Friday, March 30, 2012

The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs

His saga is the entrepreneurial creation myth writ large: Steve Jobs cofounded Apple in his parents’ garage in 1976, was ousted in 1985, returned to rescue it from near bankruptcy in 1997, and by the time he died, in October 2011, had built it into the world’s most valuable company. Along the way he helped to transform seven industries: personal computing, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, retail stores, and digital publishing. He thus belongs in the pantheon of America’s great innovators, along with Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Walt Disney. None of these men was a saint, but long after their personalities are forgotten, history will remember how they applied imagination to technology and business.

In the months since my biography of Jobs came out, countless commentators have tried to draw management lessons from it. Some of those readers have been insightful, but I think that many of them (especially those with no experience in entrepreneurship) fixate too much on the rough edges of his personality. The essence of Jobs, I think, is that his personality was integral to his way of doing business. He acted as if the normal rules didn’t apply to him, and the passion, intensity, and extreme emotionalism he brought to everyday life were things he also poured into the products he made. His petulance and impatience were part and parcel of his perfectionism.

One of the last times I saw him, after I had finished writing most of the book, I asked him again about his tendency to be rough on people. “Look at the results,” he replied. “These are all smart people I work with, and any of them could get a top job at another place if they were truly feeling brutalized. But they don’t.” Then he paused for a few moments and said, almost wistfully, “And we got some amazing things done.” Indeed, he and Apple had had a string of hits over the past dozen years that was greater than that of any other innovative company in modern times: iMac, iPod, iPod nano, iTunes Store, Apple Stores, MacBook, iPhone, iPad, App Store, OS X Lion—not to mention every Pixar film. And as he battled his final illness, Jobs was surrounded by an intensely loyal cadre of colleagues who had been inspired by him for years and a very loving wife, sister, and four children.

So I think the real lessons from Steve Jobs have to be drawn from looking at what he actually accomplished. I once asked him what he thought was his most important creation, thinking he would answer the iPad or the Macintosh. Instead he said it was Apple the company. Making an enduring company, he said, was both far harder and more important than making a great product. How did he do it? Business schools will be studying that question a century from now. Here are what I consider the keys to his success.

Here for the full article.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Three Rules for Innovation Teams

Follow these rules, and you'll see a dramatic difference in your own team's ability to innovate:

1. Manage Creative Friction

The wrong type of friction on teams makes people hate each other and hold back, but the right type gets results. How do you encourage good creative friction?

Share the experience. The whole team, including the client, work together through all steps of the ideation process from consumer learning, to analysis of possibilities, to envisioning the final idea. Working with consumers directly to understand their needs and aspirations is an especially powerful bonding experience that gives the team a common sense of purpose, and creates a shared foundation of facts and feelings.

Remove communication barriers. People communicate in different ways, so we do social styles analyses to help people understand how their teammates tend to communicate. Are they a driver, amiable, expressive or analytical? They learn that it is not that Harry is necessarily overbearing, but that he tends to lead with ideas, it is not that Susan isn't on task, but she tends to consider people first. Once you understand why people are different, you can laugh about it — rather than get frustrated — and it becomes a way for the team to bond, rather than a reason for breakdown.

Have at it. Lock yourselves in the project room and engage in a passionate debate. The magic in innovation is to combine perception with analysis. Few people can do this alone, but a well-functioning team can be prolifically creative and sharply critical at the same time. The team as a whole acts like one open and self-aware brain that is creating and arguing with itself at the same time. The communication is fast and brutally honest and there is only one agenda.

2. Bring Creativity to the Center

The forum for this debate is the project room. This is a dedicated space teams use from conception to execution. Of course project rooms should be good a place to work, with natural light, plenty of space for the whole team and what they are working on, lots of pinup space for the voice of the consumer to come alive in the room, whiteboards for new ideas, and good audio and video connections to team members in other parts of the world. A well-designed space helps the team to stay focused.

But the project room should not isolate the team. It should connect it to the company as a whole: Glass doors and big internal windows enable more people to see what is going on, comment on it, add to it, and appreciate it.

And put project rooms at the center of action in the company. In many companies, project rooms are set up in the low-rent district of their buildings. I hate to admit it, but many of our project rooms at Continuum were kind of pokey, too. So we moved our executives out of their offices and turned those spaces into project rooms. Since innovation is the core of our proposition, it should be at the core of our environment, too.

Project rooms don't belong in the basement; give them some respect. Move the CEO out of his office and make that a project room.

3. Stand for Delivery

Innovation doesn't stop once you have an idea. Innovation is the creation and the delivery of new value. There is also the challenge in getting those ideas to market. At some point the ideation team has to hand off to the commercialization team which is responsible for the later stages of the innovation process: development, production, training, etc. And that handoff can go wrong. The commercialization team may not fully believe in the idea, and if their heart is not in it, nor is their mind. But more insidiously, the commercialization team may be too uncritical and launch the idea exactly as conceived. This is the biggest trap. When we look at successful innovation, yes, the product or service as launched is similar to the original idea. But it is not identical.

So design teams with this handoff in mind. Make sure that there is an extended team of stakeholders who have responsibility for the entire innovation process. And make sure there is at least one person from the commercialization team who starts off in the ideation team. They will feel ownership of the idea, and more importantly, having been part of the deliberation process in the conception phase, will be more comfortable continuing to creatively evolve the idea in the right way as it is commercialized.

Sometimes the difference between the idea and the reality is small, but as my friend Beatriz Lara, Chief Innovation Officer of BBVA likes to point out, the difference between the DNA of a chimpanzee and a human is less than 1%, but it is an important 1%.

Successful ideas are not born in secret: they emerge from open and vigorous dialog around new information, and then they are actively pulled into the market by a commercialization team rather than being pushed by an ideation team. In the intensity of the innovation process, it's easy to divide into a world of "us" and "them." But to innovate well, teams must be permeable, inviting the outside in and engaging the broader community to transform an idea on a napkin into a new product or service in the marketplace.

For the full article, click here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Reintegration Grants Provide Opportunity to Rebuild Lives

Communities benefit when formerly incarcerated individuals are able to effectively reintegrate into their neighborhoods. But all too often, people who have been convicted of crimes face difficult employment challenges when they are released. Two out of three incarcerated adults had jobs before they went to jail, but we’ve seen that incarceration can reduce their earning potential by as much as 40 percent when they get out.

If people are unable to secure jobs when they are released from incarceration, they cannot support themselves or their families – and there’s an increased chance that they will return to a life of crime. Nationally, recidivism rates are substantial, but for participants in the Labor Department’s Reintegration of Ex-Offenders program, the recidivism rate is just 14 percent. This initiative’s success is something we’re proud of – and poised to build upon.

More here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Unemployment Rate Among Post-9/11 Vets Still Falling

On March 21, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its 2011 report on the unemployment situation of Veterans. Unfortunately, some news outlets and Veterans organizations have keyed on a single statistical measure—the mean (average)—that, when taken out of context, is a bit misleading. For that reason, it’s important to look at the bigger picture and note what’s actually happening: While we still have a long way to go, the unemployment rate for Post-9/11 (Gulf War II-era) Veterans is—and has been—in an overall downward trend since January 2010.

In covering the BLS report, one news headline blared, “Unemployment Rises for Afghanistan and Iraq Era Veterans.” Another called the situation “bleak.” And one Veterans organization called the report “discouraging.” But, in fact, these reactions aren’t entirely accurate. Below, charts demonstrate the reason why.

For more, here.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Managers Need to Up Their Game with Social Media

Using social media to accomplish a meaningful purpose involves more than providing new technology and praying for success. Successful mass collaboration places new requirements on an organization, particularly its managers. While many organizations are technically ready for social media, they should question the readiness of managers to embrace new ways of working collaboratively to achieve social success.

Why? Because social media and mass collaboration fundamentally challenge the relationship between responsibility, resources, and management. Normally, managers accept responsibility provided it comes with control of the resources required to deliver on that responsibility. The connection between responsibility and resources sits at the heart of management authority, control, accountability, and organizational design. Look at an organization chart and you will see the distribution of resources and responsibilities — the currency by which managers measure themselves and compare themselves to their peers.

More HERE.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Cuomo Announces Small Business Barnstorming

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will send a team of officials from at least six agencies — including the departments of State, Labor, Taxation and Finance as well as Empire State Development, State Liquor Authority, and the Workers Compensation Board — to every region of the state to talk about rules and programs intended to help small businesses.

The program is a subset of the state’s economic development efforts; it’s dubbed NY Open for Business. One of the first sessions will be held in the Capital Region on 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 4, at Schenectady County Community College, 78 Washington Avenue in Schenectady.

For more information on the sessions and the initiative, visit HERE.

“This program is all about creating jobs because when small businesses do well, New York does well,” Cuomo said in a statement. “It so important for us to get out of the office and go into communities to see how we can help anyone who wants to start, grow or improve a business and that’s what this program will do.”

Read MORE.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

SBA Announces New Partnership to Connect Small Businesses with Corporate Supply Chains

A new private-public collaboration will help small businesses strengthen their revenue streams by gaining access to more than $300 billion in combined supply chain spending by a consortium of 15 of America’s largest corporations, the U.S. Small Business Administration announced today.

Supplier Connection, created by the IBM Foundation, is part of the Obama Administration’s American Supplier Initiative and is designed to help bridge the gap between small, nimble businesses looking for new opportunities and large corporations looking for innovative new ideas and diversity in their supply chains.

“The American Supplier Initiative is part of a comprehensive solution to grow small businesses, create jobs and to ensure that America has a strong, deep and diverse supply chain,” said SBA Administrator Karen Mills. “While it is clear that becoming a corporate supplier can lead to business growth, breaking in can be a challenge for small businesses. The Supplier Connection will be one tool to help small businesses connect with corporate buyers. Tools like this help to ensure that more small businesses are part of commercial supply chains, which adds additional revenue streams. This is a proven formula for job creation.”

Mills today sent letters about Supplier Connection, a new tool to help small businesses access private sector supply chains, to more than 50,000 small businesses that currently participate in small business federal procurement programs. Studies have shown that small businesses that are part of large corporations’ supply chains experience increased revenues and employment. SBA is committed to helping small businesses identify new tools and resources to become part of these supply chains.

Supplier Connection is a free, online portal created by the IBM Foundation that allows small businesses to send information about their products and services to 15 large private sector companies. The 15 companies participating in Supplier Connection are: AMD, AT&T, Bank of America, Caterpillar, Citi Group, Dell, Facebook, IBM, JP Morgan Chase, John Deere, Kellogg’s, Office Depot, Pfizer, UPS and Wells Fargo. Together, these 15 companies have a combined purchasing power of $300 billion and now they will have full access to the profiles of small businesses that have registered for Supplier Connection.

The American Supplier Initiative is a call-to-action to the private sector to invest in their supply chains through small businesses. The initiative aims to address four key areas in which small business need help in order to become successful suppliers in the private sector: access to mentorship and counseling services, increased market and revenue opportunities, ready sources of capital to fund their growth, and a highly skilled workforce.

To date, several American Supplier Initiative announcements have already been made:

• SBA’s International Trade Loan expansion – This program provides small businesses with capital to finance their fixed assets, including real estate, and working capital needs. This program offers private lenders a 90 percent guarantee on loans up to $5 million as an incentive to encourage lending to growing small businesses. Small businesses may use the ITL program to on-shore and help bring jobs back to the U.S.

• Export-Import Bank’s Global Credit Express Product – This product is specially designed to deliver short-term working capital loans directly to creditworthy small business exporters. Through this new program, exporters may be eligible for a 6- or 12-month revolving line of credit of up to $500,000.

• CAPLines – SBA’s CAPLines program was recently revamped to help small businesses meet their short-term and cyclical working capital needs.

Identifying ways to strengthen small and medium-sized manufacturers is a priority for the administration and additional announcements under the American Supplier Initiative are expected to be rolled out in the coming weeks and months.

For article on SBA's website click HERE.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Export Nation 2012: How U.S. Metropolitan Areas Are Driving National Growth

The Great Recession reset the world economic map. Suddenly, with the bulk of the world’s economic growth transferred beyond the borders of a recession-mired West and into emerging markets, American metropolitan areas and the nation as a whole were left to cast about for new sources of growth.

Such a search for growth is why, in the months after the crash, a chorus of business leaders and economists called for a new emphasis on exports in a "rebalanced" American economy. ... And it is also why the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings published in summer 2010 the initial edition of Export Nation — a first-of-its-kind analysis of both goods and services exports at the metropolitan level in the United States during the period from 2003 to 2008. ...

This second edition of Export Nation updates and builds upon the results of the first analysis to examine changes across the metropolitan export landscape in 2010, the first year of the nation’s economic recovery.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How Good a Boss Are You?

I recently asked a struggling business owner how he thought he rated as a boss. He responded by asking, How do you know if you’re a good boss? What defines a good boss? No doubt, bosses and employees have different perspectives and can see things differently. To me, a good boss is someone who runs a good company and treats people well. Here are some questions that I think can help assess a boss’s performance:

Monday, March 19, 2012

'World's Most Ethical Companies' Revealed

Turns out successful businesses aren't concerned only with their bottom line..

Ethisphere Institute, which compiled the list, says it based its rankings on the following factors: ethics and compliance programs; reputation, leadership and innovation; governance; corporate citizenship and responsibility; and culture of ethics.

(VIA here.)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Selling Online – Is It a Hobby or a Business?

From HERE:

Are you doing business on the Internet? Selling on eBay? Promoting or advertising someone else’s products on your website or blog?

Online money-making opportunities are plentiful – from selling your old books via online auction to promoting products and services for online merchants, or becoming an online merchant yourself. But at what point does this mean you are in business yourself and, since you are making money online, what are your tax and regulatory obligations?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The sharin' of the green: Cash mobs' descend on small businesses and snap up merchandise

From USA Today:

Organized groups of do-gooders — "cash mobs," modeled after public-spectacle "flash mobs" — are descending upon small businesses, snapping up merchandise and rallying at pubs afterward to celebrate their pro-community mission.

The shopping sprees have taken place in dozens of cities from San Diego to Buffalo. The packs organize on platforms such as Facebook or Twitter, where they get details on where and when a strike will occur.

Farmers markets, toy retailers and hardware stores have been on the hit list. Mob members typically spend at least $10 to $20.

The altruistic acts provide much-welcomed economic and emotional support for small-business owners

Friday, March 16, 2012

Leadership: 5 Tips To Improve Communication

Great communication is a key to being a good leader. Communicating with the entire team can be a challenging thing to take on. An article posted in linked in highlights several key areas in which a leader can increase the level of communication with employees at all levels of the organization. The improvement in communication with employees will result in higher employee engagement. This blog post will highlight five key areas any leader can concentrate on to improve his or her ability to communicate more effectively.

More HERE.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Blogging For Small Business Owners

"Do you have a blog for your small business? You should consider it. Blogging enables you to build credibility, expertise and thought leadership in and around your business. It is also a great way to showcase information about your product or service in a way that provides you flexibility to add information on-line without having to make changes to your primary website. Given all of these advantages the biggest challenges in blogging typically revolve around generating ideas to write about and the time to create posts."

More HERE.

I would add that you can take your blog and post the link on your Twitter or Facebook page. You DO have one, right?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How to Really Show Your Customers You Care

All businesses claim to be customer-centric. You'll see signs on the door that the customer is "the center of our business," or "always right," or maybe "our most important asset." We know from experience that only some businesses manage to rise above the noise to give us great "user experiences" and truly "customer centric" service. Today's panel on "All about You Them: The User Experience" at Inc.'s GrowCo conference brought together two women whose businesses not only strive to put the customer at the center, but also their businesses absolutely depend on that occurring.

More HERE.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Employment in New York: Who Creates Jobs?

Here is a the February 2012 Employment in New York State newsletter.

Note the lead article, "Who Creates Jobs?"

One of the most widely held beliefs about the U.S. economy is that small businesses create the most new jobs. Statements over the past 30 years by political leaders (see above) reinforce this notion. However, recent research by John Haltiwanger of the University of Maryland and Census Bureau economists Ron Jarmin and Javier Miranda (hereafter listed as HJM) found that the accuracy of this idea is“subject to a host of statistical and measurement issues.” These issues include:
• How large is a “small” business?
• How do we measure “job growth”?
• Is the age of the business considered?
This article takes a closer look at the issues outlined above, using New York State data from the Census Bureau’s Business Dynamics Statistics (BDS).

Monday, March 12, 2012

Grown in New York: FreshConnect

From the New York State Executive Chamber:

Governor Andrew Cuomo launched the FreshConnect program in 2011 to create new farmers' markets and provide support to existing ones. In addition to providing farmers a consumer outlet, the FreshConnect program helped create local jobs for youth in urban areas and facilitated an increase in the sale of locally-grown food.

After the success of last year's program, the initiative is now expanding to include not just farmers' markets, but other innovative projects that connect underserved communities with New York farm products. Click here to learn more.

Potential expansion projects include:

programs to increase access to farm products at food pantries
delivery programs that send farm goods to areas in need
programs for low-income individuals to access food directly from a farm
new farmers' markets that are located in underserved neighborhoods
satellite markets that purchase produce from an existing market and resell it in an area that cannot support its own market

Grants for potential FreshConnect projects will be awarded on a competitive basis and can be applied for here before April 2, 2012.

The FreshConnect program is helping to bridge the gap between farmers and underserved consumers, while creating local jobs and meeting the needs of all New Yorkers.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Five Tools for Naming a Startup

Think about it: Most customers will hear your business name before they know anything about your products or services.

Like all first impressions, you only get one, so you better make it count.

Leonard Green, professor of entrepreneurship at Babson College, suggests that a name be quick, unique and easy to remember. “You have 10, 15, 20 seconds to catch people’s attention,” he says. “Just get in there and do things differently than what everybody else is trying to do, because that’s where the home runs come from.”

More HERE.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Is Starting a Business an Art or a Science?

Business as Art

Fact: Entrepreneurship is an irrational pursuit. Founding a company--much less one that could "change the world"--entails insane amounts of risk, ridiculously low chances of success and zero work-life balance.

Nevertheless, the value of risk-taking is incalculable, insists Steve Blank, professor of entrepreneurship at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, who pioneered the Lean LaunchPad course that the National Science Foundation adopted for its new incubator boot camp, I-Corps. Blank started a total of eight technology companies--two of them massive failures, one that set him up for life--before turning his attention to the next generation of visionaries, to whom he's been extolling the virtues of embracing his particular brand of irrationality.

More HERE.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Sales Tax 101 for Small Business Owners and Online Retailers

Collecting sales tax is one of the most confusing aspects of transacting business – online and off! Whether you’re starting a new business or expanding into e-commerce, here’s what you need to know about your sales tax obligations.

Read More

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Free SEO Book for Small Businesses

The JM Internet Group, a leader in providing Search Engine Optimization (SEO) training online, is proud to announce that the 2012 edition of their SEO Fitness Workbook - a leading book on Search Engine Optimization - is available free of charge as a review copy up to April 1, 2012. The new SEO book charts how to get a company or organization to the top of Google and Bing step-by-step and includes access to the SEO Toolbook, a compendium of over 100 amazing free search engine optimization tools for small business.

More HERE.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Made in America is Hot: Small Manufacturers Driving Economic Growth, Job Creation

According to the Labor Department, more than 400,000 manufacturing jobs have been created since the start of 2010. America’s small manufacturers are a critical part of that. BLS and Census data reports that 98 percent of America’s manufacturing firms are small. More than one in three Americans who work in manufacturing, work at a small business.

Read More.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Illegal job interview questions

If you are a manager at a large corporation with a well-staffed HR and legal department, you've probably gotten a wealth of training on how to conduct a job interview. But if you own your own company or are a manager in a small business, it might be up to you to keep yourself out of trouble when you start the hiring process. Do you know what kinds of questions you're legally allowed to ask? Knowing the limits will help you avoid lawsuits and make smarter hiring decisions.

First of all, there are a limited set of topics that are protected -- in other words, you may not make hiring decisions based on these considerations. The good news is that the list is quite short and is mostly obvious stuff that common sense would dictate is off limits. Sometimes, though, applying this list in real-world situations can be confusing.

More HERE.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Tips for Building a Strong Online Community Around Your Startup

Building a community around your startup can be one of the cheapest ways to create momentum for your product. A community is much more than a one-time marketing campaign, and can help you throughout your company’s life cycle if you take the time to grow it right.

HERE are 10 tips for getting started.