I keep coming back to this TED talk as one of the most important elements of success in business. I suggest watching it several times, and share it with your people and come up with a strong answer to this most powerful of all questions:
This is not a joke. It's real life, and I've seen it happen more times than I care to recall. This ego-driven "Not Invented Here" syndrome causes wasted time and money, resulting in early startup failures.
http://www.investinganswers.com/education/famous-investors/50-warren-buffett-quotes-inspire-your-investing-2310 1. "Rule No. 1: Never lose money. Rule No. 2: Never forget Rule No. 1." 2. "A very rich person should leave his kids enough to do anything, but not enough to do nothing." 3. "It’s class warfare; my class is winning, but they shouldn’t be." 4. "If you’re in the luckiest 1% of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99%." 5. "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently." 6. "Of the billionaires I have known, money just brings out the basic traits in them. If they were jerks before they had money, they are simply jerks with a billion dollars." 7. "The business schools reward difficult complex behavior more than simple behavior, but simple behavior is more effective." 8. "You do things when the opportunities come along. I’ve had periods in my life when I’ve had a bundle of ideas come along, and I’ve had long dry spells. If I get an idea next week, I’ll do something. If not, I won’t do a damn thing." 9. "Can you really explain to a fish what it’s like to walk on land? One day on land is worth a thousand years of talking about it, and one day running a business has exactly the same kind of value." 10. "You only have to do a very few things right in your life so long as you don’t do too many things wrong." 11. "It’s far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price." 12. "Only buy something that you’d be perfectly happy to hold if the market shut down for 10 years." 13. "We simply attempt to be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy only when others are fearful." 14. "Risk is a part of God’s game, alike for men and nations." 15. "Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks." 16. "We believe that according the name 'investors' to institutions that trade actively is like calling someone who repeatedly engages in one-night stands a 'romantic.'" 17. "Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken." 18. "It’s better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you’ll drift in that direction." 19. "Let blockheads read what blockheads wrote." 20. "Our favorite holding period is forever."
21. "I don't look to jump over seven-foot bars; I look around for one-foot bars that I can step over." 22. "If a business does well, the stock eventually follows." 23. "Why not invest your assets in the companies you really like? As Mae West said, 'Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.'" 24. "Price is what you pay. Value is what you get." 25. "Wide diversification is only required when investors do not understand what they are doing." 26. "Time is the friend of the wonderful company, the enemy of the mediocre." 27. "Only when the tide goes out do you discover who's been swimming naked." 28. "In the business world, the rearview mirror is always clearer than the windshield." 29. "Risk comes from not knowing what you're doing." 30. "Look at market fluctuations as your friend rather than your enemy; profit from folly rather than participate in it." 31. "There seems to be some perverse human characteristic that likes to make easy things difficult." 32. "If you are in a poker game and after 20 minutes you don't know who the patsy is, then you’re the patsy."
33. "Wall Street is the only place that people ride to in a Rolls Royce to get advice from those who take the subway." 34. "The rich invest in time, the poor invest in money." 35. "Beware of geeks bearing formulas." 36. "Without passion, you don't have energy. Without energy, you have nothing." 37. "I get to do what I like to do every single day of the year." 38. "I never attempt to make money on the stock market. I buy on assumption they could close the market the next day and not re-open it for five years." 39. "If past history was all that is needed to play the game of money, the richest people would be librarians." 40. "The investor of today does not profit from yesterday’s growth." 41. "The smarter the journalists are, the better off the society is to a degree. People read the press to inform themselves; and the better the teacher, the better the student body." 42. "We enjoy the process far more than the proceeds." 43. "Focus on your customers and lead your people as though their lives depend on your success." 44. "I have no idea on timing. It’s easier to tell what will happen than when it will happen. I would say that what is going on in terms of trade policy is going to have very important consequences." 45. "Cash never makes us happy. It’s better to have the money burning a hole in Berkshire’s pocket than resting comfortably in someone else’s." 46. "Never invest in a business you can’t understand." 47. "Derivatives are financial weapons of mass destruction." 48. "We've used derivatives for many, many years. I don't think derivatives are evil, per se, I think they are dangerous. ...So we use lots of things daily that are dangerous, but we generally pay some attention to how they're used. We tell the cars how fast they can go." 49. "Only when you combine sound intellect with emotional discipline do you get rational behavior." 50. "I buy expensive suits. They just look cheap on me."
My primary motivation for doing what I do is to help others. It's my way of Giving Back, and demonstrating appreciation for the help I've had along the way. For that reason, it's always great to get nice emails of appreciation, like this one that just came in recently from Australia. This person was referred to me by a mutual friend I met 17 years ago while I was in Luxembourg. Small world...
Hi Michael, For the last few weeks, I’ve thought that I must write to you, to thank you for helping me to stay standing when it all looked a bit too hard, but also to fill you in on where things are now. I want you to know that I’m ok, and that your help did indeed help. I feel like I’ve passed through a storm or a long dark tunnel, and can see (at last) that the worst is over. This time last year I couldn’t see ahead at all, and I have to thank you for helping me to break it all down into bite-size chunks. But mostly, I want to thank you for supporting a complete stranger in need. You’re very kind and I hope lots of people think to thank you for it! Warm regards, (from MN, Australia)
The best book on Marketing basics. Period. There is a reason why it continues to sell so well 21 years after it was introduced. The premise behind this book is that in order for marketing strategies to work, they must be in tune with some quintessential force in the marketplace. Just as the laws of physics define the workings of the universe, so do successful marketing programs conform to the "22 Laws." Each law is presented with illustrations of how it works based on actual companies and their marketing strategies. For example, the "Law of Focus" states that the most powerful concept in marketing is "owning" a word in the prospect's mind, such as Crest's owning cavities and Nordstrom's owning service. The book is easy and fun to read, and contains solid information.
For many years I have been an advocate of choosing a personal writing instrument that fits with the image that I intend to convey. With this post I hope to win you over to this practice.
First impressions are incredibly important in business. What we wear, how we stand and sit, how we shake hands, how we pay attention, ask questions, take notes... these are more important to success than what we say because these visuals are remembered far longer than our words.
To walk into a business meeting without a pen is possibly forgivable on the grounds that you are simply absent minded, and that you left it at home. However, to brandish a cheap Bic in a business meeting is far worse. It is your public admission that you are unaware of the importance of a quality writing instrument.
It is said that, in California, we are what we drive. It is also said, more generally, that we are what we eat. But when it comes to who we are in a business meeting, we are judged, among other factors, by our pen.
Commandment #4 is "Write It Down" and it is inarguably true that business could not exist without the written word. Although in today's world the vast preponderance of written words are created using computers and smartphones, there are still moments when the written word must be achieved the old fashioned way...
When you pull out your pen to sign an agreement, to take notes in a business meeting, or to send a thank you note, it should be recognized as a milestone moment, and that attitude should be visibly demonstrated by using a pen worthy of the event.
In my early years I wrote with a Cross pen, but found them to be too light and skinny for my hand. My next step was to upgrade to Mont Blanc for a few years, but found them to be still to light, and they were mass marketed, like the Cross. Then Waterman became my choice for many years. Recently I selected the pen in the photo above. This is a custom piece, unlikely to be found across the table from me. It's crafted with real printed circuit boards, using a process that is kept secret, for now at least. It's heavy, a feature I like a lot, and it's fat, so it fills my hand well. The full shape is called a "cigar pen". It uses a standard Parker refill.
More importantly, perhaps, than the message we give others when we display an exceptional instrument, is the message we give ourselves when we write in private. Important words flow more freely, clearly and with greater power from a first class pen.
I experimented with fountain pens for a brief period, and enjoyed the quality of the Pelikan line, but the solution is truly obsolete and messy. My chosen standard has always been ballpoint, with a medium point, using blue ink. I never use a pencil because they always produce an inconsistent line width, they are messy, and require maintenance.
There will be times when you can get by with just your pen, for example when you sign a legal agreement. However, a class-A pen requires a class-A notebook to complete the package. I use the unique Levenger Circa system in a leather binder. This allows me to keep my pen in the binder and not in a pocket. (Never clip your pen in your shirt or pants pocket. People who carry their pens in a leather binder Hire the people who clip their pens to their pockets.) The binder has the space to carry your iPad, business cards, etc. I choose a binder with a zipper on 3 sides to keep my stuff secure and private.
In your next business meeting, pay attention to what people are using to take notes, for surely they will notice what you are using.
Some of what you will learn in this excellent book:
- Why it all starts with a big goal
- The importance of strategy
- How to analyze your industry the right way
- How to choose your game and play that game to win
- Why most companies get their SWOT analyses wrong
- How to make your performance visible
- How to really hold your people accountable
In particular, I was in total agreement with his focus on building the company around structured communications as follows:
- The Annual High-Level Strategic Review
- The Quarterly Strategic Review
- The Weekly Team Meeting
- The Weekly 1-1 Meeting
- The Daily Huddle
The only meeting he didn't mention and one that I have consistently recommended, is a monthly Board of Advisors meeting. But that may be a more advanced topic for this book.
This book was named Judges' Choice Winner in the Management category of the 2014 Small Business Book Awards. The awards celebrate the best business books that appeal to entrepreneurs, managers and their employees. The Winners were chosen by an expert panel of 24 judges from the small business community in the USA. The criteria for judging the Winners included: quality and quantity of the content conveyed; usefulness to small business owners and entrepreneurs; and freshness of the subject matter or how it was treated. The level of fan support for each Winner was also taken into account.
Looking back to where all this "scientific management" stuff began... As early as the 1890s, Frederic Winslow Taylor of Philadelphia became the Father of what has come to be known as Scientific Management, or "Taylorism"), the theory of management that analyzed and synthesized workflows with the goal of optimizing productivity and reducing waste. It was one of the earliest attempts to apply science to the engineering of processes and to management. Taylor observed that most workers who are forced to perform repetitive tasks tend to work at the slowest rate that goes unpunished. This, and other observations, led him to develop policies such as rest breaks, piece work incentives, time and motion studies, etc. Once scientific management started, it was a genie that could not be put back into the bottle, and today's Toyota Production System, and Kaizen's focus on continuous improvement are merely the evolution of Taylor's insights. Beyond manufacturing, his findings have even been applied to sales process engineering.
Research shows that just holding a drink in your hand (and NOT drinking) at a business networking event will reduce your apparent IQ by 10-20 points, and make you less likely to get that great job, or that new client.
So, tell me again why you drink at business functions? It just doesn't make sense.
However, AFTER work, and with team members ONLY, having a pint or a glass of wine will actually help with team bonding.
Bottom line: never drink at a business function. Period. It's the smart move.
Last Friday there was a Business Insider story about a startup in SF that advertised on craigslist for a "Gal Friday / Admin Assistant" who would be responsible for all the typical admin stuff, plus cooking, cleaning, and shopping. The story made a big thing about the cooking and cleaning part because the startup wanted a woman for the job, and they figured that was over-the-top sexist. Maybe it is sexist, but that's missing the point. The key to success is to delegate as much as humanly possible, so much so that all you have left are the things that you do extraordinarily well and that are essential to the success of your business. I'm guessing that cooking and cleaning and shopping are not your core competency, right? I discovered this secret in 1985, when I was doing the startup that became the first CRM software product for the PC (TeleMagic). As the solo founder, I was doing it all: programming, sales, support, writing documentation... you name it. Sometimes I would be so in the Zone doing programming that I would completely miss one or two meals! And when I would come out of these marathon coding stints, with a raging hunger, there would be nothing in the refrigerator because I hate to shop, and hate to prepare meals, and it would be 3 in the morning and the only food available was Denny's... yuk. That's no way to live, and certainly not a healthy lifestyle. So I decided to do something about it and put a free ad in the local Reader with the one word headline: SOUP! You see, I figured that soup is the perfect food, for me, in that it can be heated up fast, and yet relatively simple to make, with a relatively long refrigeration life. The first applicant was hired on the spot, and lasted for 6 months until she moved away with her boyfriend. She suggested a friend, Carol, for the job, and I took her suggestion. It was the smartest move I ever made. Carol has been making soup, and more***, for me for 28+ years! Of course she also does the shopping for food, and the cleanup, but over the years she has taken on more and more. It's just amazing how many things are not my core competency! :) Gradually she took on laundry, closet organization, supplier interactions (no more dealing with the phone/cable/utility companies!), plant care, clothes shopping, and eventually I even showed her how to do the monthly financial reports, paying the bills... well, the list is now very long. And the best part is that everything is documented in a System for Household Management**, so that when Carol is on vacation she can delegate the work without missing a beat. Although she never worked for my company directly, Carol became such an integral part of my startup team that she was awarded bonuses equal to everyone else in the profit sharing pool. I couldn't have succeeded so well without her. In the spirit of Delegation, I strongly recommend that you find your "Dream Woman"* as early in your startup adventure as possible.
"Whatever you can do, or Dream you can, Begin it.
Boldness has Genius, Power, and Magic in it. Begin it Now!"
* "Dream Woman" is not my phrase. Business Insider used it in their headline for the story.
** Want a copy of my System for Household Management? Email me.
*** Carol's Cuisine: some of my favorite vegan recipes prepared by Carol. Includes the story of how it all got started.
I'm usually a very optimistic kind of guy. I like thinking about positive outcomes, and how to create them for my clients. But today, Friday the 13th, seemed like an appropriate day to be thinking about startup failures, and why they occur. The importance of strategy crossed my mind as being of great importance. Then the thought of flawed strategy, so common in startup land, got me to playing with a new word, a portmanteau of strategy and tragedy; kind of a tongue-twister: stragedy. At first, I thought that it was the Bushism (strategery) but that didn't express the disaster of poorly thought-out strategy. I found the word at Urban Dictionary!
it begs for hindsight before it is even implemented.
How many startups have you seen that were merely features that could easily be programmed into existing businesses? These business models that recreate another product but with only one small feature to differentiate the product are a sure recipe for failure.
Or a startup team that has no experience whatsoever in the business they are trying to disrupt.
Many startups are based on a product idea that has never been validated in the marketplace.
But let's not focus so much on the bad strategies; let's consider how to create good ones. Check out these resources:
The Perils of Bad Strategy - a quick read that includes definitions, examples of good and bad strategy and thoughts on "the kernel of good strategy"