Innovation is about the new and different to generate enhanced results. It can be found in unlikely places and disrupt industries that are centuries old.

A Wake-UP Call to Recruiters

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I’m not sure if a business comes to mind where I’m hit up more than Recruiters.  Headhunters.  Staffing Agencies.  Every week it’s a different company (or 2-3) that offers to find me great talent, massive databases, great screening, etc.  What a difficult business to compete in when a small little company like LM Foods gets approached so often and the service providers tend to blur together.  What happens in a market of multiple players, all offering the same service?

  • You ignore the white noise and you stick with one or 2 and work with them.
  • You can try and “find the bottom” of the market……offer up a program that works in hopes of cost savings.  See who’s willing to invest and get their foot in the door.  The infamous race to the bottom.
  • You give the best one a shot, don’t negotiate.  See if indeed their model is better in the real world and how the recruiter delivers.  If it works, you’ve expanded your network of service providers.  If it doesn’t, you haven’t improved your model but your trying, and that counts.

Here’s some observations I’ve had with recruiters for LM Foods.

  • VERY few will customize their intro letter.

    • Sometimes they cut and paste and you can tell as font sizes/color are different.  Lazy & Careless.  Can’t they even view the website to understand what you actually do?

  • Even fewer offer to come tour the business and get dirt under their nails.

    • So let me get this straight, you want 20% of year one salary and you don’t even want to see my operation that you’ll be recruiting for?

  • Few will offer 100% cash refund at a reasonable interval, “if the employee doesn’t work out in 6 months we’ll refund 100% of the money!”

    • They get it, hiring is a crap shoot and there’s a reason why few will do this.  But doesn’t it undermine the premise of their very own marketing materials?  And since very few will offer this, isn’t that by definition a clear path to differentiating their product?  Wouldn’t the built in risk make them better at their craft?  

  • Many try and control the process (communication), protect the candidates identity, contact info, etc.  As if they “own” the individual and a company will steal the candidate in hopes of doing a back door hire to avoid a recruiter/agency fee.

  • I understand they are in the service business and some companies may try and “steal” a buck.  But the companies that do a back door hire are gambling with their reputations, and if they do, will the agency ever work with them again?  There is too much fear in this area and the recruiters should worry more about adding value vs playing protectionism.

    [Continue Reading…]

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Do The Crazy One’s Keep You Up at Night?

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Any better ad of all time than Apple’s “Crazy ones?”

I have no idea if this sold more Apple products, which in my opinion is the real definition of advertising success.

But sometimes, thoughts (communicated in ANY medium) serve a purpose other than selling.  They try to define the future for key people, in particular the troops within a business.

  • The crazy one’s drew a line in the sand and elevated apple to an idea, an aspiration, a license for people to be different.

Those people could be their customers, their employees, their suppliers.

Now ask yourself as a business leader:

  • How many crazy one’s are working for YOU?

  • How many suppliers in your network fit into this mode?

  • What about your competitors?

Are you OK with crazy one’s working for your competition?  Or does this thought keep you up at night?

There is comforting news if Crazy One’s working for your competition keeps you up at night:

Our education system doesn’t inspire crazy one’s.  It inspires conformists.  People coloring within the lines.  Talking when called upon.  So by definition, crazy one’s are not the norm.

Neither is greatness.

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The Growth Challenged Player: Warning Signs

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Most leaders like to talk about growth.  Few will do what’s necessary to make it more than a concept.

There are plenty of reasons for why businesses don’t grow:

  • Industry is flat to declining
  • Too many financial constraints (tight margins, leverage, lack of capital for investment)
  • Lack of talent
  • Competition is dominant

The list can be endless.  But at it’s core it is more basic than business constraints.

Growth begins and ends with INDIVIDUALS and their ability to grow themselves.  

This is ESPECIALLY the case if you happen to work in one of those “non-sexy” businesses that are tied to industries that measure growth in single digits vs double or triple digits.

For leaders wired for growth, there may be no MORE frustrating profile than people that are simply unable or unwilling to grow THEMSELVES.  If those people are in a key role, this can not persist for long or something will need to “give.”

Many people are not ready for dynamic growth.  Why?  It isn’t easy.  It creates CHANGE.  Some people flat out struggle with change.

There are clear warning signs for people that will struggle with a growth orientation.  One or two aren’t a problem, but if the person starts checking off multiple warning signs, leaders better be prepared to have a difficult conversation.

The “Growth Challenged” Warning Signs

If they are Growth Challenged…….they very well MAY:

  • LOVE their routine.  Same route to work.  Same activities.  Same check-list.  Same closing time.  Same starting time.  They value ROUTINE and the certainty it creates OVER the uncertainty of change.  Challenging routine is a no no.

  • Invest VERY LITTLE in themselves.  No books, newsletters, You Tube videos, courses, etc have been consumed and assimilated in MONTHS trying to take their game up a few notches.  Because that is a break from routine, or countless other excuses not to grow (no time, too busy, etc).

  • Never make noise.  Never involved in conflict that results from trying to push the envelope, get better, break things, bring people together and build a team.  Sometimes rumbles are good.

  • Always involved  in the same conversations, vs developing new ways to conquer new paths.

  • Stuck to old processes that worked in a stable world but add little value in a dynamic world.

  • Defensive when receiving feedback.  As if their purpose is to protect their own image vs. figuring out how to grow.

  • Never SEEK feedback.  Too risky, or why bother?

  • Don’t ask for help when they hit road-blocks.

  • New challenges always need to be handled by someone else…..

  • Cling to the past and may even question the fundamental premise of growth: “Is this even better?”

There are natural skeptics in the world, or people that like to play devil’s advocate with every new idea.  That doesn’t mean they are anti-growth.  These could be some of the greatest assets in building a growth mindset in companies.  That’s not what the growth challenged player is about…

Leaders need to understand if their players are capable and WILLING to grow.  

If there are multiple warning signs, they need to have a difficult conversation that makes the concern clearly known.  These are not conversations where you sugar coat.  If Growth is important and a key player exhibits anti growth tendencies (and multiple warning signs), they need to clearly understand this.

The leader has a choice if they do not want to confront the warning signs with the Anti-Growth Players:  Don’t confront it.  Continue to be frustrated.  Give yourself a nice little barrier on your marathon.  ANKLE WEIGHTS.

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Too Much? Over the Top & All In

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Questions are magic for jump starting the mind.

A great, yet simple question came from one of my colleagues in the context of  developing a series of ideas:

“Is it too much?”

Meaning, is it too much of a break from tradition, outside of our comfort zone and those that will be touched  by it?

I bet everyone asks themselves sub-consiounsly something along these lines when developing any NEW thinking.

It’s in part driven by fear.  Maybe fear of rejection, or fear of the blood/sweat/tears that may be associated with pulling the idea off.  Few things are easy.

How many great contributions are NOT brought forward in a business because people are holding back and thinking it may be too much?  Too many.  What a shame….

Maybe it’s too many because our education system does not value “playing loose” but insists on staying in line and talking only when your called on.  18 years of that model and you wouldn’t exactly be trained to push the envelope would you?  That’s a digression, but I’ve profiled some lessons from my son’s first grade class…

Leadership’s role is to inspire a culture where people disrupt the status quo and feeling trusting enough to do that.  Killing business as usual.  

Cultures that inspire fanaticism, breaking things and pushing the envelope may often be chaotic, and not everyone thrives in chaos.

What about the individual?

First, performance is rarely equally spread.

Show me any company and I will show you a “bell curve” of distribution among its talent.  There will be an 80/20 rule emerge where the few contribute out-sized results.

We can all wonder why this exists.

  • Natural Born Talent……they hit the genetic jackpot!
  • Education!
  • Great Mentors!
  • Luck!  Right place, right time!
  • Out-sized achievements that were parlayed time and time again….

How about this for a hypothesis?

The people  that tend  to be the top 10% of any business come in all shapes and flavors.  But they tend have one thing in common:  They believe that nothing is too much.  They tend to go over the top.  They go all in, not just enough, in every area that matters.  

All in

Pick any area of the operation that matters, and I bet you will see something emerge with the stars.  Everything about them, when compared to the “average” will be considered TOO MUCH, especially in the eyes of the average.

There’s a great  law of statistics that is worth understanding:

Correlation does not imply causation.

Just because two things are related, does not mean one drives the other.  BUT, when 2 variables move in the same direction……you are in the area of needing to poke around and learn more.  You are getting warmer.

And maybe the most important question of all?  

If you have a burning desire to achieve something, ask yourself:

Am I ALL IN?  

If your being honest with yourself and the answer is not an emphatic HELL YES!, CONGRATS!  You have just walked up to the starting line.

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Simple Innovation That Works…..Coca-Cola Summer of Sharing

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Innovation does not need to be a massive technology breakthrough.  Sometimes its as simple as a tweak to packaging that gets people talking.

In the past 2 hours, Coke has broken through in my life.  I get a text message from a friend with a diet coke can.  Then my daughter runs up to me with a big smile and says “DADDY!” pointing to the can.

IMG_0495

 

Then my son runs to the refrigerator looking for more cans with different words.

Then a facebook post from a friend, copying 2 other friends with the word “Buddy” on the can.

This is Coca-Cola, the company with Millions (if not billions) in annual media spending.  And what did they do?  They tweaked the packaging.  And multiple people are buzzing, sharing and smiling.

What’s the cost of this tactic vs a Superbowl ad?  Which is more memorable.

Striking the emotional chord and getting people to talk positively about a brand or service will always beat the pricey “throw money at it approach.”

Kudo’s to the Coca-Cola company.  The “Summer of Sharing” campaign is a winner, at least in this household.

http://www.coca-colacompany.com/press-center/press-releases/coca-cola-celebrates-a-summer-of-sharing

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Hustle in Action: Kenny Brooks

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There are so many reasons why I believe HUSTLE is one of life’s most controllable difference makers.  Hustle is one of those intangible elements, it doesn’t come with a degree or certification, but you know it when you see it.

 

When I think of HUSTLE, a few words/images come to mind…

  • Thick skin

  • Creative

  • Aggressive

  • Makes a $1 out of fifty cents (isn’t that a song lyric?)

  • Enjoys the ride

  • Memorable

  • Contagious

Most important?  They makes it happen:  Usually 10x’s greater results than people with < Hustle factor.  

No research to back this up.  No government study.  Simple common sense.

Lets look at Internet sensation Kenny Brooks, a door to door salesman that epitomizes the word Hustle.

Ask yourself if his success rate is significantly better than his peers?

 

If you own a cleaning supply company, would you hire a Harvard MBA, or would you hire Kenny Brooks?

Hustle Matters.

Role models and learning opportunities are all around us.

“Paint me green and call me a pickle!”

Hustle on…..

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Innovation in Action: 2 Cellos

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Re-invention.  Innovation.  Those words that businesses dream about for both survival and long term growth.  

It comes from a mindset that is open to:

  • New ideas, especially ideas that are “Not invented here.”

  • Outside thinking, completely different areas of life

  • A relentless pursuit of action:  “How do WE apply that to OUR business?”

  • A willingness to accept failure, scrape your knees and get at it again.

Take what could be one of the most boring instruments you can imagine from high school band:  The Cello.  Do you remember people dying to sign up for that instrument?  Could you imagine the masses ever paying money to see people perform it, outside of an orchestra?

With that said, I present 2 Cellos.  Their videos tell the story, as well as the millions of people following them.  

Gamechangers indeed. 

 

2 cellos - innovation in action

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Life’s Decision Scale: Time to Chase Your Entrepreneurial Dreams?

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Is there anything that personifies America & Capitalism more than owning your own business?

It is the epitome of the American Dream.  Yet so many people dream of it, so few will pursue it.  I bet the % of people that become entrepreneurs dwindle as people get more established in their careers.  Here’s a few reasons that could drive the in-action:

  1. Lifestyle is really OK!:  Paycheck, benefits & perks that may be growing and there are plenty of future demands on the way (college for kids, retirement).
  2. I like my job!: Great people, a culture that’s strong, rewarding results that you help drive.  It’s comfortable by golly and I love what I do!
  3. Overall state of predictability.  You know in 6 months, if you continue to work hard and generate results, your job will likely be there and things will be a bit better overall.  Nice steady improvement.  

I’ve focused on 1-3 myself, and they are all nice benefits.

Stay put, and do NOT pursue your Entrepreneurial dreams IF:

  1. Not doing so will produce the future you desire

  2. Not doing so will not yield one of life’s biggest regrets:

Never Taking That One Big Shot 

People can have a “dream” to own their own business all they want.  But until they envision conflict with #1 & #2 and if their current job will yield what they want, they probably won’t take action to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.

There comes a time when regret or wanting a brighter future won’t be attained by “doing nothing.”  When that happens, inertia gets agitated and massive action begins.*

*Warning Sign:  I’ve witnessed people “lower the bar” on a future that is desired, dialing back expectations that can be met with the classic 9-5.  Chances are, if you follow a blog called “Hustle or Bust.” that is not an option, but I have witnessed this.  Let’s call it a “Hustle cheat.” 

What’s instructive is asking WHY those reasons for IN-action exist?  Force yourself to give 1 word that explains why you won’t take that leap:

  • Risk?
  • Uncertainty?
  • Un-knowns?
  • Insecurities?
  • Capabilities?

All valid concerns, fear-based adjectives.  They are real and powerful motivators for in-action that can’t be denied.

If you’ve gone through your acid test test and your scales have tipped towards PURSUING your entrepreneurial dreams, CONGRATS!  Now you’ve entered the stage where you need to figure out the how’s…..and build a roadmap against a solid understanding of the process.

What’s first needed to create action is often just a recognition that the scales have tipped in one direction.  Once you recognize they’ve tipped, the rest becomes about learning, planning and execution.  But the scales need to tip first.  Be honest with yourself and start weighing the scales. 

Stay tuned for what that the entrepreneurial process looks like in months ahead.  Make sure you subscribe to HustleOrBust (top right box) so you get those posts delivered to your inbox. 

Make it a great day & I look forward to your comments on “Life’s Decision Scale!”

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Assessing Organizational Culture: Start With Relationship Churn

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Culture is viewed by some as “soft,” hard to measure, difficult to quantify, but most will begrudgingly acknowledge its importance.

Organization Culture - 7s model

Image Credit: www.managermike.com

Culture is not something to be acknowledged, it is EVERYTHING about a business.  

It may not be easy to pinpoint and understand, but it’s there.  Culture will determine what is acceptable/not acceptable behavior better than an employee handbook.

Culture as they say, “Eats strategy for breakfast.”

There are many aspects of a business where you want to assess an organization’s culture.  It is most critical to focus on culture when you are UNFAMILIAR with the organization.  A few scenarios come to mind:

  1. A business acquisition
    • You are looking to assess the culture relative to your objectives, and ultimately shape it over time to become a competitive advantage.
  2. A change of employment
    • You are looking to see if you can adapt and thrive in the culture, you’re not looking to CHANGE the culture
  3. You want to establish a new business relationship (sales or any other form of networking)
    • You want to understand the culture to POSSIBLY adapt; you always need to be aware, but may not need to alter your natural style to conform to their culture.

So the million dollar question is “HOW” to assess the culture?  

Here is a starting point to understand Culture:

The Relationship Churn Rate

A measurement of critical organizational relationship change.  The higher the churn, the more “change” in the number or impact of relationships.

  • What is the “tenure” of people that come into contact with the business?  Do they stay long (greater than 5 years?) or are the relationships more transactional with lots of churn every year?  
  • You need to get a feel for the Churn among the organizational stakeholders as there could be different dynamics within each.  Organizations have both internal and external stakeholders.  
    • External Stakeholders
    • Customers
    • Suppliers
    • Financial institutions:  Creditors & Investors
    • Internal Stakeholders
    • Employees:  Both hourly and salaried employees

If you think about 2 comparable businesses, each with very different churn rates, couldn’t you start to draw some conculusions on culture?

Said differently, if one business has a crew of key employees with an average tenure of 12 years with the business, and a different company is closer to 3, isn’t that worth understanding why the differences exist?

  • Is turnover an issue?  Why?  Is it driven by compensation/benefit rates, environment, or management practices?
  • What about customers?  Are the top 20% of customers a revolving door, or have they been stable over time?  Why?  Are service levels, pricing, new product offerings, sales approach, etc. driving the churn rate to be high or low?  Is there one dominant factor or a combination of all elements driving a churn rate?

Like all analyses, the magic is not knowing a churn metric, it’s understanding the WHY’s behind what drives it to begin with.

Keep in mind:  Low turnover, stable customers, suppliers and stakeholders is on the surface a positive sign, indicator of stable culture.  What you need to do is put that stability up against the business results and asses cause and effect of the low churn rates to the end results of the business.

If your goal is to dynamically CHANGE the end business results, the existing culture needs to be considered as to how best to make that change happen.  Keep in mind; cultures are built over time, not overnight.  Changing a culture is therefore a process, not an event.

Culture matters.  Get to the Churn rates at the stakeholder level.  Then get to the Why’s behind the Churn Rates to paint a picture for the culture.

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The $ Shave Club: Disruption in Action

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Sometimes disruption happens right under your nose.  Take a look at the men’s razor blade category:

  • Needs to be continuously replenished.
  • Massive market.  Let’s call it 50% of the world’s population.  Maybe a bit less if you don’t mind facial hair.
  • Huge barriers to entry.  How can you get into this category?
    • You’re not just going to “up and build” a factory, it takes massive capital and expertise
    • Your also not going to unseat one of the established brands (Gillette) and their massive branding investment.  
    • If you could conquer these 3 barriers, you need to get the consumer to vote, which means you need access to distribution.  In CPG, that’s the health & beauty buyer at the retail chains.

So how do you gain a slice of an industry dominated by the 800lb Gorilla? 

  • Find a source of supply.  Nearly every category has Private Label & Contract Manufacturing supply.

  • Forget the middleman in the distribution chain, go directly to the consumer.

  • Build your own brand, unconventionally.  Use social media, be edgy, create stories.

  • Keep expenses LOW.  To the bone….

In other words, do everything DIFFERENTLY than the industry leaders do.

How do you know when the big guys are sleeping at the switch?  They begrudgingly acknowledge the up-start.  Then they immediately cling to their existing business model, defend it and ignore the very threat in the first place.

  • “We have products at those price points too!”
    • Maybe, but can I find them when 80% of the shelf space is covered with your more expensive stuff?
    • But you won’t deliver it to my doorstep will you?  Of course not, that would annoy the retail buyers wouldn’t it?

You see these types of up-starts more and more.  SODA stream comes to mind.

Sodastream

If Coke or Pepsi do not have a team figuring out how to buy and integrate this company into their model they would need their heads examined.  When I say “team”, I’m talking about a team of less than 10 people.  In an urban office, FAR away from headquarters, made up of strategic thinkers with minimal internal experience within Coke or Pepsi.

Sometimes experience is what prevents the 800lb gorillas from seeing a disruptive model.

Blinders off.  

Disruption lenses on.

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303624004577338103789934144

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