Why Obama needs to ‘Build Baby Build’ the Keystone XL pipeline

Steele MMO_1368-EditIn a speech before the 2008 Republican National Convention, I unveiled the “Drill Baby Drill” battle cry to reduce our nation’s dependency on foreign sources of oil and to encourage more domestic oil exploration and increase oil refining capacity.

However, since the 2008 election, our nation remains dependent on foreign petroleum sources while the Obama administration continually blocked exploration and drilling which in turn would have helped lower the cost of gasoline.

Once the long-awaited State Department’s final environmental analysis of the $5.4 billion Keystone XL oil pipeline was announced, its positive report increased pressure on President Barack Obama to approve the 1,700-mile Canada-to-Texas pipeline. The fact that experts say the pipeline would ultimately employ about 20,000 Americans while working to achieve the bipartisan goal of energy independence makes not approving the pipeline a bit problematic for the president when the economy is still growing jobs at an anemic pace.

Release of the report has triggered a 90-day review period so Americans will know within that time frame whether the president is serious about immediate job creation and ultimate energy independence.

Politically, Keystone XL is supported by leading Republicans, Democrats and some of America’s largest labor unions. However, environmental progressives, a core constituency of the Obama political base, are promising acts of “civil disobedience” if the president signs off on the project and, in their eyes, undermine their “green agenda.”

Others, like former President Jimmy Carter have warned President Obama he risks standing on the wrong side of history should he approve the Pipeline. “You stand on the brink of making a choice that will define your legacy on one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced – climate change.”

But for all of the dire predictions and threats of political retribution, it is particularly noteworthy that more Democrat members of Congress, particularly the Senate, are finding their voice in support of the pipeline. As recently as last week, eleven U.S. Senators sent a letter to the President asking approval of the Keystone Pipeline by May 31st.

The letter was written by Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and co-signed by Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), John Walsh (D-Mont.) and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.).

In it, the Senators pleaded “The time to act is now Mr. President. Please use your executive authority to expedite this process to a swift conclusion and a final decision so that we can all move forward on other energy infrastructure needs in this country. We ask that you bring this entire process to an end no later than May 31, 2014, and that your final decision be the right one, finding that the Keystone XL pipeline is in the national interest.”

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Why Obama needs to ‘Build Baby Build’ the Keystone XL pipeline

Saul Kaplan: It’s the Innovator’s Day

innovation_leader_logo_intro-300x250-1Today is the Day of the Next-Generation Innovator

I am an innovation junkie. It’s a good place to be right now because there’s no more important time for New England to fulfill its promise as a regional innovation hot spot. Our region has the capacity to lead the way out of this economic mess and toward solutions for the big issues of our time, including health care, education, and energy independence. We must play offense.

Here’s some good news: Innovators thrive during turbulent times. In the 2001 recession, Apple Inc. unveiled the first iPod and The Procter & Gamble Co. launched Crest Whitestrips. The bad news is that innovation has become a buzzword. Everything is an innovation and everyone is an innovation expert. We must get below the buzzwords. I have a simple definition: Innovation is a better way to deliver value. I also differentiate invention from innovation. I assert it is not an innovation until it delivers real value to a consumer.

Ideas, inventions and new technologies are the lifeblood for innovation. We must continue to invest in basic and discovery research. It is necessary, but it is not sufficient. We also must improve our ability to get inventions out of the lab and into the real world, where they can solve problems and deliver value.

Business model innovation is the key to realizing the full potential of new technologies. A business model is a network of capabilities and a sustainable financial model to deliver value to target customers. Successful executives are really good at squeezing more value from existing business models. In this context innovation means either revenue growth from new products and services or reducing operating costs with process improvements. For most, innovation is about finding ways to ring the cash register by pedaling the bicycle of today’s business model faster.

Institutionalizing innovation While there’s nothing wrong with an incremental strategy, there is a problem. Business models aren’t lasting as long as they used to, and most CEOs have only had to lead a single business model throughout their career. Going forward, I suspect CEOs will have to change business models several times over a career and establish an ongoing process to explore new business models — even models that might threaten the current one. Organizations must establish R&D for new business models the way they do R&D for new products and services today. Business model innovation needs a discrete focus or it will get marginalized, producing again only incremental change.

In today’s networked world, business model innovation means connecting capabilities across traditional boundaries. Companies, schools and government agencies all must rethink existing business models and all struggle with the capacity to explore and test new ways to deliver value.

photo-saulDon’t you wonder, as I do, with so much new technology available why we haven’t made more progress? Technology isn’t the barrier to business model innovation. It is humans and the institutions we live in that are stubbornly resistant to change. Everyone loves the idea of innovation, until it has a personal impact. I used to think that we could enable large-scale change and create more innovators by proselytizing. But that doesn’t get you past the buzzwords. I now believe in sorting the world to identify the innovators and finding ways to connect them in purposeful ways.

The best opportunities to create value will be found in the gray areas between silos, sectors, and disciplines. And progress on the big-system issues of our time will require a road map and manageable platforms for systems-level experimentation and change. It doesn’t matter if the customer is a patient, student, citizen, or consumer. R&D for new business models is imperative to remain competitive, harness technology, and deliver more value with fewer resources.

In the months ahead I will share personal observations from around the region in the hopes of catalyzing conversation, connections and action. Join the conversation and pass along your business model innovation stories.

This post originally appeared as the debut “It’s Saul About Innovation” column in Mass High Tech.

Jason Grill – Idea Mensch

From Idea Mensch:

110901_grill_arenaJason Grill has extensive experience in media relations, public affairs, public relations, government affairs, law and the media. He is the principal and founder of JGrill Media, LLC. A Kansas City based, but national consulting firm that specializes in media relations/pr, public affairs, government relations, relationship building and development and strategic partnerships. Jason has worked with and consulted with numerous startups, entrepreneurs, businesses, accelerators, foundations, non-profits, cities, associations, lifestyle brands, marketing and digital agencies, corporations, c-suite executives, government entities and technology companies. Jason works in the media as a local and national writer/contributor, radio host and television analyst/commentator. Jason writes for the Huffington Post, Yahoo! and the RecoveringPolitician.com. He has written for Politico and KC Business Magazine and also been a contributor to the Wall Street Journal Radio Network and the Mitch Albom Show. He is a TV analyst for WDAF Fox 4 and is the producer and host of the Entrepreneur KC Radio Show on KMBZ Business Channel (Entercom Station). He is an licensed attorney and a published national co-author of a best selling book, “The Recovering Politician’s Twelve Step Program to Survive Crisis.

In addition to JGrill Media and his consulting work, Jason’s entrepreneurial spirit also led him to start an innovative sock company. Jason is the Co-Founder of Sock 101, a growing national business which produces colorful high quality and professional socks and sells them for an affordable price. Sock 101 has a unique Sock of the Month Club and does custom logo and branded socks as well for organizations, events and corporations. Sock 101 has been featured in many media outlets, including Forbes. He is very excited about growing Sock 101 into a household name and worldwide brand.

Jason is a former two-term member of the Missouri House of Representatives, where he passed historic legislation to help families of children with autism access life changing therapies and treatments. He passed meaningful legislation during both Governor Matt Blunt and Governor Jay Nixon’s administrations.

Jason has served as an adjunct professor at Park University. He has worked in the White House for a senior advisor to Former Vice President Al Gore and an advisor to Former President Bill Clinton, as well as at the CNN Washington DC bureau with a senior political correspondent.

Jason earned a JD and Advanced Certificate in Dispute Resolution from the University of Missouri. He earned a BS in Business Administration, Summa Cum Laude, majoring in economics and minoring in political science from Saint Louis University. Jason also studied at Loyola of Chicago Rome Center in Rome, Italy.

Jason is an avid Missouri Tigers, Kansas City Royals/Chiefs, Sporting KC and Liverpool fan. He enjoys traveling throughout the US and around the world, anything sports and hopes to one day complete a marathon and go to a World Cup. He is still waiting for a Kansas City Royals v. Chicago Cubs World Series.

Can you expand on how JGrill Media is not only focused on strategic consulting across various industries but how it also encompasses your very own personal media work with radio, TV and writing?

I started the company with the intent to focus on my own writing, TV work and radio hosting. Through my work and the relationships I begin to build I found that many individuals, entities and agencies wanted to hire me as a consultant to help them with their own media/pr, public affairs and government/public policy related issues. Through this evolution I have been able to continue to grow my own personal media brand, as well as consulting work with some incredible people and clients. I truly enjoy doing my radio show, TV analyst work and contributing writing with some great media outlets and hope to continue to move forward on both fronts of the company in the future with some strategic partnerships.

What advice would you pass onto someone looking to build credibility through thought leadership?

Quality content and thought leadership are king these days. Building yourself as a true opinion leader, expert and thought leader in your industry is one of the best ways to build your business and credibility. This is so important especially if you’re a startup or small business. You need to get high quality content out in the marketplace to establish your brand. It’s ok to start slow on this endeavor, but make sure if you’re a CEO or a co-founder to be doing this and talking to your customers’ pain points. Give them information that they might have never thought about and ways to make their lives easier. Be willing to do this for free and make sure to highlight your community with quality content. Don’t be selfish. Give back to your city or your customers through your writing or contributing. Thought leadership is not an ego play.

Why do you think that Kansas City has seen such a big surge in entrepreneurship over the last few years and how do you predict that growth will play out in the coming years?

Kansas City is an amazing city and has a rich entrepreneurial history. We have the best foundation for entrepreneurship and education in the world with the Kauffman Foundation being here. We have an abundance of resources, Google fiber, corporate innovation and some of the best accelerators in the US. However, the real reason for Kansas City’s surge the last few years has been the community. The entrepreneurial community in KC is ultra supportive of each other in all facets. People and businesses work together and are willing to introduce you to just about anyone to help your startup or entrepreneurial endeavor succeed. In a competitive world, KC entrepreneurs are about bringing the entire ecosystem up, rather than just their own business. Kansas City is a sleeping giant on a national and international level when it comes to entrepreneurship. With a great standard of living and numerous first-class amenities as well the sky is the limit for Kansas City. KC is not flyover country.

Can you talk us through the inspiration behind your other business, Sock 101?

Sock 101’s mission is to provide high quality cotton based socks that are professional and affordable to individuals throughout the country. I have always been a fan of men’s fashion and classic style. As an individual who always was in a suit and tie, I got tired of paying $15-$25 for a nice, colorful pair of socks. There had to be a better way. The solution to that problem is Sock 101. In year one we sold thousands of pairs of socks at a price point of $7 at Sock 101. We also built a Sock of the Month Club that delivers a new pair of Sock 101’s to your door or your client, friend or loved one’s door every month. By the end of year two we will have over a thousand members in this club. Lastly, we are very excited to offer custom logo and branded socks for organizations, businesses, events and groups. We have seen a tremendous response both locally and nationally to this new service and have made socks for organizations such as the Kansas City Convention and Visitors Bureau, Veterans United and Influence & Co. I believe custom socks are a major part of future marketing budgets and separating yourself or your brand from the typical gifts or ideas. Whether it’s the bright colors, a custom logo, a dot or a stripe, socks truly are a statement piece that don’t have to be and shouldn’t be boring gold toes anymore. In a world dominated by blue jeans and dark suits, socks show an individual’s personality and style almost more than any other men’s accessory. Socks are the new tie.

How did you come up with the concept behind the book you Co-Authored, “The Recovering Politician’s Twelve Step Program to Survive Crisis” and what do you hope that the average reader walks away with?

Jonathan Miller, the Former State Treasurer of Kentucky, actually contacted me about writing a chapter in this book. Jonathan is a friend and an exceptional writer and businessperson. This book offers individuals in any business or vertical really great advice on crisis management and public relations from experiences in the brightest of lights. It gives the reader some incredible stories on how to survive a crisis in any aspect of their life or business, as well as how to move forward if you do experience what you think is the worst thing that can happen. The former head of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele also has written a chapter in the book. Out of this book and the relationships it formed a national speaking group has evolved called Second Act Strategies. This exciting new service involves leadership, teamwork, integrity and reinvention seminars, as well as crisis simulations from esteemed, qualified experts who’ve earned their stripes in the arena’s spotlight.

Who is your hero?

Without a doubt my father, Brad Grill. Hardest working and most genuine individual I have ever know.

What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?

One of the greatest things I have learned in life and in business is how important relationships and partnerships are to your success. If you treat other people like you would want to be treated, are willing to help out others and give yourself to your community even when you don’t want to, it will be beneficial both personally and in business. Mutually beneficial relationships are everywhere. They only come to fruition when you put yourself out there, listen, learn and leave the office.

Always remember this quote by C.S. Lewis – “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”

What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?

As every year goes by I continue to learn more and more from the people I interact with, work with and meet. One of the lessons that is still hard for me to grasp completely at times is that you have to be willing to say the word “no.” Many entrepreneurs and new businesses say yes to everything. You can’t do everything. I can’t tell you how many times I have said yes to projects, work engagements, media opportunities, new clients and endeavors with JGrill Media that I really didn’t want to be involved with and work on.

Or on the flip side with Sock 101 trying to do too many things with the product or the brand just because someone sees a fit, a need, has an idea or wants you to do something else. Having the ability to say no to some of these things give you the ability to really focus on what types of things you want to work on and what types of things will take you, your brand and your business to the next level.

What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?

One of the things that always helps me is getting in a morning run. If I am able to do this it really helps the general flow of my day and allows me to work later.

During the early part of my business day I usually try to get through all of my emails and if need be set up my meetings so I can really get more work done throughout the day.

I usually try to post any relevant business related social media posts in the morning as well via Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

However, as we all know as business owners and entrepreneurs many days are not like the others!

What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?

Two things:

1. Find a solution to a problem. Consumers and companies seek these things out whether they’re product or technology based and are willing to pay or help you if there is a need. 2. Build partnerships and relationships with those who have bigger teams and support. This will allow you to stay lean, but still be profitable early on.

What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?

Success is making a true difference and having a positive impact on people, your community and in business. I have been lucky enough to have a hand in passing laws that have helped and impacted lives as a legislator, offered needed assistance as a lawyer, built a company to allow entities of all different types to get their message out into the community and connect them to mutually beneficial relationships at JGrill Media, as well as be a part of a growing company that turned a profit in its first year and is bringing smiles to people’s faces and stepping up their style at Sock 101. I strive to always evolve and become a better individual. I try to succeed day-by-day little by little.

What’s one thing you recommend all aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?

Be a good listener and get involved in your community!

What are some trends that you’re excited about or think that our readers should be paying attention to?

Socks. Socks. Socks. In all seriousness though, I think the rising trend of entrepreneurship and startups that are solving problems in this country is exciting. I am very excited that the mainstream media is covering these stories and individuals more often. If policymakers can realize that young companies are the engine of our economy good things will continue to happen!

Jason Grill: Have You Joined the Content Marketing Movement?

110901_grill_arenaContent marketing is the new black for savvy business owners. Are you on board?

In the last few years, the words “content marketing” have become buzzwords in the corporate business, marketing, digital and media space. But what is it really? Content marketing as defined by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI):

Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience — with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

Content marketing is becoming the new black from both a quantity and quality standpoint for individuals throughout the world. Some have stumbled into this world. Businesses both large and small are realizing that in order to compete, they must embrace this new era of interaction and develop true content marketing programs. Content marketing is becoming a disruptive force. In the past, marketing pros relied on production, publishing and promotional amplification tools. Content is the fuel that makes all of those platforms run. However, a few blog posts or an email campaign won’t suffice anymore.

Provide Value With Content

Relevant content coming from a business through a thought leadership perspective has a considerable effect on attracting and retaining customers. It’s not hokey, it’s not a pitch and it’s not everyday sales — it truly has become an educational and informative way to deliver knowledge and content to build brand loyalty and awareness.

A study by Roper Public Affairs shows that 80 percent of business decision makers prefer to get company information in article form rather than in an advertisement. Seventy percent say content marketing makes them feel closer to a company, while 60 percent say that company content helps them make better product decisions. “Content marketing works because it delivers relevant proof of value,” says interactive content marketing strategist Mark O’Renick. Quality content marketing engages consumers to look at a business differently.

Many C-suite, advertising and marketing executives believe their company has great content to shoot out and share in the public arena, but they don’t feel they can do this quickly enough or keep it moving through a streamlined process. Spreadsheets, emails and project management systems have all been used by marketing teams in recent times to churn out content on a routine basis. This has led to a whole new industry of technology solutions that make your typical marketing editorial calendar look like a thing of the Stone Age.

Work Smarter

A Kansas City, Missouri-based startup, DivvyHQ, realized that content marketing is the present and the future of marketing. Their founders, both from the digital agency world, developed an ideation, planning and production workflow specialty tool to help businesses and online publishers embrace content marketing and collaboration, but in a manner that allows the user or users to do so in a more efficient way without all the headaches. Simply put, DivvyHQ aims to take content marketers out of spreadsheet, email, storage and organizational hell and alleviate the challenging manual and laborious process. Corporations such as Intel, Toyota, Bed Bath & Beyond, Walmart, Sprint, H & R Block, Travelocity and Adobe have all worked with DivvyHQ. PR and media giants Ogilvy, Edelman and the National Geographic Channel have also used the product to streamline their content needs.

“Despite the traditional publishing industry taking a beating over the last decade, companies can learn a lot from the day-to-day planning methods, scheduling tools and production processes that help publishers hit deadlines and crank out great content every day,” says content marketing expert Brody Dorland.

Turn to the Cloud

Companies and enterprise level organizations who handle multiple individuals and tasks are finding out they need a way to plan, divide and conquer their content marketing and editorial needs on the cloud. They have discovered they also need ways to break down the internal silos in the workplace. Some have used the old fashioned approach and tried breaking down physical walls in their office to get their employees and content producers to talk. There is an easier way. Virtual, real-time sharing and collaboration significantly improves these situations and breaks down silo walls.

Dorland believes, “Simplifying things and leveraging the cloud to help global, decentralized content teams collaborate, share assets and increase the quantity and quality of their content output is huge right now.”

The content marketing phenomenon isn’t going away. Content collaboration and team calendaring is on the upswing. The spreadsheet free editorial calendar is the new king of the castle. Companies both large and small are yearning and will continue to yearn for high-powered, specific content marketing tools to help take their business to the next level.

Content marketing is the new black.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: The Beverly Hillbillies in Boca

10006221_10154036606585515_1122170479_nTonight my wife and daughter and I couldn’t decide if we should order room service for dinner or go out. We decided, since we were in Boca Raton, to go out –to our favorite Italian restaurant after driving by the old apartment complex where Rebecca and I lived briefly when we were newlyweds in the early 90s. I was fresh out of law school and working for Kenny Rogers Roasters. It was an exciting time in our lives and our son was born in a Boca Hospital just down the road from our apartment a few months before we moved back to Kentucky.

Lots has happened since then and tonight our daughter was with us and we wanted to share our memories with her. Unfortunately, our favorite Italian restaurant was no longer around but we found an excellent substitute, Trattoria Romana, a 4 1/2 star restaurant nearby. The problem was we were looking a little ragged and unkempt after driving 5 hours from Key West. We were wearing sweatpants and, in my case, was unshaven and wearing a rumpled shirt. But we were determined to retrace our steps the best we could for old times sake.

As we walked into the elegant restaurant we could tell we stood out in an awkward and uncomfortable way. We felt like the Beverly Hillbillies had just walked into the Boca Raton country club and at any minute we would be asked to leave. We joked among ourselves that maybe we were making other people uncomfortable that they may had overdressed tonight. After some uncomfortable self-conscious banter we were seated. Not beside the kitchen door–which was what I expected– but in a secluded corner tucked away from visibility from anyone save the waiter. It was obvious but not offensive if were willing to suspend disbelief long enough to get through an appetizer and entree.

We continued to chuckle and joke among ourselves as the waiter brought bruschetta to our table. I tried to eat the bruschetta while ordering but ended up dribbling oily chunks of tomato in an orderly pile beside my plate instead of inside my mouth. My daughter was laughing almost uncontrollably at how deftly I was fulfilling the stereotype we assumed our waiter had of us–and I wasn’t being self-deprecating. Just self-fulfilling.

I wanted to play it up with the waiter and ask if they served possum and grits. But I didn’t. We ordered rigatoni and ravioli, two entrees easy enough to pronounce–and split the two entrees among the three of us. So far, so good. We skipped dessert and asked for the check before something really embarrassing happened.

jyb_musingsAs we slinked out I joked with Rebecca and Maggie that maitre ‘d was probably expressing relief that we were leaving quietly and not creating a spectacle. We laughed again amongst ourselves and filed in line behind several older regulars at the restaurant who were chatting and chuming it up loudly and proudly–and a little intoxicated. One, a distinguished looking man of about 70, turned to me and peering over his bifocals couldn’t decide if he should give me his car parking stub or not. So he just held it out in my direction in an uncommitted way so that if I were the valet I would know to take it but if I wasn’t it would look like he was just making it known he had a parking stub but wasn’t directing it at anyone in particular.

I was laughing to myself at yet another slight– but also, by this time, getting a little irritated. So I responded by pulling out my parking stub and offering it to the distinguished 70 year old man. “Could you, uh, please get my…Oh wait! I’m sorry” And then the man’s friend interjected laughing, “He thought you were the valet and tried to give you his parking stub” We laughed together and I said I would be happy to get their car if they were good tippers and not in a particular hurry.

Then some other friends from their party came out and we tried to chat but one of the other gentleman, also about 70 and distinguished looking, said to his group just loudly enough for us to hear, “Open the door and anyone can walk in.” He was referring, apparently, to us–the riffraff in sweatpants and, in my case, unshaven and with a rumpled shirt.

I thought to myself. “Surely, he’s not referring to us.” But my wife and daughter assured me he was.

I looked at him agog and thought to myself, “What do you say to that?” I didn’t say anything. And at that moment the valet pointed to where our car was parked across the lot rather than deliver it to us. We, staying consistent, only had $1 of cash left and used it as our tip. I was very discrete in handing it off hoping the valet would think he got a larger single bill than a $1 and wouldn’t notice until we had pulled off the property.

The drive back home we joked about our dinner experience as outcasts and I tried to think of something clever I wished I had said to the man who made the rude comment about opening the door and anyone walking in. But nothing at all came to me. Which confused me. I am usually good at telling people off after they offend me and I am driving home having an imaginary conversation with them and putting them in their place. I was offended but other than fantasizing what it would have felt like to punch him (which, of course, I didn’t), I couldn’t come up with a clever or funny retort. And didn’t really even want to. It just felt like any way I could respond to such a rude comment would automatically devalue me more rather than put the other person in his place. (Especially if I haven’t shaved.)

And that, I suppose, is the lesson I learned tonight.

In the future when I go to a nice restaurant, I will try to dress more appropriately. If I do that I won’t feel as awkward and have to make inside and self-deprecating jokes about myself. Or pretend I don’t know who the valet is. And if someone treats me rudely by making an insulting remark, there’s nothing I need to say at all in response. Just let it lie and leave it with the rude person un-responded to. And just fantasize about punching the rude guy in the face (even though I really don’t) as I drive off the lot–after tipping the valet $1.

Jason Grill: 3 Ways Failure Can Help Build a Business and Mistakes to Avoid

110901_grill_arenaGrowing up I always admired the play of Michael Jordan. In my opinion, he is the best basketball player of all-time. However, at the time he was playing professional basketball I never imagined him to ever be a failure or make mistakes. Recently, I came across this quote from Michael Jordan. He said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Air Jordan couldn’t have said it better. Even the greatest fail in some aspects of their career or business along the way.

Echoing MJ’s sentiment here are 3 ways failure can help build a business and some mistakes to avoid.

1.  Always Thinking Growing Big Fast Is Best

Many people believe growing your company with numbers and employees quick is always a great thing and will make you more successful. This isn’t always the case. Many times people learn this the hard way and fail fast with the impression that having a lot of people around you in-house will make you more profitable and successful. They fail financially and have smaller profits because of all the other costs involved. As a small business owner many times it makes much more sense to build strategic partnerships and mutual beneficial relationships. This allows you to keep your overhead costs lower and not have the stress of numerous employees as you begin to grow your profits. You won’t have to worry about everything else. Working with other businesses that might be bigger or offer more backend support allows you to do what you do best, while at the same time utilizing the strengths of the other partner companies. Growing your business with key partners is often times way more profitable then growing fast within.

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Jason Grill: 3 Ways Failure Can Help Build a Business and Mistakes to Avoid

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: “Survivor: For Real”

reality tvIdea for a new reality TV show

“Survivor: For Real”

Twelve companies that provide online services (e.g. reservations, etc) –and then make it nearly impossible to ever reach a human by phone and, if you do, it is only to talk to a well-trained call center worker who has memorized every conceivable polite way of telling you you will get absolutely no help— will have their CEOs and call center employees transported to a marooned island with no food or shelter or cell phones.

jyb_musingsAlso on the island are the frustrated customers of these 12 companies and they will have much more food and shelter than they need –as well as having cell phones. But this group will be unable to talk live to any of the CEOs or call center workers who are begging for food and shelter because they will be on their cell phones and can’t be bothered. But they will be very polite about explaining why they can’t talk or help right now. And tell them to have a nice day and ask if they would agree to participate in a customer service survey.

The ensuing fun will be something most every viewer will be able to appreciate.

Julie Rath: Follow these Six Rules for Success in Any Meeting

Today’s post is courtesy of speech and communication specialist, Marjorie  Feinstein-Whittaker, of The  Whittaker Group. I was introduced to Marjorie by a client and have been  thoroughly impressed by the progress she’s made with his communication skills  throughout the course of my work with him.

Men's Image Consulting: Communication SkillsMany of us spend a significant amount of work time  in meetings ranging from routine staff and management meetings, to client  presentations, and more. Unfortunately, these frequent opportunities for  education, collaboration, and communication are often perceived as boring,  unproductive, and even contentious. One of the most important things you  can do to make your participation in meetings positive is to be a good  listener. By offering your full and focused attention, and conveying  respectful and socially appropriate behaviors, you can build and maintain  healthy long-term business relationships. This is easier said than done. Many of us have both verbal and non-verbal habits that can sabotage our  best efforts. However, if you identify and address some of these  behaviors, you can learn how to exude confidence, competence and poise.

If you typically:

1. Interrupt others – If you have an enthusiastic, perhaps  impulsive personality, it may be difficult not to blurt out comments at  inopportune times. Take a slow, deep breath, or silently count to three  before you speak. If you inadvertently interrupt someone, acknowledge  it by apologizing, and encouraging the speaker to go on. For example, “I am  sorry for interrupting. Please finish what you were saying.” If you need to  interrupt a speaker to get a meeting back on track, or give another participant  time to reply, raise your hand slightly (to chest level), and acknowledge the  speaker by name. “James, I’m sorry to have to cut you off, but I promised I  would leave 10 minutes for Q and A.”

2. Have a trash-mouth –

If you are a person who litters their speech with expletives to get attention  or express extremes of emotions, you are negatively affecting your  professionalism and credibility. It is best to refrain from inappropriate or  potentially offensive remarks. Work on expanding your vocabulary so you can  explicitly and appropriately convey your thoughts and emotions. Instead of  saying, “It was a damn good meeting,” try something like, “The meeting exceeded  all of our expectations.” Learn how to choose your words carefully.  Rehearse alternative ways of expressing your feelings and ideas in a more  professional manner. If your colleagues include nonnative English  speakers, be careful not to use unfamiliar figurative expressions, slang or  colloquialisms which may be misunderstood or misinterpreted. Also avoid jargon  or acronyms that might be unfamiliar to some members of the group.

3. See the glass as half-empty –

If you are the nay-sayer in the group, think of ways to re-frame what  you say with a more positive spin. Instead of remarking, “That is never  going to work,” or “That is a ridiculous proposal,” try something like, “This  project is going to be challenging. Perhaps if we delegate the responsibilities,  we can meet the deadline.”

4. Have “monkey-brain” –

If you sit in meetings and your mind jumps from one thing to another as if  you were swinging from tree to tree by your tail in the jungle, you need to  learn how to focus. Of course there are a myriad of external distractors, such  as people walking past your office, interesting things outside the window,  office chatter, and buzzing smart phones. There are also internal thoughts that  may range from a growling stomach to how you feel about your co-worker on a  given day. Learn how to be in the moment. Look at the person who is  speaking, and really listen with your eyes, body and mind. Offer to  take the minutes. This task will ensure that you are really engaged and  listening mindfully.

5. Ramble, mumble, or speak too softly or rapidly –

Sometimes it is difficult to get to the point, especially if you are asked a  question that you didn’t anticipate. Instead of answering immediately, take a  breath, and organize your thoughts silently. Create a mini outline in your mind  so you can stay on topic and avoid rambling. A convenient acronym to help you  achieve this is T-I-E-S. T= re-state or paraphrase the question or  topic I= introduce your main idea E=  cite 2-3 supporting facts or examples   S=summarize

Make sure you speak at a reasonable pace (not too fast or slow), and at an  adequate volume (not too soft or loud). Finish the ends of your words, and don’t  let your voice trail off at the ends of words. Try to minimize stereotypical and  meaningless remarks such as, “Do you hear what I am saying,” and empty fillers  such as “you know,” “It was like,” “uh,” etc. Pause silently, and speak when you  have something worthwhile to say. Make sure you speak with varied pitch and  intonation, and avoid a monotone (boring) delivery.

6. Send the wrong message without saying a word –

It is extremely important to be aware of what kinds of non-verbal messages  you are sending through eye contact, gestures, and body language. For example,  bouncing your leg, drumming your fingers, or rolling your eyes could convey  impatience or frustration. Closing your eyes/pinching the bridge of your nose,  looking away and yawning could convey boredom, and raising your eyebrows,  covering your mouth with your hands could convey disbelief. Much of what  we say isn’t spoken at all. Try to maintain appropriate eye contact  with speakers, lean forward with your body, and nod to convey interest and  attentiveness.

Of course, you cannot control what other colleagues or clients say or do in  meetings, but you can control your reactions. You will find that being a good  listener who is in the moment will have benefits that go beyond the  Boardroom.

Men's Image Consulting: Speech and Communication Specialist

Marjorie Feinstein-Whittaker is owner and principal consultant at The Whittaker Group in Boston and is co-founder of ESL  RULES. Her companies  provide assessment and consultation services to both  native and nonnative English speakers in a variety of fields. She develops and  delivers specialized foreign and regional accent modification programs  and  customized workplace communication programs for those seeking to improve the  clarity and effectiveness of their speech and communication. Marjorie works with  clients from all over the world, both in person and via distance learning. Her  training programs have been featured on The Today Show and many local  media outlets.

You can contact Marjorie here.

-Content provided by Rath & Co. Men’s Style Consulting. Read more: http://rathandco.com/2014/03/follow-these-6-rules-for-success-in-any-meeting/#ixzz2xZ1CJ78r

Saul Kaplan: Squeezing Harder Won’t Work

squeezing toothpasteHere’s the thing about toothpaste tubes. You can squeeze all you want on one part of the tube and the toothpaste will only pop up in another part of the tube.  Many of today’s important systems operate much the same way.

The big challenges we face today including health care and education are systems issues that require systems solutions. These systems have evolved over a long time and are well intentioned. Players in the system work hard year after year to deliver value, improve their position, and create sustained incremental improvements.  It is not enough.  We need new toothpaste tubes.  We can’t fix these system issues by squeezing harder on different parts of the tube.  We need to design and experiment with new system level solutions.

Everyone loves to point fingers at the other players in the system as the cause of the problem.  Health care is a classic example.  Observing our health care system today is like watching an intense rugby scrum that is moving in slow motion hoping the ball will pop out.  Finger pointing and incessant public policy debates galore.  We love to admire the problems: It is the cost of drugs that is killing us.  It is the high cost hospitals that are the problem.  It is the insurance companies that are in the way of change.  Doctors are the ones who are resisting change.  If only the government would get its act together.  If only patients would take more responsibility for their care.  It goes on and on.

In education, the same movie is playing with different actors.  It’s the unions that are getting in the way.  Teachers are resisting change in the classroom.  Administrators don’t understand what is going on in the classroom.  Parents are not engaged.  Public policy makers can’t make up their minds.  If only private sector companies were more engaged.  Students are unruly, undisciplined, and disrespectful.  Everyone is blamed and nothing changes.

I’m not a cynic. I’ve seen and participated in many innovative initiatives that are trying to create systems-level changes within healthcare and education.  And some of them have indeed succeeded in creating incremental value. But where are the disrupters? Where are the systems-level game changers? The problem is that great ideas coming from one silo are tried but quickly bump into the other silos and constraints of the system.  Promising new solutions squeeze on one part of the toothpaste tube only to learn that when you squeeze on one part of the tube it just pops up in another. We need safe environments to design and experiment with new toothpaste tubes or systems.

photo-saulThe student and the patient should be at the center of our redesign efforts in education and health care.  We need to experiment at the systems level, trying new approaches to see what works.  For instance, we’ve proven that innovation works at the school level with hundreds of successful charter schools across the country.  Now we need to experiment at the district level to test new student centered system approaches that are not constrained by the way the current system operates.  That is the only way we are going to learn what solutions can deliver value to the student at scale.  The same thing is true in health care.  We need to design and test patient centered system approaches that are more about well care than about sick care.  We can’t get there by playing at the margins of today’s system. Squeezing today’s toothpaste tubes harder will not work.

Saul Kaplan: Next Practices vs. Best Practices

next practiceEveryone bows down to the all, important benchmark.  How many times have you heard someone say, “You only get what you measure”? Most organizations commit to identifying and measuring performance against industry best practice.  Many have recognized the value of looking outside of their industry for practices that might provide a source of competitive advantage.  Adopting existing best practice makes sense if you want to improve the performance of your current business model.  Going beyond the limits of your current business model requires a network-enabled capability to do R&D for new business models.  The imperative is to build on best practices to explore and develop next practices.

Understanding best practices and applying them to increase business model productivity is an essential capability for all organizations.  No surprise most companies benchmark their performance adopting practices ranging from accessing benchmarking data to sourcing (internal and external) process improvement capabilities.  Like all learned behaviors the earlier it is adopted the easier it is to scale and to apply in other markets.  Entrepreneurs and small business leaders should start with a back of the napkin approach.  Be specific about goals and take the napkin out a lot.

It doesn’t take long to exhaust the library of best practices in any given industry.  Field organizations have seen most of what the competition is doing and can report their observations.  In addition your customers and networks have an important perspective that should be tapped.  Social network platforms, like Twitter, Facebook, and Linked-in make real time information interaction possible across networks. Leverage these new tools and platforms.  It is worth it.

photo-saulOnly exploring your own industry for best practices is limiting.  New sources of competitive advantage are far more likely to come from observing and adopting best practices in completely unrelated industries.  All leaders should spend more discretionary time outside of their industry, discipline, and sector.  There is more to learn from unusual suspects who bring fresh and different perspectives than from the ideas circulated and re-circulated among the usual suspects.  The big and important value creating opportunities will most likely be found in the gray areas between the silos we inhabit.  Get out more.

Best practices are necessary but not sufficient.  Business models don’t last as long as they used to.  Leaders must identify and experiment with next practices.  Next practices enable new ways to deliver customer value.  Next practices are better ways to combine and network capabilities that change the value equation of your organization.  Organizations should always be developing a portfolio of next practices that recombine capabilities to find new ways to deliver value.  Leaders should design and test new business models unconstrained by the current business or industry model.

It is easy to sketch out business model innovation scenarios on the white board.  It is far more difficult to take the idea off the white board for a spin in the real world.  We need safe and manageable platforms for real world experimentation of new business models and systems.  Since most leaders in the 21st century will likely have to change their business models several times over their careers it makes sense to do R&D for new business models the same way R&D is done for new products and technologies today.  Create the space for exploration.

It is not best practices, but next practices that will sustain your organization on a strong growth trajectory.  While you continue to pedal the bicycle of today’s business model make sure that no less than 10% of your time and resources is dedicated to exploring new business models and developing next practices.

 

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