Topics

Accounting Advertising Advisor Analysis Apps Balance Sheet Barriers to Entry Beachhead Benefits Better Books Bottom Up / Top Down Brainstorming Brainwriting Budget Business Flow Business Model Cash Flow Commercialization Communications Competition Competitive Advantage Consultant Corporate Entrepreneurship CQs Creativity Critical Success Factor Culture Customer Decisions Deploy Design Develop Differentiation DXpedition Earn EBITDA Education Effectiveness Elevator Pitch Entrepreneur Entrepreneurship Environment Evolution Executive Summary Exercise Expenses Expertise Failure Finance Financial Objectives Flags Flowchart Focus Funding Fuzzy-to-Firm GizmoGadget Glossary Goals Habits Healthy Venture Hiring HOTI Chart Hypothesis Ideas Ideation Income Statement Industry Industry Research Innovate-A-thon Innovation Innovator Intellectual Property Internet Intrapreneurship Invention Inventory Investor Iteration Knowledge Launch Leadership Lean Startup Learning Legal Luck Machines Management Manpower Market Research Marketing Marketing Brochure Material Media Media Relations Mentor Methods Mindset Mission Mistakes Money Motivation Myths Name News Release Niche Market Objectives Operating Agreement Operations Opportunity Passion Patents People Planning Positioning PR Presentations Price Problems Process Flow Product Development Productivity Profit Progress Promotion Prototype Publicity Questions Refine Research Resources Return on Investment Roadmap Sales SCAMPER SCORE Scorecard Skills Slides Solution Development Solutions Something SPLUCK Start-up Stimulation Strategies Strategy Structure Success SWOTT Tactics Tagline Target Market Team Teamwork Technology Readiness Levels Terminology Terms Thinking Tools Transformation TRL Validation Value Venture Venture Capital Venture Creation Venture Plan Vision Work Worth Writing

Perfect Press Release

Trait #1 – Make sure the organization you belong to is very clear.  Placing this information at the top is a good start.
Trait #2 – If your press release doesn’t contain news, you may as well not even send it.  Promise news at the top with “NEWS RELEASE” in a larger font than the rest of the press release.
Trait #3 – One of the main traits of news is that it is current.  Since you are offering news, make sure it is as current as possible.
Trait #4 – Get the name of the person you are sending your press release to and place it in a prominent position.  Be sure to double check the spelling.
Trait #5 – Provide a specific contact person with a phone number where they can be reached. Don’t make contacting you a challenge.
Trait #6 – It’s important to inform your contact when specifically you’d like your press release to be run.  If you don’t have a specific date, be sure to allow for immediate release.
Trait #7 – Just like your other marketing materials, headlines are a must.  Include a newsworthy angle in your headline for best results.
Trait #8 – Where is your press release being released from?  It’s always best to use a local angle, so try to place the story from a local perspective.
Trait #9 – Try to tell your entire story in the first paragraph.  If everything else is cut, at least you got your main points in.
Trait #10 – Turn the story in a personal angle as soon as possible.  Use quotes from known individuals if possible.
Trait #11 – Use subheads to highlight important parts of your story.  People are busy and only read the parts that interest them, so include subheads for each of your target markets.
Trait #12 – Beware of sexism and humor.  What is funny to some groups may be offensive to others.
Trait #13 – Use quotes from each of your target markets.  Be sure to include quotes from groups that read the publications you have targeted with your press release.
Trait #14 – Use later paragraphs for dispelling or confirming rumors. It’s always best to cover your bases with a little objectivity.
Trait #15 – Include quotes from senior executives to build credibility. News releases are taken a little more serious when the boss’s name is on the line.
Trait #16 – Could the local community perceive your news in a negative manner?  If so, highlight the potential positives.
Trait #17 – If promising a specific future result, be flexible.  Not reaching your specific results on time will always bring bad publicity.
Trait #18 – If space permits, allow your executive to inject some human interest to the story.  Use these quotes as a transition back to a more positive tone.
Trait #19 – Is there an executive that matches the demographics of your target audience?  If so, place them in your target audiences shoes to close the story with added trust.
Trait #20 – The notation “-30″- is the standard way of concluding a press release.  Keep your press release to one page!
Trait #21 – Including photographs is a great way to gain more attention for your story.  Make sure the photos you submit are easily reproducible and will hold their quality in both color and black and white.
Trait #22 – If you have other media you’d like to include or have available, be sure to provide the information here.  The more peripheral media you have available, the easier it is to use your press release in a story.
The most important things to remember are to include a newsworthy angle that is of interest to the local community or specific readers of the publications you send your release to.  By including as many of these traits in your next press release, you will drastically increase the likelihood of gaining some free publicity for your small business.

[Thank you, Prevail PR]

Principles of a Performance-based Culture

  • Inspire everyone to do their best
  • Reward achievement with praise and pay-for-performance, and keep raising the performance goals
  • Create a work environment that is challenging, rewarding, and fun
  • Establish, communicate, and stick to clear values
[Attribution: Joyce, Nohria, and Robertson]

Tips for Promotion

A way to attract attention to our venture is to choose an advertising or promotional medium that is unusual for our industry. Here are some ideas ...

Advertorials ... attention getters ... balloons ... billboards ... blog marketing ... brochures and pamphlets ... bulletin board signs ... bumper stickers ... bus and taxi ads ... bus bench/shelter signs ..
business breakfasts/lunches ... business cards ... business networking ... buttons ... calendars ... charitable contributions ... high profile ... charitable volunteerism ... city/regional magazine advertising ... classified advertising ... community involvement ... computer bulletin board ... computer data service ... consumer magazines ... contests ... co-op advertising ... customer newsletters ... decals ... demonstrations ... developing a sales slogan ... direct mail and sales letters ... direct mail with co-op advertising ... discount coupons ... discount premium books ... door hangers ... door-to-door canvassing ... drive-time radio ... employee events ... endorsements or promotion by famous personalities ... enthusiast magazines ... envelope stuffers ... envelope advertisement ... event sponsorship ... exterior building signs ... fliers and circulars ... folders and binders ... format radio ... free information ... free trials ... general business magazines ... gifts and premiums ... grand opening/anniversary celebrations ... greeting cards ... grocery store cart signs ... home parties ... hot air balloon ... Internet ... letterhead ... local business magazines ... local cable ... local newspapers ... local TV ... loudspeaker announcements ... magazine ... mailing labels ... major network TV ... membership in organizations ... messages pulled by airplane ... moving billboards on trucks ... mugs ... magnetic holders ... etc. ... multiple purchase offers ... national cable ... national newspapers ... news releases ... newsletters ... newspaper ad ... newspaper insert ... offer a reward for referrals ... on-line computer services ... package inserts ... packaging ... per-order/per-inquiry ads ... personal letters ... personal sales ... picket your establishment ... place mats ... point-of-purchase signs ... postcards ... price specials ... print advertising ... print on the box/container ... product exhibitions ... programs and yearbooks ... promotional plan chart ... proposals ... public relations and publicity ... radio advertising ... radio spots ... rebates ... referral incentives ... reminder advertising ... sales calls ... sales incentives ... sales tools ... samples of product ... search lights ... seminars ... free or low-cost ... send a thank you note after a new purchase ... share costs with event sponsors ... shopper classified newspapers ... sidewalk signs ... signs at sporting events ... signs on your building ... signs towed by airplanes ... skywriters ... special events ... special sales ... specialty items ... spokesperson ... sponsorship of charitable events sponsorships ... statement stuffers ... stickers ... symbols ... take-one racks ... talks and presentations ... tape or ribbon ... telemarketing ... telephone hold messages ... telephone pole signs ... television advertising ... television spots ... thank-you letters ... tie-ins with other products ... tours ... trade and technical magazines and newspapers ... trade fairs ... trade journal advertising ... t-shirts ... two-for-one offers ... vehicle signs ... video commercials in stores ... video tapes ... walking signs ... window signs ... and yellow page advertising ...

How to Mentor a New Business Venture Development Team

Successful business ventures continually introduce new product, service, process, and positioning innovations; they keep improving internal and external transformation methodologies; and they continually monitor goal and objective achievements. New venture development teams are wise to model their venture plan on these core concepts.

Following are some excerpts from a workshop I presented at the University of New Mexcio ...

The primary mission of a new business venture development team is to create an organization that will earn a profit solving customer problems with something new and better than the competition. While this recipe for success seems straightforward, it is not so easy to execute. Experienced mentors can help a venture development team effectively and efficiently move their venture concept through the research, ideation, test, and planning stages to resourcing, launch, stability, sustainability, and growth. There are a variety of proven business venture development tools that can be used to mitigate risks and optimize the probability of new venture success. Based on experience with some 200 internal corporate ventures, spin-off companies, independent start-ups, and over a thousand graduate and undergraduate entrepreneurship students, this paper outlines several of the more useful tools the author has developed and used for mentoring new business venture development teams.

Introduction

Creating a viable business plan with the appropriate depth and detail is a fundamental undertaking of a venture development team. Successful business ventures continually introduce new product, service, process, and positioning innovations; they keep improving internal and external transformation methodologies; and they continually monitor goal and objective achievements. New venture development teams are wise to model their venture plan on these core concepts. The tools in this paper were designed to improve the outcomes of the business venture planning process.


The Role of a New Business Development Team Mentor

Experienced mentors can help innovators and entrepreneurs effectively and efficiently move their venture concept through the research, ideation, test, and planning stages to resourcing, launch, stability, sustainability, and growth. The role of a new business venture development team mentor is wide-ranging:

1] Mentor: experienced and trusted adviser (typically an unpaid, voluntary, part-time role)
2] Adviser: an expert willing to share their knowledge and opinions
3] Business Plan Editor: a mentor is best used in an editor role, rather than a writer
4] Voice of the Customer: keeps a light on the customer pain-pleasure spectrum
5] Voice of the Competition: ignoring the competition is never a good strategy, and there is always competition (alternatives, substitutes, replacements)
6] Voice of the Stakeholders: everyone involved with the venture must win
7] Voice of the Team Members: a balanced team is a productive team
8] Domain Expert: teaching from education and experience
9] Soothsayer: foresees the future based on experiences from the past
10] Angel Advocate: supports the team and venture, internally and externally
11] Consultant: professional expert advice (usually compensated to perform specific tasks)
12] Moderator: arbitrator, mediator
13] Coach: helps the team iterate and pivot as needed
14] Board Member, Director (not an ordinary role): helps govern the affairs of an organization
15] Teacher: instructor, guide
16] Innovation Stimulator: innovation is a continuing journey, not a destination
17] Collaborator: partner with the venture team
18] Friend: personal confidante and sounding board
19] Tool Technician: helping the team use the right tool at the right time for the right purpose
20] DXpedition Tour Guide: Discover, Define, Design, Develop, Deploy


The SLATE Mentoring Guideline

The US Small Business Administration SCORE program has a well-refined guideline for business mentoring, using the acronym SLATE:

S] Stop & Suspend Judgment
L] Listen & Learn
A] Assess & Analyze
T] Test Ideas & Teach with Tools
E] Expectations Setting & Encouraging the Dream

As important as what mentors do is what they do not do: they do not make decisions for the team.


Business Venture Development Tools

Focusing on the SLATE "Teach with Tools" element, there are a variety of business development tools that can be used to mitigate risks and optimize the probability of new venture success. (The author has a personal collection of over 400 such tools.) A good mentor can assist the venture development team with selecting and using the most effective tools for the business planning tasks at hand. For example, using proven checklists to assure the venture team addresses key factors in the planning process is a common and productive tool. Some checklists are very detailed and complex, others simple and direct.


The Innovation-Transformation-Achievement (ITA) Checklist Tool

Part of the theme of the Mentoring Institute at UNM 10th Annual Mentoring Conference (Innovation, Transformation, and Achievement) also provides an excellent startup checklist for business venture development:

Innovation] Do the product, service, process, and positioning innovations the venture is introducing to the marketplace match customer needs, wants, and desires?
Transformation] Are the transformation methods the venture will utilize to deliver value to customers effective and efficient?
Achievement] Are the key achievements of the venture (goals and objectives) being tracked such that critical operational methodologies can be continually improved?


Venture Mapping Tool

Simple visual aids, diagrams, flowcharts, graphs, maps et al are also excellent communication tools that help with seeing the "big picture". The Venture Mapping Tool in Figure 1 identifies the key elements that must be addressed by every business venture. There are four categories:

1] The Environment, Markets, and Customers

2] The Transformation Processes including key venture processes (Management, Marketing, Innovation Engineering, Production Operations, Sales, Accounting, and Finance)

3] The Resources available within the venture to power the Transformation Processes (People, Places, Things, Time, and Money)

4] Innovation Activities (Exploration and Ideation, Vision and Mission, Goals and Objectives, Strategies and Tactics, Tasks and Assignments)




Figure 1: The Venture Mapping Tool


The Critical Success Factor (CSF) Venture Mission Tool

There is a common Critical Success Factor (CSF) for every business venture: earn a profit solving customer problems with something new and better than the competition. Business ventures that fail can be readily diagnosed as not adequately addressing one or more of these nine core elements. A common failure mode is the lack of continuous innovation, not creating "something new and better than the competition".

Adopting this CSF as a starter mission statement for a new venture is a very effective tool for focusing the development team on designing strategies and tactics that will be of the greatest value. Figure 2 provides added detail for each of the nine CSF elements.




Figure 2: The Critical Success Factor as a Venture Mission Statement Tool


The Three Musketeer Hats Tool

Many successful new startup venture teams consist of three key people (humorously called "The Three Musketeers") working in harmony: the innovator, the entrepreneur, and the manager. The roles may often overlap. Sometimes team members describe their individual roles in terms of the "hat they wear" on a particular day. It is not uncommon for team members to "rotate role hats" from day to day. Figure 3 shows the primary function of each role and their relationship to the mission of the venture.




Figure 3: The Three Musketeer Hats Tool


The Hierarchical Output-Transformation-Input (HOTI™) Chart

Perhaps one of the most useful tools for in-depth business venture planning and development is the Hierarchical Output-Transformation-Input (HOTI™) Chart. It is very helpful for product, service, and process design. It is also particularly good for focusing brainstorming sessions for the creation of most any transformational system, from smartphone apps to cloud-based data storage to logistical operations flow to customer relationship management systems. In summary, the HOTI Chart highlights six system-critical categories: the environment, inputs, process, resources, outputs, and waste.



Figure 4: The HOTI™ Chart


The Venture Communications Network Tool


An application of the HITO Graphic Tool is in the creation of an internal venture communication network, how the functional areas of a business organization interact and share critical information. Figure 5 outlines a somewhat standard every-business-looks-like-this flowchart. Internal communication channels are numbered 1 through 6, communication channels between the organization and its customers are lettered A through E. Each of these network elements can be further detailed in a hierarchical manner using the HITO Graphic Tool.



Figure 5: Business Venture Communications Network Tool


The "alpha" communication channels in Figure 5 are external, between business venture departments and customers:

A] The Innovation Department communicating with customers to determine what customer problems, needs, wants, and desire the venture should address

B] The Marketing Department communicating with customers to promote current venture solutions, product, services, and processes that solve current customer problems, and obtain feedback from customers relating to the performance of the venture in solving their problems

C] The Sales Department obtaining and processing orders from customers, and customer relationship management

D] The Operations Department building and delivering solutions, products, and services to fill customer orders

E] The Finance/Accounting Department collecting payment for the value delivered to customers by the products, services, and processes provided by the venture

The "numeric" communication channels in Figure 5 are internal, the information being shared between departments in a business venture.

1] Marketing and Innovation Development Departments share information about customer problems, needs, wants, and desires, and the benefits, fit, form, function, and features of new products, services, and processes being created in the organization.

2] The Marketing and Sales Departments coordinate information about the benefits, fit, form, function, and features of currently available solutions, products, services, and process that match customer requirements, including the price of the offerings.

3] The Sales Department communicates information about customer orders to the Finance/Accounting Department such that the customer is properly billed when the solutions, products, and services are delivered.

4] The Sales Department communicates information about customer orders to the Operations Department such that the appropriate products and services are delivered to the customer.

5] The Operations Department communicates information about product and service delivery to the customer so the Finance/Accounting Department can accurately bill the customer.

6] The Innovation Department (often called the Engineering Department) provides the Operations Department with bills of material and assembly instructions for creating the solutions, products, and services being sold to customers.

While there are many other useful tools, those outlined in this paper have proven to provide excellent results for a mentoring a new business venture development team.

Summary

The primary mission of a new business venture development team is to create an organization that will earn a profit solving customer problems with something new and better than the competition. Experienced mentors can help innovators and entrepreneurs effectively and efficiently move their venture concept through the research, ideation, and planning stages to resourcing, launch, stability, sustainability, and growth. There are a variety of tools that can be used to mitigate risks and optimize the probability of success. A good business development mentor can assist the venture development team with selecting and using the most effective tools for the tasks at hand when creating and implementing a viable business venture plan.


References

United States Small Business Administration (US SBA), Senior Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE). SLATE mentoring process. Retrieved from www.score.org

HOTI Chart™ is a trademark of Wencil Research, LLC. Used with permission.

[Presented at the University of New Mexico 10th Annual Mentoring Conference]

[170808Kb]

Catergories of Innovation

Innovation has a revolutionary reputation, but an evolutionary reality!  

An innovation is (simply) Something New and Better ...
  • Something: a product, service, process, methodology, or market positioning. 
  • New: didn't exist before in this market space.
  • Better: desirable benefits, a lower price, or both ... compared to the available alternatives.
That's not to imply that the innovation process is simple, by no means!  It can be quite complex, even if the final result doesn't necessarily reflect such.

Some types of innovation are pretty simple, pretty straight-forward. A new hot dog stand on a corner can be an example of "positioning" innovation ... simple, yet it does provide something new and better.

Other innovations are indeed quite complex and required high levels of intellect, resources, skills, education, and expertise.

Here are some general categories of innovation:

1. Incremental … basic design concepts are reinforced, linkages between modules are unchanged
2. Component or modular … basic design concepts are overturned, linkages between modules are unchanged
3. Architectural … linkages between modules are changed, basic design concepts are reinforced
4. Radical … basic design concepts are overturned, linkages between modules are changed
5. Disruptive ... technological discontinuity
6. Application ... technology application creates new market ... killer application
7. Product ... improved performance, dominant design
8. Process ... more efficient and/or effective processes
9. Positioning ... establishing a venture in a new space
10. Experiential ... improved customer experience
11. Marketing ... improved marketing relationships
12. Business model ... reframe the value proposition or value chain
13. Structural ... responds to structural changes in the industry
14. Service … give the same products but with much better service
15. Paradigm ... good luck! If we want a paradigm shift, we'll need a solid combination of several simpler innovations!

Twelve Team Tips ...

Building a venture team? Here are some goog guidelines ...
  1. A team needs a good leader. Usually, in a work situation, the leader is chosen by people outside the team. In more social contexts, the team may choose the leader.
  2. A team needs to be the right size. There is no precise figure here, but generally speaking one would expect a new business venture management team to be around 3 to 6 members.
  3. A team needs members with a variety of skills. The nature of these skills will depend on the organization and the task. However, typically one might want someone good with figures as well as someone good with words, someone who is effective at getting things done as well someone who is a creative thinker. It is important to avoid the temptation to chose too many like-minded members and team members need to know and respect the skills of others in the team.
  4. A team needs members with a variety of personalities. Again the nature of these personalities will depend on the organisation and the task. One might want an introvert as well as an extrovert and a maturer person as well as a younger one. Gender and ethnic differences can also make a creative contribution to an effective team.
  5. A team needs to bond. Some of this can be in done in the course of carrying out team tasks. However, it is good to create more specific opportunities for bonding that are outside the normal work schedule and situation, such as strategy sessions, training course and social events. One should take opportunities to celebrate successes - such as winning a new contract or fulfilling a particular project - and to celebrate occasions - such as birthdays of team members.
  6. A team needs to be able to resolve internal conflicts. However well a team bonds, it is likely that from time to time there will be differences in the team. This should not be unexpected or even always avoided; it is an inevitable feature of creative people having different ideas. 
  7. A team needs good communications. People need to know what is expected of them, what is happening in the organisation, and how all this effects them as individuals and as a team. In many ways, the best communication is face-to-face but this can be time-consuming and may not always be practical. These days e-mail is an efficient means of communication, provided that it is not overdone or used as a way of avoiding difficult encounters.
  8. A team needs shared values and a shared vision. All team members need to know and agree how the team is going to work and what it is trying to do. This might involve having some sort of strategy session - maybe facilitated by someone outside the team - with exercises to ensure that the values and the vision are embraced by all.
  9. A team needs clear objectives. Ideally these objectives ought to be SMART - that is, specific, measurable, achievable, resourced, timed.
  10. A team needs to be empowered. There are two elements to this. First, the team collectively needs to be given the resources and the authority to achieve the objectives set for it. Second, each individual needs to know what is expected of him or her but left to work out for himself or herself how best to achieve this on a day to day basis.
  11. A team needs trust. Members need to trust each other and most especially the team leader. This requires open and honest communication, acceptance of a 'no blame' culture, and a recognition that every mistake is an occasion for learning and not an excuse to criticise.
  12. A team needs to be flexible. There are two elements to this. First, roles in the team should not be rigid - it is the team's success that matters more than who exactly does what. Second, the composition and existence of the team needs to be flexible so, if a new skill is needed, one might add a new member to the team, but conversely, if the team's project is satisfactorily completed, there might be no continued need for the team.
[Thank you, Roger Darlington]

Glossary

A good way to learn a lot about a topic through language ... what are the key terms that define a particular topic? Here are some of the key innovation and entrepreneurship terms ...
  • Accounting: the action or process of keeping financial records relating to a particular period or purpose
  • Advertising: describe or draw attention to a product service or event in a public medium in order to promote sales or attendance
  • Benefit: an advantage or profit gained from something
  • Better: a more excellent or effective type or quality
  • Budget: an estimate of income and expenditure for a set period of time
  • Business: an organization focused on the work that has to be done to profitably solve customer problems
  • Business Model: a design for the successful operation of a business identifying revenue sources customer base products and services operational processes and details of financing
  • Business Plan: a formal statement of a set of business goals the reasons they are believed attainable the plan for reaching those goals and information about the organization or team attempting to reach those goals
  • Cash Flow: the total amount of money being transferred into and out of a business especially as affecting liquidity
  • Change: become or make different
  • Core Competency: a defining capability or advantage that distinguishes a venture from its competitors
  • Cost: an amount that has to be paid or spent to buy or obtain something
  • Critical Success Factor (CSF): an element that is necessary for a venture to achieve its mission
  • Desire: strong feeling of wanting to have something that is not absolutely needed
  • Earn: obtain money or other value in return for products or services
  • Elevator Pitch: a short summary used to quickly and simply define a venture product service organization or event and its value proposition
  • Enterprise: a project or venture typically one that is difficult or requires effort initiative and resourcefulness.
  • Entrepreneur: a person who organizes and operates a venture
  • Entrepreneurial Mindset: the ability to recognize opportunities for innovation and enterprise
  • Entrepreneurship: the process of starting a business venture or other organization
  • Environment: the setting or conditions in which a particular activity is carried on
  • EPSCPBC: an acronym for "Earn a Profit Solving Customer Problems Better than the Competition" ... something every business venture must do to survive and thrive
  • Executive Summary: a short document or section of a document that summarizes a longer report or proposal or a group of related reports in such a way that readers can rapidly become acquainted with a large body of material without having to read it all
  • Exit Plan: a means of leaving a current situation after a predetermined objective has been achieved
  • Forecast: a prediction or estimate of future events
  • Goal: a long-term aim or desired result
  • Ideation: the formation of ideas or concepts
  • Income Statement: a financial document that gives operating results for a specific period; it typically includes sales revenue cost of sales gross income operating expenses and earnings
  • Innovation: make something new and better or improvements in something by introducing new methods ideas products services processes market positions or paradigms
  • Input: a contribution of work information money or material
  • I-P-O: abbreviation for Inputs-Process-Outputs
  • IPO: abbreviation for Initial Public Offering
  • Judgment: the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions
  • Management: the process of dealing with or controlling things or people
  • Margin: an amount of something included so as to be sure of success or safety
  • Market: a demand for a particular commodity or service and the customers that create that demand
  • Marketing: the action or business of identifying promoting and selling products or services to selected markets
  • Mission Statement: a statement of the purpose of a venture or organization and its reason for existing; the mission statement should guide the actions of the organization spell out its overall goal provide a path and guide decision-making
  • Need:  something that is a necessity
  • Operations: the harvesting of value from assets owned by a business; manufacturing production and delivery of goods and services
  • Organization: the structure of related or connected people places and things to achieve specified objectives
  • Output: the amount of something produced by a venture
  • Plan: a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something
  • Price: the amount of money expected in payment for something
  • Problem: a matter or situation regarded as unwelcome or harmful and needing to be dealt with and overcome
  • Process: a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end
  • Profit: a financial gain especially the difference between the amount earned and the amount spent in buying operating or producing something
  • Research & Development: work directed toward the creation innovation improvement and introduction of products and processes
  • Resources: a stock or supply of money materials staff and other assets that can be drawn on by an organization in order to function effectively
  • Reward: something received as a result of achievement
  • Risk: the possibility that something unpleasant or unwelcome will happen
  • Sales: the exchange of a product or service for money; the action of selling something; the organization within a venture responsible for the selling activities
  • Social Responsibility: an obligation to act in ways that benefit society at large
  • Something: a product service process position or paradigm
  • Solution: products services or processes designed to meet particular need wants and desires
  • Strategic Position: the orientation of a venture in relation to the environment in particular the competition
  • Team: two or more people working together
  • Technology: the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes
  • Time: the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past present and future regarded as a whole
  • Timing: the choice judgment or control of when something should be done
  • Transformation: a qualitative change from one set of elements into another by a predetermined process utilizing a set of resources
  • Value:  the importance worth or usefulness of something
  • Value Equation: Value equals Benefits divided by Price (V = B/P)
  • Value Proposition: a promise of value to be delivered and a belief from the customer that value will be experienced
  • Venture: a business enterprise involving risk but with a significant reward for success
  • Vision: the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom
  • Want: a strong wish for something
  • Work: activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result

Stimulating Our Creativity

1. Surround yourself with creative people. Hang out with writers, musicians, poets and artists. Often, just being in a creative environment will inspire you and refresh your creative mind.
2. Start somewhere. If you create a load of crap for a few pages, whether it’s creative writing in Word or sheet music, the brain loosens up and it’s easier to break through the barrier and come up with ideas.
3. Expose yourself. Not after too much vodka. Expose yourself to new art – books, music, paintings – all the time. If you’re a rocker, listen to funk. If you’re a crime writer, read fantasy. If you’re a productivity writer, read something about slacking off.
4. Develop a “morning ritual” that puts you in the zone – whether it’s stream-of-consciousness such as in tip 2, or a series of non-spectacular everyday actions in sequence that tell your brain it’s time to get in the zone. Perhaps you drink a coffee while watching the news before going for a morning walk – if you repeat the same actions before doing creative work for long enough, it eventually creates an association that tells the mind to get in a particular zone.
5. Use GTD techniques – free up your mind from the hassles of life by doing an info-dump so your head is clear enough to create instead of worry.
6. Never stop learning.
7. Imitate the real world – find beauty (or the ugly, depending on what inspires you) and try to extract the essence of it into your work. This may lead you to what you need to create, or it may just warm up the muse.
8. Drink too much coffee sometimes (one of my favorite submissions).
9. Do something new. Play chess. Read a book if you watch television and watch television if you read. Go outside. Sing in the shower.
10. Don’t be too precious about your work. Being inspired by ‘the muse’ is important, but if the doctor and the garbage man can do their jobs every day, then those in a creative line of work can too. Change your attitude towards your work.
11. Based on the theory that everything that can be created has been and creation is simply a process of combining existing ideas, consume information by the bucket load. The more you know, the more you can create from that knowledge.
12. Meet new people from different walks of life. Gain insight into their perspectives on life. Strike up a conversation on the bus.
13. Shut out the world. Instead of sucking in new information, sit quietly, go to sleep, or meditate. Stop thinking and clear your mind so that the clutter doesn’t get in the way of your thoughts.
14. Carry a camera with you and look for interesting things in your every day scenery. Hadn’t noticed that crack in the path before? Then it’ll do. Set a quota and force yourself to make it. Don’t go to new places to do this – force yourself to find new perspectives on old knowledge.
15. Creativity is a muscle. Exercise it daily – if you only need to create once a week, your muscles may have atrophied if you don’t do it just because you don’t have to.
16. Carry a notebook everywhere. Or a PDA.
17. Write down a list of ideas and draw random arrows between them. For instance, if you’re a blogger, write down everything in your Categories list and draw lines to connect unusual ideas. If you had the categories “Relationships” and “Management” and randomly connected them you’d have an interesting article idea to work with.
18. If you’re not on a tight deadline, walk away and do something completely unrelated. Don’t let yourself spend that time stressing about what you need to do.
19. Create a framework. As many writers have said, the blank page can be the biggest show-stopper. Instead of trying to rely on pure inspiration, set your topic or theme and start creating within confines. Think within the box you create for yourself.
20. Remove obstacles to creativity. That friend who calls to complain about their life can wait until you can afford to get stressed about their problems.
21. Don’t judge your ideas until you have plenty to judge. Don’t be embarrassed by yourself – just write them all down! Even if you start with “pink polka-dotted lizard.”
22. Keep a journal. It can get your mind working, and in a month, or a year, when you’ve gained some distance from what you’ve written it can give you new ideas.
23. Stop telling yourself you’re not creative. If you tell yourself not to come up with ideas, then you probably won’t – no matter how hard you try.
24. Don’t be a workaholic – take breaks. Your mind needs a chance to wind down so it doesn’t overheat and crash.
25. Experiment randomly. What does a flanger sound like on a vocal track? Like Lenny Kravitz, of course.
26. Treat creativity like an enemy in a strategy game; if one thing isn’t working, don’t keep trying until you give up. Try a new strategy. Run through the whole list, not just the first tip.
27. Choose a topic and write about it as wonderfully or badly as you possibly can. Then edit it as ruthlessly as a newspaper editor who has thousands of words to edit in the next hour and doesn’t care what gets lost in the process. At the end you might have something decent to use as a starting point.
28. Trash what you’re working on. Start again.
29. Exercise every day, before you sit down to be creative. If you exercise afterwards you’ll get the creative burst – just too late.
30. Spend time with your children. Or someone else’s.

[Thank you, Joel Falconer]

Skills for Success

Although every business requires a specific skill set and related domain knowledge, there are some general qualities which you must develop if you want to get going in any business. I say 'develop' and not 'have' because I don't think these skills are rocket science and if you've got the willingness, you can easily develop them and carry on your business in a better manner.
  1. Be A Visionary ... Yeah, I know what you are thinking. Here comes the first cliche; I'll agree. But when I say be a visionary, I don't mean you should have grand visions right from the start. There should be a definite goal in your mind and you should work towards achieving that goal. You could always start with small goals initially and every time you achieve them, set yourself new challenges. And soon you'll find that you've got a vision, a vision which you never thought you could achieve and now, it suddenly seems possible.
  2. Be Adaptable ... Now here's the thing - you develop a strategy and start working towards your goal. But the world's changing everyday and soon you realize that the strategy isn't working. In this case, you should immediately adapt to the changes and adopt new methods of working while keeping your vision intact.
  3. Mix Passion With Planning ... If you aren't passionate enough, chances of your succeeding in your business are slim. But if you get carried away by passion, that's equally harmful for your work. Hence the idea is to mix passion and enthusiasm with planning and execution.
  4. Communicate Like A Pro ... It's not only about talking to the other person or to your client. It's about every form of communication, be it on phone, through email, through a letter or any other way of sending your thoughts across. Effective communication is one of the must have leadership skills and if you think you aren't very good at this, prepare to learn how to communicate in the most effective manner, convince others and get more business.
  5. Network Like A Pro ... Another essential ingredient for success in business. Identify the right people and establish relationships which are long lasting. Apart from helping you in your business, these relationships can also help in your personal life.
  6. Be Aggressive ... Being aggressive doesn't mean you are always pumped up and blindly grab every opportunity that comes in your way. It means you are ready to take risks, sometimes calculated and sometimes out of your gut-feeling. It means you aren't satisfied with an achievement and are hungry for more. It means you are available 24X7 for your work. And yes, it also means you are ready to make sacrifices when required.
  7. Be Persistent ... Without a doubt, persistence is a must-have trait for anyone who hopes to make it big in his business. So what exactly is persistence? Here's how Seth Godin defines it: "Persistence isn't using the same tactics over and over. That's just annoying. Persistence is having the same goal over and over."
  8. Do Things Differently ... That's what winners do, isn't it ? Apply new techniques and tricks to an already existing business model instead of trying to search for that new idea. You'll save time.
  9. Learn Everyday ... Really, the learning never stops when you are self employed. And you should never let it stop either. No matter how big your business grows, you should keep learning everyday and apply new techniques to make your business better.
  10. Never Be Complacent ... If organizations like Enron and WorldCom can bite the dust then anything can happen. No business, absolutely no business can be considered fool-proof. One mistake and the empire could crumble. Complacency is usually the first step towards this destruction. So better not be complacent.
[Thank you, Abhijeet Mukherjee]

Elevator Pitch

An Elevator Pitch is succinct and persuasive sales spiel that takes about as long as riding an elevator from the ground to floor 42 (30 seconds, give or take). Some humor intended!  It's Bill and Melinda Gates in the elevator with you, by chance, and 30 seconds is all you're going to get!  Are you ready?
  1. Begin with an end in mind: What is it that you are looking to gain? Most often the pitch is used as a tool to capture enough interest to warrant a formal
  2. Sell, Sell, Sell: What are you really selling? You are selling yourself! You're selling your dream. Be confident and show your passion.
  3. Keep it simple: You should deliver a clear, compelling and simple image of your opportunity that is easy to remember and repeat. You want the audience to say, "I get it!"
  4. Image is everything: The pitch must implant a clear image of your opportunity in the mind of the audience.
  5. Adapt your presentation to the audience: The same pitch you use for an investor might not be the same as to a supplier. (For the sake of simplicity, the term audience is used in a generic sense to include an investor, supplier, employee, customer or even a judge in a competition.)
  6. Lay out the benefits: Demonstrate how your business will impact consumers and showcase the return to the investors.
  7. Differentiate yourself from the competition: Focus on outlining the special features of your product/service that gives you the edge over the competition. Time permitting, summarize the competitors and insert facts or statistics where necessary.
  8. Don't forget the numbers: Depending on the audience, you need to insert a snapshot of your financials and other critical data. For example, "In year three we expect to capture 3 percent of the market, giving us $30 million in sales revenue." Investors also want to know the amount of investment you need and the return on investment (ROI).
  9. Be memorable: Use your creativity and imagination. Put a tag on it! For example: Chevy - Like a rock. Nike - Just do it! BMW - The ultimate driving machine.
  10. Conclude with a call to action: For example, "Thank you for the opportunity to pitch my idea. I'd be glad to provide greater detail over a lunch." The best pitch is useless without any follow-up action.
  11. Practice! Practice! Practice! While there are always a few naturally-gifted speakers out there, the more you rehearse your pitch the more natural it will flow and the more confident you will appear. Remember that showing confidence and passion helps sell your idea.  Practice, yes, but don't memorize and start sounding rehearsed ... go with the flow of the listener!
  12. Don't give up: Some people may not understand your opportunity at first, so don't get discouraged or quit. Walt Disney pitched his idea for Mickey Mouse to more than 300 banks before he received funding.  (Now that's a Mickey Mouse pitch I would love to have heard!)
Formatting the Pitch ... No matter what your business opportunity might be, you need to have a format for the pitch. While there are certainly countless ways to format the pitch, I strongly urge you to consider the following example. It's brilliant! I only wish I could take credit, however it was presented by renowned business strategist Geoffrey Moore in his best selling book "Crossing the Chasm." You may have noticed that many TV commercials currently use a rendition of his format.

Pitch Structure ... For who are dissatisfied with , is a that provides . Unlike a , we have assembled . We will initially target the since they . solves this problem by . Also, these frequently influence by .

Example - Palm Pilot ... For traveling executives who are dissatisfied with Franklin Planners, the Palm Pilot is a personal digital assistant that provides rapid access to phone numbers and appointments. Unlike the Sharp Wizard, the Pilot can easily synchronize your data with your PC and fits in your shirt pocket. We will initially target the 83,000 pharmaceutical sales reps in the U.S., since they are mobile and must frequently reschedule appointments, where each missed appointment equates to $2k of lost revenue. The Palm gives them access to their business contact list and appointments at their fingertips. Also, these sales reps will introduce the Palm to doctors, our next target customer set.

Example - Broadway Pizza ... From artichokes to zucchini, Broadway Pizza offers the largest selection of pie toppings in the world along with boutique beverages in a music-filled, fun-packed bistro environment. In the next five years, we will launch 24 Broadway Pizza Parlors in Arizona, New Mexico, Southern California, Colorado, and Nevada reaching annual revenues of $30 million.


Sad Story: When I was teaching entrepreneurship classes at the University of Arizona, I had several students that were going to have an opportunity to meet Warren Buffet. As it turned out, one of them actually rode in the car with Mr Buffet from the office building to a restaurant for lunch. I asked her, "Did you give him your elevator pitch for your venture when you were in the car?"  "No," she said, quite understandably, "I was way too nervous!  But I did pitch him later that afternoon!"  I'd like to finish this little ditty by saying, "The rest is history ... Warren funded her venture and now it's worth several billion bucks!"  Unfortunately ... not.

[Thank you, Troy Byrd, edits by Jim]

Refine ... Iterate ... Pivot

Creating something new and better is seldom a smooth start to finish process. More often it's a start, test, iterate, refine, re-start, re-test, re-iterate, get frustrated and quit!!  No!!  Don't quit ... that's too much like "fail".  The "in" word these days is pivot ... we didn't quit, we did a pivot. So maybe we're not moving in the original direction we had in mind, maybe we took a hard turn to the right or left. But ... we're still moving, and that's (usually) good!

I
It starts with an idea, it always does! The first question, "Who cares? Are there any customers for our idea?" If the answer is yes, we think so, move on to the next stage of development: a] create a business model that will fit our target customers and our idea; and b] develop our product and/or service in steps that can be tested and refine (agile engineering, it's called). If our first customers are happy with the results, find more and more customers and build up our venture. If our first customers aren't all that thrilled, iterate either our business model or our product/service, or both!

So now what?  Take a look where this fits with "the rest of the story".  Hint: A2



Leonardo da Vinci's Seven Principles

  1. Curiosit√° ... an insatiably curious approach to life and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning.
  2. Dimostrazione ... a commitment to test knowledge through experience, persistance, and a willingness to learn from mistakes.
  3. Sensazione ... the continual refinement of the senses, especially sight, as the means to enliven experience.
  4. Sfumato ... literally "going up in smoke" ... a willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty.
  5. Arte/Scienza ... the development of the balance between science and art, logic and imagination ... "Whole-Brain" thinking.
  6. Corporalita ... the cultivation of grace, ambidexterity, fitness, and poise.
  7. Connessione ... a recognition of and appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things and phenomena ... systems thinking.
[Thank you, Michael J. Gelb]

Elements of a Vision Statement

A Vision Statement is essentially a high-level summary of what the venture team wants to accomplish, typically within the next five years.

Everyone in the organization should be able to connect their activities to making this vision a reality.

A vision statement should be ...
... clear, focused, easily understood, and easy to remember.
... consistent, constant over a period of time, but adjustable as conditions warrant.
... unique and special to the venture.
... purposeful, providing a reason for being and for others to care.

Vision Statement seed: "We will [change the way] [our customers ... who?] [do something ... what?] because [we have something new and better ... what?]."

Sometimes the terms "Vision" and "Mission" are reversed ... personally, I am set on a Vision Statement being a long-term goal, and the Mission Statement being day-to-day guideline for achieving the Vision.

Neither the Vision or the Mission statements should be fluff. They should be well-thought-out and act as solid anchors for the venture. No BS!  No "wink and smile" when we read them, especially when we read them aloud!

--Jim