Growthink Blog

Happy Thanksgiving!


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Thanksgiving is the quintessential American holiday.

It acknowledges the best qualities of our blessed land - hard work, diversity as strength, and a focus on solutions not problems.

Whenever I am feeling down about America’s prospects in this brave new world of ours, I reflect on Thanksgiving’s timeless lessons.

As every schoolboy and girl knows, Thanksgiving traces its origin from a 1621 Pilgrim harvest feast to celebrate surviving an extremely difficult first winter in the New World.

The Pilgrims owed their survival to the goodwill of the Wampanoag Indians - the original inhabitants of the area - who taught them how to grow corn and how to fish in the very unfamiliar New England soil and seas.

As a gesture of thanks and goodwill, the Pilgrims invited the Wampanoags to sit down and break bread in a spirit of friendship and camaraderie.

What a story! First, let's reflect on the guts, tenacity, sense of adventure, and just “never say die” hard work and perseverance of the Pilgrims.

Think about it - if they can make it then with their oh-so limited 17th Century resources, what can we do / where can we go with our virtually limitless 21st Century ones?

And let's reflect on that happy day of brotherhood and be justifiably proud of the powerful diversity of modern America.

Doubt me? Then spend a Saturday with me and my 7 year-old son’s AYSO soccer team. 

With its Hawaiian coach.

Its son of Ethiopian refugees star player.

And its African - American, Mexican - American and suburban white kid players all happily frolicking in a melting pot scene not to be duplicated anywhere in the world.

Soccer with my sons is a welcome break from what I am sad to say has become a bad, gossipy vice – keeping up with the “news.”

Between the dire talk of tepid economic recovery, government gridlock, perpetual Mideast crisis, disease scares, and impending environmental doom, if you don't catch yourself you can't help but feel sorry for yourself, the country, and the planet.

It is 99% bunk.

Both the world and America have NEVER offered more opportunities for a larger percentage of
us to live affluent lives, to do self-expressive, remunerative work, and to be amazed daily by the wonders of modern technology than it does right now.

On Thursday, let’s give thanks for all that and more.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!


The Power of NON Disclosure


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Every day I see entrepreneurs trying to find that right balance between keeping their intellectual property and business models confidential while sharing and promoting themselves to the investors, partners, and customers whose interest they so very much need to pique.

My bias generally falls strongly on the side of transparency - both because it is a virtue unto itself - and because it takes a lot of effort in our “everything end up on the Internet for all to see” age to truly maintain confidentiality.

However, I have a more fundamental reason why I generally advise entrepreneurs and investors not to worry all that much about confidentiality.

Supply and demand.

Quite simply, there very few entrepreneurs out there with the “right stuff” to actually build profitable businesses.

And those that have it are on balance, either too busy, too rich, and/or my favorite just too ethical and decent that 999 times out of 1,000 as opposed to the problem being someone of substance stealing a business idea, that the far more likely reality is a vast and unrelenting sea of apathy toward it.

Now, this does not mean that there is no place for confidentiality in modern business.

But the reason why it is important is usually more subtle than the fear of idea theft.

You see, for the vast majority of companies without eight figure+ R & D budgets, the reason why confidentiality is important has to do with the under-appreciated context of mystique.

Oxford defines mystique as "a fascinating aura of mystery, awe, and power surrounding someone or something."

I would combine this definition with one of my favorite lessons from my long ago MBA marketing class - namely that in a modern marketplace there is zero difference between "actual" and "perceived" value.

So, in these contexts, the value of non-disclosure derives not so much from the threat of a nefarious competitor stealing an idea as it does from how the aura of confidentiality bestows on an idea that “fascinating aura” that draws people and resources to it.

And from this aura flow many wonderful things: brand equity, pricing power, and marketing effectiveness being chief among them.

Now for those who say that this is quite the cynical view of things, I would encourage them for the next seven days to not take in any entertainment media - no movies nor television nor Internet - nor to appreciate the lovely design of an iPhone, and certainly to not gaze fondly on an elegantly dressed and coiffed woman or man.

In other words, to suffer for just one week like the terribly poor, extraordinarily unfortunate and very mystique - deprived people of North Korea must unconscionably suffer through every day of their lives.

And then come back and tell me that mystique doesn’t matter.

So let’s appreciate mystique - that beautiful elixir of the modern marketplace – for its own sake as the incredible gift and blessing it is.

And as marketers, as salespeople, as product designers, as entrepreneurs let’s gracefully use confidentiality and discretion to help create it.


Does Anybody Read Business Plans Anymore?


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It is hard not to laugh when I hear tired old refrains like "Nobody reads business plans anymore" or "In a world of lean startups, there is no time for strategic planning."

Why do otherwise intelligent and well-meaning businesspeople say and think things like this?

Well, for starters as human beings we all struggle to emotionally grasp the impact of the history not made, of the things that don't happen.

You see, poor strategy does not manifest itself as much in high profile flame-outs as perhaps it did in days of yore (see Pets.com, eToys, etc.) as it does in nothing of note ever being accomplished.

As in companies that grow slowly, if at all.

And make no profits.

And are led by entrepreneurs whose talent and work ethic doesn’t translate into the kind of pay and lifestyle they seemingly deserve.

Missed opportunities, lost years, unrewarded work.

These are the real but hidden costs of poor strategy.

Now, the other big misconception around strategic plans is confusing the “form of deliverable” with the process itself.

Again, this is a case where otherwise smart and well-meaning businesspeople make an obvious, but critical error: They equate the plan with a physical document.

And when done poorly, more often than not a document that is only tangentially connected to the “real business” it supposedly represents.

Now, the good news is that the literature is filled with great best practices - tested over thousands of businesses - as to how to lead strategic planning processes that are connected to the actual marketing, sales, operations, and finances of a company.

Even better news: Inexpensive, effective, and everywhere accessible business software-as-services are connecting the dots between “big” strategy and the “small” to do’s, tactics and action items at the living, breathing heart of a business.

Tools like CapitalIQ, Simplycast, The Resumator, Box, Grasshopper, Wufoo, Smarsh, IfByPhone, SnapEngage, Docusign, Hootsuite, Infusionsoft, and Interspire that automate traditionally laborious and repetitive business functions.

This is where 21st Century Strategy lives.

Now, as for those who prefer to cling to their tired clichés, well I guess they can always reminisce about how things were back in the 20th Century.

But for those who need more than nostalgia to sustain them, there has never been a better time to win by doing strategy right.

P.S. Like to demo our dashboard offering? Then Click Here to learn more.


The Living Company


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I had a good fortune this past week to moderate a strategic planning session with the CEOs of seven of the largest and most well respected highway construction firms in the country.

These thoughtful executives meet on a regular basis to share strategies and best practices, to compare notes on equipment and technology systems, on asset and equipment management and perhaps more than anything else on leadership, management, and the “people” development within their organizations.

Above all else, it was the conversations around this last point that struck me as to why these executives led companies that, on average, had been in business for more than 60 years – pivoting and weathering various and multiple storms in their notoriously cyclical industry where the overwhelming majority of their competitors had not.

The discussion brought to mind one of the greatest and most under-rated business books of all time – Arie de Geus’ The Living Company, where the author shares a lifetime of research and study as to why some companies and organizations “live…through the upheaval of change and competition over the long haul.”

As de Geus’ so eloquently writes:

The idea of a living company isn't just a semantic or academic issue. It has enormous practical, day-to-day implications for managers. It means that, in a world that changes massively, many times…you need to involve people in the continued development of the company. The amount that people care, trust, and engage themselves at work has not only a direct effect on the bottom line, but the most direct effect, of any factor, on your company's expected lifespan. The fact that many managers ignore this imperative is one of the great tragedies of our times.

This inspirational and almost idealistic point may seem contestable in our age so dominated by tech high-flyers that seem to have gained their prominence through such a powerful combination of IP prowess, network effect, and first-mover advantage that really any company culture and any collection of reasonably talented individuals could run them well.

For a short time, maybe yes.

But to sustain themselves over periods measured in decades, to transition leadership and management through a generation (at the meeting I moderated, there were two third generation businesses, and one fourth generation one) requires a robust, flexible, and truly “living” culture.

And that in turn requires something we don't talk nearly enough about in business anymore – leadership.

The kind of leadership that once was the obvious expectation for persons granted the blessing and privilege of being at the head of an organization of any size.

The type of leadership that does not sacrifice the long-term for the sake of the short-term.

The type leadership whose goal is not “an exit,” but rather a contribution - to shareholders, to employees, to customers, to community.

Leadership that knows that a handshake and one's word is a far better and more appropriate form of agreement between gentlemen and gentlewomen than a contract can ever be.

And leadership that recognizes that to survive and prosper through four generations is both an amazing accomplishment, and a charge to keep.

The charge to not only match the good and hard work of those that have gone before us.

But given the opportunities afforded by our technological and global age, to far exceed them.

In growth and profits, absolutely.

But, in character, principle, and doing the right thing too.


Exploring Big Data and Executive Dashboards [Webinar Invitation]


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In my posts over the past few weeks, I have talked about the power of business intelligence dashboards, and why companies that use them enjoy triple the revenue growth and double the profit growth of companies that don’t.

This is driven by the simple two facts that a) businesses today collect more data than ever before and b) wading through and making sense of it all is overwhelming as this data is collected and stored in multiple locations, including in CRM and ERP systems, in accounting software, in advertising and marketing platforms, in social media sites, and so on.

So it is the executives who quickly access this data - and connect the dots between it all - that incrementally but inexorably make better strategic and tactical decisions, gain competitive advantage, and win.

Webinar Invitation

Intrigued, but not sure exactly how an executive dashboard would work for your business?
 
If so, you’ve come to the right place, because my team and I have created a special webinar where I share best practices as to how today’s best run companies use executive dashboards to:

•    Identify the most important business metrics to track
•    Develop real-time visibility into their organizations
•    Improve employee performance
•    Make more intelligent business decisions
•    And ultimately grow sales and profits

Importantly, this webinar will neither be an academic lecture nor a sales pitch in disguise.  Rather, it will be an intense hands-on workshop where I will share key tips and tactics as to how to harness the power of executive dashboards in your business right away to grow revenues and make more money - while working less and having more fun.

Sign Up Now

Note that to promote interaction, we are limiting this program to no more than 35 attendees. So click below to register before the spots fill up!

https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/452495706

Look forward to your attendance!


Finding the Signals in the Noise?


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Last week, I shared why business intelligence dashboards are now a must have for executives seeking to better understand, leverage, and ultimately profit from the treasure troves of data surrounding their businesses.

This data includes insight from their companies’ web and social media traffic, from its e-mail send and open rates, from its lead tracking systems and sales logs, from its product fulfillment records, and from its accounting software as it records revenues, expenses, and cash flows.

Pretty basic stuff, eh?

Well, maybe when viewed one source at a time, and/or over a limited time period with just a few data points, but given that a business doing as little as $1 million in revenues now has on average more than 20 data sources – from software services like Google Analytics, Salesforce, Quickbooks, ZenDesk, to dozens of Excel files and spreadsheets of every type and purpose, figuring what to do with it all quickly gets overwhelming.

And in business, when something gets overwhelming, what happens?

Nothing.

Yes, all of these treasure troves of data, insight, and intelligence just gets ignored.

Reports aren’t run. Or when they are run, they aren't read.

And when they are read, they are not really mined for insight, for “aha” moments and breakthroughs, for competitive advantage.

This sad state of affairs is the unfortunate reality for most executives in this information-overloaded business world of ours.

But not for everybody.

There are a select few that as opposed to being overwhelmed, are energized by all of this precious and unprecedented data.

That use it to both inform and confirm their "gut."

And when the data and their guts disagree? Well, more often than not they let the data hold the trump card.

These executives worship at the altars of both big and little things.

Big things like strategy, mission, vision, values, and culture.

But little things too like form conversion stats, proposal close ratios, page bounce rates, call hold times, quick ratios, and net margin growth to name a few.

How do they do it?

Well, first per the above, they have a functional relationship with data. They don’t whine about it nor are they consumed with how much of it there is.

And secondly, they don’t try to sift through and make sense of it by themselves.

They let technology do a lot of work for them. Both predictive analytics technologies like Civis, Kxen, Foresee, Angoss, and Verisium.

And strategic and business intelligence dashboard technologies like Domo, Pentaho, Birst, GoodData, and my firm Guiding Metrics.

Technologies that find the signals in the noise, and that help them win both the big and little games of modern business.

So now, how about you?

To Your Success,


--

Jay Turo

CEO

Growthink

P.S. Like to demo our dashboard offering? Then Click Here to learn more.


Why NOT Manage by Data?


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Last week, I wrote about the power of business intelligence dashboards.

How, for the first time, smaller businesses can harness the power of big data to more efficiently and profitably manage their companies.

Some readers expressed skepticism that this "stuff" actually works.  

That it is just more "noise” that causes entrepreneurs to get “lost in the weeds” versus long-term thinking and planning.

There is some truth to this.

Heck, “Big Data” at its worst is probably best personified by Wall Street “quant jocks” who equate positive expected value "bets" with larger, more foundational truths of right and wrong, and of good and bad.

To these concerns, let me offer a few suggestions as to how to best utilize business data to support, but not drive, leadership and managerial decision-making.

The first point is that for the vast majority of small businesses “getting lost” in the data is the least of their concerns.
 
A far bigger one is simply analyzing anything more than the barest minimum of balance sheet - "i.e. How much money is in the bank?" and profit and loss statement - i.e. “What were our sales last month?” data.

And when broader data, like the number of incoming leads, sales proposals, average call hold time, marketing spend per action, e-mail open and click-through rates, is analyzed…

…so much of it is either incomplete or just flat-out incorrect to make doing so an exercise in futility.

AND the data that is complete and accurate sits in so many places, Excel worksheets on the sales manager's computer, deep in a little understood (and used) CRM, in the reporting functionality of software as services like Grasshopper, IfByPhone, Constant Contact and Google Analytics to name just a few…

…that a way too high percentage of the time and energy set aside to analyze it is outright wasted in simply accessing the reports from the data sources that house it!

The simple answer to these challenges is to utilize a best-of-breed business intelligence dashboard that:

•    Automatically collects and updates all the data in one easy to access place;
•    Has alerts built-in to flag incomplete or way-out-out-the ordinary data; and,
•    Is arranged and presented in a visual and formatted way that works for the executive reviewing it.

But it goes deeper than this.
 
You see, leading and managing a business based on proper data collection and analysis is no longer a choice - it is a necessity. 

Because all of our best competitors are doing it.

And doing so along with proper and appropriate strategic repositioning as the consistent and correct interpretation of the data allows, affords, and demands.

Or, as David Byrne of the Talking heads once so famously said “This ain't no party…this ain't no disco…this ain't no fooling around. “

You see, when it comes to data-driven decision-making, it has become a matter of going big or staying home.

As in admitting that one is really not that serious about growing and sustaining a business of lasting value - one agile enough to adapt and evolve in the face of technological and marketplace change, and of competitive threat.

Now, I don't believe this.

No, the best entrepreneurs I know are as serious as they can be about not just surviving but thriving in this massively opportunity-filled world of ours.

Just take it one step, one click, one API integration at a time.

Sooner than you think, your business will be running more responsively, more nimbly than ever.

Then watch the profits follow.

To Your Success,

P.S. Like to demo our dashboard offering? Then Click Here to learn more.


What Happens when Big Data Meets a Little Strategy?


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Last week, in Las Vegas I had the opportunity to participate in a 2 - day “Mastermind-type” strategic session with a gathering of technology and Internet entrepreneurs and executives from around the globe.

It was an impressive group - leaders of companies with average sales of $8 million and competing and prospering in industries than run the gamut - from consumer products, to healthcare IT, to energy and entertainment, to mobile apps and wearable technologies, to real estate, and more.

To those who have never participated in a business mastermind, you don’t know what you’re missing! Originally conceived by legendary personal development guru Napoleon Hill, a Mastermind is a gathering of like-minded professionals that meet regularly and over time develop a productive and high-trust dynamic through which to attain breakthroughs of insight and accountability around and about strategic, tactical, and management challenges.

Mastermind groups, both generic ones as I attended in Las Vegas, and branded versions like Vistage and YPO, are where the hard, methodical work of entrepreneurial business - building and growth gets done.

The “table topic” for our meeting was best practices, as they apply to smaller companies, of data-driven decision making and business intelligence dashboards.

It is obviously a very timely one - as “BI” tools and software have matured in the last few years to become for the first time truly easy to use, effective, and affordable for smaller companies and organizations.

We talked about how the companies getting the highest “BI ROI” connect the dots between their "old" and "new" school strategic planning and thinking.

They are old school (in the absolute best, non-pejorative sense of the term) in that they recognize that strategy

…arrived at through Mastermind get-togethers, through board and advisory board meetings, through corporate “retreats” and through any form “step back and reset” get togethers - remains fundamental in attaining and maintaining long-term business success.

And they are new school in their leveraging the very many best-of-breed business application software as services to arrive at this strategy.

Tools like CapitalIQ, Simplycast, The Resumator, Box, Grasshopper, Wufoo, Smarsh, IfByPhone, SnapEngage, Docusign, Hootsuite, Infusionsoft, and Interspire that automate traditionally laborious and repetitive business functions.
 
And, as they do, collect massive reams of data on much of the marketing, sales, operations, finance and management activities of a business.

And, for the first time, the technology has finally matured to where all of this collected data can be automatically organized, standardized, and consistently presented on an always-on, always-accessible, and visually appealing Online Dashboard.

I had the opportunity to present my firm’s "Old School meets New School" business intelligence philosophy, along with our dashboard offering.

And as I did, I truly felt blessed to live and work in a time when technology has created such promise and power to allow companies to run better, easier, and more in alignment with their missions than ever before.

And as they do, well…

…the best numbers on the best dashboards are starting to show increasing piles of sales and profits, too.

To Your Success,



--

Jay Turo

CEO

Growthink

P.S. Like to demo our dashboard offering? Then Click Here to learn more.


A Unicorn of One’s Very Own?


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Last week, I wrote about the strong ambition across the globe to have a "Silicon Valley of One's Own," and to replicate the otherworldly innovation of a region that has produced more than 75% of the World’s Unicorns - technology companies started since 2003 that now have valuations of more than $1 billion.

Then, on Monday I went deeper into the drivers of this remarkable concentration along with the macroeconomic drivers of today’s very hot IPO and M&A Markets: long-term low interest rates, the $1.5 trillion in cash held by big tech. companies and private equity firms seeking deals, and venture investor’s now almost universal realization that only via extremely large exits they obtain alpha.

All of this is well and good, but what we found out was of much greater interest was to look at the common attributes and mindsets of these unicorns and their prospective investors and then how to integrate these elements into YOUR entrepreneurial and investment approach, especially when:

•    As an entrepreneur, you know that you don’t have a business with “billion dollar potential”

•    As an investor, you are more frightened than excited by the “big outlier” return phenomenon

We put it all together and boiled it down to the most essential and actionable insights, and are going to share them via webinar on Thursday at 7 pm ET / 4 pm PT.

Do sign up now via this link: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/622073466

I look forward to your attendance and feedback!


Tech. Exit Trends in Today's Hot Markets [Webinar Invitation]


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=====================
Webinar Invitation

Tech. Exit Trends in Today's Hot Markets

Monday, September 29th

=====================


My Wednesday column as to tech. opportunities far from Silicon Valley was well-received, but frankly left a lot of folks wanting more.

Mostly what was asked was a variant of a common theme: How can I apply the wisdoms and best practices of the Uber - successful Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and investors to my business, or to the one I advise, or are invested in.

It was almost a hope against hope, something that most unfortunately are almost too scared to dream about…

...Having / being involved with a unicorn of one’s very own.

How important is this?  Well, given that last week's $25 billion Alibaba IPO was greater in size than 2014’s other 154 IPOs - combined - even slightly improving one's "Unicorn Landing" odds has enormous expected value.

Webinar Invitation

So I and my research team collected and analyzed some of the best research on the topic, from the Kauffman FoundationNVCAPricewaterhouseCoopers,Dr. Robert WiltbankHarvard University, and TechCrunch’s Aileen Lee, including:

- Categorizing the common attributes among 39 companies started since 2003 that are now valued at more than $1 billion

- The relative likelihood of success of enterprise (B2B) versus consumer - facing (B2C) business models

- How the great liquidity in today's market, with some estimates showing more than $1.5 trillion in cash being held by strategic tech. buyers and private equity firms, is impacting deal modeling and valuation analysis (all the way down to the startup stage)

- How and if yesterday’s report from Harvard University that for their endowment VC return for FY 2014 was 32.4% (compared to a 15.4% return for its total portfolio and the S&P 500's 21.38%) was an outlier, a harbinger of an over-heated market, or a reasonable return expectation given the high variance and the illiquidity of the asset class?

We put it all together and boiled down the most essential and actionable points, and are going to share our findings via webinar on Monday at 2 pm ET / 11 am PT.

Do sign up now via This Link

I do look forward to your attendance and feedback!


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Blog Authors

Jay Turo

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