Friday 8 November 2013

Grow Your Business - 3 Ways to Pitch Yourself in 30 Seconds

People often think of the elevator pitch as something you use when you’re interviewing for a new job or trying to raise capital for a new venture. The elevator pitch, however, is no less important once you’ve got the job as it is when you’re looking.
In fact, your personal 30-second spiel about who you are, how you’re different, and why you’re memorable is arguably more important once you’ve landed that great position or won the support of investors and now interact with senior colleagues and important clients regularly.
A managing director on Wall Street once told me of a summer associate who made an uncharacteristically strong impression on senior leadership during a welcoming cocktail party. Within days, the managing director received numerous calls from senior partners advising him to “make sure she gets the attention and resources she needs to succeed this summer.” The young woman’s career has been on the fast track ever since.
So what can you possibly say over canapés and white wine to create so many powerful advocates so quickly and effectively? Think through the following ideas before you craft your pitch:
  1. Have a compelling reason for why you want to be there, as in “why did you decide to join the firm?”
  2. Know what it is that uniquely qualifies you for the position so that you can answer the how, as in “how did you actually get a job here?”
  3. Be able to explain what ties together past and current experiences in a way that is compelling and makes sense — what is the glue that holds your story together?
Of course, no executive or senior manager would dare ask those questions, but your elevator pitch is your opportunity to communicate these critical pieces of information to someone in a crisp but casual way — without even being asked.
As you answer the why, how, and what,
  1. Think relevant, not recent. There’s no rule that says you must talk about your resume in reverse chronological order. Mike was a marketing executive who took a sales position abroad for two years. Yet when he returned to marketing, he kept introducing himself as a someone who had just made a career switch, always leading off with an anecdote about his short stint in sales. Instead, Mike should have started with the fact that he was a seasoned marketing professional who had taken a sabbatical but was now back where he belonged — putting his marketing prowess to work and thinking about what drives consumer spending habits.
  2. Focus on skills-based versus situation or industry-based qualifications. You don’t have to have a background in finance to be good at finance. Alex was a chemist and researcher who had gone back to business school to get her MBA. She decided she wanted to work in corporate finance for a large pharmaceutical company but she was afraid no one would take her seriously given her background. When I pressed Alex to explain to me why she chose finance, she exclaimed, “That’s the way my brain works.” Her thinking was methodical, mathematical and formulaic — all of which translated to someone who was a natural fit within a corporate finance department. Instead of focusing on the fact that her background was in academia, Alex could emphasize to colleagues and clients that she was a numbers person at her core.
  3. Connect the dots — what ties it all together? If you are a chemist turned finance professional or a marketing executive with experience in international sales, you should find a way to bring together the richness of your experiences and show how each one complements the other. For me, personally, I had a significant hurdle to clear with clients as a former Peace Corps volunteer turned investment banker. I explained away the dichotomy of the two by emphasizing to others that I was big picture thinker by nature and a numbers person by training. Banking was a perfect combination of the two — I liked looking at client’s challenges and issues from 30,000 feet and then digging down into the details to come up with creative financing solutions. Whether the client was the mayor of my Peace Corps town in Chile or the CEO of a healthcare company, I could start at a high level and drill down quickly and effectively.
Mike, Alex and I were all arguably better positioned because of our unique stories and experiences. Ask yourself these questions as your craft your personal pitch and you’ll be able to use your story to impress others from the get-go too.

by Jodi Glickman  HBR

Grow Your Business - Advice from successful entrepreneurs

While the list of inspirational quotes is like the universe; vast and constantly expanding, here are six seeds of wisdom from successful entrepreneurs.

Mary Kay Ash – founder, Mary Kay Incorporated
“We must have a theme, a goal, a purpose in our lives. If you don’t know where you are aiming, you don’t have a goal.”
After being passed up for a promotion after 25 years in the direct selling business, Mary Kay Ash took her $5,000 in savings and created Beauty by Mary Kay. The company was founded on the belief that women could foster their talents and realise unlimited success. Today, Mary Kay Incorporated has more than 2 million independent beauty consultants worldwide. In addition to founding Mary Kay, Ash authored three books which all became best sellers.

 Thomas Edison – Inventor
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Edison developed the phonograph, commercially practical light bulbs and the motion picture camera. He was a pioneer in applying mass production to the process of invention, and he was known for his systematic approach to research and development. He is credited with creating the first industrial research laboratory.
As the holder of more than 1,000 United States patents, Thomas Edison was one of the most productive inventors in history. Edison accepted the progression that is inherent to success. He demonstrated that each step in the process is vital to meeting the goal.

 Yvon Chouinard – founder of Patagonia
“How you climb a mountain is more important than reaching the top.”
As a member of the Southern California Falconry Club, Yvon Chouinard, dissatisfied with the climbing equipment that was available, decided to make his own. He purchased a coal-fired forge, an anvil, tongs and hammers. He set up a shop in his parents’ backyard. By 1970, Chouinard Equipment became the largest climbing hardware supplier in the United States.
Since founding Patagonia, one of the world’s most successful outdoor clothing and gear companies, Chouinard has been a pioneer in mixing environmentalism with sound business practices. How we play the game, whether in business or in life, can matter more than how we finish.

 William Rosenberg – founder of Dunkin’ Donuts
“Show me a person who never made a mistake, and I will show you a person who never did anything.”
In the 1940s, William Rosenberg founded Industrial Luncheon Services using $1,500 in war bonds and $1,000 in borrowed seed capital. Following its success, and noticing that a significant percentage of revenues came from coffee and doughnuts, Rosenberg founded the Dunkin’ Donuts franchise in 1950. Dunkin’ Donuts is now represented in 32 countries with more than 10,000 locations.

 Bottom line
For thousands of years, entrepreneurs have discovered, invented, created, developed, improved and theorised. Their quotes help to explain their mode of operation and the reasons they believe they have become successful. Their words of wisdom may also motivate others to set goals, embrace failure and learn from their mistakes.

Five ways to know your budget is broken

Five ways to know your budget is broken.

Having a budget is the first step toward financial freedom, security and success. But just creating a budget isn’t enough – it has to be a budget you can stick with; one that works for you, not against you. Here are five signs that it’s time to re-evaluate your budget.
Consistent monthly financial restructuring
Everything seems fine and dandy at the beginning of a new month. But as the weeks pass, things begin to change. You might be overspending in certain categories or dealing with unexpected costs, but whatever the reason, towards the end of the month, you are forced to make major changes in your budget.
Remember, your budget should keep you in line and on track from the first of the month until the last day of the month. If you consistently find yourself having to make changes, just to make ends meet, something isn’t working out.
Tip: Take a look at your budget every time you write out a check, use cash or make a purchase with your debit card. This will ensure that you stay on track throughout the month.
Over reliance on credit
Using credit cards if you are responsible enough to pay off the balance monthly isn’t a problem. But a problem does arise when someone relies solely on credit to get by. If your budget is broken, you may notice you depend upon your credit cards to make ends meet, especially at the end of the month. This is a telltale sign that your budget is in desperate need of attention, and should not be ignored.
Your books never balance
The money that you have at the beginning of the month needs to cover your expenses until the end of the month. Your budget and accounting system should appropriately reflect this. If they don’t, it may not seem like a big deal at first. But the risk is that a long-term imbalance in your books will become a massive issue.
Increasing financial fights with your partner
A bad financial situation can begin to take a negative toll on your life and relationships. “Your budget never works;” “We never have any money;” or “Why do we keep spending money on this?” are phrases that might come up if you’re consistently fighting with your partner about your finances.
Instead of “we never have any money,” you should focus on “why don’t we have any money?” This gives you the chance to work together to find a solution.
Always borrowing money from friends and family
This sign, above all else, is one of desperation. Taking money from a retirement account should never be an option, as the penalties can be very high and a large financial blow. Along with this, borrowing money from friends and family runs the risk of souring your relationships. This is something that can have a negative effect on your budget, as well as your relationships with other people.
As tempting as it may be, borrowing from friends or family, or taking money from your savings or retirement is a mistake. Make a rule: you will only do this under the most desperate of times, and if you have exercised all other options. If you need to borrow money to eat and pay the rent, so be it. If you need to borrow money to go to the movies and dinner, you are out of luck.
The final word
Living with a broken budget can damage not only your finances, but also your relationships with those around you. So, it’s important to be able to pick out the signs of a cracked budget in order to implement the changes that will fix it in the long run.


Grow Your Business - The Problem with the CEO’s Job Title

To all you entrepreneurs and anyone that aspires to be one, this is a must read for you"

The Problem with the CEO’s Job Title

The title Chief Executive Officer is something of a misnomer. The task of a CEO — and for that matter of any manager — is not wholly or even primarily about execution.  In fact, when the CEO starts to “do” things, and starts becoming more “active,” that is usually when a company gets into trouble. An effective CEO makes things happen principally through his executive colleagues, aptly called “Chiefs” too: the CFO, CCO, and COO. Of course, given that these team members are Chiefs as well, they also should not be doing too much, either. Their job is to  make sure that, in turn, their teams do most of the “execution” work. And so on.
In fact, if you ask successful executives to describe what keeps them so busy, you’ll typically get a list of six truly distinct tasks:
  1. Visioning, or framing of their firm’s business challenge;
  2. Planningor generating potential solutions to the issue at hand;
  3. Deciding, or making a commitment to a course of action;
  4. Explaining the rationale that led to this commitment, and presenting the legitimate expectations stakeholders can hold about the results that will be produced, about how this will be done, and about the rewards that successful execution allows (all of which may cause a change in the decision taken);
  5. Executing, where all energies are devoted to the execution of the decisions, until results are realized, and which concludes with the distribution of rewards; and finally
  6. Evaluating, where one evaluates both the process followed in generating a vision, and the outcomes thus obtained and the rewards shared, with a search for errors that may have occurred, and for corrections and adaptations that need to be made for errors not to be repeated in the future.
Few executives, of course, are good at all of these tasks. The key to identifying where the greatest need for improvement is, therefore, to ask executives this question: what is your biggest improvement wish concerning your boss and colleagues in the executive team you are a member of?
Answers to this question are diverse, but have a common and remarkable pattern:  first, the activity least identified actually concerns Executing (5 in the above list). This answer is a stark opposite to the commonly heard complaint from CEO’s that the greatest difficulty they face concerns execution!  Secondly, the large majority of answers (typically above 70 to 80%) lie in the first four steps.  Thirdly, the single biggest frustration of business executives in their “up-teams” lies in tasks 3 and 4:Deciding and Explaining.
These questions to followers reveal what business executives want from their CEOs and their senior executives: make clear decisions and communicate them to us, with their rationale and implications. Trust us, support us, and leave execution to us — and stop thinking that the execution problem is (only or largely) with us. Execution, when well framed, well motivated and well prepared, is the easiest step in management: all that is left, under those conditions, is to execute what we agreed upon in our meetings.  The difficult task lies in the preparation of execution, and after execution, in proper evaluation, learning and correction.
The language used in business at the top is thus a problem: it anchors executive action (and mindset) precisely where the challenge does not lie!  Perhaps, therefore, it’s time to change the label:  The British term Managing Director or the French equivalent Directeur Général both appear superior to CEO.  But perhaps an even more accurate title would be Chief Decision Officer as this is the task that rests most fully on the shoulders of the boss. Chief Framing Officer probably won’t work (because of the acronym confusion with Chief Financial Officer) but perhaps Chief Evaluation Officer would (at least it shares the acronym).
The point here is not so much to replace a bad title with another partially flawed one, but rather to identify the duality at the heart of the executive’s job: responsibility for actions mostly and largely taken by others, that are influenced by (always imperfect) framing, and the need to (always imperfectly) make adaptations revealed through imperfect execution. CEOs do not so much execute as influence execution through framing, decision-making, and evaluation.  Of course, it would be better if their job title did reflect that fact.

by Ludo Van der Heyden HBR

Grow Your Business - Why Your Innovation Contest Won’t Work

"This is an interesting read"

What’s the best way to quickly improve innovation in your organization?
That was the question posed to me recently by Warwick, the head of innovation for the Australia and New Zealand region of a multinational engineering firm.  He asked because their CEO had just announced a new innovation initiative.  It’s an idea contest – submit your ideas, and the person that submits the best one wins $10,000.
If you think about this for a minute, you can see a few assumptions about innovation that underlie this contest:
  1. The main problem the firm has with innovation is that they don’t have enough ideas.
  2. The reason that people aren’t innovating is that they aren’t being paid enough to do so.
  3. Idea generation is the best place to invest money to improve innovation.
All three of these assumptions are false, and that is why this initiative isn’t going to work.  This is the most common innovation mistake that I see: acting like innovation is all about generating new ideas.
Innovation is the process of idea management – so, yes, you need great ideas to innovate, but that is only part of it.  You also need to be able to select ideas.  Once you’ve done that, you need the ability to execute them.  While all this is going on, you have to keep people inside your organization enthusiastic about the ideas.  And at the end of all of this, you have to get your great new idea to spread.  To innovate, you need to be good at all of these things.
Morten Hansen and Julian Birkinshaw refer to this process as the Innovation Value Chain, and they say that to innovate successfully, you need to be good at all of these steps.
Over the past five years, I have had all of my MBA and Executive Education students evaluate the Innovation Value Chain within their organizations.  Over that time they have analyzed the innovation capability of more than 300 organizations.  They cover the full spectrum – large multinationals and tiny start-ups; for-profit, not-for-profit and NGOs; private sector, government units and university sections.
Out of all of these organizations, only about 10 are idea-poor.  That’s less than 4%.  The other 96% of organizations have problems with other parts of the innovation process.  So the first assumption of Warwick’s CEO is wrong.  We know that there are actually plenty of good ideas in the firm – the bigger issue is figuring out how to sort them out and get them executed.
The second assumption is just as wrong.  The CEO is assuming that the best way to motivate innovative people is with money.  This is a bad approach to take with innovation and other creative work.  Dan Pink does a great job of summarizing the research on this in his book Drive.  The research shows that to motivate work built on creativity, people need autonomy, mastery and purpose.
The problem here is that it is a lot easier to offer a $10,000 prize than it is to design work so that people have autonomy, mastery and purpose.  That requires an entirely new approach to management for most organizations.  This is why many innovation initiatives fail – managers simply try to bolt an innovation initiative onto an existing business model that is ill-suited to innovating.  If you want to start thinking about how to make changes in this area, answer this question: what would I do differently if everyone reporting to me were a volunteer?
The third assumption is also wrong.  This follows from the discussion of the first assumption.  If innovation is a process, and most firms are weakest in activities other than idea generation, than it should be clear that the most sensible place to invest money is in the area where you’re weakest.
So why do organizations focus on improving idea generation, when this is almost never the problem? Because idea generation is the easy part! It’s the one area where you can show measurable improvement almost immediately.
But if your main weakness is idea selection, or idea execution, then generating more ideas won’t help.  In fact, generating more ideas can actually make you less innovative, because the weaknesses in other parts of the process will sink the new efforts, which in turn increases the frustration of your people – demotivating them.
So what should Warwick’s CEO do?
The first thing that I would recommend is evaluating the firm’s innovation strengths and weaknesses.  The Hansen and Birkinshaw article includes a quiz for this, but there is an even better version available in the Australian Public Sector Innovation Report.  The assessment will indicate which part of the process is the weak link in the chain.
Once this weakness is identified, take the $10,000 and invest it in improving that part of the process.  It will likely involve making genuine changes in the way things are managed.  But it will lead to genuine improvement too.  After six months or a year, run the assessment again to see if things are better.  If they are, start working on the next weakest link in the chain.  Over time, innovation really will improve.
I wonder if I could submit that idea into the contest?
by Tim Kastelle HBR

Nigerian Boy, 3, Murdered After He Wet The Bed in London

A man has been found guilty of murdering his partner's three-year-old nephew after the child wet the bed they were sharing.
Ben Igbinedion, 44, inflicted "catastrophic" injuries upon Daniel Evbuomwan that were so severe they were likened to those caused by a car crash.
Igbinedion, of Bromley, south London, had put Daniel back to sleep in a different bed but when family members tried to wake him in the morning he did not respond.
The youngster suffered multiple injuries to his ribs and multiple fractures to his pelvis.
They were described by Professor Anthony Risdon, who carried out a post-mortem examination as "among the most severe he had seen".
Daniel had been living with his grandmother Rosemary since earlier this year and was in normal physical health but all that dramatically changed when he went to stay with Igbinedion and his family in March, the court heard.
Daniel's grandmother had wanted to go shopping and to church so it was decided he should stay with his aunt Sandra Okundaye, a nurse, and her partner Igbinedion, jurors were told.
Ms Okundaye was away working that night and Igbinedion was left in charge of looking after Daniel and his three children, the trial heard.
At bedtime, Igbinedion stated that Daniel and his youngest son should sleep in his room, while the other children slept in their own room, it was claimed.
In the early hours of the morning on March 2, one of the children was woken by Igbinedion telling off Daniel for wetting the bed, the court heard.
Giving his own evidence, Igbinedion told the court that he treated the boy as if he was his own son.
Igbinedion claimed he woke Daniel up at 5.30am to use the toilet, before returning the boy to the children's bedroom and turning the light off.
He accepted the youngster had been well during the day but could not explain what happened.
Daniel's cousins had tried to wake the boy but after several attempts he slumped from the bed to the floor.
He was taken to University Hospital in Lewisham, south east London, where he was pronounced dead at 11.25am.
Igbinedion, who denied murder but was convicted at the Old Bailey, is due to be sentenced on November 27.

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