“No” is Critical to Success

A few weeks ago, my partner Matt Plociak and I got together with two of our former Netlan employees, Rick Freedman and Charles Bernard who respectively for many years are very successful business owners and consultants in technology and sales.

Of course, it was great to see them, and since we share so many similar beliefs about marketing, sales, consulting, entrepreneurship, and business, we started to talk about the books that have inspired us, and lo and behold, we each had a reading list and assignments for our next get together.

First on my list was “Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It” by Chris Voss. Chris is a former FBI lead international kidnapping negotiator and is the CEO and Founder of the Black Swan Group, a consultancy that brings the lessons learned in hostage negotiation to business people who need to negotiate, persuade, or influence, which sounds like just about everyone.

I’m finding the book a fascinating and very informative read, and most recently I read A Black Swan Group blog entry by Derek Gaunt, on “Why It’s Important to Embrace No’”.

As a Sandler Sales disciple, I am very familiar with “Going for the No”, and I use it as a technique quite often in my approach to sales.  I was very impressed to learn that  “Going for the No” is actually used in hostage negotiation as well.

Derek’s point is that although No in any difficult conversation may be interpreted as an insurmountable obstacle, it is in fact the first step towards, collaboration, compliance or acceptance.

The folks at the Black Swan group believe that No is used for protection, or rejection, and it usually represents confusion and fear on some level. “Another interesting psychological aspect of accepting the No, is that it triggers reciprocity. Once people feel that they have protected themselves, they are often more willing to listen. They are not worried about what they have exposed themselves to by making an unintended commitment in saying Yes.”

So if hostage negotiators have no fear of No, and actually embrace it as a means to get to Yes, one can only wonder how effective it might be in the worlds of sales and business.  I know it works, do you?

How to Prepare for an Automated Future


With all the talk about jobs swirling about, I was very interested in this article, How to Prepare for an Automated Future by Claire Cain Miller which appeared in the NY Times, The Upshot, May 4, 2017.

Full article HERE

Given the considerable concern for jobs in the future, Claire Cain Miller postulates that the logical response might include educating people differently so they would work actually alongside machines and robots.

In a recent survey of 1048 technology and education workers who were asked if they thought new schooling will emerge in the next decade to successfully train workers for the future, two-thirds said yes and the rest said no.

Here are some of the highlights of their responses to the survey:

  • People still need to learn skills, but they will do that continuously over their careers. In school, the most important thing they can learn is how to learn.
  • Schools will also need to teach traits that machines can’t yet easily replicate, like creativity, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, adaptability and collaboration.
  • About two-thirds of the respondents thought changing education fast enough to outpace machines could be done in the next decade; while the rest thought that education reform takes too much time, money and political will, and that automation is moving too quickly.
  • Many survey respondents said a degree was not enough — or not always the best choice, especially given its price tag. Many of them expect more emphasis on certificates or badges, earned from online courses or workshops, even for college graduates.
  • Employers will also place more value on on-the-job learning, such as apprenticeships or on-demand trainings at workplaces.

So, what do you think? How can we prepare for jobs in the future? I welcome your responses.

25 Common Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs

 

Since Voice of Reason Consulting’s tag line is, “We Turn Business Owners into CEO’s”, you can easily imagine that I was quite intrigued with this video and article by James Stephenson listing the “25 Common Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs”.

Stephenson maintains that there are certain musts that business owners have to develop and implement for their business to succeed. I’ve taken the liberty to reorder the list in what I think are the most important traits to have.

I’m curious what you think. Must a successful entrepreneur have all of these traits at once? Which ones are most important? I look forward to hearing your comments.

  1. Do what you enjoy.
  2. Take what you do seriously.
  3. Invest in yourself.
  4. Take time off.
  5. Get involved.
  6. Manage money wisely.
  7. Master the art of negotiations.
  8. Get and stay organized.
  9. Plan everything.
  10. Follow-up constantly.
  11. Be accessible.
  12. Become known as an expert.
  13. Build a rock-solid reputation.
  14. Limit the number of hats you wear.
  15. Build a top-notch business team.
  16. Grab attention.
  17. Project a positive business image.
  18. Create a competitive advantage.
  19. Level the playing field with technology.
  20. Design your workspace for success.
  21. Remember it’s all about the customer.
  22. Get to know your customers.
  23. Become a shameless self-promoter (without becoming obnoxious).
  24. Sell benefits.
  25. Ask for the sale.

 

 

 

Private Equity Growth Indicators

A current theme that continues to occupy my interest is how private equity/venture and angel investors view businesses and judge CEO’s. In a recent post, I discussed a Stanford Business Graduate School study “How Do Venture Capitalists Make Decisions?” that showed that venture capitalists who are considering investing in entrepreneurial ventures, are most interested in entrepreneurs who are passionate, capable, experienced, and part of a strong team.

In this particular article in the Sales Benchmark Index Blog earlier this month, Matt Sharrers discusses the growth indicators a private equity firm expects. He points out that the end of first quarter is an ideal time for private equity firms to check each of their portfolio company’s growth rates, including sales and marketing performance.

According to Sharrers, private equity firms are most interested in implementing an agile sales and marketing strategy focused on results. Q1 is a decision making time to validate prior assumptions as well as the actual results, and most importantly make new decisions as necessary.

Leading indicators include whether sales and marketing are working in lock step and whether sales and marketing are enabled to hit their growth milestones.

Of course, private equity firms are very wary of red flags that exclude win/loss analyses, provide inaccurate market feedback, and show a lack of confidence in Q2 forecasts.

In particular, the CEO must demonstrate that sales and marketing are always in alignment, and there is always a clear plan to execute strategy and do it quickly. As I have often said, the CEO’s job is to provide value for the business, and you can rest assured that the job of the private equity firm is to ensure that value is being achieved.

10 Life Lessons

 

One of my favorite “sales” blogs that I read as often as possible is by Jill Konrath who is a widely read business-to-business sales expert.

I like Jill’s blogs and newsletters because she focuses on driving more sales in less time, which is also a philosophy I practice as I help my clients successfully close business.

One of the things I admire most about Jill is her transparency. Her most recent blog entry is about the loss of her husband and the life lessons he taught her.

I found these ten life lessons truly inspiring and I was moved to want to make sure I practice them, and to share them with all of you.

  • Winning is always possible.
  • Be a cheerleader.
  • Always have fun.
  • Learn new things.
  • Create memorable experiences.
  • Choose your attitude.
  • Your job is not your life.
  • Do what’s right.
  • Treat others the way you want to be treated.
  • Be the best you can be.

As simple as these life lessons may appear, they do present a challenge that I can assure you I am ready for. I hope you are too.
As always, I look forward to your hearing what you think.

Accountability is really important

In my last post, I commented that I believed that a CEO must lead by example, and that a CEO needed to seek out his team members as much as they needed to seek him or her out.

So, I was rather pleased when I read this Corner Office article by Adam Bryant whose latest interview was with Dan Ruch, chief executive of Rocketrip, a business travel software company.

See the article HERE

The interview really spoke to me about CEO accountability. Mr. Ruch commented that “Accountability is really important. You are accountable to your team, and part of accountability means being responsive. So it’s not O.K. to not respond to an email.” I wholeheartedly agree with this perspective.

Another key component for Mr. Ruch is to give an ownership stake to everyone. He recognizes there is an administrative cost and burden to doing that, but as he says, “What matters is the emotional attachment, the empowerment that employees feel when they own a part of the company.” Quite frankly, I’m not sure I agree with this point. I believe giving equity in a small business is less valuable than setting up a profit sharing plan where everyone gets to share in the success of the company.

I do admire Mr. Ruch’s perspective on hiring which is to always hire someone who is smarter or better than you at your job. And a corollary to this is to construct a team that genuinely likes being together. It certainly helps the CEO whose job among other things is to build the right kind of culture for the Company’s overall success.

Thanks to Veronica Rao of Boucher & Co, who helps me gather my thoughts as succinctly as possible. Many thanks to Theresa Phan of Boucher & Co whose excellent graphics always accompany my posts. And as usual, I welcome your thoughts and comments.

What kind of CEO do you want to become?

 

As many of you know from my previous posts, I often comment on Adam Bryant’s pieces in the New York Sunday Times column, The Corner Office. I read the column weekly because I am fascinated by what drives business owners to become CEO’s, how and when and why did they become a CEO, what are their opinions, what are their management styles, how do they think, how and why and what types of people do they hire, and what are the trends they follow.

I was particularly intrigued with the headline of this piece about Tien Tzuo, founder and chief executive of Zuora, a software company for subscription businesses which was, “Don’t Expect Me to Manage You.

Obviously, every CEO has a different style and approach. Mr. Tzuo prefers being a leader, not a manager, and expects his employees to manage him. He says, ‘Don’t expect me to manage you. You have to manage me.” And, he doesn’t do performance reviews. “What I found was the one-on-ones just became this laundry list of issues. And I want most of the issues exposed in a team environment, because most of these things have to be worked out in a group setting.” He believes that if his team members want feedback, they have to ask for it, and then he’ll give them as much as they ask for!

I have to say I find Mr. Tzuo’s approach fascinating, and I’m not sure his leadership and management style is for me, nor can I, nor do I recommend that approach to my clients. I believe that a CEO must lead by example, and I also believe that the CEO needs to seek out his team members as much as they need to seek him or her out. Leadership and/or management is not a one way street.

I am always interested in what my readers think . What kind of CEO are you? What kind of CEO do you want to become? What kind of CEO do you want to work for? Please forward me your comments.

How Do Venture Capitalists Make Decisions?

The other day I came across one of my favorite newsletters from The Stanford Business Graduate School, and in particular the subject line “Do Funders Care More About Your Team, Your Idea, or Your Passion?” intrigued me to read on.

In a study co-authored by Stanford finance professor Ilya A. Strebulaev, “How Do Venture Capitalists Make Decisions?” The findings seem to indicate that Venture Capitalists who are considering investing in entrepreneurial ventures, are most interested in entrepreneurs who are passionate, capable, experienced, and part of a strong team.

The survey included 885 Venture Capital professionals at 681 firms, and asked the VCs to identify the factors that drove their investment selection decisions and ranked them according to importance. The abilities of a founder and his/her management team are the most important factors driving investment decisions, and even more important than the product or technology itself.

The average investor evaluates 200 companies a year and invests in just four. Each deal takes an average of 83 days to put together, which includes 118 hours of due diligence and Strebulaev says that “Venture Capitalists gauge an entrepreneur’s passion level by their commitment of time, effort, and money to their idea. “

The study was structured in a way that enabled researchers to better understand how different types of venture capital investors approach their decisions. They found that information technology investors tend to be interested in an entrepreneur’s management team, while health sector investors are more interested in products and market forces.

If indeed you have the time, I strongly recommend downloading the complete study HERE.

As usual, please email me your thoughts and comments. I guarantee you a response!

Reflections and Outlook

During the months of December 2016 and January 2017, I had the opportunity to present  “REFLECTIONS FOR THIS PAST YEAR AND OUTLOOK FOR THE COMING NEW YEAR” to over 100 people in 13 different networking groups.

In the workshop we asked each other what were our professional accomplishments as well as our professional disappointments in the prior year.

We also asked one another to reflect on the one thing to stop doing, and the one thing to start doing in the coming year to become a more effective leader in each of our own companies.

Lastly, we asked ourselves to list our three Professional Performance Objectives and Milestones for the coming year with our anticipated Specific Outcomes and Results with the Dates to be Completed by.

The ultimate goal of this interactive workshop was to create a “roadmap/top down business plan” which each individual could review as they saw fit, in order to make the new year as successful as it could possibly be.

On a personal level, it was a great learning opportunity for me, and I truly appreciated everyone’s candor, honesty and willingness to share their experiences in a group setting.

I also wanted to thank Dave Bresler, Steve Percudani, Paul Berkman, Matt Plociak and the NYC Creative Masterminds Group for enabling these workshops to take place in so many different settings.

Please visit Reflections and Outlook and feel free to download the document, and use it with your colleagues and/or employees. It’s still not too late to complete your own 2017 Roadmap for Success!

As always, I look forward to your comments and feedback

What is Fun at Work?

Shreya Gupta

 

I was perusing through the Sunday NY Times, Business section a few weeks ago and I was intrigued with the headline, “At Work, Focus on the Fun”.

(Read full article here

Reading past the headline, I once again read the statistic from a recent Gallup poll that two of three working Americans do not feel engaged at work.

Actually, I can relate to that statistic as I experienced that for a considerable period of my early work experience. And then something happened – I started my own Company with a partner, and my life and my work was never the same again.

What was it that made the difference? I think it was that I found what I did was not only challenging, but also incredibly interesting, and inevitably fun.

So what is fun at work? In my opinion, it is believing that what you do does make a difference, and that being fully engaged in the process of whatever you do does matter, and seeing the impact of your efforts, despite everything that can and does get in the way, can indeed be the difference of having fun at work.

The article makes some interesting points on how to make work fun:

  • Making friends and establishing comradery with coworkers
  • Breaking the routine
  • Shifting one’s mindset to focus on the positives of one’s jobs instead of the negatives
  • Making one’s goal the process of doing the job and completing all the necessary tasks

Most importantly, I agree with the statement in this article, “…that people feel energized when the process of doing something becomes the goal of doing it”. For me, I found this very satisfying and inevitably have made work more fun for me.

Once again, Veronica Rao was helpful in my gathering my thoughts to write this piece. And, as always, I do appreciate your comments and feedback.