Go with your gut.
It’s about instinct. It’s about what feels right inside. In the end, I go with my gut. Inside, when you do your passion, your heart tells you the truth, and I listen to that.
I don’t always take the advice of people that think they know better. If I don’t listen to it, and I take someone else’s advice, it’s usually wrong.
Hire and empower energetic people.
I hire fantastic people. I trust my instincts. I look for caring, giving people that like to do things for others, and when you have that kind of person, you know that you’ve developed a team that lifts you up every single day.
You can move forward because you have that kind of team that brings you to new levels, and on the same side of the coin, I have to do that for them, as well.
Be passionate about your goals.
I create a vision of what I want to happen for myself and for the company in general. Then I let the people that work here go for it. I give them the time and the energy that they need from me.
When you do that, you just keep growing. It is about getting those good people in place.
Be passionate about whatever it is you’re doing. Enthusiasm is like a magnet, and if you’re enthusiastic about what you do, people see it, and they’re drawn to it, and then you get the right people.
When you have a lot of physical movement in your life, it puts a lot of other movement in your life, as well. Whatever other things you’re doing, whether it’s in your personal life or your business, you’re not afraid to move forward in other avenues if you have physical activity in your everyday life
Prepare employees for change.
One of the biggest things that promotes growth is change, so we change a lot. We keep changing the program, the way we do business, the way we manage.
We give our people enough time to assimilate what they have to do and understand it, and then they begin slowly to make those changes. It’s always keeping them educated and fresh and knowing that they’re always going to be moving forward.
It keeps them excited. It’s terrible to do the same old thing over and over every day and never make any changes, because how boring that is.
Lead by example.
The people you have at the top have to talk the talk and walk the walk. I don’t ask anybody to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself and that I don’t believe in.
If you have leadership that does not have integrity, if you do not ask excellence of yourself as a leader, then you’re not going to be successful, because nobody else is going to ask that of themselves, either. It’s got to start at the top and go all the way down to wherever the bottom is.
It’s about integrity. It’s about excellence. It’s about accountability and quality and asking that of myself every day so that when I ask it of others, they understand it’s important and it makes the company strong.
Embrace new ideas.
Awards are fine, and it’s really nice to be recognized; however, they’re only as good as the plans you have right now for the future.
When you do your passion, it’s easy. When you’re really actively integrated into the meat, the body, the muscle, the bones and the skeleton of the company, you can’t help but always be coming up with great ideas. Your customers give them to you, and you’re active in that.
I have such a team of creativity here. They know that I want them to take a certain percentage of their day every day to think of fabulous ideas that are out of the box, that might even be a little crazy. We’re not afraid to tackle them.
Take calculated risks.
Don’t be afraid to take risks and make mistakes, but only if you can learn from the mistake and move forward in a better way and be better because of it. A leader has to also exhibit a sense of responsibility to the people you serve and care about them, and they have to understand that you do have that sense of responsibility.
That’s really important because then it trickles down not only to corporate employees, but it trickles right down to the customer, who is our whole basis for being.
Show you are part of the team.
I’m here as much of the day as I can be here working right with them. I make sure that they know that I’m in tune with whatever projects are going on, and I do the work.
If the warehouse has to be cleaned out, I’m not afraid of going down there and getting dirty and doing it. If we have to ship things, I’m down there collating stuff and making sure it all gets put in the right box. ... I’m just part of the team, and that’s what I want them to know.
Balance your life.
Awareness is really important. There’ll be signs and cues that tell you, ‘Oh, not spending enough time with my personal life’ or ‘Uh oh, spending too much time there and not enough with the business.’
The little things will go wrong. It’s important to tune into those little signs that make you aware, ‘OK the scale has tipped here. I better work on getting it back to the middle.’ That’s what’s difficult. It’s about being aware and making time for each end of it.
HOW TO REACH: Jazzercise, www.jazzercise.com
While cutting spending, consumers today are scrutinizing purchases as never before. Besides a shift to thrift, economic pessimism has heightened expectations of customer satisfaction in products, goods and services.
The message to corporate America and Fortune 500 companies? Get yourself into “fifth gear” in gaining a deeper understanding of how your products and services are clicking with customers worldwide.
A stream of loyal customers is the ultimate pathway to profits. Companies must understand the underpinnings of customer loyalty, the most important of which is quality.
This must be evident with respect to price, product or service availability and perceived added value of the product or service to the customer. Consumers purchasing a commodity consider two basic criteria price and availability. Customer loyalty rises when prices are low and options from competitors are scarce.Fundamentals of customer loyalty
Loyalty is created worldwide by adding perceived value to a basic commodity. Often high performance standards, such as when a customer receives unexpected quality, trigger the “unanticipated” reaction that charms consumers and creates loyalty. Service is a company’s direct line to customers. Making it personal is a key motivator. How fast a company responds to problems, from the BP oil spill to Toyota’s malfunctioning gas pedals, provides insight into its ethos and the credibility of its claims.
A customer becomes a repeat customer when the company adds perceived value to its commodity or service. Companies need to identify consumer concerns, respond to questions and assign front-line personnel to customer satisfaction. Poor service drives customers into a competitor’s open arms.The loyal generation
Organizations must stay “in tune” with customer expectations and collect satisfaction data constantly. How well are we doing? Are we achieving our customers’ expectations? What can we do better?
Customer loyalty results from increasing performance and on key drivers of relationships, product or service, stature, price index, and brand awareness. Speed and consistency of deployment correlate directly with customer loyalty. Branding, marketing and customer awareness can be effectively integrated, measured and managed by front-line employees and management’s encouraging continual improvement in customer relations.Pay-for-performance incentives
Performance objectives can be developed for front-line employees as management sets goals and objectives for measurement indices on a pay-for-performance incentive program, i.e., outstanding, superior, above average. This will, in turn, increase the organization’s focus on customer satisfaction.“CL” stands for profitability
Customer loyalty equals profitability, provided service is capable and consistent. Staff has to be empowered with tools, customer input and solutions. Leadership needs to be customer-focused at all times.
When global consumer confidence rebounds and consumer spending hits pre-recession levels, economic recovery will also be enhanced by corporations providing consumers with reserved prioritization and top-of-mind service. Corporations need to have a can-do, “we care about you” attitude manifested in measuring customer satisfaction.
Samantha M. Simons is the vice president of marketing and business development for Plus 2 Development Inc. She is also a turnaround business, marketing and finance consultant and executive. She specializes in turnaround marketing, business development, private funding and investment goals for global 1,000 companies. She has more than 15 years of successful implementation of launching new divisions, products and services for well-known global corporations raising private capital, creating “top of mind” brand awareness, marketing and business development programs that have positioned her as an expert and trend setter in her respective fields.
I often run across the term “new normal” in conversations with peers. It’s a phrase that describes what we are all searching for to help define our respective businesses as we emerge from this recession and try to find our stride going forward. As lead strategy officers of our organizations, we need to pull ourselves and our key reports away from the day-to-day minutiae. We need to re-evaluate the business playing field and how we competitively fit into that landscape.
Here are a few suggestions.
Listen to the voice of the customer. A great place to start the strategic process is to reach out to customers active, inactive and prospective. There are many forms of gathering customer feedback. How you get it is less important than obtaining it and doing something with the feedback you’ve received. Effective customer feedback will provide input on needs, impressions of your business, how your company performs against expectations, what matters most to customers in the selection process and other important information. Listening to our customers can result in tremendous strategic opportunities.
Engage the team in a strategic discussion. More than just a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis, business leaders need to look deeper to identify how business, industry and consumer norms have shifted. How will those changes positively or negatively impact the business? Some business leaders may be comfortable leading these discussions with their teams. Others may find it beneficial to hire a professional facilitator to lead the team through this process. The best results involve the key players in your business sales, marketing, operations, production, human resources, corporate finance, engineering, etc.
Define your core competencies. What does it take to be a “good” player in your niche? How well do you measure up against that mark? List your company’s unique experiences or skill sets and discuss how they benefit the customer. Talk about your sales and service delivery processes and identify opportunity gaps. Incorporate important findings from the customer feedback into your discussions.
Evaluate the external marketplace. Define your customer, the markets you serve, your share and growth potential of those markets. If there were new opportunities for products or services that came out of your customer feedback, explore the potential of those opportunities and identify any barriers operational or market to adding them to your offerings. It is not as important to know the answers as it is to capture what you do know so that you can find the answers to what you don’t know.
Also identify current and future trends market, political, economic, social and technological and analyze their impact on your company’s mission and goals. Identify and analyze your top competition and, in doing so, make note of each competitor’s strengths, weaknesses and mindshare of prospects.
Define your goals. In defining the company’s goals, break it down until everyone in the room realizes how the goal can be achieved. Will the company’s growth be organic, or will an acquisition strategy come into play? Identify the percentage of business that will come from current customers versus new customers and how that goal breaks down by product line, market, geographic location, etc. Define your company’s goals for the next three years and talk about how you need to change what you are doing today to achieve those goals. Also talk about how these changes will impact company operations, facilities, personnel, delivery, marketing and sales structure.
Leading your team through strategic exercises such as these will keep your business focused and relevant today and in the future.
Kelly Borth is CEO and chief strategy officer of GREENCREST, a 20-year-old brand development and strategic marketing firm. She serves on several local advisory boards and has been honored with a NAWBO Visionary Award and SBA Ohio Women in Business Champion of the Year award. Reach her at (614) 885-7921, firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.greencrest.com.
Dwindling housing sales and an upswing in foreclosures has dampened the real estate market around the country, including the Southern California footprint covered by the agents of Century 21 Award, where Romero is the president and CEO.
“The quote I like is, ‘We have to stop waiting for the storm to end and learn how to dance in the rain,’” says Romero, who oversees 1,500 agents and employees positioned from Anaheim to the Mexico border. “That is the truth. Nobody is under the desk waiting for something good to happen, waiting for everything to fall into place and be like it was before. That’s not happening. What we have to do is get people to work well in this current environment and enjoy it when possible.”
With so many outside forces affecting the real estate market, it has been up to Romero and his leadership team to figure out the best way to operate the firm in the challenging environment presented to them. But making the best of a bad situation can be easier in concept than it is in practice.
Romero has needed to keep his agents and employees informed on current market events and engaged in providing outstanding service to clients. It is a process that has required him to be a relentless communicator and creative thinker.
“It’s just really getting our people to understand the complexities in today’s environment, getting our agents up to speed with changes in the market and the record change that we’ve had in the past few years,” Romero says. “We need to get people to thrive in what has now become the ‘new normal.’”
To communicate with and enable his people, Romero needed to start talking to them. And with electronic media becoming more prevalent and delivering more options to business leaders, Romero quickly decided that Century 21 Award would need to make use of new media platforms to keep employees and agents focused and informed.
“While everybody was cutting back, we had a big technology initiative,” Romero says. “We launched a new company website, which is aimed at giving our people the tools to give consumers what they’re looking for.”
Romero and his team brought in an outside consultant to help set up a new website that would allow upper management to disseminate information and also give employees and agents in the field an opportunity to feed valuable pieces of information upward through the organization.
If you’re going to implement new technology as part of your communication platform, you need to know how you want to employ the technology, and then you have to figure out whether you have the people on staff to install and implement the technology or whether you need to contract or hire a specialist. Romero and his staff hired a third-party specialist after an 18-month search.
“I really reached out to an independent consultant first because there is so much stuff involved with this, so many different technologies, that I wanted to hire an independent company that specialized in real estate technology,” Romero says. “A lot of real estate companies do their own technology, but I knew that wasn’t the route I wanted to go, because technology isn’t our specialty. It’s not what we wanted to do. I also knew that I didn’t want a website that was a template. I wanted a totally customized site that would continue to grow and evolve as we evolved.”
With a new website and new functions, Romero was aiming to serve customers at a high level, which comes back to serving the employees and agents that interface with customers.
The people who connect on a face-to-face basis with your customers are the people who provide your customers with a name and a face. They are the most important representatives your company has in the field, and it is critical to keep them informed and enabled to perform their jobs.
“The best ideas come from our agents, so it’s best to talk to them and hear about what they’re seeing out there, hear about what their needs are,” Romero says. “Staying in touch with the people in the field is key. Things change so quickly now. There is no such thing as a yearly business plan anymore. You have to know exactly what is going on and be able to make adjustments quickly. That’s why you need to stay in touch — it allows you to make changes fast. If we’re in the middle of a plan and, 30 days later, we see that the plan isn’t working anymore, we need to be able to change directions right away.”
Find the right people
Another element of communication and engagement is finding the right players for your team. You need to find employees who will embrace your culture and your vision and work to make it happen. You also need some people on staff who will speak up when they feel you’ve made a wrong turn in your strategic plan.
Finding the right people is far more of an art than a science, but Romero has refined his recruiting process at Century 21 Award to try and ensure that he comes up with many more hits than misses on his hires.
To find innovative recruiting ideas, Romero had to look outside the real estate industry, which he says is an industry that has historically resisted large-scale innovation. He started focusing on the practices of online shoe and clothing retailer Zappos.com, including a stint in their core values training program.
“I went out and visited them and got to know how they handle culture,” he says. “They have something called a ‘smog check,’ which is something they do at interviews, and it’s really aimed at protecting the culture.”
The Zappos.com smog check is a corporate version of a real smog alert: warning signs that your culture might be in danger of pollution from hazardous material in the atmosphere. The corporate smog check is a series of criteria that indicates how well an individual or a team is aligned with the company’s culture.
“They have a big poster in their office that kind of looks like a smog check poster that you’d see in a gas station or wherever, and it lets people know what the culture is,” Romero says. “Once people kind of get grounded in the concept, you start to get people that are self-policing on it. They want to be around people who are like-minded.”
If someone is a bad fit culturally or is having a difficult time getting on board with management’s vision for the future, you need to identify the source of the problem and whether it can be fixed short of terminating the person.
Romero says it is a case-by-case situation. If the person is simply a bad fit and needs to go, it often becomes apparent early on. If the person needs some new training or redirection, Romero tries to put the person in a mentoring situation.
“There is a lot of training at the beginning of employment,” he says. “In the training process, you can kind of see if it’s going to be a good fit. Right away, you can see if people are going to do what they say they’re going to do or if they’re going to make excuses. If they’re making excuses in the training program, you can probably get an idea that it’s not going to work with them.”
Having a multifaceted communications platform and employees who are enabled to both serve customers and dialogue with management are two main ingredients in setting up your company for future success. But platforms and people are resources. You can’t properly utilize them without goals and a defined direction for the company.
Romero and his leadership team attempt to fashion goals that are achievable without being overly conservative. It’s a balancing act between handing your people adequate challenges for their skill levels and knowing how much is too much.
“I set goals that are achievable,” Romero says. “I don’t want to say they are conservative, but they are goals I believe we can accomplish. It doesn’t do anybody any good to tell everyone that you’re going to triple production. It doesn’t make any sense. But people will rally around goals that they believe are achievable.
“We focus on trends and realistic expectations, and we push ourselves, but [we] do it in a realistic way. Agents can individually set their own goals, and we work with them to set those and help achieve them. Some of those goals can be way out there, but we work with them to help them achieve it. I never want to tell anyone that they have a wrong goal, but we’ll be realistic with them about what we know with regard to the goal’s attainability, and then work with them to make it happen.”
Still, facing an unpredictable market, you need to have checks and balances in place that allow your goals to adjust and, in turn, allow your employees to be flexible and able to react quickly to market changes. And you need to continue promoting an open dialogue between the workers on the front lines and your team in the front office.
Adjustable, adaptable goals start with creating metrics that can accurately measure progress against your goals, followed by dialogue and group analysis of ways to improve performance.
“You need to monitor and measure your goals if you want some flexibility in there,” Romero says. “You have to look at, say, if it has been X amount of time and we’re at Y as far as progress goes, the first question you teach people to ask is, ‘Why do you think that is? Why do you think we’re not where we need to be?’ People usually know why, and then the question is, ‘How do we get back on track?’ But people throughout the company have to know that you’re watching the level of progress against your goals and that you care about achieving them.”
The essential ingredient in paving the way for your company’s future, particularly if you’ve been navigating some of the same murky waters as Century 21 Award, is to know what you want your company to be and what your ultimate goals are for the business. Without an end target of some kind, everything you do — communication, open dialogues, building of customer relationships, recruiting the best and brightest people — it will all add up to your company spinning its wheels. You’ll have a shed full of the best tools, but you won’t find yourself building anything with them.
Sometimes, setting those goals can be difficult, and the best direction you can give your people is little more than an educated guess. But you have to more forward with the information you have, even in an uncertain economy.
“Although we don’t know what is going to happen, we just have to base our decisions on the past performance of the market,” Romero says. “You can’t get somewhere if you don’t know where you’re going. So you at least have to tell everyone, ‘This is where we’re going; this is where we want to be.’”
How to reach: Century 21 Award, (619) 471-2000 or
“Most conversations are simply monologues delivered in the presence of a witness.”Margaret Miller
Part of the challenge to be a better listener is that it’s simply not specific. We must know where we are strong and where we are weak and get feedback around both. One executive may need to turn off his computer and turn to face people to prove he is listening. Another may need to paraphrase more to confirm that she, in fact, did listen. Either way, listening shows respect, competence and interest. It may be the most transcendent skill in business.
To help you monitor your own listening effectiveness, keep these following four sins in mind:
1. Interrupting. If you are a frequent interrupter, you may as well say, “I really am not interested in paying attention to what you have to say because what I have to say is more important than what you’re saying.” Typically, you don’t mean to communicate this idea to a client or supervisor when you interrupt, but that’s the message you’re sending. The problem is that we think we have good reasons to interrupt. Think back to a recent instance when you interrupted someone at work. Did you do so because the other person said something that energized you and you just couldn’t wait to contribute your idea, you disagreed with the other person and were so angry or disturbed by his position that you felt compelled to state your own or you felt the other person was being long-winded and you were too impatient to allow him or her to finish?
None of these are good reasons to interrupt. Try respectful, patient silence instead. It will pay dividends
2. Finishing the other person’s sentences. This may seem like harmless enough behavior, but it conveys another message that hurts relationships: “I know how to complete your thoughts better than you do.” I’m sure that most of you who commit this sin do so with good intent. You think you’re showing your boss that you’re on the same wavelength, that you think alike. Or you’re demonstrating to a client that you not only meet his needs but anticipate them.
3. Lying or faking it when you haven’t been paying attention. For whatever reason, you’re distracted. Your attention wanders and you miss everything someone is telling you. Rather than admit that you didn’t get everything, you attempt to fake it. You nod your head. When the other person asks if you agree with him, you say yes. You remember one thing your relationship partner said and focus on that issue to demonstrate you were paying attention. You may think you got away with it, but you’re probably wrong. Other people simply don’t like confronting you when you’re not listening. They may not call you on it, but they know your mind was somewhere else. When you’re really listening, people know it. Remind yourself that other people can sense if you’re not listening, so don’t fake it. Force yourself to be honest and admit you didn’t catch everything that was said. Request that he repeat it. Ask for clarification or elaboration. In this way, you’re being honest rather than deceitful and deceit kills results-producing relationships fast.
4. Rehearse your agenda while the other person is talking. Doesn’t everyone do this, especially when managing up? Isn’t it natural to think about how you’re going to phrase your request for a raise or a transfer to a new department as the other person is talking? Ideally, you’ll do your “rehearsing” before you meet with someone. Of course, you have to think about what you’re going to say in response to what your relationship partner is telling you. The problem is when you concentrate on what you’re going to request or propose to the point that you’re disconnected from the conversation. The best way to avoid this disconnection is by rehearsing prior to the performance. Know what you’re going to say before you meet. In this way, you’ll free yourself from having to figure out what you’re going to say on the fly. The easier you make it to concentrate on the other person, the more likely you’ll be perceived as a good listener.
Quick steps to take in order to gain listening wisdom:
- Practice silence.
- Eliminate distractions.
- Show nonverbal attentiveness.
- Use the “repeat principle.”
- Ask good questions.
Joe Takash is the president of Victory Consulting, an executive development firm that helps leadership teams and entire organizations, from boutique firms to the Fortune 100 companies, perform more effectively. Joe has delivered more than 3,000 speaking programs since 1988, integrating insights, audience involvement and humor to create results-focused programs. He also serves as a resource for national media outlets like ABC News, Fox Business News, Investor’s Business Daily and MSNBC. Learn more at www.victoryconsulting.com.
As the CEO, everything you say is magnified. You might as well walk around with a bullhorn turned up to the highest volume and broadcast even your most insignificant thoughts across the office. Everything is exaggerated. If you don’t smile wide enough when someone says good morning, people start to speculate that it must be because something is wrong with the business. If you don’t stop to chat as you walk by someone’s office, it must be because you hated the proposal he or she turned in last week.
It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way people look at the CEO. They view you through a microscope while you view them through a telescope. Every word gets dissected crossways. What did he really mean? What’s the significance of the red tie he’s wearing? He requested a meeting for next week are we in trouble? Whether you like it or not, what you say carries a lot of weight with your employees.
Be very careful what you say, because anything you promise will come back to haunt you if you don’t follow through. And I’m not just talking about promises about big-picture initiatives. If you told someone that you would look into why there are no pens in the supply room, you better follow through. If someone thought it was important enough to bring to your attention, then it’s a major priority for that person. It might be at the bottom of your priority list, but if you told the employee you would look into and you forget, he or she will see that as a broken promise and call the rest of your leadership and integrity into question.
You may have just forgotten about this minor detail as much more important issues swirl about in this difficult economy, but we live in a world of broken promises. People almost expect that when a promise is made, it won’t be honored.
Lehman Brothers promised to take care of investors’ money and manage it wisely. Its broken promises wiped out what had once been a pillar of the financial community and helped put the economy into a tailspin as people lost faith in the system.
People in your company look to you for guidance. If you say you are going to do something, then do it. If there’s a chance you won’t get to it, then you are better off not saying anything.
The other thing to remember is that as the CEO, you set the tone. If you don’t follow up on things you say you are going to do, your senior managers will see that as acceptable behavior and do the same thing. The people under them will do likewise, and the next thing you know, you have a culture of people who don’t value the promises they make. Eventually, customers will become the victims of this behavior. Managers and salespeople will make promises and then not deliver.
Be careful with what you say and how you say it. Talk to your managers and make sure that there aren’t any items that you told people you would take care of that have been neglected.
Promises are a big deal, even when they may be about things that seem trivial at times. Breaking promises is the fastest way to destroy your credibility.
There will be times when you simply just can’t keep a promise. It could be something that’s completely out of your control or just bad luck. Perhaps you promised bonuses, but one of your biggest customers canceled its contract, so you can no longer afford to issue bonuses. Or maybe a storm damaged one of your facilities and the money had to be spent to put everything back in working order. Regardless of the reason, if you have to break a promise, make sure you take action.
Talk to the people involved, explain what happened and then do whatever it takes to make it right. Most people will understand why something wasn’t delivered if you give them all of the information.
In a world where people don’t honor promises, it’s important that you set the standard in your company. Be careful with what you say, do what you say you are going to do, and if something goes wrong, explain why. If you do all of those things, your credibility will remain high and people will know they can trust you.
When many entrepreneurs and business owners think about raising money, they think about venture capital. Unfortunately, most of these entrepreneurs don’t qualify for venture capital. As a result, they fail to raise it and are never able to launch or grow their ventures.
In fact, the number of firms who receive venture capital is incredibly low. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers and The National Venture Capital Association, in the last 12 months, only 3,199 U.S. companies raised money from venture capital firms.
So, why do entrepreneurs continue to seek venture capital, even when their chances of success are so low? I’ve found two key reasons. First, they are unaware of the vast number of other sources of funding they can access, such as crowdfunding, social lending, bank loans, vendor financing and others. And because they don’t know about these sources, venture capital becomes “the usual suspect.”
Secondly, venture capitalists dish out the big bucks. Those 3,199 companies I mentioned raised $21.8 billion (according to PricewaterhouseCoopers and The National Venture Capital Association). That’s an average of $6.8 million each. Seeing such big dollars, and the vision of what their businesses could achieve with them, can seduce even the most seasoned entrepreneur.
So why is the success rate for raising venture capital so low? Well, the No. 1 reason is that businesses that seek venture capital aren’t qualified. That’s not to say they will never qualify, because some companies just aren’t ready now. And it’s also not to say that they are bad companies, because the vast majority of successful and public companies did not raise nor would they have qualified to raise venture capital.
So what are the qualifications of a “venture-capital-worthy” company? The first key criterion is scalability or the potential for the company to achieve significant annual revenue, typically in excess of $50 million to $100 million within a five- to seven-year period.
The second criterion is barriers to entry. Barriers to entry are those things that make it difficult for another firm to compete against you, such as patents or proprietary technology, a unique location, and long-term customer contracts.
The third criterion is having a strong management team. This is because most venture capitalists realize that the people running the companies and not the product or service itself will ultimately cause the company’s success or failure.
The fourth criterion is that venture capitalists need to feel confident of the company’s exit strategy, mainly that the chances are good of eventually having another firm purchase it or the company going public. This is because venture capitalists take equity in companies and only “cash out” when there is an exit or liquidity event.
The final criterion is that a company meets the sector, stage and geographic criteria of the specific venture capital firm that it is targeting. For example, some venture capital firms will only invest in health care companies, some will only invest in companies that have first achieved customer traction, and many will only invest in companies located within 100 to 200 miles of them.
While the overall success rate of raising venture capital is terribly low as stated above, when you weed out the entrepreneurs who don’t meet these criteria, the rate goes up substantially.
That’s not to say that it’s ever easy to raise venture capital, since the process is extremely arduous and often takes six to nine months of continual work. But by targeting only the venture capital firms for which you are qualified, and methodically working through the process, you can raise venture capital.
Dave Lavinsky is the president and co-founder of Growthink (www.growthink.com). Since 1999, Growthink has helped thousands of entrepreneurs and business owners develop business plans and raise numerous forms of financing, from bank loans to venture capital and private equity transactions. Lavinsky can be reached at email@example.com.
In today’s world, leverage is everything. You have to take advantage of every opportunity you can, because you never know when a small investment will turn into a big payout. Margins are really thin, and the competition is tougher than ever. The days of “business as usual” are gone forever.
If you aren’t finding ways of leveraging your people, your brand, your locations and your products, you probably won’t be around much longer. If you think of every contact as a dot, you need to be connecting those dots, not collecting them. What I mean by this is look at ways you can serve as an intermediary between those points. In some cases, there will be a direct business benefit for you. In other cases, you are simply making a connection that will benefit someone else. When you meet someone new, think about ways you can connect that person with others so that both parties benefit. When you come across a new product or service, don’t just think about how it can benefit your company but think about how it might benefit other CEOs. When you operate this way, you start making positive connections and people remember that. In the long run, hopefully they will remember you when they come across something that might help you out.
You are at the top of the organization and are probably used to thinking like this. But to maximize your leverage, you need to do everything you can to make sure those below you are doing it, too. Some people may not be as comfortable making the personal connections, so you should focus them on products. What are ways you can leverage your existing products in new ways? What are potential new products? How can you leverage your brand to create new revenue streams?
One example of a company that does this well is Sunkist. Not only does Sunkist provide fresh citrus fruit, the company also has the brand on more than 600 products in more than 45 countries. You’ll find the Sunkist moniker on everything from fruit juice to vitamins to orange soda. The company has found new ways to take its existing brand and apply it to products that still relate to its core, fresh fruit.
An effort like this isn’t coming from just the CEO. It’s something the entire organization embraces. The only way for you to achieve similar results is to make it a companywide effort, as well. It starts with a passion for knowing it’s the right thing for your company. When you exhibit that passion, it’s contagious, and others will follow. But you can’t stop there. You need to convey that passion as part of your vision for where the organization is going. When you combine your passion and vision and demonstrate that behavior, the attitude will start to be ingrained into your culture. When that happens, you are more likely to find the success that Sunkist has found in leveraging its brand.
But it all starts with your mindset. A lot of people talk about it, but few actually do it. The time to start is now. The next person you meet, think about not only how his or her talent or business can benefit your company, but think about how it might benefit other people you know. Find ways to cross-market not only your business but your peers, as well.
Start connecting those dots today, and you’ll see a stronger bottom line tomorrow.
Whether your audience is one or 1,000, there is more to successful communication than checking to see if your audience is listening. Expert communicators find ways to connect with the person or people to whom they are speaking. Connecting with an audience involves finding common ground, building a bridge to understanding and, most of all, putting the focus on everyone but the speaker. Leadership expert and best-selling author John C. Maxwell has spent decades honing the skills needed to connect with an audience. In this interview, he discusses his new book, “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently,” and how leaders can make much-needed connections.The idea that connecting is really all about others sounds simple enough. Why is it such a difficult point for people to understand?
First of all, we’re selfish. I’m selfish! The natural tendency is for all of us to say, ‘What’s in it for me?’ That’s just who we are as people. That’s why I think connecting has to be intentional, because connecting is not about me. It’s about others. As a young communicator in my middle 20s, it dawned on me that, for a period of time as a young leader, I was trying to get people to connect with me and catch my vision.
One day I realized, I’ve got to turn this around. I’ve got to get in their world. I’ve got to think about them and what they’re thinking about and what they need and how to help them. Every morning I ask myself two questions: Who can I add value to today, and how can I do it? And every evening I ask myself: Did I add value to someone today, and how did I do it?
The reason most people do not connect is they do not understand the focus and the intentionality that is required to connect with others. I’ve watched other people that connect well, regardless of profession, and I can tell you that this is 100 percent fact: It’s not a principle that usually works. It does work. Everybody I know that connects with people, they do so because they’re thinking of others first.You mention that control is a barrier to finding common ground. What advice can you give leaders about relaxing the need for control?
They need to ask themselves a very simple question: Do I want to have my way, or do I want to have the best way? If I want to have my way, I need to power up and use control. What I’ve known about those types of leaders is the fact that the only reason people follow them is because they have no choice. Now, that’s not leadership and that’s not connecting. Compliance is certainly not leadership and it’s certainly not connecting. The best leaders, the best connectors, what they seek immediately is common ground.
If I were sitting down with you today and you and I were wanting to connect, I would find out as much about you as I could. I’d ask questions about you and I’d find out something that you and I have in common. What I teach in the book is very simple: If you want to take people to higher ground, you have to first find common ground with them.
When you and I have something with which we agree or that we both love or that’s important to us, I can build off of that. I can now begin to connect with you. But I’ve got to find common ground first. Many, many people make the mistake of finding their own ground and being comfortable with it. They’re not willing to go beyond their fence and they’re always trying to bring people into their yard and go find a yard in between the two of them.
Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently
By John C. Maxwell
Thomas Nelson ©2010, 288 pages, $25.99
Not a day goes by when someone doesn’t write about the importance of teamwork.
Growing up as a Jewish kid in Los Angeles, I wasn’t a big team sports player and really didn’t understand the team concept until I started my own company. As a self-centered entrepreneur, being a team member was a big enough challenge, and it took me decades to learn how to manage teams effectively. OK, the truth is I am still learning along the way.
I have come to understand the difference and value among a good, great or awesome team experience in the work environment. Based upon my original “Awesome Experience” philosophy, I break down the identification of the awesome team experience as follows:
A good team experience is when a team successfully tackles a problem that is given to it. The team can be trusted with a problem or task and can bring resolution without creating drama or difficulty. This team is dependable, for the most part, but primarily acts on a task-oriented basis. This sort of team works well together but doesn’t necessarily exhibit a strong sense of camaraderie. Team members engage for purposes of completing their task no more, no less. As a company leader, I wouldn’t necessarily look to this team to tackle complex problems that require strong independent thinking.
A great team experience adds a dimension of entertainment to the process. Team members move past the goal and process and engage with each other. They actually connect with each other on a personal level and often create friendships that go beyond work. We often say these teams “have heart” because they seem to derive great joy not only from the accomplishments but the process itself. Great team experiences contribute to better productivity and retention, which is why employers expend great amounts of resources for team-building seminars and retreats. Oftentimes, these bonded teams will work harder with greater output since they enjoy spending time with each other.
An awesome team experience has to exceed the elements of being fun and productive. An awesome team will produce unexpected results that further a company’s growth and accomplishments beyond the original intent. Awesome team members have connected at a deeper level to create equality and synergy that allows them to be surprisingly creative in a relevant manner. This allows for a team that consistently achieves results far beyond the projected thinking of management. Ultimately, management relies on this type of team to grow the company and to point the way to its future success.
The challenge lies in creating an environment and understanding that fosters awesome teams. Multimillion-dollar entrepreneur, television expert and thought leader Amilya Antonetti has set the table for increasing the odds of an awesome team experience in her recent book “The Recipe: A fable for leaders and teams” (CorePurpose Publishing 2010). With a story set in a family-owned bakery, Antonetti demonstrates the different elements required for successful team building.
Antonetti has identified a number of factors in the story that were taken from her own experience in team building. Ironically, in the presence of Antonetti, one is nearly overwhelmed by her individual power and star quality, yet it’s her understanding and skill with team dynamics that has paved the way for her success in building businesses and bringing better products to today’s consumers.
“The Recipe” is wrapped in a delightful parable and is rich with processes that will help you take your team from good to awesome. Of all the valuable insights, the two standout concepts that have led to Antonetti’s success are diversity and parity.
Antonetti clearly outlines the need for different types of thinkers in a team. Often we look to work with people that think like us, because it makes for little conflict. Yet, it’s the differing points of view that accomplish more through healthy debate. With little or no conflict, ideas go unchallenged limiting the possibilities and creativity that can result from the process of challenge and resolution. Antonetti’s approach of having all perspectives represented in the conversation is refreshing and she makes a valid argument for leaving your doppelgangers behind.
Of course, working with diverse views and personalities can be a challenge. Getting everyone on a level playing field is critical for success. Antonetti emphasizes the need to connect on a more human level.
Here are questions to help examine your own teams that will stimulate action for creating awesome results.
1. How does your current team currently deliver the unexpected?
2. Are your teams set up for diversity or compatibility?
3. Do people work together because they want to or because they have to?
4. How does your company encourage open conflict with specific methods for resolution?
5. How do you allow individual humanity to shine in your company?
KEVIN DAUM is the principal of TAE International and the best-selling author of the Amazon No. 1 best-sellers “ROAR! Get Heard in the Sales and Marketing Jungle” and “Green$ense For the Home: Rating the Real Payoff on 50 Green Home Projects” both on bookstore shelves this month. He is also a speaker and marketing consultant. Reach him at Kevin@TheAwesomeExperience.com. Check out Kevin’s Quest for the Jewish Super Bowl Ring at www.AwesomeRoar.com.