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Archive for July, 2011

mY generation: Fate

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

See all mY generation posts here.

Quotable Quotes: Beautiful Mind

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

Beyond anything you have, your most valuable possession is your mind. It is the source of your past, present and future; it can attract or repel; both pain and happiness reside in it, along with all other emotions. Your mind is magical, cherish it.

Buddha understood this when he said, “The mind is everything. What you think you become.”

Plato had an unusual view of the mind’ action that I really like, “When the mind is thinking it is talking to itself.”

James Dewar reminds us of an important prerequisite of successful mental effort, “Minds are like parachutes, they only function when they are open.”

And Henry Ford tells us that learning is what keeps us young, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”

But it is William Shakespeare whose words are most appropriate in these days of Facebook, Twitter and all things social, “Mind your speech a little lest you should mar your fortunes.”

Flickr image credit: saurabhmyworld

Expand Your Mind: Entrepreneurs Go to the Dogs

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

No, I don’t own a dog and nor am I particularly fond of them. I don’t dislike dogs, but, categorically, I’m a cat person. And, although I’m sure that people are just as stupid about cats and other animals, it’s been the dog business that’s getting lots of ink.

“62 percent of the 165 million dogs and cats in this country sleep in bed with humans,” not to mention other animals, and that estimate is considered low.

Many dogs are adopting the same entitled arrogance as their owners who go along with it, often out or insecurity.

Consider the stats

  • There are approximately 77.5 million owned dogs in the United States (and 93.6 million owned cats)
  • Thirty-nine percent of U.S. households own at least one dog
  • Most owners (67 percent) own one dog
  • Twenty-four percent of owners own two dogs
  • Nine percent of owners own three

According to Packaged Facts, Americans spent a record $55 billion on their pets last year (around $430 million was routine veterinary care). Advanced medical procedures and treatments probably ate up a few hundred million more, but that still leaves a giant, emotionally-driven, indulgence-oriented market that entrepreneurs have jumped on. Here is some of what’s bringing in the bucks.

I’m not sure if dog spas and massage fall under indulgence or medical, but they are gaining adherents across the country.

Entrepreneurs often invent something that solves their own problem, as was the case of Amber Pye who tired of her dogs chewing through their leashes, so she invented one that was impervious—and not made of metal.

From the relatively practical, we now move to the “you’re really stretching it here” products.

Anastasia Torres-Gil buys second-hand Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, Vera Wang, Chanel and Burberry that she finds in thrift stores and remakes into designer pet couture. What saves her business from being totally indulgent is the 25% of sales she donates to the Santa Cruz SPCA building fund.

Next is the you’ve-got-to-be-kidding category.

Remember those stories that horrified people about seniors eating dog food because they couldn’t afford anything else? It must have been Friskies or Alpo, because they certainly couldn’t afford today’s canine cuisine.

Lastly, as with humans, we look at a few of the over-the-top, more-money-than-brains selections.

From France (Why am I not surprised?) comes the most outrageous items* you’ll find for your pooch from a $14,000 for a gold-plated dog bowl to about $21,000 for the Haussmannian master apartment (dog) house; if the doghouse is too much, the little couches are only $17,000.

(The story appeared on MSNBC on July 11, but is no longer there. I found it at the link posted above, but that site may be down, it was earlier. If  you are curious email me (miki@rampupsolutions.com) and I will send the article to you.)

Flickr image credit: MykReeve on flickr

If the Shoe Fits: Proving You Care

Friday, July 29th, 2011

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

You may run a startup, but that doesn’t negate the value of a new study (includes link to the full study) by Unum and Monster.com that says culture is more important than compensation.

Number one on candidates’ list was a company “that truly cares about the well-being of its employees.”

The next three are

1.  A challenging and fulfilling position, which 84 percent of respondents identified as very important.

For the person attracted to the startup world this is a given, but it requires good interviewing skills to ensure that the attraction is real and not a product of media-driven startup fever.

2.  Job security, rated very important by 82 percent.

Many denizens of the startup world will scoff and stop reading at the words “job security,” but there is such a thing in startups. Startup job security is a function of a clear vision backed by knowledge of the target market; good business planning as opposed to shooting from the hip; strong financial controls from the beginning; good hiring practices, instead of “try it and dump if you don’t like it.”

3.  An attractive benefits package, which 74 percent of those surveyed rated very important.

Benefits are different strokes for different folks; for those in the startup world ‘benefits’ translates most frequently to equity, but that doesn’t eliminate the value and need for health insurance; people engage more fully when they aren’t worried about their families.

And salary seems to still be in fifth place just as it was 30 years ago.

  • An attractive benefits package and an ethical, transparent culture were more likely to be viewed as very important in attracting and retaining staff than were a high starting salary and job security.
  • Being a company that cares about the well-being of its staff was twice as likely to be viewed as very important in attracting and retaining staff as providing a high base salary.

Like it of not, benefits of any kind are concrete proof of caring and how those benefits are distributed is a reflection of an ethical, transparent culture—or not.

Option Sanity™ is integral to an ethical, transparent culture.

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Users of Option Sanity may experience sudden increases in team cohesion and worker satisfaction. In cases where team productivity, retention and company success is greater than typical, expect media interest and invitations as keynote speaker.

Image credit: Bun in a Can Productions

Entrepreneur: Entrepreneur Magazine

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

2965768710_c7a5c5f72b_mWhat better way to win the hearts and eyeballs of your target market than by suing them?

Talk about lousy customer service.

But that’s the approach taken by Entrepreneur Media Inc. (EMI), publishers of Entrepreneur magazine and associated properties, such as entrepreneur.com.

The original founder trademarked “entrepreneur,” which seems contrary to the concept of “distinctiveness” (Patent Office info), but what do I know?

Policing the use of ‘entrepreneur’ are the 2,000 lawyers employed by Latham & Watkins who work out of 31 offices around the world.

We’re not talking just about letters; they go after small biz in court and win big judgments.

I have a joint venture with Bun in a Can called Watch Startup Café where we post videos of entrepreneurs talking about their company and the passion that drove them to do it.

We almost named it “Meet the Entrepreneurs;” lucky for us we didn’t.

I wonder if I should expect a cease and desist letter for this weekly feature.

There has been much talk about the need to update the US Patent and Trademark Office and how tough it is to get protection for new services, business processes, etc.

It’s probably simplistic of me, but I think the Patent Office should clean up its old messes, too.

One thing that might help is if instead of protesting in comment sections those who move in the entrepreneurial world canceled their subscriptions.

That is what I’m doing.

This article first published as Entrepreneur Magazine on Technorati.

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dpstyles/5202530836/

WW: Entrepreneural Error

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Attribution: Unknown; any ideas?

Ducks in a Row: It’s About Culture

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

Yammer started in 2008 and now has 100,000 companies and organizations, including over 80 percent of the Fortune 500, as customers.

But that isn’t why I’m writing about it.

I read an interview with David Sacks, Yammer’s founder, chairman and C.E.O. Of course, the interview started asking all the standard ‘leadership’ questions, but Sacks responses were all about culture. (Fantastic information, I hope you take time to read it.)

“You’ve really got to create a company culture that people want to work at. And so you try to give them a voice, give them a sense that they influence the direction of the company, and try to avoid unnecessary process and hierarchy — things that might frustrate employees. … I think you’ve got to create a culture in which dissent is valued.”

Sacks’ responses forced (my interpretation) the interviewer to focus on Yammer’s culture as opposed to Sacks and his ‘leadership’.

I find these interviewers interesting. They seem always to focus on the person, looking for the accepted responses and attitudes towards ‘leadership’ and comments that have ‘I’ in multiple places.

When the responses don’t fit that profile the interviewers seem a bit incredulous—or maybe it’s just me and my own prejudice on the leadership thing.

Watch this interview with Tony Hsieh (sorry, the Washington Post doesn’t provide embed code), but keep your eyes on the interviewer as you listen to the questions and responses, especially at 4:09, when Hsieh says, “I think of myself less as of a leader and maybe more of a protector.”

Check out the interviewer’s facial expressions and then tell me if it’s my imagination or does he register surprise tinged with disbelief.

Flickr image credit: ZedBee | Zoë Power

Differences Worth Noting

Monday, July 25th, 2011

2185315789_e5d6af6e0d_mThere is a sizable difference between accepting positional leadership when a company is at the bottom and there is no place to go but up and taking over when its at its height—even more so when what was the growth engine and source of extraordinary profits disappears from the economic landscape.

It is one thing to maximize what you have, wringing out every last possible dollar, and investing in innovation for sustainable growth in the future.

It is one thing to create a culture where public shame and the likelihood of termination for missing your numbers rules and changing that to a culture that encourages appropriate risk-taking and never kills the messenger when the risk doesn’t pan out; a culture that understands not every innovation will be a home run, but encourages and applauds the effort anyway.

These are the differences between Jack Welch

But Welch had taken over when the company was in the bottom of an economic cycle. He took over GE in a recession, not the height of a bubble. Immelt got the job right after the end of the high-flying 1990s, an era which crowned CEOs with mythical, God-like crowns, and Welch was bestowed the biggest of them all.

and Jeff Immelt.

Immelt had known before the meltdown the company needed to ween off the leveraged risk from finance that was begun under Welch. … He admitted mistakes, as any good leader must do, and GE more quietly if not humbly went about its business in making the company a 21st century sustainable and reliable profit engine.

The differences are worth noting.

Flickr image credit: laurita13

mY generation: Branding

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

See all mY generation posts here.

Quotable Quotes: Imre Lakatos

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

4399116539_c0e460b117_mThere is only one quote today; not because Imre Lakatos didn’t say anything else worth quoting, he did, but because I want this one to stick in your head.

The year is more than half over and we are swiftly moving into election mania times and 2012 will be far worse.

“Blind commitment to a theory is not an intellectual virtue: it is an intellectual crime.”

So I offer this bit of what I consider wisdom, especially for all those who vote an ideological ballot, whether it’s the Right, the Left or somewhere else.

We aren’t living in an era in which we can afford blind commitment to anything, so dust off your skepticism, put away your knee-jerk reactions and put on your thinking cap—the country needs you.

Flickr image credit: quinn.anya

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