Lots of us see things that we would like to change or problems we would like to solve. Inventors have the ability to take that idea and bring it to life.
I love hanging out with inventors
My love of invention and passion for innovation just may be genetic. Both of my grandfathers were inventors – Grandpa Bill focused his creativity on his trade as a brew master (here is a link I found to one of his patents from 1937) while Grandpa Leo was an engineer and focused on mechanical devices. Early in my career I had the opportunity to spend six years in the Silicon Valley and work with some brilliant inventors as the re-invented the way we work with data, created portable computers – wow can you imagine – and dreamed up things that today we take for granted.
Vision Creates Energy
What I learned at Grandpa’s knee and later in the emerging world of technology is that an inventor’s vision creates energy. In the inventors I know, it is so charged that you can feel it. So in honor of National Inventor’s Month I have asked some of them for permission to tell their stories. I hope you will follow along, it’s bound to be enlightening.
Democratic leaders, including Mr. Obama, say they are intent on letting the tax cuts for the wealthy expire as scheduled at the end of this year. But they have pledged to continue the lower tax rates for individuals earning less than $200,000 and families earning less than $250,000 — what Democrats call the middle class.
Most Republicans want to extend the tax cuts for everyone, and some Democrats agree, saying it would be unwise to raise taxes on anyone while the economy remains weak. If no action is taken, taxes on income, dividends, capital gains and estates would all rise.
The issue has generated little public attention this year as Congress grappled with health care, financial regulation, energy, a Supreme Court nomination and other divisive topics. But it will move to the top of the agenda when lawmakers return to Washington in September from their summer recess, just as the midterm campaign gets under way in earnest. In recent days, intense discussions have begun at the Capitol. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38400016/ns/politics-the_new_york_times/
It’s a matter of priorities
As we look at our nation from an economic perspective we have two critical priorities, 1) reducing a ballooning Federal Deficit and 2) building an economy that is sustaining and creating more jobs. In reading the preceding sentence, it may seem that these are two separate and distinct issues, when in fact they should be considered together. The question becomes one of a short term fix or a long term gain.
Where will the dollars do the most good?
Letting the tax cuts expire is a short term fix. There is no question that the middle class (as defined above) needs help. Lowering taxes for lower and middle income Americans may help reduce credit card debt or increase consumer spending a little per household. Yet raising taxes on “the rich” will reduce their consumer spending and investment capital. Thus we get a little more spending from one side while reducing spending AND investment more on the other as we shift the net tax increase to the Federal Government to apply to the budget and hopefully the deficit. (This Net Gain is calculated as an Upper Income Tax Increase LESS Middle and Lower Income tax reduction)
The argument for renewing the tax cuts is simple, keep the money in the economy and in the hands of the people who can use it to invest in struggling markets, to support business growth, and most importantly to create and protect jobs. In today’s economy, the capital to do this comes from the people. Many of “the rich” are small business owners who are investing in their business, others are family businesses that may be crippled by estate taxes should a business owner pass away. Still others are investors whose money goes into the capital markets to support the capital needs of larger businesses through the stock market or as angel investments. Renewing the tax cuts so they do not expire leaves the money in the hands of the people who directly or indirectly support job growth.For when people are working THEY pay taxes which again the Federal Government can apply to the deficit.
The greatest Net Gain
Most decisions have pros and cons. This one is no different. The big question is where the American people and the country will get the greatest net gain. Congress has three choices:
They can extend the tax cuts.
They can let them permanently expire and then institute a new structure to help lower and middle income earners.
They can issue a temporary extension and pass the buck on the decision to the next session.
Why the time for the people to act is now
On August 9th the Senate and the House begin the Summer Recess that extends until after Labor Day. Our elected representatives are headed home to meet with constituents and in many cases to hit the campaign trail either for themselves or others. If we have an opinion, NOW is the time to voice it. Contacting your Congressman is easy. You don’t even have to go to a rally or make an appointment. Just reach out to them. Every phone call or email does have an impact. Your Congressman may not personally read it but their staffers do and the feedback ends up in the briefings they get when it comes time to vote. So what ever side of the battle you rest on, don’t miss your chance to be heard. After all, the beauty of our system of government is that it is supposed to be representative of the people. So help them do their their job and tell them what you think.
I was in kindergarten in 1965 when the Beatles released Help!. It did not mean much to me except as a song with a catchy beat to bop around the kitchen to. Mom was the one who probably needed HELP! back then with 4 babies under the age of 6 and another on on the way. Our country needed HELP! too. Key topics of the day included a war we could not win, healthcare, racial inequality, new technologies, and a generation struggling to make a difference and leave a mark a new way. Well the song means a lot more to me now. It’s been a long time since kindergarten – but interestingly, in 2010, many of the same themes remain. The words and the names are different – but there is still a need for help.
Help Requires Courage
Whether you are asking for help or offering it, help requires courage.
We often won’t ask for help when we need it. Perhaps because people might think we are weak or don’t know what we are doing. Yet if the fear of asking for help holds us back – we rarely get it when we need it.
Offering to help can be just as scary. People don’t always appreciate you when you offer to help. I’ve seen leaders and volunteers alike become targets personally and professionally just because they stepped out, spoke up, or got involved in helping someone else. Yet true leaders keep doing it. They make the time, proactively offer assistance, take the criticism, and keep moving forward.
Helping Takes Commitment
I’ve watched Lynn Tilton take her message of how to turn the economy around and create more jobs out across traditional and social media while working 20 hour days, seven days a week to help save companies and jobs. It must be working – Lynn and her team have saved 250,000 jobs on the last 9 years. (You can hear what Lynn has to say about this when she will be the featured guest on Huckabee, at 8:00pm ET on the FOX News Channel tomorrow (Saturday, July 17th) with on FOX News Channel at 8:00pm and 11:00pm ET on Sunday, July 18th she’ll be talking about job creation in the current economic crisis.)
Francine Hardaway is committed to job creation too. Working at the ground level with entrepreneurs in the Southwest and around the country, she has not stopped for 30 years. Whether it is flying to Kansas City on her own dime to learn about programs she can bring back to help other entrepreneurs, launching a conference to bring entrepreneurs and thought leaders together, or just spending time one on one, Francine is committed to making a difference with the entrepreneurs she touches.
Dr. Michelle Hanna, founder of RiboMed Biotechnologies, has dedicated the last ten years of her life to developing new tests that will help us battle cancer. Today she and her team are focusing on ways to make a major difference not just in the lives of the patients but have also found a way to do so that could result in billions of dollars in healthcare savings and that affects ALL of us.
Amilya Antonetti, founder of Soapworks, today takes what she learned along the journey to help other entrepreneurs bring out products that provide better choices to today’s consumer. Along the way she learned that every leader needs the help of their team – to share it she wove it into a story and wrote a book.
In a quiet manner, one on one, Morris Callaman shares his story and his expertise in helping entrepreneurs with great ideas move forward. A successful investor and venture attorney, Morris finds projects that he believes will make a difference and help people – and in turn he helps them.
But you don’t have to be running a $7 billion private equity fund, be a social media maven, a PhD, a serial entrepreneur, or a certified member of MENSA, to help others. You just have to have something to offer and be willing to share.
Everyone can help
Take a look at this post by Domenic Alvaro who graduated High School with my son Nick this year.He has a better handle on how our attitude makes a difference than many adults I know. And he is sharing it with others so that what he has learned in his life can help them.
Each of us will need help sometime. And each of us has something to offer that will help someone else. We just need the courage, the commitment, and the willingness to HELP!
Thanks for stopping by. Stay Tuned…
P.S. to everyone who has helped me along the journey -Thank You! I promise to keep passing it forward to help others too. ~ JKW
How committed are you to your success? I like to think I am but I don’t think I would go as far as my friend Kevin Daum has. He is on a quest for what he calls the “Jewish Super Bowl Ring”; a New York Times Best Seller with his latest book, Roar!
In days like these, we hear a lot about leaders who are looking for commitment, engagement, and the need for people who are willing to give all they have to the project, the plan, and the goals of the company. Yet, how many of us as leaders are truly committed to ‘go all in” as they say in Vegas.
Commitment is not measured in words – JKW
The true measure of commitment is not your words, it’s your actions. If you don’t believe me – ask your team. They know what their leaders are truly committed to because they pay attention to not just what we say but what we do.
Your team may listen to what you say… but they do what you demonstrate. – JKW
I’ve met a lot of authors who say they want a New York Times Best Seller. OK, lets be honest, most of us would be doing the happy dance if this happened. But would we sell our big house, and move to a nice (but small) apartment in Manhattan to be closer to the action. Would we hound our publisher with idea after idea to get extra support, stand on a street corner in the cold passing out flyers to passer-byes, meet with group after group telling the same story over and over again, or chronicle each step of the way on a blog for all the world to see. I’ve watched Kevin do it. (Ok, I admit it – after the tattoo I had to see what he would come up with next. And I am not even his publisher, that honor went to John Wiley and Sons.)
Watching Kevin pursue his dream, I believe him when he says he will be a New York Times Best Selling Author some day. And because HE is so committed, it made me want to ‘join his team’ by offering some encouragement here.
If you want your team engaged, keep your sense of humor. – JKW
As leaders, we need to keep trying new things, finding ways to add more value, and deliver a quality product . We need to recruit champions and inspire our team to carry the message further.
In Kevin’s case he has come up with some very innovative ideas to promote his book. I’ve even used some of them, with his blessing, in promoting CorePurpose Publishing’s latest release, The Recipe: A fable for leaders and teams by Amilya Antonetti. It must be working – after a while Amazon started to offer the books as a pairing together.
In watching Kevin what I have noticed, through it all, is he is loving every step of the journey. He never loses his smile or his personal belief that he will get to the end of the road. He has a quality product (I bought the book and read it) and he’s kept his sense of humor. For example – check out his “book trailer”…
So whatever dream you and your team are pursuing, you might want to take a page from Kevin’s book and live your commitment. You just might end up doing your own happy dance! (Hey Kevin – what IS the name of that song?)
Continually asking the question WHY, until we can go no further, narrows the frame of reference so that you can get to and answer – or does it?
Some questions have no answers
Simple questions have answers. For instance: Is Washington D.C. the capital of the United States of America.? The answer is Yes, it is. The answer is one that most of us know and can be supported in many ways by looking on the Internet, at a map, or in an atlas. Questions that speak to past actions also may be answered definitively in many cases. For instance: Was John F. Kennedy the 35th President of the United States. The answer again, Yes, he was
But when we seek answers to forward looking questions, the answer is almost always conditional. We make assumptions, project future events, and anticipate outcomes. But rarely do we have answers. We plan for the future based on a hypothesis.
1 a: an assumption or concession made for the sake of argument
b: an interpretation of a practical situation or condition taken as the ground for action 2: a tentative assumption made in order to draw out and test its logical or empirical consequences 3: the antecedent clause of a conditional statement
synonymshypothesis, theory, law mean a formula derived by inference from scientific data that explains a principle operating in nature. hypothesis implies insufficient evidence to provide more than a tentative explanation <a hypothesis explaining the extinction of the dinosaurs>. theory implies a greater range of evidence and greater likelihood of truth <the theory of evolution>. law implies a statement of order and relation in nature that has been found to be invariable under the same conditions <the law of gravitation>.
“Based on our current thinking…”
A friend of mine, Morris Callaman, is a venture law attorney, a founder’s counsel, and a very successful angel investor. When we work together on projects, he is the usually the first to temper my enthusiasm and certainly with a very important phrase: “Based on our current thinking…” And he is always correct. While I might do a great job of structuring assumptions, modeling cash flows, forecasting consumer behavior, and laying out a strategy for the team, future events are just that, future events. Variations in the world around us, new opportunities, and unexpected hurdles all can impact the eventual results. The business plan is not an answer. It is a hypothesis that is tested by the team over time. Only at the end of our business experiment, when we measure the outcome, will we have the actual answer.
Don’t confuse confidence with certainty
As leaders, we must inspire confidence in those we work with. Their lives, livelihoods, and aspirations are directly affected by the direction we set along the journey. If we can not display the confidence necessary to engender our team’s trust, they are unlikely to go the distance with us. But long term success depends our our ability to not confuse our own confidence with a sense of certainty. When we are CERTAIN we have an absolute answer to a complex question, we do ourselves and our teams a disservice. Leading, innovating, and growing all hinge on change. We can postulate, model, and plan for outcomes, but we must always take into account that outcomes will be the result of actual events and our actions, not what we modeled months before. Our job as leaders is to continually test our hypotheses, adjust for variables, and inspire trust in our teams so that they can deliver the best possible outcomes. For only later will we know if we actually had the right answer.
So next time you are faced with a question…
ask yourself, is this an answer or a hypothesis? It might change the way you look at where you are and where you and your team are heading and the steps you will take along the way.
When we meet new people, in business settings and in casual ones, sooner or later the question comes up…What do you do? Rarely does someone ask you WHY do you do what you do. I wonder why? After all, wouldn’t that answer be a lot more interesting?
Someone must think so. There are lots of different words we apply to the WHY behind what we do. Think about it: motive, purpose, goal, strategy, aim, basis, drive, impulse, incentive, incitement, inducement, influence, inspiration, intent, intention, motivation, objective, passion, rationale, root, spur, stimulus, thinking, and more all tie back to our why.
WHY is one of my favorite words. I’m sure I drove my parents crazy with my incessant “whying” when I was young just as it probably has frustrated my supervisors, co-workers, and employees as I moved through my career, not to mention the poor folks who’ve had to live with me. But for me at least, I can’t get to the What and the How until I understand the WHY. In fact, it is the WHY that ultimately shapes the What and How of getting the job done.
In its purest sense, the WHY is at the root of our business and our being. The answer to our WHY in business and in life is our core purpose. The ultimate answer to WHY. Years ago, when I started my company, I was struggling with what to call it. Ultimately, CorePurpose, Inc. was born to help businesses grow by focusing on their WHY.
You see, once you know WHY you are doing something, it’s much easier to set goals, make plans,and follow through on them. And when you can explain your WHY to others, you just might find that they believe in your core purpose also and will join you on the journey.
So take some time to think about WHY. Once you have the answer, the What, How, Who, and When come naturally.
Thanks for stopping by. Stay Tuned…
P.S. Please join me on July 7, 2010 at 9:30 AM Central Time when I will be sharing ideas on Blog Talk Radio with host Zane Safrit around putting the WHY to work in your business and how to focus yourself and your team on building, connecting, growing around YOUR core purpose. For more information, click here.
We’ve all heard it said so many different ways. That infamous and rarely welcome message –
“Don’t Call Me – I’ll Call You.”
Whether it’s said in the spirit of efficiency –
“I don’t have an answer yet – when I do, I’ll call you.”
or as the ultimate brush off.
“Yeah, Yeah – I’ll get back to you on that.”
knowing when to wait and when to follow up can be a delicate dance of one step forward and two steps back.
Whether you are an entrepreneur working on getting that next round of funding, an employee moving a decision up the corporate decision ladder, or a sales person trying to close that BIG order, it is important to be able to get over the “Don’t Call Me” hurdle. Here are some tactics that have worked for me. They just might work for you too.
Ask a clear question that can be answered.
Be sure to clearly state the question and make sure the other person knows what you are asking. Nothing is more frustrating that waiting for an answer and when it comes, YOUR question is still unanswered. When this happens you end up starting the process all over again.
Ask a champion to help you get an answer.
Just like the photo above, find someone who can help you place that call. Your champion may have the inside information or access to get through when you do not.
Help the other party understand why making a decision is good for THEM.
While we often focus on what we need, that will not necessarily be a high priority for the other person. If you can demonstrate why coming to a decision is good for the person on the other side, you might quickly find that you are both on the SAME side.
Wishing won’t make it so.
Years ago, I was waiting for a VERY important answer on a very big deal. If we did not have an answer that day, the deal would not go through and weeks of my team’s work would have been for naught. I got so frustrated that I finally just sat in my office staring at the phone and willing it to ring. My assistant was not used to seeing me sit still that long and came in to see what was up. When she realized what I was doing, she started to laugh.
“That’s no way to get an answer. You have to do something to move things forward. Wishing won’t make it so.”
The glare I gave her would have made strong men tremble as I muttered under my breath and turned back to stare at the phone even harder.
“Maybe I can help” she said.
With that she went back to her desk and called an assistant at the other company. Explaining that her boss was driving her crazy, she asked the other assistant to help. Within 15 minutes, I got my answer. My company got the deal AND my assistant got a raise. And, she did not even have to ask!
So whatever you need to do to get YOUR answer, do it. You never know, it just might be the one you’ve been waiting for.
Are you looking to move your business into high gear and get things moving this summer? Business in the fast lane sounds great. Think of how we describe it –
Taking the Lead
Going all Out
Racing Through the Checkered Flag
But running at high speed can be tricky.
Here are some helpful hints I’ve learned along my journey. Maybe they’ll come in handy for you too.
Map your course
Whether you are running a race or growing a business, you need to know where you are going. Champion drivers on the course or in the board room will tell you that the secret to winning the race is a solid plan. You need to map out the course, know where the detours are, and how you will accelerate through the curves that are sure to lie ahead. Then you need to stay the course and keep your eyes open for the unexpected.
Check your gas tank
Before you rev your engines, check your gas tank! There is nothing worse than pulling to the head of the business pack and then sputtering to a stop because you ran out of gas! Fuel for your business comes in many different forms. It can be the right resources, a strong marketing plan, or the capital you need to make it to the finish line. Many a race has been lost because the driver simply ran out of gas!
Assemble a great pit crew
Winning drivers have winning teams. No one wins the race alone. The driver may be the person everyone sees out in front, but it is the pit crew that makes sure that he or she can stay there. The same is true for winning businesses. Your business pit crew is essential. They are the people that ensure that your business can deliver on its promises, stay on course, speed up when it needs to, and go the distance.
Be sure your vehicle fits.
When we look at a race track, the cars look very alike. They are small and sleek and nimble. When it comes to the business race, you have a wide choice of vehicles to get you to where you want to go. The trick is to know the right size, features and benefits will be the best fit for you and your goals. Running fast and sleek in stealth mode may be what your business needs, but when you are packing for a long haul, you might want to look around for a workhorse that can carry the load. It might be yours, or it might belong to a strategic partner – but either way you need the right style and fit to achieve your goals and get the job done.
But most of all…
what ever vehicle you choose to get you where you are going …
Buckle up and enjoy the ride!
After all what is the point of starting the race if you don’t enjoy the process of winning it.
It’s the age old question – Does size matter? Well my guess is that just like almost any of the key questions in life… it depends.
Let’s look at some business examples and you can decide:
Size and economic development
When it comes to economic development, it appears that size does matter in the minds of economic developers. Most economic development agencies spend the bulk of their time and energy in the recruitment of BIG companies. It looks really good when you go to justify your existence to the legislature and you can show that you brought in 1,000 jobs to your state by recruiting someone like Google to your town. They might just approve your budget for next year. Yet comparatively little attention is given to saving or helping to start up one small business. It’s funny really – since as a group, small businesses – in every state – are the single largest employer group. Even bigger than the Feds or the state itself. Take a look at the composition charts at YourEconomy.org to see what I mean.
But patents are only one measure of innovation and perhaps one that is understated. There are many inventions that never make it through the patent process. It is just too time consuming and expensive for many small companies, not to mention that actually enforcing a patent claim can cost thousands if not millions of dollars. As one small business person told me last week: “Big Company X is violating our patent. We called to inform them of it and requested further discussion as to either stopping or paying us a royalty – there response was – Sue me. We could never afford to do that and they knew it.”
Innovations are inventions that actually make a difference in the marketplace. Again, size has it’s advantages since bringing a product to market takes LOTS of capital (money) to cast a wide net. Yes there are firms that started small and then grew rapidly through innovation and acceptance. But they are the ones that beat odds that would put a Las Vegas casino consistently in the money.
How about innovation compared to country size? Big countries with lots of universities and leading economies have the advantage. Right? Maybe, Maybe not. If we measure innovation by the number of patents per capita, there are some very interesting results, just take a look. Some of the smallest countries and with equally small economies, top the list. The economic big guns, the Japan, the UK, United States, Canada, China, rank as #19, #38, #40, #41, and #60 respectively.
So when it comes to innovation, BIG has the advantage of resources but perhaps small has the advantage of greater personal motivation and reward for the innovator.
Size and Business Agility
Here small has the advantage according to most business books. Small companies are nimble, and can adjust their plans much more quickly than their behemoth brethren. So on the surface it’s advantage to the Smalls. Yet, we often forget that it takes more than cutting through bureaucracy to create agility – it takes the resources to bank roll changes in direction. Here the advantage is almost always to the bigger firms whose access to capital on a short term basis provides many more avenues to resources. The smaller company may be able to make a decision faster – but the bigger one can get it funded and in action faster. So in this case – again, it depends.
So with all that said – Does size matter – it almost always depends. But one way or another each type of organization has its advantages and disadvantages. So perhaps the answer comes down to what Mark Twain once said about what really matters.
“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”