All posts by donald_mcmichael

Stepping Up Your Game, Are You Ready?

New York Public Library. a room sorrounded by ...

New York Public Library reading room (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You were kind enough to give me three minutes two months ago so I could show you how to become a better entrepreneur.

Earlier in the year I hit you with a pre-summer checklist to grow your business.

If you are ready to take your venture, and yourself, to a whole new business development level lean in close I’ve found something else.

Chris Brogan (if you’re not familiar with him you should certainly peruse his site ChrisBrogan.com) has issued a dietary challenge. Read only three, that’s right he said three books, for an entire year.

3 for 3
The impetus of this 3-book diet is the fact that people (read “we”) don’t do well implementing a book’s lessons. We suffer from a “getting it done” bias who’s intrinsic value is crossing it off of a list. The diet’s point of concentrating on such a small number of titles is to disrupt this purpose bias and give you the chance to implement what you’ve learned enough times so that it becomes a habit. After all, the reason we select the titles that we do is so we can improve what or how we do something.

Chris’ rules are simple:

  • select three books to read from November 1, 2012 through November 1, 2013
  • read each at least twice during the 12 months
  • implement what you can
  • after November 1st you have only one week to change one title
  • students have permission to read outside of the 3 books

But,…
No excuses. We can all benefit from this challenge even if you’re in a role, like myself, which requires that you consume a number of books that far surpasses three.

This is what I plan on doing.
Follow the framework. By making the time read to each of my selected books at least two additional times, not eliminating other titles. My thinking is that each time I re-read the book, along with my previous notes, the speed of doing so will increase which means the incremental yearly reading load will only grow by three books equivalents. Will this give me the same benefit as those that only concentrate on three titles for the year? Perhaps not, but the insight and deeper understanding, and behavioral shifts I expect to receive certain surpass the “one and done” nature of past years.

Notice that there is no requirement against concentrating the subject matter. I’m going to select a set of books that focus on business model discovery and effective speaking. Here’s why; in today’s complex, uncertain business environment those that are able to capture and succinctly communicate a value proposition rule the day.

I’m kicking my diet off in January – it’s an academic trait that’s hard to shake – and I’ll certainly keep you posted of my progress. But, the big question is are you down to join the challenge?

 

Donald McMichacel teaches BE 261 – Starting a Small Business.
Follow him on Twitter at @DonaldMcMichael or Google+ at +Donald McMichael

Business Development: 3 Business Expansion Pillars

Thinking Carol

photo credit: kaje_yomama via photo pin cc

We don’t want to, but it’s often irresistible.

What is it? Looking around and seeing scores of possible new opportunities to boost our business.

We look at virgin (well at least to us) terrain through rose colored glasses and think wouldn’t it be great. We need to…

…tweak our product so it can help a new demographic
…get Company X to make us a business partner, then the sky would be the limit
…go national – no international

If even half is true, why do so few execute on perceived opportunities?

Breaking into a market is difficult.
Expanding can be an attractive and lucrative proposition. It is, however, also a pivotal point in any business’ life because it requires doubling down on the bet that it is the preferred solution. This increase in risk causes our subconscious, and correctly so, to trigger a mental circuit breaker. You’ll recognize the statements for they usually contain “but if” or its close cousin “but what if”.

But if:

  • We move by ourselves, it will take years.
  • We have a hiccup, will we have enough cash to safely sustain what’s already built?
  • I’ve never done this before, how will I know what’s right?

Let’s all thank our subconscious. With so much at risk it is important that we take the time to understand how we are going to avoid jeopardizing current success.

This isn’t a how-to list.
There are tons of books, articles, and blog posts that rundown the different expansion techniques and explain which ones are suited for particular types of businesses. What I want to armor you with are the strategic actions that will help carry you to victory, or keep you from entering into a losing situation.

A simple, yet powerful formula.

  • Do your homework. Make sure you first build the infrastructure and resources to adequately support the move. Many try to rely on outside service providers to do virtually all the heavy lifting. Although it is quick and easy to implement, it often leads to its own set of problems; escalating costs, delays, and poor service delivery. Don’t double down on your risk by doing this.
  • Timing is everything. Make sure you’re operating at or above industry performance levels for your size business. Proving that you can consistently operate at those levels for several consecutive quarters provides you with managerial confidence and more importantly, the financial heft to work through the challenges expansion will inevitably throw your way.
  • Seek out guideposts. First, you can read articles like this (yes, a shameless plug). More importantly, take a look around and find a role model. Someone who has encountered this very challenge and reach out to them. You’ll be surprised how open they are to talking about their great accomplishments and brilliant insights.

Patience is the companion of wisdom.
Saint Augustine

If you currently can’t meet the above, there’s no shame in waiting. Expansion requires understanding and managing a whole new set of challenges – in essence, a very different business. Being a great business development professional means that you know when to pullback and wait for the right signals.

 

Donald McMichacel teaches BE 261 – Starting a Small Business.
Follow him on Twitter at @DonaldMcMichael or Google+ at +Donald McMichael

Give Me 3 Minutes and I’ll Make You a Better Entrepreneur

English: Inside a Harvard Business School clas...

Photo credit: WikiMedia Commons

Everyone around here is tuning-up for the new school year.

The grounds have be spruced up, class assignments doled out, and learning objectives have been set.

All is in order to help aspiring students advance their knowledge beyond their expectations.

Pull in close. I want to let you in on our secret.
One of the most overlooked (and undervalued) keys to what takes place in any superior learning environment is having an integrated learning roadmap. One that balances shared knowledge (academic plus peer-to-peer) with experiential discovery.

A mix, which not surprisingly, has served me well for decades outside the walls of academia as I constantly seek to improve my professional skills and knowledge base. If I could prescribe your ideal mix I would, but alas this is something that each of us must define for ourselves.

Chin up all is not lost.

Good news, you can do it for yourself.
Here are a few articles that can help kick start your fall learning initiative and keep you moving forward…

The Most Common Strategy Mistakes
This should be the first stop for everyone who is interested in, sets, or executes strategic initiatives. This is an excerpt from Joan Magretta’s new book on Harvard Business School’s Michael Porter the focus of which is the importance of strategy in delivering competitive advantage.

Seven Strategy Questions: A Simple Approach for Better Execution
This explains how you can identify holes in your planning processes and make smart choices. This base of which is seven questions you should ask… and seek the answer to.

Three Ways to Find an Edge in a Crowded Market
Lets face it, we are all in competitive markets. No matter how you slick it there are real alternatives to our solution. What’s needed is insights on how to stay ahead of the pack and that’s exactly what this article helps you uncover.

The CEO’s guide to corporate finance
It’s all about the Benjamins. And, this article introduces you to four principles that can help you make great financial decisions. One of them, internalizing the principles of value creation, is one of the most powerful things you can do for your business. Doing so emboldens you to make independent, courageous, and even unpopular decisions in the face of myths and misconceptions about what creates value.

To Get Venture Capital Funding, Know the Risks and Tell a Good Story
Peer into the mind of a seasoned VC and develop a better understanding of how they evaluate risk. Even if you’re not looking for direct funding, these nuggets of wisdom will help when dealing with key suppliers and stakeholders.

 

Donald McMichacel teaches BE 261 – Starting a Small Business.
Follow him on Twitter at @DonaldMcMichael or Google+ at +Donald McMichael