Friday, 28 September 2012

Game of Mirrors

"The Mirror Test" by Jeffrey Hayzlett unifies basic business principles with common sense. This book outlines very basic business principles that should be examined by business owners. If you are new to business then this book can benefit you. 

In business, you are either profitably growing or dying, there is no equilibrium. That is the true “Proof of Life” test. Jeffrey has real business experience. Several books will talk about high level strategy, mission statements, vision which is important but when the rubber meets the road, you have to make payroll.

If you have never had people responsibility then I can personally tell you that worrying about payroll when money is tight is very stressful. When cash is flowing, you run the business. When cash is not flowing, the business runs you.

The Mirror Test is broken down into three main parts. For the sake of time, I will touch on a few of them.

Say No to Low Price – Can you compete with Wal-Mart? No, neither can I. If your business value proposition is price then you are dying a slow death. There is nothing worse than racing to the bottom to commoditize your market. The purpose of a business it to get a customer and build stakeholder value. If you compete on price and hope you are low then there are several problems including: One, you don’t know how to sell value. Two, you are not creating a business that can be sold later for real value and three, you are buying yourself a job. The point of a business is to provide customer value at a PROFIT. If you fear profit or think it is a bad word then go work for somebody else.

Value- Now we know not to sell on low price so you may ask how we create value. This takes some thought and that is exactly why there are so many marginal businesses out there in the market today. Here are three things you can do to establish your value:

Control Your Message- Do you have a unique selling proposition? If not then create one. If you take away your company name and your proposition sounds like: “We are the best, lowest cost provider of widgets and I will do a good job for you.” You can work for any of your competitors and say the same thing. This is not a unique value proposition.
"The Mirror Test" has good common sense content. I diverged a bit from the book to outline three key points that will help your business succeed. Remember that Execution is critical today because the business environment is tough.

I hope you have found this short summary useful. Stay tuned- more coming next week.

Joe Mosed


Friday, 21 September 2012

Fostering Creativity for Greatness

Creativity creates great companies. The U.S. economy is driven by small business and small businesses need to be creative to stay alive. The result of not being creative is commoditization of the business. This means that profits are tight and price is the only differentiator. Disciplined Dreaming details a proven system to spark creativity throughout the enterprise. 

The key to economic growth is job creation. Job creation requires companies that add value and do not compete on price. Businesses have to differentiate themselves to foster profitable growth. Differentiation can be systematic using a proven system. Apple receives high marks for innovation but their landmarks to building a dominate company can be used by ANY business.

One critical component to creativity and differentiation is expanding the sphere of influence. Here is an example: The Apple laptop computers have a power supply that plugs in with a magnet. This simple differentiation is revolutionary to the computer world because if you kick the cord, your laptop will not fly off the table. This innovative feature was “borrowed” from the Japanese WOK. Steve Jobs expanded his sphere of influence and looked outside the computer industry for ideas. Innovation and creativity like this result in profitable growth for businesses and keeps you out of the commodity selling zone.

"Disciplined Dreaming is packed with relevant information. For the sake of time, I will profile the 3 of the 5 Steps to breakthrough Creativity

1. Ask – Defining the creativity challenge is the first step in the system. Asking questions around the challenge is the key to starting the process. Asking why, what if, why not. These questions bread concepts that have the potential to revolutionize your creativity challenge. Josh shows you how to build a creativity brief consisting of: Overview, History, Objective, Deliverables, Target Audience, Timeline, Client and Budget. Looking at all of these areas and questioning everything is critical to the “Asking” stage. The key is to drive curiosity and awareness.

2. Prepare – People learn through a combination of Auditory, Visual and Kinesthetic mechanisms. They key to preparing is to foster all learning environments. The biggest challenge to overcome in the prepare stage is to eliminate barriers. How many times have you shared an idea and the knee jerk response is – “That will not work for us?” Developing a culture to express creativity with no consequences is the goal of the prepare step as well as doing things like: eliminating groupthink, changing the environment, discovering what you are not and fostering free communication. 

3. Discover – Looking through a different lens is a great way to discover ideas. A simple example of this is to describe the ocean from a scientist’s point of view, artist’s point of view, surfer’s point of view etc. When you do this, you will see a bunch of different angles to tackle the creative challenge. Another discovery technique is to invert. Billion Charlie Munger (Warren Buffet’s partner) is a huge proponent of inversion. Looking at the problem in its opposite state reveals new insights. Legendary martial artist, Ed Parker created a whole concept of motion by watching Muhammad Ali fights in reverse.

Ignite and Launch are numbers 4 and 5, but you'll have to read the book if you want the inside scoop on those.

"Disciplined Dreaming" is packed with great ideas on how to foster creativity in your enterprise. Even if you work for yourself, you can garner great ideas from the book. Josh is very creative in his methods and I have an affinity after reading the book because his business, like mine is located in Detroit, Michigan. 

One thing you can take away from this book is mind dumping. Each day schedule 15 minutes when you are most energetic and mind dump ideas on a pad of paper. Simply write around concepts and problems that you are trying to solve and don’t discriminate. This habit will force your brain to provide you with alternatives to issues that need a creative resolution.



Friday, 14 September 2012

The Start: Often the Hardest Part

Starting a business that scales is not an easy task. In this book, Guy gives us a useful guideline to follow. I have not pitched investors in our software company because we have been funding our R&D through profit and cash flow. Regardless, we have two other ideas that may require funding, hence my intrigue intrigue in reading this book. It's much more than just pitching for money. This guidebook will help keep your eye on the ball and make sure you don't end up as part of the 50% stat. The 50% stat says that all start-up businesses fail in the first 5 years. I am sure nobody knows that better than Guy Kawasaki, since he actually invests in start-ups. 
Most Americans today need to make more money. This book is a must read if you're creating the next Facebook, or even just starting a part-time business. If you look back in history, families could survive on one income. Then, both parents started working and actually did well. As usual, expenses always rise to meet income, meaning both parents had to work. Today, 44 million Americans are on food stamps. This is almost 15% of the population. A guide book like "Art of the Start" will help you create your own wealth and not become a casualty of war. We are living in the greatest wealth transfer in history. The dollar has lost value since president Nixon took us off the gold standard and people who thought they could retire have gotten taken to the cleaners by the bankers on Wall Street gambling with derivatives. It's up to us to dictate our own destiny and Guy's book will help us in that quest.

"The Art of the Start" consists of 5 sections. For the sake of time I will briefly touch on one area in each section:
1. Causation - Guy has coined the term GIST to mean Great Ideas for Starting Things. This is the big WHY part. The Three Stooges made their last television series with Curly in 1945. This was over 66 years ago. That is longevity when you are doing something you love. In our business we sell to public safety organizations. Our compelling vision is "Seconds Save Lives". We create great software to help dispatch centers save lives. Sure we make money doing it but what is secondary is the "Cause". Doing something you love that has meaning is the essences of GIST.

2. Articulation - The art of Pitching is critical to the survival of any organization. Showing and telling do not work. Business owners have to pitch at all levels. Guy talks about this in detail. Following one of the proposed methods has allowed my team to increase their sales by 100%.

3. Activation - This is the DOING section. There will be points in time where you need to watch the money and count the pencils and there are other times when you have to pay to recruit the best talent. This can be a paradox, and what stage your business is in will dictate how you go about raising capital. Are you going to sell direct or indirect? How many sales calls can each sales person make? What is there closing ratio? What is the average deal size? What is the expected life time value of each new client? If you're pitching, you need to understand these questions.

4. Proliferation - In this section, Guy talks about Branding, Partnering and Rainmaking. If you are selling in the B2B (Business to Business) market place then they only buy for three reasons and they are to increase revenue, reduce costs and mitigate risk. That is it.

5. Obligation - Emerson summarized that if you want more, then give more. Giving back to society pays dividends. A great quote in the book from Samuel Johnson sums this up - "The measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good."
I hope you found this summary useful, and if you are intrigued by what you have read pick up the book and let me know what you think of it.
Have a good one! -Joe


Friday, 7 September 2012

Don't Skip

Leo is the blog author of "Zen Habits." He talks about a minimalist life style and focusing on what makes you happy. I consider myself a student of business, and motivation is a critical factor. I believe you can't teach work ethic and motivation unless you are teaching kids. Once you enter the work force, it's too late. 

Motivation is momentum toward something you want. The key is to know what you want. Most people aren't motivated because they are lost and haven't articulated what they want. Napoleon Hill called this drifting in his book, "Outwitting the Devil." Motivated people are NOT drifters because they love what they do. The first step in motivation is to not do something you hate. If you have to work to pay the bills then frame it correctly with an exit strategy so you can be motivated to get to your next level. 

Disciplined action is what is required to make the motivation real. This is what is required every day. Disciplined action is the hard part. The book "The Secret" talks about some really cool stuff but is useless without disciplined action. 

"The Essential Motivation Handbook" is a collection of blog posts from Zen Habits and Motivate Thyself. There is really good information in the book and several concepts repeat. I will focus on three core concepts from the book. 

1. Enjoy Your Goal Activity – This one really summarizes the last slide. You need to make sure you really want the goal you are pursuing. If you cut the clutter out of your life and focus then that will help achieve the goal. If you want to be a fitness model but hate to work out then I suggest you pick a different career. One does not go with the other and this habit will die an easy death because you do not enjoy the goal activity. Also using positive public pressure will keep you disciplined because people want to know how you are doing. That pressure will help keep you focused on your goal. 

2. Never Skip Two Days in a Row – Slight Edge behavior is taking small daily actions toward your goals. Magnified over time, these changes will result in compound results. You are effectively eating an elephant one slice at a time. Creating a habit takes 21 days but breaking is easier if you skip a couple of days in a row. This is really good advice. If you are a writer then write each day. Even if what you write sucks, do it anyway because the habit of simply doing it overcomes most barriers to success. 

3. Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence – Always work on your self-concept. It is near impossible to make time for your dreams, to break free from the traditional mold, and to truly be yourself, if you have low self-esteem and self-confidence. Self-Esteem is if you feel you are worthy of respect from others and self-confidence is whether you believe in yourself. These two things are vitally important in life. Think about this – Who do you look up to and respect? Are they confident and do they have a healthy self-esteem? Most people will agree that they do. Nobody wants to follow a weak leader. If you were to go into war right now, do you want to follow a commander that is not self-confident? No way. Master these two areas of your self- concept and don’t become cocky and this will transform your goal attainment. 

The Essential Motivation Handbook is a good collection of concepts that will help in motivation and disciplined action. These are very important especially if you are going to start and grow a business. The obstacles and fear that you have to confront are enormous and staying motivated and true to your cause requires disciplined action and self-confidence. 

I hope you have found this short summary useful. The key to any new idea is to work it into your daily routine until it becomes habit. Habits form in as little as 21 days. One thing you can take away from this book is never skip two days in a row. This is really simple advice and profoundly true. Once you ingrain a positive habit then make sure not to break it by skipping two days in a row. Once you do skip then it will continually get easier to skip moving forward. The bottom line is... don't do it.

Have a great weekend.