Simplify Alignment with Framework Thinking

Simplify Alignment with Framework Thinking

Growing a business is hard. Entrepreneurs get started in business with a great idea and the energy to bring it to reality, and then grow the business based on their hard work and hopefully the hard work of a growing team of exceptional team players around them. But at some point the outcomes of that raw desire and entrepreneurial energy start to peak and then turn downward as the organization grows and the coordination of all of those exceptional players starts to become more difficult. What created success as a start-up organization in terms of agility, organic collaboration, and energy-driven execution starts to falter as the number of clients, the scale of the opportunities, and the complexity of the organization rises. (more…)...
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What’s the Headache?

What’s the Headache?

When you are thinking about starting a business, one of the first questions you need to be able to answer is: "What is the headache that I'm solving for, and how bad is the headache?". You need to solve a problem for someone (your target customer) that they recognize (it is a headache) and that they care about (it is a BAD headache). For a really incredible business you need to have a meaningful solution to their headache, not just something that dulls the pain. You need to be able to articulate how you will make the pain go away for good... not just how you can make the pain bearable. Consider the following scenario (based on one of my favourite quotes from Theodore Levitt): People don't want a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole. Theodore Levitt (more…)...
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What Are You Managing?

What Are You Managing?

As a business owner you know that you are often called upon to wear many hats, working long hours to ensure the job gets done, your customer is satisfied, your staff are paid, next week's marketing is complete, and your taxes and government remittances are taken care of.  After all it's been said many times that being an Entrepreneur is one of the most rewarding career options out there - provided you're willing to work 100 hour weeks. But why don't executives and Senior Managers in big business have to work those types of hours? After all their troubles and commitments are many multiples the size of your own.  How do they manage to better balance their work and non-work lives? The primary difference is that in a traditional "job" career you are given a narrow scope of work that is generally focused on the area of the business you know best and can bring the most focused value to.  In a...
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The Slipping Point

The Slipping Point

At some point in the evolution of even the most successful companies, an interesting thing happens – growth stalls.  Even the brightest and most experienced Entrepreneurs and managers are perplexed as the things they did to create the initial growth in the company no longer drive new revenues.  In fact if they stick with old methods and ideas things go from bad to worse as revenues and profits start to fall.  I call this moment of change a ‘slipping point’, and no business is immune to them. The reason that slipping points happen is that as companies grow their needs and markets change, but due to the slow and incremental nature of these changes they are hard to recognize until things have stalled out. The leadership skills that take a company from inception to $5 million in revenue are different than the leadership skills that are required to take a company from $5 million to $15 million.  The process of creating...
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Out Of The Box Opportunities

Out Of The Box Opportunities

There is a great article in this week's BusinessWeek magazine entitled 'Fertile Ground for Startups' that illustrates the opportunities that are at hand for truly innovative ideas in today's economy.  The article outlines that investment by angel investors and venture capitalists is up significantly over the first half of this year, and that as many as 50,000 new businesses will obtain some form of angel or venture investment in 2009 in the US. The article also highlights some of the ideas that are getting money, and there seems to be a pretty consistent theme - innovation gets investment. After the past 18-24 months of economic turmoil it shouldn't surprise anyone that it is innovation that is leading the way out of the mess.  Innovation has been a great buzzword for the past 10-15 years, but only a few of the really great companies have been able to really harness its power within their existing corporate frameworks, leaving much of the opportunity for the development...
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Appropriate Management Controls for Small Business

Appropriate Management Controls for Small Business

For those that read this blog regularly or who have spoken with me at one of the various networking events that I regularly participate in you know that my passion is in creating growth through value innovation, but I have had a couple of conversations in the past week with colleagues in other businesses about management controls so I thought I'd share my thoughts on specifically management controls and small business. One of my pet peeves (and one of the main reasons I haven't spent a lot of time in larger more bureaucratic organizations) is process for the sake of process, and I truly believe that management controls used poorly constitute exactly this problem.  One of the most innovation stifling innovations is the standard operating procedure, specifically if it implemented before there is a specific need for control or before an organization has grown to a size that would justify requiring that level of control. When speaking with one colleague he demonstrated for...
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Interesting Small Business Statistics

Interesting Small Business Statistics

While these statistics aren't particularly new (they come from a 2005 Industry Canada report) I came across them this week while working on a white paper and I think they bear some brief discussion here. In Canada, 94.6% of businesses by number are 'small' meaning that they have less than 50 employees.  The actual number startled me a bit when I read it so I felt I had to dig deeper.  Looking across the provinces and territories, the numbers are fairly uniform - all within one percent or so - something that really surprised me.  I would have expected to find higher percentages in the prairie provinces where there is a higher percentage of agriculture or in Ontario and Quebec, the hotbeds of economic activity.  The report really gets interesting when you look at employment and GDP however.  These same small businesses that make up almost 95% of the business environment employ only 40% of the population (26.7% in goods producing sectors and 73.3%...
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Packaging Matters

Packaging Matters

As I noted in my last entry, platform thinking is a problem when you try to communicate the value of your product or service offering to a potential client.  The problem is that I have been struggling with the same issue for the past couple of months and only now have been able to put together the compelling story for my own business.  (Something that several in my network have been pointing out to me for a while now). Putting together the compelling story that will sell your product or services can feel like either finding a needle in a haystack (if you are unsure of who your target market is) or limiting your potential (if you are guilty of platform thinking).  I have always been sure that my target market is the Entrepreneurs who run new and small businesses in Halton and Hamilton so I didn't have the problem of the haystack, but I come from a generalist background so colour me guilty...
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The Power of Connected Advisors

The Power of Connected Advisors

This week I have been lucky enough to meet a number of dynamic new people that I am happy to have added to my personal and professional network, and I am very thankful for the opportunity to have met them, learn about their businesses and challenges, and hopefully help them in some way to achieve a greater level of success. But it also occurred to me that it is as a result of my being open to listen to their comments, accept their criticisms, and make my own commitments to them that I am finding such early success with the launch of Key Consulting. I am surprised every day as I go out and meet with business owners and leaders how many people work as a team of one, whether as an Entrepreneur or in a career position.  Unfortunately these people never achieve the level of success that they are dreaming of and they never achieve those 'big goals' that they seem to...
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Great Tips from Mike Splinter

Great Tips from Mike Splinter

I was reading the current issue of Fortune Magazine and there is a regular section in the Technology pages called 'The Best Advice I Ever Got'.  This week I particularly enjoyed the tips that were shared by Mike Splinter, CEO of Applied Materials (NASDAQ:AMAT) in California.  In my opinion he has really hit the nail on the head in terms of some of the characteristics and key behaviours of true leaders. Mike first speaks about the best advice he ever got, from former Intel CEO Andy Grove.  Grove was giving a talk to new management hires trying to provide them with some foundation and understanding of the Intel culture.  In his talk he told them to "always assume it's your responsibility." Always assume it's your responsibility. What a great concept and an incredible underpinning for a corporate culture.  What if everyone in your business assumed that everything was their responsibility?  As a small store owner can you imagine a world where all of your employees took it upon themselves to sweep...
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