Archive for the ‘Entrepreneurship’ Category

  • The Heart of Innovation: Blogging from the Road

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    Courtesy of de svitalsky at ToonPool.com

    On the road the next few days and taking advantage of hospitable cafés, coffee houses and – perhaps my favorite – local diners. Lest anyone question the transient nature of my or their office, I defend the possibilities with Mitch Ditkoff’s great post, “Why Creative People Work in Cafés,” which is a must read for blogging road warriors. Then, too, remember Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast!”

    Life in motion (avec croissants or eggs over easy with hash browns, and, of course café) can be a good thing!

  • Picture It: How Logos and Information Graphics Tell Your Story or Convey Your Brand in Much Less Than a Thousand Words?

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    Courtesy of: http://www.how-to-draw-funny-cartoons.com

    In our digital world where vital “Tweets” can be no longer than 140 characters – not words but characters – visual information is even more critical than it is in traditional storytelling.

    Budding entrepreneurs will find some great tips and – of course – pictures in today’s “Quack” (aka Post) by Rebecca Hume at Duck Call, that zippy, smart, brandraising blog.

    Bulletin from the Duck Pond is:

    “Good infographics can illustrate ideas that might take pages to explain in writing. They function as a visual shorthand, clarifying relationships with a degree of immediacy and impact text just can’t offer. Effective graphics can be created for many types of information, but they are best suited for showing comparisons, structures, and processes.

    Figuring out what type of infographic is right for a project typically requires three steps:

    1. Know the story you want to tell.
    2. Find the information that best tells the story.
    3. Determine the form that most clearly displays that information.

    Just as with writing, information design must have a thesis statement…”

    Continue reading until you reach the other side of this duck pond because there’s lots of good data here.

    Meanwhile, should you wish to pare those words down further, perhaps even eliminate them altogether and create a successful brand logo, check out this one-page snapshot of all the elements to consider. It was “Tweeted” to you today from the SE Toolbelt, that fabulous and free open-content community resource center, created to help social entrepreneurs plan, start, manage, and grow successful social enterprises.

    Shakespeare would have been proud of your literary gambols…

    Courtesy of: http://www.dailymail.co.uk

  • Senior Entrepreneurs: Innovative, Foolhardy or Desperate?

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    As more and more research details that older Americans are starting businesses at a higher-than-average rate, it’s important to study the why and how of this phenomena.

    Anita Campbell, Editor and Founder of Small Business Trends, LLC, posits the question, StartUps Are Graying, But Is It a Good Financial Move?

    Campbell writes, “The face of the typical startup entrepreneur these days is a bit wrinkly, sporting some gray hair, and having the wisdom that comes with age.”

    She refers to a Business Week article by Scott Shane where he says, “according to recent research, these days those 55 and over are more likely than young people to be starting businesses.” And Shane, in turn, cites research by Dane Stangler of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation that showed in every year from 1996 to 2007, Americans aged 55 to 64 had a higher rate of entrepreneurial activity than those aged 20 to 34.

    In the name of realistic scrutiny, I just Tweeted an Op-Ed piece in today’s New York Times, Entrepreneur or Unemployed?, by Robert B. Reich, former secretary of labor, now professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley,

    Reich captures the under-reported truth behind this entrepreneurial joy, saying, too often the catalyst for this entrepreneurial surge is, “In a word, unemployment. Booted off company payrolls, millions of Americans had no choice but to try selling themselves. Another term for ‘entrepreneur’ is ‘self-employed.'”

    Reich continues:

    “According to an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics by an outplacement firm, Challenger Gray & Christmas, the number of self-employed Americans rose to 8.9 million last December, up from 8.7 million a year earlier. Self-employment among those 55 to 64 rose to nearly two million, 5 percent higher than in 2008. Among people over 65, the ranks of the self-employed swelled 29 percent. Many older people who had expected to retire discovered their 401(k)’s had shrunk and their homes were worthless. So they became ‘entrepreneurs,’ too.

    Maybe this is a good thing. A deep recession can be the mother of invention. These Americans are now liberated from the bureaucratic straitjackets they thought they had to wear. They can now fulfill their creative dreams and find their inner entrepreneurs. All they needed was a good kick in the pants.

    But this upbeat interpretation doesn’t include lots of people who don’t particularly relish becoming their own employers, like an acquaintance whom I’ll call George. George was an associate partner at one of the world’s largest technology and consulting firms until he lost his job last year in a wave of layoffs. For months, George knocked on doors but got nowhere because of the deep recession.

    But this upbeat interpretation doesn’t include lots of people who don’t particularly relish becoming their own employers, like an acquaintance whom I’ll call George. George was an associate partner at one of the world’s largest technology and consulting firms until he lost his job last year in a wave of layoffs. For months, George knocked on doors but got nowhere because of the deep recession.

    Finally, his old firm got some new projects that required George’s skills. But it didn’t hire George back. Instead, it brought him back through a “contingent workforce company,” essentially a temp agency, that’s now contracting with George to do the work. In return, the agency is taking a chunk of George’s hourly rate.

    Technically, George is his own boss. But he’s doing exactly what he did before for less money, and he gets no benefits — no health care, no 401(k) match, no sick leave, no paid vacation. Worse still, his income and hours are unpredictable even though his monthly bills still arrive with frightening regularity.

    The nation’s official rate of unemployment does not include George, nor anyone in this new wave of involuntary entrepreneurship. Yet to think of them as the innovative owners of startup businesses misses one of the most significant changes to have occurred in the American work force in many decades.”

    In addition to more realistic depictions of this frequently “involuntary entrepreneurship,” I’d like to see more research on how seniors’ are underwriting their start-ups. Are they, for example,  throwing all their savings and what crumbs might remain in their 401-K retirement accounts into these ventures? Is this, as Anita Campbell pointed out, a wise move? Young entrepreneurs have many more years to recoup those funds should the new enterprise fail.

    In that regard, it would also be valuable to see some data on Senior “Entrepreneurs” success rates. How do Seniors compete with the more tech savvy, viral-marketing-driven young entrepreneurs? Robert Jones, asks in his SmartBrief on Entrepreneurs nugget, “Are older entrepreneurs at a competitive disadvantage in a world of social media and digital communication?”

    Jeff Wuorio, makes a start at answering some of these questions with his four tips in The Older Entrepreneur’s Guide to Success, but clearly – there are a lot more questions to be answered before we revel in the “Senior Entrepreneur” phenomena.

  • Creativity and the Power of Imagination – for CEOs as Well as Wizards!

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    I was delighted to see Frank Kern’s article, “What Chief Executive Officers Really Want,” in the May 19th issue of Business Week. He discusses the radical ramifications of a new survey of 1,500 chief executives, conducted by IBM’s Institute for Business Value. The survey results demonstrate unequivocally that CEOs value one leadership competency – creativity – above all others.

    Kern notes that when, “CEOs identify ‘creativity’ as the most important leadership competency for the successful enterprise of the future, …creativity – not operational effectiveness, influence, or even dedication – something significant is afoot in the corporate world. In response to powerful external pressures and the opportunities that accompany them, CEOs are signaling a new direction. They are telling us that a world of increasing complexity will give rise to a new generation of leaders that make creativity the path forward for successful enterprises.”

    I was struck by the ways in which the survey results manifest the ideas set forth by J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, in her brilliant 2008 Harvard Commencement Address in which she focused on the power of imagination.

    Speaking before that bastion of education, nurturer of past, present and future world leaders, Rowling extolled imagination not just for storytelling as one might expect from such a successful author but rather as a tool for transformative social change. She said, “Though I personally will defend the value of bedtime stories to my last gasp, I have learned to value imagination in a much broader sense. Imagination is the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation.”

    Quoting the ancient Greek historian, biographer, essayist, Plutarch, Rowling notes, “What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.” She says, “We do not need magic to transform the world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: the power to imagine better.”

    Invention and innovation from Hogwarts to the CEO’s boardroom and beyond. Dare we imagine transformative social change is possible???

  • Be Resourceful: 10 Simple Tricks To Remembering Names

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    Here in Maine “resourcefulness” is a necessity and not just a positive attribute. Knowing, for example, that – due to our prolonged frost season –  it is unsafe to plant our gardens a moment before Memorial Day, some of us have created unique winter gardens from one of Maine’s most abundant natural resources: the stones, which thrive on our beaches year-round.

    Rachel's Winter Garden

    In a different but equally vital ode to resourcefulness, Helen Coster in  Forbes Magazine’s “Entrepreneurs” section, recently published a great top ten list of simple tricks to remembering names.

    As much as we Savvy Seniors tout the value of social media networking, we never minimize the benefit of face-to-face, in-person networking. The big risk, however, is that just as you connect with the person most vital to your life, your work or your future you draw a blank on his or her name. It happens to the best of us. The only aspect that could be age specific is that the older we get, the more names we hold in our mental database.

    Forbes presented the tips in a funky slide slow that’s a bit difficult to follow, so we’ve copied and pasted them here for your ease of reading and remembering. Our favorite – being as resourceful as we are – is #9, Speak Up.

    Thank you, Forbes!

    1. Plenty of business deals (and romantic rendezvous) have been foiled because someone failed to recall the right name at the right time. There are tricks to remembering names. Benjamin Levy, author of Remember Every Name Every Time, advocates the FACE method: “focus, ask, comment and employ.” Focus: Lock in on the person’s face. Ask: Inquire which version he prefers (“Is it Ted or Theodore?”). Comment: Say something about the name and cross-reference it in your head (“My college roommate’s name was Ted.”) Employ: Put the name to use–“Nice seeing you, Ted”–to drive it home.

    2. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat: The most surefire strategy is to repeat the person’s name–both in your head, and out loud–as soon as possible after you’ve been introduced. Occasionally use the person’s name in conversation. “Pleasure to meet you, Bob,” or “Bob, so good to see you.” Don’t overdo it, of course, but don’t worry that Bob will recoil, either. He’d rather you remember his name than not.

    3. Picture This: Turn someone’s name into an image that you can remember. When you meet Shirley, think of a Shirley temple. Don’t laugh – it works.

    4. Spell It Out: Another imagery-based tactic: Ask someone to spell out his or her name. If you can picture the letters in your mind, you’ll have a better chance of remembering the name. A derivation on that: Imagine the person’s name written across his forehead, like a billboard.

    5. Connect: Try to associate names with things people tell you about themselves (careers, hobbies) that will trigger the sound or association of the name in your mind. Fred likes to fish, Margarita runs a bar, you get the idea.

    6. Word Play: Let the words do the work for you. Mnemonic devices (Dale works in sales) work nicely, as does alliteration (Jim from Jersey).

    7. Lead the Way: If you know that your name will be hard to remember or pronounce, do other people a favor and help them out. They’ll return the favor – or, if you’re chatting with a Mike or a Bob, maybe they’ll make some big production out of their own common name, making it stick in your mind.

    8. Put Pen to Paper: It’s not enough to write down a person’s name as soon as possible after meeting them. Record the name in a “new contacts” file, and include when and where you met.

    9. Speak Up: Embarrassing as it seems, don’t be afraid to ask someone to repeat his or her name. Start out with a compliment, such as “I’ve had so much fun talking with you, and I’ve completely forgotten your name.” If you realize you’ve blanked on a name a few seconds after introduction, just say “I’m sorry, I missed your name.”

    10. Prime the Pump: You spy a person, whose name you’ve forgotten, making her way toward you. What to do? If you’re speaking with someone you know, introduce them right off the bat. The newcomer will probably introduce herself on her own. Problem solved.

  • Creating A Life: Never An Overnight Success

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    Rollo May, wrote in his book, The Courage to Create, that: “Creativity is the process of bringing something new into being… the creative act brings to our awareness what was previously hidden and points to new life.”

    I remembered his words this morning when I saw Lynn Saville’s remarkably creative photographs in her NY Times piece, Scenes From the Night Shift.

    Saville describes herself, “As a photographer, I work the night shift — when daylight gives way to moonlight, neon, and street light…”  and she discovers details barely discernible in the bright light of day.

    Many of us in this third stage of our lives have become entrepreneurs, composing our own lives. Freed from the restraints and requirements of our early and mid-years and not seeing a ready-made niche, we begin to create our own design for a purposeful life. Mary Catherine Bateson, author the classic Composing a Life, has written a new book to be published in September, 2010.

    In her new work, Composing a Further Life: The Age of Active Wisdom, Bateson notes that,”with its unprecedented levels of health, energy, time, and resources, aging today is an improvisational art form calling for imagination and willingness to learn.”

    No matter how powerful our imagination or willingness to learn, however, we cannot design a new life overnight. Success takes time, contemplation, testing, failing, reconsidering and trying again.  First, of course, we need to determine how we define success.

    Reflective inquiry is required to assess priorities. We need to allow time to uncover those rich details which were masked by bright light of day.  It is time, as any night photographer must, to open the aperture and extend the exposure to capture the hidden aspects and patterns integral to bring our new lives into being.

    Lynn Saville: "Fulton Landing Warehouse"

  • Good Leadership and Moral Clarity in the Clear Light of Spring

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    Spring has sprung in Maine - at last!

    Yesterday, a reader emailed to comment on my post, Dancing to the Music of Leadership. I called the video brilliant and offered kudos to its creator Derek Sivers.

    My reader said, “Not sure this works for me —put a funny-looking mustache on the guy, have him wear a brown shirt, and you get another kind of crowd-pleasing ‘leadership’…  Crowds are not always right.”

    I responded: “You are so right. Your comment gives me goosebumps. But, moral clarity aside, I do love the simplicity in Derek’s commentary regarding how a movement is formed.”

    While I am delighted my reader pointed out something I should have grasped and addressed in my comments on this video, I also stand by my kudos for Derek’s ability to communicate in plain simple English just how a “crowd” or movement happens to follow a charismatic, entrepreneurial leader. It is, as many have said, easier to deal with the devil you know…

    The more we understand the underlying dynamics of a movement, the more opportunity we have to nip the malevolent ones in the bud. One the other hand, if we don’t have a clue, we might find ourselves swept away with the brown shirts or today’s tea cups before our moral clarity genes kick in. Once you’re in a “movement,” it can be cumbersome to extricate yourself. Here in the midst of New England’s mighty maples, we’d say you’ve been caught in the sap’s downward flow when you should have waited for the sugar to rise.

  • Dancing to the Music of Leadership! No Fool’s Errand…

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    Granted, this cinematographer is no Pedro Almodóvar, but this is the best 3-minute video on leadership that I’ve ever seen!

    In his inspired video, Derek Sivers deconstructs how a “movement” happens.

    1. He begins with a Dancing Fool  – someone with guts who is not afraid to set himself apart from the crowd, stand alone and even look ridiculous.  A natural born leader.

    2. The dancer’s moves are simple and easy-to-follow.

    3. The dancer wins his first follower. “We vastly underrate the critical role of the first follower,” says Derek. “It is the follower, after all, who transforms the Dancing Fool into a leader.”

    I won’t give the rest away. Watch the video to see what happens when the 2nd follower enters the picture…  when the crowd grows…  and what happens when it’s no longer cool to not be dancing with the Fool.

    It’s brilliantly simple. Kudos to Derek Sivers!

  • Women Launch New Businesses at Twice the Rate as Men

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    This reflects women of all ages but, even so, women entrepreneurs continue to lead  the Boomer pack.

    Not a shabby statistic to note on this auspicious, 100th anniversary of “International Women’s Day.”

    In the US, March is “Women’s History Month,” but that did not become official until 1987. Even worse, this celebration began as just a week in 1978. For a country that espouses forward thinking, it seems to have taken an inordinate amount of time to rally behind our international counterparts.

    Nonetheless, we are happy to have caught up, and would like to add our support with this great Entrepreneurial To-Do List from Brad Sugars at Entrepreneur.com. We recommend you check off each of his seven key steps before you wade into the entrepreneurial waters. One essential step we love is know your numbers and theirs!

    Last but not least, as Sugars says in the conclusion of his article: “There are few truly new things under the sun. So build on the intellectual capital of those who have gone before you.”

    A nod to women’s history, perhaps???

    Suffragist Parade in New York City

    (Photo Credit: Bettmann/CORBIS)

  • Social Capital on Display: A Norwegian Parable about Social Entrepreneurs

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    This astonishing and true story, about Jan Baalsrud a Norwegian anti-Nazi Resistance fighter in 1943, is the closest parable I have ever read about the trials and tribulations of a social entrepreneur.

    NY Times columnist, David Brooks, retells Baalsrud’s epic to capture the essence of Norway’s long-standing Olympic Gold Medal success, but Brooks also describes the story as an “interesting form of social capital on display.” He writes, “It’s a mixture of softness and hardness. Baalsrud was kept alive thanks to a serial outpouring of love and nurturing. At the same time, he and his rescuers displayed an unbelievable level of hardheaded toughness and resilience. That’s a cultural cocktail bound to produce achievement in many spheres.”

    Determined to succeed for a cause greater than ourselves – isn’t that the essence of a great social entrepreneur?

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