Archive for August, 2012

All Work and No Play

Posted: August 26, 2012 by Bill Cunningham in Leadership, People, Planning, Startup

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. 

– old proverb

Remember Jack Nicholson in “The Shining” typing this phrase over and over on reams of paper? Well, this hits home far too many times for entrepreneurs in startups. No vacation. 24/7. Always on. You find that you have become your work.

If you run a motor at 110% of its capacity, the motor will burn out. What makes you think you are different from a simple machine. The law of diminishing returns will punish you for trying to eke out those extra hours, days and weeks of work. You become less effective and therefore less efficient. The startup world becomes very seductive when you believe the more is more. Like golf, believing if you swing just a bit harder, the ball will travel a bit farther. Z. David Patterson of Blue Chip Venture Company said his venture capital mentor advised him that “Trees do not grow to the sky!”

So how do you manage to break this vicious cycle of work, work and more work? Start by reading Jim Collins’ “Good to Great” – where you start to build a team that leverages your leadership. You put the right people in the right seats on the bus, and find that growth happens organically. In fact, set your goal  to remove all the roadblocks for those bus riders so they carry out their goals. You essentially work yourself out of a job where no one relies on you to keep the company running. Your people keep the bus running smoothly because you have empowered them to do so and have given up the micro-managing, hands-on everything approach. Guy Kawasaki recommends hiring people smarter than yourself to fill the bus. A players hire A+ players who hire more A+ players.  B players usually hire C players who then hire D players until you are in a death spiral with a company full of Z players.

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Quick – which metro area in the country has had more undergraduate entrepreneurship programs ranked in the Top 25 in the past five years? Thinking Bay Area, Boston, Chicago? Nope, Greater Cincinnati takes the prize and it’s the best kept secret in town.

Entrepreneurship programs at Miami, NKU, Xavier and UC are either currently ranked among top 25 undergraduate programs nationally or have been within the past five years. If this were college hoops, we would be talking about four perennial tournament teams.

Like all winning teams, our local entrepreneurship programs have high quality players. Entrepreneurship students are learning the latest methods and ways of thinking that can help add value to your business. And, they employ the newest techniques to identify and develop new growth opportunities.

Students may be able to receive course credit for their experience. Some entrepreneurship programs like Miami’s also offer a compensation reimbursement match to the employer depending on the nature of the internship. You can engage entrepreneurship students through class assignments, student consulting projects and both full-time and part-time internships.

If you really want to receive full value from your involvement with entrepreneurship students, turn them loose on the right assignments.

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Olympic Dreams and Lessons Learned…

Posted: August 12, 2012 by Chuck Matthews in Leadership, People, Planning

“If you want to be successful, it’s just this simple. Know what you are doing. Love what you are doing.  Believe in what you are doing.”  — Will Rogers

With the closing ceremony of the Games of the XXX Summer Olympiad upon us, it gives us time to pause and reflect on the dreams, hopes, fears, triumphs and near triumphs that comprise our lives.  It does not really matter if you are into sports or not, the lessons we take away from an event such as the Olympics are universal and timeless.  This is especially true when we view them in the context of business and life.

My late father was neither an Olympian nor an athlete.  He was, however, a child of the depression, a polio survivor, a WWII veteran, husband, father and successful entrepreneur.  Growing up, I still recall watching the Olympics on television with him, not fully realizing at the time, but eventually coming to know how profoundly his life and business lessons intersected with those Olympic dreams unfolding on the screen before us.  Here are just three of those lessons and key takeaways as you continue on your entrepreneurial journeys.

It’s not about the performance, it’s about the preparation

The French scientist, Louis Pasteur, is credited with saying, “Chance favors only the prepared mind.”  I heard this quote first from my father while watching the Olympics and working with him in our family automotive business.  Preparation and practice for any task, be it an Olympic or an entrepreneurial dream, is ultimately the key to its successful execution.  My father intuitively understood the necessity and value of preparation for both the big picture and the task at hand.

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Where Ideas Rule!

Posted: August 5, 2012 by Bill Cunningham in Innovation, Startup

Entrepreneurs exude creativity! Right? Every small business owner loves thinking and trying new things. Correct-a-mundo? Well the answer to these questions is a resounding YES, but only for those small businesses who value and nurture new ideas. Many firms seem to have a great culture of innovation and free thinking, and yet, many firms don’. How do you convert your company from a don’ter to a doer?

Start at the top

Embrace new ideas with a passion. Conduct ideas sessions frequently. Constantly look at how to do things better. A great approach to ideation is the I-Power technique. Created by Martin Edelston, it gives the captains of commerce a compass to inspire innovation. Very simply, I-Power takes the old suggestion box off the wall and places it squarely in the center of every group activity in your firm. At every meeting, each attendee must bring an idea on one of the company’s ideas forms. The CEO reviews them personally every weekend, and every one gets paid a dollar for each idea, and two dollars for a great idea. Now that doesn’t sound like much, but for Mr. Edelston, it generated about 30,000 new ideas in one year from his 275 employees. Some were good; some were bad; some were crazy; some were glad. His $30,000 investment in ideas gave everyone the license to think. By the way, one of these ideas saved $750,000 in printing costs . Nice ROI!

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