revenue would result?
While the total addressable market (TAM) is a purely theoretical number, it’s nonetheless important because it may quickly tell you whether your business idea is worth pursuing. (If, for instance, you’re thinking of launching a local equipment rental business and you discover with quick analysis that only 900 households in the area have the disposable income to use your service, that’s quite different from finding a local potential market of 35,000 households.)
Your addressable market’s size can be determined by asking yourself the following: If everyone in your specified geographic market – whether that be, the English-speaking world, a specific 2-county area, or all of Western Europe – who could potentially benefit from your product or service – or that of your direct competitors – were to do so, how many people or “unit sales” would that be per year? If this is a product or service for which you are directly charging, multiply the unit sales by the asking price to see how much annual revenue that equates to. In other words, it’s the answer to the question, How big would this market be if it were completely saturated?
And note that if yours is an online play or mobile play, it may be more useful to estimate your market size in terms of number of potential units – online users, or mobile downloads – rather than dollars and cents.
9. Who are your competitors, and how do you compare to them?
Describe your competitive positioning and your competitive differentiation. And remember (as we started addressing with question #3), even if you’re introducing a solution that you consider an industry-first, you will be asking your customers to change the way they’re currently doing things. So, even if you think you have a novel, new solution to address your customers’ needs, your biggest competition as an entrepreneur may be “the way your customers are dealing with it now.”
10. How well does the business fit with your core competencies?
Will this business leverage the skills and business competencies of the founding team?
This question applies equally well to entrepreneurial startups as it does to corporate new-business launches. Entrepreneurs need to ask themselves, Is this something I’ll enjoy and be good at? For instance, if the business will entail extensive face-to-face interaction with consumers, is that something that you’re good at and that you’ll truly enjoy? Or if the business will entail organizing and managing myriad details every day, is that something that someone on the founding team is truly gifted at doing and will enjoy?
For new corporate initiatives, this question applies in a different but equally important way. Does the new-business concept take advantage of the organization’s established capabilities? For instance, if an industrial corporation that sells its good primarily through distributors is contemplating launching a new series of branded consumer products, one would have to ask if that the founding organization and its executives have the core competencies to do an excellent job of launching such a business. Shouldn’t they seek new-business opportunities that have a better strategic fit with their competency profile?
11. How can you involve customers in creating a superior solution?
What is your customer involvement strategy? Note that I’m posing this as a rhetorical question: well-run startups all incorporate input from customers, and the very best really bring lead customers into the creative process of specifying, critiquing, modifying and improving the company’s product offerings. What are your plans for involving customers?
12. Can the business generate sustainably high profits?
To dispense with the business-speak, let’s look at it this way: With each customer sale, after covering all your costs, is there plenty of money left in the coffers? And if so, do you believe you can maintain these high profit margins? If not – if this looks like it may be a low-profit-margin business – why launch the company? It’ll be far too much work for too little pay. And if it looks good on a per-unit basis, how many units do you need to sell to cover your overhead? Then, do you have a feel for how much money and lead-time you’ll need to bring your product to market?
This is a somewhat straightforward discussion for a business that’s charging directly for its products or services. But what if yours is a network-effect business (such as many online, social and mobile apps) that needs to build up a critical mass of users, members, downloads or traffic before it can begin to generate revenue – whether through transactions, ads or whatever other way you intend to monetize your service? In that case, do you have a feel for what it will take to get you to the point of having built a thriving market that enables your business to start generating revenue? How long will that take you and how much money will you spend to get there?
These are obviously not just yes-or-no questions – answering these profitability questions properly requires that you “do the math.” And generating high profits sustainably requires that you be able to build a sustainable competitive advantage. What will be your business’s source of that long-term advantage? What will be your durable competitive barriers-to-entry?
Applying the Launch Lens Successfully
At the end of the day, the Launch Lens helps you reason through whether to act on a business idea or not – and if so how. And if you proceed to launch, it’s great that your Launch Lens pre-screening has made it a lot more straightforward to build a financial model, pitch deck, executive summary or business plan – since you’ve already thought through the salient startup issues.
Jim Price is a serial entrepreneur and Adjunct Lecturer of Entrepreneurial Studies at the Zell Lurie Institute at The University of Michigan Ross School of Business. ©2013 James D. Price.
If President Obama were to accomplish one thing in his next term, it should be to lower significantly the unemployment rate. At a current 7.8% (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) roughly 12.2 million people in the U.S. are without jobs. The economy matters. People are happy when they’re productive at work and making money. Anyone who says that money doesn’t matter either has a trust fund or is about three days into Burning Man and is still high on the novelty of the barter system (try to take down a Moncler coat at Barney’s with some wampum and see how far that’ll get you.) As Benjamin Disraeli said, “Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action.” If we have jobs where we can be productive, then we have action, and we at least have a shot at happiness.
The economy is trending towards a larger base of entrepreneurs. The only issue is that unlike years ago when people started businesses with a stapler, three pens, and a rotary phone powered by Bell, it simply costs more to start a business today. Chris Anderson can talk about FREE (Hyperion, New York , NY, 2009) and the lowering costs of the online economy all he wants, but I don’t trust financial models built off Linux, and when I need to change a glitch in my shopping cart during a national sales campaign, 3am Skype calls with Indonesia just don’t cut it. The reality is, things cost money, and people are only going to work so long for you to put an experience on their resume and for stock options that don’t have value. In most cases, you need money in order to make money.
Entrepreneurs are the people that will create the jobs that this country needs. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small firms (independent businesses with fewer than 500 employees) represent 99.7% of all employer firms and generated 65% of net new jobs over the last 17 years. There’s power in those numbers.
Here’s what President Obama should do to help promote entrepreneurship and create a new capitalist economy: Give tax breaks to those private individuals who make angel investments – those investments that require more funding than a credit card would allow, but less than a typical Venture Capital or Private Equity firm would allocate – and certainly with a different growth profile.
Each entrepreneur – much as on Yelp, or Airbnb– would receive a rating based on his experience or success in starting a business, populated by investors or people familiar with that individual’s prior projects. To the extent that an entrepreneur is novice, his rating would either be zero – or he could get credit for relevant industry experience. For example, someone who is just starting out as a new business owner would have a higher risk profile and lower rating, but investment in that business would allow for a larger tax write-off because the chances of a return on that investment, and sustained job creation, would theoretically be smaller – but still possible, nonetheless. On the other hand, if someone like Jack Dorsey (cofounder of Square and Twitter, whose net worth according to Forbes is $1.1 billion, and who might just be the Messiah for all we know) were to ask for funding, because of his track record, the investor would enjoy less of a write-off, but there would be greater certainty that Dorsey’s venture would create jobs because of his past success in doing so. This program solves two problems: it gives people with sound business models a way to build businesses and create jobs, and gets people with money to invest in our country’s future.
Capital is scarce, and there are a lot of people out there who have money but are afraid to lend it. So what do they do? They either hold onto it in bank checking accounts or CDs (certificates of deposit), invest in stocks and bonds, or perhaps buy real estate. But investment in securities or assets of this type doesn’t fund the growth of this country, necessarily. Most of the companies that one would invest in publicly have management that knows it has to meet the quarterly expectations of Wall Street analysts and shareholders, so in many instances they would use that capital to invest in projects that would reduce greatly their largest expense – human capital – having the exact opposite effect of what this country actually needs – the creation of jobs. We need to give private, wealthy individuals incentive to fund companies that can create jobs by giving those investors a tax break that is proportionate to the capital invested and the risk profile of the entrepreneurs seeking capital. Larger investment and higher risk equate to a larger tax break.
Clearly, I have not worked out all the kinks in my proposal, but much in entrepreneurial fashion, it’s a minimum viable starting point that at least gets us thinking about ways to enhance economically the private sector and benefit the people that are looking to take the kinds of risks that helped build the economic foundation of this country over the last century. A path towards a happier and more productive society is not in lowering the bar to accommodate apathy, but rather to raise our standards and reward hard work and risk taking that will not just build economic profits, but also rebuild the content of our national character.
Last week, I talked about how to wow your employees. Now I am going to discuss the converse of that – how to wow your manager. Why wow your manager?
Even if you are senior leader in an organization, the WOW factor is still important.
What impact does a WOW have? It sends the signal that you are on top of things. Symbolism is important.
It also advances the cause further and faster. Why do you want to foster WOW moments with your team? High performing teams have a lot of WOW going on.
If all members of a team see WOW regularly, they are all inspired to do more sooner, better.
Here are my top 10 examples on how to WOW your manager, along with the intended impact:
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The digital age makes it possible to create something, market it and sell it entirely on your own, which means it’s a lot easier to be an entrepreneur than ever before.
In his new book APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, Guy Kawasaki, a New York Times bestselling author, and former Apple marketer discusses how he self-published his book. To successfully publish your own book, Kawasaki believes you have to be an entrepreneur as well as an author. In an interview, he also shares three of his most valuable lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs and authors.
Launch Your Idea Immediately
According to Kawasaki, an effective marketing platform takes at least a year to build. So authors, or anyone looking to start a business, should get started as soon as they think of their idea. This is more easily attainable thanks to all the tools readily accessible on the Internet.
“Luckily we live in a time with Facebook and Twitter and Google+ and LinkedIn,” Kawasaki says, “and compare that to say, Dale Carnegie in the 1930s. His way was to fill a hotel ballroom with a thousand people, right? We have all of these considerable social media advantages. Use them.”
So how do you build that platform? If you’re starting a business or writing a book, you most likely have a particular interest, expertise or passion for a product or subject. Use your access to social media to communicate with others that share your interest and those who will be your future customers.
“You should always be thinking about how you can add value to the people who follow you on social media,” Kawasaki says. “And the principle value that people can add is curation.”
For example, a mystery writer could tweet about new forensic techniques, or someone hoping to launch a restaurant could share the latest news about their town’s food scene.
“You can take whatever genre you’re in and gain credibility,” Kawasaki says. “If you are a crime writer, you can obviously do that with all of those types of stories and so that’s my second tip: always be curating.”
Find a Partner, Not a Gatekeeper
You don’t need a big order to start a business, or even a storefront. They can potentially bring more exposure, but aren’t necessarily the right path.
The digital age provides another option for entrepreneurs. The easiest place to start is with a partner, a host, rather than someone you have to prove something to from the beginning. Online platforms let you prove your product’s worth and scale up when you’re ready.
For example, when it comes to publishing, a traditional publisher would be the gatekeeper, while Amazon serves as a partner. Small businesses can think of large chain stores as gatekeepers, and platforms like Etsy as a potential partners.
“I don’t consider Amazon a gatekeeper. A gatekeeper to me is somebody or something you have to suck up to and pray they accept you and that is not the case with Amazon or iBookstore or Nook,” Kawasaki says.
“Basically you upload a file, and as long as it’s not pure gibberish, they will publish it. That’s not a gatekeeper function, this is more of a hosting, distribution and marketing partner function.”
“Now by contrast, the traditional publisher absolutely was a gatekeeper. You had to apply and pray and wait 12 months,” Kawasaki says. “That’s the beauty of self publishing an e-book in particular. You will not be judged upfront on the quality. It’s up to you to write a great book and then market it.”
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The other day I received a direct mail piece from FreshDirect, the online delivery service based out of New York.
What struck me is that the service has been around for years in NYC, and it is now getting out to some of the suburbs in New Jersey. In fact, after having done a little research, FreshDirect was started in 2002 and now, eight years later is delivering in New Jersey.
This is in stark contrast to WebVan, which was the first online grocer. What brought WebVan down is the fact that it tried to build an empire overnight. And yes, we should all know from our history books that empire building leads to empire destruction eventually.
It is pretty evident that FreshDirect took its time to understand how to enter a market, serve it well, and make it profitable. In other words, FreshDirect spent its time to build a repeatable sales and market entry model before moving on to other locations. In addition, its expansion is still local-based, close to its distribution point in Long Island City, NY. You don't see the company going out to San Francisco — rather, it is slowly expanding outside of its first core market, NYC.
As an entrepreneur, you should take the same approach before expanding too quickly. Whether you are hiring a sales force for the first time or expanding territory for your product or service, make sure you have a repeatable sales model before conquering the world. More often than not, I meet entrepreneurs who raise too much money too fast and expand way too quickly before having a product that is fully baked and ready for primetime and before the company knows who it is selling to, how it is selling to them, and what the core value proposition is.
Get everything right in your first market, like FreshDirect, and you will build a great company and avoid monumental disasters like Webvan.
Government, particularly state government, is not known for its efficiency. The word that comes to mind is bureaucracy, and the experience people think of is an interminable wait or bad service in a drab office.
Current Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper was himself an entrepreneur, he built a brew pub into a business spanning three states. He got into politics after one of his employees suggested he run for mayor, and won while pledging to apply his entrepreneurial approach to government.
He told the Harvard Business Review's Eric Hellweg about some of the difficulties he's had putting those promises into action. There's an entrenched culture you have to fight:
Most people, when they get elected, they hire the people that helped get them elected because they think they'll help cover their back. But they aren't managers. They've never been trained. They don't have the experience, so you have risk adverse people who grew up where there's no benefit to taking a risk. There's only downside. So we brought in a talented group of people from all walks of life — not just business — but not one was a political appointee.
And there's an attitude that's prevents things from getting things done, Hickenlooper says:
Oh man. In government they love to attack each other. People get so dug in with their positions and they end up with a self-interest that is about protecting that position no matter what. To get business done, you have to get people to expand their sense of self-interest and then get those self-interests to overlap.
He says that the most important lesson he learned in business, which he continues to apply, is how important a leader's mood is. If you come into the office in a bad mood, the entire staff is in one within in hour.
So even when things are going poorly, you have to be relentlessly positive. It rubs off on everyone else, motivates people, and leads to better results.
Jason previously founded Smart Bear Software and co-founded ITWatchdogs, both of which were bootstrapped to profitability, grew to millions in revenue, and were sold. He is a mentor at Capital Factory (like TechStars or Y-Combinator in Austin) and the co-host of OnStartups Answers along with Dharmesh Shah. Jason podcasts and blogs about startups and marketing on A Smart Bear and also has recently co-founded his newest startup WP Engine.
Q: You’ve founded 4 startups that all have profited over $1M in revenue, which includes Smart Bear, and your new startup WPEngine. One of your key ingredients to Smart Bear’s results was that profit was behind every choice you made. Can you tell us of an instance where this concept shouldn’t be applied when starting up?
I think startups should always be cognizant of how to be profitable in the long run. Even Jeff Bezos who famously runs a $57B/yr business at essentially zero profit margin is doing so, in his own words, to maximize long-term free cash flow per share. Which is big-business accounting speak for “throwing off tons of cash in the long run, but reinvesting for growth and strength in the short run.”
That’s how a growing startup who isn’t focused on profit should also be thinking. Sure you’re pouring money into growth and removing risk, but to what end? Too many startups decide they’ll “figure out how to make money later,” and then don’t, or at least, don’t figure out how to make enough.
Q: What was the best advice you’ve received about managing your time?
The single most important concept is to do one thing at a time. Multitasking for a human is always strictly less efficient, just as multi-tasking on a CPU is less efficient. You think you’re filling in the minor time gaps with something useful, but your just distracting your brain and preventing yourself from having even a smidgen of recharge time. You think you’re being “real-time and responsive” but you’re really just making noise and not generating something of value.
If you process email just one an hour, or three times a day, you’ll see how fantastically more efficient you are at email, and how much more you get done outside of email. And the same is true with any other normally-interruptive task.
Q: What challenges did you face when trying to determine the lifetime value of users for WP Engine early on? How did you solve that problem?
It’s actually pretty easy.
Early on you can’t use any of the typical formulas like “1/c” lifetime months where “c” is “monthly cancellation rate,” because you don’t have enough customers or enough time passing to get an accurate idea of “c.” You can do cohort analysis but there again you just don’t have enough quantity of customer to know anything.
So, just assume the customer stays for 24 months. Why? If your company has good retention it should be much longer than that, but being conservative now is good because you’ll have plenty of ups and downs in marketing spend and in customer retention so let’s not assume you’ll be awesome right out of the gate, consistently for the next three years.
If your company has a bad retention rate, of course that’s not just bad financially, it also means something is fundamentally rotten in your business, either in bad service, a useless service, a service people won’t pay for, or a service people don’t actually need for a long time. Any of those problems are far more critical — in fact, likely fatal — compared to calculating your LTV.
Q: A lot of bootstrap startups get to a point where they see traction in their growth and are faced with the decision of continuing or trying to raise capital. What would you advise an entrepreneur in this position?
As cheesy as it sounds, it completely depends on what the founder wants from life. I used to write graphics routines in assembly, so believe me I wouldn’t say something cheesy unless I really thought it was true.
Do you want to build a huge company? Do you want to “make a mark on the world?” Do you want to stick with one thing for as long as possible, maybe a decade? Do you want to trade your baby in for money? Do you want to shift away from what you’re doing today (whether that’s writing code, designing the website, selling the customers) and into managing teams of people who are actually doing the real work, and then managing managers, and hiring and managing executives who themselves are responsible for strategy, growth, hiring, culture, metrics, evaluations, etc within their own departments, and managing your board of directors and CFO and HR director and all the other things which a CEO of a growing, funded company must do?
If the answer to all that is “hell yes, that sounds amazing,” and of course if the business itself lends itself to raising money (i.e. traction and growth in a large and growing market), then raising money is your best shot at all those things. It gives you the fuel and time to actualize that journey.
If the answer to that is “hell no, that sounds like hell on Earth,” then don’t set yourself up for the inevitable. Don’t get too large, or get someone else to be the CEO (who you trust…. hmmm), and keep control of your own destiny.
There are not right and wrong choices. I’ve done both of these things and had a great time with both of them. The only mistake is to not choose — try to straddle the path — or to choose the path which ultimately will not make you happy or fulfilled.
Amid all of the talk about India and China, one of the biggest potential growth markets in the world is in Africa. A resource boom has meant more investment, and the area is projected to grow rapidly for years to come.
The Comcraft Group is one of the continent's largest home-grown companies, worth more than $2.5 billion with a presence on 3 other contents. In an interview with Knowledge@Wharton, CEO Manu Chandaria explains the secrets to his success.
The potential is definitely huge, Chandaria says:
"Africa is growing: Out of the top 10 most important investment destinations today, six are in Africa. [Among those are] Kenya, Angola, South Africa and Nigeria. There is huge potential right now. Everybody is rushing towards it because Africa now has a more stable political climate than ever before. Furthermore, nearly all developed countries are finding it extremely difficult to grow, but Africa is expected to grow probably at 6% in the coming years"
While the continent is becoming more stable, it's still nothing like doing business in more established markets:
First, you've got to accept that it's a third world country. It's not a first world country. If you are thinking about the comforts of the first world, they are not there. But once you get past that, you will realize that each country in Africa has its own specialty, and if you can capitalize on those specialties then you will do well.
Doing business in Africa is fundamentally an exercise in risk and entrepreneurship, according to Chandaria. You have to be willing to fail and take a plunge:
"Well, the first thing you must do is take a risk and say, 'Yes, I will move forward with my plan.' You have to take the plunge. I've said this many times, if you want to go to heaven, you've got to die first. Essentially, entrepreneurship is all about taking risks, and sometimes failing, if necessary. But failure always opens up another opportunity. But this entrepreneurial mindset is not only for business; this is applicable for running clinics and councils, too. You have to figure out the best way to run these operations. Entrepreneurship is in every endeavor, but the question first is, are you prepared to take the risk? There is a tremendous need for people to become a little bit more daring and say yes."
His last piece of advice is to give something back. If you bring in outside managers for example, you're not building the sort of skills and local workforce that will pay dividends for years to come. Chandaria credits his success to the fact that he takes the time to build relationships, and is not just out for a profit, but to improve people's lives.
When you need financing for your ideas, convincing investors that your pitch is worth their time and money is essential.
The first thing you need to do is make sure you can demonstrate that whoever you’re pitching your idea to—venture capital firm, bank or investment group—believes that he or she will eventually get something out of the deal. You need to research your audience, cater to their needs and make a connection between what your business does and why the firm should care.
“An audience you want funding from wants to understand the viability of your business—the potential market for what you’re offering, why your value proposition exceeds that of the competition and your success thus far,” says Bill Rosenthal, CEO of Communispond, which provides employee training on how to communicate effectively. “Line up your numbers—but don’t present them like an accountant would, with only a cold, hard recitation of the figures. You have to show your passion for the business.”
Rosenthal shares some tips with us on making a successful presentation to investors. Whether you’re a small startup or running a larger business, these tips can help you develop your best game plan.
1. Know your environment. Arrive at important meetings early so you can examine the atmosphere, and also so you can know what kind of room you’ll be presenting in. For example, you need to know if the room will accommodate an AV presentation or whether you need to bring equipment. If you’re going to use visuals, Rosenthal said you should keep them simple, using “no more than four lines of copy per slide and no more than four words per line.”
2. Know how much time you have. Rosenthal told us you should plan a presentation that lasts 10 minutes, less than the time you’re allotted, so you can use the extra time for questions and answers. “You should also prepare a presentation that’s half as long—because it’s common at venture capital firms in particular for the investment committee to be behind schedule and for the entrepreneur seeking funding to be asked to make the presentation shorter than planned.”
Furthermore, you should anticipate questions that you think your audience will ask. “Prepare concise, persuasive answers to them,” he said. “Rehearse the answers to questions, too. Use the answer to your last question to tie everything together.”
3. Be confident in your idea. This is obvious, but is also essential. If you’re trying to get someone to financially support your idea, they should be able to see that you really believe in it.
“Demonstrate your passion by being energetic. Walk in strong, move confidently to where you’ll present, stand tall, balanced on both feet with hips wide, smile, survey the room and begin speaking with conviction,” Rosenthal says. “Don’t sit. Stand. Don’t lean on the table. Underscore your main points with authoritative hand and arm gestures, head turns and changing facial expressions. Rehearse your presentation—and keep rehearsing it — so you can present it without a script. You can’t project passion if you’re speaking from a script.”
4. Connect with your audience. Even though this is clearly a business meeting, you should make as much of a connection as you can. No one is going to hand you money unless they believe in you or feel like they can trust you. “Use changes in the volume or tone of your voice—and dramatic pauses—when you get to something important,” Rosenthal told us. “Use mostly short sentences, dynamic words, onomatopoeia (“bang!,” “boohoo!”) and active verbs.”
You should also look each person in the audience in the eyes at some point. Whatever you do, don’t look at the floor or the opposite wall.
5. Don’t forget that it’s still a business meeting. On the other hand, even though you’re trying to connect with your audience, you should still remember that they hold the finances you need. Therefore, pay close attention to the language you use. Rosenthal advised that you be familiar with the business language and stay away from buzzwords.
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n. Market where all pertinent information is available to all participants at the same time, and where prices respond immediately to available information. Stockmarkets are considered the best examples of efficient markets (Business Dictionary)
All smart entrepreneurship is essentially arbitrage.
What, you ask?
The Efficient Market Hypothesis tells us it’s impossible to “beat the market” in stocks or bonds because the market is effectively perfect – that is, the efficiency of information flow enables all participants to have the same information at the same time, and thereby “…causes existing share prices to always incorporate and reflect all relevant information” (Investopedia).
Arbitrage in financial markets is the art of detecting what are called market inefficiencies – slight, temporary differences in the price for something, in this case a security – and purchasing it at one price and quickly selling it at a higher price, thereby making a profit. The argument goes that so-called arbitrageurs make financial markets more efficient by closing such price differences (and profit nicely in the process).
But what about other (non-financial) markets – markets for products, services, and information? Are those markets as efficient as the stock market?
And that’s where we entrepreneurs – and intrapreneurs – come in.
Because when you examine it closely, all smart entrepreneurship is, at its core, arbitrage. In virtually every case, we find an inefficient market – for a type of product, service, or information – and we step in to make that market more efficient.
Such an unmet need might be hyperlocal. Perhaps there’s demand for another grind-and-drip-to-order gourmet coffee shop within a certain 5-block radius, and by opening one you’ve made the market more efficient in a small way: people don’t have to walk as far for their morning joe. Customers vote with their feet by patronizing your new shop instead of the ones requiring a longer detour on the morning commute.
On the other hand, the market inefficiency you identify might be national, or even global, in scale. The hundreds of thousands of hamster groomers have trouble connecting with the millions of hamster owners, for instance, and you realize that an online/mobile platform could help both cohorts. The groomers find it easier to find more hamsters to groom, and the owners get a better view of standard pricing and terms.
In the case of a national or global solution such as HamsterGroomers.com (hurry – the URL was still available last time I looked…), you might choose to launch it locally in a hamster hotbed such as New York and then, once you’ve reached critical furry mass there and the model’s proven, rapidly scale your solution by rolling it out in multiple additional metro areas.
The market inefficiency you focus in on might be what’s referred to as a horizontal market need – that is, you’ve identified a broad category of business or consumer customers who could benefit from a better solution. As an example, the vast majority of developers of the hundreds of thousands of apps on the App Store and Google Play have difficulty monetizing their apps, even the hugely popular ones. Consequently, multiple startups are offering up potential “horizontal solutions” to address that monetization challenge, whether it’s through novel advertising approaches, freemium models or other models. They’re considered horizontal in the sense that they can be applied equally well to vertical markets ranging from multi-user games to personal productivity to premium-content apps.
Alternatively, you may choose to focus on a vertical market inefficiency. Whereas horizontally you may choose to offer an online customer-relationship-management platform for all pet service providers, a vertical approach might be to focus on a single type of pet (hamsters or dogs) and/or a single type of service (walking or grooming).
In every case, though, we entrepreneurs are looking for a market we can make more efficient. And that market imperfection you choose to address with your entrepreneurial venture could be one of three basic types:
Market inefficiencies will always exist, and those market flaws are the lifeblood of entrepreneurs.
Jim Price is a serial entrepreneur and business educator. He’s launched and led several tech-enabled businesses, and achieved successful exits through multiple company sales and an IPO. For the past decade, Jim has also held a faculty position at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, where he serves on the executive committee of the Zell-Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies.
©2013 James D. Price.
Forty-nine years ago, at the age of 17, Fred DeLuca used $1,000 of a friend's money to open a sandwich shop in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Today, that business has grown into Subway, the word's largest fast food chain, with nearly 39,000 locations in 98 countries. Last week, DeLuca met with a handful of young entrepreneurs in the library of New York's Hudson Hotel as part of the Subway Global Challenge, an online contest designed to encourage entrepreneurship and franchising. Before his talk, DeLuca sat down with Inc. senior writer Burt Helm about what he believes are the keys to becoming a successful entrepreneur--and why starting a company today may be harder than ever. Below are edited excerpts from their conversation.
You're meeting with young entrepreneurs this evening. What's your impression of the climate for startups in 2013? Do think you could have started Subway today?
Well, if I had the same knowledge and resources I had back then, I don't think I would have been able to get through the maze that we have today. As a seventeen year old--a seventeen year-old with very little money--I would have been blocked. I'm pretty confident that the lag time to get open, the amount of costs to meet regulations, the rent I would have had to pay while I was burning up time...those things would have put me out of business.
Do you think there's still room to make mistakes?
Yes. Everybody who goes through the business will make mistakes. The big question is how big will the mistakes be? How fast will they learn from the mistakes, and how quickly will they get the business in the correct direction?
Six months after we started, in 1964, there was a day when we sold only seven sandwiches. If we'd taken all the money from the register we couldn't have paid an employee, much less the food or the rent or all that. It's could have been a turning point. We could have given up.
But it was ok, because my expenses were low. I was living at home, and we just stuck with it, kept trying to learn the business, to identify what was wrong, fix it, put in new systems. We kept doing that week after week, month after month, and after a couple years we had developed a business that was pretty good. Not a great business, but a pretty good solid business. And from there we had stability.
What do you think is the one advantage entrepreneurs have today that they take for granted?
There's huge access to information. If you need to learn something, you can go on the Internet and learn very quickly. You can reach across miles and miles to find companies that can assist you. I think that's the most important change.
Many startups worry about how and when to scale their business. You are probably the best person in the world to ask about this--no company has scaled quite like Subway has, which started with a handful of stores in Connecticut, and now…
We're approaching 39,000 stores, and we're growing. Last year we added 2,600 locations.
What was the toughest phase of growth?
I'm not sure what part of it was the toughest. But the solving the challenges always comes down to the same question: how do you run a single store?
Maybe I could liken it to a complex machine like a car. Something little could go wrong--the battery's dead, you run out of gas, or get a flat tire--and then this big complex machine doesn't work. It's the same thing with a business, where you could have a lot of it right and still not make much progress. In our business there might be 100 critical points, or 200 or 300 that are important. These are all things we learned and put in place over time.
These days there's a whole culture around entrepreneurship, whether it's interest in Silicon Valley incubators like YCombinator or Techstars, or reality shows like Shark Tank. What do you think of all that? Is it a good thing, or is it turning startups into fantasy camp? Is it encouraging the wrong kinds of approaches to starting a business?
I don't actually know about all the things that you talked about. I watch Shark Tank, of course. It's very entertaining. I think it's actually good to help people think about the business they might start, and sometimes you get encouraged by looking at someone going into business and saying hey, I could do that.
The important thing, no matter what business you're in, is having some kind of small business experience. I was helped a lot by being a paper boy when I was 13 years old. I had a get up and do the job, I had to collect the money, I had to pay the distributor, and doing that on a regular basis instills a discipline that I just wouldn't have had without having a job like that.
The federal government talks a lot about taking steps to help people start-up companies. Do you think they are really doing that?
If the government was really serious about helping small business, they'd find better ways to make capital accessible for true small businesses. I don't think they've done a very good job with that at all through the recession. The stimulus package was an astronomical sum of money, and I frankly don't know anybody who benefited from it. I didn't see that loans were easier to get. I think they totally misdirected their efforts to jumbo projects.
In the food businesses these days, many people are starting small, artisanal operations--whether they're making sandwiches, or fine chocolate, or pickles. What do you think of those as businesses, and as competition for subway?
When I see businesses like that, I think how cool it is to be a customer. To have all these specialty things that were never available before. I really welcome that. But I don't think that things like that are what I'd consider to be high-level competition for a mass market product like Subway. We have to be extremely efficient. I sell something for $5, and a small sandwich shop will sell theirs for $10. And they will get their customers, but not everybody has that kind of disposable income. Unless they're buying something from Starbucks--then, of course everyone seems to have unlimited money [Laughs].
It's funny you mention Starbucks. Howard Schultz has a venture fund that provides venture capital for food startups. They invested in Pot Belly Sandwiches, as one example. Are you investing in startups?
Look, the best thing in startups could be horribly risky or fabulously wonderful. My partner Peter Buck gave me $1,000 and owns half of this company. How cool is that? But I don't really invest in startups. I don't really think much about investing. It is so time-consuming that I have people who take care of that.
This article was originally published on Inc.
More from Inc.
But what got lost in this debate, argue Matt Gross, Theodore Ross and Nathan Thornburgh in a piece for The Atlantic, is how working dads are affected by the policy.
Thornburgh wrote that "fathers have even greater work-life conflict issues than mothers." He points to an HBR studythat shows "99 percent of fathers surveyed said that their managers had the same or higher work expectations of them after they had a child. ... Women don't get enough accommodation after their children are born; men don't get any."
But should companies care so much about employees' personal lives?
Former Yahoo employees told Business Insider that Mayer was right for implementing the ban because Yahooers just weren't working when they said they were. And in the end, Mayer — as CEO — needs to do what is best for the company. When she realized that employees were abusing their flexible work schedules, she acted as head of a company, not a working mother.
"That office was my savior ... that's where things get done, where I have the time and head space to think and act in the ways that allow me to earn the money that goes toward the kids' clothes and diapers and food. And, I should add, that provides me with a sense of fulfillment—a feeling of challenges accepted and overcome.
"... I like to work at work—it lets me separate that me from the other me, the dad I am when the sun goes down from the guy who's charged with steering a publication into the future. Neither my family nor my co-workers should have to deal with the other guy. I certainly wouldn't want to."
No matter where you stand on the telecommuting issue, Mayer's decision to ban Yahoo's employees from this option shouldn't be seen as an attack on working moms because, as Gross, Ross and Thornburgh point out, dads want balance in their work and home lives as well. The bottom line is that Mayer did what she thought was best for Yahoo and if she wasn't ready to make that her priority, she shouldn't have taken that CEO seat.
An organization’s most valuable assets are its employees. When workers are happy and motivated, they’re more likely to perform at the highest levels.
The most strategic way to create this type of environment is by giving everyone a sense of ownership, says Robert C. Pozen, senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, in his book Extreme Productivity. In other words, get all your employees to think like entrepreneurs. “If your employees don’t feel that they own their own spaces,” Pozen writes, “they will constantly wait for your day-to-day directions and expect you to solve every problem.”
In his book, he outlines what he calls the ”Owning Your Own Space” principle, which will help employers get employees motivated to become star performers:
1. Set project goals. At the beginning of every project, make sure your subordinates know your goals and constraints for each task. Give them “considerable leeway in establishing the time frame for those goals,” Pozen says, because when they’re able to choose their own deadlines, they’ll feel more accountable in meeting them.
2. Establish accurate metrics. When implementing both quantitative and qualitative criteria, you’ll have to have ”a deeper discussion with your team about what you really consider important about the project,” Pozen says. As a manager, you need to let your workers know what metrics you consider more important than others so they can decide what tradeoffs they’re willing to take when making choices.
3. Supply needed resources. If your employees don’t have the appropriate resources to complete their tasks, they won’t be able to finish the project. If there are budget constraints, as a manager, you should understand how much of a role this will play into the success of the overall project and reduce parameters of certain tasks, or decide if the project is realistic.
4. Monitor without suffocating. Just because you’re not physically hovering over your worker’s desk doesn’t mean that you’re not micromanaging. Pozen says that micromanagement is a lot more subtle in reality. For example, it could take the form of you taking back authority over previously delegated projects or having an overly critical eye for details.
Are you micromanaging your staff? In his book, Pozen says that if you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, you could be a micromanager:
Instead of micromanaging, you can go over the status of a project by having meetings at midway points and making suggestions. However, you need to keep in mind that your team should still be “free to achieve the revised goals in the way they think is best,” Pozen says. In other words, make sure they know you’re only making suggestions and not delegating orders.
5. Tolerate mistakes. If you want your employees to take chances, you need to be forgiving when they make mistakes. Pozen says you shouldn’t accept mistakes that are caused by laziness or sloppiness, but you do need to tolerate “a well-intentioned mistake.”
If a project fails, you can make it a “teachable mistake” by giving your subordinates feedback on what led to that mistake, but don’t attack the person.
“You can ask employees to change specific actions and behaviors, not to alter their personalities. To obtain this balance, talk about what went right before you discuss what went wrong,” Pozen writes. And whatever you do, don’t humiliate them in front of others or you’ll witness an “intentional” decrease in productivity in response to your actions.
When you’re successful at making your employees feel like they have ownership in the company, they will begin to “make choices as if they’re spending their own money.” They’ll also be able to adapt quickly in case anything changes along the way. Pozen says that this state of mind will also increase motivation and help you to achieve better results.
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It's relatively common for startups fail.
In fact, three out of every four venture-backed startups fail, according to a recent report by The National Venture Capital Association.
But that reality doesn't make it any easier on entrepreneurs, who likely poured their heart and soul into a product, to watch their company fail.
"It feels as if you have just lost your child," self-proclaimed "failed entrepreneur"Harsh Snehanshu writes on Quora. "You try to look back at it, and can't restrain from feeling sad about it, about the amount of passion you have invested that didn't bear fruits, about the grand dreams that were trampled in a snap of a moment, about the convincing promises you made to your parents which didn't keep true. It's depressing, to say the least."
But at the same time, Snehanshu writes, it feels powerful. That's because moving on from a failed product can be liberating, as you can focus your energy toward something new.
After his startup shut down, he traveled for a bit, explored other entrepreneurial ideas, and even wrote a book about his failure.
His biggest takeaway: "an entrepreneur might fail, the the entrepreneur in him never dies."
Head on over to Quora to read more first-hand accounts of what it feels like to run a startup that fails.
Chinese executives have something to look forward to.
They saw their salaries inflate at a rate of 8 percent annually last year, compared to a 3 percent rate for execs in the US. If this current trend continues, top execs in China will have a higher spending power than those who run companies in the US by 2017, reportsECA International.
In the ECA's National Salary Comparison, the company says that the spending power (based on cost of living) of an executive in China was at only 57 percent compared to their counterparts in the US in 2007, but this number has increased to 75 percent today — and will surpass that of US execs in a few short years. Spending power is affected by not only salary but other factors, including inflation, tax, exchange and social security rates.
This shift could have huge implications for the global war on talent. It may get more difficult for US companies to recruit Chinese executives.
"Currently a senior Chinese employee is likely to see their spending power increase if they are sent to the US to work," says a spokesperson for the ECA. "But this could change in the future and companies offering Chinese executives coming to the US a salary based on the local US salaries could well find that the package is no longer enough incentives for them to accept the assignment."
Check out the chart below:
To produces a transparent comparison, ECA converted all salaries to euros at the exchange rate on July 1, 2012 as a common currency.
Although founder Mark Zuckerberg is often described as awkward, employees love working for him. There's a learning curve, but once people understand how to work with Zuckerberg, they become loyalists.
CEOs at tech companies, consultancies, and financial firms dominated the list. Out of 50 executives, only one woman appeared on the list: Victoria Secret's Sharen Turney, who ranked No. 42.
We've compiled the top 25 CEOs here.
25. Natarajan Chandrasekaran, Tata Consultancy Services
2013 Approval Rating: 91%
2012 Approval Rating: 80%
What employees think:
“Good career path. Strong processes in place. Strong higher management.” - Tata Consultancy Services Employee (location n/a)
24. Fred Smith, FedEx
2013 Approval Rating: 91%
2012 Approval Rating: 93%
What employees think:
“Strong leadership that has a clear vision of the future.” – FedEx Human Resources Professional (Pittsburgh, PA)
23. Brad Smith, Intuit
2013 Approval Rating: 91%
2012 Approval Rating: 86%
What employees think:
“Brad Smith is a rock star of a CEO. I would follow him wherever he went. He's amazing, and he is the reason the company is growing and innovating.” – Intuit Product Manager (Reno, NV)
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
Dennis Hope, "Head Cheese" of the Lunar Embassy Corporation in Nevada has offered several governments — including the U.S. — a huge chunk of money to solve their financial troubles.
So far, no country has accepted Hope's loan of The Delta, which is the currency system that he created to be used by those who own property on the moon. In 2001, Hope set up the Galactic Government to protect these nearly six million property owners.
For more than three decades, the Lunar Embassy Corporation has generated $11 million in revenue from selling extraterrestrial real estate. One acre of lunar property can be purchased for $19.99, plus $10 in shipping and handling, $1.51 in planetary and lunar tax and $2.50 for a copy of the official certificate of ownership.
In order to choose which piece of Terra Luna he wants to sell, Hope simply closes his eyes and randomly points to a moon diagram. The area is then colored in red to illustrate that it's no longer available and the owner is provided with images of their newly-purchased property, but these images are only available after a completed point of sale. Hope has also claimed ownership of Mars, Venus, Mercury, and one of Jupiter's moons and said that he doesn't "sell in other planets because [he] can't find maps of them to carve out subdivisions."
According to Hope, more than 600 acres of land on the moon belongs to millions of people around the world, including celebrities, such as Barbara Walters, Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Nicole Kidman, and former Presidents Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, and George W. Bush.
Some of these owners have big future plans for their properties, including a golf course, he says, which will get tricky, because "even a one-degree pitch would send the ball into outer space." The Lunar Embassy does not sell properties near historical landmarks, and Hope told us that he turned down a $50 million offer last year from someone who wanted to buy the entire northern region of the moon.
The real estate company currently has two full-time employees, 27 resellers and six ambassadors. To resell properties or become an ambassador, license-holders are required to pay a $60,000 fee and buy a certain number of properties monthly. Some people have called him a con artist.
How did it become possible for one man to claim ownership of so much property in outer space? It started in the 1970s when Hope was freshly divorced and quickly running out of money. He knew he could make a fortune selling real estate and turned his attention to outer space. After researching at a community college, Hope believed he had found a loophole based on the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, which says that “no nation by appropriation shall have sovereignty or control over any of the satellite bodies," yet the document never mentions individuals.
On Nov. 22, 1980, the businessman filed a declaration of ownership for the moon with the United Nations, but never received a reply, which he believed to indicate that he'd succeeded. But experts disagree.
“I don’t see a loophole,” Ram Jakhu, law professor at the Institute of Air and Space Law at McGill University in Montreal, told Stephen Ornes in Discover Magazine. “The moon is a common property of the international community, so individuals and states cannot own it. That’s very clear in the U.N. treaty. Individuals’ rights cannot prevail over the rights and obligations of a state. No one owns the moon. No one can own any property in outer space.”
Joanna Gabrynowiczi, a research professor and director at the National Center for Remote Sensing, Air and Space Law, told us that it's "clear that any nation that is a signatory to the Outer Space Treaty can not appropriate the moon. But it's unclear what will happen to these properties if the case finds itself in court in the future. China and Canada have each prosecuted an individual trying to sell lunar plots. The Moon, like the high seas, is a global commons."
But whether Hope's legally entitled to own celestial bodies or not, no one's stopping him, and his business is still operating. He calls other similar companies "criminals" for trying to sell properties that they do not own and compares his outer space acquisitions to kings in the 1500s who claimed lands before even going there.
Most customers will never get to see their purchases, but Hope explains that it's more of a novelty symbolizing hope for the future.
Filmmaker Simon Ennis has been working on Hope's story for the documentary “Lunarcy!” scheduled to air on EPIX on April 3. After his work with Hope, Ennis admitted in The New York Times that the Head Cheese offered him an acre of lunar land.
It's the entrepreneur-age and everyone wants to work for themselves or have enough flexibility in their schedules that it feels as though they're working for themselves.
By 2020, more than 40 percent of the American workforce, or 60 million people, will be freelancers, contractors and temp workers, according to a study conducted by software company Intuit.
The entrepreneur business model will play a major role in the future workplace. The report also says that in the next seven years, the number of "small and personal businesses in the U.S. alone will increase by more than 7 million" and fulltime, full benefit jobs will be harder to find. Most of these businesses will be web or mobile-based and will work closely with a global workforce.
In 2020, one in six Americans will be older than 65, but they won't be "traditional" seniors as they will continue to work part or full-time.
With employees scattered all over the world in the future, how will this play a role in the current telecommuting debate? What do you think? Let us know at email@example.com.
Many professionals in business, from startups to multi-nationals, assume that team leader or executive is an appointed position, and the skills come with the title. In reality, leadership is best demonstrated while not in a position of authority, and is a skill that must be sharpened every day of your life.
Most experts agree that leadership, as perceived by people around you, is more about behavior than it is about specific skills or knowledge. Darryl Rosen, in “Table for Three?” illustrates this with humor for each of fifty dumb mistakes that smart managers don’t make. The leadership one is setting a poor example by your own actions (“Do as I say, not as I do.”)
His rendition, including the following seven examples of poor leadership behavior, that I have seen all too often in startups, illustrate how your actions affect others around you:
Leadership and improvement is about taking small steps forward, and evolving just a bit each day. Think evolution, not revolution. Anyone can change one behavior a month, or eliminate one mistake, and suddenly you too can be an “overnight success.”
Of course, correcting leadership mistakes is only the beginning. There are at least 49 other ways to go wrong in navigating workplace relationships, problem-solving approaches, time management, credibility, and business effectiveness. How many have you avoided recently in your startup?
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We all keep hearing that Gen Y’s are the “entrepreneurship generation,” but new research states otherwise. I worked with Monster.com on a new study focused on multi-generational worker attitudes to uncover the state of entrepreneurship through the eyes of different generations of workers. The report found that 41% of Gen X employees (ages 30-49) and 45% of Boomers (ages 50-69) consider themselves to be more entrepreneurial, compared to only 32% of Gen Y workers (ages 18-29 years). Previous research showed that 46% of Gen Y’s want to start a business within the next five years (Employers Insurance). They view themselves as less entrepreneurial because they aren’t in the best position to take a financial risk; they have the least amount of money but the most amount of debt from student loans. Many are still living with their parents and aren’t buying cars or homes.
Gen Ys are also less risk averse relative to older generations. Only 28% of Gen Y identified with being high risk, while 40% of Gen X and 43% of Boomers felt the same way. Boomers have the most amount of wealth, connections and business experience; all needed in order to make a business successful. Boomers understand how to operate a business, as well as all of the business functional areas, including marketing and finance. Gen Y’s, typically employed at entry-level positions, aren’t as exposed to these areas, aren’t paid as much and don’t have the full Rolodex that older workers have already established. This puts them at a real disadvantage when it comes to entrepreneurship because it’s hard to get your hands on capital and have the right amount of confidence based on lack of experience.
Another focus area for study was on intrapreneurship. An intrapreneur is one who acts like an entrepreneur within a company, a hot topic in corporate America. Companies have to innovate to stay competitive and by leveraging their current talent to create new products and services, they can boost morale, save money and stay ahead of the competition. Nearly one third of all generations feel that they have the freedom, flexibility and resources to be an intrapreneur, and slightly more Gen Y respondents feel that they have their management’s support in becoming an intrapreneur. 42% of respondents stated they have opportunities to work on projects outside of their direct responsibility, but only 23% encourage workers to work on these projects.
We also looked at how different generations evaluate companies when it comes to deciding where to work. Location and health care are more important to Boomers, whereas Gen Y is more interested in advancement opportunities and skill development. 33% of Gen Y, followed by 22% of Gen X and 15% of Boomers select training and development opportunities as being most important when considering working for a company. Gen Y’s are looking for mentors and career opportunities, whereas older employees are looking for more stability. Gen Y’s are more likely to be bored at work and see their job as a stepping stone for another position elsewhere.
Overall, we found that companies aren’t as innovative as they should be. 38% of the total respondents said that their company was innovative and only 22% said they work in an entrepreneurial culture. This is a major opportunity area for companies who are losing market share right now. Gen Y employees are more likely to leave for other opportunities if they aren’t given room to grow and they are more likely to want to work at a company that innovates so they are more engaged.