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Tech and Strategy for Entrepreneurs

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Dream Team: Make that crazy one your biggest asset

Mozart, Einstein, George Patton: All were people who lived far from the average, “middle-of the bell-curve” and accomplished incredible things. These outlier team members help make so many start-ups exceptional. But these same outliers run into challenges that extend from their out of the box thinking. Founders often fall into this category as well. So, ourselves and our clients, how do we manage exceptionally talented weirdos (I include myself, here)?

First – Define the deal-breakers and stick to them. If you’re not clear on what you’ll allow in terms of eccentricities and tradeoffs in your company, how will you get anyone else to feel like you’re being fair to them? Don’t tolerate certain behavior around your team or clients and be ready to fire those who step over that line. Besides the obvious/legal deal-breakers, there are cultural cancers: talking behind people’s backs, passive-aggressive behaviors, always being late or forcing others to step in. We tend to focus more on technical skills and “chemistry”, but these cancers kill morale for the responsible team members who feel like they have to carry the burden of the others. Once you clarify the deal-breakers, let the other, smaller stuff go and don’t beat people up about it.

Second – Give unique people a bigger voice in the projects they are involved with on a day-to-day basis. When people know that they’re perceived as different – especially introverts – they will tend to not speak up because they’ve heard about their uniqueness once too many times. I include team members in project meetings and take lunches with them from time to time. Some of the most valuable insights into our company have come during those lunches or small project meetings because someone had permission to speak and they would warm up to the idea. A bigger voice also means asking them for project input outside of their job-description. I’ll admit that this can backfire if someone lacks social perception in a situation where restraint is required. But mostly, you’ll benefit from their input. We’ve solved many problems by letting people who are uniquely gifted bring their opinions to the table.

Third – Lead from the big picture. I’ve often pulled a couple team members into our conference room, given them a quick “No one may have told you this very directly, but this is what makes or breaks this project.” My employees have later told me, “That was the ah-hah moment where I switched strategies and the project came together.” You have to continually go back to this vision – the large objective. Even clients forget their own objectives. In the heat of battle, we all are prone to tunnel vision. Some of our most talented, focused people are also the most prone to tunnel vision. Even if an individual is not, the further out on the bell-curve that individual is, the more likely their viewpoint far exceeds our own.

Try explaining the big picture from different views (for example, from that of a competitor or a vendor, or a government regulator) rather than just a prototypical end user.

Fourth – Get a “readback” – a tip from the flying world. Again, very unique individuals hear things very uniquely. These team members should read back the objectives and explain what they think they hear in their own words. I’ve paid a much steeper price than the cost of the readback by neglecting my own advice here. To one person, the “frontend” often means something very different than to another.

Good luck and please feel free to share your ideas and experiences!

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Building A Business That Is Bigger Than You (Guest Blog)

Article written by John Burley, Principal, Burley Consulting for Inc.com

Not too long ago, I wrote about some surprising reasons that a company can be undervalued. One of them was the owner being too important–the company expert, the oil in the well-oiled machine, the chief problem solver, the one who holds the relationship with the customers.

Here, we explore this through the eyes of the buyer and from the perspective of some experts in the field. Most importantly, we look at one way you can fix it.

Dusty Gulleson is the CEO of eResources, and has a few acquisitions under its belt. Dusty hired me to help eResources buy companies, and with every single target there was a consistent question: “who has the primary relationship with the customers”. If the answer was “the owner” then we were usually done. There are lots of problems than can be solved. There are lots of issues you get past, but for Dusty and many others, this one is a non-starter–and for good reason.

We could find a nice, profitable, clean company that is a great strategic fit, has great customers, low customer concentration, is growing, has great employees, great technology and more, but if the customers are there because of the owner personally, then we’re not interested. Think of it this way, if the customer “feels like” they are doing business with the owner, then does the business really have any customers at all? That’s a strong statement, but when buying a small business, you are often buying the business’ ability to produce a certain amount of cash flow in the future. If the owner is gone and all the customers were doing business with the owner, can you really count on that future cash flow?

Here’s the challenge to overcome. Most small businesses are successful because of a successful entrepreneur. When you talk to the customers they don’t say “I use ABC company down the street” they say “I got a guy who handles that”. Their guy might be the CEO of the company that’s actually servicing them, but in their mind its “I use Bob, he’s great”. The problem is, nobody wants to buy Bob.

So, I set out to find a systematic way to tackle this issue. Enter Brand3, Inc. I found myself on a web conference with Matt Christ and Orsi Herbein, the owners of Brand3 who walked me through a methodical way to deal with this issue from their ‘legacy branding’ process.

1. Transfer the mindset of the customers from identifying with the owner, to identifying with the brand
The customer experience has to be realigned to the brand–not the owner. Once this happens, the transition to brand loyalty begins. Simple survey tools like Net Promoter Score (NPS), with some modification, can measure owner dependency issues and provide insight for what needs to be done to realign the customer experience.

2. Align internal cultures away from the owner, and into a brand experience model
Realignment of an internal culture usually requires adjustments in the areas of systems and processes, however building a “brand motivated culture” is the foundation for real change. This can impact the attitude and dedication of a team, thus shifting the identity of the company from the owner to the long-term vision and legacy of the company.

After-all, when we talk about “brand”, we are really talking about “identity”. Employees that identify and rally around a company and a mission, can be transferred to a new owner. Employees that rally around the owner, aren’t very valuable to a new owner.

3. Increase the goodwill value of the business
According to Orsi Herbein, Brand3’s Creative Director, “brand is the most powerful intangible asset a company can have.” The measurable results of this are loyal customers with potentially higher margins and reduced competition. The business’ brand should also be well documented and secure with appropriate trademark registration. This, combined with the business’ ability to manage and maintain a consistent image and message, is a critical step to long-term value and sale-ability of the company.

4. Build a national-quality image
Everything you communicate is either building a consistent brand experience or creating space for your competition to do it better. A small business with a national-quality image is set apart from the mom-and-pop shops, and can be worth more as a result.

Matt Christ, Brand Strategist for Brand3 puts it this way: “A powerful brand experience is the key driver to owning market share. Your brand is either a liability or an asset, there is no middle ground.” This translates to buying and selling companies as well. Is your brand an asset or a liability? If it’s the latter, now is the time to get to work and fix it.

PUBLISHED ON: JUN 21, 2017 Read original article here
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