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No, we're not saying to let anybody get to the top of your organization. Make it easy for the right people -- that is, people who fit your company's values to a T -- to get to the top of your company. Meanwhile, don't "laz-i-fy" people at the top. When you do this, you build a culture that allows the best individuals to succeed. Take it for Abraham Lincoln: Initially after the Civil War, American citizens paid 3% tax on income. To promote upward mobility, Lincoln enacted progressive taxation. "The promise of upward mobility was key both to the nation's economic growth and to its social stability. " -Goldman Sachs's Robert D. Hormats The beautiful concept: don't allow people at the top to be complacent, while helping unrecognized individuals at the lower rung to shine -- if they're capable. An organization that strives toward full democratization will succeed in the 21st century.
Posted on March 21

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If you've been reading our journal, you know that innovation is a big part of what we love. Andreas Pfeiffer brought up a good point in one of her articles about choosing simplicity over feature-rich innovations:
One key aspect of modern digital devices is that technical specifications are easily copied and replicated: mega-pixel count in cameras, storage capacity in music players or processor speed in personal computers are the same everywhere. As a result, they provide only poor distinguishing factors for consumers when it comes to choosing between different brands.
Though we don't agree on various points from her article (i.e. a one-size-fits-all approach...but that's for another article), her premise is spot-on: If you add certain features to your product innovations, what will prevent your competitors from doing likewise? Fighting for customers must go beyond simply adding features.
Posted on March 20

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It's too bad the business book industry is using our ignorance to sell books, and make money. With the exception to a handful of quality authors, the majority of these "gurus" probably borrowed their ideas instead of conceptualizing it themselves. Chief Executive's William J. Holstein explains the gradual decline in business thought with his latest article: Today's 6 Worst Business Books. The moral: Be cautious of authors who don't have the facts to prove their points. Chance are, you've already read their books from a different author.
Posted on March 19

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If you're like most of us wanting to start a business, you're probably waiting for the greatest business product idea. Then once you gain some traction on that idea, you're taking months -- even years -- to plan how you're going to execute. There are three problems with this: (1) the perfect business idea is not what you may think it is (2) planning rarely works, and (3) it won't help you find your great business idea. Harvard Business School Professor Amar Bhide noticed in his study of Inc. 500 entrepreneurs that they favored quick, targeted execution over business plans. Those entrepreneurs started with copycat ideas, then focused on customers where Fortune 500s weren't targeting:
Get operational quickly. Bootstrappers don't mind starting with a copycat idea targeted to a small market. Often that approach works well. Imitation saves the costs of market research, and the start-up entering a small market is unlikely to face competition from large, established companies.
Once your business is profitable with positive cashflow, you'll see great business product ideas presenting itself:
Once [your startup is] in the flow of business, opportunities often turn up that they would not have seen had [you] waited for the big idea.
The moral: Stop searching for the perfect business product idea. Instead, sell something quickly. Those great product ideas will soon come knocking on your door.
Posted on March 18

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We love to preach to our clients: never stop improving. Companies that fail rest on their laurels, becoming apathetic after a successful product launch. Sure, you probably brought in millions from a specific product; but if you don't innovate it further for your clients, your competitor might just do it for you. McKinsey & Company's S. Patrick Viguerie and Caroline Thompson has this explanation on how companies fail:

First, shifts in demand or superior offerings from competitors undercut the leader's value proposition. Second, competitors come along with acceptable substitutes or prices so much lower that the leader's productivity or cost position is undermined.

Viguerie's and Thompson's explains further that unsuccessful companies tend to throw all their eggs in one basket, and seek growth from it unwisely:

Third, the leader makes some radically mistimed or otherwise unsuccessful big bets. Growth only exacerbates these strategic risks.
Posted on March 16

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It probably sounds obvious: the nearer you are to your team, the more likely you'll communicate business goals with them. Gerd Gigerenzer of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin from his research: "Employees who work on different floors interact 50% less than those who work on the same floor, and the difference is even greater for those working in different buildings." The not-so-obvious: if you can, avoid working working virtually. Conference calls, phone calls, e-mail, and the plethora of other technological wonders impede your communication with your team. If at all possible, work near your team. William Hewlett and David Packard wasn't too shabby in that classic approach: management by walking around.
Posted on March 15

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[...] Start your business by seeking your goal. Forget market research. Forget business plans. Forget prototypes. Forget finding the one &^8220;great&^8221; invention or idea. [...]
Posted on March 14

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This caught my attention the other day: A simple look at a stock-market-pick-'em-software infomercial, and you'd be surprised at how many "gurus" exist. Though a few do have credibility (like 0.01%), the majority don't. Besides, what "guru" would tell you to buy on trends (a ridiculous, recockulous method), instead of potential? The same idea applies to management issues. Most theory may sound fine and well, but in practice, causes more harm. Most business authors and professors, for example, embrace strategy when research after research studies disprove the effect of it. Says last year's Harvard's Business Review: "Whoever first applied the term 'guru' to management thinkers probably meant well: The original Sanskrit word means venerable teacher. But over the years the term became associated more with best-sellers and astronomical speaking fees than with original thinking and serious fieldwork." Self-proclaimed "gurus" are anything but. Be cautious about where you get your information. If they can't back up their claims with impartial data, run.
Posted on March 13

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Consistent with ancient wisdom: It's not about the money! Contributing to something beyond one's self is the secret to happiness, says Claremont University's Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Get the valuable and concise article at Inc.
Posted on March 13

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[...] To keep your business alive, know your finances. Keep good books. Keep positive cash flow. Analyze your numbers: How will you improve your basic profitability ratios (e.g. profit/sales)? Improve cash flow? Most important, how will you improve your primary economic denominator (i.e. profit/x)? [...]
Posted on March 12

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