9 posts categorized "November 2010"

November 30, 2010

How to think like Zuck

How many kid-coders would love to grow up to be Mark Zuckerberg?

Likely, you may also wish for his success - even if you don't know a lick of computer programming code.  The movie (Social Network) and myriad books (my fave is The Facebook Effect) chronicle the rise and rise and rise of Facebook as well as it's multi-billionaire founder.  Zuck.  He's an iconic image, eclipsing others before him including the cats at MySpace, Yahoo and even Google. 

So how did he do it?  How does he think?  What are his rules-of-the-startup road? Absent an auto-bio, there's little to gather from.  But in my case, it's Déjà vu'.  Between 1998 and 2004 I worked with two billionaire startup moguls pretty closely, and observed their personal operating systems.  First, I worked for Mark Cuban at broadcast.com.  Then, after he sold the company to Yahoo, I worked with Jerry Yang (and to a smaller extent, David Filo).  Between the two of them, the make-it-huge DNA is out there to deconstruct, or as in the case of Zuck, emulate.  

How To Make A Billion With An Idea: 

1 -- Solve A Problem, Then Create An Addiction:In the case of AudioNet (later, broadcast.com), Cuban and Todd Wagner, saw a problem: Indiana University basketball games were not broadcast nationwide, where alumni could listen.  So they solved that problem via audio streaming and soon, people got hooked on watching videos or listening to programs on their computers.  Yang and Filo saw a problem: The internet was difficult to navigate, making it hard to find information on golf and sumo wrestling (their fave sports).  So they created a guide to the web and people got hooked on searching.  This is what Zuck saw at Harvard: No facebook solution for students to use to hook up or network.  

2 -- Build Something That Scales: This is why most tech-billionaires can code, or at least have a firm grasp of technology.   Absent this intelligence, you'll build solutions that crash when they take off (like Friendster or PointCast) or flame out because their niche appeal is just a novelty (not a solution).  Zuck's obsession with keeping the system up at all times is likely the #1 reason for Facebook's continued success and growth.   

3 -- Thing BIG: Don't limit your solution to the problem at hand, devise a plan to take over the world.  Yang and Filo wanted to build the killer app that made the web mainstream.  Cuban wanted to shake up the media industry, make a billion and buy a jet.  Zuck, from day two, wanted to make the world more open.  Without a BHAG, you won't attract talent, money and media with enough mass to bust a grape. 

4 -- Keep The Biggest Slice For Yourself: Yang and Filo, somehow, held on to a huge amount of Yahoo (by investor terms), which mostly came from good negotiations and a positive cash flow situation (which by most accounts was in place by 1996).  Cuban held on to even more (some speculate around 20%) by rolling over his take from his first startup into Audionet, limiting investment rounds, arguing well about valuation and giving a micro-slice of equity to employees.  Zuck is much the same here, very good at holding on to his stake.  Over time we'll see if he has 20% on IPO day...

Note: Not all blockbuster CEO's or founder teams did it this way.  Dell and Google were much more generous, giving a higher % of the company to early stage employees and partners.  Google went further: Setting aside 10% of shares for a social-change-the-world play (Google.org).  That's a risky move, though, unless  you end up being super=massive like Google was, you'll just be a multi-millionaire.  Personally, I'd more likely do it this way if I was every crazy enough to try a tech-startup. But I digress, this post is about how to think like Zuck. 


November 23, 2010

How to give a pain free, highly customized talk

Many of my friends are frequent presenters, often asked to tailor their talks. 

Building on Chris Brogran's recent post related to this subject, I want to offer an alternative to the "death by power point notes" approach that most speakers take in this situation.  Sure, it's hard for you to remember all the details of your talk, especially if you are integrating research you've done for this talk.  There are new terms, statistics that will be fact checked and unique points you want to make.  You may not be comfortable shuffling notes around in your hands, and it's true, you look less professional when you do. 

While you are adding value by giving a one-of-a-kind talk, asking the audience to read and listen to you makes the presentation long and according to Nick Morgan, straining on the audience.  When you use 'overhead-notes' you are making your memorization problem your audience's as well.  I'm talking about those text-heavy slides with bullet points and builds.  They require many audience to have what I call the eye-exam-keynote-experience.  

OK - you actually know that words on screen is a crutch and not a visual 'aid' for the audience.  How can you possibly remember your points without using power point slides as your prompts? 

1 - Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse.  Give your custom talk at least two times (all the way through) prior to giving it for your audience.  Give it one time the day of your talk, even if that means you have to get up at 5:30!  If you really want to commit this to memory, give your last rehearsal....to yourself in the mirror. 

2 - Create an outline on 11 x 17 paper, much like a set sheet that a band uses.  Use bold magic marker, and write down cues (see the picture above, from my recent talk for Rich's Products).  The audience won't notice you are occasionally looking down at them, all they know is that you are giving them a talk that's written for them. 

3 - Make every power point slide beg for it's life.  In my situation, I only use slides that illustrate a point graphically.  The acid test is this: Can I make the point without showing the power point.  NOTE: If a picture saves a thousand words, that's also a good use of power point.  Karl Meisenbach (HDNET) and Seth Godin do a great job in this area.  

4 - Carry around a one page outline of your talk (mine from today is here) and read it from top to bottom for the last hour before you go on.  Test yourself, reciting the bullet points absent your notes.  Include any key words that are new to you. 

The audience, like a customer, responds to a good experience.  When they get to listen, and only view essential images, you are maximizing the experience.  But to quote Pine and Gilmore, customization is the ultimate experience! 


November 19, 2010

Should you make friends at work?

Tugwarteam small
Someday you'll realize that your co-workers and customers are/were/could-have-been your friends. 

This is what I told a person sitting next to me on a flight this week.  On this five hour journey, trapped in captivity, he and I talked about our businesses and eventually, Facebook.   He's an agent for insurance and financial services with his own office (and various social media pages in their infancy).  I asked him, "Do you friend all your customers, suppliers, partners, etc.?" to which he replied,

"Only if they were already friends.  Work isn't personal.  And besides, I'm not sure I'd want them all as friends." 

Wow, I thought, it must be awful to have to work with people you don't like.  But I think that was more of a throw-away line, really.  He was really just conveying a conventional idea: Work isn't personal.  If you need a friend at work, bring your dog.  I've heard this before countless times when working in companies and during my travels on the lecture circuit. 

We don't purposely try to make-friends with other people in our business life.  If it happens, then that's cool, but we should still avoid actively seeking friendship.  To some, being friends compromises their professional relationships. But I wonder if that's really a statement about them, and their lack of willpower when it comes to obeying 'the rules at work.'  I treated my friends the same, be they direct reports or cash paying clients.  I mean, we connected well, so we likely spent more time together...but that's actually a good thing from a team-innovation point of view. 

When I say making friends, I mean that we establish an emotional connection with someone, and decide that we like them and want them to be successful or happy.  If we want to maintain this connection, we invest in them, both being a resource as well as a sounding board.  In my business life, I try and do this with ANYONE I'm going to rely and spend time with.  My speaking manager (Karen) is my friend.  My top vendor-partners (Rapture and OutThink) are my friends.  Same goes for bureau agents, meeting planners and editors at magazine like One+.  I cannot imagine having a professional-distance relationship with any of them.  What about you?  Do you seek to capture or create value with your work contacts, or do you seek to build a connection with them - and coproduce something great together? 

If you'd like to make friends at work, here are a few tips: 

1-  Be on the lookout for someone doing something right or produce a (sustainable) positive mood at work.  These are the type of people that you will easily be attracted to and want to help.  

2- Always consider cube mates or frequent contacts, as they are the easiest friendships to form.  Research from The Likeability Factor indicates that people like others in many cases, due to the "proximity effect."  In the case of air travel, I find this the case often.  You sit next to a person long enough and you'll find a connection. 

3- Connect at the passion to passion level to deepen the bond.  

4- Invest time and effort into giving-forward in friendships.  Make it a point to find opportunities to share valuable knowledge, or network your friends together to connect-the-dots and create value. 

5- Prepare this short speech for times when things go wrong (you have to fire them, raise the rates, enforce the rules): "This business is a baby, and it can't take care of itself without our help.  The rules protect the baby, and that's why we are here.  Our friendship should only help the company succeed."  If that doesn't work, remember, the other person is being a bad friend by asking you for special considerations.  It's not your company, never forget it.  If it is, then it's your right to decide how you want to enforce rules or make exceptions.  (read The Law Of The Ledger, taught to me by Stanley Marcus Jr.)

What do you get out of making friends at work? You create an atmosphere of trust, where there's likely to be innovation and collaboration instead of cynicism and playing Devil's Advocate.  You'll have a place you enjoy spending time at, instead of doing-time-at-for-the-man.  You also get the satisfaction of living a better life, where your 9-5 existence is as emotionally pleasing as your social or home life.  Really, it's up to you to 'get over' the stigma that you keep work mates at arms length.  So make the leap, and be a Lovecat.  Remember, nice smart people succeed. 


November 17, 2010

Leave the gadget in your pocket and connect

Man phone sea
Digital Attention Disorder is the malady of the day. 

Yesterday, standing in a gate area at an airport, I noticed something - When business folk are idle these days, much like teens, they just stare into their phones.  Checking Twitter or Facebook or email or their multiple text threads.  Anything but connecting with other people. 

In fact, I'm seeing this "lost in his gadget" squinty personality everywhere: Walking down the street (aimlessly), in meetings, driving (really irresponsible), shopping and according to reliable sources -- in church.  We are more interested in pithy updates from semi-strangers than the humans sitting next to us or depending on us/helping us.  This is wrong.  

I started out in the mobile phone business back in the 80's.  Mostly, it was for on-the-go pro's, so they could return phone calls while they were out.  Some bought them for security (pre OnStar) or because they could afford to.  Most of the sales were installed car phones (remember them?).  When those users went to meetings, they actually paid attention and were engaged.  When they were out socially or for business, they conversed with others and "took in the sights."  

Then came digital pagers, black berries, smart phone and now the ubiquitous iPhone.  What's next, brain implants?  Today, we have a disengaged always-on culture, where attention is the scarce world resource.   This will randomize everything in life, including your relationships and circumstances. Data is everywhere, ready to divert-distract you out of any type of strategy.  

So here's the takeaway:  Leave your gadget in your pocket or better yet, back in your car or hotel room.  That way, you will HAVE to actually engage with people.  This is something I've been practicing for the last few years.  I only carry my gadget when I travel or run around town.  When I do, if at all possible, I leave it behind when going somewhere (reception, meeting, dinner, etc.)  If my wife has a phone in her purse, I'm covered for an emergency.  I'm not a surgeon on call, so I'm not shirking my duties by doing this.  The other night, due to a logistical issue, I had to take my phone with me to a dinner event.  I turned off the ringer and turned it upside down on the table so it wouldn't distract me from have a conversation and getting to know some people.  

Here's what I also get out of the equation:  I'm resetting expectations with all my business partners that I am not available 24/7.  I haven't carried a phone with me on the weekend for about seven years now and it's abundantly clear to everyone I do biz with that I'm a Monday-Friday guy.  For other people I know, they've signed up for an on-call lifestyle.  

I believe that phones are the new watches: We wear them for show.  But unlike watches, they are seductive in their attention sucking features and, with constant use, change us for the worse. 


November 12, 2010

Rules For Business Innovators Part 1

People Up small
You can change the world, by innovating how your company does business. 

This is the central message of my keynote speech for a corporate event next week.  The company has a lot of bright people, from HQ out to the edges, and it's more important than ever for everyone to feel empowered.  They need to believe they can make a difference via individual contribution and especially, innovation. 

During my keynote, I'll explain that one person (or a small group) can move the company forward either by process innovation (save money, increase quality) or value creation (find new ways to make the customer happy, beyond price cutting).  In other words, come up with new ways to increase the health of the business. 

I think the leaders are smart to bring me to in talk about this because it's a very important topic these days.  The economic environment has beaten us down, putting us in survival mode and leading us to believe that we are only a small part of the puzzle.  It's very natural to feel that way, especially if you work at a mid-large company in the field or a far flung office. 

But if you look at the history books of companies that were turned around or propelled forward, they are filled with stories of non-executives that led an innovative revolution at work.  One engineer suggested that Google's mission statement be "Don't Be Evil."  One store manager in Mississippi inspired a CEO to push-the-button on the largest corporate sustainability program in history.  The power of one is irrefutable.  The problem remains, though: "How does one person change the world at work?" 

This is something I've been researching, giving keynote speeches on and consulting with companies about.  It's really a matter of personality, passion and process.  During my talk for this company, I will focus on the process side of it -- How do we innovate the business? 

1 - Keep your eyes open for solutions.  Your ears (and your inbox) will be full of details RE the problem.  Everyone likes to talk about that.  If you dig hard enough into the details, like Don Ostler did at Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, an obvious solution will jump out of the pile.  

2 - Tie it to the business, and keep-it-short.  Solutions should either save money or increase revenue.  If you aren't doing one or the other, you aren't going to be strategic to the Finance function of your company.  And believe me, you need a friend at the bank.  In the case of Diane Ball at Delnore Community Hospital, she sold the leadership stress management for nurses with a case built on retention (there was 30% turnover in nursing) and how it saves money on recruiting and onboarding.  The COO jumped on a plane, attended a Heartmath training session, and implemented it immediately. 

3 - Build a team and spread out.  This is how Joan Krujewski did it at Microsoft: She had an agenda to make the company the greenest one in the world.  She started in the hardware B.U., using a power point presentation to get green-minded softies to identify themselves.  She corralled them into a network that represented key functions of the unit: Sales, engineering, packaging, etc.  Then they spread out to other BUs (operating system, software group) and in the end, several hundred people innovated product packaging and environmental management.  

4 - Go Martin Luther on the brass.  This is a last resort measure, but works in a pinch.  At Motorola, sales director Art Sundry got fed up that the Japanese were killing his business due to quality and price (which was virtuously dropping due to good quality and low rework).  At a national leaders summit, he raised his hand and asked Paul Galvin Jr. (son of founder) why the meeting was spending more time on quality.  When asked why, Sundry shouted, "Because we make junk!"  The rest of the meeting centered on quality and within a year, Six Sigma was born. 

I can't wait to give this talk, as The Power Of One is one of my favorite subjects to evangelize.  If you'd like to spark this thinking inside your company, please contact me with suggestions of meetings you are having where I'd be a fitting keynote speaker. 


November 10, 2010

Stay away from the pretty hate machines

If you feed your mind poison, your perspective will suffer. 

While this should be obvious to us, often times, we don't live like we believe it.  I have countless friends that consider watching reality TV or cable news their "guilty pleasure."  Or they still tune into radio programs, where loud mouths stir the pot and grant a platform to numbskull callers.  Others insist that Fox News or CNBC keep them informed on politics and current events.  


We likely watch, according to a 2010 research project (The Frontal Cortex) to reinforce our deepset beliefs.  We watch to be affirmed (The Age Of Affirmation).Often, by watching these screamers on cable, we bolster our biases.  In other words, we become more extreme and balance chips away.  Worse than that, the pretty hate machine (the flat screen TV) puts out a product that's designed to create a emotional reaction in the viewer.  One University of Texas professor believes that we  become over-reactive when we are exposed to too much TV programming - especially news/reality.  

One of my friends told me that he's recently been baited into watching the news while he worked out at the gym.  "It's up there on the screen, the only thing to do for thirty minutes while I exercise," he told me.  "But after watching it, my blood is pumping, in a bad way.  I'm pretty upset too, mostly about politics."  I told him to find another solution for entertainment: iPod, book, anything.  

Think about it this way: A negative cable mouth or radio shocker in your life is like having a standing appointment with the worst person imaginable - once every day.  That standing appointment is upsetting, provokes negative emotions and likely changes what you talk with your friends about.  It's like choosing to share a cubicle with the most hateful person at work.  Eventually, this will drag you down.  You can't avoid the impact of the pretty hate machine if you expose yourself to it long enough. 

Sure, there's good guys on Fox News (like Dave Ramsey) or radio (think NPR's "All Things Considered").  I can even stomach a little Cramer from time to time, mostly because he's got a positive POV in the end.  But I do not graze on cable or radio, no-sir-ee.  I care way too much about my personal level of emotional balance and how much it influences my ability to forge and maintain relationships.  And so should you.  To quote Maxwell Maltz: "Glance at the negative, focus on the positive."

This is from Today We Are Rich: Harnessing The Power Of Total Confidence (Principle One - Feed Your Mind Good Stuff).  Coming April 2011.  For more, follow this Facebook page


This is a concept that's included in my next book, Today We Are Rich.   Visit the book page and you can pre-order a copy and receive a free eBook excerpt with an entire principle!  You can also visit its facebook page too.



November 08, 2010

Personal social media strategy: It's Complicated!

Think about how simple your social circle was twenty years ago: Work, community, church and social groups.  Sure, you saw people over and over again, but they didn't have to hear your perspective over and over again each time they came in contact with you. 

With social media, all of this has changed.  Think about consultants, small business owners, agents, authors, etc., and how we all feel like we need to 'grow' our platforms in all social media circles.  We build a blog, start to Tweet, get on Facebook, service Linked In....and whatever comes next.  

Then, we catch the follower bug, where we become very promotional and encourage one network's members to join yet another.  We ask our Facebook friends to follow us on Twitter or read our blog. We ask our Twitter followers to link with us on LinkedIn or like our public page on Facebook.  Then we start to add #fb to Tweets, so they go to both places.   When we post an idea once, they receive it multiple times.

Pretty soon, our poor friends and colleagues are getting bit-spammed ... by us! 

This is why you need a personal strategy for your social media life in business.  Here are a few things to think about: 

1 - Define your objectives: Do you want following, influence or just a place to keep up with your friends and colleagues?  The correct answer is not "all of the above."  If you don't need more following, don't cross market.  Let people chose the platform they want to connect with you on. 

2 - Just pick one, and do it very well.  Seth Godin is a good example here, he's chosen his blog as his anchor.  On Facebook, blog posts are redistributed, but he doesn't market to you on his blog to follow him on Facebook.  Seth doesn't Twitter, although some accounts use Twitter to promote blog posts.  Get how unified this is? 

3 - Have a different strategy for different platforms.  Chris Brogan is a good example here.  On his blog, he offers four to five point advice postings related to business/social media and marketing.  On Twitter, he hosts a public conversation.  On Facebook, he's a conversation starter.  He's different on each platform, and not just repetitive.  I notice him constantly tweaking this strategy, seeking true differentiation for his 'narrative' as it best fits each platform. 

What's your strategy?  Are you a mile wide and an inch deep on your social strategy or have you made your bet on a single play?  If you have a strategy you'd like to share, do it in the comments. 

November 04, 2010

Why you should get rid of the jerks @ work

If possible, you coach a person from negative to positive attitudes. 

If that doesn't work, you really need to clean house.  I know that sounds harsh, coming from the Lovecat, but jerks at work drive down the quality of the business.  In every way imaginable. 

- A mean boss creates regrettable turnover.  Gallup's research point to consider: Most people don't quit a bad company or product, they quit a bad boss. 

- Mean bosses or co-workers create a cortisol ridden work experience, which drives down our ability to reason and solve problems.  They also nurture more of that behavior in the future by shaping the culture by example.  There is a direct tie between mood state and engagement.  

- Rude customers are usually the least profitable and can also scare off your talent, or demoralize them.  (Read Angel Customers and Demon Customers for more on this.)  Same goes for negative acting partners or suppliers.  In my experience, I've seen the employership-experience go south because the talent is forced to work with unpeoplelike people. 

Think about it this way: What if you were able to tell potential talent that your company follow's Bob Sutton's No A-Hole rule?  What a value-add that might be, that you are likely to work with friendly and thoughtful people.  That's another form of compensation!  

So, besides reading Sutton's book on this, here are a few ways you can weed out the jerks at work: 

1 - Put personality and attitude at the top of the list for hiring, bonus rewards, succession and annual review.  It starts here.  

2 - Fire demon customers.  You have them, owners and managers, buck up and get rid of them.  Yesterday, I saw a tweet from @Tk where he announced that, for the first time, he disabled a customer's account because he was rude to the team mates.  Bravo!  I'm sure many of the team mates are also getting his tweets, and that must have been a mood booster.  At Southwest Airlines (read Nuts for more), Herb Kelleher is notorious for telling rude passengers that "they are no longer invited to fly the friendly skies."  He says that when it comes to rude behavior towards his people, he always sticks up for them.  

3 - Open your eyes at work to spot the high-performing jerks.  They are the most dangerous because they have management's respect and use it against your people later as leverage.  It creates horizontal turnover, where the jerk stays and all his/her team mates quit.  When you see a high-performing jerk, call him out in front of the team or if you can afford to - dismiss him from the team like a bad case of Randy Moss.  Sometimes spirit is more important than the leader board.  

   -- Here's an edgy thing you can do if you want to rehabilitate a jerk, because you want to keep him on the team: Make a short video with comments from his co-workers, talking about how his behavior makes him feel.  Show the video to him in a one-on-one meeting (OK, with your HR generalist there too, just in case.)  That has worked wonders on rock-stars at work that needed an attitude adjustment.

Face it, your people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.  In my view, they should be loved and taken care of.   While the above advice may seem unconventional, it's very people=centric.


November 02, 2010

Why you should huddle up with your competitor

If  you can't beat 'em, join them in the market as Coopetitors. 

Back in 2001, I read a great book on the subject called Coopetition by Adam Brandenburger and Barry Nalebuff.  They demonstrated the benefits of collaborating with your competitors, sharing case studies of airlines locked arm-in-arm facing Boeing (their #1 supplier of equipment) as a unified force. They also suggested that there's potential knowledge sharing that could take place, improving customer value and keeping the industry relevant.  It's all based on Game Theory. 

In my experience, they are right.  When Yahoo worked side by side with MSN and Double Click on creating an ad center (think self-service model), we were making progress on behalf of digital advertising.  When, later, everyone went their separate ways, we left a hole that Google could drive a truck through.  When we partnered to negotiate with ad agencies on limited inventory, our gross margins were much higher. 

As an author or speaker, I've carried this spirit forward.  Sure, I compete with them for speaking gigs, but that's no reason to isolate myself from them.  When a dominant player enters, like Marcus Buckingham, you show respect and say good things about him in the market.  When an up-and-comer enters, you show him/her the ropes, knowing they'll likely take a few gigs away from you over time.  When you lose a gig to somebody, you spend time understanding what-they-did-right instead of fuming that you lost the sale.  Over time, you build up an eco-system of relationships and a stronger brand in the  market. 

In today's economic environment, I'm not seeing this much, though.  Because of the downturn, there's a perception that 'we are fighting over crumbs' - the scarcity mentality.  We develop negative emotions about competitors, relying on media or customer heresay to keep up with them.   When we read/hear success stories about them, we naysay or player hate.  But wait, four years ago, you were acting like buddies at the industry trade association conference! 

1 - Identify competitors that are performing at a high level.  Reach out to them to meet, so as to discuss ways to increase the size of the industry.  Be authentic in conveying your admiration for their innovations, and play big-dog (where you aren't trying to impress them).  

2 - Seek out competitors at trade shows or public places.  Compare notes on market activities and trends.  Be supportive on a personal level, after all, you are in the same business!  If two quarterbacks from opposing teams can become off-season friends (which happens all the time), you can do this too. 

3 - Take on up-and-comers to show them the ropes, especially as it relates to customer-service in your business.  No one wins when a low-performing group enters a market and fails to deliver customer value. 

4 - Create an industry focused event, where all or most of your key competitors attend.  Create an alliance, if possible, that either leverages a common supplier or partner or builds a common resource that provides efficiency or convenience for your customer(s). 

Coopetition is a function of the abundance mentality, practiced by champions and detested by the also-rans.  It's really your choice whether you huddle with or posture against your competitors.  I believe that success is not exclusive, it is highly contagious.  When the players in a market grows, the entire market grows. 

Sure, you can be stupid and give away intellectual property or proprietary knowledge that gives your competitor a leg up.  But you should also know the difference between comparing notes on market trends (like an association does) and giving away the recipe for frying chicken.  Also, if you just hold on to the 'info-held-is-power-withheld' then you'll surely fad away.  We live in a world where there are no sustainable secrets!

One of my first bosses in life told me that good intel is either in the media, your customer or your competitors.  To have the knowledge-edge, you have to monitor and engage with all three.  Are you?