In less that one month, entrepreneurs from around Arizona and from other parts of North America are gathering for AZEC09, The Fourth Annual Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference which will be held in Tempe Arizona on November 12, 2009. Continue reading
A business owner asked me the other day, what was the best marketing strategy ever? I did not have to think very long. To me, the answer is Southwest Airlines in its early days. In a day when Southwest was competing with industry giants to launch a new airline, they broke through and succeeded by demonstrating that they were the airline you wanted to fly by doing the following things.Continue reading
Have you ever had a dream where you were surrounded by people and then in an instant you were all alone? As if a wizard waved a magic wand and all of your friends disappeared? Continue reading
When you are talking about economic impact, small business is a BIG deal. For two years I had the opportunity to serve as the CEO of the Arizona Small Business Association and and on the Board of Trustees of the National Small Business Association. During that time. I sat and talked with many small business owners, toured their offices and factories, listened to their stories, and then traveled to the Arizona Capitol and to Washington D.C. to share those stories with Senators and Representatives. Continue reading
Have you ever wondered about our fascination with roller coasters ? People from all over the world have been flocking to ride these engineering marvels since as far back as the 17th century, although the earliest ‘thrill’ ride did not have rollers or wheels at all but rather flew on tracks of ice.
Roller coasters, as we know them today, have come a long way from the ‘ice mountains’ in the time of the Russian Czars, but some things still hold true. They fascinate us, they can make us nauseous, and often have us screaming as we fly up to the peak and rush headlong down into the valley. Step right up to the roller coaster. It is guaranteed to provide a rush of adrenaline and a wild ride. (History of the Roller Coaster – Wikipedia)
As I sat working on business plans and reviewing financing packages today, I suddenly struck me how much in common the roller coaster and the entrepreneurial journey really do have in common.
Think about it, entrepreneurs fascinate us, we watch successful ones like they are rock stars, and look away with a gulp at the poor guy who is losing his lunch – or his business – as he staggers away. Any entrepreneur will tell you, THAT can happen to anybody.
Like roller coasters, most entrepreneurial ventures labor rung by rung up that first great grade to reach that first big win, opportunity, or investor. And then reality hits, and there is so much WORK to do, and you are sliding down, before you begin the next great climb. It’s a wonder more of us are not throwing up our arms and screaming! If you stay the entrepreneurial circuit long enough, you are sure to hit its highs and lows. Even the legendary entrepreneurial success stories like Microsoft and Cisco have had their fair share of peaks and valleys along the way.
Like roller coasters, that struggled financially and almost disappeared completely during the Great Depression, entrepreneurs have faced times when economic conditions where almost too much to take. But then a spark of innovation, or a new idea gets them fired up all over again.
That’s the thing about veteran entrepreneurs, just like veteran roller coaster riders, as soon as the ride is over, they often get right back in line to take the journey again.
I wonder if a study has ever been done on what percent of entrepreneurs LIKE to ride roller coasters. Or, if serial entrepreneurs are especially addicted? It might make for interesting reading.
Thanks for stopping by. Stay tuned…
The greatest message in the world will have no impact if no one is listening. This is not exactly a new concept. But if you forget it, you can get into BIG trouble.Continue reading
There are few things as powerful in this world as when people come together as a community to make something happen.Continue reading
Leadership is a popular topic. The role of a leader is one that many aspire to. Books and articles tell us that we need to be helping our children, our employees, and others around us to become leaders.
But what is a leader and why do we follow them? For following is a key element of a leader’s definition.
You are not a leader,
if no one is following you.
If only there was a key we could press to make a great leader and cause others to choose to follow. Unfortuantely, there is no one answer or simple magic key to press. Most would agree that the road to leadership is a journey. You are not born a leader, you BECOME one.
Belong… to a community
Leaders do not stand alone on top of the mountain looking down upon their followers. They are part of their communities. We follow them because, by listening to what they say and watching what they do, they take us to a better place. They lead the way for us and we follow their footsteps.
Engender … Trust
When words and actions are authentic, congruent, and consistent, we feel secure in their leadership and in our following. We know what we can expect from them and as followers we trust them to lead us in the right direction. When our leaders get lost or confused, which often happens, leaders are human after all, some followers will drop away, while others will rally around to help a trusted leader get back on track.
Cause … things to happen
Leaders act as catalysts, as agents that provoke or speed significant change or action within their communities, their businesses, or whatever their sphere of influence may be. They do not act alone, but bring things about in concert with others. They inspire others to think, to act, to do, to change.
Open…. up to new opportunities
Leaders are innovators. They find new ways of doing things that make life better for their followers and for those around them. Leaders understand that the most traveled path may not always be the best one. They take the time to explore the options – old and new – to find the best way to travel towards their chosen destination.
Mentor… develop, and support
Leadership may be immune to the passage of time, but leaders are not. Leaders come and leaders go. That is why true leaders develop future leaders. They know that being the sole leader in any group is a lonely job – but when you lead in the company of leaders, the journey get’s shorter, and the road you travel less difficult. And most important of all, that when your time as a leader is through, there are others ready and able to continue the journey.
Excel… at putting the needs of others before their own
Leaders excel in putting the needs of the whole before their own. It seems at times this gets forgotten. And these are the times when we see leaders get into trouble. We’ve seen it in politicians, in the kings of industry, with sports heroes, and in the Mom at the PTA. When the person in front stops caring for the people behind them – sooner or later – those people will be gone. And without followers, you are a leader no more.
True leaders rarely have to shout. Some of the most powerful words are spoken softly.
They issues orders – when they have to – and sometimes they do. But more often than not, direction is provided through stories and shared experiences. They lead the way through instruction, by demonstration, and sometimes by the simple act of taking another by the hand.
The words of leaders may be written…
so we can share them with others long after the leader is gone. Take a look at the list of the best selling books of all time. According to Wikipedia, the list of best-selling books includes in it’s top rankings the books on spiritual leaders: The Bible, Qur’an (The Koran), Book of Mormon, and The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life. They are joined by the writings of a political leader – agree with him or not – Chairman Mao knew how to leverage the printing press with his Little Red Book, a manual for raising young leaders, Scouting for Boys: A Handbook for Instruction in Good Citizenship, and fictional journeys of life and leadership including A Tale of Two Cities, The Lord of the Rings, and The Hobbit. Shakespeare of course wrote stories of leaders and leadership too. But since his were plays, not books originally, they did not make this particular list. But it is not just the beauty of his words that made him immortal, it was the stories of leaders, of emperors, princes, and kings – be they mortal or fairy – that have stood the test of time.
The world is looking for leaders
From the beginning of human time until its end, there will always be a place in this world for leaders. We need them in our homes, in our businesses, and in our communities. We need them to get things started, to help us along the way, to instruct, to inspire, and at times to console.
Yes, the world is looking for leaders.
Are you ready to make the effort – every day – to BECOME one?
Thanks for stopping by. Stay tuned…
Listening to the radio news this week, I heard again that President Obama’s approval rating is continuing to drop. Whether it is his handling of economic issues, healthcare, congress, or a post Labor Day address to school children, we are a nation divided. Some people love him, some people don’t, and many are stuck somewhere in between.
Now, the purpose of this note is not to open a discussion on whether President Obama is worthy of approval or not. We’re going in a different direction. We’re exploring what to expect as a leader in the business world.
I have been through my share of leadership training throughout my career, and there is one thing they rarely if ever tell you.
When you are a leader driving change or making tough decisions – there may be people who will REALLY not like you.
It does not matter how great you are as a speaker, how authentic you are as a person, how charismatic a leader you are, or even how solid your strategy is.
Eventually you will bring about a change that threatens someone’s sense of balance, personal well being, or sense of security through your decisions, and they will make their displeasure known – LOUD AND CLEAR.
Sometimes you can predict and plan for it, and sometimes you can’t. Blow ups can occur over major issues and decisions or the seemingly trivial.
But be prepared – sooner or later is bound to happen!
This illustration from Pollster.com really helps put things in perspective. The President’s approval rating hit its peak after the election but before he was actually making any true presidential decisions. Once his decisions.
This challenge is not unique to Presidential Leadership.
All Summer, legislative leaders across the country have struggled with tough decisions on budgets that won’t balance, whether to raise taxes or not, and where and how much to cut in programs that directly effect no win issues like education, social services, and hampering economic recovery by a heavy tax burden – remember – no economic recovery – no job recovery!
Difficult decisions and cuts lead to public outcries from all sides, as exemplified in this July 25th article and video from CNN.Money.com.
And, as soon as they think they have the problem solved, new gaps open or new conflicts arise, including Gubernatorial Vetoes.
Today’s environment is definitely not a pleasant one for political leaders at any level.
Shifting to Business
As business leaders, we deal with our own sets of issues and decisions every day.
Some are large and some are small, but at any level of authority we often have to make tough decisions that will not be viewed positively by everyone.
Here are some lessons I have learned along my leadership journey:
The higher up you are on the leadership ladder, the broader the reach and scope of your decisions and the more people you affect positively and negatively.
The closer an unfavorable action get’s to an individual’s personal life, the more vocal the dislike can become.
Listen to your detractors – sometimes they are voicing something you need to hear that your friends and supporters are not telling you.
Deal with detractors respectfully, even if they do not return the courtesy.
You can’t take it personally – even if their attacks turn personal.
Logic rarely trumps emotion when change hits close to home for people. Especially when that emotion is concern or fear.
While you may try to work with your detractors, you have to eventually to move on. To paraphrase President Harry Truman, as a leader, the buck will stop with you and you will need to do what you think is best. And then, you live with it.
Luckily, most leaders will have more supporters than not. But eventually, somewhere along the way – you will find those few that will not come around. And when you do, just remember, you are not alone.
Most of us have been there at one time or another. It comes with the territory.
Thanks for stopping by. Stay Tuned.
Innovation – doing something in a new way to make life better for the people who matter – is a wonderful thing – unless you happen to be the one who missed the train when it pulled out from the station.
That’s what happened to a once great family business, Koerber’s Beer.
Hey – you may be thinking – that name sounds familiar. Yes, Koerber’s was once our family business run by my grandfather William G. (Bill) Koerber and his brothers.
Koerber’s Beer and the other brands, including Friar’s Ale and later a new innovation, Malt Liquor led the brand portfolio.
Grandpa’s brother, Clarence “Click” Koerber, invented malt liquor and began production at the Grand Valley Brewing Company in Ionia, Michigan some time around 1937. Great Uncle Click named his magic brew Clix Malt Liquor.
The family business managed to survive through two World Wars, Prohibition, and the Great Depression. Instead, it was an innovation in the brew master’s art that led to it’s demise.
That change was the practice of increasing the preservative content in beer and ale. By adding additional preservatives, competing breweries were able to ship their beers for greater distances, store the product for longer periods of time, and increase shelf life for distributors and retailers taking advantage of major economies of scale.
There was only one problem, it affected the taste of the beer. Koerber’s brand was associated with Age, Strength, and Purity. Grandpa, as brew master was sure that no one would buy let alone want to drink the lesser product. And Grandpa was wrong!
By 1949, the last bottle of Koerber’s beer was crated and shipped from the plant in Toledo, Ohio. The factory was closed. What today we would call a series of micro breweries, Koerber’s, and it’s sister company Grand Valley Brewing could not compete with the mega brewers who had emerged.
By the time I came along, in 1960, the only Koerber’s beer that was still in production came from the mini brewery that was hidden behind the secret wall in the Dutch Room off the boat well in Grandpa’s home at Grayhaven on the Detroit River. But that’s a story for another day.
So when you hear the whistle blow and see the innovation train pull into the station, be sure to have your ticket ready so you can board. You don’t want to be left behind!
Thanks for stopping by. Stay Tuned…