Thought of the Day: Evangelize, it’s your job!

“To succeed in business it is necessary to make others see things as you see them.”— John H. Patterson, 19th century industrialist and founder of National Cash Register Company (NCR). Patterson established one of the nation’s first sales training academies.

I’ve been reading the flak over Sunday’s New York Times piece on the brooding Google-Microsoft “rumble.” Like many others, I didn’t find the piece to be especially insightful — a declaration that the two largest companies in software will soon compete, in just one area of their respective billion-dollar businesses, isn’t a newsflash. And while a “Clash of the Titans” is always a great story, in this instance the soldiers haven’t exactly lobbed the heavy artillery yet. Prognostications aren’t as fun, or as useful to founders, as gritty accounts of battle. But I’ll look forward to reading those, in time.

I will say that what struck me about the piece was how ardent both Microsoft’s Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft’s business division, and Google CEO Eric Schmidt were in articulating their views of the world:

“In our view, yes,” Mr. Schmidt says. “It’s a 90-10 thing.” Inside the cloud resides “almost everything you do in a company…” Later he adds: “You’d be crazy to buy packaged software.”

to which Raikes shot back:

“It’s, of course, totally inaccurate compared with where the market is today and where the market is headed.” Microsoft’s competitive tracking of the corporate market, Raikes told The Times, finds little momentum for what [Google] portrays. “It is not in any way, shape or form close to what he is suggesting.”

Ok, so Google Docs has 1.6 million users. Microsoft Office has 500 million. The truth is, there will always be some customers who want to use Office and others (notably younger) who will be thrilled to compute in the “cloud” using Google. (I think The Times story focused too little on these distinctions in the marketplace.)

But then a friend reminded me. Schmidt and Raikes aren’t being stubborn, exactly. Their job is to advance their company’s vision of how the business landscape will evolve. This is an equal piece of making it all happen — one just about as important as the development of the products itself. Guy Kawasaki calls this evangelism. In other spheres, it’s called lobbying. It’s really all a form of marketing. As one late, great management guru used to say:

“Business has only two functions – marketing and innovation.” — Peter F. Drucker

Remember to do them both, with equal vigor.

Why Self-Delusion Can Help You Succeed

Dating back to my days as a staff writer for Fast Company, I’ve been a fan of the executive coach and author, Marshall Goldsmith (he has written for the magazine many times.) I’ve been meaning to share an essay Marshall wrote for a presentation to the Conference Board last year. It’s called “The Success Delusion:Why It Can be So Hard for Successful Leaders to Change.” (Read the whole thing on Marshall’s website here.)

See if you remember the advertisement that Goldsmith describes below:

UNUM, the insurance company, ran an ad some years ago showing a powerful grizzly in the middle of a roaring stream, with his neck extended to the limit, jaws wide open and teeth flaring. The bear was about to clamp on an unsuspecting salmon jumping up stream. The headline read: YOU PROBABLY FEEL LIKE THE BEAR, WE’D LIKE TO SUGGEST THAT YOU ARE THE SALMON.

While intended to sell insurance, the ad seeded the notion for Goldsmith’s theory about The Success Delusion, or “how we all delude ourselves about our achievements, our status and our contributions.”

According to Goldsmith, most of us:

• Overestimate our contribution to a project;
• Have an elevated opinion of our professional skills and standing among our peers;
• Exaggerate our project’s impact on profitability by discounting real and hidden costs.

Many of [these] delusions can come from our association with success, not failure. Since we get positive reinforcement from our past successes, we think that they are predictive of great things to come in our future.

But as founders we can turn this conundrum on its head, and to our advantage. As entrepreneurs — the salmon of the world — “success delusions” can actually help us become more successful. We believe we can be successful, and so we are more likely to be so. Read More about Why Self-Delusion Can Help You Succeed

Values Proposition

As a Founder or a CEO, your job is to build a company that creates sustained value for its employees, customers and stakeholders. Essential to this is defining and living by a set of core values. Why? Because core values breed competitive advantage and sustained value. How? Core values are the foundation of culture, behavioral norms, and decision making in the company. Strong cultures help recruiting and retention, in both good times and in bad. Shared behavioral norms lead to more efficient execution. A common decision making framework allows the company to decentralize and scale faster.

When I founded Adchemy in November 2004, I knew that a fundamental task would be to create a set of core values with my team that would be central to everything we do: They would govern how we work with each other; how we would deal with conflict; who we would recruit and promote; and how we would make investment decisions.
Adchemy’s six core values are:

  1. Play to win… as a team
  2. Dare to Simplify
  3. Be Long-Term Greedy
  4. Decide with Data
  5. Learn. Then Teach
  6. Never Compromise Integrity

In addition to quantifiable performance objectives, everyone at Adchemy is tasked to embody these values. Today i believe our culture is our most strategic asset. How did we establish this, and how do we keep it alive despite doubling our headcount year over year? Read More about Values Proposition

‘How to Work the Room’ 2.0: The Holiday Party

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VC Rich Moran of Venrock will soon be contributing a regular column to Found|READ. Rich is a Silicon Valley veteran, a former Accenture consultant, and the author of five books, including Nuts, Bolts and Jolts: Fundamental Business and Life Lessons You Must Know. Pick it up.

Rich’s first post, which we’re cribbing from his blog and which was broadcast on NPR today, highlights the costs and benefits of the annual holiday party — an event, which, let’s be honest, many managers dread if only for the potential pitfalls of mixing libations with labor.

Rich opens with the story of girl whose unscripted lip sync to the B52’s song “Love Shack” promoted her out of “anonymous analyst status.” (We assume this was at Accenture.) “Now everyone knew her name and she was sought for projects.”

So Rich writes, “Holiday Parties are not always the career killers they are reputed to be.” But leaders, and especially company founders, need to handle the Holiday fete with care. So Rich offers some tips.This is your ‘How to Work the Room’ primer, version 2.0! Read More about ‘How to Work the Room’ 2.0: The Holiday Party

Do you want to be Rich, or be the King?

It matters because if you want to be The King of your startup, some new research out of Harvard Business School suggests your days are likely numbered.

HBS’s web magazine Working Knowledge has another useful piece today that addresses the reasons why founding CEO’s are so often replaced by their boards of directors. It also reveals a frustrating paradox: “when founder-CEOs do really well, that also increases the chances that they’re going to be replaced.”

The Founding CEO’s Dilemma: Stay or Go? is based on a new work co-authored by Noam Wasserman, a professor of entrepreneurial management at Harvard, and Henry McCance, Chairman of VC firm Greylock Partners. We’ve highlighted a few important points, including the authors’ Rich or King Test, which they borrowed from Onset Ventures. Take it to see if you’re replaceable or irreplaceable founder. Read More about Do you want to be Rich, or be the King?

Debuting FoundWatch: “The Art of the Startlet” with Guy Kawasaki

Today we introduce FoundWATCH, our new series of video Q&As with business luminaries — serial founders, thought leaders in entrepreneurship, big name investors, and more — all of whom will share their hard-earned wisdom for how you can be more successful with your startups.

Our first interview is with Guy Kawasaki, famously dubbed the “innovation evangelist” and a long time Silicon Valley-based investor. Guy’s seed- and early-stage venture capital firm, Garage Technology Ventures, is still known colloquially as simply “Garage.com,” a nod to the firm’s high status as an incubator of the dotcom boom. Today in “The Art of the Startlet,” Guy offers his rationale for how you can start a company with $25,000, or less — and why, for your sanity (and your success ratio) it is imperative that you do so.

“Life is simpler. There is a lot less pressure. It is a better way to go, even in a better economy, because more people can try more $25,000-things than they can [try] $2 million things.”

Guy first made a name for himself in the mid-1980’s, at Apple Computer. He was responsible for marketing the Macintosh. Jobs dubbed him Apple’s “chief evangelist.” Guy has since written eight books including, The Art of the Start (2004), a “battle-hardened guide for anyone starting anything.” It belongs at the top of your reading list.

Read More about Debuting FoundWatch: “The Art of the Startlet” with Guy Kawasaki

So you’ve Got an Idea. Now What?

Steve Nielsen is the founder and CEO of PartnerUp, a site where entrepreneurs can find business partners, advisors and other business resources, like office space. Today he shares a post on how founders can vet their ideas for success potential. Steve’s says his market research recipe should take no more than a week, in your spare time, and you’ll eventually appreciate every second that you spent on this.” Read the full post here. The highlights follow.

Everyday people come up with thousands of great business ideas that could have produced multi-million dollar companies. But these ideas go nowhere because people aren’t sure where to begin.

The biggest excuse people use for not turning an idea into a business is that they aren’t sure if it will be successful. Instead of immediately succumbing to those fears, follow these five steps to figure out if your idea is worth taking to the next level. Read More about So you’ve Got an Idea. Now What?

‘Dial 1 for Sales’ & other patterns of positive culture

 

Veteran VC Ray Rothrock, of Venrock, said something refreshing to me yesterday: “Venture Capital is really all about pattern recognition. We look for patterns it the market, patterns in entrepreneurs, cultural patterns at the startups pitching us.”

Rothrock’s pattern recognition thesis is important for founders. Here’s why: Patterns in the market unearth new business opportunities. Patterns in behavior reveal potential leaders. But it is the cultural patterns at a company that reveal to Rothrock whether or not there is a real investment opportunity in the startup in front of him. If you have patterns of positive culture, he might fund you. If you don’t, he definitely won’t. Read More about ‘Dial 1 for Sales’ & other patterns of positive culture

Founder Craig Newmark Talks ‘Turkey’

Craiglist founder Craig Newmark chatted breifly with Into the Box host Rachel Natalie Klein about how to find an apartment in New York City, and –more importantly — how to avoid ‘turkey-listings’ on his sites. (“If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”)
An innovator for many reasons, two of Newmark’s key areas of thought-leadership are customer service and customer empowerment. If you’ve ever used Craigslist, or had the chance to speak with CEO Jim Buckmaster (he answers his own phone), then you know what we mean.
“We trust people… and as as a result we’ve given people this sliding [ad] removal mechanism. If you see any ad on our site, which is wrong, you feel, for any reason, you can flag it for removal. If enough people agree with you, we’ll remove it automatically. It actually works pretty well in practice.”
Then, riffing on the late, great British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Newmark adds:

“There was this guy who said once, ‘Democracy is a lousy form of government, but it’s the only one we have.'”

There is a lesson here for founders:
Listen and be responsive to your customers. They are the key participants (or constituents!) in your business. If you do this well, and with sincerity, it will be good enough. After all, there is no way to protect any business against all the “turkeys” out there.
Oh and, Craig wishes you a Happy Thanksgiving! Read more of Craig’s musings on his blog, cnewmark.

Are you a leader?

A few days ago a Found|READer introduced me to Ben Yoskovitz and his Instigator Blog. It’s awesome. I had other plans for posting to the site today, but then I found Ben’s piece on the defining factors of a leader, entitled: 10 Essential Business Leadership Skills. Everyone can benefit from reading this. As Ben says,

Truth be told, not everyone is a leader. It’s just not meant for everyone. And that’s OK.
But more people are leaders than they realize. Leadership takes on many different faces; it’s just a question of understanding how you lead and why.

Then Ben offers 10 key skills you’ll need to succeed as a leader. Read More about Are you a leader?