Jul 8, 2012 / 5:00 am
Have you ever had a conversation with someone where the ideas and insights just kept coming out? Where each person in the conversation seemed to add something new and insightful to the last observation stated?
Or maybe the opposite, you were in a business partnership where things just seemed to go badly and problems of outstanding proportions were the norm.
In both cases it is fascinating to try to understand when do partnerships work and when do they not? To try to answer this question, this past week I came across a very old book, “The Law of Success” by Napoleon Hill. He wrote this book in 1928 after years of interviews with highly successful people such as Andrew Carnegie and Thomas A. Edison; the Bill Gates and Steven Jobs of his time. From all of these interviews he boiled down the path to business success to 16 principles. Inside these ideas is one called “The Mastermind”. This is essentially the idea of having a like-minded person or group of people to collaborate with on a regular and meaningful basis. The most successful people of Hill’s times made this relationship model a habit according to Hill.
I came across this material around the same time I had been thinking about how so many great businesses were actually the effort of two key people at the top, such as Hewlett Packard headed by friends Bill Hewlett and David Packard and Microsoft with Bill Gates and Paul Allen. This got me to thinking as to whether or not there was an advantage of a kind when there are two key people running a business or not and if so what might the keys to making it work look like.
To find out more I had a conversation with Kevin Frigon, Principle of Kelowna Based consultancy Focal Point Coaching - Kelowna. Kevin has worked with many businesses over the years and provided the following insight that supported what I had been thinking; “If you can leverage the skills of each person you can create ‘Third alternatives’”, better solutions than anything any one of the partners could have created on their own. Kevin also offered a series of practical issues to be addressed early on for the foundation of a successful partnership:
- Mutual Respect
- Listen to each other with purpose
- Communication, communication, communication
- agreement upon the strategic vision of the company
- Partners whose skills complement each other
- a clear plan on how decisions will be made for each area within the company
- Clear plan on how “cash flow” is managed
- How is success being measured?
Kevin goes on to say that, “As long as the basic principles of communication, planning, teamwork and of course capital are in place there are no limits” When you think of how many new innovations and successful enterprises have been created by partners, it seems as though there maybe some real insight to operating your business with a partner who can fit the above insights.
Jun 10, 2012 / 5:00 am
A number of years ago I worked with a group of people, among whom, one person started saying, “Hey, another ‘Brucism’”, every time I made a pithy or unique statement about something when trying to make a point in a management meeting. This play on my name gave a slight hint of jest to my tendency to put a twist on words that some people appreciated. Many of these were my efforts to quote some other insightful person. In the moment, I ended up twisting the words into some new thought that seemed to occasionally resonate.
Recently I read that Paul McCartney, of Beatles fame, gives some credit to his efforts to emulate Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis, as how he was accepted into the Beatles. My experience of the Beatles with Paul McCartney is that they have their own unique sound that truly set them apart. This idea of emulating another and in the process, end up creating something new, by adding your own unique twist to an already proven something such as baking, sports or music also of course, is true in business as well.
The history of McDonald’s Restaurants is exactly that. The McDonalds you know today is based upon a twist to an existing idea. Ray Kroc, who oversaw the impressive growth of McDonalds through the 1950s to the 1980s, did not invent hamburgers or fast food, he took an existing idea the McDonalds brothers had and added his variation to it. The following excerpt, from McDonald’s own web site, summarizes the point nicely. As a food processing equipment salesman Ray Kroc’s work lead to the following tale:
In 1954 he was surprised by a huge order for 8 multi-mixers from a restaurant in San Bernardino, California. There he found a small but successful restaurant run by brothers Dick and Mac McDonald, and was stunned by the effectiveness of their operation. They produced a limited menu, concentrating on just a few items—burgers, fries and beverages—which allowed them to focus on quality at every step.
Kroc pitched his vision of creating McDonald’s restaurants all over the U.S. to the brothers. In 1955 he founded the McDonald’s Corporation, and 5 years later bought the exclusive rights to the McDonald’s name. By 1958, McDonald’s had sold its 100 millionth hamburger.
Ray Kroc wanted to build a restaurant system that would be famous for food of consistently high quality and uniform methods of preparation. He wanted to serve burgers, buns, fries and beverages that tasted just the same in Alaska as they did in Alabama.
For many of us who had the concepts of stealing and plagiarism as ingrained as unethical ways to get things done, the concept of taking an existing idea and making our own version of it can seem wrong. However, we can find all around us, many examples of the best paths to business growth as a novel idea taken to a new place by a new person. So as you are considering your next business growth or new venture, the notion that you could take an existing idea and put your own twist on it, is among the most trusted paths to business potential.
May 8, 2012 / 5:00 am
Have you ever lost your wallet? Or your keys? When these small items going missing it can really disrupt your life and leave you cold. “Where did I leave it?”, “When did I have it last?” You are now trying to figure out a way to recover the lost items. Imagining that a kind person may have returned them to some place near where you may have lost them gives you a little relief. But then you recall that it is a cold world, where so many people operate from a set of selfish motives – you think that you will never see your wallet or keys again.
This exact scenario played itself out for my oldest daughter the other day. She was at the Orchard Park Shopping Centre when she lost her wallet. It had some money and pictures of friends and a gift card with nearly $100 on it inside: a big loss to her. She had searched as best she could to find it to no avail. We played out the scenarios and considered that a good Samaritan may have picked it up. All the while we both were thinking that this was really quite unlikely. But we hoped a prayed and followed up the next day.
Nothing was turned in at the lost and found at the mall. We set our mind on how to get a new bank card etc. Then, later that day, a call from the TD Bank with some good news. Someone had brought her wallet to the TD Bank as that is where her bank account is and her bank card was in the wallet. The person who found it must have noticed that and took her wallet to the bank and they then looked up her name and address and called our home number. Indeed a good Samaritan had found it.
After some time of simply being thankful, I thought about the unique and special event it is that a person had such care for another unknown person to go to all that trouble.
A few years ago I was in a series of business seminars in which the leader brought us through an exercise in organizational development for the business I was involved in. One of the key ideas was that we sit down privately and consider our own set of values. The idea was that once we had set clearly what our values were that we now had a guide to the rest of the work we were to do. The simple idea of “Start with your values” led me to see this as a very useful way to resolve all kinds of issues in business and life.
If I start with my well considered values, and apply them to problems, I should get results that align with my true sense of purpose and good results ought to be the outcome for me and others. While life and business have many unexpected events, this simple idea has been of immeasurable value to me over the years. It is also clear to me that when others practice this approach as well, that in the case of my daughter’s wallet being recovered, other people will benefit as well. Thank you unknown good Samaritan!
Feb 5, 2012 / 5:00 am
The desire to give back, to create value beyond the balance sheet and income statement, has long been a goal of thoughtful business people across the generations. The charitable efforts of Bill Gates for example are well known today as were those of Steel Magnate Andrew Carnegie in his time. As our culture grows in wealth and knowledge, the desire to give back and make a difference of some kind – beyond traditional giving directly to various causes has spawned new and innovative ways of creating sustainable value.
Food banks, United way, and many others have succeeded all the while needing to continuously look for donations, such as holding regular fundraising drives to keep their operations going. The trouble with these funding models of charitable efforts is that they require continuous energy to keep the organization going, asking for a lot, typically from a small group of dedicated volunteers, creating fundraising events, pleas for donations etc.
Over the last generation or so, some new ways to create charitable value have emerged. Habitat for Humanity is one that works quite well. The Habitat Restores do a great job of generating cash needed to fund the start up of a house building program for those who can prove both need and a willingness to assist in the build itself and pay interest free for the house cost itself, less the labour volunteered. This is a somewhat more sustainable model, creating charitable value without the continuous need to lean on a small group of dedicated volunteers to seek funds and donations.
Toms Shoes, among my favorite, is at the forefront of another sustainable social business model, often referred to as the “one for one” model. If you buy a pair of shoes from this company, they will donate one free pair of shoes to someone in a part of the world where shoes are not taken for granted. No donations, no volunteers, and yet a great social and charitable outcome is achieved.
Similarly, here in Kelowna, another version of a sustainable charitable business model has arrived in the form of a new Social Buying enterprise named Smart Betty.
They have a great tag line, “Smart daily deals that give” making it clear up front that they intend to set aside 10% of their revenues for local Charities. The daily deals also focus fully on local deals from local enterprises. Here in Kelowna, Smart Betty has partnered with United Way Central & South Okanagan Similkameen, Canadian Cancer Society,
Kelowna's Gospel Mission, the Society for Community Living, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Bumbershoot Childrens Theatre,
and our newest partner, Crime Stoppers Central Okanagan as well as several others.
When Bruce Maki, owner of Smart Betty here in Kelowna, first heard of the model, he was all in. The business model struck a cord with him as a mid career business man, he had been giving a lot of thought to how his work life could do more for the greater community, while utilizing his many business talents.
“I have found my voice as a professional and a business owner” said Mr. Maki. When asked about his reasons for starting such a business. The passion that he exudes when speaking about the potential to generate sustainable value in Kelowna for both the customers of Smart Betty and the Charitable groups he has partnered with is an inspiration that I hope will be infectious with many others in business here in Kelowna and across the Okanagan Valley.
Read more Business Beyond Numbers articles
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- Niche to meet you! Jun 24
- Grow your business with integrity Jun 10
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- My Daughter: Business start-up Genius May 13
- Three “low and no” cost start up ideas Apr 15
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- Best business way to use e-mail Jan 18
- Real business growth: Web 2.0 Dec 21
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