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Archive for March, 2010

The most important characteristic of an entrepreneur

March 23, 2010 Leave a comment

So much have been written on this subject but most have tried to address it from personality such as introvert/extrovert, background, training, values, work ethics, age range, ethnicity, education etc.

When I look back at all the entrepreneurs I have worked with from Engineers, MBA, Designers, Programmers, what I see is a very different approach to problem solving. It boils down to how they think. I have not seen a lot of research done here in regards to entrepreneur and their thinking types. The research I have found so far are very varied.
1. Rejecting, creating, destroying, persuading, judging, generalizing, planning, abstracting, condensing, fixing, incorporating etc…etc…types of thinking (yup 24 types there)
2. Some like D.I.S.C. outlines Strategic Thinkers, Deep Thinkers, Cautious Thinkers, Analyzer…etc.
3. And then there is the 5 types – Analytical, Intuitive, Creative, Logical, Visionary Thinkers…
4. Then there’s is Edward De Bono’s Lateral Thinking and Parallel Thinking.

Einstein is quoted as having said that if he had one hour to save the world he would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution. Not only is the time spent on thinking that is critical to problem solving. How you think determines how and if the problem is solved effectively.

The question here for all of us is…what kind of a thinker are you? Are your current problems being solved effectively? Einstein was also quoted as saying “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”.

The entrepreneurs that I see that are successful have a good balance between the rational and the creative thinking.  Tim Brown who wrote the book  Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation” also have a blog. If you have a few hours to burn, you should try to pick that book up and see how your company can benefit from someone who is a Design Thinker.

I often hear people say “Think outside the box”. I never subscribed to that because there is always a box. There are always some limitations, some rules you have to work with and within. The issue here is how you look at that box and how creatively you work within that box in solving the problem. You just might have to take the box apart and then put it back together again…in other words,challenge the assumptions. Did someone say “deconstruction”?

Smokey Robinson's advice to entertainers.

March 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Smokey Robinson’s keynote at the SXSW conference and festival was simple and profound. I believe what he said applies to entrepreneurs as well especially to those that are struggling or those that have experienced some success. His advice to entertainers was:

1. Have a thick skin. Don’t only see the success stories in others. Realize there are hills and valley. The valleys are lessons you can learn from and you get to look forward to the next peak. Be thankful and count your blessings.

2. Keep your feet on the ground.  Don’t take yourself too seriously or think the world needs you. It doesn’t!

Smokey Robinson grew up in the ghettos and had always dreamed of being in the show business. Although he has done this for over 50 years, he still experiences the ups and downs. He is that optimist that always sees the glass as half full.

I agree with him neither success or failure are permanent, it is merely a location you are passing through in life.  You do not get to live there. Sometimes they are merely detours (especially when you are going through difficulties).

Categories: Uncategorized

The toughest part of making a decision.

March 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Decision making is easy if the choices are obvious. Choosing between having dimsum (A Cantonese breakfast/brunch) versus say hot pockets would be a no brainer for me. However for many people I work with, the decisions they have to make is not so clear.

You have to weigh the financial outcome, the people involved, your wants, your needs, how you would be viewed, your work load, how that is going to commit you for the coming days, weeks, years etc.

When I help people make decisions, because I am the uncommitted party, it all seems clear to me. However for the person making that decision, that is quite a stressful process. Sometimes, they actually sit and sweat while they think about it. They lose sleep at night.They pace back and forth, and you start seeing signs of burn out.

The toughest part of the whole process though, is right before the decision. That is when I see the most resistance and the hardest push back. Why? It seems people feel that once they make that decision, they are committed, they are locked in, now they have it written or verbalized or documented on a plan, that it. It is the fear of making a mistake…a huge one…the earth shattering one.

Well, let me put it this way. I have yet to meet someone that has not made a huge mistake. I myself included. Many have made mistakes that haunts them for years, costing them their family, their livelihood, their friends, their children and the list goes on.

But…let me put you at ease, there are hardly any mistakes you can make that can not be corrected with future decisions. The results of those horrifying mistakes are the accumulations of one bad one after another. One key ingredient in reducing (I did not say eliminate) these devastating mistakes in in surrounding yourself with trusted advisors preferably with contrary views. That way you have more data to work with.

Jim Flowers once said (okay more than once), “you cannot make decisions for others, you can only provide them with more data”. But I believe he attributed that saying to Arthur Scharff.

The option is not always “aim and shoot” or “shoot, then aim”. It can be aim…shoot…aim…shoot…

Seed capital for Technology Startups

March 15, 2010 Leave a comment

dayoneventuresExciting news for those of you itching to start a technology company! Here’s a seed fund for the technology based startups.  For more info or to apply go here. If you have more questions, let me know I will give you the email of the one that can answer all your questions.

DayOne Ventures is an invitation-only seed stage investment and mentorship program for technology-based startups. It is housed at the VT KnowledgeWorks Business Acceleration Center, located in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center in Blacksburg, Virginia. Each spring DayOne engages with up to three early stage startups through a competitive evaluation process. Winning teams can receive up to $16,000 to cover personal and business expenses related to participation in the summer mentorship program, plus class A office space and high-speed internet access during their stay. Throughout the summer, each team receives regular mentoring by successful entrepreneurs who have built and sold technology businesses. The program typically begins in late May and concludes in late August. At the end of the summer, each firm has the opportunity to present to potential investors via a demo day event.

Here are some highlights:

1. Business plans are not required.

2. Up to $16,000 in funding.

3. Blacksburg recently recognized by Forbes.com as #10 on their “Best Small Places for Business and Career”.

Categories: Uncategorized

Why work sucks!

March 10, 2010 Leave a comment

For this as well as the last post, the name of the topic is a little…crass but it’s not me, really. These are actually book titles you can find at a book store or online. This post is about the “Why Work Sucks and How to Fix it” book.

I read this a couple years ago which had a great impression on me. I spoke about this during a Toastmasters Speech and was told that was probably the first time the word “suck” was used at the podium and was “okay”.

Anyway, this topic came back up as I was speaking with a leadership coach this afternoon. I am all for R.O.W.E. which stands for result only work environment. For people that are confident and competent, that is extremely exciting. The question is why is this not more popular?, Well, read the book.  I guarantee you would love it. I do not have much to guarantee with, but I guarantee…if you read it and think it “sucks”, I would like to hear from you.

That is why I cringe when I see wannabe business owners/manager/entrepreneurs do the following:

1. Dictate methodology as well as the results. If the employee follows the methodology and behaves as outlined by their manager and the results fall short? Who is to blame? What is more important, the results or the behavior. Well, I am not talking about allowing unethical/immoral behavior. An example would be when the sales department is told to make 80 calls a day and close on 20 deals…you get it, the manager is setting both parties for failure and frustration.  After all it’s all about numbers, right so why do some produce more than others?

2. Confusing goals and objectives. The objective in the above example might be more sales (for argument sake, it should be profits but many companies want more sales), so they get that but in the end, they do not know why they are not making any money. So they think…we need more sales! The goal is to make sure the sales person behaves in a way that generates the results. The results involve way too many variables beyond one’s control (including economy, the emotions of the other party, personality clash, even the voice or idiosyncrasies  etc) but if a company can correctly manage and outline the proper behaviors that results in more sales (assuming each sale is profitable), that is more attainable. It is easier to measure and easier to improve upon. For example, when the economy slumps, the sales “behavior” that use to work might not work anymore so the ability to adjust, pivot, adapt and improve would help that company grow. But if they continue to dictate the same behavior and expect the same results…you get the picture. This is different for different companies – the key is uncover, document, hardwire and improve upon winning behaviors.

3. I want you here from 9-5. Well that works if all you care for is a warm seat. I have seen people come to work and while at their desk, arrange for baby-sitting, run their own home-based business, set up dates etc. But they were at work, they did their “job” and they got paid although the objectives were never met.

So why not R.O.W.E.? well it forces management to think! You have to know what your objectives/results should be and equip and train people properly so they can behave in a way that would lead to the desired results.

Categories: Uncategorized

The No A**hole Rule…

March 10, 2010 Leave a comment
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From time to time, you see a book with a catching title.  It may not be politically correct but that is how people should work – not with a**holes. You can see this book on Amazon.com. It’s called The No @#!*% Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t.

Bob Sutton’s List of The Dirty Dozen Common Everyday Actions That A**holes Use
1. Personal insults
2. Invading one’s personal territory
3. Uninvited personal contact
4. Threats and intimidation, both verbal and non-verbal
5. Sarcastic jokes and teasing used as insult delivery systems
6. Withering email flames
7. Status slaps intended to humiliate their victims
8. Public shaming or status degradation rituals
9. Rude interruptions
10. Two-faced attacks
11. Dirty looks
12. Treating people as if they are invisible

I have actually come across people that know they are hard-to-work-with and expect people to put up with them. For some strange reason, although they hold grudges against many around them, they expect people to oversee their problems in order to work with them. They seem to have something negative to say about most individuals and groups of people.

Hey as a business advisor, coach and a recruiter for consultants, fortunately I do not have to put up with a**holes but they do work hard to enter my life.

Anyone who works for someone or have someone working for them should read this. But if you know me, you know how I feel. A good idea is useless unless it is put into action. It’s the activator within me.