Archive for April, 2009
Thursday, April 30th, 2009
If you're new here, you may want to subscribe to our mailing list to receive updates. Just enter your name and email address in the form to the right. Thanks for visiting!
I have blogged before about my invitation by HSM to join a prestigious list of leading bloggers at the upcoming World Innovation Forum next week on Tuesday and Wednesday May 5th and 6th. We’ll actually be in the BOX SEATS onstage at the Nokia theater in New York City. Guess I’ll have to guard my facial expressions better than that one event where I ended up directly BEHIND the POTUS and my facial expressions were broadcast all over the country. Ah, the lessons we learn.
We’ll be blogging and tweeting away, so check out the following incredible folks if you want to get different prespectives on the same event. If you’re on twitter you can follow us all (I am YourBoot) or just go to twitter and search on #wif09. Note that you do not have to have a Twitter account to see our tweets!
@hsmamericas (George Levy)
Howard Wright (http://www.howardwright.com/)
Idria Mootee (http://mootee.typepad.com/)
@innovate (Braden Kelley, http://blogginginnovation.com/)
@pinnovation (Jeff De Cagna, http://www.principledinnovation.com/blog/ )
We’re all looking forward to a fun event (and various flavors of pizza promised by George!).
Friday, April 24th, 2009
I get loads of e-mails every day – in the hundreds – and once in a while a message comes across that makes my day. Last week I received a note from a woman I had been mentoring in Iraq through the US Iraqi Businesswomen’s Partnership (USIBP) initiative, a program I helped create some 18 months ago working with various organizations including the US State Department.
I had not heard from her in over a year but I knew she had just recently given birth to her third child so I figured life just got in the way. In our correspondences last year, she was busy operating her pharmacy (she is a licensed pharmacist) and was trying to grow it. We talked about her challenges in finding good people to manage the daily operations and came up with some ideas on how she might be able to do that.
At the same time, she had also bought into a clothing boutique and a farm. I had advised her against spreading herself so thin but she couldn’t pass up the opportunities presented her. If you’re an entrepreneur, I am sure these challenges sound familiar.
Her recent e-mail made me smile. She is indeed doing well. She cashed out of the farm and boutique and bought into a company that imports medications from the UK. She is active in that company as well as her pharmacy, though her role there has moved to more of a CEO role since she implemented our plan to get her help and she has two people running the place that she trusts. The bonus is she gets to spend more time with her children while also making more money! It doesn’t get any better than that, does it?
She was writing to tell me about the 5 important business lessons she’s learned and they are so generally applicable, I want to share them here (they are presented in the order she provided):
- Focus is critical. Buying into two other unrelated businesses distracted her focus too much. Once she bought out her partners in those businesses and focused on her core competencies, everything fell into place.
- Stay in businesses you have some knowledge in. While I think you can go into new businesses areas and industries with a sound team and good advisors, it is generally better to stay in areas you know, can learn, or at least know enough to know where and when to get help. IT execs have been known to commercialize medical devices successfully, but that is the exception rather than the rule.
- Have active and honest help you can trust. Once my Iraqi friend learned how to attract and incent the right kinds of people, her time was freed up to focus on other opportunities.
- Know the markets and be careful with your money. Enough said on this one.
- If you have more than one business, it is easier if they are in similar fields. She learned the hard way on this one – it is hard to run multiple unrelated businesses. Note that I didn’t say it was impossible, because many people do this. It is easier, however, if you can realize some synergies across businesses being in the same space.
What’s really exciting about hearing from my friend is the reconfirmation that online mentoring, even over such distances and language challenges, can work! I’m hopeful that we can resurrect the USIBP. We’re always looking for mentors, so if you’re interested in connecting with women in Iraq to help them grow their businesses, let me know!
Friday, April 17th, 2009
Pride in Entrepreneurship: the title of a snapshot in today’s USA Today of entrepreneurs. When asked if they still enjoy being an entrepreneur despite the bad economy, 88% said yes! WOOHOO! I think the positive attitude practiced by most entrepreneurs has more to do with the results than anything. We ROCK!
Friday, April 17th, 2009
Ok – if the recent overnight sensation of Susan Boyle, a 47-year old singer from Scottland, doesn’t convince EVERYONE that it is never too late to go for your dreams, I don’t know what will.
If you haven’t seen the video of her performance on Britian’s Got Talent, you MUST watch the video on YouTube now.
The sad part, to me, is that everyone had such low expectations for her to begin with. Listen to the snickers when she announces her age! Sad. Perhaps we need more Susan’s in the world, with the guts to pursue their dream in spite of what others think for the bias to go away. If only…
Friday, April 17th, 2009
I came across some startling statistics the other day. In Washington DC alone a couple of years ago, traffic cameras accounted for approximately $270M in fines. There’s something more amazing than people running lights and speeding going on here. People are having trouble SEEING.
Cameras used for this are almost always in PLAIN VIEW. In many countries and states there are even warning signs stating “speed camera ahead”. Where I live, there are lines on the road that help the camera focus but also show a camera is present. So what does this have to do with Innovation??
I’ve been working to help people and companies be more innovative and this ability to see has really come up as a key differentiator. Successful innovations are, many times, a combination of seemingly unrelated ideas. You have to see the connections. Take for example the MP3 player, the most popular of which is the IPod. Small portable hard-drives and music combined to make toting CD’s obsolete.
I’m convinced that innovation is the only way companies are going to be successful in this economy. To get there, we first must change the fundamentals of how we look at the world around us to really see it.
And speaking of innovation, join me (and get $200 off!) at the World Innovation Forum on May 5th and 6th in New York City. You can get more information here. I’m an official blogger for the event so even if you can’t make it, check back to hear all about it!
Tuesday, April 7th, 2009
Our actions and words have so much more impact on others than we could ever realize. If you happen to not believe this, just read “The Five People You Meet In Heaven” by Mitch Albom or watch one of my favorite movies, “It’s a Wonderful Life”. As a mother, I know I have an influence on my children although I sometimes don’t see it (or realize they’re even LISTENING TO ME) until way after the fact. When I do hear them repeating something I said or making a good decision based on something I’ve harped on, I feel an incredible sense of satisfaction. I recently was able to feel that same level of gratification in my professional career as well.
When I was in South Africa last year, I was part of a team that spoke at seminars across the region. One of the specific exercises that I led the groups in was in perfecting your elevator pitch. They seemed to really embrace the process while I encouraged people to really think outside the box and work to make their visions a reality.
Apparently, one of the business coaches and mentors in the audience, Tina James, fully embraced the message. When I went back to South Africa this past March she had fulfilled her dream by starting Dancing Divas, a dance class for “mature” women. I actually attended one of her classes while I was in town and felt privileged to have the opportunity to watch her SHINE. She was living her dream.
More than once she let me know that my session and subsequent conversations with her were largely responsible for her decision to just do it. Seeing the joy in her eyes as she talked about her “new baby” made tears well up in mine. The “Boot in the Butt” really works!!
She’s well on her way to building yet another successful business, with plans to franchise already in the works. More than just the business opportunity, she’s providing women with an opportunity to express themselves through dance who might not otherwise find that outlet. Oh, and she is loving every minute of it.
The experience with Tina just furthered my resolve to continue moving forward with my work regardless of whether I see the impact. I firmly believe that we are all connected and often our actions have a profound and necessary ripple throughout the universe that we’re not aware of. You have an impact whether you know it or not. In the story of how a single snowflake can break a tree branch, every snowflake that lands before that last one matters.
The bigger picture is out there and the Master Choreographer has it all in focus even when we don’t.If you have a story about how a “Boot in the Butt” has helped you or your business, please share! We would love to feature you…
Friday, April 3rd, 2009
A recent question posted on a LinkedIn group discussion made me chuckle. Someone asked:“How do you become an expert?”
It brought to mind a conversation I had with my daughter the other day about being cool. A young girl in her class was going around telling people she was cool. I assured my daughter that if she were really cool, she wouldn’t be the one telling you so – you would know. Other people would be telling you that she was cool. Cool, as it is, is often in the eye of the beholder. The same goes for experts.
Contrary to what many PR folks would have you believe, you can’t just decide to be an expert, take a class and make it so. Oh, it might work at first but it won’t last unless you can prove yourself. You have to earn the title. Other people must concur. You must take action to build your reputation as an expert. So how can you help make it happen? Following are some steps you can take to boost your Expert Quotient (EQ):
- View yourself as the expert. Although this is not sufficient to become an expert, it certainly helps if you believe it. From the movie Caddyshack: “Be the ball (expert), Danny. Be the ball.”
- Focus on being consistent with your mission / brand. If you don’t walk the talk, the Fraud Police will put out an alert on your missing authenticity. Actions, it turns out, DO speak louder than words.
- Write articles (or a book) and speak credibly about the topic. Experts often share new and insightful information, ideas, or analysis about their subject. Get into potentially controversial debates on the topic on which you claim to be expert. Bring up new and different points about it – provide a different way of looking at something. Writing a book can help, but only if it is done well. A badly written or poorly published book can actually have the opposite effect on your EQ.
- Get references from others. Only through other’s eyes can you be seen as a true expert. Quotes in the press or (even better) unsolicited testimonials from other experts, recognized clients or other respected experts in your field boost your EQ almost instantly.
Unfortunately, it also does take time and accomplishment to be an expert. It’s hard to convince someone you’re an expert in entrepreneurship, for example, if you’ve never actually been successful at being one. I’m amazed, however, at how many people try. Some are actually able to pull it off, too. I suspect, however, that people in that position will have short-lived EQ. I’m all for the power of positive thinking, but at some point, you also need to take steps to make things happen. Thought without action just isn’t always enough!