The Start-Up Plan for Starting Now

STOP TALKING AND START DOING

“If you want to sell a product, just make it. If you want to sell a service, just deliver it. If you want to create a company, just create one.” The opening words to the first chapter of Fail Fast or Win Big encapsulate author Bernhard Schroeder’s “just do it” philosophy. Entrepreneurs should stop planning and instead get into the market as quickly as possible. Schroeder, the Director of the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center at San Diego State University, is especially dismissive of business plans, “an anachronistic waste of time,” he writes. “However long you think it will take you to write a solid business plan, you have to double or triple that time and effort to include the myriad details and the research data you need to provide.”

While acknowledging some of the value of a business plan in terms of making entrepreneurs think about their markets or budgeting and cash flow, Schroeder argues that much of the research and scenarios developed in business plans become obsolete by the time the plan is finished. Markets move, and the only way to know what works is to be in the marketplace — not squirreled away creating projections. Once in the marketplace, you not only see what works, but you also make the corrections necessary to succeed.

To help entrepreneurs go “as fast as you need to go,” Schroeder offers in Fail Fast or Win Big a new “LeanModel Framework” composed of four elements:

  1. Lean Resources. “Lean resources” is a mentality of launching the company with the fewest resources possible. “Less is more,” Schroeder writes. “Look to get your company started in the leanest way possible by leveraging everything you can.” Today’s technology helps. It’s now possible to build a prototype for very little using 3-D printers; crowdfunding (to which Schroeder dedicates a full chapter) is a truly revolutionary way to get funding for any venture.
  2. Business Model. While rejecting the major writing project of a business plan, Schroeder urges entrepreneurs to “take the time to understand your marketplace, current trends and your target customer segment, then craft a business model that not only makes common sense but it makes money.”
  3. Rapid Prototyping. The core of Schroeder’s philosophy is to stop talking or planning and start doing, and doing means creating a product or service to sell in the marketplace. This product can be minimally viable — it is in essence a test product for sale. There are Internet tools, online platforms and new technologies that make rapid prototyping more feasible than ever before. There are even “rent by the hour” manufacturing and engineering facilities available. It all starts with a mentality, however, that is not only focused on speed but also focused on success, not failure. “Most people fear failure, and therefore they move too slowly when they should be creating a rapid prototype of their product or service,” Schroeder writes.
  4. Customer Truth. Speed to market is only a first step. The goal is to get to the market fast so that you can start to receive customer feedback as quickly as possible and make the necessary changes sooner rather than later.

Schroeder, who for several years led Amazon’s marketing efforts and has helped numerous small companies succeed in the marketplace, offers an inspirational guide designed for a world in which nothing is too fast — and failure is a positive sign of action.

How Coca-Cola Learned to Combine Scale & Agility

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In today’s ever-changing marketplace, every company is at risk of having a “Kodak Moment”— watching its industry and the competitive advantages it has developed over years, even decades, vanish overnight. The reason? An inability to adapt quickly to new business realities. Established companies are at risk, but it’s no easier being an agile startup, because most of those fail due to their inability to scale. Tomorrow’s business winners — regardless of size or industry — will be the ones that know how to combine scale with agility.

In Design to Grow, a Coca-Cola senior executive shares both the successes and failures of one of the world’s largest companies as it learns to use design to be both agile and big. In this rare and unprecedented behind-the-scenes look, David Butler and Fast Company senior editor Linda Tischler use plain language and easy-to-understand case studies to show how this works at Coca-Cola — and how other companies can use the same approach to grow their business.

Design to Grow is a must-read for managers inside large corporations as well as entrepreneurs just getting started.

IN THIS SUMMARY, YOU WILL LEARN:

• Key differences between scale and agility.

• What it means to design on purpose.

• The three realities underlying the new normal of today’s marketplace.

• The power of modular design for creating agility.

• How open systems can help you create a leaner organization.

Not a Soundview Executive Book Summaries subscriber? Then click on the title to purchase and download it right now to begin learning these critical business skills.

 

Brand Your Brand Through Actions Not Advertising

Today’s guest blogger is Denise Lee Yohn, a leading authority on building and positioning exceptional brands. Denise is the author of the bestselling book What Great Brands Do:  The Seven Brand-Building Principles that Separate the Best from the Rest.  Read more by Denise at http://deniseleeyohn.com/bites/best-bites.

If you’re investing time and money into branding strategies that don’t seem to be making a difference, you’re not alone. Most business leaders are frustrated by the lack of return they’re seeing on their advertising dollars. And yet some companies enjoy rapid growth and success with minuscule marketing budgets.  What are the leaders at these organizations doing that so you should also do?

Great brands consider their brands as verbs, not nouns. They don’t use their brands simply as external images promoted through advertising and communications. Instead, they use their brands to shape:

  • the internal culture they cultivate — using a purpose and values to inspire employees and customers alike
  • the core operations they run — creating customer relationships that are meaningful, valuable, and sustainable
  • the customer experiences they deliver — making differentiating and emotional connections with customers

They conceive of and use their brands as what they do and how they do it.

This means that the stewards of the brand don’t reside in the marketing or advertising department; they’re at the highest levels of the organization.  These leaders ensure their organization delivers the brand identity and core values through everything they do, every day, all day. They recognize that brands are built through actions, not advertising.

When you use your brand as the central organizing and operating idea of your company, it makes it easy for everyone who works on your brand — from your executive team to frontline employees to business partners — to know how to nurture and reinforce it because everyone shares a common understanding of the value you’re creating.  It makes it clear what to do and what not to do, so no one wastes time, money, and resources on things that don’t align with and contribute to that value.

By shifting your concept of brand from noun to verb, you also allow for constant evolution. When you think of your brand not as an identity to promote but as an instrument that you fuels, aligns, and guides everything your company does, your brand values and attributes serve as inspiration for innovation into new markets, new offerings, and new categories.

In this day and age where nearly perfect, ubiquitous information allows buyers to predict quite accurately the experienced quality of products and services, people today rely less on advertising and promises of quality and more on the opinions of experts and other consumers.  People no longer need a creative campaign or an attractive message to help them decide which product to buy.  The influence of brands on purchase decisions seems to have diminished.

But this doesn’t mean that brands have become less important.  Ask the executives at Starbucks, IBM, Apple, or IKEA.  The brands at these companies remain integral to their success because they develop and use their brands as more than mere messages.

You can build your brand the way great brands when if embrace the concept of operating your business based on your brand.

To learn more about building a great brand, join us for our Soundview Live webinar with Denise Lee Yohn: What Great Brands Do.

Five Timeless Lessons From Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Steve Jobs

THE STRATEGIC RULES OF THREE GIANTS

Bill Gates, Andy Grove and Steve Jobs have been the subjects of many books, and Gates and Grove have even written their own bestselling books. Strategy Rules, a new book coauthored by Harvard Business School professor David Yoffie and MIT Sloan School of Management professor Michael Cusumano, offers a new take on these three giants of entrepreneurship and technology by bringing them together into one how-to guide on strategy. According to Yoffie and Cusumano, the three men, although vastly different in personalities, followed the same five rules for strategy and execution:

  1. Look Forward, Reason Back. The first rule was to look forward into the future and then reason back to the actions required today. A vision of what the world could be was only the beginning for these three men, however. Perhaps even more important was the ability of all three to determine — in detail — what needed to happen immediately to turn vision into reality.
  2. Make Big Bets, Without Betting the Company. Gates, Grove and Jobs were bold leaders, but they were not reckless, write Yoffie and Cusumano. They knew how to time or diversify their big bets so that even huge strategic bets were not irreversible.
  3. Build Platforms AND Ecosystems. Another important rule, the authors write, was to build platforms and ecosystems, as opposed to pursuing a product strategy. Build Platforms AND Ecosystems. Most industries think in terms of products. Technology companies, however, succeed when they build industry platforms, not stand-alone products. Bill Gates would not be among the world’s richest men and Microsoft would not be the dominant company it became if Gates had sold his product — the DOS operating system — to the client that had requested it: IBM. Instead, in exchange for a much lower payment from IBM, Gates kept the right to license the system to other companies. The rest is history.
  4. Exploit Leverage AND Power. All three men, according to the authors, could play Judo and Sumo. Judo requires using the opponent’s strength. Gates, Grove and Jobs could each find a way to turn the strengths of their opponents into weaknesses. One notable example was Jobs’ successful negotiation with the music companies for a license to their music. Paying little attention to the tiny company (only 2 percent market share in its own industry!), the music companies negotiated an agreement highly favorable to Apple and which would be the foundation of the iTunes revolution. At the same time, the three did not hesitate to freely use their power, once they had it, to dominate their competitors, just as a Sumo wrestler uses his pure strength to dominate his opponent.
  5. Shape the Company Around Your Personal Anchor. Personally, the three men had vastly different strengths and interests. Gates was the software coding genius, Grove a precise engineer and Jobs a wizard at design. The companies they built reflected these strengths.

At their peaks, Microsoft, Apple and Intel were collectively worth $1.5 trillion. More than just business behemoths, however, these three companies and their founders changed the world, and our lives, in dramatic ways. Whether an entrepreneur dreaming of creating the next life-changing company or the manager of a multi-billion global company, any business leader should explore and adapt the lessons offered by the business practices of these three extraordinary business leaders.

How to Build Superior Patient Experience the Cleveland Clinic Way

SHIFTING FOCUS TO THE NEEDS OF THE PATIENT

In December of 2004, the 77-year-old father of James Merlino, a colorectal surgeon in training at the Cleveland Clinic, came to the hospital for a biopsy, expecting to be discharged later in the day. Merlino’s father never left the hospital, unexpectedly dying seven days later.

As he describes in his book, Service Fanatics: How to Build Superior Patient Experience the Cleveland Clinic Way, Merlino was devastated by his father’s death, not only because it was so unexpected but also because of the way his father had spent those final days — days of frustration at unresponsive nurses, insensitive doctors and inefficient service, combined with the growing fear that he was going to die.

His father’s death was a turning point for Merlino, who recognized that, contrary to what was taught to rising young doctors, medicine should not be simply the emotionless treatment of disease. Hospitals needed to focus on the entire experience of the patient.

Merlino left the Cleveland Clinic but returned a few years later under a new CEO who had launched a revolutionary Patients First mission for the hospital. Merlino would eventually become the Chief Experience Officer of the Cleveland Clinic. Service Fanatics is the story of how he and the new CEO, Toby Cosgrove, turned the mission of Patients First into reality. Today, the Patients First mindset drives every decision and process of the Cleveland Clinic.

The Cleveland Clinic story is one of overcoming resistance and derision and battling the egos of doctors who treated patients as numbers or diseases, not as people. While doctors attempted to resolve the disease as best they could, they had no awareness of the fears and needs of the person behind the disease. The patient was almost irrelevant; it was the ailment that was the focus.

It is the story of transforming a hospital into a place in which every person on staff is considered and expected to be a “caregiver.” In his quest to transform the hospital’s approach to patients, Merlino conducted extensive research with other hospitals and explored other organizations and industries beyond the medical profession.

One of the first steps in creating a new Patients First environment, Merlino writes, was to precisely define the goal. The challenge in medicine is that the customer is not always right. In Merlino’s specialty, for example, patients must rise from bed the day after their surgery since getting up and walking around is essential to ensuring a good recovery. Patients, however, consider this obligatory exercise the sign of an insensitive doctor. Thus, unlike a restaurant, customer satisfaction can be a treacherous measure for whether a hospital is doing the best job it can.

Eventually, Merlino and his team at the Cleveland Clinic defined Patients First as 1) Safe Care, 2) Quality Care, 3) Customer Satisfaction and 4) High Value Care — in that specific order.

Service Fanatics is the careful narration of an organization meeting a customer-service challenge, and it is at once unique but filled with lessons for all types of organizations. Building the involvement of staff; adding to rather than changing your culture; executing by fixing processes first, then identifying best practices; and myriad other insights into transforming an organization, captured in valuable bullet points at the end of each chapter, will help leaders from all industries focus and align their businesses to the needs of the customer.

The Power of Strategic Sacrifice in a Complex World

dolessbetter

OPTING TO CUT THE COMPANY DOWN TO SAVE IT

John Bell begins his book Do Less Better with the scenario of a troubled company — a regional player in 10 different categories, suffering through four consecutive years of losses, carrying higher than average payroll and inventory costs (the latter exacerbated by more than 1,000 SKUs), and starting to lose the support of impatient shareholders tired of pouring money into a losing cause.

What’s the next steps for a new CEO hired to turn around this sinking ship? If you’re like most new CEOs, Bell writes, you will do exactly what your predecessors tried to do: generate more revenues and cut costs. The difference is that you will do these things better. “You are kidding yourself,” Bell writes. “Strategically, doing more of the same… better is a pathway to incremental improvement, at best. Incremental improvement is never enough to fix strategically weak companies like the one I have described.”

The Greater Sacrifice

Instead of trying to do the same better, Bell believes a much more potent strategy is to make the tough decisions and cut the company down to a more efficient and focused size. Many companies are straining under the weight of their complexity and dispersion of resources, he writes.

He should know. The scenario above was real, and it was Bell who was tasked with saving the company.

Avoiding the incremental, top line-driven strategies described above, Bell and his team embarked instead on a no-holds-barred campaign to reduce activities and costs significantly. They did this by first eliminating the six poorest-performing product lines (out of 10). Even that, however, was not enough. A “greater sacrifice” was needed. “We didn’t want to do it,” Bell writes, “but we would have to divest two of the remaining sacred cows, two product lines with significant sales revenue and growth potential.”

The result was a company that went from 10 to two categories, from 1,000 to 35 SKUs, from more than 500 to 200 employees, and from $75 to $50 million in sales. However, the newly trimmed company was now focused almost entirely on its Nabob Coffee brand. Within three years, the company reached $100 million in sales (95 percent in coffee, 5 percent in tea) and would eventually boast 13 straight years of earnings growth before being sold to Kraft.

Cutting 300 employees and, probably more frightening for most CEOs, reducing the top line by $25 million was no small sacrifice. But as with gardens, courageous pruning, Bell argues, is what leads to growth. Many companies are hurting or, at best, stagnating because their leaders are afraid to, in the words of Bell, “kill their darlings.”

Bell offers one of his former clients, the Campbell Soup Company, as an example of a company that suffers from the refusal to cut loose a traditional business activity. Most consumers today are in the market for ready-made soup. There is not much call for condensed soup, although it has always been a staple of the company. Bell believed Campbell could break out of its stagnation, as other soup companies continue to grow around it, by stopping condensed soup and starting a brand new activity: soup bistros. There is a great market for gourmet soup cafés, inspired somewhat by the Starbucks chain of gourmet coffee shops, and Campbell would be the natural choice to start such a chain. The response from the Campbell Soup executive who listened to Bell’s idea was swift: “We aren’t in the restaurant business. Our mandate is to figure out how to bolster sales of condensed soup.”

For Bell, the first step to a new strategy is a new mindset from leaders, a mindset based on the courage to go small. It’s counterintuitive and may hurt in the short term, but for leaders considering such a move, reading Do Less Better is a great place to start.

Why Only 13 Percent of Companies Successfully Execute Their Strategy

thirteeners2

In today’s corporate world, 87 percent of companies fail to successfully execute the strategy they set for a given year. CEO mentor and coach Dan Prosser shows you how to make your company one of the other 13 percent — a Thirteener. In the process, he explains that the true challenge of building a great company — one that consistently executes its strategy — is understanding the real nature of human interaction and the key to success: connectedness.

Whether you’re a successful CEO, business owner, entrepreneur or leader, or whether you’re struggling to build the business you’ve always wanted, Thirteeners will help you transform your organization’s internal connectedness so you can achieve the next level of performance you’re looking for, create a workplace environment that supports your vision and assures participation by every team member, and produce breakthrough results.

With a focus on business as a network of interrelated conversations and through groundbreaking “Best Place To Work’’ company research, Prosser demonstrates what you need to do to transform the way your employees think and act, to achieve  unprecedented levels of performance for your company.

IN THIS SUMMARY, YOU WILL LEARN:

• Why conversations control everything in your business.

• The 10 conversations that create a connected organization.

• How the Execution Virus can infect your business and how the vaccine of truth can heal it.

• Key concepts of the Breakthrough Solutions Framework.

 

 

The Art of Leading by Looking Ahead

Anticipate

Business schools, leadership gurus and strategy guides agree — leaders must have a vision. But the sad truth is that most don’t…or at least not one that compels, inspires
and energizes their people. How can something so essential be practiced so little in real life? Vision may sound like a rare quality, unattainable by all except a select few — but nothing could be further from the truth. Anyone can expand their visionary capacity. You just need to learn how.

In Anticipate, strategy and leadership expert Rob-Jan de Jong explains that to develop
vision you must sharpen two key skills. The first is the ability to see things early — spotting
the first hints of change on the horizon. The second is the power to connect the
dots — turning those clues into a gripping story about the future of your organization
and industry. Packed with stories and practices, Anticipate provides proven techniques for
looking ahead and exploring many plausible futures, including the author’s trademarked
Future Priming process, which helps distinguish signal from noise.

You will discover how to tap into your imagination and open yourself to the unconventional,
become better at seeing things early, frame the big-picture view that provides
direction for the future, and communicate your vision in a way that engages others and
provokes action. When you anticipate change before your competitors, you create enormous strategic advantage. That’s what visionaries do … and now so can you.

Part I: Visionary Content

The Groundwork
Creating a vision requires ideas, ideally intriguing and refreshing ideas that trigger people’s interest, curiosity and excitement. It requires engagement with your imagination and an ability to think outside the clichéd box.

Tapping into Your Imagination
Without imagination, you are stating the obvious or holding on to the status quo; your  vision falls flat. With it, however, your vision becomes intriguing, exciting, refreshing.
Suddenly, it has the potential to energize and mobilize.

Part II: Visionary Practices

Developing Your Visionary Capacity
The potential to come up with — and hold on to and cultivate — a brilliant idea or a vision is within all of us. Visionary leadership isn’t a personality trait, although it is sometimes confused with concepts like charismatic leadership. The big question is how. How do you go about developing this crucial leadership competence?

Seeing Things Early
We’re not aiming to become accurate, or even good, predictors of the future. Instead, we’re working to develop an increased awareness of changing realities, building
antennas for the distant signals that might push the future in a different direction from the one we currently and conventionally foresee. We can then become better at recognizing those signals and their potential impact when they present themselves in some early form. Your ability to see things early is at the heart of what leadership expert Warren Bennis calls adaptive capacity.

Connecting the Dots
In addition to strengthening the ability to see things early, we must equally improve our ability to create a coherent story going forward. This coherent story must consist of what we expect, foresee, envision, and anticipate. It needs to resonate, make sense, and be the guiding light into the future for our followers. I call this second developmental dimension of visionary capacity the ability to connect the dots.

Part III: Your Visionary Self

Your Visionary Self
Author Warren Bennis promotes an integrated perspective on leadership, consisting of four essential competencies: vision, adaptive capacity, voice, and integrity. Here we’ll explore the relationship between your visionary capacity and Bennis’ concepts of voice and integrity — the identity-oriented aspects.

Mindful Behavior
Leading with authenticity also means you must practice what you preach. The best evidence of your true feelings and beliefs comes less from your words than from your
deeds. When your words are believably connected to what you do, when you behave in line with your vision, only then do you display integrity and build trust with your followers.

Part IV: Visionary Communication

Igniting Your Followers
You can have great ideas, make the powerful practices second nature, have clarity on your core purpose and values, and exercise the right behaviors for growth. But if you are unable to communicate your vision in a way that engages and energizes others, the Vision Thing still won’t work for you. There are several specific visionary communication qualities that, when done right, will transform your story from something future-oriented but technical and uninspiring to something that invigorates your followers.

 

Find New Approaches with These Summaries

This month, our book summaries are all about looking ahead and finding new approaches to doing business. Learn how to anticipate the future of your organization, prepare for change, and take a new approach to working with people. Each of these authors are on the cutting edge in their area of expertise.

Anticipate

 

 

 

Anticipate
by Rob-Jan de Jong

Business schools, leadership gurus and strategy guides agree — leaders must have a vision. But the sad truth is that most don’t…or at least not one that compels, inspires and energizes their people. How can something so essential be practiced so little in real life? Vision may sound like a rare quality, unattainable by all except a select few — but nothing could be further from the truth. Anyone can expand their visionary capacity. You just need to learn how.

In Anticipate, strategy and leadership expert Rob-Jan de Jong explains that to develop vision you must sharpen two key skills. The first is the ability to see things early — spotting the first hints of change on the horizon. The second is the power to connect the dots — turning those clues into a gripping story about the future of your organization and industry. Packed with stories and practices, Anticipate provides proven techniques for looking ahead and exploring many plausible futures, including the author’s trademarked Future Priming process, which helps distinguish signal from noise.

You will discover how to tap into your imagination and open yourself to the unconventional, become better at seeing things early, frame the big-picture view that provides direction for the future, and communicate your vision in a way that engages others and provokes action. When you anticipate change before your competitors, you create enormous strategic advantage. That’s what visionaries do … and now so can you.

stackingthedeck

 

 

 

Stacking the Deck
by David S. Pottruck

Change is a constant, and leaders must do more than keep up — they must innovate and accelerate to succeed. Yet people are often unnerved by change. As a leader during a time of transformation, you may stand up before teams that are indifferent, or even hostile, and need to convince them that change is necessary and urgent. What does it take to be an effective change leader and increase the odds of success?

Stacking the Deck presents a nine-step course of action leaders can follow from the first realization that change is needed through all the steps of implementation, including assembling the right team of close advisors and getting the word out to the wider group. Based on Dave Pottruck’s experiences leading change as CEO of Charles Schwab and later as chairman of CorpU and HighTower Advisors, these steps provide a guide to ensure that your change initiative and your team have the best possible shot at success.

Leading an organization through major change — whether it’s the introduction of a new product, an expansion to a new territory or a difficult downsizing — is not for the faint of heart. While success is never guaranteed, the right leadership, process, and team make all the difference. For all leaders facing major change in their organizations, Stacking the Deck is an indispensable resource for putting the
odds in your favor.

giveandtake

 

 

 

Give and Take
by Adam Grant

For generations we have focused on the individual drivers of success: passion, hard work, talent and luck. But in today’s dramatically reconfigured world, success is increasingly dependent on how we interact with others. Give and Take illuminates what effective networking, collaboration, influence, negotiation and leadership skills have in common.

Adam Grant examines the surprising forces that shape why some people rise to the top of the success ladder, while others sink to the bottom. In professional interactions, it turns out that most people operate as takers, matchers or givers. Whereas takers strive to get as much as possible from others and matchers aim to trade evenly, givers are the rare breed of people who contribute to others without expecting anything in return.

Using his own groundbreaking studies, Grant reveals that these styles have a dramatic impact on success. Although some givers get exploited and burn out, the rest achieve extraordinary results across a wide range of industries. Praised by social scientists, business theorists and corporate leaders, Give and Take opens up an approach to work, interactions and productivity that is nothing short of revolutionary. This visionary approach to success has the power to transform not just individuals and groups but entire organizations and communities.

 

 

 

Bringing Romance Back to Business

Yes, you read that title right!

To many of us this is a foreign concept. What do romance and business have to do with each other?

Tim Leberecht thinks they have a lot to do with each other, that romance is essential to a successful business. Leberecht states: “[Business] is an indispensable part of our lives, from the long hours we work to the products and services we buy—and yet business seems divorced from the full expression of our humanity. For many of us, something is missing, something both essential and immeasurable that lets us see the world with fresh eyes every day: romance.”

So first we should define this romance that Leberecht is talking about. In The Business Romantic, Leberecht reveals the power of business to elevate us above mere rationality and self-interest toward deep, passionate exchanges that honor our most complete selves. From strategy to the workplace, from product innovation to branding, customer relationships, and sales, Leberecht presents ten “Rules of Enchantment” that illustrate the value of choosing intimacy over transparency, mystery over clarity, devotion over data, vulnerability over control, delight over satisfaction, and love over liking.

The 10 Rules of Enchantment:
1. Find the Big in the Small
2. Be a Stranger
3. Give More Than You Take
4. Suffer (A Little)
5. Fake It
6. Keep the Mystique
7. Break Up
8. Sail the Ocean
9. Take the Long Way Home
10. Stan Alone, Stand By, Stand Still

If you would like to bring a little romance in to your business, then join us on March 19th to hear the full explanation of these rules of enchantment from Tim Leberecht himself at our Soundview Live webinar, Bringing Romance Back to Business.