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
You’ve probably had the experience where through the diverse objectives and perspectives of the people on your team, what you set out to create and what you got where not exactly the same. As concessions are made to reach a point of consensus, a completely different animal begins to takes shape.Continue reading
I was scanning some articles online this morning when I cam across a fun one at How Stuff Works titled 23 Must-Have Toys from the 1950s and Beyond. So I decided to check it out. Of the 23 ‘must haves’, only Strawberry Shortcake never made it into either my or my children’s toy collection. But it was the Cabbage Patch Kids that brought back the memory of how one innovative toy really drew a crowd.
Xavier Roberts was a teenager when he launched his Babyland General Hospital during the 1970s in Cleveland, Georgia, allowing children to adopt a “baby.” In 1983, the Coleco toy company started mass-producing these dolls as Cabbage Patch Kids. Each “kid” came with a unique name and a set of adoption papers, and stores couldn’t keep them on the shelves, selling more than three million of the dolls in the first year.
It was just before the Christmas holidays in 1983, and my fiance Chris worked at Coleco, home of the Cabbage Patch. EVERYONE was trying to get their hands on the little darlings – even employees. The company had to even hold a lottery for employees to be able to purchase them. So after months of lotteries, we had a small collection of six Cabbage Patch Kids ready for adoption.
I really did not give it too much thought when I lined up the ‘Kids’ on the back seat of my car and left my home in South Windsor, Connecticut on a Saturday afternoon to drive down to see our families in Danbury, Connecticut. But I got a real lesson on what it is like for an innovation to draw a crowd when I stopped at a McDonald’s along the way to get a Diet Coke. The young girl at the drive thru window saw into my back seat, and exclaimed!
WOW! Where did you get all those Cabbage Patch Dolls!
That’s all it took. Before I had even been given my cup, my car was surrounded by Moms, wallets and checkbooks in hand, asking me what it would take to sell them “Just One.” I explained that they were gifts and that they were not for sale, but finally the manager had to come out and move the eager Mommies away – before I could put my car in gear and make my escape from the drive thru. I learned a lesson that day…
When an innovation capture’s the public’s imagination – it draws a crowd.
Over twenty-five years have passed and I have seen many innovative new products come and go. Some are just a passing fad, but others have real staying power. As an investor, I look for those companies with inventions or solutions that can make life better in one way or another. Products or services that capture the imagination and can, with the right resources, literally draw a crowd in their chosen marketplace.
Some of these companies have been in technology – like when Bernie Vonderschmidt, the first Chairman and CEO of Xilinx, shared his vision of the next generation in silicon technology,the FGPGA, or when Dr. Michelle Hanna of RiboMed helped me to imagine a day when we could detect and treat diseases like cancer BEFORE it was too late and our loved ones were suffering. Others have not. But none of the innovations I have invested in have been toys. Perhaps because I never got over the experience of being ‘mobbed by Mommies’ at McDonalds.
Thanks for stopping by. Stay tuned…
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
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…
Often one of the most important lessons we learn as business owners, innovators, and leaders is how and when to ask for help.
In 2001, I was VP of Global Supplier Contracts at Avnet, Inc. a Fortune 500 global distributor of electronic components and computers.
I had an idea for a new kind of business and took the idea to Avnet Chairman and CEO, Roy Vallee. We discussed the potential benefits to the company and what I wanted to do to make it happen. He told me to “…take the idea and run with it. Take it as far as you can and come back to me if you need help.” There are 3 components to this advice:
1) develop new ideas;
2) plan and take action;
3) ask for help.
At the time, for me, #3 was the MOST important. Up to that point, I had done everything for the project on my own. To make it viable, I had to find the people and resources that I lacked and get them to be part of the solution. A year later, Avnet decided that the time was not right to proceed with the project. But I was not ready to give it up.
So, I took Roy’s advice and asked for help.
First I asked Avnet’s permission to take some of the ideas I had developed and create my own business. They said yes.
Then I looked for and found the best people and resources to partner with to build that business. They said yes too.
The result, CorePurpose, Inc. has been supporting other businesses in their journey along the growth path since July of 2002. Our whole business is built around having the right resources and knowing how to get help when you need it.”
Applying the Lesson
For many of us, asking for help is not an easy thing to do. Many still believe that asking for help makes you appear weak or out of control. Contrary to this belief, asking for help at the right time and for the right reasons is NOT a sign of weakness, but rather can be a sign of confidence, strength and savvy resource management.
Few organizations or projects succeed without some form of assistance today – be it leadership, financial, supply chain, staffing, technology resources, or a myriad of other needs. Interestingly, the strategic process we go through in developing our program or project can also be a great process to follow when determining how to go about finding the right help at the right time.
Develop new ideas
Look at each step of your current strategic plan or program map. Identify the areas where the process or program can be strengthened through outside support or other partnerships. Look at each step of your process not only in light of how a strategic partner can benefit you but also how, by working together, the partner will benefit too.
Plan and Take Action
Evaluate the things that you are doing that might be done as well as you are currently doing them or can be done even better by others.
Start by identifying outside resources for non core activities and then evaluate how you can better utilize your existing resources by redeploying them into core areas of strength or differentiation within your organization. Strategic partnerships like these are a resource investment for you and the partner. Be realistic in calculating the ROI for both parties.
Put together presentations you can make to potential strategic partners with a focus on how each of you will benefit from the partnership. Then build your target partner list and start scheduling the presentations.
Asking for help.
Following this process, asking for help moves from sending out an ‘S.O.S.’ or distress call to proactively building relationships where both parties benefit. Now, you are not just asking someone to help you with a business challenge, you are offering to help them overcome one of theirs.
So, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Look at your business on a regular basis to determine how by asking for help, you can make your business stronger, more cost efficient, or more financially sound. You’ll never know, until you ask!
Thanks for stopping by. Stay Tuned…
One of the great secrets to getting better results in your business is the difference between knowing something and doing something.
The question is not if you know it – but rather, are you doing it? Are you using the knowledge?
As we build our strategy for better business results we must USE all we know and apply it to where our business is and where we want to take it to.
Next time you read about a business strategy or process improvement and recognize it as conventional wisdom, take the next step and try to list the ways that you and your company are actually demonstrating it. You might be surprised what you find.
Are we doing this?
Are we consistent?
How can we do this better?
The key here is the “WE”. Very often we assume that since we know what to do, others in our organization also know – and it is not always true. The key is to share what you know with your team and to act on it – together.
Thanks for stopping by. Stay Tuned.
Louis CK on why we’re amazing…courtesy of YouTube.
I’ve heard a lot of talk lately about what’s wrong with this country.
- Our banks are in a mess.
- We’ve created faulty and misleading financial instruments on Wall Street.
- We’ve put too much faith in technology and it won’t ‘bail us out’ this time.
- The Government let this happen – let the government fix it.
- America’s lost the will to compete, the ability to lead in manufacturing, the fire to innovate.
Are you totally depressed yet? Click here to watch a video for a different perspective on American innovation before you read on.
Last night I had the opportunity to listen to a talk by Lynn Tilton at the AeA meeting in Arizona.
LYNN TILTON is the CEO of Patriarch Partners, LLC, a firm she founded in 2000 to manage and monetize the distressed portfolios of financial institutions. Patriarch has since evolved to focus on direct investments in distressed American businesses, managing funds with over $6 billion of equity and secured loan assets.
I did not agree with everything Lynn had to say, but she made some points that I definitively do agree with. Here are a few views we have in common:
- Government alone will not be able to spend us out of the current economic situation. Changes are needed in how we manage markets, how we do business AND how we value it.
- Small and mid-sized businesses are and will continue to be a key factor in turning things around, putting people to work, and restoring our economic base and through it or tax base. See YourEconomy.org for a better picture of the sizes of businesses that create jobs in your community.
- It is up to all of us to use our own strengths and talents to affect change and move things forward. We’ll have to be creative AND flexible.
Lynn has a few more resources than I do. OK, a few billion more. She used her position to get the word out in a Clarion Call that was published in the NY Times and the Washington Post. Sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Geitner proposing solutions. She’s speaking out on national media, to small groups and large. And, agree with her or not, she is not sitting back and just letting things unfold as they may.
So ask yourself. What can I do. Share ideas on this blog? Start a business? Support a business that is struggling and help them make it through this – while saving a few jobs in the process? Help someone who needs it to find a job? There are answers all around us. The trick is finding that one thing we overlooked before and putting it back to work for us in a new way. We need to use our networks and our contacts. And most of all, stop listening to the nay say-ers and just get on with it.