Thursday 31 October 2013

Facebook profit up but teens could be losing interest

Facebook shares spiked on Wednesday with stellar earnings results, but plummeted back down on word teenagers may be falling out of love with the social network.
The world’s leading online social network reported profit of $425 million in the quarter that ended on September 30, compared with a loss a year earlier, AFP reports.
The earnings figures showed soaring advertising revenue, nearly half of it from smartphones or tablet computers.
Facebook shares leapt about 15 percent and remained aloft until chief financial officer David Ebersman mentioned in an earnings call that internal analytics indicate decreased use of the social network by “younger teens.”
Shares dropped back near the trading day closing price of $49.01 after the earnings call.
“That would probably do it,” independent Silicon Valley analyst Rob Enderle said of share price suffering due to fears it is losing the devotion of teenagers.
“That market is incredibly fickle,” he continued. “You don’t want to see a trend that kids no longer think Facebook is no longer the place to be; that it is now their dads’ service.”
The notion that Facebook is falling out of favour with a budding generation prompts worry about the company’s future earnings potential no matter what fiscal guidance executives provide.
“The kids are Facebook’s seed corn, and you don’t want to lose that,” Enderle said.
Ebersman cautioned that Facebook engagement by young people is tricky to measure because users claims regarding ages are not validated. The social network used internal tools to get a sense of activity by teenagers.
“Our best analytics shows use by US teens overall stable, but a decrease in use by younger teens,” Ebersman said.
The third quarter results for the California-based firm were well ahead of most forecasts, with revenues rising sharply to $2.016 billion, prompting a leap in shares in after-hours trade.
“For nearly 10 years, Facebook has been on a mission to connect the world,” said co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg.
“The strong results we achieved this quarter show that we’re prepared for the next phase of our company, as we work to bring the next five billion people online and into the knowledge economy.”
The number of people who use the social network daily in the quarter was 728 million in a 25 percent increase from the same quarter a year earlier, according to Facebook.
About 1.19 billion people used Facebook monthly in a rise of 18 percent from the same period in 2012, the company reported.
Meanwhile, the ranks of Facebook members connecting to the social network with mobile devices at least once a month soared 45 percent to 874 million people.
On average, more half a billion people daily accessed Facebook using smartphones or tablets, according to the earnings report.

- BusinessDay

Grow Your Business - The Dangers of Denial

Great leaders tell it like it is. In other words, they focus on reality, no matter how painful or unpleasant it might be, and then figure out what to do about it. In contrast, less effective leaders sometimes avoid hard truths, argue with the data, and delay tough decisions.
While it’s easy to be critical of leaders who can’t face the facts, the truth is that most of us engage in denial at one time or another, usually without even knowing it. As human beings, it’s one of the most common defense mechanisms that we use to cope with difficult situations. It’s the first of Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ now-famous five stages of grief, in which she observed that many people react to news of their terminal illness by denying anything is wrong with them. This is an extreme case, of course, but lots of business situations trigger denial as well. Here are two quick examples:
A large natural resources company acquired a smaller competitor and announced that it would be closing a number of low-producing mines within a year. Six months later the corporate HR manager visited these mines to help with the transition and was surprised to learn that the planning hadn’t even begun. When he questioned the mine leadership team he was told, “We’ve heard this story before but we produce too much ore for the company to really shut us down.”
The executive team of a pharmaceutical company knew well in advance that it was facing the loss of patent exclusivity for a particular drug, which would significantly reduce sales revenue in the coming year. Despite not having sufficient new products to replace these losses, the team delayed making commensurate cost reductions, with each manager saying that their people were indispensable.
There are many stories like these at all levels of organizations. Just the other day, I was talking with a twenty-five year old financial analyst who told me that she is looking for another job because the products in her division are becoming commoditized and will probably be sold off or eliminated. When I asked her how her colleagues were reacting to this she said, “They don’t believe it can happen to them so most of them aren’t doing anything.”
This brings up an important point about denial: It’s easier to see in others than in yourself. This means that coping with it usually needs to be a team effort. Even the most open and honest of managers sometimes engage in “wishful hearing” and interpret things the way they want them to be, instead of how they really are. That’s why really good managers value subordinates and colleagues who are not afraid to bring them bad news, tell them the truth, and help them peel away their own unconscious avoidance mechanisms.
Given these subtle psychological dynamics, here are two principles to keep in mind for dealing with denial in your own career and your work with colleagues:
Don’t assume that everyone sees the world through the same lens as you. Facts and data are usually open to interpretation, and people have different underlying criteria for how they analyze them. We all emphasize some things and discount others, based on past experiences, personality, and tolerance for discomfort. That’s why the financial analyst saw what she thought was the “writing on the wall” about her division’s future, while others in the group saw a different story.
Get tough subjects out in the open. Because of these different interpretations, find ways to facilitate and encourage dialogue, particularly when complex issues are on the table. While denial can still occur, it is less likely when teams are able to look at the situation from multiple angles, challenge underlying assumptions, and eventually get a better picture of what’s really going on. So while it’s true that great leaders usually don’t get trapped in the denial of hard realities, it’s often because they get a lot of help from their teams.
So yes, denial is alive and well in most organizations, which leads to delayed or inappropriate decisions, inaccurate or misleading communications, and a host of other dysfunctional outcomes. But it’s important to remember that it’s a natural human reaction to anxiety-provoking situations, which is why it’s important for teams to help each other see the truth.
by Ron Ashkenas HBR

Forbes names Dangote Africa’s most powerful man

" Money gives you power they say"

The President, Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, has been named the most powerful man in Africa and 64th in the world by the Forbes magazine.
Dangote, who Forbes says is by far Africa’s richest man with a net worth of $16.1bn as of March 2013, was ranked ahead of the likes of Fifa President, Sepp Blatter (69); Speaker, United States House of Representatives, John Boehner (66); and Founder, Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Mohammed Ibrahim (71).

The 56-year-old, Dangote, whose company is considered one of the most diversified on the list, is currently ranked 43 on the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires with his net worth over time said to be on the rise.

In August, the industrialist had announced plans by the Dangote Group to build a $9bn refinery and petrochemical complex in Nigeria, a move which is expected to help the group further diversify its current business model and increase his net worth.

Away from his business interests, mention was also made of his philanthropic efforts in his profile on theForbes website.

It reads in part, “Inspired by fellow billionaires, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, Dangote is making a name for himself on the philanthropic circuit and has given away millions to education, health and social causes in Africa.”

Apart from Dangote, Ibrahim is the only other African on the list, which contains 72 people.

Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, topped the list, displacing United States President, Barrack Obama, who dropped to the second spot for the first time in three years.

Chinese President, Xi Jinping, occupies the third spot, while the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, debuts on the list at number four.

Pope Francis, who was elected in March this year, leads 12 other new entrants.

Other notable new names on the list are Samsung Chairman, Lee Kun-Hee (41); Volkswagen’s Martin Winterkorn (49); South Korean President, Park Geun-hye (52); and Janet Yellen (72), who has been nominated by President Obama as the next leader of the US Federal Reserves.

The Executive Editor of the New York Times, Jill Abramson (68), makes a return appearance after dropping off the list in years past.

Facebook Founder, Mark Zuckerberg, aged 29, and North Korean leader, Kim Jung-un, aged 30, are the youngest people on the list. Zuckerberg occupies the 24th place, while Kim is ranked 46th.

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, who occupies the eight spot, is the oldest person on the list. He is 89 years old.

The world’s richest man, Carlos Slim, is, however, not the most powerful man. The América Móvil honorary chairman occupies the 12th position.

According to Forbes, the Most Powerful People in the World list is an annual snapshot of the heads of state, financiers, philanthropists and entrepreneurs, who truly rule the world.

“It represents the collective wisdom of top Forbes editors, who consider hundreds of nominees before ranking the planet’s top 72 power-brokers – one for every 100 million people on earth – based on their scope of influence and their financial resources relative to their peers,” the magazine explained.

This year’s list features 17 heads of state, who run nations with a combined Gross Domestic Product of some $48tn.


Grow Your Business - Biggest decisions business owners make

While business owners are faced with making a multitude of business decisions on a daily basis, there are significant decisions that ultimately must be made during the life of the operation. Sole proprietor businesses have full authority to make major business decisions without consulting anyone else.
Other small business entities, such as partnerships, limited liability companies and corporations may have to consult others in accordance with the terms of business agreements and articles of incorporation. Below are the top five biggest decisions business owners make, according to experts:
Starting the business
To start a business is no simple decision to make. It is therefore important to look inward and think deep before coming up with any form of decision. According to experts, the single biggest decision a business owner makes is starting the business.
A significant amount of research goes into this decision-making process, as the owner identifies potential target demographics, researches the market and estimates operating costs and potential profit margins.
Associated with business start-up are related decisions regarding business and marketing plan creation, location selection, hiring of employees and selection of vendors or suppliers.
Applying for loans
Funding is critical in any business. Small businesses often require financing for start-up, expansion or operating costs. The decision to take on a commercial or business loan is a significant one in the business owner’s life. He must compare the lending options and finance companies, make in-depth assessments of financial needs and ultimately repay the loan. Micro-businesses run as sole proprietorships or partnerships link their personal finances with the business finances, which can be a major risk if the business fails.
Branding and marketing
Wisdom is required here, because determining the specific way a business is to be identified and sold to the public consumer is a very important decision for a business owner.
Unsuccessful branding efforts or marketing approaches that are not well devised can hurt, rather than help the business. A good deal of money is typically invested in serious marketing efforts, so the choices and approaches must be well-planned.
Expanding operations
If a small business owner wants to grow, he must make a decision to expand, add new products or services or partner with another small business.
Taking on such a move is a monumental business decision. A business owner must weigh the pros and cons of expansion efforts and consider the market and economic factors he originally fleshed out when deciding to launch the business.
Dissolving the business
The final important decision in a business owner’s life is that of closing, selling or dissolving the company. The decision to cease operations is often more difficult than the initial decision to inaugurate the business. This is especially true when considering the financial investment that has been made and the potential impact a closure will have on established employees.


Preventing debt problems

Many are dealing with various debt issues nowadays. This is usually because of loans and dependence on credit cards. Although many pay their dues by the end of the month, most just pay the minimum amount required which causes high amount paid on interest. This will remain manageable if you only have one credit card. However, this can be very tough to handle if you have multiple cards and several loans.
In order to prevent facing such ordeal, you have to learn to plan your expenses and see to it that you manage your finances and debts properly. If you worry about your credit records, you can look for an organisation to help you with bad credit debt consolidation loan. You have to be careful when choosing such entity though because they charge upfront. Ask what they can do for you. Expect them to give you a realistic piece of advice and not false promises of fixing your debt problems instantly.
There are many reasons why a person goes into serious debt problems. Among them are the following:
Mismanagement of finances
Many people spend more than what they earn. Their credit allowance makes them feel that they can afford anything. They only realise that they cannot afford their purchases when they are having a hard time paying their debts.
In order to avoid this, evaluate your earnings. How much do you receive each month? After that, start listing the things you need. Remember, these are essential items. These include food, shelter, medicine and sanitation. How much can you spend on each of these? Can you really afford that apartment? Assessing what you can spend for your necessities will prevent you from over spending.
Another way to prevent problems due to mismanagement of finances is to monitor your expenses. Often, you spend on things that you do not really need. You bring out your ever-reliable credit card and purchase that black purse, which you do not really need because you already have tons of black purses at home. If you monitor your expenses more closely, you will be able to refrain from making unnecessary purchases.
Medical emergency
Many people experience financial difficulty because of the unexpected medical bills they have to endure. This is beyond anyone’s control. Living a healthy lifestyle reduces the risk of experiencing such difficulty. However, it does not eliminate the risk.
Investing in a health maintenance organisation as well as health insurance will reduce the financial difficulty you will be facing if any of your family has to undergo expensive treatments. However, see to it that you understand the terms and conditions set by the organisation you choose. Some HMOs do not cover special cases, especially if they are pre-existing. It would also help if you have a contingency savings. Most importantly, take care of your health and the health of your family. Make it a habit to exercise and eat healthy food.
Job loss
Losing your job is one of the most difficult things to face these days. As you may have noticed, the financial crisis has caused people to lose their jobs. This is tough because it is not that easy to find a new job today.
In order to reduce the impact of losing your job, have a financial cushion. Your savings will help you to get through the rough times; it will also help if you have a part time job. This way, there is still an inflow of finances even if you lose your regular job. There are several freelance jobs online. You can also explore opportunities in industries in the education field, health and food. These industries are the least affected by the crisis.
This is another difficult circumstance. This includes fire and natural calamities. Insuring your property is a good way to prevent financial difficulty if you have to face such problems. In addition, it is important that you always take precautionary measures to prevent problems like fire and other similar tragedies.
There are other reasons like legal concerns and divorce that can cause such problems. You can turn to free online debt consolidation to help you manage your debts. However, it would be best if you do not have to face a very difficult debt problem. Start by managing your finances well. Always include your savings in your budget and most importantly, invest in things that matter like your health and insurance.


Tuesday 29 October 2013

On the road from Nigeria to Cameroon

THE drive from Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, to Douala, the biggest city in neighbouring Cameroon, is a 1,320 km (820 mile) rollercoaster ride along dusty highways and muddy jungle tracks replete with bumps, bruises and attempted bribes.
As Baobab and a friend set off in an ancient Land Rover on a Nigerian national holiday, the roads were almost empty, save for the military checkpoints that have become permanent installations since the resurrection in the past two years of a violent Islamist insurgency, which has claimed hundreds of lives this year alone. Soldiers bunker down in nylon tents or huts with corrugated iron roofs on the roadside. Vests and underpants pinned to a clothesline and a few cooking pots piled on the grass are signs of the new domesticity thrust upon soldiers away from their families for months at a time.
The journey from Abuja, where tarmac roads are flanked by pristine hedges, to the balmy rainforests on the southeastern border with Cameroon was regularly interrupted by these checkpoints and a feeling that someone was about to request a bribe. Broaching the first barrier in the early hours of the morning, a soldier sporting a ragged stripy jumper was leaning casually on a barricade of sand-bags jutting into the road, an AK-47 slung over his shoulder. He waved the car down.
“How you dey?” he asked, propping his elbow on the window frame. “I dey fine,” Baobab replied. Blood-shot eyes and a leery smile suggested a heavy night. “What do you have for me today?” he asked, peering through the window. “I have a blessing for you.” After a quick calculation he concluded that it was probably not worth messing with the powers above, and he waved us through. We encountered only one serious attempt to extort money at a subsequent checkpoint, and that was quickly resolved by a yoghurt-coated cereal bar.
A week earlier, a Lagos policeman caught extorting money on camera was sacked. The crime is a familiar one to inhabitants of the metropolis, but this time the passenger recorded the policeman trying to extort $160 from him and uploaded the footage on YouTube. It was a rare victory for the scores of drivers who have been stopped by Nigerian police for imaginary traffic offences.
Immigration control at Mfum on the border was a damp hovel. Smoke from wood-burning fires cooking stews and Jollof rice clung to the air. Young boys made transactions through the window of our battered jeep, selling bananas and corn-on-the-cob. A handful of men passed through passport control from Cameroon with no papers or identification. “My aunt lives up the road in the next village,” complemented by a subtle slip of cash, was enough to grant passage. Leaky borders are often cited as one of the contributing factors to Nigeria’s insecurity. When the rules are so easily circumvented, it is hard to see how Nigeria will ever be able to control the 4,000-km border it shares with four countries. 
The smooth tarmac road leading to the Cameroonian frontier may lull travellers into a false sense of security. Driving during the rainy season can be a tortuous process. Once over the rickety iron bridge at immigration, a seemingly endless muddy track awaits, worming its way through thick jungle from the border town of Ekok to the next big town, Mamfe, 70km to the east. Deep trenches signal where a new road will, at some point, be built by the Chinese International Water and Electric Board—a project supported by the African Development Bank, the World Bank and the Japanese International Corporation Agency. In the meantime, cars and top-heavy trucks negotiate their way along the crooked track. Many get stuck.
Slow progress resulted in an overnight stay in Mamfe, infamous for witchcraft. An oppressive Catholic Church looms over the main street, which is bustling with traders in fruit, phone cards and sweets. Restaurants, dimly lit by a single light bulb in some cases, have been cobbled together with wooden planks. A waitress at the hotel directed us to the “best” of the makeshift restaurants for a plate of rice and an eye-watering spicy tomato sauce served by a skinny elderly lady in a floral apron. 
The refurbished road from Mamfe to Bamenda, further east, is a sign of things to come. What was once a two to four day journey now takes a few hours and the smooth tarmac road has halved the cost of transport. But the region’s roads remain a big problem. So much so that during Cameroon’s election last month, the electoral commission, ELECAM, resorted to dropping campaign material by helicopter in parts of the southwest. It probably made little difference to the election’s outcome. The ruling People's Democratic Movement, headed by President Paul Biya who has led the country since 1982, retained its control of the national assembly, though with a reduced majority. Corruption remains rife and elections lack credibility, but Cameroonians proudly declare that their country is doing better than most of its conflict-ridden neighbours.
Baobab finally arrived in Douala the following day. Amid the chaotic urban sprawl of honking traffic jams, the quickest, though not always the safest, way to get around is by motorbike. The Marché de Lagos, saturated with people and cheap Chinese goods, resembles its namesake. Women in tight skirts dance energetically to the Nigerian music throbbing through the trendy clubs. “Yaoundé [the capital] sleeps, Douala moves,” say Cameroonians. One way to put their mantra to the test was to request a haircut at 1.30 am. The barman nodded and minutes later a burly Cameroonian dressed in impeccable barber whites arrived, plugging shearers into a socket hanging precariously from the wall by its wires. Baobab’s travelling companion pointed to the neatly shorn head of the barman. The barber nodded solemnly and got to work on his client’s long golden locks. 
- correspondent's diary. Economist

Grow Your Business - Building brands in Africa, Pyramid scheme

 To reach Africa’s poorest consumers, face-to-face contact works best

DISPOSABLE nappies take up much of the shelf space at the ABC Supermarket in Kliptown, a district of Soweto, an urban sprawl west of Johannesburg. “Kliptown is a baby town,” says Mossa, the ABC’s owner. His store carries a wide range of nappies, from global brands such as Huggies and Pampers to less familiar lines from Egypt and Turkey.
Outside its doors a team of locals is promoting Huggies to passing mums. Like Pampers they are sold singly so parents can buy one for when a reliable nappy is critical (a long trip in a cramped minibus, say). However, says the team leader, Sipho, Huggies also come in a bag that will safely store a used nappy until it can be binned.Sipho’s team works for The Creative Counsel (TCC), a firm that specialises in marketing to the poorest consumers at the “bottom of the pyramid”, a term popularised by the late C.K. Prahalad, a management guru. TCC was established in 2001 as a two-person advertising agency by Ran Neu-Ner and Gil Oved. It has grown into one of South Africa’s largest. As well as Kimberley-Clark, the maker of Huggies, its clients include Unilever, Danone and Vodacom, part of Vodafone. TCC wins business because, as well as crafting a sales message, it can deploy a small army of people like Sipho to deliver it.
In the past international firms often took a simplistic view that African consumers aspired to a Western lifestyle, says Mr Oved. But billboard and newspaper campaigns based on that premise lacked impact. Imported television ads dubbed in local vernacular were scorned. Building brand loyalty among low-income shoppers is a job best done by folk who speak the language and know the lives of people they are selling to. That is why in places like Soweto TCC employs locals to work as cheerleaders for brands.
Its promoters can be found in strip malls and taxi ranks, and at funerals and weddings. Red-shirted Vodacom promoters dispense advice on phones and call plans. Envoys for Unilever in Soweto make up to 100 house calls a day hawking Lipton teas, Knorr seasonings and other products from the firm’s range. On a busy weekend TCC might have 10,000 promoters at work. To manage this army requires hundreds of office staff and no little technology. The firm thus employs an unusual mix of logistic and artistic people. On-the-ground intelligence about how a new campaign is faring is fed back to headquarters, so it can be tweaked if need be.
Marketing types the world over know that word-of-mouth recommendations carry more punch than advertisements. This is especially true in Africa, where the mass media are fragmented and brands less familiar. Shoppers on tight budgets can ill afford to make bad choices. They value advice from peers and a chance to sample before they buy. And they repay such engagement with loyalty. A survey last year by McKinsey, a consultancy, found that 59% of African grocery shoppers stuck with their favoured brands, compared with 38% that chose the cheapest deal on offer.
Yet creating loyalty is only half of the battle. Brands must first be on the shelf before they can fly off it. Around three-quarters of the money spent in Soweto is captured by informal traders, who sell from spazas (kiosks) and makeshift stalls, says G.G. Alcock, the boss of Minanawe, an agency that has built a big database of such outlets. TCC bought a stake in Minanawe in 2011. It realised it had to devise marketing campaigns for informal traders in parallel with the promotions that it was aiming at consumers.
Even the biggest branded-goods firms see value in building links with the spazas. Minanawe advised Parmalat on such a campaign. The Italian dairy giant supplied branded menu boards and aprons to Soweto’s informal food kiosks to promote the sale of its cheese slices in “kotas”, quarter-loaves of bread stuffed with chips and a variety of meats. The market is bigger than it might seem. Marks, the owner of a modest-looking fast-food spaza in Soweto, says he sells 2,400 kotas a day and spends 20,000 rand ($2,000) each morning on ingredients at his wholesalers. He may not look it, but he is quite the big cheese.

Time to stop smiling and start frowning

"A special campaign by BusinessDay"

Time to stop smiling and start frowning

E - Report! Sport - Serena can get even better – Coach

Serena Williams’s coach Patrick Mouratoglou says the world number one can do even better next year.
Williams retained the WTA Championships on Sunday, her 11th title of the season, to improve her 2013 record to 78 wins with only four defeats.
“We’ve spoken about 2014 already with goals to do better than this year because I think it is possible,” Mouratoglou told BBC Sport.
“If we keep this mentality I don’t see any reason why she would slow down.”
American Williams, who came from behind to beat Li Na in three sets in Istanbul, has won 20 more matches this season than she has ever managed previously.
As well as winning 25 sets by a 6-0 margin, the 17-time Grand Slam winner has also become the first woman to win more than $10m (£6.19m) prize money in a single season.
“She loves playing tennis, she loves winning, she wants to stay number one, she wants to keep on winning – and she wants to be better,” added Mouratoglou.
Even at the age of 32, Williams says she cannot imagine life without playing tennis.
Roger Federer, also a 17-time Grand Slam champion, is 49 days older than Williams and the Swiss has experienced a slide down the men’s world rankings this season.
In contrast, Williams has had arguably the most successful season of her career.
“She has 100 per cent of her physical abilities today, which counts for a lot,” said Mouratoglou.

Grow Your Business - The Five Characteristics of Successful Innovators

The Five Characteristics of Successful Innovators

There is not much agreement about what makes an idea innovative, and what makes an innovative idea valuable.
For example, discussions on whether the internet is a better invention than the wheel are more likely to reveal personal preferences than logical argumentation. Likewise, experts disagree on the type and level of innovation that is most beneficial for organizations. Some studies suggest that radical innovation (which does sound sexy) confers sustainable competitive advantages, but others show that “mild” innovation – think iPhone 5 rather than the original iPhone – is generally more effective, not least because it reduces market uncertainty. There is also inconclusive evidence on whether we should pay attention to consumers’ views, with some studies showing that a customer focus is detrimental for innovation because it equates to playing catch-up, but others arguing for it. Even Henry Ford’s famous quote on the subject – “if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses” – has been disputed.
We are also notoriously bad at evaluating the merit of our own ideas. Most people fall trap of an illusory superiority that causes them to overestimate their creative talent, just as in other domains of competence (e.g., 90% of drivers claim to be above average — a mathematical improbability). It is therefore clear that we cannot rely on people’s self-evaluation to determine whether their ideas are creative or not.
Yet there are relatively well-defined criteria for predicting who will generate creative ideas. Indeed, research shows that some people are disproportionately more likely to come up with novel and useful ideas, and that – irrespective of their field of expertise, job title and occupational background – these creative individuals tend to display a recurrent set of psychological characteristics and behaviors. As summarized in a detailed review of over 100 scientific studies, creative people tend to be better at identifying (rather than solving) problems, they are passionate and sensitive, and, above all, they tend to have a hungry mind: they are open to new experiences, nonconformist, and curious. These personality characteristics are stronger determinants of creative potential than are IQ, school performance, or motivation.
Creativity alone, however, is not sufficient for innovation: innovation also requires the development, production, and implementation of an idea. This is why the number of “latent” innovators is far larger than the number of actual innovations, and why we all have at some point generated great ideas that we never bothered to implement. Here are a couple of mine: rent-a-friend – a service that enables tourists to hire locals for advice or simply some company – and location-based dating via an app that finds your nearby matches based on personality profiling. As with most of my ideas, these have since been successfully implemented by others, who also happened to have them.
The key difference between creativity and innovation is execution: the capacity to turn an idea into a successful service, product or venture. If, as William James noted, “truth is something that happens to an idea”, entrepreneurship is the process by which creative ideas become useful innovations. Given that entrepreneurship involves human agency – it depends on the decisions and behaviors of certain people – a logical approach for understanding the essence of innovation is to study the core characteristics of entrepreneurial people, that is, individuals who are a driving force of innovation, irrespective of whether they are self-employed, business founders, or employees. The research highlights several key characteristics (in addition to creativity):
  1. An opportunistic mindset that helps them identify gaps in the market. Opportunities are at the heart of entrepreneurship and innovation, and some people are much more alert to them than others. In addition, opportunists are genetically pre-wired for novelty: they crave new and complex experiences and seek variety in all aspects of life. This is consistent with the higher rates of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder among business founders.
  2. Formal education or training, which are essential for noticing new opportunities or interpreting events as promising opportunities. Contrary to popular belief, most successful innovators are not dropout geniuses, but well-trained experts in their field. Without expertise, it is hard to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information; between noise and signals. This is consistent withresearch showing that entrepreneurship training does pay off.
  3. Proactivity and a high degree of persistence, which enable them to exploit the opportunities they identify. Above all, they effective innovators are more driven, resilient, and energetic than their counterparts.
  4. A healthy dose of prudence. Contrary to what many people think, successful innovators are more organized, cautious, and risk-averse than the general population. (Although higher risk-taking is linked to business formation, it is not actually linked to business success).
  5. Social capital, which they rely on throughout the entrepreneurial process. Serial innovators tend to use their connections and networks to mobilize resources and build strong alliances, both internally and externally. Popular accounts of entrepreneurship tend to glorify innovators as independent spirits and individualistic geniuses, but innovation is always the product of teams. In line, entrepreneurial people tend to have higher EQ, which enables them to sell their ideas and strategy to others, and communicate the core mission to the team.
Even when people possess these five characteristics, true innovation is unlikely to occur in the absence of a meaningful mission or clear long-term vision. Indeed, vision is where entrepreneurship meets leadership: regardless of how creative, opportunistic, or proactive you are, the ability to propel others toward innovation is a critical feature of successful innovation. Without it, you can’t attract the right talent, build and empower teams, or ensure that you remain innovative even after attaining success. As Frances Bowen and colleagues recently noted, there is “a vicious circle [whereby] innovation leads to superior future performance, but such investment can also give rise to core rigidities and hence less innovation in a future time period.” In other words, innovation leads to growth, but growth hinders innovation… unless innovation is truly ingrained in the organizational culture, which requires an effective vision.
In short, there is no point in just hoping for a breakthrough idea – what matters is the ability to generate many ideas, discover the right opportunities to develop them, and act with drive and dedication to achieve a meaningful goal.
Ideas don’t make people successful – it’s the other way around.
by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic HBR

Grow Your Business - SEO vs PPC: Getting it right

" This article will help you in deciding which option to go for when you want to advertise your business online"

If you are a decision maker or a marketing team leader, sooner or later, one of the decisions you will need to make is how to get more customers on a low budget. Also if you have ever considered increasing your sales online, one of the options you will choose will be to either run a Pay Per Click or an Organic Search Engine Optimisation campaign.
First, let us get a background check on it.
How often have you tried to find the website of a company and instead of stretching your imagination to the limit, simply hit your most popular search engine and type a few words? Do the same thing when you want information about a topic.
When that is done, you will get two types of results. The top and right area represents paid search results, while the left area represents organic search results.
The outcomes from the search engine are either as a result of  “Organic Search Engine Optimisation technique”  or “Paid adverts or Pay Per Click”
Pay per Click is the process of displaying ads based on the chosen keyword. By using PPC, you have the power to make your business’ ads show up on Search Engine Result Pages for any search terms you choose. Also you will directly control the ad copy that is displayed along with the resulting ads.
You pay for these ads on a cost-per-click basis. But the exact method of payment merits some explanation. Think of each search query as an auction where the prize is a click on an ad from a user. So, it is a case of paying when a user clicks on your ad, rather than just having to pay for the ad up-front.
The difference between a click auction and a regular auction is that some calculation is done every time an auction takes place in order to determine the actual price any given advertiser pays per click. What this means is that the amount you bid will be less than the amount you will end up paying if you win the auction. In effect, your bid is the maximum you’re willing to spend per click.
Now that we have a basic understanding of what each term represens, it is also pertinent to know when either of the two should be used or how to combine both of them. More so, you need to understand the strength and weakness of each method before applying them to your specific need.
Comparing SEO and PPC
High ROI
Organic SEO has been known to yield better Returns on Investment than PPC over a long period of time. Once an organic position on SERP is reached, SEO will continue to give you more sales and leads than PPC. According to the graph, 40% of SEO achieve ROI in excess of 500 per cent, while only 22 per cent of PPC achieved the same value over the same period of time.
Increase in targeted traffic
Studies have shown that over 56 per cent of people will click on the first position in any Search Engine Result Page.  This means that people who are actually looking for your services or product will continue to find your services and product through your website. If you attain the first position for your targeted keyword while in PPC your traffic is already estimated and fixed.
SEO is known to take a long time before yielding results. In a particular case, results on organic SEO were seen only after a year of pure white hat technique. In PPC results are instant. Once your ad is approved, you immediately start to see results.
Cost implication
In terms of the initial cost applied, SEO has been known to be a cheaper advertising medium when compared to PPC. While you might need to pay a monthly maintenance fee to maintain your ranking, your PPC campaign can sometimes be affected if you change your Cost per Click bids
Human factor
One major disadvantage of PPC is the human elements that can be introduced into it. Your competitors might start clicking on your ads and they are not interested in buying. This is not possible in SEO.
Search engines like Google change their algorithm almost on a daily basis. Panda and most recently Penguin updates where the last two updates that changed the world of SEO and made SEO experts have sleepless night. The changes are so rampant that what works today might be considered black hat tomorrow. Therefore with organic SEO, there is no guarantee of you getting to the first position on any keyword but with PPC, no matter what keyword you rank, you are assured of appearing on the first page of SERP .Only the position might change.
Authority building
Organic SEO builds authority. People searching for any information tend to trust the first websites displayed on the SERP. This can be applied to mean more brand visibility but in PPC, people don’t really care because they know that for the right price, you can get listed there.
When it comes to SEO or PPC, it should not be a matter of “which”; but a matter of “When”


Grow Your Business - Impact of strategy on organisational performance

A notable ingredient that is lacking in business organisations today is strategy. Strategy is the master plan for any organisation to achieve its goals within specified time frames. Strategy needs to be embraced to engender sustainability of competitive advantage.
The overall purpose of business strategy is competitive advantage. Strategy came into being due to competition. The whole essence of strategy planning is to enable an organisation to gain a sustainable edge over its competitors. There is the basic need to leverage an organisation’s strength in a most efficient way over its competitors. This is the whole essence of a corporate strategy.
Strategy is all about developing action plans that enables an organisation to deploy its enterprising strength within its sphere of business operations. For strategy to achieve its purpose, there is the need for a deep thinking. To outsmart competitors is not an ordinary task. When an organisation strives to maintain a superior edge over competitors, the thought pattern of one helmsman should be different.
The role of the CEO
The CEO is expected to deploy his thinking antennae as if he is on the battlefield as a war general. What this implies is that the CEO of the organisation should be the lead strategist. A good business strategy is one in which a company can leverage significant advantage over its competitors. This means the task of doing this rests firmly on the shoulders of the CEO.
The CEO of an organisation should be a strategic thinker. He should see things from a broader horizon than the people he supervises. He needs to dissect trends, problems, prospects and package them to maximise business advantage for his organisation.
It is also important for the CEO to have a clear understanding of a particular challenge and situation and analyse same in an appropriate manner.
Highlight the critical issue
There is the need to penetrate the issue at hand by isolating all other scenarios to highlight the major one. There is the need to formulate a problem statement that will lead to the right solution. For any organisation, the formulation of the question involves the participation of all employees. The ideas and insights are gathered and later screened to arrive at the desired outcome. Failure to have a full grasp of the key issues affects the formulation of a potent strategy.
Thorough analysis is key
Beyond highlighting the critical issues, there should be a good and insightful analysis. Organisations need people with a combination of analytical skills and mental endowments. Analyses are not just done as routine exercises but should be programmed to achieve desired results. The CEO and other top management executives are not expected to conduct analyses to support their preconceived ideas. This will not deliver results and the organisation can never deploy a successful strategy to outwit its competitors.
How to gain strategic advantage
The need to take a critical look at the resources available is important. The implication of this is that an organisation will be able to adjust the allocation of resources at its disposal to strengthen its capabilities in the industry. An organisation needs to allocate new resources in the most effective way to gain significant advantage over competition.
To strengthen the strategic base of any organisation, the point of differentiation between an organisation and its competitors needs to be leveraged for an impact. This calls for a total look at the entire gamut of an organisation’s operations to utilise the difference in the composition of resources to gain leverage. The unique selling proposition of an organisation should differentiate its product and service quality from the competitor’s. This is a visible way to gain advantage in the market place.
A workable strategy demands unconventional approach to achieve desired results. To dislodge an established competitor, an organisation can challenge the accepted norms in doing business in the industry. This is based on an aggressive platform to re-invent the rules and change the equation. This will definitely enable an organisation to gain a competitive business advantage.
Innovation is fundamental to business strategy. The deployment of innovative techniques can strengthen an organisation’s grip on the industry. Innovation can occur through new product development, marketing initiatives and opening up new market opportunities. Occupying a space untouched by competitors is also an innovative approach.
The place of the customer in strategy development is central to its overall success. There is no point formulating a strategy without focusing on the end users. Customers need to be given a premium place for the strategy to achieve stipulated goals and objectives. The needs and expectations of the customers should be embedded in the strategy document.
An organisation’s strength should be leveraged upon to explore a business advantage. The major weapon to outwit competitors is strategic thinking. Organisations need to devise a channel through which they can break established competitive barriers. Insightful strategy leads to superior edge and business growth. This should be visible and discernible in the performance of the organisation.


Grow Your Business - A to Z of e-mail marketing

" If you are thinking of marketing your business though e-mail this is a good article for you. It puts email marketing into perspective".

Most inboxes are congested — filled to the brim with uninteresting, boring emails. In spite of efforts made by many entrepreneurs who make use of emails as a marketing strategy, many of such mails end up being drowned out in overflowing, noisy inboxes of subscribers. You hit ‘publish’ with a sigh of relief, but when you look at available statistics, you notice that the click-throughs are disappointing.
Does it feel like a big challenge to get people to open and read your emails; and then to go on to click through? It doesn’t really need to be so hard.
Whenever you’re emailing your list, what do you do — do you write as if you’re addressing a huge, faceless crowd of people? Do you write just like a massive corporate marketing department would? If you want your subscribers to look forward to your emails, you should consider behaving more like a friend.
Try toning down that corporate look, and create a more minimalist email design. Write in a conversational, respectful voice. Write as if you’re emailing one person only. It instantly makes your emails more personal (mention names, title, office, etc). Use your actual name, like Ayeni Ekundayo. Put your name and reputation on the line. That’s more personal, isn’t it? Email subject lines need to attract attention too, just like headlines do
Be trustworthy
Let people know what to expect. Yes, sales messages should be part of your email marketing, that’s fine. Just be clear about it when they sign up. Give people a reward for reading. Make sure people benefit from reading your emails. How? Share useful tips. Make them feel better. Inspire them. Use stories and real life tips. Promise something good. If people know specifically what they’ll learn or how exactly you’ll make them happier, more informed, or better at business, they’ll be itching to read more.
Use power words
Sensory and emotional words attract attention and make your subject lines stand out in crowded inboxes. Dare to be different and try something new. You’ll be surprised by what works and what doesn’t.
After getting people to open your emails now, what next? How do you keep their attention? How do you keep them reading your emails word for word?
Keep it short
Edit your emails with rigour. Long and unwieldy emails slaughter your readers’ interest. Challenge yourself to cut your text by half next time you edit. Endeavour to also ask questions. Imagine having a face-to-face conversation with your reader. You’d ask questions in that situation, wouldn’t you? In this light, don’t follow a strict formula. Add a personal touch, because you’re trying to get readers to know, like, and trust you,
Develop a voice
Stop thinking about email marketing. Consider your emails to be a way of talking to your customers or readers. You’re not just writing emails for fun. As a business owner, you have to sell to stay in business (whether you like it or not). Don’t sell before the prospect is ready. Become a friend and trusted source of information first; and your readers will more readily buy from you.
Highlight benefits
Don’t sell your product. Instead, sell the benefit it offers your customers. Show what readers will miss. Most people are averse to risks and they want to avoid inconveniences, glitches, and complications. Consider rephrasing the benefits of your offer. You should also cultivate the habit of presenting a clear deadline in your emails. It prevents people from procrastinating.
You can also insert multiple links to the same page of the email. This goes a long way in increasing the chances of people clicking on that link.
The harsh truth about email marketing is that everyone’s inbox is overflowing. Nobody is keen to receive more email. You should be honoured that people have opted into your mailing list and are happy to receive your messages. Each subscriber has given you a hard-earned vote of confidence.
But be careful. Never take anyone’s attention for granted, because everyone’s time is precious. Week in, week out, you have to prove your value to your email subscribers. Know your readers so well that you can empathise with their struggles. Ask questions and offer help.


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