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Entrepreneurs: Innovation in Slovakia

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

We all know that Silicon Valley people are open-minded, multi-cultural, multi-gendered, full of authenticity and not a shred of arrogance.

Just as we all know that pigs can fly.

Whereas entrepreneurs in Slovakia don’t think much of flying pigs, they saw no reason why cars couldn’t fly.

Video credit: Business Insider

Ducks in a Row: Why ‘Why’ Itself is Often a Solution

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016


A post in Forbes / Entrepreneurs by Jane Chen talks about the importance of knowing your ‘why’.

In my personal experience, this “why” is so important because it helps you rally people behind your mission. It gives you purpose and meaning. It helps you make the right decisions. And when things get hard, as they inevitably will as an entrepreneur, the “why” keeps you going – especially in those moments when you want to give up.

‘Why’ isn’t only for entrepreneurs; it’s always been a high priority item to me personally and should be embedded in every company’s culture.

But finding the ‘why’ isn’t exactly a popular pastime; in fact, for many it’s positively uncomfortable.

Of course, many of the things that are good for us are uncomfortable.

‘Why’ not only provides purpose and meaning, it also spurs innovation, solutions and closure.

So, the next time you are faced with a need for motivation/inspiration or  a problem/challenge/angst/confusion find your way past by first identifying the ‘why’.

You may need to go no farther.

Flickr image credit: steve p2008

Golden Oldies: Verbal Avoidance

Monday, June 13th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written. Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

I wrote Verbal Avoidance in 2011, not because it was new, but because it was so prevalent — and since them it’s gotten more so in spite of all the talk about honesty and authenticity. Read other Golden Oldies here

1211065_danger_help_need_peace_and_silenceThere’s a bad habit I see sweeping through companies. It’s not really new, but it has gotten much worse in recent years.

This particular habit used to be more the province of arguing couples, relationship counselors and divorce courts.

Always more of a guy thing, I now find it on the rise among women.

I call it “verbal avoidance” and it is irritating to say the least.

It occurs when something happens, or is supposed to happen, and person A needs to communicate that to person B.

And doesn’t.

A doesn’t because

  • what happened is going to upset B and A either doesn’t want to be the messenger, since messengers are sometimes killed or deal with the fallout if/when B gets upset.
  • B is waiting for A to notify him of good news, but B doesn’t have the information yet, so rather than saying that, he doesn’t call.

Of course there are dozens of variations, but they all boil down to the same thing—A does not communicate with B as expected.

When B does reach A, A offers a variety of reasons why the contact didn’t happen, but reasons don’t excuse anything.

B feels frustrated/disappointed/disgusted/angry/betrayed.

Verbal avoidance for any reason breaks trust.

And trust is the basis for any kind of relationship, whether at work, at home or in the world at large.

Silence isn’t always golden.

Stock.xchng image credit: Sigurd Decroos

A Bit of Miki Wisdom

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/b_lumenkraft/8347201742/From now through November 8 you will be inundated with political ads, tweets, postings, robo-calls, etc.

It’s worse for me. I live on the Washington/Oregon border, so I have the displeasure of being snowed by two of everything, both states, local (Vancouver, WA and Portland, OR) and, of course, Federal.

Of course, my area’s not alone; I’m sure the same thing happens to others in similar geographical areas.

So, in honor of the season, I thought I’d share something I wrote that is worth keeping uppermost in your mind at least through November 9 — and probably all year long.

“Once there was a talking horse named Mr. Ed on TV. These days there are dozens of talking asses on all kinds of media.”

Flickr image credit: #mr_ed

Ducks in a Row: the Power of Storytelling Cultures

Tuesday, April 12th, 2016


Six years ago I recommended using stories as a management tool; three years later I wrote that entrepreneurs should use stories to present themselves to the world.

Now a Carmine Gallo, a much bigger name than me, has written The Storyteller’s Secret, highlighting the importance of story from building a culture to building a brand or entire company.

Vinod Khosla, billionaire venture capitalist here in Silicon Valley, where I live, tells me that the biggest problem he sees is that people are fact-telling when they pitch him. They’re giving facts and information and he says, “that’s not enough, Carmine. They have to do storytelling.”

When Ben Horowitz, co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz, another big venture capital firm, tells me the most underrated skill is storytelling, or when Richard Branson, who I interviewed, said, “entrepreneurs who cannot tell a story will never be successful”

Of course, what can you expect from generations that don’t read much and think communication is an email or, worse yet, texting?

When it comes to a storytelling culture it has to start from the top and isn’t just a good story about the product.

Every day at the Ritz-Carlton there is a brief morning meeting of housekeeping.

And they ask the question of the employees: “Is there a great customer experience that you’ve been a part of, that you can share with the rest of us? (…)They start sharing stories with one another, and then they start competing for who has better stories. They get recognized publicly.”

Southwest’s success is the result of a masterful storytelling culture.

So they created what’s called a storytelling culture, where every week the HR teams go out, and they take videos of real passengers who have had a struggle, or have maybe almost missed a funeral or a birth, or a life-changing event, and stuff like that. But they were able to do it because of Southwest.

Apple is a giant at storytelling, as is Microsoft and Zappos.

So is Whole Foods, KPMG, every farm-to-table restaurant and even ugly food.

Just don’t kid yourself about why the stories work.

The work because they are real, true, authentic or any other adjective you care to use.

The stories are based on/backed by employee actions, which is what makes them resonate.

That means the CEO and all the executive team not only believes in the importance of customer experience, but also knows that the experience is created and facilitated by their people at all levels — especially the front-line people.

Lida / Flickr

If the Shoe Fits: What are You doing?

Friday, February 12th, 2016

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

 “I look back on my career and I didn’t change the world as an entrepreneur; I did as an educator. So I’m a little wistful. Now, my charge for twentysomething entrepreneurs is, do you want to be known as the guy who makes the next porn app or fart app or do you want to put men on Mars?”Steve Blank

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mIn light of Blank’s question above, you might want to take time to ask yourself ‘what am I doing’?

    • What value am I adding to my intrinsic worth as a human being?
    • Does my product/service make even a tiny portion of the world a better place in any way?
  • How will my kids describe/explain me to their kids?
  • What legacy will I leave behind?
  • How will I be remembered?
  • Will I be remembered?

Now write down your thoughts/answers.

Reread them over the next several days/weeks.

If you don’t like the profile that emerges it’s time to pivot your life.

Not randomly, but with the same consideration and planning you would use to pivot your company.

Image credit: HikingArtist

If the Shoe Fits: Founder Ego Can Kill Your Company

Friday, December 18th, 2015

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mIf you truly want to succeed it’s important not to let your ego get in the way.

Or, as Marva Collins said, “If you can’t make a mistake, you can’t make anything.”

During the first startup boom in the Nineties it was called “founder ego,” but there were those, such as me, who just called it stupid.

Perhaps there is a new term I haven’t heard or it’s gone underground, but founder ego sinks more startups than you can imagine.

The thing to remember is that you

  • don’t’ know more than everybody else; and
  • can’t do everything better than anybody else.

You will screw up, you’re human, but people will think more highly of you and trust you more if you admit it and move forward by unscrewing it no matter where or who the solution comes from.

Thanks to Wally Bock at Three Star Leadership for sharing Collins’ quote.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Commitment by the Numbers

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015


There’s a lot of talk out there about the best ways to engage your people, with the dual goals of juicing creativity and innovation and hiking productivity.

As founder and CEO of Quarrio, I spend a lot of energy and time building and sustaining a culture that fosters an environment in which our people flourish.

I believe that is what  produces the desired engagement results.

That is why we don’t give a damn about gender, age or alma mater; even skills and experience take a backseat to attitude when we hire.

My whole team, not just senior staff, talk about this frequently.

Recently one them shared this internet meme as a mathematical view of what we all believe.

And since it’s the time for gifts and sharing, I thought I would share it as my holiday gift to you.

This comes from 2 math teachers with a combined total of 70 yrs. experience.

What Makes 100%  ?

What does it mean to give MORE  than 100%?

Ever wonder about those people who say they are giving more than 100%? We have

all been to those meetings where someone wants you to give over 100%.

How about achieving 103%?

What makes up 100% in life?

Here’s a little mathematical formula that might help you answer these questions:



Is represented as:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26.



8+1+18+4+23+15+18+11 = 98% 



11+14+15+23+12+5+4+7+5 = 96%



1+20+20+9+20+21+4+5 = 100%



2+21+12+12+19+8+9+20 = 103% 

And look how far ass kissing  will take you.  


1+19+19+11+9+19+19+9+14+7 = 118% 

So, one can conclude with mathematical certainty, that while Hard Work and  

Knowledge  will get you close, and   Attitude  will get you there.

It’s the  Bullshit  and  Ass Kissing  that will put you over the top. 

Now you know why some people are where they are!

I wish you a wonderful holiday season filled 100% with joy, family, friends, colleagues and great food.

Gender Equity is Moving Backwards

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015


Following up on yesterday’s post about women and inequality, Adam Grant linked to a previous post about his own unwitting blindness.

In that post were some stats that should make everyone, including those who think things are improving, wake up to reality and understand just how far we are from anything actually changing.

Today, U.S. corporate boards have more men named John, Robert, William, or James than women in total. Recent coverage by Claire Cain Miller has brought more chilling data to light: in math, when graded anonymously, girls outperform boys, but when teachers know their names, boys do better. [emphasis mine] And when students rate their favorite professors, they describe men as “geniuses” and women as “nice.” This is sad and unacceptable. We may be in the 21st century, but we’re still a very long way from gender parity.

In study after study, on everything from candidate resumes to professor’s evaluations to student preference, where the only difference in identical credentials is the sex, as disclosed by the name, young and old, male and female, rated the women inferior to the men.

Look at the above statement (in bold), what chance is there that anything will change when kids are already subject to the same attitudes?

Women are overtly and covertly denigrated and sisterhood is a farce.

It’s been said change would come as older generations aged out and bosses were replaced by younger ones who grew up in a more diverse, tolerant and inclusive world.

I started hearing that 50 years ago and am still waiting.

In fact, we are moving backwards; the world was far more woman-friendly in the 80s and 90s, than it is now.

So don’t hold your breath; there is a quantum difference between political correctness and authenticity.

Flickr image credit: Anthony Easton

Ducks in a Row: Lars Dalgaard on Being Human

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/eiriknewth/474679387/This great leadership information from Lars Dalgaard, general partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, is applicable to every boss, whether startup or Fortune 50.

The biggest thing in my life is really daring to be human, and that’s the approach I take to the working world. We could all be so much more human, but we don’t allow ourselves to do it. I think it’s because we’ve been brought up thinking that when you’re in a business role, if you show any emotion, then that’s the opposite of being tough.

The funny thing is that you’re actually a stronger leader and more trustworthy if you’re able to be vulnerable and you’re able to show your real personality. It’s a trust multiplier, and people really will want to work for you and be on a mission together with you.

Dalgaard’s approach is the opposite of so many of today’s bosses, who act as if every day is a tough mudder experience.

To them, being vulnerable is the same as being weak — and weak loses.

Worse, by acting on that belief they, in turn, force the attitude on their people.

The end result often turns a workplace into a warplace, with X% of your people trying to out-tough each other and the rest running for cover.

So give them, and yourself, a break by recognizing that you’ll go further, and have more fun getting there, by being, and showing, that you are human.

Flickr image credit: BK

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