Whether you are a beginner or a pro, when it comes to winning in the innovation game, sometimes you need that extra edge.Continue reading
Today is the big day, Super Bowl XLV. Folks will be donning green and gold or gold and black. Friends will gather around TV sets across the country gobbling up things they know that should not eat and for this one day of the year the DVR is set not to skip the commercials, but to catch them for instant replay.Continue reading
Last week, I had the pleasure of listening to Lon Safko, co-author of the Social Media Bible speak to a group of counselors from SCORE and the SBDC as a prelude to Greater Phoenix SCORE’s Social Media Event this January 14th and 15th.
During his presentation, Lon kept emphasizing the reasons, excellent ones BTW, that businesses need to pay attention to and utilize social media. And repeatedly he punctuated his message with a continuing theme…Oh Yes! It’s FREE!
But is it?Continue reading
Each year in January, I try to plan my calendar to meet with friends in the first two weeks. I have a diverse group of friends ranging from entrepreneurs to folks from corporate America, from local community volunteers to national leaders, and from neighbors to old school chums.Continue reading
I first met Michael Gerber in November of 2006 when he generously gave of his time and knowledge to come to Phoenix as a volunteer to speak at the First Annual Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference. OTEF was a fledgling organization in those days – but we had a dream – to provide entrepreneurial education, mentoring, and support to at risk populations in finding economic sustainability through entrepreneurship. To do that we needed the funds to offer programs and the conference was a way to share our message and raise the funds to pursue the dream. Our project captured Michael’s imagination.
Since that day, we’ve had the opportunity to get to know each other better. During my years as CEO at the ASBA, Michael was a wonderful supporter, sharing his knowledge on teleconferences with our members, coming, with his wife Luz Delia, to share in the celebration of the 2007 Arizona Companies to Watch, sharing ideas with me and our small business community at the Enterprise Business Conference in 2008 to celebrate Small Business Week, and best of all inviting me to The Dreaming Room and plopping me down in the Hot Seat for a challenging one on one session.
Over the years he has had many titles – but my favorite – is Chief Dreamer. When you get to know him, you see how important the dream is to him and to the tens of thousands of entrepreneurs he has worked with.
In the video below from the Cisco Innovators Forum, Michael shares some of his thoughts on how entrepreneurs can get it right from the beginning. After the video – I have a few questions of my own to ask the one and only Michael Gerber.
“A life without a dream is a life without a purpose. A life without a purpose is a life without meaning.” Michael Gerber
JKW: Michael, in your books, seminars, and programs, you share the secrets of entrepreneurial success. You have spent decades sharing these secrets – WHY do you do it?
MG: What else would I do? Everywhere I look, people are suffering for a lack of direction. During my life I have worked with thousands of those people, and as they begin to see their lives through the entrepreneurial prism dramatic shifts occur. It’s a fantastic feeling to witness those shifts.
JKW: You have made a career helping entrepreneurs succeed in achieving their dreams. Have you always been successful or was there a time when something happened that others would term an entrepreneurial failure? If so, how did you recover?
MG: I’ve had so many failures I can’t count them. In fact, I don’t even want to, the pain is too great. But, at the same time, my failures have always led to successes. Not necessarily connected, perhaps, but the one, the failure, taught the other, the success, that the deliberate straightforward path is not always the best path, that the success is most often realized as an epiphany that arises out of the failure in a completely unexpected fashion. So, I have come to look forward to the unexpected.
JKW: You have written over 13 books for entrepreneurs and you have a new one being released in January 2010. Can you give us a little sneak peak at what it’s all about?
MG: It’s name is The Most Successful Small Business In The World: The Ten Principles. It speaks to the essence of what I believe must exist in an enterprise, and an entrepreneur’s relationship with it, for it to truly flourish. You’ll have to read it to find out the secret.
JKW: When you are not writing, speaking, and inspiring others, I know that you like to read – a lot. Whose book inspires you – and why?
MG: I read fiction, not business. I rarely read anything to do with business. The reason is, I don’t learn from books, I learn from action. On the other hand, I highly recommend that all small business owners and entrepreneurs read my books. Because unlike all other business books, my books are born out of the actions I’ve taken, and the conclusions I’ve reached as a result of those actions. In short, they are less books, than they are cautionary tales.
JKW: You and I have talked about social media, blogs, Facebook, and Twitter as it has been evolving. So Michael, do you tweet?
MG: Not yet, but soon.
JKW: I’ve heard that this year, as a special gift, you are hosting a FREE con call on New Year’s Day with entrepreneurs to help them kick the year off right. How can our readers participate?
MG: Very easy. Just call in at +1 (866) 951-1151 (Conference Code Number: 1984938# )
It starts at 4 p.m. PST and will last 90 minutes. I do this every year, but this year is special, as my new book comes out on January 6th, and during my Teleconference I’ll be sharing The Ten Principles for creating the most successful small business in the world.
JKW: Thanks so much Michael for taking the time to answer a few questions. As you know, I always have more. I guess I’ll just write them down and heave them ready for when I see you in Phoenix for a Meet Up on January 25th. (Readers: Stay tuned to @joankw for more details in January.) Who knows – maybe some of our readers will be there too and have new questions for both of us.
So readers, what do YOU think. Are you ready to kick off the new year right? I’ll be on the call – will you?
Thanks for stopping by. Stay tuned…
Few companies will argue that that customer service is important. We see messages relating to the importance of customers appear in mission statements, value statements, and strategic plans on a regular basis.
Yet, when you call these same companies, too often you reach not a customer sensitive employee, but instead an automated voice response unit or VRU. These marvels of efficiency creating technology are happy to give you a wealth of choices – often without an obvious or expedient option to talk to a real person. Worse, when you actually discover the secret code, you get a very pleasant voice sharing with you that ‘due to high call volume, your call will be answered in ____ minutes.” Sometimes the wait time is short, others not so short. My favorite was the company that shared how important I was as a customer and that the anticipated wait time was FORTY MINUTES. Then to add insult to injury, their hold message was bragging about their recent prestigious award for customer service!
Yes, reducing costs and increasing efficiencies is important. But, be sure you understand the REAL message you deliver to your customers by your service or lack of it.
As you can see in this humorous clip from my friend Dave Griffiths (@Bensonix on Twitter) automatons don’t make the best customer service agents or tech support staff.
Thanks for stopping by. Stay Tuned…
In literature, as in legend, there have been many great quests. One in particular that has captured imaginations, for over two thousand years, is the search for a simple cup used in a great tale of transformation. Yes, The Quest for The Holy Grail.
While my quest is not one of such mythical proportion, as I sat pondering how to share my plans with you, the legend of The Holy Grail leapt to mind.
I am, together with a valued group of friends, looking to acquire a controlling interest in a very particular company. Our search and the legendary quest have more than a few things in common. In both cases they combine Innovation, Leadership, and Growth to create Lasting Value. These are my personal passions. There is nothing like the feeling you get when you discover something with true potential and then do what it takes to Make It Great.
What’s been happening?
This year, I have been working with a small team of friends and advisors to search out really cool deals. We’ve found some great ones, but not the right one. Not yet.
Along the way, I have gotten much more active in connecting to friends old and new via a range of social media tools.
Morris asked –
“Joan, what do you think about expanding this search and inviting your social media network to participate? You could literally ask for help crowd-sourcing this acquisition search.”
And that’s how it started. So, here I am asking if you will help me locate the company I would like to lead next. If so, then what follows are some of the criteria we find necessary to successfully recognize our “grail” when we find it. Ready? OK. Lets discuss a little detail around what this company is, and perhaps even more importantly, what it is not. An ideal company will be one where we can combine Innovation, Leadership, and Growth to create Lasting Value.
Innovation in my book is doing something in a new way to make life better for the people who matter most to us – in this case employees, customers, investors, and strategic partners. It is a company with a product or service that can transform an industry or niche. For example, my friend Amilya Antonetti changed the way we look at soap in her quest to save the life of her son and now she is on a quest to help other entrepreneurs ask the right questions, get the right information and the things they need to succeed.
Criteria #1: A product oriented company that will transform its market by creating new value through a better way of doing something(s).
Unlikely Fits: Singing pop bottles, Presidential Pet Rocks, the corner store, or the next great social media tool. While there may be lots of investors looking for these, I am not one of them.
A great idea only gets you so far before it needs more. In this case more is the ability to see the future direction of the company’s journey and to predict and obtain what it will need along the way. Many a great new company has lost crucial momentum when the leader that led the way for the first stage of the journey is not ready for the next stage of that steep uphill path, which many entrepreneurs forecast and yet few would want to travel alone.
The prize we seek on this quest will have a founder and a team that is looking for a new guide as they begin the climb to revenues and profitability so that everyone, employees, customers, investors and strategic partners alike, benefit from the next stage in the company’s growth.
Criteria #2: A dedicated team in search of experienced leadership and resources to help them successfully move along the growth path.
- If ALL YOU NEED IS MONEY so that you can continue along the path you are already on.
- If your goal is to maintain the status quo.
- If, as the owner, you are not interested in passing the baton to the next runner in the growth relay.
The company must have solid growth potential and demonstrate how it could scale to provide a more than reasonable return to the investors.
Growth curves come in all shapes and sizes. There’s the steady incremental growth of a mature business, the graceful leaps of the Gazelles, and the inevitable ‘Hockey Stick” that appears over and over at every venture conference I have ever attended. Yet, in the real world, it’s not the pretty charts and pictures that matter, it’s the foundational elements that make a transformational company stand out. Some Gazelles grow to be great companies, while others rapidly run out of steam after the initial burst of growth. Hockey Stick Growth Curves can be ‘the big pay day’ or they can simply be a sign of a business in danger of snapping under the pressure of too much, too fast.
Criteria #3: The best true indicators of growth potential are not charts and graphs, but rather how does the company (or product) provide a solution that is usable by a large number of people and BETTER than substitutes (or lack thereof)?
- One more “me too” solution in an already overcrowded market.
- A terrific solution for a very small customer base (since these rarely can scale.)
- Product or services that are not designed to fill a genuine customer need (since customers must ultimately be willing to pay and karma is important to me).
- A ‘great idea’ that has not ever been built, tested, or sold to ANYONE (since I’d like it to already have at least one customer).
And in the end, building a great company is more than just creating a widget, jobs, or shareholder value.
Criteria #4: It’s creating something to believe in, and be proud of, for the people who matter most to us (employees, customers, investors and strategic partners).
- Products or services you would be embarrassed to discuss with your parents.
- Products or services that add no value to or potentially even harm the community, the environment, or others (since that just isn’t who I am).
- Any product or service that makes promises it cannot keep (since that certainly isn’t me either).
So that’s my list. Have YOU seen this company?
Of course, there are at least two BIG differences between my quest and the search for The Grail of legend. One, I know that I’m going to find what I am seeking, and Two, this is more than a personal journey, it is also an experiment in the power of social media. So, if you’ve seen this company please let me know. You can always leave me a note here, on my blog or, if you want to keep it confidential, you can also contact me by clicking here.
As long as we are on the subject, if you happen to be looking for a company too, just let me know what YOU are searching for and I’ll be happy to pass along what I may find for you along the way. Unlike the fabled Holy Grail, there is more than just one great opportunity out there.
Thanks for stopping by. Stay Tuned…
P.S. One of the best parts of this journey is connecting, engaging, and being inspired by fellow entrepreneurs. On Thursday, November 12th in Phoenix Arizona I will be doing just that at AZEC09. Who knows maybe I will see YOU there and we can chat.
It’s still to be written what the final outcome of the health care debates in Congress will be, or how the year will wrap up from an economic perspective, but many will tell you they can’t wait for 2010 to make its arrival.
But there have been some bright spots in this recession that we have all struggled through. Companies that are making great things happen in the world of social media, women’s health, green materials, and a host of other industries. That’s why, as I prepare for the exciting things that I know will happen in 2010, I am getting ready today by attending the 4th Annual Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference on November 12th.
As chairman of the board of OTEF, the Opportunity Through Entrepreneurship Foundation, November is always a busy time as we prepare for the conference. Each year’s conference is vitally important since all of the proceeds go to fund OTEF’s efforts to provide entrepreneurial training and support to at-risk populations – giving them a better chance for future financial sustainability.
But, as an entrepreneur, I look forward to the conference for the many great ideas I know I will receive there each year. This is the only place I know where, in one day, I can gain insights from national thought leaders like Tara Hunt and Michelle Robson (EmpowHer) , connect with fellow CEOs from TiE and EO to learn what’s working for them, and get the latest updates in technology and business trends from CEOs and thought leaders who are on the front lines.
I’m also excited this year that we have friends coming from far and near to share ideas. Patti Dragland (@StrategicSense) is coming in from Calgary, Tara Hunt (@MissRogue), author of The Whuffie Factor, from Montreal, Howard Lindzon (founder of StockTwits), Kevin Surace, of Serious Materials, is flying in from Sunnyvale, and my favorite entrepreneurial blogger, Marty Willing (@StartUpPro), will be there not to mention fellow conference team members and great friends like Francine Hardaway (@Hardaway), Steven Groves (@StevenGroves), Ed Nusbaum (@EdAZ), Merlin Ward (@MerlinWard) and many more!
November 12th is an important day for gathering new ideas, making connections, and to just get that extra dose of inspiration that will come in real handy in 2010. I know where I will be on November 12th. How about you?
Thanks for stopping by. Stay Tuned…
Millions of articles and blogs have been written on the topic of branding. Google the word ‘branding’ and you will get over 33 million hits!
Unfortunately too often, businesses spend lots of money creating and protecting their marketing message and not enough time protecting the value of their brand. Continue reading
From time to time, I get involved in answering a tricky question. “What is this company worth?” Sometimes the question comes up when speaking to a business owner or executive who is truly trying to increase the value of their organization. At other times the question is raised from someone looking for investors or buyers. And then most importantly – I ask it myself when the buyer or investor might be me.Continue reading